After raising a family and a long hiatus from painting, I was in need of a artistic outlet. I found myself in front of my easel painting portraits of Box turtles. I had been studying them and their demise here in central Virginia and learned that they needed an advocate. The eastern box turtle is among the most colorful turtles in the world and one of Virginia's oldest residents. Although once common and easily found, the box turtle has suffered population reductions caused by numerous factors. Habitat destruction and roadways have contributed to the loss of many breeding populations. With the new perspective that I offer through my paintings of Box Turtles, I hope to impart the viewer with an appreciation for and better understanding of these amazing reptiles. Realistically enhanced earth tones and colors are my favorite, and help me express a turtle's viewpoint creatively.I have since expanded my subject matter and enjoy painting pets and other animals that have a story to tell.Shelley Whittington

Rappahanock Electric Co-op Destroys Native Habitat

 

Habitat Destroyed?

 

Habitat destroyed for everything..

There are no benefits to clear-cutting except to the land owners pocket.

For me, there is no worse sound in the world then the “BEEP, BEEP, BEEP’ of heavy equipment. It means that something is getting destroyed, and it is usually habitat. Today, as I headed out to do my morning chores on the farm, I noticed a Rappahanock Electric Co-op truck and a good sized tractor, complete with protective cage, and bush-hog, heading down the dirt road that skirts our property and leads to the power line right of way that follows the back property line of our 20 acres. It wasn’t long before I saw the Pick up leave and heard the tell tale; Beep, Beep, Beep… of the tractor
and knew I needed to investigate.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love being part of the Co-op that Rappahannock represents. They are quick to respond to issues and generally much more consistent then their counterparts. REC also publishes an adorable monthly magazine that keeps members in the know, shares members photos, and has a lovely calendar of events from far reaches of the state of Virginia. Earlier that morning as I enjoyed my first cup of coffee I mulled over the monthly issue that had arrived just a day before with a very nice article about the monarch butterfly and how we can help them by planting milkweed. So I jumped on the RTV and followed the path that the tractor had taken down the dirt road.

A Very Wet Spring!

Monarch on an Aster

Monarchs rely on milkweed to feed the next generation of caterpillars.

This spring has been and interesting one with more rainy days then sunny ones and we are currently at more then double the normal amount of rain. The back of our property, where the power line runs, also is bordered by a small creek that flows year round and judging by the deep crevasse it has made, has done so for many, many years. Unless you are a deer, one cannot walk the length of the property due to the steepness of the banks, and the briers, ideal habitat for small critters, including snakes and turtles. Besides providing berries, seeds, flowers and foliage for the wildlife to enjoy, many of the plants also provide year round shelter and protection, and help discourage trespassing hunters from using it as a cut-through. The trees that border the REC right of way have been pruned on a regular basis and the saplings that grow here and there are best cut by hand in such a treacherous area. It just so happens to be raining… Again..! The plants that hold the earth together in the back of my little piece of paradise have been cut to the base and the surviving mud is trench thick. I am amazed that the tractor is still upright, and as the gentlemen that watches me approach waves down the driver of the tractor, my heart sinks when I see the condition of my blackberry patch that was in full bloom.

 

Blackberries, brambles, sticker-bushes, call them what you will, but they are a mid summer staple for the box turtles that call the sanctuary home. Once they are ripe, the birds, deer, turtles and myself all vie for a good location to reach as many as we can. The Milkweed and the poke-berries, weeds to some, to me important natural food for the native animals that have lived here before our people knew this country. They are all gone now..

Box turtle awakes from a long winter nap

Box turtles rely on native blackberries for mid summer food

My conversation with the “powers that be” following the destruction of the native forage along the right of way has left me amazed, confused, disappointed and totally frightened for the future of our earth. There will be a day when we will all be accountable for the damage that we have done to our planet. Rappahanock Electric Cooperative evidently does not practice what they preach. REC has a excellent opportunity to improve the areas that they must traverse,  to be proactive by communicating with land owners, educating them about wildlife habitats, planting native perennials, and encouraging the community to participate in efforts to give wildlife a place to live. The apology that was offered was shallow and meaningless. Unless this is acknowledged with-in the higher authority, through planning and education, I am afraid we are doomed.

