Conservation & Environment

Court Lifts Injunction Blocking Mexican Gray Wolf Releases

Posted by on Apr 27, 2017 @ 11:32 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Court Lifts Injunction Blocking Mexican Gray Wolf Releases

The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled to lift a preliminary injunction blocking further releases of highly endangered Mexican gray wolves into the wild within New Mexico. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) can now resume wolf releases within the state.

Mexican gray wolves, or lobos, are the most endangered gray wolf subspecies in the world. Lobos are facing low numbers and a genetic crisis in the wild. Limited genetic diversity in the wild can result in smaller litters and lower pup survival – a recipe for extinction. Releases of captive wolves are critical to increase lobo genetic diversity in the wild.

Scientists conclude that lobos require at least three linked populations in suitable habitat. Habitat capable of supporting two additional populations exists in the Grand Canyon ecoregion and in northern New Mexico and southern Colorado.

In May 2016, the state of New Mexico filed suit against FWS after the agency released two pups that they cross-fostered with a family in the wild. New Mexico also requested a preliminary injunction to halt all Mexican gray wolf releases into the wild within the state until the merits of its case were heard. In June 2016, a federal court granted New Mexico the preliminary injunction, halting all Mexican gray wolf releases within the state. That injunction has now been overturned.



In 4 days, a river that had flowed for millennia disappeared

Posted by on Apr 27, 2017 @ 7:01 am in Conservation | 0 comments

In 4 days, a river that had flowed for millennia disappeared

The latest consequence of climate change is rivers “pirating” each other’s water.

Nearly a year ago, scientists noticed that the water level of the Slims River in British Columbia was extremely low. So they hopped into a helicopter and flew upstream to investigate. What they found startled them: A second, more powerful river, the Kaskawulsh, had stolen the Slims River’s water for itself. Three days later, the Slims was gone entirely.

For centuries, meltwater from the Kaskawulsh Glacier had fed both the Slims and Kaskawulsh rivers. But in the past 100 years, the glacier has retreated as a result of climate change. And in early 2016, the glacier receded so much that the Kaskawulsh River, with a gradient nearly five times steeper than the Slims, was perfectly poised to catch and divert the Slims.

In a recent paper, scientists say this was most aggressive instance of “river piracy” — one river capturing and diverting the flow of another — on record. It’s also a troubling example of how swiftly climate change is affecting rivers and other bodies of water.

“Most people think of climate change as gradual and its consequences as gradual, but one of the things we were able to show here is you can produce some rather dramatic changes, suddenly,” said John Clague at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, one of the authors of the paper. “And these unforeseen, sudden changes are much harder to deal with than ones that play out slowly.” In particular, researchers like Clague are worried about sudden changes to the chemistry and nutrient supply of a lake once fed by the Slims.

Read full story…


Fact-checking Trump’s Antiquities Act order

Posted by on Apr 26, 2017 @ 3:08 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

Fact-checking Trump’s Antiquities Act order

“San Juan County is now the epicenter of a brutal battle over public lands,” Orrin Hatch, the senior senator from Utah, said as he stood before the Senate on April 24, 2017 and railed against former President Barack Obama’s end-of-term designation of the Bears Ears National Monument.

Hatch spoke in anticipation of President Donald Trump’s order to “review” all national monuments designated since 1996, announced on April 26, starting with Bears Ears, located in rural San Juan County, Utah. The review will also include dozens of other monuments established over the last 21 years. As he signed the executive order, Trump praised the Utah senator and parroted some of Hatch’s points.

Hatch’s own speech was peppered with the type of Sagebrush Rebellion rhetoric that Utah politicians have spouted since Cal Black, the late San Juan County commissioner, threatened three decades ago to blow up ruins, bridges and trucks to retaliate against purported overreach by federal land managers. But in making his argument for abolishing the new monument, Hatch and Trump also relied on outright falsehoods or, in the nomenclature of the current administration, “alternative facts.”

For example, Trump said, “The previous administration bypassed the states to place over 265 million acres of land and water under federal control through the abuse of the monuments designation.”

