Conservation & Environment

Hear the William Bartram story

Posted by on Jun 15, 2019 @ 9:19 am in Conservation, Hiking News | 0 comments

Hear the William Bartram story

On Friday, June 21, 2019, a hike along part of the Bartram Trail will impart stories of the man who inspired it, with N.C. Bartram Trail Society member Brent Martin leading the adventure. The hike is one of HCLT’s series of EcoTours available to its members. Anyone can become a member on the hike. Reserve a spot by contacting or 828.526.1111, or reserve online at

At 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 25, 2019, Martin will present a program at The Village Green in Cashiers titled “Blazing Trails: looking into the natural and cultural history of the Bartram Trail.” The program is offered as part of the Green’s Village Nature Series, which brings in experts on various topic related to Cashiers’ natural and cultural heritage. Free.

Bartram traveled the southern colonies between 1773 and 1777, writing a series of books called Bartram’s Travels, published in 1791. They would become one of the first of a modern genre of books that portrayed nature through personal experience as well as scientific observation.

In 1977 the N.C. Bartram Trail Society was established and laid out about 78 miles of hiking trail to roughly parallel Bartram’s original travels.



How Much Nature Is Enough? 120 Minutes a Week, Doctors Say

Posted by on Jun 14, 2019 @ 7:23 am in Conservation | 0 comments

How Much Nature Is Enough? 120 Minutes a Week, Doctors Say

It’s a medical fact: Spending time outdoors, especially in green spaces, is good for you.

A wealth of research indicates that escaping to a neighborhood park, hiking through the woods, or spending a weekend by the lake can lower a person’s stress levels, decrease blood pressure and reduce the risk of asthma, allergies, diabetes and cardiovascular disease, while boosting mental health and increasing life expectancy. Doctors around the world have begun prescribing time in nature as a way of improving their patients’ health.

One question has remained: How long, or how frequently, should you experience the great outdoors in order to reap its great benefits? Is there a recommended dose? Just how much nature is enough?

According to a paper published in the journal Scientific Reports, the answer is about 120 minutes each week.

The study examined data from nearly 20,000 people who recorded their activities for a survey from 2014 to 2016 in England. It found that people who spent two hours a week or more outdoors reported being in better health and having a greater sense of well-being than people who didn’t get out at all.

Spending just 60 or 90 minutes in nature did not have as significant an effect, and five hours a week in nature offered no additional health benefits.

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Celebrating Cosby in the Smokies: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

Posted by on Jun 13, 2019 @ 6:50 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Celebrating Cosby in the Smokies: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials invite the public to attend “Celebrating Cosby: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow” community programs on Fridays beginning June 14, 2019 through August 2, 2019 at the Cosby Campground Amphitheater. The programs honor the rich cultural and natural history of the Cosby area through music, storytelling, and history walks.

“These programs offer incredible opportunities for visitors to discover Cosby by experiencing it firsthand with the people who live and work here,” said Superintendent Cassius Cash. “We are grateful to our friends from the local community who are leading these unique experiences.”

Programs feature local musicians, storytellers, craftsmen, and former residents who once lived in the park. Visitors are invited to step back in time during these summer programs to experience the music and mountain ways of people living in the Cosby area both then and now.

“We are so happy that the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is bringing this program to our Cosby Campground,” said Cocke Country Partnership Tourist Director, Linda Lewanski. “We all know how talented our Cocke County folks are and we are delighted to be able to showcase them.”

All programs will be held at the Cosby Campground Amphitheater unless otherwise specified. In the event of rain, “Celebrating Cosby” programs will move to the covered picnic pavilion adjacent to Cosby Campground. Programs will be held rain or shine. Visitors are welcome to find seating in the amphitheater or bring their own chairs or blankets.

For more information, please contact Park Ranger Katie Corrigan at 865-436-1257 or

Program Schedule:

• June 14, 4:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Flag Day Ceremony at the Cosby Picnic Pavilion

Join William Cocke, National Society Daughters of the American Revolution, Disabled American Veterans Chapter 102, Parrottsville Quilts of Valor Foundation, American Veterans Post 75, and American Legion Post 41 for a moving tribute to veterans buried at Tritt Cemetery including the placement of flags and roll call.

