Conservation & Environment

It’s raining plastic: microscopic fibers are falling from the sky

Posted by on Aug 15, 2019 @ 7:14 am in Conservation | 0 comments

It’s raining plastic: microscopic fibers are falling from the sky

Plastic was the furthest thing from Gregory Weatherbee’s mind when he began analyzing rainwater samples collected from the Rocky Mountains.“I guess I expected to see mostly soil and mineral particles,” said the US Geological Survey researcher. Instead, he found multicolored microscopic plastic fibers.

The discovery, published in a recent study titled “It is raining plastic”, raises new questions about the amount of plastic waste permeating the air, water, and soil virtually everywhere on Earth.

“I think the most important result that we can share with the American public is that there’s more plastic out there than meets the eye,” said Weatherbee. “It’s in the rain, it’s in the snow. It’s a part of our environment now.”

Rainwater samples collected across Colorado and analyzed under a microscope contained a rainbow of plastic fibers, as well as beads and shards. The findings shocked Weatherbee, who had been collecting the samples in order to study nitrogen pollution.

The results are consistent with another recent study that found microplastics in the Pyrenees, suggesting plastic particles could travel with the wind for hundreds, if not thousands, of kilometers. Other studies have turned up microplastics in the deepest reaches of the ocean, in UK lakes and rivers and in US groundwater.

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How Jocassee Gorges Was Saved

Posted by on Aug 13, 2019 @ 6:54 am in Conservation, Hiking News | 0 comments

How Jocassee Gorges Was Saved

To appreciate what Bill Thomas did for Gorges State Park, think of it not as a stand-alone property but as part of the larger Lake Jocassee watershed. Also known as Jocassee Gorges, it is a freak of climatological and geologic nature that extends across the North Carolina-South Carolina line southwest of Asheville and has been named by National Geographic as one of fifty “World’s Last Great Places.”

The ancient crash of tectonic plates that created the Appalachian Mountains pushed up the Blue Wall on the southeast edge of the mountains and formed the bones of the lake’s basin and the maze of gorges above it. The 2,000-foot wall catches moisture from clouds drifting up from the Gulf of Mexico, creating an annual average of 91 inches of rain (and a whopping 136 inches in 2018) that feeds four landmark rivers, the Thompson, Toxaway, Horsepasture and Whitewater. Their destination-worthy cascades include Whitewater, Rainbow, Turtleback and Windy falls.

Thomas, taking in the views at Gorges State Park, thought about what this land could have been— a vast zone of hydroelectric projects, its famous waterfalls funneled through pipes, its wild rivers cooped up in basins designed to flush like toilets to produce surges of power.

He thought about what it has been instead for the past 20 years—a safely preserved wonderland of deep ravines, plunging rivers and rare plants.

Thomas, 91, a retired chemical engineer, made an unpaid, late-life career of doing good things for the environment, applying his passion for the outdoors and brilliant, Princeton-trained intellect to a series of causes, including the blocking of a luxury subdivision planned for the heart of DuPont State Recreational Forest.

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Indians Plant 220 Million Trees In A Single Day

Posted by on Aug 12, 2019 @ 7:21 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Indians Plant 220 Million Trees In A Single Day

More than a million Indians planted 220 million trees on August 9, 2019 in a government campaign to tackle climate change and improve the environment in the country’s most populous state.

Forest official Bivhas Ranjan said students, lawmakers, officials and others planted dozens of species of saplings along roads, rail tracks and in forest lands in northern Uttar Pradesh state. The target of 220 million saplings was achieved. Ranjan said the trees, including 16 fruit species, will increase forest cover in the state.

India has pledged to keep one-third of its land area under tree cover, but its 1.3 billion people and rapid industrialization are hampering its efforts.

“We set the target of 220 million because Uttar Pradesh is home to 220 million people,” said state Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath.

Planting was carried out in 1,430,381 places, including 60,000 villages and 83,000 sites in forest ranges. It was the second huge tree planting campaign in Uttar Pradesh. In July 2016, 50 million saplings were planted in a day.

