Conservation & Environment

Forest Service Report: Rising Firefighting Costs Raises Alarms

Posted by on Aug 5, 2015 @ 9:39 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

For the first time in its 110-year history, the Forest Service, part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is spending more than 50 percent of its budget to suppress the nation’s wildfires. A new report released today by the Forest Service estimates that within a decade, the agency will spend more than two-thirds of its budget to battle ever-increasing fires, while mission-critical programs that can help prevent fires in the first place such as forest restoration and watershed and landscape management will continue to suffer. Meanwhile, the report notes, these catastrophic blazes are projected to burn twice as many acres by 2050.

As the costs of fighting wildfires grow each year with longer, hotter, more unpredictable fire seasons, the report details how the Forest Service has experienced significant shifts in staffing and resources. In effect, the Forest Service has nearly half a billion dollars less, in 2015 dollars, than it did in 1995 to handle non-fire related programs—the bulk of its programming. There has also been a 39 percent loss of non-fire personnel, from approximately 18,000 in 1998 to fewer than 11,000 in 2015, while the fire staff has more than doubled. Dedicated to its mission of protecting more than 190 million acres of federal forests and grasslands, as well as lives and personal property from the growing threats of catastrophic wildfire, the Forest Service in recent years has absorbed skyrocketing costs related to fire and relied increasingly on “fire transfer”—moving resources from non-fire accounts to cover firefighting costs.

“Climate change and other factors are causing the cost of fighting fires to rise every year,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, “but the way we fund our Forest Service hasn’t changed in generations. Meanwhile, everything else suffers, from the very restoration projects that have been proven to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires in the future, to watershed projects that protect drinking water for 1 in 5 Americans, to recreation projects that support thousands of jobs and billions of dollars of economic activity. The time has come for Congress to change the way it funds the Forest Service.”

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Help the National Forest Foundation bring a bison webcam to Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie

Posted by on Aug 5, 2015 @ 3:39 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Help the National Forest Foundation bring a bison webcam to Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie

In fall of 2015, the Prairie State – Illinois – will get a new herd of bison. Part of a broader restoration effort at Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie that aims to return this special place to its original tallgrass prairie ecosystem, the bison reintroduction opens an exciting new chapter for Midewin and the country.

The webcam will feature the new bison herd as they roam near the corral and watering hole. A Crowdrise campaign will provide funding for the camera, installation and continued maintenance of the system.

The camera will be installed prior to the bison’s arrival and will be live by November 2015. Wildlife fans from across the world can watch the bison via the National Forest Foundation, U.S. Forest Service and EarthCam.

Just an hour from Chicago, Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie once housed part of the former Joliet Ammunition Plant. Today, it’s a large-scale work-in-progress as the Forest Service, the National Forest Foundation, and our many partners work to restore a native prairie ecosystem. The bison reintroduction project offers an opportunity to study how bison can aid in the restoration of tallgrass prairie and prairie bird habitat, and provides a unique opportunity for viewing these majestic creatures.

Learn more about how you can make a donation…

 

Woodward County, Oklahoma: Why do so many here doubt climate change?

Posted by on Aug 5, 2015 @ 1:26 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Woodward County, Oklahoma: Why do so many here doubt climate change?

By John D. Sutter, CNN

I was wandering around the rolling plains of northwest Oklahoma looking for one person – one person – who believes in climate change science when I met the woman dressed all in yellow. A wide-brimmed, lemon-colored hat orbited her head. Her loafers were the color of butter. Everything in between was a jubilee of sunshine.

Could she be the one? Please, Lord, let her be the one.

I ask. She laughs.

It’s a sweet laugh. A knowing laugh. A yes-I-understand-everyone-out-here-thinks-climate-science-is-total-BS-but-I’m-the-one-who-gets-it laugh.

Then Yellow Hat speaks. “I think it’s a big fat lie.”