• June 14, 7:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Mountain Edge Band

Enjoy traditional bluegrass music featuring Judge Carter Moore, Andy Williams, Jamie Clark, and Limmie Workman.

• June 21, 7:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Moonshiners

Learn about making moonshine in the mountains featuring Mark Ramsey, Digger Manes, and Kelly Williamson.

• June 28, 7:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Children of Cosby Yesterday and Today

Join Park Ranger Katie Corrigan and Ginger Sue Cantrell as they introduce visitors to hands-on learning experiences from the past to now with a visit to Mountain Rest School.

• July 5 at 7:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Celebrating Ella V. Costner

Enjoy stories of the famed “Poet Laureate of the Smokies,” Ella Costner, who grew up in Cosby before joining the army as a nurse and becoming a prolific writer. This evening will include a Presentation of Quilts of Valor.

• July 12 at 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. A Walk Down Memory Lane

Join Imogene Wilson and Olie Williamson as they take on a walk remembering what the area looked like before the creation of the national park.

• July 19 at 7:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Cherokee Storytelling and Dance

Learn about the Cherokee culture stories through dance and storytelling featuring members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indian.

• July 26 at 7:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. An Evening of Artifacts

Join Park Archaeologist Allison Harvey and local experts to dive into local history including discussions on hunting and firearms by Randall Bradly; spinning wheels by Shane McGaha and Judy McGaha; and the making of lye soap by Imogene Wilson.

• August 2 at 7:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Old-Timey Music with Richard Bennett

Enjoy traditional old-timey music with Richard Bennett who once played with Bill Monroe.


Smokies National Park Hosts 2019 Women’s Work Festival

Posted by on Jun 11, 2019 @ 7:30 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Smokies National Park Hosts 2019 Women’s Work Festival

Great Smoky Mountains National Park will host the annual Women’s Work Festival at the Mountain Farm Museum on Saturday, June 15, 2019 from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. The festival honors the vast contributions made by the women of Southern Appalachia. Park staff and volunteers will showcase mountain lifeways and customs that women practiced to care for their families in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

As part of the celebration, demonstrations among the historic buildings will include hearth cooking, soap making, corn shuck crafts, and use of plants for home remedies. Exhibits of artifacts and historic photographs will also provide a glimpse into the many and varied roles of rural women. The Davis-Queen house will be open for visitors to walk through with an audio exhibit featuring the last child born in the house.

In addition to the Women’s Work Festival activities, visitors will also be treated to a music jam session on the porch of the Oconaluftee Visitor Center. Music jam sessions are held every first and third Saturday of the month from May through October on the porch from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.

All activities are free to the public. The Mountain Farm Museum is located on Newfound Gap Road adjacent to the Oconaluftee Visitor Center, 2 miles north of Cherokee, North Carolina. For additional information call the visitor center at 828-497-1904.


The Maine Coast Heritage Trust has preserved many acres on Maine’s Frenchboro Island, saving it from second-home development

Posted by on Jun 9, 2019 @ 9:51 am in Conservation, Hiking News | 0 comments

The Maine Coast Heritage Trust has preserved many acres on Maine’s Frenchboro Island, saving it from second-home development

In the late 1990s, 940 acres on Frenchboro, or roughly two-thirds of the island, was listed for sale. Frenchboro is an island of the coast of Maine, accessible by ferry. Fearing this spectacular property would be purchased for subdivision and seasonal home development, concerned island residents forged a partnership with the Maine Coast Heritage Trust, the Island Institute and the Maine Seacoast Mission to conserve the land. A massive fund-raising effort ensued, and in 2000 the parcel was acquired by MCHT.

In 2011, the entirety of Rich’s Head, 192 acres on the eastern edge of Frenchboro connected by a narrow seawall, was donated to MCHT by David Rockefeller, the noted philanthropist and Mount Desert Island summer denizen. Eleven acres around Little Beach have since been acquired, bringing MCHT’s land holdings on Frenchboro to its present 1,143 acres, and making the conservation project one of the largest the organization has taken on.

There’s not much to Frenchboro, also known as Long Island. A school and a church, and a deli on the opposite side of the harbor. Some 50 people reside year-round on Frenchboro, and most make their living by lobster fishing.

