Conservation & Environment

A massive Canadian fossil trove reminds us how fleeting life on Earth can be — and how much peril we’re in

Posted by on Dec 8, 2019 @ 7:22 am in Conservation | 0 comments

A massive Canadian fossil trove reminds us how fleeting life on Earth can be — and how much peril we’re in

We ascend a sheer mountainside in the Canadian Rockies. Our destination, high on the cliff face, is a jumble of 510-million-year-old rocks known as the Burgess Shale.

Formed during the middle part of the Cambrian period, the shale boasts tens of thousands of perfectly preserved fossils from the dawn of the animal kingdom. Many were soft-bodied organisms whose existence in most other places has been lost to the ravages of time. This wealth of small, strange specimens has shaped scientists’ understanding of evolution and offered insight into the link between Earth’s climate and the life it can support, making the Burgess Shale one of the most precious and important fossil sites in the world.

Life on Earth has been evolving for nearly 4 billion years. Yet only now, as the geological clock strikes midnight, is there a creature capable of looking back at that history and appreciating it. Only now, as our own actions imperil this extraordinary and singular planet, do humans have a chance to comprehend all that is about to be lost.

Weirdness seems to be the defining characteristic of Burgess Shale organisms. There are Opabinia, an oddball with five eyes and a vacuum cleaner nozzle for a nose, and the monstrous Hallucigenia, which boasted eight pairs of legs and an equal number of conical spines. The ancestor of all modern vertebrates, including fish, birds and humans, was Pikaia, a wriggling eel-like organism no longer than your big toe.

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Critical Wildlife Corridor in WNC State Natural Area Protected

Posted by on Dec 7, 2019 @ 6:52 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Critical Wildlife Corridor in WNC State Natural Area Protected

In 2019, Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy (SAHC) completed the purchase of an assemblage of properties in the Cane Creek Mountains totaling 456 acres, to permanently protect an important ridgeline corridor through the Yellow Mountain State Natural Area. SAHC’s acquisition of the land protects habitat for rare plants and animals, clean water sources and scenic mountain views from public lands.

“Together we protected a critical 456-acre chain that links previously unconnected sections of the Yellow Mountain State Natural Area,” says Michelle Pugliese, SAHC’s land protection director. “This one project made historic, landscape-scale strides in achieving the vision of the state natural area: to protect a long distance scenic and wildlife corridor from the Appalachian Trail south along the Cane Creek Mountains. It is one of the most impactful land acquisitions in the region.”

The properties are situated along the high-elevation ridge that forms the boundary between Mitchell and Avery Counties south of Grassy Ridge on the Roan Mountain massif. The tracts reach 4,600 ft. in elevation and adjoin SAHC’s Cane Creek Mountain and Little Hawk Mountain preserves, connecting sections of the North Carolina Yellow Mountain State Natural Area. The property is within five miles of 13 North Carolina Natural Heritage Significant Natural Heritage Areas, and SAHC’s acquisition of the land protects significant water resources and habitat for rare and threatened species.

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Conservation and Affordable Housing Fit Together at Little White Oak Mountain

Posted by on Dec 6, 2019 @ 6:39 am in Conservation | 0 comments

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. Then, the recession hit, the housing market collapsed, and conservationists got another chance to protect the land.

Two land trusts that later merged to form Conserving Carolina bought 1,068 acres at Little White Oak Mountain in 2016. This spring, 900 acres of that property became public land—with 600 acres added to the Green River Game Lands and 300 acres added to a Polk County park.

These conservation lands protect mountain streams that flow into the Green River. They protect rural scenery. They expand areas for hunting, fishing, and hiking. Multi-use trails will be open for mountain biking. All of this could make Polk County more of a destination for outdoor recreation, boosting the local economy.

Kieran Roe, the executive director of Conserving Carolina, saw potential for the land to provide another community benefit, as well: affordable housing. The 1,068-acre purchase at Little White Oak Mountain included some land that wasn’t especially valuable for conservation. It’s at the foot of the mountain, along Rt. 108. Kieran reached out to another nonprofit—the Housing Assistance Corporation, based in Hendersonville—to ask if they would be interested in building affordable housing there. And they were.

