Conservation & Environment

Oregon experts warn of invasive species that hitched a ride on North Carolina Christmas trees

Posted by on Jan 8, 2019 @ 6:54 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Oregon experts warn of invasive species that hitched a ride on North Carolina Christmas trees

While families celebrate the New Year, many are getting rid of their Christmas trees this week. With that comes a warning from the Oregon Department of Forestry about an invasive insect that could pose a problem if you don’t dispose of your tree the right way.

Experts say roughly 8,000 Fraser Fir trees shipped from North Carolina to big box stores on the West Coast had elongate hemlock scale, an invasive species not native to the Northwest.

The Oregon Department of Agriculture found the pest and ordered the infested trees destroyed, but not before some had been shipped to big box stores all along the West Coast. The fear is that when Christmas trees are left for weeks or months in a yard or dumped in a park or the woods, eggs laid on them will hatch and the pest may escape into nearby trees.

According to a new release from the Oregon Department of Forestry, if the elongate hemlock scale does get established in Oregon, it could be bad news for the state’s timber economy.

The pest attacks not only hemlocks, but several conifer species native to Oregon, like true firs, spruce and Douglas-fir. The scale feeds on the underside of the needles, creating a yellowish-brown waxy layer that is present year-round.

Read full story…

 

Park Service takes ‘extraordinary step’ of dipping into entrance fees to bolster operations at popular sites

Posted by on Jan 7, 2019 @ 6:42 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Park Service takes ‘extraordinary step’ of dipping into entrance fees to bolster operations at popular sites

The National Park Service will take the unprecedented step of tapping entrance fees to pay for expanded operations at its most popular sites as the federal government shutdown threatens to degrade some of the nation’s iconic landmarks.

Under a memorandum signed by the Interior Department’s acting secretary, David Bernhardt, park managers will be permitted to bring on additional staff to clean restrooms, haul trash, patrol the parks and open areas that have been shut during the more-than-two-week budget impasse. In a statement, National Park Service Deputy Director P. Daniel Smith acknowledged that the administration’s practice of keeping parks open but understaffed has become unsustainable at some of its most beloved sites.

The move, which some critics said could be illegal, shows the extent to which the Trump administration’s decision to keep the national park system open to visitors is straining its capacity and potentially exposing public lands to long-term damage. During such shutdowns under the Clinton and Obama administrations, the Park Service chose to block access to its sites rather than leave them open with a skeleton staff on board. Trump officials chose the opposite course, and as trash has begun to mount and key habitat has been imperiled, the administration is struggling to manage the problems.

Congressional Democrats and some park advocates question whether the park-fee move is legal, because the fees that parks collect under the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act are expressly designated to support visitor services instead of operations and basic maintenance.

Read full story…

 

A writer’s retreat: GSMA offers writing residency in the Smokies

Posted by on Jan 5, 2019 @ 7:09 am in Conservation | 0 comments

A writer’s retreat: GSMA offers writing residency in the Smokies

Steve Kemp moved to the Great Smoky Mountains in 1987 for what would become a 30-year career with the Great Smoky Mountains Association, and following his 2017 retirement GSMA is looking to honor his contributions to the organization through a new writer’s residency.

“There is a specific skill in writing in a way that engages the reader and inspires curiosity and passion in the reader, and that’s what we want to be able to cultivate,” said Laurel Rematore, executive director of GSMA, “because we’re in the business of helping people to connect with the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, connect on an emotional level so they will take care of it.”

Kemp is exceptionally good at that kind of writing, Rematore said, making it fitting that the new program will be called the Steve Kemp Writer’s Residency. Out of those applying, one writer will be chosen to live in park employee housing near Park Headquarters — located outside of Gatlinburg — from March 3 to April 13, 2019.

“It’s access, and it’s the opportunity to focus, focus without being concerned about outside deadlines or requirements,” said Rematore. “I think oftentimes artists are looking for inspiration, and what better inspiration than to come and immerse yourself in this place for six whole weeks?”

