A Wilderness Society report finds that in a little over a century of statehood, New Mexico has liquidated about 30 percent of the land originally granted to it—nearly 4 million acres—and sold it to cattle ranchers, oil and gas companies, railroads and other development interests.
The report underscores again why we should be skeptical of politicians’ guarantees that the land takeover movement won’t ultimately serve to enrich special interests at the expense of ordinary Americans.
The findings arrive at a felicitous moment. In the last few months, a fringe-led campaign to seize national public lands has moved from isolated state legislatures—including New Mexico’s-to the halls of Congress. Early in 2017, New Mexicans rallied in opposition to a House bill-later withdrawn-that would have sold off millions of acres of land in the state and nine others (the parcels were to be “disposed of,” in the parlance of that legislation).
Anti-public lands lawmakers have frequently tried to quell fears about the “land takeover” enterprise by claiming that, once seized, public lands will not be sold off. Like a similar report about Idaho’s state lands, released in May 2016, these data suggest New Mexicans should be wary of such promises.
At least nine cougar sightings have been confirmed. Tennesee Wildlife Resources Agency said they will be monitoring the natural expansion of the cougar. All of the confirmed sightings listed are in Middle or West Tennessee. There are several possible reports in East Tennessee, but none confirmed by the TWRA.
Zoo Knoxville Director of Animal Care Phil Colclough said it could be several years before more cougars are in the area.
“Obviously they are coming this way there’s a few scattered records here and there and I think they will be here at some point, coming down from the north. We obviously have a lot of deer in this area so the prey is here for them to have,” said Colclough.
According to TWRA the cougar is native to Tennessee, but was extirpated because of hunting and habitat loss.
Colclough said the return of the cougars might be good for the environment.
“They could control the deer population. It would be huge, think about all the car accidents and the problems deer cause because of their over population,” said Colclough.
According to TWRA cougars, once they establish a home range can be up to 150 miles. They can travel up to 600 miles or more to find that home range.
It is also illegal to hunt and kill cougars. The TWRA on their website states, “Tennessee law protects all animals for which no hunting season is proclaimed, the cougar is protected in Tennessee. It is illegal to kill a cougar in Tennessee except in the case of imminent threat of life and injury. Also, if a landowner is experiencing property damage made by wildlife, that landowner has the right to protect his/her property.”
Will political expediency doom one of the Lone Star State’s most beautiful natural wonders?
In West Texas, high in the Chinati Mountains — yes, there are mountains in Texas — it is hard to imagine a giant wall smack dab in the middle of this fantastic view. But there it is, in the thick of rugged desert beauty few Americans trek out to see: a gigantic, imaginary line, primed, if our enthusiastic president gets his wish, for a “big, beautiful wall.”
It’s one thing to contemplate an all-inclusive border wall in the abstract, as many Americans far from the border do; it’s quite another to actually go where the rubber will hit the road. And for more than 1,000 miles of the U.S.–Mexican border, that road turns out to be a river.
Here things get goofy: Where will the river portion of the wall go? On the Texan side of the Rio Grande, effectively blocking off river access and views? Down the middle of the river, just to be fair? Right through a hidden gem of a national park, which borders two massive Mexican conservation tracts and boasts daunting natural boundaries on either side?
The answer to that last question, at least according to a recent Department of Homeland Security report, is yes. Big Bend National Park, a Texas treasure and one of the most remote national parks in the continental U.S., hosts about 118 miles of the Rio Grande — and, therefore, 118 miles of the Mexican border.
It’s not easy to get to Big Bend, and to get out, visitors must pass through Border Patrol checkpoints on north–south roads. The DHS report, which prices the wall at $21.6 billion, slates Big Bend for the second phase of its construction.
This global celebration of forests provides a platform to raise awareness of the importance of all types of woodlands and trees, and celebrate the ways in which they sustain and protect us. This year we highlight the importance of wood energy in improving people’s lives, powering sustainable development and mitigating climate change.
Wood is a major renewable energy source – Wood provides the world with more energy than solar, hydroelectric or wind power, accounting for roughly 45 percent of current global renewable energy supply (27 percent of total primary energy supply in Africa, 13 percent in Latin America and the Caribbean and 5 percent in Asia and Oceania).
