All about Getting Intimate with the Shrub-Steppe

Tomorrow is the big day. You and yours are invited to the 17th Annual celebration of our shrub-steppe heritage. Between 7:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. there are no fewer than 13 one-hour-long field experience choices. There will be expert-led field trips, educational and hands-on science booths and great activities for kids. Included in these adventures are the amazing bird whispering, snake-sneaking, geology-learning, and studying fish, bugs and anything else hiding in the river.

Everything starts at the Umtanum Recreation Area, 13 miles into the Yakima Canyon. Bring your water bottle, hiking shoes, binoculars, a camera, and your sense of wonder.

This is important to you and me and yours and mine and all theirs to come. When push comes to shove (and it will) those people with no solid connection to the outdoors will not give a rat’s hiney about a sustainable outdoor future. The challenge is on our doorstep right now; no doubt you have seen the advertising for the latest “I-” toys and tools – the ones that promise full accessibility to ebooks and internet and email wherever you find yourself.

You recall our discussion of Richard Louv’s book, Last Child in the Woods, Saving our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder. I told Louv’s story of the kid who rushed home after school every day to get inside because “That’s where the plug-ins are!”  I’ve done a number of talks about my concern over this loss of what nature writer and author Robert Michael Pyle calls “the extinction of experience.” With such an extinction, that indoor kid will be able to go anywhere, stay “plugged-in,” and remain disconnected from his earth-bound life and roots.

Pulitzer Prize‑winning Harvard biology professor E.O. Wilson used “biophilia” as a descriptor for the innate desire of humans to connect with other life forms. He has long maintained that this connection benefits us both as individuals and as a species of the whole; any individual’s loss of that connection – that sense of belonging to nature – threatens us all and our future.

I recognize that a growing number of people consider this outdoor connection an antiquity, best left behind so that humanity can more easily grow into its high-tech and dense urban population destiny. Still, every day, I see and weigh the importance of outdoor connections to the development of healthy, happy and safe humans.

Consider that to lose that knowledge of our connection to nature and other living things we must first have the connection. This is why, this week, I want to focus on Get Intimate with the Shrub-Steppe (GISS) activities. This is your personal invitation.

In our 2016 celebration, as always, there are many opportunities to get your family connected to nature, polish your own connections and get yourself caught up on springtime in Paradise.  For starters, check out, and click on “Upcoming Events.” “Get Intimate with the Shrub-Steppe” will get to the full schedule of events and opportunities.

The Umptanum fun starts at 7:30 a.m. Think of the pleasure your children will have when, some day, they tell their own children of their Early Bird walk with Jerry Scoville and Deborah Essman – the Bird Whisperer of Paradise. Return from that brief excursion and choose another hour at 9 with these two birders, or spend an hour with Wildflower Ian examining and learning about the beauties up Umtanum Canyon, or follow Rob Fraser as he demonstrates photographing the shrub-steppe.

By 10 a.m. you may be ready for a look at the rich cultural history of the Canyon with Steve Hackenberger. Or maybe you will be ready to look through Rob’s eyes at A Bug’s Steppe. Then, too, 10 a.m. brings one more chance to know birds through the eyes and ears of Jerry and Deborah.

At 11, Melanie Weiss and Al Wagar will introduce you and yours to the art and science of Butterflying for families. Taggart Butterfield and Joey Chase will lead the ever-popular Snake Sneaking tour, and Lixing Sun will carry forward with his fascinating Beaver Tales.

Noon will bring a chance for you to join Sally Herman as she introduces you to Trademark Plants of the Shrub-Steppe. And Taggart Butterfield and Joey Chase will again head out for Snake Sneaking.

Through the whole four hours, from 9 to 1, Paul James will be under the suspension bridge. There, with anyone who wants to play, he will be exploring the bugs and fish and other life of the Yakima River.

Whatever adventures you choose, you will find an abundance of kid and family connection opportunities tomorrow. Bring yourself and those you treasure into the Canyon. Come play.

This is important to a future reaching far beyond those of us enjoying Paradise today. Let us send our young forward with a soul-satisfying connection to this natural world which sustains us all. To slightly paraphrase Jodi Larsen, of our Upper County Rotary, Remember that children are the emissaries we send into a time we will not see…

GISS… Tomorrow…

Written by Jim Huckabay. Posted in Uncategorized

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