Conservation & Environment

Has Vandalism in Our National Monuments Gotten Worse?

Posted by on Oct 11, 2018 @ 6:52 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

Has Vandalism in Our National Monuments Gotten Worse?

Peter Jensen, an environmental coordinator for Patagonia who’s based in Salt Lake City, embarked with a colleague on a three-day backpacking trip through the Upper Paria River Canyon, a picturesque red rock canyon in southern Utah. “The place is magical,” Jensen said. “It’s a wilderness in the true sense of the word.”

Jensen was entranced by the scenery, but dismayed by what he saw at his feet. The Upper Paria is one small piece of the more than 850,000 acres cut from the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument by Donald Trump in December 2017. For the entire 35-mile route, Jensen said the land had been badly scarred by the hoofs of grazing cattle and the waffle-iron treads of off-road vehicles. (In spite of being removed from the monument, the canyon remains a wilderness study area and therefore off limits to vehicles.) “On almost every terrace and meander bank there were multiple vehicle tracks,” Jensen said. “In some places they were six to eight inches deep and went right through cyrptobiotic soil and cottonwood groves.”

Since President Trump issued an order to shrink the Utah monument last winter, there have been numerous reports from local residents, hikers, activists, and land managers of flagging oversight and mounting damage to the area’s fragile landscapes and cultural sites.

In recent months, they are encountering graffiti on petroglyph panels, bullet-riddled trail signs, ATV tracks in restricted areas, poaching of historic artifacts, and heaps of garbage in the backcountry.

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These are the companies being blamed for creating the most plastic pollution in the world’s oceans

Posted by on Oct 11, 2018 @ 7:01 am in Conservation | 0 comments

These are the companies being blamed for creating the most plastic pollution in the world’s oceans

The companies which are blamed for producing the highest amounts of plastic found in our oceans have been revealed.

Environmental charity Greenpeace has released data following a nine-month study carried out across 42 countries – as it emerges that a truckload of plastic is dumped in the sea every MINUTE.

Researchers found that Coca-Cola is the brand with the most items discovered in the oceans, followed by PepsiCo, Nestle, Danone and Mondelez International.

The top three, a report named Break Free From Plastic discovered, account for 14% of plastic pollution found worldwide.

An intact plastic Coke bottle was discovered in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which is hundreds of miles from any inhabited land.

In a statement Greenpeace said: “As some of the largest companies in the world, Coke, PepsiCo, Nestle and the others on the list have the chance to be part of the solution to the plastic crisis. Instead they remain a part of the problem, selling us plastic drink containers and packaging we have no choice but to throw away.”

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Huge risk if global warming passes 1.5C, warns landmark UN report

Posted by on Oct 8, 2018 @ 12:26 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

Huge risk if global warming passes 1.5C, warns landmark UN report

The world’s leading climate scientists have warned there is only a dozen years for global warming to be kept to a maximum of 1.5C, beyond which even half a degree will significantly worsen the risks of drought, floods, extreme heat and poverty for hundreds of millions of people.

The authors of the landmark report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released today say urgent and unprecedented changes are needed to reach the target, which they say is affordable and feasible although it lies at the most ambitious end of the Paris agreement pledge to keep temperatures between 1.5C and 2C.

The half-degree difference could also prevent corals from being completely eradicated and ease pressure on the Arctic, according to the 1.5C study, which was launched after approval at a final plenary of all 195 countries in Incheon in South Korea that saw delegates hugging one another, with some in tears.

“It’s a line in the sand and what it says to our species is that this is the moment and we must act now,” said Debra Roberts, a co-chair of the working group on impacts. “This is the largest clarion bell from the science community and I hope it mobilizes people and dents the mood of complacency.”

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Meet the ‘Art Rangers’ Trying to Save National Parks

Posted by on Oct 5, 2018 @ 7:28 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Meet the ‘Art Rangers’ Trying to Save National Parks

Oscar Nilsson and Alex Tatem are trying to save America’s national parks—one photo at a time.

Nilsson and Tatem run the Art Rangers, a nonprofit online art gallery that sells national park-inspired works of art, with 100 percent of the proceeds going toward the National Park Foundation, the official charity of the National Park Service.

