Conservation & Environment

Bison coming “home” to Montana Indian reservation after 140 years

Posted by on Mar 29, 2016 @ 4:58 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Bison coming “home” to Montana Indian reservation after 140 years

Descendants of a bison herd captured and sent to Canada more than 140 years ago will be relocated to a Montana American Indian reservation next month, in what tribal leaders bill as a homecoming for a species emblematic of their traditions.

The shipment of animals from Alberta’s Elk Island National Park to the Blackfeet Indian Reservation follows a 2014 treaty among tribes in the United States and Canada. That agreement aims to restore bison to areas of the Rocky Mountains and Great Plains where millions once roamed.

“For thousands of years the Blackfeet lived among the buffalo here. The buffalo sustained our way of life, provided our food, clothing, shelter,” Blackfeet Chairman Harry Barnes said. “It became part of our spiritual being. We want to return the buffalo.”

The lineage of Elk Island’s bison, which experts say are free of cattle genes, traces back to a small group of animals captured by several American Indians on Blackfeet land just south of Canada.

The relocation comes as the restoration of genetically-pure bison to the West’s grasslands and forests have gained traction. The efforts include the relocation of some genetically-pure bison from Yellowstone National Park to two Indian reservations in eastern and central Montana.

The tribes – the Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes of the Fort Peck Reservation and the Assiniboine and Gros Ventre Tribes of the Fort Belknap Reservations – are signatories to the 2014 treaty.

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Thousands of Ancient Petroglyphs, ‘Dramatic’ Solar Calendar Reported in N. Arizona

Posted by on Mar 28, 2016 @ 8:49 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Archaeologists exploring the remote mesas of northern Arizona have uncovered a trove of previously undocumented rock art, including more than 1,500 petroglyphs, and confirmed the presence a prehistoric solar calendar, which has been marking the seasons for more than 700 years with a striking “shadow dagger” that travels across its sandstone face.

Researchers made these finds in the backcountry of Wupatki National Monument northeast of Flagstaff, which includes the ruins of dozens of sites built by Ancestral Puebloans known as the Kayenta and the Sinagua.

Experts with the Museum of Northern Arizona [MNA] and the National Park Service set out to explore the isolated reaches of the monument in 2014, in order to document the full extent of the rock art and other features that scientists had not studied in decades or, in many cases, had never seen before.

“As a result of the current project, the NPS now has a complete library of photographic images of every panel, every element, and every feature [in the study area]”, said MNA’s David Purcell, who supervised the study.

“And we were able to expand the scope of the project … and conduct some pilot analysis of how the rock art is oriented to the horizons, and conduct detailed additional documentation of the solar calendars.”

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4 myths about America’s parks and public lands

Posted by on Mar 27, 2016 @ 5:28 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Fact-checking four of the most pervasive myths used by anti-conservation land takeover proponents.

As presidential hopefuls tour the country, some candidates are spreading false rhetoric about our national public lands, how they originated and to whom these lands “rightfully” belong. The standoff at Oregon’s Malheur National Wildlife Refuge has shed light on the extremist views of a vocal minority, but the reality is that most Americans do not agree with the agenda to turn our national public lands like parks, forests and refuges over to state and local authorities.

Below are four factually incorrect statements about public lands and responses to them from leading property law, land policy and economic experts from across the West. Complete article is here…

Myth: The federal government “owns” a vast majority of acreage in the West, locking Americans off lands that rightfully belong to them.

Fact: Our national public lands already belong to all Americans, who may access them at any time for recreation and enjoyment.

Myth: The U.S. government is obligated give these lands back to western states, their rightful owners.

Fact: The claim that the U.S. government is under any legal obligation to give some or all of the public lands to western states lacks any credible legal foundation.

Myth: The idea of states taking over public lands is popular in the West and will improve the economy.

Fact: State control of our shared public lands would result in loss of access to places that support a $646 billion-dollar economic engine in America every year.

