Conservation & Environment

Ocean of acid blamed for Earth’s ‘great dying’

Posted by on Apr 13, 2015 @ 9:34 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Death by acid was the fate of the sea monsters that perished in Earth’s biggest mass extinction, some 251 million years ago, a new study finds.

Nearly every form of ocean life disappeared during this “Great Dying” at the end of the Permian period, when more than 90 percent of all marine species vanished, from the scorpionlike predators called eurypterids to various types of trilobites, some with alienlike stalked eyes. It’s the closest Earth has ever come to completely losing its fish, snails, sea plankton and other marine creatures. Some 70 percent of animals and plants on land died off at the same time.

Now, there is direct evidence that ocean acidification dealt the final blow to species already suffering from these huge environmental changes. By analyzing boron embedded in limestone from the Permian and Triassic periods, researchers discovered an abrupt shift in ocean pH levels. The change in acidity corresponds to a drop in surface ocean pH levels of 0.6 to 0.7 pH units that lasted about 10,000 years. In comparison, modern ocean pH levels have fallen by 0.1 pH units since the Industrial Revolution, a 30 percent increase in acidity.

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What you need to know about Hillary Clinton and climate change

Posted by on Apr 12, 2015 @ 9:22 am in Conservation | 0 comments

It’s strange to remember how bitterly divisive the 2008 Democratic presidential primary battle was. Hillary Clinton’s and Barack Obama’s platforms and ideological positioning were awfully similar. And on the chief difference between them — Obama’s less hawkish foreign policy — the victor wiped away that distinction by appointing Clinton as secretary of state. Now Clinton is expected to announce her candidacy today and is poised to coast through the 2016 Democratic primaries as her party’s prohibitive favorite. Would a Clinton presidency be essentially a third Obama term?

On climate change and energy, it seems the answer is yes. For better and for worse, Clinton’s record and stances are cut from the same cloth as Obama’s. Her close confidant and presumed campaign chair, John Podesta, served as an Obama advisor with a focus on climate policy. Like Obama and Podesta, Clinton certainly seems to appreciate the seriousness of the threat of catastrophic climate change and to strongly support domestic policies and international agreements to reduce carbon emissions. But, like Obama and Podesta, she subscribes to an all-of-the-above energy policy. She promotes domestic drilling for oil and natural gas, including through potentially dangerous fracking.

Here are eight important points about Clinton’s climate and energy views…


What the “Merchants of Doubt” don’t want you to know

Posted by on Apr 12, 2015 @ 9:16 am in Conservation | 0 comments

The new documentary film Merchants of Doubt—which lays bare the tactics used by the professional climate deniers paid to spread doubt and confusion about the reality of global warming—is essential viewing for everyone who cares about the fight for climate action. It’s even more essential for anyone who still isn’t sure whether climate change is really happening or primarily caused by human activities.

A brilliant disinformation campaign by the “Merchants of Doubt” has stoked public fears about the economic consequences of climate action and kept a fake debate alive — even though the scientific consensus is overwhelming that climate change is happening and humans are the reason why.

Merchants of Doubt shows how the playbook developed by big American tobacco companies to deny the link between smoking and cancer has been redeployed by the fossil fuel lobby to deny the link between industrial emissions and climate change. Indeed, some of the most prominent climate change deniers are the very same people who spread doubt about the harmful effects of cigarettes decades ago.

It’s enough to make you want to holler: Scientists in the pay of fossil fuel companies; trumped-up petitions claiming scientists don’t really think the climate is warming; “independent” think tanks that are really just industry front groups; self-styled “experts” who are mostly expert at sandbagging real scientists and keeping doubt alive. But there’s one thing these Merchants of Doubt don’t want you to know.

When the truth is accepted, Americans will demand action.

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Longtime Breckenridge, CO local works behind-the-scenes to protect Summit’s land

Posted by on Apr 10, 2015 @ 8:11 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Longtime Breckenridge, CO local works behind-the-scenes to protect Summit’s land

Leigh Girvin’s brand of local environmentalism is inseparable from her strong ties to the land.

Other conservation advocates focus on wildlife or water quality from an abstract sense of right and wrong. Girvin, who moved to Breckenridge, Colorado as a kid 43 years ago, points to land protection, especially in her beloved Summit County, as the foundation that encompasses all environmental issues.

