ILCW Members Are Eligible to Use
David R. Brower Office for Conservation Writing

Come write, do research, and be near wild and protected areas in Colorado while working in the David R. Brower Office of Conservation Writing. Sit at the same desk used by Dave Brower. There is no cost to use the office. If interested apply at:


Featured Video

Rhino Training

This absurd machine is a silly joke, taken way too far.

Denver zoo keeper Dave Johnson got an email at work one day, and the subject was "Rhino Training". (We use a CAD program called Rhinoceros.) Colleague Arlen and he thought that was a hilarious image: trying to get a rhino to sit, with no effect whatsoever. All day long we'd say "Sit!" and then crack up. So I made a machine about it.

––View past featured videos––

The International League of Conservation Writers is a forum to bring writers together from around the world who are writing to promote wilderness, nature, conservation, or using other means to protect and restore the natural areas, habitats, animals, and plants of our planet. ILCW will present periodic writing awards to authors who excel in this field.

International League of Conservation Writers

Writing to inspire the love of nature and a passion for its protection.


Member Writing

If you would like to share one of your writings with other ILCW members, send to patty.

 The Dakota Access Pipeline

'We opened eyes': at Standing Rock,
my fellow Native Americans make history

By ILCW member Joe Whittle (USA)

Previously published in The Guardian

Photograph: Joe Whittle/Joe Whittle for The Guardian

As an Indigenous American, there was never any question of whether I should travel to Standing Rock or not. I needed to witness firsthand what was happening there, and wanted to offer solidarity to those fighting for the right of tribes to exercise agency over their own futures

Only one problem remained: I had to find a way to go.

I am not a man of means. I weighed obligations, such as bills and work, and considered travelling expenses. I glanced at my vehicle, already knowing it was hardly suited for the 1,100-mile drive from my home in north-east Oregon, and resigned myself to staying home. I just couldn’t afford the trip.

But as police use of force escalated and news came out of private oil company security contractors using dogs against protesters, more and more people began to reach out to me, expressing a desire to help.

In early November, I was contacted by my good friend Jamie Stone, who said he wanted to go and offered his truck and trailer to haul supplies. Jamie also happens to be a former oil worker on the North Slope of Alaska. His uncle is an oil executive, and his brother works for oil companies around the globe, but he also has family members who are farmers in the Midwest and have had easements forced across their own land for oil pipelines.

“This issue brings a lot of people together for a lot of reasons,” Jamie told me, “whether it’s eminent domain, protecting water rights, or just people sick of ‘profit over people’. These corporate terrorists need to get the point that people are changing, and we aren’t going to be their sheep for much longer.”

I quickly agreed to the opportunity, but requested that we attempt to raise donations for the water protectors, the group of Native Americans representing over 300 different tribes who are encamped near the location where the pipeline is slated to cross the Missouri river. They had put out a call for donations of firewood and winter camping supplies.

Large supplies of firewood are not easy to come by on the Great Plains – especially enough to keep a camp of several thousand people warm. Where I live, in the wooded mountains of north-east Oregon, firewood is abundant. So the first thing I did was start reaching out to people for firewood donations.

The response was overwhelming. Within 24 hours, we had reached our goal and acquired two more full-sized pickups and another trailer to accompany us. People also gave winter clothes, bulk food, horse feed and tack for the Sioux youth riders who have been active on the front lines of the movement since day one.

“My primary motivation for supporting Standing Rock is to stand for those who are standing up to corporate fascism in the face of human rights violations,” he told me. “I have always felt a deep remorse for the atrocities that the indigenous peoples of Turtle Island (the name given to America by indigenous groups) have suffered. I understand that we can’t take away the injustice, but I’m aware that if we face the injustices that occurred to our Native brothers and sisters, we can begin the healing process.”

Chief Joseph, a leader in the Nez Perce war of 1877. Photograph: Public domain

Wallowa County itself, much like the Standing Rock area, is home to one of the most tragic tales in American history and the Indian wars. Much as cities in the Dakotas are named for local tribes, Wallowa County and my hometown of Joseph are named for the people who had to endure atrocities committed by settlers eager to clear that land.

The story of Chief Joseph, in particular, is yet another tale of a protector willing to sacrifice everything in the face of insurmountable odds. Chief Joseph was a leader in the Nez Perce war of 1877, in which his tribe and others opposed the US army. The conflict tragically ended when Chief Joseph surrendered a few hundred miles from Standing Rock, after an 1,100-mile running battle in an attempt to escape to Canada to live with Sitting Bull’s people in exile. They were cut short not far from the border by a surprise flank attack in which much of the tribe was killed. Some did make it to Canada, including Joseph’s young daughter, whom he never saw again.

