With a successful 2014 trial run under our belt for holding BCA’s Annual Meeting in central ND to equalize travel distances, we again held our 2015 Annual Meeting in Bismarck on Sunday, November 1 — this time at the Discovery Center inside the Dakota Zoo. It worked well.
Superintendent of Theodore Roosevelt National Park Wendy Ross inspired us with her presentation Tangible vs. Intangible; Values and Visions, an introduction for many to the new superintendent following Valerie Naylor’s retirement the autumn before and a look at Ross’ vision for large scale landscape conservation as a theme during the 2016 Centennial Anniversary of the National Park Service. Preserving natural sound, viewsheds, and dark skies in TRNP are among her priorities.
Dakota Zoo’s Rod Fried briefed attendees on zoo funding and staff support for conservation efforts including their local raptor rehabilitation center, ferret reintroduction in South Dakota, and Mexican Wolf reintroduction in the Southwest.
Following adjournment, an open issues discussion held many while others took advantage of an invitation to spend time outdoors exploring zoo offerings.
Special thanks to Scott, Bonnie, and Corinne for help with set-up and to Tama, Pat, Larry and David for sharing their acclaimed potluck recipes in our fall membership letter!
Held this year the weekend of February 27 and 28 in what turned out to be balmy Medora, the annual BCA Board Retreat was pleasant enough to hold afternoon portions of our meeting outdoors in the company of buttes and zephyrs. Always an intense couple days, the Board focused discussion and set priorities on policy, financials, issues, membership, and all the necessities, pleasures and demands of running a conservation organization. BCA founder Lillian Crook claimed it one of THE most productive and enjoyable ever.
Officers were elected: Christine Hogan, president; Craig Kilber, vice president; Rich Brauhn, secretary and Lynn Morgenson, treasurer. Committee assignments were made: Education, Tama Smith as chair; Funding and Development, Craig Kilber as chair; Communications, Rich Brauhn as chair. Members at large are always encouraged to get in touch as you see yourselves adding to effectiveness of committee work!
BCA’s Board held a second face-to-face meeting on July 26th, graciously hosted by Lillian at her Red Oak House. Addressing current and ongoing issues, the Board also honed in on our Red River Valley Outreach campaign, financials and membership building. BCA directors also make good use of email and phone.
Our twice yearly newsletter Wild Badlands is the work of the Communications Committee with Rich Brauhn editor-in-chief. Thanks, Rich, committee and contributors! Special thanks to charter member, author and profound reader-at-large Steve Robbins for his commitment to Wild Badlands book reviews – always a treat. Feel free to submit your own ideas for stories, articles and photographs pertinent to BCA’s mission.
One of the most satisfying 2016 BCA accomplishments, BCA proudly launched an all new webpage in mid-May. Great appreciation and kudos go to BCA member and designer Graham Swenson for all the creativity, time and hard work. A healthy dose of recognition also goes to Director Craig Kilber who kept us honest and on-track. Swenson continues to upgrade our site. Thanks to you both for bringing us into the modern world!
For a decade BCA depended on the generous support of The Wilderness Society and then The Tortuga Foundation. Restructuring of one and then the other have put those sources out of our reach. We have found that ND is not considered part of the West by many larger foundations and that conservation funding sources in our area are limited.
Thus, it was with great excitement we discovered the new Bush Foundation Ecosystem Grants (thanks, Barb!) in spring of 2016, participating in their introductory webinar, smiling at the good fit and carefully crafting our grant proposal. This opportunity was especially enticing as it was based on “general operating expenses” and not simply project directed funding, allowing for broader use. However, proceeding through the process, our eligibility came into question, largely due to our focus on conservation – a point that seemed rather contrary to the grant title. We submitted anyway, but didn’t win the golden ticket. Finding the key that will open the door to this primary grantor in our part of the world remains on our list and we will be pursuing an opportunity for a face-to-face introductory meeting next month.
In the meantime, we fund our work largely on membership contributions and project specific sources. New support this year, largely focused on Red River Valley Outreach, has come from the ND Natural Resources Trust, The ND Chapter of the Wildlife Society, the ND Wildlife Federation, the Lewis and Clark Wildlife Club, the World Wildlife Fund and private contributors. Always with an eye to capacity building and greater opportunities.
