Conservation & Environment

How Trump’s EPA Is Moving to Undo Fracking Wastewater Protections

Posted by on May 22, 2018 @ 8:19 am in Conservation | 0 comments

How Trump’s EPA Is Moving to Undo Fracking Wastewater Protections

Back in 2008, residents of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and surrounding areas received a notice in the mail advising them to drink bottled water instead of tap water—a move that U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) internal memos at the time described as “one of the largest failures in U.S. history to supply clean drinking water to the public.”

The culprit: wastewater from oil and gas drilling and coal mines. This included fracking wastewater that state officials had allowed to be dumped at local sewer plants—facilities incapable of removing the complex mix of chemicals, corrosive salts and radioactive materials from that kind of industrial waste before they piped the “treated” water back into Pennsylvania’s rivers.

The levels of corrosive salt in some of the oil and gas wastewater was so high that at some sewage plants, it was suspected of killing off the “good bacteria” that removes fecal coliform and other dangerous bacteria from raw sewage.

State and federal regulators responded with a mix of voluntary requests and, eventually, rules designed to stop drillers from bringing their wastewater to ill-equipped water treatment plants.

Eight years after the Pittsburgh incident, in 2016, the EPA finished writing the rules that would stop that kind of failure from reoccurring, specifically forbidding sewage treatment plans from accepting untreated wastewater from fracked wells.

Now, the Trump administration’s EPA is announcing that it wants to study the industry’s wastewater all over again. The Trump-era study will examine oil and gas wastewater, asking, in the administration’s words, “whether any potential federal regulations that may allow for broader discharge of treated produced water to surface waters are supported.”

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23 breathtaking UNESCO World Heritage destinations in the U.S. and why you should visit them

Posted by on May 19, 2018 @ 6:56 am in Conservation | 0 comments

23 breathtaking UNESCO World Heritage destinations in the U.S. and why you should visit them

Most likely, you have been to a UNESCO World Heritage site in the United States without knowing it. Remember that Griswoldian summer vacation to the Grand Canyon? The high school field trip to Independence Hall in Philadelphia? The college tour of the University of Virginia? Congratulations! That’s three in your pocket. But don’t stop now. You can collect all 23, intentionally or accidentally.

For more than 40 years, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization and its nearly 200 member states have been preserving, protecting and promoting the most valuable heritage places in the world. At last count, the organization has crowned 1,073 sites in more than 170 countries. Of those, 832 are cultural, 206 are natural and 35 are a mix of both categories.

The chosen ones vary tremendously: The Whale Sanctuary of El Vizcaino in Mexico; the Villages with Fortified Churches in Transylvania; and the Engelsberg Ironworks in Sweden were all part of the class of 1993, for instance. But the diverse sites also meet the convention’s strict criterion of possessing outstanding universal value.

“It’s a beautiful thing — the shared heritage of the world,” said Mechtild Rössler, the Paris-based director of the Division for Heritage and the UNESCO World Heritage Center. “We are transmitting these sites for future generations.”

They’re all breathtaking…


Blue Ridge Parkway traffic in Asheville area will slow for ‘pavement preservation’

Posted by on May 17, 2018 @ 11:54 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Blue Ridge Parkway traffic in Asheville area will slow for ‘pavement preservation’

The sweet hum of spring and summer on the Blue Ridge Parkway will be slightly stifled with slower traffic and single-lane closures as a major repaving project gets underway.

The road work is in an effort to upgrade the more than 80-year-old scenic motor road and keep it from crumbling under the weight of 16.1 million visitors a year. The National Park Service is undertaking a “pavement preservation” project on more than 65 miles of the parkway between Milepost 359 to the road’s terminus at Milepost 469 in Cherokee.

Work is starting at MP 359, about 30 miles northeast of Asheville and just south of Mount Mitchell State Park, and will take place weekdays through September, moving south one section at a time.

The construction crew, Estes Bros. Inc. of Jonesville, Virginia, will work in 3-5-mile sections and repeat the resurfacing process as they move from section to section, said parkway spokeswoman Leesa Brandon.

