Conservation & Environment

Alaska Native village votes to relocate in the face of rising sea levels

Posted by on Aug 19, 2016 @ 7:35 am in Conservation | 0 comments

The coastal village of Shishmaref, Alaska, voted to relocate due to climate change–induced rising sea levels, according to the city council secretary. The community is home to about 600 people, most of whom are Inupiat Inuit, and welcomed votes from tribal and non-tribal residents alike.

This isn’t the first time the village has voted to relocate. In 2002, residents chose to leave for the mainland, but a lack of federal funds made that impossible. The U.S. Department of the Interior has made $8 million available for all tribes seeking relocation — that’s far short of the estimated $200 million the village needs to move.

The sea ice used to protect Shishmaref, which is built on a barrier island and largely inhabited by members of the Inupiat Inuit tribe. But now that the ice is melting, the village is in peril from encroaching waves, especially as the permafrost on which it is built is thawing, and crumbling beneath the mostly prefabricated houses. Barricades and sea walls have had little effect. Shishmaref could be the first town in the U.S. to move because of climate change.

Due to a lack of state and federal funding, the village will have to figure out a creative process to relocate. “It’s not going to happen in our lifetimes,” the council says. “We just want to take the right steps forward for our children.”



America’s natural heritage

Posted by on Aug 18, 2016 @ 10:59 am in Conservation | 0 comments

America’s natural heritage

National parks are the “spacious skies” and “mountain majesties” of elementary school choirs. They’re living postcards from adventurers who had the foresight to preserve natural wonders for those who followed.

The 59 U.S. parks are stark and arid, elevated and lush, watery and forbidding. They’re wild. And perhaps most important, they’re common ground. The vast acreage managed by the National Park Service may be the only place where chasms unite us. Park Service lands are as diverse as the visitors they serve and the flora, fauna, ground and water they protect.

National parks are an American superlative — beautiful to the extreme.

When describing Great Smoky Mountains National Park, famed Appalachian Horace Kephart wrote, “The dreamy blue haze … that ever hovers over the mountains … softens all outlines, and lends a mirage-like effect of great distance to objects that are but a few miles off.”

As the National Park Service turns 100, here is a look at 59 wonders it works to preserve…


Rocky Flats: A Wildlife Refuge Confronts its Radioactive Past

Posted by on Aug 17, 2016 @ 11:05 am in Conservation | 0 comments

A barn owl bursts from the tall prairie grasses. Elk skitter among cottonwood trees near an old stagecoach halt. A shrew crosses a track and hurtles into milkweed, where monarch butterflies feed. Somewhere amid the rare xeric grasses are coyotes, moose, mule deer, a handful of endangered Preble’s meadow jumping mice, and more than 600 plant species.

“Welcome,” says David Lucas of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, “to Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge.”

The place is undeniably beautiful, one of the best exurban wildlife reserves in the United States, an oasis of prairie biodiversity on the outskirts of Denver. And the federal government is preparing to open it up to the public as early as December 2017, once the visitors’ center is built and the planned nearly 20 miles of biking and hiking trails are complete.

In a previous life, Rocky Flats was a secret place, where over almost four decades Dow Chemical and Rockwell International, as contractors working for the U.S. government, turned plutonium from military reactors into an estimated 70,000 grapefruit-sized triggers at the heart of hydrogen bombs. Few installations were as important during the Cold War as the Rocky Flats Plant, which operated from 1952 to 1989. And by all accounts, preventing plutonium pollution of the surrounding environment, including that of the people of Denver, was low on the list of priorities.

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NASA: Searing July 2016 Was ‘Absolutely The Hottest Month’ On Record

Posted by on Aug 16, 2016 @ 12:03 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

Yes, it’s hot out there thanks to global warming. NASA reports that last month was the hottest July on record.

That follows the hottest June on record, hottest May, April, March, February, and January. It’s almost like there is a pattern….

How hot was it last month? Parts of the Arctic and Antarctic averaged as high as 7.7°C (13.9°F) above average. No wonder we’ve seen records broken for the melting of the ice sheets and Arctic sea ice.

