Conservation & Environment

This Tourism Hotspot Could be the World’s First City to Run Out of Water

Posted by on Jan 18, 2018 @ 12:20 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

This Tourism Hotspot Could be the World’s First City to Run Out of Water

For the first time, a major city may run out of water this year.

South Africa’s city of Cape Town has been grappling with water shortages that are the result of what the Weather Channel calls the worst drought to hit the country in 100 years. The situation may result in Cape Town officials shutting off all of the city’s water taps this April.

Irregularly dry winters have created exceedingly low dam levels within the country, leading city representatives to set a “Day Zero” date, which is when they believe the country will see dam levels drop below 13.5 percent and lead to the mandatory shutting off of all taps.

Currently, the date is set for April 22. That’s a week earlier than the previous date set for April 29, with the city’s current dam levels only providing 19.7 percent of water that is actually useable.

Despite taking measures that include reducing water pressure and banning the ability to water outdoors or wash your car, city representatives are still finding that residents are using some 78 more million liters than the set goal.

Water shortages may become a reality in other locations as well, with the World Wildlife Fund estimating that two-thirds of the planet’s population could be facing water scarcity by 2025.

Read full story…

 

Ten ‘stealth microplastics’ to avoid if you want to save the oceans

Posted by on Jan 18, 2018 @ 6:51 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Ten ‘stealth microplastics’ to avoid if you want to save the oceans

British Prime Minister Theresa May’s new environment plan sets ambitious goals for plastic waste reduction. But there’s lots of room for slippage. One goal is to eradicate all “avoidable” plastic waste, though it’s not clear how “avoidable” will be defined. A few concrete measures are now in place, such as the 5p plastic bag charge being extended to cover all businesses in England. And, in order to tackle the spread of tiny plastic particles, the government recently announced a ban on microbeads in personal care products.

But such measures, even if adopted worldwide, wouldn’t actually wipe out these “microplastics” in the environment.

The problem is that all plastic ends up tiny. And it persists, no matter what its size. In the ocean, even the largest and most resilient bits of plastic are broken up and degraded by the waves and sunlight until eventually these chunks measure less than five millimetres across – about the size of an ant – and they are classed as “secondary microplastics”. This type of plastic, that started out as drinks bottles, fishing gear, disposable cutlery and so on, is much more abundant than “primary microplastics” that started out small, such as the microbeads found in toothpaste.

Microbeads are among the most familiar sources of tiny plastic pollution, but this means there are other less obvious sources of microplastics in everyday use. These are called “stealth microplastics.”

Here is how they start…

 

Nearly all members of National Park Service advisory panel resign in frustration

Posted by on Jan 17, 2018 @ 12:15 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

Three-quarters of the members of a federally chartered board advising the National Park Service abruptly quit January 14, 2018 out of frustration that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke had refused to meet with them or convene a single meeting last year.

The resignation of nine out of 12 National Park System Advisory Board members leaves the federal government without a functioning body to designate national historic or natural landmarks. It also underscores the extent to which federal advisory bodies have become marginalized under the Trump administration. In May 2017, Zinke suspended all outside committees while his staff reviewed their composition and work.

In a letter to the secretary, departing board chairman Tony Knowles, a former Alaska governor, wrote that he and eight other members “have stood by waiting for the chance to meet and continue the partnership . . . as prescribed by law.”

The National Park System Advisory Board, which was established in 1935, has typically included social and natural science academics as well as former elected officials from both parties. In recent years, it has advised Interior on how to address climate change, among other issues, and how to encourage younger visitors to frequent the parks.

The board is required to meet twice a year but has not convened since Trump took office last January, Knowles said Tuesday. Members, most of whom have worked together for seven years, were surprised to not be consulted on Interior’s recent decisions to increase visitor fees and reverse a ban on plastic water bottles in the park system.

