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Meanderthals | Conservation & Environment

Conservation & Environment

Earlier Springs Heighten Allergy Misery in East Tennessee

Posted by on Apr 21, 2019 @ 7:40 am in Conservation | 0 comments

In the heart of South Knoxville sits one of eight Allergy and Asthma Affiliates clinics scattered across Tennessee. Allergist and immunologist Dr. Trent Ellenburg is already being kept busy at his family-owned business, where patients have started coming in suffering from spring allergy symptoms.

“As we’re seeing warmer, milder weather, and lots of rain, we do see earlier seasons that are occuring in our region,” Ellenburg said. “Patients have longer to be exposed, but also the pollen they are being exposed to is actually stronger.”

For residents of Knoxville, battling the springtime effects of pollen has long been routine — it’s ranked as one of the most challenging U.S. cities in which to live for seasonal allergy sufferers. And the effects of heat-trapping pollution in the atmosphere are making their misery worse.

“We really need to realize that our climate directly and indirectly impacts many patients,” said Dr. Dipa Sheth, an allergist at the D.C. Veterans Affairs Medical Center. “We’re going to see more people being sensitized to allergens. And we’re going to see more of a swing in the severity.”

The impacts of earlier and more potent pollen seasons aren’t limited to classic hay fever symptoms — such as sneezing, congestion, itchy eyes and skin. They can also result in severe reactions, especially for the 13 percent of Knox County residents who’ve reported being diagnosed with asthma.

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N.C. Arboretum receives $1 million grant for statewide outreach

Posted by on Apr 18, 2019 @ 9:34 am in Conservation | 0 comments

N.C. Arboretum receives $1 million grant for statewide outreach

All across Western North Carolina, teachers and students are headed outdoors to find, observe and photograph local wildlife as a part of ecoEXPLORE, a citizen science program developed by The North Carolina Arboretum. Kids in grades K-8 who participate in ecoEXPLORE can earn prizes and help professional researchers by cataloging the plants, animals and insects that they find in the wild — or even their own backyards.

The project has been so popular that this year the N.C. GlaxoSmithKline Foundation donated $1 million to the arboretum with the intent to expand Project ecoEXPLORE from 23 WNC counties to all 100 counties across the state. The grant will also fund the arboretum’s Project EXPLORE teacher education program and Project OWL, a teacher certification program. Project OWL stands for Outdoor Wonders and Learning.

Crucial to ecoEXPLORE’s success is that the program is free for all students. Any ecoEXPLORER can check out equipment for plant and animal identification, including binoculars, insect nets, iPod Touch units and trail cameras, at the arboretum or public libraries. The arboretum also hosts free events for the program, such as the upcoming “What Goes HOP in the Night!” nocturnal amphibian demonstration on Friday, May 10, from 8-10 p.m.

“In a way, this is truly a public program. Any kid, anywhere in North Carolina once we implement this, is going to be able to access [ecoEXPLORE] through public libraries and other public partners,” Briggs says. University and community college campuses, parks and nature centers, he adds, may all play a role in the program’s expansion.

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The disease devastating deer herds may also threaten human health

Posted by on Apr 17, 2019 @ 7:42 am in Conservation | 0 comments

The disease devastating deer herds may also threaten human health

Scientists have called this neurodegenerative disease, which attacks deer, elk and moose, a “nightmare” and a “state of emergency.” Lately, the media’s been calling it “zombie deer disease.” Lawmakers are calling it a “crisis” and currently considering at least three bills at the national level to combat it. Researchers, resource managers and others worry it could hurt hunting, alter the landscape, or even jump across species to infect people.

Mountain lions know that something is wrong. A number of years ago, ecologists studied which deer mountain lions prefer to attack. “The mountain lions were definitely preferentially selecting deer that had chronic wasting disease over those that were negative,” the ecologists say. “And for most of the ones that they had killed, we had not detected any chronic wasting disease symptoms yet. So certainly the lions were able to key in on far more subtle cues than we were.”

Unlike us, the lions sense that while a deer might look vigorous and alert, it may actually be a ticking time bomb. That’s one of the many weird things about this disease. It isn’t like viral or bacterial illnesses. The infection can sit in a herd for years, crawling from animal to animal, before people notice anything is wrong.

