Estes Valley Land Trust | A sponsor’s mission to protect and preserve

Estes Valley Land Trust | A sponsor’s mission to protect and preserve

Tucked between the Roosevelt National Forest and Estes Park, there lies over 1,300 acres of sprawling Ponderosa pine forests, delicate wetlands and alpine meadows.

Estes Valley Land TrustMany of Colorado’s furrier denizens make their home in this vast open space.

In the colder months, bobcats stalk the ice covered earth. Elk bugle their haunting cries along the idyllic Cedar Ridge in the fall. Spring heralds the wildflowers campaign to retake their frozen world. In summer all of them can be found thriving, along with humans enjoying the camp grounds, equine area and stunning natural wonder.

Welcome to Hermit Open Space: a gorgeous public area and national park that in 2006 was marked for development and, ultimately, destruction.

Enter the Estes Valley Land Trust, an organization of dedicated volunteers and concerned residents. They’d seen this happen before- beautiful natural areas in Colorado that are snapped up and developed, leaving the native plants and wildlife with nowhere to go. Fortunately, the organization has been stopping these sad stories since 1989. They knew what to do.

Our ability to visit and enjoy Hermit Open Space today is proof of their success.



The Estes Valley Land Trust is a 501(c)(3) organization, accredited by the Land Trust Accreditation Commission

Working in a huge governmental and private partnership, the community pooled funds to buy the land, including Larimer County, the Town of Estes Park, the City of Loveland and the Erion Foundation to name a few. Together, they triumphed, and Hermit Open Space is protected- in perpetuity.

The Estes Valley Land Trust has collected many marks of victory in its 25+ years of operation.

Thanks to the organization, Medowdale Ranch, 1168-acres avoided a thirty-six way subdivision. Lilly Lake, once destined for 150 multi-building development, is now a part of the Rocky Mountain National Park. And now over 10,000 acres in over 150 different parcels of land are protected and preserved, without fear that they will ever be taken away.

In 2016 the organization is doing more good than ever. Right now they are running their 2016 Membership Campaign. If you are interested in getting involved, or know someone else that is, now is the time. By joining or recommending a friend, you will not only earn some cool gifts, but also be put into a drawing for a coffee table created by the master craftsmen, Leo Weber (valued at over $1,200).

Estes Valley Land TrustWe at Where is the Wildlife are ecstatic to call the folks at Estes Valley Land Trust our sponsors and friends.

If you would like to learn more about what they do, how they do it, and where you can help, please check out their website.

You will be very glad you did.

The Psychological Benefits of Wildlife Viewing

The Psychological Benefits of Wildlife Viewing

Wildlife viewing is essential for well-being. Period.  It always has been and always will be.

Here are the emergent themes from all research exploring the psychological benefits of viewing wildlife:

  • Wonderment and awe beyond articulation
  • Experiencing a state of ‘flow’
  • Sensual awakening
  • Time to stand and stare
  • Voyeurism and contemplation
  • Spiritual fulfilment
  • Feeling of well-being

The natural world is an arena of endurance, tragedy and sacrifice as much as joy and uplift. It is about the struggle against the weather, the perils of migration, the ceaseless vigilance against predators, the loss of whole families and the brevity of existence. The natural world is like a theatre, a stage beyond our own, in which the dramas that are an irreducible part of being alive are played out without hatred or envy or hypocrisy. Watching wildlife can tell us much about ourselves and our own frailties. – Richard Mabey, Naturalist and Author


There is an ancient human need to commune with animals, plants, landscapes and wilderness.  Nature produces an emotional response of awe, wonder and privilege that unlocks ecocentric and anthropomorphic connections to wild animals and a feeling that is ‘beyond words’.  There is time to stand and stare and contemplate.  Nature and wildlife are not only spatial events but also temporal ones.  In this liminal, embodied space of a wildlife encounter, socially constructed modern fast time dissipates and is replaced by stillness and nature’s time whereby participants are totally absorbed in the spectacle.  All thought and action is concentrated on the moment.  This provokes a deep sense of well=being that transcends the initial encounter leading to spiritual fulfilment and psychological health benefits.  –  Wildlife tourism: the intangible, psychological benefits of human-wildlife encounters by Susanna Curtin, School of Services Management, Bournemouth University, Poole, UK Online

Most people in the world now live in relative isolation from nature and wild animals, but it doesn’t stop our human desire to be close to the wild.  Modern human relationships with the wild are complex and frequently conflicting, yet for millenniums, we have observed animal characteristics and used them to compare our own attributes.  Perhaps too frequently, we have viewed animals in an anthropomorphic way- after all, we share the basic instincts of survival.

