Conservation & Environment

Climate change is putting us in a very bad mood

Posted by on Sep 17, 2016 @ 11:23 am in Conservation | 0 comments

“The heat made people crazy. They woke from their damp bed sheets and went in search of a glass of water, surprised to find that when their vision cleared, they were holding instead the gun they kept hidden in the bookcase.”

This passage, from Summer Island, a romance novel by Kristin Hannah, is how researchers introduce a potentially important new study they believe could alter peoples’ attitudes about the impact of unrelenting heat on violence, and why some parts of the world experience strikingly higher rates of violence than others.

It’s not what people think. The new research goes beyond existing ideas about how hot summer nights cause tempers to flare and prompt sporadic acts of violence. Their model explores long-term cultural changes resulting from persistently high temperatures and a lack of seasonal variability, among them a loss of self-control and future-oriented goals. This combination can lead to more aggression and violence, they say.

“People think about weather when they think about global warming, but don’t realize that climate change can increase aggression and violence,” says Brad Bushman, professor of communication and psychology at The Ohio State University and one of the study’s authors. “But climate change affects how we relate to other people.’’ Moreover, he predicts that unmitigated global warming could increase violence levels in the United States, something he believes deserves immediate attention.

Read full story…


Free entry to national parks and forests on National Public Lands Day (Sept. 24, 2016)

Posted by on Sep 17, 2016 @ 7:39 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Free entry to national parks and forests on National Public Lands Day (Sept. 24, 2016)

How will you celebrate National Public Lands Day on Sept. 24? You can hug a tree, clean up a trail or share a spectacular moment in nature with family and friends — all without paying to enter national parklands.

The idea for the one-day event started 23 years ago when the National Environmental Education Foundation challenged Americans to come out and volunteer on its public lands. Federal parklands will be organizing cleanups, trail repairs and other volunteer activities.

Meanwhile visitors can skip the $20 to $30 entrance fee at the fee based national parks. (There are more than 400 units overseen by the National Park Service but only 124 charge fees.)

In addition, the U.S. Forest Service also observes National Public Lands Day with fee-free entry. You won’t have to buy or display an Adventure Pass at the national forests that charge fees.

Federal agencies like the Bureau of Land Management also are waiving fees on Sept. 24.

One word of caution: The fee-free entry applies only to entrance fees to federal parklands. State Parks, for example, aren’t participating in Public Lands Day and will be charging entrance fees. This also will not cover backcountry camping permits and other fee-based activities.


Annual Mountain Life Festival At Great Smoky Mountains National Park This Weekend

Posted by on Sep 16, 2016 @ 11:33 am in Conservation | 0 comments

The history and culture held in the mountains and hollows is intriguing. You might want to visit Great Smoky Mountains National Park this weekend for the annual Mountain Life Festival.

A fixture at the park’s Mountain Farm Museum for more than three decades, the festival brings you face-to-face with the traditional fall activities of those who lived in the Smokies before the park was established. Making apple butter. Blacksmithing. Mountain music. Chair caning. All that and more will be on display on Saturday, Sept. 17, 2016 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Other demonstrations will include cooking over an open hearth, how to make lye soap, and food preservation techniques. The centerpiece of the event is the sorghum syrup demonstration, which the national park has provided each fall for over 30 years, a park release says. “The syrup is made much the same way it was produced a hundred or more years ago, using a horse or mule-powered cane mill and a wood-fired cooker.”

And, park officials say, the festival coincides with the park’s music jam sessions held on the porch of the Oconaluftee Visitor Center from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. every first and third Saturday of the month.

The Mountain Farm Museum is located adjacent to Oconaluftee Visitor Center on Newfound Gap Road in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, two miles north of Cherokee, NC. For more information call the visitor center at (828) 497-1904.

Hat tip…


Interior Secretary Sally Jewell OK’s Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan

Posted by on Sep 15, 2016 @ 6:44 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell approved the first phase of a sweeping renewable energy and conservation plan for California’s deserts Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2016 that’s expected to shape large-scale wind and solar development for decades to come.

