Conservation & Environment

National parks to rethink plan to hike entrance fees after widespread anger

Posted by on Apr 5, 2018 @ 7:02 am in Conservation | 0 comments

National parks to rethink plan to hike entrance fees after widespread anger

The Department of the Interior said that it planned to revise a controversial proposal to drastically increase entrance fees at some of the most popular national parks in the country.

The interior department press secretary, Heather Swift, said the Trump administration decided to rethink its proposal after Americans flooded the National Park Service (NPS) with more than 100,000 comments, many of them sharply critical of the proposed surge pricing scheme.

In October, the interior secretary, Ryan Zinke, announced a plan to hike entrance fees as high as $70 at 17 different parks – including the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Yellowstone and Glacier – during peak visitation season. Zinke justified the fee increase as a way to raise revenue and help the NPS tackle its roughly $12bn deferred maintenance backlog.

“During the public comment period, the National Park Service received more than 109,000 comments on the original peak-season fee proposal,” Swift wrote in an email. “We’ve taken the public’s suggestions seriously and have amended the plan to reflect those.”

“It seems to be par for the course at the interior department to shoot first and ask questions later,” says Aaron Weiss, media director at the Center for Western Priorities, a conservation organization based in Colorado. “We are glad that interior is realizing what a terrible idea it would be to hike entrance fees by that amount. It would hurt American families and have a harmful effect on overall attendance at national parks.”

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Cradle of Forestry 2018 Season Kicks Off April 7

Posted by on Apr 4, 2018 @ 12:05 pm in Conservation, Hiking News | 0 comments

Cradle of Forestry 2018 Season Kicks Off April 7

The Cradle of Forestry in America Heritage Site will begin the 2018 season on April 7 with a living history event, “Old Time Plowing and Folkways.”

David and Diane Burnette from Haywood County will demonstrate how their Percheron draft horses work the land the old way. Weather permitting, they will plow the Cradle’s vegetable garden along the Biltmore Campus Trail and teach a skill that was once familiar to many.

The Cradle of Forestry’s living history volunteers will demonstrate their crafts among the historic buildings, including wood working, chair caning, carving, tatting, mountain mandolin music, and crafting corn husk dolls.

The Cradle of Forestry will be open daily, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., from April 7 – November 11. At various times during the season, living history volunteers will demonstrate wood carving, fiber arts, blacksmithing, traditional music and more. The Giving Tree Gift Shop at the Cradle offers many of their creations as well as forest related books, maps, gifts and snacks. The Café at the Cradle will serve lunch from 11 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. daily, except Mondays.

A full schedule of events is planned in 2018 including Migratory Bird Day May 5, the Songcatchers Music Series Sunday afternoons in July, and Forest Festival Day October 6. Visit www.cradleofforestry.com for a full event schedule, details and updates on interpretive programs and exhibits.

The Cradle of Forestry in America is proud to be part of the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area. Throughout the season it offers many opportunities to explore the five themes of Blue Ridge Heritage- craft, music, natural, agricultural, and Cherokee heritage.

Admission to the Cradle of Forestry is $6.00 for adults and $3 for youth ages 4-12. America the Beautiful passes, Golden Age Passports and Every Kid in a Park passes are honored. Friends of the Cradle Annual passes are sold on-site. These passes are good for free daily admission, half-price to special events, and 15% discount in the Gift Shop.

Admission includes the film, First in Forestry- Carl Alwin Schenck and The Biltmore Forest School, hands-on exhibits and scavenger hunts. It also includes historic cabins, antique equipment and forest scenery on three paved trails, the Adventure Zone designed to reach children with autism and engage young families, and guided trail tours and living history demonstrations when available.

The Cradle of Forestry is located on Hwy. 276 in the Pisgah National Forest near Brevard, six miles north of Looking Glass Falls and four miles south of the Blue Ridge Parkway. For more information call 828-877-3130 or go to www.cradleofforestry.com.

 

Along the border, 500 miles of desert species

Posted by on Apr 4, 2018 @ 7:15 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Along the border, 500 miles of desert species

One early March morning in southern Arizona’s Coronado National Memorial, an uneven line of scientists and amateur naturalists in floppy hats and hiking pants crept up a steep hillside through yellowed grasses and dark shrubs. Plant names – scientific and common – flitted through the cool air, as the group covered the terrain, moving at the pace of lichen.