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The Controversial Plan to Protect America’s Trails

Posted by on Aug 11, 2019 @ 6:49 am in Conservation, Hiking News | 0 comments

The Controversial Plan to Protect America’s Trails

There are 11 designated national scenic trails stretching across nearly 18,000 miles in the U.S. But there are more than 4,000 miles of privately owned “gaps” in the system that leave routes vulnerable to a change in ownership or a landowner’s whims.

Typically, the government or nonprofit trail associations work to fill such gaps by purchasing land from willing sellers. But Jim Kern, founder of a new advocacy group called Hiking Trails for America, says the only way to protect every mile of those trails forever is through the use of eminent domain.

A power granted by the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution, eminent domain allows federal, state, and local governments to acquire private land for public use in exchange for “just compensation.”

The Appalachian Trail is the only national scenic trail owned entirely by the public and the only one for which the U.S. government has invoked eminent domain. The National Park Service says it acquired 15,266 acres along the trail via compulsory purchase, mostly between 1986 and 1997, out of nearly 150,000 total acres acquired to complete federal ownership of the land.

The other ten trails, like the Pacific Crest Trail, rely partly on agreements with private landowners, which guarantee rights of passage for hikers. But if lands are sold, or if an owner decides against allowing hikers on their property, it could force a trail to reroute or run alongside developed land instead of the wilderness. “It leaves a lot of uncertainty as to what might happen.”

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Southern Appalachians Highlands Conservancy Protects 187 Acres at Wilkins Creek

Posted by on Aug 8, 2019 @ 7:25 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Southern Appalachians Highlands Conservancy Protects 187 Acres at Wilkins Creek

Just beyond the rush of traffic on Interstate 40 near the Tennessee-North Carolina line, steep hillsides and forested knolls shelter a vibrant community of wildlife.

Southern Appalachians Highlands Conservancy recently purchased 187 acres in this part of Haywood County near the Pigeon River to protect a corridor for wildlife grazing and movement.

Encircled by the Pisgah National Forest and adjoining the NC Welcome Center on I-40, the Wilkins Creek property is very near a large box culvert under the Interstate, which provides a way for wildlife to travel safely from one side of the interstate to the other. The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, NC Wildlife Resources Commission, and other partners identified this property in the Pigeon River Gorge as a conservation priority because it provides a key corridor for elk and other animals to move in the landscape.

“Protecting the Wilkins Creek tract represents a long-term, important investment in the well-being of wildlife throughout the Southern Appalachians,” says Jeff Hunter, Senior Program Manager with National Parks Conservation Association. “Ongoing wildlife monitoring by National Parks Conservation Association and Wildlands Network indicate that black bear, bobcat, white-tailed deer, and migrating bird species including a variety of wood warblers frequently use this property. Protecting the land also advances wildlife connectivity efforts throughout the Pigeon River Gorge, between Pisgah National Forest and Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We will continue to support progress in restoring landscape connectivity and reducing wildlife-vehicle conflicts by working in partnership with groups like SAHC.”

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Mountain goat relocation is a high-flying balancing act in Olympic National Park

Posted by on Aug 4, 2019 @ 6:55 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Mountain goat relocation is a high-flying balancing act in Olympic National Park

In early July, the loud whirring of a helicopter punctured the quiet of Washington’s Olympic National Park as wildlife specialists scoured meadows, forests, ridgelines and mountaintops for flashes of white fuzz: mountain goats. The cherry-red aircraft kicked up dirt and debris as it lowered two goats, dangling in slings, toward a waiting truck, their feet bound and their vision obscured by blue blindfolds. During a brief landing, one of the specialists — commonly known as “muggers” — stepped out, with a kid no more than 6 weeks old calmly cradled in his arms.

It sounds like a dramatic scene from a wilderness reality show, but it’s not: It was just another day in an extensive effort to eliminate mountain goats from the Olympics — where they are not native, damage endemic plants and even killed a person — and hand some over to Washington state to boost populations in the North Cascades Range, where mountain goats have declined after decades of overhunting. The project illustrates the lengths to which national and state agencies are willing to go to restore a single strand in the complex web of these human-altered ecosystems.

