Conservation & Environment

10 rivers may deliver bulk of ocean plastic

Posted by on Oct 16, 2017 @ 12:46 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

10 rivers may deliver bulk of ocean plastic

Earth’s oceans have a big plastic problem. They receive roughly 8 million metric tons of plastic waste every year, much of which can drift around for decades or centuries without truly decomposing. Instead, it just crumbles into smaller pieces known as microplastics, which often fatally trick marine wildlife into eating them.

Some ocean plastic is discarded directly into the ocean — from sources like cargo ships, fishing boats and oil rigs — but a large amount washes there from shore, including inland litter carried to coasts by rivers. In the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, for example, about 80 percent of debris began its journey as terrestrial trash.

Like the plastic itself, any solution to this problem will need to come from people all over the planet. That said, some places have more room for improvement than others. According to a new study, rivers carry up to 4 million metric tons of plastic out to sea per year — but just 10 rivers may deliver as much as 95 percent of it.

Eight of those 10 rivers are in Asia, the study found. This also fits with earlier research on plastic pollution by country, which has linked the problem with factors like population density and waste-management infrastructure. According to a 2015 study, 11 of the top 20 countries for plastic pollution are in Asia, with China at No. 1. Other countries in the top 20 include Brazil, Egypt and Nigeria.

Here are the top 10 river systems contributing to ocean plastic…


Western NC’s Fire Towers Provide Panoramic Mountain Views

Posted by on Oct 14, 2017 @ 8:00 pm in Conservation, Hiking News | 0 comments

Western NC’s Fire Towers Provide Panoramic Mountain Views

At the summit, they found a good excuse to set down their packs and stretch their toes: There, a tall, rusty Tinkertoy of a fire tower, known simply as Shuckstack, cast a portentous shadow. Another hiker, having just descended steps that didn’t seem nearly sturdy enough to hold him, brushed past Peter and Brad, declaring, “I might be the last one to climb that tower before it falls down.”

How could Peter let that stand? He scooted up each wooden, partially rotten step on his rear end, bolts rattling under his shifting weight. Steel beams, blemished by decades of corrosion and graffiti, gave the tower an easy, if unsettling, sway. On one flight, the handrails were missing entirely. At 75 steps, Peter’s feet were in the trees, and above that, the physical world seemed to fall away.

A few more steps brought him into the cab, where the keeper once watched for fires from an elevation of 4,000 feet. He could see blue sky through the gaping holes in the roof; underfoot, the wood was so soft his flimsy sneakers could have punched right through it.

Wind rolled in and out of the empty window frames in the 7-by-7-foot room. “I looked out at the Southern Appalachians around me, at where we came from near the dam, and out over the range,” Peter says. “If I can trace one moment where my life took a new direction, that was it.”

Now Peter, the trails coordinator at Conserving Carolina, spends his spare time drumming up the community support, dollars, and muscle needed for restoration projects like the one completed on Shuckstack in 2014. In the process, many dog-eared, coffee-stained copies of his book, Hiking North Carolina’s Lookout Towers, have been passed among hikers.

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More than 150 roads in need of repair around SC’s Francis Marion National Forest

Posted by on Oct 13, 2017 @ 2:50 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

The drive to meet Mark and Ronnie Morris is bumpy. Potholes pepper the roads through the Francis Marion National Forest where the brothers have lived their entire lives. They say the conditions are worse than they’ve ever seen them. “If you don’t have four-wheel drive you can’t make it,” Mark Morris explained.

Ronnie described the roads like something from a war movie. “It looks like planes dropped bombs in here,” he said.

The pair want to know how the money from their hunting licenses is being used since the roads are in such a sad state. Severe flooding in 2015 coupled with Hurricane Matthew in 2016, led to widespread erosion and damage impacting 157 National Forest System roads. Many are closed.

The founder of Facebook group Carolina Wildlife Sydicate, David Strickland, says the roads have been closed far too long. “Tax dollars and hunting licensing dollars are not making it to the resource on the ground,” Strickland said.