Myth: States can afford to manage large areas of public land.

Fact: Taking over public lands would cost states millions of dollars every year and force increased commodity development to cover the fiscal shortfall.


After 115 Years, Scotland Is Coal-Free

Posted by on Mar 26, 2016 @ 5:15 am in Conservation | 0 comments

After some 115 years, Scotland has burned its last lump of coal for electricity.

The Longannet power station, the last and largest coal-fired power plant in Scotland, ceased operations March 24th. What once was the largest coal plant in Europe shut down after 46 years before the eyes of workers and journalists, who gathered in the main control room.

“Ok, here we go,” said one worker moments before pressing a bright red button that stopped the coal-fired turbines that generated electricity for a quarter of Scottish homes.

Longannet’s closure comes as Scotland, a country of some 5 million people, aims to have enough renewable energy to power 100 percent of its electricity demand by 2020. And while Europe has lowered its investment in renewables recently, Scotland seems well on its way to meeting its green energy goals.

Renewable electricity output has more than doubled since 2007 and is equivalent to half of the electricity consumed. This surge in renewables follows a massive investment in onshore and offshore wind, which has established Scotland as a renewable energy leader in the region. In fact, Scotland’s largest wind farm is also the largest in the United Kingdom. Whitelee Windfarm near Glasgow has a 539-megawatt capacity and generates enough electricity to power just under 300,000 homes.

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Congress Should Confront the Rise of Violent Extremism on America’s Public Lands

Posted by on Mar 25, 2016 @ 12:22 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

Congress has the power and responsibility to investigate the threat of anti-government extremism to America’s public lands, public servants, and nearby communities. Since 2014, when Cliven Bundy led hundreds of anti-government militants in an armed standoff with federal law enforcement officials near Bunkerville, Nevada, anti-government activists have organized and led at least four other armed confrontations on public lands.

Congress should begin to fulfill its oversight responsibilities by launching an investigation into the rise of violent confrontations organized by anti-government extremists on public lands. This investigation could be conducted by a special or select committee or through the committees responsible for homeland security, natural resources, and Indian affairs.

Since Cliven Bundy summoned militias and anti-government activists to Nevada in 2014, a complex web of extremist groups has been actively organizing and carrying out the recent armed takeovers of public lands, including the assault on the Malheur NWR. These groups include the III Percent Patriots; the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association, or CSPOA; the Pacific Patriots Network; Oath Keepers; People For Constitutional Freedom, or PFC; and Operation Mutual Aid.

A Centers for American Progress review of the fundraising efforts of the land seizure movement reveals several financial irregularities that merit federal or state review. In particular, several of the previously mentioned groups seek donations from the public as if they were charitable organizations, yet the contributions they receive appear to go to for-profit entities or individuals.

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Free Admission and Festivities for All during National Park Week April 16-24, 2016

Posted by on Mar 25, 2016 @ 6:55 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Free Admission and Festivities for All during National Park Week April 16-24, 2016

As the National Park Service (NPS) celebrates 100 years of protecting and preserving the nation’s parks and monuments, all Americans are encouraged to get out and FindYourPark during National Park Week, April 16 through 24, 2016. All National Park Service entrance fees will be waived for the week so choose a park, near or far, and discover what makes it unique.

Each of the 410 national parks is a thread in the tapestry that tells the story of our country – its beautiful landscapes, diverse culture, and rich heritage. Throughout the year, and especially during National Park Week, the NPS and the National Park Foundation, invite everyone to discover and share their own unique connections to our public lands.

“We have an amazing variety of special events taking place during the centennial,” said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis. “Some commemorate our first hundred years, but many others look to the future, to the next 100 years, and will help connect with and create the next generation of park visitors, supporters and advocates. It is through them that America’s lands and stories will be preserved and passed on to future generations.”

