A Conversation with Artist Hadley Rampton

Artist Hadley Rampton offers a painting demonstration at the High Desert Museum.
During the 2018 Art in the West exhibition opening, artist Hadley Rampton delighted Museum visitors with landscape painting demonstrations.
Hadley Rampton, winner of the Jury’s Choice Award at the High Desert Museum’s 2018 Art in the West exhibition for her work “Vista,” blends her love of the outdoors with her passion for art through plein air painting. Born in Salt Lake City in 1975, Rampton grew up exploring the Utah wilderness and the Teton/Yellowstone area, a place she has always loved and continues to wander today, along with her trusty Border Collie, Phoebe, who plays while the artist paints. Find her online at hadleyrampton.com

When did you know you wanted to be an artist and what influenced that path?
I’m one of those who can’t remember when I wasn’t creating art — drawing or painting. As a little girl I loved creating art, mostly drawing. When I was 9, seeing this interest of mine, my mother put me in art classes outside of regular school — at the Visual Art Institute in Salt Lake City, Utah. With that, I was able to begin oil painting and figure drawing by the time I was 12, and I just loved working with more professional and advanced media. I loved it so much so I would just do it. It made me happy. And I was always interested in drawing accurately, drawing from life. I would actually be jealous of those kids who were drawing more from imagination. Even though I could draw more accurately, I was jealous because I didn’t have quite the imagination that they did.

Where do you find your ideas and inspiration for your pieces?
I love being outside. For me it’s these two loves and being able to combine these two things. I definitely do the majority of my work outside. It can get difficult, but I love the feeling of the elements around me, it energizes me. Maybe that is why my colors tend to be a bit more intense, and also my brush strokes and with my palette knife … I tend to just put down the color and then the next color and not labor over it too much. Being outside, because the light is changing and everything is moving and there’s all this energy around me, I can’t fuss over things. Being outside also allows me to really focus. Up in the mountains by myself, out in nature, that’s it. I’m there. I’m painting. I’m not doing anything else. There is nothing else to distract me.

Do each of your pieces represent specific places or landscapes?
I love to explore. If I wasn’t an artist I would be an explorer. Most of the places I paint I have been to many times, they’re places around where I live — mainly in the Northern Utah mountain ranges, Southern Utah, the Tetons and into Idaho, but I’ve never been south of Utah painting. When I am in a new place, I’m not sure what I’ll be painting. I just head out and look for things that really strike me. I love to venture into new territory, but also to revisit old territory and look at it in different ways and maybe from a different angle or with a different perspective.

Hadley Rampton's trusty companion, Phoebe, poses next to "Teton Gold," painted in the Tetons.
Hadley Rampton’s trusty companion, Phoebe, poses next to “Teton Gold” just after the painting was completed. Rampton painted this piece, which is featured in the High Desert Museum’s Art in the West exhibition, in the Oxbo Bend area of the Tetons.
I’ve come to love painting aspen trees. I have taken a bit more of a still life approach in a way because I am really thinking of the subtleties of composition and placement on the canvas. It’s a different thing than when I paint a distant landscape … the way the trunk curves, especially in the white, the shadows, the various colors that emerge, I emphasize those. I investigate that on much more of an intense level.

With the more distant landscape pieces, the location becomes more relevant. I always paint from life, but I am not too worried about making my paintings look exactly as the scene looks. I love letting what I’m feeling play a role, and because I work quickly there is a lot of gesture in the work, so things aren’t exact and that’s okay. In some ways, I hope that by working that way the feeling of the place comes through even more, much like a gesture drawing of a person — it may not be anatomically accurate, but it can convey the personality and the feeling of that person.

Do you still paint people?
For the longest time that is what I loved most. Through college I painted and drew the human figure quite a lot. Now I’ll go to a coffee shop and I’ll sketch the people as they’re moving, again carrying on with that immediacy and going with the gesture. When I travel overseas and take my watercolors, I paint street scenes and the people … just as I’m wandering, the scenes that I come upon. It’s like how I work here — just exploring and coming upon something that captures my desire to paint. It’s a different subject when I’m traveling overseas, but it’s that same sort of philosophy.

