Conservation & Environment

Sea Level Rise Will Flood Key Internet Infrastructure Within 15 Years

Posted by on Jul 17, 2018 @ 7:22 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Sea Level Rise Will Flood Key Internet Infrastructure Within 15 Years

Critical portions of America’s internet infrastructure, particularly in New York City, Miami, and Seattle, may be submerged and damaged by rising sea levels—possibly within the next 15 years, according to research presented at a meeting of internet researchers.

The peer-reviewed study found that projected increases in coastal flooding over the coming decades—a trend linked with human-driven climate change—could have “a devastating impact on Internet communication infrastructure even in the short term.”

“The most immediate risk to the global internet is the fact that transoceanic fiber optic cables have landing sites that will be underwater in the coming years due to climate change-related sea water inundation,” said senior author Paul Barford, a University of Wisconsin-Madison professor of computer science.

By overlaying the Internet Atlas, a global map of the internet’s physical infrastructure, with the Sea Level Rise Inundation estimates generated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the team was able to pinpoint where the most at-risk hardware is located.

One of the study’s most alarming findings is the short lead time before major communication lines will be affected. The team found that in the U.S. alone, 1,186 miles of long-haul fiber conduit and 2,429 miles of metro fiber conduit will be submerged by rising seas within the next 15 years.

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Mysterious source of illegal ozone-killing emissions revealed, say investigators

Posted by on Jul 12, 2018 @ 6:51 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Mysterious source of illegal ozone-killing emissions revealed, say investigators

  A mysterious surge in emissions of an illegal ozone-destroying chemical has been tracked down to plastic foam manufacturers in China.

The chemical, trichlorofluoromethane or CFC-11, has been banned around the world since 2010 and is a potent destroyer of ozone, which protects life on Earth from UV radiation, and strong greenhouse gas. A shock rise in the gas in recent years was revealed by atmospheric scientists in May, but they could only narrow the source to somewhere in East Asia.

The Environmental Investigation Agency, a non-governmental organisation, has now identified widespread use of CFC-11 factories in China that make insulating foams. The EIA’s investigators identified factories that sold the chemicals needed for foam-making, then contacted and visited them.

“We were dumbfounded when out of 21 companies, 18 of them across China confirmed use of CFC-11, while acknowledging the illegality and being very blase about its use,” said Avipsa Mahapatra at the EIA. Furthermore, the companies said the use of CFC-11 was rife in the sector. “It was very clear. These companies, again and again, told us everybody else does this,” she said.

The EIA’s evidence has been passed to the Chinese government, which has already inspected and taken samples from some sites, and to officials at the Montreal Protocol (MP), the treaty that phased out ozone-killing chemicals.

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Bumble Bee Watch

Posted by on Jul 7, 2018 @ 12:42 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

Bumble Bee Watch

With the news this week that bumble bees have been added to the endangered species list, you may be asking yourself what you can do to help. Enter Bumble Bee Watch, a collaborative effort to track and conserve North America’s bumble bees.

This citizen science project allows for individuals to:

  • Upload photos of bumble bees to start a virtual bumble bee collection;
  • Identify the bumble bees in your photos and have your identifications verified by experts;
  • Help researchers determine the status and conservation needs of bumble bees;
  • Help locate rare or endangered populations of bumble bees;
  • Learn about bumble bees, their ecology, and ongoing conservation efforts; and
  • Connect with other citizen scientists.

Because bees are widely distributed, the best way to keep track of them is with an army of volunteers across the country armed with cameras. With any luck, you might help find remnant populations of rare species before they go extinct. Joining and participating is easy, just as simple as taking pictures.

Other ways to help include creating habitat, supporting local and organic agriculture, and recruiting others.

Are you interested? Learn more here…

 

We’ve entered the era of ‘fire tsunamis’

Posted by on Jul 7, 2018 @ 9:19 am in Conservation | 0 comments

We’ve entered the era of ‘fire tsunamis’

Life in the Rocky Mountains is frequently extreme as blizzards, baking sun, and fires alternate with the seasons. But fire tsunamis? Those aren’t normal.

On July 5, 2018,, one observer described a “tsunami” of flames overnight at the Spring Creek fire near La Veta in the south-central part of the state. And you can’t stop tsunamis.