I am a member of this cooperative, and I will let my thought on this matter be heard.. People, we need to start somewhere.. Please start in your own yards. Please be proactive in the protection that you can provide for any of our native animals, and plants. Stand up for our planet! For goodness sake.. STOP for turtles crossing the roads! ALL LIVES MATTER! If we cannot preserve what was here before we came.. then we cannot preserve ourselves. We are all part of the circle of life on this planet, and if you see someone else disrespect our earth.. Do Something About It!

Shelley

 
View my Flipboard Magazine.

High Speed Rail; Plans or Planning?

Question….

The chemical train goes through Ashland VA

Trains carrying trash and chemicals traverse through Ashland, Virginia every day

Should CSX build a new high speed rail , and how should it skirt Ashland, Virginia?

This is a big question that I believe deserves a lot of consideration, but lets start with a brief history lesson:

In 1956 a bill was signed by President Dwight Eisenhower that created a “National System of Interstate and Defense Highways” Eisenhower stated the need to eliminate unsafe roadways, inefficient routes and traffic jams, along with the need to permit quick evacuation of target areas, and that an elaborate expressway system was essential to national interest and security. For these reasons, the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956 was created. Under the terms of this Act, the

building the beltway

Building highways destroys more then communities, much wild life is misplaced as well.,

Federal Government would pay for 90 percent of the cost of construction and allocated $26 billion, the remaining funds would come from an increase in gasoline tax (0.03) that went into a highway trust fund.

By 1960 people began to revolt against the unpleasant consequences, displaced people, communities sliced in half, abandonment and decay in city after city. During the 1960’s activists in New York, Baltimore, Washington DC and other cities managed to prevent construction from eviscerating their neighborhoods and these urban interstates or “roads to nowhere” still exist today.

According to Wikipedia

traffic on 95

To many cars and not enough pavement.. no quick exit out of town here!

Interstate 95 (I-95) is the main Interstate Highway on the East Coast of the United States, running largely parallel to the Atlantic Ocean and U.S. Highway 1. I-95 is one of the oldest routes of the Interstate Highway System, The southern terminus of I-95 is at U.S. Route 1 (US 1) in Miami, Florida, while the northern terminus is at New Brunswick, Canada.

I-95 is the longest north–south Interstate, and passes through more states than any other Interstate Highway at 15 states, According to the U.S. Census Bureau, only five counties along the route are completely rural, while statistics provided by the I-95 Corridor Coalition suggest that the region served is “over three times more densely populated than the U.S. average and as densely settled as much of Western Europe” Parts of I-95 carry 200 to 300 thousand vehicles a day.

 

From CSX Website: www.csx.com

  • Vision: To be the safest most progressive North American railroad, relentless in the pursuit of customer and employee excellence
  • Purpose: To capitalize on the efficiency of rail transportation to serve America
  • Core Values: At CSX we believe that living by a set of fundamental core values helps to define the true measure of a company. When all employees are aligned with fundamental guiding principles, companies consistently serve their customers and other stakeholders and deliver superior financial results that ensure long term success.
  • Fact-Based: Use customer-based performance measures. Fix the problem, not its symptom. Improve performance with facts. Validate-don’t speculate.
  • Right Results, Right Way: Reward our Shareholders. Be a positive influence on communities and the environment. How you get there matters. Avoid fault-fixing

So here are the facts:

I-95

traffic on 95

The interstate parking lot…

  • Out interstate system is antiquated. If a mass exodus was necessary along the north south corridor of Interstate 95, the shear volume would create one long parking lot along Interstate 95.
  • People and /or groups of people can stop “progress” in the name of commonsense.
  • Interstate 95 is one of the oldest and longest highways, it passes through more states then any other interstate and travels through the most densely populated areas in this country.

and CSX;

Although CSX strives to be safe and efficient, supportive of employees and shareholders, and be a positive influence on communities and the environment, I was unable to find any information on their web site about how they consider communities

turtles on the track

Tracks in rural communities impede more then traffic..

and the environment, and how they assess when it is necessary to destroy such places.

