Conservation & Environment

Shenandoah: The hemlock’s last stand

Posted by on Jul 13, 2016 @ 7:12 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

Shenandoah is haunted by ghosts.

Just 15 years ago, the eastern hemlock tree, the mighty Redwood of the East, was a scenic highlight of Virginia’s Skyline Drive, creating the shady groves that put Shenandoah National Park on the conservation map.

Now 95% of them are dead, rotting on the forest floor or still standing above the canopy as gray ghosts, with a few scattered survivors living on borrowed time as their attackers literally suck the life out of them. Some of these trees were up to 500 years old.

When President Herbert Hoover and his wife, Lou Henry, needed a place to escape Washington during the Great Depression, they picked a spot in a hemlock grove along the trout-filled headwaters of the Rapidan River. Workers building the President’s cabin were explicitly ordered to incorporate an old hemlock rather than chop it down.

“Where you found hemlocks, you found particularly beautiful areas with unique ecosystems, shaded streams with brook trout and specific songbirds that needed that habitat.”

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The Appalachian Ranger District Will Hold a Public Meeting to Discuss The “Twelve Mile” Project

Posted by on Jul 12, 2016 @ 5:52 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

The Appalachian Ranger District of the Pisgah National Forest will hold a public meeting on July 14 from 2-5 p.m. at the North Carolina Arboretum to learn the public interests and issues related to a developing proposal for the “Twelve Mile” project.

The proposed area for the project is the southwestern most part of the Appalachian Ranger District adjacent to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Interstate 40. This is the Long Arm Mountain and Hurricane Mountain area in Haywood County, NC.

The purpose of the project is to implement Nantahala and Pisgah National Forest Land and Resource Management Plan (Forest Plan) direction and the Management Area objectives within the planning area boundary.

Additional focus areas for the project may include:

  1. Creating a range of habitat conditions appropriate for an Elk population expanding from Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
  2. Providing a sustainable output of timber products to support local economies.
  3. Emphasizing ecological restoration.
  4. Enhancing recreational opportunities. Other opportunities may be identified through the collaborative planning effort.

The intent of this initial meeting is to bring together potential partners that could provide additional expertise, data, and support to the Forest Service to develop a successful project that incorporates a variety of values and public perspectives.This group will work together with the public in defining the purpose and need of this project, the project area boundary, assessment needs, and data requirements.

The North Carolina Arboretum is located at 100 Frederick Law Olmsted Way, Asheville, NC. For additional information, please contact Project Lead Jason Herron at jherron@fs.fed.us or call the Appalachian Ranger District at 828-689-9694.

 

The Otherworldly Beauty of Badlands National Park

Posted by on Jul 10, 2016 @ 3:00 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

The land is big and mostly flat. There are endless fields of corn, wheat and soybeans. Colors of green and gold paint the earth for miles.

But as you travel west, the farmland gives way to wild grasses. It grows tall here under a huge blue sky. Farther on, however, the grass becomes much shorter. A strong dry wind blows continuously from the west.

Suddenly, the land is torn and rocky, dry and dusty. The green is gone. Now you are surrounded by light reds and browns. Purple and gold hues can be seen as well. All around are broken, disorganized forms. There are sharp walls of rocks, and hills and valleys of all sizes and shapes.

Hundreds of thousands of years ago, this whole area was grassland. Then forces of nature destroyed the grass in some parts. Water and ice cut into the surface of the Earth, splitting open some of its oldest rocks. Nature beat at the rocks, wearing them away.

The result is one of the strangest sights, a place of otherworldly beauty. Welcome to Badlands National Park in the state of South Dakota.

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Historic Victory: 4 Teenagers Win in Massachusetts Climate Change Lawsuit

Posted by on Jul 9, 2016 @ 10:43 am in Conservation | 0 comments

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court found in favor of four youth plaintiffs in a critical climate change case.

In 2012, hundreds of youth petitioned the DEP asking the agency to comply with the Global Warming Solutions Act (GWSA) and adopt rules reducing the state’s greenhouse gas emissions, but that petition was denied. As a result of DEP’s reluctance to comply with the GWSA, youth filed this case arguing that the DEP failed to promulgate the regulations required by Section 3(d) of the GWSA establishing declining annual levels of greenhouse gas emissions.