The life cycle of the road is about 20 years, she said, which can be shortened by the parkway’s unique conditions — high elevations that are subject to a freeze-thaw cycle in the winter and solar radiation in the summer, as well as heavy traffic. There are some 235 miles that are at least 20 years old, and 195 of those miles are at least 30 years old.

Rehabilitation work on the Linn Cove Viaduct that started March 1 should be completed by Memorial Day weekend. The parkway is closed in the Linville area from Mileposts 298-305.

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Friends Helping Friends – Invasive Weed Removal

Posted by on May 17, 2018 @ 7:58 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Friends Helping Friends – Invasive Weed Removal

Friends of Roan Mountain have a great opportunity to assist the Roan Mountain State Park.

Japanese Knot Weed Removal on June 2, 2018

This event is part of a new partnership with RMSP with a commitment of service to the park.

This is where you get to be an active part of the relationship. Join in on Saturday, June 2, 2018 at the Park to assist in the removal of the invasive Japanese Knot Weed.

Meet at the park headquarters at 9 am.

Participants should wear sturdy boots, long pants and bring gloves. The park will provide tools.


Someone, somewhere, is making a banned chemical that destroys the ozone layer, scientists suspect

Posted by on May 16, 2018 @ 5:09 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

Someone, somewhere, is making a banned chemical that destroys the ozone layer, scientists suspect

Emissions of a banned, ozone-depleting chemical are on the rise, a group of scientists reported, suggesting someone may be secretly manufacturing the pollutant in violation of an international accord.

Emissions of CFC-11 have climbed 25 percent since 2012, despite the chemical being part of a group of ozone pollutants that were phased out under the 1987 Montreal Protocol.

“I’ve been making these measurements for more than 30 years, and this is the most surprising thing I’ve seen,” said Stephen Montzka, a scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration who led the work. “I was astounded by it, really.”

It’s a distressing result amid what is widely seen as a global environmental success story, in which nations — alarmed by a growing “ozone hole” — collectively took action to phase out chlorofluorocarbons.

The finding seems likely to prompt an international investigation into the mysterious source.

Officially, production of CFC-11 is supposed to be at or near zero — at least, that is what countries have been telling the U.N. body that monitors and enforces the Montreal Protocol. But with emissions on the rise, scientists suspect someone is making the chemical in defiance of the ban.

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This could be the biggest advance in aluminum production in 130 years

Posted by on May 16, 2018 @ 7:25 am in Conservation | 0 comments

This could be the biggest advance in aluminum production in 130 years

Apple, the largest publicly traded company in the world, joined a major collaboration last week that could change how it gets one of the key components that makes its ubiquitous gadgets look so sleek: aluminum.

And it is looking as though, simply by seeking out a greener component for iPhones and Macs, the tech giant just might push an entire industry in a new direction.

Along with major U.S. aluminum producer Alcoa and multinational mining behemoth Rio Tinto, Apple announced a collaboration in Canada to fund a technology that, the companies say, can remove carbon dioxide emissions from the high-temperature smelting process that goes into making aluminum. Alcoa and Rio Tinto also announced a joint venture named Elysis to scale up and commercialize the technology, in which the government of Canada and Apple will invest.

“Apple is committed to advancing technologies that are good for the planet and help protect it for generations to come,” chief executive Tim Cook said in a statement. “We are proud to be part of this ambitious new project, and look forward to one day being able to use aluminum produced without direct greenhouse gas emissions in the manufacturing of our products.”

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Are electric cars worse for the environment?

Posted by on May 15, 2018 @ 12:20 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

Are electric cars worse for the environment?

  If you believe the headlines, traditional automobiles are speeding toward a dead end. All those V8s, V6s and turbocharged vehicles we’ve grown to love will soon be replaced by squadrons of clean, whisper-quiet, all-electric vehicles. And if you believe the headlines, the environment will be much better off.

Policymakers at every level have done their part to push electric vehicles by creating a tankful of subsidies. All of this might make sense if electric vehicles, as their supporters claim, were truly likely to reduce air pollution and tackle climate change. But are they?