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

Posted by on Dec 5, 2019 @ 7:25 am in Conservation | 0 comments

‘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 lost.

The damage caused by fire in the Gondwana rainforest world heritage area in the north of the state is a “global tragedy” and an “absolute crisis” a Nature Conservation Council ecologist says.

The chief executive of the council, Chris Gambian, said the loss of 800,000 hectares in NSW national parks, out of a total of 1.9m hectares burnt in the state since 1 July, “changes the calculus of nature conservation in the state.” The “monumental” scale of the fires meant conservation of land would now be “more important than ever”, Gambian said.

As well as the losses in the Blue Mountains, concern has centred on the Gondwana rainforest world heritage area, a collection of reserves of subtropical rainforest that span 366,500 hectares across NSW and Queensland.

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A pipeline runs through it

Posted by on Dec 4, 2019 @ 6:40 am in Conservation | 0 comments

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 slopes, crossing the Appalachian Trail and Blue Ridge Parkway. They stamp quiet hollers and hillside family cemeteries. They divide historic African American communities and indigenous land.

The route stretches from the Marcellus Shale region of West Virginia, through Virginia, to southern North Carolina — though the energy companies behind the pipeline have floated the idea of extending it into South Carolina. If completed, the hundreds of miles of 42- and 36-inch diameter steel would carry 1.5 billion cubic feet of natural gas every day — enough to power 5 million homes daily. Three compressor stations along the route would help transport the gas, and, like much of the pipeline, would be built in lower-income, rural communities, bypassing more affluent property owners.

The project is part of a pipeline boom in the United States prompted by the fossil fuel industry’s shift from a fuel source on the decline, coal, to one on the rise, natural gas. Dominion Energy owns the majority share of the project, which was first proposed in 2014. Some of the most powerful utilities in the Southern U.S. — Duke Energy and Southern Company — own the rest. Those utility companies are also the wholesalers that would profit by reselling the gas to their ratepayers. The companies say the project is necessary because they and other utilities serving Virginia and North Carolina need cheaper gas. And they claim it would be an economic boon to the region.

But economists, environmentalists, researchers, and many residents in the places the pipeline would pass through say the project’s risks and costs outweigh its potential short-term benefits.

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Exxon knew — and so did coal

Posted by on Dec 3, 2019 @ 7:18 am in Conservation | 0 comments

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 1966, a newly unearthed journal shows.

James R. Garvey, who was the president of Bituminous Coal Research Inc., a now-defunct coal mining and processing research organization wrote in a 1966 edition of the industry publication Mining Congress Journal.

“There is evidence that the amount of carbon dioxide in the earth’s atmosphere is increasing rapidly as a result of the combustion of fossil fuels,” wrote Garvey. “If the future rate of increase continues as it is at the present, it has been predicted that, because the CO2 envelope reduces radiation, the temperature of the earth’s atmosphere will increase and that vast changes in the climates of the earth will result.”

“Such changes in temperature will cause melting of the polar icecaps, which, in turn, would result in the inundation of many coastal cities, including New York and London,” he continued.

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

Posted by on Nov 27, 2019 @ 6:51 am in Conservation | 0 comments

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 decade, according to the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) annual emissions gap report.

Global emissions must fall by 7.6% every year from now until 2030 to stay within the 1.5C ceiling on temperature rises that scientists say is necessary to avoid disastrous consequences. The only time in recent history when emissions have fallen in any country at a similar rate came during the collapse of the Soviet Union. During the financial crisis and recession, emissions in the US and Japan fell briefly by about 6% but soon rebounded.

However, technologies such as renewable energy and electric vehicles are now available, and increasingly cheap, which could enable deep cuts in carbon without jeopardizing economic growth.

Without such urgent action the world’s fate would be sealed within the next few years as carbon would rise to such a level as to make dangerous levels of warming inevitable. “We need quick wins to reduce emissions as much as possible in 2020, then stronger [commitments under the Paris agreement] to kickstart the major transformations of economies and societies. We need to catch up on the years in which we procrastinated,” said Inger Andersen, executive director of UNEP.

