Conservation & Environment

Israel Hit With Massive 600,000 Gallon Oil Spill

Posted by on Dec 4, 2014 @ 5:49 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

A nature reserve has been flooded with oil and more than 80 people have been hospitalized after exposure to toxic fumes after approximately 600,000 gallons of crude oil spilled from a pipeline in southern Israel on Wednesday, December 3, 2014.

The massive spill, which resulted from a breach in the 153-mile Trans-Israel pipeline, has been described as “one of the gravest pollution events in the country’s history.” That’s according to Israel Environmental Protection Ministry official Guy Samet, who also said the spill could take months, even years, to fully clean up.

The breach and subsequent spill took place in the desert near Eilat, a southern Israel city with a population of about 50,000 people. Though the city itself is not said to be in immediate danger from the spill, the now-4.3 mile river of oil is reportedly making its way toward the Jordanian border, where fumes from the spill have already been detected.

The Israel Ministry of Environmental Protection is warning people to stay away from the spill, noting that oil “can be a health concern,” contaminating land and releasing hazardous gas.

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Israel Oil Spill Four Times Worse Than Initially Thought

Update: The company responsible for what many are calling Israel’s worst-ever environmental disaster has admitted that the amount of oil it spilled in the Arava desert is about four times larger than it initially estimated, Haaretz reported.

In a new report to Israel’s Environmental Protection Ministry, the Eilat Ashkelon Pipeline Company said that 5 million liters, or 1.3 million gallons of crude oil spilled from the southern tip of the 153-mile Trans-Israel pipeline last Thursday night. The company’s first estimate was that 1 million liters, or about 260,000 gallons of oil had spilled. It quickly raised its estimate to around 600,000 gallons on Friday.

According to Haaretz, the new figures raise questions about the company’s initial assurances that it had stopped the flow of oil from the pipeline as soon as the leak was found. In response, Israel’s state Comptroller Yosef Shapira has reportedly started an investigation, as has the Environmental Protection Ministry’s “Green Police.”

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Congress poised to approve new parks and wilderness bills

Posted by on Dec 4, 2014 @ 12:41 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

Congress is on the verge of passing a slew of public-lands bills. The lands provisions are tucked into the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act pending in the House. That chamber is expected to vote on the defense policy bill this week, with the Senate taking it up next week.

The legislation is studded with new national parks, wilderness areas and heritage sites championed by congressional leaders and key lawmakers from both parties. If passed, it would be the first batch of lands-protection bills approved since 2009 and the most significant expansion of the national parks system in decades.

Wilderness and wild and scenic designations are the toughest forms of protection for public lands and waters. The former prohibits such things as roads, commercial development and mountain bikes; the latter bans dams and other water projects.

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Denmark plans to be off coal by 2025 and free of all fossil fuels by 2050

Posted by on Dec 2, 2014 @ 5:25 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

Denmark plans to be off coal by 2025 and free of all fossil fuels by 2050

Danes use more wind power per capita than anyone else in the world, half of Copenhagen gets around by bike, and they’re making a fortune by supplying three out of four of the world’s offshore wind turbines. Plus – really great pastries!

To review, Denmark is that little country on top of Germany, otherwise surrounded by water. To the east is the Baltic Sea, to the west the North Sea; Norway lies across a channel called the Skagerrak to the northwest, and Sweden across the Kattegat to the northeast. The takeaway: lots of water, much of it fairly shallow, and lots of wind.

Aside from sea and wind, Denmark doesn’t have much in the way of natural resources, but Danes are clever about working with what they have. Over the centuries, they used their proximity to some of Europe’s most important sea lanes to become a major maritime power.

Danes were also quick to realize the potential of wind power. As early as the 1970s, they were investing in small community wind farms, attracted by novelty and a desire for self-sufficiency.

Now there are 4,737 onshore turbines in this country the size of Maryland, and 519 more offshore. Wind accounts for more than a third of national electricity consumption; Danes use more wind power per capita than any other nation.

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Should Grizzlies Be Restored to the North Cascades?

Posted by on Dec 2, 2014 @ 9:13 am in Conservation | 0 comments

The grizzly bear looms large in the traditions of Pacific Northwest Indians, a creature both revered and almost human. It was a fixture of the natural world: a powerful predator and a source of food and stories.

