Southern pine beetle on the rise across the South

Smaller than a grain of rice, the southern pine beetle (SPB) is considered “the most destructive forest pest in the South”. This menacing label appropriately reflects the devastation it can cause, with outbreaks capable of costing millions of dollars between lost timber and management costs. Fortunately, SPB outbreaks are cyclical, typically occurring every 10-15 years....

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‘Dangerous Drift-Prone Pesticide’ Threatens Millions of Acres, Hundreds of Endangered Species

Public interest organizations representing farmers and conservationists made their legal case in a federal lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Monsanto Company last week, challenging EPA’s approval of Monsanto’s new “XtendiMax” pesticide. XtendiMax is Monsanto’s version of dicamba, an old and highly...

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A diverse portfolio: Seed bank works to protect genes of WNC plants

It’s been just about 10 years since the day Joe-Ann McCoy, then living in Iowa and working as the national medicinal plant curator for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, got a life-changing call from her home region of Western North Carolina. It was the N.C. Arboretum in Asheville, and they wanted to know if she’d be interested in trading her secure government job for a...

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Chemours’ GenX pollution worries spread to West Virginia

A Teflon chemical that last year contaminated a North Carolina river that provides drinking water to a region of more than 200,000 people also has been detected at a well under a Chemours facility in West Virginia, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. In an apparent effort to determine the extent of the chemical, called GenX, in the area’s water,...

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How the Chattanooga region’s trails are built and maintained

Mason Boring and Clayton Morgan held adjoining handles of a perforated lancetooth two-man saw, pulling the more-than-70-year-old piece of equipment back and forth. The two were clearing a fallen tree from Fodderstack horse and hiking trail in Cherokee National Forest. Boring estimated it had been five years since a crew came to clear the path. That’s what brought...

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Wildlife habitat, water quality protected in Sandy Mush

When locals speak of Sandy Mush, it’s often in the same breath with words like “sacred land,” “pure,” and “paradise.” So protecting this bucolic expanse of farmland amid North Carolina’s Newfound Mountains of northwestern Buncombe County has been a life’s work for many who live in or who just love the area. The Ellis family recently worked with the Southern...

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The National Park Service is stuck in $11.3 billion hole, but jacking up fees isn’t the way out

Three years ago, the National Park Service banned trucks and buses heavier than 10 tons from crossing over the Arlington Memorial Bridge, a major transportation artery connecting Virginia to Washington D.C. And there’s speculation that the U.S. Secret Service now refuses to cross the 82-year-old concrete span, though the agency would not confirm whether this was...

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Great Smoky Mountains National Park Recruits ‘Adopt-a-Plot’ Volunteers

Great Smoky Mountains National Park rangers are recruiting volunteers to adopt a monitoring plot in areas throughout the park. In an effort to track nature’s calendar, or phenology, volunteers will collect information as part of an important research project tracking seasonal biological data such as plant flowering dates and the presence of migratory birds. Previous...

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Idaho legislature votes to remove climate change from new science education standards

Lawmakers in Idaho voted to adopt new science standards for the state, but chose to remove key references to climate science. The vote came just days after public testimony from students and teachers overwhelmingly supported including climate science in the public school standards. “At what point do we trust our teachers?” Rep. Sally Toone, a Democrat who voted against...

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Linked to the landscape: Community envisions Plott Balsams’ future

The doors opened, and the room filled — with hikers, bikers, ecologists, conservation workers, economic development professionals and Cherokee tribal members alike who were intent on making their voices heard during a public forum last week, which took input on plans that will impact the future of Waterrock Knob and the Plott Balsams. “What I love is the passion that...

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This coyote was stealing newspapers, so here’s what the delivery man did

It’s not uncommon to hear about city residents running into conflicts with urban coyotes. Usually it’s because of run-ins with pets, or coyotes getting too close for comfort around people in parks or yards. But sometimes a conflict arises for more surprising reasons. In one San Francisco neighborhood, trouble popped up for the newspaper delivery man when his...

