Conservation & Environment

Plastics are sealing the planet’s fate

Posted by on May 18, 2019 @ 6:59 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Plastics are sealing the planet’s fate

It’s impossible to imagine modern life without plastics. From the moment the day begins, we are using plastic. It’s in our toothbrushes, our shower curtains and our phones. We use it on the way to work in bus seats, car dashboards, and bicycle helmets. We see it at lunch in takeout containers and disposable utensils. Whether you’re in your living room controlling the TV with a plastic remote or on the top of Mount Everest wearing cold-weather gear made with plastics, it’s there.

We rarely think about where it all comes from, but we should. According to a new report on the full life-cycle of the world’s plastic production, the long-term environmental results are nothing short of a catastrophe. The report from the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) finds the production of plastics — from extraction to manufacture to disposal and steps in between —  is a significant source of carbon pollution and set to become a major driver of climate change.

While other studies have calculated emissions from plastics at various stages of production and disposal of plastics, this report is the first of its kind to estimate the impact of plastic across its full life cycle. Most carbon emissions associated with plastics comes from the production phase of the life cycle, but even at the end of the cycle, plastics are a source of pollution.

Most of the plastic ever produced has been released into the environment and persists in some form. What happens next is known. Turtles wind up with straws in their noses, dead whales wash ashore with almost 100 pounds of plastic in their stomachs, divers swim through currents of plastic pollution. Even at this stage, plastics are a source of carbon pollution.

Read full story…

 

Help Make History on National Trails Day June 1, 2019

Posted by on May 16, 2019 @ 7:37 am in Conservation, Hiking News | 0 comments

Help Make History on National Trails Day June 1, 2019

By pledging to improve a trail you’ll join a nation-wide movement to set a world record and (more importantly) sustain America’s remarkable trails system. With your help, we can preserve beloved trails for future generations. Plus, everyone who commits to improving trails will be entered to win weekly giveaways of awesome outdoor gear.

How does this pledge work?

Make your commitment to improving a trail by simply submitting the online pledge. After National Trails Day®, we’ll ask you how many miles of trail you helped to improve to establish the world record of trail service. Everyone who confirms they improved a trail (of any length) will be entered to win the grand prize package of premium outdoor gear.

How do I improve a trail?

It can be as simple as collecting trash along the trail. Or, take your trail cred to the next level and join an organized trail work party to maintain or build new trail. Check out what trail work projects are in your area. More projects are added frequently leading up to National Trails Day®, so check back if you don’t see a project close to you.

What if I can’t get out on National Trails Day®?

You may take the pledge to improve a trail on another day if you can’t get outside for National Trails Day® but we highly encourage people to join the national movement on June 1st.

How do I share what I did on National Trails Day®?

We’ll be looking for photos and stories tagged with #NationalTrailsDay and @AmericanHiking on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Still have questions?

Click here for more FAQs or email NTD@AmericanHiking.org.

 

Bears Ears’ only visitor center isn’t run by the feds

Posted by on May 15, 2019 @ 7:17 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Bears Ears’ only visitor center isn’t run by the feds

With the monument facing stripped-down protections and sky rocketing visitation, a local nonprofit built its own guerrilla visitor center to educate the masses.

The terracotta mesas and umber buttes reveal that this is an exceptional place. Yet not one sign from the Bureau of Land Management or the U.S. Forest Service, the two federal agencies that jointly manage Bears Ears National Monument, indicates where it’s actually located. There are no federal facilities dedicated to the rising tide of visitors.

“It’s managed by Google,” says Josh Ewing, executive director of the land-conservation nonprofit Friends of Cedar Mesa, based in nearby Bluff, Utah. “Because that’s the only place people are getting their information.”

In the absence of federal resources, Ewing and Friends of Cedar Mesa raised $700,000 from the crowdfunding site Kickstarter and built the Bears Ears Education Center last year. The local climbers, guides, conservationists and educators saw the growing hordes descending on the fragile, embattled monument and feared they could permanently damage the landscape.

Federal agencies estimate that more than 130,000 visitors came to the newly shrunken monument in 2017, a 72% surge from the year before. BLM estimates put the monument-wide number in 2018 as high as 750,000. But even greater numbers are expected: Fodor’s, the popular travel guide publisher, ranked Bears Ears at the top of its list of recommended places to visit in 2019.