Mountain goats are not native to Olympic National Park: Hunters from Alaska introduced about a dozen of them in the 1920s. At one point, the population ballooned to over 1,000, causing “ecological mayhem,” as they grazed on rare alpine plants and eroded the landscape, said Patti Happe, the wildlife branch chief for the park. Before the translocations began, there were about 725 goats still on the Olympic Peninsula.

To keep humans safe and restore balance in mountain goat populations, wildlife biologists decided to physically relocate the Olympic Peninsula goats, starting with 115 translocations last year. The animals were all radio-collared and ear-tagged so they can be identified and tracked in their new environs. Approximately 70% of adults and half the children survived the first year — which is within the natural range of survival.

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The Greenland ice sheet is in the throes of one of its greatest melting events ever recorded

Posted by on Aug 3, 2019 @ 6:54 am in Conservation | 0 comments

The Greenland ice sheet is in the throes of one of its greatest melting events ever recorded

The same heat dome that roasted Europe and broke national temperature records in five countries last week has shifted to Greenland, where it is causing one of the biggest melt events ever observed on the fragile ice sheet.

By some measures, the ice melt is more extreme than during a benchmark record event in July 2012, according to scientists analyzing the latest data. During that event, about 98 percent of the ice sheet experienced some surface melting, speeding up the process of shedding ice into the ocean.

The fate of Greenland’s ice sheet is of critical importance to every coastal resident in the world, since Greenland is already the biggest contributor to modern-day sea level rise. The pace and extent of Greenland ice melt will help determine how high sea levels climb and how quickly.

To illustrate the magnitude of ice contained in Greenland, consider that if the entire ice sheet were to melt, it would raise sea levels by 23 feet. Scientists are using aircraft, field research, satellites and other tools to improve their understanding of how quickly ice is being lost.

At one location, 75 miles east of Nuuk, Greenland’s capital, the equivalent of 8.33 feet of water (2.54 meters) had melted as of July 31, slightly exceeding the value of 8.27 feet (2.52 meters) from 2012. At another location 497 miles to the north, the equivalent of 7.38 feet (2.25 meters) of water had melted, topping the record of 6.30 feet (1.92 meters) in 2012.

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Science at Sugarlands: Mysterious grassy balds

Posted by on Aug 2, 2019 @ 6:59 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Science at Sugarlands: Mysterious grassy balds

Mysterious and haunting, Southern Appalachian grassy balds have long fascinated scientists and hikers alike. How many balds are there in the Smokies? How did they evolve? How do they support rare plants? Can balds be found in other parts of the world?

These and many other questions will be answered—or at least discussed—on Friday, August 16, 2019 when NPS forester Jesse Webster presents a Science at Sugarlands program on the grassy balds of the Great Smoky Mountains entitled “Balds: Ecological Enigma and Conservation Dilemma.” The event begins at 1 p.m. at Sugarlands Visitor Center, is free and is sponsored by Discover Life in America.

Remnants of the last ice age more than 10,000 years ago, balds are mountain summits that offered many benefits for both humans and animals. Research suggests they were once kept clear of vegetation by megafauna—grazing by early big animals like mastodons or wooly mammoth, and later bison, elk and deer.

“Native Americans most likely played an active part in maintaining the open, meadow-like character of the balds with fire,” Jesse says. “Later, early European settlers brought their cattle and sheep to the balds for choice grazing in summer, and literally carried the torch by continuing to use fire to keep the balds from turning back into forests.”

Today, people come to the Smokies from all over the world to see some of the rare plant species that still exist on the balds, such as dwarf willow and various types of goldenrod and azalea. The same unique assemblage of plant species can be found at both Andrews and Gregory balds, the two that are actively managed by GSMNP. Andrews covers two acres and visitors can access it via a fairly easy one-mile ascent; Gregory encompasses 14 acres and it takes a five-mile up-hill hike to get there.

Learn more here…

 

The Nature Conservancy Preserves Nearly 400 Square Miles of Appalachian Forest

Posted by on Aug 1, 2019 @ 6:36 am in Conservation | 0 comments

The Nature Conservancy Preserves Nearly 400 Square Miles of Appalachian Forest

  A 253,000-acre swath in the Central Appalachian Mountains will be protected, thanks to a land acquisition by The Nature Conservancy (TNC) announced earlier this month. Two parcels, one along the Kentucky-Tennessee state line, and the other in Southwest Virginia, will fill in large gaps between existing public lands and provide a wilderness corridor for animals seeking refuge from climate change, experts say.

