Conservation & Environment

Defending Mongolia’s Growing National Park System

Posted by on Jun 23, 2016 @ 11:14 am in Conservation | 0 comments

A few months ago, when Mongolian national park director Tumursukh Jal was on an official visit to the Grand Canyon, one of his hosts asked a simple question: “How many national parks do you guys have there in your home country?” When Tumursukh mentioned there were 99 of them, his US colleagues seemed a bit nonplussed. “That many, really?”

The issue that worries Tumursukh is not that Mongolia lacks enough national parks. Instead, there is almost too much territory to protect – and certainly not enough park rangers and other resources to do the job correctly. This seems to be a problem facing many of the former Soviet bloc countries. Over the last 25 years, countries like Mongolia and Russia have been creating new parks at near-record rates. But now they need to catch up, and recruit qualified rangers and train them for the rigorous work of managing these parks. And to do this, they often need to reach out for advice and support from their western counterparts.

In fact, this was one of the objectives of Tumursukh’s recent visit to America’s parks. At each official meeting, he was quick to point out that the three parks that are under his command cover over 3 million acres – or an area that is around four times larger than California’s Yosemite National Park. But whereas the permanent staff at Yosemite hovers around 800 full-time employees, the three parks that Tumursukh manages only have 30 staff members total. So it’s easy to understand the challenges that the Mongolian park rangers face every day as they try to patrol such massive landscapes with such small numbers of staff.

Tumursukh is also quick to point out that they are not just randomly creating new national parks in Mongolia. Each of the new protected areas contains either a unique landscape (like the Gobi Desert), or was formed to preserve one of the country’s several engendered species and their habitats.

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You Will Recognize The Names Of The Companies That Emit The Most Methane

Posted by on Jun 22, 2016 @ 6:47 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Frackers across the country — in places like Texas, Colorado, North Dakota, and Oklahoma — are spewing millions of tons of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere, nullifying any climate impacts of cleaner-burning natural gas.

The biggest names in natural gas, including ConocoPhillips, BP America, and Exxon, are responsible for more than half the methane released during onshore natural gas production in the United States. Natural gas is 80 percent methane, which traps heat 86 times more effectively than CO2 over a 20-year period. So, when the invisible, odorless gas leaks during drilling, it has an outsized climate effect.

A new report from the Center for American Progress found that total natural gas production — drilling, fracturing, pumping, and compressing at well sites — released methane emissions equivalent to running 14 coal-fired power plants for one year.

Fracking has already been shown to have a rash of environmentally degrading impacts, from water contamination to habitat destruction. This week, an investigation from the Center for Public Integrity found that the Marcellus Shale region in Pennsylvania is struggling with disposing of the radioactive material brought up during the fracking process.

But it’s important to keep in mind that the immediate, obvious issues with fracking (such as explosions and poor drinking water), are compounded by natural gas’ impact on climate change.

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Cradle of Forestry Announces Junior Forester Program

Posted by on Jun 21, 2016 @ 6:42 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Cradle of Forestry Announces Junior Forester Program

The Cradle of Forestry in America will offer a Junior Forester program for boys and girls ages 8-12 years old. This outdoor-oriented experience will be held every Wednesday from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. from June 22, 2016 to August 11.

The Cradle of Forestry Junior Forester program combines learning new skills with discovery and reflection. Each youth receives a Junior Forester badge and patch. Participants can register for one or more programs. This summer’s topics are:

  • June 22: Orienteering 1.0
  • June 29: Orienteering 2.0
  • July 6: Forestry’s Big Picture
  • July 13: Tree Stories
  • July 20: A Great Big Forest
  • July 27: Wildlife Studies
  • August 4: Forests Reduce, Reuse and Recycle
  • August 11: Stewards of Public Lands

Each child should come prepared for fun in the outdoors with closed-toed shoes, a small backpack and water. The programs will be held rain or shine and adapted to indoors if stormy.

After the program kids can try a fact safari and scavenger hunt inside the Forest Discovery Center and explore paved interpretive trails, perfect for strollers and wheelchairs. Other activities include the Adventure Zone, designed for children on the autism spectrum yet enjoyable for all, as well as historic cabins, an antique logging locomotive and sawmill, and gift shop. Families can pack a picnic and enjoy a full day in the forest.

The Junior Forester program costs $4 per youth and $2.50 for adults for each program. Adults with America the Beautiful and Golden Age passports are admitted free. Registration is required as space is limited. Call the Cradle of Forestry at (828) 877-3130 to register.