“The Francis Marion and Sumter National Forest has been aware of our road system needs and has been taking steps to address this need,” according to Francis Marion National Forest Acting District Ranger Warren Tucker. The agency recently awarded two contracts to fix the biggest problems.



Worrying new research finds that the ocean is cutting through a key Antarctic ice shelf

Posted by on Oct 13, 2017 @ 9:05 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Worrying new research finds that the ocean is cutting through a key Antarctic ice shelf

  A new scientific study has found that warm ocean water is carving an enormous channel into the underside of one of the key floating ice shelves of West Antarctica, the most vulnerable sector of the enormous ice continent.

The Dotson ice shelf, which holds back two separate large glaciers, is about 1,350 square miles in area and between 1,000 and 1,600 feet thick. But on its western side, it is now only about half that thickness, said a researcher at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland and the lead author of the research.

The reason is the same one that is believed to be shrinking glaciers and pouring ice into the ocean across West Antarctica — warm ocean water located offshore is now reaching the ice from below.

In Dotson’s case, it appears the water is first flowing into the deep cavity beneath the shelf far below it, but then being turned by the Earth’s rotation and streaming upward toward the floating ice as it mixes with buoyant meltwater. The result is that the warm water continually melts one part of the shelf in particular, creating the channel.

The new study calculates that as a result of this highly uneven melting, the Dotson ice shelf could be melted all the way through in 40 years, rather than 170 years, which would be the time it would take if the melt were occurring evenly.

Read full story…


Trump moves to cancel landmark Obama climate change rule

Posted by on Oct 11, 2017 @ 6:45 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Trump moves to cancel landmark Obama climate change rule

The Trump administration officially moved to kill the Obama-era climate change rule for power plants, fulfilling a campaign pledge but setting off what is expected to be a bitter legal battle between the EPA and several states, health and environmental groups.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt signed an agency proposal to repeal the Clean Power Plan, which would have sped the nation’s shift away from coal-burning power plants and toward renewable power and natural gas, which emits less planet-warming carbon dioxide.

EPA is exploring writing a replacement that would let states set their own standards to require coal plants to run more efficiently, or burn less coal while producing the same amount of power. That would likely achieve few emissions reductions.

The Trump administration has hailed the withdrawal as a victory for coal, but market experts say the outlook for the fuel is still dim.

During President Barack Obama’s two terms, the fracking boom turned the U.S. into a natural gas super power, cutting the cost of the fuel by 75 percent and leading to a boom in natural gas-power generation, which tripled between 2009 and 2016, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Wind power also surged under Obama, tripling in capacity, while solar power grew from virtually zero to become the leading source of new power generation in 2016.

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Congressman Introduces Legislation To Extensively Rewrite Antiquities Act

Posted by on Oct 10, 2017 @ 11:57 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Congressman Introduces Legislation To Extensively Rewrite Antiquities Act

  A Utah congressman long unhappy with the authority given presidents under The Antiquities Act to establish national monuments has introduced legislation that would extensively rewrite the century-old act. If enacted, the rewrite would limit the purposes for which monuments could be created, require environmental review of proposed designations, and allow presidents to reduce the size of monuments without congressional action.

Passed by Congress in 1906, The Antiquities Act has been used by presidents down through the decades to designate national monuments to protect “historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest” that are found on federal lands. Monuments designated via the act and which later became national parks include Grand Canyon, Arches, Grand Teton, Acadia, Bryce Canyon, and Olympic.

In recent years, though, some Republicans in Congress and some Western states have bristled over the act, claiming it gives presidents too much authority over lands they could better manage. Shortly after he took office this year, President Donald Trump agreed, saying his predecessors had exerted “another egregious abuse of federal power” under the act.