The acquisition, known as the Cumberland Forest Project and announced July 22, 2019, is among the largest land purchases TNC has made in the Eastern United States. The organization is celebrating the deal for the way it will connect wild lands along the Appalachian Mountains.

“You see a lot of green spaces on the map when you look at the Appalachians,” says Brad Kreps, director of TNC’s Clinch Valley Program. “But there are a lot of gaps within that conserved network, and those are the places we need to work to serve the entire Appalachian corridor. The Cumberland Forest Project is a strategic acquisition that helps stitch together other protected lands and helps us maintain connected wildlife habitat.”

The first of the two parcels, the Ataya property, is a 100,000-acre tract running along the Kentucky and Tennessee border near Cumberland Gap National Historical Park. The Highlands property, the second of the two plots, consists of 153,000 acres of forest in Southwest Virginia, sandwiched between Jefferson National Forest and Breaks Interstate Park. Both parcels were previously owned by timber companies and managed primarily for resource extraction, from logging to coal mining.

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How Science Got Trampled in the Rush to Drill in the Arctic

Posted by on Jul 27, 2019 @ 7:03 am in Conservation | 0 comments

How Science Got Trampled in the Rush to Drill in the Arctic

Tucked into the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, a bill signed by President Donald Trump, was a brief two-page section that had little to do with tax reform. Drafted by Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski, the provision opened up approximately 1.6 million acres of the vast Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas leasing, a reversal of the federal policy that has long protected one of the most ecologically important landscapes in the Arctic.

The only thing standing in the way of establishing an oil and gas leasing program for ANWR is the environmental review process, which includes an assessment of the proposed seismic surveys and an evaluation of the impacts of leasing and future development on the refuge. Environmental reviews are a standard part of oil and gas drilling elsewhere in Alaska, and normally, such impact statements for ecologically sensitive and undeveloped land would take at least two to three years—or even longer, according to three former DOI officials interviewed for this article. Instead, the administration is compressing it into just over one year.

According to interviews with more than a dozen current and former employees at the Fish and Wildlife Service and the Bureau of Land Management in Alaska, that speed has come at a significant cost to the reliability and comprehensiveness of the overall environmental review.

BLM employees, according to the documents, have submitted strongly worded complaints as part of the administrative record alleging that key findings in their work on the environmental assessment for seismic surveys were altered or omitted. In one case, according to the leaked documents, a biologist’s conclusion was reversed from saying the impacts of seismic surveys on polar bears were uncertain or potentially harmful to a finding that the impact would be “less than significant”—an important distinction in environmental law.

In another complaint, a BLM anthropologist was surprised to find that large portions of her analysis of potential impacts on native communities had been removed. A third BLM scientist, who studies fish and water resources, noted that “fundamental inaccuracies” had been introduced into his section without his knowledge. Moreover, these same scientists received an email from the district office instructing them not to modify or correct the changes, which were “based on solicitor and State Office review.”

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Smokey Bear’s 75th Birthday Party at Cradle of Forestry

Posted by on Jul 25, 2019 @ 7:33 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Smokey Bear’s 75th Birthday Party at Cradle of Forestry

Come and join Smokey and all his friends at The Cradle of Forestry for his 75th birthday. This year’s red carpet event is the hottest ticket in Pisgah National Forest, with all new games and events, it’s fun for the whole family.

Party Schedule:

11:00 am to 1:00 pm: Smokey’s Birthday Party. Enjoy games, prizes, live children’s music, and birthday cake.
11:30 am: Smokey Arrives! Meet Smokey bear. Make him a birthday card and take a photo together.
12:00 pm: Story Time. Hear the true story of Smokey Bear & Sing the Smokey Bear song.
12:30 pm: Kids Parade. Join the Rosman High School Marching Band in a birthday parade.
1:30 pm to 2:30 pm: Live Animal Presentation by Naturalist Carlton Burke and his animal friends.

Party Details:

This event costs $6 for regular admission and $3 for youth ages 4 to 12, along with federal pass holders including America the Beautiful and Golden Age. Children under 4 for free.