The selected writer will have more opportunity available to him or her than just the chance to sit in a cabin for six weeks. The writer will spend time with Kemp to “get a flavor of his view of things,” said Rematore, have access to park archives and personnel and have the opportunity to host events and be published in GSMA works.

Read full story…

 

Five Ways to Make the Outdoors More Inclusive

Posted by on Jan 4, 2019 @ 6:40 am in Conservation, Hiking News | 0 comments

After serving in the U.S. Army during the Korean War, Henry X. Finney came home to Virginia to sort out his future. He didn’t know what he would do, or how he would support his young family—until one day he saw a uniformed park ranger. Instantly, the next chapter of his life unfurled before him. He would be a ranger, and spend his career in the outdoors.

“He said, ‘Great, a government job, let me go apply,’” recalled Carolyn Finney, his daughter and the author of Black Faces, White Spaces: Reimagining the Relationship of African Americans to the Great Outdoors. “This was in the 1950s in Virginia, and they told him, ‘Sorry, we don’t hire Negroes.’”

Finney recently shared this anecdote in a room full of prominent outdoors experts and advocates, who had gathered for a brainstorm session in New York City to discuss the lack of diversity in the outdoors. “I can’t imagine how he felt hearing that after fighting for his country,” she added. But her father’s tale only partly explains the issue, which is a thorny and multifaceted one.

According to the most recent National Parks Service survey, about 78 percent of those who visit federal parks are white. Meanwhile, African Americans, Latinos, women, and members of the LGBTQ community often report feeling unwelcome or unsafe in outdoor spaces. Moreover, the outdoors industry workforce—which includes everyone from park rangers to retail sales associates—has minimal representation from these groups.

At the New York brainstorm session, panelists worked through these problem areas and discussed possible solutions. Here are the main ideas and action steps that emerged from the meeting, and from subsequent conversations with outdoors experts from around the U.S.

 

Chronic wasting disease found in Tennessee

Posted by on Jan 2, 2019 @ 9:00 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Chronic wasting disease found in Tennessee

Chronic wasting disease has been preliminarily detected in western Tennessee, increasing the threat to deer and elk in Western North Carolina.

Tennessee initiated its Chronic Wasting Disease Response Plan after white-tailed deer in Hardeman and Fayette counties — which border the Mississippi state line — tested positive for the disease in preliminary results. Tennessee is the second state bordering North Carolina to detect the disease, with Shenandoah and Frederick counties in Virginia, which border West Virginia, confirming cases.

Chronic wasting disease is a fatal disease that affects deer, elk, reindeer, sika deer and moose. Symptoms can include drastic weight loss, stumbling, listlessness and other neurological symptoms. There are no treatments or vaccines available.

The N.C. Wildlife Resource Commission has a Chronic Wasting Disease Response Plan to guide its short-term efforts should the disease be detected in North Carolina or within 30 miles of its borders. Agency biologists conduct statewide deer sampling each year and attempt to sample all deer that show possible symptoms or die of unknown causes.

North Carolina now has a new rule prohibiting the importation of deer carcasses and specific carcass parts from anywhere outside North Carolina. The rule states that anyone transporting carcass parts into the state must follow processing and packaging regulations, which allow only the importation of specific products.

Cite…

 

States are out of money to keep national parks safe during shutdown

Posted by on Jan 1, 2019 @ 6:27 am in Conservation | 0 comments

States are out of money to keep national parks safe during shutdown

We are now 11 days into this partial government shutdown, and our beloved national parks are really feeling the hurt.

These shutdowns are not without consequences. Key scientists had holiday plans canceled and are being forced to work without pay. The Violence Against Women Act was allowed to expire. Last week, the Environmental Protection Agency ran out of money. Many communities’ disaster relief funds have been held up in political limbo. And while President Trump refuses to back down on his demand for border wall funding, holiday tourists are wreaking havoc on some of our national parks.

National Park Service staff are among the roughly 800,000 federal workers affected by the shutdown. Even though rangers are on furlough, tourists are still visiting these protected areas– with potentially disastrous consequences.

