Doc’s Gone Hunting

Written by Jim Huckabay on March 18, 2020. Posted in Uncategorized

Don “Doc” Childress left this planet on January 19. If you knew Doc, you may or may not learn something new about him in the time it takes you to read this. If you didn’t know him, you missed one of the best men who ever shared life with those of us in Paradise. If it is true that a person is only as big as the number of things to which he or she attends with interest, Doc was a very big man.

He was part of so many lives and activities, over so many years, that when I decades ago asked a friend if he knew this chiropractor – this Doc Childress guy – he just looked at me. “Really?” He said, “Everybody knows Doc!” It wasn’t long before I began to see his point. Doc was in plays and musicals from Yakima to Leavenworth, he was active in his church, he focused a lot of his life around Labor Day Weekend with the Fair Board and the Rodeo Posse. If the Noon Kiwanis was doing any activity he’d be leading or helping up to his elbows. He seemed to have a warm greeting for most anyone, and when he laughed you pretty much had to join in – even if you had no idea what was so funny.

My earlier-departed friend Jim Groseclose once observed that you could take the measure of a man by listening to how he talked about his wife and family. Over the years, we spoke often of our families. He showed me that no matter the joy, quiet, or sheer weirdness of my own family life, there was always love and respect to be spoken and celebrated.

More than anything, I suppose, I came to know the man who loved the outdoors and hunting. He loved anything and everything outdoors – and was up for pretty much anything he could do to make sure everyone else had outdoor opportunities of their own. He and wife Geraldine worked diligently to ensure that their family had outdoor roots. Listen to his laughter-filled tales, and you would quickly realize that his hunting with son Dana and huckleberry chasing with daughter Anneliese were the stuff of high family legend. He once noted that a life not largely lived outdoors was not a life. This is probably why he was so determined that the Kittitas County Field and Stream Club (and its mission to make certain that future generations would always have an outdoors to share) would stay alive and relevant.

On any number of occasions during the fifth to eighth decades of the Club’s existence, after its 1919 founding, Doc stepped up to serve as club president or fill any other role which might help keep it growing and moving. He seemed to know most everybody in the Kittitas Valley, and was never afraid to light a fire under anyone on behalf of our outdoor future. He was a driving force behind the first Chukar Run Banquet, the primary source of funding for club work with kids and public lands. With his joy, laughter and ability to talk to anyone, he was Master of Ceremonies for those banquets into the start of this 21st Century.

Wilma Dlouhy became the first woman officer – and the first female member – of the Club in 1989. A couple years before that, she will tell you, she accompanied husband Bob to a club meeting. (Indeed, she may have been the first woman to ever attend such a meeting.) Only one man in that room of 40 or more club members even acknowledged her presence; Don Childress walked over and warmly welcomed her. It was Doc who soon fought for her membership and her election to office. From that time forward, women have been critical to the continuing success of the oldest “sportsman’s” club in the state of Washington. Maybe that’s all we need to know about Doc’s vision and courage.

Certainly, he had a more personal and private side, too. Doc grew up hunting deer up in the hills of his youth in the northeast corner of our state. After he settled in Ellensburg, he and fellow chiropractor Maynard Linder became best friends and formed the “chiropractic royalty” of this part of Washington. They were also diehard hunting partners, enjoying many years afield. When Myron Linder (the next generation of that chiropractic royal family) was a youngster, he would get to go with the two docs, and maybe even hunt along. He will tell you that Doc’s enthusiasm for life and the hunt was ever present as they alertly poked through woods and thickets after those whitetails. Over time, Doc’s son Dana grew into that sacred family experience.

In recent years, with our youngsters grown, busy taking care of their own, and less available to come play, Doc and I talked about partnering up for a journey to chase deer in his beloved hills. Our schedules, and then his faltering health, never let that happen – one of only a handful of regrets I carry. Still, we wasted several fine moments sharing our hunting stories. I asked him once where deer hunting fit in his life. He laughed through recollections of friends and activities, soberly praised God for his amazing family, then smiled and said, “Hunting was in all of that, wasn’t it? …I sure would like to get out there again!”

