Two years ago this month, in a well-publicized and much lampooned political stunt, Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) brought a snowball to the Senate floor to highlight the “unseasonable” cold and cast doubt on climate change.
The Republican lawmaker would have been hard-pressed to find a snowball anywhere in his home state this past weekend.
Oklahoma just endured a spell of exceptionally hot weather. Mangum, Oklahoma saw temperatures close to 100º F, setting a state record. The average February high in Mangum is 56º F.
It is extremely unusual to see such sweltering temperatures in the dead of winter, but climate change is loading the dice for record-breaking heat. Here, the human fingerprint is clear. Carbon pollution traps heat, warming the planet. This, in turn, shifts the entire distribution of temperatures.
Many people may welcome a temperate day in February, but warm weather in normally cold months disrupts ecosystems. Trees may bloom after an unseasonably balmy spell — and then suffer frost damage when cold weather returns. Flowers may blossom and shed their petals before bees arrive to pollinate them. And the minor destabilizations have a ripple effect, impacting flora, fauna, and the industries built around them.
It’s hard to pin down a specific stretch of coastline as the most scenic – isn’t the whole thing beautiful? – but then again, it’s hard to argue against Boardman State Park for the honor.
Officially the Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor, the 12-mile stretch of coastline runs along the southernmost part of the Oregon coast, encompassing high cliffs, stunning seastacks, beautiful beaches and secret coves.
The area – once slated to become a national park – was established in the 1950s, named in honor of Samuel H. Boardman, the “father” of Oregon’s state park system, on the eve of his retirement.
Boardman was a key figure in the development of public lands in Oregon. He “felt a great responsibility to protects scenery for future generations.”
While many in the state and national government looked at parks as places of recreation, rather than preservation, Boardman was a staunch advocate for conservation and minimal development on park lands, arguing that “strange as it may seem, the more the world civilizes the primitive, the more barbaric we become.”
Donald Trump has long talked about reining in the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which is in charge of enforcing federal laws on air and water pollution. It’s a top priority for his supporters in the fossil-fuel industry.
But there’s still a lot of uncertainty over what, exactly, this will look like. Trump himself has been all over the map on the agency’s future. In Congress, there are bills floating around that would do everything from abolish the EPA to merely curb its powers at the margins. And, while Trump’s pick to lead the EPA, Scott Pruitt, was an ardent foe of Obama’s environmental policies, he’ll face serious legal hurdles in trying to dismantle them all at once.
So, to simplify things a bit, here are five possible futures for the EPA under Trump, based on what we know so far. As noted, some of these scenarios are way more plausible than others — and they’re not all mutually exclusive. But it’s a way of seeing the options.
Every year around this time, anticipation of spring begins with the laying out of garden beds, checking the planting calendar, eyeing the Farmer’s Almanac… and the appearance of seed catalogs to browse and daydream of warmer times.
With that excitement comes; CMLC’s 2017 SEED SWAP – a free sharing of seeds that staff, members, and volunteers have collected over the season. Yup, free – no cost to you, no dollars, and no cents. CMLC has set up a sharing station in the reception area in the main office at: 847 Case St, Hendersonville, NC. There’s a bowl with seed packets you are welcome to give or to take, it’s that easy.
Take some seeds, grow the plants, make notes on the performance if you like, collect the seeds, bring them back to the sharing station, get more seeds, repeat. There are also a few “make your own” seed packets.
If you’re not from Western NC, consider setting up a community seed swap in your neck of the woods.
From the bustling streets of Manhattan to the quiet wilderness of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, the National Park Service preserves many pivotal, but lesser known, sites related to the African American experience. These places are among the dozens of national parks that convey stories of soldiers, educators, musicians, entrepreneurs, and freed slaves who blazed trails for all to follow. During African American History Month, the National Park Service will laud their accomplishments at hundreds of special events throughout the country, including festivals, concerts, panel discussions, author lectures, guided walks, and ranger programs.