You, our membership, are our greatest asset; not only by membership dues and contributions, but as evidence of the constancy of our organization. To those of you able to gift us in larger amounts as through the ND Community Foundation and your own private pocketbooks - $1500, $1000, $400, $250, $125 - BCA says many thanks for your trust and superb generosity. You make all the difference in the world!
If YOU, as a BCA member or friend, know of organizations or philanthropic individuals who may be willing to assist in funding BCA’s work without limiting our integrity or our mission, please contact BCA staff or a member of the Board of Directors.
This year we must especially acknowledge the kindness of the Weatherston Family in their remembrance of George Weatherston. Thank you, Barbara, you honor us.
And to Tom Dahle and Karen Oby for their ever faithful and generous annual contributions.
Watch for your renewal mailing to arrive around Thanksgiving – an excellent time to recommit to BCA’s mission. Don’t forget to encourage or gift friends and family, and remember that contributions may be made online via PayPal on the BCA webpage.
BCA held outings:
BCA Paint ‘em Up Work Day in TRNP: Earth Day, Saturday, April 16, 2016
What a hoot! What a team! BCA gathered under raincloud skies but inside the South Unit’s rarely seen pole barn to refurbish picnic tables inherited from the Army Corp of Engineers and headed for use during the Park’s Centennial celebrations at Peaceful Valley. While most jackets, hats, and gloves stayed on, the warmth of conversation and job well-done was the order of the day. Ever changing work configurations allowed for much catch-up with friends, all piloted by gracious Park leader Karl Davis.
We’ll hang on to memories in our oops-stained clothing and the VIP (Volunteers-In- Parks) certificate Davis presented to BCA. Well-maintained Park picnic tables will carry new meaning and appreciation.
Inspiration Overnight: Saturday and Sunday, July 23 and 24, 2016
Thirty hours of inspiration, education and Badlands fun brought BCA members together while also allowing for a dose of freedom and solitude important to lovers of the wild. BCA member, Theodore Roosevelt scholar, Lecturer in History at Northwestern College and member of the Advisory Board of the Theodore Roosevelt Association, Duane Jundt started us out right with his presentation at the Cottonwood amphitheater of Birdwatcher-in-Chief: Theodore Roosevelt and America's Birds. Focusing on weak-sighted Roosevelt’s use of sound to both discover and describe the natural world, Jundt brought a new glimpse of the man and his conservation sensitivity.
Remaining flexible is key to any good Badlands hike and we learned that lesson once again when an impressive heard of bison blocked the morning’s trail to our Eye of the Needle destination. With bison bulls in full glorious rut, and showing no inclination to move from our way, hiking turned to wildlife watching. Another day; another time. Several BCA-ers have already revisited or completed the proposed hike, minus the bullish show.
Taking into account the July late afternoon temps, hikers into Meadowlark Valley took the shortcut to the top where literally hours were spent admiring the work of water, wind and time on one small butte-top. Intricacy of color, texture and formation fascinated and observances leaned toward the quiet and spiritual. While, yes, there were moments of boisterous exhilaration, it was agreed we BCA-ers are fortunate indeed to share moments of quiet awe with friends. Special recognition must go to Judith the brave, Greg the fleet-footed and Tama of the artist’s eye.
Highlighting the weekend was the much anticipated reading by author Terry Tempest Williams. Shaped by 12 carefully selected National Parks and in honor of the NPS Centennial, The Hour of Land boasts a chapter on Theodore Roosevelt National Park with former superintendent Valerie Naylor and TTW’s father as lead characters. Any BCA reader will recognize the landscape and the times. Perhaps the most rapt in the capacity-filled room, BCA founder Lillian Crook is acknowledged in the text as introducing TTW to our Badlands landscape and their friendship is wonderful to see.
Dakota Night Festival: Friday, Saturday and Sunday, September 23, 24 and 25, 2016
Mother Nature does not always comply with the best made human plans, but TRNP staff knows how to make good fun of a rain-filled, starless celebration of Dakota Nights. Large tents were erected for outdoor exhibits and activities. Community leaders offered indoor venues for presentations and participants went with the flow and enjoyed themselves immensely. That famous National Park visitor smile was everywhere.
