Conservation & Environment

Redwood grove being loved to death

Posted by on Dec 2, 2017 @ 11:50 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Redwood grove being loved to death

Awhile back, it used to be that the grouping of eight old-growth redwood trees deep within Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park near Crescent City, California could be reached only by following clues in a book about tree hunters. There were no direct hiking trails, and the nearest road was miles away.

Then, in 2011, someone uploaded a geotag marking the trees’ location online. As many as 50 people a day began finding their way to the grove and loving it to death.

The onslaught of tourists bushwhacking through the rain forest is slowly killing the giant trees, park officials say.

There are many trees in the park, but none quite as large as the titans. The biggest ones — Del Norte Titan, at 307 feet, and the 230-foot Lost Monarch — are the fourth- and fifth-largest known coastal redwoods in the world.

Visitors have stripped layers of bark from the redwoods’ trunks while posing for tree-hugging photos, destroyed huge swathes of ferns on the forest floor and left behind trash such as protein bar wrappers and plastic bottles. And the culprits aren’t hard to find, if the hundreds of geotagged photos on Instagram are any indication.

The damage can be reversed by building elevated walkways and viewing platforms, similar to the ones used at Muir Woods. But it’s going to cost more than $1.4 million.

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Indiana Dunes could be next national park: Here is how it compares

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

Indiana Dunes could be next national park: Here is how it compares

Should the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore becomes the 60th national park, it would be the first in Indiana, and at about 40 miles from downtown, the nearest to Chicago by a large distance.

The U.S. Senate must vote on the proposal, and it then needs to be signed by President Donald Trump. Indiana Sen. Joe Donnelly said he is hopeful the Senate will pass the measure soon. The U.S. House unanimously passed the bill in early November.

“The Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore is one of our state’s most beautiful natural resources. Designating the dunes as a national park would give the area the recognition it deserves, attracting more visitors and helping further grow the economy in northwest Indiana,” Donnelly said in a statement.

The Dunes are already a popular destination, with nearly 1.7 million visitors in 2016.

The mechanics of the change are simple: The name would change from Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore to Indiana Dunes National Park. All aspects of how the park is operated stay the same.

Indiana Dunes would be the fourth smallest national park, and the second smallest in the continental U.S. (two of the smaller parks are in the U.S. Virgin Islands and American Samoa).

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Forest crews use hand tools to restore Anaconda-Pintler trails damaged by fire

Posted by on Dec 1, 2017 @ 6:59 am in Conservation, Hiking News | 0 comments

Forest crews use hand tools to restore Anaconda-Pintler trails damaged by fire

The Meyers fire didn’t get a lot of press this summer, but it won’t go unnoticed among fans of the Anaconda-Pintler Wilderness.

As it blackened about 62,000 acres of the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest near Philipsburg, Montana, it made some particularly vigorous runs through the Pintler Ranger District. Even before the flames died, U.S. Forest Service backcountry workers started inventorying the damage to their trails and campsites.

Their to-do list showed 40 miles of trail covered with downfall, burned bridges and erosion trouble. The Wisdom/Wise River Ranger District has another 10 miles that is burn-damaged. And the Bitterroot side has 20 miles of work — all in a wilderness area that has only 250 miles of trail across all three ranger districts of west-central Montana.

The Wilderness Act of 1964 prohibits use of mechanized equipment in wilderness areas, so any repair work by law must be done with traditional, hand-powered methods. That meant crosscut saws, axes and mules.

A 20-person crew set out on the last week of September, just when the weather went from fire season to rain and snow.

“We put in a whole summer’s worth of work in four weeks,” the crew lead said. “They took out 450 burned snags felled with crosscuts or axes. There were 1,250 downed trees cut out of the trails. That puts us ahead for next year, but we still have at least as many that we didn’t get to.”

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Solar panel prices plunge by a shocking 26 percent in one year

Posted by on Nov 30, 2017 @ 11:41 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Solar panel prices plunge by a shocking 26 percent in one year

Prices for new wind and solar plants continue to plunge at an astonishing pace.

