Sunday, September 21, 2014

International Day of Peace: A visual meditation

September 21 was established as an official International Day of Peace in 1981 by the U.N. and, although a cursory glance at the media suggests otherwise, historical analysis has shown that violence in human culture is at an all time low globally. In honor of this day I offer a brief visual mediation from near and far.

The images, in order, are from Ghost Ranch, Abiquiu, NM (2013); Arequipa, Peru (2009); 3 Bridges Park, Milwaukee, WI (2013); Masaya, Nicaragua (2006); Lake Michigan at Cedar Grove, WI (2012); Lanterns for Peace, Milwaukee, WI (2014).

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Underwood Parkway: Wildlife graces construction zones

It seems as though there is construction going on everywhere this summer - including in some of our parklands. Underwood Parkway, between 115th St. and Bluemound in Wauwatosa, is one of my regular routes. I've passed by its labyrinthine arrangement of construction fences many times since construction began on new power lines last June. (See my previous post about that unfortunate project.)

Yesterday as I drove along the parkway I spotted two adolescent fawns. One was between two lines of fencing, browsing on the grass. The other was standing directly in front of the closest rank of construction fences, as if the bright orange pattern was a studio backdrop. I wish! Fortunately, I had my camera with me. Unfortunately, it was in the trunk of the car. By the time I pulled over, got the camera out and lined up a shot the deer had jumped over the fence to join its sibling.

I took a few shots. As I was doing so, leaning casually against my car in order to minimize the chance of startling them (they looked up at me periodically to see what I might be doing), a large doe wandered into the scene.

After taking a few more shots I continued on with my errand. On my way back I slowed to see if I would spot the deer again. Lo and behold, not deer this time, but no fewer than seven wild turkeys were strolling along the lawn near the fencing. Three of them were youngsters (or females?), judging by size and coloration. But the other four were the largest wild turkeys I've ever seen!

They were predictably camera shy (maybe thinking about Thanksgiving as autumn arrives!) They scurried off into the riparian woods when I started trying to get close for a good photo.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Happy Anniversary! The Wilderness Act turns 50 today.

President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Wilderness Act into law on September 3, 1964. Today there are 758 designated wilderness areas in the United States and Puerto Rico.

Happy anniversary, from the (undesignated) Urban Wilderness!

The photo is of the Fox River near Muckwanago from a recent canoe trip.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Public hearing on fate of Estabrook Dam tomorrow

Courtesy: Milwaukee Riverkeeper
I am forwarding the following from Milwaukee Riverkeeper. Please consider attending the public hearing (details below) or sending a message to your county supervisor (contact info below).

Help Us Remove the Deadbeat Estabrook Dam!

Quick Facts about Estabrook Dam:

1) Milwaukee County built the Estabrook Dam in 1937 to elevate water levels for recreation (following some blasting of bedrock to alleviate flooding). Milwaukee County failed to maintain and repair the Dam per State Dam Safety regulations over the years. In 2009, the gates were ordered permanently open by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) due to hazardous conditions.  

2) Recent studies of the Dam have shown that it increases flooding upstream, poses a liability for Milwaukee County, and will lead to increased flood insurance costs for upstream residents.

3) The ecological health created by a free flowing river offers greater long term value than maintaining the present impoundment behind the Dam. Dam removal will: a.) allow fish to swim to upstream spawning habitats and restore the natural and wild aspect of the Milwaukee River; b.) reduce flooding upstream of the Dam; c.) improve water quality upstream of the Dam; and d.) improve recreational opportunities such as fishing and paddling.

4) Over $8 million has been spent upstream to improve access for fish to spawning habitat via dam removal and construction of fish passage structures.  The removal of the Estabrook Dam would expand the benefits of those projects.

5) County consultants estimate it will cost 3 times as much to repair than remove the Dam if maintenance costs of $2.6 million are included for the next 20 years (the estimated life expectancy of the Dam). These costs do not include the administrative costs associated with state and federal permitting required for the Estabrook Dam.

How You Can Help!

1) Attend the County’s Public Information Meeting on the draft Environmental Assessment:

Wednesday, September 3, 2014, 6:00 PM – 8:00 PM
Nicolet HS (Cafeteria)

2) Contact your County Supervisor and the County Executive and tell them that Estabrook Dam should be removed (contact info on back). The County Board Parks, Energy and Environment Committee will vote on a "preferred alternative" for the Dam at their meeting on Tuesday, September 9th. The full Milwaukee County Board will vote on their preferred alternative on Thursday, September 18th.  Public comments on the draft EA will be accepted by the County through September 17th at

3) Attend the County Parks, Energy, and Environment Meeting on Tuesday September 9th. The Agenda is posted one week in advance, but this meeting typically begins at 9 AM at the Milwaukee County Courthouse, Room 301-B.

4) The WDNR and Bureau of Land Management (who owns some of the land the dam sits on) have both indicated that they will hold a public hearing to fulfill state and federal permitting requirements pertaining to dam operations and construction. We will publish information as it becomes available. 

5) To receive more information, please email: and keep up-to-date on our facebook page, or our website at:  

To find your supervisor go to: and click on “Find Your District or Supervisor.”
Then click on the photo of the supervisor to get to contact information.

(Full disclosure: I was formerly on the board of Milwaukee Riverkeeper.)