Conservation & Environment

How far can an electric vehicle take you?

Posted by on May 22, 2017 @ 7:10 am in Conservation | 0 comments

How far can an electric vehicle take you?

There is no single answer — it depends on your choice of EV. Today, there are now a growing number of diverse EVs on the market. Battery electric vehicles run exclusively on electricity via batteries (often referred to as BEVs or just EVs). Plug-in electric vehicles (PHEVs) combine an electric motor and an internal combustion engine (gasoline engine), and the electric motor can be recharged by plugging the vehicle into an electrical outlet.

Battery technology is the key to EV range (how far the vehicle can travel on a charge). Most EVs today with fully-charged batteries have a driving range between 70 to 100 miles. According to reports, this range falls well within the average day-to-day range requirements of most Americans (the average driving range for most Americans is 37 miles per day). While less than 1% of American households have gone electric, a study from the Union of Concerned Scientists demonstrates that more than 42% could use today’s EVs. The options are also greatly expanding, with more than 32 different EV models that can meet those needs.

Within just the the last year, range has also increased on most models available. Some EVs can go nearly 300 miles on a single charge. For example, the first-generation Nissan LEAF, the most popular EV on the road today, had a range of 73 miles. The 2017 LEAF has an estimated range of 107 miles. Even better, the next generation LEAF, dubbed the LEAF 2.0, is expected to have a driving range in excess of 200 miles on a single charge. Nissan’s CEO has reported that they expect to have their “EV flagship” with a range of around 300 miles by 2020.

Tesla models, to date, have the longest all-electric range of any other EV on the road. The Chevy Bolt is making waves in the industry as well. It can go more than 238 miles on a single charge.

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Smokies Park Reminds Visitors to be Bear Aware

Posted by on May 19, 2017 @ 12:37 pm in Conservation, Hiking News | 0 comments

Smokies Park Reminds Visitors to be Bear Aware

As the busy summer season approaches, Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials want to remind visitors about precautions they can take while enjoying the park to keep themselves and bears safe. Bears are particularly active this time of year in search for spring foods. Visitors should be prepared in how to safely observe bears without disturbing them during this critical season.

“Bears are very active right now, and we’re receiving reports across the park of bear sightings along trails and roadways,” said Park Wildlife Biologist Bill Stiver. “We ask for the public’s help by respecting bears’ space.”

Bears should be allowed to forage undisturbed on natural foods and should never be fed. Park officials remind visitors to properly store food and secure garbage. Coolers should always be properly stored in the trunk of a vehicle when not in use. All food waste should be properly disposed to discourage bears from approaching people.

Hikers are reminded to take necessary precautions while in bear country including hiking in groups of 2 or more, carrying bear spray, complying with all backcountry closures, properly storing food regulations, and remaining at safe viewing distance from bears at all times. Feeding, touching, disturbing, or willfully approaching wildlife within 50 yards (150 feet), or any distance that disturbs or displaces wildlife, is illegal in the park.

If approached by a bear, park officials recommend slowly backing away to put distance between yourself and the animal, creating space for it to pass. If the bear continues to approach, you should not run. Hikers should make themselves look large, stand their ground as a group, and throw rocks or sticks at the bear. If attacked by a black bear, rangers strongly recommend fighting back with any object available and remember that the bear may view you as prey. Though rare, attacks on humans do occur, causing injuries or death.

For more information on what to do if you encounter a bear while hiking, please visit the park website. To report a bear incident in the park, please call 865-436-1230.


American Trees Are Moving West, and No One Knows Why

Posted by on May 19, 2017 @ 6:41 am in Conservation | 0 comments

American Trees Are Moving West, and No One Knows Why

As the consequences of climate change strike across the United States, ecologists have a guiding principle about how they think plants will respond. Cold-adapted plants will survive if they move “up”—that is, as they move further north (away from the tropics) and higher in elevation (away from the warm ground).

A new survey of how tree populations have shifted over the past three decades finds that this effect is already in action. But there’s a twist: Even more than moving poleward, trees are moving west.