Today the grizzlies of the Northwest exist mostly in legend. The few fleeting glimpses in the woods are so rare, some suspect there are no bears left in the jagged spine of the Cascade Mountains that splits Washington State.

That, however, might soon change. The federal government is starting down a road that could lead to setting the massive animals loose in North Cascades National Park. If so, it would be the first reintroduction of grizzly bears, a federally protected species—and the subject of many a backpacker’s bad dreams.

“If all things go well, bears on the ground three or four years from now,” says Mitch Friedman, executive director for Conservation Northwest, a Washington State-based environmental group and a chief proponent of bear reintroduction.

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More Than Just Parks | Smoky Mountains

Posted by on Dec 1, 2014 @ 6:34 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

Jim and Will Pattiz are media professionals who have a passion for our national parks. Their More than Just Parks plan is to create short films for each of the 59 US National Parks to give people a completely unique viewing experience. They hope that this will encourage folks to get out there and have a one-of-a-kind experience of their own in our national parks. It is also their hope that these videos can help build a greater awareness for all of the breathtaking natural wonders protected by our national parks system.

MTJP | Smoky Mountains is a visually stunning journey through Great Smoky Mountain National Park during peak fall color. They chose the Smokies as their second park because of it’s extraordinary display of fall colors, it’s incredibly diverse wildlife population, and it’s importance as the most visited national park in the country.


Climate Change Poses Deadly Threat To Elderly

Posted by on Dec 1, 2014 @ 5:31 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

Elderly populations could be ten times more at risk of being exposed to a heat wave in 2090 than they are now if climate change isn’t abated, according to a new report.

The report, published by the U.K.’s Royal Society, looked at the worldwide population’s vulnerability to extreme weather events as climate change progresses, focusing specifically on the elderly. In addition to its findings on heat waves, the report found that by 2090, flood exposure events — which the report defines as the size of the vulnerable population multiplied by the frequency of the extreme weather event — will increase by about one billion per year, and drought exposure events will increase by about 600 million per year.

The world’s elderly population is projected to rise over the next several decades — a concerning trend when coupled with climate change projections, since the elderly are among the most vulnerable to climate change impacts. A September 2003 heatwave in France claimed nearly 15,000 lives — most of them elderly. Elderly people, especially if they live alone, may not be able to move to cooler locations during heat waves, and those suffering from dementia or mental illness may not be able to properly care for themselves.

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Citizen voices protected the national forest

Posted by on Nov 30, 2014 @ 9:20 am in Conservation | 1 comment

Living next door to the 1.1-million acre George Washington National Forest, along the mountainous Virginia/West Virginia border, has both pros and cons.

Pros are clean air and water, many more tree neighbors than people, and the right of every citizen to tell the government how to manage this beautiful public forest. Cons are tourists, forest fires and the right of every corporation to tell the government how to manage this bountiful public forest.

For the last three years, the management plan for the forest has been delayed as corporate and citizen voices made a discordant buzz. Yet the forest service has managed to make something harmonious out of the final plan that was released on Nov. 18, 2014.

“The Forest Service listened to local concerns and made most of the forest unavailable for future gas and oil leasing in the new plan,” said Sarah Francisco of the Southern Environmental Law Center. “Only where minerals rights are not owned by the government, on scattered lands that comprise well under 20 percent of the GWNF, could any fracking take place. The public is much better served by protecting these natural systems that we all depend on for so many essential resources.”

National forests are a modern version of the commons, the most ancient, universal form of land tenure, and one that was traditional in these Appalachian Mountains. As a commons, the national forest benefits everyone, even people who have never heard of it.

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Move over big power – the micropower revolution is here

Posted by on Nov 29, 2014 @ 9:06 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Small scale renewables are – almost un-noticed by policy makers – providing a quarter of the world’s electricity, up from 10% in 2000. Forget fracking and nuclear – this is the real energy revolution that’s under way, and it’s cutting big fossil fuel and centralised power grids out of the picture, while reducing emissions and delivering energy security and resilience.

There is no shortage of shouting and dire warnings about the state of the climate and our need to phase out fossil fuels. But there is a more silent revolution happening too – in micropower.

Small-scale electricity generation is slowly replacing big fossil-fuel driven power plants, which are currently the world’s single largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions.

These micro-electricity producers are relatively small scale, inexpensive, and most importantly, produce little to no carbon emissions. Last year micropower contributed to around a quarter of the world’s electricity, up from 10% in 2000.

