Conservation Journal

“Conservation Journal: Photographs by Jason Houston” is currently on view at Fovea Exhibitions in Beacon, New York, through April 6, 2014. “‘Conservation Journal’ explores the complex dynamics at the intersections of nature and culture,” Fovea said in a statement. “Understanding where people live can help inform how we approach environmental conservation work around the world.” Houston, based in Colorado, is a fellow of the International League of Conservation Photographers, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to create educational and informative content to help protect the environment. [18 photos total]

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By reemploying turtle poachers to catch and tag sea turtles, scientists in Loreto Bay National Marine Park have dramatically increased the volume of biological information they can collect. During one period park scientists tagged just a few turtles a month, whereas these former poachers tagged 18 the night before this photograph was made. The former poachers have found an alternative -- and more sustainable -- source of income and no longer hunt sea turtles. (Jason Houston) #
Doc Hatfield in Brothers, Oregon helped start Country Natural Beef, a cattle ranching cooperative with ranches across the western United States that focuses on exceptionally environmentally conscious and humane beef production. By carefully maintaining a true cooperative structure, Country Natural Beef's growing membership is able to thrive financially and on a scale that also have real impact on the national meat market. (Jason Houston) #
We interrupted Pak Emoy at his work. He and his wife were at the far end of their ladang near the village of Tempayung in Indonesian Borneo, determining where best to plant rubber trees. We had come a long way on a wet footpath to reach their farm, and we, like they, were muddy. Back at his frail, board-thin house, he excused himself to shift out of his mud-stained shorts, then we sat on an immaculately swept floor. Pak Emoy explained that as a child he learned shifting cultivation—slash and burn—from his parents but that as an adult he had concluded there isn’t land enough for that kind of agriculture to support a growing population. Working with local NGOs he’s using techniques such as intensive composting and rotating crops to farm sustainably on his ten acres. (Jason Houston) #
Small-scale, independent portfolio fishermen (those who fish for different species in different seasons) are a dying breed in developed commercial fisheries who rely on the long-term ecological stability of the nearshore fisheries for the survival of their way of life. Cooperative models such as the San Francisco Community Fishing Association in San Francisco, California provide these individuals critical infrastructure and scalability along with an investment in sustainable practices that helps them compete economically with large-scale industrial fishing operations. (Jason Houston) #
As a result of a complex cultural history, the Mennonites in northern Mexico receive special immunity from many governmental regulations. This has led to unmonitored irrigation-intensive agricultural practices which, combined with more frequent droughts, have reduced water tables to critically low levels. Many farms are drying up and in some places the ground is literally caving in. This region in Mexico is also some of the last remaining significant stands of the Great American Desert Grassland Prairies that used to stretch from here to Canada and are a critical habitat for one of North America's most endangered species, the Black Footed Ferret. (Jason Houston) #
Almost 100% of the 4-5000 fishermen in Belize are very small-scale, nearshore operations. The organized commercial fisheries are concentrated in Belize City and consist of mostly conch and lobster fished by these small, independent boats and consolidated at processing cooperatives where it is frozen and sold north to buyers such as the Darden Restaurants (Olive Garden, Red Lobster, etc.). The lack of any national infrastructure for distribution means that almost all of the fin fish such as this hogfish caught near Punta Gorda, Belize -- and also things like conch and lobster caught in areas away from Belize City -- are sold locally in the coastal communities to restaurants and individuals. (Jason Houston) #
By giving fishermen in Loreto, Mexico managed access to local fisheries and involving them in everything from policy to biological monitoring to enforcement, they help create a social and environmental perspective that advocates for more sustainable fishing practices and the long-term value of a healthy nearshore environment. (Jason Houston) #
Carl Honeyestewa (left) on his father, Luther's, farm on the Hopi Reservation near Tuba City, Arizona. Luther (right) grows Navajo Corn using a traditional dry method that allows him to grow the corn in the desert without needing supplemental irrigation. Carl grows corn and melons in Moenkopi where water is more readily available, but will eventually take over his father's farm as part of his own interest in traditional agricultural methods and how they connect him to his cultural heritage. (Jason Houston) #