About three-quarters of tree species common to eastern American forests—including white oaks, sugar maples, and American hollies—have shifted their population center west since 1980. More than half of the species studied also moved northward during the same period.

The results are fascinating in part because they don’t immediately make sense. But there is a hypothesis: While climate change has elevated temperatures across the eastern United States, it has significantly altered rainfall totals. The northeast has gotten a little more rain since 1980 than it did during the proceeding century, while the southeast has gotten much less rain. The Great Plains, especially in Oklahoma and Kansas, get much more than historically normal.

There are a patchwork of other forces which could cause tree populations to shift west, though. Changes in land use, wildfire frequency, and the arrival of pests and blights could be shifting the population. So might the success of conservation efforts.

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Smokey Bear gets a major makeover thanks to SC entrepreneur, artist

Posted by on May 17, 2017 @ 7:23 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Smokey Bear gets a major makeover thanks to SC entrepreneur, artist

Clad in his signature park ranger hat, belt buckle, and jeans, Smokey Bear is best known for his timeless message: “Only you can prevent wildfires.”

Created by the U.S. Forest Service, National Association of State Foresters, and Ad Council, the character is considered the longest-running public service campaign in American history, and one of the most successful.

But Greenville, SC’s Matt Moreau and Cory Godbey are giving the beloved bear a makeover. Moreau is the owner of Dapper Ink Custom Outfitters, which produces screen-printed apparel and signage. Godbey is a freelance illustrator whose work has appeared in picture books, covers, comics, animated shorts, and films. The duo has created a special collection of illustrations and goods to promote Smokey’s message. The collection is the first of its kind in at least 50 years, according to Moreau.

“Smokey has taught countless children and adults about fire safety since the 1940s, and his message is as relevant today as it was then,” said Moreau. “We’re just breathing some new life into him with this collection.”

The avid outdoorsmen got the idea for a Smokey Bear collection last fall when dozens of wildfires spread across the southern Appalachian Mountains, charring thousands of acres and spreading smoke across several states.

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South Pacific Island Uninhabited For 600 Years Is Drowning In Plastic

Posted by on May 17, 2017 @ 6:37 am in Conservation | 0 comments

South Pacific Island Uninhabited For 600 Years Is Drowning In Plastic

There truly is no Earthly escape from the waste we have unleashed into the environment. Henderson Island in the South Pacific has been found to host hundreds of pieces of plastic per square meter of beach, with even more items buried in the sand.

World heritage site Henderson Island is among the most remote places on Earth. Although Polynesians once occupied the island, it has been uninhabited for at least 600 years. Moreover, the nearest inhabited island is Pitcairn, 120 miles away with a population of just 56. When it comes to major population centers Henderson is more than 3,000 miles from New Zealand, and South America is even further.

Dr. Jennifer Lavers of the University of Tasmania chose to study human debris on Henderson as an indication of the way we are affecting even the most remote places on Earth.

Sampling segments of the 14 square miles island, the pair found an average of 239 items of human origin per square meter just at the beach’s surface. Almost all (99.8 percent) was plastic, and there were more than twice as many bits of plastic, mostly smaller pieces, buried in the first 4 inches of sand.

Lavers reports the quantity by area in one sample, 672 items per square meter, is the highest recorded anywhere in the world. She estimates the island as a whole has 38 million pieces of plastic on it, weighing 19 tons. Lavers said most of the plastic was in fragments whose source could not be determined, but of the portions that could, consumer items such as plastic cutlery and shampoo bottles dominated.

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Cradle of Forestry Invites Nature Enthusiasts to Pink Beds Bioblitz

Posted by on May 16, 2017 @ 11:31 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Cradle of Forestry Invites Nature Enthusiasts to Pink Beds Bioblitz

The Cradle of Forestry in America invites nature enthusiasts of all ages and knowledge levels to the first spring Pink Beds Bioblitz on Saturday, May 20, 2017. Join naturalists and scientists to discover the diversity of life in this special part of Pisgah National Forest, and add to knowledge gained about the area during last fall’s Bioblitz.