Wood energy powers economic development – Almost 900 million people, mostly in developing countries, are engaged in the wood-energy sector on a part- or full-time basis. Modernizing the wood energy sector can help revitalize rural economies and stimulate enterprise development – greater investment in wood energy production and advanced wood fuels can provide revenue to finance better forest management, more growing forests and more jobs.
Wood and trees contribute to optimal urban living and lower energy bills – Strategically placed trees in urban areas can cool the air by between 2 to 8 degrees C.
Wood energy mitigates climate change and fosters sustainable development – Globally, forests hold an energy content approximately 10 times that of the world’s annual primary energy consumption. They thus have significant potential as renewable resources to meet global energy demand. Forests provide clean air, water and energy. Sustainably managed forests can provide renewable and carbon neutral energy for a greener future.
Forests for energy, now and in a future global green economy – Greater investment in technological innovation and in sustainably managed forests is the key to increasing forests’ role as a major source of renewable energy. In this way, we invest in our sustainable future, in meeting several Sustainable Development Goals and in growing a green economy. Increased areas of sustainably household and community woodlots and the use of clean and efficient wood stoves can give millions more people in developing countries access to cheap, reliable and renewable energy.
Immense herds of up to 30 million bison once thundered across the plains of North America. Like their American brethren, overhunted Canadian plains bison came dangerously close to extinction in the late 1800s. In an effort to reverse the damage, Parks Canada on February 1, 2017 successfully restored 16 healthy bison—transporting them the 280 miles from Elk Island National Park, 30 miles east of Edmonton, Alberta, to their original, rightful home on the eastern slopes of Banff National Park.
This is the first step in a five-year pilot project to reintroduce the animals to the Banff wilderness. For 16 months, this initial little herd—consisting of six two- to three-year-old bulls and 10 two- to three-year-old pregnant heifers—will be kept in an enclosed pasture in Banff’s Panther Valley. A team at Parks Canada expect that, after having twice calved, they will release the herd into a larger, 1,200-square-kilometre (463-square-mile) zone in summer 2018. There, they will be free to interact with other native species and to forage for food. The idea is “to anchor these initial animals to this new landscape, so they adopt it as their new home and range.”
In 2022, Parks Canada will reevaluate the project and, if long-term bison restoration to the area is deemed feasible, develop a management plan from there. “If we didn’t think there was a good chance of this working I don’t think we ever would have started,” a spokesman says, acknowledging that if necessary for population control, Parks Canada may ultimately have to consider pulling animals out and allowing for hunting. In that case, he says priority would be given to local First Nations groups (as Canada’s indigenous peoples are known), and is careful to add, “But that’s not the emphasis—our intent isn’t to create a population for hunting opportunities.”
Once a key source of food, clothing, shelter, and religious symbolism, bison carry great spiritual and cultural meaning for the First Nations. With the 19th-century massacre of the bison herds came the end of an entire way of life. In fact, so significant is the bison to the North American and indigenous story that in recording the continent’s past, historians tend to differentiate between “bison” and “post-bison” eras.
Tompkins Conservation signed an agreement with Chile’s government to donate 1 million acres for new national parks in the largest private donation of its kind for the South American nation.
Chilean President Michelle Bachelet signed the deal with Kristine McDivitt Tompkins, the widow of American conservationist Doug Tompkins, who built a legacy protecting threatened ecosystems in Argentina and Chile.
“This is a key step to treasuring this giant source of biodiversity and safe keep it in the public interest,” Bachelet said at a ceremony in southern Chile.
The agreement will provide land to create three new national parks, expand three existing national parks and unite some national forests into two national parks.
The proposal will eventually help create the “Route of Parks,” a network of 17 parks spanning more than 1,500 miles from Puerto Montt to Cape Horn. In all, the plan ultimately seeks to increase Chile’s national parkland by more than 10 million acres. Tompkins Conservation said the area that will be protected is three times the size of the United States’ Yosemite and Yellowstone national parks combined.
