Conservation & Environment

What does it take to be a National Park Service law enforcement ranger?

Posted by on Apr 29, 2018 @ 6:53 am in Conservation | 0 comments

What does it take to be a National Park Service law enforcement ranger?

Danielle Breakell graduated from her law enforcement training academy this week. She has the skills to take down an armed fugitive, as well as a black bear or a bison.

She’ll be able to read perpetrators their Miranda rights, while also citing the Endangered Species Act. And she will gladly write tickets for littering along with driving under the influence.

Breakell, 29, is one of 22 cadets who graduated this week, from the 100th class of the National Park Service Seasonal Law Enforcement Training Academy at Southwestern Community College, where students learn the basics of policing with a specialty in park protection.

The school, established in 1978, was one of the first two in the country to train law enforcement rangers to protect the natural resources and people visiting national parks, and remains one of only seven in the country where park rangers get their jump start.

The park ranger job market is hot. The National Park Service, which includes 417 sites from the Statue of Liberty to Great Smoky Mountains National Park to Alaska’s Denali to Hawaii’s Volcanoes, has reached an all-time popularity high.

Last year, 331 million people visited national parks, tying a record set in 2016, according to the Park Service. The most visited of all park sites was the Blue Ridge Parkway, with 16.1 million visitors. The most visited national park was the Smokies with 11.3 million visitors.

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Smokies Celebrates 20 Years of New Species Discoveries

Posted by on Apr 27, 2018 @ 12:12 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

Smokies Celebrates 20 Years of New Species Discoveries

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is celebrating 20 years of conducting biodiversity inventories. Park managers, biologists, educators, and non-park scientists initiated an effort to discover all life in the Smokies through an All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory (ATBI) on Earth Day in 1998. The non-profit partner Discover Life in America (DLIA), created in 1998, coordinates the inventory. Over the last 20 years, biologists have not only documented thousands of plants and animals, but have also identified nearly 1,000 new species previously unknown to science.

“We are grateful for the partnership between the park and DLIA, and the variety of institutions and individuals that have participated in this project,” said Superintendent Cassius Cash. “This has been a tremendous scientific effort to help us better understand the Smokies and how we might better protect it for the next generation of owners.”

The Smokies have a long history of research, and prior to the ATBI, about 10,000 species were documented in the park. That number is now nearly doubled, and some of the more surprising new records include species of well-studied groups like mammals and vascular plants. Some of the new species to science found during the ATBI include 31 moths, 41 spiders, 78 algae, 64 beetles, 29 crustaceans, 58 fungi, 21 bees and their relatives, 18 tardigrades (known as waterbears), and 270 bacteria! With collection records from every corner of the park, managers now have a much better understanding of what species exist and what environmental conditions they require.

Through the years, the park and DLIA have hosted over 1,000 researchers from 150 different universities, museums, and institutions in the US and around the world. Numerous ATBI-related education events and workshops have been held since 1998, involving over 200,000 students and 6,500 teachers. Over 1,000 volunteers have been trained by DLIA in citizen science workshops and have contributed over 60,000 volunteer hours toward this project. In addition to the park and DLIA, the Friends of the Smokies and Great Smoky Mountains Association have significantly contributed to this ATBI through financial support.

“At the heart of this project are the scientists, park staff, and volunteers who fan out across the park on a regular basis to dig in the leaf litter, wade in the streams, and look under rocks for anything and everything alive,” said Todd Witcher, Executive Director of DLIA. “They are the true heroes of the Smokies and the remarkable number of new species discoveries is a testament to their passion and perseverance.”

The Appalachian Mountains are among the oldest mountains in the world. Through the eons, forces such as wind, rain, freezing, and thawing eroded the peaks. Although glaciers did not reach this far south, their influence on the climate combined with the range of elevations and the southwest to northeast orientation of these mountains accounts for the striking variety of living things found in the park. The biological diversity of the Smokies was the impetus for conducting the ATBI, and the project has now grown to be the largest sustained natural history inventory in the United States.

