Conservation & Environment

Water Tables and Wetlands

Posted by on Aug 8, 2018 @ 11:43 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Water Tables and Wetlands

Some wetlands won’t stay wet, according to new research that blends long-term observations and climate projections.

“By end of the 21st century, all five of the wetland sites studied are predicted to become much drier,” says USDA Forest Service research hydrologist Ge Sun.

The five wetlands are long-term research sites located throughout the southeastern U.S. They include:

  • A Carolina bay depressional forested wetland in South Carolina. Carolina bays are always oval, and the tips of the oval always point to the northwest and southeast. Their origins are a mystery.
  • Two lower coastal plain wetlands in North Carolina, an undisturbed bottomland hardwood wetland in the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge and a pocosin that has been drained and replaced with a loblolly pine plantation.
  • Two sites in the pine flatwoods of Florida, a cypress pond wetland and an upland site dominated by slash pine plantation forests.

In some of the wetlands, the water table could retreat by more than eight inches. Water tables in other areas could experience only minor changes. But even small changes in the depth of the water table – just four inches or less – may have profound impacts on wetlands.

Drier wetlands are more likely to burn. Exotic plants may also invade. The changes can cause chain reactions affecting many of the unique functions of wetlands.

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Suspect in Yellowstone bison incident arrested at Glacier National Park

Posted by on Aug 4, 2018 @ 6:53 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Suspect in Yellowstone bison incident arrested at Glacier National Park

August 2, 2018 at approximately 10:45 p.m., Glacier National Park rangers apprehended Raymond Reinke, age 55, from Pendleton, Oregon. Reinke was wanted following an incident earlier this week at Yellowstone National Park when he was captured on video harassing a bison.

Yellowstone National Park Superintendent Dan Wenk said, “We appreciate the collaboration of our fellow rangers in Glacier and Grand Teton national parks on this arrest. Harassing wildlife is illegal in any national park.”

Reinke had been traveling to multiple national parks over the last week. On July 28, he was first arrested by law enforcement rangers at Grand Teton National Park for a drunk and disorderly conduct incident. He spent the night in the Teton County Jail, and was then released on bond.

Following his release, he traveled to Yellowstone National Park. Rangers at Yellowstone stopped his vehicle for a traffic violation on July 31. Reinke appeared to be intoxicated and argumentative. He was cited as a passenger for failure to wear a seat belt. It is believed that after that traffic stop, Reinke encountered the bison.

Yellowstone rangers received several wildlife harassment reports from concerned visitors and found Reinke later that evening, issuing a citation requiring a court appearance. The video of the event surfaced after that citation had been issued.

On Thursday, August 2, Yellowstone rangers connected Reinke’s extensive history, and seeing the egregious nature of the wildlife violation, the Assistant U.S. Attorney requested his bond be revoked. The request was granted and on the night of August 2, a warrant was issued for Reinke’s arrest.

Reinke had told rangers that his plans were to travel to Glacier National Park. Last night, August 2, Glacier National Park rangers began looking for his vehicle. Simultaneous with that search, rangers responded to the Many Glacier Hotel because two guests were arguing and creating a disturbance in the hotel dining room. Rangers identified one of the individuals involved as Reinke.

Glacier rangers transported Reinke to Helena late last night, where they met Yellowstone rangers. Yellowstone rangers transported Reinke to Mammoth Hot Springs and booked him into the Yellowstone Jail. He is scheduled for a court appearance today.



The Plan to Restore Hetch Hetchy

Posted by on Aug 1, 2018 @ 11:56 am in Conservation | 0 comments

The Plan to Restore Hetch Hetchy

Numerous studies, including those by the National Park Service and the University of Wisconsin have confirmed that Hetch Hetchy Valley can be readily restored. The only questions are how much human intervention is desireable and to what degree should we let nature take its course.

Removing some dams can be difficult, because sediment can build up behind them. This will not be a problem at Hetch Hetchy – there is little sediment behind the dam due to the granite rock of the Tuolumne watershed.

The Tuolumne River would immediately return to its natural course. Grasses and sedges would return on their own within a few years, and wildlife would follow.

As the reservoir is drained and the valley floor is exposed, replanting of native plants could take place as soon as the soil dries sufficiently. Revegetation could include the planting of a mixture of native trees and shrubs: black oaks, black cottonwood, white alder, Douglas fir, dogwood, willow, azalea, manzanita, and ceanothus to name a few. These species of trees and shrubs will be planted in areas where they originally existed, along with an understory of herbaceous plants.