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The Problems with the BLM Moving to the West

Posted by on Nov 25, 2019 @ 6:41 am in Conservation | 0 comments

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 BLM headquarters to Grand Junction. Most of the 248.3 million acres managed by the agency are in the West, he argued. Why shouldn’t the agency be there too?

The plan is to site 27 top-level jobs in Grand Junction and scatter most of the roughly 360 current D.C.-based employees at existing regional offices. The agency has already rented office space in Grand Junction in a building that also houses Chevron’s regional office. Sixty-one jobs, mainly related to budget and Freedom of Information Act requests, would remain in D.C.

But the November letters were still a surprise. In the four months since the announcement, BLM employees say they’ve been kept in the dark about why the move is necessary, beyond the initial statement. In August, two congresswomen introduced legislation in the House to try to block the move. Congressional representatives, current and former BLM employees, and environmental watchdog groups think the plan is a way to move land management away from federal oversight, to loosen protection and regulation.

The vast majority of BLM staff, they argue—some 97 percent—already work in the field, including at the current Colorado state office, which is in the Denver suburbs. And those D.C. jobs are the ones that depend on interagency collaboration and policy development. The majority of those employees don’t want to move, and they can’t effectively do their jobs elsewhere. “It’s basically lopping the head off the animal.”

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Smokies rangers will patrol Mexican border, arrest migrants

Posted by on Nov 24, 2019 @ 7:12 am in Conservation | 0 comments

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 Park in Utah, among others, temporarily relocate to Arizona and Texas to work with Border Patrol agents. And park officials say they’ve already been told they should continue sending park rangers to the border through September 2020.

The president continues to ask for $5 billion to fund a U.S.-Mexico border wall, but House Democrats did not include such funding in recent spending bills. The fight over border wall funding is the same issue that led to a five-week government shutdown at the start of the year, which sent most government workers, including park rangers, home without pay.

Critics say the president is improperly using park officials to staff up his border plan at a time when the nation’s national parks are desperately understaffed and overcrowded. They also note that the park rangers, who are accustomed to ticketing speeding drivers or extracting injured hikers from remote canyons, have little to no training in border security tactics.

Cite…

 

Wildlife refuges suffer under budget cuts and staff shortages

Posted by on Nov 22, 2019 @ 7:09 am in Conservation | 0 comments

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 amphibian in the U.S., making it the world’s largest collection of habitats set aside for wildlife conservation. Around 50 million people visit the nation’s refuges each year.

But funding has not kept up with the system’s needs. Accounting for inflation, the overall Refuge System budget has decreased by almost 18% since 2010. As a result, the number of staff is currently around 2,600, which is an almost 20% drop from 2013. Additionally, as of 2015, there were only 318 refuge officers, down 65% from 1990.

For example, the Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge, nestled between the boggy wetlands and glistening ponds of Montana’s Bitterroot Valley, once employed 13 people to manage and study its land. Now, it has only three full-time staffers and one seasonal worker. Consequently, key jobs — such as bird migration surveys, weed management and prescribed wildfires — are being left unfinished. This is a problem plaguing the entire National Wildlife Refuge System, which has suffered from a string of budget cuts and a shrinking staff for the last decade or more.

That means that refuges nationwide have fewer scientists, reduced law enforcement and a lack of habitat restoration. As a result, one of the system’s central responsibilities — to protect and restore wildlife habitat — is falling by the wayside.

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Smokies outdoor education center turns 50, plans expansion

Posted by on Nov 21, 2019 @ 7:15 am in Conservation | 0 comments

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 Carlton, development manager at Tremont. “We are focused on doing this in a way that really reflects our organization, our mission, and we want to be as inclusive as possible in engaging the communities we serve and making sure this campus is in line with their needs and values.”

The nonprofit recently purchased 194 acres in Townsend, Tennessee, and has completed an initial master plan for the site, which is adjacent to the park. The project is preliminary, with no cost estimate or target timeline as of yet — but there is a vision for what it might one day become.

