Hard Shell Sell

From Bob Anderson

Almost as soon as J. C. and I put up the signs, somebody knocks them down. The signs that we post along the river road, downstream of Conway center, read “Slow-Turtle Xing”.

Turtles were residents of the South River Valley long before there were hay fields, roads, farmers, or even Indians. They have ancient ancestry and they survived living alongside people, evidently pretty well, until recently. So what happened?

Apparently horse-drawn buggies and plows of the past were not likely to smash a reptile on the road, or in the field. And apparently there are ways to cut hay fields that make the work less dangerous to wildlife. If one works from the middle out, the animals have a chance to move toward the edges or vacate the field.

Some professor probably came up with this idea while he was going around in circles one day on his lawnmower, and noticed how beetles and grasshoppers scurried away from the blade. Who knows if it really works? But if it is a simple change that has little or no negative effect on work time or cost, why not try it?

One of the things I like about the Friends of the South River conservation group is that it is inclusive. I love to fish for trout, and we could probably benefit from the perspective of serious local hunters and trappers. Some of the people in the group have large gardens and some have guns. We all support agriculture of all types along the river. We encourage people to do what they reasonably can to conserve the traditional resources of the South River watershed. We aren’t sufficiently arrogant to tell anybody what to do, but we are trying to find ways to conserve, access, and perhaps restore the river environment. We try to be optimistic and open-minded in this effort.

Yet conservation efforts could be for nothing if Hurricane Irene-type rain becomes the yearly norm, and prevent the river from ever recovering to what we regard as normal. Then turtle crossing signs will become a very sad relic of a small attempt by some naive people, to preserve a bit of the natural order that once existed within the South River Valley. Just in case this happens, maybe we should donate one of the prankster-trashed signs to the Conway Historical Society, as an artifact representative of the concerns of a group of people in the time before Mother Nature revolted, and washed the life out of the South River watershed.