“It was a perfect firestorm,” Ben Brack, incident commander for the Spring Creek fire, told the Denver Post. “You can imagine standing in front of a tsunami or tornado and trying to stop it from destroying homes. A human response is ineffective.”

Pyrocumulus clouds, a sure indicator of intense heat release from wildfire, were clearly visible from 100 miles away. The fire is just five percent contained and covers more than 100,000 acres — larger than the city limits of Denver — making it the third-largest wildfire in state history.

The official term for the hellish meteorological event that hit La Veta is a “firestorm,” a self-propelling explosion of flame generated by strong and gusty winds from a particularly intense fire over extremely dry terrain. When a fire gets hot enough, it can generate its own weather conditions and wind speeds can approach hurricane force, drying out the surrounding land. In just a few hours, the Spring Creek fire swelled by nearly 20,000 acres, with airborne sparks igniting new fires nearly one mile downwind.

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Sacred Native American Sites Are Not Your Playgrounds

Posted by on Jul 6, 2018 @ 9:11 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Sacred Native American Sites Are Not Your Playgrounds

Deep in the Grand Canyon, on land that Havasupai Native Americans have called home for generations, is a place known as Beaver Falls. It’s an unimaginative name for an otherworldly landscape, where turquoise water tumbles over a series of terraces gouged into red desert walls. To legally reach the falls, you have to pay the Havasupai $140, hike ten miles to the tribe’s campground, then hike an additional four miles to the waterfall. The camping and hiking permits are one of the tribe’s few sources of revenue, and help ensure that Beaver Falls stays protected.

Some Grand Canyon river runners, however, circumvent the permit system by hiking upstream from the river, without paying the Havasupai. In response, the Havasupai now station a ranger where their land meets National Park Service land, asking river runners to fork over $44 or else return to their rafts.

It’s a fairly simple request, but some river runners are so upset they’ve begun circulating an obscure document disputing the park’s boundary, suggesting that rafters can freely hike to the falls despite the Havasupai’s wishes.

The dispute illustrates a growing issue: some of the places most sought after by recreationists are also culturally, spiritually, and/or economically vital to Native American tribes. As more people take to these lands to hike, bike, climb, ski, paddle, or camp, respect for indigenous values sometimes fades. In Wyoming’s Devils Tower National Monument, for instance, an increasing number of climbers are choosing to ignore a voluntary June climbing ban that’s been in place for more than 20 years to allow local tribes to hold ceremonies at the site. Roughly 373 climbers scaled Devils Tower in June 2017, compared to 167 in 1995.

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The State of the Nation’s Forests

Posted by on Jul 5, 2018 @ 1:47 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

The State of the Nation’s Forests

Forests are constantly changing with weather, disturbance, and conversion to other land uses, but how do we know if year-to-year changes are just a one-off or part of a larger shift? Annual summaries of forest health are key to our understanding, say the editors and authors that produced Forest Health Monitoring: National Status, Trends, and Analysis 2017.

Scientists from across the Forest Service as well as university researchers, state partners, and many other experts contributed to the 2017 FHM report, which is the only national summary of forest health undertaken on an annual basis. The report includes short- and long-term forest health assessments from the continental U.S., Alaska, and Hawaii. It also summarizes the status and trends of a variety of forest health indicators.

The 2017 FHM report reflects findings from the previous year. According to Potter, the state of U.S. forests as of 2016 is “troubling.” “We have a great deal of forest in the United States, and much of it is in good shape,” says Potter. “At the same time, fires, insects and diseases, and droughts are impacting forest health in many places, and some of those forests may be altered permanently.”

Here are the most notable highlights…

 

Swiss Re limits thermal coal coverage

Posted by on Jul 5, 2018 @ 6:58 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Swiss Re limits thermal coal coverage

Swiss Re Ltd. will not provide insurance or reinsurance to businesses with more than 30% thermal coal exposure.

The Zurich-based reinsurer has started implementation of its thermal coal policy, adopted as part of Swiss Re’s “strong commitment” to adopt the principles of the Paris climate agreement, which reaffirmed a goal of limiting the global temperature increase below 2 degrees Celsius and committed countries to develop plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and regularly report on their progress.

“As a result, Swiss Re supports a progressive and structured shift away from fossil fuels,” the reinsurer said in a statement.