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New book chronicles Pisgah’s history

Posted by on Nov 27, 2014 @ 9:23 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Author and naturalist Marci Spencer treks through the human, political and natural history that has formed Pisgah National Forest with her new book: Pisgah National Forest: A History.

Since the designation of 80,000 acres as America’s first forestry school and later as the heart of the East’s first national forest, Pisgah National Forest has grown to include 500,000 acres, a vast history and breathtaking natural scenery.

When George Vanderbilt constructed the Biltmore House in Asheville, NC, he hired forester Gifford Pinchot and, later, Dr. Carl A. Schenck to manage his forests. Over 80,000 of his woodland acres became the home of America’s first forestry school and the heart of the East’s first national forest formed under the Weeks Act.

Now comprising more than 500,000 acres, Pisgah National Forest holds a vast history and breathtaking natural scenery. The forest sits in the heart of the southern Appalachians and includes Linville Gorge, Catawba Falls, Wilson Creek Wild and Scenic River, Roan Mountain, Max Patch, Shining Rock Wilderness and Mount Pisgah.


House hunting for elk: Conservation project seeks to attract elk, tourism

Posted by on Nov 27, 2014 @ 9:03 am in Conservation | 0 comments

House hunting for elk: Conservation project seeks to attract elk, tourism

Things have gone well for the Smokies elk, as they’ve risen from a reintroduction experiment to an established population. But meanwhile, they’ve outgrown Great Smoky Mountains National Park, spilling over into private lands to find pasture on agricultural fields not intended as gifts to the elk. A land protection project by The Conservation Fund seeks to provide some more suitable places for the elk to go.

“The reason the elk have come out of the park is there are now more elk than there is habitat to sustain them, so the [N.C.] Wildlife [Resources] Commission is going to need to work to create some habitat that both elk and people will enjoy,” said Bill Holman, state director of The Conservation Fund.

In September, The Conservation Fund saw its first major victory in pursuit of that goal when it bought the 561-acre Sheepback Mountain Property, north of Maggie Valley and adjacent to the national park, for about $1.7 million.

The final tract, however, will probably be a good bit more than 561 acres, likely closer to 2,000. Though no contracts have yet been signed, negotiations are wrapping up for The Conservation Fund’s purchase of three other properties. The three properties touch each other but not the Sheepback Mountain property. However, all four are tied together by their borders with Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

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How To Talk To Your Climate Denier Uncle This Thanksgiving

Posted by on Nov 27, 2014 @ 12:46 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Everyone likes to talk about the weather. It affects all of us, it’s always happening, and it’s uncontroversial — not like third rails of polite company such as politics, religion, or money. So when you spend the holidays with extended family, one of your relatives who denies the reality of climate science may see a little snow as an easy opportunity try to land a non-political jab about climate change. Or global warming. Whatever those hippies are calling it these days.

It’s easy to get blindsided, so here are some key points to help everyone stick to the facts, and ensure you don’t spend the holidays caught in a morass of climate denial just because it’s snowing.

If you’re like most Americans, you probably spend most Thanksgivings with family, crowded around a dinner table with turkey, potatoes, and pie. You probably spend a portion of that dinner talking about the politics of climate change with your right-wing uncle.

He knows climate change is real. But he also thinks carbon emissions represent human prosperity, and he hates the idea of giving government money to solar panel makers or wind farms. Most of all, he despises the Environmental Protection Agency, which he thinks is the ultimate symbol of big government imposing unrealistic regulations that will financially cripple the industries they affect.

Contrary to what you may believe, you can achieve a productive conservation on this topic this Thanksgiving without ruining the entire holiday. Here’s how to talk to your uncle about the benefits of climate change action, and why the principles can actually align with his world view.


Flooding Forces Closure Of Mount Rainier National Park

Posted by on Nov 25, 2014 @ 4:46 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

Flooding spawned by heavy rains forced the closure of Mount Rainier National Park in Washington state on Tuesday, with high flows of Kautz Creek prompting the evacuation of park employees and guests at the National Park Inn at Longmire.

Park officials could not immediately be reached to say how many employees and guests were being moved out of the park, or to comment on whether the entrance road was in danger of being washed out. A post on the park’s Twitter feed said some culverts were clogged by debris.

Road construction this summer focused on installing a culvert to funnel a branch of Tahoma Creek beneath the road that runs from the park’s Nisqually Entrance to Longmire and beyond.