The problems go beyond a lack of toilet paper in the park potties. In Texas’ Big Bend National Park, trash is piling up, which conservationists fear could attract bears and lead to them become permanently habituated to human food. At Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, dozens of cars were seen entering the park despite the lack of park staffing. In California’s Joshua Tree National Park, the Los Angeles Times reports that tourists have strung Christmas lights on the park’s fragile namesake trees.

A few park-heavy states, like Arizona and Utah, have dealt with the shutdown by trying to keep their parks fully staffed with state funds paid directly to the federal government. But today, Utah’s state funding to keep Arches, Canyonlands, and Zion National Parks running with minimal staffing ran out. So too a charity group’s staffing of visitor centers at Great Smoky Mountains. Those funds are now gone as well.

Cite…

 

A Year Stronger: Appalachian Trail Successes in 2018

Posted by on Dec 31, 2018 @ 12:05 pm in Conservation, Hiking News | 0 comments

A Year Stronger: Appalachian Trail Successes in 2018

2018 was a big year for the Appalachian Trail (A.T.). Despite several major weather events and three partial government shutdowns, 2018 was filled with multiple Trail milestones and the long-awaited completion of several ongoing projects. Thanks to the hard work of conservancy staff, volunteers, members, communities and supporters of the A.T., the Trail will enter 2019 ready for another year of adventure and inspiration. Here’s a look at just some of the things you helped make possible throughout 2018:

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy collaborated with partners to add nearly 28,000 acres of open space surrounding the Appalachian Trail, including nearly 3,000 acres of scenic forestland in southwestern Virginia in coordination with the Virginia Department of Forestry and more than 200 prime hillside acres in Dutchess County, New York.

The ATC completed numerous special Trail projects — repairing and rerouting the Trail, felling hazardous trees, and improving overnight sites. Several of these have been multi-year endeavors, including a Trail relocation on Sinking Creek Mountain in central Virginia — this project alone took 3 years, 136 volunteers and 4,477 hours of hard work to accomplish.

The final step was placed on the Trail at Bear Mountain in New York, a multi-year project placing a whopping 1,298 stone steps for an exceptional redesign and rebuild one of the most popular locations on the entire A.T.

See dozens more…

 

Ten Grim Climate Scenarios If Global Temperatures Continue to Rise

Posted by on Dec 30, 2018 @ 7:18 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Ten Grim Climate Scenarios If Global Temperatures Continue to Rise

The summer of 2018 was intense: deadly wildfires, persistent drought, killer floods and record-breaking heat. Although scientists exercise great care before linking individual weather events to climate change, the rise in global temperatures caused by human activities has been found to increase the severity, likelihood and duration of such conditions.

Globally, 2018 is on pace to be the fourth-hottest year on record. Only 2015, 2016 and 2017 were hotter. If humankind carries on its business-as-usual approach to climate change, there’s a 93 percent chance we’re barreling toward a world that is 4 degrees Celsius warmer by the end of the century, a potentially catastrophic level of warming.

In 2017, more than 15,000 scientists from 184 countries co-signed their names to an updated — and even bleaker — version of a 1992 manifesto that predicted depletion of freshwater sources, overfishing, plummeting biodiversity, unsustainable human population growth. All are even worse now.

“We have unleashed a mass extinction event, the sixth in roughly 540 million years, wherein many current life forms could be annihilated or at least committed to extinction by the end of this century.”

But they stressed that, “Soon it will be too late to shift course away from our failing trajectory, and time is running out.”

See what could happen…

 

EPA Runs Out of Funds as Government Shutdown Drags On

Posted by on Dec 29, 2018 @ 3:58 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

EPA Runs Out of Funds as Government Shutdown Drags On

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), ran out of funds on Friday, December 28, 2018.

The EPA had carryover funds to keep up normal operations when the shutdown began Dec. 21, but those funds have run out. What that means is that more than 700 workers considered “essential’ will have to work without pay, while more than 13,000 other employees will be furloughed. Furloughed employees were instructed to change their voice mails, enable out-of-office emails and complete their time cards. All travel for furloughed employees is canceled.