“At its core, it’s artists using their art to help protect the parks, whether it’s photography, sculpture, oil painting, music, or whatever it is,” Nilsson says. “Anything really that has some kind of inspiration drawn from the national parks—we’re allowing those people to give back to the parks using their art.”

Artists around the world can submit their park-inspired art online, with the selected works added to the Art Rangers’ gallery.

The nonprofit doesn’t specify where funds go or how they’re used—that’s best left to the National Parks Foundation, Nilsson says—but the project does offer a new way to give back. Since starting in July 2017, the Art Rangers have already surpassed the five-figure mark in fundraising.

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Wasting Away

Posted by on Oct 4, 2018 @ 12:50 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

Wasting Away

With the naked eye, it’s impossible to discern early signs of chronic wasting disease in elk. For years after they become infected, these monumental animals go about their lives — ambling into the high country in summer and back down to the valleys in winter, mating in fall and calving in spring. But then a few weeks before they die, they become thin, and their ribs and hipbones protrude. They salivate, droop their ears and don’t run away from humans as healthy elk would.

“They get a look on their faces that’s like the lights are on but nobody’s home,” said Margaret Wild, the former chief wildlife veterinarian for the Wildlife Health Branch of the National Park Service. “It’s very sad for the individual animal, but what makes me more sad is that this is happening time and time again. We’re not going to have as many elk out there and calves being born, and this population may not be sustainable in the long term.”

Elk pick up this degenerative disorder, in which an abnormal protein infects an animal’s nervous system and slowly destroys the brain, from blood, saliva, urine and even the soil, where the proteins remain viable for years. The illness, similar to mad cow and scrapie, is easily transmissible between animals, there is no treatment or cure, and it is always fatal.

Researchers first detected CWD in 1967, but it remained for years in a small geographic area spanning southern Wyoming and northern Colorado. Then in the 2000s, it appeared to spread — or at least it was detected more often — popping up in deer, elk and moose in new regions. Now, it has emerged in 25 states, Alberta, Saskatchewan and South Korea. In the last couple of years, it appeared in Europe for the first time — it’s uncertain how — in moose, deer and wild reindeer.

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The global climate refugee crisis has already begun

Posted by on Oct 1, 2018 @ 6:48 am in Conservation | 0 comments

The global climate refugee crisis has already begun

When Hurricane Florence struck the shores of North and South Carolina and Virginia, more than a million evacuees fled their homes seeking shelter from the storm. For some, there will be no return home, as their homes are damaged beyond repair or beyond what they can afford to repair. All these displaced people are not simply evacuees fleeing a dangerous hurricane. They are climate refugees.

There are a couple of reasons why climate change is creating a new category of refugee. First, climate change contributes to rising seas. As ocean water warms, it expands. That, along with simultaneous increased melting of the world’s mountain glaciers and the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, contributes to rising sea levels. Sea level rise is already one factor producing climate refugees around the world.

Second, climate change contributes to stronger hurricanes. The warming atmosphere transfers heat to ocean water, which in turn transfers heat to storms. This strengthens and expands the storms. Because warmer water evaporates more readily, it also results in greater amounts of rainfall.

The global climate refugee crisis has begun. We are already seeing some permanent displacements of people who don’t return home because their home is destroyed or their farmlands are compromised or they’ve learned a lesson. As global climate change progresses, it will eventually lead to ever larger numbers of people being permanently displaced.

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Cradle of Forestry Hosts Forest Festival Day and Woodsmen’s Meet October 6

Posted by on Sep 26, 2018 @ 1:06 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

Cradle of Forestry Hosts Forest Festival Day and Woodsmen’s Meet October 6

The Cradle of Forestry invites people of all ages to celebrate the forest heritage of western North Carolina during the annual Forest Festival Day on Saturday, Oct. 6, 2018 from 9:00 a.m.-5:00 pm. This is the Cradle’s largest event of the year.

This activity-filled, family event commemorates the traditions of mountain living and craft in the Cradle’s unique and beautiful setting. More than 100 forestry students, traditional craftsmen and exhibitors will be on site during the celebration. During the event, ten colleges will compete for a trophy in the 23rd Annual Intercollegiate Woodsmen’s Meet, organized by Haywood Community College from Clyde, NC.