“With free admission to parks all week long, National Park Week is the perfect opportunity to check out a new location, revisit one of your favorite parks, and perhaps invite a friend who has never visited a park before to join you,” said Will Shafroth, president of the National Park Foundation, the official charity of America’s national parks. “It’s a great time to experience and celebrate our parks and historic places, and discover and share with each other how these treasured places are vital and relevant to people from all backgrounds from all over the country.”

National Park Week will kick off with National Junior Ranger Day on Saturday, April 16. Parks will host kid oriented activities and distribute the new Centennial Junior Ranger booklet and badge. Throughout the week, many parks will also host Every Kid in a Park events, which encourage fourth grade students to visit national parks and other public lands by offering a free annual pass.

Other highlights during the week include an education summit on April 20, Earth Day events on April 22, a national park InstaMeet on April 23, and Park RxDay on April 24. Park Rx is a community health initiative where medical doctors “prescribe” time in parks to promote wellness and help prevent and treat chronic disease. More than a dozen national parks will offer health screenings and recreational activities, including an event with the U.S. Surgeon General.

Visit to learn more about National Park Week activities throughout the country.


What is Wilderness Worth?

Posted by on Mar 22, 2016 @ 9:15 am in Conservation | 0 comments

In 1964, Congress protected areas where, according to the Wilderness Act, “the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.” Wilderness areas now cover approximately 5 percent of the United States – over 100 million acres.

While the ecological and aesthetic value of these lands is apparent, their economic value is less intuitive. In a review article published in the Journal of Forestry, U.S. Forest Service scientist Thomas Holmes and his colleagues describe the concepts and tools used to analyze the economic value of wilderness. The scientists considered historical studies to identify trends in the use and economic value of wilderness areas as well as the economic impacts that wilderness areas have on gateway communities.

“Once resources are extracted from a wilderness area, wilderness character is irreversibly changed and can never be reproduced,” says Holmes. “This is why it is important to consider the trade-offs inherent in developing wild areas. People are often surprised to learn that the economic value of protecting wilderness areas can exceed the economic value of developing those areas.”

Economists have proposed that people generally become willing to pay more for wilderness protection and use as their income and education increases. Combined with the increasing scarcity of wild lands relative to other land uses, economists have argued that wilderness values will trend upwards as economies develop. Holmes and his colleagues reviewed the economic literature to discern trends in the economic value of wilderness. “Our review suggests that wilderness areas are becoming increasingly valuable to society over time,” says Holmes.

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Well owners in disbelief about NC’s decision to lift tainted water warning

Posted by on Mar 22, 2016 @ 2:18 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Hundreds of well owners near Duke Energy coal ash pits received letters last spring from state health officials warning them not to drink their own well water. Last week, a letter signed by Randall Williams, the state health director, and Tom Reeder, the assistant state secretary for the environment, lifted the warning.

Now, well owners such as Bonita Queen, Deborah Graham and Gail Johnston, who live near coal ash pits, say they don’t know what to believe. Their wells still contain hexavalent chromium, a man-made carcinogen.

“Nothing has changed,” said Queen, a Salisbury resident who lives near Duke’s Buck power plant. “There has not been any proof showing what has changed from it being not safe to drink 10 months ago to it being safe to drink now.” “The coal ash pond is still there. “My well is still here. “Tell me what has changed — just numbers on a piece of paper,” Queen said.

A Winston-Salem Journal review of emails from staff members within the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services and Department of Environmental Quality, as well as interviews with environmental experts and sources close to state health staff suggest that administrators at DHHS and DEQ are overriding their own experts as they try to explain why they are lifting some of the do-not-drink warnings.

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GOP Politicians Planned And Participated In Key Aspects Of Malheur Refuge Occupation

Posted by on Mar 18, 2016 @ 9:55 am in Conservation | 0 comments

GOP Politicians Planned And Participated In Key Aspects Of Malheur Refuge Occupation

On a cold January morning, a posse led by a former Army company commander named Matt Shea rolled into the Harney County Courthouse and wanted to speak to the sheriff. But this wasn’t a group of militants, or outlaws. They were state lawmakers from four western states, including Oregon. Most of them were members of a group called the Coalition of Western States, or COWS.