Here’s the comparison: using the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s most recent long-term forecasts for the number of new electric vehicles through 2050, estimating how much electricity they’d use, and then figuring out how much pollution that electricity would generate, looking at three key pollutants regulated under the U.S. Clean Air Act—sulfur dioxide (SO2), oxides of nitrogen (NOX), and particulates—as well as CO2 emissions, then comparing them to the emissions of new gasoline-powered vehicles, using the EIA’s “real world” miles-per-gallon forecast, rather than the higher CAFE standard values.

Widespread adoption of electric vehicles nationwide will likely increase air pollution compared with new internal combustion vehicles. You read that right: more electric cars and trucks will mean more pollution.

Here’s why…


Red wolf status grim, review says

Posted by on May 14, 2018 @ 7:19 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Red wolf status grim, review says

  A five-year red wolf status review, released April 24, 2018 showed that only about 40 red wolves are left in the wild with only three known breeding pairs remaining.

The review, released by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, recommends no change in the red wolf’s status as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. The USFWS is expected to release a new proposed rule by late summer with alternatives for public comment covering future management of the “non-essential, experimental population” of red wolves in eastern North Carolina.

“Currently, the NEP (non-essential, experimental population) is declining more rapidly than the worst-case scenarios … it is obvious that there are significant threats to the NEP in eastern North Carolina and conditions for recovery of the species are not favorable and a self-sustainable population may not be possible,” the review reads.

In September 2016, the USFWS announced that red wolves would be removed from the majority of the five-county area of eastern North Carolina where they’d been reintroduced. The move followed nearly two years of evaluating the feasibility of reintroduction efforts, and a lawsuit in which environmental groups claimed the USFWS was not doing enough to protect the wolves. Reintroduction was once attempted in the Smokies, but failed.

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WNC experts discuss sustainability of outdoor recreation

Posted by on May 13, 2018 @ 7:47 am in Conservation, Hiking News | 0 comments

WNC experts discuss sustainability of outdoor recreation

Head into Pisgah National Forest on any day of the week, and you’ll find activity out on the trails. From hikers standing atop Max Patch bald, enjoying stunning views of Mount Mitchell, to mountain bikers riding beside white pine and mountain laurel on the Foster Creek Trail, outdoors enthusiasts take advantage of Pisgah as just one of Western North Carolina’s hot spots for recreation.

Over 1.6 million acres of national forest across the region beckon hikers, bikers, climbers, rafters and hunters, among others, to enjoy the outdoors. The Pisgah Conservancy, a nonprofit dedicated to the well-being of the Pisgah Ranger District, estimates that between 3 million and 4 million people visit Pisgah each year, roughly half of the 7 million annual visitors to all national forests in the state.

Recreation tourism is an undeniable driving force of the local economy. Last year, researchers from Eastern Kentucky University found that outdoor recreation in Pisgah and Nantahala national forests generated $115 million in annual spending, supporting jobs and attracting businesses. But as people flock to Western North Carolina to take advantage of the region’s abundant outdoor recreational opportunities, they also bring a human impact to wild places.

Economically and socially, sustainable trail design means sharing stewardship and making trails accessible to everyone. As the Forest Service’s 2016 report on the National Strategy for a Sustainable Trail System explains it, a sustainable trail system should be supported by public and private interests in tandem and invite people of all ages, abilities and backgrounds to recreate outdoors.

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National Parks Rangers Being Sent To Organ Pipe Cactus NM, Amistad NRA To Help With Border Control

Posted by on May 10, 2018 @ 7:41 am in Conservation | 0 comments

National Parks Rangers Being Sent To Organ Pipe Cactus NM, Amistad NRA To Help With Border Control

Teams of law enforcement rangers next week will be dispatched from around the National Park System to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in Arizona and Amistad National Recreation Area in Texas on a rotating basis to help with border control.