Read full story…

 

Study finds 96% of national parks have hazardous air quality

Posted by on May 12, 2019 @ 7:15 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Study finds 96% of national parks have hazardous air quality

Millions of tourists will head out into America’s national parks this summer in search of fresh mountain air. But according to a new report they should instead expect dangerous levels of pollution; roughly 96% of the nation’s parks are struggling with significant air quality issues.

The report, released by the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), found that some of the most popular parks, including Sequoia, Kings Canyon and Joshua Tree national parks and Mojave national preserve, were among the worst offenders. Last year, these parks recorded up to two months where ozone levels were considered dangerous –mostly in summer when visitation is at its highest.

The actions that need to be taken to safeguard the parks are the same needed to combat climate change and defend public health. Bad air quality can cause lung damage, harm immune systems and increase inflammation, having lasting impact on the health of rangers and visitors. It also causes irreversible damage to the parks themselves. Ozone has the ability to affect soil, burn plants and harm habitats.

Advocates believe the problems will only get worse as the Trump administration continues to repeal regulations and push for more drilling on public lands. The administration has overseen an 85% drop in EPA pollution enforcement.

Read full story…

 

2 men endure 71-day hike to document the Grand Canyon

Posted by on May 11, 2019 @ 7:22 am in Conservation, Hiking News | 0 comments

2 men endure 71-day hike to document the Grand Canyon

This year is the 100th anniversary of Grand Canyon National Park. Six million visit each year, but fewer than 5 percent actually hike into the canyon. More people have walked on the moon than have walked the entire length of the Grand Canyon, 750 miles, the vast majority without trails.

“It’s a hostile place and water is the key,” said photographer Pete McBride. It took McBride and writer Kevin Fedarko 71 excruciating days to complete their journey. “I came in with some attitude. Like, ‘We’ll just – it’ll be hiking.’ and I just underestimated the physicality of it,” McBride said.

The monumental physical accomplishment was to serve a larger purpose: A comprehensive book and documentary highlighting the canyon’s challenges.

“This is the crown jewel of the entire system. This is the part that matters the most, not because it’s the first or the largest or the most visited, but because it’s the most recognized,” Fedarko said.

“So the canyon really does function like kind of a time machine. The clock starts at the rim, 250 million years into the past, and by the time you get to the bottom, you’re 1.8 billion years into the past,” Fedarko said.

But it’s the future they’re worried about.

Read full story…

 

One million species face extinction, U.N. report says. And humans will suffer as a result.

Posted by on May 7, 2019 @ 6:51 am in Conservation | 0 comments

One million species face extinction, U.N. report says. And humans will suffer as a result.

Up to 1 million plant and animal species are on the verge of extinction, with alarming implications for human survival, according to a United Nations report released this week.

The report’s findings underscore the conclusions of previous scientific studies that say human activity is wreaking havoc on the wild kingdom, threatening the existence of living things ranging from giant whales to small flowers and insects that are almost impossible to see with the naked eye.

But the global report by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services goes a step further than previous studies by linking the loss of species to humans and analyzing its effect on food and water security, farming and economies.

According to the report, more plants and animals are threatened with extinction now than any other period in human history. Nature’s current rate of decline is unparalleled, it says, and the accelerating rate of extinctions “means grave impacts on people around the world are now likely.”

The report’s authors declared that the world’s governments should address the global decline of biodiversity together with human-caused climate change. The warming climate is a major driver that is exacerbating the effects of overfishing, widespread pesticide use, pollution and urban expansion into the natural world.

Read full story…

 

A Small Town’s Battle Against Radioactive Fracking Waste

Posted by on May 5, 2019 @ 8:46 am in Conservation | 0 comments

A Small Town’s Battle Against Radioactive Fracking Waste

After an illegal dumping of close to 2,000 tons of dangerous sludge and contaminated materials across the street from two schools, a Kentucky community struggles with what to do next.

