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Rocky Mountain National Park Lyceum Series Continues March 13 & 20

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Date: March 8, 2010
Contact: Kyle Patterson, 970-586-1363

2010 Lyceum Series
“Wilderness: Of What Avail Are Forty Freedoms Without A Blank Spot On The Map?”

Saturday, March 13, 7:00 p.m. - Our Great Nature
In our ancient past, we were at one with nature, and nature was at one with us. As we progressed, we discovered we had the capacity for developing a human-centric world, filled with its own awes, wonders, amusements, and challenges.  Today we stand at a predictable precipice, with one foot outside nature, and one foot still inside. Which way should we go? Thankfully, our hearts and our common sense tell us to keep a goodly portion of ourselves in contact with nature. Yet, there is another, perhaps more subtle but equally important need, the need to allow nature to be in communication with us. Join this special presentation and learn how.

Mike Whatley is currently the Chief of the National Park Service’s Office of Education and Outreach, which is a part of the Service-wide Natural Resource Program Center. Although Mike’s program is a part of the Washington Office operation, he works in Fort Collins, along with some 200 other natural resource specialists.  Mike has close to 40 years of experience with the National Park Service, and has had field ranger positions at Lake Meade, Sequoia-Kings Canyon, Grand Canyon, Morristown, and Cape Cod. He has also had a variety of international experiences including National Park Service assignments in Canada, Jordan, and Israel. 

Saturday, March 20, 7:00 p.m. - Monitoring Climate Change and Alpine Vegetation in the Wilderness of Rocky Mountain National Park
The National Park Service has played an important role in the protection and preservation of high elevation mountain ecosystems due to their natural splendor, unique assemblages of flora and fauna, and their critical function as a source of water for much of the United States. Despite protection and wilderness designation, alpine systems are increasingly threatened by climate change and atmospheric pollution. The Wilderness Act states that “wilderness areas shall be devoted to the public purpose of recreational, scenic, scientific, educational, conservation, and historical use.” To promote education and science in wilderness areas and to better protect and understand alpine areas, the Rocky Mountain Inventory and Monitoring Network began monitoring alpine vegetation and climate change in Rocky Mountain National Park in 2008. With this effort, the park has joined an international network, the Global Observation Research Initiative in Alpine Environments (GLORIA), that monitors change in high-elevation mountains.

This presentation will describe the importance of alpine ecosystems and the results from our initial monitoring efforts in Rocky Mountain National Park. Dr. Isabel Ashton, an ecologist with the National Park Service Rocky Mountain Inventory and Monitoring (I & M) Network in Fort Collins, will discuss the benefits and difficulties of monitoring wilderness and the role that the I&M Program plays in providing scientifically credible long-term data to aid in the management of wilderness areas within national parks.

The I & M network has developed programs to monitor climate, grassland and alpine vegetation, wetlands, and the ecological integrity of streams for a grouping of western national park areas. Prior to working for the NPS, Dr. Ashton was a postdoctoral researcher at University of California, Irvine and Niwot Ridge Long-Term Ecological Research Site. She earned a bachelor’s degree from Columbia University and a doctorate degree in Ecology and Evolution from the State University of New York.

In March, 2009, President Obama signed legislation providing additional protection to Rocky Mountain National Park by designating most of the park’s backcountry as wilderness, which encompasses roughly 95 percent of the park. Park staff joined the gateway communities of Grand Lake and Estes Park in welcoming the passage by the Congress of the wilderness designation for the park’s backcountry. This was the culmination of an effort that began in 1974 by President Richard Nixon and was jump started in recent years through the efforts of many. 

The theme of the 2010 Lyceum Series is “Wilderness: Of What Avail Are Forty Freedoms Without A Blank Spot On The Map?” the famous quote from Aldo Leopold. This year’s series

will focus on how wilderness influences what we do as stewards of this incredible national park. Speakers will highlight what wilderness means spiritually, physically, as part of naturally functioning systems, as part of our psyche as a nation, and how it guides our decisions on management decisions at Rocky Mountain National Park.

The Lyceum schedule runs through May. Financial support for the lyceum series is provided by the park’s nonprofit partner, the Rocky Mountain Nature Association. Programs are free and open to the public. They are held at 7:00 p.m. at the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center auditorium in Rocky Mountain National Park.

For more information about Rocky Mountain National Park please call (970) 586-1206.

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