“Climate change is the pressing issue of the day, and this region is part of the solution,” Jewell said during a signing ceremony for the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan at the Santa Rosa & San Jacinto Mountains National Monument visitor center in Palm Desert.

The plan covers 10 million acres of public lands in the deserts of seven California counties, including Riverside, San Bernardino and Los Angeles. In the works for eight years, it strives to speed up approvals for solar, wind and geothermal projects while focusing energy development in areas where such projects would do the least amount of harm to wildlife habitat and other natural and cultural resources.

The plan gives new protection to some of the most sensitive and pristine wildlife habitats left in the nation.
Habitats include the Silurian Valley in San Bernardino County; Amargosa River Basin and Panamint Valley on each side of Death Valley National Park; and the Chuckwalla Bench, south of Interstate 10 in Riverside County.
The conservation plan also is expected to help California and the nation meet carbon-free goals set to combat climate charge.



Outdoor families are happier families

Posted by on Sep 14, 2016 @ 11:29 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Researchers at the University of Illinois look at how nature restores social cues and makes people less irritable, improving how they relate to each other and establish important rituals.

When families spend time together outside, not only do they improve their individual attention and focus, but they also improve family relations, getting along better with each other. This intriguing concept has been investigated by researchers who recently published a study. The researchers’ theory is described by study co-author and doctoral candidate Dina Izenstark:

“When your attention is restored, you’re able to pick up on social cues more easily, you feel less irritable, and you have more self-control… We theorize that when your attention is restored, it transfers to your family relationships and allows you to get along better with your family members.”

Already there exists plenty of research to show that being out in nature benefits individuals, even for a short period of time, but there is relatively little research to show how these benefits affect other people in a group. Izenstark and her co-author Adam Ebata are interested in this outcome, particularly because children are almost always accompanied by family members when outdoors.

Read full story…


The roads that made Americans fall in love with their national parks

Posted by on Sep 11, 2016 @ 8:27 am in Conservation | 0 comments

More than 5,500 miles of paved roads wind through the national park system. You probably haven’t given much thought to any of them, but Timothy Davis has. A Park Service historian, Davis has written “National Park Roads,” a fascinating and lavishly illustrated book about those paved ways.

They may well be the most important development in the history of the National Park Service, which turns 100 this year. Consider that in the early 20th century, the parks were remote and hard to reach. The automobile changed that, so much so that the National Park road trip became an important part of American childhood. The Park Service recorded 326,506 visitors in 1916, the year of its founding, and more than 292 million visitors in 2014.

The roads, of course, have always had their opponents. Edward Abbey, a park ranger and environmental advocate, hated them. “Let the people walk,” he exclaimed in his book “Desert Solitaire.” Critics complained about the hoards — their trash, their noise, their efforts to turn the wilderness into Disney World.

Davis takes a more accommodating view. “By allowing people to enjoy parks with reasonable ease,” he writes, “the combination of improved roads and widespread automobile ownership transformed the national park experience from an esoteric pleasure into a prominent component of the American experience, creating a powerful constituency for their protection.”


Ackerson Meadow Gifted to Yosemite National Park

Posted by on Sep 10, 2016 @ 11:38 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Yosemite National Park added Ackerson Meadow, 400 acres of critical wetlands and meadow habitat on the park’s western boundary through a donation. The landmark addition was donated to the park through a cooperative effort between The Trust for Public Land, Yosemite Conservancy, and the National Park Service.

The Trust for Public Land purchased Ackerson Meadow from private owners for $2.3 million earlier this year and donated it to the National Park Service to be part of Yosemite National Park. Funds to buy the property came from several major contributors to The Trust for Public Land, including a bequest of $1.53 million and $520,000 by the nonprofit Yosemite Conservancy, with additional support from National Park Trust and American Rivers.

“The generous donation of Ackerson Meadow will preserve critical meadow habitat that is home to a number of state and federally listed protected species,” said Yosemite National Park Superintendent Don Neubacher. “It’s a stunning open meadow surrounded by forest habitat, which supports a wide variety of flora and fauna species and offers new meadow experiences for park visitors. This meadow is a remarkable gift to the American people, coming at a historic time as we celebrate the Centennial of the National Park Service.”

