Conservation & Environment

Every observatory in the world now reports carbon dioxide is at highest level in 4 million years

Posted by on Jun 18, 2016 @ 7:11 am in Conservation | 0 comments

One by one, the observatories sounded the alarm in the past few years—from the peak of Mauna Loa in Hawaii, and the top of the Greenland ice sheet—as the amount of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere crept above 400 parts per million (ppm).

The last alarm bells went off this week, when scientists announced that the Halley Research Station in Antarctica, as well as a monitoring post at the geographic South Pole, both located amid the most pristine air on the planet, have now passed the 400 ppm mark.

In other words, at every location on Earth where scientists routinely monitor carbon dioxide levels, we are now entering uncharted territory for humanity.

For reference, carbon dioxide levels were at about 280 ppm at the start of the industrial revolution, when humans began burning fossil fuels for energy. They have marched upward at increasing rates ever since.

According to Pieter Tans, the lead scientist for the Global Greenhouse Gas Reference Network, 400 ppm is the highest level that carbon dioxide levels have reached in at least 4 million years.

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A Simple Idea Could Help Wildlife Survive Climate Change

Posted by on Jun 15, 2016 @ 11:35 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Global warming is chasing plants and animals, forcing them to head uphill or north to find suitable habitat. Scientists have considered migration corridors — restored, healthy natural areas that connect current habitats with likely landing spots — as a way to help plants and animals stay a step ahead of climate change.

New findings published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science quantify just how much of a benefit they would provide. The report shows that corridors up to 62 miles long would link up to 25 percent more habitat across the U.S. and on average help species adapt to an extra 4.9°F (2.7°C) of warming.

“It’s something land managers should be thinking about right now,” Jenny McGuire, an ecologist at Georgia Tech who led the new research, said. “Increasing connectivity between natural areas really does improve plants’ and animals’ ability to track their current climate.”

There are major hurdles standing between species and future greener pastures. Sprawling urban areas, major agricultural operations and other human developments have fragmented the landscape, forcing some species toward a dead end and their possible demise.

Corridors could help alleviate that. They aren’t literally corridors or paths for wildlife to stroll along, but rather stretches of land where the habitat — say, a river or well-managed commercial forest — is healthy enough to migrate as the world warms.

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Woman sentenced for vandalism in several National Park Service sites

Posted by on Jun 14, 2016 @ 9:31 am in Conservation | 0 comments

The woman who defaced sites within several national parks in 2014 pleaded guilty June 13, 2016 to seven misdemeanor counts of damaging government property. Casey Nocket, age 23, was ordered by a federal judge to serve two years of probation and 200 hours of community service. She is also banned from all lands administered by the National Park Service (NPS), US Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and Army Corps of Engineers during her probation period.

A Special Agent, aided by an Intelligence Analyst, conducted the lengthy investigation, bringing forth a strong case to an Assistant US Attorney for prosecution. A hearing to determine the amount of restitution Nocket is required to pay will be held at a later date.

According to court documents, Nocket damaged rock formations within seven national parks over a 26-day period, drawing or painting on them using acrylic paints and markers. She posted numerous pictures of her drawings on her social media accounts. The parks are in four federal districts: the Eastern District of California, the District of Oregon, the District of Utah, and the District of Colorado.

Acting US Attorney Philip Talbert stated, “The defendant’s defacement of multiple rock formations showed a lack of respect for the law and our shared national treasures. The National Park Service has worked hard to restore the rock formations to their natural state, completing clean-up efforts in five of the seven parks. They expect to complete cleanup efforts at Death Valley in the near future and at Crater Lake as weather permits.”

“This case illustrates the important role that the public can play in identifying and sharing evidence of illegal behavior in parks,” said Charles Cuvelier, chief of Law Enforcement, Security, and Emergency Services (LESES) for the NPS. “It is clear that the public cares deeply for the special places that the National Park Service represents, and the resolution of this case sends a message to those who would consider such inappropriate behavior going forward.”