During a speech he gave in Seattle shortly before his death (which his doctor literally deemed to be of a broken heart), Chief Joseph said: “Today I would like to be back in my old home in Wallowa Valley. All my friends are there. My father is buried there. Some of my children are buried there. I like the white people, but they have driven me out of my home. I have friendly feelings for all. My blood is the same that flows in the veins of the white men. We will all die just the same. But I have one grievance, that is because I am not allowed to go back to my old home.”

Joseph was not allowed that right, and he died in exile.

‘We will never give up our relationship with the land
and the water’

On 7 November, Jamie Stone, Cody Nowland and I began the two-day trip to the Standing Rock Sioux reservation. Cody is a member of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian reservation, which is not far from my home.

On the long drive into the Great Plains from the mountains and forests of our home, we talked of the days when his tribe and the Nez Perce would cross the continental divide and hunt bison, sometimes allying with the Sioux who lived on the plains, occasionally warring with them. We passed through eastern Montana, nearing the site of Chief Joseph’s surrender. Travelling those aisles of American history together felt surreal, considering where we were headed. History, it seemed, was repeating itself, only in a more modern form.

When we finally arrived, it was dark and cold, and we were met by a security team. We were informed of the strict camp policy – no weapons, drugs, or alcohol – and had to submit our trailer to a search. After the team made sure we were not intoxicated or bringing weapons, we were allowed in. Around 4,000 people are spread across roughly one-mile stretches of land on either side of the Cannonball river, which are filled with tipis, tents and a few RVs.

The sounds of Native American drum groups and songs echoed through the crisp air. Native people have survived 500 years of atrocity on this continent with the help of prayers, ceremony, and our community. We are steady in our promise to never give up on our cultural and spiritual relationship with the land and water we owe everything to. It is perhaps for this reason that despite the continuing war against our way of life, there is love, happiness and a deep spirituality at Oceti Sakowin Camp. (Oceti Sakowin means “Seven Council Fires” – the seven tribes of the Great Sioux Nation.)

In the distance, to my left, I could see the bright lights coming from a line of police cars behind the barricade, across State Highway 1806. To my right, high-powered floodlights near the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL) construction site shone brightly, pointing at the camp all night long.

DAPL floodlights point at the camp from dusk until dawn. Many in the camp believe they are part of “psy-ops” intentionally trying to disrupt the peace and rest of water protectors, although it is hard to substantiate it. But a plane circles the camp low, with lights off (an FAA violation) all night long, providing a near-constant droning buzz.

Every morning, during the large prayer ceremonies which take place at the river’s edge, a yellow DAPL helicopter flies low, buzzing the two ceremony locations repeatedly.

Intimidation doesn’t stop there; as has been widely reported, physical interactions have also taken place.

My own daughter, Mia, a 4.0-grade average student at Stanford University with a full-ride doctorate scholarship to any university in the world, was fired at with rubber bullets while kneeling on the ground praying.

The following is the text message I received from her after a terrified night of watching live feeds on Facebook from my home back in Oregon:

My friend was shot with a rubber bullet right next to me. We were bringing blankets to the folks who were getting sprayed with water/chemical combo, because it was freezing cold and the cops were literally putting the people at risk of dying; spraying water on people in this weather is trying to kill them. I watched one man get carried out after getting sprayed, water on his beard looked frozen, he needed help to lift his legs up over the guardrail to get to the van, it didn’t look like he could do it on his own. We knelt to pray on the earth and that’s when they shot, and got my friend.

Her auntie took care of us; she swiftly and strongly guided us back to the van where she was taken to the medics. She was a badass warrior.

The women are all holding it down, that needs to be clear. They are the ones who get forgotten about in these movements, their importance needs to be emphasized. My friend and her auntie were treated dismissively at the ER in Bismarck, and a nurse said ‘that’ll teach you’ when they told her how she was injured.

Two of the worst confrontations took place on the low hill known as “Turtle Hill”, where the gravesites of two known grandmothers of the tribe lie. The entire area is considered a sacred area, and said to contain other graves.

When construction began, water protectors made an attempt to occupy the location to protect it. Police responded with violent force and lined the shores of the Cannonball River under the hill, repelling people with rubber bullets and high powered pepper spray. Many people were injured. It was one of the most violent encounters of the ongoing resistance.

Last week, Sophia Wilansky, 21, was seriously injured after being hit by a projectile when officers threw less-than-lethal weapons at demonstrators. She might lose her arm.

