Monday, July 16, 2012

PUSHING NATURE AROUND

Before we start this entry, there is something you need to know about me.  I am not much of a "green" person.  I am as green as a very fat juicy vine ripened tomato.  As green as a Kansas City Fire Truck.  As green as a Chiefs helmet.  In other words, I would not be what you would call an avid environmentalist.  I fill my car up with gas no matter what the temperature.  I do not believe in global warming or the coming of a new ice age.  I do recycle however, but started only when the city started curbside recycling.  I would not drive somewhere just to recycle.

I realize that this makes me a follower of Satan to some, if not most, of you reading this.  I think though that my thinking may be changing a bit.  I am recycling to degree after all.  But the one thing that has seemed to open my eyes a bit is happening by my office.

The building that I work in is in a river valley that is also an old Civil War battle field called the Battle of the Big Blue.  It was part of a larger battle, The Battle of Westport.  The Battle of Westport was one of the turning points in the war as far as the Missouri-Kansas border war was concerned.  It is not famous like the battle fields in the east or the south, but it was important around these parts.  If you take a walk in the woods over by my office, you can still find the occasional Civil War leftovers, as bullets and stuff like that.

On the west side of our building, about thirty feet away is the Union Pacific railroad tracks.  Freight trains and trains carrying coal to the electric plant run constantly through the old battle field.  On the west side of the tracks is a large wooded area.  The wooded area has remained undisturbed since the battle took place and has become home to a lot of wild life.

Every once in awhile a few deer will make their way up to the tracks and walk along side them for a bit before darting back into the woods.  There are several different kinds of birds that fill the woods with life and song.  Huge hawks circle above the woods looking for dinner in the way of smaller birds or animals that leave themselves out in the open too long.  I have become fascinated with watching the woods and the birds and what ever else wanders out before heading back into the safety of the woods.  That is starting to change though and I am able to see what damage the change is bringing.

Late last summer we began to hear the sound of heavy equipment off in the woods.  We weren't sure what they were doing at the time and it didn't last very long.  We figured that they possibly were doing some brush clearing in the woods.  There is a drainage area where the rains run down a hill and sometimes if the rains are heavy enough, it floods in the middle of the woods.  Our thinking was that it was a minor flood control project and pretty much put it out of our minds over the winter.

Then this spring the equipment was back and they meant business.  You could hear the cracking of trees as the machinery ripped through the woods.  You could hear the trees falling and crashing.  After a month or so, they had cleared enough of the woods out that we could make out the bulldozers through the woods from out office.  It wasn't a clear view,  they were clearing things out pretty deep into the woods but the thinning was enough that we could make out the colors and the movement of the equipment.

Soon we found out what was going on.  A sign up on fifty-ninth street, where the clearing was beginning indicated a new housing project being built.  We think that it is going to be low income apartment housing.  From fifty-ninth street you could see a wide path of destruction heading off into the woods.  There were still some tree stumps that had been too stubborn to leave where they had been for hundreds of years, but plenty of the trees had simply given up under the attack.

They have continued working in the woods all summer so far.   They are going deeper and deeper into the woods.  Then we started noticing something happening that we hadn't noticed before.  More and more birds were start to hang around closer to the tracks then deep in the woods.  We were seeing more small animals coming up to the tracks and not turning right around and heading back into the woods.  We began to see more deer either come up on the tracks, or stay just inside the woods from the tracks.  Things were changing, and it wasn't taking long for it to happen.

 Then about three weeks ago we saw something that was seldom seen along the tracks.  A red fox came walking slowly out of the woods and up to the tracks.  It stayed out for a fairly long amount of time before heading down the tracks and re-entering the woods a little ways to the south.

We have seen red foxes come out of the woods before, but it was a rare sight.  The small fox never did look comfortable in the past when he would find himself out in the wide open like this and he would dart right back into the woods.  This one looked confused though.  He didn't like being out in the open, but it seemed like he didn't really want to go back into the woods either.  It was by far the longest amount of time that he had stayed out of the woods.

As rare of an event that this was, we were in for another surprise.  A few days later, the fox came out of the woods again and acted in much the same way as before.  It use to be that we would see a fox about once every two years and now we had seen one twice in just a few days.  Since that time we have spotted the fox about five more times.  He looks confused and scared.  The woods are changing for the first time in forever.

Those woods on the other side of the tracks has been home to generations of wild life that humans don't get to see too often.  Now things are different.  The wild life that has lived, more or less, in comfort in what can be described as a natural habitat are being flushed out of their homes to make room for new construction.  It isn't a pretty sight to observe.  The whole eco system is changing in a manner of months.  These animals do not know how to deal with it, what to do or where to go.

I can see a time when a train will be coming through the valley and that little red fox will not have anywhere to go except to try to outrun the train in a futile attempt to find some safe haven anywhere.

This has opened my eyes a bit, well maybe more than a bit.  Kansas City is a metro area that spreads over many square miles.  We have lots of wooded areas throughout the city, both in the city and in the suburbs and outlying areas.  I find myself changing in my idea of growing and constructing in areas where wild life innocently live.

I am not sure what the answer is if there is one.  The city will continue to grow and construction will continue to be taken up as the city grows.  I wonder if there was a survey of the woods to see how much wildlife was in those woods.  I wonder if maybe there could have been an attempt to relocate the wildlife into safer areas. Right now the animals in those woods are trapped between heavy construction equipment and railroad tracks.  Not much of a choice.

I think I have become a little greener because of this.  I feel for those animals.  The confusion of the red fox really brings it home.  Perhaps this will be a pathway for me to consider other things that I never thought of much before.  Perhaps at this time next year I will be as green as a six year old entering a school house for the very first time.

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