Do you consider yourself a historian, capturing time through your art?
I love history, and I think that’s especially true with the painting during the travels I do overseas. Where I go, what I see … I am generally always thinking about history and wanting to learn more by being there. With my paintings, especially of street scenes, I am really drawn to wear and tear where you can feel the history and the passage of time rather than everything being perfect. It’s also culture that I love to capture. At one point I had the privilege of being in Istanbul, and talk about history! I was able to paint these mosques and the Hagia Sophia, and the fun of it was there’d be a woman in a full burka and another woman in complete Western dress — shorts and a tank top. That’s the culture of Istanbul, they have this incredible history and then they have the whole Muslim component and then it’s also modern. I love capturing things like that, that tell, through visual means, a story, that tells so much about the place.

What are some of the most unique or noteworthy places you’ve been able to capture with your paintbrush?
It’s actually hard for me to rank places because even the places that I’ve gone that aren’t that far off the map have been incredible. I tend to be drawn to wandering and coming upon things. So even in a place that is more familiar, such as Paris, I find little moments that might be surprising. And the same is true for landscapes. I’ve painted iconic places like the Tetons, but then also have had the opportunity to venture down into the back areas that are not as known.

Do you always work with the same color palette?
My palette is very limited, so I do a lot of mixing. I have a blue, a version of red, a brown, a yellow and a white, no black, and from there I mix. Through the seasons, the color palette of the painting changes even though I’m working with the same paint colors. Then of course it varies from when I’m working in southern Utah in the redrock desert versus more northern alpine environment. So I do respond to the colors around me in real life, but sometimes it’s much more vibrant than what it really is, and other times it’s accurate to what it is. When I’m painting, I’m not really thinking about it, it’s just happening.

"Vista" by Hadley Rampton
Artist Hadley Rampton was driving in the Park City, Utah, area when she found her inspiration for this piece. “Vista” is the winner of this year’s Jury’s Choice Award in the Art in the West exhibition at the High Desert Museum.
Congratulations on your Jury’s Choice Award for this year’s Art in the West exhibition. What inspired “Vista,” what does the piece represent and what was the process of creation?
“Vista” — that piece is painted in the Park City area near Salt Lake in a spot I had not painted before. I had felt like doing something with a bit more distance. It was the beginning or middle of March so there was still some snow in the upper mountains, but there was also the wonderful warm hues that emerge when the snow melts. I found it while driving in the area — I just pulled over and it felt right so I set things up. With that one, I returned to the same place at the same time of day for several hours over a period of several days. It has a stylized, abstract feel to it. As I painted, I began loving the patterns and colors that were emerging. It was such a different piece. When that happens, when I paint a piece that is so different, just like anything at first, I’m not sure how I feel about it. But with this one, I came to really love it!

How has your art evolved?
For many years it was me yearning to draw accurately, but then ironically by the time I got to college I was inspired by the loose manner in which I saw others painting and drawing. I wanted to be more emotional, to let it go so that what happens happens. That is where I am now, and it is much more fun for me to be loose and let the emotion enter.

How do you know when you’re finished with a piece?
It’s hard to explain, but when it’s done it’s done. It’s a feeling, that last stroke, and I step back and just know.

Fire: A Prescription for the Forest

Low-intesity flames travel across the forest floor during a carefully planned prescribed fire at the Museum.
Low-intensity flames travel across the forest floor during a carefully planned prescribed burn at the Museum.

This spring, one cloudy May day, we watched flames creep across the floor of part of the Museum’s ponderosa pine forest. For a long time, we had been carefully planning for this prescribed burn of a portion of our acreage. The fire, though low intensity, still left a somewhat dramatic sight for our visitors the next day.

While some understood what we’d done and why, others came with questions. Some were curious, a few concerned. Why would we set the beautiful forest on fire, leaving the ground blackened and stumps smoldering? In short, for the health of the forest and the safety of the Museum and our community. It’s called a prescribed burn for this very reason.

Flames belong in the forest, an ecosystem that has evolved to withstand, and benefit from, the heat. Historically, low-intensity wildfires would burn through a ponderosa forest every five to 20 years. This would help to clear out shrubs, saplings and some of the pine needles and other litter lying beneath the trees. Larger trees would remain intact, their thick bark serving as a shield. The heat would open ponderosa cones and enable them to release seeds, continuing the natural cycle.

For centuries, people have suppressed wildfires in the West. Fuels have built up on the forest floor, and shrubs and trees have grown into unnaturally thick stands, depriving certain wildlife and plants of the habitat they need to thrive. When lightning or human actions start fires, as they inevitably do, they therefore often burn unnaturally hot and can inflict substantial ecological damage. A high-intensity wildfire would also threaten the Museum, our artifacts and the wildlife in our care. The damage that an out-of-control wildfire could cause is eye-watering — much more so than the smoke from our prescribed burn.

