Conservation & Environment

Spring Wildflowers on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Posted by on Mar 22, 2020 @ 6:24 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Spring Wildflowers on the Blue Ridge Parkway

The promise of refreshing walks in the woods, colorful blooms, and a greener landscape on the Blue Ridge Parkway are bright spots during these stressful times. If you’re headed out to appreciate the diverse wildflowers that herald the season’s arrival, here are tips for the best viewing and staying safe.

To plan your wildflower excursions, look to the trees for signs of the best opportunities. When leaves begin to bud, it’s a good time to head out. Don’t miss the cue, because once the leaves begin to fill in the canopy, the flowers are fading, explained Chris Ulrey, plant ecologist with the Blue Ridge Parkway.

There are more than 1,600 vascular plants that call the Parkway home, and about 80 percent are wildflowers, according to the National Park Service. The abundant rainfall, moderate climate, and diverse habitats, from fields and forests to ridges and coves, contribute to the wondrous variety of Appalachian flora.

Bloom times vary greatly depending on elevation and direction of the slopes, so if you miss a flower bloom at a lower elevation, you can still catch the show at a higher vista. “As you go up in elevation, you go back in time,” explained Chris Ulrey, plant ecologist with the Blue Ridge Parkway. “Spring starts in the valleys and finishes on the peaks. A flower can be blooming on a peak a month behind the lower elevations.”

Learn more here…

 

The National Park Service is selling out to telecom giants

Posted by on Mar 18, 2020 @ 7:10 am in Conservation | 0 comments

The National Park Service is selling out to telecom giants

There aren’t many places people can go these days to escape completely from the ubiquitous influence of social media, smartphones, Big Tech and telecom companies. The blank spots on the coverage maps are constantly shrinking, though not equally, and not everywhere. In many cases, the expansion of broadband coverage is necessary; telecom providers too often underserve rural areas, tribal nations and Black and Latino communities, for instance. Their exclusion from reliable coverage has a negative impact on everything from local economies to public health.

The United States is struggling to remedy these inequities. At the same time, there are also spaces — national parks, wilderness areas and other public lands — that some believe should remain refuges from the digital world. Such places provide a final opportunity to preserve small pockets of smartphone-free open space in the United States — landscapes where you can still escape the electronic handcuffs. But they are beginning to disappear.

The telecom giants — AT&T, Verizon and more — are pushing to build out infrastructure on protected public lands across the country. These corporations hope to extend their reach into some of the most iconic and remote corners of the United States. And they have found a close collaborator in the federal government, which is working alongside industry operatives to open many national parks and other public lands to commercial wireless service. With a sprawling network of cell towers soon to be installed within its boundaries, Grand Teton National Park is a testing ground.

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Bonneville Shoreline Trail runs into dispute between trail advocates and environmentalists

Posted by on Mar 17, 2020 @ 7:06 am in Conservation, Hiking News | 0 comments

Bonneville Shoreline Trail runs into dispute between trail advocates and environmentalists

Utahns of all political stripes enjoy trails that connect their communities to the outdoors, but efforts to expand one of the state’s premier trails threaten to divide two groups of stakeholders that are normally allied on public lands issues: trail users and wilderness advocates.

The Bonneville Shoreline Trail, which contours along parts of the Wasatch foothills, tracks the edge of what was once a vast lake. But most of it persists as mere jagged lines on a map, particularly in the southern half of Salt Lake County, where deep canyons meet a heavily populated valley.

There, the trail is more of an aspiration than an actual pathway because private properties, extending above Olympus Cove, Millcreek, Holladay, Sandy and other Salt Lake City suburbs, effectively push future trail development into steep, rugged higher ground.

To avoid such parcels, trail proponents and the U.S. Forest Service outlined routes that climb far above neighborhoods into the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest. But that presents another obstacle. In several key places, the trail would cross designated wilderness, which prohibits the use of mechanized equipment, including mountain bikes and motorized trail-building tools.

