Conservation & Environment

Love the Outdoors? The U.S. National Parks Are Hiring

Posted by on Nov 15, 2017 @ 7:02 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Love the Outdoors? The U.S. National Parks Are Hiring

Have you ever wished you could spend your workdays surrounded by awe-inspiring nature? You can now make that dream a reality: the National Park Service is hiring for a variety of positions across its U.S. parks for next year.

California’s Yosemite National Park, for example, is currently taking applications for roughly 300 different jobs for next summer. The positions, which range from forestry technicians to backcountry rangers, pay anywhere from $16 to $22 an hour while giving you the chance to enjoy the great outdoors.

Each of Yosemite’s positions will be posted for up to five business days, with interested parties told to regularly check on to see what openings are rolling out now through the end of January, 2018.

Yosemite isn’t the only national park you can work at though, with many of the more than 400 parks across the country looking to hire. You’ll find open positions that vary from interpretation rangers at Maine’s Acadia National Park to visitor service positions across Canyonlands National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, Capitol Reef National Park, Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, and Arches National Park.

There are also positions available at a variety of national sights. For example, you can spend your days surrounded by the forests and grasslands of North Carolina’s Cape Hatteras National Seashore, or conduct tours at the Gateway National Recreation Area.

Most of the available positions are temporary and offer salaries by the hour, but those who are interested will want to act fast as several of the positions that just opened are only available to take applications through the end of the week.


Grandfather Restoration Collaborative Recognized for U.S. Forest Service Award

Posted by on Nov 14, 2017 @ 1:58 pm in Conservation | 1 comment

Grandfather Restoration Collaborative Recognized for U.S. Forest Service Award

The Grandfather Ranger District of the Pisgah National Forest in North Carolina, and a collaborative group of partners from the community, non-profits, and local and state groups have received the 2017 Restored and Resilient Landscapes Award from the U.S. Forest Service Southern Region.

Since 2012, the Grandfather Restoration Collaborative has been working on restoration projects across the Grandfather Ranger District. This year, only six years into the eight year project timeframe, the Grandfather Restoration Project has already exceeded its restoration goal of 40,000 acres.

“The collaborative group’s dedication has been key to achieving these amazing accomplishments. Partners have devoted an enormous amount of time and resources to supporting projects that result in a healthier, more diverse forest,” said District Ranger Nick Larson. He added, “We have demonstrated through collaboration the pace and scale of restoration activities can increase significantly. This provides an excellent example of how working together we can do great things.”

The restoration projects include removing dense understory fuels to reduce wildfire risk, restoring shortleaf pines to sites where they would historically would have been found, increasing wildlife openings and improving forage for deer and other wildlife, treating more hemlocks for Hemlock Wooly Adelgid, creating a sustainable trail system, and improving the health of rivers and watersheds.

According to Larson, in each of these projects the collaborative partners have been instrumental to success. “Their dedication goes beyond the norm, with collaboration taking place in the pre-planning and planning stages as well as implementation and monitoring of project activities. From field trips to help identify future project areas, to multi-jurisdiction prescribed burns, to engaging hundreds of volunteers for trail restoration, to monitoring the effectiveness of invasive species treatments, the collaborative has worked to extend our capacity every step of the way.”

A wide variety of partners are collaborating with the U.S. Forest Service including the Foothills Land Conservancy, MountainTrue, National Wild Turkey Foundation, NC Forest Service, NC State Parks, NC Wildlife Resources Commission, Southern Appalachian Wilderness Stewards, Southern Environmental Law Center, The Nature Conservancy, The Wilderness Society, Western Carolina University, and Wild South.


Stevens Creek land protected near Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Posted by on Nov 14, 2017 @ 6:57 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Stevens Creek land protected near Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy recently purchased 147 acres at Stevens Creek, a quiet cove on the eastern edge of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The acquisition permanently protects important habitat and water resources near the remote Cataloochee Valley area of the park.

“Wrapped on three sides by publicly owned land, this pocket of prime forest and open pasture habitat will remain undeveloped for future generations,” says Executive Director Carl Silverstein. “The acquisition presents a wonderful opportunity for SAHC to deepen our connection to America’s most visited national park.”

Located at the northern end of Cataloochee Ridge in Haywood County, North Carolina, the recently purchased Stevens Creek conservation land shares over 7,000 feet of boundary with a portion of the national park that serves as a key wildlife corridor for rare and threatened species. SAHC and its partners at the National Parks Conservation Association, the Wilderness Society and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation considered the tract a high conservation priority because of its location and exceptional habitat.

