Conservation & Environment

Looting shuts down parts of Joshua Tree National Park

Posted by on Feb 22, 2016 @ 9:30 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

Two areas of Joshua Tree National Park noted for their mining artifacts have been closed indefinitely because of looting, according to the park’s superintendent.

The areas include Carey’s Castle and El Sid Mine, in the Eagle Mountains range in the southeast area of the park.

The areas will be closed “at least for a month” until cultural artifact teams can inventory and record the areas, and while the park devises an enforcement and surveillance strategy, park Supt. David Smith said.

“We had some looting at El Sid that started a few months ago,” he said. “We actually bought some artifacts to replace the original ones and they got stolen, too.” Both sites harbor former miners’ homesteads.

Neither site attracted many but the most intrepid cross-country hikers, until a newspaper recently printed a two-page spread about day hiking to Carey’s Castle, Smith said. Soon after, the ranger’s office received six calls in one day about the site, compared with about that many visits by individual hikers per month, along with a few Sierra Club-sponsored group trips per year, he said.

The National Park Service has struggled with the abandoned mines on its properties – there are 531 mining-related features in Joshua Tree, of which about 58 still require protection measures. Death Valley contains more than 9,000 such features.

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Here’s Some Other Big News From Apple You Probably Missed

Posted by on Feb 19, 2016 @ 7:51 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Here’s Some Other Big News From Apple You Probably Missed

Amid the hullabaloo surrounding Apple’s decision to oppose a court order to help the FBI glean data from iPhones belonging to the San Bernardino, Calif., terrorists, you may have missed another big announcement from the company. Apple issued a package of bonds worth $1.5 billion for projects related to clean energy, the largest “green bond” ever issued by a corporation.

The Cupertino, California-based tech giant said proceeds from the green bond sales will be used to finance renewable energy, energy storage and energy efficiency projects, green buildings and resource conservation efforts.

The basic idea is that Apple will be able to raise quick cash from investors, spend it on climate-savvy projects (like the field of solar panels that power Apple’s North Carolina data center), and then pay back the money with interest. “Green bonds” are rapidly gaining popularity with banks and institutional investors like university endowments and pension funds as a relatively safe and effective way to contribute to the fight against climate change.

A big sale of green bonds from a massive company like Apple could pave the way for other companies to follow suit, with the certainty that they’ll have customers for their bonds.

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Solar power from big box store roofs could power seven million homes

Posted by on Feb 19, 2016 @ 2:37 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Sometimes the answers to big problems are staring you right in the face.

Solar energy is expanding rapidly across the United States – increasing more than 100-fold over the past decade. But, there are still many untapped opportunities to harness the nation’s nearly limitless solar potential. The United States has the technical potential to produce more than 100 times as much electricity from solar photovoltaic (PV) and concentrating solar power (CSP) installations as the nation consumes each year. Given our abundant solar resources, America must take advantage of untapped opportunities to install solar technologies – like using rooftops of large superstores and “big box” retail stores as hosts for clean electricity generation.

The roofs of these large stores are perfect locations for solar panels – they are largely flat and vacant and almost always fully exposed to the sun. The big box stores, large grocery stores and malls considered in this report account for 5 percent of electricity use in the United States. Solar panels produce energy that can offset this large electricity demand while contributing to a cleaner grid. Rooftop solar power also brings benefits to the communities in which it is situated. By producing electricity close to its final point of use, distributed rooftop power reduces costs and energy losses associated with electricity transmission and distribution.

According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), the United States has the technical potential to generate enough electricity from rooftop solar installations alone to meet nearly a quarter of the nation’s electricity demand. The United States has more than 102,000 big box retail stores, supercenters, large grocery stores and malls with more than 4.5 billion cumulative square feet of available rooftop space on which solar panels could be installed.

The rooftops of America’s big box stores and shopping centers could host 62.3 gigawatts (GW) of solar photovoltaic capacity, equivalent to the amount of electricity used by more than 7 million average U.S. homes or more than 7,500 average Walmart stores, and more than triple the solar photovoltaic capacity that has been installed in the U.S. to date.

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National Park Service Certifies 2015 Visitation at 307 Million

Posted by on Feb 17, 2016 @ 3:20 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

President Theodore Roosevelt was reelected in 1904, the same year rangers started counting national park visitors. There were more than 120,000 visits to America’s 11 national parks in the first year of counting. This week, the National Park Service (NPS) certified 2015 national park visitation at more than 307 million. It also released its popular Top 10 list of the most visited national park sites.