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Greenland witnessed its highest June temperature ever recorded

Posted by on Jun 14, 2016 @ 7:47 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Nuuk, Greenland’s capital, soared to 75 degrees (24 Celsius) Thursday, June 9, 2016, marking the warmest temperature ever recorded in the Arctic country during June. Nuuk sits on Greenland’s southwest coast, where the country’s warmest weather typically occurs. It was warmer in Nuuk than it was in New York City, where the high was only 71 degrees.

The Danish Meteorological Institute has confirmed on a preliminary basis that the Nuuk measurement would replace the previous record of 73.8 degrees (23.2 Celsius), which was set in Kangerlussuaq on June 15 in 2014.

The warm weather was brought on by winds from the east that set up between high pressure over northeast Greenland and low pressure south of Greenland. When winds come from the east over Nuuk, they blow downhill, which leads to an increase in temperature. It’s the same kind of dry warmth that occurs as a result of Santa Ana winds in Southern California.

Thursday’s toasty reading in Nuuk marks the second exceptionally warm temperature recorded in southwest Greenland since April, when the ice melt season began about a month prematurely.

At the time, so much ice was melting that scientists at the DMI couldn’t believe what they were seeing. “We had to check that our models were still working properly,” said Peter Langen, a climate scientist.

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NFF Celebrates Completion of Work on Oregon’s Deschutes National Forest

Posted by on Jun 13, 2016 @ 10:14 am in Conservation | 0 comments

NFF Celebrates Completion of Work on Oregon’s Deschutes National Forest

Last month the National Forest Foundation gathered with partners, friends and collaborators to celebrate the culmination of years of effort on the Deschutes National Forest. Part of their Treasured Landscapes, Unforgettable Experiences campaign, “The Tale of Two Rivers” site leveraged more than $4 million to restore Whychus Creek and Metolius River. The event took place at the new Whychus Overlook, the final piece of the site work, which provides stunning views of the Three Sisters Wilderness.

These rivers are truly treasured landscapes and are highly valued by the community of Sisters and the many people who hike or fish these rivers. Whychus has an impressive history. It once provided more than half of the steelhead spawning habitat in the Upper Deschutes River Basin. In recent years Whychus Creek was known as the “lost river” because the river lost its water to irrigation withdrawals. In the summertime it often would run dry preventing fish to swim upstream.

The Metolius River is a crystal clear, spring fed river that runs through towering old growth Ponderosa pines and provides miles of hiking trails and amazing fly fishing opportunities. Due to its popularity, the recreation on and in the river degraded the water quality and beauty which is what brought so many visitors. In short, people were loving it to death.

Over the past six years, the NFF worked with local organizations, the community of Sisters and the Forest Service to restore these rivers. Over 1,200 volunteers spent more than 9,600 hours restoring hiking trails, planting trees and removing unnecessary fences near these amazing rivers. Their efforts protected fish habitat and made the recreation opportunities more accessible and sustainable.



Air pollution named as leading cause in strokes

Posted by on Jun 12, 2016 @ 8:14 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Each year, around 15 million people globally suffer from strokes and it is the fifth leading cause of death in the U.S. Scientists have long known that behavioral factors like diet, smoking, and exercise all contribute to those statistics, but now, a new study names another leading contributor: air pollution.

The study, funded by public health groups in the U.S. and New Zealand, found that environmental and household air pollution was associated with a third of global strokes in 2013. The number was significantly higher in developing countries (34 percent) than it was in developed countries (10 percent). From 1990 to 2013, strokes associated with environmental air pollution — the particulate matter that’s released by burning biomass and running cars — increased by over a third. The global burden of stroke from environmental air pollution is almost as bad as smoking.

Air pollution in the form of fine particulate matter ranked seventh in terms of its impact on healthy lifespan, while household air pollution from burning solid fuels ranked eighth.