What / Who gives CSX the power to destroy private property? The Greater Good? Please correct me if I am wrong, but I was told the new High Speed Rail would cut 15 minutes off of the travel time from DC to Richmond.. Really? All this for that? That does not sound like High speed rail.. Where is the new technology?

This problem of where the new High Speed Rail will go is not just Ashland’s problem. This IS a problem for all inhabitants along the north south corridor of the Eastern United States and IS a major infrastructure problem. Building a High Speed rail along the existing tracks with a bypass around Ashland is merely a band aid. CSX is already facing problems Including installing Government mandated “Positive Train Control” technology, designed to slow or stop trains before accidents occur, lagging coal shipment volume and a decline in stock values. A massive update of our interstate and rail systems is in desperate need. According to GoEuro (a travel search engine) The US ranks 19th out of 20 in ranking of high-speed rail networks by nation.

So, What do we do?

We learn from History. Automobiles as we know them will change, but they will still need roads of some sort to follow. There is some remarkable technology out there and if we can let go of the oil industry a bit, we can move into the 21st century a bit more gracefully. Check out these solar roadways: www.solarroadways.com, Think of the possibilities.! High Speed Rails? Well they should travel train and raodsdown the 1-95 corridor as well and should be as straight as possible, not curving around any little towns, I mean, we are talking HIGH SPEED Rails.!

So come on People… Government Officials.. where is your backbone? Lets spend a little less on foreign ground and a little more here at home..

let’s get er done!

 

Plans are nothing; planning is everything. Dwight D. Eisenhower

Shelley Whittington

The Eastern Box Turtle’s Spring Arrival

 

Eastern Box Turtles are waiting for the sun.

photo 1

soaking up rays!

Some times I wonder if I am the only one that sees them. They march silently from the woods along the road.. recently awakened from a long winter sleep by the warm spring rains… slow in coming this year, but the sun is calling, daylight has increased making the sun warm enough to raise body temperatures enough for the digging to start. Hatchlings, often after staying in their nest all winter are beginning to see sunshine for the first time in their life. The Eastern Box turtle begins a new year in its unique and ancient way of life.

Last spring, as I traveled along a busy road in Western Hanover County, Virginia, I straddled a newly hatched turtle scurrying as fast as he could across the road. By the time I got turned around and back to where the turtle was, the wet spot on the roadway was indistinguishable.There was a lot of traffic that day.. Did anyone else even see the little guy? Did the person who flattened him even know what they had done? Did they care?

 Watching the Roads…

One eyed Sam

One Eyed Sam survived a lawn mower accident.

Often I will see them on the back roads, drive 100 yards, while my inner dialogue tells me it wasn’t a turtle at all.. not being one to get it out of my head, ..I eventually turn back to see the leaf, pine cone or scrap of wood that I was sure was a turtle.. They will be out soon .. the temperature of the days and the rising humidity will bring them out, so be prepared.

I see less and less of them every year. as the community gets developed around me, and the traffic continues to rise, the ones that I had helped crossed the road every year have been lucky to survive. Very few of these survivors are seen now, hopefully they have found more interesting things elsewhere in their habitat of 2-10 football field size areas that are etched in our resident turtles brain. They know every water hole, every berry patch,where the best place to find worms is and where the best place to hibernate is. Like a bird flying south, the uncanny homing instincts in box turtles often puts them in great peril when they are taken away from their territory or their territory is destroyed, and they try to find it. The Eastern Box turtle needs our help now. Land in central Virginia is at a premium, and due to the extensive sprawl and ease of travel, most of the land from DC to Raleigh, NC  is easily accessible  and prime for development. This rare and unique land, which follows the fall line of the Eastern United States, offers a lot to its residents, both four legged and two, and

IMG_5838

What will you do to help?

should be carefully evaluated and preserved for future generations. Humans it seems, have forgotten that these ancient reptiles are dinosaurs and their ancestors lived here 250 million years ago, and  If there is one thing that turtles know how to do, it is being a turtle and surviving. But, if we continue to destroy habitat at the alarming rate that we currently  do, these small relatives of the dinosaurs, will disappear totally from our planet.