This scientific effort has produced a baseline for one of the most diverse ecosystems in the United States. Park managers now have a better understanding of the resources, and can better predict how changing conditions in the future may impact them. ATBI information also provides a foundation allowing for future park managers to make better-informed decisions.

 

Chestnut Mountain: A Gift for All of Tennessee

Posted by on Apr 27, 2018 @ 6:52 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Chestnut Mountain: A Gift for All of Tennessee

Alex Wyss vividly recalls his first visit to Chestnut Mountain in 2013. “I was struck by how spectacular this property was,” says the Director of Conservation for The Nature Conservancy in Tennessee. “A very large forested property—nearly 6,000 acres. In great condition. Gorgeous scenic views.

We already knew it was in a biologically rich area and in close proximity or adjacent to several other protected lands on the Cumberland Plateau. We felt it needed to be protected, and we hoped that maybe we could help Bridgestone with management of these forests. Little did we know then what our relationship would lead to.”

On April 25, 2018, Bridgestone Americas Inc. announced the donation of all 5,763 acres of the company’s Chestnut Mountain property to The Nature Conservancy in Tennessee. The property, which will be known as the Bridgestone Nature Reserve at Chestnut Mountain, is located in White County on the Cumberland Plateau, 80 miles east of Nashville. It is the largest donation in the history of The Nature Conservancy in Tennessee.

The property’s namesake, Chestnut Mountain, is the highest peak in White County, with an elevation of about 2,000 feet. The nature preserve includes mixed hardwood and pine forests, wooded mountain gulfs, caves, the headwaters of the Caney Fork River and Billy Branch Lake, which provides drinking water for communities in the area.

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Climate change could make thousands of tropical islands ‘uninhabitable’ in coming decades, new study says

Posted by on Apr 26, 2018 @ 7:13 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Climate change could make thousands of tropical islands ‘uninhabitable’ in coming decades, new study says

More than a thousand low-lying tropical islands risk becoming “uninhabitable” by the middle of the century — or possibly sooner — because of rising sea levels, upending the populations of some island nations and endangering key U.S. military assets, according to new research.

The threats to the islands are twofold. In the long term, the rising seas threaten to inundate the islands entirely. More immediately, as seas rise, the islands will more frequently deal with large waves that crash farther onto the shore, contaminating their drinkable water supplies with ocean saltwater, according to the research. The islands’ face climate-change-driven threats to their water supplies “in the very near future.”

The study focused on a part of the Marshall Islands in the equatorial Pacific Ocean. The research also has ramifications for the U.S. military, whose massive Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site sits, in part, on the atoll island of Roi-Namur — a part of the Marshall Islands and the focus of the research.

The U.S. military supported the research in part to learn about the vulnerability of its tropical island installations. The Pentagon base at Roi-Namur and surrounding islands supports some 1,250 American civilians, contractors, and military personnel.

The new research — conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and several other institutions in the U.S., Monaco, and the Netherlands — suggests that saltwater contamination of the island’s aquifers would probably occur at just 40 centimeters (about 15 inches) of sea level rise. Five to six centimeters globally have already occurred since the year 2000.

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National Forest Foundation launches ambitious effort to plant 50 million trees

Posted by on Apr 23, 2018 @ 12:06 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

National Forest Foundation launches ambitious effort to plant 50 million trees

On Earth Day 2018, April 22nd, the National Forest Foundation (NFF) launched an ambitious campaign to plant 50 million trees on America’s National Forests. The NFF initiated this effort to address the increasing reforestation needs on our National Forests.

Many Americans are unaware that an estimated one million acres of National Forests need reforestation. Every year, wildfire, insects and disease take their toll on these treasured public lands. The campaign calls attention to this issue and invites Americans to make a difference.

“We will address this need head on by planting trees where they are needed most,” said Mary Mitsos, NFF President. “Planting 50 million trees is an enormous challenge, but in that challenge we see opportunity – opportunity to engage Americans in their National Forests. Since every dollar donated plants a tree, each of us can plant several trees for the cost of a morning latte. It really is that easy.”