Admission to the birthday party is included in the admission fee along with access to 15 hands-on exhibits in the Forest Discovery Center, including the firefighting helicopter simulator and the scavenger hunt.

The Cafe at the Cradle will be open for lunch from 11am to 3pm, but families are also invited to pack their own picnic.

All activities during Smokey Bear’s Birthday Party (11am to 1pm) will be held in front of the Forest Discovery Center. The Live Animal Presentation at 1:30 pm will take place at our outdoor amphitheater.

The Cradle of Forestry in America Heritage Site is located near Brevard, NC and Asheville, NC within Pisgah National Forest on Hwy. 276 North, 4 Miles from the Blue Ridge Parkway at Mile Marker 412, and 3.5 miles from Sliding Rock.

 

7 Ways Hemp Plastic Could Change the World

Posted by on Jul 23, 2019 @ 6:48 am in Conservation | 0 comments

7 Ways Hemp Plastic Could Change the World

Did you know that it takes between 500-1,000 years for plastic to degrade?

Plastic pollution is destroying our planet by the minute. In fact, so much plastic is thrown away each year it could circle the earth four times. And these numbers are on the rise.

In the United States alone, Americans throw away 35 billion plastic water bottles every year. This plastic ends up in the land and the sea, devastating natural ecosystems. Worse yet, this same plastic pollution ends up in our bodies.

It’s estimated that 93 percent of Americans over the age of six test positive for BPA, a chemical in plastic linked to cancer, diabetes, impaired immunity, and much more.

Clearly, plastic pollution is an environmental and health hazard. But what if hemp could help?

Hemp happens to be an excellent source of cellulose and is sustainable.

Here are 7 ways how hemp plastic could change our planet…

 

For 35 years, a team of scientists have studied the decline of glaciers. What does their loss mean?

Posted by on Jul 20, 2019 @ 7:27 am in Conservation | 0 comments

For 35 years, a team of scientists have studied the decline of glaciers. What does their loss mean?

Walking the icy flanks of Mount Baker—an active volcano in Washington State and one of the highest peaks in the Cascade Range—is probably one of the most untainted wilderness experiences.

A high mountain glacier, in its frigid, deadly enormity, doesn’t feel much like a landscape meant for humans. In the European Alps, medieval myths held that glaciers carried curses and incarcerated the frozen souls of the damned. And yet, on a grand scale, where glaciers and humans coexist, our lives are entwined in ways we rarely realize.

During the last ice age, the glaciers of Alaska locked up so much water that the seas lowered enough to create a land bridge to Siberia and perhaps allowed the earliest passage of humans into North America.

Glaciers have carved out many of our mountain ranges, scoured out plains and prairies, and birthed rivers and lakes. Today, in many parts of the world, mountain glaciers preside over vast empires of fresh water that reach from the highest peaks to the coast: they dictate the flow of water downslope and influence the seasonal pulse of rivers and fish and the temperature and chemistry of streams and estuaries.

They supply water for drinking, irrigation, and hydropower dams. But as the world gets warmer, glaciers’ influence in many regions is waning.

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Here’s how hot your hometown will feel by mid-century

Posted by on Jul 18, 2019 @ 7:28 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Here’s how hot your hometown will feel by mid-century

Residents of Harris County, Texas are no stranger to heat. The swampy Houston metro area averages nearly 40 days per year with temperatures in the 100 degrees F or higher range. But, according to a pair of papers published this week, if nothing is done about climate change, many more U.S. cities could be feeling a similar kind of heat.

A new report released by the Union of Concerned Scientists and a study published by the same authors in the journal Environmental Research Communications found that the annual number of days with heat indices above 100 degrees F is expected to double by mid-century. That’s compared to temperatures between 1971 to 2000. The number of days that “feel like” 105 degrees or higher is set to triple, with the number of people exposed to “off-the-charts” temperatures growing exponentially.

What exactly is considered “off-the-charts,” you ask? Those are days with conditions so extreme that they exceed the current National Weather Service heat index range, which stops at 127 degrees F. That’s a higher heat index than what we’re currently seeing in Death Valley in July. Days like this have so far affected less than 1 percent of the U.S. by area, but by mid-century, up to a quarter of the U.S. could feel “off-the-charts” heat at least one day a year.