The Cradle of Forestry is located on Hwy. 276 in the Pisgah National Forest, six miles north of Looking Glass Falls and four miles south of the Blue Ridge Parkway at milepost 412. Visit www.cradleofforestry.com for more information about the site.

 

U.K. Government Plans to Create New National Forest

Posted by on Jun 20, 2016 @ 11:06 am in Conservation | 0 comments

U.K. Government Plans to Create New National Forest

The U.K. government has backed plans to create a new national forest in England in an effort to improve the natural environment over a 25-year period. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs will publish the details of the plan by the end of 2016 or by early 2017 at the latest.

Millions of trees—including oak, beech, ash, birch and lime—will be planted in a large area of forest in England. Ministers hope that the project will see a significant increase in the number of trees planted throughout the country.

In 2015, Prime Minister David Cameron pledged to plant 11 million trees in his manifesto by 2020; however, recent figures are low. The U.K. planted the fewest number of trees in over four decades in 2015 and the country is one of the least wooded in Europe. Official statistics from Forestry Commission England reveal that between April 2015 and March 2016, only 546 hectares of woodland were planted.

“Today’s higher and growing population density in urban areas means that the provision of good quality, accessible and safe urban green space is critical. As over 80 percent of England’s population now lives in urban areas, accessible nearby urban green infrastructure is vital to our nation’s well-being.”

Cite…

 

After Republicans Refuse, Democrats Hold Their Own Hearing On The Malheur Wildlife Refuge Takeover

Posted by on Jun 19, 2016 @ 7:21 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Democrats from the House committees on Natural Resources and Homeland Security this week held a joint forum that focused on the steps that need to be taken to confront violent extremism on America’s public lands. The forum comes five months after Ammon Bundy and a group of anti-government extremists took over the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Harney County, Oregon and held it for 41 days.

The forum addressed the recent threats to federal lands and land management officials, as well as domestic terrorism more broadly. This forum was the first time Congress has addressed extremism on public lands or the dangerous situations created by the Bundy family and their supporters.

In April, House Natural Resources ranking member Raúl Grijalva along with Rep. Huffman and Rep. Tsongas requested a full committee oversight hearing on the armed occupation at Malheur and related threats of violence occurring on public lands. Committee Chairman Rob Bishop denied the hearing request and the Majority has so far largely refused to condemn the actions of Bundy and the rest of the armed extremists.

The fact that this was an informal forum and not a full bi-partisan committee hearing did not go unnoticed. Panelists and members of Congress alike expressed disappointment in the issue’s lack of bipartisan attention.

In addition to sweeping the issue under the rug, committee members blamed the rhetoric and actions of Rob Bishop and other anti-park politicians for fanning the flames of these anti-government extremists.

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Every observatory in the world now reports carbon dioxide is at highest level in 4 million years

Posted by on Jun 18, 2016 @ 7:11 am in Conservation | 0 comments

One by one, the observatories sounded the alarm in the past few years—from the peak of Mauna Loa in Hawaii, and the top of the Greenland ice sheet—as the amount of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere crept above 400 parts per million (ppm).

The last alarm bells went off this week, when scientists announced that the Halley Research Station in Antarctica, as well as a monitoring post at the geographic South Pole, both located amid the most pristine air on the planet, have now passed the 400 ppm mark.

In other words, at every location on Earth where scientists routinely monitor carbon dioxide levels, we are now entering uncharted territory for humanity.

For reference, carbon dioxide levels were at about 280 ppm at the start of the industrial revolution, when humans began burning fossil fuels for energy. They have marched upward at increasing rates ever since.

According to Pieter Tans, the lead scientist for the Global Greenhouse Gas Reference Network, 400 ppm is the highest level that carbon dioxide levels have reached in at least 4 million years.

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A Simple Idea Could Help Wildlife Survive Climate Change

Posted by on Jun 15, 2016 @ 11:35 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Global warming is chasing plants and animals, forcing them to head uphill or north to find suitable habitat. Scientists have considered migration corridors — restored, healthy natural areas that connect current habitats with likely landing spots — as a way to help plants and animals stay a step ahead of climate change.

New findings published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science quantify just how much of a benefit they would provide. The report shows that corridors up to 62 miles long would link up to 25 percent more habitat across the U.S. and on average help species adapt to an extra 4.9°F (2.7°C) of warming.

“It’s something land managers should be thinking about right now,” Jenny McGuire, an ecologist at Georgia Tech who led the new research, said. “Increasing connectivity between natural areas really does improve plants’ and animals’ ability to track their current climate.”

There are major hurdles standing between species and future greener pastures. Sprawling urban areas, major agricultural operations and other human developments have fragmented the landscape, forcing some species toward a dead end and their possible demise.