Then, things can go downhill fast. “Through time (it) degrades, essentially, their brain tissue,” says an ecologist. In just a few weeks, deer could start to droop and drool, as an infection gnaws holes into the animal’s brain. “That seems to happen pretty rapidly,” she says. “To our eyes, they look fairly healthy, and within a number of weeks they reach that point — and then they’re gone.”

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Poetry graces popular park trails

Posted by on Apr 12, 2019 @ 8:27 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Poetry graces popular park trails

Nature is pure poetry, judging by the artwork on Olympic National Park trails. The North Olympic Library System (NOLS) has teamed up with Olympic National Park to offer a sixth season of Poetry Walks.

This year’s will continue through May 31, 2019. It features inspiring poetry along four park trails.

During Poetry Walks, poems are placed on signs on the Hall of Mosses Trail, the Living Forest Trail, the Madison Creek Falls Trail and the Peabody Creek Trail. With the exception of the Hall of Mosses Trail, access to these trails is free.

The Living Forest and Peabody Creek trails begin at the Olympic National Park Visitor Center, 3002 Mount Angeles Road in Port Angeles, and offer easy 0.5-mile loops.

The Madison Creek Falls Trail, located just across the park boundary in the Elwha Valley, offers a paved 200-foot walk to the base of the falls. The trial is wheelchair accessible.

The Hall of Mosses Trail begins near the Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center. Regular park fees must be paid to access.

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An Appalachian Trail Thru-Hiker On The Need To Protect Our Wild Spaces

Posted by on Apr 11, 2019 @ 8:05 am in Conservation, Hiking News | 0 comments

An Appalachian Trail Thru-Hiker On The Need To Protect Our Wild Spaces

This year on her birthday, Carolyn Burman decided to do a solo hike in one of her favorite state parks in Connecticut. She has magical memories of that trek. She grew up hiking it — her mother even went into labor with her while walking the path. She looked forward to a peaceful, reflective experience in nature. Instead, she found something else.

“There was so much garbage in the park,” 26-year-old Burman says. “Plastic seltzer bottles in the stream that floats by the trail, a Dunkin’ Donuts cup…. I go out on this joyful hike on my birthday, and all I see is trash.”

“I thought, ‘Oh, this is a sign. This is a reminder,’” she says. “I think we all can get really careless with waste. I felt like it was a sign from whatever power, ‘Hey. Remember? You gotta pick this up. You have to care more.’”

Now that Burman herself is a day-hiker again, she’s grown even more fierce about caring for trails. Hiking, she believes, is a spiritual practice, and part of that practice is keeping nature pure, doing her part to make things better. She works with trail upkeep groups like Keep Nature Wild to support this mission.

“Anyone can be an ambassador for them if you just go out into your local community and you clean up,” she says. “What you learn after the trail is that success is much less about the claim to fame and more about the slow and steady process.”

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Bill to preserve 400,000 acres in Colorado would be biggest deal in 25 years

Posted by on Apr 6, 2019 @ 6:58 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Bill to preserve 400,000 acres in Colorado would be biggest deal in 25 years

An ambitious effort to preserve mountain wilderness and historic landscapes in Colorado will launch April 8, 2019 with the introduction of a bill in Congress that aims to protect 400,000 acres of public lands in the state. It would pay special homage to Camp Hale, home to the historic 10th Mountain Division.

The bill — dubbed the Colorado Outdoor Recreation & Economy Act — is spearheaded by U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet and U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse, both Democrats.

“Public lands are really who we are in Colorado,” Neguse, who was recently elected to represent the 2nd Congressional District, told reporters on a conference call Friday. “We will be pushing hard in the 116th Congress to get this bill across the finish line.”

The bill, which goes by the shorthand CORE, is combination of four pieces of legislation that have been introduced over the past decade to preserve land along the Continental Divide in the White River National Forest, designate iconic peaks in the San Juan Mountains as wilderness, withdraw 200,000 acres from oil and gas leases on the Thompson Divide near Carbondale, and fix permanent boundaries around Curecanti National Recreation Area near Gunnison.

Bennet said the last time so much acreage was set aside for protection in Colorado was in 1993, when the Colorado Wilderness Act was passed by Congress.