Tremont’s existing campus is mostly used for youth programming — the dormitory setup isn’t conducive to adult-centric events — but the new campus will be better equipped to handle adult groups. The buildings will be adaptive, too, with smaller dormitory units that can work as single-unit housing options or open up to serve larger groups.

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Evidence of Many Varieties of Economic Benefits Linked to Trails

Posted by on Nov 19, 2019 @ 6:56 am in Conservation, Hiking News | 0 comments

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 U.S. economy, supports 7.6 million direct national jobs, generates $59.2 billion in annual state and local tax revenue, and $65.3 billion in national tax revenue. Active recreation is defined as bicycling, trail activities, paddling, snow sports, camping, fishing, hunting, and wildlife viewing.

Looking at our public lands, a recent study shows the importance of national parks and Bureau of Land Management area to the economy:

“The 437 million recreational visits to Interior-managed lands in 2010 supported more than 388,000 jobs nationwide and contributed over $44 billion in economic activity. Many of those jobs were in rural communities, including 15,000 jobs in Utah, 14,000 jobs in Wyoming, 9,000 in Colorado, and 8,000 in Arizona.”

Another way that we all benefit from trail facilities is increased public health.

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Panthertown Valley in Nantahala National Forest selected for recreation impact intervention

Posted by on Nov 18, 2019 @ 6:44 am in Conservation, Hiking News | 0 comments

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 out just under 100 Hot Spots in 35 states, with 14 more coming in 2020.

Located in the Nantahala National Forest near Cashiers, Panthertown Valley has 30 miles of public trails. Friends of Panthertown is an official member and partner of the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics, and the organization has a Leave No Trace Master Educator on staff to educate community members on the seven principles of Leave No Trace.

Those principles are: plan ahead and prepare, travel and camp on durable surfaces, dispose of waste properly, leave what you find, minimize campfire impacts, respect wildlife and be considerate of other visitors.

Impacts addressed by Hot Spot evaluation include user conflicts, undesignated trails, litter, pet and human waste, unintended trail widening, and removal of natural and cultural resources.

 

Coastal Forests Face Rising Sea Levels, Increased Salinity

Posted by on Nov 17, 2019 @ 7:10 am in Conservation | 0 comments

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 are located and how land managers can sustain the productivity of their remaining coastal forests.

Nancy Gibson, a research scientist, provides an overview of salinity: its causes, impacts, and management options. She discusses natural causes of salinity, like storms and tides, and human causes, like the dense network of ditches and canals installed to drain wetlands for plantation forestry and farming.

“Salinization is expected to increase as sea levels continue to rise. Rising sea levels will inundate lands, increase tide and storm surge levels, and push salt water farther inland through ditches and tidal creeks,” says Gibson.

Ghost forests are at the “leading edge of climate change,” according to Emily Bernhardt, a professor at Duke University. She has studied how gradual salinization due to sea level rise has been exacerbated by episodic saltwater intrusion.

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

Posted by on Nov 9, 2019 @ 6:22 am in Conservation | 0 comments

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 play in preserving the nation’s military history through memorials and monuments, several of the parks also have direct connections to America’s military — from battlefields to military parks and historic sites.

On Veterans Day, Yosemite National Park will honor the “Buffalo Soldiers” — the African American U.S. Army regiment members who acted as the park’s first rangers after the Civil War.

The U.S. Army served as the official administrator of Yosemite and Sequoia national parks between 1891 and 1913, and according to NPS, over 500 Black servicemembers enacted a wide range of ranger duties in these two locations, including fighting forest fires.

Cite…

 

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

Posted by on Nov 8, 2019 @ 7:01 am in Conservation | 0 comments

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,” said Derrick Crandall, vice-chairman of the Made in America Outdoor Recreation Advisory Committee.

The committee published its recommendations in a letter to the Interior Department last month.

National park campgrounds are just one of many government resources that Trump has sought to privatize, including the U.S. Postal Service and infrastructure like airports and freeways.