The extinction of the Dinosaurs

 

Reptiles and Amphibians are amazing indicators of our planets health, and they are currently suffering from diseases that are thought to be caused by pollutants in their environments. Recent findings are showing that viable populations are being wiped out in the wild from viruses that are not fully understood or treatable.

Recently, I read a post from a friend that listed all the stress factors in her life. The list began with her work, followed by family, pets, and lastly her turtles, whom she commented, actually were responsible for reducing her stress, and the time she spent with them was the happiest and most peaceful of her day. I know we can’t all be turtle caretakers, but I do believe that we all should take time to appreciate the world around us, get out into the woods, notice the harmony of the trees, the rivers, the wind and the earth, and do what we can to protect and preserve this amazing planet for our grandchildren before it is too late, and PLEASE, try to notice the turtles walking along the road, trying to cross, and maybe stop and give them a hand… for these little dinosaurs have seen and survived a lot, I am sure if we take the time, there is so much to be learned from them.

Box Turtles are coming out of Hibernation

Virginia is known for its crazy unpredictable weather

Especially in the spring and fall.. seasons tend to blend together. This fall, winter, spring season certainly has been no exception. It amazes me that any of our native turtles survive these crazy changing temperatures, but hey, they have been around for more than 250 million years, so I guess our weather patterns are mild compared to some that they have endured over the centuries. Interestingly enough, the weather here in Central Virginia, is not the turtles biggest concern.

photo 3Survival of the fittest

Turtles do what they have to do just to survive. A couple of extremely warm days and The Eastern Box turtles begin to poke up out of the dirt. There is no mass exodus from the ground, rather it is about the sun and the heat. Slowly they work their way to the surface after being buried in up to a foot of soil, eyes still shut, seeking out the warmth of the sun and hoping for a warm spring rain to rinse of the caked on mud and to re-hydrate. The middle of March is extremely early for this awakening, and turtle watchers, although excited about the reappearance of their shelled friends, worry about the inconsistent changing of the weather and the turtles ability to dig back into the earth when the weather turns cold again.photo 2The Eastern Box turtle has many threats to its survival in this day and age, one would hope that they have a good grasp on dealing with the weather in a place where they have live for generations, but if an individual turtle goes into hibernation without being in optimum health, being caught in a cold snap can mean the ultimate demise for that turtle.

So many box turtles are relocated by good doers who find them crossing the road in places where there is no longer habitat enough for them to survive. Choices are slim, and often dictate that the best option for these turtles is to relocate them to a nearby park. Box Turtles have an uncanny instinct to return to their native hatching place as they know that territory… if this has been destroyed then survival is dependent solely on luck to find food and water. A Box Turtle can go a long time without food and many of these transient turtles can survive their first lost summer, but when winter approaches if they have not stored up the necessary reserves for hibernation, it may be their last.

photo 1
Soon, Turtles will begin marching about, looking for other turtles, food and water. Remember to look out for these amazing reptiles crossing the roads, especially after a warm spring rain, in the early morning hours, and help them across if you can. With all the threats that turtles now have to their very existence, it is so very important that we leave them in the wild whenever possible. Viable populations of turtles are becoming more and more rare in their native habitat so it is up to us to try to save, create and preserve habitat where ever we can.

Have Questions on a found Box Turtle? Leave me a comment and I will get back to you ASAP.. Thanks for helping these amazing gems of the forest!

Shelley.[sgmb id=”1″ customimageurl=”” ]

High Speed Rails are Anti-turtle

Box turtles are in trouble. . .

