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The Backyard Science group regularly features the Daily Bucket .  Anyone can note any observations you have made of the world around you.  Insects, weather, meteorites, climate, birds, flowers and anything natural or unusual are worthy additions to the Bucket and its comments.  Please let us know what is going on around you in a comment.  Include, as close as is comfortable for you, where you are located. Each note is a record that we can refer to in the future as we try to understand the patterns that are quietly unwinding around us.

In northeast Washington State, near the Canadian border, a community united to scrutinize the ebbs and flows of their surroundings two decades ago. A massive gold mine's operations triggered their response, yet their activism now encompasses a panorama of activities.

Keeping reading  below the coiled orange viper for more details about worthy people in a precarious situation.

The Okanogan Highlands Alliance (OHA) formed in 1992 to battle the siting of a massive cyanide-leach gold mine in and near their Buckhorn Mountain, just south of the Canadian border, a three-hour drive west of Spokane.

Their mountain range is called  the Okanogan Highlands, and  contains some of the oldest rocks in Washington State, including the mineral-rich Cambrian, 500 million-year-old rocks.  Speculators have mined this vicinity for everthing from cement feedstock to uranium.  Ancient hot springs melted gold far underground, and brought it to near the surface during past volcanic eras.

After a series of legal and regulatory victories defeated  the most egregious mining proposals, The OHA was left with a variety of pending appeals against a relatively modest underground project, far reduced in scope and damage from the original open-pit strip mine that could have laid thousands of acres bare.

Instead of fighting past the stage of exhaustion, the OHA settled their appeals, and settled in to monitor  the Kinross Buckhorn mine like no mine had ever been monitored before.

THe OHA also implemented a program of widespread education about their local natural world.  Their publication, the Buckhorn Bulletin, currently publicizes upcoming presentations about their local conditions, including a class on grassland ecology and identification, an Introduction to wild mushrooms, and a day-long course on amphibians of the Okanogan.

Their local moose, big horn sheep, bear, and 40 other mammals seem interesting, but to those of us fighting to preserve the integrity of our backyard feeders, the prospect of their flying squirrels may seem terrifying.

The  OHA also recently forced Kinross to clean up their wastewater runoff controls, by filing a "Notice to Sue" threat against the mine's sulfate (acidic) tainted mine seepage.

The OHA members seem to watch and monitor everything in their neighborhood.  But they noticed the usual birds didn't seem  to show up this year.  Their snowfall level so far this season was just 19 inches, compared to the prior low of 30 inches, within the last 30 years.

"Birding groups have been referring to this as the "finch-free winter," meaning that pine siskins, old finches, and other seed-eating birds have rarely been seen," according to the Bulletin.  The iconic northern pygmy owl aren't around. Few have seen the gray-crowned rosy finch, pine grosbeak, white-winged crossbill, snow buntings, gyrfalcon, and northern hawk owl.

The mystery of the missing birds remains unanswered, but I'm sure the OHA will keep watching and investigating.

Here is their website link and their description of their locale.  I volunteered to assist the OHA some 20 years ago to fight the mine and have given them dough over the years.

http://okanoganhighlands.org/
 Buckhorn Mountain is located on the historic "North Half" of the Colville Indian Reservation in North Central Washington, just south of the Canadian border on the Okanogan National Forest between the Cascades and the Kettle Range. Five perennial creeks (Bolster, Gold, Ethel, Marias and Nicholson) that originate on Buckhorn Mountain flow into two basins (Myers and Toroda Creeks) before flowing into the Kettle River in Canada and eventually into the the Columbia.
Buckhorn is home to a great diversity of plant and wildlife species, including several rare, sensitive or endangered species. It continues to be a favorite place for hunting, fishing and outdoor recreation. Aspen meadows, conifer forests and spruce bogs blend with dry grassy hillsides resplendent with wildflowers.

Now it's your turn.



"Green Diary Rescue" is Back!

After a hiatus of over 1 1/2 years, Meteor Blades has revived his excellent series.  As MB explained, this weekly diary is a "round-up with excerpts and links... of the hard work so many Kossacks put into bringing matters of environmental concern to the community... I'll be starting out with some commentary of my own on an issue related to the environment, a word I take in its broadest meaning."

"Green Diary Rescue" will be posted every Saturday at 1:00 pm Pacific Time on the Daily Kos front page.  Be sure to recommend and comment in the diary.

1:51 PM PT: 1:49 PST

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