Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Meet the Paddle Forward Team!

Throughout our journey down the Illinois River you have followed our adventure through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and many other social media outlets. There hasn't been much opportunity to get to know our team of paddlers as the unique, beautiful individuals that they are. So, here we are! To pick up the slack with a post dedicated to each of the team members who participated in and otherwise made this trip a wonderful possibility.

Liz Just, her friends are suspicious she may actually be a robot designed specifically for coffee consumption. She was also our fearless leader: Liz is  a native Wisconsinite who grew up just outside of Madison, WI. She left home in 2008 to attend school at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities where she earned a degree in Environmental Education and Sustainability Studies. During college, an ongoing love for the outdoors merged with her studies fueling her current passions and interests. She spent the last two years exploring different career paths and building a community in Minneapolis, MN. Her favorite time of day is sunrise, she loves spontaneous adventuring, her sport of choice is Ultimate Frisbee, she is always smiling when in the water, she can't go a day without talking about her best friend, she enjoys getting creative in the kitchen, and her sleeping bag feels like home.

Anna Johnson kept us alive and healthy. She made sure we survived by advising on all things safety. Her light-heart and happy disposition kept our morale high; preventing the otherwise inevitable mutiny. She is extremely knowledgeable about the outdoors, and plays the banjo. She grew up in Evanston, IL, but spent her summers at Camp Bil-O-Wood in northern Ontario, where she canoed extensively. It was on these trips that she developed a passion for the environment, a love of canoeing, and formed incredible relationships, all of which define who she is today. Anna ditched her home in the flat lands of Chicago to attend Colorado College and earn a degree in Political Science and a minor in Environmental Issues. She moved to Washington, D.C. to gain experience in environmental policy. After working with an environmental non-profit, spending the summer on an educational organic farm, and interning with the White House Council on Environmental Quality, she joined Wild River Academy.
They say you can't trust anyone with two first names, but...there are exceptions to every rule. Besides, Nicholas Patrick Ryan has three first names and was the most reliable team member. In 2008, Nick graduated from Western Illinois University with a degree in Law Enforcement & Justice Administration. After graduation, he figured he would be a police officer for a while and go from there. Nick was not able to find work in Chicago. His brother Roman put him in touch with Natalie Warren and his life quickly turned upside down.

After many Google Hangouts Nick moved to Washington DC to help start the business that would become Wild River Academy! Queue the 80's movie montage of intense whiteboard sessions, many blunders, fulfilling trips, and a journey down the Mississippi. The montage fades to black; the camera comes into focus on a chaotic pack out scene with new faces and exciting conversation. Here we are at the Illinois River trip!

Nick Ryan created and filled the role of driver on this trip. He wanted to create a space where the paddlers didn't have to worry about uploads, extensive logistical planning while on trail, and how they were going to get food. As the driver, Nick took care of all this. He also got to see the river from a completely different speed and perspective. After paddling the Mississippi River it was interesting to realize how very little opportunity there is to interact with the river from the road. Not only did he drive, Nick also ran. State parks, bike trails, and walking paths were constantly on Nick's running radar. He got to explore towns on foot. Nick told me the other day that, "Running is high on my list of life passions." Despite his daily separation from them, Nick spent most of the nights with the paddlers. He loved jumping up and down on shore and waving them in to their "home" for the night.

Natalie Warren, was our wizard behind the curtain for this trip. From the Twin Cities, she provided technical assistance, feedback, and emotional support. She grew up in Miami, Florida where she attended the New World School of the Arts for saxophone performance. In 2005, she flew to Minneapolis and headed North to YMCA Camp Menogyn, a wilderness camp based in Minnesota. After a two week canoeing trip in the BWCA, she fell in love with the wilderness and later decided to pursue an Environmental Studies degree at St. Olaf. In 2011, herself and Ann Raiho were the first two women to paddle the 2,000 miles from Minneapolis to Hudson Bay, following Eric Sevareid's route from Canoeing With the Cree. She believes that wilderness adventures help young adults reach their full physical and emotional potential. After a year of presenting on her Hudson Bay Bound adventure, she wanted to provide something tangible for her audiences...Hello, Wild River Academy! She loves to dress up as a dog, play music, and manage your hunger level on trail. She has too many finger puppets, if there is such a thing.