Corridors could help alleviate that. They aren’t literally corridors or paths for wildlife to stroll along, but rather stretches of land where the habitat — say, a river or well-managed commercial forest — is healthy enough to migrate as the world warms.

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Woman sentenced for vandalism in several National Park Service sites

Posted by on Jun 14, 2016 @ 9:31 am in Conservation | 0 comments

The woman who defaced sites within several national parks in 2014 pleaded guilty June 13, 2016 to seven misdemeanor counts of damaging government property. Casey Nocket, age 23, was ordered by a federal judge to serve two years of probation and 200 hours of community service. She is also banned from all lands administered by the National Park Service (NPS), US Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and Army Corps of Engineers during her probation period.

A Special Agent, aided by an Intelligence Analyst, conducted the lengthy investigation, bringing forth a strong case to an Assistant US Attorney for prosecution. A hearing to determine the amount of restitution Nocket is required to pay will be held at a later date.

According to court documents, Nocket damaged rock formations within seven national parks over a 26-day period, drawing or painting on them using acrylic paints and markers. She posted numerous pictures of her drawings on her social media accounts. The parks are in four federal districts: the Eastern District of California, the District of Oregon, the District of Utah, and the District of Colorado.

Acting US Attorney Philip Talbert stated, “The defendant’s defacement of multiple rock formations showed a lack of respect for the law and our shared national treasures. The National Park Service has worked hard to restore the rock formations to their natural state, completing clean-up efforts in five of the seven parks. They expect to complete cleanup efforts at Death Valley in the near future and at Crater Lake as weather permits.”

“This case illustrates the important role that the public can play in identifying and sharing evidence of illegal behavior in parks,” said Charles Cuvelier, chief of Law Enforcement, Security, and Emergency Services (LESES) for the NPS. “It is clear that the public cares deeply for the special places that the National Park Service represents, and the resolution of this case sends a message to those who would consider such inappropriate behavior going forward.”

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Greenland witnessed its highest June temperature ever recorded

Posted by on Jun 14, 2016 @ 7:47 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Nuuk, Greenland’s capital, soared to 75 degrees (24 Celsius) Thursday, June 9, 2016, marking the warmest temperature ever recorded in the Arctic country during June. Nuuk sits on Greenland’s southwest coast, where the country’s warmest weather typically occurs. It was warmer in Nuuk than it was in New York City, where the high was only 71 degrees.

The Danish Meteorological Institute has confirmed on a preliminary basis that the Nuuk measurement would replace the previous record of 73.8 degrees (23.2 Celsius), which was set in Kangerlussuaq on June 15 in 2014.

The warm weather was brought on by winds from the east that set up between high pressure over northeast Greenland and low pressure south of Greenland. When winds come from the east over Nuuk, they blow downhill, which leads to an increase in temperature. It’s the same kind of dry warmth that occurs as a result of Santa Ana winds in Southern California.

Thursday’s toasty reading in Nuuk marks the second exceptionally warm temperature recorded in southwest Greenland since April, when the ice melt season began about a month prematurely.

At the time, so much ice was melting that scientists at the DMI couldn’t believe what they were seeing. “We had to check that our models were still working properly,” said Peter Langen, a climate scientist.

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NFF Celebrates Completion of Work on Oregon’s Deschutes National Forest

Posted by on Jun 13, 2016 @ 10:14 am in Conservation | 0 comments

NFF Celebrates Completion of Work on Oregon’s Deschutes National Forest

Last month the National Forest Foundation gathered with partners, friends and collaborators to celebrate the culmination of years of effort on the Deschutes National Forest. Part of their Treasured Landscapes, Unforgettable Experiences campaign, “The Tale of Two Rivers” site leveraged more than $4 million to restore Whychus Creek and Metolius River. The event took place at the new Whychus Overlook, the final piece of the site work, which provides stunning views of the Three Sisters Wilderness.

These rivers are truly treasured landscapes and are highly valued by the community of Sisters and the many people who hike or fish these rivers. Whychus has an impressive history. It once provided more than half of the steelhead spawning habitat in the Upper Deschutes River Basin. In recent years Whychus Creek was known as the “lost river” because the river lost its water to irrigation withdrawals. In the summertime it often would run dry preventing fish to swim upstream.

The Metolius River is a crystal clear, spring fed river that runs through towering old growth Ponderosa pines and provides miles of hiking trails and amazing fly fishing opportunities. Due to its popularity, the recreation on and in the river degraded the water quality and beauty which is what brought so many visitors. In short, people were loving it to death.