‘There is a heightened stress because of cultural ignorance’

On Veteran’s Day, more than 100 veterans gathered in formation. They marched to the police roadblock, and performed a 21-gun salute for a fallen veteran and a prayer ceremony on the bridge. Many people are surprised to learn of the seeming irony of the fact that Native Americans possess more enrolled military members per capita than any other ethnicity in America.

On Veteran’s Day, over 100 veterans gathered in formation and marched to the roadblock. This week, over 2,000 veterans will arrive at Standing Rock as part of a support ‘deployment’. Photograph: Joe Whittle for the Guardian

Veterans aren’t the only uniformed servicemen and women who’ve joined the resistance at Standing Rock. Law enforcement officers have, too.

Former Wallowa County police officer Michelle Bloker joined the caravan from Oregon. “I am horrified,” she said. “People praying, voicing their views and heart, were met with disdain and a level of force exceeding what was needed. Instead of mediation and active listening engagement, protectors were met with stout commands and ‘lawful orders’. I felt a sense of profiling.”

She believes part of the motivation behind the police mistreatment of water protectors is “a perceived threat when there was no intention of violence. There is a heightened stress because of cultural ignorance, and manipulation of law enforcement by corporate greed to pit them against protectors in an attempt to divide people.”

Jeff Ginter, a former Department of Justice investigations officer and Homeland Security air marshall, was at Standing Rock during my time there. Retired after 30 years in law enforcement, Jeff has an easy way about him which would lend itself to de-escalation tactics as a police officer.

“It is not appropriate to use water cannons during adverse conditions that will cause harm to the protesters – that would be considered inhumane treatment,” he said. “I decided to come and support after watching video footage online that I believe clearly demonstrates unlawful use of force. I’ve watched the videos of people being shot in the face with plastic bullets, struck in the head with riot batons, and the use of untrained police dogs. The abuses are many. I hope more police officers will come and stand with us.”

My own brother Larry Whittle, a Marine Corps veteran of the Gulf war and enrolled member of the Caddo Nation of Oklahoma, also decided to show solidarity at Standing Rock. On my fifth day there, he informed me that he would be joining the peaceful direct action. Their intent was to march peacefully down a county road to DAPL headquarters, where tribal elders would pray and hold ceremony to bless the sacred sites being disturbed by pipeline construction.

Little did my brother know his veteran’s experience and Marine Corps training would be called into action that day. The group was threatened by an angry local owner of a construction company called Four Square Concrete, who flew into a rage at having his drive home impeded by water protectors.

After pushing into several protectors with his truck while laying on his horn and revving his engine, he pulled out a handgun and began pointing it at people.

When someone yelled “gun”, in fear, Larry sprang into action with several others and ran to confront the man and place himself in between harm’s way and the other water protectors. The gunman eventually re-entered his truck and sped away from the group, running over a woman’s foot in the process. Before leaving the scene, he reached his gun out the window and fired seven rounds over the crowd.

‘It’s seven-generation time’

“When I was just a boy my grandma used to tell me, ‘Grandson, let’s walk out into the hills and listen.’ We used to go out there and listen to the spirits, really listen to what they had to say. If you really believe in the traditional ways, and if you do open your ears and listen to what’s going on around you … they’re trying to tell you stories,” says Standing Rock rider Sunny Iron Cloud.

He and his friends are the peaceful modern-day equivalent of the famous Great Plains horse warriors of yesteryear. It was their ancestors who defeated Gen Custer at the famous battle of the Little Bighorn. They have not only been instrumental in helping to initiate the movement, but also in leading and inspiring it. They have provided security for people in the camp and repeatedly protected elders during confrontations.

One horse was shot twice with lethal ammunition by an unknown assailant during one protest encounter. Another horse was killed by rubber bullet impact from police during the first Backwater Bridge incident.

There is a prophecy among Native tribes called “the seventh generation”, which speaks of a time thought to be seven generations after first contact with Europeans, when indigenous youth and allies from all races come together to enact a new age of healing and rebirth for Native people and Turtle Island.

Lakota leader Crazy Horse spoke of his vision of that prophecy with the following words:

Upon suffering beyond suffering, the Red Nation shall rise again and it shall be a blessing for a sick world. A world filled with broken promises, selfishness and separations. A world longing for light again. I see a time of seven generations when all the colors of mankind will gather under the sacred Tree of Life and the whole Earth will become one circle again. In that day there will be those among the Lakota who will carry knowledge and understanding of unity among all living things, and the young white ones will come to those of my people and ask for this wisdom.