Valery Feigin, director of the National Institute for Stroke and Applied Neurosciences at Auckland University of Technology, said that while he expected air pollution to emerge as a threat, the extent of the problem had taken researchers by surprise.

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Our Dry, Warm Future may Favor Oaks

Posted by on Jun 11, 2016 @ 12:48 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

Historically, many oak forests across the eastern U.S. experienced frequent low-intensity fires that promoted the establishment and growth of oaks. “However, fire and other disturbances have become less common,” says U.S. Forest Service scientist James Vose. “Red maple, tulip poplar, and other mesophytic, fire-sensitive, and shade-tolerant trees are increasing in many areas of the eastern U.S.”

But what does the future hold? Over the coming decades, changes in fire regimes, climate, and land use will continue to affect forests. However, new climate and disturbance regimes may actually favor oak forests, according to a new synthesis by Vose and Katherine Elliott, a U.S. Forest Service research ecologist.

Changes in precipitation regimes – the pattern and amount of rainfall and other precipitation – appears to be one of the factors favoring mesophytic tree species in eastern forests. Once established, oaks tolerate drought better than many non-oak species that are becoming common in eastern forests, such as maple, beech, willow, blackgum, and others. However, droughts were less common and less severe over most of the 20th century.

Along with a reduction in drought, fire and other disturbances have also become less common. Oaks are fire-tolerant, and although it’s unclear what fire’s future role will be, it will probably play an important role in shaping oak forests. “The combination of climate change, wildfire, and other disturbances could create environmental conditions that favor oaks,” says Vose.

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Arctic Sea Ice Plummets To Staggering Low In May, While CO2 Levels Hit Record High

Posted by on Jun 9, 2016 @ 7:10 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Last month saw the biggest year-over-year jump in atmospheric levels of heat-trapping carbon dioxide on record — 3.76 parts per million. And that, reports NOAA, took May 2016 to the highest monthly levels of CO2 in the air ever measured — 407.7 ppm.

At the same time, the National Snow and Ice Data Center reports the warming-driven death spiral of Arctic sea ice hit a staggering new May low. May 2016 saw Arctic sea ice extent drop “about 600,000 square kilometers (232,000 square miles) below any previous year in the 38-year satellite record.”

“We’ve never seen anything like this before,” explained NSIDC director Mark Serreze. “It’s way below the previous record, very far below it, and we’re something like almost a month ahead of where we were in 2012.”

Whether this September beats the record minimum Arctic sea ice extent set in September 2012 depends on the weather this summer, which makes predictions difficult. That said, “Persistent Arctic and sub-Arctic warmth expected to continue for months,” as Alaska Dispatch News recently reported.

The Arctic has been setting records for warmth. In May, key portions of the Arctic ocean were 4-5°C (7-9°F) above the 1981 to 2010 average.

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Fireworks are Prohibited on all National Forest Land

Posted by on Jun 8, 2016 @ 7:39 am in Conservation | 0 comments

As the summer season begins, the National Forest Service reminds visitors that all fireworks, exploding targets and other pyrotechnic devices are prohibited on all National Forest land, year-round, regardless of weather conditions or holidays.

Forest Fire Management Officer Riva Duncan emphasizes that, “Fireworks can and will cause wildfires because they burn very hot. Even fireworks that seem innocent, like sparklers, can cause wildfires.”

Regulations are strictly enforced to protect the public and natural resources.

“National Forests are here for your use and enjoyment,” said Forest Supervisor Allen Nicholas. “In order to ensure everyone’s safety, please refrain from using any fireworks in the Forests.”

The public is also urged to exercise caution with campfires. Never leave a campfire unattended. Make sure campfires are completely extinguished and cold to the touch before leaving the campsite.


Be a Citizen Scientist

Posted by on Jun 7, 2016 @ 11:32 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Even if being a scientist isn’t your day job, there are lots of ways to contribute to scientific research about the natural world. From counting monarch butterflies to studying plant growth and tweeting earthquake locations, citizen science empowers the public to help scientists conduct and inform research. And it’s making a huge difference.