The dry winter suppressed plant growth, making for challenging botanizing. “Any ideas on this little guy here?” one participant asked, pointing to what appeared to be a leaf emerging from parched soil.

The group was there to spend the day cataloging the plants and animals along approximately four miles of undulating desert grassland. Nine other teams were doing the same thing on either side of some 500 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border, from Baja California to western New Mexico, along with one team in Texas’s Santa Ana Wildlife Refuge.

It was the first Border BioBlitz organized by N-Gen, a professional network of Sonoran desert researchers. More rigorous and thorough field studies would be needed, but this was a necessary first step toward a baseline, said Myles Traphagen, a biogeographer at the nonprofit Wildlands Network, who organized the BioBlitz. If border wall construction goes forward, these experts can watch and record what that means for the ecosystems being bisected.

“We are getting an idea of what is here,” Traphagen said. “Once you do that, then you can start to monitor over time what changes occur.”

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Wipeout: Human role in climate change removed from government science report

Posted by on Apr 3, 2018 @ 11:59 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Wipeout: Human role in climate change removed from government science report

National Park Service officials have deleted every mention of humans’ role in causing climate change in drafts of a long-awaited report on sea level rise and storm surge, contradicting Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s vow to Congress, under oath, that his department is not censoring science.

The research for the first time projects the risks from rising seas and flooding at 118 coastal national park sites, including the National Mall, the original Jamestown settlement and the Wright Brothers National Memorial. Originally drafted in the summer of 2016 yet still not released to the public, the National Park Service report is intended to inform officials and the public about how to protect park resources and visitors from climate change.

Park service officials crossed out the word “anthropogenic,” the term for people’s impact on nature, in five places. Three references to “human activities” causing climate change also were removed.

The omissions reflect a broader crackdown on climate science at federal agencies, including removal of references to human impacts, since President Donald Trump took office. Trump previously called climate change a Chinese hoax, took steps to withdraw from an international agreement to cut greenhouse gases and moved toward reversing President Barack Obama’s policies to regulate power plant emissions.

Critics say the National Park Service’s editing of the report reflects unprecedented political interference in government science at the Interior Department, which oversees the park service. Several scientists said the editing appears to violate a National Park Service policy designed to protect science from political influence. Zinke testified at a Senate committee hearing just last month that the Interior Department has not changed any scientific documents.

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EPA threatens to revoke California’s ability to set emissions standards as the Trump administration moves to abandon fuel mileage goals

Posted by on Apr 3, 2018 @ 6:42 am in Conservation | 0 comments

EPA threatens to revoke California’s ability to set emissions standards as the Trump administration moves to abandon fuel mileage goals

The Trump administration openly threatened one of the cornerstones of California’s environmental protections, saying that it may revoke the state’s ability under the Clean Air Act to impose stricter standards than the federal government sets for vehicle emissions.

The announcement came as the administration confirmed it is tearing up landmark fuel economy rules pushing automakers to manufacture cleaner burning cars and SUVs.

“Cooperative federalism doesn’t mean that one state can dictate standards for the rest of the country,” Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt said in a statement.

“EPA will set a national standard for greenhouse gas emissions that allows auto manufacturers to make cars that people both want and can afford — while still expanding environmental and safety benefits of newer cars. It’s in everyone’s best interest to have a national standard, and we look forward to working with all states, including California, as we work to finalize that standard.”

The threat against California’s decades-old independent authority on clean air rules came on the same day that the administration filed suit to try to overturn another of the state’s environmental protections — a measure passed last year by the Legislature that seeks to limit the federal government’s ability to sell public lands to private interests by requiring that the state be given a right of first refusal on federal land sales within California’s borders.

Together, the two moves marked another escalation of the battle between the state and federal governments over environmental policies.

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One day isn’t enough. That’s why #WNCforthePlanet is doing more.

Posted by on Apr 2, 2018 @ 2:19 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

One day isn’t enough. That’s why #WNCforthePlanet is doing more.

April 22 is Earth Day, but what if “every day was earth day?” — you’ve heard this before, maybe more than a few times. We say it to encourage more conscious personal behavior such as recycling, the use of energy-efficient light bulbs and shopping in the bulk aisle to cut down on unnecessary packaging. And, yes, there’s so much we can do as individuals in our homes, in our personal lives to reduce the amount of trash we send to the landfill, our use of water and our carbon footprint.

