Conservation & Environment

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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Top PR Firm Advises TransCanada to Target Greens Opposed to Its Latest Pipeline Project

Posted by on Nov 19, 2014 @ 1:38 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Top PR Firm Advises TransCanada to Target Greens Opposed to Its Latest Pipeline Project

As supporters of the Keystone XL pipeline scrambled to get that one last Democratic Senator on board to pass a bill authorizing the controversial project, ultimately failing, a set of leaked documents revealed that TransCanada, the company behind the proposed oil pipeline, is already hard at work trying to figure out how to gain public support for an alternative pipeline that would run only through Canada and could make the Keystone XL proposal redundant.

Internal documents from the PR giant Edelman, obtained by Greenpeace, reveal that the world’s largest public relations firm is advising TransCanada on how to build support for this new pipeline plan — called the Energy East Pipeline — by, among other things, discrediting environmental groups opposed to it and creating an Astroturf campaign touting the new pipeline’s so-called environmental benefits.

The $10.64 billion Energy East Pipeline, the largest tar sands pipeline proposed yet, would stretch west to east across Canada, starting from the tar sands mines in Alberta and traversing 2,858 miles across the country to a refinery in New Brunswick on the Atlantic coast. The company filed an application on October 30, 2014 seeking permission to build the pipeline that would carry more than 1 million barrels of tar sands crude per day across six Canadian provinces and four time zones.

The proposal has been described by some as an “oil route around Obama.”

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What Should The Wilderness Management Plan For Sequoia, Kings Canyon National Parks Look Like?

Posted by on Nov 18, 2014 @ 9:17 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Wilderness travelers are weighing in on the draft Wilderness Management Plan crafted for Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks, and the varied desires likely will prove tough for park staff to accommodate to anyone’s satisfaction.

Guided climbing services are worried about losing access, hikers want fewer, or even no, stock access to the park’s wilderness areas, and there’s concern about shutting down some backcountry cabins used by researchers.

More than 250 comments, spanning more than 400 pages, were received by the parks on the draft plan. Staff now is working with those comments to produce the final Wilderness Management Plan, which they hope will be ready to release in the spring.

The wide range of comments demonstrates the different meanings “wilderness” has for different user groups, and how they want to experience wilderness areas in the Sierra. Many of the comments wrangled over the future of horse pack trips into the wilderness areas.

It was the High Sierra Hikers Association that forced the National Park Service’s hand to produce a Wilderness Management Plan. The group, upset with how backcountry horse trips were being managed, had sued to both get the National Park Service to meet the provisions of The Wilderness Act and to protect the sensitive environmental landscape of wilderness in Sequoia and Kings Canyon.

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Feds OK fracking in George Washington National Forest

Posted by on Nov 18, 2014 @ 9:06 am in Conservation | 0 comments

The federal government will allow a controversial form of energy drilling called fracking in the George Washington National Forest in Virginia, but it will sharply cut the amount of land on which fracking could occur.

The much-anticipated decision represents, in effect, a compromise between people who feared fracking would harm the 1.1 million-acre forest and industry representatives who said the drilling can be done safely.

“This is a decision about where it’s appropriate to do oil and gas,” said Robert Bonnie, undersecretary for natural resources and environment at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. “It’s not a decision about how you do it.”

The USDA includes the U.S. Forest Service, which runs the George Washington in west-central Virginia. About 10 percent of the forest lies in West Virginia. It’s a place where people hike, hunt and watch birds and where loggers cut trees, among other uses.

Streams in the forest lead to rivers that supply drinking water for more than 4 million people, including residents in the Richmond and Washington, D.C. regions.

The decision to allow fracking lies within a new management plan that will guide activities in the forest for the next 10 to 15 years.

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Defenders of Appalachia rally against gas pipeline bound for North Carolina

Posted by on Nov 17, 2014 @ 9:33 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Fred Powell was born under the misty mountain ridges that hug southwest Virginia , beneath the Appalachian Trail and where Shenandoah National Park’s Skyline Drive turns into the Blue Ridge Parkway, in a farmhouse his great-great-grandfather built in 1832.