Monarchs are an iconic backyard species, and they need our help. Populations of these gorgeous orange and black butterflies have been declining for several reasons like climate change, pesticides and habitat loss. By tracking their movements, scientists can better understand and address the issues affecting them.

It’s estimated that 80-90 percent of species in parks are undiscovered, and the more information park managers have, the better they can protect parks. National parks nationwide are hosting a “bioblitz,” where citizen scientists spend a few hours or days documenting park biodiversity – from bugs to botany to birds.

When studying how environments change seasonally – called phenology – scientists alone can’t collect enough data. Volunteers on public lands nationwide help scientists better understand ecosystem health by tracking annual changes in plant and animal species, such as what time of year a flower blooms. (I do this, and find it very rewarding.)

When earthquakes strike, the speed of social media helps report information and support earthquake response. Tweets go up in seconds, while scientific alerts can take as long as 20 minutes.

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Land trust hosts June Jamboree on Roan Mountain

Posted by on Jun 7, 2016 @ 8:02 am in Conservation, Hiking News | 0 comments

Land trust hosts June Jamboree on Roan Mountain

“It’s inspiring to me to look out over these lands we protected,” Marquette Crockett said. “There’s a lot of love poured in here.”

Crockett, the Roan Mountain Stewardship director for the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy, works for that reaction – to protect the thousands of acres of land in the viewshed of Highlands of Roan and the Appalachian Trail, which slips over its ridge tops.

The nonprofit land trust based in Asheville was launched in 1974 to conserve the Highlands of Roan, a 24,000-acre swath of globally rare mountaintop habitat in Mitchell and Avery counties in North Carolina and Carter County in Tennessee, which the SAHC and its partners have helped protect.

On Saturday, June 11, 2016, SAHC will host its annual June Jamboree, a day of free, guided adventures and social fellowship in the Highlands of Roan, which start to climb from an elevation of 5,500 feet, and timed perfectly to greet the stunning, fluffy, purplish pink Catawba rhododendron blooms that splash the mountainside in color.

“The SAHC got its start because its founders were from the east Tennessee area and hiked on Roan. They were instrumental in getting the Appalachian Trail rerouted across the balds. Before then, it was mostly on roads,” said Angela Shepherd, SAHC communications director.

The founders right away began setting into motion a plan to begin protecting the views from the AT, which was just a ribbon of trail surrounded by privately owned land.

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Cradle of Forestry Hosts Free Outdoor Activities on National Get Outdoors Day

Posted by on Jun 3, 2016 @ 7:53 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Cradle of Forestry Hosts Free Outdoor Activities on  National Get Outdoors Day

The Cradle of Forestry in America will celebrate National Get Outdoors Day, June 11, 2016, with outdoor skills demonstrations, activities and crafts. Admission to the site and all activities are free.

The National Get Outdoors Day campaign encourages Americans, especially youth, to pursue healthy and active outdoor lifestyles, connect with nature, and embrace public lands. In this spirit, the Cradle of Forestry will showcase outdoor adventure and camp and trail skills in its scenic setting with a variety of activities on June 11 including:

Compass practice and map reading
Demonstration of primitive fire making
Guided trail walks
Plant identification
Nature oriented games and crafts

For details and updates on the day’s activities, call the Cradle of Forestry at 828-877-3130, go to, or the events tab on the Cradle of Forestry Historic Site Facebook page. The Cradle of Forestry is located outside Brevard, NC, on Hwy. 276 in the Pisgah National Forest, six miles north of Looking Glass Falls and four miles south of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

More than 80 Forest Service locations across the country will provide free recreational and educational activities as part of National Get Outdoors Day.