It was so hot that Dr. Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies, tweeted, “July 2016 was absolutely the hottest month since the instrumental records began.”

Since we may now be entering a La Niña that temporarily cools part of the Pacific Ocean, we may not set any more monthly records this year. But Schmidt wants you to know that there’s “still 99% chance of a new annual record in 2016.”



A Refuge in the Mountains

Posted by on Aug 15, 2016 @ 11:56 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Great Smoky Mountains National Park creates space for wildness, adventure, and imagination.

When you think of the Smoky Mountains, think of refuge. The Smokies are a refuge for dreams of freedom, of unimpeded rambling, adventure, and of the faraway that was contained within the nearby, a refuge for magic, for wildness, for the imagination.

Wilderness is like that. It seems to have more space and time within it, which means a different experience of being on Earth can be had. It opens up alternate realities.

A sanctuary for an against-the-grain narrative, some other story that doesn’t emphasize linear “progress” but rather circular time, continually transforming and transformative. The richness of quiet and rotting logs. Refuge for a different value system.

The Smokies also provide refuge for the ancient trees — the park contains the largest stand of old-growths east of the Mississippi and the largest block of virgin red spruce on earth.

The mountains are home to the world’s greatest variety of salamanders, more than 1,500 species of flowering plants, more than 50 fern species, around 500 species of bryophytes, mosses, and liverworts (nearly 200 of them considered rare) and as many tree species as are found on the entire European continent.

They house the densest black bear population in the East. Almost 3,000 miles of streams contain a varied abundance of fish and invertebrate aquatic life. Refuge for all these.

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Marathon man: runner will log 26.2 miles in each of 59 national parks

Posted by on Aug 15, 2016 @ 7:11 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Bill Sycalik loves to run, and he has a fondness for America’s national parks.

Sycalik, 45, is combining those two interests in a unique — and some might say a little crazy — plan to run the length of a standard marathon in each of the nation’s 59 national parks.

Sycalik came one step closer to accomplishing this feat when he checked park No. 8 off his list by completing a marathon-length run though Wind Cave National Park near Hot Springs, South Dakota.

Sycalik says that the idea to run through all 59 national parks came to him in May, when he was living in New York City and working as a corporate information technology manager, but secretly wanting to move west and “reconnect with nature.”

Looking for a meaningful goal, Sycalik noticed that the National Parks system was celebrating its 100th anniversary. He thought doing a marathon through each park would be a good way to get to see all 59 parks, and help promote the parks, their centennial, and maybe also inspire others to visit them.

Sycalik’s end goal in doing all this running is to showcase the parks. His next journeys will be in Grand Teton National Park, then Yellowstone and Glacier.

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Key tract protected near Pisgah National Forest and Blue Ridge Parkway

Posted by on Aug 13, 2016 @ 11:18 am in Conservation | 0 comments

For many visitors heading to the Blue Ridge Parkway via the twisting, mountainous ribbon of road known as N.C. 80, the rippling ride and scenic views might satisfy their appetite before ever reaching the national park.

But the land surrounding the switchbacks of N.C. 80 have all been privately owned, leaving it vulnerable to development or timbering, and diminished views. But no longer.

In late July, the Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina, a nonprofit land trust based in Morganton, completed transfer of the Buck Creek Gap tract in McDowell County to the U.S. Forest Service.

The 73-acre Buck Creek Gap Tract, which surrounds N.C. 80 to where it intersects with the Blue Ridge Parkway at Milepost 344, borders the National Park Service’ to the north and Pisgah National Forest on three sides. Its protection buffers parkway views, as well as vistas from Forest Service lands and the nearby Mountains-to-Sea Trail.

Acquiring the inholding tract helps the Forest Service better manage Pisgah National Forest and protects the headwaters of Buck Creek, which is a significant creek flowing into the Catawba River near Marion. Hundreds of thousands of visitors pass by the property on N.C. 80 to access the Blue Ridge Parkway and Mount Mitchell State Park.