U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, introduced legislation to drastically rewrite the act. As drafted, the measure would affect the purposes for which the act could be wielded, place limitations on the size of new monuments, require National Environmental Policy Act review of proposed monuments and, in cases of monuments between 10,000 acres and 85,000 acres in size, require approval “by the elected governing body of each county (or county equivalent), the legislature of each State, and the Governor of each State.”

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There’s enough wind energy over the oceans to power human civilization, scientists say

Posted by on Oct 10, 2017 @ 7:18 am in Conservation | 0 comments

There’s enough wind energy over the oceans to power human civilization, scientists say

New research finds there is so much wind energy potential over oceans that it could theoretically be used to generate “civilization scale power” — assuming, that is, that we are willing to cover enormous stretches of the sea with turbines, and can come up with ways to install and maintain them in often extreme ocean environments.

It’s very unlikely that we would ever build out open ocean turbines on anything like that scale — indeed, doing so could even alter the planet’s climate, the research finds. But the more modest message is that wind energy over the open oceans has large potential — reinforcing the idea that floating wind farms, over very deep waters, could be the next major step for wind energy technology.

There’s probably an upper limit to the amount of energy that can be generated by a wind farm that’s located on land. The limit arises both because natural and human structures on land create friction that slows down the wind speed, but also because each individual wind turbine extracts some of the energy of the wind and transforms it into power that we can use — leaving less wind energy for other turbines to collect.

The ocean is different. First, wind speeds can be as much as 70 percent higher than on land. But a bigger deal is what you might call wind replenishment. The new research found that over the mid-latitude oceans, storms regularly transfer powerful wind energy down to the surface from higher altitudes, meaning that the upper limit here for how much energy you can capture with turbines is considerably higher.

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House Committee on Natural Resources votes to gut the Wilderness Act

Posted by on Oct 6, 2017 @ 6:59 am in Conservation | 0 comments

House Committee on Natural Resources votes to gut the Wilderness Act

  A stealth attack on the Wilderness Act comes in the form of H.R. 3668, the Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement (SHARE) Act, introduced by Rep. Jeff Duncan of South Carolina. It would affect every wilderness in the nation. On September 15, 2017 the SHARE Act was passed by the Committee on Natural Resources and sent to the full House of Representatives.

By nearly unanimous vote, Congress passed the 1964 Wilderness Act in order to protect America’s wildest landscapes. The law describes wilderness as “an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man… retaining its primeval character and influence, without permanent improvements or human habitation, which is protected and managed so as to preserve its natural conditions.”

The Wilderness Act is essentially nature’s Bill of Rights, places where we humans, out of a sense of respect, humility and foresight, have agreed to let nature be. Since passage of the Wilderness Act, the National Wilderness Preservation System has grown to include 110 million acres in more than 760 units.

The SHARE Act would turn the Wilderness Act on its head, allowing endless habitat manipulation and modification, including logging, chaining, herbicide spraying or myriad other offenses done under the guise of “wildlife conservation” or for providing hunting, fishing and recreational shooting experiences. While such management might be fine for a Texas game farm, they represent a dramatic change for the Wilderness Act, which for over 50 years has required the preservation of wilderness character as the top priority for public wildernesses.

The SHARE Act would also allow the construction of “temporary” roads, dams or other structures in wilderness, again if done under the guise of benefiting hunting, angling, recreational shooting or wildlife conservation. And all such projects would be exempt from any environmental review or public scrutiny under the National Environmental Policy Act — in essence making wildernesses some of the least protected of all public lands.

Read full story…


Ed. note: Keep your eye on this one. This bill has the full support of the NRA and other gun lobbies because of its hunting aspects. Harm to the Wilderness Act is an inconvenient sidebar to those who favor the bill.


The Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests: An Economic Powerhouse for Western North Carolina

Posted by on Oct 5, 2017 @ 7:06 am in Conservation, Hiking News | 0 comments

The Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests: An Economic Powerhouse for Western North Carolina

  If you’re one of the 4.6 million people who visit the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests each year, you already know how incredible this corner of the Southern Appalachians is. Perhaps you’ve paddled down the Tuckasegee River, climbed at Looking Glass, or hiked in Linville Gorge. No matter your preferred form of adventure, you know the Nantahala-Pisgah offers access to unparalleled outdoor recreation opportunities — access and opportunity that’s hard to put a price on.