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Transylvania County Tourism announces $100,000 toward Ecusta Trail

Posted by on Mar 15, 2020 @ 7:14 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Transylvania County Tourism announces $100,000 toward Ecusta Trail

At the Transylvania County, NC Tourism (TCT) Board of Directors’ annual retreat, a motion was passed to set aside $100,000 from the organization’s fund balance for the development of the Ecusta Trail. TCT previously pledged support of the rail to trail conversion back in June of 2015, emphasizing the benefit that the trail would have on the community.

After nearly a decade of conversation and behind the scenes efforts by many in Henderson and Transylvania Counties, momentum has picked up surrounding the development of the trail. TCT’s announcement follows on the heels of the $6.4 million purchase money grant to Conserving Carolina from the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) in August, 2019.

“Transylvania County Tourism has a role to play in our community that goes deeper than just marketing and promotion,” states TCT Chair Layton Parker. “Our board is committed to being part of the long-term success of tourism in Transylvania County and sees the importance and opportunity of the Ecusta Trail. It will become an integral element for the health of our community, outdoor recreation and sustainability of tourism that sets our county apart as a destination for both residents and visitors to enjoy.”

The Ecusta Trail is a PROPOSED 19 mile rail-trail between the cities of Hendersonville and Brevard, North Carolina. It is envisioned as a multi-use walking, hiking and biking greenway along the railway corridor connecting Hendersonville, Laurel Park, Horse Shoe, Etowah, Pisgah Forest and Brevard. Once complete, it will connect with the existing Brevard Bike/Walk Path, the Estatoe path leading into Pisgah Forest, and the Ocklawaha greenway connecting Jackson Park, Patton Park and Berkeley Park in Hendersonville.

Cite…

 

Blue Ridge Parkway roads and trails swell to 15 million visitors in 2019, budget shrinks

Posted by on Mar 11, 2020 @ 7:09 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Blue Ridge Parkway roads and trails swell to 15 million visitors in 2019, budget shrinks

Nancy Midgette, in her volunteer role as a “Craggy Rover,” acting as a helping arm to the Blue Ridge Parkway rangers at Craggy Gardens, learned she can talk for four hours straight.

That’s about how long she spent talking to visitors on her four-hour shifts last summer at Craggy Pinnacle, just north of Asheville, pointing out the mountaintop names in the distance from the 360-degree vantage point, telling them where the closest bathrooms and hotels are, and explaining why they shouldn’t step over the rock walls that have signs saying not to step over the rock walls.

And that’s just a fraction of the nearly 15 million people who visited the parkway in 2019, a 2% increase from the year before, making the parkway the second most visited of all 419 units in the National Park Service.

But with increasing visitors means increasing reliance on people like Midgette who volunteer their time as extensions of the ranger staff. The budget for the National Park Service, which is a division of the Department of the Interior, has continued to decline for years.

In President Donald Trump’s proposed fiscal year 2021 budget, he cuts the NPS budget by nearly 18%, from $3.2 billion to $2.8 billion. The parkway’s budget, despite its growing visitation, has remained relatively flat for the past decade. But the request in the FY 2021 budget is for $16 million, $1 million less than last fiscal year.

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Great Smoky Mountains seeks hiking volunteers, ‘critical’ information

Posted by on Mar 10, 2020 @ 6:57 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Great Smoky Mountains seeks hiking volunteers, ‘critical’ information

Do you love hiking? If so, the most-visited park in the nation wants your help.

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is recruiting volunteers to “adopt” sections of its many trails. Volunteers would hike at least one designated trail four times per year and tell the park what they see.

The park said it would use volunteer input to figure out which trails need work – and where. In a press release, the park said this information is “critical” for keeping trails accessible.

No experience is required, but the park said volunteers should be comfortable hiking in the back country and enjoy interacting with visitors.

Volunteers must attend a 3-hour required training. The park said the training covers how it maintains trails, how to report a relevant trail needs information, and how to emphasize ‘Leave No Trace’ practices while hiking.

The park is holding two training sessions.

9 a.m. to noon at Oconaluftee Visitor Center near Cherokee, NC on Saturday, March 28, 2020.
9 a.m. to noon at Sugarlands Visitor Center near Gatlinburg, TN on Saturday, April 11, 2020.

