Conservation & Environment

How the US could lead on climate change — in 8 simple steps

Posted by on Oct 27, 2020 @ 6:37 am in Conservation | 0 comments

How the US could lead on climate change — in 8 simple steps

Imagine a green future for a hot second. The United States and the rest of the world have taken substantive action to slow (and even reverse) climate change. Crisis averted. You’re probably envisioning a lot of the following: snazzy yet affordable electric cars, smog-free city skylines, and an electrical grid powered by sweet, sweet, renewable energy.

Well, you likely already realize that the nation is nowhere near approaching that eco-friendly dreamscape.

In fact, the U.S. is currently on a path away from that green dream. Emissions have been on the rise again after years of incremental dips — slowed this year only because of a deadly pandemic. And the nation’s most vulnerable communities are routinely forced to reckon with environmental contaminants, extreme weather, and industrial pollution.

If a couple of intrepid aliens dropped by to observe a Congressional hearing on climate change, knowing that humanity’s survival hinged on finding a solution to rising temperatures, they would hurry back to their home planet under the impression that Earth was doomed.

It doesn’t have to be this way. That green dream could be a reality — and for the most part, we know what we need to do to bring it to life.

Below, you’ll learn about eight tools lawmakers could leverage to make America great on climate change. These are interventions that already exist, and concern everything from your home to your local transportation system.

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Lake Norman nature park to offer miles of hiking, biking

Posted by on Oct 24, 2020 @ 7:06 am in Conservation, Hiking News | 0 comments

Lake Norman nature park to offer miles of hiking, biking

Outdoors enthusiasts from across the Charlotte, NC region are the target market of a 606-acre nature park underway on the northern tip of Lake Norman.

Mountain Creek Park in Sherrills Ford will feature 19 miles of hiking and mountain bike trails when it opens next summer or early fall, along with kayaking and paddleboarding, picnic areas and a fishing pier.

The $8.5 million Catawba County park, on Little Mountain Road off N.C. 150, also will include dog parks, playgrounds, pickleball courts and a park office-educational center. The park is 40 miles from uptown Charlotte.

For more than a decade, Catawba County officials have envisioned the public park as a regional draw offering the types of outdoor recreation found in North Carolina state parks.

Much of the trail network will accommodate hikers, runners and bird watchers, officials said. Seven smaller segments will be for mountain biking only. A 1.2-acre mountain bike park will include a pump track and kids’ track.

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Being a Steward for the Smokies

Posted by on Oct 23, 2020 @ 7:04 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Being a Steward for the Smokies

The Smokies Service Days program will return with a slate of Saturday service opportunities in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, starting with a Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020 session to be held 9:30 a.m. to noon at Oconaluftee Visitor Center near Cherokee.

Other scheduled service days are:

Oct. 31: “The Deep Creep” Litter Cleanup, 10 a.m. to noon at Deep Creek Picnic Area near Bryson City. All ages.

Nov. 7: Historic Landscape Management in Daisy Town, 9 a.m. to noon at Elkmont in Tennessee. Ages 15 and up.

Nov. 14: Vegetation Management at Historic Voorheis Estate, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Twin Creeks Science Center in Tennessee. Ages 12 and up.

Nov. 21: Campground Cleanup, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Smokemont Campground near Cherokee. Ages 10 and up.

Volunteer projects last between two and four hours. Tasks are available appropriate to a wide range of abilities, with some age restrictions. Tools and safety gear, including gloves and high visibility safety vests, will be provided by park staff, but participants should wear closed-toed shoes and bring their own food and water. Due to COVID-19 safety measures, the number of volunteers for each project is limited.

Sign up with Project Coordinator Madison Ficca by emailing madison_ficca@partner.nps.gov ahead of the scheduled event date with “SSD Registration” in the subject line.

 

All of RMNP closed to visitors due to wildfire activity

Posted by on Oct 22, 2020 @ 11:48 am in Conservation | 0 comments

All of RMNP closed to visitors due to wildfire activity

A full closure of Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado is now in place due to wildfire activity on the west side of the Continental Divide, a spokesperson for the park announced Thursday morning, October 22, 2020.

Air quality in the park is hazardous and Trail Ridge Road is impassable on the west side due to downed trees on the road.

High fire danger prompted the closure of the National Forest Service lands in Clear Creek County earlier and Denver Parks and Recreation closed all Denver Mountain Parks properties located in Clear Creek.

This comes after the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) closed administered land in Boulder and Larimer counties earlier this week.