Driven by steadily improving technology and the use of auctions to set prices, the cost of solar and wind dropped 25 percent this past year — and even more in some key emerging markets like China.

That drop comes on top of an 80 percent reduction in the previous 10 years, which is why building new renewable energy sources is now cheaper than just running old coal and nuclear plants.

China’s electricity price on a solar deal for Inner Mongolia plunged 44 percent last year. And solar module prices dropped 26 percent.

Auctions have been driving down renewable energy prices everywhere they’ve been used. In a Saudi Arabian auction last month, solar crushed its own record for cheapest electricity “ever, anywhere, by any technology” — so much so that the lowest price for solar power last year is the highest price now.

At the same time, renewable technology just keeps improving. For instance, wind turbines today can generate the same power in an 11 mile-per-hour wind that turbines a decade ago required a 22 mph wind for.

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Ordinary citizens collecting scientific data has become important to researchers

Posted by on Nov 29, 2017 @ 7:05 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Ordinary citizens collecting scientific data has become important to researchers

Public participation in gathering and analyzing large amounts of scientific data began as a major trend about 15 years ago in a movement called “citizen science.”

When asked if scientists could produce this same work without the help of citizen scientists, the general refrain was typically “absolutely not.”

The internet and the availability of powerful, yet simple tools such as a smartphones, created conditions in which almost anyone can participate in scientific research in ways that were impossible just a few years ago.

“Like many good ideas it takes a while to germinate and, all of a sudden, it has exploded,” said Joaquin Ruiz, dean of the University of Arizona College of Science, talking about ordinary citizens gathering data for scientific research.

Phenologists study the timing of seasonal events, such as when cactus bloom, insects hatch or birds migrate. The timing of certain biological events could shift as a result of climate change.

“There are consequences to this,” said Theresa Crimmins, assistant director of the National Phenology Network. “The biggest is that not all species respond in the same way and at the same time (to climate change)…we see phenological mismatches emerge.”

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Black bears back in eastern Nevada after 80-year absence

Posted by on Nov 28, 2017 @ 6:55 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Black bears back in eastern Nevada after 80-year absence

More than 500 black bears have returned to parts of their historic range in the Great Basin of Nevada where the species disappeared about 80 years ago, scientists say.

A new study says genetic testing confirms the bears are making their way east from the Sierra ranges north and south of Lake Tahoe along the California line.

In some cases, recent generations have moved hundreds of miles to sites near the Utah line, marking a rare example of large mammals recolonizing areas where they’d been wiped out.

“The recovery of large carnivores is relatively rare globally,” said Jon Beckmann, a conservation scientist for the Wildlife Conservation Society in Bozeman, Montana, who co-authored the new study.

It concludes that bear populations originating in western Nevada mountain ranges have the genetic diversity necessary to sustain the new subpopulations.

The data provides ammunition for advocates of increased protection of wildlife corridors for a number of species in the basin — a vast stretch of desert and mountain ranges that covers most of Nevada, half of Utah and parts of Idaho, Wyoming, Oregon and California.

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New land added to Nantahala National Forest for water quality, hiking trails

Posted by on Nov 26, 2017 @ 11:58 am in Conservation, Hiking News | 0 comments

New land added to Nantahala National Forest for water quality, hiking trails

  A highly prized 50-acre slice of forest will remain forever untouched as it officially becomes part of the Nantahala National Forest.

The relatively small Fires Creek parcel on the Cherokee-Clay county line of the 500,000-acre forest was the object of a contentious, decade-long battle among the private landowners, the U.S. Forest Service and forest visitors who wanted to see a wilderness-like setting remain in its natural state.

Everyone involved seemed to walk away satisfied Nov. 20, 2017 when the nonprofit Mainspring Conservation Trust closed on the property to keep Fires Creek forever preserved in conservation.

The outright purchase of the land, which contains no structures, was a welcome holiday gift for the land trust and the many forest users including hikers, hunters and anglers who are still seeking solitude in nature.

