Fox on wall
    Vanishing Open Spaces

                           When it's gone – it's gone!

                                                               by R T. Douse

    It is late Spring now, and from where I'm sitting on my patio,  faint honking leads me to scan the sky and I spot a great
ragged V of geese on their way North.  It's a comfort to know they always pass over this time of year.  Maybe they always
will.  But I'm no longer sure.  Not anymore.  Their numbers are declining, ever so slowly, and it occurred to me there
may never be as many geese flying over my home in future years as there are this Spring.  There will be many geese,
of that I'm sure, but not so many as the years go by.
    The other evening I spotted a small gray fox running along the rock wall that separates my little piece of heaven from
my neighbors.   What a joy it is, I thought, to live in this incredible place of abundant wildlife, and be able to watch them
and enjoy their antics.  The fox paused on one of the higher rocks to defecate, and then, after pausing to look at me directly,
continued on his way along the wall to its end and disappeared.  
    It was in that moment I realized two things.  One, animals have no need for spoken words in order to communicate
effectively.  Two, we might never have more wildlife to enjoy than we have right now.  Perhaps that little fox knew it too,
and was telling me exactly what he thought of me.  As if I were to blame.  And in truth I am.    
    I took a pleasant country drive the other day.  Heading East toward Oak Run, one gets an idea of how the countryside might
have looked a hundred years before.  Along the meander of Oak Run Creek are impressive stands of Valley Oak.  Rising in
elevation, and along the ridges on either side, are stands of Blue Oak and Grey Pine, seen clearly against a blue sky with
its Tide clean clouds.   Passing the Hathaway Ranch, I continue on up the hill to the little town of Oak Run.  After buying
myself a snack for later, and having nothing better to do that day, I decide to make a morning of it and take the Oak Run to
Fern Road all the way to Whitmore.  It was incredibly beautiful that day and, because of the rain the night before, the smell
of Yellow Pine and Incense Cedar reminds me of smells I had not noticed since I was a kid.  I wondered if this is the way it
will always be.  
    I stop for awhile where Clover Creek passes under the road just to savor the sound of the rushing water and the smell of the
pine and the fir trees and the cool damp earth.  Driving over the ridgeline and down toward Whitmore Road I pass ranches
with cattle grazing in the open areas, and an occasional deer hunkered down in the shade of a Blue Oak.  In the clear air of
that morning, Redding in the distance looks like a little toy town one could reach out and touch.  It occurs to me that this
might not last.  That this experience I was having today might not be possible tomorrow.
    My mood lightened as I passed the Cow Creek Ranch, knowing that its beauty would always be there to enjoy.  I continue
to Millville and then over and across Millville Plains to the Fenwood Ranch that I also knew would would offer open spaces
forever.  And the Hathaway Ranch I had passed earlier in the day?  It too would be protected from development.  All three
of these ranches, and others as well,  with the full cooperation of their owners, have already been protected from the kind of
development that would destroy the very reason most of us love this place.  Over 20,000 acres are now under conservation
easements, and are protected due to the efforts of a small but dedicated group of volunteers who, working with Shasta Land
Trust, believe that this beautiful place is worth protecting for ourselves, our children, our grandchildren, and even their
grandchildren.  In fact, for everyone and forever!  It takes a little time and it takes a little work, but joining and volunteering is
also fun!  And the result is the reward.  I think it's worth it.  Maybe some of you reading this will think so too.  

R T Douse is the author of the contemporary science fiction adventure story, “The Next - an omen,” available at
in paperback or Kindle.

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