Many of the challenges that we face as communities and as a planet cannot be addressed solely by shorter showers or reusing our yogurt containers. When a polluter spills chemicals into our groundwater, or someone dumps their garbage upstream, the damage doesn’t respect our property lines. What comes out of the faucet comes from wells with common groundwater or through a network of pipes from shared rivers and watersheds.

Our lands, and our relationships with land, are also integrally connected to the wider world — from locally producing farmers to neotropical migratory songbirds. Similarly, carbon dioxide from smokestacks and methane released from leaky pipelines affect our entire planet, and we will all suffer from either increased droughts or floods, or invasive pest species and disease.

20 local environmental and conservation nonprofits, land trusts, community groups and businesses have come together for an ambitious project called #WNCforthePlanet. This is how Western North Carolina is celebrating Earth Day, with an entire month of social events and service projects where we can all re-introduce ourselves to our neighbors while helping to clean up our rivers and parks, build and maintain community gardens, restore native forest habitats, and more.

We built a website at WNCforthePlanet.org where you can sign up and, yes, we gave it a hashtag because we want you to tell your friends and family and even your neighbors to come out and lend a hand.

 

Why Artists are Heading to National Parks and Monuments

Posted by on Mar 31, 2018 @ 1:34 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

Why Artists are Heading to National Parks and Monuments

When the sun rises at Moraine Park in Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP), it slowly peaks out from behind Eagle Cliff, casting a pink-orange morning glow onto the pine-flecked slopes of the Continental Divide. The William Allen White Cabin, once owned by the eponymous Pulitzer Prize–winning writer, has a front-row seat to the grandeur.

Inside, the scene is just as special: The newspaper editor’s rolltop desk and a few rocking chairs are arranged in front of a huge stone fireplace. It could all be yours—if you’re one of the lucky writers, musicians, photographers, or painters selected for RMNP’s artist-in-residence program when it returns from a yearlong hiatus (the cabin is currently undergoing renovations to make it even more spectacular) in 2019.

Given that the concept of artist residencies was born when renowned bronze sculptor Augusta St. Gardens retreated to rural New Hampshire in 1885 to sculpt in the serenity of nature, perhaps it’s not surprising that a host of artist-in-residence programs have sprung up at national parks and monuments. RMNP established the first in Colorado in 1984, and today, more than 50 residency programs—each with its own requirements, fees, and timelines­—exist in national parks across the country.

These programs offer artists the chance to get away from the outside world. And although the national park experiences might not financially rival the stipends that come with residencies at many museums and universities, the scenic inspiration is unparalleled.

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Pisgah Ranger District seeks public input on proposed recreation project

Posted by on Mar 31, 2018 @ 9:18 am in Conservation, Hiking News | 0 comments

Pisgah Ranger District seeks public input on proposed recreation project

The Pisgah National Forest will be holding an open house on Tuesday, April 10, 2018 from 5-7 p.m. at the Pisgah Ranger Station to discuss a proposed project to increase the sustainability of recreation.

“The project is not intended to address all possible improvements on the Pisgah Ranger District, but includes timely projects that consider the social, ecological, and economic elements of sustainable recreation,” said Dave Casey, District Ranger. “This includes construction of connector trails, re-routing trails, trail head modifications, change of authorized trail use, select roadside campsite closures, watershed improvements, road decommissioning, and heavy trail maintenance.”

The proposed changes to the trail system fit within the larger trail system goals below:

  • Reduce erosion and sedimentation associated with trails
  • Reduce trail user conflicts
  • Create beginner trail user and loop opportunities
  • Maintain clean/safe trails
  • Increase education about responsible trail use
  • Increase support of and recruitment of volunteers and partnerships

Public input will help to evaluate the proposed actions and identify potential issues. Comments for the project can be submitted by attending the open house on April 10 or by submitting them online here.

Comments can also be submitted by visiting the Pisgah Ranger Station from 9:00 am-4:30 pm or mailed to Pisgah Ranger District, USDA Forest Service, Attn: Jeff Owenby, 1600 Pisgah Highway, Pisgah Forest, NC. Comments will become part of the project record and may be released under the Freedom of Information Act.

To be most useful, please submit comments within the official 30-day scoping period which ends April 27.