Time passes slowly in the rolling green landscape. Part of the so-called “Breadbasket of the Confederacy” during the Civil War, farmers have long worked the land, raising cows and crops, joined in recent years by wineries and craft breweries that attract day-trippers from the college town of Charlottesville.

This quiet area is being roiled by plans announced in September, 2014 to put it in the path of a 42-inch pipeline from West Virginia through North Carolina. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline, primarily a project of Dominion Resources and Duke Energy, would ship natural gas 550 miles from the fracking fields of the Marcellus and Utica shales to economically struggling counties in eastern North Carolina, where there are hopes it will help to attract industry.

Powell, like others in Virginia’s Nelson and Augusta counties, is refusing to allow Dominion Resources to come through his farmland and survey for the pipeline right of way, saying they’ll do whatever they can to try to stop the $5 billion project.

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Colossal Conifers: The Quest to Restore the Mighty Hemlock

Posted by on Nov 16, 2014 @ 2:29 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

The forests of central and southern Appalachia are recognized as some of the most biologically diverse ecosystems in the world. In the southern portion of this heavily forested mountain range exists a pristine temperate rainforest that feeds crystal-clear mountain streams and mighty whitewater tributaries, all of which host a dizzying array of aquatic life. Also present are rare ferns and mosses, copious wildflowers and more species of trees — poplars, hemlocks, and rhododendron among them — than can be found in all of Europe.

Both central and southern Appalachia are teeming with life, but threats to their natural sanctity — coal mining, acid rain, climate change and invasive pest outbreaks, to name a few — threaten irreparable harm to these ancient mountain landscapes. Silt runoff, caused by coal mining and excessive development, has sullied waterways, while air-pollution-induced acid rain damages plant life and makes aquatic environments less habitable. A lack of genetic diversity, brought about by climate change, increases the likelihood of extinction for certain Appalachian species, and invasive insects pose unparalleled threats to native flora and fauna.

Few organisms play a larger or more ecologically prominent role in central and southern Appalachia than the mighty hemlock tree. Whether it’s the Eastern hemlock, known for a range that stretches from Canada and Minnesota to parts of Georgia and Alabama, or the less-prolific Carolina hemlock, found primarily in western North Carolina and Virginia, this colossal conifer is a foundational species in just about every ecosystem where it takes up roots.

As one of the longest-lived and tallest old-growth trees in the region, the Eastern hemlock is often referred to as the “Redwood of the East” and is known to boast life spans of some 500 years while reaching heights in excess of 150 feet.

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NSW national parks Arakwal and Montague Island earn international recognition for management

Posted by on Nov 15, 2014 @ 8:27 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Two New South Wales, Austrailia national parks have made it on to an international list of well managed conservation areas.

Arakwal National Park, near Cape Byron in NSW, and Montague Island Nature Reserve, off the south coast near Narooma, were named on the first Green List put together by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

The list was announced at the World Parks Congress in Sydney on Friday night, November 14, 2014. The aim of the Green List is to highlight successful protected areas to help improve the management of nature reserves.

James Hardcastle, the manager of the IUCN Green List of Protected Areas, said the aim of the lists was to create protected areas for the 21st century. “We need to start looking for opportunities to recognise where things are working, why they are working and the people behind the success.”

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Prescribed Burn Planned for Pisgah Ranger District, NC

Posted by on Nov 14, 2014 @ 11:44 am in Conservation | 0 comments

The U.S. Forest Service plans to conduct a prescribed burn by mid-December 2014 in the Pisgah Ranger District, Pisgah National Forest.

The Pisgah Ranger District of the Pisgah National Forest is planning to implement a 1000-acre prescribed burn along Route 276 between near Avery Creek Road and Coontree Picnic Area. The burn will likely take place in the next four weeks when weather conditions meet the requirements of the prescribed burn plan. Requirements include temperature, humidity, wind and other weather conditions. The purpose of this burn is to reduce fuel build up and improve wildlife habitat.