“Fires Creek is designated as an Outstanding Resource Water, the highest designation available in North Carolina,” said Sharon Taylor, Mainspring executive director.

The Nantahala National Forest is a sweeping swath of forest that covers some of the most rugged, remote, scenic country in the mountains of Western North Carolina. It is home to several wilderness areas, including Ellicott Rock, Southern Nantahala and Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock.

The forest is crisscrossed with trails, streams, lakes, wildlife corridors, waterfalls, precious plants and wildlife, all of it undeveloped except for campgrounds and hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding trails.

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UNESCO World Heritage sites in New Mexico

Posted by on Nov 26, 2017 @ 5:33 am in Conservation | 0 comments

UNESCO World Heritage sites in New Mexico

When people think of the United States, ancient ruins are typically not the first thing that pops to mind. Many New Mexicans are so accustomed to ancient ruins and petroglyphs in their backyard that they no longer marvel at their mysteries or splendor. Overlooking the historical and natural treasures of New Mexico is a mistake, detracting from the overall experience.

There are impressive ruins that are as old as the Pyramids tucked into cliffs of remote canyons throughout the Southwest. These large, long abandoned settlements are a testament to vibrant, thriving cultures that flourished in this area long before the conquistadors arrived. The history and ancient traditions aren’t isolated to ruins. Taos Pueblo is the longest continuously inhabited place in the United States and Acoma Pueblo is the oldest continuously inhabited community.

Who got here first could be a point of ongoing contention, but the reality is that the area has been populated for thousands of years, with vibrant and unique art, cultural and spiritual traditions.

New Mexico’s variety of activities and diversity of terrain is extraordinary for anyone who loves culture, history or nature. A testament to this fact is the number of World Heritage sites. New Mexico has more than any other state with 3; Taos Pueblo, Chaco Canyon and Carlsbad Caverns. A possible fourth, White Sands is currently under consideration.

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Art Rangers: A New Way to Support the Preservation of National Parks

Posted by on Nov 25, 2017 @ 12:05 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

Art Rangers: A New Way to Support the Preservation of National Parks

The national parks system in the United States has provided enjoyment of the outdoors for millions of people since 1916 when the National Parks Service was founded. For over 100 years we have had access to some of the most incredible hikes and views to be found on the planet. As is similar to any well used item, the parks often fall into disrepair and need to be maintained and upgraded with continued use. The Art Rangers has stepped up to help the National Park Foundation in generating funds to help with the costs of maintenance for the parks.

The idea for their project is simple. The Art Rangers is seeking to collect art inspired by National Parks from creators across the globe. Many of the contributors to the project, so far, are photographers but that doesn’t mean that art submissions have to be limited to photography. The collected artworks are then hosted in online formats as well as in brick-and-mortar galleries. The art can be purchased in either method, online or in person, and 100% of the proceeds are given to the National Park Foundation who then puts the money to work.

The national parks have been there for us for more than a century. They have been the inspiration for countless artists. They have served as classrooms for artists, hikers, youth groups, foreign and domestic tours, high adventure enthusiasts, and many others. With over 84 million acres of landscapes spread across more than 400 national parks in all 50 states, it’s hard to picture what it would be like to not have them anymore. Fortunately, these programs let us help give back. By donating art to The Art Rangers or by purchasing it, or even by spreading the word, we each can help preserve all those beautiful views that we love capturing and sharing.

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Internal watchdog says Dept. of Interior should focus on climate change. It isn’t.

Posted by on Nov 24, 2017 @ 6:25 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Internal watchdog says Dept. of Interior should focus on climate change. It isn’t.

With control of one-fifth of the land area of the United States, the Interior Department is expected to be challenged by more intense wildfires, rising seas and other effects of climate change over the next fiscal year, a new internal government watchdog report has found.

Interior’s Office of the Inspector General listed climate change as among the “most significant management and performance challenges” facing the department, noting the “[e]ffects from a changing climate are a cross-cutting, complex issue.”