“Donating the largest addition since 1949 to one of the world’s most famous parks is a great way to celebrate the 100th birthday of our National Park Service – and honor John Muir’s original vision for the park. We are delighted, and proud to make this gift to Yosemite, and the people of America” said Will Rogers, President of The Trust for Public Land.

Yosemite’s meadows are vitally important habitats and Ackerson Meadow provides critical habitat for hundreds of plant and animal species. At just 3 percent of Yosemite National Park’s area, meadows may be home to one-third of all of the plant species found in the park. Most of San Francisco’s water is filtered by Yosemite’s meadows, including Ackerson Meadow.

Learn more…


Would You Like To Be a Wilderness Ranger?

Posted by on Sep 10, 2016 @ 7:43 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Would You Like To Be a Wilderness Ranger?

Every fall, on the first weekend in October, Wild South hosts training for a new group of volunteers interested in joining the Volunteer Wilderness Ranger team.

The USDA Forest Service in Alabama manages three federally designated wilderness areas, Sipsey, Cheaha, and Dugger Mountain, totaling 42,218 acres. For the past several years, Forest Service budgets have afforded very little staff time for agency presence in these areas. Meanwhile, visitor use has skyrocketed, especially in Cheaha and Sipsey, turning these federally designated wild places into crowded recreation areas rather than wilderness areas during certain times of the year.

For this reason, in 2011, Wild South entered into a partnership with the Forest Service and established a corps of trained and dedicated volunteer wilderness rangers for all three of Alabama’s wilderness areas. These volunteers provide all the services of a Forest Service wilderness ranger except for law enforcement.

Volunteer wilderness rangers are trained in wilderness law, local wilderness regulations, the wilderness ethic, Leave No Trace, CPR and First Aid, the Authority of the Resource, radio and GPS use, as well as crosscut saw and traditional tool training. All volunteer activities support USFS management goals and are covered under the USDA Volunteers in National Forests (VIF) program.

Learn more here…


Oil Pipeline On Native American Reservation In North Dakota Spills 1,000,000 Gallons of Fluid

Posted by on Sep 9, 2016 @ 11:23 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Oil Pipeline On Native American Reservation In North Dakota Spills 1,000,000 Gallons of Fluid

One million gallons of saltwater and an unknown quantity of crude oil have leaked from a North Dakota pipeline into a creek that feeds the Missouri River.

The spill was on Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation land approximately 15 miles north of Williston, North Dakota. The leak comes from a saltwater collection line owned by Summit Midstream Partners LP. The saltwater is a byproduct of the hydraulic fracturing process.

The Saltwater is usually filtered and re-injected back into the earth after the oil is extracted.

Williston is considered a center of the oil boom in the state of North Dakota.

Chairman Tex Hall said that the spill has been isolated and contained. A quantity of 1 million gallons of the liquid entered Bear Den Bay, which leads into Lake Sakakawea, a source of drinking water on the reservation.

This is precisely why Native Americans have been protesting #NoDAPL (Dakota Access Pipeline).



The world has lost a tenth of all its wilderness in the past two decades

Posted by on Sep 9, 2016 @ 6:56 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Wilderness areas on Earth have experienced alarming losses in the past two decades, a new study suggests. By comparing global maps from the present day and the early 1990s, researchers have concluded that a 10th of all the world’s wilderness has been lost in just 20 years.

The study, published in the journal Current Biology, finds that just over 30 million square kilometers (or 11.5 million square miles) of wilderness remains on Earth, composing nearly a quarter of the planet’s terrestrial area. On the other hand, 3.3 million square kilometers have been lost since the early 1990s.

The losses were more pronounced in some areas than in others. South America lost nearly 30 percent of its wilderness area, and Africa lost about 14 percent. Overall, most of the remaining wilderness is concentrated in North America, North Asia, North Africa and Australia, the researchers note.

“Wilderness was defined as any area on Earth which didn’t have a human footprint,” explained James Watson, an associate professor at the University of Queensland, director of science and research at the Wildlife Conservation Society and the new study’s lead author.