The shutdown could also impact EPA activities that normally protect the nation’s environment and public health. Here are some activities the shutdown could impact, according to the agency’s contingency plan.

  1. The cleanup of Superfund sites
  2. Inspections of drinking water systems
  3. Inspections of hazardous waste management sites and chemical facilities
  4. Reviews of pesticides

In the case of Superfund sites, the EPA will evaluate them to see which pose the greatest public health risks if cleanup efforts are delayed.

Meanwhile, the Interior Department has been in shutdown mode for a week, and that has already taken a toll on national parks. Most parks have remained open but unstaffed, and that has led to a build up of trash and a spike in illegal activities.

Cite…

 

On Little White Oak Mountain, A Would-Be Neighborhood Is Now a Public Park

Posted by on Dec 25, 2018 @ 2:07 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

On Little White Oak Mountain, A Would-Be Neighborhood Is Now a Public Park

This mountain once slated for development is now being turned into a public park. The town of Columbus, North Carolina, originally approved the construction of 687 homes on a 1,068-acre parcel on the south side of Little White Oak Mountain, 40 miles southeast of Asheville, near Lake Lure.

The development stalled after the economic slump in 2008, and Conserving Carolina, a land trust serving part of Western North Carolina and the Landrum area of South Carolina, purchased the property in 2016 for $2.375 million. This fall, Conserving Carolina transferred 600 acres of the mountain parcel to the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission to expand the Green River Game Lands, and 300 acres to Polk County for a local park, where a 10-mile multi-use trail system is being planned.

The 900 acres of new public land extend from the ridgeline of Little White Oak Mountain down to Polk County Middle School and the Polk County Recreation Complex near Highway 108. The new land designation will help protect 13 miles of streams in the Green River watershed, as well as the endangered wildflower, the white irisette.

The 2,343-foot summit of the mountain is now part of the 14,331-acre Green River Game Lands. Although no trail development is planned for the game lands portion of Little White Oak Mountain, the area will be open to hiking, hunting and fishing.

The new county park, which covers the lower portion of the mountain, is slated for 10 miles of multi-purpose trails. In addition to welcoming hikers and hunters, the trails will be the first built in Polk County with mountain bikers in mind, and officials hope they will offer cyclists an alternative to popular regional destinations like DuPont State Forest.

Read full story…

 

Great Smoky Mountains Association Commits to Funding Park Visitor Centers During Government Shutdown

Posted by on Dec 22, 2018 @ 7:29 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Great Smoky Mountains Association Commits to Funding Park Visitor Centers During Government Shutdown

During the extended government shutdown in October 2013, the public’s access to Great Smoky Mountains National Park was nearly non-existent. This time, however, if a government shutdown goes into effect at midnight on December 21, Great Smoky Mountains Association is committed to creating a different reality for park visitors during the upcoming holiday week.

“We know many people plan a trip to the Smokies during the holidays. Businesses in the surrounding communities also depend on visitors to stay in their hotels and eat at their restaurants,” GSMA CEO Laurel Rematore said Friday afternoon, December 21. “We want to do what we can to ensure visitors have access to park information, and in the event of a shutdown we know we can do that by keeping the park’s visitor centers open during this busy period.”

As the potential for a government shutdown began to appear on the horizon late last week, Rematore went to work with NPS officials to find a way to temporarily staff in-park visitor centers independent of federal funds, thus ensuring the Smokies would remain available to visitors who wish to connect with their public lands during this holiday season.

It has been determined that GSMA would cover costs associated with visitor center staffing, restroom cleaning and trash hauling should they be needed due to a shutdown. With these services in place, a visit to Great Smoky Mountains National Park may not look and feel exactly as anticipated, but at least a minimum of visitor comforts and information would remain available at three park visitor centers: Sugarlands near Gatlinburg, Tenn., Cades Cove near Townsend, Tenn., and Oconaluftee near Cherokee, N.C.

Even so, visitors and community leaders should be aware that there’s a clock on GSMA’s funding; it would expire at sundown on Tuesday, January 1, 2019.