The USDA Forest Service has an ongoing commitment to engage children with nature through various programs in support of President Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors initiative and the First Lady’s Let’s Move! Outside campaign. The Forest Service has also collaborated with the Ad Council to develop a national campaign of television, radio, printed and outdoor public service announcements to re-connect families with nature. Visit


Instead Of Cleaning Up Coal Ash Sites, North Carolina Legislators Want To ‘Bail Out’ Duke Energy

Posted by on Jun 2, 2016 @ 8:44 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

North Carolina’s biggest utility has 14 different coal ash storage sites in the state, and none of them are safe. That means the chemicals and heavy metals — including mercury and arsenic — in coal ash, a byproduct of burning coal for power generation, can leach into local water supplies.

The safety issue was demonstrated in dramatic fashion a few years ago, when a coal ash storage pond ruptured, sending millions of gallons of poisonous sludge into North Carolina’s Dan River.

Environmentalists have long been trying to force Duke Energy, the state’s massive utility, to clean up its coal ash sites, but after the Dan River disaster, more legislators got on board, passing the Coal Ash Management Act. It hasn’t exactly gone well.

Among other things, the act set up a commission to oversee Duke’s coal ash clean-up efforts, but last year, Gov. Pat McCrory (R), a former Duke executive, sued to dismantle the commission — and won.

It might seem like the legislature is fighting for the people and McCrory is fighting for Duke, but that’s not exactly the case, said Frank Holleman, a senior attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center who has been fighting coal ash in court.

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Nine Out of 10 Americans Tested Positive for Monsanto’s Cancer-Linked Weedkiller Glyphosate

Posted by on May 31, 2016 @ 4:22 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

Nine Out of 10 Americans Tested Positive for Monsanto’s Cancer-Linked Weedkiller Glyphosate

So, if you participated in the glyphosate test project launched last year by the Detox Project and Organic Consumers Association, you probably failed. A staggering 93 percent of Americans tested positive for glyphosate, according to the test results, announced on May 25, 2016.

What makes that figure even more alarming is that many of you who sent in urine samples for testing probably eat more organic than non-organic food. Which suggests that either your organic food has been contaminated and/or you’re being exposed to glyphosate via unknown sources. Worse yet? Children had the highest levels.

The testing, carried out by a laboratory at UC San Francisco, was the first-ever comprehensive and validated LC/MS/MS testing project to be carried out across America. According to the results, people who live in the west and mid-west tested higher than those living in other regions of the country.

Even before glyphosate, the most-used herbicide in the world, was labeled a ‘probable human carcinogen’ by the World Health Organization’s cancer agency IARC in 2015, the chemical, prevalent in Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide, was under fire from scientists who say the chemical makes us sick. Internal documents reveal that Monsanto has known this all along.

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How a toxic junkyard was transformed into a national park

Posted by on May 29, 2016 @ 10:34 am in Conservation | 0 comments

The National Park Service is celebrating 100 years of protecting and promoting America’s most awe-inspiring natural resources.

When you think of national parks, you may picture the Grand Canyon or the soaring trees of Redwood National Park. But not all getaway spots are that ancient.

In the middle of Cuyahoga Valley National Park – where the Brandywine Falls cascade and natural rock ledges carve through trails – lies Beaver Marsh. Looking at the beauty that surrounds it, it’s hard to imagine this place as a garbage dump.

Peg and Rob Bobel remember this spot as a neglected landscape, all too common in the industrial region known as the Rust Belt. “I can vaguely remember, before the beavers moved in, it was just open field where car parts had been dumped,” Peg said.

The National Park Service bought the property in the 1980s and a radical transformation began. “And then the beavers came in and built this beautiful wetland that you see right here,” Rob said. The Bobels joined a team of volunteers who cleared the growing wetlands of the remaining trash.

Reclamation is one of the central themes of this national park. Thirty-three-thousand acres nestled between two Ohio cities – Cleveland to the North and Akron to the South – the area was once so polluted, the Cuyahoga River caught fire. “The message is that there’s always hope for reclamation. There’s always hope for nature.”