So far, Standing Rock has seen visitors come from as far as Tibet, Japan, and New Zealand to offer support. Even the last remaining indigenous people of Europe, the Sami tribe, have sent representatives

People such as Lakota youth Phillip Wright believe the time Crazy Horse described is now.

‘A lot of people are here for the future generations’, says Standing Rock tribal member Sunny Iron Cloud. Photograph: Joe Whittle for the Guardian

“It was needed,” says Phillip. “Something big like this, to change the world. I think that’s how we can change the world – by everybody coming together. The Yellow Nation, the Red Nation, the Black Nation, and the White Nation, all came together. This is the first time in history all four have come together.

He’s right: this gathering of nations is unprecedented in Native American history. There is a sense of history in the making.

“It’s seven-generation time,” says Oglala Lakota, Brandon Iron Hawk, speaking to a group of his fellow riders. “You know, growing up they always said our seventh generation was gonna have to face something. This is what they were probably talking about. They were calling us, warning us about something. We’re gonna be standing for our people protecting our sacred land and water. We all came here for a reason.”

“I want to pray for them too,” he added, pointing at police. “Because who knows, maybe deep down inside they don’t want to be doing that to us. But it’s their job, because they have a family to support. We’re not here in anger, we’re here in peace and prayer.”

No one at the camp really wants to think about the possibility of the pipeline crossing the river. But there is definitely a sense that something bigger is happening. That story is one of a singular voice made up of many people’s voices, united for an ideal that Native voices have been singing for millennia.

“Even if we can’t stop this pipeline,” says Wright, “we still won. Because we opened up everybody’s eyes.”


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  “What we are doing to the forests of the world is but a mirror reflection of what we aredoing to ourselves and to one another.” Mahatma Gandhi



The Fourth River has launched Tributaries, a weekly, online publication of "...the brief and the inspiring, that which sustains and takes us through unexpected courses..." Nature or placed based short prose (500 words ), one poem, or one piece of visual art can be submitted here.  

Special Thanks to ILCW member Adrienne Ross Scanlan for this information

October 2017 Photo tour in  Chile of the Lakes Region and Patagonia, including Torres del Paine National Park with Boyd Norton.

Boyd is the recipient of the prestigious Ansel Adams Award for Conservation Photography, presented to him in September 2015 by the Sierra Club president. He is the author and photographer of 17 books, including Serengeti: The Eternal Beginning (Fulcrum, 2011) and Conservation Photography Handbook: How to Save the World One Photo at a Time (Amherst Media, 2016) both of which received high praise from Jane Goodall and others.

Boyd has been conducting his highly popular photography workshops for 43 years. His workshops have spanned the globe and have included Galapagos Islands, Kenya, Botswana, Rwanda, Siberia, Alaska, Antarctica, Peru, Borneo, Bali, Belize and numerous locales in North America. For information on his scheduled workshops and others planned contact him.


Roxanne Swentzell (L) with Page Lambert in front of Swentzell’s sculpture “Mud Woman”

Aug. 28-Sept. 2, 2017

Women River Writing and Sculpting Journey -- Canyonlands National Park, USA. ILCW member Page Lambert (writer) with featured guest, Roxanne Swentzell (sculptor) will journey 6 days and 5 nights down the Colorado River. Attendees will sculpt with their hands, using river clay and materials gathered from the land, and will also sculpt with words. For more information.

Peru, Weaving Words and Women

April 2018

Spend 12 days in the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu on this women writers’ retreat. Click here to add your name to "Tell Me More!" list




ILCW now on Facebook

ILCW members, please check out the ILCW Facebook page and add content. Tell us what you are working on, what changes you see in the area of conservation (good and bad) in your area, include news from you: have you recently won any awards or accolades? Have you recently published a new book or article or perhaps finished a piece of art, performance piece, photo that glorifies the natural world? This page is for you, please enjoy and generate interest in ILCW and what we do.

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Do you have a friend or a colleague who is passionate about Nature and believes that we should protect what we have for future generations? ILCW welcomes all creative people (not just writers) who use their talent to bring awareness to the plight of our natural world. Have them apply to be an ILCW member at


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Let us know if you have won an award, written a new book, or launched a creative endeavor to bring awareness to conservation. Chances are the ILCW membership is not aware of these things, so be sure and tell us. Send items to:



MoreMember Writing

By ILCW member Michael McBride (USA)

Nov. 30, 2016

Before dawn, beside the road-less, wilderness estuary,

where, like a giant heart beat, the pulsing  tide rises and falls

almost 30 vertical feet in six hours ----  and life is very good indeed.   

Wilderness in America

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