But now a series of new economic studies, commissioned by the Outdoor Alliance, does just that: researchers from Eastern Kentucky University found that outdoor recreation in the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests generates $115 million in annual spending on paddling, climbing, and mountain biking — while also supporting local jobs and attracting both businesses and residents to Western North Carolina.

“More people visit the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests each year than Yellowstone — people who bike, paddle, raft, hike, climb, and otherwise enjoy these treasured public lands,” said Adam Cramer, Executive Director of Outdoor Alliance. “These national forests provide adventures that feed the souls of millions of visitors. Collectively these visitors spend a ton of money and make these cherished national forests economic powerhouses that generate jobs and income throughout the region.”

The research comes as U.S. Forest Service officials update a plan that will guide management of the Nantahala and Pisgah forests for the next 15 to 20 years. The studies illustrate why human-powered recreation deserves to be a top priority for the U.S. Forest Service as it completes this new plan in the coming months.

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Cradle of Forestry Hosts Forest Festival Day and Woodsmen’s Meet October 7

Posted by on Oct 4, 2017 @ 12:07 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

Cradle of Forestry Hosts Forest Festival Day and Woodsmen’s Meet October 7

The Cradle of Forestry invites people of all ages to celebrate the forest heritage of western North Carolina during the annual Forest Festival Day on Saturday, Oct. 7, 2017 from 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. This is the Cradle’s largest event of the year.

This activity-filled, family event commemorates the traditions of mountain living and craft in the Cradle’s unique and beautiful setting. More than 100 forestry students, traditional craftsmen and exhibitors will be on site during the celebration. During the event, ten colleges will compete for a trophy in the 22nd Annual John G. Palmer Intercollegiate Woodsmen’s Meet, organized by Haywood Community College in Clyde, NC.

Festival-goers can cheer as college forestry students compete during the Woodsmen’s Meet that has the flavor of an old-time lumberjack competition. The students test their skills in a number of events including archery, axe throwing, crosscut sawing and pole felling.

The Woodmen’s Meet is held in the open field at the Pink Beds Picnic Area. This area allows for safety of participants and spectators while at the same time providing opportunities to see all the action. Spectators are encouraged to bring a chair or blanket for comfort. Limited bleacher seating is provided.

The Pink Beds Picnic Area and Pink Beds trailhead will be closed to non-event use for the day. The Pink Beds Trail can be accessed from FS Road 1206 via the Barnett Branch Trail and from the South Mills River gauging station area off Wolf Ford Road FS 476.

Traditional crafters and exhibitors will congregate along the Biltmore Campus Trail. These include demonstrations of wood crafting, blacksmithing, primitive fire building, sweet potato carving, basket making, and creating corn husk dolls.

Festival goers can learn to cut a tree “cookie” with a cross cut saw to take home. Children can enjoy a woodsy activity at the information booth in the Pink Beds.

Accents on Asheville will provide a shuttle between the Forest Discovery Center and the Pink Beds from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Food and drinks will be available for purchase from the Café at the Cradle in the Forest Discovery Center and in the woodsmen’s meet area.

For a complete list of activities, exhibitors, and other details about Forest Festival Day please visit, or call the Cradle at (828) 877-3130.

The Cradle of Forestry is the birthplace of modern forestry in America. Dr. Carl Alwin Schenck, forester for George Vanderbilt’s Biltmore Estate from 1895 – 1909, founded America’s first forestry school in 1898 and used the present Cradle of Forestry area as its summer campus. This land was the nucleus of today’s Pisgah National Forest, established in 1916. Forest Festival Day celebrates this heritage and our forest lands today.

