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It's not just about geese, anymore

Bradford Norman, a local aquatic ecologist, holds a six-legged frog encased in a block of ice that he discovered while collecting specimens at Dead Lake. Norman will give a presentation on "Salamander and Frog Foray" Sunday during the annual Aleutian Goose Festival. (The Daily Triplicate/Bryant Anderson).
Bradford Norman, a local aquatic ecologist, holds a six-legged frog encased in a block of ice that he discovered while collecting specimens at Dead Lake. Norman will give a presentation on "Salamander and Frog Foray" Sunday during the annual Aleutian Goose Festival. (The Daily Triplicate/Bryant Anderson).

By Hilary Corrigan

Triplicate staff writer

The once-endangered remains the star of the show that starts on Friday and bears the bird's name.

But a side cast of characters — dinosaur-era frogs, wine from southern Oregon, photography tips and boat rides to areas along the Klamath River where no roads reach — share the stage and draw their own audiences during the four-day festival.

The Yurok Tribe, for instance, will present a full-day session on Friday. Natural resource experts and cultural leaders will teach about fish, Klamath River issues and tribal history, serving a salmon lunch and guiding a ride along the river.

"The goose festival has mainly given the tribe the opportunity to tell its story," said tribal environmental program director Kevin McKernan. "From a very personal point of view."

The river ride remains key.

"You see people living and working on the river, people out fishing," McKernan said.

The trips pass by sections of logged redwood forests on Green Diamond land and remote areas that lack electricity.

"All of a sudden, you come upon these communities and you realize how far out there they are," McKernan said. "It lets people know we've got these challenges."

The festival offers a chance for local businesses to make money, as well.

For the first time this year, McKernan will run boat trips along the river with his own new SurfBear Outfitters business.

"This will actually be one of the first paying customers and paying events," he said of his inclusion in the festival line-up. "It will lead, hopefully, to some other opportunities."

Bradford Norman, an herpetologist with Crescent City-based Aquatic Resource Specialists, plans to direct festival-goers' gaze to the scaley critters on the ground instead of the feathery ones in sky.

Norman will show off the region's northern roughskin newt, for instance, with its bright orange belly and poisonous neurotoxin that kills anyone or anything that eats a drop of it.

His session will also highlight the tailed frog and Del Norte salamander — living relics from a time when redwood forests covered North America.

"The most ancient types of frogs in the world," Norman boasted, noting their habitat. "The last remnants of what was once a huge dinosaur forest."

Northcoast biologist and photographer Ron LeValley will lead a photography session that focuses less on the camera subject than on the craft's technical side.

"To understand how a camera records light," LeValley said.

With digital cameras, photography has grown more popular as people seek to record trips, hang their pictures as artwork, detail a certain animal or natural scene.

"There's a million reasons to take pictures," LeValley said.

The festival program's list of non-bird related workshops and activities is no accident.

"The festival demonstrated that there are economies associated with sustainable, nature-based tourism, as opposed to consumptive tourism," said organizer Rick Hiser, contrasting the event's guided rafting and kayaking trips with Disneyland-type businesses. "It can be an important part of our economy."

Organizers centered the first festival nine years ago around the goose that returned from near-extinction — an endangered species success story sure to draw birders.

"That seemed pretty unique and probably pretty interesting to the birding community," Hiser said, noting the multi-billion dollar eco-tourism industry.

They also structured the event around a predictable visit during tourism's off-season in Del Norte County. Each spring, Aleutian geese stop in Crescent City on a more than 2,000 mile trek from California's San Joaquin and Sacramento valleys to their summer breeding grounds off the Alaskan coast.

"Our task is to bring the people here for an extended period of time," Hiser said. "To come into the community, spend their money, see Del Norte County like they've never seen it before."

Reach Hilary Corrigan at This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

Fest Highlights

The 9th Annual Aleutian Goose Festival isn't just for birdlovers:

•Outside My Window — A Naturalist's View of the World," by biologist and photographer Ron LeValley. 7 p.m. Friday, Cultural Center on Front Street. Free.

•Goose Gala Reception – With wine tastings and a silent auction. 5:30 p.m. Saturday in the Cultural Center. $20 at the door, $10 for registrants.

•River, Rocks and Redwoods - A Smith River geology tour with national park interpreter Roger Brandt. 12:30 p.m.-4:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, $45.

•Walking in the Footsteps of the Tolowa – Explores Lake Earl lagoon and the Smith River, as well as Tolowa history and legends. Tribal member Loren Bommelyn also discusses Tolowa Dunes State Park and Yontocket, the center of the universe, on 9-11:30 a.m. Saturday. $10.

•Earthquakes & Tsunamis — Redwood National and State Parks geologist Vicki Ozaki and ranger Jim Wheeler detail plate tectonics, subduction zones and changes in the local landscape over time. 9 a.m.-11:30 a.m. Friday. Free with registration.

•Mill Creek — Reweaving the Fabric – Former State Park superintendent Rick Sermon describes the process to rebuild an old-growth redwood forest and the salmon population that relies on Mill Creek to spawn. 8:30 a.m.- noon. Free with registration.


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