Over the past six years, the NFF worked with local organizations, the community of Sisters and the Forest Service to restore these rivers. Over 1,200 volunteers spent more than 9,600 hours restoring hiking trails, planting trees and removing unnecessary fences near these amazing rivers. Their efforts protected fish habitat and made the recreation opportunities more accessible and sustainable.

Cite…

 

Air pollution named as leading cause in strokes

Posted by on Jun 12, 2016 @ 8:14 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Each year, around 15 million people globally suffer from strokes and it is the fifth leading cause of death in the U.S. Scientists have long known that behavioral factors like diet, smoking, and exercise all contribute to those statistics, but now, a new study names another leading contributor: air pollution.

The study, funded by public health groups in the U.S. and New Zealand, found that environmental and household air pollution was associated with a third of global strokes in 2013. The number was significantly higher in developing countries (34 percent) than it was in developed countries (10 percent). From 1990 to 2013, strokes associated with environmental air pollution — the particulate matter that’s released by burning biomass and running cars — increased by over a third. The global burden of stroke from environmental air pollution is almost as bad as smoking.

Air pollution in the form of fine particulate matter ranked seventh in terms of its impact on healthy lifespan, while household air pollution from burning solid fuels ranked eighth.

Valery Feigin, director of the National Institute for Stroke and Applied Neurosciences at Auckland University of Technology, said that while he expected air pollution to emerge as a threat, the extent of the problem had taken researchers by surprise.

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Our Dry, Warm Future may Favor Oaks

Posted by on Jun 11, 2016 @ 12:48 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

Historically, many oak forests across the eastern U.S. experienced frequent low-intensity fires that promoted the establishment and growth of oaks. “However, fire and other disturbances have become less common,” says U.S. Forest Service scientist James Vose. “Red maple, tulip poplar, and other mesophytic, fire-sensitive, and shade-tolerant trees are increasing in many areas of the eastern U.S.”

But what does the future hold? Over the coming decades, changes in fire regimes, climate, and land use will continue to affect forests. However, new climate and disturbance regimes may actually favor oak forests, according to a new synthesis by Vose and Katherine Elliott, a U.S. Forest Service research ecologist.

Changes in precipitation regimes – the pattern and amount of rainfall and other precipitation – appears to be one of the factors favoring mesophytic tree species in eastern forests. Once established, oaks tolerate drought better than many non-oak species that are becoming common in eastern forests, such as maple, beech, willow, blackgum, and others. However, droughts were less common and less severe over most of the 20th century.

Along with a reduction in drought, fire and other disturbances have also become less common. Oaks are fire-tolerant, and although it’s unclear what fire’s future role will be, it will probably play an important role in shaping oak forests. “The combination of climate change, wildfire, and other disturbances could create environmental conditions that favor oaks,” says Vose.

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Arctic Sea Ice Plummets To Staggering Low In May, While CO2 Levels Hit Record High

Posted by on Jun 9, 2016 @ 7:10 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Last month saw the biggest year-over-year jump in atmospheric levels of heat-trapping carbon dioxide on record — 3.76 parts per million. And that, reports NOAA, took May 2016 to the highest monthly levels of CO2 in the air ever measured — 407.7 ppm.

At the same time, the National Snow and Ice Data Center reports the warming-driven death spiral of Arctic sea ice hit a staggering new May low. May 2016 saw Arctic sea ice extent drop “about 600,000 square kilometers (232,000 square miles) below any previous year in the 38-year satellite record.”

“We’ve never seen anything like this before,” explained NSIDC director Mark Serreze. “It’s way below the previous record, very far below it, and we’re something like almost a month ahead of where we were in 2012.”

Whether this September beats the record minimum Arctic sea ice extent set in September 2012 depends on the weather this summer, which makes predictions difficult. That said, “Persistent Arctic and sub-Arctic warmth expected to continue for months,” as Alaska Dispatch News recently reported.

The Arctic has been setting records for warmth. In May, key portions of the Arctic ocean were 4-5°C (7-9°F) above the 1981 to 2010 average.

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Fireworks are Prohibited on all National Forest Land

Posted by on Jun 8, 2016 @ 7:39 am in Conservation | 0 comments

As the summer season begins, the National Forest Service reminds visitors that all fireworks, exploding targets and other pyrotechnic devices are prohibited on all National Forest land, year-round, regardless of weather conditions or holidays.

Forest Fire Management Officer Riva Duncan emphasizes that, “Fireworks can and will cause wildfires because they burn very hot. Even fireworks that seem innocent, like sparklers, can cause wildfires.”

Regulations are strictly enforced to protect the public and natural resources.