Comments Sought on Wilderness and Other Proposals by Jan. 5

Posted by on Nov 24, 2014 @ 5:17 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

The U.S. Forest Service National Forests in North Carolina is seeking public input on the draft proposals presented at public meetings this fall. Comments will be most helpful if received by Jan. 5, 2015.

In addition, the agency has posted its new online collaborative tool where people can post comments on potential additions to wilderness as part of revision of the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests management plan. Click here to learn more about the potential wilderness inventory and evaluation process.

The Forest Service will use public input received this fall and early winter to develop desired conditions, standards, guidelines and objectives, and refine the management areas. The agency will examine different alternatives for the management plan, and document the analysis in the draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) which will be available to the public around June 2015. The Forest Service will then hold meetings, and will give the public the opportunity to comment on the draft EIS and alternatives.

The Plan revision web page is


U.S. Fish And Wildlife Service Says Grey Wolf Spotted On North Rim Of Grand Canyon National Park Is Gray Wolf

Posted by on Nov 22, 2014 @ 8:48 am in Conservation | 0 comments

A female gray wolf that dispersed from the Rocky Mountains, presumably in search of a mate and new territory, has been roaming the North Rim of Grand Canyon National Park, according to a DNA analysis performed for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The confirmation came from analysis on a scat sample conducted by the University of Idaho’s Laboratory for Ecological, Evolutionary and Conservation Genetics. The lab now will turn to comparing that DNA to DNA samples taken from other female Rocky Mountain gray wolves to see if it can pinpoint where the North Rim wolf came from.

“The DNA results indicate this wolf traveled at least 450 miles from an area in the northern Rocky Mountains to northern Arizona,” Benjamin Tuggle, the Fish and Wildlife Service’s Southwest regional director, said in a release. “Wolves, particularly young wolves, can be quite nomadic dispersing great distances across the landscape. Such behavior is not unusual for juveniles as they travel to find food or another mate.”

“Because gray wolves are still federally protected in the majority of the continental United States, this wolf was able to safely migrate over 450 miles through states like Colorado to seek out some of her ancestors’ most favored habitat.”

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1,200 Trees Planted at Bamboo Gap North Carolina

Posted by on Nov 21, 2014 @ 7:43 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

Working alongside staff of the National Park Service – Blue Ridge Parkway, children, youth and adults from several communities in western North Carolina planted 700 white pine seedlings and a mix of 500 hardwood seedlings. The event was organized by the High Country and Northern Highlands Chapters of FRIENDS of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

“The views are the number one reason visitors come to the Blue Ridge Parkway. When communities come together like they have today, with volunteers rolling up their sleeves and planting over 1,200 trees, together we are not only preserving the beauty of the Parkway, we’re also protecting the economic interests of those communities that benefit from the tourism,” said FRIENDS Executive Director Susan Mills. “It was great to see so many young people participating and engaging with their national park. They will always remember this day and will be able to come back year after year and see the trees they planted.”

Once the trees have matured, they will provide a buffer to protect the Parkway views from housing developments in the Bamboo Gap area near milepost 285. Restoring the ecological buffer zone between the Parkway and commercial and residential development is a signature piece of FRIENDS’ Save Parkway Views Program.


How EPA Could Cut National Methane Leaks Almost In Half

Posted by on Nov 21, 2014 @ 8:36 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Methane is the primary component of natural gas. As the rise of hydraulic fracturing has lead to a boom in natural gas (as well as oil) production in North America, it’s also become apparent that methane has a tendency to leak into the atmosphere at various points in the industry’s infrastructure. That’s a problem, because methane is an extremely potent greenhouse gas. It traps 36 times more heat than an equivalent amount of carbon dioxide overall, and in its first 20 years in the atmosphere it can trap 87 times more.

According to the report — co-written by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the Sierra Club and the Clean Air Task Force — specific new regulations could reduce these emissions by 42 to 48 percent, and thus prevent the release of anywhere from 3.2 to 3.7 million metric tons of methane per year.

The rules recommended by the report would be implemented by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and would be aimed at improving leak detection and repair, cleaning up older equipment, and curbing the industry’s habit of sometimes intentionally releasing the gas for various reasons.