Read full story…

 

‘Orphaned’ oil and gas wells are on the rise

Posted by on Jan 17, 2018 @ 6:42 am in Conservation | 0 comments

‘Orphaned’ oil and gas wells are on the rise

In March 2015, Joe MacLaren, a state oil and gas inspector in Colorado, drove out to the Taylor 3 oil well near the tiny town of Hesperus, in the southwestern corner of the state. He found an entire checklist of violations. Atom Petroleum, a Texas-based company, had bought out more than 50 oil and gas wells after the company that drilled them went bankrupt. Now, Atom was pumping oil from those wells, but Taylor 3 was leaking crude, and it was missing required signage as well as screens on infrastructure to keep birds away from toxic gunk. Worse, the company had not performed safety tests to ensure the well wasn’t leaking fluids underground.

Over the following months, the state slapped Atom with fines, performed follow-up inspections, and demanded a $360,000 bond to cover the cost of shutting down the wells, just in case Atom — hardly proving itself to operate in a trustworthy manner — didn’t clean up its act.

Atom didn’t bother to follow through on one last important obligation. When companies cease production, they are supposed to plug wells with cement to reduce the risk of leaks, and to restore vegetation and wildlife habitat above ground. They recoup their bonds if they do so, whereas if they don’t, the state cashes them. In this case, Atom flouted its responsibility to plug and reclaim its wells, leaving the state to clean up its mess. Colorado did claim a $60,000 bond Atom posted when it first started operating, but the cleanup could cost taxpayers 10 times that.

Officially, Colorado has 244 orphaned wells on its books, but state officials estimate another 400 have yet to be located. And with a new drilling boom tapping deep shale formations along Colorado’s urban Front Range, some worry that the next bust will saddle the public with thousands more.

Read full story…

 

Under Ryan Zinke, the Secretary of the Interior, it’s a sell-off from sea to shining sea

Posted by on Jan 16, 2018 @ 6:49 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Under Ryan Zinke, the Secretary of the Interior, it’s a sell-off from sea to shining sea

On his first day as Secretary of the Interior, last March, Ryan Zinke rode through downtown Washington, D.C., on a roan named Tonto. When the Secretary is working at the department’s main office, on C Street, a staff member climbs up to the roof of the building and hoists a special flag, which comes down when Zinke goes home for the day.

The department, which comprises agencies ranging from the National Park Service to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, oversees some five hundred million acres of federal land, and more than one and a half billion acres offshore. Usually, there’s a tension between the department’s mandates—to protect the nation’s natural resources and to manage them for commercial use. Under Zinke, the only question, from the redwood forests to the Gulf Stream waters, is how fast these resources can be auctioned off.

One of Zinke’s first acts, after dismounting from Tonto, was to overturn a moratorium on new leases for coal mines on public land. He subsequently recommended slashing the size of several national monuments, including Bears Ears, in Utah, and Gold Butte, in Nevada, and lifting restrictions at others to allow more development.

Zinke has also proposed gutting a plan, years in the making, to save the endangered sage grouse; instead of protecting ten million acres in the West that had been set aside for the bird’s preservation, he’d like to see them given over to mining. And he’s moved to scrap Obama-era regulations that would have set more stringent standards for fracking on federal property.

See what else Zinke has done...

 

“Arches For The People” Proposes Solution to Arches National Park’s Congestion Woes

Posted by on Jan 15, 2018 @ 7:05 am in Conservation | 0 comments

“Arches For The People” Proposes Solution to Arches National Park’s Congestion Woes

  A group opposed to seeing a reservation system instituted for Arches National Park is pushing a somewhat novel solution: park your car outside the park. Not only would the plan solve the congestion problem at Arches but, its proponents believe, it will create “the first fully sustainable, noise free, and zero emissions national park by 2030.”

That’s quite a pitch, one that envisions a massive parking lot on a former uranium tailings dump transformed into “Basecamp Moab,” and self-driving electric vehicles that today are no more than a vision.

