Sodium cyanide is considered by the Department of Homeland Security to be a potential weapon for terrorists. It’s a key ingredient in the M-44s, or “cyanide bombs,” used by Wildlife Services, an obscure agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, to kill wildlife predators on public and private lands in the West.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, an average of 30,000 M-44s, deployed by the federal government in concert with Western states and counties, are triggered each year. Baited to entice animals, they’re indiscriminate in their victims. So far, no humans have been killed by M-44s. But according to an investigation by the Sacramento Bee, 18 Wildlife Services employees and several other people were exposed to cyanide by M-44s between 1987 and 2012, and between 2000 and 2012 the devices killed more than 1,100 dogs.
Established 120 years ago under a different name, Wildlife Services exists primarily for the benefit of the livestock industry. The agency spends more than $120 million a year killing animals deemed “nuisances” to humans: everything from coyotes and wolves to mountain lions, bears, foxes, bobcats, prairie dogs, and birds (in part to prevent collisions with planes at airports). During the past decade the agency has killed some 35 million animals. It killed 2.7 million in 2016 alone.
In recent disclosure forms Wildlife Services reported that out of 76,963 coyotes killed in 2016 for livestock protection, 12,511 were felled with M-44s. Another 30,000 were gunned down by sharpshooters from fixed-wing planes and helicopters, and 15,000 more died in choking neck snares.
Some records aren’t meant to be broken — but when it comes to climate change, humans still haven’t gotten the memo.
Last fall, the Earth passed a major climate milestone when measurements taken at Hawaii’s Mauna Loa Observatory showed that atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide had passed — potentially permanently — 400 parts per million.
This week, measurements taken from the same observatory show that yet another marker has been passed: Carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere, for the first time in modern record-keeping, has surpassed 410 parts per million.
Since measurements began in the 1950s at Mauna Loa, atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide have increased 42 percent from pre-industrial levels. Children born today will likely never live in a world with levels below 400 parts per million.
The program at Mauna Loa is run jointly by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) and the Scripps Institute of Oceanography, which means that the program is vulnerable, at least in part, to the whims of federal funding. Trump’s proposed budget cuts much of NOAA’s research funding and cuts almost all domestic climate research funding.
Trump’s director of Office of Management and Budget, Mick Mulvaney, has said that the administration considers climate spending “to be a waste of your money.” The Department of Energy, under the Trump administration, has also suggested that it could refocus its mission on nuclear and fossil fuels.
More than 100,000 Americans now work in the wind industry, which is adding jobs much more rapidly than the economy as a whole, according to new data released this week.
“We are hiring at a nine times faster rate than the average industry in the country,” Tom Kiernan, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), a trade group, said at a press conference.
According to the report, 2016 was the second year in a row that more than 8,000 megawatts (MW) of wind capacity was added to the grid. There is now 82,000 MW of total wind capacity in the country, making it the largest source of non-fossil fuel generation for the first time.
The renewable energy sector as a whole is booming, with both wind and solar showing impressive gains over the past few years. From 2015 to 2016, solar nearly doubled the amount of capacity installed, and there are now more people working in renewable energy than in fossil fuels in nearly every state in the country.
Meanwhile, the federal government under President Donald Trump has taken steps to prop up the coal industry, including re-opening a loophole that allows the coal industry to short taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars annually in royalty payments.
A Kentucky coal company announced that it is planning to build a solar farm on a reclaimed mountaintop removal coal mine and that the project would bring both jobs and energy to the area. The company says the farm will give jobs to displaced coal miners.
Berkeley Energy Group, the coal company behind the project, billed it as the first large-scale solar farm in the Appalachian region, which has been hit hard by the decades-long decline in the U.S. coal industry. The company, in partnership with EDF Renewable Energy, is currently conducting feasibility studies for the project on two reclaimed strip mines, both located in the eastern part of the state. Berkeley Energy Group estimates that the solar farm could produce as much as 50 to 100 megawatts of electricity, which would be five to ten times the size of Kentucky’s largest solar farm.