If you’re interested, the park said you can contact Trails and Facilities Volunteer Coordinator Adam Monroe by phone (828-497-1949) or email (adam_monroe@nps.gov) to register for the training.

 

Over 6,000 acres added to Tennessee’s Justin P. Wilson Cumberland Trail State Park

Posted by on Feb 29, 2020 @ 6:29 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Over 6,000 acres added to Tennessee’s Justin P. Wilson Cumberland Trail State Park

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee and the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC), in partnership with The Conservation Fund, TennGreen, the National Park Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, announced the addition of 6,229 acres to the Justin P. Wilson Cumberland Trail State Park.

In a TDEC press release, the organization stated that the land, known as the Lone Star property, will support wildlife habitat and native ecology and will be a critical connecting point for the Cumberland Trail, Tennessee’s first “linear park,” which runs through 11 counties and two time zones. The land will be used to develop a significant segment of the Cumberland Trail, eventually connecting Ozone Falls State Natural Area to existing state-owned land.

When completed, the Cumberland Trail will extend more than 300 miles from Cumberland Gap National Historic Park to is southern terminus at the Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park just outside Chattanooga.

“For people and nature to thrive, habitats need to be protected, enhanced, and restored,” Steve Law, executive director of TennGreen, said. “Our forests and lands along streams on the Cumberland Plateau are critical to conserve because they provide essential habitat to a wide range of wildlife, fish, and plant species. We’re grateful to our partners and our fellow conservationists for making this decade-long dream a reality.”

Cite…

 

The locked gate: Road closure decisions complex in the Smokies

Posted by on Feb 28, 2020 @ 7:12 am in Conservation | 0 comments

The locked gate: Road closure decisions complex in the Smokies

Lisa Hendy is an early riser, and when it comes to dealing with snow days in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park that’s a good thing.

As chief ranger, Hendy’s responsibilities are many — but one of them is deciding when, if and for how long to close the roads when the weather gets bad. “Really what it boils down to is a combination of the forecast and observations on the ground,” she said.

She rises each morning at 4 a.m., and when severe weather’s in the forecast, the early wakeup allows her to get a jump on the day’s planning. The park bases its closure decisions on forecasts from the National Weather Service in Morristown, Tennessee, as well as on-the-ground observations from employees. By 5:30 a.m., she talks with Facility Management Division Chief Alan Sumeriski and Deputy Superintendent Clay Jordan to discuss the situation.

In those early morning hours, rangers who live in the park, road crew staff and anyone else who has a firsthand look will text Sumeriski to let him know what they see. The more observations, the better — with its dramatic variation in topography and elevation, conditions can vary wildly within the park’s 816 square miles.

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The Great Smoky Mountains’ iconic clouds are helping to protect the region from climate change – for now

Posted by on Feb 19, 2020 @ 6:42 am in Conservation | 0 comments

The Great Smoky Mountains’ iconic clouds are helping to protect the region from climate change – for now

Long before the Great Smokies became a national park, its mountains peeked out among clouds of haze. The Cherokee called the mountains “Shaconage”: the place of the blue smoke.

The iconic clouds in the park – on the border of North Carolina and Tennessee – are as important to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park as glaciers are to Glacier National Park and Joshua trees are to Joshua Tree National Park. The blanket of haze is part of the draw for the Smokies’ 12.5 million visitors in 2019, almost twice the number at the Grand Canyon.

The haze is more than a sight to see: High rainfall totals and summertime humidity foster plant growth, making the region a biodiversity hotspot. The Smokies are home to 30 species of salamanders, earning the park the title of salamander capital of the world.

Moisture from the haze may also be protecting the Smokies ecosystem from the changing climate. The mountains are generally most moist at the top because the highest elevations are immersed in low-hanging clouds – a cloud forest. But as the climate continues to warm, the nature of the Smokies’ cloud cover may change.

Ana Barros, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Duke University, said rising temperatures could, in theory, decrease cloud cover, threatening key habitats for creatures such as salamanders. And Jason Fridley, a biologist at Syracuse University, warned that if the region sees a decline in precipitation on mountain peaks, “that might be catastrophic.” So scientists are working to understand the park’s clouds before they change forever.