Festival-goers can cheer as college forestry students compete during the Woodsmen’s Meet that has the flavor of an old-time lumberjack competition. The students test their skills in a number of events including archery, axe throwing, crosscut sawing and pole felling.

The Woodmen’s Meet is held in the open field at the Pink Beds Picnic Area. This area allows for safety of participants and spectators while at the same time providing opportunities to see all the action. Spectators are encouraged to bring a chair or blanket for comfort. Limited bleacher seating is provided.

The Pink Beds Picnic Area and Pink Beds trailhead will be closed to non-event use for the day. The Pink Beds Trail can be accessed from FS Road 1206 via the Barnett Branch Trail and from the South Mills River gauging station area off Wolf Ford Road FS 476.

Traditional crafters and exhibitors will congregate along the Biltmore Campus Trail. These include demonstrations of wood crafting, blacksmithing, weaving, sweet potato carving, and creating corn husk dolls. Festival goers can learn to cut a tree “cookie” with a cross cut saw to take home.

For a complete list of activities, exhibitors, and other details about Forest Festival Day please visit www.cradleofforestry.com, or call the Cradle at (828) 877-3130.

Admission for this event is $10.00 general admission; $5.00 for youth ages 4-12, and holders of America the Beautiful, Golden Age, and Friends of the Cradle passes. Children under 4 years old are admitted free. The Cradle of Forestry is located four miles south of Parkway Milepost 412 on Hwy. 276 in the Pisgah National Forest, six miles north of Looking Glass Falls.

 

Study: National Parks Bearing The Brunt Of Climate Change Impacts

Posted by on Sep 25, 2018 @ 12:36 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

Study: National Parks Bearing The Brunt Of Climate Change Impacts

Yellowstone National Park escaped the summer without any large conflagrations in its forests, but that could be an anomaly under the current pace of climate change. Pikas could vanish from parks such as Lassen Volcanic and Great Basin. Glaciers and Joshua trees could be seen only in photographs and paintings in their namesake parks, and Virgin Islands and Hawai’i Volcanoes national parks could see diminished rainfall.

Southwestern parks such as Canyonlands, Grand Canyon, and Arches, already hot and arid, stand to become more so as droughts such as the current one become more commonplace.

Those are just some of the changes coming to the National Park System in the coming decades if anthropogenic climate change isn’t reversed, according to new research from scientists at the University of California Berkeley, and the University of Wisconsin.

Simply put, the scientists say, the landscapes preserved by the National Park System are bearing a disportionately greater impact of climate change than the rest of the United States. The reason, they say, is that a greater percentage of the National Park System is located at higher elevations than most U.S. landscapes. Also, because Alaska has more national park acreage than the rest of the country.

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Seeking America’s Quietest Spots: The Quest for Silence in a Loud World

Posted by on Sep 24, 2018 @ 9:15 am in Conservation, Hiking News | 0 comments

Seeking America’s Quietest Spots: The Quest for Silence in a Loud World

The hiker trudged up a logging road and into a valley, tracing a route that seemed unremarkable. There were no sweeping views of the mountains that towered nearby. There was no summit to scale. Yet he stopped suddenly, jubilant, after about four miles of walking. He had found exactly what he was searching for: quiet.

In these loud times — with political foes yelling on television, trucks rumbling through streets, and smartphones chirping all around — who doesn’t want a little peace and quiet? But some wilderness lovers have taken their aversion to the cacophony of the modern world a step further, traveling to some of the country’s most remote areas in a quest for utter silence.

Connoisseurs of quiet say it is increasingly difficult, even in the wilderness, to escape the sounds of vehicles, industries, voices. A study published last year in the academic journal Science found that noise pollution was doubling sound levels in much of the nation’s conserved land, like national parks and areas preserved by the federal Bureau of Land Management.

The National Park Service has a policy requiring park managers to measure “baseline acoustic conditions” and determine which noises have an adverse effect. There is even a branch of the Park Service known as the Natural Sounds and Night Skies Division that is dedicated in part to preserving the untrammeled soundscape.