Dr. Tyler Nordgren from the University of Redmond in California and Dr. Joe Shaw with Montana State University out of Missoula shared their expertise and slide after slide of beautiful images. Whether daytime rainbows or night time auroras, participants learned hard science, practical observation cues, the importance of human connection with the universe that starlight conveys, and the need to protect darkness for our future well-being. We often heard “Half the Park is After Dark” and BCA-ers know that to be true.
The scheduled Boicourt to Jones Creek Hike became sprints in and out of vehicles along the South Unit’s scenic road for short walks and photo taking in a rain-enriched landscape, but the Rim Trail Hike on Sunday took in the return of blue skies. The only truly disheartening part of the weekend was the Rim Trail’s clear view of the proposed Davis Refinery location east of the Park. It deeply reinforces BCA’s opposition to an unacceptable location for a refinery.
An unanticipated pie-eating stop topped off the weekend. Thanks, Nancy, for making it happen.
While oil and gas development in western North Dakota has slowed considerably over the last year, related issues continue to be at the top of BCA’s watch list. The core area for ongoing development includes TRNP and the Little Missouri National Grassland north of Interstate 94. Infrastructure development including pipelines, the proposed refinery and expansion of HWY 85 to a four-lane divided highway is pressing forward. It is BCA’s position that the slowdown offers opportunity for North Dakota to upgrade its regulatory, inspection and enforcement capabilities and finally do some comprehensive planning.
BCA continues to monitor monthly hearing dockets for oil and gas activities before the ND Oil and Gas Division of the ND Department of Mineral Resources (DMR). Cases of note are researched, a letter written to reserve our place at the table, and BCA testimony is provided the day of the hearing. While numbers of cases have decreased, monthly vigilance is still required.
In 2016 we testified on applications impacting Bell Lake Inventoried Roadless Area (IRA) west of the Elkhorn Ranch Unit of TRNP, Horse Creek IRA in the northwestern Little Missouri National Grasslands (LMNG), the Elkhorn Ranch Unit itself, Kendley Plateau IRA in the southern LMNG, Red Wing Creek just west of the North Unit of TRNP, and the Little Missouri State Park.
BCA and Theodore Roosevelt National Park remain the two most consistent entities appearing at monthly hearings.
We continue to monitor the O&G Division webpage for Areas of Interest (Special Places) applications on a daily basis.
The ND Oil and Gas Division promulgated a number of New Rules in 2016 that are overall a step in the right direction, especially regarding restoration, bonding, pipelines, and spill protection (including well pad berms).
Curiously, among the new rules was a definition for “interested party,” a previously non-existent definition determining who could testify at monthly hearings. You will note above that only BCA and TRNP regularly testify at monthly hearings and industry attorneys had been increasingly aggravated with our presence. If approved it would have impacted all interested parties, i.e. the public. BCA’s initiation of protest to this new definition spread widely – labor unions, landowner groups, conservation and environmental organizations, local government, private citizens, royalty owners and landowners.
An unprecedented four hearings on the new rules were held on April 11, 12, 13, and 14 in Bismarck, Dickinson, Williston and Minot. People showed up, as did the press. Written comments were also invited and hearing officers received 468 unique comments from 111 various interested organizations and individuals. At the June 29, 2016 monthly meeting of the ND Industrial Commission (NDIC), DMR director Lynn Helms reported: The #1 issue commented on was the definition of interested party. Those comments ran 86 against to 2 in favor. Overwhelmingly, the comments of the public were that it was not a good idea and should not become part of the Industrial Commission rules. It has been removed from the proposed rules.
A goodly number of those were from you, BCA! Thanks to the many who attended, testified at hearings and wrote comments. For reasons they know, special thanks to Christopher, Tama and Shelly.
Approved at the June 29 meeting by the NDIC, the rules were reviewed by the Attorney General’s office and went before the Administrative Rules Committee (ARC) of the ND Legislature on September 13 where the ND Petroleum Council (NDPC) protested several items and questioned legislative intent. While most regulatory changes were approved and became effective October 1, those under reconsideration will again come before the ARC in December.
The “interested party” definition cannot be re-inserted, but Helms suggested it may surface during the 2017 Legislative session. We’ll be watching!
BCA continues to monitor ND Department of Trust Lands quarterly oil & gas lease auctions and submits recommended safeguards and stipulations as necessary. Concurrently, we strive to maintain open communications with the mineral management division as regards proposed development on state school land sections.