Those who would like to participate should register that morning at the Pink Beds Picnic Area from 9:30 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. There, they will split into planned zones along the Pink Beds Trail and take photos of all species they find along the way. A zone has been established on the Cradle of Forestry’s Forest Festival Trail, which is wheelchair and stroller accessible, and friendly to our youngest observers. Registration is free as is entrance to the Cradle of Forestry for registered Bioblitz participants that day.

After exploring, groups will gather at the Forest Discovery Center and upload observations to the iNaturalist app. This citizen science tool aids in identification and data collection. You can download this app at home on a smartphone or at the Cradle of Forestry. Bring your smartphone or regular camera with a laptop to upload photographs.

Participants should wear closed-toe shoes and pants for extra protection, bring along water, and prepare for the weather. Magnifying glasses and binoculars are fun and useful exploring tools. Pack a lunch or enjoy a meal at the Café at the Cradle, open from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Spring Pink Beds Bioblitz Schedule is:

7:00 a.m. – Meet at the Pink Beds Picnic Area for a guided bird walk with naturalist Vicky Burke

9:30 a.m. – 10:00 a.m. Register at Pink Beds Picnic Area and pick your Bioblitz zone

10:00 a.m. – Meet your zone leader; Bioblitz kickoff

12:15 p.m. – Electrofishing near Pink Beds Picnic Area

12:30-3:00 p.m. – Meet back at Forest Discovery Center for refreshments, uploading photos, and raffle

10:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m. – Learn about conservation projects happening in western North Carolina from local organizations at the Cradle’s Forest Discovery Center

7:30 p.m. – Guided Reptile and Amphibian walk on portion of Pink Beds loop trail

The Pink Beds Picnic Area is located on U.S. Highway 276 in the Pisgah National Forest along the Forest Heritage National Scenic Byway, on the right just north of the Cradle of Forestry entrance, about six miles north of Looking Glass Falls and four miles south of the Blue Ridge Parkway milepost 412. The Cradle of Forestry is open daily from 9:00 to 5:00 and offers restrooms, a gift shop, exhibits, trails, and the Café at the Cradle to enjoy.


Freshwater’s Macro Microplastic Problem

Posted by on May 16, 2017 @ 6:38 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Freshwater’s Macro Microplastic Problem

In the winter of 2014, Sherri “Sam” Mason, a chemist at the State University of New York at Fredonia, sent two of her undergraduate students out to the shore of Lake Erie near campus to volunteer to fillet the fish that sport fisherman caught. The deal: the students could keep the guts. They took the fish innards back to campus and painstakingly sorted through the contents. They were hunting for tiny particles of plastic that Mason and other researchers have shown are abundant in the waters of the Great Lakes.

They didn’t have to look hard. Her team found plastic in the majority of the fish they tested, including popular fare like brown trout and perch. Some of them were broken-down fragments; others were tiny pellets manufactured by the plastic industry that get melted down and molded into products.

But the biggest source they found were miniscule plastic fibers, the kind that are spun into synthetic clothing. One day, Mason grabbed one of the intestines, smeared it against a glass plate, and brought it under a microscope. “You could actually see the fibers enmeshed in the gastrointestinal tract,” she says. Rather than passing through the fishes’ guts, the fibers seemed to be woven into them.

Plastic pollution is not just a problem of the oceans, and a wave of research is showing just how widespread it is. In sampling expeditions, Mason and her colleagues have counted tens to hundreds of thousands of pieces of plastic per square mile of surface water in the Great Lakes, the world’s largest freshwater system.

Like in the oceans, the bulk of the pollution in rivers and lakes is not in the form of plastic bottles and other large pieces, but tiny pieces called microplastics that would be hard to spot. Microfibers represent up to 85% of the plastic pollution found on shorelines around the world.