We are grateful to the U.S. Forest Service for partnering with us to plan and implement our burn. The process began with removing shrubs and small trees, reducing the fuels that had built up. We checked for ground-nesting birds before we mowed.

Some visitors have wondered aloud whether we could have just mowed the forest and left it at that. A low-intensity burn offers some unique effects, however. It increases the availability of nutrients, encouraging native plants to thrive. Fires can also create snags, which provide food and habitat for woodpeckers, bats and others. Only a portion of the property was mowed and burned, increasing the diversity of habitat types for the benefit of a wide range of species.

Ground fuels are measured after the Museum's prescribed burn to calculate what percentage was removed by the fire.
Measurement of ground fuels help U.S. Forest Service managers calculate the percentage of fuels removed by the Museum’s prescribed burn.

Over the years, we have been seeing fewer raptors and ground-nesting birds on the property. Both trends might be due to the density of vegetation and forest debris. More ground squirrels and other small mammals are able to stay safe under thick cover. Ground-nesters, such as quail, then face pressure from ground squirrels, for whom bird eggs make a tasty meal.

The burn has created a more diverse habitat, with some bitterbrush remaining, but also more open areas. As a result, hawks should now enjoy improved hunting success, which in turn will help to keep the rodent population in check.

Forest managers always weigh potential benefits against the actual and potential costs of a prescribed burn. In this case, the benefits dwarfed any negatives and we were excited to return fire to the forest. The result should be a revitalized and resilient ecosystem that supports an abundance of native plants and wildlife.

The new interpretive signs along the Museum’s Fire in the Forest Trail offer visitors a chance to understand the important role of fire in ponderosa pine habitats.
This burn also provided a fantastic opportunity to connect our community to the importance of forest restoration. Together with the U.S Forest Service, we took photos before and after the burn in specific locations, and will continue to do so for years to come. In doing so, we will capture the restoration process and communicate the important role of fire to our visitors. We also took measurements of the fuels on the ground, so that we can calculate the percentage of fuels that the burn successfully removed.

In addition, we have renovated our fire trail, Fire in the Forest, with additional signs along the loop to further explain the role of fire in ponderosa pine ecosystems. Have a look next time you visit the Museum! And watch, too, for the incredible regeneration that will happen in our forest over the next few months and years. We are already seeing small signs of new life.

The Bee-All and End-All

“Every third bite of food you take, you can thank a bee or other pollinator for… ”
E.O. Wilson, Forgotten Pollinators.

I was once a field biologist, lucky enough to call catching and identifying butterflies part of my
job. On one particularly hot afternoon, though, my pursuit of a rare butterfly was not going as
planned. It would fly close by, only to slip my net at the very last second. As the white wings
fluttered away for what felt like the hundredth time that day, I gave a resigned sigh. I let my net
slide to the ground. But mere moments later, I glanced down and there, resting gently on my
sleeve, was the butterfly. It was one of the most perfect, beautiful things I had ever seen. A new
appreciation of these insects was born.

Butterflies offer much more than beauty. Along with bees, hummingbirds, moths, wasps and beetles, they are pollinators whose small stature belies their importance. Pollinators transfer pollen and enable many plants to produce fruits and seeds. This makes them vital to the reproduction of many native and commercial plants. Our native flowering plants are key to healthy soils and clean air and water. Plus, more than 150 different crops, such as apples,
almonds and tomatoes, rely on them — a 2016 report estimates that pollinators are essential to three-quarters of the world’s crops, worth more than $577 billion. Pollinators and the plants they support also hold rich cultural values that no dollar amount could ever cover. Pollinators are under threat on a global scale. Pressures include habitat loss and fragmentation, invasive species, disease and the widespread use of certain harmful pesticides. Despite this, I am feeling optimistic. Last spring, we held an event to shine a spotlight on efforts to protect pollinators. The City of Bend, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Sisters Middle School and Your Garden Companion shared their conservation successes and answered audience questions about how to support pollinators of all kinds. Their passion and commitment to this cause, and the enthusiasm with which audience members responded, gave me hope for the future of pollinators.