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Interior Announces Fastest Successful Recovery of an Endangered Species Act-Listed Mammal

Posted by on Aug 12, 2016 @ 7:05 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Interior Announces Fastest Successful Recovery of an Endangered Species Act-Listed Mammal

Representing the fastest successful recovery for any Endangered Species Act (ESA)-listed mammal in the United States, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) today announced the final de-listing of three subspecies of island fox native to California’s Channel Islands. The removal of the San Miguel, Santa Rosa and Santa Cruz Island fox subspecies from the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife brings the total number of ESA de-listings due to recovery to 37, with 19 of those overseen by the Obama administration. In the Act’s 43-year history, more recoveries have been declared under the current Administration’s watch than all past Administrations combined.

“The Island Fox recovery is an incredible success story about the power of partnerships and the ability of collaborative conservation to correct course for a species on the brink of extinction,” said U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, who visited Channel Islands National Park in March with fourth graders participating in the Every Kid in a Park program to witness fox conservation efforts. “The Endangered Species Act is an effective tool to protect imperiled wildlife so future generations benefit from the same abundance and diversity of animals and plants we enjoy today. What happened in record time at Channel Islands National Park can serve as a model for partnership-driven conservation efforts across the country.”

Listing of the four Channel Island fox subspecies in 2004 stimulated a focused, partnership-driven conservation effort involving the National Park Service, The Nature Conservancy, Santa Catalina Island Conservancy and Institute for Wildlife Studies. Almost immediately, fox populations began to improve due to a variety of efforts including captive breeding programs and vaccinating foxes against canine distemper. Today the San Miguel, Santa Rosa and Santa Cruz island subspecies are fully recovered.


Forest Service Founder Gifford Pinchot’s story

Posted by on Aug 9, 2016 @ 11:40 am in Conservation | 1 comment

Forest Service  Founder Gifford Pinchot’s story

The life in which U.S. Forest Service founder Gifford Pinchot was born into wasn’t much different than what millions of Downton Abbey fans have come to know through that popular PBS period drama: huge homes, servants and vast expanses of lands were the accoutrements of many in Pinchot’s class.

On Aug. 11, 1865, the infant named Gifford, born at the Pinchot family’s ancestral home, Grey Towers, would seem to follow the normal trajectory of his highborn status. This he did. But not how many of his contemporaries did. Instead of taking over the family business, Gifford went after another passion and he changed the world.

His passion was conservation of forested lands. His family had profited on the desecration of large tracts of forests to provide the millions of tons of pulp needed to supply its massive national market for wall paper. Millions in the late 19th century wanted wallpaper and the Pinchots provided it.

However, the Pinchots realized the environmental cost theirs and other industrial-rich American families had wreaked on the natural environment and they wanted Gifford to do something about it.

Pinchot was able to convince President Teddy Roosevelt to create the U.S. Forest Service as the greatest land conservation agency set up by any government in the modern world.

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At national parks 90 years ago, ‘Don’t feed the bears’ was not the prevailing wisdom

Posted by on Aug 8, 2016 @ 9:36 am in Conservation | 0 comments

On August 25th, take a moment to say “happy birthday” to the National Parks Service. It’s turning 100 years old. And my, how some things have changed in that century. Take, for example, how the parks deal with bears.

Today, the Park Service characterizes the possibility of seeing live bears – black, grizzly or polar in dozens of parks across the country – as a very special but far from guaranteed experience. It reminds park visitors that bears are wild animals, and it directs them to follow “bear etiquette.” That code of conduct includes the following exhortations:

– Respect a bear’s space.
– Never approach, crowd, pursue or displace bears.
– Let bears eat their natural foods.

It was not always so. In the early 20th century, according to Rachel Mazur’s book “Speaking of Bears,” bear-feeding spectacles were major attractions.

By the 1930s, calls to stop feeding the bears grew as the trash-nourished population swelled and more human-bear run-ins occurred. But it would take decades – and many killings of “nuisance bears” – for the Park Service to arrive at its current view that it is best to stay out of bears’ way and lock human food in bear-proof containers.