To date, however, the Trump administration has taken few, if any, steps to address the emerging threat.

Instead, under the leadership of Secretary Ryan Zinke, Interior has reoriented its mission around boosting the extraction of fossil fuels and other resources on the more than 500 million acres under its management as part of the Trump administration’s sweeping “energy dominance” agenda.

The IG report isn’t a one-off from career employees when it comes to the environment. In October, a report from the Government Accountability Office urged the Trump administration to start paying attention to the price tag of climate change.

The forest fire season, for example, will continue to grow longer because of warming and drier conditions, the report said, further straining the department’s finances. Interior, it said, “will continue to struggle with the increasing financial and logistical difficulties of preventing and fighting wildland fires.”

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Doomsday on Ice

Posted by on Nov 22, 2017 @ 11:42 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Doomsday on Ice

In a remote region of Antarctica known as Pine Island Bay, 2,500 miles from the tip of South America, two glaciers hold human civilization hostage.

Stretching across a frozen plain more than 150 miles long, these glaciers, named Pine Island and Thwaites, have marched steadily for millennia toward the Amundsen Sea, part of the vast Southern Ocean. Further inland, the glaciers widen into a two-mile-thick reserve of ice covering an area the size of Texas.

There’s no doubt this ice will melt as the world warms. The vital question is when.

The glaciers of Pine Island Bay are two of the largest and fastest-melting in Antarctica. Together, they act as a plug holding back enough ice to pour 11 feet of sea-level rise into the world’s oceans — an amount that would submerge every coastal city on the planet. For that reason, finding out how fast these glaciers will collapse is one of the most important scientific questions in the world today.

To figure that out, scientists have been looking back to the end of the last ice age, about 11,000 years ago, when global temperatures stood at roughly their current levels. The bad news? There’s growing evidence that the Pine Island Bay glaciers collapsed rapidly back then, flooding the world’s coastlines — partially the result of something called “marine ice-cliff instability.”

The ocean floor gets deeper toward the center of this part of Antarctica, so each new iceberg that breaks away exposes taller and taller cliffs. Ice gets so heavy that these taller cliffs can’t support their own weight. Once they start to crumble, the destruction would be unstoppable.

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Security firm was paid to build a conspiracy lawsuit against DAPL protesters

Posted by on Nov 20, 2017 @ 6:53 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Security firm was paid to build a conspiracy lawsuit against DAPL protesters

The private security firm TigerSwan, hired by Energy Transfer Partners to protect the controversial Dakota Access pipeline, was paid to gather information for what would become a sprawling conspiracy lawsuit accusing environmentalist groups of inciting the anti-pipeline protests last winter in an effort to increase donations, three former TigerSwan contractors told The Intercept.

For months, a conference room wall at TigerSwan’s Apex, North Carolina, headquarters was covered with a web-like map of funding nodes the firm believed it had uncovered — linking billionaire backers to nonprofit organizations to pipeline opponents protesting at Standing Rock. It was a “showpiece” for board members and ETP executives, according to a former TigerSwan contractor — part of a project that had little to do with the pipeline’s physical security.

In August 2017, the law firm founded by Marc Kasowitz, Donald Trump’s personal attorney for more than a decade, filed a 187-page racketeering complaint against Greenpeace, Earth First, and the divestment group BankTrack in the U.S. District Court of North Dakota, seeking $300 million in damages on behalf of Energy Transfer Partners. The NoDAPL movement, the suit claims, was driven by “a network of putative not-for-profits and rogue eco-terrorist groups who employ patterns of criminal activity and campaigns of misinformation to target legitimate companies and industries with fabricated environmental claims.”

“It was as if the entire campaign came in a box. And of course it did,” the suit alleges. “Its objective was not to protect the environment or Native Americans but to produce as sensational and public a dispute as possible, and to use that publicity and emotion to drive fundraising.”