In January, Doc passed on to his reward surrounded by family – those he often said gave him the strength to carry on in this life. Shortly after his passing, Dana picked up his phone and called his life-long friend Myron Linder.

He started the conversation with “Dad’s gone hunting.”

 

Kids and Outdoor Schooling

Written by Jim Huckabay on March 12, 2020. Posted in Uncategorized

You probably recall how much I appreciate the Washington Outdoor School (formerly the Roslyn Outdoor School), and the work KEEN (Kittitas Environmental Education Network) has done to bring real outdoor education to kids in the Lower Valley at Helen McCabe Park.

This idea of outdoor early education has been catching on nationwide. Washington stepped up, launching a pilot program in 2017 to work on the official requirements for licensing of outdoor preschools. Even up to last year, no outdoor preschools in the United States were licensed, which meant they couldn’t offer full-day programs, something quite important for working families. In addition, unlicensed outdoor preschools could not offer state financial assistance to families. Over the past two years, however, the Washington Department of Children, Youth and Families has worked on creating new guidelines specifically for outdoor learning. The regulations are slightly different than those for indoor schools. For example, one of the new standards requires each classroom to have a teacher for every six kids, so most classes will have two or three staff present. There are also guidelines for implementing naptimes, or when it rains, and so forth.

With the new regulations in hand, Washington finally started to officially license a few programs, becoming the first in the country to do so. Last September, two programs on the west side made it through the process: Squaxin Island Child Development Center in Shelton, Mason County, and Kaleidoscope Preschool and Child Care Center in Eastsound, San Juan County. The folks guiding the program for the state have been very supportive of the benefits of being outdoors and are recognizing that, for some families, outdoor schools are nearly perfect options.

With outdoor schools, cost of education is also an important factor. Since outdoor schools spend far less than traditional schools on facilities and maintenance, more funding can go toward high quality teachers and financial support for families needing it. One example often cited is the experience of Seattle’s Tiny Trees Outdoor School. Tiny Trees built six outdoor classrooms/sites at a cost of $320,000, compared to the cost of one typical indoor preschool classroom of about $350,000. In these ongoing times of teachers and schools scratching for funding, such savings are significant.

Then, too, you don’t have to look far or hard to find research about the highly positive health, life and general well-being impacts of outdoor time and activities for kids (adults, too, for that matter). In Europe, the Danes and Swedes started outdoor kindergartens in the 1950, with Germany not far behind. There are many hundreds of “forest kindergartens” across the Continent – all devoted to building the future health of their citizens, societies, and countries.

The education and health side of this is particularly interesting to me – especially when it comes to vision. Some decades ago, an ophthalmologist buddy suggested that growing nearsightedness among kids was the result of them being pushed to read too soon. “If you want kids to have healthy and strong eyes,” he said, “get them out in natural light looking at distant things – then really limit the time they are focusing up close until they are eight or nine… Get your kids outside…” Outdoor schools seem like an obvious answer.

And what about today’s outdoor preschools across Washington? To have a sense of just how many such schools (with many also offering certain days of K-5 outdoor classes) there are, just Google “Outdoor and Nature-based Preschools in Washington.” For a broader look at the growing community of Washington outdoor educators, check out the Washington Nature Preschool Association at www.wanpa.org.

Our local Washington Outdoor School is helping many youngsters get a good start on their educations. The school now offers outdoor education in Roslyn, Ellensburg, and Yakima, with a great selection of summer camp offerings. It continues to grow with community support and outdoor-savvy teachers, offering both preschool and K-5 classes. Every day, Director Sibyl Maer-Fillo and her staff live their mission to “cultivate a child’s sense of wonder and foster a sense of stewardship through immersion in the natural world. We believe that interacting with nature encourages a sense of place, awakens curiosity and creates healthy minds and bodies.”

Take a look at some happy youngsters and find out more – or register your kids for the program that is perfect for them – at www.waoutdoorschool.org/. Take a look, too, at the Facebook page (www.facebook.com/WAOutdoorSchool/). To contribute to the important work of the school or to find answers to any questions, email waoutdoorschool@gmail.com or call 206-898-2041.

Given that outdoor schools are so good for youngsters and our future – and save a significant amount of money over traditional classrooms – I keep wondering when, and at what level, our local school districts will become more actively involved.