“National Forests are here for your use and enjoyment,” said Forest Supervisor Allen Nicholas. “In order to ensure everyone’s safety, please refrain from using any fireworks in the Forests.”

The public is also urged to exercise caution with campfires. Never leave a campfire unattended. Make sure campfires are completely extinguished and cold to the touch before leaving the campsite.

 

Be a Citizen Scientist

Posted by on Jun 7, 2016 @ 11:32 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Even if being a scientist isn’t your day job, there are lots of ways to contribute to scientific research about the natural world. From counting monarch butterflies to studying plant growth and tweeting earthquake locations, citizen science empowers the public to help scientists conduct and inform research. And it’s making a huge difference.

Monarchs are an iconic backyard species, and they need our help. Populations of these gorgeous orange and black butterflies have been declining for several reasons like climate change, pesticides and habitat loss. By tracking their movements, scientists can better understand and address the issues affecting them.

It’s estimated that 80-90 percent of species in parks are undiscovered, and the more information park managers have, the better they can protect parks. National parks nationwide are hosting a “bioblitz,” where citizen scientists spend a few hours or days documenting park biodiversity – from bugs to botany to birds.

When studying how environments change seasonally – called phenology – scientists alone can’t collect enough data. Volunteers on public lands nationwide help scientists better understand ecosystem health by tracking annual changes in plant and animal species, such as what time of year a flower blooms. (I do this, and find it very rewarding.)

When earthquakes strike, the speed of social media helps report information and support earthquake response. Tweets go up in seconds, while scientific alerts can take as long as 20 minutes.

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Land trust hosts June Jamboree on Roan Mountain

Posted by on Jun 7, 2016 @ 8:02 am in Conservation, Hiking News | 0 comments

Land trust hosts June Jamboree on Roan Mountain

“It’s inspiring to me to look out over these lands we protected,” Marquette Crockett said. “There’s a lot of love poured in here.”

Crockett, the Roan Mountain Stewardship director for the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy, works for that reaction – to protect the thousands of acres of land in the viewshed of Highlands of Roan and the Appalachian Trail, which slips over its ridge tops.

The nonprofit land trust based in Asheville was launched in 1974 to conserve the Highlands of Roan, a 24,000-acre swath of globally rare mountaintop habitat in Mitchell and Avery counties in North Carolina and Carter County in Tennessee, which the SAHC and its partners have helped protect.

On Saturday, June 11, 2016, SAHC will host its annual June Jamboree, a day of free, guided adventures and social fellowship in the Highlands of Roan, which start to climb from an elevation of 5,500 feet, and timed perfectly to greet the stunning, fluffy, purplish pink Catawba rhododendron blooms that splash the mountainside in color.

“The SAHC got its start because its founders were from the east Tennessee area and hiked on Roan. They were instrumental in getting the Appalachian Trail rerouted across the balds. Before then, it was mostly on roads,” said Angela Shepherd, SAHC communications director.

The founders right away began setting into motion a plan to begin protecting the views from the AT, which was just a ribbon of trail surrounded by privately owned land.

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Cradle of Forestry Hosts Free Outdoor Activities on National Get Outdoors Day

Posted by on Jun 3, 2016 @ 7:53 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Cradle of Forestry Hosts Free Outdoor Activities on  National Get Outdoors Day

The Cradle of Forestry in America will celebrate National Get Outdoors Day, June 11, 2016, with outdoor skills demonstrations, activities and crafts. Admission to the site and all activities are free.

The National Get Outdoors Day campaign encourages Americans, especially youth, to pursue healthy and active outdoor lifestyles, connect with nature, and embrace public lands. In this spirit, the Cradle of Forestry will showcase outdoor adventure and camp and trail skills in its scenic setting with a variety of activities on June 11 including:

Compass practice and map reading
Demonstration of primitive fire making
Guided trail walks
Plant identification
Nature oriented games and crafts

For details and updates on the day’s activities, call the Cradle of Forestry at 828-877-3130, go to www.cradleofforestry.com, or the events tab on the Cradle of Forestry Historic Site Facebook page. The Cradle of Forestry is located outside Brevard, NC, on Hwy. 276 in the Pisgah National Forest, six miles north of Looking Glass Falls and four miles south of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

More than 80 Forest Service locations across the country will provide free recreational and educational activities as part of National Get Outdoors Day.

The USDA Forest Service has an ongoing commitment to engage children with nature through various programs in support of President Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors initiative and the First Lady’s Let’s Move! Outside campaign. The Forest Service has also collaborated with the Ad Council to develop a national campaign of television, radio, printed and outdoor public service announcements to re-connect families with nature. Visit www.discovertheforest.org.