They were hoping to talk directly with Sheriff David Ward and convince him to support the armed militants at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. Instead, COWS members would meet that day with a Harney County deputy and a sheriff from another county, an FBI agent and other local officials.

The 90-minute conversation was recorded by participants at the Jan. 9 meeting and given to Oregon Public Broadcasting. On the recording, Harney County Judge Steve Grasty thanks the group for their concern, but asks them to stay away from the refuge. Grasty said the militants were showing signs of fatigue and defeat, and worried that a visit from lawmakers would reinvigorate Ammon Bundy and the rest of the occupiers.

“If we’re getting close (to a resolution), and you embolden Bundy by your presence, and this runs on for weeks and months, it will be awful in this community,” Grasty said.

The FBI agent also asked the lawmakers not to visit the refuge. Those pleas fell on deaf ears. And Grasty’s prediction came true.

COWS representatives visited the refuge, which was closed to the public. The lawmakers acknowledge they fed the militants information gathered from that meeting, and militant leaders talked openly about what they learned from those disclosures.

Read full story and listen to recordings…


Taking Back the Native Land

Posted by on Mar 17, 2016 @ 7:54 am in Conservation, Hiking News | 0 comments

In the Yukon, Carcross/Tagish First Nation youth are building world class singletrack trails and ski touring, redefining their people’s mountain culture and leading their elders toward a new future.

The preamble and aftermath of the Gold Rush, and manic rush of the Alaska Highway some 45 years later, changed all of this. Endless streams of people and riches flowed through these valleys, first in a stampede that posed a brief and annoying interruption to daily life, and then as a lingering houseguest who brought with them a highway, guns and trucks full of booze.

Decades of boom-bust industry have left their mark on Montana Mountain. The daring feats of catskinners are etched across the mountainside, permanent reminders of industry’s dogged pursuit of silver and gold. Far below in Carcross, the scars are more subtle, but equally persistent—the decaying foundation of the former residential school, empty liquor bottles discarded under groves of spruce trees, caught along the stunning, windswept expanse of beach and dunes extending beyond the schoolyard fence.

In 2006, Carcross/Tagish First Nation (C/TFN) undertook a small initiative with a big dream. The Singletrack to Success (S2S) Project’s vision was to “build a destination, one trail at a time,” and to employ its youth in doing so. It was the year before C/TFN signed its land claim agreement with the Yukon and Canadian governments, marking the return of autonomy over its lands, resources, and people. The question of economic self-sufficiency loomed large on the collective conscience of C/TFN citizens. The environmental impacts of mining were deemed too great; no, this Nation needed to find another way. Tourism offered a viable option, and trails—the “paydirt” of the adventure-fueled travelling set—were a tangible starting point.

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The wild, complex world of wilderness rangers

Posted by on Mar 17, 2016 @ 6:36 am in Conservation, Hiking News | 0 comments

The wild, complex world of wilderness rangers

When Drew Peterson tells people he works as a U.S. Forest Service wilderness ranger, they may assume his job is defined by solitude. But that is not always the case: On a busy summer day, a wilderness ranger may stop to talk with as many as 300 people, such as on a recent day patrolling the popular Green Lakes Trail off the Cascade Lakes Highway.

“It can take up to six hours to hike up the trail,” Peterson said. The trail runs about 4½ miles from trailhead to Green Lakes.

Describing what a wilderness ranger is and what exactly he does quickly becomes complex. Peterson, 32, who now primarily patrols wilderness in the Ochoco National Forest but occasionally helps in the Deschutes National Forest, said the work combines about a dozen jobs, including customer service, trail maintenance and rule enforcement. Peterson’s job is to make sure people are doing the right thing.

The current form of the program, in which wilderness rangers go to wilderness areas around the Deschutes National Forest, started in 2010, said Jason Fisher, who supervises the five rangers in the national forest.