Working in partnership with the USDA Forest Service, corporate partners, small businesses and individual supporters, the NFF will direct its support to National Forests that need it most. The Forest Service only plants native trees, chosen specifically for each site. For every dollar contributed, the agency invests two additional dollars in these reforestation projects.

“We see a growing reforestation need across our National Forests,” said Vicki Christiansen, Interim Chief of the Forest Service. “It is fitting the Forest Service joins in launching this campaign as we celebrate Earth Day and work to sustain the natural resources that support our communities, livelihoods and life itself. Through this reforestation effort, the Forest Service and the National Forest Foundation will work together to tackle this challenge. This is a public-private partnership at its best.”

The NFF has already planted more than 11 million trees on National Forests across the country since 2008. Reforestation projects like these:

  • Improve wildlife habitat for the thousands of wildlife species that call our forests home.
  • Restore watershed health, which benefits the millions of Americans who depend on our National Forests for water.
  • Improve forest health to ensure our forests are resilient in the face of climate change.
  • Enhance the beauty of our forests and people’s ability to enjoy them.

The NFF launched its campaign on Earth Day, April 22nd, and invites Americans and American businesses to join this effort. Through June 1st, a generous donor has offered to double every gift from individuals, so the NFF will plant two trees for every $1 donated. To learn more, please visit www.nationalforests.org/50million.

About the National Forest Foundation
The National Forest Foundation promotes the enhancement and public enjoyment of the 193-million-acre National Forest System. By directly engaging Americans and leveraging private and public funding, the NFF improves forest health and Americans’ outdoor experiences. The NFF’s programs inform millions of Americans about the importance of these treasured landscapes. Each year, the NFF restores fish and wildlife habitat, plants trees in areas affected by fires, insects and disease, improves recreational opportunities, and enables communities to steward their National Forests and Grasslands. Learn more at www.nationalforests.org.

 

The cloud forest in our backyard

Posted by on Apr 22, 2018 @ 6:52 am in Conservation, Hiking News | 0 comments

The cloud forest in our backyard

On some mornings, the mountains across our valley radiate in the dawn light, but frequently they are coyly veiled by clouds. These are the highest peaks in the East — ancient mountains, among the oldest on the continent — and a tattered shawl of dark forest drapes over the ridge and its craggy shoulders. This high-elevation dark green forest is one of Western North Carolina’s unique natural features, the Southern Appalachian spruce-fir forest.

This plant community was once ranked as the second-most endangered ecosystems in America and is responsible for the names of iconic mountain ranges: the Blacks and the Balsams. For those who live in or visit the region, it is worth getting to know this bewitching habitat better. This forest’s story is compelling — the more you know, the more endearing these woods are.

If you drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway, hike in Pisgah National Forest or on the Appalachian Trail, visit Mount Mitchell or the high elevations of the Smokies, you will find yourself in this forest, and you should know how singular it is.

Even more important than the quantity of rain is how frequently the mountaintops are blanketed by clouds. When immersed, cloud vapor condenses on the trillions of coniferous needles and drips onto mossy beds below.

This phenomenon, called fog drip, is most famous as the source of water for coastal forests of the Pacific Northwest. Similarly, fog drip is the mechanism that irrigates our high mountain forests — the headwaters of most of our mountain creeks and rivers. The spruce-fir really is a temperate rainforest, or more specifically, a cloud forest.

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Why the Trump administration wants to open ANWR to drilling so quickly

Posted by on Apr 20, 2018 @ 12:39 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

Why the Trump administration wants to open ANWR to drilling so quickly

At the end of last year, President Trump and Congress officially gave the green light to oil and natural gas drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). For Alaskan lawmakers, the inclusion of a drilling provision in the GOP tax bill was a victorious end to a nearly 40-year struggle to develop parts of the resource-rich refuge.