“This involves thinking outside of the geographic area of the park and involves public-public-private partnerships,” Michael Liss tells me while laying out the vision being carried to the National Park Service by “Arches For The People. “We are now doing all the groundwork to put a 2,000-car parking lot and visitors center across the street from Arches National Park, a half-mile south on (U.S.) 191 from the Arches entrance at the Uranium Mill Tailings Remedial Action DOE site. Once we can get everyone parked, we can then offer multiple ways to enter Arches.”

While some national parks are grappling with human crowds, at Arches in southeastern Utah the problem is vehicular crowds. With a very limited road system, built around the 18-mile-long main road, traffic can quickly slow to a crawl during the spring, summer, and fall seasons at the park’s main attractions, such as Delicate Arch, the Windows Section, and Devils Garden.

To unwind that congestion, Arches staff has been developing a Traffic Congestion Management Plan to address vehicle traffic and parking congestion problems that they say affect visitor access, visitor enjoyment, and resource conditions.

Read full story…

 

Photographer shares what he believes is at stake in ANWR with one image

Posted by on Jan 14, 2018 @ 11:29 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Photographer shares what he believes is at stake in ANWR with one image

There are no photographs of bison spilling by the thousands across the Great Plains. By the time cameras came along, most of the bison were gone. John Wright of Fairbanks believes he has an Alaska version of what that photo might have been.

His image, 12 slide frames stitched together to show the Brooks Range rising from northern tundra, is papered on a wall of the University of Alaska Museum of the North.

It takes 10 steps to walk past the panorama, a vinyl print mounted at eye level just across the hall from Otto, a preserved brown bear that stands 6 feet tall.

Wright’s image shows purple mountains above the orange-brown flats of northern Alaska. The coastal plain — miles of tundra carpet between the mountains and the ocean — is packed with caribou of the Porcupine herd. The animals resemble tan ants scrambling over treeless hills. Counting them is an intimidating proposition.

Wright, 69, was doing just that when he captured the image on July 4, 1979. The biologist and a colleague were on the ground identifying caribou as newborn calves, yearlings, bulls and cows while other biologists were taking pictures of large groups of animals from the air.

Despite the efforts of Wright and many more who lobbied against opening ANWR, a portion of the coastal plain of the refuge became available for oil companies to explore as part of a tax/budget bill passed in December 2017.

Read full story…

 

Forest Society of Maine announces completion of milestone conservation project near Gulf Hagas and Whitecap Mountain

Posted by on Jan 12, 2018 @ 7:03 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Forest Society of Maine announces completion of milestone conservation project near Gulf Hagas and Whitecap Mountain

The Forest Society of Maine (FSM) is celebrating the completion of the permanent conservation of thousands of acres of productive forest land and access to popular recreation lands near Gulf Hagas and Whitecap Mountain in Maine’s North Woods in Piscataquis County.

After four years of collaboration with the forestland owner, the state Bureau of Parks and Lands, and conservation partner Maine Appalachian Trail Land Trust, an area used by thousands of people annually is permanently conserved for hunting, fishing, hiking, snowmobiling, and camping.

Completing the Gulf Hagas–Whitecap project resulted in many lasting achievements including conserving the view from 11 miles of the Appalachian Trail corridor in the region known as the 100-Mile Wilderness; enhanced public access to key popular recreational amenities including numerous campsites, hiking trails, Gulf Hagas, the Katahdin Iron Works State Historic Site, and a segment of the popular Interconnected Trail System for snowmobiles; protected Eastern brook trout and Atlantic salmon habitat by conserving five miles of frontage on the Pleasant River and 24.5 miles of cold water brooks and streams; and maintained productive forest land to help the landowner keep their business competitive and to continue employing hundreds of Maine residents.

Read full story…

 

What Abbey’s ‘Desert Solitaire’ means in these trying times

Posted by on Jan 11, 2018 @ 12:17 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

What Abbey’s ‘Desert Solitaire’ means in these trying times

The book turns 50 this year, and is more relevant now than ever.