Though the title may bring up notions of adventure and exploration, often the work focuses on educating people about what they should and should not be doing. “It’s not what a lot of people expect,” he said.

Passing through wilderness requires adhering to federal rules and regulations, which Peterson and other wilderness rangers enforce.

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Shell worries about climate change, but decides to continue making it worse

Posted by on Mar 15, 2016 @ 4:40 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Shell worries about climate change, but decides to continue making it worse

Shell Oil released its 2015 annual review last week, and the most surprising thing in it may be how concerned the company is with climate change. It’s hardly what you’d expect from Big Oil, and yet the words “climate change” occur 15 times in the 228 page report. While this may seem minor, it’s a lot more than climate change is discussed by most other oil monsters (Looking at you, Exxon).

Shell, unlike many oil giants, actively acknowledges and even embraces climate action — at least, on paper. “It was encouraging to see governments reach a global climate agreement in Paris in December,” the report reads. “The agreement should now encourage countries to develop policies that balance environmental concerns with enabling a decent quality of life for more people.”

Sounds great, right? But before you get too excited about the prospect of Shell transitioning to a solar company, they go ahead and ruin it: “We know that understanding the world’s future energy needs will help us improve our competitiveness. We have evolved over the last few decades from a company focused almost entirely on oil to one of the world’s leading suppliers of gas, the cleanest-burning hydrocarbon.”

While that may be true that gas is the “cleanest-burning hydrocarbon,” it’s still a hydrocarbon. Not only that, our means of extracting natural gas — fracking — is linked to cancer, earthquakes, and contaminated groundwater.

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February spike in global temperatures stuns scientists

Posted by on Mar 14, 2016 @ 4:56 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

Global temperatures leapt in February, lifting warming from pre-industrial levels to beyond 1.5 degrees, and stoking concerns about a “climate emergency”.

Unusual warmth in waters off northern Australia also prompted an alert by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Authority about the risk of widespread coral bleaching.

According to NASA analysis, average temperatures last month were 1.35 degrees above the norm for the 1951-1980 period. They smashed the previous biggest departure from the average – set only in the previous month – by 0.21 degrees.

“This is really quite stunning … it’s completely unprecedented,” said Stefan Rahmstorf, from Germany’s Potsdam Institute of Climate Impact Research. February’s spike is “a true shocker, and yet another reminder of the incessant long-term rise in global temperature resulting from human-produced greenhouse gases”.

“We are in a kind of climate emergency now,” Professor Rahmstorf said, noting that global carbon dioxide levels last year rose by a record rate of more than 3 parts per million.

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“Bears Ears” region of Utah needs protection from drilling, mining and vandalism

Posted by on Mar 14, 2016 @ 9:06 am in Conservation | 0 comments

A stretch of starkly beautiful wildlands in Southeast Utah is at risk due to energy development, looting and vandalism, but a movement led by Native American tribes could lead to its permanent protection as a national monument.

Nestled immediately to the south and east of Canyonlands National Park, the region known as “Bears Ears”—named for two sandstone-fringed buttes jutting about 2,000 feet up from the mesa—covers nearly 2 million acres of stunning desert dotted with yucca, sagebrush and red-tinged sandstone carved into dramatic mesas, canyons and arches.

Wildlife that calls the area home includes pronghorn antelope, mountain lions, bighorn sheep, black bears and peregrine falcons.

Hiking, camping, rock-climbing and backpacking are staple recreation activities in Bears Ears, which is bordered by the San Juan River along the southern edge. The natural attractions of the region are evident even when the sun goes down, as the relatively remote, wide-open landscape means night skies dark enough to fully showcase the stars overhead.

The value of Bears Ears isn’t only in its natural wonders. In fact, the movement to protect it has been spearheaded by a coalition of tribes concerned about their cultural heritage. By some estimates, the region contains more than 100,000 Native American archaeological and cultural sites, and some modern tribes in the American southwest trace their heritage back to the area, including the Navajo and Hopi.