“The land is the only thing that matters,” she said, referencing a line from “Gone with the Wind,” one of her favorite books. “Everything is interconnected, and it all ties back to the land.”

Girvin, 53, of Breckenridge, worked her last day on Tuesday, March 31, as executive director of the Continental Divide Land Trust, a nonprofit that holds conservation easements to forever protect land. A local conservation advocate for decades, she led the nonprofit for the last 13 years.

Summit County would look radically different without her often unheralded efforts against what she called the relentless juggernaut of development. “Land conservation is about what you don’t see. You don’t see the condos, you don’t see the roads, you don’t see the highways,” she said.

They might notice the meadows and the streams, the birdsongs and the elk bugles. But they don’t see the tireless work of people like Girvin.

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AmeriCorps Project Conserve is Now Accepting Applications for 2015-2016

Posted by on Apr 10, 2015 @ 7:51 am in Conservation | 0 comments

AmeriCorps Project Conserve is now accepting applications for 2015-2016. AmeriCorps Project Conserve seeks dedicated individuals to fill 32 full-time positions serving critical conservation needs of western North Carolina. The application deadline is May 22, 2015.

The program places members in service with one of 17 host site organizations working to protect the unique natural resources of the southern Blue Ridge Mountain region. Each member will serve 1700 hours during an 11 month term, from September 2015 through July 2016.

Please contact Amy Stout, AmeriCorps Project Conserve Program Director, with any questions at 828-697-5777 ext. 208 or

Learn more…


Cradle of Forestry Kicks Off 2015 Season on April 11th

Posted by on Apr 9, 2015 @ 5:07 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Cradle of Forestry Kicks Off 2015 Season on April 11th

The Cradle of Forestry in America historic site will kick off its 2015 season, April 11th with a living history event titled, “Old Time Plowing and Folkways.”

Visitors to the event will encounter living history volunteers demonstrating their crafts, including wood carving, rope making and crafting corn husk dolls. Haywood County’s David and Diane Burnette will demonstrate working the land the old way as their Percheron draft horses plow under the Cradle’s vegetable garden located along the Biltmore Campus Trail. In the afternoon guests will enjoy live music as they walk and enjoy the historic buildings and displays.

The Cradle of Forestry will be open daily, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., April 11th through November 8th, 2015. Throughout the season, living history volunteers will demonstrate a range of traditional crafts and music.

A full schedule of events is planned in 2015 including Migratory Bird Day on April 25th, the Songcatchers Music Series held Sunday afternoons in July, and Forest Festival Day on October 3rd.

Admission to the Cradle of Forestry is $5.00 for adults and free for youth under 16 years of age and for those with America the Beautiful passes and Golden Age Passports. The Cradle of Forestry in America Interpretive Association provides free admission every Tuesday throughout the season.

Admission includes the Forest Discovery Center with two films, hands-on exhibits and scavenger hunts. It also includes historic cabins and exhibits along three paved trails with guided tours and living history demonstrations when available. The Adventure Zone along the Forest Festival Trail is designed to reach children with autism and engage young families.

The Cradle of Forestry is located on State Highway 276 in Pisgah National Forest near Brevard, six miles north of Looking Glass Falls and four miles south of the Blue Ridge Parkway. For more information call (828) 877-3130 or go to


Why fracking is splitting environmental groups apart

Posted by on Apr 9, 2015 @ 12:46 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Why fracking is splitting environmental groups apart

Few things inspire bitter disagreement among green groups and climate advocates quite like the question of how to deal with fracking. It’s one of the more important debates within environmentalism today.

To break it down very roughly: The pro-fracking side points out that the US natural-gas boom, driven by hydraulic fracturing, has been one of the big environmental success stories of the past decade. Electric utilities are now using more cheap gas and less dirty coal to generate power. Since gas burns more cleanly, that reduces air pollution: US carbon dioxide emissions have fallen 10 percent since 2005.

On the “anti” side are a large and growing number of environmental groups who now argue that the problems with fracking seem to outweigh the benefits. It’s not just the air and water pollution caused by fracking. They also point out that there’s methane leaking out of all those gas wells and pipelines. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, and depending on how big those leaks are, that could offset the climate benefits of lower CO2 emissions. Just as significantly, anti-fracking groups also note that natural gas is still a fossil fuel and still produces carbon dioxide when burned.