But lifting the decades-old ban on fossil-fuel development in the refuge, it turns out, is just the start of a scramble to actually erect rigs into the air and get drills into the ground.

With control of the executive and legislative branches, Republicans are eager to get through the environmental review process before a Democrat has a chance to regain the White House in 2020.

Officials are racing to auction off drilling rights — because once they do that, it makes the job of again closing ANWR to drilling that much harder in the future.

Today, the Interior Department will kickstart the lengthy environmental review process, allowing members of the public to weigh in on developing the pristine coastal plain. During the 60-day comment period, citizens can write to the agency’s Bureau of Land Management to identify potential environmental issues. The BLM will also hold public hearings in Anchorage, Fairbanks and three Arctic communities in the state.

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Free entrance to all national parks is Saturday to kickoff National Park Week

Posted by on Apr 18, 2018 @ 12:14 pm in Conservation, Hiking News | 0 comments

Free entrance to all national parks is Saturday to kickoff National Park Week

The U.S. Department of the Interior announced its kicking off National Park Week with free entrance to all national parks on Saturday, April 21, 2018. For one week each April, Interior joins with the National Park Foundation to celebrate America’s public lands.

The theme for National Park Week is “Park Stars,” which celebrates everything from starry skies to park features and resources.

Parks across nationwide are hosting a variety of programs and events. Dates below are additional commemorative occasions:

April 21: A Fee Free Day
National Junior Ranger Day
Volunteer Day (part of National Volunteer Week)

April 22: Earth Day
Let’s get out and celebrate the 50th anniversary of the National Trails System and the Wild & Scenic Rivers System.

April 28: Military & Veteran Recognition Day

April 29: National Park Rx Day

 

Planning a spring hike? Step carefully when it’s muddy so you don’t damage trails, habitat

Posted by on Apr 16, 2018 @ 12:37 pm in Conservation, Hiking News | 0 comments

Planning a spring hike? Step carefully when it’s muddy so you don’t damage trails, habitat

The welcome arrival of spring weather will undoubtedly encourage outdoor enthusiasts to take advantage by hitting the many trails in their surrounding communities.

It’s a great time of year to see colorful wildflowers blooming in the desert, before the arrival of rattlesnakes and the stifling summer heat, or spring ephemerals that blossom before the greening of the forests. More people means more stress on a trail, making it more important than ever to know how to take care of them, particularly when they’re muddy from rainstorms and melting of snowpack.

“We have the big muddy time of year when trails are at their most vulnerable,” said Betsy Bloomfield, Cowiche Canyon Conservancy conservation director. “Trails can be completely demolished by use of (them) when the conditions just don’t warrant being there.”

Whether you’re hiking, biking, or horseback riding, here are some tips to ensure everyone can continue to get outdoors while minimizing the negative effects on the environment.

 

Drilling, one mile outside Colorado’s Great Sand Dunes

Posted by on Apr 15, 2018 @ 6:35 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Drilling, one mile outside Colorado’s Great Sand Dunes

Since President Donald Trump was sworn into office last year, the administration has used its “energy dominance” agenda to require states to conduct quarterly sales on public lands across the West. As a result, the Bureau of Land Management is on track to double the acreage open for leasing in 2018, compared to 2017, in six Western states.

This September, 11 parcels totaling 18,358 acres located less than a mile from Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve in south-central Colorado will be up for an online auction, adding to the Interior Department’s growing quota.

The park is famous for its iconic sand dunes and has a reputation for being one of the quietest national parks in the country, according to a soundscape study conducted in 2008. Environmental groups worry that oil and gas drilling would significantly impact that silence, along with local wildlife and nearby wilderness. The growing number of visitors to the area will also be affected.

Some of the parcels are also near the Sangre de Cristo Wilderness Area and overlap the migratory corridors of elk herds and bighorn sheep, said Rebecca Fischer, a spokeswoman for WildEarth Guardians. Because the park is protected, it’s become an attractive place for wildlife to congregate, both inside and outside its boundaries.