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Fall into Volunteerism with Smokies Service Days

Posted by on Sep 21, 2018 @ 12:42 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

Fall into Volunteerism with Smokies Service Days

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials announce upcoming Fall “Smokies Service Days” volunteer projects. These unique opportunities allow community members and park visitors to get involved and become stewards of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Individuals and groups are invited to sign up for any of the scheduled service projects that interest them including unique opportunities to help care for park campgrounds, historic buildings, and other natural and cultural resources within the park boundaries.

This volunteer program helps complete much needed work across the park and is ideal for those seeking to fulfill community service requirements, including high school and college students, scout troops, civic organizations, visitors, families, and working adults with busy schedules. Each project will provide tasks appropriate for a wide range of ages. Volunteer projects will begin at 9:00 a.m. and last until noon on Saturday mornings, except for the November 23 service date. In addition, each project will be followed by an optional enrichment adventure to immerse participants in the abundant natural and cultural resources of the park.

Tools and safety gear, including gloves and high visibility safety vests, will be provided by park staff. Participants are required to wear closed-toe shoes and other Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) as directed. Volunteers planning to stay for the optional enrichment activity must also bring a sack lunch.

Those interested in volunteering need to contact Project Coordinator, Logan Boldon, at 865-436-1278 or logan_boldon@partner.nps.gov prior to the scheduled event date to register. Space may be limited.

Current service opportunities include: all dates 2018

September 22: National Public Lands Day Litter Patrol

September 29: Campground Clean-Up at Smokemont

October 6: Historic Preservation & Campground Maintenance at Cataloochee

October 27: Picnic Area & Campground Clean-Up at Deep Creek

November 3: Campground Clean-Up at Cosby

November 10: Litter Patrol at the Gatlinburg Park Boundary

November 17: Campground Clean-Up at Elkmont

November 23: Vegetation Management at Wears Valley

 

Shell and Exxon’s secret 1980s climate change warnings

Posted by on Sep 20, 2018 @ 7:03 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Shell and Exxon’s secret 1980s climate change warnings

In the 1980s, oil companies like Exxon and Shell carried out internal assessments of the carbon dioxide released by fossil fuels, and forecast the planetary consequences of these emissions. In 1982, for example, Exxon predicted that by about 2060, CO2 levels would reach around 560 parts per million – double the preindustrial level – and that this would push the planet’s average temperatures up by about 2°C over then-current levels (and even more compared to pre-industrial levels).

Later that decade, in 1988, an internal report by Shell projected similar effects but also found that CO2 could double even earlier, by 2030. Privately, these companies did not dispute the links between their products, global warming, and ecological calamity. On the contrary, their research confirmed the connections.

Shell’s assessment foresaw a one-meter sea-level rise, and noted that warming could also fuel disintegration of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, resulting in a worldwide rise in sea level of “five to six meters.” That would be enough to inundate entire low-lying countries.

Shell’s analysts also warned of the “disappearance of specific ecosystems or habitat destruction,” predicted an increase in “runoff, destructive floods, and inundation of low-lying farmland,” and said that “new sources of freshwater would be required” to compensate for changes in precipitation. Global changes in air temperature would also “drastically change the way people live and work.” All told, Shell concluded, “the changes may be the greatest in recorded history.”

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A Leave No Trace Principles Refresher

Posted by on Sep 18, 2018 @ 12:19 pm in Conservation, Hiking News | 0 comments

A Leave No Trace Principles Refresher

Outdoor enthusiasts often prefer visiting different types of locations. Some love trekking high into the Appalachian Mountains, while others enjoy paddling through the river-carved rocks of the Southwest. Some may like to explore the rainforests of the Pacific Northwest, while others enjoy ambling about aimlessly amid the grass-dotted dunes of the Gulf Coast.

You like forests; your buddy prefers prairies. One of your kids likes the beach; the other prefers the bayou.

But these various locations all share one uniting characteristic, one about which all outdoor enthusiasts can agree: They offer you the chance to spend some time in an unspoiled place, which has suffered only a minimal amount of human impact.