To learn how the right is now using RICO laws, originally put on the books to combat the Mafia, in order to hinder free speech,

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Viewing platform at Oregon’s famous Multnomah Falls top appears to have survived devastating fire

Posted by on Nov 19, 2017 @ 12:12 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

Viewing platform at Oregon’s famous Multnomah Falls top appears to have survived devastating fire

  A circular, wood deck viewing platform at the top of Multnomah Falls is believed to have survived the Eagle Creek fire, a U.S. Forest Service official said.

“We’ve not gotten up there to assess the condition,” said Rachel Pawlitz, spokeswoman for the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, which is part of the Forest Service, “but from aerial flights, it looks like the structure is intact.”

However, the Forest Service will not know for certain until a visual inspection is made of the platform, which juts into the falls at its 620-foot-high top. The wood deck is perhaps 14 feet in diameter and rimmed by a metal railing on the side closest to the falls and a rock wall near the entrance.

Pawlitz said Forest Service workers have not made the trek to the top after the fire near the lodge was extinguished primarily because rockfall and other debris block the trail. She said the lodge may open in December. However, the trail leading from the lodge will remain closed with no projected opening date.

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Join Park Rangers for Smokies Service Days

Posted by on Nov 18, 2017 @ 12:32 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

Join Park Rangers for Smokies Service Days

Great Smoky Mountains National Park has extended the “Smokies Service Days” program into December 2017 with the addition of three new opportunities. These single-day volunteer projects help complete much needed work across the park and are ideal for people interested in learning more about the park through hands-on service.

Launched in July 2017, this program engages members of the park’s neighboring communities, as well as its visitors. Its single-day service events incorporate both hands-on volunteer experience and a guided enrichment adventure that incorporates both hands-on volunteer experience and a guided enrichment adventure that offers unique insight into the management of park resources.

Each project will provide tasks appropriate for a wide range of ages including students, scout troops, civic organizations, visitors, families, and working adults with busy schedules. Volunteer projects will begin at 9:00 a.m. and last until noon on Saturday mornings. In addition, each project will be followed by an optional enrichment adventure to immerse participants in the abundant natural and cultural resources of the park.

Tools and safety gear, including gloves and high visibility safety vests, will be provided by park staff. Participants will be required to wear long sleeve shirts, long pants, closed-toe shoes, and bring water. Volunteers planning to stay for the optional enrichment activity must also bring a sack lunch.

Those interested in volunteering need to contact Project Coordinator, Logan Boldon, at 865-436-1278 or logan_boldon@partner.nps.gov at least three days prior to the scheduled event date to register.

Service opportunities include:

November 25, 2017: Campground Clean-Up at Elkmont, TN
December 2, 2017: Picnic Area & Campground Clean-Up at Deep Creek, NC
December 9, 2017: Vegetation Management at Elkmont, TN

To learn more about volunteering in the park, please visit the park’s website.

 

Final conservation easement on treasured land atop Bearwallow Mountain

Posted by on Nov 17, 2017 @ 12:27 pm in Conservation, Hiking News | 0 comments

Final conservation easement on treasured land atop Bearwallow Mountain

Standing here more than 2,200 feet above the valley and twice that distance above sea level, it feels like you could reach out and touch the toy-like houses scattered over the orchards miles below. In one of those homes, Nancy Lyda may be gazing up this way, enjoying the view of the mountaintop she and her family have worked to protect for all time.

Nancy’s mother, Pearl Barnwell, had been talking with what was then the Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy (now Conserving Carolina) about preserving some of the 700 acres the family owns atop Bearwallow Mountain in Henderson County, North Carolina.

In 2009, the organization completed a conservation easement, for which the family voluntarily agreed to give up development rights, on 81 acres of the peak. In 2012, the family and the conservancy completed a second easement on 89 acres west to Bearwallow Gap. Then, in May of 2017, the family worked with the conservancy to finalize a third easement on 306 acres east of the peak to Little Bearwallow Mountain.