The “bathtub ring” from the reservoir will fade naturally and surprisingly quickly, as lichen colonies return. Prescribed burning will be used to prevent conifer encroachment in oak woodlands and meadows.

There is an opportunity to create an experience of visiting Hetch Hetchy Valley that could be, at least in many respects, superior to present-day Yosemite Valley. A management plan that protects its wilderness character while maximizing opportunities for access to visitors with any sense of adventure shoud be followed.

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A Beginner’s Guide to the National Wildlife Refuge System

Posted by on Aug 1, 2018 @ 6:56 am in Conservation | 0 comments

A Beginner’s Guide to the National Wildlife Refuge System

The National Wildlife Refuge System is the largest and most diverse network of lands and waters dedicated to ensuring the long-term future of America’s rich fish and wildlife heritage. Think abundant wildlife, clean water, clean air and world-class recreation.

Managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the lands and waters of the National Wildlife Refuge System fall mostly along the nation’s rivers, coasts and wetlands and across its heartland. But they also extend into deserts, forests, mountains, oceans and the Arctic. From the Caribbean to the Pacific and Maine to Alaska, there are 566 national wildlife refuges.

President Theodore Roosevelt established the Refuge System in 1903 at what is now Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge in Florida. The refuge includes the island and more than 5,400 acres of protected waters and lands in and near Indian River Lagoon on the Atlantic coast.

The Blue Goose, originated by the late cartoonist J.N. “Ding” Darling, is the symbol of the National Wildlife Refuge System. Rachel Carson, author of “Silent Spring” and former U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist, said: “Wherever you meet this sign, respect it. It means that the land behind the sign has been dedicated by the American people to preserving, for themselves and their children, as much of our native wildlife as can be retained along with our modern civilization.”

Learn more here…


Return of the Ghost Cat

Posted by on Jul 31, 2018 @ 6:37 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Return of the Ghost Cat

The photo is black and white. It’s 8:02 p.m., according to the timestamp at the bottom of the image. The flash of the game camera extends to a narrow strip of open dirt, worn with muddy boot prints, the deep tread of machinery—and cat tracks.

Standing in the open, left of center, is a slender, fit mountain lion. It’s dark and the image is grainy, but it’s obvious the hind legs pushing the animal forward are tense with muscle. A tail drops straight away from behind them, curling gently before touching the ground, culminating with a black tip carried delicately over the dirt. The animal’s head and front legs are obscured by the tree in the foreground. The scene, even documented as a still photograph, exudes the silence of a ghost in the night.

And until October 2015, to residents of Obion County, Tennessee, the cat was a ghost. Stories of cougars in the area were only that—prevalent enough, but never confirmed. This photo was different. Submitted by a 19-year-old student and hunter to the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency from a game camera in one of his favorite hunting spots, this image stood out from the slew the agency receives of purported sightings.

A date and timestamp on the image, as well as the SD card on which it was recorded, convinced the TWRA of when it was taken. Superimposing photos of deer taken with the same camera showed the feline was far larger than a housecat—nearly as long as the deer. Photo analysis proved the cat wasn’t doctored or added later. And finally, the TWRA confirmed the location by returning to the scene and matching the tree, soybeans and path the cat walked along. “The TWRA can confirm there was, on September 20, 2015, a cougar in Obion County, Tennessee,” a statement read.

The problem? With the exception of Southern Florida’s small, endangered black panther population, cougars have been extinct east of the Mississippi River since the 1930s.

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These six species are about to be sacrificed for the oil and gas industry

Posted by on Jul 30, 2018 @ 11:37 am in Conservation | 0 comments

These six species are about to be sacrificed for the oil and gas industry

Republicans in the western United States have been trying to whittle away the Endangered Species Act (ESA) since Donald Trump took office. Under new proposals, wildlife managers would limit protections for species designated as “threatened” (a level below endangered), consider the economic costs prior to defending a species, and de-emphasize long-term threats such as climate change.

The proposals follow Republican bills and budget riders that would remove protections for gray wolves in the lower 48 states, exempt the greater sage-grouse from an ESA listing for 10 years, and increase state involvement in conservation decisions.

Those who study the ESA agree that reforms are needed – but the current proposals on the table are unlikely to solve the problems experts identify.