I could recount several interactions like that from my week in Woodward County, Oklahoma, one of the most climate-skeptical counties in the United States. Thirty percent of the 21,000 people in Woodward County are estimated (using a statistical model based in national surveys) to believe that climate change isn’t happening at all, according to the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication. The county ties with six others for the highest rate of climate skepticism in the country.

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National Parks Losing Rangers Just When They’re Needed the Most

Posted by on Aug 3, 2015 @ 5:26 am in Conservation | 0 comments

National Parks Losing Rangers Just When They’re Needed the Most

America’s national parks have never been so popular: Last year saw the highest-ever level of daily visits and campers to Yellowstone, Joshua Tree, and the 57 other nature reserves. Yet the number of park rangers available to help travelers find the perfect trail, answer questions about area flora and fauna, and enforce rules to protect the environment (and other laws) is falling fast.

The amount of full-time and seasonal law enforcement rangers employed at the parks has gone down in recent years. The number of full-time rangers dropped 14 percent from 2005 to 2014, according to figures released this week from watchdog group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility. Seasonal rangers saw an even steeper decline of 27 percent between 2006 and 2014.

More visitors means more injuries and crime, and the rangers simply can’t keep up. Last year saw an uptick in search-and-rescue missions at 2,658—300 more than in 2013. Many of these are a matter of life or death. In 2012 and 2013, 148 and 143 visitors died, respectively, while 2014 had 164 deaths. Last year also saw more than its fair share of instances of assault, rape, theft, and even murder.

“The Park Service…is building a sizable public safety deficit,” said Jeff Ruch, executive director of PEER, in a statement. “This myopic drive for more and more visitation threatens to outstrip the capacity of both the parks and their shrinking ranger corps.”

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What’s actually driving opponents of the Clean Power Plan?

Posted by on Aug 2, 2015 @ 10:32 am in Conservation | 0 comments

The Washington Post reports that Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky has already organized a boycott of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan, even before it’s released. Never mind the fact that Kentucky state officials expect to meet the plan’s requirements to cut pollution from power plants “with relatively little effort.”

In fact, the newspaper’s analysis reveals that most states won’t have trouble meeting the plan’s targets. So, if Sen. McConnell and others are not really standing up for their home states, what’s actually behind the opposition to the Clean Power Plan?

The motives vary, but most opponents of the Clean Power Plan seem united in their belief that solving climate change is either unnecessary or should be very low on the list of national priorities. Drivers of the opposition can be broken down into three familiar categories: money, partisanship and ideology.

The financial interests of the highest-polluting electric utilities are a key element of the opposition. While some forward-thinking companies are switching to cleaner energy, big players in the industry are refusing to adapt.

As with most things in Washington, partisanship is playing a very big role in the opposition to the Clean Power Plan. Because President Obama proposed it, it must be wrong.

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Wildfire Burning Near Old Fort, NC

Posted by on Aug 1, 2015 @ 7:32 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

NEBO, N.C., August 1, 2015 – The Wolf Creek wildfire is burning on the Pisgah National Forest in the Heartbreak Ridge and Jarrett Creek area of McDowell County northwest of Old Fort, NC. The wildfire, reported the evening of July 31st, is moving slowly and is estimated at twenty-five acres and is twenty percent contained.

The U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and N.C. Forest Service (NCFS) are managing the fire jointly with resources from both agencies and support from McDowell County Emergency Management Services. 35 firefighters, a dozer, two engines, and a NCFS plane and helicopter are assigned to the incident. Fire line construction is occurring on the west side of the fire to reduce the threat to private property in the Mill Creek area.

To protect public safety the Heartbreak Ridge Trail (208) and Star Gap Trail (209), also known as Jarrett Creek trail, are temporarily closed to public use and will be in effect until further notice. Forest Service officials are asking the public to avoid this area for their own safety and the safety of emergency response personnel on scene. Members of the public near the communities of Old Fort and those traveling along Interstate 40 and U.S. Highway 70 can expect to see smoke this weekend, with heaviest smoke likely to occur in the afternoons when temperatures are high and humidity low.