All lands in those counties that are managed by the Royal Gorge Field Office will be temporarily closed for entry. The field office manages about 600,000 acres of public lands on the Front Range, all of which are east of the continental divide.

Closures for the Arapaho-Roosevelt National Forests and Pawnee National Grassland went into effect earlier this week for five counties due to the same drought conditions.

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New hiking trails near Sedona, AZ hint at bigger things to come

Posted by on Oct 17, 2020 @ 7:09 am in Conservation, Hiking News | 0 comments

Occupying a hilly slice of high desert below the east flanks of Mingus Mountain, the new Blowout Wash trail system is shaping up to become a prime Verde Valley hiking destination.

The remediation project is a multi-agency collaboration of local, state and federal land agencies working together to improve recreational opportunities in Prescott National Forest southwest of Cottonwood, AZ.

Trail construction began in 2019. Before that, the wash-riddled foothills surrounded by popular recreation hubs in Sedona, Jerome, Dead Horse Ranch State Park and the Woodchute-Mingus Mountain complex of routes were rife with user-created paths, shooting, and dumping that were disrupting the ecosystems and decimating native vegetation.

The destructive, anything-goes arena is gradually being replaced with sustainable, non-motorized trails that reduce erosion, protect natural assets and promote responsible use.

A map at the trailhead teases with an overview of planned trail development, and a little loop that was completed in early 2020 provides a tasty tidbit of what’s to come.

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Teaching Kids to be Great Trail Stewards

Posted by on Oct 16, 2020 @ 6:07 am in Conservation, Hiking News | 0 comments

Teaching Kids to be Great Trail Stewards

Trails help keep us happy and healthy. No one wants to stay inside all the time, so we need places to go outside and explore. On trails you can get all your energy out, see cool plants, trees, and wildlife, and spend time with family and friends. It’s important we keep trails nice so everyone can enjoy them for years to come.

Trails are an important resource, but sadly we are increasingly seeing trails abused by littering and vandalism. American Trails has created a packet to teach kids to be great trail stewards so the next generation of trail lovers can help lead the way towards better care for our trails.

This packet is ideal for elementary age children, and will help teach the importance of trails, different kinds of trail users, and concepts such as trail sharing. There are also pages where kids can put into practice what they learned through worksheets, and a certificate of completion at the end.

If you can’t print this packet at home please contact trailhead@americantrails.org and they can send you a copy.

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REI and National Forest Foundation Announce New Partnership to Plant 1 Million Trees

Posted by on Oct 15, 2020 @ 6:08 am in Conservation | 0 comments

REI and National Forest Foundation Announce New Partnership to Plant 1 Million Trees

  A new partnership between the National Forest Foundation (NFF) and REI Co-op (REI) will plant 1 million trees on National Forests across the U.S. over the next decade. Each project will prioritize immediate reforestation to restore ecosystems adversely impacted by severe wildfire, pests, diseases, blowdown, or other natural disturbances. These efforts will help protect the vital benefits that our National Forests provide, including carbon sequestration, clean air and water, and wildlife habitat.

This commitment, part of REI’s initiative to mitigate climate change and pledge to 1T.org, will advance the NFF’s 50 Million For Our Forests campaign and the NFF’s longer-term reforestation goals on National Forests. The NFF and REI will work together on an annual basis to select projects from a list of high-priority sites determined by professional foresters with the U.S. Forest Service.

Locations and types of projects that will be planted through the partnership include:

  • California, Pacific Northwest, Southwest, Northern, and Southern Rockies Regions, to address wildfire, insect, and disease recovery;
  • Western Great Lakes states for blowdown, insect, and disease recovery; and
  • Southeastern and Appalachian states, to restore critical wildlife habitat to support endangered species and highly biodiverse ecosystems.

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New polling on climate change: Denial is out, alarm is in.

Posted by on Oct 14, 2020 @ 7:11 am in Conservation | 0 comments

New polling on climate change: Denial is out, alarm is in.

Americans are now nearly four times more likely to say they’re alarmed about the climate crisis than to be dismissive of it.

That’s the highest ratio ever since the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication (YPCCC) first began gathering data on American attitudes about climate change back in 2008. According to survey data, more than a quarter of the U.S. adult population — 26 percent — now thinks global warming and its attendant consequences are alarming. That’s more than double the 11 percent who were alarmed back in 2015, and almost four times the 7 percent who currently say the climate isn’t changing.

The data comes from a YPCCC project called Global Warming’s Six Americas, which categorizes Americans into six groups based on what they think about climate change. Using data from a YPCCC survey called Climate Change in the American Mind, the researchers identify where respondents stand on a continuum of climate worry.

