“I love the mystery of the universe, All of that has thrilled me for years…but when I looked in the opposite direction, into space, there was no mystery, no majestic awe to behold…all I saw was death…a .cold, dark, black emptiness…
“My trip to space was supposed to be a celebration; instead, it felt like a funeral, It was among the strongest feelings of grief I have ever encountered. The contrast between the vicious coldness of space and the warm nurturing of Earth below filled me with overwhelming sadness.”
—William Shatner [aka Capt. Kirk] following his Blue Origin flight into space
Click on the link below for the full Business Insider story:
It’s time to envision, identify, and preserve an “emerald necklace” of trails and open lands encircling Boise from its southeast, south, southwest, west, to its northwest.
Boise airport officials are asking the city to rezone for industrial development what may be the last sagebrush forest on the city’s edge. The 77 acres is zoned A-2, Open-Land Reserve District “to provide for permanent open space and to properly guide growth of the fringe areas of the city.”
In early January, I decided to go take a look after reading the compelling testimony of Indian Lakes and Western Riding Club neighbors opposed to the plan to build industrial facilities behind their homes. As I approached the area, the first thing I noticed was a hawk circling above. She certainly did not view the land as “vacant and unused,” as it is described in the airport’s rezoning application.
Then I went through the Indian Lakes neighborhood to the southwest corner of the A-2 properties. From both vantages, what I found is a dense sagebrush forest extending a half-mile to the east and to the south.
The sagebrush habitat—seen here, looking north—is much more extensive than anything we have in the Fort Boise Military Reserve, Boise’s first and largest open-space reserve, next to which I’ve lived since 1986.
The Military Reserve was once viewed by some as “vacant and unused.” In the early 1970s, Aldape Heights neighbors noticed speculators scoping out the Military Reserve for development. The original 460 acres had been patented to the city by the federal government in the 1950s. Led by parks commissioner Alice Dieter, photographer Stan Burns, and the US Interior Department’s Idaho solicitor Bill Dunlop, the Aldape neighbors negotiated a reversion clause into the patent, which permanently protects the now 734-acre Military Reserve from development.
In this case, there is no federal patent to fall back on. It’s up to city officials, guided by public input, to recognize and acknowledge the unique ecological and recreational values of this place and continue to protect it as open land.
On Feb. 6, accompanied by a botanist familiar with the sagebrush-steppe ecosystem, I decided to take another, closer look at the area the airport is asking to rezone for industrial development. This is likely the largest sagebrush steppe remnant in Boise. Wherever there are clearings in the sagebrush, we found cryptogamic soils—a thin, fragile crust made up of mosses, lichens, algae, and bacteria—which are found in undisturbed areas throughout the Columbia and Snake River Basins.
Cryptobiotic crust has been dubbed the “protector of the desert” because the sticky webs of soil retain water, so plants are able to root into the spongy crust, which enables them to survive hot, dry conditions. It then converts nitrogen from the air into usable nitrogen to help plants grow—the perfect breeding ground for young sagebrush starts:
In 1990, the airport purchased this land, ostensibly to protect it from residential development within the airport influence zone. The land was then outside the city limits in Ada County and was zoned RP, Rural Preservation. In 2005, the land was annexed into Boise City and zoned A-2, Open Land Reserve, a zone comparable to its Rural Preservation designation by the county.
Airport officials now want to rezone the land so that it may be leased for light-industrial development in order to finance the expansion of airport facilities. In the rezoning application, the parcels are described as “vacant and unused.” There is no evidence that the ecological and recreational values of the property were surveyed or considered. There is only the simple assertion that “Light industrial would be the best use of these properties as they are within the Airport Influence Area…”
More than 2,000 new homes have been approved in the Cory Barton Homes “Locale” development that is being constructed on the southern edge of the sagebrush-steppe remnant about a half-mile from the A-2 parcels. There are plans for more residential, commercial, and industrial development in the surrounding area.
In addition to the 77 acres included in the airport’s A-2 open-land reserve, there are about 100 additional acres of sagebrush forest on State of Idaho lands that also should be preserved.
Alexander Garvin was a renowned New York City architect and city planner who passed away in December. Alex produced the 2004 BeltLine Emerald Necklace plan that added 1400 acres of parkland and miles of trails as Atlanta developed its BeltLine corridor.