According to research in the fields of socio-biology, ecopsychology, environmental psychology and deep ecology, there is a deep need for humans to have a relationship with the natural world for our own well-being.  Edward O. Wilson introduced and popularized the biophilia hypothesis that suggests that there is an instinctive bond between humans beings and other living systems.  He defines biophilia as ‘the urge to affiliate with other forms of life’.  Humans are attracted to natural environments where we feel more content and function more effectively.

The Attention Restoration Theory (ART) asserts that people can concentrate better after spending time in nature, or even looking at scenes of nature.  Directed attention plays an important role in human information processing; its fatigue, in turn, has far-reaching consequences. Attention Restoration Theory provides an analysis of the kinds of experiences that lead to recovery from such fatigue. Natural environments turn out to be particularly rich in the characteristics necessary for restorative experiences. An integrative framework is proposed that places both directed attention and stress in the larger context of human-environment relationships.

Fascination is universal and is a central component of a restorative experience.  Natural settings are often the preferred destinations for extended restorative opportunities.  Most of us yearn for ‘being away’: the mountains, the seaside, rivers, lakes, forests, and meadows all call to us.  Yet for too many of us, the opportunity for ‘getting away’ is not an option.  Luckily, natural environments abound even in urban areas and offer an important resource for resting and restoration.

Stephen Kaplan, from the Department of Psychology at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor identifies the features of restoration in his article, The Restorative Benefits of Nature:  Toward An Integrative Framework:

Being away. Natural settings are often the preferred destinations for extended restorative opportunities. The seaside, the mountains, lakes, streams, forests, and meadows are all idyllic places for ‘getting away’. Yet for many people in the urban context, the opportunity for getting away to such destinations is not an option. However, the sense of being away does not require that the setting be distant. Natural environments that are easily accessible thus offer an important resource for resting one’s directed attention.


Fascination. Nature is certainly well-endowed with fascinating objects, as well as offering many processes that people find engrossing. Many of the fascinations afforded by the natural setting qualify as ‘soft’ fascinations: clouds, sunsets, snow patterns, the motion of the leaves in the breeze-these readily hold the attention, but in an undramatic fashion. Attending to these patterns is effortless, and they leave ample opportunity for thinking about other things.


Extent. In the distant wilderness, extent comes easily. But extent need not entail large tracts of land. Even a relatively small area can provide a sense of extent. Trails and paths can be designed so that small areas seem much larger. Miniaturization provides another device for providing a feeling of being in a whole different world, though the area is in itself not extensive. Japanese gardens sometimes combine both of these devices in giving the sense of scope as well as connectedness. Extent also functions at a more conceptual level. For example, settings that include historic artifacts can promote a sense of being connected to past eras and past environments and thus to a larger world.


Compatibility. The natural environment is experienced as particularly high in compatibility. It is as if there were a special resonance between the natural setting and human inclinations. For many people, functioning in the natural setting seems to require less effort than functioning in more ‘civilized’ settings, even though they have much greater familiarity with the latter (Cawte, 1967; Sacks, 1987). It is interesting to consider the many patterns of relating to the natural setting. There is the predator role (such as hunting and fishing), the locomotion role (hiking, boating), the domestication of the wild role (gardening, caring for pets), the observation of other animals (bird watching, visiting zoos), survival skills (fire building, constructing shelter), and so on. People often approach natural areas with the purposes that these patterns readily fulfill already in mind, thus increasing compatibility. A nearby, highly accessible natural environment cannot provide the context for all of these goals and purposes. Yet even such a setting is likely to be supportive of the inclinations of those who seek a respite there. Consider the factory worker, racing off during the lunch period, fighting traffic and distractions, in search of a spot in the shade of a tree for a peaceful break. If the peaceful effects were to be worn off totally by the time the return trip is made at the end of the hour, would this ritual be repeated again the next day?


Isn’t it time for you to be restored?  You don’t have to travel.  Sit in your backyard.  Take a walk,  Visit a park.  Watch a bird. Soak wildlife in, wherever it can be found.

"The worst sin toward our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them; that's the essence of humanity." - George Bernard Shaw

Why We Yearn to View Wildlife? – The History of Wildlife Toursim

Why We Yearn to View Wildlife? – The History of Wildlife Toursim

Leave it to the British – they started the whole notion of seeking personal glory and adventures and viewing wildlife in the late 1800s.  The African continent was exposed to the world by the early explorers whose tales we still tell around the campfire – men like David Livingston, the Scottish Congregationalist pioneer medical missionary and H. M. Stanley, the Welsh journalist and explorer famous for his exploration of central Africa and his search for missionary and explorer David Livingstone.