The overarching problem here is that no one knows how much methane is actually leaking out of natural gas infrastructure. It might be a lot — in which case natural gas could conceivably be worse for global warming than coal is.

Some are trying to answer the questions…


Music Of The Mountains Festival Coming To Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Posted by on Apr 7, 2015 @ 8:31 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Great Smoky Mountains National Park will hold its 11th annual “Music of the Mountains” celebration April 17-19 with a mix of music that harkens to the “Old-Time” music that long has reverberated through the mountains.

Spread across a handful of venues, the event tells the story of music in the Southern Appalachians through its diverse history by letting visitors experience a variety of music that was played in the region or represents Old-Time music’s roots. The event tells the story of how mountain music grew out of traditional Celtic and religious roots to become something that would be played on front porches all over the Smokies.

The three-day event begins with a concert of Celtic music by Four Leaf Peat on Friday, April 17, at 7 p.m. at the Great Smoky Mountain Heritage Center in Townsend, Tennessee. General admission is $5. “Music of the Mountains” continues on Saturday, kicking off National Park Week in style, with a series of free performances of old-time mountain music, dulcimer and early bluegrass during the day at the park’s Sugarlands Visitor Center. Music will be ongoing from 10 a.m. through 3 p.m.

Get the complete schedule…


Forest Service Researchers Map Seasonal Greening in U.S. Forests, Fields, and Urban Areas

Posted by on Apr 6, 2015 @ 9:04 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Using the assessment tool ForWarn, U.S. Forest Service researchers can monitor the growth and development of vegetation that signals winter’s end and the awakening of a new growing season. Now these researchers have devised a way to more precisely characterize the beginning of seasonal greening, or “greenup,” and compare its timing with that of the 14 previous years. Such information helps land managers anticipate and plan for the impacts of disturbances such as weather events and insect pests.

Three maps detailing greenup in forests and grasslands, agricultural lands, and urban areas are now available online via ForWarn, which delivers weekly Land Surface Phenology (LSP) maps of seasonal vegetation growth and development detected by satellites, as well as national maps showing vegetation disturbances.

“In contrast to field observations that track leaf emergence for particular species of trees or herbaceous plants, ForWarn‘s LSP maps capture the response of the mixture of vegetation that can be seen from space,” explains William Hargrove, research ecologist from the Forest Service’s Eastern Forest Environmental Threat Assessment Center.

The researchers used nationwide satellite imagery collected between 2000 and 2013 to quantify the seasonal progression from dormancy to peak greenness using a common scale from 0 to 100 percent.

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Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation Commits $600,000 for Improvements and Programs on the Parkway

Posted by on Apr 5, 2015 @ 9:58 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation Commits $600,000 for Improvements and Programs on the Parkway

It’s the time of year when millions of visitors are eagerly anticipating their next adventure on the Blue Ridge Parkway. As they plan their drive, hike, or camping trip, the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation is preparing to meet their expectations by funding $600,000 in projects critical to the preservation and betterment of this treasured route.

Each year, the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation collaborates with Blue Ridge Parkway staff to identify high priority projects in need of immediate attention to protect the environment and wildlife, prevent deterioration of historic buildings, and improve visitor enjoyment and safety. For 2015, they have identified more than $600,000 in crucial projects and programs, ranging from wildlife research to historic preservation. For instance, the Doughton Park Picnic Area, built in the 1940s and ’50s, is in severe need of attention. The Foundation will fund repairs to the crumbling walkways, picnic tables, and fire pits to restore this spot as a haven for visitors.

The Foundation is also collaborating with groups such as the Conservation Trust for North Carolina (CTNC) and Friends of the Mountains to Sea Trail (FMST) to strengthen their efforts. Through funding by the nonprofit, a youth conservation crew from CTNC will repair trails and campgrounds in the Highlands District. A partnership with FMST will help build a bridge over the Boone Fork near Blowing Rock, North Carolina.

Learn more about all the planned activities…


Put the forest first!

