Wednesday, November 18, 2020
Wednesday, November 11, 2020
1. Alexa is their best friend.2. They hate each other.
Wednesday, November 4, 2020
Erika Billerbeck is a local Solon author and Conservation Officer taking us along for the ride in Wildland Sentinel, as she and her colleagues sift through poaching investigations, search for fugitives in wildland areas, patrol the waters at the Coralville Reservoir and Iowa River.
You may be asking yourself, "What exactly is a conservation officer?" or you may already have a general knowledge of different situations a conservation officer would encounter, thanks to Erika’s brilliant writing in her former column “Warden’s Diary” featured in Iowa Outdoors Magazine. In the first chapter of Wildland Sentinel, Erika shares a quote from Nature Noir by Jordan Fisher Smith which summarized a conservation officer’s duties like this:
You protect the land from the people, the people from the land, the people from each other, and the people from themselves. It’s what you are trained to do without even thinking, a reflexive and unconditional act. If you’re lucky, you get assigned to people who seem worth saving and land and waters whose situation is not hopeless. If not, you save them anyway. And maybe in time, saving them will make them worth it.
With Iowa’s public lands a miniscule 2% of the state being utilized by a wide variety of people, a conservation officer spends much of their time managing the people. Whether that happens as Erika plays the “What the hell?” game, to “rolling the cob” with locals, to checking fishing and hunting licenses.
By building on skills of investigation, Erika is able to deduce what a person could be up to, just by playing “What the hell?” as she spies a parked car in a wildlife area. Who would leave a steaming piece of pizza with a single bite out of it on the dash of their car? Why is there an empty compound bow case on the seat of the truck or a tackle box in a back seat?
By relying on people skills and “rolling the cob” Erika and other conservation officers are building rapport with the locals and frequent visitors to these wildlands through the art of small talk. These relationships lead to trust and empower the locals to report suspicious activities, a priceless tool in a conservation officer’s investigation.
With such a small amount of public lands available, and societal demands on people to always be bustling about, many of us have lost touch with nature. Childhood used to be full of creek stomping, exploring the woods, climbing trees, catching frogs, following a wildlife trail, and building hideouts in the woods. A few years ago, Erika saw a need to get children back into the freedom of outdoor play and developed the “Wild Things” program for Solon school kids – bringing the free, wildness of nature back into kids lives. You can learn more about nature's important role in child development in the documentary, "Mother Nature's Child" found for free with your library card on Kanopy.
How do you become a steward of these lands? How do you protect and care for these special places to ensure these lands will be here for generations to come?