Today, the California condor is regarded as one of the rarest birds in the world. In Pleistocene times, condors ranged from Canada to Mexico, across the southern United States to Florida, and north on the east coast to New York. During that period, condors were a common resident of the Grand Canyon judging by bones, feathers and eggshells found in caves where they once nested. A dramatic range reduction occurred about 10,000 years ago, coinciding with the late Pleistocene extinction of large mammals such as mastodons, giant ground sloths, camels, and sabre tooth cats that condors fed on.
By the time Europeans arrived in western North America, condors had retreated to a stronghold along the Pacific coast from British Columbia to Baja California. The birds managed to maintain a strong population until shooting, egg collecting, poisoning by cyanide traps set for coyotes, power line collisions, general habitat degradation, and especially lead poisoning began to take a heavy toll. Lead poisoning from ingesting fragments of lead ammunition in the carcasses and gut piles they feed on remains the greatest threat to California condors today.
From the 1880s to 1924, there were scattered reports of condors in Arizona. But by the late 1930s, no condors remained outside of California and by 1982, the total population had dwindled to just 22 birds. Extinction loomed.
The California condor was placed on the federal endangered species list in 1967. Critical habitat was identified and mortality factors were studied. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service began a captive breeding program in 1983.
Secretary of Defense James Mattis has asserted that climate change is real, and a threat to American interests abroad and the Pentagon’s assets everywhere, a position that appears at odds with the views of the president who appointed him and many in the administration in which he serves.
In unpublished written testimony provided to the Senate Armed Services Committee after his confirmation hearing in January, Mattis said it was incumbent on the U.S. military to consider how changes like open-water routes in the thawing Arctic and drought in global trouble spots can pose challenges for troops and defense planners. He also stressed this is a real-time issue, not some distant what-if.
“Climate change is impacting stability in areas of the world where our troops are operating today,” Mattis said in written answers to questions posed after the public hearing by Democratic members of the committee. “It is appropriate for the Combatant Commands to incorporate drivers of instability that impact the security environment in their areas into their planning.”
Mattis has long espoused the position that the armed forces, for a host of reasons, need to cut dependence on fossil fuels and explore renewable energy where it makes sense. He had also, as commander of the U.S. Joint Forces Command in 2010, signed off on the Joint Operating Environment, which lists climate change as one of the security threats the military expected to confront over the next 25 years.
The lawsuit, brought by a group of 21 children and young adults against the federal government, alleges that the United States government has violated the plaintiff’s constitutional right to a healthy environment. The lawsuit is based on the old legal doctrine of public trust, which holds that it is the government’s responsibility to preserve certain natural resources for public use. Under the public trust doctrine, the children’s attorneys argue, the government must protect the commonly held atmosphere — and is failing to do so by taking inadequate action to fight climate change.
The Trump administration, joined by fossil fuel companies, is stepping up its fight against a historic federal climate lawsuit, seeking an appeal of a November decision that allowed the case to move forward to trial. The Trump administration also argued that an earlier request — which asked the government to retain records of communication about climate change between the government and the fossil fuel industry — was overly burdensome.
“This request for appeal is an attempt to cover up the federal government’s long-running collusion with the fossil fuel industry,” Alex Loznak, a 20-year old plaintiff in the case, said in a statement. “My generation cannot wait for the truth to be revealed. These documents must be uncovered with all deliberate speed, so that our trial can force federal action on climate change.”
Children are not often invited to speak to the United Nations General Assembly. But there stood Felix Finkbeiner, German wunderkind in his Harry Potter spectacles, gray hoodie, and mop-top haircut—with a somber question about climate change. “We children know adults know the challenges and they know the solutions,” he said. “We don’t know why there is so little action.”
The children came up with three possible reasons to explain the lapse, he said. One is differing perspectives on the meaning of the word future. “For most adults, it’s an academic question. For many of us children, it’s a question of survival,” he said. “Twenty-one hundred is still in our lifetime.”
Another explanation is climate denial. The third possibility can be glimpsed in an animal parable about monkeys that made an especially sharp point in the way that only a child delivering the message can.
“If you let a monkey choose if he wants one banana now or six bananas later, the monkey will always chose the one banana now,” he said. “From this, we children understood we cannot trust that adults alone will save our future. To do that, we have to take our future in our hands.”