“Tourists and teachers alike are familiar with national parks dedicated to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Harriett Tubman, Frederick Douglass, George Washington Carver, the Little Rock Nine, and the Tuskegee Airmen, just to name a few,” said Acting National Park Service Director Michael T. Reynolds. “Most know about the great leaders and momentous events associated with the Civil Rights Movement and African American history. However, national parks also introduce us to others who made an impact. Some of them purposely set out to make a difference, others were just going about their lives, but each made a lasting contribution that deserves a spotlight.”
In addition to visiting national parks in person, the National Park Service has many other ways for people to delve deeper into African American history. Learn more at www.nps.gov/aahistory.
Allice Elshoff first saw Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in 1959. The 82-year-old, who lives in nearby Bend, Oregon, still goes there “whenever I can get away,” to bird-watch and volunteer. But this spring, on her first visit after the January 2016 occupation by armed anti-federal militants, everything felt surreal, she says: She had to notify refuge staff in advance and stop at the gate for an identification check by armed U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service employees.
There were no other visitors and few employees, so it was unusually quiet. Elshoff, vice chair of the board for the Friends of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, and a team of volunteers had come to reseed native grasses destroyed when militiamen bulldozed a new road. “It felt good to be there,” she says, working in the place where the Bundy brothers and their supporters did so much damage. “(We were) trying to make things real again. To undo the bad that had been done.”
Today, a year after the occupation, most of Malheur’s 188,000 acres are open to the public again, but the headquarters, museum and visitor center remain closed as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which oversees the National Wildlife Refuge System, improves security to the buildings and gates. The agency has already spent $4.3 million repairing damaged buildings, rebuilding kicked-in walls, and cleaning up trash and backed-up toilets.
That’s on top of the roughly $2 million it spent during the takeover placing temporary law enforcement officers at understaffed refuges across the West to help avoid more militia-type occupations. The agency hopes to have the Malheur headquarters open again by early spring, when the Ross’ geese and sandhill cranes arrive.
The cost of the 41-day occupation has only added to the financial burden on a system that has seen repeated budget cuts and staff reductions. Half the refuges in the U.S. lack their own managers, an increase from 2007 when a third of them lacked managers. Law enforcement employees are at an all-time low, leaving refuges across the U.S. vulnerable. And an unfriendly Congress isn’t likely to provide relief, especially in light of the federal hiring freeze imposed by President Donald Trump.
How does one reconcile the overwhelming evidence that the world’s atmosphere is being disrupted with the perception of the 30 percent of Americans who do not believe in climate change?
Here’s a thought experiment: If there are 10 M&Ms in a bowl, and then you count the 10 M&Ms, you would have to “believe,” right? Many scientists aim to persuade climate skeptics by counting M&Ms — graphs of CO2 concentration, temperature records, and other scientifically observable measurements.
So let’s count: The United States Geological Survey has been measuring Alaska’s Gulkana and Wolverine glaciers for 50 years — the longest continuous glacier research program in North America. Both show the kind of retreat emblematic of significant regional climate change. The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that Alaska is losing roughly 75 billion tons of ice annually. That’s a lot of M&Ms.
If the current preponderance of evidence fails to convince skeptics of climate change, then the issue we face is not about facts or evidence, but rather about values — about our call to heal the world.
Nearly 300 years ago, the philosopher David Hume warned in his influential work, A Treatise on Human Nature, against making claims about how the world should be strictly from statements about how the world is. Philosophers call this the “is-ought” problem.
Reactions to climate change like alarmism or blame don’t necessarily follow from climate science. Even if predictions are worrisome — floods, drought, extreme weather — they merely describe the world. Climate activists can commit the is-ought sin by demanding massive behavioral changes like cutting fossil fuels, without equally discussing fairness or wrongdoing. By introducing value-laden rhetoric into the discussion of facts, we open up the facts for debate. So when a climate skeptic doesn’t want to believe that people can influence the climate, he or she might respond by constructing a different description of the world.
