Jon Gosch

Novelist and Award-Winning Journalist

From the Blog

Infected Elk May Pose Serious Health Risk to Humans

Parasitology Expert Believes Elk Are Contagious, Bacteria Potentially Fatal

On February 12th, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) officials concluded their most recent Hoof Disease Public Working Group Meeting with a sadly familiar message – they still did not know what was causing the crippling hoof disease that some have estimated is now responsible for half of all elk deaths in southwest Washington.

I was at the meeting as a hunter, a conservationist and a writer, and I was still bitter about my family’s bleak, unsuccessful hunting season that past fall. I was searching for answers and so far there weren’t any.

Before the meeting was adjourned, however, members of the public were allowed a chance to speak for three minutes each. First up was Boone Mora, a Doctor of Public Health from Skamokawa, Washington. Articulate and spry for his age, Dr. Mora stood and addressed the group.

Since I have so little time I’ll tell you I think I know what causes the disease. I think I know how to cure the disease, and I think I know how to prevent the disease. I spent ten years studying this disease. I was a guest researcher at the Center of Disease Control in Atlanta and I did a dissertation in this. I can tell you leptospirosis fits it better than anything else I can imagine. And leptospirosis hasn’t been investigated, certainly not exhausted. And I would like to do that. It won’t cost you anything. I’ll do it for nothing. The symptoms of this disease are as broad as symptoms go. This is why they are not diagnosed. People die from it.

And so began my plunge down the rabbit hole.

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Growing Evidence Links Herbicides to Elk Hoof Disease

After Five Years of Active Investigation, WDFW Officials Still Scratching Their Heads

My family has hunted the forests of southwest Washington for more than sixty years and never before have they observed such a scarcity of wildlife. Twenty years ago my dad and uncle remember seeing two or three big elk herds a day. Now we’re lucky to see two or three individuals a day. Depressingly, this past fall marked the first time in three decades that our entire hunting party failed to harvest a single elk from the Coweeman unit. I later learned that the Coweeman elk population has dropped by seventy percent in recent years.

Something is afoot in our local forests, and I’m convinced that the epidemic of hoof disease currently ravaging the elk population surrounding Mount St. Helens is only the alarm. Everyone in my hunting party now believes that the herbicides Weyerhaeuser and other private timber companies are spraying on new growth habitats is one of the chief causes of our wildlife shortage which includes deer, grouse and just about every other animal out there. After several years of diminishing returns, I (like many others) have been on a path of inquiry to understand just what is happening in our forests, and so far the insights have been disturbing.

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Elk Hoof Disease | Photo by Jon Gosch

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Maria Marasigan – Community Organizer and Earthship Activist

Windship Interview Series: Part Seven

Maria Marasigan, 35, New York, USA

Feda Maria

Maria Marasigan | Photo by Federica Miglio

So why are you here?

In all the years that these typhoons have been happening in the Philippines, there still isn’t a system, or some kind of preparedness, or a change in how rebuilds happen and what relief is like here. The government supports the people in a very hand out, reactive, short-term way.

Having done the Earthship internship in November, I saw how waste is used for housing, the systems of water catchment, solar, and all of these things that are really looking at the long-term and self-sufficiency. Having less dependency on a government that doesn’t really serve you. Not just here in the Philippines, but everywhere, all over the world, including the United States. After disasters like Katrina and Sandy, people are still waiting for relief when they should already be rebuilding, and that still isn’t happening.

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Andrea Roa Buco – Community Activist and Native of Barangay Batug

Windship Interview Series: Part Six

Andrea Roa Buco, 33, Hong Kong via the Philippines

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Andrea Roa Buco | Photo by Jon Gosch

What was it like growing up here?

Batug is a very sleepy village. There are only 134 homes with a 500 population. It was a very quiet time growing up. People were focused more on their family. Lights out by seven. Sleeping by eight. Very normal, simple life. We have garden in the back. Catch the fish in the river. We eat caribou, frogs. Dogs also.

Dogs? That’s a bit different from America.

(Laughing). Yeah.

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John Craig, Christina and Hendry – Windship Volunteers

Windship Interview Series: Part Five

John Craig, 61, Japan via Scotland

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John Craig | Photo by Federica Miglio

What facet or facets of Earthships is most compelling or attractive for you?

The most attractive facet of Earthships is the people who build them. Beyond question. Nothing happens without the group of people, as we’ve seen here. And like Phil said yesterday, we have four disparate groups here. We have the pros, we have the people who’ve been at the Academy, we have the volunteers and we’ve got the local community. All working together. Most of us with zero experience whatsoever in all of these different tasks.

If you were to try and do that in some academic sense, and plan it all out, and we’ve got these different nationalities, and we’ve got these different customs to consider, and the local mores. Scholars would have a field day. It’d probably take them six years to figure out how you could get all this done. And we just all bloody show up, and boom it gets done. So that is the answer to the question – the most attractive facet of the Earthship thing is the people.

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