Finkbeiner is 19—and Plant-for-the-Planet, the environmental group he founded, together with the UN’s Billion Tree campaign, has planted more than 14 billion trees in more than 130 nations. The group has also pushed the planting goal upward to one trillion trees—150 for every person on the Earth.
Inside a storage room at the Forest Service’s Flagstaff Ranger District headquarters, shelves, floorspace and tabletops are crammed with wooden signs. Simple and sturdy, the signs are hand carved with messages marking everything from trails and riparian areas to places closed to camping or motorized vehicles.
But these signs, rich in historic character, wouldn’t exist across the Coconino’s 850,000-acre Flagstaff Ranger District without the work of volunteers who spend hours creating and maintaining them, said Paul Dawson, volunteer coordinator with the Flagstaff Ranger District.
Thanks to the free labor, the individually crafted wooden markers end up being a much cheaper option than buying plastic trail signs, which many other forests without such a robust volunteer base are forced to do, Dawson said.
One year, volunteers churned out 2,000 signs. In 2016 with a smaller crew, they made 300 to 400, Dawson said. It is thanks to that work that the Flagstaff Ranger District now stores about 1,600 extra signs that can be used to quickly replace what’s out in the forest, he said.
The task of making a sign can range from a few hours to two to three weeks depending on size and the amount of text involved. Most of the time, volunteers use an electric router guided by small square tiles inscribed with each letter of the alphabet that are rearranged to create different words.
Natural and cultural sounds awaken a sense of awe that connects us to the splendor of national parks, and have a powerful effect on our emotions, attitudes and memories. From the mysterious calls of bugling elk in the Rocky Mountains to the patriotic, bugling trumpets heard across a historic battlefield, these sounds are part of a web of natural and cultural resources that the National Parks protects under the Organic Act. The sounds heard in each national park are uniquely special to that place. NPS invites you to experience our parks through this world of sound.
National Park Service Directors Order #47 specifies what actions park management must take to preserve the parks acoustic footprint. Sound pollution effects the park’s cultural soundscape and prevents visitors from making meaningful connections when contemplating the serenity of a burial landscape or enjoying a picnic next to a burbling stream. Some species of animals when conditioned to long-term noise pollution will alter their mating calls to be heard which their opposite sex may not respond to.
The park’s soundscape can be explored in geographic context by using a sound model. Using easily-measured factors such as topography, climate, human activity, and time, park scientists have created an interactive maps which show existing and natural soundscapes. The existing soundscape is based on actual measured sound levels, including those caused by human activities such as vehicles, aircraft, and other man-made noises. The natural soundscape shows expected sound conditions which include wind, running water, and animals: without the human factor.
Women around the world have always played a significant role in environmental conservation. There have been so many throughout time that some of them tend to slip through the cracks of history and mainstream media. On this International Women’s Day, let’s push some of those names into the spotlight.
These are just a few of the thousands of women who have and are making big strides in environmental science, indigenous peoples’ rights, conservation of our planet’s natural resources, preservation of biodiversity and so much more. Let’s take a moment to celebrate women who have dedicated their lives to both Earth and humanity, who have crafted and continue to craft how we use and care for this planet.
Often working in the shadows, female conservation leaders helped drive the 20th century conservation movement. In celebration of Women’s History Month, let’s honor 11 of those women who have made a difference to America’s wild lands.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials invite the public to comment through March 20, 2017 on a proposed sustainable energy project. The National Park Service is proposing a solar power system to support the electrical power needs of the Cable Mill area in Cades Cove. This project would reduce usage of traditional fossil fuels and provide opportunities for park visitors to learn about solar power and clean energy sources.
Cades Cove receives approximately 1.8 million visitors per year. Many of these visitors stop at the Cable Mill area to visit the exhibit of historic structures assembled there. This area also provides access to a small visitor center, bookstore, and comfort station with flush toilets and potable water. Given its remote location at the west end of Cades Cove, the Cable Mill area is off the commercial power grid and all power must be generated on site. The existing power system consists of a propane-fueled generator and battery system, which is costly and labor-intensive to operate. The existing system also generates air pollutant emissions and noise.