Admission for this event is $6.00 for ages 16 and older; $3.00 for youth ages 4-15, and holders of America the Beautiful and Golden Age passes. Children under 4 years old are admitted free. The Cradle of Forestry is located four miles south of Blue Ridge Parkway Milepost 412 on Hwy. 276 in the Pisgah National Forest, six miles north of Looking Glass Falls.


Death of gas and diesel begins as GM announces plans for ‘all-electric future’

Posted by on Oct 3, 2017 @ 12:47 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

Death of gas and diesel begins as GM announces plans for ‘all-electric future’

After nearly a century of building vehicles powered by fossil fuels, General Motors — one of the world’s largest automakers — announced October 2, 2017 that the end of GM producing internal combustion engines is fast approaching.

The acceleration to an all-electric future will begin almost immediately, with GM releasing two new electric models next year and an additional 18 by 2023.

At a media event at GM’s technical campus in Warren, Mich., Mark Reuss, the company’s chief of global product development, said the transition will take time, but the course has been set.

“General Motors believes in an all-electric future,” Reuss said. “Although that future won’t happen overnight, GM is committed to driving increased usage and acceptance of electric vehicles.”

The automaker said that arriving at a “zero emissions future” will require a two-pronged approach: battery electric and hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles.

Read full story…


Oral Rabies Vaccine (ORV) Program – Air Drops Over Western North Carolina

Posted by on Oct 3, 2017 @ 6:38 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Oral Rabies Vaccine (ORV) Program – Air Drops Over Western North Carolina

Beginning in the late 1970s, a strain of rabies virus associated with raccoons rapidly spread along the east coast of the United States northward from Florida and southward from West Virginia. As the virus invaded new areas, there was an explosive increase in rabid raccoons, with many states reporting over 500 cases in a year. Compounding the problem, raccoon-variant rabies frequently “spills over” into pets, livestock and other wildlife, including some wildlife species that we traditionally consider low-risk for rabies (rabbits, deer, etc).

Before the two raccoon rabies epizootics spread into North Carolina, canine variant rabies was the major source of rabies virus infection to pets, livestock and humans. Raccoon rabies variant was first discovered in skunks at the northern border of North Carolina in Alleghany County in 1990 and then in raccoons in Gates and Pasquotank counties in 1991. On the southern border, raccoon rabies was first identified in Brunswick, Mecklenburg, and Union counties in 1992. By 1995, the two epizootic fronts had met in Harnett County and by 2005, virtually every county in North Carolina had recorded raccoon rabies.

This is the twelfth year that USDA has worked in cooperation with the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS), and the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC) to control the spread of raccoon rabies in western North Carolina. Raboral V-RG (Merial, Ltd) is an oral rabies vaccine that is placed inside a coated sachet. The bait consists of a small packet similar to a ketchup packet, coated with a mixture of fishmeal and fish oil known to attract raccoons. It is distributed by fixed wing aircraft in rural areas or by helicopter in urban/residential areas. Raccoons that eat the vaccine-laced bait become immune to rabies. This technology has demonstrated promise as an adjunct to traditional rabies control measures.

To accomplish the goal of the ORV program, preventing the westward spread of raccoon rabies, a “vaccine barrier” has been established extending from eastern Ohio (beginning at the border with Lake Erie) down the Appalachian ridge to Mobile County, Alabama, ending at the Gulf of Mexico. In 2017, oral vaccination bait drops are scheduled for parts of ten North Carolina counties. Baiting will take place September 28, 2017 – October 22, 2017 in portions of Ashe, Buncombe, Jackson, Haywood, Madison, Yancey, Mitchell, Cherokee, Graham and Swain counties.

Learn more here…


Earthjustice Wins 16-Year-Long Battle to Protect 50 Million Acres of Forests

Posted by on Oct 2, 2017 @ 12:05 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

Earthjustice Wins 16-Year-Long Battle to Protect 50 Million Acres of Forests

  A decades-long fight over a landmark rule protecting wild forests nationwide took another successful–and possibly final–turn after a U.S. district court threw out a last-ditch attack by the state of Alaska against the Roadless Rule.