Whatever types of places you prefer for hiking, trekking, camping or paddling, you surely appreciate that these activities all give you the opportunity to spend time in untouched wilderness areas.

However, careless use of these places will quickly ruin them. After all, they’re becoming more and more popular by the day. If those who visit these pristine places aren’t careful, they’ll destroy the very thing that they sought in the first place – natural, untarnished beauty.

Fortunately, a lot of outdoor enthusiasts have already begun taking steps to protect these places, and you can join right alongside them. You just have to embrace Leave No Trace Principles.

 

The 25th Annual National Public Lands Day is happening on September 22, 2018

Posted by on Sep 18, 2018 @ 7:05 am in Conservation | 0 comments

The 25th Annual National Public Lands Day is happening on September 22, 2018

Mark September 22 on your calendar and make plans to head to your favorite outdoor spot as NEEF gets set to celebrate the 25th annual National Public Lands Day. No matter what is happening in the world, on National Public Lands Day, outdoor enthusiasts turn out in droves to give back to and enjoy their favorite outdoor places.

National Public Lands Day (NPLD) is the nation’s largest, single-day volunteer event for public lands, held annually on the fourth Saturday in September. NPLD is also a “fee-free day”—entrance fees are waived at national parks and other public lands.

Every day, natural disasters and extreme weather, human activities, and a host of other factors take their toll on our public lands, threatening the health and wellbeing of the people and wildlife who depend on them. Public land managers, volunteers, and others who steward these special places work tirelessly to restore these areas, make them more resilient to future threats, and ensure that people and wildlife continue to enjoy them for years to come.

This enduring support and commitment to public lands year after year inspired NEEF to focus National Public Lands Day 2018 on resilience and restoration. Our natural resources are resilient, but only if we treat them right and give them the care they need. Through volunteer service on National Public Lands Day as well as grant support to local organizations, NEEF helps ensure people of all ages and abilities connect with public lands for recreation, hands-on learning, and community-building—now and in the future.

Interested? Learn more here…

 

Wyoming, the country’s top coal producer, is wrangling support for wind power

Posted by on Sep 17, 2018 @ 9:45 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Wyoming, the country’s top coal producer, is wrangling support for wind power

Just off Interstate 80 in Sinclair, Wyoming (population 415), the Sinclair Refinery processes crude oil from the United States and Canada. Every day the refinery, one of the region’s largest, converts 85,000 barrels of oil to gasoline, diesel, propane, and other petroleum products. But the town may soon become famous for a cleaner sort of energy, as the gateway to the biggest wind farm in the Western Hemisphere.

South of the highway here lies the Overland Trail Ranch, 500 square miles of rugged terrain where several thousand black angus graze among the dusty buttes and sagebrush prairie. Soon the feeding cattle will wander beneath a thousand towering wind turbines. Called the Chokecherry and Sierra Madre Wind Energy Project, the ranch, owned by Denver-based billionaire Philip Anschutz, could potentially generate up to 3,000 megawatts of electricity­—enough to power one million homes. The project has been crawling through the regulatory process for more than a decade, but if all goes as planned, the first 500 turbines will be churning out electricity by the end of 2020, and the remainder will be up and running sometime in 2023.

In the ten years since Power Company of Wyoming (the Anschutz Corporation subsidiary running the project) began working to create Chokecherry and Sierra Madre, wind energy has boomed nationwide. The cost of wind power has dropped by 66 percent since 2009. Over the past 15 years, wind has gone from being a trace component of the U.S. power mix to holding a 6 percent share, and today, it’s a leading source of renewable energy in the nation.

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Chest-thumping Interior Department claims one success amid a sea of losses

Posted by on Sep 14, 2018 @ 6:58 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Chest-thumping Interior Department claims one success amid a sea of losses

Last week the Interior Department announced the sale of oil and gas leases covering over 50,700 acres in New Mexico’s Permian Basin for $972.5 million. Like a kid in a candy store, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke celebrated the “historic” lease sale, ignoring the reality of his shortsighted agenda: the rush to lease public lands for energy development has produced more failures than successes and left prized protected lands at risk.