The proposed location for the solar array is southeast of the Cable Mill comfort station in an open field. This location maximizes solar exposure and is close to areas requiring power, but is separated from the Cable Mill historic exhibits. The array would consist of 80 panels and would occupy a 40 by 65-foot area. Several proposed design features are intended to minimize visual intrusions to the historic setting and cultural landscape of Cades Cove. The array’s three foot high, low-profile design coupled with the site’s natural slope, selective grading, and use of native vegetation would help the array blend into the landscape.
Park staff have initiated the National Environmental Policy Act, National Historic Preservation Act and other compliance processes to evaluate potential adverse and beneficial impacts of the proposed project on the natural, cultural, and human environment. Staff invite the public to comment on the proposed project using the National Park Service’s Planning, Environment, and Public Comment website here: “Cable Mill Sustainable Energy Project,” or by US Mail to Superintendent, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, 107 Park Headquarters Road, Gatlinburg, TN 37738.
The postcard is almost 40 years old. Angelenos of a certain age will recognize it-a wide-angled, aerial shot of the downtown core of Los Angeles and its then, much-more modest skyline. Framed by the intersection of the Santa Monica and Harbor freeways, the whole scene is muffled in a brown smear of smog. Barely visible in the deep background, just poking above the thick toxic stew, is a snow-capped Mt. Baldy, the tallest of the San Gabriels.
In the fall of 1972 you almost never saw its bold face. Now you can see Mt. Baldy every day, often with stunning clarity, as if the entire range was etched out of a blue true dream of sky. How strange, then, that Republicans in Congress are maneuvering to gut the Clean Air Act, stop the EPA from regulating Greenhouse gases, and, in a special affront to Los Angeles, roll back the federal agency’s ability to monitor tailpipe emissions. It’s enough to make you gasp for air.
Their regressive political agenda, designed to savage public health, ought to infuriate any who lived–and suffered–through the dark-sky years that hung over SoCal like a pall. It took decades of fierce struggle on the local, state, and national levels to build the political capital and legislative clout needed to write the binding regulations, a battle that began in the late 1940s.
It took just as long to create and fund the federal Environmental Protection Agency (1970) and the local South Coast Air Quality Management District (1976). Neither organization had an easy birth: President Nixon created the EPA with reluctance and under considerable pressure; and Governor Ronald Reagan twice vetoed the creation of SCAQMD, which only came into being with a stroke of Governor Jerry Brown’s pen. You now have blue skies only because of the robust regulatory regime that emerged out of this fraught politics of smog.
Spring has sprung in the Smokies. Daffodils have popped up, trees are budding, and grass is sprouting green but that’s not necessarily a good thing. For a lot of the country spring has arrived about 3 weeks too soon, a growing result of climate change according to a recent study shared by the US Geological Survey. Looking at data spanning the past 112 years, the study found that spring has been advancing in 76% of the nation’s national parks. And more than half of all parks are experiencing what’s classified as “extreme early springs”, including an “extreme early first bloom” here in the Smokies.
So what does that “extreme early spring” mean for the Smokies? Well, early springs are sometimes followed by sudden frosts or droughts later in the summer, which can effect wildlife and their natural food supplies. In recent years, we have seen first-hand the impact changes to the park’s mast crop (nuts and berries) can have on black bears. The onset of warm weather is also associated with the reemergence of disease-carrying insects, like ticks and mosquitoes, the bane of summer hikers.
Park visitation also increases as the temperature climbs, which can mean longer visitation seasons and a higher toll taken on park operations and facilities, including projects that your donations to Friends of the Smokies help fund. This impact is especially true for parks with natural seasonal attractions like the Smokies’ wildflowers.
So plan your next trip to the Smokies with the weather and climate in mind. Pack your patience during peak visitation periods along with extra water and sunscreen for your warm-weather outdoor activities.
From a helicopter clattering over Greenland’s interior on a bright July day, the ice sheet below tells a tale of disintegration. Long, roughly parallel cracks score the surface, formed by water and pressure; impossibly blue lakes of meltwater fill depressions; and veiny networks of azure streams meander west, flowing to the edge of the sheet and eventually out to sea.