“Protecting this land is critical for the elk, black bear and other animals moving in and out of Great Smoky Mountains National Park,” said Jeffrey Hunter, Southeast regional program manager for National Parks Conservation Association. “Wildlife aren’t aware of park boundaries and protecting lands adjacent to the Great Smokies provides protection for the animals, and creates corridors for them to move freely. This land acquisition is a critical step in preserving the biodiversity of this special region.”

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Air quality improves in North Carolina

Posted by on Nov 12, 2017 @ 1:49 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

Air quality improves in North Carolina

North Carolina set a record low for number of unhealthy ozone days with the close of the 2017 season Oct. 31.

Since March 1, the state has recorded just four unhealthy ozone days with concentrations higher than the 70 parts per billion ozone standard set by the Environmental Protection Agency in 2015, the best outcome since the previous record low of five unhealthy ozone days in 2013. None of this year’s unhealthy ozone days occurred in Western North Carolina.

“This is a positive indicator that our partnerships focused on curbing air pollution are working,” said Mike Abraczinskas, director of the Division of Air Quality (DAQ) in the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality. “This year’s ozone data provides clear evidence that a robust economy and healthy environment can thrive at the same time.”

Ozone forms when nitrogen oxides react with hydrocarbons on warm, sunny days with little wind. It can be unhealthy to breath, and exposure to high levels can cause even healthy people to develop asthma over time. It also causes millions of dollars in tree and crop damage each year in the U.S.

In the early 2000s, about one-third of N.C. counties were classified as non-attainment zones for ozone, but air quality has improved due to declining emissions from vehicles, power plants and other industrial sources, spurred by the 2002 Clean Smokestacks Act that required the state’s coal-fired power plants to reduce emissions by 75 percent, and EPA requirements leading to lower emissions from other sources.



Tyson Foods Linked to the Largest Toxic Dead Zone in U.S. History

Posted by on Nov 11, 2017 @ 6:48 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Tyson Foods Linked to the Largest Toxic Dead Zone in U.S. History

Less oxygen dissolved in the water is often referred to as a “dead zone” because most marine life either dies, or, if they are mobile such as fish, leave the area. Habitats that would normally be teeming with life become, essentially, biological deserts.

What comes to mind when you think of Tyson Foods? A chicken nugget? A big red logo?

How about the largest toxic dead zone in U.S. history? It turns out the meat industry—and corporate giants like Tyson Foods—are directly linked to this environmental catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico, and many others.

Industrial-scale agriculture to support America’s livestock is the number one source of water pollution in the country. But while industrial agriculture to feed animals raised for meat is currently resource-intensive and ecologically destructive, it doesn’t have to be. Solutions exist which, if adopted, would allow the meat industry and agricultural corporations that sustain it to reduce their impact on water and the planet.

Another alarming characteristic of industrial agriculture is that because it’s so intensive, fields are quickly exhausted, and the industry must continuously expand to new areas. For this reason, the American prairie and grassland ecosystems are being altered faster than the Amazon rainforest.

Luckily, there are a number of simple, cheap and effective ways in which the meat industry could adopt sustainability measures into supply chains to protect clean water. For example, currently less than 30 percent of fertilizer applied to massive industrial-scale crop fields is actually absorbed by the plants. Instead, most of this washes off as fertilizer pollution and contaminates waterways. By using more precise application methods, farmers could save money on fertilizer, and less of it would contaminate the water. Additionally, techniques like using cover crops, diversifying crops beyond corn and soy, and limiting tillage are proven ways to reduce soil erosion.

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Proposed National Park Covering 40 Percent of Iceland

Posted by on Nov 10, 2017 @ 12:23 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

Proposed National Park Covering 40 Percent of Iceland

A committee researching guidelines for establishing a national park in the central highlands of Iceland has submitted its final report to the Minister for the Environment and Natural Resources. The report provides a comprehensive overview of the area’s nature, existing protection, utilization, and infrastructure, as well as four scenarios envisioning one or more new national parks in the area.

The central highlands of Iceland are mostly uninhabitable and are one of the largest land areas in Europe without permanent inhabitants.

The report is intended to form a basis for discussion and decision-making concerning protection of the central highlands. It presents four very different scenarios for the area’s future.

The first scenario proposes a national park covering 85 percent of the central highlands, or around 40 percent of Iceland’s land area. The park would be divided into seven areas and its administration would be similar to that of Vatnajökull National Park, where decentralized regional councils are responsible for each area but policy, organization, licensing, and administration would be decided by a central body. This scenario is considered able to achieve comprehensive conservation of the area and management of tourism for the central highlands as a whole.