Cite…

 

How Native American tribes are bringing back the bison from brink of extinction

Posted by on Dec 20, 2018 @ 6:34 am in Conservation | 0 comments

How Native American tribes are bringing back the bison from brink of extinction

On 5,000 hectares of unplowed prairie in north-eastern Montana, hundreds of wild bison roam once again. But this herd is not in a national park or a protected sanctuary – they are on tribal lands. Belonging to the Assiniboine and Sioux tribes of Fort Peck Reservation, the 340 bison is the largest conservation herd in the ongoing bison restoration efforts by North America’s Indigenous people.

The bison – or as Native Americans call them, buffalo – are not just “sustenance.” The continent’s largest land mammal plays a major role in the spiritual and cultural lives of numerous Native American tribes, an “integrated relationship.”

Only a couple of hundred years ago, 20 million to 30 million bison lived in vast thundering herds across North America. They were leftover relics of the Pleistocene and one of the few large mammals to survive the Ice Age extinction.

But less than 400 years after Columbus’ direful voyage, white settlers pushed their way west into Native American territory in so-called manifest destiny. And the US government made the fateful decision to cripple the Native Americans through whatever means necessary. One of these was the bison: the government viewed slaughtering the great herds en-masse as a way to starve and devastate Native American tribes.

Within just decades, the bison went from numbering tens of millions to within a hair’s breadth of extinction.

Read full story…

 

The Future of Forests & Water in the NC Piedmont

Posted by on Dec 18, 2018 @ 9:22 am in Conservation | 0 comments

We’re all downstream from something. A new modeling study by the U.S. Forest Service shows that forests make very good upstream neighbors.

The research focuses on the Yadkin Pee-Dee River Basin in central North Carolina. Senior research ecologists have been studying this area because of its projected rapid population growth and forest loss. Its urban area is likely to double in the future – some land use change models forecast a Piedmont Megalopolis that fully connects Atlanta and Raleigh by 2060.

The loss of forested land can lead to urban stream syndrome: more flash floods, more sediment and nutrients in the runoff water, and lower water levels in stream beds.

Climate change is bringing larger and more frequent droughts and floods to the region – conditions that exacerbate urban stream syndrome and portend water shortages.

The researchers examined how land use conversion from forest to urban would affect streamflow in 28 of the Yadkin Pee-Dee’s smaller watersheds (or subwatersheds).

Using the Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) model and four paired climate-land use change scenarios (the same ones used for the Southern Forest Futures Project), they compared projections of streamflow, base flow – low streamflow between rainfall events, and peak flow – the highest streamflow of the season.

Read full story…

 

Quoting ‘The Lorax,’ court tosses permit for pipeline to cross Appalachian Trail

Posted by on Dec 17, 2018 @ 9:01 am in Conservation, Hiking News | 0 comments

Quoting ‘The Lorax,’ court tosses permit for pipeline to cross Appalachian Trail

  A permit for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to cross two national forests, including parts of the Appalachian Trail, was thrown out Thursday by a federal appeals court that harshly criticized regulators for approving the proposal.

A three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond blasted the U.S. Forest Service for granting a special-use permit to build the natural gas pipeline through parts of the George Washington and Monongahela National Forests, and granting a right of way across the Appalachian Trail.

“A thorough review of the record leads to the necessary conclusion that the Forest Service abdicated its responsibility to preserve national forest resources,” Judge Stephanie Thacker wrote for the panel in the unanimous ruling.

The court said the agency had “serious environmental concerns” about the project that were “suddenly, and mysteriously, assuaged in time to meet a private pipeline company’s deadlines.”

The ruling also quoted “The Lorax” by Dr. Seuss, saying the Forest Service is trusted to “speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues.”

Read full story…

 

Just-passed Farm Bill includes protection for 20,000 acres of Tennessee’s Cherokee National Forest

Posted by on Dec 15, 2018 @ 7:19 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Just-passed Farm Bill includes protection for 20,000 acres of Tennessee’s Cherokee National Forest

Tucked inside the 800-page, $800 million-plus Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, known as the Farm Bill, is a smaller piece of legislation dedicated to the continued conservation of thousands of acres of forested land in Tennessee.