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See what’s likely to happen where you live…

 

He took down dams, freed wolves and preserved wildlands. Bruce Babbitt is still at work.

Posted by on Jul 17, 2019 @ 6:51 am in Conservation | 0 comments

He took down dams, freed wolves and preserved wildlands. Bruce Babbitt is still at work.

The rising sun was just starting to light up the tops of the sandstone cliffs when Bruce Babbitt arrived at an empty parking lot, ready to set out on a hike.

He chose a trail he knows and loves, a canyon filled with childhood memories and one of his favorite wilderness areas — a fitting place to meet someone who has been immersed in decisions about preserving wilderness for much of his life.

During eight years as secretary of the Interior under President Bill Clinton, and previously as Arizona’s governor, Babbitt distinguished himself as a Democratic politician who skillfully navigated environmental debates and prioritized the conservation of wildlands, streams and wildlife.

In the 1990s, he played a central role in some of the country’s biggest environmental decisions. He helped devise a plan to limit logging and protect the spotted owl in the Pacific Northwest. He presided over reintroducing wolves in Yellowstone National Park. He stood atop a California dam and swung a sledgehammer as he inaugurated a push to take down dams and restore rivers.

He participated in the creation of 19 new national monuments, from Grand Staircase-Escalante in Utah to Giant Sequoia in California, as well as five monuments in Arizona.

He could have chosen to wrap up his career when he left office at the end of the Clinton administration in 2001. But Babbitt has remained actively engaged in issues he cares about.

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Is a Green Future Worth Spoiling the Appalachian Trail?

Posted by on Jul 16, 2019 @ 8:14 am in Conservation, Hiking News | 0 comments

Is a Green Future Worth Spoiling the Appalachian Trail?

  A proposed hydropower transmission line in Maine would impact the AT, wildlife, recreation, and tourism. Is it worth it?

The proposed project, known as New England Clean Energy Connect (NECEC), is a 145-mile transmission line winding down from the Canadian border through Maine’s forests, and would ferry hydroelectric energy from Canadian dams to the New England grid. It would cross the AT three times within a mile, south of Moxie Pond and about 130 miles from the trail’s momentous conclusion at Mount Katadhin, impacting views from several overlooks.

“There’s a certain awe in thru-hikers, especially those who are coming from the South,” a local said. “They’ve just hiked on these regions where there are a lot of reminders of civilizations, road crossings, and infrastructure. What I’ve heard from them is that Maine is more noted for having that backcountry experience.”

Many of the opponents of NECEC—65 percent of Maine residents are not in favor of the project-according to a recent poll—worry that the line will threaten this scenic character. Maine’s northern woods have been relatively spared from development. They have a legacy of sporting camps; offer hiking, rafting, fishing, kayaking, snowmobiling, and other recreational opportunities, all of which support a robust outdoor industry and local economies. While the exact impacts of the line are up for debate, those who oppose it fear it would bifurcate “what is basically the largest expanse of undeveloped forest in the eastern United States.”

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EPA restores broad use of pesticide opposed by beekeepers

Posted by on Jul 13, 2019 @ 8:40 am in Conservation | 0 comments

EPA restores broad use of pesticide opposed by beekeepers

The Environmental Protection Agency will allow farmers to resume broad use of a pesticide over objections from beekeepers, citing private chemical industry studies that the agency says show the product does only lower-level harm to bees and wildlife.

The EPA announcement makes sulfoxaflor the latest bug and weed-killer allowed by the Trump administration despite lawsuits alleging environmental or human harm. The pesticide is made by Corteva Agriscience, a spinoff created last month out of the DowDuPont merger and restructuring.

Honeybees pollinate billions of dollars of food crops annually in the United States, but agriculture and other land uses that cut into their supply of pollen, as well as pesticides, parasites and other threats, have them on a sharp decline. The University of Maryland said U.S. beekeepers lost 38 percent of their bee colonies last winter alone, the highest one-winter loss in the 13-year history of their survey.