At the Museum, we are all keen to contribute to these local conservation actions. This summer, we look forward to celebrating National Pollinator Week and helping visitors to contribute to the Pacific Northwest Bumble Bee Atlas. We are also planning to plant a pollinator habitat of native flowering plants on the grounds. In the fall, we will begin a professional development program to help teachers to establish pollinator habitats at three different Central Oregon schools.

If you are keen to support local pollinators yourself, a few things to consider:
• If you have a yard or patio space, plant some native plants that the pollinators will love.

Get inspiration from the Xerces Society, or chat with experts at your local plant nursery.
Build a bee condo!
• Tell your friends and family about the importance of pollinators.

I am no longer out in the wilderness identifying butterflies for a living. But my role at the Museum is to
connect people to why such species matter and how we can help them to thrive for generations to come
— and that, for me, is even more fulfilling.

Photographs by volunteer Museum photographer Abbott Schindler

Give a Bird a Home

Nest boxes are a fun and simple way to help backyard birds this spring.

Last spring, I watched in wonder from the window as a pair of mountain chickadees built a nest and raised their young in the front yard. I would perch, tea in one hand, binoculars in the other, excitedly reporting my sightings to my partner and our dog. It was such a perfect start to my day.

To see birds create and care for a nest, then witness their young fledging, is a delight. If you’re lucky, birds might naturally select a site near your home, but a nest box will improve your family’s chances of seeing this phenomenon first-hand. Many High Desert bird species are in decline due to a combination of pressures including habitat loss and fragmentation, window collisions and predation by domestic cats. A small but meaningful way to support them is to provide a safe, dry place for them to raise their nestlings.

Nest boxes are available at specialty and most hardware stores. It can be less expensive and more fun to make your own box, however, as some folks did recently at the Museum’s Nest Box Building workshop. If you’d like to do the same, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Nestwatch.org offers a variety of building plans and information about nest monitoring.

Bird species vary in nesting behavior and therefore in their nest box preferences. The American robin tends to prefer a shelf, for example, while the northern flicker requires a deep box, filled with wood shavings, that it can excavate as it would a tree. When considering what type of box to provide, think about the habitat around you, what species you’ve seen in your area and which birds you’d most like to attract.

You can help to keep birds safe from predators by providing a secure, perch-free box that blends in with the surroundings. Predator guards are also available. If you or your neighbors have an outdoor cat, place your nest box in an area your feline friend cannot access.

It can take a while for birds to adopt a newly installed box, so be patient. Providing food and a reliable source of water can help to attract them.

As I watched the chickadees fledge last year, I felt an enormous sense of gratitude for the opportunity to watch them at such close-range. Now that spring is here, I’m looking forward to seeing the whole process all over again.

Spring Activities for Kids

As the sun’s rays shine between the trees, glinting off the frost covering the bare aspen branches outside my window, I can feel the promise of spring, even as winter weather lingers. I know that soon buds on aspen branches will burst with fresh spring leaves and winter will give way to a new season! The arrival of spring is one of my very favorite times of the year. It’s a great time to get outside and explore. Longer days, warmer temperatures, new leaves and blossoms, and the return of migrating birds await you.

There are so many ways to celebrate spring, no matter your age, but these are some of my favorites!

1. Go on a hike and look for signs of animals!
In the spring, animals such squirrels and rodents are emerging from hibernation or torpor (periods of long slumber, but not true hibernation). You’ll see signs of their activity such as chewed pine cones and nibbled plant shoots.
Make a simple chart to focus your observations. Sketch what you see!
– Scat (animal poop)
– Tracks (footprints)
– Forage (chewed pinecones, nibbled branches, etc.)
– Homes (nests, dens, etc.)

Come stroll the Museum’s many nature trails and look for signs of animals such as the golden-mantled ground squirrels and chipmunks, which are very active this time of year. Check the feeders in the wildlife viewing area for spring activity. Talk with a wildlife expert at the Museum if you have any questions about birds and mammals you’ve seen during your visit.

After watching the busy songbirds at the Museum’s feeders, get an up-close and personal view of raptors during our “Sky Hunters” program, offered for a limited run each year during spring break (March 24-31, 2018). Watch as powerful aerial predators take flight overhead in this intimate, free-flight demonstration showcasing each bird’s agility and grace. Date, time and price information can be found on our website calendar.

Families with young children will also enjoy exploring our “Who’s Home?” interactive exhibit. Watch as your little ones get creative, imagining they are snakes in the rimrock, just emerging from hibernation!