Estill County isn’t the kind of place you’d think would have a radioactive waste problem. Half of this quiet, unassuming nook of eastern Kentucky is covered like a quilt with farmhouses and churches, while the other half rests in the shade of Daniel Boone National Forest.

In Estill’s center, nestled between the Appalachian foothills and the Kentucky River, sits Irvine (population 2,400). Route 89 slices through town as Main Street, crossing the river via a light-green truss bridge on its way to the middle and high schools. Right across the street from the schools, which serve students from all over the county, sits the local landfill.

So when news broke in early 2016 that the local landfill had for months been illegally burying 1,900 tons of radioactive—and potentially carcinogenic—material, this tight-knit community was shocked.

“It’s an insult to the intelligence of the people who live here,” says Nancy Farmer, a lifelong resident who spent 34 years on the Estill County Board of Education. “It’s certainly insulting that life in Estill County is being valued less than life anywhere else, because they’re willing to put this kind of material close to students in two different schools.”

Read full story…

 

What is tree crown shyness?

Posted by on May 3, 2019 @ 7:39 am in Conservation | 0 comments

What is tree crown shyness?

Sometimes trees can be a little too respectful of one another’s boundaries. Or maybe they just stop growing when they get too close.

The phenomenon is called crown shyness — when the tops of individual trees avoid touching in the forest canopy, creating separation lines and boundaries in the sky.

Experts aren’t exactly sure why the naturally occurring phenomenon happens, but they’ve been studying it for decades and have a few theories.

The first has to do with competition for resources — especially light. Trees have a highly sophisticated system for measuring light and telling time. They can tell whether light is coming from the sun or if it’s being reflected off leaves of other trees.

Another possible reason for crown shyness is to prevent the spread of harmful insects and their larvae, which could eat the tree’s leaves.

Crown shyness occurs with many species of trees, such as black mangrove trees, camphor trees, eucalyptus, Sitka spruce and Japanese larch. Intercrown spacing can happen between different species, the same species or even within the same tree.

Read full story…

 

Couple Spends 20 Years Planting an Entire Forest and Animals Have Returned

Posted by on Apr 29, 2019 @ 8:02 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Couple Spends 20 Years Planting an Entire Forest and Animals Have Returned

Nearly 30 years ago, Brazilian photojournalist Sebastião Ribeiro Salgado returned from East Africa, where he was on location documenting the horrors of the Rwanda genocide. Following this traumatizing project, Salgado was to take over his family’s sprawling cattle ranch in Minas Gerais—a region he remembered as a lush and lively rainforest. Unfortunately, the area had undergone a drastic transformation; only about 0.5% was covered in trees, and all of the wildlife had disappeared. “The land,” he tells The Guardian, “was as sick as I was.”

Then, his wife Lélia had an idea: they should replant the forest. In order to support this seemingly impossible cause, the couple set up the Instituto Terra, an “environmental organization dedicated to the sustainable development of the Valley of the River Doce,” in 1998. Over the next several years, the Salgados and the Instituto Terra team slowly but surely rebuilt the 1,754-acre forest, transforming it from a barren plot of land to a tropical paradise.

Now a Private Natural Heritage Reserve, hundreds of species of flora and fauna call the former cattle ranch home. In addition to 293 species of trees, the land now teems with 172 species of birds, 33 species of mammals, and 15 species of amphibians and reptiles—many of which are endangered. As expected, this rejuvenation has also had a huge impact on the ecosystem and climate. On top of reintroducing plants and animals to the area, the project has rejuvenated several once dried-up springs in the drought-prone area, and has even positively affected local temperatures.

Read full story…

 

Thousands of acres in Kentucky and Tennessee will be protected as wildlife habitat

Posted by on Apr 25, 2019 @ 7:29 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Thousands of acres in Kentucky and Tennessee will be protected as wildlife habitat

The Nature Conservancy, a nonprofit aimed at conserving land and water, is acquiring 100,000 acres of forest split between southeast Kentucky and northeast Tennessee. It will be one of the largest land conservation and ecological restoration projects for the organization in the Central Appalachians.

It will double the amount of Kentucky acreage the organization has protected, either through acquisition or conservancy easements that prevent certain development of the land.