“The popularity of national parks is well known, but last year’s numbers really are extraordinary,” said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis. “As the National Park Service celebrates its 100th year, we’re preparing to welcome more visitors than ever including a new generation of park supporters and advocates who are discovering their own national park adventures.”

Today’s figures were an increase from the unofficial visitation total of 305 million reported by the NPS in January. The difference is attributed to the recently-completed NPS visitation audit.

2015 visitation highlights include:

307,247,252 recreation visits, a 4.9 percent increase over 2014 and the previous record of 292.8 million recreation visits.
371 of the 410 parks in the National Park System report visitation.
57 of the 371 reporting parks set a new record for annual recreation visits. Eleven parks had more than 5 million recreation visits in 2015.

Notable park milestones in 2015

Joshua Tree National Park surpassed 2 million annual recreation visits for the first time.
Rocky Mountain National Park surpassed 4 million annual recreation visits for the first time.
Yellowstone National Park surpassed 4 million annual recreation visits for the first time.
Grand Canyon National Park surpassed 5 million annual recreation visits for the first time.
Glacier National Park surpassed 100 million total recreation visits (1910 to 2015)

Top 10 Visitation

All Units of the National Park System

Blue Ridge Parkway – 15,054,603
Golden Gate National Recreation Area – 14,888,537
Great Smoky Mountains National Park – 10,712,674
Lincoln Memorial – 7,941,771
Lake Mead National Recreation Area – 7,298,465
George Washington Memorial Parkway – 7,286,463
Gateway National Recreation Area – 6,392,565
Natchez Trace Parkway – 5,785,812
Vietnam Veterans Memorial – 5,597,077
Grand Canyon National Park – 5,520,736

National Parks

Great Smoky Mountains National Park – 10,712,674
Grand Canyon National Park – 5,520,736
Rocky Mountain National Park – 4,155,916
Yosemite National Park – 4,150,217
Yellowstone National Park – 4,097,710
Zion National Park – 3,648,846
Olympic National Park – 3,263,761
Grand Teton National Park – 3,149,921
Acadia National Park – 2,811,184
Glacier National Park – 2,366,056


The Pattiz Brothers are at it again – This time in Zion

Posted by on Feb 14, 2016 @ 5:59 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Two brothers spent more than three weeks in Zion National Park to put together a 4-minute video that shows some of the park’s many vistas. Filmmakers Jim and Will Pattiz, who are from outside Atlanta, spent 24 days in the park and shot footage at 16 different sites.

The stunning video is part of a project they started called More Than Just Parks, an attempt to draw awareness to the country’s national parks. The Zion video is the sixth in their series. Meanderthals has featured them in the past.

“Zion is one of the most unique and singularly spectacular parks in the the national park system,” Jim Pattiz said in an email. “Seeing it in the fall, with its brilliant display of yellow cottonwoods set against the dazzling Vermillion Cliffs of Zion Canyon is nothing short of amazing.”



Pacolet Area Conservancy fund raising walk and trail run

Posted by on Feb 13, 2016 @ 7:57 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Pacolet Area Conservancy fund raising walk and trail run

Celebrate Earth Day, April 23, 2016 with these two “feel-good” Springtime Fundraising Events at Tryon Estates that will help Pacolet Area Conservancy preserve more of our mountains, farms, forests, waterways & greenspaces!

5K PACRun begins at 8:00 a.m., 7 – 7:45 a.m. Onsite Registration, or pre-register online at:

PACWalk, suitable for everyone with three levels, begins at 10:00 a.m. PACWalk is a pet friendly event.

1) PACWalk – 2 mile walk/jog around the lake & through the woods, some gentle hills
2) The Sam White Stroll – easy/breezy ¾ mile stroll around the lake
3) Phantom Walk – Use your imagination to support conservation without walking!

9 – 9:45 a.m. – Check in & Onsite Registration, 10 a.m. – PACWalk Start Time. Please pre-register at their office or with a form available online at

Registration: $20 if received by April 8, 2016; guaranteed a t-shirt. $25 Late Entry, for PACRun, if received after April 8, 2016, including the day of the event; t-shirts for late entries available until we run out.

Start forming your PACWalk teams now. They are still looking for business and individual sponsors. Awards and a free luncheon following the event, with special recognition of sponsors.