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Acadia National Park is introducing a timed reservation system for visitors

Posted by on Feb 17, 2020 @ 7:29 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Acadia National Park is introducing a timed reservation system for visitors

The only national park in all of New England, Acadia incorporates both coastline and mountains and has a remarkably diverse landscape. There are scenic lakes and ponds to discover too plus plenty of picnic spots. It’s the seventh most visited national park in the US with 3.5m visitors annually, and in order to cut down on traffic and reduce overcrowding, visitors will have to acquire permits from the summer of 2021 to visit certain popular areas of the park. In advance of this, the park’s management plans to trial the system for two to three weeks around October of this year.

When the new reservation system comes into effect, visitors will need to reserve permits during the summer for Ocean Drive road and the parking lots at James Pond and Cadillac Mountain. They will have a specific window between the hours of 7am and 5pm to enter the restricted areas, between the second Friday in June and the Sunday following Columbus Day. Cadillac Mountain’s reservations will start earlier and end later in the day. It is anticipated that these permits may cost $10 on top of the $30 park entrance fee.

The introduction of the new system is necessary, as the Acadia Advisory Commission was recently advised by superintendent Kevin Schneider that hundreds of cars are parked illegally and potentially in unsafe locations on a daily basis. There is a larger plan in place that includes constructing a new visitor center with expanded parking at Hulls Cove and encouraging visitors to explore from there using the Island Explorer shuttle system.

Cite…

 

Proposed Budget Cuts Target National Parks

Posted by on Feb 15, 2020 @ 7:24 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Proposed Budget Cuts Target National Parks

The Trump Administration’s budget plan for 2021 proposes serious cuts to the National Park Service and other federal agencies that if enacted, would jeopardize the protection, maintenance and operation of our more than 400 national parks across the country.

The administration’s budget calls for a total cut of $587 million (17 percent) to the National Park Service. The budget also proposes a $2.4 billion (26 percent) cut to the EPA, the agency responsible for implementing and enforcing laws like the Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act so we can drink clean water and enjoy scenic national park vistas unmarred by air pollution.

Additionally, it nearly zeros out funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, a critical conservation tool that supports local tourism and recreational economies and enhances opportunities for the American public to enjoy access to its public lands.

Cuts $60 million from the budget to operate national parks, funding critical to ensuring parks can meet their mission to protect park resources and ensure a quality visitor experience.

Cuts desperately needed deferred maintenance funding for our parks that are already faced with nearly $12 billion in backlogged repair needs.

See other cuts…

 

DuPont, Friends seek input on management of wildly popular forest

Posted by on Feb 13, 2020 @ 7:11 am in Conservation, Hiking News | 0 comments

DuPont, Friends seek input on management of wildly popular forest

Horse safety and the need for trailer parking, overcrowded hiking trails, the desire for single-track mountain bike trails and more trail etiquette education at DuPont State Recreational Forest are just some of the issues swirling around the much loved, multi-use state forest, which is entering its 20th year.

The 12,000-acre state forest in Henderson and Transylvania counties, about an hour southwest of Asheville, NC, attracted nearly 1 million visitors from across the country and the world in 2019, leading to a quest by management and volunteers to seek input on the forest’s future.

The N.C. Forest Service is looking for public comment with an online survey as part of its in-the-works forest recreation plan, while Friends of DuPont Forest, a nonprofit that provides volunteers for education and trail work and raises funds, has just launched an online survey asking the public what it would like to see from the group.

“Out of the nearly 1 million visitors, 60-65% are estimated to be from out of town and a majority are going to the waterfalls. But our local folks are using the forest on a monthly, weekly basis,” said Sara Landry, Friends of DuPont executive director.

“We’re trying to gauge an idea of what our members would like from us, and a better idea of how people are using the forest.”

“It’s intense out there on the weekend. One of the things we’re campaigning for is a master trails plan. That has morphed into an overall recreational master plan. There’s no way that we thought 20 years ago that DuPont would be as popular as it is today,” she said.

