"Green Fire' ignites Sisters Country


Last updated 5/24/2011 at Noon

Almost 100 years ago, a man killed a wolf and was unexpectedly transformed as he stared into the dying wolf's green eyes. Last Thursday night a crowd of over 100 people gathered to hear the story of how the death of a wolf gave life to a new era of holistic stewardship at the Central Oregon premiere of "Green Fire" at Sisters Movie House.

The documentary film recounts the continuing influence of conservationist Aldo Leopold, best known as author of "A Sand County Almanac," and shows how his ideas are still fueling a groundswell of community-based solutions to environmental challenges, like the collaborative efforts going full-speed in Sisters today.

The gathering, sponsored by the National Forest Foundation and Movie House owner Lisa Clausen, was also the premiere of the first keg of "Water of Life" altbier, brewed with local mountain waters by Wade Underwood of Three Creeks Brewing Co. to benefit conservation projects on Whychus Creek and the Metolius River (see related story, page 9). As people gathered for the show, they voted with their wallets, pronouncing the mellow dark German ale extremely tasty. Lisa Clausen kept busy pouring and exclaimed, "People bought a lot of beer!"

Sisters District Ranger Bill Anthony introduced the movie, thanking the two businesses for their support of local watershed restoration and the National Forest Foundation for their leadership in facilitating public land stewardship. He challenged the audience to think about how the idea of a "land ethic" applied in Sisters, where long-lost fish runs are being restored and public lands are subject to society's changing values, including our appetite for recreation. In contrast, early Forest Service Ranger Leopold dealt with soil erosion during the Dust Bowl years, overgrazing, and game management as his ideas about how to heal the land evolved.

Some in the crowd confessed they hadn't read Leopold's work since high school, while others had barely heard of him. A group discussion after the movie explored the realities of wolf management in Oregon, how to find common ground in a politically divided country, and the importance of leaving no child inside in order to grow the next generation of land stewards. But why the thoughts of a man who died in 1948 should still resonate so strongly in today's world was no mystery to many of the conservation leaders in attendance.

Eric Sorenson, a founder of the rock climbing group, Central Oregon Rocks, Inc. said, "Although I have read a lot of Muir and Thoreau, I've never read his works. They are now on my short list!"

Sorenson explained, "Aldo Leopold never lost sight of the huge part that mankind plays in the web of life, and he saw that it can be for better or worse. He knew that the health of the land required the cooperation of people from all parts of the community, and strove to spread awareness and understanding of the fabric of nature with which we are interwoven. Whether we value Whychus Creek for climbing, hiking, hunting, or just breathing in the rustic solitude, we still have a part to play in its protection and care."

Former Friends of the Metolius president Gregory McClarren noted that people continue to fight change in constantly changing ecosystems:

"Early on in the movie I was reminded of the fact that we humans are part of the ecosystem, yet we act like we are beyond the forces that effect change in systems. I was struck by how "nouveau' Aldo's thinking was nearly a century ago. The concepts are timeless and the simplicity of them works to this day even as other forces urge us to be ever more complex."

Sisters resident Mary Crow felt an emotional connection to Leopold and his family members featured in the movie, including his 91-year-old daughter, who still carries on Leopold's work, carefully noting the dates of the arrival of various bird species and flower blooms as a way to track climate change.

Crow said, "This documentary was about passion to me.

Since seeing the movie, that word keeps coming to mind.

When we pursue our passions and interests to seek new understandings, and join that knowledge with nature, remarkable results can take place! The Leopold family has demonstrated this for generations, as Green Fire shows so beautifully." Crow works to inspire stewardship by leading tours for the Deschutes Land Trust: "Just imagine a world where everyone understood that we are the stewards of our planet, put here to protect and preserve, not hurt and consume.

Leading tours for the Land Trust is my way of inspiring people to act, and I've seen the sparkle in someone's eye when they finally understand they have a responsibility."

Restoration ecologist Karen Allen who helped plan and implement the Deschutes Land Trust's massive revegetation of restored steam channels at Camp Polk, appreciated Leopold's ecological eloquence. "Leopold's words, "A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability and beauty of the biotic community' just echo in my being after watching this film. I'm grateful to be part of carrying Leopold's land ethic forward through community stewardship and habitat restoration efforts that do just that - preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community of which we are all a part."

Longtime conservationist Phil Blatt remembered, "Since I was a kid seventy years ago I have dreamed of the wilderness world that Aldo Leopold lived and worked for. He knew the world was an ecological community in need of all species and habitats to live in balance. Today in Central Oregon, we can see his ethic being put into action with, I hope, an ever-increasing effectiveness."

Jan McGowan, who has led and counseled non-profit groups for many years, summed it up saying, "This inspirational movie gives me hope that we are on the right track in our efforts to restore our local environment. I see kids and adults, all kinds of business owners, ranchers and artists, professionals and volunteers, all loving the land and contributing their time and resources to making it better."

To learn more about Aldo Leopold and the Green Fire movie visit http://www.greenfiremovie.com.


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