This is critically important business. To paraphrase Jodi Larsen, Upper County Rotary: Children are the emissaries we send into a time we will never see – what do we want them to take along?

About Names, Words, and “Owning” Public Lands

Written by Jim Huckabay on March 5, 2020. Posted in Uncategorized

I have long been fascinated with words and names, and the deeper meanings of them. It all started, I am certain, when I was six years old asking my mother about my middle name. We spent some time looking it up, and it turned out that “LeRoy” is the Anglican version of the French “Le Roi” (the king). I can’t say that life turned out quite as my six-year-old self joyfully imagined it, but I have certainly been aware through these decades – for better or worse – of a heightened responsibility for my actions.

When I was teaching the Asian portions of my world geography classes, part of the cultural discussion had to do with family histories. In some cases, Asian students were able to trace family names back 50 generations and more. Furthermore, virtually every East Asia student could readily speak to their name, what it meant, and why it was given. A young woman might have a name which translated into “beautiful flower to bring joy and peace to the family,” and a young man’s name might be focused on hard work, or wisdom, or success in bringing peace and prosperity. The American students would generally deny any meaning for their names – until they finished the “find the etymology of your name” assignment I gave them. Almost to a person, they were surprised to find how closely their lives were aligned with the history and definition of the “random” names with which their parents had saddled them. Names matter.

Words matter, too. Find the roots of various common words and it may change the way you look at the world around you. For example, have you considered that the root words of “patience” (and its various forms), from Middle English, French and Latin, are “quiet suffering.”

How we use words informs how we behave and reinforces what we believe. Communities all around us, from those living in poverty to minorities and genders, have been telling us this forever. Words matter; sometimes in surprising ways.

What brought all this on was a last-week conversation about names and the importance of helping friends and coworkers remember, and properly spell and pronounce, one’s name. That led into a confab about the various meanings of words we commonly use to guide our lives.

On the way home, I heard a talk show caller speak of land that was “owned” by a state agency, and other land that was “owned” by the feds. At home, I read the interesting article about the volunteers working to find solutions to problems with the much-used and somewhat abused Manastash Trail system to The Ridge. In that article, one of my favorite homeys spoke of the efforts to help find solutions to the problem on land “owned” by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. Hmmmm…

The concepts surrounding the public ground of Paradise, and elsewhere, have always intrigued me. I have long believed that the idea of public ground – “our” land – is fundamental to the good life we seek here in America, and I’m never surprised when some homey stops me to chat it up. You may even be one of those who has been indignant about how your voice and opinions on the management of roads and access on “our” ground didn’t seem to matter.

This is a particularly important point for our county. As you know, Kittitas County has more public land than any county in Washington, and it is those lands over which users and managers get sideways from time to time.

Issues over management of public lands start with the way those lands are described. Those agencies and managers who speak of “managing the public’s lands” (of which there seem to be more these days) seem to be consistently respected by users. On the other hand, those agencies and managers who speak of “managing the land we own” are nearly always at odds with users. It all lies in perception of ownership.

Too often, I still hear city, county and state officials refer to our public land as “owned” by one or another public agency or group. I have even heard politicos who would fight to the death for private property rights use that language, unconsciously giving ownership rights to agencies simply charged with “managing” our land.

If one owns land, one has far less obligation to the opinions or wishes of others than if one is simply managing it. There is a big perceptual difference and it shows up in how ground is handled. Thus, I have long been on a mission to help folks remember that we all are owners of the public land around us – and the folks who manage it for us are hired to do so.

Words, and how we use them, are important to the future of our outdoor heritage. If it is not “our” ground, why would we care about our grandchildren’s grandchildren, and those who will follow?

We have a sacred responsibility to look after our ground. Words, and how we use them, matter.

About DFW’s 2020 Budget Request

Written by Jim Huckabay on February 25, 2020. Posted in Uncategorized

As you are no doubt aware, our DFW (Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife) has come under increasing budgetary stress over the last decade and more. It has yet to recover from the hits it took from the recession of 2008, and has repeatedly been denied sufficient operating funds by the Legislature and Governor’s Office. While many of us argue loudly and often over programs and policies to be funded, dropped, or whatever, the fact is that the Department needs money to do the work it was formed to do. In this time of decreasing hunting numbers – and therefore diminishing funding – it is especially critical that the Department be able to grow its outreach programs as it carries forward with its mission of looking after our wildlife.