Read full story and access to surveys…

 

USDA Forest Service announces challenge to increase focus on problems facing nation’s largest public trail system

Posted by on Feb 12, 2020 @ 6:51 am in Conservation, Hiking News | 0 comments

USDA Forest Service announces challenge to increase focus on problems facing nation’s largest public trail system

USDA Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen today emphasized the need to find innovative ideas to tackle the nearly $300 million maintenance backlog on the nation’s largest public trail system. Christiansen called on individuals and organizations to work with the agency to address trail maintenance and sustainability to improve access, keep people safe, and support local economies.

“In 2019, organizations and individuals contributed more than 1.5 million hours on the maintenance and repair of more than 28,000 miles of trail, and we are extremely grateful for their continued support and hard work,” Christiansen told trail advocates during a meeting at Forest Service Headquarters. “However, we must find more ways to erase the backlog. We still have much more work to do, and this is our call to organizations and individuals to share with us innovative ideas and boots-on-the-ground help.”

The agency hopes to expand its employee, grassroots, nonprofit and corporate support as part of a 10-Year Trail Shared Stewardship Challenge. Roughly 120,000 miles of the 159,000 miles of trails are in need of some form of maintenance or repair. Working within current appropriations, the agency has strategically focused its approach to trail maintenance, increasing trail miles improved from 48,800 miles in 2013 to 58,300 miles in 2019.

Christiansen shared the multi-layered challenge with agency partners visiting Washington, D.C., to attend the weeklong 23rd annual Hike the Hill, a joint effort between the Partnership for the National Trail System and the American Hiking Society. Hike the Hill helps to increase awareness and highlight other needs of the National Trails System. The National Trails System consists of 30 national scenic and historic trails, such as the Appalachian National Trail and the Nez Perce (Nee-Me-Poo) National Historic Trail, both of which pass through lands managed by the Forest Service.

The agency manages about 10,000 miles of national scenic and historic trails that cross forests and grasslands. More than 32,000 miles of trail are in wilderness areas. The remainder range from simple footpaths to those that allow horses, off-highway vehicles, cross-country skiing and other types of recreation.

The trail maintenance backlog limits access to public lands, causes environmental damage, and affects public safety in some places. Deferred maintenance also increases the costs of trail repair. When members of the public stop using trails, there could be a residual effect on the economics of nearby communities. Recreation activities on national forests and grasslands support 148,000 jobs annually and contribute more than $11 billion in annual visitor spending.

In addition to trails, the agency is working to address more than $5.2 billion in infrastructure repairs and maintenance on such things as forest roads, bridges, and other structures that are critical to the management of agency lands and that benefit visitors and communities. The backlog on forest roads and bridges alone is $3.4 billion.

For more information, email fstrailmanagement@usda.gov. National organizations or corporations can get more information about becoming a Forest Service partner by contacting Marlee Ostheimer, National Forest Foundation Conservation Partnership Manager, at 406-542-2805 or mostheimer@nationalforests.org.

 

Emails Show DOI Falsified Fire Data for Political Ends

Posted by on Feb 11, 2020 @ 6:22 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Emails Show DOI Falsified Fire Data for Political Ends

Political appointees at the Interior Department have sought to play up climate pollution from California wildfires while downplaying emissions from fossil fuels as a way of promoting more logging in the nation’s forests, internal emails obtained by the Guardian reveal.

The messaging plan was crafted in support of Donald Trump’s pro-industry arguments for harvesting more timber in California, which he says would thin forests and prevent fires – a point experts refute.

The emails show officials seeking to estimate the carbon emissions from devastating 2018 fires in California so they could compare them to the carbon footprint of the state’s electricity sector and then publish statements encouraging cutting down trees.

The records offer a look behind the scenes at how Trump and his appointees have tried to craft a narrative that forest protection efforts are responsible for wildfires, including in California, even as science shows fires are becoming more intense largely because of climate change.

At the time, that Secretary was Ryan Zinke, who hadn’t yet resigned from the position over corruption allegations.