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Smokies Park Hosts Trail Volunteer Opportunities in April

Posted by on Apr 4, 2019 @ 7:26 am in Conservation, Hiking News | 0 comments

Smokies Park Hosts Trail Volunteer Opportunities in April

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials announced several volunteer workdays during the month of April, 2019 on popular trails as the park prepares for the busy summer season. These opportunities are ideal for people interested in learning more about the park and the trails program through hands-on service alongside experienced park staff.

Volunteers will help clear debris from trails and work to repair eroded trail sections. Workdays will be held from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. in North Carolina on April 6, April 20, April 22, and in Tennessee on April 5 and April 19. Prior registration is required.

Please contact Trails and Facilities Volunteer Coordinator Adam Monroe at 828-497-1949 or adam_monroe@nps.gov for workday details and to register. Interested volunteers can also contact Monroe to learn about additional volunteer opportunities throughout the year including the ‘Adopt-a-Trail’ program and the Trails Forever ‘Working Wednesdays’ opportunities on Trillium Gap Trail beginning May 1 through August 29. These opportunities are perfect for those with busy schedules who would like to volunteer once a month.

For the April trail workdays, volunteers must be able to safely hike while carrying tools up to 4 miles per day and be prepared to perform strenuous, manual labor. After receiving proper training, participants will be expected to safely use hand tools such as shovels, rakes, loppers, and hand picks. Minimum age of participants is 16. Those under 18 must be accompanied by a responsible parent or guardian.

Volunteers will need to wear boots or sturdy closed toed shoes, long pants and appropriate layers for cold and inclement weather. Volunteers should bring a day pack with food, water, and rain gear. The park will provide instruction, necessary safety gear, and tools.

 

Here’s a closer look at what Trump cut out of Bears Ears National Monument

Posted by on Apr 3, 2019 @ 8:58 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Here’s a closer look at what Trump cut out of Bears Ears National Monument

When President Trump reduced the size of Utah’s Bears Ears National Monument by more than 1.1 million acres, his administration assured the public “important objects of scientific or historic interest” would still be protected.

Many areas the Trump administration removed from Bears Ears are rich in uranium and oil deposits and may eventually become more accessible to developers. They had been off-limits under Barack Obama’s 2016 proclamation creating the monument.

And many sites significant to the Native American governments that lobbied Obama to designate the monument now lie outside the redrawn boundaries.

Along the San Juan River, for example, an extensively etched cliff wall lies outside the redrawn lines. “The oldest drawings on this wall could date to 4000 BC, according to Sally Cole, an archaeologist who lives in Bluff, Utah. They help identify how society developed, from groups of hunter-gatherers to agrarian communities.”

The Abajo Mountains too, in the northeast portion of the Obama-era monument, were removed from the boundaries. Cliffside caves once provided shelter to the ancient Puebloans, to whom the Hopi and Zuni people trace their ancestry. “A thousand years ago, the Abajo Mountains harbored human life in every ravine and gully.”

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North Carolina orders Duke Energy to excavate all coal ash

Posted by on Apr 2, 2019 @ 7:10 am in Conservation | 0 comments

North Carolina orders Duke Energy to excavate all coal ash

The country’s largest electric company was ordered to excavate coal ash from all of its North Carolina power plant sites, slashing the risk of toxic chemicals leaking into water supplies but potentially adding billions of dollars to the costs consumers pay.

Duke Energy Corp. must remove the residue left after decades of burning coal to produce electricity, North Carolina’s environmental agency said. The company had proposed covering some storage pits with a waterproof cap, saying that would prevent rain from passing through and carrying chemicals through the unlined bottoms and would provide a quicker and cheaper option.

Coal ash contains toxic metals like mercury, lead and arsenic.

This decision affects six coal-burning plants still operating in North Carolina. Pits at eight other power plants around the state had previously been ordered excavated, with the ash to be stored away from waterways.

The move means North Carolina joins Virginia and South Carolina in ordering its major electric utilities to move their coal ash out of unlined storage.

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Springtime in the Great Smokies means synchronous firefly extravaganza is coming soon

Posted by on Mar 31, 2019 @ 7:51 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Springtime in the Great Smokies means synchronous firefly extravaganza is coming soon

Synchronous fireflies – the hottest ticket outside the flashing lights of Broadway – are about to get the party started.