 

Fire funding fix comes with environmental rollbacks

Posted by on Mar 30, 2018 @ 5:18 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

Fire funding fix comes with environmental rollbacks

Congress accomplished something unprecedented last week: They passed a bipartisan solution to a knotty budget issue that has hobbled the U.S. Forest Service’s ability to do restoration and fire-prevention work in Western forests. The $1.3 trillion federal spending package included a long-sought funding fix for wildfire response. Starting in 2020, the Forest Service will be able to access over $2 billion a year outside of its regular fire suppression budget.

As recently as 1995, the Forest Service spent only 16 percent of its budget on fire. In 2017, though, wildfire suppression costs ate up more than half the agency’s budget, exceeding $2 billion. Because its fire budget rarely matched the true costs of increasingly explosive fire seasons, the agency was then forced to raid other programs to pay for firefighting. Such “fire borrowing” robbed funding from watershed restoration projects, invasive species programs and initiatives to reduce fire risk.

The fix in the spending bill should end, or at least greatly reduce, fire borrowing. But some conservation groups question whether the fix was worth the compromises included in the bill, which could undermine environmental protections for forests and wildlife. The bill includes two riders that concern them.

The first will allow logging projects less than 3,000 acres in size to move forward with little environmental review, so long as the goal of those projects is to reduce heavy fuel loads that increase fire risk.

A second provision could delay habitat protections for newly listed threatened and endangered species. It targets a 2015 ruling from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals which determined that the Forest Service is obligated to consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service when new species are listed to evaluate whether its management plans might harm the species.

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Stunning drops in solar, wind costs mean economic case for coal, gas is ‘crumbling’

Posted by on Mar 30, 2018 @ 6:32 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Stunning drops in solar, wind costs mean economic case for coal, gas is ‘crumbling’

Prices for solar, wind, and battery storage are dropping so rapidly that renewables are increasingly squeezing out all forms of fossil fuel power, including natural gas.

The cost of new solar plants dropped 20 percent over the past 12 months, while onshore wind prices dropped 12 percent, according to the latest Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) report. Since 2010, the prices for lithium-ion batteries — crucial to energy storage — have plummeted a stunning 79 percent.

Solar and wind plants — which are increasingly being built with battery storage — are eating into the utilization of existing coal and gas plants, making them far less profitable. For instance, the super-efficient combined-cycle gas turbine (CCGT) plants that have been popular in recent decades, were designed to be used at full power between 60 percent and 90 percent of the time. But their actual utilization rate (also called the “capacity factor”) has been plummeting in recent years, and is now close to a mere 20 percent.

Globally, coal, and especially gas, are in even tougher shape. That’s because most places in the world don’t have cheap natural gas from fracking like the United States does.

Also, the biggest new power markets are in developing countries, which don’t have as expansive of an electric grid, again making distributed renewables relatively more attractive. But those countries often have a lot of relatively inexpensive undeveloped land in very sunny places.

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Dam removal projects restore WNC waterways

Posted by on Mar 28, 2018 @ 1:49 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

Nonprofits, community groups and government agencies throughout Western North Carolina are now working to remove a legacy of outdated dams. Although challenging, the process offers benefits for the wildlife, safety and recreation potential of the area’s waterways.

Ecology provides the primary impetus for most dam removal projects. At the most basic level, eliminating these barriers allows native species to reach previously inaccessible habitats. “We have the highest freshwater species diversity in the country right here in the southeastern U.S.,” says Jason Farmer, fisheries biologist for the Cheoah Ranger District of Nantahala National Forest. “We now manage our streams to give those species the greatest opportunity to persist and expand into other areas.”

Even when a species is already present both above and below a dam, removal can strengthen the health of the population through recombining genetically separate groups. Farmer says that this was the case for the hellbender salamander in Santeetlah Creek. When the Forest Service removed the dam, the two once-fragmented populations began mixing to mate. The additional diversity reduces inbreeding and improves the hellbender’s prospects in the area.

A small dam removal project can run anywhere from $15,000 to $150,000. About 75 percent of that total accounts for the actual dam demolition and stream restoration, while the remaining 25 percent covers the necessary design, engineering and permitting.

