— by Susan Eirich, PhD — During a test run for our first online Conservation Conversation next week, one of the participants, “Robert,” shared a story that was vivid in his mind. He lives in an apartment in a large city. By his apartment complex of 1000 people lies a neglected vacant lot grown up with weeds. Lying in his bed in the very early morning a few days ago, he heard the passionate singing of a songbird who had moved into the lot. He lay there enjoying it morning after morning. He wondered if it was just singing out of territorial impulses? Or singing simply for joy? A thoughtful man not given to jumping to emotional conclusions, he nevertheless felt, in the end, that it...

-- Deb Matlock, MA -- A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog entitled A Confusion of the Heart which explored the depths of the human heart and our connection to wild animals. In this post, I spoke of the death of a baby bison after the baby was placed in a car by Yellowstone Park visitors and driven to a ranger station. Why? Because the visitors feared the animal was cold and abandoned. In a similar story reported in The Washington Post on January 7, 2017, a family was devastated after game wardens in Kansas shot a deer they had been keeping as a semi-house pet, while they watched in horror. This deer, named Faline, was reportedly tamed by the family, enjoyed time in their home, and also...

-- by Deb Matlock, M.A. -- At the time, I lived at about 9,000 feet in the foothills of the Colorado Rockies.  I had two lovely dogs, Levi and Kaia.  It was the middle of the day…a bright, sunny, clear, beautiful western day.  Levi and Kaia were basking in the sun while I was hanging laundry on the line. Chickadees were bouncing around the trees and the dry air was warm against my skin. Suddenly, Levi, the more vocally expressive of the two dogs jumped up and started to bark wildly.  It was then that I noticed that Kaia, a 35-pound border collie mix, was standing frozen at the fence, staring intently off towards the shed which was about 30 feet away.  I ran to her and tried to...

-- by Susan Eirich, PhD -- Hope, a feral wolf-dog, was caught between two worlds. Not just the wild and the human, but even more, between deeply ingrained hard-wiring for fear and self-preservation, and the need to connect. Once we trapped him it took a very long time for him begin to tentatively trust anything; dog, wolf or human. But he so wanted to! On some level he understood that to connect was to fill a hunger. And in the larger picture, that to connect was to ensure survival. These things, when one considers them, are mysterious. He took a chance; he dared. Why? We humans made an effort. But so did Hope. This wasn’t humans “taming” a wolf dog. He had to participate...

-- by Deb Matlock, M.A. -- At Earthfire Institute, the powerful idea of starting a conversation, any conversation, as a way to explore how to best live on this earth is rooted in every offering…from retreats to presentations to blogs like this one.  In fact, Conservation Conversations, gatherings of change makers for the purpose of discussing some of the most challenging conservation issues, are at the core of Earthfire’s mission.  Also though, at Earthfire, the concept is taken one step farther than is often the case.  The voices of wild animals are considered a valued and critical part of the discussion...ones that are often left out or dismissed in common human communications....

-- by Susan B. Eirich, Ph.D. -- There was a national sadness at the euthanizing of a baby bison in Yellowstone last May. It was taken away from its herd by well-meaning but ill-informed tourists, and the rangers made the decision to kill it when it couldn’t be introduced back. It was causing difficulties running up to cars looking for help. We all become a bit traumatized by news like this. There have been radically different responses to this highly emotional event. An environmental educator wrote in response to what she perceived as cruel attacks on the tourists through social media. She talks about the basically loving, concerned impulse of the tourists, however misguided, and how...