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The Case for the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

Posted by on May 12, 2017 @ 7:32 am in Conservation | 0 comments

The Case for the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

President Donald Trump’s national monuments executive order is an attack on American national parks, public lands, and oceans. One of its specific targets is the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah.

Although some Utah politicians argue that this monument has had a negative impact on the surrounding area, the reality on the ground is quite different: By a margin of better than 2 to 1, Utahns believe that the monument’s designation was good for their state. Even the Utah Office of Tourism cites the monument as one of its “most visited parks” and boasts about its vast size and “phenomenal” allure.

The truth is that Grand Staircase-Escalante is valuable. It deserves its status as a national monument for a multitude of reasons and should not be targeted by Trump’s misguided attempts to sell out U.S. public lands.

Rural Western counties with more protected public lands, including national monuments, have faster-growing populations, employment rates, and personal incomes than those with less protected land.

In fact, since Grand Staircase-Escalante’s designation in 1996, per capita incomes have risen 28 percent and employment has risen 40 percent in the communities adjacent to the national monument. While such statistics do not prove causation, they do disprove the idea that the national monument prevented economic growth.

The monument’s scientific, natural, and cultural value, as well as its more than 20,000 archeological sites, deserved protection when the monument was designated—and still do today.

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Zinke says monument designations have been an ‘effective tool,’ Hatch is confused

Posted by on May 11, 2017 @ 1:36 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

Zinke says monument designations have been an ‘effective tool,’ Hatch is confused

As he embarked on a tour of Utah to review two national monuments, Ryan Zinke said he sees no evidence Native American proponents of Bears Ears National Monument were exploited by special interest groups, as state leaders have suggested.

“I think they’re smart, capable, passionate, and have a deep sense of tie to their culture and want to preserve it,” the secretary of the Interior said after a meeting with the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition, which requested the monument on behalf of five tribes, at Salt Lake City’s Bureau of Land Management office.

Minutes later, while standing with Zinke, Sen. Orrin Hatch said Native Americans are “manipulated sometimes by people” and that the “far left” has further designs on the 1.35 million acres in southeastern Utah protected by President Barack Obama on Dec. 28, 2016.

“The Indians, they don’t fully understand that a lot of the things that they currently take for granted on those lands, they won’t be able to do if it’s made clearly into a monument or a wilderness,” Hatch said.

Asked to describe which activities Obama’s designation would prevent Native Americans from doing, Hatch said, “That’d take too much time right now.”

Pressed further for one example, Hatch said: “Once you put a monument there, you do restrict a lot of things that could be done, and that includes use of the land … Just take my word for it.”

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Trail photographers provide an eye into Oregon’s wilderness

Posted by on May 10, 2017 @ 7:56 am in Conservation, Hiking News | 0 comments

Trail photographers provide an eye into Oregon’s wilderness

Ever wonder what nature looks like when you aren’t watching it? If a critter scurries through the forest and there’s no one there to see it, is it still adorable?

The answer is yes. We know this through the efforts of trail photographers who operate remote trail cameras that capture nature as it looks when no humans are there to disturb it.

There is a part of Oregon that no one will ever see with their own eyes. It is filled with wolves, foxes, bears and other creatures undisturbed by human activity. In fact, it is the very absence of humans that defines this unseen world.

Fortunately, there is a window into untamed Oregon provided by dedicated folks who take to the wilderness looking to capture images with remote cameras. There are two types of people who set up “camera traps”: those looking to survey species, like the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, and those looking to create intimate portraits of wild animals.

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife also uses camera traps to track certain species and get population estimates for endangered animals, like the gray wolf.

See some of the photos they have captured…


Vermont’s Green Mountain Club looks to the future

Posted by on May 9, 2017 @ 8:07 am in Conservation, Hiking News | 0 comments

Vermont’s Green Mountain Club looks to the future

The Green Mountain Club, based in Waterbury, Vermont, is a membership based nonprofit organization that is responsible for the maintenance of the Long Trail system, including the 272-mile footpath through the wilderness, 185 miles of side trails and 70 backcountry campsites. The GMC also participates in maintenance and protection of Vermont’s 100-mile portion of the Appalachian Trail, a long-distance national scenic trail that extends from Georgia to Maine.