These early explorers were followed by many others that could only be classified as tourists, for they were not professional explorers or geographers but typically priviledged individuals seeking the exotic adventure. Many were big game hunters. The term “safari,” which is Swahili for “journey,” became part of popular language and was eventually adopted into the English dictionary. The Safari intrigue peaked when former U.S. President and conservationist Theodore Roosevelt went to East TAfrica to hunt big game from April 1909 to March 1910. The specimens collected were for the “National Museum,” which is now called the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum of Natural History.

The 1960’s and 70’s changed the world’s consciousness and wildlife tourism became an integral element in the conversation.  International travel was democratized with more affordable modern air travel, and for the first time travel became a viable option for those other than the privileged.  Middle class citizens awoke to experiences they had previously only read or dreamed about and by the 1070’s there was an international discussion about how tourism could harm the environment and wildlife if not done properly.  The term “eco-tourism” was coined to describe nature and wildlife travel that was sustainable and responsible and most people collectively decided to “hunt” with their eyes and cameras.  Wildlife Tourism was born as viable economic and conservation movement across the globe.

Today, the wildlife tourism industry spans the globe and generates billions of dollars of revenue, while also providing an economic incentive for wildlife and habitat conservation and cultural preservation (Frangialli, , F. 1998. Forward in Theobald, W.F. (ed.) Global Tourism. Second Edition. Oxford, UK: Butterworth-Heinemann).

Although not completely harmless, when done properly, tourism can provide a relatively benign economic incentive for wildlife conservation that is far more preferable to other forms of development, including mining, oil and gas exploration, agriculture, and so forth. This may be the best we can hope for in a world increasingly dominated by humans and their domestic animals. – Dr. Michael Hutchins, American conservationist and zoologist

Wildlife Photography Simple Tips

Wildlife Photography Simple Tips

Wildlife photography is challenging whether you are using a smartphone or other mobile device. Smartphone cameras have come light years away from their starting point and their quality is now exceptional.  Remember to set your time/date stamp when using the WWL App.   As a subject, wildlife is challenging to capture in images because it is elusive.  One small movement or sound can ruin the shot and it make take hours to capture it again.

Too Small in the Frame?

Generally speaking, it’s nearly impossible to get close to wildlife, especially if you are following the Wildlife Code of Conduct.   The key is to remember that timing, patience and concentration bring the results you want.  The more you know about your subject’s habits, habitat, what it eats and social behaviors will help you determine how and where to photograph.

Out of Focus?

You have to select the AF (auto focus) point yourself. Don’t let the camera automatically do it because it’ll hone in on the center of the frame, even if your subject isn’t in the center. Look for an option like “single-point AF” or “Flexible-spot AF”.

Select the point that’s on the subject’s head and half-press the shutter release to focus your lens. If it’s moving, use “Continuous AF mode” to refocus between shots.

Blurry Wildlife Shots?

Using a tripod or monopod to keep the camera steady can be a great asset, especially for long lenses. This is true for mobile devices and even GoPros.  You also need to have a fast shutter speed that can freeze any movement. If you’re unable to get the shutter speed high enough, you can either push the sensitivity setting up a little or just wait until the subject is still and completely avoid shooting when it’s moving.  Remember that using a high sensitivity setting will cause a bit of noise. Shoot either in shutter priority or manual exposure mode so that you can control the shutter speed yourself.

If you are using a smart phone, look for a tree or a rock that can keep you steady as you shoot your photos.  Even leaning close to a family member or friend can allow you the steadiness to keep clicking good shots.

Don’t rely on Smartphone auto mode

Yes, tapping on where you want the phone to focus on will give you a sharper focus on the subject. However, you can improve the overall quality of your images by tweaking the other aspects in an image. Although different phones have different settings, most should be able to let you control the focus, exposure, white balance and ISO.

The higher the resolution of your photo, the better your quality will be. When taking images with a smartphone camera, try to go as close as possible to the subject rather than zooming in when you take a shot. You will get better-resolution photos cropped, than zoomed in.

Use a tripod or monopod

Your phone camera’s stabilizing function can only do so much and if you don’t want a blurred image, consider using tripods and monopods.

Be careful with flash

The camera flash you have on your phone is almost always too harsh and rarely helpful. Instead try increasing your camera’s exposure and ISO levels.

Learn to use your smartphone’s camera software

You’d be surprised at just what your smartphone camera can do.  Maybe you’re familiar with some of the basic operations, like switching between the camera and video modes, or turning your flash on and off or putting it on auto. Yet your camera probably has several other options like scenemodes, panorama, bokeh and HDR.

Explore your iPhone or Andorid device’s camera. It has plenty of memory for photos, so you can play with the different features, effects and settings and snap lots of photos.  Your goal is to know your way around the camera so that you can snap photos easefully and won’t miss those rare moments when you can catch wildlife in their environment.