Open Pit Mining in Arizona

You may not know it, but there are many abandoned mines (100,000, but only 19,000 officially identified) in Arizona. You may already know this state produces more copper than any other state, which also has gold and silver mines. I began thinking about mines when I read a highway sign on my way to Summerhaven. It stated there had once been 1300 mines in the valley I was overlooking to the east. Another day I was bicycling past a couple of open pits with their warning signs on the west side of Tucson. Then I got thinking about the jaguar, Gila topminnows, Chiricahua leopard frogs and yellow-billed cuckoos in the Las Cienagas National Conservation Area and Nature Conservancy property near the Sonoita Creek Watershed because I heard mining was proposed for the area. How would that wildlife survive mining activity?

There is plenty to absorb when learning about mining practices whether it be a shaft mine or an open pit mine, but here are my concerns: using our already scarce desert water and degradation of and leaving behind a toxic environment. The population in this state increases each year and clean water is always needed. A mining operation uses millions of gallons of water per day. When mining is done a scar at least a mile wide and 3,000 feet deep remains, and since backfilling an open pit can cause more environmental damage and safety concerns it is not done. Here’s the additional water concern, besides the millions of gallons of water used each day, the pit would puncture our aquifer and drain water into it creating a pit lake. That is not the direction water should be going! The water from the mine is not to be part of our groundwater and drinking water. An aquifer is to be separate and going to creeks and springs providing clean water for wildlife, along with being our future drinking water. The pit lake water evaporates faster than if in an aquifer, plus metals in the water are concentrated and years later create a toxic ground environment.

Is politics involved in any of this business activity? Apparently so. July 2016 there was the Clean Water Act to be adhered to and some mines had to refocus their process since they could not meet the guidelines. But after a political appointment was made (Deputy Secretary of the Interior, David Bernhardt) in March 2019, Clean Water permits began to be approved! Due to various opposition to some mining proposals, some projects are on hold. The best way to get involved with stopping industrialized mining is to join advocacy groups such as checking out the Patagonia Area Resource Alliance website. There you will find information and current concerns.

On the other side you’ll hear advantages of a mine: about 2500 people hired for typically a 3 year construction period, wages two times the median in the area, 500 people employed for the 19 years typical for the life of a mine, and metals extracted and shipped for products to be made, such as electronics. Then ask: do we have millions of water to give away each day? Is our aquifer protected so we have drinking water now and the future? Do you know what that scar on the earth looks like? Why are we making our environment unhealthy for wildlife and ugly? Are you aware that Native American tribes consider some of these lands sacred? Why is a foreign country ruining our land and water for their economic business? How many more endangered species do we need to lose before we care?

This is not just about Arizona. Many U.S. states and places around the world are facing similar issues. Be aware of what we are doing to our planet Earth. Future generations wish to enjoy water, air and land within healthy lifestyles so let’s be sure we leave them the best we can!

Americans, What Road Will You Travel?

With oaths taken by Mr Biden and Ms Harris, to begin their term as President and Vice-President of the United States today, the time has come for all Americans to educate ourselves about numerous issues and to communicate to our elected officials the importance of solutions and needed productive action! It’s not just about the pandemic and needed vaccines distributed, but also undoing some of the past executive orders that put many people and our environment on the wrong track. It’s about providing accurate, honest information no matter the topic, unity and progressive action in our country’s democratic ideals, and caring and supporting each other equally in all dimensions of life.

We as Americans have a long road ahead in reaching the wanted and needed goals. Our standing in the world has been tarnished and sure to be a subject of discussion among fellow travelers when tourism returns to places around the world. Our global environment requires our participation in climate issues and assurance that all countries around the world receive vaccines for the current pandemic. Hunger, loss of businesses, jobs and homes for so many people will need a robust economic recovery to address these needs. None of these issues will be solved overnight, but productive action must begin. We need to be aware of the details so we can participate in and help put solutions in place. It’s a long road, no doubt, but it is one headed in the correct direction. What will you do to help? What elected officials will you encourage to work toward positive action and solutions? Where will you look to be educated about issues with accurate, honest information? America is our country and we should want it at its best for all. So, what will you do to help?