BCA routinely attends the oil and gas portion of the monthly NDIC meetings. Frequently our intent is to follow up on previously docketed and heard cases, but it is also the go-to-place for riding herd on policy, new technology, spills and flaring, oil and gas research & development, ND legal pursuits and the frequent asides that only appear on the agenda as “other business.” At the most recent September 27th meeting, the Governor showed little sympathy for the NDPC complaints on new rules related above.
The first Tuesday of each month the Elkhorn Ranch team shares issues, updates and planning strategies focusing on the three units of TRNP and most specifically on the Elkhorn Ranch, the Elkhorn Ranchlands, and the Elkhorn Ranchlands Historic District. Nearly 20 individuals and organizations are represented. Our annual face-to-face meeting took place in Bismarck on October 4.
Initiated as the Special Places working group, dedicated representatives of local conservation continue to meet every couple weeks at the ND Natural Resources Trust office to share their individual work, broaden the group’s scope and understanding, and coordinate mutual efforts. Routinely joining us by phone are representatives from national organizations including the World Wildlife Fund, the Environmental Law and Policy Center and the National Park Conservation Association. We address a range of topics from habitat fragmentation and proposed infrastructure projects to flaring /spill statistics and communication strategies.
BCA continues to participate in the Northern Plains Conservation Network, a regional collaboration of more than 25 non-profit and tribal organizations working together to conserve and restore ecological processes of the Northern Great Plains. We attended both biannual meetings in 2016 – the first in Rapid City on May 5 & 6 focusing on prairie dog conservation, black-footed ferret recovery, and bison management & expansion in Badlands National Park while the second took place in Billings October 6 and 7 where discussion focused on water. It is always invigorating to learn from and share regional efforts and issues.
Bill O’Donnell came on as the new Supervisor of the Dakota Prairie Grasslands in early summer of 2016. The ND Wildlife Federation and BCA have held two joint introductory meetings with O’Donnell and Deputy Supervisor John Kinney in the last couple months. Both show an inclination toward deeper communication with conservation interests than we have seen of late. A third meeting is scheduled and we are seeking a broader gathering of organizations in the upcoming weeks.
BCA continues to submit comments on issues and projects in the Grasslands, particularly the southern Medora Ranger District and the northern McKenzie Ranger District on the Little Missouri. Oil and gas development impacting Ellison Creek near the Elkhorn, Wannagan Camp and the Theodore Roosevelt Wilderness in the South Unit, a disappointing attempt at master development planning along the southern shore of Lake Sakakawea and a similar effort near Bear Den Research Natural Area and the Cherry Creek confluence with the Little Missouri are examples.
The Dakota Prairie Grasslands Oil and Gas Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement and a to-be-updated Reasonably Foreseeable Development Scenario have seen little movement since we submitted comments in October 2015 in response to the September 2015 Notice of Intent. While this important analysis remains a priority for BCA and others, USFS staffing and funding limitations appear to be keeping it on a back burner.
Recent meetings suggest that alternative funding may be found, and the current Supervisor and Deputy Supervisor seem to hold higher consideration for full analysis that would take into account the gravely changed circumstances and technologies of Bakken development. We will keep you posted.
One of the greater benefits coming out of conservation’s efforts to reach out and collaborate in-state, regionally and nationally has borne fruit in a Covenant Consulting Group (CCG) report released in mid-August of 2016. Titled Stakeholder Assessment of the North Dakota Badlands and Little Missouri River Valley, the 140-page document as well as a 9-page briefing paper may be found here: http://www.ndstakeholders.org/. BCA strongly recommends you read it; do look at the survey responses found in the Appendices.
The goal developed to guide CCG interviews with stakeholder groups - ranchers, oil industry, conservation, and state and local government - was “To create strategies for how best to develop mineral resources with responsible stewardship of the Badlands.”
World Wildlife Fund was the lead on this project; other supporting entities played lesser but significant advisory roles. Those entities include the USFS, ND Natural Resources Trust, Badlands Conservation Alliance, ND Wildlife Federation and Logging Camp Ranch. Selection of Covenant Consulting, a local and well respected firm, adds to the value and integrity of the analysis and its recommendations.