Minimizing risk for firefighters, local communities, and the public are primary objectives. The cause of the fire is still under investigation though firefighters believe ignition was likely caused by lightening from recent strong thunder storms.

 

Update August 2, 2015 @ 1:00 PM: Firefighters continue establishing containment lines on the Wolf Creek wildfire burning on the Pisgah National Forest in McDowell County. The fire is located northwest of Old Fort, NC in steep terrain between Heartbreak Ridge and Jarrett Creek. The 35 acre wildfire, reported the evening of July 31st, remains 20 percent contained.

To reduce the threat to private property in the Mill Creek Area firefighters are building containment line on the south and west side of the fire. Crews are also improving the fire line along Jarrett Creek. Burnout operations to secure the fire line could begin as early as Monday or whenever weather conditions are favorable to reduce impacts to local communities.

With low humidity and no chance of rain forecasted over the next several days, officials expect the fire to continue to grow within containment lines. Members of the public near the communities of Old Fort and those traveling along Interstate 40 and U.S. Highway 70 can expect to see smoke this weekend, with heaviest smoke likely to occur in the afternoons when temperatures are high and humidity low.

Heartbreak Ridge Trail (208) and Star Gap Trail (209) remain closed to public use and will be in effect until further notice. Jarret Creek Road (FS4030) is also closed to public use. Forest Service officials are asking the public to avoid this area for their own safety and the safety of emergency response personnel on scene.

 

Update August 3, 2015 @ 4:00 PM: Firefighters are working to contain the Wolf Creek wildfire burning on the Pisgah National Forest in McDowell County. With dry conditions and low humidity, the fire grew Sunday afternoon and Monday morning and is now estimated at 75 acres and 30 percent contained. The Wolf Creek fire is located northwest of Old Fort, NC in steep terrain between Heartbreak Ridge and Jarrett Creek.

Firefighters completed containment lines on the south and west sides of the fire and are currently conducting burn-out operations. Crews are using low-intensity fire within the containment lines to reduce fuels in between the fire lines and the wildfire edge. Firefighters are also continuing to monitor the fire line along Jarrett Creek.

Members of the public can expect to see increased smoke today in the Old Fort area and along Interstate 40 and U.S. Highway 70. Travelers along I-40 between Ridgecrest and Marion, NC should use caution as smoke may settle along the highway this evening. The NCDOT has installed signs on I-40 westbound near Exit 81 and eastbound near Exit 66 warning travelers of the potential for smoke. With no significant rain forecasted over the next several days, officials expect the fire to continue to grow within containment lines.

Heartbreak Ridge Trail (208) and Star Gap Trail (209) remain closed to public use and will be in effect until further notice. Jarret Creek Road (FS4030) is also closed to public use. Forest Service officials are asking the public to avoid this area for their own safety and the safety of emergency response personnel on scene.

 

Update August 5, 2015 @ 11:00 AM: High winds hampered firefighting efforts yesterday on the Wolf Creek wildfire burning on the Pisgah National Forest in McDowell County. Passing isolated storms created windy conditions without any relief of rain on the fire, causing the fire to grow to 200 acres.

The Wolf Creek fire is located northwest of Old Fort, NC in steep terrain between Heartbreak Ridge and Jarrett Creek. Firefighters have completed containment lines around the fire and are continuing burn-out operations today.

Heartbreak Ridge Trail (208) and Star Gap Trail (209) remain closed to public use and will be in effect until further notice. Jarret Creek Road (FS4030) is also closed to public use.

 

Update August 6, 2015 @ 3:30 PM: Firefighters continue to make progress on the Wolf Creek wildfire burning on the Pisgah National Forest in McDowell County. The fire is now at 230 acres and is 40% contained. Fire activity has slowed as higher humidity moved back into the area today.

 

Update August 10, 2015 @ 1:30 PM: Rainfall over the weekend helped firefighters continue to make progress on the Wolf Creek wildfire burning on the Pisgah National Forest in McDowell County. The fire is now at 305 acres and is 60% contained.