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Cradle of Forestry to Host Woodsy Owl’s Curiosity Club

Posted by on May 28, 2016 @ 3:35 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

The Cradle of Forestry in America in the Pisgah Ranger District announced that it will hold a nature and educational series titled “Woodsy Owl’s Curiosity Club” every Thursday this summer, beginning June 9, 2016 and ending August 11. Programs are held from 10:30 am to noon and 1:30 pm to 3:00 pm.

“The Curiosity Club allows kids, ages 4 to 7, and their special adults to participate in a variety of outdoor-oriented activities, exploring a forest-related theme that engages young children in the natural world around them,” said Cindy Carpenter, interpretive specialist at the Cradle of Forestry. “The Curiosity Club’s blend of investigation and creativity can help children ‘lend a hand, care for the land’ which is the mission of Woodsy Owl, the U.S. Forest Service’s conservation symbol.”

During the program, each child receives a copy of the book Woodsy Owl’s ABC’s and makes a topic-related craft to take home. After the program kids can try the scavenger hunt inside the Forest Discovery Center and explore paved interpretive trails, perfect for strollers and wheelchairs. Other activities include the Adventure Zone, designed for children on the autism spectrum yet enjoyable for all, as well as historic cabins, antique logging locomotive and sawmill, and gift shop. Families can pack a picnic and enjoy a full day in the forest.

This year’s topics are:
June 9 – Sensation: The Five Senses
June 16 – Green Thumbs: Gardening
June 23 – B3: Bees, Birds, and Butterflies
June 30- Animotion: Animal Movement
July 7 – Night Owls: Nocturnal Animals
July 14 – Water: Every Drop Counts
July 21 – Animal Trails: Signs of Animals
July 28- To See or Not to See: Camouflage
August 4 – Woodsy’s Garden: Plants
August 11 – Into the Woods: Forests

The Curiosity Club costs $4 per child and $2.50 for adults for each program. Adults with America the Beautiful and Golden Age passports are admitted free. Registration is required as space is limited. Call the Cradle of Forestry at (828) 877-3130 to register.

The Cradle of Forestry is located on Hwy. 276 in the Pisgah National Forest, six miles north of Looking Glass Falls and four miles south of the Blue Ridge Parkway at milepost 412. Visit for more information about the site. Visit for online youth-oriented information and resources related to natural resources and the environment.


Watching out over wild, picturesque Linville Gorge

Posted by on May 28, 2016 @ 6:58 am in Conservation | 1 comment

Watching out over wild, picturesque Linville Gorge

What would you do with your life if you didn’t need money? It’s a popular contemplation and one that Kevin Massey, at age 45, has realized. He would tie his red hair back in a ponytail, arm himself with maps, hand tools, snacks and Gatorade, and perform backbreaking work to care for the Linville Gorge Wilderness, one of the few truly wild places in the East.

But he still needs money, and lucky for Massey, he’s got the job he would do regardless. With a part-time position as Wild South Linville Gorge stewardship coordinator and part-time work as U.S. Forest Service volunteer, Massey has full-time responsibility for maintaining the gorge’s wild beauty.

Having grown up in the outdoors hiking, camping, hunting and fishing, Massey and his family, including his wife, Julie Lualdi, and twin sons, Jonathan and Nick, 15, moved from Georgia to the edge of the Linville Gorge Wilderness about five years ago. The family spent their free time exploring the Linville’s rugged trails, streams, river, ridges, wildflowers, plants and trees that make up one of the most stunning natural areas in Western North Carolina.

In January, Massey was offered a small salary to do what he loved, although it came at a tragic price. He was given the monumental task of taking over as Wild South’s Linville Gorge Wilderness stewardship coordinator, the role held for two years by Kayah Gaydish, an Asheville conservationist and mother of two teenagers, who died in a rock climbing fall in December. She was 36.

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