One of the largest expenses is the removal of the sediment that accumulates behind the dam over the course of its lifespan. Heavy equipment is usually necessary to dredge loads of muck from the streambed, and toxic waste disposal may be required for sediment associated with industrial dams. In especially vulnerable environments, endangered species surveys and relocation tack on further costs.

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UN reports see a lonelier planet with fewer plants, animals

Posted by on Mar 26, 2018 @ 12:08 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

UN reports see a lonelier planet with fewer plants, animals

Earth is losing plants, animals and clean water at a dramatic rate, according to four new United Nations scientific reports that provide the most comprehensive and localized look at the state of biodiversity.

Scientists meeting in Colombia issued four regional reports on how well animal and plants are doing in the Americas; Europe and Central Asia; Africa; and the Asia-Pacific area. Their conclusion after three years of study : Nowhere is doing well.

The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem was about more than just critters. It is about keeping Earth livable for humans, because we rely on biodiversity for food, clean water and public health.

What’s happening is a side effect of the world getting wealthier and more crowded with people. Humans need more food, more clean water, more energy and more land. And the way society has tried to achieve that has cut down on biodiversity. Man-made climate change is getting worse, and global warming will soon hurt biodiversity as much as all the other problems combined.

If current trends continue, by the year 2050 the Americas will have 15 percent fewer plants and animals than now. That means there will be 40 percent fewer plants and animals in the Americas than in the early 1700s. Nearly a quarter of the species that were fully measured are now threatened.

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So Many Cacti Are Getting Stolen From Arizona’s National Park, They’re Being Microchipped

Posted by on Mar 25, 2018 @ 10:04 am in Conservation | 0 comments

So Many Cacti Are Getting Stolen From Arizona’s National Park, They’re Being Microchipped

Visiting America’s national parks will forever change you. The remarkable beauty that these vast areas have to offer is almost impossible to truly describe — which is why people are often tempted to take a piece of the park home with them in the form of a plant, rock, or something more precious. But it should go without saying you should never, ever vandalize or steal from a national park.

Some people, it seems, didn’t get that memo. And it’s become such an issue that rangers at Saguaro National Park in Arizona have been forced to put microchips in some of the park’s famed Saguaros, a variety of cactus that is capable of growing more than 40 feet tall and can live upwards of 200 years.

“It’s ironic that we set aside great places like Saguaro National Park and people think that they can just come take the iconic cactus for which the park is named,” says Kevin Dahl, a program manager for the National Park Conservation Association in Arizona. Dahl added that stealing the plants has become a lucrative business as a Saguaro can be sold for as much as $100 per foot.

According to officials, a number of the cactus plants have been microchipped. However, they note that while the chips can identify a stolen plant, they cannot track them. But they are hopeful this new technique will deter thieves in the future.

Cite…

 

Kolob Canyons at Zion to Close for Construction Projects

Posted by on Mar 24, 2018 @ 7:30 am in Conservation, Hiking News | 0 comments

Kolob Canyons at Zion to Close for Construction Projects

Access to portions of the Kolob Canyons District of Zion National Park will be restricted due to a construction project beginning May 1, 2018. The project involves reconstructing sections of the road, repaving the entire road, and adding accessible parking, sidewalk, and toilet facilities.

All of Kolob Canyons Road, the Visitor Center, and parking lot off of Interstate 15, will be closed to all traffic during the seven month project. The Taylor Creek Trail, the Timber Creek Overlook Trail, Lee Pass Trailhead and other areas served via the Kolob Canyons Road will not be available to the public.

Overnight permitted hikes will be drop off / pick up only, from April 15 through April 30, 2018. No vehicles or hiking will be permitted inside the closure beginning May 1, 2018.

Construction engineers and Park officials have determined that closing these areas during the project will be safest for visitors and workers, as well as expediting the work, so the area may open at the soonest possible date.

Visitors will be able to access the La Verkin Creek Trail and hike to the Kolob Arch via the Hop Valley Trail. Visitors may access the Hop Valley Trailhead from the Kolob Terrace Road. Overnight trips require a permit. There are many surrounding State Parks, Forest Service and public land scenic areas to consider as alternatives to Kolob Canyons during this closure.

 

Omnibus spending bill would increase funding for national parks and wildfire suppression

Posted by on Mar 23, 2018 @ 12:19 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

Omnibus spending bill would increase funding for national parks and wildfire suppression

The spending bill passed by the House and Senate on March 22, 2018 would increase funding the National Park Service needs to address its nearly $12 billion maintenance and repair backlog.