The group plans to manage the property, known as Ataya, as a working forest and will also seek to protect wildlife habitat, secure clean water and sequester atmospheric carbon to mitigate climate change. The public will continue to have access to the land for hiking, hunting and other activities.

The forests and streams on the property impact water quality and supply in portions of Bell, Knox and Leslie counties in Kentucky, and Claiborne and Campbell counties in Tennessee.

The total property is 100,000 acres, with 55,000 acres in Kentucky and 45,000 acres in Tennessee. Before this project, The Nature Conservancy in Kentucky had protected 55,000 acres in the state.

Cite…

 

Smokies Park Announces 2019 Synchronous Firefly Viewing Dates

Posted by on Apr 24, 2019 @ 7:40 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Smokies Park Announces 2019 Synchronous Firefly Viewing Dates

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials have announced the dates for firefly viewing in Elkmont. Shuttle service to the viewing area will be provided on Thursday, May 30 through Thursday, June 6. All visitors wishing to view the synchronous fireflies at Elkmont must have a parking pass distributed through the lottery system at www.recreation.gov.

Every year in late May or early June, thousands of visitors gather near the popular Elkmont Campground to observe the naturally occurring phenomenon of Photinus carolinus, a firefly species that flashes synchronously. Since 2006, access to the Elkmont area has been limited to shuttle service beginning at Sugarlands Visitor Center during the eight days of predicted peak activity in order to reduce traffic congestion and provide a safe viewing experience for visitors that minimizes disturbance to these unique fireflies during the critical two-week mating period.

The lottery will be open for applications from Friday, April 26 at 8:00 a.m. until Monday, April 29 at 8:00 p.m. Results of the lottery will be available on Friday, May 10. A total of 1,800 vehicle passes will be available for the event which includes: 1768 regular-parking passes (221 per day) which admit one passenger vehicle up to 19’ in length with a maximum of seven occupants, and 32 large-vehicle parking passes (four per day) which admit one large vehicle (RV, mini-bus, etc.) from 19’ to 30’ in length, with a maximum of 24 occupants. Lottery applicants must apply for either a regular-parking pass or large-vehicle parking pass and then may choose two possible dates to attend the event over the eight-day viewing period.

The lottery system uses a randomized computer drawing to select applications. All lottery applicants will be charged a $1.00 application fee. Successful applicants will automatically be awarded parking passes and a $24.00 reservation fee will be charged to the same credit or debit card used for the application fee. The parking pass permits visitors to park at Sugarlands Visitor Center and allows occupants to access the shuttle service to Elkmont. The $24.00 reservation fee covers the cost of awarding the passes, event supplies, one red-light flashlight per pass, and nightly personnel costs for managing the viewing opportunity at Sugarlands Visitor Center and Elkmont.

Parking passes are non-refundable, non-transferable, and good only for the date issued. There is a limit of one lottery application per household per season. All lottery applicants will be notified by e-mail by May 10 that they were “successful” and awarded a parking pass or “unsuccessful” and not able to secure a parking pass.

The number of passes issued each day is based primarily on the Sugarlands Visitor Center parking lot capacity and the ability to accommodate a large number of viewers on site. Arrival times will be assigned in order to relieve traffic congestion in the parking lot and also for boarding the shuttles, which are provided in partnership with the City of Gatlinburg. The shuttle buses will begin picking up visitors from the Sugarlands Visitor Center parking area at 7:00 p.m. A $2.00 round-trip, per-person fee will be collected when boarding the shuttle. Cash is the only form of payment accepted.

The shuttle service is the only transportation mode for visitor access during this period, except for registered campers staying at the Elkmont Campground. Visitors are not allowed to walk the Elkmont entrance road due to safety concerns.

Visitors may visit the website www.recreation.gov and search for “Firefly Event” for more information and to enter the lottery. Parking passes may also be obtained by calling 1-877-444-6777, but park officials encourage the use of the online process. The $24.00 reservation fee covers the cost of awarding the passes, viewing supplies, and nightly personnel costs for managing the viewing opportunity at Sugarlands Visitor Center and Elkmont.

For more information about the synchronous fireflies, please visit the park website at http://www.nps.gov/grsm/learn/nature/fireflies.htm.