Forest Service Road #477 Avery Creek Road, Sections of Trail #144 Coontree Loop and Trail #138 Bennett Gap may be closed during the burn. For further information contact the Pisgah Ranger District at 828-877-3350.

Public safety 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.


Plan Would Open 700,000 NC National Forest Acres To Logging

Posted by on Nov 13, 2014 @ 11:53 am in Conservation | 0 comments

The U.S. Forest Service has unveiled a draft management plan that would allow logging on 700,000 acres of the Pisgah and Nantahala National Forests in North Carolina.

Officials said Wednesday, November 12, 2014 the plan is aimed at preserving the woods and restoring habitat diversity. The Forest Service of the Carolinas says, much like prescribed burning, harvesting timber is necessary to maintain a healthy forest.

However, area environmentalists say they’re stunned at the scope of what the draft plan would allow, saying it would leave dozens of popular natural and recreations spots unprotected.

“Someone sometime is going to make a decision to go into an area that is a landmine for the local population,” Biologist Josh Kelly said, with the WNC Alliance. “Some popular recreation area, or some important natural area that people love – and that’s going to cause a conflict.”

Environmentalists say they’d like to see the draft changed, to narrow down the areas that logging is allowed. The Forest Service said currently it harvests about 1,500 acres of mountain timber every year, and that number would likely remain roughly the same.

The Forest Service is requesting feedback from the public, and expects to modify the plan within the coming months in response to public comment.

To submit your comments email: [email protected]

Hard copies of comments can be mailed to:

National Forests in North Carolina, Nantahala-Pisgah Plan Revision, 160 Zillicoa St., Suite A, Asheville, N.C. 28801


Our Southern Highlanders update released

Posted by on Nov 13, 2014 @ 3:03 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Great Smoky Mountains Association announced this week the release of a new edition of “Our Southern Highlanders,” the classic collection of essays on mountain life and lore by author Horace Kephart. The famed scholar, writer and outdoorsman lived in the Hazel Creek and Bryson City, N.C., areas from 1904 to 1931 and advocated for the creation of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Mt. Kephart, Kephart Prong, Kephart Prong Trail and Kephart Shelter are all park features named for him.

“This expanded third edition includes eight articles written by Kephart that were not included in any of the earlier editions,” said Steve Kemp, GSMA’s interpretive products and services director. “Newly included are stories featuring rifle making, moonshiners and revenuers, mountain culture, and Kephart’s feelings regarding a proposed new national park in the Smokies.”

The entire book has been electronically typeset for the first time, said Kemp, making it much more readable than previous printings. Additionally, Bryson City author George Ellison has written an entirely new introduction for this edition, highlighting the fruits of recent research on Kephart and his work.

With the publication of this latest Kephart book, GSMA now offers a complete series of Kephart books that feature Elizabeth Ellison’s watercolor art on their covers. A biography of Horace Kephart by George Ellison and Janet McCue is also in the works.

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New U.S.-China climate deal is a game changer

Posted by on Nov 12, 2014 @ 8:55 am in Conservation | 0 comments

In what may prove to be a watershed moment in the fight against climate change, President Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping announced from Beijing on Wednesday, November 12, 2014 that they are pursuing ambitious new greenhouse gas emission reductions.

China and the U.S. are the world’s two largest emitters of heat-trapping gases like carbon dioxide and methane, and their cooperation is absolutely essential to the success of any global effort to scale back emissions and avert catastrophic climate change.

According to a statement from the White House press office, the U.S. will reduce emissions 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025 and “make best efforts to reduce its emissions” by 28 percent. China will have its CO2 emissions peak around 2030, “make best efforts to peak early,” and increase the share of non-fossil fuels in its energy portfolio to “around” 20 percent by 2030. You might notice a lot of wiggle room in that language. There’s more. The White House release refers to these goals as statements of “intent.” They don’t promise or even “agree” to hit these targets, they merely “intend” to.