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Nature Conservancy Sets Stage to Add 955 Acres of Public Access to Jones Gap State Park

In warmer months, it’s common to see a line of cars waiting outside Jones Gap State Park as early as 9 a.m. on the weekend. Jones Gap has only 36 parking spaces; when those are full, the park is considered “at capacity” and the gates close until more visitors can be accepted. With 415,852 visitors welcomed to the Mountain Bridge Wilderness area last year – a figure that...

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This Woman Is Helping Create Some of the World’s Greatest National Parks

Former Patagonia CEO Kristine McDivitt Tompkins has spent a quarter of a century preserving public lands across Chile and Argentina. Last month, news broke that Chile would officially add 11 million acres to its National Park system, thanks to decrees signed by conservationist Kristine McDivitt Tompkins and Chilean president Michelle Bachelet—that’s three times the size...

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The national monuments slashed by Trump will officially be open to mining today

At 9 a.m. EST Friday, February 2, 2018, the extractive industry will gain drilling and mining access to previously protected American land, according to an order issued by President Donald Trump late last year. Trump took an unprecedented step for a U.S. president in December — signing a proclamation that dramatically reduced the size of two national monuments. Bears...

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Truck driver plows into Peru’s 2,000-year-old archeological enigma

Peru’s world renowned Nazca Lines were damaged when a rig plowed into the ancient site, the country’s ministry of culture said. The driver was arrested after he allegedly ignored warning signage and drove over UNESCO World Heritage site, the ministry said. He was later released after a magistrate said there was not enough evidence to prove that he had acted...

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Arizona elk headed to West Virginia

Dozens of Arizona elk will soon roam southern West Virginia’s reclaimed coal fields, bugling a call of the wild not heard in the Mountain State since the Civil War. The Arizona Game and Fish Commission last year voted to send 60 elk to help the effort. In late January a team of wildlife managers and volunteers captured and quarantined the animals at a state wildlife...

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Chile Adds 10 Million Acres of Parkland in Historic First

American philanthropists and the Chilean government pledged to protect the land nearly a year ago. Now, it’s official. Chilean president Michelle Bachelet officially declared a major expansion of Chile’s parklands, creating two new national parks and protecting vast swaths of the country’s rainforests, grasslands, and other wild terrains. “With...

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Sentinels of the Swamp: Cypress and Tupelo Trees

Rising tall from dark, murky waters, the bald cypress tree is a stately symbol of the swamp. Associated with the bayou, Spanish moss, pelicans, egrets and alligators, the bald cypress is the state tree of Louisiana. Its feathery foliage, wide and buttressed base and irregular crown dominate many southeastern wetlands, and its range extends throughout the southeastern...

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The Troubling Consequences of the Vanishing Ice at Glacier National Park

The very name of Glacier National Park, a 1-million-acre expanse in northwest Montana on the Canadian border, comes from ice. But the name may need to change by 2030: Experts predict the formations could disappear by then. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the glaciers in Glacier National Park have shrunk by an average of 39 percent since 1966; some lost up to 85...

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A deadly fungus is infecting snake species seemingly at random

  It doesn’t matter if it’s a burly rattler or a tiny garter snake. A deadly fungal disease that’s infecting snakes in the eastern and midwestern United States doesn’t appear to discriminate by species, size or habitat, researchers report. The infection, caused by the fungal pathogen Ophidiomyces ophiodiicola, can cover snakes’ bodies with lesions that make it...

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How climate change is triggering a migrant crisis in Vietnam

The Vietnamese Mekong Delta is one of Earth’s most agriculturally productive regions and is of global importance for its exports of rice, shrimp and fruit. The 18 million inhabitants of this low-lying river delta are also some of the world’s most vulnerable to climate change. Over the last 10 years around 1.7 million people have migrated out of its vast expanse of...

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Climate coalition tallied all of Trump’s censorship of science. It’s staggering.