 

Earlier Springs Heighten Allergy Misery in East Tennessee

Posted by on Apr 21, 2019 @ 7:40 am in Conservation | 0 comments

In the heart of South Knoxville sits one of eight Allergy and Asthma Affiliates clinics scattered across Tennessee. Allergist and immunologist Dr. Trent Ellenburg is already being kept busy at his family-owned business, where patients have started coming in suffering from spring allergy symptoms.

“As we’re seeing warmer, milder weather, and lots of rain, we do see earlier seasons that are occuring in our region,” Ellenburg said. “Patients have longer to be exposed, but also the pollen they are being exposed to is actually stronger.”

For residents of Knoxville, battling the springtime effects of pollen has long been routine — it’s ranked as one of the most challenging U.S. cities in which to live for seasonal allergy sufferers. And the effects of heat-trapping pollution in the atmosphere are making their misery worse.

“We really need to realize that our climate directly and indirectly impacts many patients,” said Dr. Dipa Sheth, an allergist at the D.C. Veterans Affairs Medical Center. “We’re going to see more people being sensitized to allergens. And we’re going to see more of a swing in the severity.”

The impacts of earlier and more potent pollen seasons aren’t limited to classic hay fever symptoms — such as sneezing, congestion, itchy eyes and skin. They can also result in severe reactions, especially for the 13 percent of Knox County residents who’ve reported being diagnosed with asthma.

Read full story…

 

N.C. Arboretum receives $1 million grant for statewide outreach

Posted by on Apr 18, 2019 @ 9:34 am in Conservation | 0 comments

N.C. Arboretum receives $1 million grant for statewide outreach

All across Western North Carolina, teachers and students are headed outdoors to find, observe and photograph local wildlife as a part of ecoEXPLORE, a citizen science program developed by The North Carolina Arboretum. Kids in grades K-8 who participate in ecoEXPLORE can earn prizes and help professional researchers by cataloging the plants, animals and insects that they find in the wild — or even their own backyards.

The project has been so popular that this year the N.C. GlaxoSmithKline Foundation donated $1 million to the arboretum with the intent to expand Project ecoEXPLORE from 23 WNC counties to all 100 counties across the state. The grant will also fund the arboretum’s Project EXPLORE teacher education program and Project OWL, a teacher certification program. Project OWL stands for Outdoor Wonders and Learning.

Crucial to ecoEXPLORE’s success is that the program is free for all students. Any ecoEXPLORER can check out equipment for plant and animal identification, including binoculars, insect nets, iPod Touch units and trail cameras, at the arboretum or public libraries. The arboretum also hosts free events for the program, such as the upcoming “What Goes HOP in the Night!” nocturnal amphibian demonstration on Friday, May 10, from 8-10 p.m.

“In a way, this is truly a public program. Any kid, anywhere in North Carolina once we implement this, is going to be able to access [ecoEXPLORE] through public libraries and other public partners,” Briggs says. University and community college campuses, parks and nature centers, he adds, may all play a role in the program’s expansion.

Read full story…

 

The disease devastating deer herds may also threaten human health

Posted by on Apr 17, 2019 @ 7:42 am in Conservation | 0 comments

The disease devastating deer herds may also threaten human health

Scientists have called this neurodegenerative disease, which attacks deer, elk and moose, a “nightmare” and a “state of emergency.” Lately, the media’s been calling it “zombie deer disease.” Lawmakers are calling it a “crisis” and currently considering at least three bills at the national level to combat it. Researchers, resource managers and others worry it could hurt hunting, alter the landscape, or even jump across species to infect people.

Mountain lions know that something is wrong. A number of years ago, ecologists studied which deer mountain lions prefer to attack. “The mountain lions were definitely preferentially selecting deer that had chronic wasting disease over those that were negative,” the ecologists say. “And for most of the ones that they had killed, we had not detected any chronic wasting disease symptoms yet. So certainly the lions were able to key in on far more subtle cues than we were.”

Unlike us, the lions sense that while a deer might look vigorous and alert, it may actually be a ticking time bomb. That’s one of the many weird things about this disease. It isn’t like viral or bacterial illnesses. The infection can sit in a herd for years, crawling from animal to animal, before people notice anything is wrong.