Berkeley Energy Group’s project development executive told the Louisville Courier-Journal that the company did not intend to replace its coal production with the solar farm, but instead viewed the project as a chance to reclaim used land while creating job growth in the area.
Kentucky would hardly be the first deep-red state to embrace large-scale renewable energy. Texas, Iowa, and Oklahoma are the top three states in the country when it comes to installed wind capacity, and when it comes to solar, North Carolina, Arizona, and Nevada are the second, third, and fourth states in the nation with regards to installed solar capacity.
After a thoughtful and well considered process, the board of directors and staff of Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy (CMLC) in Henderson, Transylvania and parts of neighboring counties in North Carolina, and the Pacolet Area Conservancy (PAC) in Polk County, North Carolina, and the Landrum area of South Carolina, are excited to announce a consolidation of the two organizations.
As sister organizations, each with deep roots and strong histories of conserving and preserving lands in the areas served, they are uniting to create a new organization that will increase conservation efforts in the area. They believe a united organization will help build a larger community of advocates for the common missions of protecting and conserving natural resources in this burgeoning region for generations to come.
With a broader geographic reach encompassing lands from upstate South Carolina to the foothills and mountains of western North Carolina, the combined expertise, talents and resources will strengthen their ability to raise awareness of the crucial importance of protecting shared land and water resources, and foster appreciation of the unique natural heritage. As a result of banding together, the two groups will be able to protect more land.
The new organization will have offices in Columbus and Hendersonville, North Carolina, with current staff remaining in place under the direction of a new consolidated board of directors and Executive Director Kieran Roe.
Upon completion of the branding process for the newly created organization later this summer, the name and logo of the region’s new champion for saving the places we all love will be announced.
America’s best idea, the national parks, continue to rise in popularity each year. 2016 saw the third year in a row where attendance to the national parks broke the previous all-time attendance record. Over 330 million visitors enjoyed the 417 national park sites last year, and that number is almost certainly going to increase yet again this year.
With these kinds of attendance numbers, the National Park Service knows now more than ever is time to be a polite, respectful and considerate visitor to national parks. It is our duty to conserve them for others to enjoy.
The start of 2017 National Park Week beginning April 15 and lasting until April 23 is a good excuse to get some simple tips on how to be a better national parks visitor, straight from National Park Service. Get out there and enjoy the national parks.
Drawing upon the WPA’s classic National Parks posters, Hannah Rothstein’s new series envisions our natural treasures ravaged by climate change.
With a wry and poignant twist, artist Hannah Rothstein has reimagined the great WPA posters once used to lure visitors to the splendors of U.S. National Parks. Where the original might have promised Yellowstone’s campfire programs and nature talks, the new version offers dying trout and starving grizzlies. Welcome to the National Parks of the year 2050 if climate change is allowed to stake its claim.
Rothstein describes National Parks 2050 as a call to action:
“We have the ability to outsmart the issues highlighted in National Parks 2050, but we need to act now. From Franklin to Fuller, America has been made its greatest by embracing ingenuity and innovation. If we dive headfirst into inventing for a brighter future, we can prevent National Parks 2050 from becoming a reality.”
“I hope the series inspires everyone,” she continues, “from everyday citizens to policy makers, to acknowledge the issues ahead, admit that climate stewardship is a non-partisan issue, and work together to find the solutions I know we’re capable of creating.”
There are seven reimagined posters in all, which you can see here.
During the campaign, it was easy to scoff at President Donald Trump’s promise to build a “big, beautiful” concrete wall along the US-Mexico border. It sounded, well, preposterous.
But now the prospect of a border wall is quite real. Trump intends to request $4.1 billion over the next two years to build it. The Department of Homeland Security is reviewing proposals for designs that are “physically imposing in height” and “aesthetically pleasing in color.”