The Tennessee Wilderness Act will designate the highest level of protection for 20,000 acres in the Cherokee National Forest. With the bill’s passage this week — and expected forthcoming signature of the president — comes the first new wilderness designation in Tennessee since 1986, when much of the northeast area of the forest was protected.

The act protects about 12,000 acres in the southern zone of the forest in Monroe and Polk counties. The remaining 8,000 acres will create the new Upper Bald zone. That new designation will protect much of the Bald River and Bald River Falls area, which provides water to the Tellico and Ocoee River watersheds.

With the designation comes a set of guidelines on how the area can be managed: no mechanized or gas-powered equipment, no logging, no drilling, no mining, no road building. Ten percent of the forest is designated wilderness. With the new act, that will increase to 13 percent — which is still 5 percent less than the national average for forested areas.

Read full story…

 

How the U.S. Forest Service Grows Millions of Seedlings Each Year

Posted by on Dec 13, 2018 @ 3:19 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

How the U.S. Forest Service Grows Millions of Seedlings Each Year

Tucked into the Douglas fir and ponderosa pine forests of Northern Idaho sits the quaint lakeside town of Coeur d’Alene. The former lumber town is now a popular tourist destination drawing families from across the Pacific Northwest and beyond. Gone are the pounding mills, replaced with fancy lakefront hotels and bustling shopping centers.

But it’s not hard to find relics of the region’s once-thriving industry: Huge logs chained together to form breakwaters protect marinas and lakeside restaurants scattered around Lake Coeur d’Alene—the region’s main tourist draw. In the sprawling Idaho Panhandle National Forest that nearly surrounds the town, century-old stumps the size of boulders rot beneath a canopy of trees that themselves seem a hundred or more years old. Both the stumps and the Forest’s now abundant trees provide clear evidence of a century of forest management that has played out in this quiet corner of America.

A short 10-minute walk from the box stores and fast food restaurants that skirt Coeur d’Alene’s edges is another example of how connected this small city is to the forests that surround it. Here, just off of an unassuming and ordinary street is the U.S. Forest Service’s Coeur d’Alene Nursery. Established in 1960, the Coeur d’Alene Nursery straddles the past, the present and the future on a 220-acre plot of land.

A squat single-story building greets visitors who enter into a small lobby decorated with a few posters, some t-shirts and hats. Greenhouses, warehouses and fields, some fallow and some flush with small green trees, spread out behind the office, a tapestry of incongruous shapes and colors. An assortment of sheds, tractors, four wheelers and other custom-built contraptions rounds out the scene.

How do they do this?

 

Vanishing Nutrients. It’s a hazard of climate change you probably haven’t heard of.

Posted by on Dec 13, 2018 @ 8:54 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Vanishing Nutrients. It’s a hazard of climate change you probably haven’t heard of.

  Is it possible to starve yourself of nutrients while simultaneously gaining weight? It turns out the answer is yes. According to a growing body of research, rising carbon dioxide levels are making our food less nutritious, robbing key crops of vitamins essential to human development.

Studies have shown that crops as varied as wheat, maize, soybeans and field peas contain less protein, zinc, and iron when grown under levels of carbon dioxide expected by 2050. Many crops have already suffered losses in these nutrients; one study compared modern plants with historical herbarium specimens and found that levels of all minerals, including zinc, iron and calcium, closely tracked carbon dioxide levels through time.

It seems counterintuitive that more carbon dioxide could harm plants, since it is one of the main ingredients that plants use to grow, but it turns out that too much carbon dioxide is as unhealthy for plants as too many carbohydrates are for humans. Extra carbon dioxide acts like empty calories or “junk food” for the plants, which gorge themselves on it to grow bigger and faster, consequently getting larger but less nutrient-packed. Just like America’s obesity epidemic, which is partially due to people’s increased access to an abundance of calorie-rich but nutrient-poor food, more is not always better.