Posted by on Apr 4, 2015 @ 11:34 am in Conservation | 0 comments

The U.S. Forest Service rolled out a “draft” management plan last fall after a series of public meetings. The plan, while clearly labeled “draft”, placed around 700,000 acres of the million or so acres of the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests in management areas deemed appropriate for logging. To say the plan caught some stakeholders off guard is like saying the Grand Canyon is a ravine in Arizona.

The FS and proponents of the draft plan quickly tried to walk back the 700,000-acre claim stating that there were already safeguards in place that would protect much of the area from commercial logging. That is likely correct, plus records from past years show that only about 1,000 acres per year have been logged from North Carolina national forests over the past decade.

The pressure within the agency to come up with an appropriate plan was intense. FS employees know the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests are special places that deserve special attention and expressed wishes that this little break might give pause and allow everyone to focus on doing things, “… the way the resources and all interested parties deserve.”

There will be announcements of dates and places for upcoming meetings regarding plan revision. Show up, en masse, with your signs and bumper stickers declaring “Put the Forest First!” These are signs FS personnel would welcome.

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The unexpectedly weird and beautiful world of lichens

Posted by on Apr 4, 2015 @ 5:14 am in Conservation | 0 comments

The unexpectedly weird and beautiful world of lichens

Lichens are not what you think they are. Not plant, not fungus — they are one of a kind.

Lichen is something we commonly see growing on rocks or tree branches, on old wood fences and rotting stumps. But how often do you stop to really ponder lichens? Probably not often. And yet lichens are surprisingly fascinating … and weird … and beautiful!

Despite their looks, lichens aren’t plants. Nor are they in the fungus family. They’re a unique composite organism, the result of a symbiotic relationship of organisms from as many as three kingdoms, with the main partner being fungus.

They are also incredibly abundant, found everywhere from temperate forests to icy cold tundra, from the tropics to the deserts. They are the dominant vegetation on as much as 8 percent of the land on Earth, able to survive where many other plant species don’t stand a chance.

“They are pioneers on bare rock, desert sand, cleared soil, dead wood, animal bones, rusty metal, and living bark. Able to shut down metabolically during periods of unfavorable conditions, they can survive extremes of heat, cold, and drought.”

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National Parks Traveler Honored By George Wright Society

Posted by on Apr 3, 2015 @ 8:41 am in Conservation | 0 comments

National Parks Traveler Honored By George Wright Society

Kurt Repanshek, founder and editor-in-chief of National Parks Traveler, the top-ranked website dedicated to daily editorial coverage of national parks, has been awarded the George Wright Society’s Communication Award.

The award recognizes outstanding efforts in communicating highly technical or controversial park-related subjects to the public in a clear and understandable manner. Repanshek received the award at the organization’s biennial conference in Oakland, Calif.

Founded in 1980, the George Wright Society states as its goal that “The Society strives to be the premier organization connecting people, places, knowledge, and ideas to foster excellence in natural and cultural resource management, research, protection, and interpretation in parks and equivalent reserves.”

“I am absolutely humbled by this award because I share the values and goals of the George Wright Society,” said Repanshek. “It is imperative that we as a society continue to improve, nurture and learn from our national parks. On the one hand I am fortunate to be able to help tell the stories of the parks, but on the other I am like so many others who simply possess a profound love of our parks, monuments, historic sites and other places managed by the National Park Service.”

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Our Land, Up for Grabs

Posted by on Apr 3, 2015 @ 12:47 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Our Land, Up for Grabs

It’s difficult to understand why, but a battle is looming over America’s public lands. Given decades of consistent, strong support from voters of both parties for protecting land, water and the thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in economic benefits these resources make possible, it’s hard to fathom.

Last week, the United States Senate voted 51 to 49 to support an amendment to a nonbinding budget resolution to sell or give away all federal lands other than the national parks and monuments. If the measure is ever implemented, hundreds of millions of acres of national forests, rangelands, wildlife refuges, wilderness areas and historic sites will revert to the states or local governments or be auctioned off. These lands constitute much of what’s left of the nation’s natural and historical heritage.

This was bad enough. But it followed a 228-to-119 vote in the House of Representatives approving another nonbinding resolution that said “the federal estate is far too large” and voiced support for reducing it and “giving states and localities more control over the resources within their boundaries.” Doing so, the resolution added, “will lead to increased resource production and allow states and localities to take advantage of the benefits of increased economic activity.”