Adopted in the closing days of the Clinton administration, the Roadless Rule prohibits most logging and road construction in roadless areas of national forests. These lands, today equaling about 50 million acres or about the size of Nebraska, are some of the wildest places left in America.

Upon its passage, the rule was overwhelmingly popular with the American people, including those who like to hike, camp, fish and recreate among the trees in wild, unmarred areas. The Forest Service also liked the rule, since, at the time, the agency had a multibillion-dollar backlog on maintenance for more than 400,000 miles of existing roads, and it wasn’t eager to add even more to its workload.

Yet, despite its popularity, state political leaders with ties to the logging and timber industries hated the new rule. Even before President Clinton left office, they began their attack. The Bush administration, which took office just eight days later, failed to come to the rule’s defense.

What followed was a 16-year legal battle involving a number of Earthjustice attorneys from the Denver, Bozeman, Seattle and Juneau offices, dozens of courtrooms and judges, and thousands of hours of legal wrangling.

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Good news! Global carbon emissions stayed mostly flat in 2016.

Posted by on Oct 2, 2017 @ 6:41 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Good news! Global carbon emissions stayed mostly flat in 2016.

This marks the third year in a row with no increase in CO2 emissions, according to a new report published from the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency. That’s largely due to a shift away from coal to natural gas, which tends to produce more electricity more efficiently, and renewable energy.

The five largest emitting countries plus the European Union, which together account for 51% of the world population, accounted for 68% of total global CO2 emissions and about 65% of total global GHG emissions. Of those largest emitters, only India shows a significantly rising trend (+4.7% in 2016). In Russia and the United States, the trend is downwards (both -2.0%) as well as in Japan (-1.3%), whereas in China, the European Union and the group of other G20 members, levels remained more or less the same as in 2015.

Enough good news. Here’s the bad: When you add the potent greenhouse gas methane to the mix, global emissions were up .5 percent. Methane emissions primarily come from natural gas leaks and cattle. Also, this report does not count the forests felled and peatlands burned which likely bumps the numbers up. Finally, halting the growth in emissions isn’t good enough — we’ve got to drive them down.

Nonetheless, a climate economist said, “These results are a welcome indication that we are nearing the peak in global annual emissions of greenhouse gases.” The world has hit the brakes on what looked like unstoppable emissions growth. For the first time in the modern era, the economy is growing without increasing the amount of CO2 it spews into the air.

Report here…


National parks set their sights on being litter-free

Posted by on Oct 1, 2017 @ 1:20 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

National parks set their sights on being litter-free

  “I know how to eliminate litter at national parks,” he told the Undersecretary of the Interior. “How? How?” he responded, animated.

The Interior’s collective yearning to take on littering could create a template that could be effective for park districts across America. The Interior manages the National Park Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Bureau of Land Management, all of which provide access to public lands, and with it, what’s become an inevitable litter problem.

At entrance kiosks: At park entry points, each visitor passes by a kiosk and talks to a park specialist before entering the park; nationally in 2015, there were 305 million visits. At first contact, the attendant would be required to tell each visitor: “Please join us in keeping the park clean. We ask you to pick up at least one piece of litter each day for your visit.” This goes to [former NPS director] Mott’s first rule: “Ask for what you want from people who can provide it.”

Free trash bags: Many local parks provide low-cost doggy bags for waste pick-up. National parks could do the same, that is, with small bags for litter and provide them at entry points. Many already keep a trash bag with them at all times in their vehicles, their boats, daypacks and backpacks. Make sure everyone has one.

The cigarette solution: Only 17 percent of the American public smokes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, yet you can spot cigarette butts almost anyplace. The instant solution is to ban cigarettes with filters in parks and limit smoking to specified sites. Get caught with a cigarette with a filter and rangers then eject you from the park.