Robin Kundis Craig of the University of Utah says: “The focus should have been on endangered habitats from the beginning. By the time a species is named endangered, it’s a harbinger that something is wrong with the whole system.”

More than 1,600 species are listed as endangered or threatened, and the sage-grouse and others are nearing that threshold.

Here’s how certain species might be affected…


A Hemlock in the Town Square

Posted by on Jul 30, 2018 @ 9:28 am in Conservation | 0 comments

A Hemlock in the Town Square

Throughout the eastern U.S., the invasive hemlock woolly adelgid is decimating hemlock populations. In nursery experiments on young trees, high levels of sunlight reduced the number of adelgids.

Researchers are testing that hypothesis in the forest. If the experiment has positive effects, thinning the canopy could supplement other methods like pesticides and biocontrol.

The experiment measures how the health of a hemlock tree changes when additional sunlight is introduced. For some of the hemlocks, all of the surrounding trees that shaded it were cut down. In other cases, trees were girdled—a strip of bark was removed from around the tree. Sunlight was added gradually as the girdled trees slowly died.

Every component of an ecosystem has connections to many other components, and the function of the whole depends on almost every one of its parts.

The method could be an alternative to other methods which have different trade-offs. Forest managers could select a combination of treatments that would conserve the most hemlocks at the least possible cost.

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The Old Way Is the Best Way

Posted by on Jul 28, 2018 @ 8:54 am in Conservation | 0 comments

The Old Way Is the Best Way

The “Ninemile’s” historic collection of buildings is part typical Forest Service ranger district, part tourist destination, and part working ranch. A standard complement of Forest Service employees works at the station—a silviculturist, District Ranger, trail crews, and others who ensure the District resources are maintained and the public is safe. But the other cowboys seen milling about have a very different role, one that exists only in this corner of western Montana.

More than 200 government-owned mules and horses board here each winter. These mules, and the horses that help wrangle them, make up the Northern Region pack train—a collection of pack animals used to maintain the vast Wilderness areas that stretch across Montana and North Idaho. Each summer, these mules are loaded with food, lumber, water, crosscut saws, and myriad other tools and packed into the Bob Marshall, the Scapegoat, the Great Bear, the Selway Bitterroot, and the other sprawling Wilderness areas managed by Region One of the Forest Service.

In the 1910s and 1920s, the Forest Service relied on horses and mules for nearly all aspects of managing its vast territory. Roads were few and far between, and the Great Burn of 1910 was still fresh in the young agency’s mind. Rangers rode horses across their huge districts and mules packed in fire-fighting tools, supplies, and rations for the growing wildland fire-fighting efforts that had become a primary focus of the Forest Service.

In those early years, the agency relied on hiring the pack animals it needed from local farmers and ranchers, but by the late 1920s, tractors and trucks did most of the farm’s hauling, plowing, and haying, and quality animals were scarce. Recognizing a need for self-provision, the Region One office of the Forest Service leased a one-square mile, run-down ranch in the Ninemile Valley, and the Ninemile Remount Depot was born. Its primary goal: supplying the agency with a reliable supply of sturdy, mountain-ready mules and horses for fighting fires.

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10 (Truly) Hidden National Park Gems

Posted by on Jul 27, 2018 @ 8:56 am in Conservation | 0 comments

10 (Truly) Hidden National Park Gems

The wonders of the National Park System don’t generally play hard to get. Want to see the Grand Canyon? It might be a haul to get to the park, but it will be hard to miss once you’re there.

Some park jewels, however, are simply out of reach for almost every visitor. The reasons for this are multiple. In some cases, the Park Service consciously keeps the location of natural treasures secret to protect them from potential vandalism.

Historical structures may be hard to get to because they’re in remote areas or underwater. Some of the parks’ iconic animals will do all they can to avoid visitors. And a couple of park sites are reserved for the person holding the country’s highest office and his illustrious guests.

Many of the national parks’ wonders are out in plain sight, but some are nearly impossible to see.

Here are 10 of those frustratingly out-of-reach attractions as well as easier-to-get-to alternatives.


The world is hot, on fire, and flooding. Climate change is here.

Posted by on Jul 26, 2018 @ 12:12 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

The world is hot, on fire, and flooding. Climate change is here.

The worst ravages of climate change are on display around the world.

Wildfires have ripped through towns in Greece, floods have submerged parts of Laos, and heat waves have overwhelmed Japan and Great Britain. These are striking examples of climate change playing out in its deadliest forms, and they’re making the term “natural disaster” an outdated concept.