Fact check: Nope. All of the land was already managed by federal land agencies. No private, state or other land was “seized” or “grabbed” in Bears Ears or other monuments. Nor did the locals lose any control over the land in question. In fact, in the case of Bears Ears, local tribes (meaning those with deep ancestral ties to the land in question) gained more control as high-level advisors to the monument manager. While this was a lesser role than the co-management one the tribes hoped for, they do have a louder voice now than they had without a monument.

Here is fact-checking of the main arguments made by opponents of the monuments, including Trump and Hatch…


Smokies Park Recruits Volunteers for Cataloochee Valley

Posted by on Apr 26, 2017 @ 9:45 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Smokies Park Recruits Volunteers for Cataloochee Valley

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is seeking volunteers to assist rangers with managing traffic and establishing safe wildlife viewing areas within the Cataloochee Valley region. Volunteers will receive information and training in wildlife behavior, safe viewing practices, and cultural history.

Cataloochee is a remote mountain valley on the eastern edge of the park where remnants of early settlements are preserved. Surrounded by mountain peaks, the isolated valley is a popular, year-round destination. In 2001, elk were reintroduced into the area after a 200-year absence. The elk population is now flourishing and serves as a major attractant to the culturally rich area.

Volunteers will assist Park Rangers in keeping visitors safe through education about elk and the cultural and natural resources of Cataloochee Valley. Volunteers will also provide information to visitors about park regulations, general information about the area, and directions to other destinations. When elk are present in the fields, volunteers will focus on traffic management to provide for visitor and wildlife safety as well as educating visitors about the elk.

Individuals and couples are especially needed for Sunday afternoons, Monday evenings, Wednesday evenings, Thursday evenings, Saturday afternoons and Saturday evenings. Each volunteer is asked to work at least one four-hour shift per week starting May and continuing through mid-November. This target period is during the peak visitation periods, from late spring during the elk calving season through the end of fall color and the elk mating season.

Volunteers will spend time roving the valley in a government all-terrain vehicle, by bicycle, or by foot. Volunteers who choose to drive the government vehicle must have a valid driver’s license and pass an online defensive driving course. Volunteers who prefer to rove by bicycle are required to bring their own bicycle and protective riding gear. The road through Cataloochee Valley is mostly flat with very little change in elevation. The surface of the road is a mix of chip-and-seal and dirt sections. Volunteer uniforms will be provided.

All interested volunteers are required to attend a training session prior to starting. A training session will be determined based on interest. CPR and First Aid training may also be available to those interested. To register for training or for more information, please contact Park Ranger Karl Danforth at [email protected]


Conservation Partners Add 1,058 Acres Near Fiery Gizzard Trail To Tennessee’s South Cumberland State Park

Posted by on Apr 25, 2017 @ 6:54 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Conservation Partners Add 1,058 Acres Near Fiery Gizzard Trail To Tennessee’s South Cumberland State Park

The Conservation Fund and The Land Trust for Tennessee, in partnership with the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) and the Open Space Institute (OSI), announced the addition of 1,058 acres to South Cumberland State Park in Marion County. The acquisition connects more than 7,000 acres of protected public and private land, conserves forestland and cove habitat from future development, and protects scenic views from the Fiery Gizzard trail.

The newly acquired land is adjacent to the Fiery Gizzard trail, which has been ranked as one of the top 25 backpacking trails in the United States by Backpacker Magazine. Approximately 600,000 visitors enjoy South Cumberland State Park annually, with many attracted to the 12-mile Fiery Gizzard Trail. However many large sections of the trail and surrounding bluffs remain in private ownership. TDEC plans to relocate a nearby portion of the trail that is on private land to the newly acquired land.