Jessica Colbaugh brought crucial knowledge on the trip, shared it with all of us, and even likes to type in the third person: Jessica Colbaugh was born and raised in Minnesota. She moved from the small town of Isanti to the Twin Cities to study at the University of Minnesota. She's currently working on her undergrad in Fisheries and Wildlife with an emphasis in Conservation Biology. Summer after summer her family visited northern Minnesota to spend time outdoors, and she developed a love of the wilderness and water. She has a passion fro teaching, working with children, and sharing the value of nature. Jess really enjoys mornings, playing tennis, biking, hiking, and baking!

Who is Lee? No one knows for sure but here she is to give us a sneak peek: She grew up in Saint Paul, Minnesota and currently works as a freelance photographer and consultant. She obtained her BA in Political Science from the University of Minnesota- Twin Cities. These past few years, she has been traveling and volunteering my time in other countries. She recently just returned from the Philippines after spending a month helping with the earthquake disaster relief efforts on the island of Bohol. Her first experience into the great outdoors was at the age of thirteen and since then she has continued to spend time among lakes, tall trees, rising mountains, and rolling rivers. Her love for the wilderness and rivers is ever growing with an insatiable need to find new adventures every year.

Enter Mark Emmons, our task master of fun: He is a Minnesota native. He grew up in Northfield, a small river town on the Cannon River, 40 miles south of the Twin Cities. He looks forward to seeing how river towns interact with the Illinois River. His second home is the Northwoods of MN and Canada where he spent every summer since the age of 13 going on wilderness canoe trips with YMCA Camp Widjiwagan, perched on the edge of the Boundary Waters. These expeditions took him to increasingly remote places, eventually landing him in the Arctic Circle, the northern limit of civilization.

Marissa Madej hails from Upstate New York. The Midwest's massive corn fields surprised her. She had never seen such agriculture. Many people drive through Illinois and see the corn fields. Rarely do people get to watch as the corn fields are harvested, processed and stored in silos, then transported via barge traffic down the Illinois River. Marissa's day job is that of an environmental education teacher for Nature's Classroom. She was invaluable in her advisement on our curriculum as well as school visits. The video and blog content we were putting out were of interest to her as well. She helped us streamline and adapt to make the best possible videos on our trip.

Now, hopefully, you feel connected to these people or, maybe you're thinking, "if these fools could do this then I definitely can!" If you feel the latter and would like to paddle with us on the Minnesota River this Fall of 2015, send us an e-mail at paddle@wildriveracademy.com. We would love to share the adventure with you!

Friday, November 7, 2014

Augsburg Feature: Agriculture on the River

Hello everyone! My name is Lucie Krivanek, I am a junior at Augsburg College, and I am majoring in Environmental Studies. Today on this post I am going to discuss how agriculture affects the river.

What is agriculture? Agriculture is the science of farming and aspects that play a part of cultivating the soil. In Minnesota the top crops that are planted are corn and soybeans. To have a plentiful harvest, the crops need fertilizer to grow nice and strong. Sometimes during rain events and flooding the fertilizer runs off into the river and causes environmental issues.
What is fertilizer? The fertilizer farmers use is a mixture that is mostly made up of the element nitrogen. Nitrogen is very important to plant growth. It is found on tiny microscopic finger-like roots in the soil and it also is placed into the ground due to lightning striking the ground. Nitrogen is placed in the fertilizer to allow growers to have a good harvest. Then, the problem comes when that nitrogen is washed into the river. 

Why is having too much nitrogen in the river an issue? Good question! Well, let’s think of it this way; Halloween is coming up and what does everyone want to do right after collecting all their delicious candy? Eat it!!! So, you begin eating all these delicious sweets and you feel great and slightly energized because of all the sugar you are eating. Then, oh no, you start to feel sick and suddenly you do not want anymore candy and even the thought of eating any more makes you feel icky. Well, this is the general idea with the river. The river likes nutrients, like nitrogen, oxygen, etc., but, if there is too much of a good thing, an issue occurs: a multitude of plant growth in the water that reduces the amount of light and oxygen to pass through all of the water. This is called eutrophication.

What can be done? Well, I had the opportunity to work as an agricultural focused intern this summer. I looked at one way to solve the issue of excess nitrogen running into the river. The company, called Geosys Inc., uses satellite imagery to look at grower fields at a certain time of the year to see how their crops are doing. Their satellite goes around the world and taking pictures of their client’s fields. The information that the satellite collects includes the geography of the field, which helps the grower see how the terrain of the field looks. Why is this important? Knowing the different levels of their fields allows the grower to know where to apply more fertilizer (higher leveled places) and where to put less (lower level areas). This helps cut away any excess fertilizer that may runoff.