There’s a long debate over whether physical barriers on the border actually curb the illicit flow of people and drugs. The Border Patrol, which is backing Trump’s plan, says they’re a “vital tool.” Migration experts say they’re more symbolic than effective.
But what is undeniable is that the 654 miles of walls and fences already on the US-Mexico border have made a mess out of the environment there. They’ve cut off, isolated, and reduced populations of some of the rarest and most amazing animals in North America, like the jaguar and ocelot (also known as the dwarf jaguar). They’ve led to the creation of miles of roads through pristine wilderness areas. They’ve even exacerbated flooding, becoming dams when rivers have overflowed.
And while we don’t yet know exactly what path Trump’s new wall would take, DHS has been eyeing unfenced areas in an East Texas wildlife refuge that conservationists consider some of the most ecologically valuable areas on the border — home to armadillos and bobcats. If a wall were to slice through these ecosystems, it could cause irreversible damage to plants and animals already under serious threat.
Unprecedented coral bleaching in consecutive years has damaged two-thirds of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, aerial surveys have shown.
The bleaching – or loss of algae – affects a 1,500km (900 miles) stretch of the reef, according to scientists. The latest damage is concentrated in the middle section, whereas last year’s bleaching hit mainly the north. Experts fear the proximity of the two events will give damaged coral little chance to recover.
James Cook University said governments must urgently address climate change to prevent further bleaching.
Coral bleaching is caused by rising water temperatures resulting from two natural warm currents.
It is exacerbated by man-made climate change, as the oceans are absorbing about 93% of the increase in the Earth’s heat.
Bleaching happens when corals under stress drive out the algae known as zooxanthellae that give them color.
If normal conditions return, the corals can recover, but it can take decades, and if the stress continues the corals can die.
Some big American coal companies have advised President Donald Trump’s administration to break his promise to pull the United States out of the Paris Climate Agreement — arguing that the accord could provide their best forum for protecting their global interests.
Remaining in the global deal to combat climate change will give U.S. negotiators a chance to advocate for coal in the future of the global energy mix, coal companies like Cloud Peak Energy Inc. and Peabody Energy Corp. told White House officials over the past few weeks, according to executives and a U.S. official familiar with the discussions.
“The future is foreign markets, so the last thing you want to do if you are a coal company is to give up a U.S. seat in the international climate discussions and let the Europeans control the agenda,” said the official.
In Cloud Peak’s view, staying in the agreement and trying to encourage “a more balanced, reasonable and appropriate path forward” on fossil fuel technologies among signatories to the accord seems like a reasonable stance.
The coal industry is interested in ensuring that the Paris deal provides a role for low-emission coal-fired power plants and financial support for carbon capture and storage technology, the officials said. They also want the pact to protect multilateral funding for international coal projects through bodies like the World Bank.
Just in time for spring trout season, anglers get an extra section of pristine river to savor. And the gift extends to all nature lovers who now get to roam free on a new – and critical – slice of Pisgah National Forest southwest of Asheville, NC.
Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy, Trout Unlimited, the U.S. Forest Service and South Asheville landowner Tom Oreck recently closed on a decade-long effort to protect the 84-acre Big Creek Lodge Tract in the Mills River Recreation Area of Henderson County.
Recreation and conservation groups have been concerned about the inholding for decades, which had been slated for an 86-home subdivision.
The land provides access to the North Fork of the Mills River, which contributes to drinking water for some 140,000 residents of Henderson and Buncombe counties. It is considered pristine delayed harvest trout waters, and is home to rare and threatened aquatic species, including the federally endangered Appalachian elktoe and the eastern hellbender salamander.
The $1.56 million tract prized for having a wilderness-like setting close to the cities of Asheville and Hendersonville is an addition to the Pisgah National Forest.
“It is very significant in part due to its location, completely surrounded by Pisgah National Forest and very nearby the Mills River Campground and Recreation Area,” said Kieran Roe, executive director of the Hendersonville-based Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy.