2. Start sunflower sprouts!
Sprouting seeds indoors before you plant outside helps the plant develop in a controlled environment. Or, rather than planting outside, have you ever eaten fresh microgreen sprouts? They are extremely nutritious, and, when grown in your own kitchen, very local!

By planting sunflower seeds inside, you can choose to transplant some outside where they will grow into tall sunflowers come summer, and save some for a delightful, edible treat.

Black oil sunflower seeds are my favorite. You can find quality seeds at a garden supply store, or by searching online.

1. Purchase quality seed. I use black oil sunflower seeds. Though other types will work, these are the least expensive.
2. Soak your seeds in warm water for 12 hours in a covered container. I recommend about two cups.
3. Drain and rinse.
4. Soak the seeds again in warm water for another 8-12 hours. (Repeat steps 3 and 4 until the seeds start to sprout.)
5. Once the seeds have begun to sprout, fill a clean, plastic nursery tray with moistened seed-starting potting mix nearly to the top.
6. Sow the seeds thickly across the entire tray then cover
it with another inverted nursery tray to block out the light. There is no need to cover the germinating seeds with more potting soil. Be sure there are some small holes in the top tray to allow for ventilation.
7. Water the tray from the bottom once or twice per day by setting the tray in a bigger tray of water for a few minutes.
8. As the shoots grow, they’ll push up the top tray (usually within a few days). At this point, remove the top tray to expose the growing seedlings to light.
10. Move the tray in front of a bright, sunny window.
11. Continue to regularly water by spraying shoots and soil with a spray bottle several times a day.
12. Harvest the sunflower shoots that you want to eat when they reach 4 inches high by cutting them off at soil level with sharp, clean scissors. Transplant the rest of the shoots outside!
13. Store unwashed sunflower microgreens in a sealed plastic bag in the fridge for up to five days. Wash them as you need them by running the shoots under cold water. They are delicious on sandwiches and salads!

By planting seeds indoors, kids get to witness every stage of the sprouting process, and then taste the results of their efforts and watch as their sunflowers grow and mature in the yard or garden.

Did you know?? At the Miller Ranch, the Millers are also getting ready to start a garden for the summer. Come ask the Millers about what they are doing to prepare their garden.
Spring is a prime time for sprouting in the great outdoors, too! Look for bud bursts and other signs of spring on the High Desert Natural History Walk at the Museum, offered daily.

3. Make a Bird Feeder
More than half of Central Oregon’s birds depart for the winter, leaving about 175 species that are hearty enough to survive the cold temperatures, snow, and scarce food. But come spring, migrant birds are returning and need to replenish after a long journey! Create this ponderosa pinecone bird feeder, and survey the local birds that come visit! Consider placing the feeder away from windows to mitigate collisions. Take it one step further and apply window stickers so birds don’t mistakenly fly into the glass!

You will need:
– Large ponderosa pine cones (found on the ground on an outside adventure!)
– Peanut butter (shortening for people with nut allergies)
– Birdseed
– String
– Butter knife
– A shallow dish
– And, of course, a place to hang your bird feeder! (a tree or bird feeder hanger work nicely)

1. Shake or lightly brush the pinecone to remove any dirt or debris. Trim off any loose scales that may break off as you create your feeder.
2. Tie string securely around the cone. Create a loop to easily hang your feeder from a tree branch.
3. Use the knife to coat the cone with a layer of peanut butter, pressing some between the rows of scales, filling in larger gaps. If the peanut butter is too thick to spread well, it can be warmed up slightly in the microwave to make it easier.
4. Once the cone is completely coated with peanut butter, roll it in the birdseed in a shallow dish, pressing lightly to keep the seed adhered to the cone. Work the seed in between the rows of scales.
5. Feeders can be hung immediately, or can be frozen for several weeks. The feeders do not need to be thawed before hanging.
6. Hang your feeder and carefully watch for visiting birds!
For bonus points, record the species you observe on eBird (www.ebird.org) – a partnership of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the Audubon Society. There, you can see what types of birds other people have seen in your area, and share your sightings with others.

Learning about birds in your own backyard is an excellent extension of learning to complement your Museum visit. What do the birds in your backyard have in common with birds at the Museum? How are they different?