People fall into the “alarmed” category if their survey responses show that they’re very worried about climate change — these people are fully convinced of global warming’s reality and of the need for far-reaching political and individual action to address it. Those who land in the “concerned” think climate change is bad news but are less likely to prioritize action, and those in the “cautious” category recognize that the Earth is warming but aren’t convinced of its causes or of the need to take any action.

“Disengaged” folks never got the memo that the climate is changing, while the “doubtful” suspect it’s not really happening. The “dismissive” category refers to your stubborn uncle who denies the science of human-caused climate change. He is against most climate policies.

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Maine town apologizes after criticizing anonymous hiker who fixed bridge along its trail

Posted by on Oct 13, 2020 @ 6:19 am in Conservation, Hiking News | 0 comments

Maine town apologizes after criticizing anonymous hiker who fixed bridge along its trail

There’s a Maine town trying to identify the hiker who built a replacement bridge next to a collapsed one along a hiking trail on a popular 308-acre preserve. “When outside entities create trails and structures without notifying our department, that leads to confusion for hikers and others” using the Lowell Preserve, Windham town manager Barry Tibbetts posted on Facebook.

The post drew widespread criticism from Mainers who felt the town was targeting the hiker for wrongdoing, instead of thanking them for installing a safe crossing on a municipal trail that had become dangerous. The town’s post was edited the next day to apologize and “thank” the anonymous hiker for making the repairs.

Although its one-person parks and recreation department routinely receives calls about felled trees or animals along the path, Tibbetts said the broken bridge had not been reported to the town, which maintains the preserve with help from partners. The old bridge will be removed and the new one will be “inspected for functionality,” he said.

Tibbetts said that no one had offered information about the hiker yet, but they won’t face repercussions if identified. “If you want to find the person you might try interviewing people picking up litter off the sidewalks, giving lost strangers directions or shoveling the walkways of the elderly,” one commenter suggested.

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Forest Service in home stretch on draft Pisgah, Nantahala forests plan

Posted by on Oct 11, 2020 @ 7:07 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Forest Service in home stretch on draft Pisgah, Nantahala forests plan

James Melonas, deputy supervisor of the National Forests in North Carolina (NFsNC) office addressed a crowd of Forest Service colleagues at an April national training in Denver to share his thoughts on the ongoing Pisgah and Nantahala National Forests plan revision effort in Western North Carolina.

His message: be transparent and build trust. “Really focusing on relationships and engaging folks as early as possibly well before the revision starts is critical,” Melonas said.

A national forest management plan provides a general framework to guide a forest in managing its resources for the next two decades. The environmental impact statement estimates the cumulative environmental impacts that may result from the proposed draft forest plan.

Michelle Aldridge, planning staff officer and forest planner of NFsNC, says that the Forest Service has been sharing building blocks of the plan and will continue to unveil pieces of the draft revised forest plan throughout the summer. The agency will present the complete draft plan to the public in late autumn.

As for now, Aldridge said Forest Service staff members remain focused on developing and fine-tuning various aspects of the draft. A 90-day comment period will follow that includes public meetings at multiple locations throughout Western North Carolina will follow the fall release.

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Nature Conservancy buys 2,110 acres in heart of Superior National Forest

Posted by on Oct 8, 2020 @ 4:55 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Nature Conservancy buys 2,110 acres in heart of Superior National Forest

More than 2,000 acres of private land within the Superior National Forest will remain undeveloped under a real estate deal announced by the Nature Conservancy.

The 2,110 acres of private land is surrounded by national forest land and includes six wild lakes, 3 miles of trout streams, 972 acres of wetlands and tracts of old-growth white spruce and white cedar.

It’s also near, but not inside, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, which means it could have been sold to developers for recreational cabins or other development.

The land, about 15 miles west of Tofte in Cook County, Minnesota is part of the Temperance River watershed that flows into Lake Superior.

Mike Freed, a retired forestry professor who lives in Minnesota, bought the land in 1994 when a land development company listed it for sale as sites for multiple new cabins. Freed agreed to sell it to the Nature Conservancy at a discount below market value to keep it wild.

“This area is very important to the psyche and the emotional needs of a lot of people in Minnesota,’’ Freed said in a statement announcing the sale. “I’ve been privileged to take care of this land and I want to pass it onto someone who can continue to care for it.”