The report estimates these new rules would cost the industry one to one and a half percent of its annual revenue. Part of that low cost is because, by capturing methane that would otherwise have leaked, the industry will actually have more product to sell: enough natural gas to heat 6.5 million homes in the United States, according to the analysis.

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New Partnership With Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Protects Natural and Cultural Resources

Posted by on Nov 20, 2014 @ 5:27 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

New Partnership With Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Protects Natural and Cultural Resources

Climate change is upon us, and communities who use wild-harvested native plants for food, medicine, and cultural practices are identifying ways to protect their natural and cultural resources.

The need to prepare for further climate change in the future and mitigate its effects on natural resources in the Southern Appalachian region has led to a new partnership between the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, the U.S. Forest Service Southern Research Station, North Carolina Arboretum Germplasm Repository, and the U.S. Geological Survey.

Because American Indian communities are often place-based and natural-resource dependent, the impacts of changing climate and landscape patterns could limit their ability to gather and use resources as a community.

The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians has developed a wealth of ethnobotanical knowledge over many generations. Protecting this cultural heritage – while recognizing that tribal knowledge is proprietary – is one of the goals of the partnership. The partners are also interested in integrating western and traditional ecological knowledge, and recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding to establish a framework for sharing information, monitoring, research, and resource management planning.

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Big Bend National Park Vandal Easily Tracked Through Photos, GPS Coordinates

Posted by on Nov 20, 2014 @ 2:59 am in Conservation | 0 comments

On November 7th, rangers were contacted by a concerned citizen who informed them of a solo motorcycle adventurer’s blog. The blog detailed the journeys of the rider, up to and including photos which had been taken in the park that day.

These photos included images of the rider’s motorcycle (and its license plate) and revealed that the rider had stayed at the Cottonwood Campground for two nights. Registration records provided his name, mailing address, and phone number. The photos also showed the rider vandalizing a historic structure, by signing his name and the date on the structure.

Through their investigation, rangers found a link to the rider’s active SPOT device, which provided the rider’s exact location. Using this information, rangers drove up to where the rider was sitting in the local town of Terlingua.

When they approached the rider, he confessed: “I know what this is about and I am guilty.”



Once Thought Extinct, North America’s Rarest Mammal May Bounce Back

Posted by on Nov 19, 2014 @ 9:21 am in Conservation | 0 comments

The black-footed ferret, North America’s rarest mammal, is returning to the western prairie 35 years after being declared extinct. The comeback trail began in 1981, when a ranch dog with a dead ferret in its mouth led to the rediscovery of a remnant population near Meeteetse in northwestern Wyoming.

The last 18 survivors of that population formed the seed stock for a captive-breeding program that reintroduced the species to its former range at 25 sites from southernmost Canada to northern Mexico. Yet numbers in the wild remain low—fewer than 500, according to Peter Gober, recovery coordinator at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Black-Footed Ferret Conservation Center in Carr, Colorado.

A major hurdle is disease, particularly sylvatic plague, a flea-borne infection that appeared in North America in the early 1900s. Because the disease is non-native, the black-footed ferret—a member of the weasel family—has no natural resistance; neither does its prey, the prairie dog.

Repopulating ferrets over a wide range of their old territory helps manage the risk of disease, but that requires access to suitable land with plenty of prairie dogs. “There’s a lot of raw habitat out there, but it’s degraded,” Gober says. Such habitat is typically found on livestock ranches, where historically prairie dogs haven’t been welcome. Because they compete with cattle for grass.

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California salmon run flounders as rivers run warmer and lower

Posted by on Nov 19, 2014 @ 2:49 am in Conservation | 0 comments

The annual autumn migration of Chinook salmon has been delayed by warmer water temperatures and slow-flowing streams in parts of California as the state’s three-year drought drags on, hatchery officials have said.

Cool November temperatures usually bring thousands of adult salmon from the Pacific Ocean into streams and rivers to spawn. But this year fish were slow to migrate up the American River to the state’s hatchery near Sacramento, said William Cox, manager of the fish production and distribution program at the California fish and wildlife department.

“They haven’t come into the river at the same time that they would normally,” Cox said. Wildlife researchers check the strength of the fall salmon run by going out to creeks and rivers and counting them.

The slow start to the salmon run did not mean that the fish were in danger, or that spawning would be reduced this year, Cox said. There were signs of more salmon starting to make the trek upstream, and that could mean that the run was simply starting later, with the water cooling down and fall rains swelling the river.

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