A federal appeals court had ordered the EPA to withdraw approval for sulfoxaflor in 2015, ruling in a lawsuit brought by U.S. beekeeping groups that not enough was known about what it did to bees.

Separately, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced without fanfare on July 1 that it would stop collecting quarterly data on honeybee colonies, citing budget restrictions. Beekeepers and others used the data to track losses and growth in U.S. honeybee colonies.

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Projecting Climate Change Effects on Outdoor Recreation

Posted by on Jul 8, 2019 @ 9:03 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Projecting Climate Change Effects on Outdoor Recreation

Cool temperatures enjoyed by hikers might rise enough that people decide to stay inside instead. The culprit – climate change – will cause higher temperatures and uneven intensification of both drought and rainfall. As a result, outdoor recreation trends could change markedly.

A study by the University of Georgia and the U.S. Forest Service examined this relationship. The study looked at how climate change could impact outdoor recreation participation. Their findings were published in The Journal of Park and Recreation Administration.

First, the scientists created models of adult participation rates in 17 outdoor recreation activities, such as day hiking, fishing, horseback riding on trails, motorized water activities, birding, and swimming. They based the models on past national and regional data, with the expectation that they could simulate future rates.

They combined these recreation models with explanatory variable projections. Explanatory variables are the main factors that explain participation in outdoor recreation. These variables included income, temperature, and precipitation, among others.

The results project future changes in participation for those 17 outdoor activities, nationally and by region. Changes were measured as the difference between the projected 2060 rates with climate change and the 2060 rates without.

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Restoring forests may be one of our most powerful weapons in fighting climate change

Posted by on Jul 6, 2019 @ 7:22 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Restoring forests may be one of our most powerful weapons in fighting climate change

Allowing the earth’s forests to recover could cancel out a significant amount of humanity’s greenhouse gas emissions, according to new research.

The worldwide assessment of current and potential forestation estimates that letting saplings regrow on land where forests have been cleared would increase global forested area by one-third and remove 205 billion metric tons of carbon from the atmosphere. That’s two-thirds of the roughly 300 billion metric tons of carbon humans have put up there since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution.

“The point is that [reforestation is] so much more vastly powerful than anyone ever expected,” said Thomas Crowther, a professor of environmental systems science at ETH Zurich and a co-author of the paper. “By far, it’s the top climate change solution in terms of carbon storage potential.”

Supporting natural systems should be a major component of any climate change mitigation strategy — in addition to deploying clean energy, switching to electric vehicles, and curbing consumption overall.

The challenges of such a massive reforestation effort are immense, however: Deforestation is still rampant and is accelerating in some parts of the world. Rather than building up forests as a resource to offset greenhouse gas emissions, we’re currently losing them, and emitting more carbon in the process.

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Science program goes statewide: ecoEXPLORE program for kids now available in N.C. State Parks

Posted by on Jul 5, 2019 @ 9:02 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Science program goes statewide: ecoEXPLORE program for kids now available in N.C. State Parks

  A program that’s been getting Western North Carolina kids outside since 2016 is now a statewide offering, with a whirlwind tour of 10 North Carolina state parks over the next couple weeks celebrating ecoEXPLORE’s arrival at all 41 park units.

“There’s a lot of benefits to being outdoors,” said Jonathan Marchal, youth education manager at the N.C. Arboretum in Asheville. “A lot of times it’s almost like a competition — you can go outside and be screen-free, or you can go indoors and be completely immersed in a screen. I think one approach that is helpful is utilizing those items like smartphones as tools to explore the environment, and not just as tools to explore the environment but to engage kids in doing conservation work.”

That’s just what ecoEXPLORE, a program the arboretum developed, aims to do.

Originally launched through a grant from the Burroughs Wellcome Fund, ecoEXPLORE encourages kids to go outside, make observations about nature, and record those observations with a smartphone camera. Participants earn points for each observation, and the points can then be cashed in for prizes like binoculars, butterfly nets and flower presses. They can earn badges, too. Each change in season brings with it a change in the badge that could potentially be claimed. Right now it’s herpetology season — participants who complete the herpetology challenge, which includes making six observations of reptiles or amphibians and attending an upcoming event at the arboretum, will get the Herpetology Field Badge.

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