People in Greece were jumping into the Aegean Sea to escape advancing wildfires. More than 70 are confirmed dead so far, and some scenes are horrific. Weather has played a role in drying out forests throughout Europe, where the number of fires this year is 43 percent above normal.

Greece and much of the Mediterranean region is projected to turn into desert over the next several decades, and there are signs that this shift has already begun. As the region’s native trees die off and urban areas expand into neglected forests, firefighting resources are becoming woefully overmatched.

Sweden has called for emergency assistance from the rest of the European Union to help battle massive wildfires burning north of the Arctic Circle. Across the western United States, 50 major wildfires are burning in parts of 14 states, fueled by severe drought. The wildfires burning in Siberia earlier this month sent smoke plumes from across the Arctic all the way to New England, four thousand miles away.

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Trump team stops asking drillers and miners to pay for damage to federal lands

Posted by on Jul 26, 2018 @ 9:24 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Trump team stops asking drillers and miners to pay for damage to federal lands

For years, whenever companies wanted to drill for oil and dig for coal on federally owned lands, they often had to pay to offset any damage their activities had on the environment.

Now, no more. This week the Trump administration scrapped long-standing requirements that companies undertaking energy development and other work on Bureau of Land Management lands make up for any damage by paying the federal government or by purchasing new land to set aside for conservation.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has criticized the concept of “compensatory mitigation,” singling out the practice at a speech before the Western Governors Association.

A new memorandum published Tuesday by BLM, a division of the Interior Department that manages 245 million acres of land or about one-tenth of the nation’s landmass, seeks to strike the practice entirely. “Except where the law specifically requires,” it reads, “the BLM must not require compensatory mitigation from public land users.”

Environmentalists regard such mitigation policies as a bedrock remedy for ecologically destructive development.

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Spring Is Springing Sooner, Throwing Nature’s Rhythms Out Of Whack

Posted by on Jul 25, 2018 @ 7:24 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Spring Is Springing Sooner, Throwing Nature’s Rhythms Out Of Whack

There’s a cycle that starts when the snow melts and the earth thaws high in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains. It’s a seasonal cycle based on timing and temperature, two variables that climate change is pushing increasingly out of sync.

To the outsider, it can be hard to see: Plants still grow, flowers bud, bears awake, and marmots breed. Broad-tailed hummingbirds still trill around the landscape with flowery meadows and granite peaks.

But those who know this ecosystem will tell you something is a little off. The flowers are blooming earlier. The marmots are mating earlier in May. Spring is springing sooner across the Northern Hemisphere, changing natural cycles around the world.

One of the consequences of climate change is that even though everything is happening earlier, they’re not changing at the same rate.

The results can be seen all around. Flowers are blooming before there are bees to pollinate them. Hard frosts are still occurring long after winter’s snow melts away, decimating fruit orchards and budding plants. Allergy season is getting longer.

Some plants and wildlife, taking their thermal cue, have been able to adapt in kind. Some are thriving. Others, however, are being left behind.

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Trump administration officials dismissed benefits of national monuments

Posted by on Jul 23, 2018 @ 12:34 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

Trump administration officials dismissed benefits of national monuments

In a quest to shrink national monuments, senior Interior Department officials dismissed evidence that these public lands boosted tourism and spurred archaeological discoveries, according to documents the department released last week and retracted a day later.

The thousands of pages of email correspondence chart how Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and his aides instead tailored their survey of protected sites to emphasize the value of logging, ranching and energy development that would be unlocked if they were not designated as national monuments.

Comments the department’s Freedom of Information Act officers made in the documents show that they sought to keep some of the references out of public view because they were “revealing [the] strategy” behind the review.

Trump has already massively reduced two of Utah’s largest national monuments, Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante, and has not ruled out altering others.

The new documents show that as Zinke conducted his four-month review, Interior officials rejected material that would justify keeping protections in place and sought out evidence that could buttress the case for unraveling them.

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The global corn crop is vulnerable to the effects of climate change

Posted by on Jul 17, 2018 @ 12:28 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

The global corn crop is vulnerable to the effects of climate change

Corn is the world’s most-produced food crop. But it could be headed for trouble as the Earth warms. A new study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences finds that climate change will not only increase the risk of food shocks from world corn production but that these crop failures could occur simultaneously.