The group-wide thermal coal policy is part of Swiss Re’s Sustainability Risk Framework, which the reinsurer uses for all underwriting and investment activities to minimize sustainability risks. The thermal coal policy applies to both existing and new thermal coal mines and power plants and is implemented across all lines of business and Swiss Re’s global operations.

The 30% threshold applied is in line with the thresholds on the reinsurer’s investment side. Swiss Re stopped investing in companies that generate 30% or more of their revenues from thermal coal mining or that use at least 30% thermal coal for power generation.

Cite…

 

Deepwater Horizon disaster altered building blocks of ocean life

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

Deepwater Horizon disaster altered building blocks of ocean life

The 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster may have had a lasting impact upon even the smallest organisms in the Gulf of Mexico, scientists have found – amid warnings that the oceans around America are also under fresh assault as a result of environmental policies under Donald Trump.

Lingering oil residues have altered the basic building blocks of life in the ocean by reducing biodiversity in sites closest to the spill, which occurred when a BP drilling rig exploded in April 2010, killing 11 workers and spewing about 4m barrels of oil into the Gulf.

Researchers took sediment samples in 2014 from shipwrecks scattered up to 150km (93 miles) from the spill site to study how microbial communities on the wrecks have changed. On two shipwrecks close to the source of the outpouring of oil – a German U-Boat and a wooden 19th-century sailing vessel – scientists saw a visible oil residue.

“At the sites closest to the spill, biodiversity was flattened,” said Leila Hamdan, a microbial ecologist at the University of Southern Mississippi and lead author of the study. “There were fewer types of microbes. This is a cold, dark environment and anything you put down there will be longer lasting than oil on a beach in Florida. It’s premature to imagine that all the effects of the spill are over and remediated.”

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Bumblebee Has Officially Been Added To The Ever-Growing List Of Endangered Species

Posted by on Jul 3, 2018 @ 6:29 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Bumblebee Has Officially Been Added To The Ever-Growing List Of Endangered Species

It’s official, the bumblebee has been added to the ever-growing list of endangered species along with the grizzly bear, the northern spotted owl, the gray wolf, and about 700 other animal species which are extinct. Once abundant in the grasslands and prairies of the East and Midwest, the rusty-patched bee has now been restricted to protections in the continental US as its population keeps dwindling at an alarming rate.

It has been estimated that 95% of bumblebees now only exist in isolated pockets in twelve states and the province of Ontario, Canada.

It took much longer than expected to put this bee onto the list of endangered species list due to the tossing and turning in Trump’s administration. The original listing date was set for February 10, 2018, but it was not until June 27 that it was listed.

Human encroachment led to the subsequent loss of their natural habitat which played a significant role in the bee’s declining population. The classification will foster the conservation of tall grasses and protection of grasslands where the bumblebee and other pollinators naturally thrive.

Although the move has been welcomed, there is a chance the designation of bumble bees as an endangered species might not sit well with several industries and corporations. The move might, therefore, face a lot of challenges.

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Private Investment Will Jump Start Rural Economy

Posted by on Jul 2, 2018 @ 12:06 pm in Conservation, Hiking News | 0 comments

Private Investment Will Jump Start Rural Economy

Ringed by miles of abandoned coal mines, the Wayne National Forest is surrounded by some of the most economically distressed communities in southern Ohio. A unique partnership with private investors, local leaders, a university, and nonprofit partners is helping to change that.

The Forest Service is working with the National Forest Foundation and Quantified Ventures to explore how an innovative finance mechanism can support an 88-mile multiuse trail on 9,000 acres of national forest land in Athens County.

Dubbed the Baileys Trail System, the project will serve as a case study for the Forest Service to assess the potential for funding deferred maintenance and new infrastructure projects by linking funding to measurable accomplishments through a system called Pay for Success. With this funding system investors provide up-front capital for work to be done, with repayment tied to the successful achievement of agreed-upon outcomes.

Connecting adjacent state and community trails, the Baileys Trail System is within driving distance of about 15 percent of the US population. It is expected to become a premier hiking and mountain biking destination east of the Mississippi – an evolution that will enable Athens County to diversify the regional economy through outdoor recreation and tourism.