The chance to see Photinus carolinus, a firefly species whose males display synchronous flashes to attract mates, is so hotly anticipated and so rare, that the National Park Service had to limit the hordes of humans and now holds a lottery for tickets to the show.

The lottery for vehicle passes will open at 9 a.m. April 26, 2019 and close at 8 p.m. April 29, said park spokeswoman Dana Soehn.

But exactly when the flashy bugs will strut their stuff is still a mystery, and one that park entomologist Becky Nichols has been hard at work to predict. The tiny insects usually light up the night for about two weeks in late May or early June in the Elkmont area of the Smokies.

Since 2013, Nichols said, the park has been using scientific data collection and analysis to predict the synchronicity.

Starting March 1, Nichols sets out two tiny devices in Elkmont called “ibuttons,” also known as temperature loggers. About the size of a watch battery, they log the temperature hourly. “Once we have the high and low temperatures up to the day before I have to make a prediction (April 22), I plug it into a formula called a degree day model,” Nichols said.

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‘Doomsday vault’ threatened by climate change

Posted by on Mar 30, 2019 @ 7:37 am in Conservation | 0 comments

‘Doomsday vault’ threatened by climate change

The site of the so-called ‘Doomsday vault’, designed to safeguard millions of the world’s most genetically important seeds from nuclear war, asteroid strikes and other disasters, is at threat from climate change, a new report has warned.

Longyearbyen, the Arctic home of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, faces potentially devastating avalanches, rockfalls, and floods over the coming decades as it warms faster than any other town on earth, according to the report Climate in Svalbard 2100.

When the Svalbard Global Seed Vault was opened in 2008, Norway’s Svalbard archipelago was judged the safest place on earth to hold seeds of the world’s most important crops, due to its far-flung location 600 miles north of mainland Norway and its low mean temperatures. Since it opened, more than a million seeds from 6,005 different species have been deposited in its vaults.

“There are already real problems because of the increasing risk of avalanches and landslides,” said Professor Inger Hanssen-Bauer, head of the Norwegian Climate Centre and the report’s lead author.

The high temperatures in recent years have already partially melted the permafrost on which the facility’s access tunnel is built, flooding it with water. The vault’s operators have had to build additional flood defenses, install new waterproof walls, and dig drainage ditches.

Over the remainder of the century, the report predicts that the average temperature in the town will increase by a further 8.3 ℃, following recent warming of about one degree a decade.

Cite…

 

National Park Week 2019: Celebrating America’s National Parks

Posted by on Mar 28, 2019 @ 6:40 am in Conservation, Hiking News | 0 comments

National Park Week 2019: Celebrating America’s National Parks

National Park Week, running from April 20 through 28, 2019, has something for everyone. Join the National Park Service and the National Park Foundation for nine days of fun, including National Junior Ranger Day and National BARK Ranger Day. Visit www.NationalParkWeek.org for more information and a list of special events.

“National parks are sources of inspiration, recreation, and education for everyone,” said National Park Service Deputy Director P. Daniel Smith. “During National Park Week, a wide variety of creative programs and events across the country will showcase these amazing places and encourage everyone to visit a park.”

Park visitors can go on ranger-led hikes through hoodoos, prairies, caves, redwoods, wetlands, and sand dunes. There will be free guided tours of lighthouses, pueblos, battlefields, historic ships, forts, presidential homes, lower Manhattan, the French Quarter, and even a Nike missile site. Narrated bike, boat, train, and wagon rides are available. And it’s a great time to try out a new hobby such as bird watching, star gazing, painting, yoga, basket weaving, or hula dancing.

“National parks give us more than 400 reasons to celebrate together,” said National Park Foundation President Will Shafroth. “National Park Week is a great time to find your park with loved ones and to experience the stories and adventures that await in these treasured places.”

To get the celebration started, there will be a lively and engaging Twitter chat on Thursday, April 18 at 1 p.m. EDT. Join the conversation and share your favorite memories, tips, and stories about national parks using the hashtags #FindYourPark, #EncuentraTuParque, and #NationalParkWeek. From April 18 through 28, a special limited-time park ranger emoji will appear with the use of any of these haghtags on Twitter.