Aircraft N2UW has flown through all kinds of weather. The twin-propeller plane is sleek, petite, and so packed with scientific gear for studying the atmosphere that there’s barely room for two passengers to squeeze into its back seats. Monitors show radar reflections, gas concentrations and the sizes of cloud droplets.
The plane has flown through tropical rainstorms in the Caribbean, through the gusting fronts of thunderheads over the Great Plains, and through turbulent down-slope winds that spawn dust storms in the lee of the Sierra Nevadas. But the four people on board Aug. 29, 2016, will never forget their flight over Idaho.
The plane took off from Boise at 4 p.m. that day, veering toward the Salmon River Mountains, 40 miles northeast. There, the Pioneer Fire had devoured 29,000 acres and rolled 10 miles up Clear Creek Canyon in just a few hours. Its 100-foot flames leaned hungrily into the slope as they surged uphill in erratic bursts and ignited entire stands of trees at once.
But to David Kingsmill, in the plane’s front passenger seat, the flames on the ground two miles below were almost invisible — dwarfed by the dark thing that towered above. The fire’s plume of gray smoke billowed 35,000 feet into the sky, punching into the stratosphere with such force that a downy white pileus cloud coalesced on its underside like a bruise. The plume rotated slowly, seeming to pulse of its own volition, like a chthonic spirit rising over the ashes of the forest that no longer imprisoned it. “It looked,” says Kingsmill, “like a nuclear bomb.”
Undaunted, Kingsmill and the pilot decided to do what no research aircraft had done: Fly directly through the plume.
The U.S. government’s public lands website has revealed a new face, a wall of coal, as the Trump administration underscores its promotion of an industry that has seen hard times.
The Bureau of Land Management, charged with overseeing programs on vast swathes of public lands, including cattle grazing, coal leasing and recreation, changed the banner photo on its home page sometime this week, web archives show.
The banner of the agency, an arm of the Interior Department, is now dominated by a photo of a man and his truck dwarfed by a coal vein in Wyoming, the country’s top coal-producing state.
Previously, the main photo featured two backpackers – a man and a boy – on a vast mountain range gazing into the sunset.
The image switch came after President Donald Trump signed an order last week to dismantle former President Barack Obama’s climate policies. The order included a reversal of a ban on coal leasing on public lands, where 40 percent of the country’s coal is produced.
Later this week, the banner will be switched to a photo of a recreation theme, BLM said, and it will be rotated with photos that reflect the uses public lands have to offer.
Apparently protection for forests, parks, family farms land and clean water trumps all when it comes to taking political sides.
This is according to a poll released April 4, 2017 that shows residents from all political parties across North Carolina support land and water conservation.
Seventy-three percent of the 600 registered voters polled said they would support funding at the $100 million level for the state’s three publicly funded conservation trust funds.
The three trust funds are the Clean Water Management, Parks and Recreation, and the Agricultural Development and Farmland Preservation trust funds.
“Land and water conservation is one place where Republicans and Democrats – rural, urban, and suburban – can agree. It provides major economic and health benefits as well as protecting North Carolina’s unique natural heritage,” House Appropriations Chairman Chuck McGrady, R-Henderson, said in a statement.
The majority of those polled said they support restoring funding to the pre-recession level of $100 million for the state’s three conservation trust funds to conserve forests, working farms, parks and historic sites, as well as preventing polluted runoff from contaminating rivers, lakes, creeks and groundwater.
The poll showed that 62 percent of Republicans, 73 percent of Independents and 83 percent of Democrats were in favor of the funding. Eighty-six percent of those polled in Western North Carolina supported the funding.
Dressed in bright colors and holding homemade signs, protesters are aiming to draw drivers’ attention to an effort to get Nestle Waters to stop piping water out of the San Bernardino National Forest.
Local activist and organizer Glen Thompson said many people, including himself, are angry that while Nestle paid to run water pipes through the national forest, the company pays no fee for the water rights.