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U.S. Forest Service releases draft Nantahala and Pisgah forest plan for public comment

Posted by on Feb 10, 2020 @ 7:14 am in Conservation | 0 comments

U.S. Forest Service releases draft Nantahala and Pisgah forest plan for public comment

Drafts of the Nantahala and Pisgah forest plan and environmental impact statement (EIS) are now available. A formal 90-day public review and comment period is scheduled to begin on February 14,2020.

The proposed plan is built on significant public engagement and the best available science to guide forest management for the next 15 years. It recognizes the multiple uses of national forests including recreation, timber, water, wilderness, and wildlife habitat. The draft EIS considers the economic, environmental, and social impacts of forest management activities.

“We heard from a wide range of people and groups who use, depend on, and appreciate the forests as we developed the plan,” said Allen Nicholas, Forest Supervisor of the National Forests in North Carolina. “We’re sharing this proposed plan so the public can review it and provide additional information before the plan is finalized.”

The proposed plan describes how the Forest Service will increase forest restoration, generate more jobs and economic development in local communities, and promote sustainable use of the national forests. The draft EIS presents four alternative approaches to managing the forests that offer different ways to make progress towards multiple goals and be sensitive to special places.

“These drafts are significantly different from the early plan materials we shared in 2017 because we’ve incorporated public feedback received since then,” said Michelle Aldridge, team lead for the forest plan revision. “Using public input, we’ve re-written parts of the plan, changed management area boundaries, and added a new chapter about places and uses on each part of the forest. We built alternatives based upon what we heard were shared values to offer win-win solutions and minimize polarization,” Aldridge said.

The drafts are available online at www.fs.usda.gov/goto/nfsnc/nprevision. The formal comment period ends May 14, 2020. Public comments are most helpful when they include detailed information about specific places and uses of the forest.

Public meetings will be held at the dates and locations below for participants to talk with planning team members. Additional public meetings are being scheduled across the forests. Check our website for updated information.

March 10, 5:30-8:30pm at the Foothills Conference Center, 2128 S. Sterling St., Morganton, NC.
March 16, 5:30-8:30pm at the Rogow Family Community Room, Brevard Library, 212 S Gaston St, Brevard, NC.
March 19, 5:30-8:30pm at the Brasstown Community Center, 255 Settawig Rd, Brasstown, NC.
March 24, 5:30-8:30pm at First Presbyterian Church’s Tartan Hall, 26 Church Street, Franklin NC.

 

Catawba conservation purchase to become part of new trail system

Posted by on Feb 9, 2020 @ 7:24 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Catawba conservation purchase to become part of new trail system

  A 68-acre conservation purchase in Catawba County, North Caroina is expected to become part of the planned Wilderness Gateway State Trail, which is intended to meander thorugh Catawba and Burke counties and along the Rutherford-McDowell county line.

The Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina bought the property from landowners Becky and Wayne Welch. It is made up of woodlands and former pasturelands near Finger Bridge along the Jacob Fork River.

The conservancy will transfer the property to N.C. State Parks, which will manage public river access for paddling and fishing. A canoe launch is planned as well. In addition to providing recreation, the purchase will protect the drinking supply for the town of Newton.

“We anticipate that this tract will become part of the new Wilderness Gateway State Trail,” said Dwayne Patterson, director of the Division of Natural and Cultural Resources. “We look forward to working with Foothills Conservancy on this exciting project that we expect will bring great things to Catawba County.”

This land acquisition is just one more step toward the protection of Newton’s downstream drinking water supply — and it marks Foothills Conservancy’s third property acquired in Catawba County, with another pending on the Henry Fork River.

Cite…

 

These southern Utah sites were once off limits to development. Now, Trump will auction the right to drill and mine there.

Posted by on Feb 7, 2020 @ 6:41 am in Conservation | 0 comments

These southern Utah sites were once off limits to development. Now, Trump will auction the right to drill and mine there.

The Trump administration has finalized plans to expand drilling, grazing and other forms of development across a broad area of southern Utah that used to be protected as two national monuments, Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante.

The decision comes more than two years after Trump dramatically cut the size of both monuments and will likely intensify a legal battle with tribes and conservation groups who have sought to have the protected areas restored.