Obama designates new national monuments in the California desert

Posted by on Feb 13, 2016 @ 2:24 am in Conservation | 0 comments

President Obama has set aside more of America’s lands and waters for conservation protection than any of his predecessors, and he is preparing to do even more before he leaves office next year. The result may be one of the most expansive environmental and historic-preservation legacies in presidential history.

On Friday, February 12, 2016 Obama designated more than 1.8 million acres of California desert for protection with the creation of three national monuments: Castle Mountains, Mojave Trails and Sand to Snow. The new monuments will connect three existing sites — Death Valley and Joshua Tree national parks and the Mojave National Preserve — to create the second-largest desert preserve in the world. Namib-Naukluft National Park in Namibia is the largest.

The big question: What next?

Other possible future designations include Bears Ears, a sacred site for several Native American tribes in southeastern Utah; Stonewall, the site of a 1969 inn riot by members of New York City’s gay community; the New England Coral Canyons and Seamounts; the historic headquarters of the National Woman’s Party, Sewall-Belmont House in Washington, D.C.; and Nevada’s Gold Butte, an area where rancher Cliven Bundy and his supporters have defied federal authorities.

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Road to recovery begins in Porter Ranch as gas leak is halted at last

Posted by on Feb 12, 2016 @ 10:30 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

Nearly four months of environmental contamination and civic disruption in Porter Ranch, California came close to an end February 11, 2016 when work crews pierced the underground casing of the damaged Aliso Canyon gas well and started injecting it with a mud-like compound.

“The well is no longer leaking,” said Jimmie Cho, senior vice president of gas operations and system integrity for Southern California Gas Co.

The final step is for concrete to be pumped into the well, a process that has begun, and for state regulatory officials to declare that the leak has ceased.

Residents were already beginning to notice one major difference: No more gas odor that has driven so many from their homes.

For the nearly 5,000 households that moved out of Porter Ranch alarmed about health risks from the leak, the news brings mixed relief.

It’s a moment of celebration, said Paula Cracium, president of the Porter Ranch Neighborhood Council, but there still is a lot of work ahead. “It changes from controlling the crisis to now navigating recovery,” Cracium said.

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The Koch Brothers Are Now Funding The Bundy Land Seizure Agenda

Posted by on Feb 12, 2016 @ 1:02 am in Conservation | 0 comments

The political network of the conservative billionaires Charles and David Koch signaled last week that it is expanding its financial and organizational support for a coalition of anti-government activists and militants who are working to seize and sell America’s national forests, monuments, and other public lands.

The disclosure, made through emails sent by the American Lands Council and Koch-backed group Federalism in Action to their members, comes as the 40-day armed takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon is winding to an end. With the surrender of the last occupiers on February 11, 2016, the arduous task of forensics and cleanup begins.

recent organizational changes reveal that the Koch network is providing direct support to the ringleader of the land grab movement, Utah state representative Ken Ivory, and has forged an alliance with groups and individuals who have militia ties and share extreme anti-government ideologies.

The expanded window into the Koch network’s support for the land transfer movement opened on February 3, 2016, when the American Lands Council (ALC) (a group whose goal is to pass state-level legislation demanding that the federal government turn over publicly owned national forests and other public lands) announced that Ivory would be stepping down as its president to join a South Carolina-based group called Federalism in Action (FIA).

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Vistas of NC: Who Owns the View?

Posted by on Feb 11, 2016 @ 10:07 am in Conservation | 0 comments

On an average morning thousands of North Carolinians wake up to the sight of a dusting of snow on area mountaintops. And while individuals can own much of the land, the state’s 25 land conservancies are working to protect the views for everyone to enjoy.

They’re guided by the principle advocated by Ralph Waldo Emerson who wrote “None of us owns the landscape,” in his essay “Nature.”

Pam Torlina, director of stewardship and land protection with the Pacolet Area Conservancy, says everyone owns the view. “They do belong to us,” she says. “Such a big part of our sensory experience is visual and so by protecting these places, it protects the signature of our rural communities.”

Land conservancies in North Carolina have protected tens of thousands of acres of land with the help of public and private funding.

“They are so important to the peace and tranquility that we always find in place, when it’s taken away, it ruins it for us,” she says. “Sadly a lot of times the developers move so much quicker than land trusts can.”

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Prescribed Burn Planned for Grandfather Ranger District Today

Posted by on Feb 11, 2016 @ 9:36 am in Conservation | 0 comments

The U.S. Forest Service plans to conduct a 120-acre prescribed burn in the Grandfather Ranger District, Pisgah National Forest, on Thursday, February 11, 2016.