Specifically, the Eastern Box Turtle that is found in Central Virginia.  75 years ago, local children playing  in Hanover County could spend a summer collecting and marveling at these gems of the forest. In the woods around their homes, they could collect more than 100 in one summer, and then let them go back to the woods to be turtles. The genetic diversity in colors and shell patterns was like gathering snowflakes under a microscope, No two were alike.box turtle train tracks

50 years ago, as communities sprang up among the woods, and more and more trees were logged to fuel the need for building materials, habitats disappeared.  An occasional lone turtle was found wandering around the new developments, looking for the habitat, the food sources, and the water holes he used to know. A curious child would pick him up and marvel at the way he closes himself up in a box, how the colors of his shell blend perfectly with the light and shadows under the old remaining oak tree, and at the way he carefully  peeked out of his shell as he slowly opens the hinged flap on the bottom, almost like a door, to see if the new intruder is friend or foe.  The Child leaves him to run to the house to get the others, and returns minutes later, to find the turtle has disappeared and is nowhere to be seen.

25 years ago, in neighborhoods where fields are farmed, trees are logged, dogs run loose and the automobile is a necessity, the Eastern Box turtle is a rare site. Fortunately, Central Virginia is a land of rivers and along rivers habitat survives. Private lands, kept by those who grew up finding turtles still offer hope of surviving habitat for small populations of turtles, but this too is quickly disappearing as generations change and land is sold off. The Eastern Box Turtle has all but been forgotten.

vulnmod-statewide

Red is already developed, yellow and orange highly vulnerable to develpoment due to ease of travel. http://www.dcr.virginia.gov/natural-heritage/vaconvisvulnerable

Indiscriminate  building, logging, farming and clearing has damaged our planet to the point of global distress. Land is a resource that we cannot replace and our continued abuse of it will affect the lives of generations to come.  What will it take for us to see that with every project that we undertake we destroy more natural habitat which puts us deeper and deeper into the destruction phase of our planet?

Virginia is certainly not immune to the destruction of habitat.  From the rolling hills of the Blue Ridge Mountains to the shores of the Atlantic, the center of our incredible diverse state is one of the most exploited and developed areas in this country. According to the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, the counties that run north and south along the 95 corridor are highly vulnerable to development. Yet, this area of Virginia is one of the most unique areas in this country, the  Atlantic Seaboard Fall Line.

The Atlantic Seaboard Fall Line

Runs parallel with Interstate 95 through Virginia. This Fall Line is a zone rather than a narrow line and the rapids and waterfalls

The Fall line runs through the center of Hanover, Henrico and Richmond.

The Fall line runs through the center of Hanover, Henrico and Richmond. http://www.dcr.virginia.gov/natural-heritage/natural-communities/ncoverview

created by the change from hard bedrock to the soft sediments of the Coastal Plains provides a large diverse environment for many inhabitants. These irreplaceable lands, and the rivers that run through them, provide benefits in terms of open space, recreation, cultural and historic relevance along with natural resource protection, water quality control, and economic benefits associated with these functions.

In the last 15 years, more development has taken place in Virginia then in the previous 400 years. As the pressure of a growing population increases, land conservation must become a prominent consideration in all future  planning at the local, regional and commonwealth levels if we are to preserve land for future generations.

Long term or short term fix?

recmodel-state

Green areas represent Virginia Recreation Lands needs assessment, 2015, Notice the lack of green space in Hanover, Louise, Henrico and surrounding counties. http://www.dcr.virginia.gov/natural-heritage/vaconvisrec

I ask you,  As our now antiquated infrastructure corrodes into disrepair, is it in our best interest to even consider the necessity of building new rail lines that bypass the real issue of our decaying  network?   Who will benefit from a High Speed Rail  anyway?

Any Project that is worth building, is worth considerable thought and planning, not just for us,  but for all future generations to come. There is so much more to be gained by preserving what land we can  for all the inhabitants in the center of this beautiful state. Please, before we go forward with  destruction in the name of progress, consider the legacy we could leave by initiating a program where we rebuild our great country by updating our infrastructure with new and modern technology, that is ecologically  and environmentally friendly, and  preserve land and waterways for generations of all inhabitants,  especially those that have been here for more than 250 million years, the turtle. It is time for the healing to begin.