Agricultural scientists have known for some time that our food has been getting less nutritious, but they thought it was only due to a byproduct of modern farming methods: soil overuse which leads to mineral depletion, or breeders favoring high-yield varieties, which sacrifices nutrition for size. Meanwhile, plant researchers working over the last couple of decades were finding something surprising: that elevated carbon dioxide also contributes to lowering mineral content in plants.

Read full story…

 

The Arctic Ocean has lost 95 percent of its oldest ice — a startling sign of what’s to come

Posted by on Dec 12, 2018 @ 8:42 am in Conservation | 0 comments

The Arctic Ocean has lost 95 percent of its oldest ice — a startling sign of what’s to come

Over the past three decades of global warming, the oldest and thickest ice in the Arctic has declined by a stunning 95 percent, according the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s annual Arctic Report Card.

The finding suggests that the sea at the top of the world has already morphed into a new and very different state, with major implications not only for creatures such as walruses and polar bears but, in the long term, perhaps for the pace of global warming itself.

The oldest ice can be thought of as a kind of glue that holds the Arctic together and, through its relative permanence, helps keep the Arctic cold even in long summers.

“The younger the ice, the thinner the ice, the easier it is to go away,” said Don Perovich, a scientist at Dartmouth who coordinated the sea ice section of the yearly report.

If the Arctic begins to experience entirely ice-free summers, scientists say, the planet will warm even more, as the dark ocean water absorbs large amounts of solar heating that used to be deflected by the cover of ice.

Read full story…

 

Virginia files lawsuit against Mountain Valley Pipeline

Posted by on Dec 9, 2018 @ 7:36 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Virginia files lawsuit against Mountain Valley Pipeline

The company building a natural gas pipeline through Southwest Virginia violated environmental regulations more than 300 times, a lawsuit filed by Virginia’s top lawyer alleges.

Mountain Valley Pipeline is facing “the maximum allowable civil penalties and a court order to force MVP to comply with environmental laws and regulations,” according to a statement from Attorney General Mark Herring.

Since work began earlier this year, inspections have found that crews failed to prevent muddy water from flowing off pipeline construction easements, often leaving harmful sediment in nearby streams and properties.

Covering a span of seven months and nearly 100 miles of the pipeline’s route through five counties, the lawsuit is one of the most comprehensive summaries to date of the environmental toll taken by running a 42-inch diameter pipeline across rugged slopes and through pure mountain streams.

Herring’s office filed the case on behalf of the Department of Environmental Quality and the State Water Control Board. Pipeline opponents have called on DEQ to issue a stop-work order, which the agency is allowed by state law to do if there is a “substantial adverse impact” to water quality or if such an impact is eminent.

Read full story…

 

Western North Carolina to get millions for land and stream protection, recreation

Posted by on Dec 7, 2018 @ 6:30 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Western North Carolina to get millions for land and stream protection, recreation

Western North Carolina will see more hiking trails, added land for the Blue Ridge Parkway and state natural areas and better water quality thanks to $20.7 million in grants awarded recently through the state’s Clean Water Management Trust Fund.

The grants awarded to municipalities, state agencies and conservation groups will fund 54 projects relating to land conservation, stream restoration, innovative stormwater management and conservation planning from the mountains to the coast.

The Clean Water Management Trust Fund was established in 1996 by the General Assembly to protect the state’s drinking water sources but today is also tasked with conserving and protecting the state’s natural resources, cultural heritage and military installations.

In the face of population growth putting pressure on land and water resources and further threats from climate change that have lengthened droughts and led to forest fires, the conservation projects funded through the trust fund are more important than ever.

One of the biggest clean water grants awarded was just more than $1 million to The Conservation Fund to buy 912 acres of Blackrock Creek in the Plott Balsam Range in Jackson County.

The Conservation Fund is working with Sylva to expand the town’s existing 1,100-acre Pinnacle Park, a popular hiking and trail running spot. The land will expand Pinnacle Park with the 441-acre Blackrock Creek and 5,810-foot Blackrock Peak an and 5,341-foot Pinnacle Bald and protect the 471-acre Shut-In Creek section.

Read full story…