“In other words, Nestle receives millions of gallons of water that rightfully belong to the citizens of California at nothing,” he said. “That’s why we’re here, to let the public know that this Swiss corporation is not welcome on our mountain.”
Nestle Waters North America, the nation’s largest seller of bottled water, has long piped water out of the San Bernardino National Forest to produce Arrowhead Mountain Spring Water.
“We respect individuals’ rights to express their views and welcome open dialogue with members in the communities in which we operate,” Nestle Waters North America said in a statement. The company said Arrowhead Mountain Spring Water has been bottled from springs in the national forest for more than 122 years and those “operations for more than a century point to our commitment to long-term sustainability.”
A 2015 investigation revealed that the Forest Service has been allowing Nestle to continue drawing water from the national forest using a permit that lists 1988 as the expiration date. The Forest Service subsequently announced a review of the permit and in March 2016 released a proposal to grant the company a new five-year permit to operate its wells and pipelines in the mountains near San Bernardino, CA.
Under the proposed management plan, water extraction would only be permitted when it’s demonstrated “that the water extracted is excess to the current and reasonably foreseeable future needs of forest resources.”
National Park Week is America’s largest celebration of national heritage. It’s about making great connections, exploring amazing places, discovering open spaces, enjoying affordable vacations, and enhancing America’s best idea—the national parks. It’s all happening in your national parks.
Travelers who want to enjoy the warmer weather in the outdoors can take advantage of free admission to U.S. national parks for two weekends this month as part of National Park Week.
In 2017 fees will be waived April 15-16 and April 22-23 at parks that typically charge for entrance.
That means travelers can enjoy popular parks like California’s Yosemite National Park, Utah’s Bryce Canyon, and Florida’s Everglades National Park for free.
You will also be able to take part in events like ranger-led bike rides and talks throughout the parks, all while enjoying everything from giant sequoias to cascading waterfalls.
The parks will also be waiving fees this year on August 25 for the National Park Service’s birthday, on September 30 for National Public Lands Day, and on November 11-12 for Veteran’s Day.
For those planning to head to a park this April, there are plenty of hidden areas to enjoy in even the most popular parks.
Those old enough to remember 1969 may recall that it was a very good year for music, moon landings, and the New York Mets. But it was a spectacularly bad time for the American environment.
On January 28 of that year, an offshore oil drill violently ruptured six miles off the California coast. Over the next 10 days, nearly 1,000 gallons of crude oil spilled into the Santa Barbara Channel every hour. Much of it seeped onto Central Coast beaches and the shorelines of the pristine Channel Islands, killing thousands of birds, dolphins, seals, and other marine life. Between that blowout and a second one discovered on the ocean floor two weeks later, the Santa Barbara oil spill became the biggest of its kind in California history—and remains, nearly half a century later, the third-largest oil spill in U.S. history (behind the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill and the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster).
Then, on June 22, 1969, Cleveland’s Cuyahoga River quite literally caught fire. Thanks to images that indelibly made their way onto front pages and nightly newscasts (and even into pop songs), Americans cringingly bore witness to what happens when we allow waterways to fill up with so much flammable material that they become—in defiance of our concept of natural order—fire hazards.
Not every toxic cloud has a silver lining, of course, but good things did come out of these disasters. On the first day of 1970, President Richard M. Nixon inaugurated a new era of federal environmental protection. He signed into law the National Environmental Policy Act—which, among other things, created the Council on Environmental Quality, a special office within the executive branch that coordinates environmental efforts undertaken by various agencies. Less than four months later, 20 million people took part in the very first Earth Day to protest environmental disasters of 1969.
Out of this recognition, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was born on December 2, 1970. Bringing up this bit of history illustrates a point that’s all too easy to forget. Much of what we now think of as the modern “environmental movement” represented a reflexive response to disaster—or, at the very least, a response to the disturbing feeling that governmental negligence was allowing a bad situation to grow worse.