Last month, Patagonia’s founder and CEO, Yvon Chouinard stated, “If [Utah] Gov. Herbert doesn’t need us, we can find a more welcoming home. Gov. Herbert should direct his Attorney General to halt their plans to sue and support the historic Bears Ears National Monument. He should stop his efforts to transfer public lands to the state, which would spell disaster for Utah’s economy. He should show the outdoor industry he wants our business – and that he supports thousands of his constituents of all political persuasions who work in jobs supported by recreation on public lands. We love Utah, but Patagonia’s choice to return for future shows will depend on the Governor’s actions. I’m sure other states will happily compete for the show by promoting public lands conservation.”
On February 7, 2017, Patagonia followed through:
“Utah Gov. Gary Herbert signed a resolution on Friday urging the Trump administration to rescind the Bears Ears National Monument, making it clear that he and other Utah elected officials do not support public lands conservation nor do they value the economic benefits – $12 billion in consumer spending and 122,000 jobs – that the outdoor recreation industry brings to their state. Because of the hostile environment they have created and their blatant disregard for Bears Ears National Monument and other public lands, the backbone of our business, Patagonia will no longer attend the Outdoor Retailer show in Utah and we are confident other outdoor manufacturers and retailers will join us in moving our investment to a state that values our industry and promotes public lands conservation.“ – Rose Marcario, President and CEO, Patagonia, Inc.
It’s easy to forget all the amazing things forests do for us. Take a few minutes to discover why the trees in America’s National Forests play such a vital role in our world.
The following infographic was provided by the National Forest Foundation. The NFF works with the U.S. Forest Service to care for 193 million acres of National Forests in 42 states + Puerto Rico. They have planted more than 4 million trees in the past ten years through partnerships with individuals and business.
A late-1960s Atomic Energy Commission plan to extract Wyoming natural gas with five underground nuclear explosions won strong initial support from the oil and gas industry and the federal government. Finally, however, the idea stalled, thanks to the emergence of more information on possible dangers, to Washington politics, and especially to intense local opposition in Sublette County, Wyo., where the devices were slated to be detonated.
El Paso’s project became part of a joint effort between private industry and the United States Government as part of the Atomic Energy Commission’s Plowshare Program, a project after World War II to help the United States develop nuclear energy for peaceful uses. By the early 1960s, the AEC had approved four nuclear detonations around the West to help extract natural gas.
The first explosion was detonated December 10, 1967 near Farmington in northwestern New Mexico. Operation Gasbuggy, as it was called, was a joint effort of the AEC, the U.S. Department of the Interior and El Paso Natural Gas.
A second nuclear device, this time 40 kilotons, was tested on September 10, 1969, near Rulison, Colorado. Despite public protest and lawsuits filed by environmental groups to stop the nuclear detonation, Project Rulison was set off at Rifle, Colorado. A third nuclear experiment, Project Rio Blanco, also near Rifle, was detonated in May 1973. This project set off three separate 30-kiloton devices simultaneously at depths ranging from 5,838 to 6,690 feet in the same bore hole.
In those same years, another experimental site was being explored. In 1968, El Paso Gas Co. signed a contract with the AEC to study the feasibility of exploding a nuclear device 19 miles south-southeast of Pinedale, 18 miles east-northeast of Big Piney and Marbleton, Wyo., and 10 miles south of Boulder, Wyo. on Bureau of Land Management property leased to the company. Known as Project Wagon Wheel, it, like Operation Gasbuggy, was designed as an experiment to study the effectiveness of nuclear power to extract natural gas.
Many of our iconic places are suffering from neglect. From deteriorating roads, bridges and buildings to threatened environmental resources, these natural and historic treasures have fallen into disrepair.
Conditions at most of the 412 National Parks, Battlefields, Monuments and Seashores have worsened in recent years because administrations and Congress have continually shortchanged parks’ capital budgets. The impact of so little investment in restoring key infrastructure has left a $12 billion dollar backlog to get parks, cultural sites and historic monuments into good shape, according to the latest National Park Service report on deferred maintenance.