Fifty years ago, Edward Abbey’s Desert Solitaire was published to decent reviews but little fanfare. “Another book dropped down the bottomless well. Into oblivion,” wrote a disheartened Abbey in his journal Feb. 6, 1968.

Yet it has remained in print for a half-century and created a devoted following. As President Donald Trump and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke carved 2 million acres out of Bears Ears and Grand-Staircase-Escalante national monuments, both in the heart of “Abbey Country,” Desert Solitaire remains more relevant today than ever.

An account of Abbey’s time as a ranger in what is now Arches National Park, Desert Solitaire is both memoir and a passionate defense of our nation’s last unspoiled land. In spirit, though, his book resembles a 1960s nonfiction novel. Sometimes howlingly funny, it compresses the two postwar decades Abbey spent in Utah and Arizona into a single “season in the wilderness.”

Compared to Abbey’s fierce opposition to modern capitalism, Bernie Sanders comes off as comparatively milquetoast. Above all, Abbey was an opponent of “that cloud on my horizon” he defined as progress. This wasn’t Luddism so much as a deep need to preserve a small portion of America as wilderness, kept forever free from development, beginning with precisely those areas of southern Utah attacked by Trump and Zinke.

Read full story…

 

National Parks to Waive Entrance Fees on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

Posted by on Jan 11, 2018 @ 6:39 am in Conservation, Hiking News | 0 comments

National Parks to Waive Entrance Fees on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, national park units across the country will offer visitors free entrance into the parks on Monday, January 15, 2018.

Martin Luther King, Jr. day will be the first of four fee-free days this year. Those days include April 21 to celebrate the start of National Park Week, September 22 for National Public Lands Day and November 11 in honor of Veterans Day Weekend. During these dates, all National Park Service sites that charge an entrance fee will offer free entrance to all visitors.

Fee-free days give more families opportunities to visit national park sites and enjoy our country’s historical, cultural and natural resources. In addition to fee free days, the Every Kid in a Park program provides all fourth grade student with a free annual pass to national park sites. Active duty military and citizens with a permanent disability also have free access to national park sites.

Park visitors are reminded that the fee-free designation applies to entrance fees only and does not affect fees for camping, reservations, tours, or use of concessions. Park entrance stations will have Interagency Senior and Annual Passes available for those who wish to purchase them. Those who plan to spend time in the park beyond January 15 will need to pay the regular entrance fee for the remainder of their stay.

For more information about NPS fee-free days, visit https://www.nps.gov/planyourvisit/fee-free-parks.htm.

 

Los Padres National Forest bracing for debris flows

Posted by on Jan 10, 2018 @ 11:46 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Los Padres National Forest bracing for debris flows

Crews once battling flames of the Thomas Fire in California are facing a new challenge – an influx of rain creating dangerous mudslides.

“The fire and then the flood has been going on in this country for at least 100 years, more like 150 years,” National Forest Service Ranger Pancho Smith said running his hand over the Thomas Fire Burn map.

As the rain moved in, equipment used to dig and repair fire lines in the Los Padres National Forest moved out.

“We really pushed our people hard, did as much as we could and then pulled all of the equipment out of the back country, all of the crews out,” Smith explained.

Despite crews leaving areas in the forest still considered active Thomas Fire spots, Smith said there’s little concern the fire will grow. Attention is now focused on flood and debris flow prevention.

But the situation is unprecedented for even the most seasoned forest and fire crews. “We have fire, then we have flood, and then we have earthquakes. We think we train for it but this is beyond the scope of that,” Smith, a tenured Ranger, said.

Read full story…

 

Retired U.S. Forest Service employee fights for the future of trees

Posted by on Jan 8, 2018 @ 12:02 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

Retired U.S. Forest Service employee fights for the future of trees

The lush beauty of the George Washington National Forest in Virginia is apparent to any visitor, but especially to the keen eye of retired U.S. Forest Service employee Brian Stout.