I hope you can use these activities to embrace the changing seasons! Spring is a blend of showers and sunshine, but whether sun or rain (or even snow), there’s plenty to explore to stay busy! When you’re warming up (or drying out) back indoors, continue your celebration of spring with these books:

Spring children’s books:
And then it’s spring by Julie Fogliano & Erin Stesd
Seeds, seeds, seeds! By Nancy Elizabeth Wallace
Seeds sprout! (I like plants) by Mary Dodson Wade
The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle
First the Egg by Laura Vaccaro Seeger
The Stick Book: Loads of things you can make or do with a stick by Fiona Danks and Jo Schofield

Spring adult books:
Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard
Mind of the Raven by Bernd Heinrich
What the Robin Knows by Jon Young
Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver by Mary Oliver

To Blake Little, Gay Rodeo is Personal

Blake Little, Chute Dogging
From the moment he attended his first gay rodeo in 1988, photographer Blake Little was hooked. “I was completely drawn to it and I had to be a part of it,” he stated. “I wanted to be a cowboy.” Pursuing the thrill of his own cowboy dreams through the International Gay Rodeo Association (IGRA), Little became immersed in the spirited Western community. As a participant, Little found himself in a unique place where he could draw on his passion for photography and use his background and skills as a photographer to document the gay rodeo through his camera lens.

Little knew, of course, that the view through a camera lens can be unique, often capturing the world from a different angle than seen when simply passing by. Through his photographs, he invites us to view things as they are, while also challenging us to see them from a different perspective.

What resulted was a series of 41 stunning black-and-white photographs taken between 1988 and 1992. On exhibit at the HDM from December 15, 2017, through April 30, 2018, Blake Little: Photographs from the Gay Rodeo, presents a glimpse into a little-known world, allowing us to explore a story with the intimacy of an insider’s point of view. In addition to representing Little’s own experience on the gay rodeo circuit, the exhibition also celebrates the lives of many of its participants during those years, capturing the spirit and camaraderie of a vibrant community. The collection elegantly combines the action of roping and riding, while also presenting a portrait of the courageous cowboys and cowgirls behind the scenes.

The exhibition, Little explained, memorializes his own “unforgettable experiences in gay rodeo,” and honors “the cowboys who competed with me and left a huge mark on my life.” Competitors came from a wide variety of backgrounds, yet the relationships they formed became some of the most important in their lives. The gay rodeo community offered the LGBT cowboys and cowgirls a place where they could be themselves and embrace their true identities. Despite the competitive nature of rodeo, participants were supportive of one another. “For me that was the most memorable and rewarding thing about rodeo,” Little stated.
Some of the rodeo participants pictured in Little’s photographs still ride, but many have retired and some have passed away.
Blake Little: Photographs from the Gay Rodeo is curated by Johanna Blume, assistant curator of Western art at the Eiteljorg Museum, and offered through the courtesy of the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art, Indianapolis, IN.

This exhibit is a program of ExhibitsUSA and The National Endowment for the Arts. 
Made Possible by Cascade Arts & Entertainment, Oregon Cultural Trust and Zolo Media. This project has been funded in part by the Oregon Heritage Commission, Oregon Parks and Recreation Department. With support from the James F. and Marion L. Miller Foundation.

Blake Little, Chute Dogging, Phoenix, Arizona, 1989; archival pigment
printed on Epson exhibition fiber paper, 13.25 x 20 inches; Loan courtesy
of Blake Little.

Hope

Storytelling is a big part of what we do at the Museum. Narratives can be a powerful tool for teaching and learning, and for fulfilling our mission of connecting audiences to the High Desert region. All of the objects, exhibits, and staff at the museum have stories to tell, and so do each of our animals. One of the things we look for when we bring an animal to the museum is a good story, one that will spark a connection with our visitors.

Late last summer a new resident arrived at the Museum, one with a particularly dramatic and colorful past that paints a vivid picture of the recovery of her species from near extinction, and of the challenges they face in new habitats today. She is a peregrine falcon named “Hope,” one of a clutch of four hatched by wild parents high upon a building in Tacoma, Washington.

In the early 1970s peregrine falcons were among the first animals added to the Endangered Species Act, their populations ravaged by the effects of the organophosphate pesticide DDT. Thankfully they are also one of the ESA’s most resounding success stories, soaring back from near extinction and quickly recolonizing habitats across the continent, including in major cities where tall buildings simulate the cliffs they require for nesting, and where urban pigeon and starling populations provide an abundant food source. Once extremely rare, today peregrine falcons are part of the daily lives of people in major cities throughout the country, and Hope and her siblings enjoyed celebrity status for a short time in Tacoma. However, the attention urban raptors receive also means that human onlookers often get a front row seat to the harsh realities of their natural history.