At a time when the National Park Service’s law enforcement ranks are stetched thin, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, and as crowds are starting to arrive at parks throughout the system for summer vacations, the assignments have been ordered by the Interior Department “in support of the President’s commitment to secure the Nation’s borders.”

The deployments, outlined in a memo from R. Duane Michael, acting chief ranger for the National Park Service’s Northeast Region, came as a surprise to park advocates.

“I would want to know what are the consequences of these 14-day assignments and the added costs associated with this practice,” said Phil Francis, a Park Service veteran of more than four decades who now chairs the Coalition to Protect America’s National Park’s executive council. “If this is a new NPS responsibility, then I suggest that Congress should fund this in lieu of (the Park Service) absorbing this responsibility. In my experience, we are underfunded and this exacerbates the problem.”

This decision could have serious consequences for national parks already struggling with an 11 percent reduction in staff while also experiencing a 19 percent increase in visitation.

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Quakes, eruptions prompt closure of Volcanoes National Park on Hawaii Island

Posted by on May 6, 2018 @ 12:05 pm in Conservation, Hiking News | 0 comments

Quakes, eruptions prompt closure of Volcanoes National Park on Hawaii Island

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park closed late May 4, 2018 because of increasing concerns for the public’s safety.

It is not safe to be at the park on Hawaii Island, which is at the center of increasing seismic and volcanic activity, park Superintendent Cindy Orlando said in a news release.

The decision to close the park, on the southern tip of Hawaii Island, was made soon after a magnitude 6.9 earthquake at 3:32 p.m. on that day. The quake triggered rock slides along Chain of Craters Road and on park trails. A magnitude 5.4 quake an hour earlier caused part of a cliff to collapse into the ocean.

Throughout the day, fissures appeared in the ground at a public overlook near the park’s Jaggar Museum. Rocks that fell into the lava lake within Halemaumau Crater sent dark plumes of ash spewing skyward.

About 2,600 visitors were evacuated from the park. Guests at Volcano House, the only hotel within the national park, and at Kilauea Military Camp were relocated.

The park’s landscape began changing a few days earlier when the crater within the volcano’s Puu Oo vent collapsed, sending magma flowing toward nearby neighborhoods. Increasing activity a few days later forced the evacuation of Leilani Estates.

No injuries have been reported. It is not known when the park will reopen. The Hawaii Tourism Authority said business continues as usual in most other areas.

“No flights into airports anywhere in Hawaii are being impacted by Kilauea volcano, and the area where the lava is coming to the surface is very far from resort areas,” George Szigeti, the authority’s president and chief executive, said in a statement.


Removal of Olympic National Park mountain goats could start in late summer

Posted by on May 6, 2018 @ 8:58 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Removal of Olympic National Park mountain goats could start in late summer

  It might be time to start saying your goodbyes to Olympic National Park’s mountain goats. Some could be removed from the park as early as this summer.

The National Park Service released its final goat-management plan, and the agency’s preferred plan — to remove as many goats as possible for relocation to the North Cascades and then kill the remaining animals — remains largely unchanged from a previous draft.

For decades, officials have sought to eradicate mountain goats from the park only to be thwarted by activists or politicians unconvinced that the charismatic megafauna needed to be moved or killed.

Park officials argue that the nonnative goats have harmed species unique to Olympic National Park. They believe the park’s ecology should be restored to its original state.

Over five years, the Park Service estimates, about half of an estimated 725 goats would be transported to new homes in the North Cascades, according to the plan. Helicopters could be used to capture goats.

Goats moved to the North Cascades would boost a population diminished by years of overhunting, biologists say. Mountain goats are native to the Cascade range. Extra goats — and genetic diversity — could be the boost needed to see those populations grow with consistency.



Forest Service apologizes for damage to Appalachian Trail during patrols of pipeline protests

Posted by on May 5, 2018 @ 11:51 am in Conservation, Hiking News | 0 comments

Forest Service apologizes for damage to Appalachian Trail during patrols of pipeline protests

The U.S. Forest Service apologized for damaging the Appalachian Trail with all-terrain vehicles during its patrols of a pipeline protest.