The measures, supported only by the Republicans who control both houses, were symbolic. But they laid down a marker that America’s public lands, long held in trust by the government for its people, may soon be up for grabs.

We’ll get a better sense of Congress’s commitment to conservation later this year when it decides whether to reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund, created in 1965 and financed by fees paid by oil companies for offshore drilling. The program underwrites state and local park and recreation projects, conservation easements for ranches and farms, plus national parks, forests and wildlife refuges.

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Mitch McConnell Undermines Obama’s Climate Plan With Other Countries

Posted by on Apr 2, 2015 @ 2:45 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Mitch McConnell Undermines Obama’s Climate Plan With Other Countries

In an effort to undermine international negotiations aimed at combating climate change, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is telling other countries not to trust President Obama’s promise to significantly reduce the United States’ carbon emissions.

In a statement released March 31st, McConnell warned other countries to “proceed with caution” before pledging any carbon emissions reductions to the United Nations, saying the U.S. would likely not be able to meet its own climate goals. The statement came shortly after Obama announced the official U.S. plan to slash the United States’ greenhouse gas emissions as much as 28 percent as part of an international agreement brokered by the U.N.

“Even if the job-killing and likely illegal Clean Power Plan were fully implemented, the United States could not meet the targets laid out in this proposed new plan,” McConnell said, adding that “[O]ur international partners should proceed with caution before entering into a binding, unattainable deal.”

Earlier last month, McConnell told individual states to openly defy the EPA’s proposed rules limiting greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. As McConnell represents Kentucky, a coal-producing state, regulations to reduce emissions from coal have been personal for the Majority Leader. In January, when he took control of the Senate, he said he felt “deep responsibility” to stop climate regulation on coal, which has the highest carbon content of all fossil fuels and accounts for nearly a quarter of all U.S. carbon emissions.

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Majestic glaciers in Alaska: Then and now

Posted by on Apr 1, 2015 @ 11:22 am in Conservation | 0 comments

If you’re looking at something but don’t have anything to compare it to, it’s hard to know what’s really going on. Maybe you meet someone for the first time and think they look a little sick, so you think they’re not doing too well. But if you had met them a year ago when they were terminally ill, you’d think that today’s health was a huge improvement. Everything’s relative. It’s all about your frame of reference.

That’s the idea behind repeat photography. Some things change fairly slowly, like glaciers that may take thousands of years to form or melt, so comparing photos taken at many years’ interval is the best way to see how things are evolving. The U.S. Geological Survey has been doing exactly that with a series of photos of glaciers from Alaska. Most were shot in the Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, Kenai Fjords National Park and the northwestern Prince William Sound area of the Chugach National Forest.

The change between past and present is striking.

See for yourself…


As the seas rise, a slow-motion disaster gnaws at America’s shores

Posted by on Mar 31, 2015 @ 6:19 am in Conservation | 0 comments

A Reuters analysis finds that flooding is increasing along much of the nation’s coastline, forcing many communities into costly, controversial struggles with a relentless foe.

WALLOPS ISLAND, Virginia – Missions flown from the NASA base here have documented some of the most dramatic evidence of a warming planet over the past 20 years: the melting of polar ice, a force contributing to a global rise in ocean levels.

The Wallops Flight Facility’s relationship with rising seas doesn’t end there. Its billion-dollar space launch complex occupies a barrier island that’s drowning under the impact of worsening storms and flooding.

NASA’s response? Rather than move out of harm’s way, officials have added more than $100 million in new structures over the past five years and spent $43 million more to fortify the shoreline with sand. Nearly a third of that new sand has since been washed away.

Across a narrow inlet to the north sits the island town of Chincoteague, gateway to a national wildlife refuge blessed with a stunning mile-long recreational beach – a major tourist draw and source of big business for the community. But the sea is robbing the townspeople of their main asset.

The beach has been disappearing at an average rate of 10 to 22 feet (3 to 7 meters) a year. The access road and a 1,000-car parking lot have been rebuilt five times in the past decade because of coastal flooding, at a total cost of $3 million.

We are in a major coastal real estate bubble. How big is the bubble, and who will pay when it bursts?

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