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Section of the Long Trail Permanently Protected

Posted by on Oct 6, 2020 @ 7:14 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Section of the Long Trail Permanently Protected

The Trust for Public Land, Green Mountain Club and the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation (FPR), announced the protection of Codding Hollow, adding 160.7 acres to Long Trail State Forest in Johnson and Waterville, Vermont.

The newly protected property includes one of the last unprotected sections of the Long Trail, the oldest long-distance hiking trail in the United States. Approximately 200,000 people use the Long Trail each year, and it is recognized by the Vermont General Assembly as a “unique, historic and irreplaceable resource, whose protection is of great benefit to the people of the State of Vermont.” Six miles of the trail remain unprotected and the partners are working with willing landowners to protect these final miles.

“The protection of 160.7 acres in Johnson and Waterville is a conservation success we have been working towards for the past thirty years,” reflects Mike DeBonis, Green Mountain Club’s Executive Director. “It adds to the corridor of conserved lands that make the Long Trail possible and give it the ‘footpath in the wilderness’ experience for which GMC has always managed the trail.”

As an addition to Long Trail State Forest, the land will be owned and managed by the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks, and Recreation to promote diverse public access opportunities, sustainable forest management, high-quality wildlife habitat, and clean water, as well as the protection of natural, historical and cultural resources.

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Why Arches National Park has an overcrowding problem, causing 3-hour closures almost daily

Posted by on Oct 4, 2020 @ 6:29 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Why Arches National Park has an overcrowding problem, causing 3-hour closures almost daily

Arches National Park has a problem. It’s too popular.

While that may seem like good news, for many people who came to visit the park in September, it’s a major disappointment.

Because of parking lot size, overcrowding and safety concerns, Arches has been forced to turn people away for hours of the day, mostly during weekends.

In September, nearly every weekend — and lately many weekdays — have been met with closures and disappointing turnarounds for visitors in a record-setting month.

It boils down to safety, according to park officials.

If there are too many people in Arches, trails become crowded and overrun, people park in non-designated areas damaging wildlife and ultimately, contentions run high.

There have been fights in parking lots, city-style honking and once, someone called 911 over a parking spot.

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The ‘Wetland Wanderer,’ celebrates outdoors career, Hispanic Heritage Month

Posted by on Oct 1, 2020 @ 6:25 am in Conservation | 0 comments

The ‘Wetland Wanderer,’ celebrates outdoors career, Hispanic Heritage Month

When Lucia Ibarra was growing up in Las Mochis, Mexico, near the Gulf of California, she felt most at home running barefoot, climbing trees, playing in the ocean, and laughing with the sheep and horses on her mother’s ranch.

“Since I was a kid I loved nature. My culture was humans and animals. But I felt like we were all connected and everything had a domino effect,” said Ibarra, who has lived in Asheville, NC for nearly three years.

“When something happened to a living being, something else was affected. It was a chain of changes. I couldn’t put it in words when I was a kid, but I decided to be a wildlife biologist to understand wildlife, habitat management and these ecosystems, and how they were linked.”

The wonder-filled, little girl running wild still shines in Ibarra’s eyes as an effervescent, free-ranging adult, whether she’s engaging with communities to discuss environmental injustice or paddling the Southeastern swamps and bumping into alligators as the “Wetland Wanderer.”

Ibarra is the program outreach manager for Dogwood Alliance, an Asheville-based nonprofit that works to protect Southern forests from industrial logging and works in the intersection of community justice and climate change. During Hispanic Heritage Month, Ibarra said she is proud to be a Hispanic woman in the environmental field, where there are few Latinos.

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What Makes an Appalachian Trail View Great?

Posted by on Sep 30, 2020 @ 6:50 am in Conservation, Hiking News | 0 comments

What Makes an Appalachian Trail View Great?

Picture, in your mind, an Appalachian Trail (A.T.) view that inspires you. Now have a fellow A.T. hiker do the same. Did the view they selected look anything like yours? Most likely not.

Since the A.T. traverses so many regions, the views along its 2,193 miles vary significantly, sometimes even within a few miles. From craggy mountains in North Georgia, to rolling farmlands in Pennsylvania, to the rugged Saddleback Range in Maine, the Trail provides visitors with a diversity of views to admire, each tied to the environments surrounding the footpath. And while each view may differ in scope and composition, all of them are important to preserving the irreplaceable A.T. experience, and all of them inspire us for a wide variety of reasons.

Yet as inspiring as A.T. views are, it is easy for us to take them for granted. Most of these views have survived for centuries, after all, so many of us don’t stop to consider what it will take to protect them well into the future.