Under the proposal the Park Service would receive a 9 percent increase to its budget. The measure includes about $160 million to make repairs that would help growing numbers of visitors do everything from navigate challenging trails to have better access to restrooms. It could allow expensive transportation projects to begin soon.

The proposed funding contrasts sharply with the 8 percent cut proposed by the Trump administration, which provided $99 million for repairs.

In addition to more funding for the Park Service, the bill would provide new funding to the U.S. Forest Service and Interior Department to fight wildfires.

It would keep the nearly $1.4 billion the agencies use while allowing them to draw from billions of dollars in new disaster-relief funding when wildfires morph into monsters such as two fires last year outside San Francisco and Los Angeles. In past fire seasons, the Forest Service was forced to borrow money from programs meant to prevent fires, manage forests and improve recreation to pay for more firefighters and equipment as fires grew larger and more plentiful.

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Smokies Park Recruits Trail Volunteers

Posted by on Mar 23, 2018 @ 9:08 am in Conservation, Hiking News | 0 comments

Smokies Park Recruits Trail Volunteers

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials announced several volunteer workdays beginning April 5 through April 28, 2018 along heavily-used trails and nature loops as the park prepares for the busy summer season. These opportunities are ideal for people interested in learning more about the park and the trails program through hands-on service alongside experienced park staff.

Volunteers will help clear limbs and debris that have fallen over the winter months along with helping repair eroded trail sections. Workdays will be held from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. in North Carolina on April 5, April 7, and April 19 and in Tennessee on April 12, April 21, and April 28. Prior registration is required.

Please contact Trails and Facilities Volunteer Coordinator Adam Monroe at 828-497-1949 or adam_monroe@nps.gov for workday details and to register. Interested volunteers can also contact Monroe to learn about additional volunteer opportunities throughout the year including the ‘Adopt-a-Trail’ program and the Trails Forever ‘Working Wednesdays’ opportunities on Rainbow Falls Trail beginning April 25 through August 29. These opportunities are perfect for those with busy schedules who would like to volunteer once a month.

For the April trail workdays, volunteers must be able to safely hike while carrying tools up to 4 miles per day and be prepared to perform strenuous, manual labor. After receiving proper training, participants will be expected to safely use hand tools such as shovels, rakes, loppers, and hand picks. Minimum age of participants is 16. Those under 18 must be accompanied by a responsible parent or guardian.

Volunteers will need to wear boots or sturdy closed toed shoes, long pants and appropriate layers for cold and inclement weather. Volunteers should bring a day pack with food, water, rain gear and any other personal gear for the day. The park will provide instruction, necessary safety gear, and tools for the day.

For more information about the volunteering in the park, please visit the park website at https://www.nps.gov/grsm/getinvolved/volunteer.htm.

 

Hurricane Harvey’s toxic impact deeper than public told

Posted by on Mar 22, 2018 @ 7:22 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

Hurricane Harvey’s toxic impact deeper than public told

More than a half-year after Hurricane Harvey flooded America’s largest corridor of energy and petrochemical plants, records show the storm’s environmental assault was more widespread and severe than authorities publicly acknowledged.

Piecing together county, state and federal records, The Associated Press and Houston Chronicle catalogued more than 100 Harvey-related toxic releases — on land, in water and air — in metropolitan Houston, America’s fourth-largest city.

Most were never publicized. Only a few were investigated by federal regulators [The EPA and state officials took 1,800 soil samples after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Scott Pruitt’s EPA: post-Harvey, soil and water sampling has been limited to 17 Superfund sites and some undisclosed industrial sites.]. State officials say they have investigated 89 incidents but have announced no enforcement actions.

Some 500 chemical plants, 10 refineries and more than 6,670 miles of intertwined oil, gas and chemical pipelines line the corridor. Nearly half a billion gallons of industrial wastewater mixed with storm water surged out of just one of these chemical plants.

The storm compromised chemical plants, refineries, and pipelines along Houston’s petrochemical corridor, bringing contaminated water, dirt, and air to surrounding neighborhoods. Carcinogens like benzene, vinyl chloride, and butadiene were released. In all but two cases, regulators did not inform the public of the spills or the risks they faced from exposure. Many affected plants are repeat environmental offenders.

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