Thoughts of My Dad

Ever have a small something or other trigger a thought or memory of someone? Today would have been my Dad’s birthday if he had not passed more than 5 years ago. I think of him often and love wearing some t-shirts and flannel shirts of his. There are times I imagine how he would have coped during this pandemic. He probably would be reading his Chicken Soup books or history books, sitting and watching birds in his backyard, watching TV sports, and/or puttering around outdoors or in the basement with some project. He’d want to be sure he had his coffee, milk, sugar, crumb cake and cigarettes, and would have cooked a turkey and his famous stuffing when safely possible for those attending dinner with him and my Mom (who currently continues to live a healthy life).

The photo attached with this post is not my Dad. This man though reminded me of my Dad: blue jeans, baseball cap, sneakers, sitting by a water’s edge and relaxing … but my Dad would most likely be drinking his 3rd cup of coffee, not soda or beer. My Dad was a quiet individual, but he and I could talk about issues. He would be as distressed, as I am, about people being so cavalier about the health and safety of others during this pandemic. He and I could have talked now about the Black Lives Matter movement. I recall asking him why certain friends could not visit us in the late 1960’s in Pennsylvania. He told me it would not be safe for them to visit and explained the need for racial equality. He and I could have continued our talk about the environment and climate change, reminiscing on our 1970’s discussions about alternative sources of energy. My Dad and I would now be comparing eastern birds with western birds as we each observe birds throughout the year from our homes and asking the question, do we see less birds than 50 years ago. No doubt, I would have called to ask how to fix a particular thing as he was always handy in providing me detailed directions and possible solutions.

There have been times this past year I wished I still had my Adirondack shack, all 600 square feet of it to escape to during this pandemic! My Dad helped me install a bay window where 2 smaller windows were, build an outhouse because there wasn’t one, and set up rain gutters to collect water in a 55 gallon drum since I had no source of water. It truly was a rustic place few people enjoyed, but I loved it. It did not bother me to sleep in a winter sleeping bag. It was a luxury when Dad and I added a small wood stove to the place, which already had an oil heater. My shack of 26 years was on the best 2.5 acres of land. Just down the road with a 4 mile hike to a local lake is where I saw my first loon!

It’s interesting how a particular scene can trigger memories. My Dad lived a long life and is surely missed. I am glad also to have so many more memories of him! Fortunately our mind and heart allow us to have such strong memories and feelings! For that I am forever grateful and, of course, for the times my Dad and I shared which now seem a lifetime ago and yet it has only been 5 years. Wow!

Merry Christmas to YOU!

It has been a challenging year and for many people a very, very challenging year! I hope this day, Christmas Day, can be a relaxing one for you. I wish everyone a chance to connect with family and friends whether by notecard, phone call, zoom or FaceTime. We have had less or no opportunity to do all the hugging we normally do so this is our immediate solution with a goal to stay healthy and see each other in 2021. Let’s do it! Merry Christmas!

Support Small Businesses!

Supporting one another includes supporting small businesses too! It’s fun to discover new products, maybe even some seen on Shark Tank! Whether local small businesses or those discovered in other ways, now more than ever is a great time to support small businesses with your purchases. Business owners and employees are stressing and coping with the Covid-19 pandemic, putting in protocols to bring products to us safely while also working in healthy workplaces. Kudos to all who are accomplishing their business goals.

Locally, in Tucson Arizona, I purchased gluten-free macaroons, a 75% dark chocolate bar, and dark chocolate covered mangoes from Monsoon Chocolate. Each product beautifully wrapped and absolutely delicious treats! Great for gift giving too!

I never miss a Shark Tank episode on television and I admire the budding entrepreneurs! A product seen on Shark Tank recently, Pan’s Mushroom Jerky are all made from shiitake mushrooms. Always looking for a snack and/or vegan options for family members, this product seemed interesting. So far I am enjoying the salt & pepper product the best, but know there are many other flavors to choose from. I understand they are also available at Whole Foods.

A company providing so many choices is! I love their dried mango, chocolate-covered peanuts, chocolate-covered raisins, dried sour (tart) cherries and roasted mixed nuts. Everything is delicious, packaged with cute drawings and another great gift giving product.

Let’s not forget to support the small businesses providing us home services and curbside service. We are in crazy times right now with it being more important than ever to support each other and small businesses!

Saguaro East National Park

One can always enjoy the 8 mile loop drive in this park any day of the year. It’s a comfortable way to spend time if the day is getting hotter faster than you realized, but you wanted to be outdoors.

There is a nice combination of birds, cacti and scenery along the way, so enjoy! One can return numerous times in the year and always discover something new. Have you walked the ecology trail, climbed Javelina Rocks, or spent time in a picnic area? There are more trails to hike and lookouts along the drive, so come back and enjoy!