At the edge of the village, a white building houses the library and historical society. A foot trail departs from the left side of the library, and 100 yards into the woods there’s an information kiosk with a trail map. A half-mile beyond is Big Beach, the open ocean, and the start of one mighty fine hiking adventure.

The interior of Frenchboro is a thick forest of spruce and fir, while the coastline is rocky and rugged. A narrow trail threads a path along the margin of woods and water for eight incredible miles you won’t soon forget.

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1 Billion Acres At Risk For Catastrophic Wildfires, U.S. Forest Service Warns

Posted by on Jun 6, 2019 @ 7:44 am in Conservation | 0 comments

1 Billion Acres At Risk For Catastrophic Wildfires, U.S. Forest Service Warns

The chief of the U.S. Forest Service is warning that a billion acres of land across America are at risk of catastrophic wildfires like last fall’s deadly Camp Fire that destroyed most of Paradise, Calif.

As we head into summer, with smoke already drifting into the Northwest from wildfires in Alberta, Canada, Vicki Christiansen said wildfires are now a year-round phenomenon. She pointed to the hazardous conditions in forests that result from a history of suppression of wildfires, rampant home development in high-risk places and the changing climate.

“When you look nationwide there’s not any place that we’re really at a fire season. Fire season is not an appropriate term anymore.”

Christiansen’s agency is the nation’s lead firefighting apparatus. It’s trying to prioritize treatments such as thinning, brush clearing and prescribed burning on 80 million acres of its own land, mostly in the West. (Her billion acre estimate includes land across multiple federal, state and local jurisdictions as well as private land.)

Even with the push for more mitigation under Christiansen, the Forest Service is predicting it could spend upward of $2.5 billion just fighting fires this year alone. The agency was budgeted $1.7 billion and will likely again have to transfer money from existing forest management and fire mitigation programs to cover the difference.



Following environmentalist Edward Abbey’s footsteps in the Utah and Arizona deserts

Posted by on Jun 5, 2019 @ 6:55 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Following environmentalist Edward Abbey’s footsteps in the Utah and Arizona deserts

The road trip from Moab, Utah, to Ajo, Ariz., is a sunbaked ramble through about 600 miles of dreamy, lethal desert, beginning with the red rocks of Utah’s Arches National Park, skirting Monument Valley and the Colorado River, and ending in the cactus country of southern Arizona.

Edward Abbey (1927-1989) was a desert rat, a chronic contrarian, a serial government employee with a penchant for anarchy. He spoke for the rocks, the sand and the snakes in a way that no one had.

He made his reputation by exploring Arches in the nonfiction “Desert Solitaire” (1968), then doubled his fame in 1975 with “The Monkey Wrench Gang,” a novel that follows four misfits as they lament lost wild places, burn billboards, disable heavy equipment and dream of liberating the Colorado River from the concrete grip of Glen Canyon Dam. In the wake of that book, a few of his admirers founded Earth First.

To appreciate the desert, Abbey once wrote, “You can’t see anything from a car; you’ve got to get out of the…contraption and walk, better yet crawl, on hands and knees, over the sandstone and through the thornbush and cactus. When traces of blood begin to mark your trail, you’ll see something, maybe.”

Abbey spent the summers of 1956 and 1957 at Arches, at the time a national monument with no paved roads. Then he spent a decade chewing on the experience and concluded that there should be no pavement at Arches, no more cars in national parks, and no more growth in Western states that don’t have water for it.

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We’ll soon know the exact air pollution from every power plant in the world

Posted by on May 29, 2019 @ 7:49 am in Conservation | 0 comments

We’ll soon know the exact air pollution from every power plant in the world

  A nonprofit artificial intelligence firm called WattTime is going to use satellite imagery to precisely track the air pollution (including carbon emissions) coming out of every single power plant in the world, in real time. And it’s going to make the data public.

This is a very big deal. Poor monitoring and gaming of emissions data have made it difficult to enforce pollution restrictions on power plants. This system promises to effectively eliminate these problems.