The mission of the Green Mountain Club is to make the Vermont mountains play a larger part in the life of the people by protecting and maintaining the Long Trail system and fostering, through education, the stewardship of Vermont’s hiking trails and mountains. The GMC is headed by executive director Michael DeBonis, who has been with the organization for three years.

Over the years, as use of the Long Trail system has risen and development pressures have increased, the GMC has evolved from being focused on purely trail building and maintenance to a more comprehensive program focused on protecting natural resources from overuse, protecting the trail from development, safeguarding special natural areas, backcountry sanitation and waste disposal, educating hikers and publishing guidebooks and maps.

In short, the GMC is managing how people relate to and interact with our hiking trails, campsites and their surrounding land. DeBonis put it this way: “We’re providing a wild experience. We manage the resource to provide that.”

A stewardship program at GMC manages land conservation and easements. As a maintainer and protector of the Long Trail, the GMC works in partnership with the Green Mountain National Forest, state of Vermont, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, and private land owners.

Learn more here…


Copenhagen’s Forgotten Giants

Posted by on May 6, 2017 @ 12:23 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

Copenhagen’s Forgotten Giants

Hiding giants is a tall order, but Thomas Dambo has managed to hide six in the area around Copenhagen, Denmark.

Dambo is an artist who specializes in reclaimed and recycled materials, and the Forgotten Giants are no exception to this method, created from scrap wood collected from old, demolished buildings and felled trees. The sculptures were deliberately placed off the beaten track, and each is accompanied by a poem engraved on a nearby stone that gives hints about where it is hidden.

There is also a “treasure map” of the area on which an “X” marks the spot where each giant can be found. Part of the point of the public artwork is to get people out and exploring, especially to beautiful places they don’t normally go. Dambo also hopes his scrap wood giants will encourage people to recycle.

Each giant is named after one of the volunteers who helped build it, and every one has an extra function. Sleeping Louis, named after one of Dambo’s former assistants, references homeless people found sleeping in the area where Louis now lies. Louis provides shelter for the homeless; the giant structure can be entered through his gaping mouth.

A map showing the locations of all the giants can be found on Thomas Dambo’s website.



There are diseases hidden in ice, and they are waking up

Posted by on May 6, 2017 @ 6:49 am in Conservation | 0 comments

There are diseases hidden in ice, and they are waking up

Throughout history, humans have existed side-by-side with bacteria and viruses. From the bubonic plague to smallpox, we have evolved to resist them, and in response they have developed new ways of infecting us.

We have had antibiotics for almost a century, ever since Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin. In response, bacteria have responded by evolving antibiotic resistance. The battle is endless: because we spend so much time with pathogens, we sometimes develop a kind of natural stalemate.

However, what would happen if we were suddenly exposed to deadly bacteria and viruses that have been absent for thousands of years, or that we have never met before?

We may be about to find out. Climate change is melting permafrost soils that have been frozen for thousands of years, and as the soils melt they are releasing ancient viruses and bacteria that, having lain dormant, are springing back to life.

In August 2016, in a remote corner of Siberian tundra called the Yamal Peninsula in the Arctic Circle, a 12-year-old boy died and at least twenty people were hospitalized after being infected by anthrax.

The theory is that, over 75 years ago, a reindeer infected with anthrax died and its frozen carcass became trapped under a layer of frozen soil, known as permafrost. There it stayed until a heatwave in the summer of 2016, when the permafrost thawed.

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Human noise pollution is everywhere, even in the national parks

Posted by on May 5, 2017 @ 11:55 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Human noise pollution is everywhere, even in the national parks

In wintertime, the sounds of nature are so subtle they’re almost imperceptible: The whistling of the wind though craggy mountaintops, the whispering branches of the trees; the soft, delicate patter of an unseen animal’s paws across snowy ground.