Granted, this is not the only method to help stop the runoff. Scientists are testing many different ways that they could take the excess nutrients directly out of the river. Maybe one day one of you will be the one to discover the winning solution.

Have fun learning more about the environment!

Lucie Krivanek

Monday, October 27, 2014

Lacon Rhymes With Bacon

By Lee Vue, Paddle Forward Team

The welcome sign at the Lacon marina.
The small town of Lacon will always hold a special place in our hearts. Our time there was filled with so many good moments and overwhelming generosity from the locals. We arrived in Lacon early in the afternoon after battling a headwind from Henry for 8 miles.  We left our canoes at the marina and walked into town, stopping at the Marshall County Historical Society for a quick tour. The place has wonderful displays on the second floor and old farm tools in the back of the first floor. We were extremely fascinated by the collection of hundreds of wooden potato smashers.

The others had gone back to the Marina to prepare dinner while Anna, Jess, and I decided to stop by Julie’s Corner Store because we were beckoned by the huge word of “FUDGE!” We were looking around the store when Julie greeted us and asked about what we were doing in town since it was obvious we weren’t from around the area. There was a moment of miscommunication when Julie was telling us about a group of guys paddling the river and we were telling her about our river trip. Finally, the moment of realization occurred when we figured out that she was talking about us!  Julie was part of the welcome committee for our visit to Midland High School that was happening in a few days. She was excited to meet us and then she took a picture of us so she could post it on her Facbeook and gave us free fudge! She also walked us over to the local coffeeshop, The Coffee Hub, and gave us a gift card to use there. We were so overwhelmed with gratitude that smiles and constant “Thank You” were all we could manage.

Giddy as children, the three of us rushed back to the marina to meet the others for dinner. Everyone was super ecstatic to hear about Julie and then we ended up consuming a pound of fudge for dessert. Since we needed to complete adventure-learning tasks and needed WI-FI, we went back to The Coffee Hub to do some work. As the evening approach, Julie sought us out and asked us if we were interested in sleeping overnight in the coffeehouse. Of course, we accepted the offer because we would be dry, warm, and have access to WI-FI all night.  We had a lot of fun arranging our bedrolls around the tables and chairs.

We want thank everyone in Lacon especially Julie who made us feel extremely welcomed and spoiled. We will continue to share our stories of our experience in Lacon for years to come.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Dickson Mounds Museum

Across the River from Havana, IL resides the Dickson Mounds Museum. A property that was once owned by Dr. Don F Dickson in the late 1920’s. Dr. Dickson was working on the family farm when he discovered several grave sites from the people of the Mississippian Era on his family farm. The mounds were built by the people in the Mississippian Era as burial sites for their deceased. As Dr. Dickson uncovered several grave sites he discovered many artifacts with the dead (the artifacts can now be seen at the museum). Dr. Dickson later sold his property to the Illinois State Museum in 1965. The museum is now visited by people across the world and holds unique artifacts and historical information about the different people who lived in this special spot we now call Dickson Mounds.
Artifacts at the Museum
Three different groups of people lived in the area near Dickson Mounds at the confluence of the Illinois River and the Spoon River for over 12,000 years. The different tribes living in this area transitioned from hunter gathers to gardeners becoming more established through time and eventually creating towns with populations reaching over 800 people. This area sustained life for so many years because of the rich land that was left behind by the massive floods of the Ancient Mississippi River and the Illinois River. 
Mississippian Era Exhibit
We spent our time at the museum walking through the multiple floors of artifacts and historical information learning about the history, culture and geology of the area. While we were visiting, the Director of the Museum, Dr. Mike Wiant, stopped to talk with us about the museum. He shared with us many facts about the museum and the content inside. Part way through our conversation he strayed from museum facts and challenged us to think about why the Native tribes living in that area for over 12,000 years were so successful. If it wasn't for colonization the Native Tribes of the Illinois River valley would still be living there today. In the relatively new era of urbanization after colonization the river was channelized and the river floodplains drained for agriculture altering the Illinois River ecosystem forever.