The Cleveland, Ohio, metropolitan area where I grew up is also encircled by an Emerald Necklace of parks, trails, and open lands envisioned over a century ago. These urban and suburban amenities have proven invaluable.
The Boise area’s Ridge-to-Rivers system of trails and open space is unparalleled, but it is largely in the foothills to the city’s north and east. It is high time for Boise and surrounding communities to envision, identify, and preserve an “emerald necklace” of trails and open lands encircling the area from its southeast, south, southwest, west, and northwest.
The Sagebrush-Steppe remnant southwest of the airport just east of Indian Lakes would be a worthy gem to hang on such a necklace. Air travel is the least efficient form of transportation on our planet. In light of the city’s goal to reach “net zero” fossil-fueled energy by 2050 or earlier, it’s time to start asking ourselves difficult questions: How many more jet-fueled passenger miles would destruction of this sagebrush forest buy Boise? Seems like a devilish deal to me.
The Boise Planning and Zoning Commission has scheduled a public hearing on the airport’s rezoning proposal, CAR21-00037, beginning at 6 p.m., Monday, March 14, 2022, at City Hall. Members of the general public have 3 minutes, or approximately 500 written words, to testify. Written testimony and documents—no word limit— may be submitted by 5 p.m. on Thursday, March 10, 2022. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The longest—and worst—legislative session in Idaho history will resume tomorrow to attempt to override whichever terrible legislation Governor Brad Little has the wisdom and guts to veto—there’s a lot to choose from!
Here are the details behind Garry Trudeau’s “Doonesbury” cartoon published Sunday:
On Nov. 9, 1923, Adolf Hitler led his stormtroopers in a failed attempt to overthrow the German government in which some 20 people were killed. For this, he was sentenced to the lightest allowable sentence of five years in a minimum-security prison. In cases of high treason, Weimar judges tended to show leniency towards right-wing defendants claiming to have acted out of sincere, patriotic motives.
Hitler was released after serving eight months, during which he dictated Mein Kampf to fellow conspirator Rudolf Hess—the book deal that Trudeau implies, the book of grievances that became the Nazi bible. The attempted Munich insurrection was a teaching moment.
Within a decade, Hitler and his Nazi party managed lawfully to seize power. The rest, as they say, is history. The failed “beer hall” putsch of 1923 found a special place in the story of the Nazi movement; Nazi Germany celebrated Nov. 9 as the Reich Day of Mourning.
Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.
—Winston Churchill (paraphrasing George Santayana)
Two veterans in my family tree came near death in war and survived, or I would not be here. One was my father, whose wounding at Tarawa in the South Pacific during World War II I’ve written about before: Tribute to a veteran: Robert Earl Richardson
My maternal great-great-grandfather Allen Danford Lile served with the Michigan Volunteers’ Company F , 18th Infantry Regiment, which was called into service by President Lincoln in July1862. In mid-September, 1,000-strong, the unit left Michigan for Cincinnati, where they crossed the Ohio River into Kentucky. After fighting their way through central Kentucky, in August 1863 they were ordered to Nashville to act as a rear guard for Union forces.
During the summer and fall of 1864, the Michiganders did garrison duty at Decatur, Alabama, as part of the First Brigade, Fourth Division, Twentieth Corps occasionally pursuing Confederate troops when they approached that part of the state. Allen Lile was among some 200 troops detached to reinforce the Union garrison at Athens, Alabama, about 15 miles to the north across the Tennessee River. On Sept. 24, 1864, the detachment was attacked by about 5,000 Confederate troops under Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest near their destination. After fighting for five hours, the entire command was surrounded and captured with “heavy loss in killed and wounded.”
The survivors were imprisoned at Athens, Alabama, until the end of the war. On April 22, 1865, they were exchanged for Confederate prisoners at Vicksburg on the Mississippi River. A few days later, they were among 1,866 troops crowded aboard the Steamer Sultana headed upriver for home. In the early morning hours of April 27, near Memphis, Tennessee, “the boilers of the steamer exploded creating an appalling tragedy. Those on board were hurled into the air by the force of the explosion and their mutilated bodies fell into the Mississippi. Of the 1,866 troops on the steamer, 1,101 were lost. The hundreds who were not seriously injured were thrown into the river and drowned.”