This is a very big deal. In January, representatives of nearly 50 very diverse stakeholder organizations across our state sent the following to legislators. (Find the entire list at www.conservationnw.org/news-updates/legislature-fully-fund-fish-and-wildlife/.)

‘Today, a set of diverse organizations representing hunters and anglers, wildlife advocates, and outdoor recreation interests called on the Washington State Legislature to appropriate all of the $26 million in operating funds requested for the coming fiscal year by the Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) in the upcoming session. This is substantially more than what Governor Inslee included in his budget request, which contains just $15.6 million in general operating funds for WDFW, though the Governor’s budget also includes $8.2 million that would accrue in the unlikely event that a bill passed to increase certain hunting and fishing license fees.

“Many of these same groups worked last year in favor of the Legislature appropriating $45 million in biennial operating funds (plus $17 million from a license fee increase bill that did not pass), of which a mere $24 million was provided onetime, rather than ongoing. Greater funding is needed to preserve and restore the Evergreen State’s fish and wildlife heritage, especially given growing challenges ranging from salmon and orca recovery to elk hoof disease, habitat loss and wolf management.

“If the Legislature were to fund the entire $26 million requested today, the total $50 million bump for this biennium would allow the agency to continue its existing level of service—providing recreational and commercial opportunities for Washingtonians while stewarding our state’s fish, wildlife and the habitat they depend on. This basic level of service has been put at significant risk by a structural deficit in the Department’s budget, where ongoing costs (like mandated payroll increases, Endangered Species Act requirements, and demand for outdoor opportunity from the state’s growing population) have been funded for only the initial year by onetime money. The costs continue in later years. This exacerbates an agency budget that is still not restored from cuts dating to the 2008 recession. This deficit grows each biennium as onetime solutions temporarily fill the gap, only to expire and leave a larger hole.

“In 2017, the Legislature challenged the Department to find savings, requiring it to submit to evaluation by an outside management consultant, undertake a zero-based budget exercise, and assemble a citizen advisory group to identify areas for budget cuts. That citizen advisory group, the Budget and Policy Advisory Group (BPAG), seeing what damage such cuts would cause, coalesced in support of the Department’s mission and in favor of it being sufficiently funded to succeed. This statement from leaders of diverse WDFW stakeholder groups reinforces that demand.

“Perspectives from [some] outdoor leaders:

“Butch Smith, of Ilwaco Charter Association: ‘Department of Revenue estimates that wildlife watching, hunting and fishing contribute about $170 million dollars per year to the State General Fund. Rural communities and businesses like mine depend on the activity that generates those tax revenues…’

Rachel Voss, a Tieton resident with the Mule Deer Foundation: ‘Hunting is what I live for. Our game populations and experiences face countless challenges these days, and only a strong agency offers the chance of answering those challenges and passing on our hunting heritage.’

Mitch Friedman, of Conservation Northwest: ‘Spending on wildlife diversity and outdoor recreation is particularly lacking, representing less than four percent of the Department’s budget and only a small share of General Fund appropriations to WDFW. WDFW has only enough money to implement five percent of its State Wildlife Action Plan. Biodiversity is at growing risk with this weak funding trend.’

“Jen Syrowitz, of the Washington Wildlife Federation: ‘Persistent underfunding puts Washington’s natural heritage at risk. …74 percent of Washingtonians support WDFW funding from both public tax dollars and sportsmen licenses.’

“The case for fully-funding WDFW remains evident. Not only are Washington’s wildlife and ecosystems critical to our quality of life, they are under increasing pressure from our state’s burgeoning population and increasing development. WDFW is the agency primarily tasked with sustaining our state’s priceless natural heritage against these threats.

Leaders from the outdoor, sportsmen, and conservation communities are calling on the legislature to fully-fund WDFW’s 2020 budget request through a $26 million appropriation from the General Fund.

Next week, we will look at kids and outdoor training/experience programs.