National Park Week begins with an entrance fee-free day on Saturday, April 20. One of five fee-free days scheduled in 2019, April 20 is also National Junior Ranger Day. Almost every park will have booklets for kids loaded with activities that can be completed to earn a Junior Ranger badge.

 

Smokies Park and Eastern Band Cherokee Indians Finalize Agreement Allowing Sochan Gathering

Posted by on Mar 26, 2019 @ 7:34 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Smokies Park and Eastern Band Cherokee Indians Finalize Agreement Allowing Sochan Gathering

Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians (EBCI) finalized a gathering agreement that allows the gathering of sochan (Rudbeckia laciniata) for traditional purposes by 36 permitted tribal members. Park Superintendent Cassius Cash and Principal Chief Richard Sneed were joined by tribal council members as they signed the historic agreement at the Oconaluftee Visitor Center on Monday, March 25, 2019.

“The signing of this agreement allows both governments to strike a better balance in honoring the rich Cherokee Indian traditions and also continuing to protect these very special resources for future generations,” said Superintendent Cassius Cash.

The park contains a rich abundance of consumable botanicals and fungi that continue to be an important component of Cherokee traditional diet and culture. The Cherokee have a well-defined history of sustainably harvesting edible plants through the application of traditional ecological knowledge. Through the Environmental Assessment process, managers determined there would be no significant impact resulting from sochan gathering by a limited number of permitted tribal members utilizing traditional gathering techniques.

EBCI will select up to 36 enrolled tribal members annually to participate in sochan gathering who must complete an annual, mandatory training class. These permittees may then gather a maximum of 1 bushel of sochan leaves per week following the traditional gathering techniques process beginning March 29 through May 31.

The park will monitor populations in harvest zones and non-harvest zones to assess sochan abundance, sochan population health, and incidental impacts of harvesting such as trampling. The park and EBCI will meet frequently throughout the gathering period to discuss monitoring results and adjust the terms of the agreement if necessary to limit any unforeseen impacts.

For more information about the agreement, see here…

 

Three decades after the Exxon Valdez oil spill, Alaska’s coast faces an even bigger threat

Posted by on Mar 25, 2019 @ 9:39 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Three decades after the Exxon Valdez oil spill, Alaska’s coast faces an even bigger threat

For three days in March 1989, the oil — at least 11 million gallons of it, though some say much more — had lain like a still pool around the ship, virtually untouched by cleanup efforts. Now the storm clawed the oil across the sound’s tracery of rocky islands, into their infinite crevices, and ultimately over more than 1,000 miles of rich coastal wilderness.

The story isn’t over. Indeed, the tragedy of that coastal Alaska paradise is only deepening as it enters another, even darker act.

Experts at the time said a comeback would take decades, but that the spectacular biological wealth of these waters would return if given the chance, without another oil spill to knock it down. What they didn’t anticipate was a much larger, more diffuse threat. Changes brought by human emissions of carbon dioxide — warming and acidifying ocean waters — have proved as destructive as the spill, and they will not disperse, as the oil eventually did.

Hundreds of thousands of seabirds died following the Exxon Valdez oil spill, whole flocks of them rolled up into windrows on remote beaches by the sticky, emulsified oil.

Now that has happened again, this time without the oil, as long, stinking piles of dead seabirds wash ashore, apparently starved in anomalously warm Northern waters that no longer produce abundant food. But this time, on winter days at remote beaches, visitors are scarce and news coverage has been local and scant.

The climate crisis is too large, too diffuse, and is hitting too many places at once — everywhere, really — to produce the outrage that exploded when lovely animals choked on Exxon’s oil.

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The Cradle of Forestry in America historic site will begin the 2019 season on April 6

Posted by on Mar 23, 2019 @ 10:31 am in Conservation, Hiking News | 0 comments

The Cradle of Forestry in America historic site will begin the 2019 season on April 6

The Cradle of Forestry’s living history demonstrators and crafters will bring the Pink Beds community along the Cradle’s Biltmore Campus Trail to life by re-creating an early 1900’s community busy at work and play. Guests can visit the cozy King House to smell the wonderful aromas of open-hearth cooking, help with laundry without the modern conveniences, talk with blacksmiths as they work their trade, visit Mr. Jenny in the old general store and enjoy traditional music and dancing. Visitors can find crafters including wood working, broom making, sweet potato carving, horse plowing, and blacksmithing. The Cradle’s Opening Day Appalachian Folkways Celebration is a fun annual event.