Sixty-eight members of the Michigan regiment were killed or drowned; only a small number survived. My second great-grandfather, Allen Danford Lile, was one of them. He was mustered out on 10 June, 1865 at Camp Chase, Ohio, and returned to Michigan to farm and raise a family at Boardman in Kalkaska County. The steamship accident was the subject of a board of inquiry, but no cause of the explosion was determined.
I began this Sunday morning by reading Audrey Dutton’s excellent story in the Idaho Statesman about the plight of the hundreds of people dying alone in nursing homes during this pandemic. She detailed how information mismanagement by politicians, public health officials, and facility managers often leaves family members in the dark, who cannot visit their loved ones under pandemic restrictions.
She told how it is often a front-line worker, a nurse or caregiver, who calls a family member to alert them that their loved one is about to die. She recounted the experience of a woman who got a call from her husband’s nurse while eating dinner with their granddaughter. The husband who battled Alzheimer’s disease for five years had contracted COVID-19 in the nursing home. The nurse called to say he was unlikely to come back from this.
“Any chance you can put the phone up to his ear?” the wife asked. They both said their goodbyes: “I love you. Your family is OK,” the wife said. He mouthed the words, “I love you.”
Reading that account, I was in tears. I recalled the last days with my mother, who was receiving comfort care in hospice. I called mom’s grand-kids so that each of them could say their goodbyes. While I could not hear what they were saying, I recall that one of them, the comedian in the family, said something that registered her last smile.
By the end of Audrey Dutton’s story, I was a mess, alternately sobbing and seething: sobbing from accounts of the compassion shown by the heroic efforts of under-appreciated front-line workers and seething because of the failures of the politicians, public-health bureaucrats and facilities managers to provide the information and resources necessary to support those workers and to fight this coronavirus.
Dutton’s careful reporting showed the emotional toll this disease is exacting and exposed the failures to disclose adequate data and to provide adequate testing and treatment resources that have made Idaho and the US some of the worst places on the planet to be exposed to this virus.
I was an emotional wreck; so, I decided to go for a long walk in the 734-acre open-space reserve next door. The Fort Boise Military Reserve has been my godsend during this pandemic. Throughout the spring, documenting in photos the blooming of each species of the reserve’s wildflowers as it emerged helped me maintain my equanimity.
This morning’s walk started well. The trail was wide, and I was able to distance myself from others. But I realized that in my emotional fog, I had forgotten the N95 mask I usually have around my neck in case I can’t adequately distance from others on the trails. So, I fashioned one of my handkerchiefs into a “bandit” mask as I approached the narrower trails. I knew it would not offer much protection for me, but it would protect others from me and comply with the city and county mask mandates where six-foot distancing is not possible.
It was not long before I was seething again. On my hour-and-a-half walk, I was passed by several dozen bikers, hikers, and runners as I hiked up the Central Ridge, down the Ridge Crest, and up the Eagle Ridge trails. Among the many cyclists, for whom when possible I stepped off the trail, only one was wearing a surgical mask. Not a single runner had a mask of any sort on or available to pull up. Among dozens, I counted 10 hikers, with masks, and thanked each of them.
After about a half hour, as I stepped off the trail so they could pass at a six-foot distance, I began to ask people where were their masks. Most said that since they were outside, they didn’t need masks; they could social-distance. This was the common refrain from those hikers, bikers, and runners who responded. Several times, I noted that I, who had moved off the trail, was the only one distancing—and I was “masked”! A few walkers with young children even argued with me that face-covering is not required outside.
I returned home even more disheartened than before I left. So many thoughts continue to crowd my mind about the failures of our elected leaders and our fellow citizens—local, state, and national—to care for us and each other:
Among the deniers, there is the casual, callous disregard for those compromised by age or frailty who are forced to die alone. “They were gonna die soon anyway.”
“To wear or not to wear” face-covering has become the question…raised not only by flag-waving Trumpsters, Ammonites, and antivaxers. It also baffles well-meaning Boiseans out for a Sunday stroll with family and friends.
How much individual liberty should we sacrifice to protect the most compromised and underprivileged among us? Tracing people’s contacts is a government plot to take away our liberties.
Pandemics tests the credulity of the people. We are told that a dread disease is lurking. We don’t know for sure what it is. “Experts“ say it’s caused by a virus, an invisible thing that isn’t even alive. So we have to take the word of the “experts.”
Individual rights versus group welfare: No longer are we all in this together to face a common threat.