Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Beginning to Blossom...

Field of DreamsAlthough it has been less than a month since the seeds of the Wildflower Conservancy were first planted and began to germinate, there has been amazing growth.

It started with this website and blog, including the first blog entry on April 4th, which introduced the Wildflower Conservancy to the public. Since then, additional pages have sprouted, including Guidelines for Responsible Wildflower Enjoyment and several others that showcase images depicting the incredible beauty of the season as well as the damage caused as people try to enjoy it.

Delicate PaintbrushMost notably, there is now a page for Recent Wildflower Sightings. This is a resource for anyone who wishes to contribute seasonal reports and read those submitted by others.

I debated initially whether or not to have such a page since it might lead people to explore areas that could then suffer further damage. But I have, in good conscience, decided that since most of the bloom information is online regardless, if I can draw people here and educate them in ways to preserve the wildflowers as they enjoy them, then the reports will be a good thing.

[It should be noted that all reports will be reviewed before publication and every effort made to ensure that the focus is on areas freely accessible to the public -- not on private lands.]

Desert Candle in the WindIn some ways, the Wildflower Conservancy already is starting to bloom. I'm so thankful for the amazing support this little endeavor is getting right from the start.

On April 21, Sandy Steinman kindly mentioned the Wildflower Conservancy in his blog, Natural History Wanderings.  That same day, the Merced Camera Club noted it on their message board, The Birdie. And just today, Steven Bourelle posted a copy of the Guidelines and a very nice article on his website, Sierra Visions.

Gotta Love Those Baby Blue Eyes!Carol Leigh's Wildflower Hotsheet at Calphoto.com has been the best known source of California wildflower reports for the past 15 years.

She recently stopped publishing it out of concern for the damage being caused to wildflower populations here in the state, particularly on private property. She, too, has given her personal blessing to the Wildflower Conservancy.

This is a huge endorsement. You could have knocked me over with a bit of Desert Dandelion fluff when I heard that. It's like Oprah saying to her audience, "I'm taking a break, so please check out this other talk show while I'm gone..." I'm so honored.

Lupine SundownIn any event, I definitely have my work cut out for me. People dream about romping through vast fields of wildflowers. Songs are written about picking them, rolling in them, etc. I completely understand. What sounds more fun than a nice picnic with your family among the wildflowers? And whose heart hasn't melted when your beloved gathers a handful of feral fleurs and brings them to you as an expression of love?

Bird on a WireI know not everyone will come onboard. But I also know that policing behavior or attempting to pass more laws won't protect the flowers either. My sincere hope is that education will. Thank you all for your kindness and support.

The Wildflower Conservancy

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Our wildflowers are in trouble, folks...

Beauty in the Details...Lately, I've become quite frustrated over the ever increasing numbers of professed wildflower lovers, photographers and others who, in their zealous efforts to enjoy these Spring treasures, are causing damage to public and private property as well as to the flowers themselves. Enough already!

This year, I have arrived on scene at several popular locations only to find people jumping fences, tripod-toting photographers standing in the road who wouldn't even budge for oncoming traffic, picnickers with blankets spread out in the middle of the flower displays, dogs running loose, hikers trampling "lesser" blooms to get to prime areas, children picking flowers for bouquets that probably won't make it through the end of the day, etc. People were leaving piles of trash and even driving off the road right into the fields of flowers to get closer.

Apricot Mallow
It has been heartbreaking to watch such flagrant disregard for the very gems we all seek. Property owners justifiably are angry and concerned about liability. Recently, there have been threats of prosecution for trespassers, law enforcement called for crowd control, etc. On March 30, Carol Leigh even decided to stop publishing her well-known CalPhoto Wildflower Hotsheet out of concern for the flowers and locations in which these beauties live.

Of course, there are plenty of other online reports, newspaper articles and TV stories during the season. Even I had compiled a list of online resources for wildflower reports on my other blog, Spirits Dancing In The Heart of The Wind. I have now transferred it here, but with information limited to public lands, parks, etc. I don't think one can stop the flow of seasonal bloom information, but perhaps if people are educated about the fragility of these environments, they will be more respectful when they do visit.

Luscious LarkspurIn the aftermath of all this controversy, I started thinking about what I personally might be able to do to help. I'm an educator by trade as well as a photographer, fine artist and writer. And of course, I'm absurdly passionate about nature and wildflowers. Probably my favorite subject matter creatively. I'm also at a point where I can no longer stand by and watch the devastation. So I've come up with a plan and an organization: The "Wildflower Conservancy."

This is my very first post under that umbrella, and it feels both daunting and exciting. I know that I have a lot of work ahead of me if I'm to create true value with this project. But in what I view as a miraculous bit of serendipity, on March 30th, I was able to reserve the name "wildflowerconservancy" for .com, .net, and .org domains. I've paid the registration fees, and once I learn web design (!), I'll have the site up and running. 

So Many Stars
I've also started looking into what might be involved in setting up a non-profit corporation. (Sometimes, it's handy to work with lawyers!  LOL!) None of this is likely to happen overnight -- well, except this blog of course -- but I believe there's a great future for this kind of educational enterprise.

Initially, I've envisioned wildflower presentations for children in grades K-6 as well as scout troops and other youth organizations. If I can get to kids early enough, hopefully, they will learn to appreciate and respect nature. With luck, they might even get their parents to wake up and smell the grape soda lupine. I taught children's improvisational theater for a number of years, and I've seen first hand how a creative approach can make a huge difference in learning for students as well as their families. (They take their enthusiasm home and share it.)  I will offer these children's educational presentations for free, so I shouldn't have to fight a heck of a lot of bureaucratic madness.

Transcendent Moments
Beyond that, I have lots of ideas to help raise awareness in local communities and nature-oriented groups as well as the settings where wildflowers abound each year.  I will add pages to this blog and eventually to the website with educational information, guidelines for responsible wildflower enjoyment, links to resources and organizations that promote same, etc.

I'm not a wildflower expert by any means, but I am passionate about their preservation, so I figure I'll learn as I go. I'll probably make mistakes, despite my good intentions. But my heart and soul are definitely in this. I welcome your suggestions and feedback. Thank you kindly for your support of this venture.

Kahlee Brighton
The Wildflower Conservancy