President Donald Trump and his administration have censored or stifled science — particularly climate science — almost 100 times since the election. This adds up to a reckless and unprecedented war on science, according to the Silencing Science Tracker, which tallies up all of the budget cuts to science, the record low number of science positions filled by Trump, the...

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Snowpack Near Record Lows Spells Trouble for Western Water Supplies

Scientists say snow seasons like the U.S. West is experiencing now will become more common as global temperatures rise, and economic costs will go up, as well. Months of exceptionally warm weather and an early winter snow drought across big swaths of the West have left the snowpack at record-low levels in parts of the Central and Southern Rockies, raising concerns about...

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Citizens Begin Reclaiming Coal Country After Decades of Corporate Land Grabs

Across central Appalachia, once-thriving mining communities have been ravaged by the collapse of the coal industry and the flight of jobs from the region. For a region that remains rich in natural resources, Appalachia’s local governments continue to struggle to fund basic services such as housing, education and roads. One significant factor in the region’s decline is...

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Explore five of Northwest Montana’s prettiest winter destinations

Northwest Montana is famous for its unmatchable beauty in the summer, but winter offers its own kind of magic. Mother Nature starts with a bare canvas by throwing down a snow blanket to hide the melancholy of landscapes drained of color and strewn with shriveled gardens and fallen leaves. She then constantly rearranges and redecorates, refreshing the landscape with each...

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This Is an Unprecedented Kind of Oil Spill

Over the last two weeks, the maritime world has watched with horror as a tragedy has unfolded in the East China Sea. A massive Iranian tanker, the Sanchi, collided with a Chinese freighter carrying grain. Damaged and adrift, the tanker caught on fire, burned for more than a week, and sank. All 32 crew members are presumed dead. Meanwhile, Chinese authorities and...

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A Perilous Shutdown Plan for National Parks

During the 21-day government shutdown of 1995-1996, an enormous blizzard left up to three feet of snow in Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park—and no one was there to shovel the parking lots. But that was the least of Bill Wade’s problems. The park’s superintendent at the time, Wade knew that several campers had entered the Shenandoah backcountry before the shutdown....

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Wolves confirmed in Mount Hood National Forest

After years of whispers and reported sightings, wildlife officials have confirmed at least two wolves caught on trail cameras earlier this month roaming the Mount Hood National Forest in Oregon’s northern Cascade Mountains. It is the first time multiple wolves were detected in the area since the species returned to Oregon in the late 1990s. Conservationists cheered the...

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This Tourism Hotspot Could be the World’s First City to Run Out of Water

For the first time, a major city may run out of water this year. South Africa’s city of Cape Town has been grappling with water shortages that are the result of what the Weather Channel calls the worst drought to hit the country in 100 years. The situation may result in Cape Town officials shutting off all of the city’s water taps this April. Irregularly dry...

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Ten ‘stealth microplastics’ to avoid if you want to save the oceans

British Prime Minister Theresa May’s new environment plan sets ambitious goals for plastic waste reduction. But there’s lots of room for slippage. One goal is to eradicate all “avoidable” plastic waste, though it’s not clear how “avoidable” will be defined. A few concrete measures are now in place, such as the 5p plastic bag charge being extended to cover all businesses...

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Nearly all members of National Park Service advisory panel resign in frustration

Three-quarters of the members of a federally chartered board advising the National Park Service abruptly quit January 14, 2018 out of frustration that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke had refused to meet with them or convene a single meeting last year. The resignation of nine out of 12 National Park System Advisory Board members leaves the federal government without a...

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‘Orphaned’ oil and gas wells are on the rise

In March 2015, Joe MacLaren, a state oil and gas inspector in Colorado, drove out to the Taylor 3 oil well near the tiny town of Hesperus, in the southwestern corner of the state. He found an entire checklist of violations. Atom Petroleum, a Texas-based company, had bought out more than 50 oil and gas wells after the company that drilled them went bankrupt. Now, Atom was...

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