“It’s a really quiet experience,” said Rachel Buxton, recalling a recent winter hike in southwest Colorado’s La Garita Wilderness. “You’re almost hearing your own heartbeat.”

But every 30 minutes, a jet flew overhead, shattering the fragile calm. “It’s shocking, right?” she said. “You’re in the middle of nowhere, yet you still can’t escape the sounds of humans.”

That’s the trouble with noise pollution, continued Buxton, an acoustic ecologist at Colorado State University: “It really doesn’t have any boundaries. There’s no way of holding it in.”

This problem pervades wilderness areas across the United States. Using a model based on sound measurements taken by the National Park Service, they found that human noises at least double the background sound levels at the majority of protected areas in the country. This noise pollution doesn’t just disrupt hikers; it can also frighten, distract or harm animals that inhabit the wilderness, setting off changes that cascade through the entire ecosystem.

“When we think about wilderness, we think about dark skies, going to see outstanding scenery,” said Megan McKenna, a scientist with the National Park Service’s Natural Sounds and Night Skies division and a co-author on the report. “We really should think about soundscapes, too.”

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NCWF Governor’s Conservation Achievement Awards

Posted by on May 1, 2017 @ 12:07 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

NCWF Governor’s Conservation Achievement Awards

The North Carolina Wildlife Federation is accepting nominations for its annual Governor’s Conservation Achievement Awards. The awards honor individuals, businesses, organizations and groups who have exhibited an unwavering commitment to conservation efforts in North Carolina, and are the highest natural-resource honors given in the state.

Nominees should demonstrate outstanding achievement in and dedication to conservation. Candidates are not required to hold professional positions related to conservation. Awards are given for contributions, whether volunteer or professional. Nominations may be submitted by individuals, businesses or organizations.

These prestigious awards honor those individuals, governmental bodies, associations and others who have exhibited an unwavering commitment to conservation in North Carolina. These are the highest honors given in the state.

By recognizing, publicizing and honoring these conservation leaders – be they professionals, volunteers, young conservationists or lifelong conservation heroes – the North Carolina Wildlife Federation hopes to inspire all North Carolinians to take a more active role in protecting the natural resources of our state.

Learn more here…


Dreams by Cliff Williams of Argyle Multimedia

Posted by on May 1, 2017 @ 8:58 am in Conservation, Hiking News | 0 comments

Dreams by Cliff Williams of Argyle Multimedia

On a recent visit to Little Bradley Falls, I happened to meet and chat with Cliff Williams of the local video production company Argyle Multimedia. As Cliff demonstrated to me that day, he is quite adept at operating camera drones, just one more means of achieving priceless photography of the great outdoors.

Cliff just put together a compilation video that includes some of his drone footage, as well as timelapse and still photographs. It has a marvelous soundtrack by local musician Sharon Gerber. I asked Cliff if he would mind me sharing his new video with you, and he graciously accepted. So with no further ado, here is Dreams:



National park plans to connect two major redwood groves

Posted by on Apr 30, 2017 @ 8:35 am in Conservation | 0 comments

National park plans to connect two major redwood groves

Two of the largest and most ancient redwood groves in Redwood National Park — Lady Bird Johnson and Lost Man Creek — will be connected through the acquisition of the Berry Glen Trail property near the Prairie Creek Scenic Corridor.

According to the Save the Redwoods League chief program officer, the corridor, which is 5.9 acres, will provide access to the groves directly from U.S. Highway 101.

“It gives access to an entrance trail that would run up the hill and connect one side of the park to the other side across the highway,” he said.

He said the League often buys properties and holds them until they can transfer them to national parks. According to the League, the property was purchased from a private landowner in 2015 thanks to strong donor support.

“Connecting the two areas is the key highlight for this property,” Ringgold said. “We previously had to address several distressed erosion issues to threatening the highway. It will [now] add to the scenic value of this corridor.”

The Berry Glen Trail was part of an ongoing effort for both the League and Redwood National Park to fully protect the Prairie Creek Scenic Corridor and further restore the area for its long-term ecological and recreational benefits.

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