“Increased warming leads to global crop failures because plants are not adapted to really high temperatures,” explains Michelle Tigchelaar, a research associate at the University of Washington. “Most of our crops are really well-adapted for our current climate. There is an optimum temperature at which they grow and beyond that their yields decline. Extreme heat has really negative impacts on … the flowering of crops and also increases their water usage.”

Tigchelaar’s study looked at two warming scenarios: One in which the global mean temperature rises by two degrees Celsius, which is roughly in line with the Paris Agreement targets, and a second scenario of a four-degree warming, which is the temperature rise the world could see by the end of this century if humanity fails to change the way it currently does things.

With two degrees of warming, corn yields would decline by 20 to 40 percent in the main growing regions on Earth; a four-degree-warmer world would see 40 to 60 percent yield declines.

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Sea Level Rise Will Flood Key Internet Infrastructure Within 15 Years

Posted by on Jul 17, 2018 @ 7:22 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Sea Level Rise Will Flood Key Internet Infrastructure Within 15 Years

Critical portions of America’s internet infrastructure, particularly in New York City, Miami, and Seattle, may be submerged and damaged by rising sea levels—possibly within the next 15 years, according to research presented at a meeting of internet researchers.

The peer-reviewed study found that projected increases in coastal flooding over the coming decades—a trend linked with human-driven climate change—could have “a devastating impact on Internet communication infrastructure even in the short term.”

“The most immediate risk to the global internet is the fact that transoceanic fiber optic cables have landing sites that will be underwater in the coming years due to climate change-related sea water inundation,” said senior author Paul Barford, a University of Wisconsin-Madison professor of computer science.

By overlaying the Internet Atlas, a global map of the internet’s physical infrastructure, with the Sea Level Rise Inundation estimates generated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the team was able to pinpoint where the most at-risk hardware is located.

One of the study’s most alarming findings is the short lead time before major communication lines will be affected. The team found that in the U.S. alone, 1,186 miles of long-haul fiber conduit and 2,429 miles of metro fiber conduit will be submerged by rising seas within the next 15 years.

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Mysterious source of illegal ozone-killing emissions revealed, say investigators

Posted by on Jul 12, 2018 @ 6:51 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Mysterious source of illegal ozone-killing emissions revealed, say investigators

  A mysterious surge in emissions of an illegal ozone-destroying chemical has been tracked down to plastic foam manufacturers in China.

The chemical, trichlorofluoromethane or CFC-11, has been banned around the world since 2010 and is a potent destroyer of ozone, which protects life on Earth from UV radiation, and strong greenhouse gas. A shock rise in the gas in recent years was revealed by atmospheric scientists in May, but they could only narrow the source to somewhere in East Asia.

The Environmental Investigation Agency, a non-governmental organisation, has now identified widespread use of CFC-11 factories in China that make insulating foams. The EIA’s investigators identified factories that sold the chemicals needed for foam-making, then contacted and visited them.

“We were dumbfounded when out of 21 companies, 18 of them across China confirmed use of CFC-11, while acknowledging the illegality and being very blase about its use,” said Avipsa Mahapatra at the EIA. Furthermore, the companies said the use of CFC-11 was rife in the sector. “It was very clear. These companies, again and again, told us everybody else does this,” she said.

The EIA’s evidence has been passed to the Chinese government, which has already inspected and taken samples from some sites, and to officials at the Montreal Protocol (MP), the treaty that phased out ozone-killing chemicals.

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Bumble Bee Watch

Posted by on Jul 7, 2018 @ 12:42 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

Bumble Bee Watch

With the news this week that bumble bees have been added to the endangered species list, you may be asking yourself what you can do to help. Enter Bumble Bee Watch, a collaborative effort to track and conserve North America’s bumble bees.

This citizen science project allows for individuals to:

  • Upload photos of bumble bees to start a virtual bumble bee collection;
  • Identify the bumble bees in your photos and have your identifications verified by experts;
  • Help researchers determine the status and conservation needs of bumble bees;
  • Help locate rare or endangered populations of bumble bees;
  • Learn about bumble bees, their ecology, and ongoing conservation efforts; and
  • Connect with other citizen scientists.

Because bees are widely distributed, the best way to keep track of them is with an army of volunteers across the country armed with cameras. With any luck, you might help find remnant populations of rare species before they go extinct. Joining and participating is easy, just as simple as taking pictures.

Other ways to help include creating habitat, supporting local and organic agriculture, and recruiting others.

Are you interested? Learn more here…