That may sound a little weak, but it’s necessary. Remember, foreign treaties require approval from a two-thirds supermajority of the U.S. Senate before they can be ratified. There’s no way Senate Republicans would vote for an emission-reduction treaty. But by merely jointly announcing with China their intentions, the Obama administration avoids signing an actual treaty. So the Senate can’t formally stop this agreement.

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Everlasting Swamp to be Australia’s newest national park

Posted by on Nov 11, 2014 @ 7:27 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

Everlasting Swamp to be Australia’s newest national park

Everlasting Swamp should live up to its name with the Baird government announcing the vulnerable wetlands in New South Wales’ north will become the state’s newest national park.

The government has purchased land near Grafton to expand an existing conservation area to create the Everlasting Swamp National Park and protect one of NSW’s largest remaining coastal floodplain wetlands.

“The Everlasting Swamp National Park will be managed for its natural values and with the aim to control pest and weeds as well as improve water quality,” Environment Minister Rob Stokes said. “It will also protect breeding habitat for nationally threatened and migratory species listed under international agreements.”

The government unveiled the new reserve just as the World Parks Congress gets under way on Wednesday, November 12, 2014 in Sydney. The event, last held by the International Union for Conservation of Nature in Durban in 2003, runs for eight days and aims to promote national parks globally.

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We Do Need More Wilderness in the South

Posted by on Nov 10, 2014 @ 11:02 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Except for the Midwest, the South is the most wilderness-deprived region, with well under 1% of its landscape designated as wilderness (about 4% of the U.S. is so designated). Most of the South is farmland, towns, tree plantations, cities, and suburbs, laced with literally millions of road miles. Even within the South’s small domain of public lands, most of the acreage is officially roaded and developed, thus mostly open to resource extraction and off-road vehicles. What remains undeveloped—wildlands called “roadless areas”—could and should be designated wilderness.

Wilderness designation restricts resource extraction and destructive off-road vehicles, but it doesn’t restrict humans. Wilderness is egalitarian, accessible to anyone who can walk even a short distance. This is especially true in the South, where most existing wildlands are very accessible, and (unfortunately) small enough to cross on foot in a few hours.

Why wilderness? Because future generations deserve an enduring resource of untrammeled wilderness — of primeval nature where folks can escape the pressures of modern life. Nearly half the U.S. population lives within a day’s drive of the Great Smokies, the South’s most iconic proposed wilderness. Existing southern wilderness areas—few and small that they are—are already overcrowded and damaged by too many humans on too few acres. To sacrifice more roadless areas to machines and development is folly; just from the human recreation standpoint, we need more designated wilderness.

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Astoria Column, Cathedral Tree are towering testaments

Posted by on Nov 8, 2014 @ 9:36 am in Conservation | 0 comments

The Astoria Column is one of the Oregon’s most popular tourist attractions, bringing hundreds of thousands of people each year to Astoria in the northwest corner of the state. Built in 1926 as a testament to the pioneer spirit, it stands 600 feet above sea level as a stunning sentinel with a commanding view of the Columbia River, the Coast Range, Astoria and the Pacific Ocean beyond.

But an even older tower stands a mile away, deep in the rainforest above the city. A 300-year-old Sitka spruce known as the Cathedral Tree, with gaps in the trunk large enough for a child to stand inside, is an equally impressive monument.

Many of the tree’s nearby neighbors fell in the brutal 2007 storm, lining the Richard Fenscak Cathedral Tree Trail with snags and logs. But several nurse trees can be seen growing out of the fallen trees, completing the circle of life.

There are several ways to get to Astoria, either using U.S. 26 and U.S. 101 or using U.S. 30. There are signs throughout the city to get to the column, at the top of the trail, or park on Irving Avenue on the downhill end of the trail.