And it won’t just be regulators and politicians who see this data; it will be the public too. When it comes to environmental enforcement, the public can be more terrifying and punitive than any regulator. If any citizen group in the world can go online and pull up a list of the dirtiest power plants in their area, it eliminates one of the great informational barriers to citizen action.

Every pollution law or international agreement relies on monitoring and verification. Many countries, or areas within countries, are suspected of underreporting emissions. It creates a background level of mutual mistrust. Now there will be a trusted, third-party source of verified information on every power plant; no more gaming the system by fiddling with local monitoring equipment or misreporting emissions. Transparent third-party verification will raise everyone’s confidence in the ability of regulators and negotiators to produce results.

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Praise Song for the Unloved Animals

Posted by on May 28, 2019 @ 6:59 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Praise Song for the Unloved Animals

Even the most maligned creatures of backyards and roadsides have a potent purpose in the world.

Sing, O muse, of the lumbering opossum, of the nearsighted, stumbling opossum, whose only defenses are a hiss, a hideous scowl and a rank scent emitted in terror. Let us rejoice in the pink-nosed, pink-fingered opossum, her silvery pouch full of babies, each no bigger than a honeybee.

May your young thrive to ride upon your back. May they fatten and grow large and stumble off on their own to devour cockroaches and carrion and venomous snakes. May their snuffling root out all the ticks in our yards and all the snails in our flower beds. When they faint in the face of marauding dogs, we call back our baying hounds and wait for them to wake. We cheer when they rise and shake themselves. We send them with our blessings as they blunder back into the night.

Let peals of gratitude ring out for the glossy vulture, soarer of air currents, eater of gore. We gaze in wonder at your distant perfection, mistaking you for creatures we thoughtlessly love much more: for eagles or hawks or ospreys. Stolid in our heavy human bones, we follow you with our eyes, watching as you barely shift the angle of your wings to bank and glide, to circle and circle again.

May we remember in your circling the cycle you complete. On the ground, something is suffering. Something is coming near to the end of its time among us, but its life is not ending. Its life can never end. You are turning its body into something beautiful: blood and feathers and hollow bones. Earthbound no longer, the dead are rising again in you, rising and rising, lifted on air.

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Littering and Following the Crowd

Posted by on May 25, 2019 @ 7:07 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Littering and Following the Crowd

Loretta Brown walked along Bishop’s Beach near Homer, Alaska, looking for plastic bottles, Styrofoam cups, beer cans, cigarette butts, and old fishing nets.

“You tend to find things among the driftwood, since the same tide that washes up the driftwood washes up the trash,” she said, stooping to pick up a plastic water bottle. “It’s kind of like an Easter egg hunt.”

Brown is a marine debris education and outreach specialist with the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies, a nonprofit organization based in Homer that educates the public about coastal issues and offers eco-tours of the region. She also has a keen, experienced eye for litter.

“We’re likely to find some up here among the grasses,” she said, homing in on small pieces of Styrofoam nestled in clumps of grass among the basalt rocks and clam shells along the beach. “The birds will eat these.”

With all of the work she does picking up litter and educating people about the long-term environmental damage it does, Brown has developed some theories about what makes people throw out their trash, and how to get them to stop.

“It probably goes to our roots as a species,” she said. “We’ve always had refuse of some kind. In the beginning, it didn’t matter if you threw things on the ground, because it was biodegradable and would rot. It wasn’t a problem until plastic was invented.”

Education, she thinks, is the way to change the culture of littering. “The best way for people to become engaged and change their behaviors is not just to inform them of the problem, but to have them actively experience the problem,” she said. “It’s about having the conversation—that really helps. It’s a behavioral change.”

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The one sure way to convince a climate denier

Posted by on May 24, 2019 @ 6:51 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Back in 2007, South Carolina Congressman Bob Inglis rebelled against the Republican party and his conservative state: He told the world that climate change was real, that it was caused by humans, and that his party would “get hammered” if they didn’t step up and do something about it. Then, unlike other Republicans who gave the issue lip service at the time, he actually tried.

Why would a dyed-in-the-wool Republican take such a strong stance? Inglis’s son said he’d vote against him if he didn’t.