The White House wants to reduce spending on the National Park Service by 15%, or $481 million, even as the service has said it is facing a more than $11 billion maintenance backlog.

The committee would also prohibit seniors from using 50% discounts on campsites during “peak season periods,” like Fourth of July.

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Would banning frequent flyer programs help the planet?

Posted by on Nov 3, 2019 @ 7:14 am in Conservation | 0 comments

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, few are ready to go to that extreme. In fact, consumer demand for air travel is growing fast, on schedule to double in the next two decades, and improvements in airplane efficiency have not kept pace.

One U.K. researcher made headlines this month by proposing a provocative solution: a ban on frequent flyer programs.

The suggestion came in a report commissioned by the U.K. Committee on Climate Change geared at changing consumer behavior through policy. It’s predicated on the idea that frequent flyer programs stimulate demand by encouraging members to take extra flights to earn rewards or maintain a privileged status. “The norm of unlimited flying being acceptable needs to be challenged,” wrote the study’s author.

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Coyote Sightings Peak in October-November

Posted by on Nov 2, 2019 @ 7:09 am in Conservation | 0 comments

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’ territory to find a mate and establish their own territory. Young coyotes often travel with their siblings during this time and can travel long distances – upward of 300 miles before settling down into their own territories.

During these wanderings, their characteristic yipping, howling and barking often can be heard as they keep track of each other, as well as other coyotes whose territories they are passing through. Because of the hollow tone of the howl, two coyotes often sound like a huge group and may seem closer than they actually are.

Contrary to popular belief, hearing a coyote howl does not mean it has just taken down prey, although some people do find their howls unnerving. Fortunately, hearing or seeing a coyote, even during the day, is usually no cause for alarm.

While native to the mid-western section of North America, coyotes have expanded their range into the eastern United States and are now established in all 100 counties of North Carolina. According to data collected by human-wildlife biologists, Wake and Mecklenburg counties have reported the most coyote sightings in 2018.

From our friends at the North Carolina Wildlife Federation

 

Kids on the Mountaintop

Posted by on Oct 30, 2019 @ 6:36 am in Conservation | 0 comments

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 pods had just started to crack.

Penelope and her friends tried different ways to pry them open, but the thorns pricked their fingers. Using sticks helped. Penelope slid some seeds out, dug a small hole, and dropped them in. “I’m planting them!” she said. For Penelope, the best part of this field trip was “experimenting on different plants.”

Elsewhere on the mountaintop, a group of boys stacked rocks to build a house for “an ant millionaire.” Kids walked or ran on rocks, trying not to teeter off into imaginary lava. Others looked for bugs, and found spiders, beetles, crickets, and grubs. Kids did cartwheels. Kites sailed and bubbles floated on the breeze.

On this cool October day, FernLeaf Community Charter School brought the entire school—nearly 300 students, from kindergarten through sixth grade—to the top of the mountain, with the help of volunteers and Conserving Carolina. The children hiked the one-mile trail in groups, sometimes scrambling up a boulder on their way or taking a break to write in their journals.

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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.

Posted by on Oct 28, 2019 @ 7:12 am in Conservation | 0 comments

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 New York — honking included. Elk navigate rough, mountainous terrain for valleys with a more accessible buffet. And tarantulas set their hairy legs in motion, crossing patches of desert and roads in the name of love.

Animal migrations are the most epic form of travel. The birds, bugs and mammals traverse large swaths of land or water (and sometimes both) and face life-threatening obstacles, all in the name of species survival. Unlike humans, they can’t cancel their trips or rebook for next year. Though the times and routes may vary due to weather, environmental factors and other variables, the animals will hit the road, moving between their summer and winter grounds.

Since you can’t catch a ride on a whale flipper or a butterfly wing, consider your second-best option: observing the migrating masses at certain points along the route or during their pit stops. Or, if you have a migratory nature, combine both.

This article shows you where you can see the creatures as well as attend festivals and special events that cheer on the visitors as they fly, paddle, trek or crawl their way to the finish line.