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Flood Damage Repair at Linville Falls

Posted by on Jul 2, 2018 @ 6:35 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Flood Damage Repair at Linville Falls

At the request of the Blue Ridge Parkway Maintenance out of Gillespie Gap, the Crabtree Falls FRIENDS of the BRP Chapter and the NC High Peaks Trail Association assisted in the cleanup of flood damage at Linville Falls on Monday, June 25, 2018. Eleven members and friends of the chapter worked on this project. The team had two goals:

  1. Remove flood debris from the upper falls overlook area
  2. Upright seven stone columns toppled and displaced by the flood

The team worked closely with three Parkway employees to get all this work done safely.

They used rock bars and a hoist to reposition and upright the columns.

Parkway Maintenance will install new railings to keep the public a safe distance from the river just above the falls.

Cite…

 

Climate change is making it harder to revive damaged land

Posted by on Jun 29, 2018 @ 2:56 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

Climate change is making it harder to revive damaged land

Carianne Campbell remembers the exact moment she fell in love with the Sonoran Desert. As a botany major in college, she joined a class field trip to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument on the southern border of Arizona, arriving and setting up camp in the dark. Emerging from her tent the next morning, Campbell, who grew up on the East Coast, caught her first glimpse of enormous saguaros, clustered organ pipes and bright desert wildflowers. She knew immediately that she wanted to work in this kind of landscape.

Today, Campbell is the restoration director for Sky Island Alliance, a nonprofit conservation organization based in Tucson, Arizona. She leads efforts to re-establish native plant communities in “sky islands” — isolated, ecologically rich mountain ranges that dot southeastern Arizona and New Mexico and northern Sonora, Mexico, and serve as home to some 7,000 species of plants and animals. Under Campbell’s guidance, Sky Island Alliance restores riparian habitat that’s been overrun by invasive species, such as fountaingrass, which crowds out local species and transforms the desert into fire-prone grassland.

The point of Campbell’s job used to be relatively straightforward: She attempted to conserve local biodiversity by re-establishing the wild spaces where native plant and animal species once lived. But given the planet’s rapid climate shifts, the connections between wild organisms and their ecosystems are fraying, forcing restoration biologists, including Campbell, to rethink the purpose of their work. It no longer helps to remember what a site looked like 20 years ago. “We need to be thinking about what it’s going to be like 20 years into the future,” she said.

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20 Mining Claims Have Been Staked On Land Trump Cut From Monument Protection

Posted by on Jun 29, 2018 @ 8:53 am in Conservation | 0 comments

20 Mining Claims Have Been Staked On Land Trump Cut From Monument Protection

At least 20 new mining claims totaling about 460 acres have been staked on land President Donald Trump removed from national monument protection late last year.

The claims indicate there is interest in extracting minerals from lands that until recently were off limits to such development.

Trump signed a pair of proclamations late last year reducing the size of the 1.35-million-acre Bears Ears National Monument by 85 percent and the 1.87-million-acre Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument by roughly 50 percent. It was the largest reduction of national monuments in history, with more than 2 million acres losing protections. Prohibitions on new hard-rock mining claims in those now-unprotected areas were lifted in early February.

Since then, 17 claims have been staked on land that was previously part of Grand Staircase-Escalante, according to Bureau of Land Management records. Three more have been located within the original boundary of Bears Ears.

A Canadian copper and silver mining firm, Glacier Lake Resources Inc., has entered into an agreement to purchase mineral rights to extract copper, cobalt and other minerals on roughly 200 acres of land at the former Colt Mesa mine within the original boundary of Grand Staircase-Escalante.

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The Bountiful Benefits Of Bringing Back The Beavers

Posted by on Jun 25, 2018 @ 12:53 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

The Bountiful Benefits Of Bringing Back The Beavers

Few species manipulate their surroundings enough to make big ecological changes. Humans are one. Beavers are another.

At one point, the rodents numbered in the hundreds of millions in North America, changing the ecological workings of countless streams and rivers. As settlers moved West, they hunted and trapped them to near extinction.

Now there are new efforts across the Western U.S. to understand what makes them tick, mimic their engineering skills, boost their numbers, and in turn, get us more comfortable with the way they transform rivers and streams.