A carefully selected five member committee representing the stakeholder groups interviewed held a first meeting on August 29 and will be meeting regularly through the remainder of 2016 with intent to identify next steps and areas of focus such that analysis may become action in early 2017.
Meridian Energy Group, Inc. of California brought an Application for a Building & Zoning
Certificate and an Application for Conditional Use Permit dated March 22, 2016 before the Billings County Planning and Zoning Planning Commission where they were approved on April 21st. The proposed project is the 55,000 bbl crude oil Davis Refinery and Meridian’s proposed location is within 2.5 miles of the South Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park. BCA finds this location unacceptable.
After P&Z approval, the project moved to the Billings County Commission where Meridian played to job creation and tax benefits while claiming ND’s business climate the friendliest in the nation. Opponents of the refinery location and advocates for the Park showed up persistently at each of the three hearings that followed: May 3, where the project was tabled due to incomplete information; June 7, where confusion in scheduling allowed for the invited ND Department of Health to appear only by phone; and July 6, where Chief of the Environmental Health Section of the DOH Dave Glatt, Director of the Division of Air Quality Terry O’Clair, and Director of the Division of Water Quality Karl Rockeman gave presentations limited by the information Meridian provided. Despite the many remaining questions, “Chairman Arthaud moved to approve the zoning change with the condition that all permits required by the state, as well as the county are complied with as well as a $3.25M construction bond required. Kessel seconded. All voted aye.”
While we were decidedly not happy with the outcome, it was expected. The greater hurdles for construction of a refinery in such close proximity to a Class 1 air quality National Park are ahead. BCA and others must make public opinion the greatest and unbeatable hurdle.
A water use application for 645.2 acre-feet at 400 gallons per minute (gpm) annually from the briny Dakota Formation was submitted to the ND State Water Commission. At hearings, Meridian estimated their water usage quite differently at 100 gpm, perhaps 150 at start-up.
On October 7, Meridian submitted a partial application to the Department of Health Air Quality Division seeking a Minor Synthetic Source Permit, a permit well below the previously anticipated norms for a refinery of this size. The company claims they can do it. Even if possible, it remains an unacceptable location.
According to the DOH webpage, the application will be available online when complete: http://www.ndhealth.gov/aq/PTCInProgress.aspx; scroll down. DOH is estimating a year for proper review of the application. Meridian claims much less. A 30-day public comment period concurrent with a 30-day EPA review will take place prior to any permit issuance.
BCA opposes the growing cumulative impacts of industrial development next to Theodore Roosevelt National Park. If you have any doubts, take a hike along the Rim Trail accessible from the eastern boundary of the Park. We must join with all advocates for National Parks to stop this location.
Equally important, we must concentrate attention on the North Unit of TRNP, the roadless areas of Lone Butte and Long X Divide next to the North Unit, and the proposed expansion of HWY 85 to a four-lane divided highway from Watford City to Interstate 94 at Belfield.
BCA has submitted comments on the proposed expansion of Highway 85 over a number of years beginning in 2009 with the Solicitation of Views by Kadrmas, Lee and Jackson, Inc. (KLJ) on a Theodore Roosevelt Expressway Corridor Study, in August 2010 following the TRE Public Input Meeting Phase I, in June of 2012 on a ND Department of Transportation (DOT) STIP Amendment regarding US HWY 85 Preliminary Engineering to consider upgrading US Highway 85 between I-94 and south of Watford City to a four-lane roadway, and in December of 2015 after attending public scoping meetings held in November of 2015.
Members again attended Alternatives Public Workshops held July 25 and July 25 in Belfield and Watford City and both individual and organizational comments were submitted. Most striking was the total lack of a reasonable range of alternatives as required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). No alternative looked at siting the proposed four-lane away from the National Park and no alternative offered keeping the 7 miles through the Little Missouri River Valley and Badlands breaks at its current configuration while adding measures to provide increased safety.
Lead agencies on this proposed project are the ND Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Federal Highway Administration. DOT project manager Matt Linneman has some sensitivity for our concerns for the Park. In a recent conversation Linneman allowed that our concerns were heard and he has instructed DOT’s engineering firm KLJ to revisit the alternatives question. He is also willing to listen, share ideas, and is open to further conversation, with Park and Grasslands advocates as well as others. We must keep the pressure on and the conversation going.