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The Secrets of the Wood Wide Web

Posted by on Aug 7, 2016 @ 10:28 am in Conservation | 0 comments

The Secrets of the Wood Wide Web

Epping Forest is a heavily regulated place. First designated as a royal hunting ground by Henry II in the twelfth century, with severe penalties imposed on commoners for poaching, it has since 1878 been managed by the City of London Corporation, which governs behavior within its bounds using forty-eight bylaws.

The forest is today almost completely contained within the M25, the notorious orbital motorway that encircles outer London. Minor roads crisscross it, and it is rarely more than four kilometres wide. Several of its hundred or so lakes and ponds are former blast holes of the V1 “doodlebug” rockets flung at London in 1944.

Yet the miraculous fact of Epping’s existence remains: almost six thousand acres of trees, heath, pasture, and waterways, just outside the city limits, its grassland still grazed by the cattle of local commoners, and adders still basking in its glades. Despite its mixed-amenity use—from golf to mountain biking—it retains a greenwood magic.

Merlin Sheldrake is an expert in mycorrhizal fungi, and as such he is part of a research revolution that is changing the way we think about forests. For centuries, fungi were widely held to be harmful to plants, parasites that cause disease and dysfunction. More recently, it has become understood that certain kinds of common fungi exist in subtle symbiosis with plants, bringing about not infection but connection.

These fungi send out gossamer-fine fungal tubes called hyphae, which infiltrate the soil and weave into the tips of plant roots at a cellular level. Roots and fungi combine to form what is called a mycorrhiza: itself a growing-together of the Greek words for fungus (mykós) and root (riza). In this way, individual plants are joined to one another by an underground hyphal network: a dazzlingly complex and collaborative structure that has become known as the Wood Wide Web.

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Americans are proud of their national parks and are willing to pay more to preserve them

Posted by on Aug 7, 2016 @ 7:23 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Researchers from Harvard and Colorado State have found that Americans would be willing to pay 30 times more than the current annual appropriation in order to preserve and maintain the US National Park system.

According to the study, the US public would pay more than $90 billion a year to sustain and protect America’s iconic places. Yet the US National Park system currently receives less than $3 billion a year from Congress and suffers from a multi-billion dollar backlog of corroded and broken infrastructure.

Nearly 95 percent of citizens who participated in the study said national parks are important to them. Is there anything else Americans agree on nearly unanimously?

Not only is the park service’s annual budget insufficient for its current needs, it is about 15 percent lower, in today’s dollars, than it was in 2001. In addition, the service has a maintenance backlog of about $12 billion for infrastructure projects, such as campgrounds, trails, bridges and roads. In other words, the National Parks as they’re currently funded are decaying, because we’re not maintaining them.

Private philanthropy has already played a role in shoring up many individual parks, but the park system doesn’t currently have a long-term philanthropic funding structure. So researchers are pushing for an endowment for the parks, similar to the common funding mechanism used by universities, museums hospitals and others institutions.

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Russia spills two Deepwater Horizons of oil each year

Posted by on Aug 6, 2016 @ 11:40 am in Conservation | 0 comments

The Komi Republic in northern Russia is renowned for its many lakes, but sites contaminated by oil are almost just as easy to find in the Usinsk oilfields. From pumps dripping oil and huge ponds of black sludge to dying trees and undergrowth — a likely sign of an underground pipeline leak — these spills are relatively small and rarely garner media attention.

But they add up quickly, threatening fish stocks, pasture land and drinking water. According to the natural resources and environment minister, Sergei Donskoi, 1.5m tonnes of oil are spilled in Russia each year. That’s more than twice the amount released by the record-breaking Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.

The main problem, according to the natural resources ministry, is that 60% of pipeline infrastructure is deteriorated. And with fines inexpensive and oversight lax, oil companies find it more profitable to patch up holes and pour sand on spills — or do nothing at all — than invest in quality infrastructure and comprehensive cleanups, according to activists.

While Russia’s oil and gas production provides more than half the state budget every year, it exacts a huge price on the environment and local residents. A state energy statistics bureau told Greenpeace it had registered 11,709 pipeline breaks in Russia in 2014.

Northern rivers such as the Pechora carry 500,000 tons of oil into the Arctic Ocean every year, the state hydrometeorology and environmental monitoring service reported in 2011.