In a news release, the agency admitted that its law enforcement officers used the ATVs from April 11 to April 30 on a short stretch of the scenic footpath that follows the ridgeline of Peters Mountain in the Jefferson National Forest of Virginia.

“We are still evaluating the damage, but this is clearly our mistake and I apologize that it happened,” Michael Donaldson, a special agent in charge of law enforcement for the agency’s Southern region, said in the news release.

Motorized traffic along the 2,200-mile trail from Georgia to Maine is generally prohibited.

Four-wheeling on the trail left tire tracks, muddy ruts and a swath of bare land six to eight feet wide, according to photographs provided by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy.

The improper use came as the Forest Service monitored two ongoing protests of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, which will cut through the national forest and under the Appalachian Trail as it transports natural gas from northern West Virginia through the New River and Roanoke valleys.



Ed. note: Imagine the damage done by the pipeline itself.


Fireflies are disappearing. Here’s why — and what you can do to help.

Posted by on May 5, 2018 @ 6:50 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Fireflies are disappearing. Here’s why — and what you can do to help.

Fireflies were a source of great pleasure when I was kid. My friends and I would chase them through our yards on summer nights, catching them in our palms and delicately moving them to mason jars, where they’d light up our bedrooms.

But now, fireflies are disappearing on a much larger scale. For years scientists have “been warning that the world’s estimated 2,000 species of fireflies are dwindling.” And it’s not because of awful kids.

The problem, as always, is other human behavior, including the use of pesticides and artificial lighting and the destruction of firefly habitat. Fireflies — or lightning bugs — thrive in meadows, woods, and along bodies of water, all of which are shrinking because of our sprawl. Urbanization, it seems, is killing the firefly.

They’re not only being harmed directly by human development, but indirectly by the effects of human-caused climate change. Invasive species that thrive in a warmer climate and drought destroy even more of their habitat.

See what you can do to help protect this iconic bug…


Rock Stacking, or ‘Natural Graffiti,’ and its Ecological Impact

Posted by on May 4, 2018 @ 12:02 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

Rock Stacking, or ‘Natural Graffiti,’ and its Ecological Impact

Rock stacking might appear to be a harmless and fun outdoor activity, but it is detrimental to fragile riparian ecosystems.

These temporary natural installations may be an expression of patience and balance to the ego of the builder, but to some naturalists who practice “Leave No Trace” ethics, it is often seen as nothing more than evidence left behind that the environment was disturbed by a human intrusion, natural graffiti, and vandalism of habitat. These disturbances and geological games of Jenga leave behind more than just footprints, and can be potentially damaging to the life cycles of organisms connected to the river rock.

Beyond the visual disturbance of natural environments, each rock in a stream is blooming with life. Everything from aquatic plants to micro-organisms are attached to those rocks. They also create habitat for crustaceans and nymphs.

Crevices in the rocks hold eggs in salmon redds to be fertilized, supporting those eggs until they grow into fry and begin feeding off the very critters that were hatching off of and crawling around those same rocks. You could be lifting the roof off the home of a crawfish, or disturbing the cradle for the future generations of already dwindling salmon runs.

Removing rocks from fragile stream habitats is essentially the equivalent to removing bricks from someone else’s home while raiding their refrigerator and food pantry.

Read full story…


The 10 National Parks with the Most Endangered Species

Posted by on May 4, 2018 @ 6:36 am in Conservation | 0 comments

The 10 National Parks with the Most Endangered Species

National parks are critical for protecting the animals and plants that live in them, and no park denizens need that protection more than endangered species.

The Endangered Species Act has helped boost the populations of numerous imperiled species since it became law in 1973, and it has contributed to the recovery of iconic species such as the bald eagle, which was removed from the list in 2007.

Using data from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, NPCA worked with Defenders of Wildlife to identify the endangered species whose critical habitats overlap with national parks. Based on that inventory, the ranges of 381 imperiled species — including 286 endangered species, 89 threatened species and six species with other designations — include national parks. Some species, such as Big Bend National Park’s Guadalupe fescue, can be found nowhere else in the country.

