Thoughts On The Out-Of-Doors: Morristown Woman Works To Protect Monarchs

Samantha Miller at Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens in Washington, D.C. (Courtesy photo)

The Monarch butterfly with its orange and black markings is one of the most recognizable species in North America. Here in northern New England many of us have noticed a decline in the number of colorful butterflies in the past decade or two.

One of those working to conserve the monarch is Samantha Miller, a young woman who grew up in Morristown and graduated from Peoples Academy. Miller went off to graduate from American University in Washington D.C. and then to work for the National Wildlife Federation in Washington.

I learned of Miller from Mamie Parker, a former U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regional director who once was responsible for USFW programs in Vermont and New Hampshire as well as the rest of the 14-state North Atlantic-Appalachian Region.

The monarchs have always brightened our summers and many of us have marveled that they migrate more than 3,000 miles to Mexico facing all sorts of threats along the way.

Here at least, the decline is often equated with less milkweed which monarchs need to survive. Habitat loss and fragmentation has occurred throughout the monarch’s range leading to the decline.

In December 2020, after an extensive status assessment of the monarch butterfly, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined that listing the monarch under the Endangered Species Act is warranted but precluded at the time by higher priority listing actions. Perhaps that will change with the new administration.

Like so many, I have lamented the decline in the beautiful monarchs and was intrigued to learn that a Vermonter was involved in their protection and habitat restoration.

I tracked Samantha Miller down over the holidays when she was home in Vermont with family. Although not a native, she came to the U.S. from Jamaica at age 3, she is clearly a Vermonter in spirit and actuality.

At the NWF Miller’s title is Community Wildlife Content Coordinator. She works in three programs, Mayors’ Monarch Pledge, Trees for Wildlife and Community Wildlife Habitat. You can learn more about the programs and the NWF at https://www.nwf.org.

The NWF’s Northeast Regional Center is located in Montpelier and is responsible for New England, New York and New Jersey. The Vermont Natural Resources Council is the Vermont affiliate and New Hampshire Audubon is the Granite State affiliate.

Samantha credits growing up in Morristown for her appreciation for nature and the outdoors. Whether hiking Elmore Mountain, swimming and camping at the Green River Reservoir or simply wandering the trails around her home she was always learning about and enjoying the natural world.

Summers often meant attending the Girl Scout’s Camp Farnsworth in Thetford with the chance to meet new friends and experience new things.

She told me, “I have always been an outdoors kid.” Many of us can identify with that.

At Peoples Academy, Samantha was active in student government and many other organizations including the National Honor Society.

Although currently living and working in Washington, Samantha returns home to Vermont as often as she can to spend time in the outdoors she loves and to visit family and friends.

Mamie Parker has high praise for Miller and after speaking with Samantha a few times and reading what she has published I am sure she will make Morristown, Peoples Academy and Vermont proud.

This link to view some of her published articles, https://blog.nwf.org/authors/samantha-miller/, provides a look at what she has been up to since graduating from American University.

Two Hikers Lucky To Have Survived

A barefoot hiker was rescued by a New Hampshire National Guard helicopter crew, likely saving his life and that of his companion or at least their limbs.

On Saturday at 12:45 p.m. the New Hampshire Fish & Game Department was notified of two hikers who had lost the trail as they descended from Mount Lafayette. It was learned that one of the individuals had lost his footwear and was now barefoot as they wallowed thru several feet of snow in an effort to make it to the road. Eventually, they were too overcome by cold and fatigue so they could no longer continue and called for help. In an attempt to keep warm, they placed their feet into a pack and waited for rescuers.

Conservation Officers and volunteers from the Pemi Valley Search and Rescue Team responded and started climbing to the location of the two stranded hikers.

The National Guard was called for assistance and as ground crews approached the vicinity of the two hikers the Concord-based Army National Guard Blackhawk helicopter arrived on scene at 3:08 p.m. The two stranded hikers were quickly located and a medic was lowered by hoist to assess. At 3:40 p.m. both hikers had been lifted by hoist along with the medic into the helicopter. The hikers were taken directly to Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center for evaluation of cold weather injuries.

Shortly after departing the area, the mountain was enveloped in cloud cover that most certainly would have prohibited an air rescue. Had the helicopter not been able to fly, the result could have been tragic.

Fish and Game identified the two hikers as 35-year-old Michael Burleson of Gorham Maine and 34-year-old Nicholas Drouin of North Hampton, New Hampshire.

According to the press release, “They explained that they had departed at 9 a.m. in an effort to complete the 9 mile Falling Waters/Bridle Path Loop. They had hoped to do the entire loop in 4 hours but as they summited Mount Lafayette they lost the trail in the 40 mph winds single-digit temperatures and blowing snow. As they were floundering thru deep snow one of the pair lost his trail running sneakers and continued on barefoot. Realizing they needed to get out of the wind they just headed downhill and eventually were drawn into the Lafayette Drainage until they could no longer continue due to frozen extremities. Eventually, they were able to thaw out a cell phone and call 911 for help.”