Read full story…


Reseachers start long-term hunt for huckleberry secrets

Posted by on Sep 8, 2016 @ 4:42 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

We know the least about the plant we love the most in the mountains.

When Tabitha Graves took up carnivore research for the U.S. Geological Survey base at Glacier National Park, one of the biggest puzzles needing attention was the role huckleberries play in the food chain. Although creatures from grasshoppers to grizzlies like the purple fruit, we know little about what the berries themselves like.

“The more I’ve gotten into this, the more I’ve realized how important they are,” Graves said. “All kinds of birds eat them, as do small mammals. We’ve found coyote scats with berries in them. We’ve seen wasps eating them. And of course, humans eat a lot of them.”

Then there are the snowshoe hares and deer and moose that munch on huckleberry leaves, at least six species of bee that collect huckleberry pollen, and who knows what kinds of mycorrhizal fungi that grow together with the roots. Did we mention bears eat them, too?

All that might explain why huckleberries have resisted all attempts at domestication. The inability to grow huckleberry bushes in a greenhouse or garden has frustrated researchers for decades. It’s also left big parts of the plant’s life cycle unknown.

Read full story…


The dystopian lake filled by the world’s tech lust

Posted by on Sep 8, 2016 @ 7:01 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Hidden in an unknown corner of Inner Mongolia is a toxic, nightmarish lake created by our thirst for smartphones, consumer gadgets and green tech.

The city-sized Baogang Steel and Rare Earth complex dominates the horizon, its endless cooling towers and chimneys reaching up into grey, washed-out sky. Stretching into the distance lies an artificial lake filled with a black, barely-liquid, toxic sludge.

Dozens of pipes line the shore, churning out a torrent of thick, black, chemical waste from the refineries that surround the lake. The smell of sulphur and the roar of the pipes invades the senses. It feels like hell on Earth.

Welcome to Baotou, the largest industrial city in Inner Mongolia. You may not have heard of Baotou, but the mines and factories here help to keep our modern lives ticking. It is one of the world’s biggest suppliers of “rare earth” minerals.

These elements can be found in everything from magnets in wind turbines and electric car motors, to the electronic guts of smartphones and flatscreen TVs. In 2009 China produced 95% of the world’s supply of these elements, and it’s estimated that the Bayan Obo mines just north of Baotou contain 70% of the world’s reserves.

Read full story…


Elk killings lead to NC Wildlife rule changes

Posted by on Sep 6, 2016 @ 12:22 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

Elk killings lead to NC Wildlife rule changes

On a February, 2016 morning, biologists with the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission visited a Waynesville dairy farm where the landowner said he had shot three elk damaging his property — a bull, a cow and a calf.

While walking the farm’s wheat fields and ridge lines, the biologists found even more dead elk, some gruesomely decomposed, some buried, which were not reported.

Emails retrieved through an Asheville Citizen-Times public records request reveal that the biologists were furious, saying they believed the deaths were “spite killing” by the landowner, and “an in your face challenge to the existence of elk and the WRC’s authority. If (the landowner) continues to simply shoot any elk found on his property he alone can significantly impact the sustainability of this elk herd.”

An investigation by wildlife law enforcement officers found the elk were damaging property on the Ross and Sons Dairy Farm, the largest agricultural operation in Haywood County, and declined to charge the landowners.

The incident drew public criticism on two sides – from those who enjoy seeing the giant animals return to the landscape after hundreds of years, and those who believe their property and their rights are being trampled by the reintroduced species.

In response, in part, to these incidents, the Wildlife Commission will hold a public hearing to take comment on proposed changes to elk management regulations, 15A NCAC 10B .0106 (Wildlife Taken for Depredations). The hearing on the proposed amendment will be 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 8, 2016 at Haywood Community College.

Read full story…


Report Shows How Many Asthma Attacks Are Caused By The Oil And Gas Industry

Posted by on Sep 4, 2016 @ 4:57 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

New analysis from the Clean Air Task Force shows that by 2025 America’s children will experience 750,000 asthma attacks each summer that will be directly attributable to the oil and gas industry.