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The Arctic Just Got A Huge Boost From Obama And Trudeau

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

Washington, D.C. has been hit with “Justin Fever” as Prime Minister Trudeau is in town to meet with President Obama — and attend the first U.S.-Canadian state dinner in nearly two decades. But the real impact of his visit might be felt less by the capital’s celebrity-starved journalists and more by the polar bears.

Under a new plan for the Arctic — the “shared Arctic leadership model” — the United States and Canada have pledged to work with indigenous groups to make science-based decisions. The plan seeks to protect the fragile Arctic environment, support resilient communities, and build a sustainable economy.

The Arctic is considered ground zero for climate change. With a fragile, often frozen ecosystem, changes in global temperatures — and the accompanying disruptions — can be magnified. Melting glaciers contribute to rising sea levels, while exposing carbon reserves that simply increase the speed of climate change.

Meanwhile, the animals that live in the Arctic are facing food shortages and other habitat changes. Communities in the Arctic have already had to relocate — Yup’ik Eskimo community in Alaska, a state that is warming twice as fast as the rest of the country, began moving their village last year.

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Settlement Gives Utility The Go-Ahead To Dump Coal Ash Wastewater Into Virginia Rivers

Posted by on Mar 10, 2016 @ 2:04 am in Conservation | 0 comments

A utility company that will legally dispose of coal ash water in two Virginia waterways agreed to treat waste going into the James River to a more stringent standard than the state required, though legal appeals to the controversial plan remain.

The settlement agreement between Dominion Virginia Power and the James River Association comes a day after the company reached a similar deal with Prince William County regarding Quantico Creek, a tributary of the Potomac River located within its borders. Quantico Creek and James River will start receiving discharges as early as April.

Two months ago, the Virginia Water Control Board issued permits allowing Dominion to drain coal ash water into Quantico Creek and the James River in southeastern Virginia, as Dominion follows an EPA mandate to close its coal ash ponds. That entails treating and draining the less-polluted top water from coal ash ponds at the Possum Point power plant by Quantico Creek, and the Bremo Bluff power plant by the James River. In total, Dominion will close 11 coal ash ponds across the state.

Environmentalists have noted that similar permits in North Carolina, which suffered a massive coal ash spill in 2014, are much more stringent and point to the industry’s capacity to do better.

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Prescribed Burn Planned for Grandfather Ranger District

Posted by on Mar 8, 2016 @ 4:16 am in Conservation | 0 comments

The U.S. Forest Service plans to conduct a 3,100-acre prescribed burn in the Grandfather Ranger District, Pisgah National Forest, North Carolina, starting on Tuesday, March 8, 2016 through Thursday March 10, 2016. The agency will conduct the three-day burn at Roses Mountain, north of Morganton, N.C. and south of Table Rock. The objectives of the burn are fuel reduction and habitat restoration.

The Forest Service is conducting the burn as part of the Grandfather Restoration Project, an 8-year project designed to restore 40,000 acres of the Grandfather Ranger District. The project is restoring fire-adapted ecosystems by enhancing conditions for a variety of native plants and wildlife. The Grandfather Restoration Project also works on controlling non-native species, restoring watersheds, and protecting hemlocks against hemlock woolly adelgids.

Operations will begin Tuesday afternoon and last through Thursday afternoon. The public can expect to see smoke in the area through Friday. Smoke may be visible from Highway 181. The Mountains to Sea Trail from Steels Creek to New Gingercake will be closed during operations. Roses Creek Rd (FS 210) will also be closed.

The safety of the public and firefighters is the highest priority during a prescribed burn. The public is asked to heed signs posted at trailheads and roads and to stay away from burn areas and closed roads and trails.

The NC Forest Service, The Nature Conservancy, North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, North Carolina Department of Transportation, and Burke County Emergency Management are assisting in the prescribed burn.