The Wild Inside
“Saying goodbye to an animal – it’s hard,” says Chris, who is leaving Florence, Ariz. State Prison after serving a six-year sentence. He’s one of 30 minimum-security participants in the prison’s pioneering Wild Horse Inmate Program, working five days a week to “gentle” the wild mustangs, which are saved from slaughter. Training them as saddle horses keeps recidivism at bay in Arizona, where inmates face a 49 percent chance of reincarceration within five years. Since 2012, only three of the prison’s 53 WHIP trainers are back behind bars.
Ten years after they were designated as endangered, nothing of significance has been done to protect polar bears. So, in simplest, starkest terms, more bears are starving to death as climate change steadily reduces the ice pack where the bears catch their staple food, seals. The good news is that there is still time to turn things around by making daily choices that matter. And, there are dedicated, passionate scientists, conservationists and volunteers in groups like Polar Bears International who can inspire us by their examples to make the right choices.
The Love Bugs
Mountainfilm Commitment Grant
Entomologists Charlie and Lois O’Brien have amassed more than 1 million insects from nearly 70 countries — one of the largest private collections in the world — during the course of their long and storied careers. Now in their 80s, they are slowly transferring their drawers full of iridescent weevils and planthoppers to Arizona State University, where they can be digitized for posterity. The Love Bugs is a light-hearted portrait of two aging but dedicated scientists that captures the tender moments, inside jokes and good-natured bickering that can only come from sharing a marriage and career for 55 years.
Return of the Desert Bighorn
Decimating a native species, as happened with desert bighorn sheep in West Texas in the 1960s, is easily enough done. Introduce disease with domesticated sheep and goat populations, stretch barbed wire across open land, dole out hunting permits with abandon and, presto, no more species. To re-populate that species, not so easy. But then, the Good Fight rarely is.
Bayandalai - Lord of the Taiga
Bayandalai is an elder of the Dukhas tribe, a reindeer herder living nomadically in northern Mongolia, caring for his animals within the largest forest on Earth — the Taiga. Through his connection with the reindeer, and with the Taiga, Bayandalai has access to spiritual truths and higher consciousness that he may not be able to pass on to his 21st century tribespeople before the lures of city life — jobs, money, houses, things — entice them away.
During his time as a Green Beret medic in the Vietnam War, eco-warrior and author Doug Peacock looked at a map of the Montana and Wyoming wilderness for comfort. He vowed that if he got out alive, he would go see those wild places for himself. Peacock not only visited, but spent years in solitude there, filming his only companions — grizzly bears. The man who inspired The Monkey Wrench Gang’s iconic character George Washington Hayduke has made it his life’s work to save the habitat of these majestic animals, who remind us that humans’ place is not at the top of the food chain.
Mountainfilm Commitment Grant
Honeybees lead the charge in Tim Paule and Nicole Lindsey’s fight against urban blight in Detroit. Their fast-growing Detroit Hives has resurrected seven of the city’s approximately 90,000 abandoned lots by setting up flourishing beehives. With Detroit’s more than 2,000 registered hives, the couple are part of a growing community movement. They built their first apiary on a lot purchased for $340 in partnership with Detroit Land Banks. As Nicole says, “you don’t have to have a million dollars in your bank account to start an idea.”