“The parcels are in an area where there hasn’t been any kind of oil and gas production before,” said Kimberly Pope, a Sierra Club spokeswoman. “It is a brand-new area with unknown resource availability that just doesn’t seem like a great choice for the BLM to be leasing.”

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Reckoning with History: The parks have been fixed before

Posted by on Apr 13, 2018 @ 12:08 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

Reckoning with History: The parks have been fixed before

When the Great Depression and World War II concluded, the national park system was in disarray. The extractive industry sought greater access to resources, such as timber in Olympic National Park, while bureaucrats eyed sites for future dams, including in Dinosaur National Monument.

Most importantly, the park system was growing as new units were added and more visitors came. Costs accumulated, but congressional appropriations did not keep pace. By the late 1940s, the writer Bernard DeVoto was sounding the alarm about the parks’ “alarming rate” of deterioration, while many roads and trails had to be closed because of safety concerns.

DeVoto first drew attention to the problem in his “Easy Chair” column in Harper’s in 1949, hoping that an enraged public might demand action. That hope was in vain. Four years later, he reported, the Park Service was “beginning to go to hell.” Until Congress was “willing to pay,” he wrote, we should close the parks, with the Army patrolling them to keep them secure. Congress, he declared, needed to act promptly to end this national disgrace.

Beginning in 1956, for a decade the Park Service invested more than $1 billion, adding 2,767 miles of new or repaired roads; nearly 1,000 miles of new or improved trails; parking capacity for 155,306 vehicles; nearly 30,000 new campsites and 114 visitor centers.

But, as the Park Service modernized and urbanized the parks, it ushered in what iconoclastic writer Edward Abbey condemned as “industrial tourism.” A program that finds money for roads and buildings, but not endangered species and climate change, is all but guaranteed to undermine landscapes and generate a backlash among those who wish to see the nation’s parks unimpaired and inviolate.

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White House Abruptly Orders EPA To Loosen Clean Air Rules In Polluter Giveaway

Posted by on Apr 13, 2018 @ 7:13 am in Conservation | 0 comments

White House Abruptly Orders EPA To Loosen Clean Air Rules In Polluter Giveaway

With little notice, President Donald Trump ordered the Environmental Protection Agency on April 12, 2018 to dramatically overhaul national clean air standards and make it easier for industry to pollute in areas where it’s already dangerous to breathe. The executive order puts poor communities and people of color particularly at risk.

The executive order ― titled “Promoting Domestic Manufacturing and Job Creation ― Policies and Procedures Relating to Implementation of Air Quality Standards” ― reverses an Obama-era decision. The 2015 decision allowed the EPA to intervene in states that fail to meet National Ambient Air Quality Standards, forcing them to adopt federal regulatory plans to reduce ozone emissions that generally come from power plants, refineries and cement factories.

It opens the door to drastic changes in how science is used to set clean air rules, disqualifying huge amounts of peer-reviewed public health research in favor of industry-backed studies in a move that builds on steps EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has already taken.

The order requires the EPA to speed up reviews of state plans to reduce air pollution, setting a strict 18-month deadline, and complete reviews of all pre-construction permits for industry within a year. Construction permitting is primarily a state-level issue; the language in the order, critics say, appears to be a dog whistle to polluters, suggesting the EPA would pull back on any oversight.

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Inspector General: Zinke’s Reassignment Of Native Americans And Climate Scientists Possibly Illegal

Posted by on Apr 12, 2018 @ 11:57 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Inspector General: Zinke’s Reassignment Of Native Americans And Climate Scientists Possibly Illegal

The reassignment of dozens of senior career Interior Department (DOI) officials last year may have violated federal law, a damning internal report released April 11, 2018 found. But investigators with the DOI Inspector General’s office said they were unable to say definitively because the agency failed to properly document their reasons for ousting the employees.

“Absent documentation, we could not independently determine whether or not the ERB complied with the Federal legal requirements,” said the report, referring to a board made up of Trump administration political appointees at the agency.

