The Invisible Kingdom

A gaggle of wildlife biologists landed at Green Springs Inn this week.

They are sharing tall tales, like the one about the wolverine that walked from Idaho to Lake Tahoe. That story has a sad ending. No lady wolverine has showed up in Northern California to date. But stay tuned. As in any fairy tale, living happily ever after is still a possibility.

True love has replaced adolescent yearning for our neighbor, OR-7. He has a bride, babies and a home in the wild, far from any livestock. May he and his family live long and drama-free.

Like any superheroes, wildlife biologists have special gifts. Theirs is vision. They can perceive a dimension that is invisible to most of us, a realm rich in life. Where we see monotonous trees and clearings, sagebrush and distant mountains, mostly through windshields, they see a kingdom inhabited by humble voles and magnificent owls; deer, elk and mountain lions; flying squirrels, pine martens and Pacific fishers. They watch all these creatures go about their business: eating, being eaten, bearing young, decomposing, weaving a web of life.

Unfortunately, most of us do not have the time, training or patience necessary to actually witness this invisible kingdom.

If you come stay in a cabin or room at Green Springs Inn, the chances are very good that a mountain lion, a herd of elk, a bear, a pine marten or a spotted owl will pass within a few hundred yards of the hot tub where you are luxuriating. It is not likely that you will see them. To the big cat and the others, you are irrelevant, neither prey nor (except during designated seasons) predator.

One of the lovely features of a relatively intact ecosystem is that we can live in harmony with creatures that are way stronger than us.

The fact that we have this marvelous fragment of nature at our doorsteps is an historical accident. Oregon’s unique land use laws have held back the tide of suburbanization.  We hit a crazy jackpot on the slot machine of federal politics 15 years ago and won the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, a protected jewel in a belt of semi-protected public lands along the Pacific Crest.

But how can we keep this precious invisible kingdom safe from … us? We have a long history of destroying natural wealth for short-term gratification. Over time, what’s to keep OR-7 and his family from going the way of the bison and the carrier pigeon?

The answer is that we need to help more people see what we have in front of us. This can be done. If you want to know how awareness of the world around us can be created, visit the High Desert Museum near Bend. It will open your eyes.