Don Filomon Delgado Toro farms sun-grown coffee and subsistence crops in Escondida, a small farming settlement a 3-4 hour hike up river from Nueva Cajamarca in the buffer zone surrounding the protected Alto Mayo in the upper Amazon basin in northern Peru. Conservation programs downstream in Nueva Cajamarca linked to water usage from the Rio Yuracyacu (the river that defines this watershed) will help fund efforts to convert his farm to higher-value, more forest-friendly shade-grown coffee. (Jason Houston) #
Anywhere you go in Belize City it is clear that fish are important. But it is also hard to quantify what that market really looks like. Not only does a tremendous amount of fish end up sold 'unofficially' like this at local dockside markets, but there is also a real and completely dependent, related industry around it that must be counted. In addition to the fishermen and their crews, there are people brokering and cleaning fish, others selling vegetables and beer, and all the local shops that benefit from the increased afternoon traffic. It looks and feels vibrant. But I also heard a fisherman complaining that they used to fish one or two days and sell at the market the rest of the week, but now he has to fish four or five to catch enough fish to sell for just a day or two. (Jason Houston) #
Tyrone Thompson, farm manager at the North Leupp Family Farm, works with youth from the local and regional communities to share traditional food and agricultural methods. In Native American culture much cultural heritage is still passed from generation to generation through direct experience. Knowledge can be lost forever if it misses even just one generation. (Jason Houston) #
The historically nomadic Samburu used to migrate with their herds, moving seasonally through the grasslands of northern Kenya much as the wildlife does. However, as they adopt more western ways of life and settle in permanent villages, their cattle, goats, and other herds often end up overgrazing the nearby landscapes. This pressure increases the intensity of accidental fires caused by wild honey harvesters who use open fire and smoldering embers to smoke out wild bee hives, multiplying the desertification effect. A log lodged in the acacia tree in the background is used as a hive for wild bees. (Jason Houston) #
Frank Savage manages over 1000 acres of new pasture at Brentwood Creek Farm in Brentwood, California. These formally conventionally farmed corn fields were bought by Farmland LP to be converted to organic pasture for sheep and cattle. (Jason Houston) #
Lobster trap fisherman, Noel, offered us cover as a big squall blew through at his fish camp on an unnamed outer caye in Belize. He got his name because he was born at midnight between December 24th and 25th. His family was granted this caye -- really a large sandbar with mangroves and old tires breaking the current -- in the 1960's and has been fishing it with his brother since they were kids. We left his place an hour or so later with a half dozen small mangrove snappers that he gave us as he said, "...the more you give the more you get..." (Jason Houston) #
Cooperatives such as the San Francisco Community Fishing Association in San Francisco, California provide essential business infrastructure including ice, hoists, storage, sales, and administration that allows very small-scale fishing operations (most are just 1-2 people and a boat) to focus on fishing while still benefitting from ownership of the fish higher up through the distribution chain. (Jason Houston) #
Waiting out a squall at a fish camp on an unnamed outer caye in Belize. Fishermen are an independent bunch and even though most of the fishing grounds in this area are less than an hour by small boat from Belize City where they have homes and families, most stay out for a week or more at a time, sleeping on their boats or in makeshift camps. (Jason Houston) #
Free divers fish for conch and lobster in the shallow waters between Belize's mainland and the barrier reef. Each small fishing sloop serves as home base for up to a week for 6-8 men and their canoes. When the boat is full, they return to the mainland where they sell to local cooperatives that process the catch, freeze it, and sell it north to buyers such as Darden Restaurants (Red Lobster, Olive Garden, etc.) (Jason Houston) #
The Rio San Juan flows west to east from Lake Nicaragua on the Pacific Side to the Caribbean Ocean, following the border between Nicaragua and Costa Rica. It provides some of the only access to one of the largest and most biologically diverse wild forests left in Central America. But even in spite of this remoteness, Nicaragua struggles to provide protection to this important region. Conservation work in the area instead focuses on empowering local communities to manage their own natural resources for long-term viability for their own benefit, which in turn also helps to push out more short-sighted and often non-local extractive industries. (Jason Houston) #

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