The court found that the DEP was not complying with its legal obligation to reduce the state’s greenhouse gas emissions and ordered the agency to “promulgate regulations that address multiple sources or categories of sources of greenhouse gas emissions, impose a limit on emissions that may be released … and set limits that decline on an annual basis.”

“This is an historic victory for young generations advocating for changes to be made by government. The global climate change crisis is a threat to the well being of humanity, and to my generation, that has been ignored for too long,” youth plaintiff Shamus Miller, age 17, said.

“Today, the Massachusetts Supreme Court has recognized the scope and urgency of that threat and acknowledges the need for immediate action to help slow the progression of climate change. There is much more to be done both nationally and internationally but this victory is a step in the right direction and I hope that future efforts have similar success.”

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Piles of Dirty Secrets Behind a Model ‘Clean Coal’ Project

Posted by on Jul 7, 2016 @ 6:42 am in Conservation | 0 comments

The fortress of steel and concrete towering above the pine forest here is a first-of-its-kind power plant that was supposed to prove that “clean coal” was not an oxymoron — that it was possible to produce electricity from coal in a way that emits far less pollution, and to turn a profit while doing so.

The plant was supposed to be a model for future power plants to help slow the dangerous effects of global warming. The project was hailed as a way to bring thousands of jobs to Mississippi, the nation’s poorest state, and to extend a lifeline to the dying coal industry.

The sense of hope is fading fast, however. The Kemper coal plant is more than two years behind schedule and more than $4 billion over its initial budget, $2.4 billion, and it is still not operational.

The plant and its owner, Southern Company, are the focus of a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation, and ratepayers, alleging fraud, are suing the company. Members of Congress have described the project as more boondoggle than boon. The mismanagement is particularly egregious, they say, given the urgent need to rein in the largest source of dangerous emissions around the world: coal plants.

The importance of this technology grows, as well, after President Obama said last week that the United States would join Canada and Mexico in pledging to reach a shared goal of generating 50 percent of North America’s electricity from zero-carbon sources by 2025, up from 37 percent today, with a power mix that includes wind, solar, hydropower, nuclear energy and coal or gas power paired with carbon capture technology.

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Tenacious, mysterious and maybe endangered — a wolverine roams the West

Posted by on Jul 5, 2016 @ 10:21 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Four days before Christmas in 2008, a blur of brown fur scrambled along the snowy Continental Divide in Wyoming. The terrain and the conditions were brutal, food scarce. The bait a biologist placed in a wooden trap proved irresistible.

As soon as the creature crawled in, a signal alerted researchers miles away. They rode a snowmobile deep into the mountains, near Togwotee Pass, at an elevation of 9,380 feet. The temperature was 10 degrees.

Once there, the researchers confirmed the catch, summoned a veterinarian and sedated the animal with a dart. The vet made an incision in its abdomen and implanted an electronic transmitter.

Over time, that transmitter would help tell the story of a singularly tenacious representative of one of the West’s most elusive animals: the wolverine. Yet it also would demonstrate the limits of technology in solving the mysteries of the wild.

While biologists and bureaucrats debated whether to protect wolverines under federal law, arguing over climate change and its effect on a species believed to number fewer than 300 in the contiguous United States, the animal captured near Togwotee Pass would blaze an audacious and ultimately untraceable trail. Along the way, it made a cameo appearance in a court case that may help shape the fate of its species.

“If you had to put your finger on the one most interesting wolverine during our whole study,” said Bob Inman, the wildlife biologist who led the research project, “that was it.”

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A Magical Mycology Tapestry

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

A Magical Mycology Tapestry

Mushrooms weave a network of ecology, medicine, food, and farming.

Encountering a mushroom in the forest provides a glimpse to a web that is largely unseen, underground. The mushroom is a fruiting body that emerges from a network of branching mycelium, a cellular structure interwoven in soil. This mass thrives by connecting to other organisms, especially the roots of trees and plants.

The Appalachian mountains boast a wide diversity of fungi, the collective term for mushroom and mycelium. Fungi reach their highest diversity in the southern part of the mountain range, according to the Highlander Biological Center, and scientists estimate that only 2,300 of as many as 20,000 species have been identified there.

Often, a mushroom patch represents a single organism. The subterranean net of mycelium can be large and long-lived, and “the mushrooms are just ephemeral, passing creatures,” says Dr. John Walker, a mycology professor at Appalachian State University. Walker studies fungi and their ecological relationship to roots.