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Pilot Program at Grand Teton National Park Informs Future of Composting

Posted by on Nov 9, 2017 @ 11:47 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Pilot Program at Grand Teton National Park Informs Future of Composting

As part of the Zero-Landfill Initiative, Teton County, Wyoming is making great inroads with new composting waste removal efforts. The Zero-Landfill Initiative is a collaboration between Subaru of America, Inc., National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), the National Park Service (NPS) and park concessioners to reduce the amount of visitor-generated waste that national parks send to the landfills.

Collaborators spent the summer targeting the one material that is believed to comprise up to 40 percent of Teton County’s waste stream – food. Capturing and composting non-edible food waste is the next major step in the County’s efforts to significantly reduce waste going to landfills.

As part initiative, Grand Teton National Park and its concessioners Grand Teton Lodge Company and Signal Mountain Lodge have improved their waste infrastructure by raising public awareness around the trash problem at national parks and surrounding communities, and educating employees and visitors on how to lessen their environmental footprint. Teton County is playing an important role by contracting hauling services and coordinating collection logistics among the pilot project participants.

The Zero-Landfill Initiative is the first of its kind in bringing public and private partnerships to address critical natural resource issues in our national parks. The private-sector run concessioner operations manage the lodging, food and beverage and retail services at the park, which are all critical components to the success of the Zero-Landfill Initiative.

Together, park concessioners are managing more than 60 percent of all waste that is generated in the pilot parks, with a significant portion of that brought in by visitors that ultimately shows up in park campgrounds and trailheads. In addition to the composting efforts, concessioners are focusing on reducing waste generated in their own operations and helping the park and its visitors be educated and engaged in zero landfill practices.

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5 ways to win the war on plastic pollution

Posted by on Nov 9, 2017 @ 6:51 am in Conservation | 0 comments

5 ways to win the war on plastic pollution

Almost all of the world’s newly-manufactured plastic ends up as waste or marine litter, when it could instead be used to solve big problems like affordable housing, infrastructure improvement, and sustainable consumer products.

This was the challenge that experts from academia, civil society and the private sector set out to tackle at Australia’s inaugural conference on reducing plastic pollution in the Asia Pacific.

Some 322 million tons of plastic materials were produced worldwide in 2015, according to industry group PlasticsEurope. Only about 9 per cent of this was recycled, the rest ending up in landfills—where it can take hundreds of years to decompose—or as marine litter, where it risks being ingested by all forms of marine life, from plankton to seabirds to fish that humans eat. In Ghana, for instance, plastic bags blocked storm drains and flood gates to such a severe degree in 2015 that it resulted in a flood that killed 150 people.

Proper waste management, behavior change, and designing products so that plastic does not end up as waste are all essential steps for solving plastic pollution.

Experts at the conference shared numerous solutions to tackle one of the most intractable environmental challenges today: Marine plastic litter. Here are the five most inspiring ideas.


A reminder that this weekend national parks are fee-free for Veterans Day

Posted by on Nov 8, 2017 @ 10:25 am in Conservation | 0 comments

A reminder that this weekend national parks are fee-free for Veterans Day

This Friday, Nov. 10, 2017 is Veterans Day in the United States. Dedicated to those who have served their country, the federal government has set aside this day to honor those still alive and those fallen.

The National Park Service does their part to remember veterans by waiving entrance fees at all National Park Service sites for Nov. 11 and 12, as they typically do around the day of remembrance.

NPS has many different programs they do with active-duty members and veterans, as they offer free entrance all year long for active duty U.S. military to national parks. They also run programs like Vets on the River that organize experiential river trips for vets and their families.

Many commemorative events will also be taking place at some of the historic battlefields and military sites that are part of the National Park Service system.

However you plan to commemorate those who have served this Veterans Day, know that access to our nation’s public lands is free and should be enjoyed by all — especially those who have fought to keep those lands public, among our other freedoms.



The benefits of public wildlands, explained

Posted by on Nov 7, 2017 @ 8:57 am in Conservation | 0 comments

The benefits of public wildlands, explained

We’ve all seen the Instagram pictures of hikers clad in brand-name outdoor gear relaxing in front of picturesque mountain lakes or perching on impossibly angled red rock in all their glory. It’s easy to see that public lands, which include everything from national monuments to national parks and national forests, are beautiful and can provide great photo ops, but what else do they provide?

Money, for one. Each year, outdoor recreation generates $887 billion in consumer spending nationally. You don’t even have to put on Gore-Tex and ford a river to benefit from this huge economic boost — even urbanites who never venture beyond skyscraper views appreciate a few extra dollars in their pocket as people prepare for their adventures.