Like most raptor species, peregrine populations endure high mortality rates in the first year of life. At least 60 percent of peregrine falcons will not make it to age 2. Big cities can be good habitat for falcons, but they are also dangerous places for learning to fly. Hope and one of her brothers both fell from the nest to city streets below, but were “re-nested,” or returned to the high ledge by humans for their parents to continue care. Eventually, two of her brothers, including the one that fell, successfully fledged. However, a third died after flying into a window, and Hope eventually fell a second time. The injury to her wing was too severe for her to make it as a wild falcon.

The High Desert Museum is a refuge for many native animals that would not survive in the wild, serving as both steward and custodian of animals that by law belong the people of Oregon and the United States. Non-releasable animals come here from rehab facilities across the west for lifelong care, and are made accessible to the community through dynamic educational programs that emphasize wildlife ecology and conservation in our region. Each individual animal is evaluated carefully based on its preferences, history, and physical limitations for what programs it wants to participate in, and is trained accordingly not only for public presentation, but also for daily exercise and enrichment. The goal in all cases is to give these animals the best quality of life possible.

Hope has proven to be a very special bird. After a few short months of careful handling and daily exercise, not only has she learned to sit on the glove for daily bird of prey talks, but she has very quickly progressed through an intensive training, physical therapy, and exercise regime, and has once again learned to fly on a limited basis with her injured wing, and she absolutely loves doing it! Flying sessions have become a highlight of every day for both Hope and the wildlife staff.

Because of her story, Hope will be especially useful for connecting audiences to the adaptability of peregrine falcons and their increasing use of urban environments, and also to the additional challenges they face in those habitats. This winter and spring you will be able to come to our daily Bird of Prey talks, and next summer she will debut in our Raptors of the Desert Sky free-flight program where she will educate audiences about the recovery of her species throughout the High Desert region and beyond.

Treading Lightly on Nature

Responsible recreation benefits us all.

Like many people who are drawn to live in the West, I’m happiest when I’m out in nature.

Some of the best, most inspiring moments of my life have happened while running, hiking or horseback riding on trails. Here in Central Oregon, we are blessed with world-class recreation opportunities just outside our front doors. Outdoor recreation supports our health and wellbeing and brings economic benefits to the local community. I would rather see a packed trailhead than a packed shopping mall on a Saturday, as it indicates that folks are out experiencing and forging personal connections with nature — and will, hopefully, care more about it as a result.

But as Lauri Turner and Brock McCormick of the U.S. Forest Service recently discussed during one of our thought-provoking Natural History Pubs, while making humans healthier, recreation can harm wildlife and our public lands. Land managers must therefore balance their goals for recreation, habitat restoration and wildlife conservation. Most outdoor recreationists appreciate and respect the trails and the habitats they lead us through, but mounting issues include people dumping trash, leaving poop unburied, and forging new, unofficial trails. Some people also approach wildlife far more closely than animals can tolerate. While slightly less than 200 feet is felt to be an acceptable distance by recreationists, about 500 feet is the actual flight distance of mule deer, bison and pronghorn. Even those of us who set out with the best leave-no-trace intentions have unseen impacts on the many species who call the forest or desert home. We may contribute to soil compaction and erosion, tree-root damage, or cause deer to flee long before we spot them.

The decisions we make on the trail — and about which trails we use, and when — impact numerous species, from salamanders to elk. Wildlife responds best to predictable disturbances. For example, if trails get busy at certain times of day, they may learn to avoid, or at least expect, that disturbance, only returning during quieter times. If you roam far off-trail in the early morning and meet a deer, it’s likely to be startled and make a hasty retreat. Body fat that the animal had stored for winter survival may end up being used for running, instead.

No-impact outdoor recreation doesn’t really exist, but low-impact recreation can! What can we do, as a community, to reduce our impact while continuing to enjoy our trails? A few actions to consider include:
• Keep to designated trails. We have enough official trails (not including user-created, BLM, Bend Parks and Recreation or State Lands) in the Deschutes National Forest for a person to hike 38 miles per weekend, May through September, without needing to repeat a single inch of trail.
• Respect seasonal restrictions in sensitive habitats.
• Give wildlife space. This is especially important when nesting or mating is occurring, and during the winter. Invest in a pair of binoculars, rather than getting too close.
• Try to keep your dog on a leash or under control. This is especially important during the winter and spring.
• Clear up your trash. Follow the Leave No Trace program, including Seven Simple Principles.
• Share responsible recreation tips with friends and family.