Dr. Mike Wiant

The Illinois River is just one of many failing ecosystems in our World today. These ecosystems are failing because we demand too much from them. However, without them we cannot survive. We’re stuck between the ever increasing demand for food, energy, and water (to name only a few) and the reality is that we cannot meet the demand. We can lessen that demand changing what we need. If consumers (that’s you!) need less, there will be less of a demand on our ecosystems.

I encourage everyone to find out their ecological “footprint” by doing a short online activity. You will learn how many planets we would need if everyone in the World lived like you. Follow this website (http://www.earthday.org/footprint-calculator) and see how.

Augsburg Feature: Dredging and Barges

Hey there Paddle Forward Crew! My name is Alex and I am also studying environmental studies along with my classmates at Augsburg College! This summer I was able to attend a ten day canoe trip down the Mississippi with my class and Liz, starting in St. Paul to Winona, Minnesota. Now back at school, it is fun to follow along with the Paddle Forward crew and relate their experiences on the Illinois to my own experiences that were on the Mississippi. While we were on our trip we saw many issues along the River and similar issues have been noted on the Illinois trip. Something that was interesting to me was the process of dredging and the use of barges along the river.
First off, dredging is the process of removing sediment and debris from the bottom of bodies of water. Dredging is used as a way to maintain depth and increase depths of channels used for navigation. The nine foot channel used on the Mississippi River and mouth of the Illinois is maintained by the United States Army Core of Engineers (USACE) and requires that the navigable channel be at least 9 feet deep and a minimum width of 400 feet to allow large barge tows to pass through the river. It is important for our economy that these barges travel through the Rivers because they carry about 15% of the United States freight. In the United States there are about 30,000 barges on our country’s waters which equal to about one billion dollars in goods per year. Barges tend to carry items in bulk because the cost of transporting goods on a barge rather than truck, rail, or airplane is very low. Goods they tend to be transporting include coal, grain, chemicals, trash, sand and gravel, materials that can be recycled and minerals like iron ore.
Although the nine foot channel has allowed our economy to transport goods efficiently by the use of barges, the creation of the nine foot channel and barge usage has had negative effects on rivers. For example, when a body of water must be dredged to increase the depth of a channel, the sediment and mud is vacuumed out. It must then be placed somewhere, but where? Along the Mississippi River we saw a few dredging operations and the outcomes of dredging operations. What usually happens after something is dredged is that the sand and sediments get put on islands creating huge piles of sand that sometimes equal well over hundreds of acres. The sand piles then destroy wildlife habitat and precious wetlands. Besides the fact that they look out of place, the USACE is constantly maintaining river channels because whether it be the Mississippi or Illinois River, the water is constantly moving and changing.
Barges also create problems to environmental health when they are damaged and left abandoned on water ways. Since it is not a priority of the USACE to find the owners of the abandoned barges they are often left to erode and pollute the water. The barges then become sites of dumping grounds of hazardous materials depending on what they were supplying and potential risks of oil spills. Since the Abandoned Barge Act of 1992, there has been an increase in barge clean up, but we still see abandoned barges on the water today. When the Abandoned Barge Act was passed it did not provide money for administration or removal of barges making the act almost ignored at times. It states that the owner has a certain time frame to remove barges from waters if they are no longer functional, but it is often hard to locate ownership of barges since many of them do not have to be officially registered. In 1997, there was 160 abandoned barges on the Mississippi, Missouri, and Illinois Rivers. The removal of two barges alone that contained hazardous material cost around $500,000.  People may not like the high costs of removing barges, but people also do not like they eyesore of a rusting barge in a beloved river.
The channelization of rivers has helped the United States economy find cheaper ways to transport goods, but at the expense of the river. If it were possible to find alternatives for the sand use after the dredging process or have stricter guide lines of barge abandonment, the river could increase its aesthetic beauty and become a healthier environment for all people and animals to enjoy.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Peoria Needs a Warning Label

A month before our trip began, I started having trouble breathing. A lot of trouble. My whole body was uncomfortable and I couldn’t eat as I struggled for air for three weeks. I can vividly remember one morning during that time when I woke up and was able to take two whole breaths. They felt so good and relief flowed through my body. Followed quickly by excitement as I thought I was better. Those two breaths were all I got though as my lungs returned to status quo and I was, once again, physically and emotionally drained.