From Great Smoky Mountains National Park and its diminutive spruce-fir moss spider to Kalaupapa National Historical Park and its 600-pound Hawaiian monk seals, here are the 10 national parks that, according to our methodology, are home to the most endangered species.


Pisgah National Forest could use a lot of help on Pisgah Pride Day

Posted by on May 2, 2018 @ 12:34 pm in Conservation, Hiking News | 0 comments

Pisgah National Forest could use a lot of help on Pisgah Pride Day

May 5, 2018 is the third annual Pisgah Pride Day at the Pisgah Ranger District of Pisgah National Forest near Brevard, NC.

Hosted by the nonprofit Pisgah Conservancy, the work day will convene at the Pisgah Ranger Station, where volunteers will be dispatched to perform trail work, remove invasive species, pick up trash, plant a rain garden near the fish hatchery to help collect runoff after storms, create a native pollinator garden (to support monarch butterflies, bees, humming birds and other pollinators) and tear down the old ranger station sign and build a new one.

Groups will be working in the wildly popular U.S. 276 corridor in Transylvania County near Brevard, focusing on the South Mills River Trail between Turkey Pen and Wolf Ford Horse Camp.

“Each year Pisgah Pride Day allows people who love Pisgah to give back and take care of this incredible natural resource, which has given so much to them,” said John Cottingham, executive director of The Pisgah Conservancy.

Last year about 300 people showed up on Pisgah Pride Day to renovate the heavily eroded Art Loeb Trail, clear vegetation from the viewing area at Looking Glass Falls, attack invading privet at Sycamore Flats and plant native flowering shrubs at the Ranger Station, among many other tasks.

Learn more here…


NASA releases extraordinary images of U.S. national parks from Space

Posted by on May 1, 2018 @ 11:56 am in Conservation | 0 comments

NASA releases extraordinary images of U.S. national parks from Space

NASA astronauts Ricky Arnold and Jeff Williams have shared breathtaking pictures taken from the International Space Station (ISS) over the last two years. Stunning snaps reveal aerial views of Earth’s most extraordinary landscapes.

Astronaut Ricky Arnold shared with his 23,000 Twitter followers a scenic view of America’s first park, Yellowstone National Volcano.

The image “encompasses the caldera of a “supervolcano” that will one day reshape our planet,” says Mr. Arnold.

The collection of images also includes Yellowstone National Park, Glacier Bay, active volcano Mount St. Helens and Death Valley.

Sharing his image of Mount St Helens on social media, NASA’s Jeff Williams wrote, “Mount St. Helens looks spectacular from directly above!”

The gallery includes striking composites revealing miles of deserts and mountains across America.

See the images…


What does it take to be a National Park Service law enforcement ranger?

Posted by on Apr 29, 2018 @ 6:53 am in Conservation | 0 comments

What does it take to be a National Park Service law enforcement ranger?

Danielle Breakell graduated from her law enforcement training academy this week. She has the skills to take down an armed fugitive, as well as a black bear or a bison.

She’ll be able to read perpetrators their Miranda rights, while also citing the Endangered Species Act. And she will gladly write tickets for littering along with driving under the influence.

Breakell, 29, is one of 22 cadets who graduated this week, from the 100th class of the National Park Service Seasonal Law Enforcement Training Academy at Southwestern Community College, where students learn the basics of policing with a specialty in park protection.

The school, established in 1978, was one of the first two in the country to train law enforcement rangers to protect the natural resources and people visiting national parks, and remains one of only seven in the country where park rangers get their jump start.

The park ranger job market is hot. The National Park Service, which includes 417 sites from the Statue of Liberty to Great Smoky Mountains National Park to Alaska’s Denali to Hawaii’s Volcanoes, has reached an all-time popularity high.

Last year, 331 million people visited national parks, tying a record set in 2016, according to the Park Service. The most visited of all park sites was the Blue Ridge Parkway, with 16.1 million visitors. The most visited national park was the Smokies with 11.3 million visitors.

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