Conservation & Environment

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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What is tree crown shyness?

Posted by on May 3, 2019 @ 7:39 am in Conservation | 0 comments

What is tree crown shyness?

Sometimes trees can be a little too respectful of one another’s boundaries. Or maybe they just stop growing when they get too close.

The phenomenon is called crown shyness — when the tops of individual trees avoid touching in the forest canopy, creating separation lines and boundaries in the sky.

Experts aren’t exactly sure why the naturally occurring phenomenon happens, but they’ve been studying it for decades and have a few theories.

The first has to do with competition for resources — especially light. Trees have a highly sophisticated system for measuring light and telling time. They can tell whether light is coming from the sun or if it’s being reflected off leaves of other trees.

Another possible reason for crown shyness is to prevent the spread of harmful insects and their larvae, which could eat the tree’s leaves.

Crown shyness occurs with many species of trees, such as black mangrove trees, camphor trees, eucalyptus, Sitka spruce and Japanese larch. Intercrown spacing can happen between different species, the same species or even within the same tree.

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Couple Spends 20 Years Planting an Entire Forest and Animals Have Returned

Posted by on Apr 29, 2019 @ 8:02 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Couple Spends 20 Years Planting an Entire Forest and Animals Have Returned

Nearly 30 years ago, Brazilian photojournalist Sebastião Ribeiro Salgado returned from East Africa, where he was on location documenting the horrors of the Rwanda genocide. Following this traumatizing project, Salgado was to take over his family’s sprawling cattle ranch in Minas Gerais—a region he remembered as a lush and lively rainforest. Unfortunately, the area had undergone a drastic transformation; only about 0.5% was covered in trees, and all of the wildlife had disappeared. “The land,” he tells The Guardian, “was as sick as I was.”

Then, his wife Lélia had an idea: they should replant the forest. In order to support this seemingly impossible cause, the couple set up the Instituto Terra, an “environmental organization dedicated to the sustainable development of the Valley of the River Doce,” in 1998. Over the next several years, the Salgados and the Instituto Terra team slowly but surely rebuilt the 1,754-acre forest, transforming it from a barren plot of land to a tropical paradise.

Now a Private Natural Heritage Reserve, hundreds of species of flora and fauna call the former cattle ranch home. In addition to 293 species of trees, the land now teems with 172 species of birds, 33 species of mammals, and 15 species of amphibians and reptiles—many of which are endangered. As expected, this rejuvenation has also had a huge impact on the ecosystem and climate. On top of reintroducing plants and animals to the area, the project has rejuvenated several once dried-up springs in the drought-prone area, and has even positively affected local temperatures.

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Thousands of acres in Kentucky and Tennessee will be protected as wildlife habitat

Posted by on Apr 25, 2019 @ 7:29 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Thousands of acres in Kentucky and Tennessee will be protected as wildlife habitat

The Nature Conservancy, a nonprofit aimed at conserving land and water, is acquiring 100,000 acres of forest split between southeast Kentucky and northeast Tennessee. It will be one of the largest land conservation and ecological restoration projects for the organization in the Central Appalachians.

It will double the amount of Kentucky acreage the organization has protected, either through acquisition or conservancy easements that prevent certain development of the land.

The group plans to manage the property, known as Ataya, as a working forest and will also seek to protect wildlife habitat, secure clean water and sequester atmospheric carbon to mitigate climate change. The public will continue to have access to the land for hiking, hunting and other activities.

The forests and streams on the property impact water quality and supply in portions of Bell, Knox and Leslie counties in Kentucky, and Claiborne and Campbell counties in Tennessee.

The total property is 100,000 acres, with 55,000 acres in Kentucky and 45,000 acres in Tennessee. Before this project, The Nature Conservancy in Kentucky had protected 55,000 acres in the state.



Smokies Park Announces 2019 Synchronous Firefly Viewing Dates

Posted by on Apr 24, 2019 @ 7:40 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Smokies Park Announces 2019 Synchronous Firefly Viewing Dates

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials have announced the dates for firefly viewing in Elkmont. Shuttle service to the viewing area will be provided on Thursday, May 30 through Thursday, June 6. All visitors wishing to view the synchronous fireflies at Elkmont must have a parking pass distributed through the lottery system at

Every year in late May or early June, thousands of visitors gather near the popular Elkmont Campground to observe the naturally occurring phenomenon of Photinus carolinus, a firefly species that flashes synchronously. Since 2006, access to the Elkmont area has been limited to shuttle service beginning at Sugarlands Visitor Center during the eight days of predicted peak activity in order to reduce traffic congestion and provide a safe viewing experience for visitors that minimizes disturbance to these unique fireflies during the critical two-week mating period.

The lottery will be open for applications from Friday, April 26 at 8:00 a.m. until Monday, April 29 at 8:00 p.m. Results of the lottery will be available on Friday, May 10. A total of 1,800 vehicle passes will be available for the event which includes: 1768 regular-parking passes (221 per day) which admit one passenger vehicle up to 19’ in length with a maximum of seven occupants, and 32 large-vehicle parking passes (four per day) which admit one large vehicle (RV, mini-bus, etc.) from 19’ to 30’ in length, with a maximum of 24 occupants. Lottery applicants must apply for either a regular-parking pass or large-vehicle parking pass and then may choose two possible dates to attend the event over the eight-day viewing period.

The lottery system uses a randomized computer drawing to select applications. All lottery applicants will be charged a $1.00 application fee. Successful applicants will automatically be awarded parking passes and a $24.00 reservation fee will be charged to the same credit or debit card used for the application fee. The parking pass permits visitors to park at Sugarlands Visitor Center and allows occupants to access the shuttle service to Elkmont. The $24.00 reservation fee covers the cost of awarding the passes, event supplies, one red-light flashlight per pass, and nightly personnel costs for managing the viewing opportunity at Sugarlands Visitor Center and Elkmont.

Parking passes are non-refundable, non-transferable, and good only for the date issued. There is a limit of one lottery application per household per season. All lottery applicants will be notified by e-mail by May 10 that they were “successful” and awarded a parking pass or “unsuccessful” and not able to secure a parking pass.

The number of passes issued each day is based primarily on the Sugarlands Visitor Center parking lot capacity and the ability to accommodate a large number of viewers on site. Arrival times will be assigned in order to relieve traffic congestion in the parking lot and also for boarding the shuttles, which are provided in partnership with the City of Gatlinburg. The shuttle buses will begin picking up visitors from the Sugarlands Visitor Center parking area at 7:00 p.m. A $2.00 round-trip, per-person fee will be collected when boarding the shuttle. Cash is the only form of payment accepted.

The shuttle service is the only transportation mode for visitor access during this period, except for registered campers staying at the Elkmont Campground. Visitors are not allowed to walk the Elkmont entrance road due to safety concerns.

Visitors may visit the website and search for “Firefly Event” for more information and to enter the lottery. Parking passes may also be obtained by calling 1-877-444-6777, but park officials encourage the use of the online process. The $24.00 reservation fee covers the cost of awarding the passes, viewing supplies, and nightly personnel costs for managing the viewing opportunity at Sugarlands Visitor Center and Elkmont.

For more information about the synchronous fireflies, please visit the park website at


Earlier Springs Heighten Allergy Misery in East Tennessee

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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