The agency will conduct the one-day burn near the Woodlawn Township, north of Marion, NC along the Clinchfield Railroad. The objective of the burn is fuel reduction.

The Forest Service is conducting the burn as part of the Grandfather Restoration Project, a 10-year project designed to restore 40,000 acres of the Grandfather Ranger District. The project is restoring fire-adapted ecosystems by enhancing conditions for a variety of native plants and wildlife, controlling non-native species, and protecting hemlocks against hemlock woolly adelgids.

The Mountains to Sea Trail from Dobson Knob Road to the footbridge over the North Fork of the Catawba River will be closed during operations.

The safety of the public and firefighters is the highest priority during a prescribed burn. The public is asked to heed signs posted at trailheads and roads and to stay away from burn areas and closed roads and trails.

The NC Forest Service and The Nature Conservancy are assisting in the prescribed burn.


Duke Energy Fined $6.6 Million For Massive Coal Waste Spill

Posted by on Feb 10, 2016 @ 4:57 am in Conservation | 0 comments

North Carolina environmental regulators fined Duke Energy $6.6 million this week for the company’s role in a 2014 coal ash spill that sent millions of gallons of contaminated water into the state’s Dan River. If you ask me, that isn’t nearly enough when you consider one study from 2015 estimated the ecological, recreational, aesthetic, and human health damages from the spill totaled $295,485,000. And that study looked at only the first six months after the spill, meaning the total damage could end up being higher.

The fine covers violations Duke Energy pleaded guilty to in federal court last year. In February of 2014, 39,000 tons of coal ash — a toxic byproduct of coal burning that can contain lead, mercury, and arsenic — and 27 million gallons of contaminated water leaked from a storage pond at a closed Duke power plant in North Carolina into the Dan River. It was later discovered that Duke was warned about the potential for leaks from the storage pond before the spill occurred, but the company ignored these warnings.

The fine was handed down to the company by North Carolina’s Department of Environmental quality, and joins the $2.5 million settlement Duke agreed to with the state of Virginia, which was also impacted by the spill. It also joins the $102 million in fines and restitution related to the spill Duke agreed to pay in May of last year.

Frank Holleman, senior attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center, said that seeing Duke fined for the disaster isn’t the main thing his group is concerned about. “A fine like this against a multi-billion dollar company like Duke is nearly symbolic,” he said. “We really are not interested in fines. We’re interested in preventing disasters so that no fines will ever have to be assessed.”

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Artist-in-Residence at Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Posted by on Feb 9, 2016 @ 8:45 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Artists have long had an impact on our perceptions of national parks. Dramatic photographs, paintings, and essays helped stimulate the establishment of many park sites and continue to foster an appreciation of them today. Artists interpret the American landscape using traditional and contemporary approaches. They share the national park experience in ways that bring enjoyment, appreciation and a sense of connection to special places that many people may not have an opportunity to visit.

The Artist-in-Residence program offers an opportunity for artists to pursue new creative endeavors while immersed in the rugged mountain landscape, rich cultural heritage and wealth of biological diversity at Great Smoky Mountains National Park. In turn, selected artists continue the long tradition of interpreting resources in ways that enrich the park experience for today’s visitors and leave lasting impressions for future generations.

GSMNP seeks writers, musicians, craftsmen, composers, painters, sculptors, photographers, storytellers, performance artists, and videographers who’s work is engaged in issues that are relevant to the park’s interpretive themes.

The program provides time for artists to develop a body of work, as well as opportunities to engage and inspire the public through outreach initiatives. In exchange for their stay in the park, the artist creates new work and generates experiences that promote visitor understanding of the need to preserve and care for this national treasure.

Learn more…


North Dakota’s Contributions to Our National Parks’ 2016 Centennial

Posted by on Feb 7, 2016 @ 9:37 am in Conservation | 0 comments

I needn’t tell you North Dakota is not the first place people consider when asked about national parks. Far from it. Yellowstone, Yosemite, the Grand Canyon—these are the places most people picture when questioned by friends and coworkers about memorable places and bucket list destinations. Who could fault them? Americans and people worldwide are flooded with photographs of these and other of the United States’ most cherished lands and places of shared heritage.