[sgmb id=”1″ customimageurl=”https://boxturtlesanctuaryofcentralva.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/turtle-train.jpg” ]

 

LOST and FOUND

 

photo 1Dear People of Virginia,

I found one of your residents yesterday. He was narrowly missed by oncoming traffic. You see, he is lost. His eyes are swollen shut, and he seems to have a cold.

I did my best to provide a good summer, lots of rain helped provide moisture for invertebrates and sunshine helped the native plants provide fruit and berries. I really try to provide all my residents the necessary habitat that will sustain them with the food, water and companionship for a long happy life.

I see you cut down his forest. I understand that my natural resources are important to you and of course they are renewable, thank you for letting me re-seed the land. But you took away important resources for many of my residents, and this one, well he was born right by that big oak where you left a stump, near the blackberry patch that you tore out because it was in your way, and he knew every inch of the 10 acres that he called home. He knew where every waterhole was, and he knew when and where to find the mulberries and blackberries, and he knew the best place to find worms and slugs. Now, his habitat is unrecognizable to him and he is lost.  

This native resident is very special to me. He can only be found in the eastern part of the United States, and his descendants go back to more than 200 million years! This guys family has survived mass extinctions, and his body type has changed little over the years due to his successful survival rate.  You see, he is able to hibernate and he can survive for a long time without nourishment, his body essentially shuts down. All of his organs change pace so that they are providing the most minimal output possible while still maintaining life. His heart rate, normally 40 beats a minute, slows to 1 beat for 10 minutes. He is a survivor, but now he has met his match.

Homo Sapiens  now rule the east coast corridor of the United States, and as the population grows so goes the forest. You can see by the map below how little land is preserved by State and Federal programs in Virginia.  And the lands that are protected are mostly difficult to negotiate and best left to the wilds. I appreciate that; as there are incredible habitats in these areas for your native creatures. However, you are missing the boat!New Picture

I am dismayed over the plight of the Elephants in Africa, the Whales deep in the ocean, and every little frog in the rainforest, and I am grateful that there are Homo sapiens that are studying, monitoring, and protecting these creatures the best they can.   You must all know that I stopped making land a long time ago, and once it is destroyed, the habitats and the animals will not readily return, for they depend on the forest and the plants for their survival. Your little resident does not have the option to gallop away to another patch of woods. No… his journey would be a long arduous one, and if he did manage to cross the highway the likelihood of him being able to find food and water is slim.

Virginia,  It is not too late! You need to preserve the land, the trees and the streams that support these amazing animals. Private land ownership is not the answer. Your small people parks are not the answer. Virginia, if you don’t preserve some land soon, you will have wiped out much of the genetic diversity and history that these little residents carry in their DNA.

Before all the animals disappear from the center of your lovely state, where the people live, You need to create a natural area for the wildlife.  An area where your people and their grand children, can come and see the diverse flora and fauna that this state has to offer.  You see, our little disappearing Gem of the Forest is The Eastern Box Turtle.

Habitat lose and destruction is only part of this little survivors  struggle to endure.  The Eastern Box Turtle is one of the most beautiful turtles  in the world and highly sought after for pets.  Poachers  ship turtles for medicinal purposes and consumption all over the world, and your little box turtle is not immune from this illegal and unethical practice. There is so much that Homo Sapiens can learn from this little Turtle. Scientists have barely touched on the amazing abilities of survival that these guys posses.   

Your little Resident will be okay. I have given the Box Turtles in your state an advocate, and I have sent him there. When spring arrives in your lovely state he will be released in the sanctuary with others of his kind, where he can live as a turtle for many more years and teach your children about the amazing world in which he lives and what they can do to help his nation survive.

Thanks for listening

Mother EARTh

Without ART there is no earth

https://boxturtlesanctuaryofcentralva.com