Nearly 90 percent of plants form a special relationship to fungi in natural areas. One type of fungi, called mycorrhizae, attach to plant roots, providing food and water to the plants and receiving sugars in return. This symbiosis connects an ecosystem’s extensive root and mycelium networks, and it can actually affect plant ecology in a habitat, such as a rhododendron thicket.

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The Cactus Smuggler: Are Desert Plants Being Loved to Extinction?

Posted by on Jul 4, 2016 @ 11:42 am in Conservation | 0 comments

The smugglers carried their tiny prizes tucked away in suitcases of jalapenos and dirty laundry. The spicy fruit was supposed to deflect inspections. Perhaps they thought the dirty laundry would do the same.

Another rare item sat nestled in a new box of Uncle Ben’s Rice. Russians had a hard time finding Uncle Ben’s Rice back home, says Nicholas Chavez, Special Agent in charge of the Southwest Region for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

From the Los Angeles airport, the six Russian men weren’t carrying precious art or poached ivory. They were smuggling cacti stolen from National Parks and Indian Reservations. Some of the cacti they had were labeled appendix two, which means they aren’t currently “threatened with extinction but may become so unless trade is closely controlled,” according to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.

The men had reportedly been looking for the rarest and most endangered plants, the appendix one cacti, but ultimately couldn’t find them despite GPS coordinates pinpointing exact locations.

“They knew they were there before,” Chavez says. “It means they collected or over collected it, and the collectors have taken it completely out of the wild.” The case, which moved partially through federal courts in Los Angeles in 2015, and is still ongoing today, helps illuminate a greater problem with North America’s public lands, flora and fauna.

A recent study showed more than 30 percent of the world’s cacti are threatened or endangered, and many of those because of illegal collecting.

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Overlooked Wildlife Experiences in Our National Parks

Posted by on Jul 4, 2016 @ 7:40 am in Conservation | 1 comment

Think of wildlife in U.S. national parks, and certain images pop to mind: Bears. Bison. Elk. Wolves.

All spectacular critters, to be sure. But the National Park Service protects a wide range of wildlife, large and small. Some of these species are cryptic or elusive. But other smaller denizens offer fascinating viewing opportunities.

For example, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is known as “The Salamander Capital of the World.” More visitors come to this national park than any other, but most will miss these noted biological treasures: salamanders. Great Smoky Mountains is home to dozens of species of these amphibians.

The area is particularly important for lungless salamanders. As their name implies, they lack lungs – they “breathe” through tiny blood vessels and linings of their nose and throat. They are especially diverse in the Smokies.

Want to go salamander spotting? The best bet is to hike as far as you can away from the crowds. Please don’t disturb rocks or vegetation, but watch quietly on wet, spring days when the creatures are most active. If you just sit still near wet rocks, they will almost come to you.

More wildlife here…

 

New North Carolina Bill Allows Duke Energy To Dodge Coal Ash Cleanup Again

Posted by on Jul 2, 2016 @ 7:41 am in Conservation | 0 comments

New North Carolina Bill Allows Duke Energy To Dodge Coal Ash Cleanup Again

While residents and environmentalists urge Duke Energy to clean up its coal ash pits, North Carolina’s biggest utility — and the governor’s former workplace — just got another pass from the legislature.

Duke will likely not have to clean up seven of its unlined coal ash pits, where the byproduct of coal-fired power plants is stored. Instead, the company can opt to simply fortify its dams and pipe drinking water to nearby residents. The chemicals and heavy metals in coal ash, which include mercury and arsenic, can leach into local water supplies, especially since it is usually mixed with water into a slurry.

Under legislation passed shortly after the Dan River spill, the company would have been required to clean up all its storage sites. But new, less demanding legislation passed the House on Thursday evening and is expected to be signed by Gov. Pat McCrory (R), who worked at Duke for 28 years before entering politics.

“What has been removed from this bill because it is fatal to Duke’s plans is serious emphasis on protecting the state’s water supplies,” Frank Holleman, a senior attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center said. He pointed out that agreeing to pipe water to local communities without removing the coal ash pits was tantamount to Duke acknowledging that it has already or is likely to contaminate ground water.