To care for these places, Congress in 1916 created the National Park Service, one of the country’s most beloved institutions. During this year’s 2016 Centennial, all visitors to our national parks—in 2014, a record 292.8 million of them—can discover and learn about the many struggles and triumphs of the citizens who committed to protecting what they valued most: the nation’s lands and heritage. The statistics alone are remarkable: as of 2015’s end, 409 national parks; 49 national heritage areas; more than 2,500 national historic landmarks; 597 national natural landmarks; 43,162 miles of shoreline; 85,049 miles of rivers and streams; and more than 75,000 archeological sites.

But that’s not all. Our nation’s parks are places where Americans can honor and remember the lost, those who fought and died to protect their lands and traditions, the values they cherished most. In Montana and the Dakotas alone it includes the Assiniboine, Crow, Cree, Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara, Dakota, and Lakota. Members of these tribes traded furs for manufactured goods at Fort Union trading post, which 50 years ago this year MonDak-area residents helped to protect as a national historic site. Still others lived in the towns now preserved in central North Dakota’s Knife River Indian Villages, also a national historic site. Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, members of these tribes sacrificed their lives to defend their northern plains homes and families, just as they have in World War II, Vietnam, and more recent wars.

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Hiking community fights to save popular North Sound trail from logging

Posted by on Feb 6, 2016 @ 9:06 am in Conservation, Hiking News | 0 comments

Near Seattle, WA, one of the North Sound’s most popular and scenic hiking trails is in danger of being logged. Unless the state can allocate $7.5 million, the 100-year-old trees that cover Oyster Dome — between Mount Vernon and Bellingham – will be cut down by the Department of Natural Resources.

Craig Romano tackles the popular hike off Highway 11 on a pretty regular basis. The guide book author has hiked 18,000 miles of Washington trails and says Oyster Dome’s six-plus miles are some of the very best.

“It is the only place where the Cascades meet the Salish Sea. So 2,000 feet up, it rises right out of the Salish Sea, and you’re overlooking the San Juan Islands, the Olympic Mountains,” explained Craig.

That’s why a decade ago, even though Oyster Dome is in a state forest where the DNR is required to log, a promise was made to protect it. The state agreed to buy 1,600 acres of private land, add it to the Blanchard Forest, and log it instead of Oyster Dome.

But 10 years later, the Legislature has funded less than half of the $13 million needed for the purchase, and local hikers are starting to panic.

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Investing in Our Public Lands: The President’s Proposal to Fully Fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund

Posted by on Feb 6, 2016 @ 2:07 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Over 50 years ago, a visionary Congress established an innovative program to bring communities together to invest in open spaces and recreational opportunities that are an essential part of our nation’s heritage and economy. Since then, the highly successful Land and Water Conservation Fund has helped to protect working forests and ranches, preserve our public lands – parks, refuges, forests, rivers, lakes and wildlife habitats – and provide access to outdoor recreation across the nation for use and enjoyment by all Americans.

President Obama is committed to passing on America’s public lands and waters to future generations in better shape than we found them. That’s why he is proposing full funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund in the Fiscal Year 2017 budget, and pursuing permanent authorization in annual mandatory funding for the Fund’s programs beginning in 2018.

In 2017, the budget will invest $900 million in conservation and recreation projects – a portion of the revenues from offshore oil and gas drilling that are deposited in the fund each year – through a combination of discretionary ($475 million) and mandatory ($425 million) funding. This culminates a multi-year strategy leading to full permanent funding for the Fund in 2018.

These investments – using voluntary conservation tools like easements and purchases from willing sellers – respond to local communities’ priorities. They will conserve public lands in or near national parks, refuges, and forests, including landscapes identified for collaborative, strategic conservation; increase access for hunting and fishing; protect historic battlefields; and provide grants to states for close-to-home recreation and conservation projects on non-federal lands.

This is great news for all Americans – from hunters and anglers, to outdoor enthusiasts and history buffs, to communities large and small across the nation who benefit from the Land and Water Conservation Fund investments. In fact, the program has supported more than 42,000 national, state and local parks and outdoor recreation projects in all 50 states.

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While the media focuses on the water quality in Flint, the Navajo water supply has been under attack since the 1950’s

Posted by on Feb 5, 2016 @ 10:37 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

The news out of Flint, Michigan brought the issue of contaminated drinking water into sharp focus, as it was revealed that officials at every level—local, state and federal—knew about lead-poisoned water for months but did nothing to address the problem.