The Wall Street Journal has reported that mold and rodents contaminated a visitor center at Apostle Islands National Lakeshore in Wisconsin; a broken sewer line spilled raw sewage into Yosemite National Park’s streams; and the Grand Canyon’s only source of drinking water
— an 83-year old pipeline
— breaks regularly.
While national parks visitation is climbing (about 325 million this year, equivalent to the entire population of the United States!), the beleaguered stewards who care for parks just can’t stay ahead of the deterioration. Budget and staffing shortages threaten the maintenance of natural resources and potentially place the safety of park visitors at risk.
To rescue national parks from this crisis, a bold new initiative must be undertaken.
Did the fires hurt wildlife?
The impact will unlikely be large enough to affect overall populations, and long-term the fires will result in a flush of green in the understory that will ultimately benefit wildlife.
Will the fires increase the chance of flooding and landslides?
With more than a month elapsed since the report’s Dec. 12 completion and multiple heavy rains in the rear-view mirror, there haven’t seemed to be any issues. Many areas that the team completing the report initially observed to have water-repellent soil seem to be absorbing water much more readily.
Is a spring fire season likely?
To a degree, the fire season could depend on the scruples of people in the area. Of the 20-plus fires that burned through WNC last fall, only one is thought to have resulted from natural causes. The rest were caused by humans, either accidentally or on purpose.
How did the fires affect the Appalachian Trail?
South of the Smokies, 58 miles of the A.T. run through North Carolina. Of those 58 miles, 26 miles were part of the burned area. Of those 26 miles, about 90 percent experienced pretty mild burning, about the same level you’d get with a prescribed burn. However, about 10 percent burned hot, consuming wooden anti-erosion features on the trail and creating hazards like holes in the ground and dead trees.
It’s safe to say that Rep. Paul A. Gosar (R-Ariz.) is no friend of environmentalists. He boycotted Pope Francis’s speech to Congress in 2015 because the pontiff addressed climate change. He received a score of 3 percent that year from the League of Conservation Voters, significantly below the House average of 41 percent.
But his latest move came as a surprise to many. Gosar submitted a resolution this week that threatens to repeal the National Park Service’s authority to manage private drilling for oil, gas and minerals at 40 national parks, according to the National Parks Conservation Association. Under what are known as the 9B rules, the Park Service, which controls the surface of natural parks, can decline drilling rights to parties that own resources beneath the surface if it determines that the operation would be an environmental threat.
“The resolution is just the latest in a series of moves by federal lawmakers to weaken environmental protections for national parks under the Congressional Review Act,” said the association, a nonprofit watchdog for parks. “If these repeals are signed into law … it will not only stop these protections, it will also prohibit agencies from issuing similar rules and protections in the future, unless directed by Congress.”
Gosar, who has received nearly $250,000 in donations from the energy and national resource sector in his four Congressional elections, was recently appointed to chair the House Subcommittee on Energy and Minerals. He claimed that the updated regulation is cumbersome governmental overreach that stifles job growth and energy production.
As president of the nonprofit Friends of Panthertown, Margaret Carton has worked for years to protect her beloved Panthertown Valley in Jackson County.
As the “feet on the ground,” the group has worked since 2005 to maintain trails, install steps around waterfalls to create safe footing, and give educational programs.
With a deal underway with Mainspring Conservation Trust and the U.S. Forest Service, the friends group will get to care for a bigger chunk of Panthertown.
If fundraising is successful, the Mainspring land trust is set to purchase a 16-acre, privately owned parcel known as the Hipp property, at the west entrance to Panthertown Valley. The valley comprises 6,295 acres of recreation area in the Nantahala National Forest. The parcel is a prime piece of real estate.
The 16-acre property contains a knoll that looks into the rugged and rolling hills of the protected Panthertown Valley, which is open to hiking, mountain biking, fishing, camping and horseback riding.
I am disgusted… for dozens of reasons, but let’s talk about the Stream Protection Rule.
The Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE) of the Department of the Interior studied the effects of mountaintop removal coal mining for nearly the entire length of the Obama Administration, fielding more than 100,000 requests for comment. On December 20, 2016 they released the Stream Protection Rule, a regulation of the industry based on the results of their impact studies.
OSMRE introduced the Stream Protection Rule to improve the balance between environmental protection and providing for the Nation’s need for coal as a source of energy. The final rule better protects streams, fish, wildlife, and related environmental values from the adverse impacts of surface coal mining operations and provides mine operators with a regulatory framework to avoid water pollution and the long-term costs associated with water treatment.
On February 1, 2017 the U.S. House of Representatives voted 228-194 to repeal the rule a mere six weeks after it went into effect.
If you aren’t familiar with mountaintop removal coal mining, here is a brief explaination. Rather than constructing mine shafts to dig deep into the earth to extract coal, the mining companies now simply blow up the top of Appalachian Mountains to get to the coal.
They’ve been doing it for decades. It’s bad enough that this process leaves ugly scars on the beautiful Appalachian Mountains, but all of the trees and dirt and rock from the former mountaintop has to go somewhere. Prior to the Stream Protection Rule, the surface mining operators would fill up the surrounding valleys and hollows with the debris. You know what’s in those hollows? That’s right… streams and creeks, and fish and wildlife.
Water is the lifeblood of the mountains and forests. When you cover it up with tons and tons of dirt and rock it completely changes the ecology for thousands of years. And for what? To make it easier for a dying industry to extract fossil fuel that isn’t even in demand anymore. I call it double pollution, and it’s why I’m so disgusted.
Mountaintop removal mining will continue to unnecessarily provide coal as a source of energy further exacerbating the negative effects on the environment and climate. Plus the disposal of the tailings and other waste from the process destroys the streams and wildlife that are so important to future generations of humans for their existence.
The almighty dollar seems so important to the U.S. Representatives that man’s ability to sustain himself is imperiled by shortsighted decisions like this. The U.S. Senate will be taking up this repeal in the coming days. If you have any hope for your grandchildren’s ability to exist in an environment with clean air and water, please contact your senators. The Stream Protection Rule depends on it.
Update February 2, 2017 @ 3:00 PM: Sadly the Senate just also voted to overturn the Stream Protection Rule 54-45. Now it only awaits the President’s signature.
The People’s Climate March will descend on D.C. with an intersectional coalition of green and environmental-justice groups, indigenous and civil-rights organizations, students and labor unions. The march will take place on Saturday, April 29, 2017, exactly 100 days into Trump’s presidency.
In January, the Women’s March gathered half a million demonstrators in D.C. alone. There have also been talks of an upcoming Science March, which has no set date but almost 300,000 followers on Twitter.
April’s climate march is being organized by a coalition that emerged from the People’s Climate March of 2014, a rally that brought 400,000 people to New York City before the United Nations convened there for a summit on climate change. It was the largest climate march in history — a record that may soon be broken.
“Communities across the country have been working for environmental and social justice for centuries. Now it’s time for our struggles to unite and work together across borders to fight racism, sexism, xenophobia, and environmental destruction.”
On January 25, 2017, the Bureau of Land Management leased nearly 850 acres of land for drilling in northwest New Mexico, netting close to $3 million. The agency offers leases on millions of acres of public land per year, but this latest sale was unusual. Not only was it the first time that the BLM has conducted a lease sale online rather than live in the New Mexico region, the sale had also been postponed three times over the last five years, because its lands are just 20 miles from Chaco Culture National Historical Park (also a UNESCO World Heritage site and an International Dark Sky Park).
While Chaco Canyon and its ruins, such as Pueblo Bonito, are protected from development, as is a 10-mile buffer around the park, surrounding areas are not. Chaco is the core of a much larger Ancestral Puebloan civilization that extended for hundreds of miles in the central San Juan Basin from about 900 to 1150 A.D. The land today is sacred to Navajo, Hopi, Zuni and other Pueblo Indians, and bears remnants of a system of 30-foot-wide roads radiating outward from Chaco Canyon, as well as extensive ruins, artifacts and even lunar calendars etched into boulders. None of those have yet been studied thoroughly by archaeologists.