Then, things can go downhill fast. “Through time (it) degrades, essentially, their brain tissue,” says an ecologist. In just a few weeks, deer could start to droop and drool, as an infection gnaws holes into the animal’s brain. “That seems to happen pretty rapidly,” she says. “To our eyes, they look fairly healthy, and within a number of weeks they reach that point — and then they’re gone.”

Read full story…

 

Poetry graces popular park trails

Posted by on Apr 12, 2019 @ 8:27 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Poetry graces popular park trails

Nature is pure poetry, judging by the artwork on Olympic National Park trails. The North Olympic Library System (NOLS) has teamed up with Olympic National Park to offer a sixth season of Poetry Walks.

This year’s will continue through May 31, 2019. It features inspiring poetry along four park trails.

During Poetry Walks, poems are placed on signs on the Hall of Mosses Trail, the Living Forest Trail, the Madison Creek Falls Trail and the Peabody Creek Trail. With the exception of the Hall of Mosses Trail, access to these trails is free.

The Living Forest and Peabody Creek trails begin at the Olympic National Park Visitor Center, 3002 Mount Angeles Road in Port Angeles, and offer easy 0.5-mile loops.

The Madison Creek Falls Trail, located just across the park boundary in the Elwha Valley, offers a paved 200-foot walk to the base of the falls. The trial is wheelchair accessible.

The Hall of Mosses Trail begins near the Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center. Regular park fees must be paid to access.

Read full story…

 

An Appalachian Trail Thru-Hiker On The Need To Protect Our Wild Spaces

Posted by on Apr 11, 2019 @ 8:05 am in Conservation, Hiking News | 0 comments

An Appalachian Trail Thru-Hiker On The Need To Protect Our Wild Spaces

This year on her birthday, Carolyn Burman decided to do a solo hike in one of her favorite state parks in Connecticut. She has magical memories of that trek. She grew up hiking it — her mother even went into labor with her while walking the path. She looked forward to a peaceful, reflective experience in nature. Instead, she found something else.

“There was so much garbage in the park,” 26-year-old Burman says. “Plastic seltzer bottles in the stream that floats by the trail, a Dunkin’ Donuts cup…. I go out on this joyful hike on my birthday, and all I see is trash.”

“I thought, ‘Oh, this is a sign. This is a reminder,’” she says. “I think we all can get really careless with waste. I felt like it was a sign from whatever power, ‘Hey. Remember? You gotta pick this up. You have to care more.’”

Now that Burman herself is a day-hiker again, she’s grown even more fierce about caring for trails. Hiking, she believes, is a spiritual practice, and part of that practice is keeping nature pure, doing her part to make things better. She works with trail upkeep groups like Keep Nature Wild to support this mission.

“Anyone can be an ambassador for them if you just go out into your local community and you clean up,” she says. “What you learn after the trail is that success is much less about the claim to fame and more about the slow and steady process.”

Read full story…

 

Bill to preserve 400,000 acres in Colorado would be biggest deal in 25 years

Posted by on Apr 6, 2019 @ 6:58 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Bill to preserve 400,000 acres in Colorado would be biggest deal in 25 years

An ambitious effort to preserve mountain wilderness and historic landscapes in Colorado will launch April 8, 2019 with the introduction of a bill in Congress that aims to protect 400,000 acres of public lands in the state. It would pay special homage to Camp Hale, home to the historic 10th Mountain Division.

The bill — dubbed the Colorado Outdoor Recreation & Economy Act — is spearheaded by U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet and U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse, both Democrats.

“Public lands are really who we are in Colorado,” Neguse, who was recently elected to represent the 2nd Congressional District, told reporters on a conference call Friday. “We will be pushing hard in the 116th Congress to get this bill across the finish line.”

The bill, which goes by the shorthand CORE, is combination of four pieces of legislation that have been introduced over the past decade to preserve land along the Continental Divide in the White River National Forest, designate iconic peaks in the San Juan Mountains as wilderness, withdraw 200,000 acres from oil and gas leases on the Thompson Divide near Carbondale, and fix permanent boundaries around Curecanti National Recreation Area near Gunnison.