Duke has already been convicted under the Clean Water Act of criminally failing to maintain equipment and unlawfully discharging coal ash and coal ash wastewater. “This legislature has adopted a wide-ranging change in a North Carolina environmental law at the request of a confessed environmental criminal,” Holleman pointed out.

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Our Wild

Posted by on Jul 1, 2016 @ 10:41 am in Conservation | 1 comment

Our Wild

The Wilderness Society’s mission is to protect wilderness and inspire Americans to care for our wild places. They contribute to better protection, stewardship and restoration of our public lands, preserving our rich natural legacy for current and future generations.

They are a leading American conservation organization working to protect our nation’s shared wildlands. From well-known icons to hidden gems, protected wildlands give us:

  • Clean air and water,
  • Abundant wildlife,
  • Havens for recreation, solitude and learning,
  • Important sources of renewable energy,
  • Vital natural resources that must be managed wisely, and
  • A foundation for a healthy planet.

The Wilderness Society protects the places you care about. They are spread across the US passionately believing that public lands are the best expression of what it is to be an American. Since 1935, they’ve led the effort to protect 109 million acres of wilderness in 44 states, garnering more than 700,000 supporters along the way. They have been at the forefront of nearly every major public lands victory.

Our wild…

 

National Parks Are Worth $92 Billion to Americans

Posted by on Jul 1, 2016 @ 7:26 am in Conservation | 0 comments

A day at a national park with your family and friends might be priceless to you, but these natural treasures have a quantifiable value to the U.S. government: $92 billion, according to a new report from the National Park Foundation. To put that in perspective, that’s greater than the annual GDP of Ukraine or Sri Lanka, which are $90.52 billion and $82.1 billion, respectively.

Of the park’s $92 billion value, $62 billion is the estimated value that Americans place simply on knowing that the protected lands, waters and historic sites exist and will be available for future generations. The remainder of the value, $30 billion, is derived from the parks service’s educational programs aimed at conservation and stewardship of historical sites.

Since the public technically owns the national parks system, the researchers estimated its economic value by calculating how much people would pay to preserve it. They found that the average U.S. household would pay $523.86 in order to prevent the parks system from selling off land. That’s good news for the National Parks Service, which has been struggling to come up with the cash to fund $12 billion in infrastructure improvements.

Luckily, most Americans are willing to back up their love of the National Parks Service with cash. About 80% of survey respondents said they would be willing to pay higher federal taxes to fund the protection and preservation of the national park system, while 14.7% said they don’t benefit directly from National Parks and just 6.2% said the U.S. government should sell off some of the parks.

Cite…

 

This 21-Year-Old May Have Found The Way To Clean Up The Plastic In Our Oceans

Posted by on Jun 29, 2016 @ 7:24 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Boyan Slat was just 16 when he realized he wanted to rid the oceans of plastic. It all happened after he dove into the problem in the most literal way while snorkeling in Greece and finding more drifting plastic than fish swimming.

“I thought, that’s a real problem. How can we come up with a solution for that?” Slat recalled.

Indeed, the problem is real and large. Around eight million metric tons of plastic waste enter the oceans every year, according to a 2015 study. In addition, recent research found so-called garbage patches in every major ocean. Plastic is so pervasive that it’s been found in sea ice, and also inside 50 percent of all species of seabirds, 66 percent of all species of marine mammals, and all species of sea turtles.

“I saw this animation where they used computer models to show that plastic actually moves” through ocean currents, Slat, now 21, said. “And then I thought, why should you move through the ocean if the ocean can move through you.”

Slat, chief executive officer of The Ocean Clean Up, has taken his eureka moment and turned it into a collection system based on floating barriers attached to the sea bed that use the ocean’s energy to gather plastic waste. After obtaining over $2 million through crowdfunding and more from Dutch government financing, Slat unveiled the first prototype last week in the North Sea, just off the coast of Netherlands.

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4 States Struggling to Manage Radioactive Fracking Waste

Posted by on Jun 28, 2016 @ 11:55 am in Conservation | 0 comments

The Marcellus Shale has transformed the Appalachian Basin into an energy juggernaut. Even amid a recent drilling slowdown, regional daily production averages enough natural gas to power more than 200,000 U.S. homes for a year.

But the rise of hydraulic fracturing over the past decade has created another boom: tons of radioactive materials experts call an “orphan” waste stream. No federal agency fully regulates oil and gas drilling byproducts—which include brine, sludge, rock and soiled equipment—leaving tracking and handling to states that may be reluctant to alienate energy interests.