Apparently, his son’s vote wasn’t the one he should’ve been worried about: Inglis lost his seat in Congress three years later to a guy who famously declared that “global warming has not been proven to the satisfaction of the constituents I seek to serve.” But the story is a good illustration of the potential that young people have to sway their parents’ opinions.

It’s a power that has come into play a lot lately: Pushed by dire circumstances to explore tactics beyond the eye roll, middle and high school students are leading the charge on just about everything, from climate justice, to gun control, to criminal justice reform.

And, it turns out, that cliché about learning more from your kids than they’ll ever learn from you has some scientific backing: To paraphrase researchers at North Carolina State University, kids are damn good at changing their climate skeptic parents’ minds — and climate educators who work with these kids every day have some pretty compelling info about why that might be.

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Photography In The National Parks: Is There In Truth No Beauty?

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

Photography In The National Parks: Is There In Truth No Beauty?

Quite a few stunning photographs have undergone their fair share of editing. For instance, the starry night photos you may see of the Watchman and the Virgin River in Zion National Park with the perfect lighting on both river and mountain even in the dark of night. Those are composites of two or more images blended together.

Some photographers will state how many shots it took to create that composite, while others remain silent about it. Is it a beautiful image? Yes. Is it an honest image, true to the original scene? Well … sure. The photo was taken at an honest location within a national park, as opposed to a Hollywood backlot, and the photo depicts what you will see in that specific location during a visit to this park.

But the photo itself has been manipulated beyond the average sharpening, saturation, contrast, and brightening adjustments. While the shot was captured at a beautiful landscape, there were a few enhancements made to that image, allowing the natural beauty of that scene to really pop out and catch the viewer’s eye, even in the dark of night. Does that matter to you? Is a pretty image a pretty image, manipulated or not?

Most of us like our national park landscape images to look natural. But, what is natural? If the image is dull, do we think that is what the natural landscape looked like? If the image is colorful, do we automatically assume it’s overdone, simply because there is so much saturation to the scene?

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Collaborative works to reduce I-40 animal deaths

Posted by on May 21, 2019 @ 7:44 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Collaborative works to reduce I-40 animal deaths

The Pigeon River Gorge Wildlife Connectivity Project is a joint effort of at least 19 nonprofit and governmental groups working to bring the death rate of wildlife on Interstate-40 through the gorge down.

The many groups under the connectivity project umbrella, including the N.C. and Tennessee Departments of Transportation, U.S. Forest Service, Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy and Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, recognize the increasing hazards of vehicle collisions. Since the 28-mile stretch of I-40 between the Maggie Valley exit and the Foothills Parkway in Tennessee first opened in 1968, changes on both the human and animal sides of the equation have heightened the risk.

According to Bill Stiver, supervisory wildlife biologist for the nearby Great Smoky Mountains National Park, black bear populations in the park have risen from roughly 400-600 to around 1,600 over the past 30 years. Over the same period, annual park visitation has gone from approximately 8.5 million to 11.4 million — with I-40 representing a major route to the park from the east.

In a recently concluded study, Stiver continued, 90% of male bears tagged with GPS collars within park boundaries had ranges extending beyond its borders. “Essentially, the park is not big enough for the bear population to be self-sustaining,” he explained. “If those bears can’t get across I-40, they can’t get to suitable habitat.”

And elk, which were completely absent from the I-40 landscape during its planning and construction, were reintroduced in 2001. Their population now numbers about 150; a bull elk can weigh half a ton, roughly four times the weight of the average adult male bear. These massive animals, said Wildlands Network researcher Liz Hillard, are “path-of-least-resistance walkers” and often follow roads instead of climbing over mountains.

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Plastics are sealing the planet’s fate

Posted by on May 18, 2019 @ 6:59 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Plastics are sealing the planet’s fate

It’s impossible to imagine modern life without plastics. From the moment the day begins, we are using plastic. It’s in our toothbrushes, our shower curtains and our phones. We use it on the way to work in bus seats, car dashboards, and bicycle helmets. We see it at lunch in takeout containers and disposable utensils. Whether you’re in your living room controlling the TV with a plastic remote or on the top of Mount Everest wearing cold-weather gear made with plastics, it’s there.