The Wolf Creek fire is located northwest of Old Fort, NC in steep terrain between Heartbreak Ridge and Jarrett Creek. Firefighters are continuing mop up operations to put out remaining hot-spots near fire lines and beginning work on fire line repair.

Members of the public may continue to see smoke in the Old Fort area and along Interstate 40 and U.S. Highway 70. Travelers along I-40 between Ridgecrest and Marion, NC should use caution as smoke may settle along the highway in the evenings.

As a reminder, Jarret Creek Road (FS4030) remains closed to public use. Forest Service officials are asking the public to avoid this area for their own safety and the safety of emergency response personnel on scene. Heartbreak Ridge Trail (208) and Star Gap Trail (209) also remain closed to public use until further notice.

 

Update August 12, 2015 @ 12:30 PM: Current Status: The Southern Area Gold Team and the North Carolina Forest Service are managing the Bald Knob and Wolf Creek Fires in unified command. The Bald Knob Fire (20% containment, started July 17) and Wolf Creek Fire (60% containment, started July 31) were caused by lightning on the Pisgah National Forest.

Community Events: A community meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. at the Woodlawn Baptist Church on Thursday, August 13, 2015. The public can expect to receive updated information about the fires.

Planned Events: Both fires are being managed by utilizing a “confine and contain” strategy to manage the forest for multiple objectives. On the Wolf Creek Fire, crews will monitor and patrol containment lines for heat. Limited access, rough terrain and heavy vegetation make direct access unviable for firefighters on the Bald Knob Fire. Firefighter crews continue to construct and enforce fire containment lines using dozers and hand crews and will be scouting potential fire dozer lines between the 105 Road and Paddy Creek in the Linville Gorge area and in the North Cove community. Crews continue to coordinate supply needs for values at risk for both fires.

Fire Weather: A high pressure system will bring much drier and slightly cooler conditions to the fires on Wednesday. There is little chance of rain for the next few days. Fire activity is anticipated to increase, particularly over the Bald Knob Fire.

Air Quality: The drier weather and lower relative humidity will cause an increase in smoke production. Air quality on Wednesday will remain good; air quality for Thursday will remain good in Marion and Nebo; while, Old Fort and the Lake James Area may see moderate levels.

Resources Bald Knob Fire Wolf Creek Fire
Acres 1,019 305
Percent Contained 20% 60%
Total Firefighters 212 35
Dozers 5 1
Engines 5 1
Helicopter 3 0

Closures & Restrictions: A temporary closure of a section of the Mountains to Sea Trail between the footbridge over the North Fork of the Catawba River and Dobson Knob Road (Forest Service Road 106) remains in place.
Heartbreak Ridge Trail (208) and Star Gap Trail (209) remain closed to public use and will be in effect until further notice. Jarrett Creek Road (FS4030) is also closed to public use. Forest Service officials are asking the public to avoid this area for their own safety and the safety of emergency response personnel on scene.

A Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR) is in place until August 31st: http://tfr.faa.gov/save_pages/detail_5_0361.html

Information: Fire officials will continue to update the fire information boards at the Woodlawn Roadside Park, Woodlawn Volunteer Fire Department, Grandfather Ranger District office in Nebo and Black Bear Access area on Lake James. Information and photos are also available on the sites listed at the top of this update.

Cooperating agencies include the North Carolina Forest Service, the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, McDowell County Emergency Management, and The Nature Conservancy.

 

Update August 17, 2015 @ 11:30 AM: Current Status: Management of the fires will transfer back to the Grandfather Ranger District of the Pisgah National Forest on Tuesday, August 18. The fires are currently being managed in unified command between the Southern Area Gold Team and the North Carolina Forest Service. Both the Bald Knob Fire (80% containment) and the Wolf Creek Fire (90% containment) are on the Pisgah National Forest. Unless there is a change in status of the fires, this is anticipated to be the last daily fire update.

Planned Events: Crews will continue to patrol and mop up containment lines on the Bald Knob Fire and ensure snags are mitigated for firefighter safety. Crews continue to rehabilitate fire lines for erosion control. In addition, the Wolf Creek Fire will continue to be monitored by aerial resources.