“Nobody can say how much of any type of waste is being produced, what it is and where it’s ending up,” said Nadia Steinzor of the environmental group Earthworks, who co-wrote a report on shale waste.

Geologists have long known soil and rock contain naturally occurring radioactive materials that can become concentrated through activities like fracking, in which sand and chemicals are pumped thousands of feet underground to release oil and gas from tight rock. But concerns about fracking largely have focused on injection wells and seismic activity, with less attention paid to “hot” waste that arrives at landfills and sets off radiation alarms.

The four states in the Marcellus are taking different approaches to the problem; none has it under control. Pennsylvania has increasingly restricted disposal of drilling waste, while West Virginia allows some landfills to take unlimited amounts. Ohio has yet to formalize waste rules, despite starting the process in 2013. New York, which banned fracking, accepts drilling waste with little oversight.

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What Brexit And Trump’s Rise Mean For The Global Community’s Fight Against Climate Change

Posted by on Jun 28, 2016 @ 7:13 am in Conservation | 0 comments

E pluribus unum — out of many, one — has been an official motto of the United States since June 20, 1782. Writ large, it could be the motto for climate action.

There have always been two poles representing how the world might respond to the increasingly painful reality of climate change (or indeed any global scale problem). At one pole is unity driven by our moral sensibility — a concerted national and global effort to address the gravest preventable existential threat to Americans and indeed all humanity. It is embodied in the Pope’s Encyclical from a year ago, a clarion call on the moral necessity of climate action.

At the other pole is disunity driven by self-interest: “Après nous le déluge,” everyone for themselves, the very source of the “tragedy of the commons” that thwarts collective action. It is embodied in Trumpism and Brexit — the vote Britain just made to split from the European Union, driven in large part by scaremongering around the Syrian refugee crisis.

Humanity is now in a race to see whether the forces of unity can beat the forces of disunity. It’s now clear we have at hand the core enabling clean energy technologies to keep total planetary warming below catastrophic levels. What isn’t clear is whether we have the will and the cohesion to deploy those technologies rapidly enough to do so.

The problem from a climate perspective is that while hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees have led to the “world’s largest humanitarian crisis since World War II,” as the European Commission has described it, the numbers of refugees pale in comparison with what the world faces if we don’t avoid catastrophic climate change.

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More Cold Mountain land conserved

Posted by on Jun 27, 2016 @ 4:32 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

More Cold Mountain land conserved

Cold Mountain is a Western North Carolina peak so beloved and romanticized, there are even a best-selling novel, Hollywood movie and microbrew bearing its name.

But even though the 6,030-foot summit is protected as part of the Shining Rock Wilderness of Pisgah National Forest, and the state Cold Mountain Game Lands protect land on the western slopes, large chunks of the iconic mountain remain in private ownership.

Aiming to keep as much as possible of Cold Mountain undeveloped, wild and alive not only in legend but in reality, the Southern Appalachian Highland Conservancy on June 17, 2016 purchased a 162-acre tract of land on the northwestern slope of the mountain, adjoining Pisgah National Forest and the Cold Mountain Game Lands.

This Haywood County land, known as the Dix Creek tract, contains an exceptional variety of forest communities and potential habitat for rare species, according to biologists.

The premium land has been a conservation priority for the SAHC and the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission for 20 years, she said. The SAHC intends to own the tract in the short term and transfer it to the wildlife commission by 2017 to be added to the Cold Mountain Game Lands, when it will be open to the public for hunting, fishing, hiking, bird watching and other recreation.

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4 worst ways climate change is harming wildlands

Posted by on Jun 26, 2016 @ 7:42 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Climate change is devastating wild lands and the wildlife that thrives inside them, according to findings of a government study.

The National Climate Assessment had some alarming findings that have direct impact on our wild lands. Climate change is already affecting some of our most prized natural resources and it’s only getting worse.

The report was written by over 300 scientists, academics and government officials, and is one of the most detailed studies on the current and future impacts of climate change, a global trend supported by 97% of scientists. The entire report is breathtaking in scope and detail, but there are several noteworthy parts that relate to how our wild lands, and the species that inhabit them, are experiencing the changing climate.