Logo: Post no-litter logos where appropriate, so visitors get the repeated message. It works.

Brochure/newspaper: As new publications are developed as handouts at park entry points and visitor centers, the logo and repeated no litter/pick-up litter messages would appear on the cover of each. No new material and potential litter would need to be created. Repeated messages get remembered.

Billboards/trailheads: The logo and repeated no litter/pick-up litter message would be posted at every public information board and trash can.

Employee pick-up: The National Park Service alone has 22,000 employees. Each one, as a template for every park, anywhere, would be required to pick up at least one piece of litter each day, just as Mott started 30 years ago. As Mott said, this becomes a symbol that no one, starting with the national parks director, accepts litter, and that “We’re in this together to get rid of it.”

Crackdown: It’s a privilege to visit a park and anyone who violates that privilege should be cited with a $1,000 fine, just as the law prescribes, and in turn, rangers then eject them from the park.



Nantahala, Pisgah forest planning focuses on recreation

Posted by on Oct 1, 2017 @ 9:00 am in Conservation, Hiking News | 0 comments

Nantahala, Pisgah forest planning focuses on recreation

The Access Fund is one of many members of the two collaborative groups – the Nantahala-Pisgah Forest Partnership and the Stakeholders Forum – working on recommendations for the Nantahala and Pisgah Plan Revision.

The years-long project holds the potential to change the way millions of people use the two giant forests that spread across the mountains of Western North Carolina.

Overcrowded trailheads could get more parking. More hikers could set foot in the most remote areas of the two forests, which combined take up 1.1 million acres.

And mountain bikers – the newest generation of outdoor enthusiasts – stand to get greater say on managing trails.

In the last Nantahala Pisgah National Forest Management Plan, released in 1987 and amended in 1994, rock climbing was a footnote, and mountain biking was not even mentioned.

The national forests in the Southern Appalachians have been through many incarnations through the centuries. Heavy logging and clearcutting in the early 19th century led to more conservation efforts and creation of wilderness areas, wildfire suppression and a move from timber and vegetation management to places of intense recreation and outdoor adventure.

Recreation opportunities now range as widely as the vast swaths of forests, with their rich biodiversity of plants, animals and habitats, elevations from less than 2,000 to nearly 7,000 feet, plunging river gorges and waterfalls, trails and views, coves and rock cliffs and of course, trees, and more trees.

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76 women on a glacier are changing the world

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

76 women on a glacier are changing the world

Heidi Steltzer’s job, as she puts it, is “hiking where no one else will go.” As a mountain and polar ecologist studying rare plants, she’s accustomed to traveling to breathtaking Arctic vistas to chase flora along mountain ridges.

But watching glaciers calve on her first trip to Antarctica last December was a one-of-a-kind experience for the scientist. “You kind of want to see it,” she said. “Even though you know it’s not a good thing, you kind of want to be there.”

As she watched the great icebergs float by the boat in Neko Harbor, another member of Steltzer’s trip waved her arm at the scene, as if summoning a force to shave the glaciers surrounding them.

“Can you imagine if any one of us had that kind of power to see ice calve when you wanted to see it?” laughed Steltzer. “But at the same time, we knew, collectively — we do have that power. You can’t say these specific glaciers are definitively calving because of human action. But these events continuing to happen is consistent in that system, and consistent with what we know about human activity and climate change.”

Steltzer’s colleagues were more knowledgeable than your average gaggle of tourists. The travelers on her trip were all scientists, and several of them focus specifically on climate change. What’s more, her 75 companions on the three-week trip were all women, bound together on the largest-ever, all-female expedition to Antarctica. The trip was the focal point of a year-long leadership development program called Homeward Bound, which aims to groom 1,000 women with science backgrounds over the next ten years to influence public policy and dialogue.