But the benefits aren’t just economic. Even the simple act of turning on a faucet to pour a glass of clean water often involves public lands, since 66 million Americans get their municipal drinking water from these areas. Just filling a glass with tap water often relies on protected lands. National forests provide municipal drinking water for 3,400 communities, serving 66 million people across the country. This water is worth over $7.2 billion per year.

Forests also provide clean air since trees absorb carbon to protect the globe from the effects of climate change. Each year, forests in the U.S. offset 10 to 20 percent of the nation’s emissions.

Wild lands aren’t just pretty landscapes — for many Native American people, these areas have important spiritual significance. People gather herbs for medicine and ceremonies, collect wood and materials for baskets and clothing, hunt and fish for subsistence, and conduct spiritual rituals.

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New national forest charter launched at UK’s Lincoln Castle

Posted by on Nov 6, 2017 @ 2:50 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

New national forest charter launched at UK’s Lincoln Castle

  A new forest charter that aims to put trees and woods back at the heart of people’s lives has been launched on the 800th anniversary of the original. The event took place at Lincoln Castle – home to one of only two surviving copies of the original charter that granted public access to royal land in England.

The new document aims to protect existing woodland and encourage the planting of more trees. Officials said the idea was to reverse a state of deforestation.

According to the Woodland Trust, one of the organizations involved in producing the charter, England has slipped into a state of deforestation due to a large number of trees being cut down and planting rates being at their lowest for 40 years.

It said the charter aimed to combat “the unprecedented pressures from development, pests, diseases and climate change, and provide guidance and inspiration across government, communities and individuals.”

The charter is built around 10-guiding principles, which include making trees accessible to all and putting trees at the heart of future development. It also proposes a national charter day for trees, woods and people.



Fragmented Forests Causing Animals to Vanish

Posted by on Nov 4, 2017 @ 3:13 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

Fragmented Forests Causing Animals to Vanish

Expanding human activity has been eating away at Earth’s forests and the disappearing woodlands are causing certain species of animals to vanish along with them, according to a new study.

The findings concluded 85 percent of animals living in forests are affected by fragmentation, which impacts all species and ecosystems, but each animal group is impacted differently.

“Tropical forests and the animals they harbor are being lost at alarming rates, but in order to protect them, we need to know exactly how fragmentation of the land is impacting on the animals that live there,” study co-author and Newcastle University scientist Marion Pfeifer said.

Currently, half of the world’s woodland habitats fall within 1,600 feet of a forest edge due to being broken up by roads under construction and other expansion-related human activity. The researchers say these edges contribute to global declines in biodiversity and the functions of ecosystems.

In order to study the impacts, the scientists looked at changes to the land surrounding the forests and mapped the numbers of 1,673 species of mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians in 22 tropical regions of Asia, Africa and America.

They found species that were living in the center of forests and were more likely to be considered threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) reached their highest numbers more than 650 to 1,300 feet from the edges of the forest. This suggested that they depend on large, rolling forests in order to flourish.

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Trump administration releases report finding ‘no convincing alternative explanation’ for climate change

Posted by on Nov 4, 2017 @ 8:32 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Trump administration releases report finding ‘no convincing alternative explanation’ for climate change

The Trump administration released a dire scientific report November 3, 2017, detailing the growing threats of climate change. The report stands in stark contrast to the administration’s efforts to downplay humans’ role in global warming, withdraw from an international climate accord and reverse Obama-era policies aimed at curbing America’s greenhouse-gas output.

The White House did not seek to prevent the release of the government’s National Climate Assessment, which is mandated by law, despite the fact that its findings sharply contradict the administration’s policies. The report affirms that climate change is driven almost entirely by human action, warns of potential sea level rise as high as 8 feet by the year 2100, and enumerates myriad climate-related damages across the United States that are already occurring due to 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit of global warming since 1900.

“It is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century,” the document reports. “For the warming over the last century, there is no convincing alternative explanation supported by the extent of the observational evidence.”

The report’s release underscores the extent to which the machinery of the federal scientific establishment, operating in multiple agencies across the government, continues to grind on even as top administration officials have minimized or disparaged its findings.

Federal scientists have continued to author papers and issue reports on climate change, for example, even as political appointees have altered the wording of news releases or blocked civil servants from speaking about their conclusions in public forums. The climate assessment process is dictated by a 1990 law that Democratic and Republican administrations have followed.

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The three-degree world: the cities that will be drowned by global warming

Posted by on Nov 3, 2017 @ 9:04 am in Conservation | 0 comments

The three-degree world: the cities that will be drowned by global warming

When UN climate negotiators meet for summit talks this month, there will be a new figure on the table: 3C.