Fire Weather: A weak cold front will move into the fire area Monday, bringing and increased chance of showers on Monday. Beginning Tuesday, widespread showers and thunderstorms are anticipated each day for the rest of the week.

Air Quality: The Bald Knob Fire will have minimal smoke production Monday with continual smoldering through Tuesday. Highest smoke concentrations will stay close to the fire. Anticipate light smoke and haze to drift east and north starting early afternoon, then downslope early evening and throughout the night.

The Wolf Creek Fire continues to smolder producing slight smoke. Higher relative humidity and light winds will limit smoke production. Air quality will remain good,with light hazefor the town of Old Fort. Over the next few days rain is forecasted. Light winds and low mixing heights with poor to fair ventilation is expected. Therefore, smoke will remain near the fire source with some downslope movement.

Resources Bald Knob Fire Wolf Creek Fire
Start Date July 17 July 31
Acres 1,268 305
Percent Contained 80% 90%
Total Firefighters 160 0
Dozers 1 0
Engines 4 0
Helicopter 1 0

Closures & Restrictions: A temporary closure of a section of the Mountains to Sea Trailbetween the footbridge over the North Fork of the Catawba River and Dobson Knob Road (Forest Service Road 106) remains in place.
Heartbreak Ridge Trail (208) and Star Gap Trail (209) remain closed to public use and will be in effect until further notice. Jarrett Creek Road (FS4030) is also closed to public use. Forest Service officials are asking the public to avoid this area for their own safety and the safety of emergency response personnel on scene.

The Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR) has been modified and is in place through 6:00 p.m., August 17th.

Information: Fire officials will no longer post on area information boards. Information and photos are also available on the sites listed at the top of this update.

Cooperating agencies include the North Carolina Forest Service, the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, McDowell County Emergency Management, and The Nature Conservancy.

 

Grand Canyon’s North Rim is remotely satisfying

Posted by on Aug 1, 2015 @ 2:50 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

These are sights you do not forget, no need for a smartphone or GoPro. The Grand Canyon constantly surprises and delights.

And it is at the North Rim, the less-visited but no less sublime national park outpost, where you can experience the Grand Canyon in its purest form – unless, of course, you have the temerity and back-country skills to camp out for days on the canyon floor.

Its remoteness is its appeal. Though the touristic hordes that gather each day at Mather Point on the South Rim can actually see the North Rim in the distance – it is, after all, only a 10-mile flight away for a red-tailed hawk – it’s a mind-numbing, often winding, 215-mile trip via automobile. But, once you arrive, there is little to distract you from an immersion in nature. Unlike the South Rim, there are no shuttle buses to ferry you to observation points, no swooping West Rim helicopter rides into the canyon, no railroad depot or a town with fast-food options just outside the park entrance.

Here, it’s just you and the elements. Sure, there is a lodge, literally at the end of the road, where you can spend the night.

But that’s it, pretty much. The rest is up to you.

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The most polluted US national parks

Posted by on Jul 31, 2015 @ 9:32 am in Conservation | 0 comments

The most polluted US national parks

The National Parks Conservation Association issued a report that found some of the country’s most popular national parks are plagued by polluted air and hazy skies — and are decades behind schedule getting rid of them.

The report flunked Sequoia, Kings Canyon, Joshua Tree and Yosemite in California — giving each park an F for routinely having unhealthful levels of ozone during the summer season, when millions of vacationers descend. The air quality at Sequoia and Kings Canyon was rated worst in the nation.

The advocacy group, using federal data from 2008 to 2012, assigned grades to each of the 48 national parks that the government has mandated must have the purest air in the nation. It assessed levels of haze and ozone — a lung-damaging pollutant in smog — and documented how each park had been affected by climate change, including rising temperatures and shifts in precipitation.

Three-quarters of the parks had ozone levels considered moderate or worse, the report found, and all 48 had been degraded by haze created by a stew of particles and gases that scatter light and limit visibility.

