FOA Happenings: An update from the 2019 Bill Levitt Fellow

Friends of Alta’s Bill Levitt Fellowship is one that promotes creative freedom and education by its nature. In the name of the late, great Bill Levitt, fellows are encouraged to work on individual projects as well as with Friends of Alta’s conservation easement program, on research and environmental studies, in event planning and community outreach. They are also encouraged, and sometimes required, to ski.

It’s not a bad position to be in, provided you enjoy being active and working to protect Alta’s environment and watershed.

I learned to ski my second Monday on the job. At lunch, I hopped on Alta’s Sunnyside Lift and pizza’d the whole way down. On my next run, I made a few turns, learned how to go slower and how to stop – two tools that help minimize the panic that comes with speeding down a mountain.

That following Thursday, I rode up Collins Lift for my first bird survey with Tracy Aviary. We saw a Mountain Bluebird – one of the first of the season – on the summer road, a Red-Tailed Hawk, numerous Finches, Chickadees and Grosbeaks; and a Hairy Woodpecker. I learned what a Pygmy Owl sounds like and that chickadees are ferocious (like small dogs who think they are big dogs) when they hear the call.

My work outside of learning to ski for the sake of bird surveying has been focused primarily on fundraising and outreach for the Alta Gala and Earth Day. And, on my personal projects.

Vicky Merryman of the Rustler Lodge observes a Red-Breasted Nuthatch (not pictured) on the last bird survey on skis for the season.

In an effort to keep my projects feasible (my fellowship doesn’t last forever, after all) I made a plan with three areas for work in journalism, community outreach and engagement, and conservation research. This means that I am set on creating at least two videos for the promotion of citizen science projects and the watershed, I’ll organize and fundraise for events over the summer and I’ll also take part in researching any conservation easements.

Along with these things, I hope to implement a project aimed at reducing food waste among the lodges of Alta. It is estimated that food waste makes up about 22 percent of landfills. Reducing such waste by way of compost helps reduce methane from landfills, but it also improves soil health, water retention, supports more native plants, and reduces the need for fertilizers and pesticides.

At the Alta Environmental Center, there is a pilot program in place to reduce food waste at the Albion Grill, Watson Shelter and Alf’s Restaurant by use of compost. I hope to expand this pilot program to Alta’s lodges. When Breckenridge Ski Resort in Colorado, launched a similar program, more than 39 tons of food waste was composted from their ski season opening in 2011 to March of the same year.

On the short term: I’ll be writing updates for the Friends of Alta website that highlights any developments in the nest box study and bird surveys. In addition, there will be notice of any events going on in the canyon or among the nonprofits Friends of Alta partners with; and notice of any developments with the Central Wasatch Commission.

Interested in the issue of transportation in Little Cottonwood? Or, in what’s happening with the Black Rosy Finch survey by Tracy Aviary? Maybe you’d like to follow the nest box study to see if any owls show up this year? These updates will be the place to get informed on the week’s happenings.

~ Clara Hatcher, Friends of Alta’s 2019 Bill Levitt Fellow