In Greenland, the great melt is on. The decline of Greenland’s ice sheet is a familiar story, but until recently, massive calving glaciers that carry ice from the interior and crumble into the sea got most of the attention. Between 2000 and 2008, such “dynamic” changes accounted for about as much mass loss as surface melting and shifts in snowfall. But the balance tipped dramatically between 2011 and 2014, when satellite data and modeling suggested that 70% of the annual 269 billion tons of snow and ice shed by Greenland was lost through surface melt, not calving.
The accelerating surface melt has doubled Greenland’s contribution to global sea level rise since 1992–2011, to 0.74 mm per year. “Nobody expected the ice sheet to lose so much mass so quickly,” says geophysicist Isabella Velicogna of the University of California, Irvine. “Things are happening a lot faster than we expected.”
It’s urgent to figure out why, and how the melting might evolve in the future, because Greenland holds the equivalent of more than 7 m of sea level rise in its thick mantle of ice. Glaciologists were already fully occupied trying to track and forecast the surge in glacial calving. Now, they are striving to understand the complex feedbacks that are speeding up surface melting.
Since it’s summertime there, sea ice cover is poised to drop even further.
Sea ice can fluctuate from year to year, but over the past 20 years, Antarctica has lost 61,390 square miles of ice — a Florida-sized chunk.
That’s Act I of the unfolding Antarctic drama. In Act II, the continent’s fourth-biggest ice shelf, Larsen C, sheds a Delaware-sized iceberg. It could break away any minute now.
In other record-breaking news, the World Meteorological Organization just announced new high temperatures for the Antarctic. On March 24, 2015, the thermostat at a research base on Antarctica’s northern tip hit 63.5 degrees F.
Looking for your next winter vacation spot? Consider Antarctica, where the sun never sets and the ice melts fast. You can leave your heavy down jacket at home.
With millions of jobs up for grabs, China seizes clean tech leadership from United States.
We are witnessing a historic passing of the baton of global leadership on technology and climate from the United States to China.
The new U.S. administration has said it will abandon climate action, gut clean energy funding, and embrace coal and oil — the dirty energy sources of the past that experts say can’t create a large number of sustainable new jobs. At the same time, China is slashing coal use and betting heavily on clean energy, which is clearly going to be the biggest new source of permanent high-wage jobs in the coming years.
Indeed, Beijing plans to invest a stunning $360 billion by 2020 in renewable generation alone, and China’s energy agency says the resulting “employment will be more than 13 million people.”
Meanwhile, the rest of the world has redoubled its commitment to ramping up clean energy and ratcheting down carbon pollution, as required by the Paris climate agreement. That’s a $50 trillion (or more) commitment in the coming decades. That means tens of millions of new jobs in clean energy are up for grabs, something no other emerging sector can match.
Tragically for U.S. workers, while America, under the Obama Administration, helped pave the way for a China deal, and then a global deal, that ensures the world economic prosperity will belong to the countries that lead the way on clean energy, the U.S. elected a president who campaigned on zeroing out clean energy funding and waging a losing battle to stanch the loss of fossil fuel jobs.
Globally, grasslands are one of the most converted and least protected ecosystems. The rich soil of Earth’s grasslands plays an important role in feeding the world and because of this much of our grassland has been converted to row-crop agriculture. Loss of grasslands is a big problem for two reasons:
The ability of ecosystems to store carbon is one of the most promising natural solutions to mitigating the impacts of climate change. Strategies that avoid conversion of ecosystems take advantage of this natural ability to offset carbon emissions. Forests have long been recognized for their carbon storage potential. But what about grasslands?
Despite the lack of trees, grasslands store a substantial amount of carbon. Imagine if the trees in a forest grew into the soil instead of towards the sun. This is what the underground world of a grassland does. Grasslands are an underground forest of carbon. Native prairie plants have long, dense root systems that store carbon themselves as well as cycle carbon between the above ground vegetation and the soil for storage.
The good news is protecting grasslands keeps that carbon in the ground and provides numerous other benefits to native plants, wildlife and water quality.