Javelina Rocks along the loop road.

Vote for Leaders With Character.

While outdoors, with this quiet park’s world around me, I have time to think. For years, experiences were provided for my students, faculty and staff with me to learn and understand the importance of conflict resolution with mediation and character education. Today, now more than ever, I wonder why our leaders lack the ability to be positive role models or work to build confidence in resolving issues to the benefit of all and not just a few. It seems the general population now has more anxiety, less trust and little to no confidence in their leaders working for them.

In character education programs, my students, faculty and staff with me learned, practiced, and were reminded of the importance of consciously doing the right thing even when it may be the toughest thing to be done or when no one was around to notice. To be a fair and caring person for the school, local and world communities is a responsibility of good citizenship. If we could trust that all of us will receive healthcare, social safety, food and shelter through legislation generated by our leaders there would be greater respect for them. Yet, leaders seem to protect their wallets and lifestyles with no respect of the constituency to which they represent. Decisions are made promoting agendas not of equality for all, but with a bias that alienates or squashes many with no path for growth or success.

My one hope is for leaders to someday understand we are all human, each with a mind, heart and honesty about what is best for ourselves. There often is not one directive to be taken; therein lies the importance of mediation in a conflict or creation of legislative action. Could leaders listen to all sides and work with all to discover a resolution maybe never heard before? Could they be respectful and trust not to have all the answers on how to make this a better world for all of us today, but also for future generations? As each leader displays their character, moral and ethical qualities that define them, and influence the choices they make, we will be watching their every move. It is in the choices they make where each of us decides if that is a leader for this citizenship. Another reason why we all must vote! Please be sure you do!


Do you know how many warblers there are!?! In this SW USA area and those also migrating through, I count more than 20 warblers. It is no wonder I am overwhelmed when trying to simply identify one! Thankfully a good photograph allows me the chance to narrow down which of the many warblers I am actually looking at in the moment.

I am looking at the bird thinking, is it rufous-capped, blue or yellow headed? Actually I am not thinking any of that because I do not even realize the warbler’s head comes with such variation. Instead I am focused on whether the bird is red or yellow faced with a split eye-ring or not and if its eyebrow is narrow white or tapering pale yellow. Only if I have my binoculars focused on the bird at the right angle may I even see any of that, while wishing I had my camera focused too to capture a photo.

A townsend’s warbler, according to the field guides, “actively gleans insects from the canopy” so for the photographer it means the bird will be bouncing around in the tree and it may be possible to get a clear photo. This warbler is one of the easier ones to identify because I relate its look to one wearing a black mask. The field guide states “dark ear patch outlined in yellow”. A hermit warbler is another warbler migrating through our area. Recent genetic studies show the hermit warblers are being absorbed by townsend’s warblers. When entering ones bird sighting into eBird the hybrid is an option, and here I had just learned the 2 birds so I am sure to not know if I am even seeing a hybrid!

I can identify a Wilson’s warbler, red-faced warbler and maybe a yellow-dumped warbler, but then I am more than stumped with any others. I remind myself not to give up. I will continue to look for warblers and take notice of each rump, undertail, flank, throat, eyebrow, eye-ring, and face with hope of identifying more of them. In the meantime, I am happy with the townsend’s warblers recently migrating through our local mountain forest for me to see, identify and photograph!

Townsend’s warbler

September Migrant Flies By

After considerable time spent trying to identify this bird, I believe it is a Hammond’s Flycatcher. Is that eye ring oval enough; is the bill short and dark; does it have a small, bull-head … whatever that means … to confidently identify this bird correctly? I know for sure it is a flycatcher, one of 17, and not the boxy-headed vermilion flycatcher which I see all the time here in SW Arizona as it is a resident at my elevation!

Hammond’s flycatcher

While this flycatcher can be seen from Alaska, USA to Nicaragua on its potential migration route, it is known to be in winter at elevations between 3000 – 5500 feet in my area. Now that I have added this bird to my life list, I will keep my eyes open when on the mountain roads this winter and look forward to its return in the spring.

Cyclists & Pedestrians Counted!

It’s an interesting piece of equipment on the bicycle loop in Tucson. It records the number of cyclists and pedestrians, which would include roller-bladers, joggers, runners, along with walkers all passing the counter each day and provides totals for the year. This is definitely one of the busier spots where people are on the loop. Kudos to all using this multi-use path! (You may even see some wildlife while out there. I bet the roadrunner wished to be counted!)