Under the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s regional haze rule, states must restore the clarity of more than 150 national parks and wilderness areas to natural levels by 2064. Recent projections show many are off-track by decades. And loopholes have allowed coal-fired power plants and other polluters to get by with inadequate emissions controls and other mitigation measures, the report said.

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The West Is Still On Fire

Posted by on Jul 30, 2015 @ 10:42 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Just in time for peak tourist season, Montana’s Glacier National Park is on fire. As of July 28, some 3,200 acres of the park were engulfed by wildfire, which began a week ago and caused park officials to shut down three separate campsites throughout the park as well as close off the St. Mary Visitor Center. As of the 29th, the wildfire was 56 percent contained, and portions of the park that were previously closed have been reopened to the public — but firefighters are still working to contain the remaining portion of the fire.

The Glacier National Park fire is just another example of the disruption the 2015 wildfire season has already caused for Western states. Plagued by high temperatures, low snowpack, and continued drought, states from Alaska to California are in the midst of one of the earliest and most prolific fire seasons on record. As of the 28th, 34,995 large fires had burned over 5,569,671 acres in 2015 — almost 2 million acres above the 10-year average. And that’s not to mention Western Canada, which is even worse.

In Alaska alone, fires of all sizes have burned nearly 5 million acres, paving the way for the state’s worst fire season ever. Alaskan wildfires are particularly concerning because the state sits on vast tracts of permafrost — permanently frozen soil and water that contains more carbon than is currently contained in the atmosphere. Wildfires burn away the top layer of earth, whether that’s trees, brush, leaves, or other material that rests on a forest floor. But in Alaska, increasingly powerful fires not only strip away the top layer of organic material — they also burn organic matter underground, removing the protective layer of trees and pine needles that insulates the permafrost from the sun’s rays. Without that protective layer, heat from the sun has a much easier time turning permafrost from frozen organic matter to soupy organic matter that can release dangerous greenhouse gases, like carbon dioxide and methane, into the atmosphere.

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New Report Reveals The Severe Economic Impacts Climate Change Will Have In The South

Posted by on Jul 29, 2015 @ 8:07 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Climate change is set to hit the Southeast United States hard.

That’s the conclusion of a new report from the Risky Business Project, a nonprofit that focuses on the economic impacts of climate change. The report, which focused on 12 states found that the increased heat and humidity that these states are expected to experience as the climate changes will put the region’s recent manufacturing boom at risk.

“While the Southeast is generally accustomed to heat and humidity, the scale of increased heat — along with other impacts such as sea level rise and storm surge — will likely cause significant and widespread economic harm, especially to a region so heavily invested in physical manufacturing, agriculture and energy infrastructure,” the report reads. “If we continue on our current greenhouse gas emissions pathway, the southeastern United States will likely experience significant drops in agricultural yield and labor productivity, along with increased sea level rise, higher energy demand, and rising mortality rates.”

The report recommends that the Southeast as a whole start investing more heavily in renewable energy, efficiency, and cleaner vehicles. Already, states in the region have taken some of these steps: earlier this month, for instance, the first major wind project in the South broke ground in North Carolina.

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13 Giant Companies Make Big Climate Pledges

Posted by on Jul 28, 2015 @ 10:16 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Thirteen giant companies joined the Obama administration’s Act on Climate initiative, announcing at least $140 billion in new low-carbon investment and more than 1,600 megawatts (MW) of new renewable energy, the White House said.

The pledge from Coca-Cola, Walmart, Apple, Google, Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, and other big-name companies comes in advance of the United Nations climate talks in Paris at the end of the year, and is meant to demonstrate industry support for strong carbon reduction goals.

“We recognize that delaying action on climate change will be costly in economic and human terms, while accelerating the transition to a low-carbon economy will produce multiple benefits with regard to sustainable economic growth, public health, resilience to natural disasters, and the health of the global environment,” states the pledge, set to be announced at the White House with Secretary of State John Kerry.