Perhaps BCA’s most brag-able accomplishment in 2016 is the progress we have made with our Red River Valley Outreach Campaign. It is not ours alone and that is a very good thing. Much thanks must go to the ND Wildlife Federation who has teamed up with BCA to make this a reality. Two NDWF members in particular, both former employees of the US Fish and Wildlife Service who now work nearly full-time as volunteers, deserve much credit. Big thanks to Mike McEnroe and Al Sapa!
It was apparent we needed to illustrate both the beauty of the Badlands and the threats from oil and gas impacts. Engaging Makoché Recording of Bismarck, we proceeded as a team of 4 to “make a movie” – Keeping All the Pieces. This “tool” would be used to provoke questions and conversation - and, hey, it works!
To date we have presented in Grand Forks, Fargo, Wahpeton and Bismarck with additional showings scheduled for Bismarck (4), Fargo, and Dickinson, and in the making for Valley City and Jamestown. Employees from three state agencies have asked for a viewing and we’ve been interviewed on both radio and TV. Requests for online accessibility are encouraging, but for now we are keeping the movie attached to presenters Mike and Jan. Online release will come; for now we want the people contact.
Three 30 second broadcast quality shorts are in production to amplify our message and funding is sought to put then on the air. Our aims are high, but returns could be significant. We want to grow this effort.
Deep thanks to those organizations and individuals who have shown financial support: ND Natural Resources Trust, ND Chapter of the Wildlife Society, ND Wildlife Federation, World Wildlife Fund, Lewis and Clark Wildlife Club, David Schwalbe, Mike McEnroe, and of course, BCA.
And the beat goes on!
Bits and pieces:
- BCA is continuing to work with legal counsel Earthjustice on the section line and “roads” lawsuit filed by the four Little Missouri National Grassland counties and the state of ND.
- BCA attended the annual conference of ND natural resource professionals in February. The ND Chapter of the Wildlife Society event titled Beyond Better Biology focused on more effective communicating. Gotta say the highlight was joining the college student table at the awards banquet.
- The ND Game and Fish advisory board’s February focus was the status of mountain lions. Lions remain a contentious topic, evident even within the Department.
- BCA attended the March 3rd Bureau of Land Management’s proposed rules hearing to reduce flaring, venting and gas leaks on federal and Tribal lands. Impressive was the large showing by Three Affiliated Tribes members.
- On July 8th BCA enjoyed interview time with sociologist Daisy Rook, professor at the University of Montana. She is doing research on collaborations between labor and other interests in the Oil Patch.
- BCA Vice-President Craig Kilber took his first run at the Maah Daah Hey 100 bike race in August. He claimed it a great experience and an event in which BCA should take part – lots of energetic folks who share our love of the Badlands. Let’s make friends! http://www.experienceland.org/maah-daah-hey-100/
- The TRNP coin release which took place on August 25 for Founder’s Day, the official 100th birthday of the National Park Service, was a sea of smiling faces, many of them BCA. It’s good to relax and just enjoy sometimes.
- On August 26th, BCA toured the Badlands and The Patch with Prairie Public reporter John Corley. After a half dozen hours of talking and driving, it was not clear what would come. Corley did not disappoint: http://news.prairiepublic.org/post/conversation-bcas-jan-swenson-tour-north-dakotas-oil-country-1
- On September 22, Orion Renewable Energy Group, LLC appeared before the Billings County Planning and Zoning Commission to seek Conditional Use and Siting Permits for up to 114 wind turbines to be located three miles north of South Fairfield to the county border with McKenzie – south of the HWY 85 and HWY 200 intersection and mostly but not all on the east side of HWY 85. Local opposition was so great no action was taken and arguments might have been those of conservation at the Davis refinery hearings. Interesting.
The permit request is anticipated before the Billings County Commission on November 1. Turbines would be visible at-a-distance from both the North and South Units. BCA will watch this.
- Billings County engineering firm KLJ has stated that the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for a proposed bridge crossing of the Little Missouri State Scenic River near the Elkhorn Ranch will be released yet this fall with a public comment period to follow. We have seen little movement on this project, but must be ever on the alert.
- BCA invites you to re-read Christine Hogan’s Message from the President. NOW is about change and change can be oh-so-beneficial. Let’s use it to our and our landscape’s advantage. There will be lots of new opportunities for conservation education. And, with effort and luck, new friends.