David and Diane Burnette from Haywood County will demonstrate how their Percheron draft horses work the land the old way. Weather permitting, they will plow the Cradle’s heritage garden along the Biltmore Campus Trail and teach a skill that was once familiar to many. All ages will enjoy the chance to plow the old way with them!

The Cradle of Forestry will be open daily, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., from April 6 – November 10,2019. At various times during the season, living history volunteers will demonstrate traditional crafts, music, and blacksmithing. The Giving Tree Gift Shop at the Cradle offers many of their creations as well as forest related books, maps, gifts and snacks. The Café at the Cradle will serve lunch from 11 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

A full schedule of events is planned in 2019 including Cradle Community BioBlitz on April 27, May the Forest be with You on May 4, the Songcatchers Music Series Sunday afternoons in July, and Forest Festival Day on October 5. Visit www.cradleofforestry.com for the full event schedule, details and updates on interpretive programs and exhibits.

Admission to the Cradle of Forestry is $6.00 general admission, $3 for youth 4-12 years old and all federal pass holders such as America the Beautiful and Golden Age. Admission is free for children under 4.

The Cradle of Forestry is located on Hwy. 276 in the Pisgah National Forest near Brevard, North Carolina six miles north of Looking Glass Falls and four miles south of the Blue Ridge Parkway. For more information call 828-877-3130.

 

Your shedding dog can help birds this spring

Posted by on Mar 21, 2019 @ 9:24 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Your shedding dog can help birds this spring

When birds start constructing their elaborate nests in spring, they look for all sorts of building materials. They search for twigs and leaves, moss and fluff, writes the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) and will look for various items wherever they can find them.

You can help provide nesting material by either growing them in your yard or by making them easily accessible and, if you’re a dog owner, one fluffy material that can provide warmth and softness is dog hair.

There are benefits to your four-legged friend’s furry castoffs. “Animal fiber works well for nesting, because it is durable and not inclined to soak up water. Just don’t use any fur that has been treated with flea dips or insect repellents,” the NWF says.

But don’t offer human hair which is so thin that it can wrap about a bird’s legs and neck, cutting off circulation, causing injury or death. Also avoid dryer lint, which may seem like a soft, fuzzy material but it can absorb water and may also be full of laundry chemicals.

The NWF suggests stuffing fur into an empty suet feeder or filling a wire whisk with fur and then hanging it by its handle from a tree or shrub, so it’s easy for birds to pull hair for their nests.

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The Rapid Decline Of The Natural World Is A Crisis Even Bigger Than Climate Change

Posted by on Mar 19, 2019 @ 7:01 am in Conservation | 0 comments

The Rapid Decline Of The Natural World Is A Crisis Even Bigger Than Climate Change

Nature is in freefall and the planet’s support systems are so stretched that we face widespread species extinctions and mass human migration unless urgent action is taken. That’s the warning hundreds of scientists are preparing to give, and it’s stark.

The last year has seen a slew of brutal and terrifying warnings about the threat climate change poses to life. Far less talked about but just as dangerous, if not more so, is the rapid decline of the natural world. The felling of forests, the over-exploitation of seas and soils, and the pollution of air and water are together driving the living world to the brink, according to a huge three-year, U.N.-backed landmark study to be published in May.

The study from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform On Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), expected to run to over 8,000 pages, is being compiled by more than 500 experts in 50 countries. It is the greatest attempt yet to assess the state of life on Earth and will show how tens of thousands of species are at high risk of extinction, how countries are using nature at a rate that far exceeds its ability to renew itself, and how nature’s ability to contribute food and fresh water to a growing human population is being compromised in every region on earth.

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President Signs Bill Permanently Reauthorizing Land and Water Conservation Fund

Posted by on Mar 13, 2019 @ 7:26 am in Conservation | 0 comments

President Signs Bill Permanently Reauthorizing Land and Water Conservation Fund

In an historic victory for public lands and close to home recreation, the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) was permanently reauthorized on March 12, 2019 as part of a sweeping public lands package signed into law by the president. The legislation, which passed with overwhelming bipartisan support in the House (363-62) and the Senate (92-8) last month, was signed during a ceremony that included LWCF champions.