Nonetheless, about 90 percent of the Greater Chaco area has already been leased for oil and gas development, and Native Americans and environmental groups have fought to exclude the remaining areas. They succeeded in delaying this lease sale multiple times over concerns that hydraulic fracturing and drilling would harm the environment and public health.
A team of scientists has been studying the plant and animal life as regrowth happens following the November 2016 Chimney Tops 2 fire in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The team has investigated 100 different areas and developed detailed maps of the impact by the fire.
“The thing that stands out is the red areas. This is around the Bull Head trail area that a lot of people would be familiar with. These are showing high burn severity areas,” said Troy Evans. “You can see in areas like this that once used to be pretty large trees are now pretty small.”
Of the 11-thousand acres that burned, a small percentage was in the highest burn category. Scientists say this will be the most interesting part to watch recover because new plant and animals could regenerate here.
“As the spring rolls around, I think you’re going to see a lot of green. A lot of growth. New things coming in, maybe where we lost canopy. And see a variety of changes from the fire,” he said.
He says it may only take a few years for the park to look like normal again. But he says there may be a new normal with new plants, animals and familiar ones in new areas of the park. Right now signs of growth are already present with new grass growing and animals already moving back in.
“I have been watching the Trump administration trying unsuccessfully to suppress the National Park Service with a mix of pride and amusement. The NPS is the steward of America’s most important places and the narrator of our most powerful stories, told authentically, accurately, and built upon scientific and scholarly research. The Park Ranger is a trusted interpreter of our complex natural and cultural history and a voice that cannot not be suppressed.
“Edicts from on-high have directed the NPS to not talk about “national policy”, but permission is granted to use social media for visitor center hours and safety. The ridiculousness of such a directive was immediately resisted and I am not the least bit surprised.
“So at Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site in Atlanta should we not talk about his actions to secure the rights to vote for African Americans in the south, or is that too “national policy?” At Stonewall National Monument in New York City, shall we only talk about the hours you can visit the Inn or is it “national policy” to interpret the events there in 1969 that gave rise to the LGBT movement? Shall we only talk about the historic architecture of the Washington, DC home of Alice Paul and Alva Belmont or is it too “national policy” to suggest their decades of effort to secure the rights of women can be linked directly to the women’s marches in hundreds of cities last weekend?
“And as we scientifically monitor the rapid decline of glaciers in Glacier National Park, a clear and troubling indicator of a warming planet, shall we refrain from telling this story to the public because the administration views climate change as “national policy?”
These are not “policy” issues, they are facts about our nation, it is how we learn and strive to achieve the ideals of our founding documents. To talk about these facts is core to the mission of the NPS. During the Centennial of the National Park Service, we hosted over 300 million visitors (now that is huge) to the National Parks and most came away inspired, patriotic and ready to speak on behalf of the values we hold most dear. The new Administration would be wise to figure out how to support the National Park Service, its extraordinary employees and their millions of fans.”
Jonathan B. Jarvis served during the Obama Administration as the 18th Director of the United States National Park Service, confirmed by the United States Senate on September 25, 2009. He retired from federal service on January 3, 2017.
Thru-hikers discover how environmentally degrading backpacking can be. They find countless coolers and campsites full of trash, and eating individually wrapped packets of ramen and Pop-Tarts generates an uncomfortable amount of waste.
Hikers have ideas for making long-distance backpacking more environmentally sound. Though it’s nearly impossible to avoid creating some amount of trash, many hikers found that making mindful purchases, buying in bulk and adhering to Leave No Trace principles helped mitigate environmental damage.
Here are a few suggestions:
Though hikers are resourceful people, there is still room for improvement in the way we treat the environment. With research and some creativity, future generations will be able to hike these precious wilderness trails as they are meant to be enjoyed.