Of the 12.7 million acres of oil and gas leases offered by the Bureau of Land Management prior to the New Mexico sale, 11.4 million acres, or nearly 90 percent, did not receive a single bid from the energy industry. Nearly a quarter of the acres leased sold for the minimum bid of $2 per acre — a far cry from New Mexico’s $81,889 per acre bid — generating only minimal revenue for taxpayers.

Of the 77 million acres of offshore leases in the Gulf of Mexico offered in one lease sale last March — a record setting lease sale according to Secretary Zinke — companies bid on just one percent of leases.

And again, of the 10.3 million acres offered for oil leasing in the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska by Secretary Zinke’s Interior Department, only seven bids were received, covering less than one percent of available acreage. Another in a long-line of embarrassing results.

“Energy dominance” comes a high cost to communities and America’s conservation lands. In the next four months, the Trump administration will offer 2.9 million acres of America’s public lands to oil and gas companies, including lands on the fringes of our national parks and monuments, prime habitat for the imperiled sage-grouse, and critical big game migration corridors.

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Mountains? Rain forests? Fjords? New Zealand’s Fiordland National Park has them all.

Posted by on Sep 13, 2018 @ 9:37 am in Conservation, Hiking News | 0 comments

Mountains? Rain forests? Fjords? New Zealand’s Fiordland National Park has them all.

Key Summit is one of many hiking trails — or as locals call them, tracks — that crisscross the South Island near Milford Sound, the green gemstone atop New Zealand’s wilderness crown. Milford Sound sits within Fiordland National Park, which in turn is part of Te Wahipounamu — South West New Zealand, a UNESCO World Heritage site that covers 10 percent of the country’s landmass.

Milford Sound’s mountains, rain forests and its fjord draw more than 500,000 visitors each year. Many of them are tour bus day-trippers from neighboring Te Anau or Queenstown who take a quick boat cruise, snap photos and head back to town. A landing strip and helipad accommodate sightseers who forgo the drive and whiz in and out. One lodge is available to those who prefer to stay a little longer.

To reach Milford Sound, depart Te Anau, a nearby lakeside town, and hit the road: the Milford Road, or State Highway 94, which is the only land-based route. Leave before sunrise to allow enough time to make a 9 a.m. Milford Sound cruise departure.

The nearly 75-mile journey stretches toward cloud-ringed mountains that glow pink in the predawn light. Fog drapes over lowland pastures, and yellow wildflowers frame the road. As you pass the Fiordland National Park entrance, the road twists through an enchanted fairyland of red beech forests and golden grasslands draped in stalky wild lupines. The Livingstone and Earl mountain ranges loom closer with every mile.

After many stops to gawk at the natural drama, you reach the nearly mile-long Homer Tunnel, which passes through a mountain into the Milford Sound area. The world’s only alpine parrots are highly intelligent and seem to hang around parking lots solely to tease camera-snapping tourists and dismantle their vehicles.

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Spring is Arriving Earlier, Messing With Bird Migrations

Posted by on Sep 13, 2018 @ 7:01 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Spring is Arriving Earlier, Messing With Bird Migrations

Thanks to climate change, spring now comes earlier. But how much sooner the season arrives varies across the U.S. That’s according to a new study that assessed the first appearance of leaves and flowers in nearly 500 U.S. National Wildlife Refuges over more than 100 years.

Researchers found the irregular seasonal changes affect migratory birds’ breeding sites, an outcome that could endanger many species.

Hundreds of migratory birds travel thousands of miles across the U.S. each year. Many birds move from Central America, where they spend the winter, to locations across the northern U.S. to breed and raise young. The success of their international travels depends on good timing. The birds must coordinate their arrivals with spring’s appearance to ensure enough food is available to eat at their destination.

Though some birds have adjusted when they migrate, it’s still unclear whether they’ll be able to keep up with changes in food availability across such vast distances over the long-term.

The researchers mapped data of first leaf and first bloom appearances, indices that mark the onset of spring, across 496 national wildlife refuges in the U.S. stretching back to the beginning of the last century. They found that spring now starts earlier — with leaves budding up to 3 days sooner each decade — in 76 percent of the wildlife refuges.

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