On March 19th, I drove up to Portland, Oregon to attend the spring national steering committee meeting for Partners in Amphibian and Reptiles Conservation (PARC) . Here is how PARC is described on their website:
Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation (PARC) is an inclusive partnership dedicated to the conservation of the herpetofauna–reptiles and amphibians–and their habitats. Our membership comes from all walks of life and includes individuals from state and federal agencies, conservation organizations, museums, pet trade industry, nature centers, zoos, energy industry, universities, herpetological organizations, research laboratories, forest industries, and environmental consultants. The diversity of our membership makes PARC the most comprehensive conservation effort ever undertaken for amphibians and reptiles.
Reptiles (alligators, crocodiles, lizards, turtles, the tuatara, and snakes) and amphibians (frogs, toads, salamanders, and caecilians) have suffered from a broad range of human activities, due in part to the perception that these animals are either dangerous or of little environmental or economic value. We know now that they are important parts of our natural and cultural heritage.
I have recently joined PARC, but am not a member of the committee or anything. I attended the meeting not because I would have anything to say about how to “steer” the organization, but because I want to get involved in the conservation of herps. I wanted to see what PARC is all about. I have felt deeply connected to amphibians and reptiles for as long as I can remember. My graduate research has been on the population genetics of frogs and I hope that it will someday benefit these animals. To date, however, I have not done any real on-the-ground conservation work. Being involved with PARC is a step in the right direction.
One of the really cool things PARC does is produce regional Habitat Management Guidelines for amphibians and reptiles. The Northwestern division of PARC is still working on the Guidelines for this region, which are scheduled to hit the press in November of this year.
My friend Sam took his four-year-old daughter, Audrey, on a hike in the Columbia Gorge last week. They found a little Cascade torrent salamander (Rhyacotriton cascadae) tucked in the moss and ferns beside the trail. Audrey held the salamander and was enthralled. She talked all the way home about how they needed to find more salamanders. Sam says she is still talking about it. Little kids like Audrey, and everyone else for that matter, should always have the opportunity to go out into wild places and have happy experiences with creepy crawly herps and bugs, fuzzy-twitchy mammals, vociferous birds, and all the multifarious denizens of the Outside.
Though I feel that all forms of life have intrinsic worth and deserve to be conserved (except, that is, for some a-hole humans), I have chosen to champion the reptiles and amphibians. Now I just need to actually get out and DO something!