Under state-run systems like utilities and roads, poorer communities are the last to receive attention from government plagued by inefficiencies and corrupt politicians. Perhaps no group knows this better than Native Americans, who have been victimized by government for centuries.

In the western U.S., water contamination has been a way of life for many tribes. The advocacy group Clean Up The Mines! describes the situation in Navajo country, which is far worse than in Flint, Michigan.

Since the 1950s, their water has been poisoned by uranium mining to fuel the nuclear industry and the making of atomic bombs for the U.S. military. Coal mining and coal-fired power plants have added to the mix. The latest assault on Navajo water was carried out by the massive toxic spills into the Animas and San Juan rivers when the EPA recklessly attempted to address the abandoned Gold King mine.

There is no comprehensive law requiring cleanup of abandoned uranium mines, meaning corporations and government can walk away from them after exploiting their resources. 75 percent of abandoned uranium mines are on federal and Tribal lands.

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Roan Mountain property slated for development will be conserved

Posted by on Feb 5, 2016 @ 9:11 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Roan Mountain property slated for development will be conserved

The Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy recently acquired 48 acres in the Roan Highlands near the Carter County border in North Carolina that was slated for development.

The Broad Branch Tract is less than 2 miles from the Appalachian Trail and the Cloudland Rhododendron Gardens. The tract adjoins Pisgah National Forest and contains a broad mix of habitat. The Conservancy plans to own and manage the property for long-term forest health and water quality.

“This tract shares a nearly one-half mile boundary with Pisgah National Forest,” said Land Protection Director Michelle Pugliese. “It certainly earns the description of ‘highlands,’ with elevations exceeding 4,500 feet where it joins the National Forest.”

Located within the North Carolina-designated Roan Mountain Massif Natural Area, the tract is forested with mature trees and potential habitat for rare plant and animal species. Approximately 75% of the property falls within the Roan Mountain Important Bird Area (IBA), as designated by the National Audubon Society.

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Archaeologists Dig Up An 800-Year-Old Native American Pot. What They Found Inside Is Changing History

Posted by on Feb 1, 2016 @ 8:48 am in Conservation | 0 comments

In 2008, on a dig on the First Nation’s Menominee Reservation in Wisconsin, archaeologists made a small but stunning discovery: a tiny clay pot. Though it might not have seemed very impressive at first glimpse, this little piece of pottery was determined to be about 800 years old.

And inside that pot? Something that changes how we’re looking at extinction, preservation, and food storage, as well as how humans have influenced the planet in their time on it.

It’s amazing to think that a little clay pot buried in the ground 800 years ago would still be relevant today, but it’s true It’s actually brought an extinct species of squash that was presumed to be lost forever. Thank our indigenous ancestors Even they knew what preservation meant. They knew the importance of the future.

Inside, archaeologists found a stash of seeds. The seeds were probably buried in the pot as a method of storing food supplies. They were determined to be an old, now-extinct species of squash. Now, seven years after making this stunning discovery, students in Winnipeg decided to plant the 800-year-old seeds.

See the result…


Beyond the Oregon Protests: The Search for Common Ground

Posted by on Jan 29, 2016 @ 11:12 am in Conservation | 0 comments

The standoff with militant extremists at an Oregon wildlife refuge, which erupted into violence and arrests this week, stands in stark contrast to the new sense of collaboration between local residents and public land managers in the West. The militants claimed that the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge symbolized federal tyranny over public lands. But for many locals the refuge exemplified just the opposite: a successful community-based, collaborative partnership with the government. Not one local rancher had heeded the armed militants’ call to join their protest and rip up their federal grazing leases.

Malheur’s collaborative approach to land-use management began in 2008, when the refuge’s manager, Tim Bodeen, agreed to work with a cooperative group called the High Desert Partnership. It brought together ranchers, the Paiute tribe, conservationists, and federal staff to develop and implement long-term restoration projects on the refuge and across the region. After years of dialogue, a landmark plan was created in 2013 to guide the management of the 187,757-acre refuge for 15 years — sustaining it as a stopover habitat for millions of migratory birds as well as promoting it as a rangeland resource for local ranchers.

The plan, following an approach increasingly being implemented on Western public lands, uses innovative techniques suggested by local community members. Cattle grazing, for example, is encouraged as a method for controlling invasive plants that threaten the refuge — an experiment that will be rigorously monitored by participants. Since ecological conditions change, the plan treats grazing and all other management on the refuge as a series of experiments, testing to see what strategies work and what strategies don’t.

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