During those three weeks I had been to multiple doctors. I was constantly out of breath and fatigued. A week before we left for Chicago I saw another doctor. That same day he ran lots of tests and diagnosed me with asthma. He gave me lots of medications that I still take today.

For the first time in almost a month, I could breath. I could cook breakfast without gasping. I could walk without breaks. So I departed for Chicago with the knowledge that I have asthma.

I didn’t know much about my asthma yet. It’s a little different for everyone. What are my triggers? What makes me sick? As the trip progressed I found two for sure: humidity and industrial emissions.

I remember Peoria, where there was a lot of industry, including coal fired power plants. I remember the sour taste of the air, the yellow haze lingering above the city, and the difficulty I had breathing as the air seemed to scour my lungs and exasperate my asthma.

We stayed several days in Peoria to tour and do school visits. My asthma started to bother me a day before we got there. I was breathing the industrial influence before I could even see the buildings.

Every day I woke up worse. Dependence on my rescue inhaler grew. It’s supposed to be taken before exercise and to quickly relieve symptoms of asthma attacks. In the asthma world, the doctors have defined 3 levels. Level 1: Green, all is good. Level 2 is yellow: rescue inhaler is needed, used, and works. Level 3: red. The red zone is when the rescue inhaler does not give relief for four hours.

By day 2 I had already entered the red zone. My lungs felt as if they had a texture. They were coarse, as if they were coated in sand. Sometimes they felt like tiny tubes that don’t want to expand. Other times air moved in and out and it never seemed to be enough; it felt like my lungs didn’t know what to do with the air that I was laboriously and consciously moving through them. Every breath felt like a third of what I needed.

Day 3 in Peoria and my health somehow deteriorated further. Getting out of bed was nearly impossible. I felt disgusting and woke up to the taste of the bitter air. I pulled myself together because when I get up I can get my medicine and we had things to do.

You know when you run or do some sort of exercise and you are short of breath for a couple of minutes as your body cools down? How you feel in those couple of minutes was my existence for the whole day. Just sitting still I could not catch my breath. My energy was draining. I talked less, out of discomfort. Talking took too much air and energy. My whole body was run down.

Emotions were welling up in me. I was a swirl of frustration, desperation, helplessness, and fatigue. Not everyone considers fatigue an emotion but I do here as it took its place in the confusing mix of feelings that were tearing up my eyes. For hours I worked to keep from crying as those emotions demanded my attention. I kept reassuring myself that I would be ok, I can do this, and that we were leaving the next day.

This whole time we had been camping north of Peoria and driving in for our visits. This is important because that meant that we still had to paddle through the heart of the industrial air waste.

Worn ragged, physically and mentally, I jumped into my canoe ready to paddle away to cleaner air. That paddle day was awful. We went by a large scale distillery and were surrounded by the aroma of fermentation. We paddled by something that made the air taste and smell sharp. I struggled with that one a lot. I held my breath for a bit so I would breathe in less of the pollutants. One of the places we passed smelled like someone ate Play-Doh and corn, then threw it up.

Both sides of the river banks were developed with industrial buildings. I remember thinking that the view of the river was better than from the river.

The day after leaving I already felt improvements in my health.

The night before we left Peoria we met with Laurel, a Field Organizer for the Central Illinois Healthy Community Alliance. They are concerned about the air and water quality in the Peoria area. She told us about the health struggles in the area as a result of high pollution levels. She explained that Peoria was in a “non-attainment” county. Meaning the county doesn’t have to meet existing air quality standards set by the EPA. I finally realized why I was having so much asthma trouble. Air quality standards are set to protect people. We had entered into a county that didn’t require their coal plants to abide by EPA regulations. Laurel explained that the exemption will last for a couple of years. The local coal plant had just changed ownership and, based on financial reasons, won’t be required to meet standards for a while. So the plant currently dumps 5 million gallons of polluted water into the river every day and 200 lbs of mercury a year. Sulfur Dioxide emissions have exceeded safe breathing levels. As a result, the community experiences high rates of cancer and asthma.

My heart aches for all the people that live in this area. Coal plants provide jobs and energy; two very vital aspects of our daily lives. But another vital aspect is clean air.

A compromise is possible. And not only possible, needed. There are many ways to provide jobs, energy, and clean air. One option is to update the coal plant so that less pollutants find their way into our atmosphere. The coal plant could also be switched to a cleaner energy source.