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Do Oil Companies Really Need $4 Billion Per Year of Taxpayers’ Money?

Posted by on Aug 6, 2016 @ 7:09 am in Conservation | 0 comments

What would happen if the federal government ended its subsidies to companies that drill for oil and gas?

The American oil and gas industry has argued that such a move would leave the United States more dependent on foreign energy.

Many environmental activists counter that ending subsidies could move the United States toward a future free of fossil fuels — helping it curtail its emissions of heat-trapping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Chances are, it wouldn’t do much of either.

In a new report for the Council on Foreign Relations a professor of economics at Tufts University, concluded that eliminating the three major federal subsidies for the production of oil and gas would have a very limited impact on the production and consumption of these fossil fuels.

The analysis is the most sophisticated yet on the impact of government supports, worth roughly $4 billion a year. Extrapolating from the observed reaction of energy companies to fluctuations in the price of oil and gas, the report models how a loss of subsidies might curtail drilling and thus affect production, prices and consumer demand.

Cutting oil drilling subsidies might reduce domestic oil production by 5 percent in the year 2030.

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Smoky Mountains National Park releases new biodiversity web application

Posted by on Aug 5, 2016 @ 7:45 am in Conservation | 0 comments

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park has partnered with the University of Tennessee to create a new web application that locates more than 1,800 plant and animal species according to their suitable habitats.

Everyone from park managers to school groups are expected to benefit from the new biodiversity web application.

The “Species Mapper” uses locations where species have been found to help predict additional places where they may occur in the park. The predictions are based on observations made during ongoing resource monitoring as well as during research studies conducted by scientists from all over the world.

The result of the model is a reliable distribution of where each species lives in the park.

“This application allows park managers to use the vast amount of biological data collected over the past three decades to protect park resources and assess the potential impact from disturbances like the hemlock woolly adelgid and emerald ash borer,” said Inventory and Monitoring Program Manager Tom Remaley. “Visitors can use this site to explore what lives in the park and what they might see during their visit.”

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LED Lighting Miracle: ‘One Of The Fastest Technology Shifts In Human History’

Posted by on Aug 4, 2016 @ 7:13 am in Conservation | 0 comments

“The rapid adoption of LEDs in lighting marks one of the fastest technology shifts in human history,” Goldman Sachs stated in a new report.

The accelerated deployment of light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs is on track to save U.S. consumers and businesses $20 billion a year in electricity costs within a decade, which would lower U.S. CO2 emissions by some 100 million metric tons a year. The growing global effort to speed up LED adoption could ultimately cut global energy costs and carbon pollution 5 times as much.

As recently as 2009, this country didn’t have even 400,000 installations of common home LED bulbs, according to a November 2015 Department of Energy report. And yet by 2012, we had 14 million — and by 2014 we had whopping 78 million installations.

This revolution has been driven by “sharp cost reductions and performance improvements, relatively short replacement cycles for incumbent technologies, and aggressive policy support (including bans on incandescent technology in major markets such as the U.S., the E.U. and China).”

Since 2008 alone, prices for LED lightbulbs have dropped a remarkable 90 percent, and you can now buy a 60-watt-equivalent LED bulb for a little more than $3.

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AmeriCorps is Accepting Applications

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

AmeriCorps is Accepting Applications

Conservation Trust for North Carolina is the host organization for AmeriCorps, a ten-month national service program in environmental education and outreach. The program is currently accepting applications for the 2017 service year, which will start on October 4, 2016 and end on July 21, 2017. AmeriCorps members will be stationed at host organizations around the state. Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis, with the last day to apply being August 26th 2016.

The program seeks to reconnect people with the outdoors and to develop future leaders in conservation. AmeriCorps members will develop service projects that help remove barriers to environmental education throughout North Carolina, as well as help expand the diversity of backgrounds among conservation leaders in the state.

CTNC offer a living stipend ($13,470 over ten months), health insurance reimbursement (up to $150 per month), childcare assistance, and monthly professional development opportunities (individual trainings, conferences, career fair). Participants who complete the program may receive an education award of $5,775.

To find out more and to apply, please click here…