This announcement is the first of two planned industry pledges, the White House said in a statement. A second round of companies is expected to make pledges in the fall.

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Public Land Under Siege: US Wilderness

Posted by on Jul 26, 2015 @ 6:14 am in Conservation | 0 comments

On the 26th of March 2015, the United States’ senate voted to pass SA 838, a budget amendment that constitutes the first step in allowing the transfer of certain types of federal land into the stewardship of individual states and paving the way for the sale of these lands to private concerns.

The amendment, proposed by Alaskan senator Lisa Murkowski, garnered 51 “yeas” against 49 “nays”. This occurred despite the fact that the amendment enjoys very little support by the constituents represented by such a vote. For what reasons would the US senate vote to remove federal protection on public land in favor of state control and eventual privatization?

The sale or lease of public lands represents a demonstrable economic gain to be made from ostensibly unused land, especially in a state such as Alaska, which happens to be rich in space and resources such as oil and gold.

A cursory glance at the map of federal land in Alaska and the western half of the continental United States reveals huge swaths of land that are protected under current law. Administration of these lands is not without cost and therefore the sale of these lands to private concerns represents an immediate economic boon. This type of rationale, however, reeks of short-sightedness and unsustainability.

Nevada leads the charge here, with a staggering 76 per cent of the state held by the National Forest Service and BLM. If you think that means little in terms of implications for the future use of the sun-burned Mojave, think again. A person only needs to climb one of the immaculate sandstone walls in Red Rock Canyon to catch a glimpse of an open-cut mine dominating the landscape of a nearby hillside.

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Fossil fuel companies impose more in climate costs than they make in profits

Posted by on Jul 25, 2015 @ 4:03 am in Conservation | 0 comments

It is fairly well understood by now that releasing carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere imposes an economic cost, in the form of climate change impacts. In most cases, however, those responsible for carbon emissions are not required to pay that cost. Instead, it’s borne mainly by the world’s poor and low-lying countries, and of course by future generations, as many of the worst impacts of climate change will emerge years after the emissions that drive them.

People sometimes refer to the unpaid cost of carbon pollution as a subsidy, or an “implicit subsidy,” to polluting businesses. Whatever you call it, though, it makes for an unsustainable situation, literally. It can’t go on.

As climate change gets worse and the chance to avoid harsh impacts dwindles, governments are getting serious about putting some sort of price on carbon emissions, whether explicit (a tax) or implicit (regulations). By next year, a quarter of the world’s carbon emissions will be priced in some way. Businesses that now emit carbon pollution for free (or cheap) will soon see their costs rise.

In other words, carbon pollution is a business risk. It’s a bubble that’s going to pop, probably soon.

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Earth’s Most Famous Climate Scientist Issues Bombshell Sea Level Warning

Posted by on Jul 23, 2015 @ 7:38 am in Conservation | 0 comments

In what may prove to be a turning point for political action on climate change, a breathtaking new study casts extreme doubt about the near-term stability of global sea levels.

The study—written by James Hansen, NASA’s former lead climate scientist, and 16 co-authors, many of whom are considered among the top in their fields—concludes that glaciers in Greenland and Antarctica will melt 10 times faster than previous consensus estimates, resulting in sea level rise of at least 10 feet in as little as 50 years.

The study, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, brings new importance to a feedback loop in the ocean near Antarctica that results in cooler freshwater from melting glaciers forcing warmer, saltier water underneath the ice sheets, speeding up the melting rate. Hansen, who is known for being alarmist and also right, acknowledges that his study implies change far beyond previous consensus estimates.

“We conclude that continued high emissions will make multi-meter sea level rise practically unavoidable and likely to occur this century. Social disruption and economic consequences of such large sea level rise could be devastating. It is not difficult to imagine that conflicts arising from forced migrations and economic collapse might make the planet ungovernable, threatening the fabric of civilization.”