The expanses of windswept badlands, narrow slot canyons and towering rock formations are sacred to several Native American nations and prized by paleontologists and outdoor enthusiasts. Bears Ears contains tens of thousands of cultural artifacts and rare rock art; in the rock layers of Grand Staircase, scientists have unearthed 75 million-year-old dinosaur fossils.

The monuments were established under the 1906 Antiquities Act, which empowers a president to protect public lands of archaeological significance. Grand Staircase was first designated as a national monument by Bill Clinton in 1996; Bears Ears was established by Barack Obama twenty years later.

After Trump’s Interior Department redrew the monuments’ boundaries, Grand Staircase is half its former size and Bears Ears has shrunk by 85 percent.

A coalition of groups sued the administration immediately after Trump announced the monuments’ new boundaries. They argue that the act does not give a president the authority to revoke their predecessors’ national monument designations.

Cite…

 

2020 Great Backyard Bird Count

Posted by on Feb 4, 2020 @ 7:07 am in Conservation | 0 comments

2020 Great Backyard Bird Count

Launched in 1998 by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society, the Great Backyard Bird Count was the first online citizen-science project to collect data on wild birds and to display results in near real-time.

Now, more than 160,000 people of all ages and walks of life worldwide join the four-day count each February to create an annual snapshot of the distribution and abundance of birds.

You are invited to participate. For at least 15 minutes on one or more days of the count, February 14-17, 2020, simply tally the numbers and kinds of birds you see. You can count from any location, anywhere in the world, for as long as you wish.

There were 199 different species recorded in North Carolina in 2019. Here are the top 10 species reported for the country last year:

Northern Cardinal
Dark-eyed Junco
Mourning Dove
Downy Woodpecker
Blue Jay
American Crow
House Finch
House Sparrow
Black-capped Chickadee
White-breasted Nuthatch

Learn more here…

 

Environmental analysis completed and decision signed for Twelve Mile Project on Pisgah National Forest

Posted by on Feb 2, 2020 @ 6:31 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Environmental analysis completed and decision signed for Twelve Mile Project on Pisgah National Forest

The U.S. Forest Service has completed the environmental assessment process and made a final decision on the Twelve Mile Project on the Pisgah National Forest’s Appalachian Ranger District in Haywood County, North Carolina. Once implemented, the project will help maintain a healthy and diverse forest that supports wildlife, provides a sustainable output of timber, improves water quality and aquatic habitat, and improves access to the forest.

“Many people helped us throughout the planning of this project and I thank them for working with us to identify what needs to change on this landscape and how to achieve our goals while being responsive to public comments and environmental concerns,” said Appalachian District Ranger Richard Thornburgh.

Projects like Twelve Mile start with an assessment and analysis of the area including forest age and structure, types of tree species, wildlife habitat, and transportation. This study revealed how much forest stands were departed from their natural range of variation. For example, in the mesic oak ecozone, the loss of American chestnut and fire suppression has led to dominance by red maple and blackgum. The dense shade of these trees makes it difficult for young oaks to grow up. Harvesting some trees will allow more light to reach the forest floor and improve the growth of the remaining trees. This also creates young forest habitat.

The project will also ensure there is small patch old growth dispersed across the forest. This helps ensure habitat connectivity between medium and large patches of old growth. Both young forest and old growth, as well as wildlife openings, are needed to provide food and habitat for a diversity of wildlife species at different times in their life cycle. For example, the golden-winged warbler is a tiny songbird that uses specifically designed harvest areas within large forested landscapes for breeding and feeding.

The landscape assessment also identified opportunities such as restoring woodlands and shortleaf pine, and other needs such as stream restoration and transportation improvements. Frequent management actions such as thinning and prescribed burning are needed to maintain the open canopy of woodlands. Fire is also important for maintaining fire-adapted species like shortleaf pine. Restoration of streambanks will help to improve water quality. Changes to the road system will also improve water quality while providing and improving access for recreation, research, and management activities and private landowners as well as reducing maintenance needs.

Work in the project area will begin this year and will continue for 10 or more years.

Additional details are available at the Twelve Mile Project Fact Sheet. For more information contact Project Lead Jason Herron at 828-689-9694.