  1. Climate change is increasing the vulnerability of our forests.
  2. Permafrost is thawing in many parts of Alaska.
  3. Wildfires are threatening other ecosystems as well.
  4. Fish populations are declining across the U.S.

Learn more here…

 

How Photography Shaped America’s National Parks

Posted by on Jun 24, 2016 @ 7:19 am in Conservation | 1 comment

How Photography Shaped America’s National Parks

Have you ever gotten a postcard from a national park? Chances are the picture that comes to mind—maybe the powerful eruption of Old Faithful spouting up in Yellowstone or the rocky depths of the Grand Canyon—is the same shot that people across the world have seen.

There’s a reason for that. The idea of America’s national parks that’s ingrained in the collective consciousness has been shaped through more than 150 years of photographing them. You might be surprised by just how important a role photography played in constructing what America thinks of as national parks today.

While national parks were created to preserve the country’s natural heritage and allow any person to experience their beauty, few were able to see them in person until the mid 20th century, when improved roads and more accessible travel allowed tourists to experience the images in person. Early stereographs and photography helped justify the original national parks, but they also shaped how they were viewed by the public.

By the 1930s, thanks the invention of the modern car and the construction of paved roads within the parks, people began to make road trips to the parks en masse. Drawn in by the circulating images of the early photography and art that had already captivated their imaginations, people arrived in droves.

Advances in photographic technology made the parks seem even more accessible. The National Park Service used the advent of color postcards to highlight park amenities—not to mention the newly paved roads that wound their way through the established photo spots—as a way to encourage more tourism to help pay for conservation efforts.

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Defending Mongolia’s Growing National Park System

Posted by on Jun 23, 2016 @ 11:14 am in Conservation | 0 comments

A few months ago, when Mongolian national park director Tumursukh Jal was on an official visit to the Grand Canyon, one of his hosts asked a simple question: “How many national parks do you guys have there in your home country?” When Tumursukh mentioned there were 99 of them, his US colleagues seemed a bit nonplussed. “That many, really?”

The issue that worries Tumursukh is not that Mongolia lacks enough national parks. Instead, there is almost too much territory to protect – and certainly not enough park rangers and other resources to do the job correctly. This seems to be a problem facing many of the former Soviet bloc countries. Over the last 25 years, countries like Mongolia and Russia have been creating new parks at near-record rates. But now they need to catch up, and recruit qualified rangers and train them for the rigorous work of managing these parks. And to do this, they often need to reach out for advice and support from their western counterparts.

In fact, this was one of the objectives of Tumursukh’s recent visit to America’s parks. At each official meeting, he was quick to point out that the three parks that are under his command cover over 3 million acres – or an area that is around four times larger than California’s Yosemite National Park. But whereas the permanent staff at Yosemite hovers around 800 full-time employees, the three parks that Tumursukh manages only have 30 staff members total. So it’s easy to understand the challenges that the Mongolian park rangers face every day as they try to patrol such massive landscapes with such small numbers of staff.

Tumursukh is also quick to point out that they are not just randomly creating new national parks in Mongolia. Each of the new protected areas contains either a unique landscape (like the Gobi Desert), or was formed to preserve one of the country’s several engendered species and their habitats.

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You Will Recognize The Names Of The Companies That Emit The Most Methane

Posted by on Jun 22, 2016 @ 6:47 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Frackers across the country — in places like Texas, Colorado, North Dakota, and Oklahoma — are spewing millions of tons of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere, nullifying any climate impacts of cleaner-burning natural gas.

The biggest names in natural gas, including ConocoPhillips, BP America, and Exxon, are responsible for more than half the methane released during onshore natural gas production in the United States. Natural gas is 80 percent methane, which traps heat 86 times more effectively than CO2 over a 20-year period. So, when the invisible, odorless gas leaks during drilling, it has an outsized climate effect.

A new report from the Center for American Progress found that total natural gas production — drilling, fracturing, pumping, and compressing at well sites — released methane emissions equivalent to running 14 coal-fired power plants for one year.

Fracking has already been shown to have a rash of environmentally degrading impacts, from water contamination to habitat destruction. This week, an investigation from the Center for Public Integrity found that the Marcellus Shale region in Pennsylvania is struggling with disposing of the radioactive material brought up during the fracking process.

But it’s important to keep in mind that the immediate, obvious issues with fracking (such as explosions and poor drinking water), are compounded by natural gas’ impact on climate change.

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