Conservation and Affordable Housing Fit Together at Little White Oak Mountain

What’s the opposite of saving land? For some people, what comes to mind is a housing development: the felled forests, bulldozers scraping over raw dirt, roads and buildings replacing trees. That seemed likely to happen at Little White Oak Mountain, in Polk County, near Columbus, NC. Not long ago, the mountain was slated for an upscale development of over 700 houses....

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‘Monumental’ NSW bushfires have burnt 20% of Blue Mountains world heritage area

More than 10% of the area covered by New South Wales national parks has been burned in this season’s bushfires, including 20% of the Blue Mountains world heritage area, state government data obtained by Guardian Australia has revealed. The amount of bushland destroyed within NSW national parks dwarfs that of the entire previous fire season, when 80,000 hectares were...

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A pipeline runs through it

The pink ribbons start in northern West Virginia. Tied to flimsy wooden posts stuck a few inches into the earth, they’re easy to miss as they whip in the crisp, fall wind. Heading south, they dot landscapes for 600 miles, marking the proposed route of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. They pass over cave systems and watersheds, climb up and down densely forested Appalachian...

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Exxon knew — and so did coal

“Exxon knew.” Thanks to the work of activists and journalists, those two words have rocked the politics of climate change in recent years, as investigations revealed the extent to which giants like ExxonMobil and Shell were aware of the danger of rising greenhouse gas emissions even as they undermined the work of scientists. But the coal industry knew, too — as early as...

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UN calls for push to cut greenhouse gas levels to avoid climate chaos

Countries must make an unprecedented effort to cut their levels of greenhouse gases in the next decade to avoid climate chaos, the United Nations has warned, as it emerged that emissions hit a new high last year. Carbon dioxide emissions in 2018, also accounting for deforestation, rose to more than 55 gigatonnes, and have risen on average by 1.5% a year for the past...

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The Problems with the BLM Moving to the West

On November 12, 2019, more than 300 employees at the Bureau of Land Management’s Washington, D.C., headquarters received letters saying they had 30 days to decide whether to move to Grand Junction, Colorado, or other regional offices—and then 90 more to pack up and go. This was part of a plan, announced in July by Department of Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, to move...

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Smokies rangers will patrol Mexican border, arrest migrants

The Trump administration has ordered rangers from national parks around the country to travel to the U.S.-Mexico border to fight illegal immigration and drug traffickers. The directive has seen park rangers from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park in Alaska, the National Mall in Washington, D.C., and Zion National...

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Wildlife refuges suffer under budget cuts and staff shortages

The National Wildlife Refuge System, a branch of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, protects more than 850 million acres of land and water. From the marshy Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge in Florida to arid landscapes like the Desert National Wildlife Refuge in Nevada, the Refuge System is home to nearly every species of bird, fish, reptile and...

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Smokies outdoor education center turns 50, plans expansion

As it nears the end of its 50th anniversary year, the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont has its eyes set on the half-century to come. Within five years, the nonprofit aims to build out a second campus to supplement its existing facilities in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park’s Walker Valley. “It’s a big project and we don’t want to rush it,” said Caleb...

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Evidence of Many Varieties of Economic Benefits Linked to Trails

Trails and greenways impact our economy through tourism, events, urban redevelopment, community improvement, property values, health care costs, jobs and investment, and general consumer spending. Americans do spend a great deal on outdoor recreation. A 2006 Outdoor Industry Foundation study found that “Active Outdoor Recreation” contributes $887 billion annually to the...

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Panthertown Valley in Nantahala National Forest selected for recreation impact intervention

Panthertown Valley is one of 14 locations nationwide to be selected as a 2020 Leave No Trace Hot Spot. Hot Spots identify areas suffering from severe recreational impacts that can thrive again with Leave No Trace solutions. Each location receives a unique, site-specific blend of programs aimed at healthy and sustainable recovery. Since 2012, Leave No Trace has carried...

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Coastal Forests Face Rising Sea Levels, Increased Salinity

Ghost forests aren’t some spooky legend. They’re patches of dead and dying trees that haunt the coastlines of North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia where sea levels are rising and land is sinking. USDA Forest Service and Natural Resources Conservation Service scientists are working with partners across the coastal plain to understand where these watery graveyards...

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All National Parks Are Free on Monday, Nov. 11 (For the Last Time in 2019)

Consider it your free national parks pass: On Monday, Nov. 11, 2019 all national parks across the nation will be free to enter. Every Park Service site that usually charges an entrance fee will offer free admission to all visitors as part of NPS’ Free Day program. This last free National Parks day of 2019 also marks Veterans Day. In addition to the role national parks...

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WiFi, Amazon and food trucks: Trump team’s vision for national parks

  A team of Trump administration advisers – consisting mostly of appointees from the private industry – are urging “modernization” of national park campgrounds, with a vision of food trucks, WiFi and even Amazon deliveries. “Our recommendations would allow people to opt for additional costs if they want, for example, Amazon deliveries at a particular campsite,”...

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Would banning frequent flyer programs help the planet?

We’re slowly getting used to sacrificing once-beloved traditions for the environment, like drinking from plastic straws and cooking on gas stoves. Could racking up miles through frequent flyer programs be the next to go? Boarding a plane will probably be the single most carbon-intensive thing you do this year. And while some climate activists are opting out of flying,...

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Coyote Sightings Peak in October-November

Hearing or seeing more coyotes these days? You’re not alone, say biologists with the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission. According to them, it is common for North Carolinians to report seeing and hearing coyotes more often in October and November. Fall is the time of year when young coyotes – those born in early spring – are leaving their parents’...