Please see the U.S. Forest Service’s website for further information about how we can reduce our impact on the flora and fauna that make this region so beautiful.

Turn Off the Lights for a Brighter Future

The Museum’s staff is thrilled to have recently become a partner of Lights Out Bend, a volunteer-operated education and advocacy program that seeks to highlight the issue of light pollution and inspire the community to reduce light pollution. In becoming partners, we join fellow local organizations keen to make a difference. This includes the Deschutes Public Library, East Cascades Audubon Society and Ruffwear.

What is light pollution and why should we care? Simply put, light pollution is the inappropriate or excessive use of artificial light, and human activities are lighting our night sky like never before. You’ve probably seen many businesses and homes leaving lights on at night. While this may seem harmless, it has major implications for native wildlife species. They evolved with predictable phases of light and dark, and many species are guided by celestial sources of light—such as the moon, stars and planets. Artificial lights interfere with these natural rhythms and behaviors. Bats, birds, moths and other species may suffer reduced hunting success, collisions with windows, disorientation and numerous other problems. Light pollution puts lives on the line.

Luckily, the solution comes with a simple flick of a switch! By turning off unnecessary lights, using motion sensor lights or lower intensity bulbs or installing fixtures that don’t direct light up into the night sky, we can improve the lives of birds and animals with whom we share the High Desert. We can also close our curtains at night to reduce the amount of light that can escape to the outside environment. While these actions are meaningful year round, they are particularly important during spring and fall migratory seasons.

Protecting the starry night sky saves wildlife. We also benefit from energy savings and a better view of the stars. It may even improve our health, as electric lights are thought to influence our own biological clocks. The Museum’s staff is committed to switching off all unnecessary lights at night. We hope you’ll join us.

For more information about this issue and what actions you can take to help, visit Lights Out Bend or the International Dark Sky website.

Telling Native American Stories Through Art

Ben Pease has been awarded the Jury’s Choice Award at the High Desert Museum’s Art in the West exhibition for his 2017 work “Honor and Respect Come to Thee”. It was among 226 pieces submitted in response to a nationwide call to artists for the Museum’s annual juried art exhibition and silent auction.

Ben is a young Native American artist whose work is deeply steeped in identity. Born on the Crow Indian Reservation in 1989, he has deep roots in both the Crow and Northern Cheyenne nations in southeastern Montana. While Ben has been making waves in the art world for several years now, he is currently working on his undergraduate degree at Montana State University with a major in Art and a minor in Native American Studies. Ben considers himself a storyteller by vocation, and feels strongly that he has a responsibility to tell the stories of Native people.

“Honor and Respect Come to Thee” is a mixed-media painting that shows a digitally manipulated historical photograph of a mounted Native American warrior superimposed on a rich and layered background composed of washes of acrylic paint, glass beads, antique ledger papers, an antique mail envelope and a US telegraph ticket. The dense but transparent surfaces of his paintings are somewhat hazy, and we get the sense that we are viewing an image from memory through the fog of time. His paintings are accumulations of meaningful materials and processes, where successive layers of later marks obscure earlier ones. The ledger pages remind us that we need to account for the past, and the acrylic paint almost becomes a kind of whitewash, which reminds us of our desire to avoid dealing with difficult and unpleasant aspects of our national history.

Composed as they are of historical images that are depicted using a combination of traditional painting techniques and modern, digital processes, Ben’s paintings elegantly express the tension between the traditional and the modern. His works are almost a tug-of-war between the past and the present, and his imagery is a rich stew of culturally-transmitted memory and history seasoned with the awareness of what it means to live in America as a Native person today.

What draws me to Ben’s work is his willingness to make art that can speak to difficult and painful aspects of the past while at the same time celebrating the positive elements of Native identity today. His work is a tribute to people who have been tested by great adversity, but have retained a strong sense of who they are and where they come from.

“Honor and Respect Come to Thee” and the other works in Art in the West are on view in the Brooks Gallery through August 26. The silent auction culminates at the High Desert Museum’s gala, the High Desert Rendzvous, that evening.

Photo: Honor and Respect Come to Thee by Ben Pease (Jury’s Choice Award)