During a 34-year career with the Forest Service, Stout had many assignments, including a final one as the forest supervisor of the 3.5 million acre Bridger-Teton National Forest in Wyoming.

On a breezy fall day, Stout surveyed the maple, oak, hemlock and other varieties of trees in the George Washington National Forest. The retired forester could estimate the age of the trees and the value of each. He spoke of the long life span of trees that can stretch into centuries. He marveled at the diversity.

“Diversity is most critical in managing the forest,” said Stout.

Stout is a man on a mission. Since his retirement, he has preached about the science of forestry, writing a 2013 self-published book called “Trees of Life: Our Forests In Peril.” He is now working on attracting grant funds for a documentary on the same subject. Plans call for producing a one-hour documentary that could air on PBS stations.

His greatest fear is the rapid deforestation of the planet Earth.

“Seventy percent of all life could not survive without forests. Science seems focused on taking, not managing forests,” he said.

Read full story…

 

Bighorn National Forest celebrates 120 years

Posted by on Jan 8, 2018 @ 7:30 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Bighorn National Forest celebrates 120 years

One hundred twenty years ago, Wyoming’s Big Horn Forest Reserve was signed into existence by President Grover Cleveland. This legislation outlined that reserves had to meet the criteria of forest protection, watershed protection and timber production. In 1905, the Forest Service was established with the same resource protection focus. By 1908, the forest’s name had been officially changed to “Bighorn.”

W.E. Jackson served as the first forest supervisor on the Bighorn from 1897 to 1910. At that time, he oversaw eight districts and their rangers. The ranger’s job was to map the forest, maintain trails, administer sheep and cattle grazing permits, and protect the forest from wildfire, game poachers, timber and grazing trespassers and exploiters. The life of a ranger was lonely at times and could be dangerous.

The economic boom of the 1920s brought an insatiable demand for timber. This sparked the first large-scale timber sales done by the Forest Service, and the agency began to play an increasing role in providing timber for the country. During this same era, Americans gradually had more time for leisure and enjoyed improved modes of transportation. This created a desire for developed recreation facilities on the national forests. Campgrounds, swimming areas, roads, trails and picnic areas were all built and improved to meet the demand.

Along with the developmental focus came the opposite idea of setting aside some lands to remain undeveloped. Forest Service employees and early proponents of this concept, Arthur Carhart and Aldo Leopold, recommended that areas remain roadless for recreational use. This idea created areas that would be maintained in a primitive status without development activities, such as the Cloud Peak Primitive Area in the Bighorn National Forest, which was approved in 1932.

Cite…

 

Rare chestnut find: ‘This tree, it’s a survivor’

Posted by on Jan 7, 2018 @ 6:46 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Rare chestnut find: ‘This tree, it’s a survivor’

Dan Brinkman — a self-described tree nerd — knew he’d hit the jackpot when he was told about a certain tree standing in a cattle pasture near Mount Brydges, Ontario, Canada.

To most, the tree looks like any other. But Brinkman was pretty certain this was an American chestnut, a species that once thrived in southern Ontario, and most of the eastern United States, but has been nearly wiped out by blight in the past century.

“You read in the books about how rare it is and how small most of them are, just a sprout coming off a stump, and to find a tree without a spec of blight on it, that’s like going for a hike in China and seeing a panda bear cross the path in front of you. It’s there, you just don’t expect to see that.”

It’s believed that up to two million American chestnuts once grew in southern Ontario’s Carolinian zone, a stretch of land that covers much of the area from Lake Huron to Lake Erie.

But blight, an insidious tree-killing fungus, has nearly doomed the species. It’s believed there are only about 2,000 wild American chestnuts left in Ontario.

Most found are suckers sprouting up from a stump or hybrids mixed with other chestnut species. But a fully grown chestnut tree about 70 years old and 50 feet tall? That’s rare.