We rarely think about where it all comes from, but we should. According to a new report on the full life-cycle of the world’s plastic production, the long-term environmental results are nothing short of a catastrophe. The report from the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) finds the production of plastics — from extraction to manufacture to disposal and steps in between —  is a significant source of carbon pollution and set to become a major driver of climate change.

While other studies have calculated emissions from plastics at various stages of production and disposal of plastics, this report is the first of its kind to estimate the impact of plastic across its full life cycle. Most carbon emissions associated with plastics comes from the production phase of the life cycle, but even at the end of the cycle, plastics are a source of pollution.

Most of the plastic ever produced has been released into the environment and persists in some form. What happens next is known. Turtles wind up with straws in their noses, dead whales wash ashore with almost 100 pounds of plastic in their stomachs, divers swim through currents of plastic pollution. Even at this stage, plastics are a source of carbon pollution.

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Help Make History on National Trails Day June 1, 2019

Posted by on May 16, 2019 @ 7:37 am in Conservation, Hiking News | 0 comments

Help Make History on National Trails Day June 1, 2019

By pledging to improve a trail you’ll join a nation-wide movement to set a world record and (more importantly) sustain America’s remarkable trails system. With your help, we can preserve beloved trails for future generations. Plus, everyone who commits to improving trails will be entered to win weekly giveaways of awesome outdoor gear.

How does this pledge work?

Make your commitment to improving a trail by simply submitting the online pledge. After National Trails Day®, we’ll ask you how many miles of trail you helped to improve to establish the world record of trail service. Everyone who confirms they improved a trail (of any length) will be entered to win the grand prize package of premium outdoor gear.

How do I improve a trail?

It can be as simple as collecting trash along the trail. Or, take your trail cred to the next level and join an organized trail work party to maintain or build new trail. Check out what trail work projects are in your area. More projects are added frequently leading up to National Trails Day®, so check back if you don’t see a project close to you.

What if I can’t get out on National Trails Day®?

You may take the pledge to improve a trail on another day if you can’t get outside for National Trails Day® but we highly encourage people to join the national movement on June 1st.

How do I share what I did on National Trails Day®?

We’ll be looking for photos and stories tagged with #NationalTrailsDay and @AmericanHiking on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Still have questions?

Click here for more FAQs or email


Bears Ears’ only visitor center isn’t run by the feds

Posted by on May 15, 2019 @ 7:17 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Bears Ears’ only visitor center isn’t run by the feds

With the monument facing stripped-down protections and sky rocketing visitation, a local nonprofit built its own guerrilla visitor center to educate the masses.

The terracotta mesas and umber buttes reveal that this is an exceptional place. Yet not one sign from the Bureau of Land Management or the U.S. Forest Service, the two federal agencies that jointly manage Bears Ears National Monument, indicates where it’s actually located. There are no federal facilities dedicated to the rising tide of visitors.

“It’s managed by Google,” says Josh Ewing, executive director of the land-conservation nonprofit Friends of Cedar Mesa, based in nearby Bluff, Utah. “Because that’s the only place people are getting their information.”

In the absence of federal resources, Ewing and Friends of Cedar Mesa raised $700,000 from the crowdfunding site Kickstarter and built the Bears Ears Education Center last year. The local climbers, guides, conservationists and educators saw the growing hordes descending on the fragile, embattled monument and feared they could permanently damage the landscape.

Federal agencies estimate that more than 130,000 visitors came to the newly shrunken monument in 2017, a 72% surge from the year before. BLM estimates put the monument-wide number in 2018 as high as 750,000. But even greater numbers are expected: Fodor’s, the popular travel guide publisher, ranked Bears Ears at the top of its list of recommended places to visit in 2019.

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Study finds 96% of national parks have hazardous air quality

Posted by on May 12, 2019 @ 7:15 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Study finds 96% of national parks have hazardous air quality

Millions of tourists will head out into America’s national parks this summer in search of fresh mountain air. But according to a new report they should instead expect dangerous levels of pollution; roughly 96% of the nation’s parks are struggling with significant air quality issues.

The report, released by the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), found that some of the most popular parks, including Sequoia, Kings Canyon and Joshua Tree national parks and Mojave national preserve, were among the worst offenders. Last year, these parks recorded up to two months where ozone levels were considered dangerous –mostly in summer when visitation is at its highest.