The acquisition also builds upon the State’s recent efforts to conserve land in the region. In March 2017, South Cumberland State Park celebrated the dedication of Denny Cove, a 685-acre climbing destination just a quarter mile from the newly acquired 1,058 acres. In 2010, The Conservation Fund, The Land Trust for Tennessee and the State of Tennessee partnered to purchase 6,182 acres on the Fiery Gizzard from a private timber company. At that time, 2,900 acres went into public ownership as part of South Cumberland State Park, and 3,282 went into private ownership with a conservation easement held by The Land Trust for Tennessee.

Read full story…


A Bear’s-Eye View of Yellowstone

Posted by on Apr 24, 2017 @ 7:20 am in Conservation | 0 comments

A Bear’s-Eye View of Yellowstone

What do bears eat? How far do they roam? Find out in this interactive journey through the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.

For the first time, trek into the wild backcountry of America’s first national park and see what it looks like from a bear’s point of view.

Special cameras were attached to the tracking collars of two grizzlies and two black bears in Yellowstone. Massive and hungry, these bears prowl for food and confront danger along the way. It’s a matter of life and death for all of them. Tag along as National Geographic gives you an unprecedented window into some of the most fearsome predators on Earth. And watch as these bears act as tour guides through their secret world, with little human intervention.

Like grizzlies, black bears are opportunistic omnivores, meaning their diets consist of both meat and plants. For years, there have been reports of a cannibalistic black bear roaming the mountainous foothills around Yellowstone Park headquarters at Mammoth Hot Springs. Could bear 22517—an 8-to-12-year-old weighing 260 pounds—be that bruin?

Shortly after being outfitted with a camera, this bear, wearing a coat the color of a dark chocolate bar, offers tantalizing clues. “Each piece of film footage is really like watching a cliffhanging,” bear researcher Nate Bowersock says. “You don’t know what’s going to happen next, and it all leads to a pretty dramatic finish.”

So, go see for yourself…


Dog’s Death Spotlights Use of Cyanide ‘Bombs’ to Kill Predators

Posted by on Apr 22, 2017 @ 12:20 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

Dog’s Death Spotlights Use of Cyanide ‘Bombs’ to Kill Predators

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.

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The Earth just reached a CO2 level not seen in 3 million years

Posted by on Apr 22, 2017 @ 7:17 am in Conservation | 0 comments

The Earth just reached a CO2 level not seen in 3 million years

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.



America’s rapidly growing wind industry now employs more than 100,000 people

Posted by on Apr 21, 2017 @ 12:04 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

America’s rapidly growing wind industry now employs more than 100,000 people

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.

Read full story…


Kentucky coal company announces plans to build the state’s largest solar farm

Posted by on Apr 20, 2017 @ 11:50 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Kentucky coal company announces plans to build the state’s largest solar farm

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.

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Announcing a new champion for expanding the protection of precious natural resources and quality of life

Posted by on Apr 19, 2017 @ 12:22 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

Announcing a new champion for expanding the protection of precious natural resources and quality of life

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.


9 simple ways to be a better national parks visitor

Posted by on Apr 16, 2017 @ 7:48 am in Conservation | 0 comments

9 simple ways to be a better national parks visitor

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.

Here are 9 ways you can improve your national park visit…


Artist’s brilliant National Park posters advertise a grim future

Posted by on Apr 12, 2017 @ 12:20 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

Artist’s brilliant National Park posters advertise a grim future

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.


The ecological disaster that is Trump’s border wall

Posted by on Apr 12, 2017 @ 7:09 am in Conservation | 0 comments

The ecological disaster that is Trump’s border wall

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.

Read full story…


Great Barrier Reef: Two-thirds damaged in ‘unprecedented’ bleaching

Posted by on Apr 10, 2017 @ 12:18 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

Great Barrier Reef: Two-thirds damaged in ‘unprecedented’ bleaching

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.



Coal Companies Ask Trump to Stick with Paris Climate Deal

Posted by on Apr 10, 2017 @ 7:15 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Coal Companies Ask Trump to Stick with Paris Climate Deal

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.

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Pisgah National Forest grows with Mills River purchase

Posted by on Apr 9, 2017 @ 11:50 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Pisgah National Forest grows with Mills River purchase

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.

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