The report did determine, however, that the board did not properly consider the officials’ qualifications, time in office, or other valid criteria when selecting them to be forced out of their jobs.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has for several months been under fire for the reassignments, which Democrats say may have discriminated against department employees based on their political ideology or their race. Though the IG report does not mention it, a review found that a full third of those reassigned are Native American — a potential violation of both federal anti-discrimination laws and the agency’s own Indian Preference rules.

The report also noted that, according to government guidelines, the board is supposed to be made up of a mix of non-partisan career officials and political appointees. But under Zinke, its voting membership is comprised solely of Trump administration picks.

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Greenland’s ice is melting much faster than we thought. Here’s why that’s scary.

Posted by on Apr 12, 2018 @ 6:31 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Greenland’s ice is melting much faster than we thought. Here’s why that’s scary.

Our planet is warming and its cryosphere — Earth’s frozen regions — is melting. This we know.

The Arctic, in particular, is warming at a rate twice as fast as the rest of the planet. And this winter, the sheet of Arctic sea ice that grows and shrinks in an annual cycle was at its second lowest extent since scientists began measuring it with satellites.

But the ice that floats in the ocean is far from the only ice in the Arctic scientists track closely to understand the effects and impacts of climate change.

The island of Greenland, population 56,000, is almost entirely covered in ice that is more than a mile thick in some areas. That’s roughly 8 percent of all ice on Earth.

And since 1998, it’s been melting, adding about 0.027 inches a year to global sea levels. If the entire Greenland ice sheet were to melt, it would raise global sea levels by 20 feet. That’s enough to inundate much of lower Manhattan in New York City and flood the National Mall in Washington, DC.

So figuring out how much and how fast this ice is thawing is crucial to the fate of the planet as we know it. And new research looking at these questions is pretty ominous.

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Rainbow Falls Trail Project Continues on Mt. LeConte

Posted by on Apr 11, 2018 @ 6:54 am in Conservation, Hiking News | 0 comments

Rainbow Falls Trail Project Continues on Mt. LeConte

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials announced that the second phase of a 2-year trail rehabilitation project will begin Monday, April 16 on the popular Rainbow Falls Trail. The trail will be closed April 16, 2018 through November 15, 2018 on Monday mornings at 7:00 a.m through Thursday evenings at 5:30 p.m. weekly. Due to the construction process on the narrow trail, a full closure is necessary for the safety of both the crew and visitors. The trail will be fully open each week on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday and on federal holidays.

“I encourage everyone to hike the trail this season on the open days to see the transformation taking place first hand,” said Park Superintendent Cassius Cash. “It is truly inspiring to see the craftsmanship our Trails Forever crew brings into the design of trail improvements. The rehabilitated sections are not only more sustainable and safer for hikers, but they also blend naturally into the landscape.”

The Trails Forever crew will continue to focus rehabilitation efforts on several targeted locations along the 6-mile trail to improve visitor safety and stabilize eroding trail sections. Rainbow Falls Trail is one of the most popular trails in the park leading hikers to Rainbow Falls and Mt Le Conte. The planned work will improve overall trail safety and protect natural resources by reducing trail braiding and improving drainage to prevent further erosion.

Hikers can still reach Mt. LeConte, LeConte Lodge, and the Le Conte Shelter by using one of the other four open trails to the summit including Alum Cave, Boulevard, Trillium Gap, and Brushy Mountain trails. The Mt. LeConte Lodge will remain open and can be accessed from any of these routes during the Rainbow Falls Trail closure.

The Mt. LeConte backcountry shelter will be closed to the public for eight, 7-night periods beginning July 18 through October 24 to accommodate members of the American Conservation Experience trail crew working on the rehabilitation project. For more information on the shelter closure, please contact the Backcountry Office at 865-436-1297.

