News Column

Slice of Life National Geographic grant could save mountain beauty

August 23, 2014

By Patti Borda Mullins, The Frederick News-Post, Md.

Aug. 23--Artist and naturalist Doug Moulden has trekked through Catoctin Mountain beauty for 30 years and now embarks on a journey to preserve it.

He hopes his proposal to make paintings that help preserve the mountain will win a $50,000National Geographic grant. The grant will go to someone whose "passion project" passes National Geographic standards and then wins the popular vote online, according to its website:

To enter, Moulden produced a two-minute video introduction, available on the website.

His video proposal touches on Catoctin's hidden history of long-gone farms and settlements: things he has discovered walking dogs with his family through the mountain.

Modern bicycle traffic has cut new paths, and invasive plant and insect species have eroded the mountain over the years.

"These are examples of threats and dangers" most people may not understand, Moulden said.

In the 19th century on the mountain, settlers started farms, and they and Civil War soldiers cut down most of the trees, Moulden said. He enjoys finding remnants of hand-hewn stone walls, built from local rocks plucked from the fields.

"It's really fun to find these things," he said.

Trees, almost all less than 200 years old, cover most of the mountain, minus the missing oaks that gypsy moths wiped out two decades ago, he said.

Increasing amounts of trash, erosion and environmental damage prompted Moulden, an artist and nature lover, to look for a way to help groups that are already working to preserve the mountain. Art seemed a natural fit for him.

"Almost all of my paintings are of landscapes," Moulden said, adding that trees dominate his work, and he has a sense of humor about it: "I branch out from time to time and do bushes."

If he gets the grant, he plans to document with photos and stories the mountain's beauties and stresses. He will create a series of 10 paintings that he plans to donate to the Catoctin Forest Alliance, an umbrella organization for mountain preservation groups.

"My energy would be going to help those groups," he said.

They may choose to use the paintings in some way that helps, whether it is through something like an auction or reproduction, he said.

"I'll be giving it to them," he said.

"Catoctin Forest Alliance strives to inspire all generations to know, love and explore the forest we all have right here in our own backyard," the alliance website states.

Michael West, alliance co-founder, said he appreciated Moulden's plan and hopes it succeeds.

First, Moulden has to get the grant. If he gets past National Geographic's first round, he has to win the online poll.

From Sept. 16 to 29, National Geographic invites the public to visit the website to vote for finalists.

"I'm going to motivate all the different organizations to vote for me," Moulden said.

Contestants have suggested projects that involve the fine arts, social services, technology, historic preservation, education, performance arts, construction, environmental policy, travel and wildlife conservation. Moulden has not inspected the competition too closely but hopes his project stands a good chance.

"I might leave a legacy," he said.

Follow Patti Borda Mullins on Twitter: @FNP_Patti.

Know of a person who would make a good Slice of Life? If so, please send your suggestions to or call us at 301-662-1178 and ask for a city editor.

To vote

WHAT: National Geographic grant proposals

WHEN: Online voting Sept. 16-29



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Source: Frederick News-Post (MD)

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