Cite…

 

Oceans suffocating as huge dead zones quadruple since 1950, scientists warn

Posted by on Jan 6, 2018 @ 6:46 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Oceans suffocating as huge dead zones quadruple since 1950, scientists warn

Ocean dead zones with zero oxygen have quadrupled in size since 1950, scientists have warned, while the number of very low oxygen sites near coasts have multiplied tenfold. Most sea creatures cannot survive in these zones and current trends would lead to mass extinction in the long run, risking dire consequences for the hundreds of millions of people who depend on the sea.

Climate change caused by fossil fuel burning is the cause of the large-scale deoxygenation, as warmer waters hold less oxygen. The coastal dead zones result from fertiliser and sewage running off the land and into the seas.

The analysis, published in the journal Science, is the first comprehensive analysis of the areas and states: “Major extinction events in Earth’s history have been associated with warm climates and oxygen-deficient oceans.” Denise Breitburg, at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center in the US and who led the analysis, said: “Under the current trajectory that is where we would be headed. But the consequences to humans of staying on that trajectory are so dire that it is hard to imagine we would go quite that far down that path.”

“This is a problem we can solve,” Breitburg said. “Halting climate change requires a global effort, but even local actions can help with nutrient-driven oxygen decline.” She pointed to recoveries in Chesapeake Bay in the US and the Thames river in the UK, where better farm and sewage practices led to dead zones disappearing.

Read full story…

 

Deep freeze helps fight tree-killing insect in the Smokies

Posted by on Jan 5, 2018 @ 12:21 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

Deep freeze helps fight tree-killing insect in the Smokies

Biologists in the Great Smoky Mountains say there is a bright side to the recent spell of frigid temperatures. The deep freeze is a life-saver for some of the mightiest hemlock trees in the Smokies.

“Definitely, these cold extremes help with the invasive hemlock woolly adelgid,” said NPS forester Jesse Webster. “It will not get rid of them completely, but we will take every bit of help we can get.”

The hemlock woolly adelgid (HWA) invaded the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in 2002. The tiny insect from Asia has killed millions of hemlock trees in the Eastern U.S. The pest gets its name from the white woolly coating that surrounds and protects the nymphs while they feast on hemlock trees in the winter.

“Adelgids are a little bit of a different insect. They are completing a lot of their life cycle during the winter. Most insects are not active in the winter,” said Webster. “But it can get too cold for them. They have not survived as well in the northern parts of the country. You start seeing mortality when it gets around 4 or 5 degrees Fahrenheit.”

The national park is able to treat some hemlocks with chemicals, but terrain only allows crews to reach 15 percent of the hemlocks in the Smokies. Predatory beetles were also introduced to combat the HWA and have brought some balance to the pest population.

Read full story…

 

Trump administration plan would widely expand drilling in U.S. continental waters

Posted by on Jan 5, 2018 @ 9:13 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Trump administration plan would widely expand drilling in U.S. continental waters

The Trump administration unveiled a controversial proposal to permit drilling in most U.S. continental-shelf waters, including protected areas of the Arctic and the Atlantic, where oil and gas exploration is opposed by governors from New Jersey to Florida, nearly a dozen attorneys general, more than 100 U.S. lawmakers and the Defense Department.

Under the proposal, only one of 26 planning areas in the Arctic Ocean, Pacific Ocean, Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean would be off limits to oil and gas exploration, according to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. He said the Bureau of Ocean and Energy Management has identified 47 potential areas where industry companies can buy leases between 2019 and 2024, when the proposed period would begin and end.

The Draft Five Year Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program was embraced by oil and gas industry groups but is expected to face withering opposition from a wide range of state officials and conservationists. “Nothing is final,” Zinke said in remarks at a news conference. “This is a draft program. The states, local communities and congressional delegations will all have a say” before the proposal becomes final in the coming months.

Potential environmental disasters are on the minds of numerous Atlantic-coast governors who oppose drilling in four planning areas from Maine to the Florida Keys. In a resounding bipartisan call, Republicans and Democrats have said in no uncertain terms that oil and gas drilling should not be allowed.

Read full story…