The report, Gasping for Breath, is the first to quantify the effects of smog caused by oil and gas production and distribution. The authors used industry data submitted to the EPA’s National Emissions Inventory, particularly looking at methane and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which can interact to create smog. This chemical reaction is facilitated by ultraviolet rays and heat — which is why smog is a bigger problem in the summer than the winter.

VOCs, which include gasoline, benzene, and formaldehyde, are particularly concerning. Not only are they often heavier than air, allowing them to pool in low-lying areas, where people live and breath, and many VOCs are known carcinogens.

Texas, Colorado, Oklahoma, and Pennsylvania are the most-impacted states, according to the report. And, frankly, not much is being done about it.

Read full story…


Frackers told to shut wells after quake

Posted by on Sep 4, 2016 @ 1:07 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

The Oklahoma Corporation Commission is telling operators to shut down 35 disposal wells that may have played a role in a 5.6-magnitude earthquake that shook at least six states September 3, 2016, Gov. Mary Fallin said.

The disposal wells, which are linked to fracking and other industries that need to dispose of toxic waste water by injecting it deep into the earth, have recently drawn concern that they may actually induce earthquakes.

The commission, which regulates fuel, oil, gas, public utilities and transportation industries, is investigating to determine the epicenter of the quake. The Environmental Protection Agency is also investigating.

Earthquakes in Oklahoma are generally not directly caused by fracking, but rather by pressure from the disposal wells, which are used by the industry to get rid of the toxic waste water that comes out of the earth along with oil and gas.

“The disposal wells dispose into the state’s deepest formation, the Arbuckle formation, which is right above what we call the basement,” said commission spokesman Matt Skinner. The basement is above where the critical faults lie that shift and make earthquakes.”

Read full story…


More of the ‘Little Smokies of Ohio’ saved

Posted by on Sep 3, 2016 @ 11:36 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Two hours to the east of Cincinnati lies Ohio’s only state-designated wilderness area, the largest contiguous protected forest in the Buckeye State. Now, it’s getting bigger.

A U.S. Forest Service Forest Legacy project has resulted in the addition of 929 acres – known as the “Little Smokies of Ohio” – to the forest’s current 63,747 acres, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

The forest surrounds 1,168-acre Shawnee State Park in Portsmouth, which features some of the best backcountry camping in the state, as well as boating, hiking, golfing and fishing opportunities.

“Once the hunting grounds of the Shawnee Indians, the region is one of the most picturesque in the state, featuring erosion-carved valleys and wooded hills,” the park’s website says.

It will also protect the trails and scenic byways along there, including the North Country National Scenic Trail, American Discovery Trial, the Buckeye Trail and the Scenic Scioto Heritage State Byway.



Sustainability: Giant Salamanders? Hell, Yes!

Posted by on Sep 2, 2016 @ 11:21 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Sustainability: Giant Salamanders? Hell, Yes!

Any creature with a name like “hellbender” is bound to raise some eyebrows. But what if this animal was also one of the oldest, most interesting, and least known creatures to inhabit the creeks and streams of southern Appalachia?

The eastern hellbender, Cryptobranchus alleganiensis, is our region’s largest salamander species with adults reaching up to two and a half feet in length and a lifespan that is believed to exceed 60 years. “No one really knows how long they can live,” says Dr. J.J. Apodaca, professor of conservation biology at Warren Wilson College.

For J.J., who specializes in salamander conservation, the hellbender story is about much more than its remarkable size and longevity. “They are excellent indicators of stream quality,” he says, “and they cannot survive in water that has been polluted through human alteration of their habitat.”

Western North Carolina is one of the last strongholds for hellbenders, a protected species listed as “of special concern” in the state. Hellbenders are either struggling or extinct in 85 percent of the streams where they were once healthy and abundant. Their biggest threat is the siltation of streams due to runoff caused by forestry, agriculture, and development.

This summer, nine student interns, two student supervisors, three universities, and two professors have come together in a unique collaboration with the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission and the U.S. Forest Service to help give the hellbender a better chance at survival. Warren Wilson College, UNC Asheville, and Duke University all have student representatives who are working on this with Wild South, a regional environmental organization.

Read full story…