Now, a total of 476 acres is protected atop Bearwallow, preserving in an undeveloped state the mountain’s familiar humpbacked profile that defines the northeast horizon in Henderson County.

Not all conservation easements allow for public access. But the one the Lyda family has completed on their land will allow Conserving Carolina to complete an important link in its Upper Hickory Nut Gorge Trail and Network. The future 20-mile loop of trails will connect the top of Bearwallow with protected lands such as Conserving Carolina’s 600-acre Florence Nature Preserve east of Gerton, and hundreds more acres protected by the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy around Hickory Nut Gap.

The ring of protected acreage straddles the Eastern Continental Divide and the high elevation lands where northeast Henderson County abuts Buncombe County.

Seven rare natural communities have been documented, including High Elevation Rocky Summit (two subtypes), Montane Cliff, Rich Montane Seep, pasture, and Southern Appalachian Bog. Specifically, the mountain is home to a small bog, between one quarter and one half acre, in the gap between Bearwallow and Little Bearwallow. This appears to be the bearwallow for which the mountain is named.

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Find Your Public Lands Adventure

Posted by on Nov 16, 2017 @ 7:14 am in Conservation, Hiking News | 0 comments

Find Your Public Lands Adventure

Are you craving some fun in the sun, a thrilling outdoor experience or a chance to witness an incredible natural phenomenon? America’s public lands offer endless opportunities for fun and adventure.

Whether you’re an experienced rafter or a novice, the Grand Canyon in Arizona is the perfect place for individual or group rafting trips. Rafting the Colorado River provides one-of-a-kind views of the Grand Canyon’s striking cliffs and wildlife.

With 40 percent of the park underwater, Virgin Islands National Park offers an incredible array of snorkeling opportunities – mangrove shorelines, seagrass beds, fringing and patch reefs to name a few.

Under perfect conditions, spectacular wildflower super blooms carpet the desert ground for a short period at California’s Death Valley. These seas of wildflowers are produced by three necessary factors: well-spaced rainfall, sufficient warmth from the sun and a lack of drying winds.

The rolling hills of Idaho’s St. Anthony Sand Dunes remind visitors of the sea’s waves. Almost 11,000 acres of shifting white quartz on the edge of the Snake River Plain contains huge sand dunes and miles of trails for endless adventure all managed by the Bureau of Land Management.

The U.S. Department of the Interior has compiled a list of some of the best events on public lands throughout the year. From Salt Flat racing in Utah to manatee watching in Florida to casting a line in Georgia, there’s fun for the whole family. This list includes incredible adventures, but it’s only a sampling of the opportunities available on public lands.

 

Democrats Are Shockingly Unprepared to Fight Climate Change

Posted by on Nov 15, 2017 @ 11:45 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Democrats Are Shockingly Unprepared to Fight Climate Change

There’s a wrinkle in how the United States talks about climate change in 2017, a tension fundamental to the issue’s politics but widely ignored.

On one hand, Democrats are the party of climate change. Since the 1990s, as public belief in global warming has become strongly polarized, the Democratic Party has emerged as the advocate of more aggressive climate action. The most recent Democratic president made climate policy a centerpiece of his second term, and the party’s national politicians now lament and oppose the undoing of his work. Concern for the climate isn’t just an elite issue, either: Rank-and-file Democrats are more likely to worry about global warming than the median voter.

On the other hand, the Democratic Party does not have a plan to address climate change. This is true at almost every level of the policy-making process: It does not have a consensus bill on the issue waiting in the wings; it does not have a shared vision for what that bill could look like; and it does not have a guiding slogan—like “Medicare for All”—to express how it wants to stop global warming.

Many people in the party know they want to do something about climate change, but there’s no agreement about what that something may be.

This is not for lack of trying. Democrats struggle to formulate a post-Obama climate policy because substantive political obstacles stand in their way. They have not yet identified a mechanism that will make a dent in Earth’s costly, irreversible warming while uniting the many factions of their coalition. These problems could keep the party scrambling to face the climate crisis for years to come.

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