Bits and Pieces

Free Fishing Day in Vermont is this Saturday, January 30. Free Ice Fishing Day is held annually on the last Saturday in January. Any angler may ice fish on any waterbody open to ice fishing statewide without a fishing license on Free Ice Fishing Day.

The Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department has created an online Virtual Ice Fishing Festival to help new anglers learn about ice fishing equipment, gear, and techniques.

For the past seven years, Fish & Wildlife has hosted an in-person ice fishing festival on Free Fishing Day to introduce new anglers to the activity. Held on a different frozen lake each year, participants would gather to learn skills such as ice safety, knot tying, using ice fishing rods and tip-ups, fish identification, and even fish cleaning and cooking.

However, this year’s event had to be canceled due to Covid restrictions and state guidelines.

Once viewers enter the Virtual Ice Fishing Festival, they will have a 360-degree view of Lake Rescue in Plymouth, and nine learning stations to choose from. They will be able to move from station to station, watching each video at their own pace, and learn the various facets of ice fishing. There are also popular fish filleting and cooking stations.

To access the department’s new Virtual Ice Fishing Festival online, visit: https://vtfishandwildlife.com/free-ice-fishing-day.

***

Vermont’s fourth angler opinion survey about fishing in Vermont is completed, and the results are now available on the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department’s website.

Fish and Wildlife conducted its fourth statewide angler survey as part of a long-term effort to gauge angler opinions, with previous surveys in 1991, 2000 and 2010. The survey was sent to 5,900 randomly selected resident and nonresident anglers and asked questions about angler experiences and opinions related to fishing in Vermont during 2017, 2018 and 2019.

Brook trout remained the most preferred species for open water anglers, and yellow perch were the most preferred species for ice anglers. The same is true for me and several of my friends.

For additional highlights from Vermont’s 2020 Statewide Angler Survey or to read the full report, go to https://vtfishandwildlife.com/statewide-angler-survey.

***

Robert Hubbard, 57, of Warwick, MA is the winner of the 2020 Vermont Lifetime Hunting and Fishing License Lottery. Hubbard will be entitled to hunt and fish in Vermont for free for the rest of his life.

He was drawn as the winner from among 19,419 lottery tickets purchased in 2020.

The Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department holds the drawing annually. A person can enter Vermont’s License of a Lifetime Lottery by adding the $2 entry fee when they buy their license on the Fish and Wildlife Department website at vtfishandwildlife.com. They can also enter by applying at locations statewide wherever Vermont hunting, fishing and trapping licenses are sold, or with a printable application available on the department website. There is no limit on the number of times a person may enter during the year.

Last year’s sales of the $2 tickets brought net sales of $38,772.50 to the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department. These state dollars can be leveraged with federal funds to produce more than $155,000 to support the department’s mission to conserve fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats.

***

Mark Breen reports in the Fairbanks Museum Skywatch Almanac

That on 28, 1844: “Randolph and Northfield, VT were -42, the coldest morning during a week of severe cold.”

Mark also supplied the January Records and Averages

Warmest: 28.5°F in 1932 Coldest: 6.4°F in 1970

Wettest: 6.80 inches in 1979 Snowiest: 47.0 inches in 1954

Parting Shots

The NorthWoods Stewardship Center is honoring two recipients of the George Buzzell Forest Stewardship Award.

Cedric Alexander of Cabot and Allen Yale of Derby are the recipients of the annual awards.

I have known both men for decades and can attest they are worthy of the award.

Cedric devoted his long career to wildlife and wildlife habitat as a biologist for the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department working out of the St. Johnsbury office until his retirement a couple of years ago.

Allen was long a moving force for the Vermont Coverts and a respected teacher at the high school and college levels, always prompting good forests and wildlife habitat.

***

Oak and I have been out getting exercise whenever I find the time. We have hiked Wright’s Mountain in Bradford and Tucker Mountain in West Newbury and snowshoed to camp and around our woods. In addition, I have cross country skied between our home and Goshen Road. I refuse to let covid confine me to the house.

I do wear a mask when in close proximity to others and try to stay socially distanced. Being outside in the fresh air and getting exercise is critical to my mental well-being.

***

A friend sent me the following which I think is truer that many retirees want to admit.

Question: When is a retiree’s bedtime?:

Answer: Two hours after falling asleep on the couch.

Syndicated columnist Gary W. Moore may be reached by email at gwmoore1946@icloud.com or at Box 454, Bradford, VT 05033.

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