The actions that need to be taken to safeguard the parks are the same needed to combat climate change and defend public health. Bad air quality can cause lung damage, harm immune systems and increase inflammation, having lasting impact on the health of rangers and visitors. It also causes irreversible damage to the parks themselves. Ozone has the ability to affect soil, burn plants and harm habitats.

Advocates believe the problems will only get worse as the Trump administration continues to repeal regulations and push for more drilling on public lands. The administration has overseen an 85% drop in EPA pollution enforcement.

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2 men endure 71-day hike to document the Grand Canyon

Posted by on May 11, 2019 @ 7:22 am in Conservation, Hiking News | 0 comments

2 men endure 71-day hike to document the Grand Canyon

This year is the 100th anniversary of Grand Canyon National Park. Six million visit each year, but fewer than 5 percent actually hike into the canyon. More people have walked on the moon than have walked the entire length of the Grand Canyon, 750 miles, the vast majority without trails.

“It’s a hostile place and water is the key,” said photographer Pete McBride. It took McBride and writer Kevin Fedarko 71 excruciating days to complete their journey. “I came in with some attitude. Like, ‘We’ll just – it’ll be hiking.’ and I just underestimated the physicality of it,” McBride said.

The monumental physical accomplishment was to serve a larger purpose: A comprehensive book and documentary highlighting the canyon’s challenges.

“This is the crown jewel of the entire system. This is the part that matters the most, not because it’s the first or the largest or the most visited, but because it’s the most recognized,” Fedarko said.

“So the canyon really does function like kind of a time machine. The clock starts at the rim, 250 million years into the past, and by the time you get to the bottom, you’re 1.8 billion years into the past,” Fedarko said.

But it’s the future they’re worried about.

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One million species face extinction, U.N. report says. And humans will suffer as a result.

Posted by on May 7, 2019 @ 6:51 am in Conservation | 0 comments

One million species face extinction, U.N. report says. And humans will suffer as a result.

Up to 1 million plant and animal species are on the verge of extinction, with alarming implications for human survival, according to a United Nations report released this week.

The report’s findings underscore the conclusions of previous scientific studies that say human activity is wreaking havoc on the wild kingdom, threatening the existence of living things ranging from giant whales to small flowers and insects that are almost impossible to see with the naked eye.

But the global report by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services goes a step further than previous studies by linking the loss of species to humans and analyzing its effect on food and water security, farming and economies.

According to the report, more plants and animals are threatened with extinction now than any other period in human history. Nature’s current rate of decline is unparalleled, it says, and the accelerating rate of extinctions “means grave impacts on people around the world are now likely.”

The report’s authors declared that the world’s governments should address the global decline of biodiversity together with human-caused climate change. The warming climate is a major driver that is exacerbating the effects of overfishing, widespread pesticide use, pollution and urban expansion into the natural world.

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A Small Town’s Battle Against Radioactive Fracking Waste

Posted by on May 5, 2019 @ 8:46 am in Conservation | 0 comments

A Small Town’s Battle Against Radioactive Fracking Waste

After an illegal dumping of close to 2,000 tons of dangerous sludge and contaminated materials across the street from two schools, a Kentucky community struggles with what to do next.

Estill County isn’t the kind of place you’d think would have a radioactive waste problem. Half of this quiet, unassuming nook of eastern Kentucky is covered like a quilt with farmhouses and churches, while the other half rests in the shade of Daniel Boone National Forest.

In Estill’s center, nestled between the Appalachian foothills and the Kentucky River, sits Irvine (population 2,400). Route 89 slices through town as Main Street, crossing the river via a light-green truss bridge on its way to the middle and high schools. Right across the street from the schools, which serve students from all over the county, sits the local landfill.

So when news broke in early 2016 that the local landfill had for months been illegally burying 1,900 tons of radioactive—and potentially carcinogenic—material, this tight-knit community was shocked.

“It’s an insult to the intelligence of the people who live here,” says Nancy Farmer, a lifelong resident who spent 34 years on the Estill County Board of Education. “It’s certainly insulting that life in Estill County is being valued less than life anywhere else, because they’re willing to put this kind of material close to students in two different schools.”

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