To better address looming threats, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy and the National Park Service (NPS) are taking a vital first step to ensure that they identify and accurately describe the scenic beauty along the A.T. by taking inventory of the current state of the Trail’s irreplaceable views.

Known as the “Enjoy the View” initiative, the ATC and NPS will be collecting data and taking in-depth photographs of over 1,400 viewpoints along the entire A.T. The initiative began in 2019 with an assessment of 70 scenic views at four very different sites along the Trail: Nantahala National Forest in North Carolina, the Virginia “Triple Crown,” South Mountain in Pennsylvania and the Saddleback Range in Maine.

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Travel Back in Time at Mesa Verde

Posted by on Sep 28, 2020 @ 6:42 am in Conservation, Hiking News | 0 comments

Travel Back in Time at Mesa Verde

You may find yourself traveling back in time. Hop down a series of stone steps, take a sharp left turn, and feel your heart skip a beat. There, sprawled out below a sandstone plateau dotted with piñon pines and juniper trees, stands the 800-year-old remains of Cliff Palace, an ancient city of the Ancestral Puebloan people.

The largest and best known of Mesa Verde National Park’s native dwellings, Cliff Palace is a wonder to behold. The site contains 150 rooms and 23 kivas (circular ceremonial spaces), indicating that it was once a location of great social and spiritual importance.

Though Colorado’s Mesa Verde may be primarily dedicated to preserving past cultural relics, the park’s use of technology to educate visitors is some of the best in the national park system. There’s a robust mobile app with a full-blown audio tour of more than a dozen sites, a podcast exploring the lives of the Ancestral Pueblo people, and a series of virtual tours of the most famous sites.

As you stare at the vast ruins before you, press play on your phone and find yourself even more deeply transported. The park enlisted TJ Atsye, a ranger and member of the Laguna Pueblo Tribe, to narrate the self-guided driving and walking tour of the Mesa Top Loop Road. She chronicled the history of her ancestors from 600 CE to about 1300 CE, from pit houses to the impressive masonry of the cliff’s-edge villages.

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Check out the Triangle’s newest nature preserve with trails, working farms

Posted by on Sep 27, 2020 @ 6:27 am in Conservation, Hiking News | 0 comments

Check out the Triangle’s newest nature preserve with trails, working farms

The Triangle Land Conservancy‘s newest nature preserve, the Bailey and Sarah Williamson Preserve, is now open.

The 405-acre property, at 4409 Mial Plantation Rd., Raleigh, offers nine miles of walking and biking trails that connect to the Neuse River Greenway. It’s the eighth nature preserve for the Triangle Land Conservancy, a nonprofit that works to conserve land in North Carolina’s Triangle region.

The Williamson Preserve is the first of the nonprofit’s nature preserves to include working farms on the site. Project Pando is a volunteer-driven farm that grows native trees that will be given to the public for free. The nonprofit also is working with N.C. State’s Center for Environmental Farming Systems to bring other farmers to the preserve. The goal is to give visitors a place to walk or bike and then buy fresh produce.

At the preserve, signage shares the history of the farm, which was owned by the Williamson family for more than 225 years, along with information about the Tuscarora tribe, plantation cotton and tobacco farming, Black rural land ownership and land conservation.

When you’re there, the nonprofit asks that you maintain a social distance from others and avoid overcrowding the parking lot.

 

‘It’s just becoming awful’: Zion park officials try to deal with unprecedented amounts of graffiti

Posted by on Sep 26, 2020 @ 6:45 am in Conservation | 0 comments

‘It’s just becoming awful’: Zion park officials try to deal with unprecedented amounts of graffiti

Officials at Utah’s Zion National Park are grappling with unprecedented amounts of graffiti throughout the park as visitors continue to flock to the canyon.

These days, besides their normal job description of welcoming visitors, park rangers face the additional challenges of managing the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic response as well as the presence of a toxic cyanobacteria bloom in the North Fork of the Virgin River, which runs through the park.

The graffiti, which has been found along the popular Narrows hike, the Kayenta Trail and on the West Rim/Angel’s Landing Trail near Scout Lookout is something that Zion’s chief ranger Daniel Fagergren said the park has never seen at this level until this year.

“I have seen more graffiti than I have ever seen before. It’s all over, and we’re trying to get ahead of it,” he said.

The park is seeing a new type of visitor, one who may have never visited a national park before and may only be venturing out as a result of being cooped up due to the pandemic.

“They are different visitors than we normally get,” Fagergren said, adding that many of them don’t have the same affinity for pubic lands as visitors in the past.

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