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Dan's Writings

February 17, 2017

As one travels…

As one travels the center of our country the effort to conserve and restore the diversity and natural systems of the American Great Plains is evident. Conservation groups, government agencies, and individuals are hard at work on a thousand projects; from habitat restoration, to reintroduction of endangered species, to watershed protection, to base-line science that will help us understand what needs to be done. I see these efforts everywhere I go and I marvel at the array of fronts on which lovers of the “Big Open” are working.

prairie landscape

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January 14, 2017

We live in a land…

We live in a land of accidental monuments. Mostly they were erected in the beginning of the last century and were not intended to mark the passage of great events. They were intended to be the beginnings of something. They dot the landscape in the form of leaning or tumbled down buildings surrounded by tree groves dying of thirst. Sometimes there are moldering corrals of rotten boards brought in by trains that no longer run. Sometimes the county road that once led to them is still passable. Sometimes those roads have been over taken by what was pushed aside to construct them. Often there is only a depression that marks the root cellar where precious vegetables were stored for the few years that the dream survived.

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November 11, 2016

"The Week Just Passed" by, Dan O'Brien

Our culture suffered a setback during the busy week just passed. Many people are deeply upset and there are those who couldn’t care less. The election, of course, is a big story. But I’m not sure it should be. Elections come and go.

Some of the clarity gained over the last five or six decades will no-doubt fade, but the nugget of what was revealed in that time will remain. We know much more about what makes us human than we did fifty years ago.

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October 10, 2016

Standing with Standing Rock

The Dakota Access Pipeline is just one of many pipelines coming out of the oil fields of western North Dakota. There are at least fifteen major pipelines across the Dakotas, so what is all the whoopla about? Why should we care about the standoff? The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has sued to stop the pipeline from crossing through their sacred sites and under the Missouri River. They claim that they were not given proper chance to comment on the route, that the project was fast tracked and corners were cut. A nonprofit, environmental, legal group, called Earthjustice, has accepted the job of pursuing the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s interests in federal court.

Missouri River Cannonball ND

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September 01, 2016

Teach Something, Learn Something

I got a note from Yvon Chouinard who doesn’t use email and is notorious for brief messages. This one arrived on the back of a card with the word Patagonia on the front, via snail mail. The note read, “Come fishing. I’ll be in Montana 7/20 -8/12.” I really appreciated the invitation and it sounded like I could come about any time around the end of July. But still, I had a pretty full schedule and Montana is very big place.

Yvon Chouinard Fishing with Crow Kids

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June 30, 2016

The Freedom Walk

The Fourth of July is the time to think about freedom. Of course, the holiday is about declaring independence from the tyranny of monarchs, but all the freedoms enshrined in the Bill of Rights are implied in that Declaration of Independence. The Bill of Rights was ratified in 1791, long after the Declaration of Independence was signed, but that list of rights to freedom of religion, assembly, press, speech, bearing arms, etc., has come to define the United States and is celebrated on the Fourth of July.

Buffalo Gap National Grasslands

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May 16, 2016

Respecting Our National Mammal

Some groups and recent media coverage claim that the National Bison Legacy Act, declaring the Bison as America’s National Mammal that was signed into law last week, is more greenwashing than conservation. It is hard to argue that there is no greenwashing involved in the legislation that was backed by an array of commercial interests. But arguing that there is no conservation value in bringing national attention to the plight of the bison, who were reduced from tens of millions in the days before Europeans moved onto the continent to perhaps a few hundred at the turn of the twentieth century, is equally difficult to defend.

Lone Buffalo Bull on Prairie

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May 06, 2016

A Mother's Day Tribute

A curious feature of Mother’s Day is the way it is spelled. The commercial forces that help drive the popularity of the holiday sometimes spell it Mothers Day. When advertising greeting cards, flowers, and candy it is probably productive to give the impression that this is a day to celebrate all mothers. But the originator of Mother’s Day (Anna Jarvis in 1908) was quite insistent that it should be spelled as a singular possessive because she wanted people to celebrate a single person - their own mother – “the person who has done more for you than anyone in the world.”

Inez Woods O'Brien

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March 30, 2016

Dan O'Brien Remembers Jim Harrison

I spent all of Easter Day on an ATV to bring buffalo in from the east side of the Cheyenne River where they had spent the winter. It was a long day but not terribly strenuous. How tiring can it be to be miles from any other human being, in a piece of the Great Plains that could serve as a time machine, complete with antelope, deer, buffalo, migrating sand hill cranes, and waves of other birds heading north to begin the world over again?

Buffalo Herd

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February 23, 2016

Ghost

The first time the peregrine falcon shot past the window I didn’t move a muscle. It could have been my imagination. Maybe my eyes were crossing from boredom.

On the screen at the front of the conference room was a power point flickering away on with graphs and excel spreadsheets - columns of data and lots of sigma summary signs.

Peregrine Falcon

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