Bennet said the last time so much acreage was set aside for protection in Colorado was in 1993, when the Colorado Wilderness Act was passed by Congress.

Read full story…

 

Smokies Park Hosts Trail Volunteer Opportunities in April

Posted by on Apr 4, 2019 @ 7:26 am in Conservation, Hiking News | 0 comments

Smokies Park Hosts Trail Volunteer Opportunities in April

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials announced several volunteer workdays during the month of April, 2019 on popular trails as the park prepares for the busy summer season. These opportunities are ideal for people interested in learning more about the park and the trails program through hands-on service alongside experienced park staff.

Volunteers will help clear debris from trails and work to repair eroded trail sections. Workdays will be held from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. in North Carolina on April 6, April 20, April 22, and in Tennessee on April 5 and April 19. Prior registration is required.

Please contact Trails and Facilities Volunteer Coordinator Adam Monroe at 828-497-1949 or adam_monroe@nps.gov for workday details and to register. Interested volunteers can also contact Monroe to learn about additional volunteer opportunities throughout the year including the ‘Adopt-a-Trail’ program and the Trails Forever ‘Working Wednesdays’ opportunities on Trillium Gap Trail beginning May 1 through August 29. These opportunities are perfect for those with busy schedules who would like to volunteer once a month.

For the April trail workdays, volunteers must be able to safely hike while carrying tools up to 4 miles per day and be prepared to perform strenuous, manual labor. After receiving proper training, participants will be expected to safely use hand tools such as shovels, rakes, loppers, and hand picks. Minimum age of participants is 16. Those under 18 must be accompanied by a responsible parent or guardian.

Volunteers will need to wear boots or sturdy closed toed shoes, long pants and appropriate layers for cold and inclement weather. Volunteers should bring a day pack with food, water, and rain gear. The park will provide instruction, necessary safety gear, and tools.

 

Here’s a closer look at what Trump cut out of Bears Ears National Monument

Posted by on Apr 3, 2019 @ 8:58 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Here’s a closer look at what Trump cut out of Bears Ears National Monument

When President Trump reduced the size of Utah’s Bears Ears National Monument by more than 1.1 million acres, his administration assured the public “important objects of scientific or historic interest” would still be protected.

Many areas the Trump administration removed from Bears Ears are rich in uranium and oil deposits and may eventually become more accessible to developers. They had been off-limits under Barack Obama’s 2016 proclamation creating the monument.

And many sites significant to the Native American governments that lobbied Obama to designate the monument now lie outside the redrawn boundaries.

Along the San Juan River, for example, an extensively etched cliff wall lies outside the redrawn lines. “The oldest drawings on this wall could date to 4000 BC, according to Sally Cole, an archaeologist who lives in Bluff, Utah. They help identify how society developed, from groups of hunter-gatherers to agrarian communities.”

The Abajo Mountains too, in the northeast portion of the Obama-era monument, were removed from the boundaries. Cliffside caves once provided shelter to the ancient Puebloans, to whom the Hopi and Zuni people trace their ancestry. “A thousand years ago, the Abajo Mountains harbored human life in every ravine and gully.”

Read full story…

 

North Carolina orders Duke Energy to excavate all coal ash

Posted by on Apr 2, 2019 @ 7:10 am in Conservation | 0 comments

North Carolina orders Duke Energy to excavate all coal ash

The country’s largest electric company was ordered to excavate coal ash from all of its North Carolina power plant sites, slashing the risk of toxic chemicals leaking into water supplies but potentially adding billions of dollars to the costs consumers pay.

Duke Energy Corp. must remove the residue left after decades of burning coal to produce electricity, North Carolina’s environmental agency said. The company had proposed covering some storage pits with a waterproof cap, saying that would prevent rain from passing through and carrying chemicals through the unlined bottoms and would provide a quicker and cheaper option.

Coal ash contains toxic metals like mercury, lead and arsenic.

This decision affects six coal-burning plants still operating in North Carolina. Pits at eight other power plants around the state had previously been ordered excavated, with the ash to be stored away from waterways.

The move means North Carolina joins Virginia and South Carolina in ordering its major electric utilities to move their coal ash out of unlined storage.

Read full story…