Tomorrow’s Hunting & Fishing – Part II

Written by Jim Huckabay on February 19, 2020. Posted in Uncategorized

As mentioned last week, I have been picking the brains of folks whose job it is to figure out where our hunting and fishing is headed. I noted a number of changes that fishing pros are making to keep us enjoying our ocean and inland fishing – and to recruit more fishers of all ages out into fresh air and onto water.

This week’s focus is on hunting; the changes coming, and those we are already seeing.

You and I have, several times, looked at the impact of diminishing numbers of hunters across the country on wildlife management and habitat. Frances Stead Sellers’ recent (Feb. 2, 2020) article in the Washington Post laid the problem out pretty clearly. In the piece, titled “Hunting is ‘slowly dying off’ and that is creating a crisis for the nation’s many endangered species,” Sellers does a pretty good job of describing the role of the North American wildlife conservation model (established nearly 100 years ago) and its current challenges.

Sellers describes public lands as “a shared resource, open to an unlikely mix of hunters and hikers, birdwatchers and mountain bikers.” The users of these public lands are all in a symbiotic relationship, but that is a failing relationship given that “Americans’ interest in hunting is on the decline, cutting into funding for conservation, which stems largely from hunting licenses, permits and taxes on firearms, bows and other equipment. Even as more people are engaging in outdoor activities, hunting license sales have fallen from a peak of about 17 million in the early ’80s to 15 million last year, according to data from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The relationship between hunters and funding for wildlife conservation dates back to the determination of Theodore Roosevelt and many of his contemporaries who spoke out for putting money where the wildlife concerns were. Their efforts and persistence led eventually to the passage of the Pittman-Robertson Act (P-R) in 1937. That Act placed an excise tax on the sale of firearms – and over time on other gear – to be apportioned each year to state wildlife agencies. Over time, the use of those funds has been approved for a broader array of conservation, including work on behalf of endangered species.

The current loss of hunters – and P-R funding – is hitting wildlife agencies hard. There have been several national calls for new conservation funding models, including a proposed new tax on outdoor gear beyond hunting, but so far they have met great resistance, and gone nowhere. Thus, more and more state wildlife agencies are asking legislatures to approve dollars from general funds, so that they might be able to continue the work they are charged with doing. The cost of managing wildlife and balancing predator-prey numbers and relationships is high, and hunters are increasingly unable to pay the tab.

Still, all may not be lost, As they look for new funding sources, virtually all states have stepped up recruitment and retention efforts to bolster hunter numbers. Here in Washington, Our Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) has, with the support of various hunting and outdoor companies and groups, stepped up training and mentoring in a variety of hunting practices, including waterfowl, upland bird and wild turkey hunting. Basic Hunter Education courses are on the upswing. Virtually all the states around us are following Washington’s lead, and new hunters are finding their ways into ancient traditions.

We know that women hunters make up the fastest-growing segment of the fledgling attempts to restore hunter numbers. Virtually every western state (and many more across the country) now has at least one organization devoted to introducing women and girls to all aspects of the hunting and care of wildlife. Our Washington Outdoor Women (WOW) group has been a leader in these efforts. At the sportsmen shows over the last two to three years I have seen more young women and children than I remember seeing in decades. The shows are making women feel ever more welcome, with skilled female speakers, instructors, demonstrators and members who can speak to the unique needs and challenges of outdoor women.

More and more we are seeing young men and women (generally 18 to 40+ years of age) being drawn to hunting and harvest. Many of them are from families which do not have a tradition of hunting. They are being drawn in by hunting and shooting blogs and podcasts, and are feeling a need to return to a more natural responsibility for their food and relationship with the earth. The O’Loughlin group outdoor shows, particularly, have identified large numbers of these folks and have found ways to market to them with various social media tools and cable network shows. I was taken aback the last day of the Pacific Northwest Sportsmen’s Show in Portland, when I ran into a line of several hundred young men and women waiting to hear superstar Steve Rinella – a TV host and podcaster – talk about do-it-yourself hunting, game preparation and cooking.

Recruitment efforts are underway all across the country. Even with great success and large new numbers of hunters, we will likely need new funding models to ensure that we have wild things and wild places for our grandchildren’s grandchildren.

We are in for some long and important discussions. Stand by…