Leap Year

 The earth rotates around the sun in a very precise manner. If that were not so, all sorts of chaos would ensue. If it is so precise though, why then does February have an extra day every four years?  Because while exact, the yearly orbit of the earth can’t be divided into perfect intervals without leftovers.

It takes the earth 365.2422 days to orbit completely around the sun and that little extra is the problem. Are 5.8 hours all that important? Over time, yes. In 1000 years it adds up to 242 days. That is a lot of unaccounted for time that would really play havoc with celebrations. Who would want Christmas in the summertime?

We use the Gregorian calendar to measure time. The Gregorian calendar was introduced by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582. It attempts to keep the vernal or spring equinox as close to March 21 as possible so that the Easter observance remains close to the vernal equinox.  Although the Gregorian is the most popular, there are dozens of different calendars in use in the world. All calendars have a way to deal with the messiness in the system.

What is even stranger is that since 0.2422x4=0.9688 and not one, adding in a day every four years isn’t a perfect solution either. Now we are overcorrecting for the phenomenon. Pope Gregory XIII and his astronomers recognized that they would need to lose an additional three leap years every 400 years to keep things on track. The Gregorian calendar adjusts for this by making the Centurial years ordinary years unless they are divisible by 400, then they are leap years. So 2000 was a leap year under the Gregorian calendar, as was 1600. But 1700, 1800 and 1900 were not leap years.

What happens if you are born on February 29th? You are called a leapling and technically have only one fourth the birthdays of the rest of us. This can be a plus as you get older or it can be a curse as Frederic the pirate apprentice learned in Pirates of Penzance. He had to serve the pirates until his 21st birthday, which, being on February 29, meant he would be 84 years old!

So, how did February end up with 28 days anyway? It traces back to politics and egos. At one time, August had 29 days. However, Caesar Augustus for whom the month was named was jealous that his predecessor, Julius Caesar’s name sake month, July, had 31 days. He pinched two days from February so his month of August would be the same as July.

All that aside, the bottom line is that every four years we get a bonus, an extra day we can plan for and take advantage of. This gift of time is so rare and precious today.  I must admit that I have been a bit cavalier with this wonderful gift over the years. I have seen February 29 come and go 15 times and I don’t remember a single thing I did to either celebrate the day or to make it of benefit to me or others. I think this year I’ll do something memorable and go visit my Dad.

Wildlife License Plates

Idaho Wildlife license plates provide essential funding that benefits the great diversity of native plants and wildlife that are not hunted, fished or trapped—over 10,000 species or 98% of Idaho’s species diversity. Game species that share the same habitats (such as elk, deer, antelope, sage-grouse, salmon, trout) also benefit from these specialty plates.

No state tax dollars are provided for wildlife diversity, conservation education and recreation programs. Neither are any revenues from the sale of hunting or fishing licenses spent on nongame species. Instead, these species depend on direct donations, federal grants, fundraising initiatives—and the Idaho Wildlife license plates.

Both my vehicles have Bluebird Plates. I prefer the bluebird because the nongame program gets 70 percent of the money from bluebird plates, but only 60 percent of the money from elk and trout plates - 10 percent of the money from elk plates supports wildlife disease monitoring and testing programs (to benefit the livestock industry) and 10 percent from cutthroat plates supports non-motorized boat access.

Incidentally, in 2014, the Idaho Legislature denied the Department of Fish and Game the ability to add new plates or even to change the name of the elk and cutthroat plates (very specific) to wildlife and fish plates, a move that would have allowed for changing images occasionally and generating more revenue. It would seem that they believe that we Idahoans don't want a well funded wildlife program.

I think it is time we let the Legislature know that Idahoan support wildlife funding and that we would like to see these generic plates come to fruition.

TAX DAY is coming! Here is a chance to do something good with a bit of your tax return and make the day less painful.

Donate part of your tax return to support wildlife in Idaho!

On the second page of the Idaho Individual Tax form 40 you have the opportunity to donate to the “Nongame Wildlife Conservation Fund”.

Check-off this box on your next return or ask your tax preparer to mark the Nongame check-off on your behalf. You can donate any amount you wish, it all helps to support the wildlife you love.

If you are not from Idaho, check with your own state wildlife agency about how you can help. Many states have a similar program.

"WOW. What a phenomenal piece you wrote. You are amazing." Jennifer Jackson

That is embarrassing, but actually a fairly typical response to my nature essays. Since The Best of Nature is created from the very best of 16 years of these nature essays published weekly in the Idaho Falls Post Register (online readership 70,000), it is a fine read. It covers a wide variety of topics including humorous glimpses of nature, philosophy, natural history, and conservation. Readers praise the style, breadth of subject matter and my ability to communicate complex and emotional topics in a relaxed and understandable manner.

Everyone can find something to love in this book. From teenagers to octogenarians, from the coffee shop to the school room, these nature essays are widely read and enjoyed.

Some of the essays here are my personal favorites, others seemed to strike a chord with readers. Most have an important message or lesson that will resonate with you. They are written with a goal to simultaneously entertain and educate about the wonderful workings of nature. Some will make you laugh out loud and others will bring a tear to the eye and warm your heart.

Readers Write:

"You hit a home run with your article on, Big Questions in Nature. It should be required reading for everyone who has lost touch with nature...great job!" Joe Chapman

"We enjoyed your column, Bloom Where Planted. Some of the best writing yet. The Post Register is fortunate to have your weekly columns." Lou Griffin.

To read more and to order a copy, click here or get the Kindle version 


Copies are also available at:

Post Register

Island Park Builders Supply (upstairs)

Barnes and Noble in Idaho Falls

Harriman State Park, Island Park

Museum of Idaho

Valley Books, Jackson Wyoming

Avocet Corner Bookstore, Bear River National Wildlife Refuge, Brigham City, Utah

Craters of the Moon National Monument Bookstore, Arco, Idaho