This is the culmination of a years-long effort by Congressional champions on both sides of the aisle and by stakeholders across the country to preserve the unique character of this program created as a conservation offset for energy development.

The following statement can be attributed to Tom Cors, Director of Government Relations for Lands at The Nature Conservancy and a spokesman for the LWCF Coalition:

“We applaud our champions in the House and Senate for demonstrating that bipartisan cooperation can achieve great things, and for finding common ground in the fight to ensure that future generations will continue to have access to close-to-home recreation. With this important milestone, our nation is closer than ever to meeting the program’s original intent: to dedicate proceeds from the use of our natural resources to the conservation of America’s most important landscapes. Now the stage is set to realize that vision, and we look forward to working with LWCF’s many advocates on both sides of the aisle to secure the full, dedicated LWCF funding on which our nation’s communities, economy, and special places need. The outdoor recreation industry, governors, mayors, sportsmen, small business owners, conservation leaders, landowners,ranchers, and millions of Americans applaud the permanent reauthorization of LWCF and will continue to fight for the protection of our shared outdoor heritage.”

About the Land and Water Conservation Fund

The Land and Water Conservation Fund is America’s most important conservation program, responsible for protecting parks, wildlife refuges and recreation areas at the federal, state and local level. For 50 years, it has provided critical funding for land and water conservation projects, recreational construction and activities, and the continued historic preservation of our nation’s iconic landmarks from coast-to-coast.

 

Nearly $675 Million Spent On Deferred Park Maintenance, Yet Backlog Still Nearly $12 Billion

Posted by on Mar 11, 2019 @ 9:45 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Nearly $675 Million Spent On Deferred Park Maintenance, Yet Backlog Still Nearly $12 Billion

Proof of the challenge the National Park Service faces in trying to catch up with deferred maintenance across the National Park System can be found in the agency’s latest report on the matter: Nearly $700 million was spent during Fiscal 2018 on maintenance projects, yet the backlog still is nearly $12 billion.

Congress had a chance last year to give the Park Service a big lift by passing legislation that would have provided $6.5 billion over five years specifically for maintenance needs. But the measure died near the end of the 115th Congress as the politicians found themselves at budgetary loggerheads with President Trump. The legislation has been introduced again to the 116th Congress, but has yet to move.

“It’s great to see the National Park Service making progress on some key repair projects. At the same time, the agency’s maintenance backlog continues to grow because the number and cost of repairs compounds each year,” pointed out Marcia Argust, who manages The Pew Charitable Trusts’ Restore America’s Parks initiative.

How bad are things? Even though the Park Service spent more than $671 million in repair work during Fiscal 2018, the backlog still grew, from $11.6 billion at the end of FY17 to $11.9 billion a year later, an increase of 2.7 percent. Aging facilities, increased visitation, and resource constraints have kept the maintenance backlog between $11 billion and $12 billion since 2010, the Park Service noted.

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Most ponds and landfills holding coal waste across the U.S. have leaked toxic chemicals into nearby groundwater, report finds

Posted by on Mar 4, 2019 @ 9:11 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Most ponds and landfills holding coal waste across the U.S. have leaked toxic chemicals into nearby groundwater, report finds

The vast majority of ponds and landfills holding coal waste at 250 power plants across the country have leaked toxic chemicals into nearby groundwater, according to an analysis of public monitoring data released by environmental groups.

The report, published jointly by the Environmental Integrity Project and Earthjustice, found that 91 percent of the nation’s coal-fired power plants reported elevated levels of contaminants such as arsenic, lithium, chromium and other pollutants in nearby groundwater.

In many cases, the levels of toxic contaminants that had leaked into groundwater were far higher than the thresholds set by the Environmental Protection Agency, the groups said.

The findings raise questions about whether any of the leaks might affect drinking water supplies. Companies were required to release their monitoring data for the first time last year as part of an Obama-era rule to regulate storage of coal waste.

The 2015 regulations, which dictated how coal ash must be stored across the country, were finalized in the wake of two high-profile spills in Tennessee and North Carolina, which collectively contaminated waterways and damaged nearby homes.

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