Until now, global efforts such as the Paris climate agreement have tried to limit global warming to 2C above pre-industrial levels. However, with latest projections pointing to an increase of 3.2C by 2100, these goals seem to be slipping out of reach.

“[We] still find ourselves in a situation where we are not doing nearly enough to save hundreds of millions of people from a miserable future,” said Erik Solheim, the UN environment chief, ahead of the upcoming Bonn conference.

One of the biggest resulting threats to cities around the world is sea-level rise, caused by the expansion of water at higher temperatures and melting ice sheets on the north and south poles.

Scientists at the non-profit organisation Climate Central estimate that 275 million people worldwide live in areas that will eventually be flooded at 3C of global warming. The regional impact of these changes is highly uneven, with four out of five people affected living in Asia.

Although sea levels will not rise instantaneously, the calculated increases will be “locked in” at a temperature rise of 3C, meaning they will be irreversible even if warming eventually slows down.

See what cities will be most affected…


Forest Service Report Assesses the State of U.S. Forest Health

Posted by on Nov 2, 2017 @ 9:02 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Forest Service Report Assesses the State of U.S. Forest Health

Insects, diseases, droughts, and fire threaten forests. Each year, the U.S. Forest Service assesses threats facing the nation’s forests. Forest managers, scientists, and decision-makers rely on the annual reports.

The U.S. Forest Service Southern Research Station recently published the 2016 Forest Health Monitoring report. The report is the 16th in the annual series, and is sponsored by the FS Forest Health Monitoring program.

Scientists from across the Forest Service contribute to the annual report, as do university researchers, state partners, and many other experts.

“The report is the only national assessment of forest health undertaken on an annual basis. It includes both short-term and long-term evaluations of our forest resources across broad regions.”

The report includes forest health assessments from the continental U.S. as well as Alaska and Hawai’i. It also summarizes the status and trends of a variety of forest health indicators from a national or regional perspective.

See key findings here…


The Interior Department Scrubs Climate Change From Its Strategic Plan

Posted by on Oct 27, 2017 @ 5:57 am in Conservation | 0 comments

The Interior Department Scrubs Climate Change From Its Strategic Plan

In the next five years, millions of acres of America’s public lands and waters, including some national monuments and relatively pristine coastal regions, could be auctioned off for oil and gas development, with little thought for environmental consequences.

That’s according to a leaked draft, obtained by The Nation, of the Department of the Interior’s strategic vision: It states that the DOI is committed to achieving “American energy dominance” through the exploitation of “vast amounts” of untapped energy reserves on public lands. Alarmingly, the policy blueprint—a 50-page document—does not once mention climate change or climate science.

That’s a clear departure from current policy: The previous plan, covering 2014–18, referred to climate change 46 times and explicitly stated that the department was committed to improving resilience in those communities most directly affected by global warming.

Understanding the threat of climate change had been an integral part of the Interior Department’s mission, said Elizabeth Klein, who served as associate deputy secretary at Interior from 2012 to 2017 and was involved in drafting the earlier strategic plan.

That document sought to address a number of the risks associated with climate change, including drought, sea-level rise, and severe flooding. One section referred specifically to the need for more research on erosion along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts, which are particularly vulnerable to hurricanes.

While disregarding climate change, the 2018–2022 strategic plan places a premium on facilitating oil and gas development. It calls for speeding up the processing of parcels nominated for oil and gas leasing on public lands.

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Tesla Turns Power Back On At Children’s Hospital In Puerto Rico

Posted by on Oct 26, 2017 @ 4:50 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

Tesla Turns Power Back On At Children’s Hospital In Puerto Rico

Tesla has used its solar panels and batteries to restore reliable electricity at San Juan’s Hospital del Niño (Children’s Hospital), in what company founder Elon Musk calls “the first of many solar+battery Tesla projects going live in Puerto Rico.”

The project came about after Puerto Rico was hit by two devastating and powerful hurricanes in September, and Musk reached out about Tesla helping.

Musk’s company announced its success in getting the hospital’s power working again less than three weeks after Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello tweeted on Oct. 6, “Great initial conversation with @elonmusk tonight. Teams are now talking; exploring opportunities.”

The hospital’s new system allows it to generate all the energy it needs. The facility has 35 permanent residents with chronic conditions; it also offers services to some 3,000 young patients. As for who is paying for the power system, the head of the hospital said that for now, it’s a donation — and that after the energy crisis is over, a deal could make it permanent.

The news of restoring permanent power at the hospital comes as millions of people in Puerto Rico continue to rely on generators for electricity. As of Oct. 25, the Electric Power Authority reported that its power service was at 25 percent. The task of rebuilding Puerto Rico’s power grid is expected to take months and to cost as much as $5 billion.

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