Trails Forever is a partnership program between Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Friends of the Smokies. The Friends have donated over $1,500,000 to support the program, in part through the generosity of the Knoxville based Aslan Foundation. The Trails Forever program provides the opportunity for a highly skilled trail crew to focus reconstruction efforts on high use and high priority trails in the park including the recently restored Alum Cave Trail, Chimney Tops Trail, and Forney Ridge Trail. The program also provides a mechanism for volunteers to work alongside the trail crew on these complex trail projects to assist in making lasting improvements to preserve the trails for future generations.

For more information about you can volunteer to support the Trails Forever program, please visit https://friendsofthesmokies.org/trailsforever/volunteer/.

 

The Future Is the Car-Free National Park

Posted by on Apr 10, 2018 @ 12:40 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

The Future Is the Car-Free National Park

Lately we’ve heard a lot from the bureaucrats at the National Park Service about a looming budget crisis. They urgently need $12 billion for maintenance of roads, bridges, visitor centers, trails, and campgrounds worn thin by an enormous increase in visitation. In 2015, the Park Service logged 300 million visitors, the most in its recorded history. The number rose to 330 million in 2016 and stayed there during 2017. Overcrowding on the trails, congestion on the roads, tourists aghast at being packed together—this is the new norm on a planet with too many people.

What the Park Service doesn’t mention is that the infrastructure crisis is in no small part the result of its policy of maintaining easy access for the convenience of the automobile. The Service has long been wedded to the provision of amenities for the mechanized public. In its own documents, it describes the “strong influence” of industrial tourism—what it called “corporate recreational tourism”—that has prevailed since the advent of auto-touring in the 1930s. Motorists were a key constituency to be coddled.

The Service was so deeply in thrall to the automobile that it opposed passage of one of the greatest pieces of environmental legislation of the 20th century, the Wilderness Act of 1964. The Wilderness Act empowers Congress to designate vast tracts of public domain where industrial development and mechanized transport are barred. “Wilderness designations in parks,” wrote historian William Graf, “would restrict management options, prevent facilities development, limit potential visitorship, and perhaps curtail budget increases.”

The Service, in desperate straits, proposed raising park entry fees [since backed down] and, in at least one national park, Zion in southern Utah, a reservation system for citizens wishing to enter. In 2000, Zion banned cars from the park, proudly instituting what it called “green transit,” a propane-powered bus-shuttle system. This did nothing to ameliorate the problem of overcrowding. Visitorship in Zion hit 4.3 million in 2016, a 60 percent increase from a decade earlier.

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Please Don’t Stack Rocks

Posted by on Apr 9, 2018 @ 12:17 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

Please Don’t Stack Rocks

“Cairns,” Gaelic for “heap of stones” seems to be the new creek art. Surely when you’ve been out on a streamside hike in recent years you’ve noticed a pile or two of someone’s creative intrusion.

These temporary natural installations may be an expression of patience and balance to the ego of the builder, but to some naturalists who practice “Leave No Trace” ethics, it is often seen as nothing more than evidence left behind that the environment was disturbed by a human intrusion, natural graffiti, and vandalism of habitat. These disturbances and geological games of Jenga leave behind more than just footprints, and can be potentially damaging to the life cycles of organisms connected to the river rock.

Beyond the visual disturbance of natural environments, each rock in a stream is blooming with life. Everything from aquatic plants to micro-organisms are attached to those rocks. They also create habitat for crustaceans and nymphs. Crevices in the rocks hold eggs from trout or salmon to be fertilized, supporting those eggs until they grow into fry and begin feeding off the very critters that were hatching off of and crawling around those same rocks.

You could be lifting the roof off the home of a crawfish, or disturbing the cradle for the future generations of already dwindling hellbender havens. Removing rocks from fragile stream habitats is essentially the equivalent to removing bricks from someone else’s home while raiding their refrigerator and food pantry.

The mentality of “just one won’t hurt anything” takes away from the fact this growing trend has become a problem for national parks where millions of visitors frequent each year. Please don’t do this. Yes it looks cool, but why do you get to decide what the scenery should look like? Leave that to Mother Nature.

Learn more here…