I went into this trip expecting to learn about the river and watershed. I not only gained an appreciation of that, but also a deeper understanding about air quality and industry. About the people on the river. About their homes. I hope they work out a compromise soon for a cleaner, thriving world and community. 

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Havana, City of Science

The excitement in Havana, IL began and ended with visits to biological research stations. It was somewhat surprising to find two premier scientific institutions in a small Illinois town, but it’s no coincidence: the Illinois River watershed has been one of the most studied river systems in the nation.

Director Heath Hagy showing us around Forbes Biological Station

Glacial movement in Illinois
We visited the Forbes Biological Station first, where the director Heath explained that the scientific interest stemmed from the rich and unique ecology of this area. The Illinois is different from the other major tributaries of the Mississippi River, because it used to be a part of the Mississippi itself. The ancient Mississippi River flowed where the lower Illinois River runs today, until a massive glacier crept south and blocked the river’s path. This damming effect diverted the Mississippi to the west to where it currently flows today. When the glacial dam receded north, it made the Mississippi River valley accessible, but the Mississippi’s waters were no longer flowing through this section of central Illinois. Instead, a relatively small amount of water from the upper Illinois River was being channeled into the existing river valley, which was unusually wide and allowed for vast floodplains on either side of the river. These floodplains provide abundant habitat for all sorts of waterfowl, migratory birds, fish, and aquatic vegetation. In simple terms, this region is teeming with life thanks to a big chunk of ice.

Taxidermied ducks
So of course, scientists have long flocked to this biological hotspot. The Forbes Biological Station, founded in 1894, is the oldest inland field station in North America, and home to the Bellrose Waterfowl Research Center. Their research focus was made clear when we stepped into the station and found ourselves staring at dozens of stuffed ducks and other assorted birds. Director Heath Hagy, our charismatic tour guide, showed us around the station, into the lab where they had a freezer stuffed with dead ducks.
Frozen ducks
At the microscopes, two poor souls were spending hours digging through soil core samples to pick out miniscule critters and seeds that make up the waterfowl diet. Another member of the research station greeted us at the end of our tour, having just landed from the small plane they use to count waterfowl. Imagine that: there is such a thing as a professional duck counter! We made plans to return to Forbes the next day and learn how exactly one counts ducks from a speeding plane. Unfortunately, we ran out of time to drive back to Forbes amidst all our other Havana activities, so we might never know!

Rich and Levi. These two give scientists a good name.
The next day, we did manage to make it to our tour of the Illinois River Biological Station. Unlike the other research station, this one studies the organisms beneath the Illinois’ murky waters. It’s fittingly located right on the main river, a block away from our campground. After our walking tour of Havana, our group was pleased to get out of the unseasonably hot weather and to enter the air-conditioned building, where we were introduced to Rich Pendleton and Levi Solomon. Rich and Levi are both fish specialists who are contributing to the Army Corps’ Long Term Resource Monitoring Program (LTRMP). On a day-to-day basis, they take their boats out to shock and/or net fish, then identify, weigh, and measure them. Year after year, this fieldwork accumulates into a mountain of data, illuminating trends in fish population or fish size through the years.

The research boat for the River Biological Station. We encountered it on the river days later!

The main goal of this decades-long research is to inform decision-making so that we can correct some of the mistakes of the past. The Army Corps’ transformation of the Illinois into a navigable river caused unimaginable habitat destruction, but there are signs that it is slowly being restored. This station’s data has shown that the 1972 Clean Water Act has cut down on pollution and brought back some native species. Despite the recent invasion of the Asian Carp, the Illinois River watershed looks to be on the upswing.

This news may please no group more than the hunters and fishers who frequent the extensive backwaters of the lower Illinois. I’ve never hunted and I’m not much of a fisher, but I’ve gained a newfound appreciation for this crowd. Before, I’d only been aware of the spent shotgun shells and beer cans littered on the ground, a sign to me that hunters and fishers didn’t care about the environment. However, in rallying around their sport, they have been one of the main drivers of conservation work. To hunt or to fish means you have a stake in the health of the ecosystem. Thus, wildlife refuges and preserves are created in the areas where duck hunting and sport fishing are popular. People love these places. Even Al Capone loved these natural areas – he would take a break from the mob scene in Chicago to boat down to Havana and hunt ducks each fall. As we discussed in an earlier blog, the government will pour a lot of money and resources into protecting the places that we use and love.