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Progress on Bipartisan Plan to Reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund

Posted by on Jul 23, 2015 @ 1:13 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Progress on Bipartisan Plan to Reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund

Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Ranking Member Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) announced a bipartisan agreement to permanently authorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund. The law’s current 25-year authorization expires on September 30, 2015.

“This is a huge step forward at a critical time because the program’s current authorization will expire in less than 70 days,” said Alan Rowsome, Senior Director of Government Relations for Lands at The Wilderness Society and Co-Chair of the Land and Water Conservation Fund Coalition. “We are proud to endorse this agreement that would make America’s most important conservation program permanent. “However there is still a lot of work to do in order to pass legislation to make reauthorization and funding of the program a reality,” Rowsome added.

The bipartisan legislation would permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund in a way designed to balance land acquisition with other conservation programs important to states and it would permanently reauthorize the Historic Preservation Fund, both set to expire this fall. It also creates a new National Park Maintenance and Revitalization Fund, to address the maintenance backlog at some of our nation’s most treasured public places.

The Land and Water Conservation Fund invests in local parks, trails, historic sites, and ball fields as well as American treasures such as Grand Canyon National Park. Over the past 50 years, the fund has supported protection of open spaces and heritage sites in virtually every county in the U.S., making it easier for Americans to enjoy the great outdoors. The program is funded with a small portion of royalties from offshore oil and gas drilling in public waters – not through taxation.

Cite…

 

EPA to study effects of Roundup on 1,500 endangered species

Posted by on Jul 21, 2015 @ 6:26 am in Conservation | 0 comments

300 million pounds of glyphosate are used in the U.S. each year, but its impacts are largely unknown.

For more than a decade, milkweed, that tall green plant with purple or orange flowers, has been rapidly declining in Midwestern states. Little research has been done on the abundance of milkweed in Western states, though many scientists suspect it may be struggling as well. That’s because Western monarch butterflies, which depend on milkweed for food and habitat, have declined by nearly 90 percent in the past two decades. Both of these troubling trends — the decline of milkweed in the Midwest and of monarch butterflies — have coincided with a rise in agricultural use of the herbicide glyphosate.

While the impact glyphosate has on milkweed and monarchs is well-known, the damage it does to other plants and animals is largely a mystery. Now, the EPA has announced it will spend the next five years studying the effects of glyphosate (more commonly referred to by its trade name, Roundup), atrazine, and two other commonly used pesticides on 1,500 endangered species.

Although Roundup has been around since the 1970s, its effects haven’t been broadly studied since 1993, when only 10 million pounds were used annually. Today, more than 300 million pounds are applied to U.S. fields each year.

This is the crux of the problem. Unlike atrazine, which is less prevalent but so toxic it can lead to sex changes in some amphibians, glyphosate has a volume problem, says Brett Hartl, endangered species policy director for the Center for Biological Diversity. The sheer prevalence of Roundup makes its plant-killing effects felt on a massive scale.

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English national park’s are brimming with nature’s riches

Posted by on Jul 20, 2015 @ 8:45 am in Conservation | 0 comments

English national park’s are brimming with nature’s riches

A stock-take of the 10 parks established to preserve the England’s natural riches shows how they have become vital sanctuaries for a wonderful array of threatened and rare plants and animals.

While the national parks cover only 10 per cent of England, they contain a high proportion of habitats such as heath, fen and ancient woodland that have been lost over the centuries.

The range and variety of landscapes and natural features found in England’s National Parks helps explain why they are so special. In Northumberland, for instance, we find the two cleanest rivers. The North York Moors has the largest interrupted area of heather moorland.

The Lake District is a stronghold for montane heath wildlife and the Yorkshire Dales has the country’s most extensive range of limestone specialist species. The Peak District is easily accessible to 16 million people living in the so-called Northern Powerhouse. Norfolk’s Broads support 11,000 species of which 1,500 are conservation priorities.

While Exmoor is home to 16 of England’s 17 species of bat, Dartmoor has the southernmost blanket bog in Europe. The New Forest has the most extensive area of lowland heath remaining in Europe and the South Downs contains 850 designated Local Wildlife Sites.

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