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Have crosscut, will travel; Sawyers from Bitterroot National Forest aid hurricane recovery effort

Posted by on Sep 28, 2017 @ 11:52 am in Conservation, Hiking News | 0 comments

Have crosscut, will travel; Sawyers from Bitterroot National Forest aid hurricane recovery effort

Three sawyers from the Bitterroot National Forest of Montana are taking their crosscut saws to hurricane-ravaged Georgia to help clear trees in wilderness areas there.

The three — Amelia Shields, Sierra LaBonte and Katherine Bicking — left the Bitterroot National Forest, where they worked all summer clearing trails. They expect to be available for work on the Chattahoochee-Oconee National later this week near Blairsville, Georgia, cleaning up after Hurricane Irma.

“It’s part of the Appalachian Trail that’s in a wilderness area,” said Mark Smith, a trails specialist for the Bitterroot National Forest. “There are about 600 trees down on this portion of the Appalachian Trail, and they need some technical experts, people who are available this time of year when resources are low, since a lot of people have gone back to school.

“They’re trying to maintain those traditional skills and work ethic in a wilderness area, and these three are perfect for that.”

The trio spent the summer helping to clear about 700 miles of trails with other groups like the Montana Conservation Corps and Bitter Root Back Country Horsemen. LaBonte noted that they worked eight days at a time, amid temperatures in the 90s, along with bugs and smoke, then would have six days off.

“We walk in and cut trees, and walk out and cut trees,” Bicking said with a laugh, noting how they can sometimes clear a trail only to have the wind topple more trees within days.

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National Parks Struggle With a Mounting Crisis: Too Many Visitors

Posted by on Sep 28, 2017 @ 6:47 am in Conservation, Hiking News | 1 comment

National Parks Struggle With a Mounting Crisis: Too Many Visitors

The rocky shorelines, shifting deserts and winding canyons of the country’s 59 national parks have been hallmarks of American vacations for generations.

But the number of park visitors has reached an unprecedented level, leaving many tourists frustrated and many environmentalists concerned about the toll of overcrowding.

In 2016, the National Park Service tracked a record 331 million visits, and after a busy summer, the system is likely to surpass that number this year. In August alone, some 40 million people came through park service gates.

Shuttle buses at Zion National Park, in southwest Utah, filled like sweaty subway cars. Selfie-takers clogged the slender path through the Narrows slot canyon, one of the park’s best-known attractions. And at the top of Angels Landing, an iconic trail of switchbacks on the east side of the park, some portable toilets were marked off with a sign: “Due to extreme use, these toilets have reached capacity.”

Zion is among the most visited parks in the system and is particularly prone to crowding because many of its most popular sites sit in a narrow six-mile canyon.

So this year, park managers announced they were considering a first for any national park: requiring reservations for entry. A final decision is expected in 2018.

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National Parks offering free admission for 3 days this fall

Posted by on Sep 27, 2017 @ 6:44 am in Conservation, Hiking News | 0 comments

National Parks offering free admission for 3 days this fall

The National Park Service offered 10 fee-free days in 2017, but nearly a third of those days are yet to come.

This fall, travelers will get three opportunities to get into national parks free of charge: on Sept. 30 for National Public Lands Day, and on Nov. 11 and 12 for Veterans Day weekend. On those days, all entrance fees will be waived, though camping and other fees may still apply.

The fee-free days apply to the 124 national parks that normally charge visitors, including Crater Lake National Park, and Lewis and Clark National Historical Park in Oregon; Olympic National Park, Mount Rainier National Park and Fort Vancouver National Historic Site in Washington; and Yellowstone, Grand Teton and Glacier National Parks around the northwest region of the USA.

With fall foliage turning in September, and snow falling in the higher reaches of Pacific Northwest parks in November, it’s a great opportunity to see some of the nation’s most awesome sites in a different light.

It’s also a good time to go if you’re averse to crowds. For example, only about 10,000 people visited Crater Lake last November, according to park service statistics, compared with nearly 200,000 people in July.

But before you go, be sure to call or check park websites for seasonal closures, which in most cases will limit the areas you can explore.