Much like us, beavers build dams along streams for their own benefit. They make ponds to protect their lodges and flood areas to increase the vegetation they feed on and use for building materials. While their motivations are selfish, in the process they end up helping their woodland friends, like elk, moose, birds, fish and insects.

Scientists have shown we get lots of benefits, too. Beaver dams improve water quality, trap and store carbon — and in the aggregate could be a significant way of storing groundwater in dry climates.

Beaver reintroduction projects are already underway in Nevada, Utah, Wyoming and Washington state. Sections of Rocky Mountain National Park, and vast swathes of the American West, seem primed for a beaver comeback with plenty of available habitat yet to be turned into beaver ponds.

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Leave No Trace includes your hiking posts on social media

Posted by on Jun 24, 2018 @ 12:45 pm in Conservation, Hiking News | 0 comments

Leave No Trace includes your hiking posts on social media

Social media plays a big role in many people’s lives, and it’s only natural that our love of sharing would extend to the outdoors. As more and more hikers are enjoying trails, it’s important to remember that social media can have an impact on how good hiking behavior is shared in the hiking community.

The national Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics released a set of guidelines with tips on how to promote positive hiking behavior on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to ensure that the trails we all love to hike on will be kept in good condition.

“Social media can inspire more people to get outdoors,” Washington Trails Association’s communications director, Kindra Ramos said. “But inspiration is a first step toward meaningful stewardship.”

If you visit a fragile backcountry environment, consider the implications of leaving an exact geo-targeted location on your social media posts, as that may encourage a larger number of people to visit an area not intended for heavy use.

If you’re on a popular trail, consider showcasing how to treat and navigate well-traveled trails so other hikers can understand the implications of hiking in some of the more popular areas. For example, point out how cutting switchbacks can damage plant life, etc.

The Leave No Trace guidelines include…

 

Global warming cooks up ‘a different world’ over 3 decades

Posted by on Jun 18, 2018 @ 12:30 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

Global warming cooks up ‘a different world’ over 3 decades

We were warned.

On June 23, 1988, a sultry day in Washington, James Hansen told Congress and the world that global warming wasn’t approaching — it had already arrived. The testimony of the top NASA scientist, said Rice University historian Douglas Brinkley, was “the opening salvo of the age of climate change.”

Thirty years later, it’s clear that Hansen and other doomsayers were right. But the change has been so sweeping that it is easy to lose sight of effects large and small — some obvious, others less conspicuous.

Earth is noticeably hotter, the weather stormier and more extreme. Polar regions have lost billions of tons of ice; sea levels have been raised by trillions of gallons of water. Far more wildfires rage.

Over 30 years — the time period climate scientists often use in their studies in order to minimize natural weather variations — the world’s annual temperature has warmed nearly 1 degree (0.54 degrees Celsius), according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. And the temperature in the United States has gone up even more — nearly 1.6 degrees.

“The biggest change over the last 30 years is that we’re no longer thinking just about the future,” said Kathie Dello, a climate scientist at Oregon State University in Corvallis. “Climate change is here, it’s now and it’s hitting us hard from all sides.”

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After Malheur, side effects of the Bundys’ extremism linger

Posted by on Jun 16, 2018 @ 6:51 am in Conservation | 0 comments

After Malheur, side effects of the Bundys’ extremism linger

High Desert Partnership began about 15 years ago, as a conversation between Chad Karges, who was then deputy manager for the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, and a cattle rancher named Gary Marshall. Relations between local ranchers and refuge employees had been volatile for decades, as the two sides butted heads over livestock and wildlife. The bad blood extended beyond the Fish and Wildlife Service, to the Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service, whose management decisions were tied up in litigation.

Karges knew something had to change. The refuge was supposed to create a new 15-year plan in a few years. “If we didn’t do something different, we shouldn’t expect a different outcome than what the BLM and Forest Service were experiencing.”

So Karges and Marshall started looking around the West for communities that had forged lasting solutions to thorny disagreements. They reached out to the Blackfoot Challenge in Montana, the Quivira Coalition in New Mexico, and the Malpai Borderlands Group in Arizona, all of which created successful partnerships between federal agencies, locals and conservation groups.

Two things became clear: Natural resource projects needed to come as much from the community as the federal government, and they needed a nonprofit to provide a safe, neutral forum for conversation around tough issues, like cattle grazing in a bird sanctuary.

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