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Kids on the Mountaintop

  It was a schoolday, but the whole school was on top of a mountain. With panoramic mountain views all around, first grader Penelope was examining a strange plant. It was growing out of the open pasture on top of Bearwallow Mountain. It had tough, woody branches and green pods armored in thorns. The older pods had split open, revealing shiny, dark seeds. Other...

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From monarch butterflies to gray whales, animals are on the move. Here’s how travelers can tag along on their migratory journeys.

Pacific gray whales swim multiple marathons along the West Coast twice a year, covering 10,000 to 12,000 miles round trip. Monarch butterflies flap their orange-and-black wings from northern regions in North America to Mexico, defying their typically short life spans to complete the journey. Sandhill cranes can fly daily distances equal to the drive from Washington to...

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Clean Water money to conserve WNC land

The latest round of awards from the Clean Water Management Trust Fund totals $14.3 million, with nearly $3 million of that going to conservation projects in Western North Carolina. • The Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy landed $1.2 million toward its effort to secure property on Chestnut Mountain in Haywood County currently owned by Canton Motorsports, LLC, and...

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Lend a Hand to Panthertown Valley

Enjoy fall colors in Panthertown Valley while helping to keep the trails maintained with a string of upcoming work days in the Nantahala National Forest near Cashiers, NC. Trail steward Charly Aurelia will lead the excursions, with trail maintenance activities occurring during a group hike from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Dates are Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2019 at the Cold Mountain Gap...

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U.S. parks and trails rely on a volunteer labor force

Like U.S. roads, bridges, dams and other infrastructure, public lands have their own backlog of needed repairs. According to a Congressional Research Service report published earlier this year, the National Park Service and U.S. Forest Service have almost $20 billion in unmet maintenance needs between them. The challenge of keeping up the parks and trails that millions...

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Stay safe during hunting season with these tips for non-hunters

If you don’t hunt, you might not realize that nearly all of the national forest lands in North Carolina are open to hunting and you need to take precautions to stay safe during hunting season. Wear bright-colored clothing to make yourself more visible. Choose colors that stand out, like hunter orange or neon colors, and avoid earth-tones like brown and...

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The Ultimate Great Smoky Mountains Travel Guide

Even if you haven’t been to our most visited national park yet, you can probably picture those blue ridgelines blurred across a southern Appalachian sky by that perpetual, namesake haze. In the spring, the sight is often the backdrop for a field of colorful wildflowers; in the fall, a rich palette of changing leaves. I’m lucky to call the 500,000-acre Great Smoky...

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The Ocean Cleanup project finally cleaned up some plastic

Well, folks, there’s a first time for everything — the Ocean Cleanup project has successfully deployed a device that collects plastic pollution. It only took six years, tens of millions of dollars, and a few unsuccessful attempts (or “unscheduled learning opportunities,” in the words of 25-year-old founder and CEO Boyan Slat). The nonprofit’s prior, unsuccessful designs...

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Feds to open Utah’s national parks to ATVs

The roar of ATVs could be coming to a Utah national park backcountry road near you under a major policy shift initiated by the National Park Service without public input. Across the country, off-road vehicles like ATVs and UTVs are generally barred from national parks. For Utah’s famed parks, however, that all changes starting Nov. 1, 2019 when these vehicles may be...

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North Carolina’s Hanging Rock State Park adds 900 acres for new recreation, camping, trailhead

Hanging Rock State Park encompasses 8,605 acres, according to the North Carolina Division of Parks and Recreation. Now, the state is tacking on another 900 acres. NCDPR celebrated the new addition to the state park in Stokes County. “This is truly a day for celebration,” said Secretary Susi H. Hamilton in a news release. “Future visitors to Hanging Rock State Park will...

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Hellbenders Need You to Stop Messing With Their Bedrooms

Like many misunderstood and undervalued creatures in the country’s wilds, the hellbender faces innumerable threats from poisoned water to climate change. But this creature—one that has survived some of Earth’s most dramatic changes—also faces an additional threat. And that threat involves people messing with its bedroom. Seriously. Hellbenders have a home range of about...

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Celebrate National Public Lands Day on September 28, 2019

National parks will offer free admission, wellness events, and stewardship activities for National Public Lands Day on Sept. 28, 2019 – the country’s biggest celebration of the great outdoors. “It is always energizing to see people, parks, and communities unite in support of public lands,” said National Park Service Deputy Director P. Daniel Smith. “The variety of...

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Five Ways Forests Benefit Human Health

Have you ever spent the whole day inside sitting in school or work feeling exhausted, but when you walk outside into the sun and fresh air, you instantly feel better? There’s an actual scientific term for this feeling. Biophilia is a word for human’s innate draw to the natural environment. However, nature and forests in particular do much more for human health than just...

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Smokies Park Hosts Multiple Volunteer Opportunities in Celebration of National Public Lands Day

Great Smoky Mountains National Park will host a variety of opportunities on Saturday, September 28, 2019 in celebration of the 26th annual National Public Lands Day. On this day, National Park Service staff and volunteers will host information stations at popular sites throughout the national park. These stations will offer information about Leave No Trace principles and...

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Take a tour of this canyon for a less-crowded, more in-depth experience than at Mesa Verde

Mesa Verde National Park in southwestern Colorado is an archaeological gem thanks to nearly 5,000 ancient sites. Founded in 1906, the park preserves the heritage of the Ancestral Pueblo people who lived in the dwellings for almost 700 years. For a more peaceful journey through indigenous history, head to Arizona’s Canyon de Chelly National Monument. Situated in the...

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Armadillos roll into Western North Carolina

Flexible bands of skin on its back hold the hard pieces of its roly-poly shell together. Scales cover much of its body, interrupted by the shaggy, grey hair that covers its belly. Deserving a spot alongside the platypus as one of the world’s strangest mammals, the latest arrival to the Tar Heel State is doing its part to keep the Asheville area weird. Since May 17, the...

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