Conservation & Environment

Western North Carolina Counties Help Direct Firefighter Donations

Posted by on Nov 17, 2016 @ 7:52 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

Firefighters in western North Carolina greatly appreciate the donations they have received from community members and businesses. The generosity has been overwhelming for volunteer fire departments and Forest Service offices.

In an effort to manage donated materials, North Carolina Department of Emergency Management, in cooperation with the Western North Carolina Association of Firefighters and the North Carolina and U.S. Forest Service, asks that community members direct their donations to specific counties.

Buncombe County: Fairview Fire Department 828-628-2001

Burke County: Fire Information Hot Line 828-764-9380

Clay County: Office of Emergency Management 828-389-9640

Cherokee County: Office of Emergency Management 828-837-7352

Graham County: Office of Emergency Management 828-479-7967

Jackson County: Office of Emergency Management 828-586-7592

Macon County: Office of Emergency Management 828-349-2067


Obama administration targets wasted revenue in new oil and gas rule

Posted by on Nov 16, 2016 @ 7:07 am in Conservation | 0 comments

The Obama administration on November 15, 2016 finalized a rule to reduce the massive amount of leaking methane from oil and gas operations on public land, prompting an immediate response from Republicans who intend on reversing it.

The new Methane and Waste Prevention Rule will decrease flaring — burning off methane at the site of extraction — by half. It will also increase inspection and reporting requirements, restrict venting from storage tanks, and clarify when royalties are due on lost gas.

“This rule to prevent waste of our nation’s natural gas supplies is good government, plain and simple,” Dept. of Interior Sec. Sally Jewell said in a statement. “We are proving that we can cut harmful methane emissions that contribute to climate change, while putting in place standards that make good economic sense for the nation.”

States, tribes, and federal taxpayers lose millions of dollars each year through wasted gas, according to a 2010 government report. The amount of natural gas lost between 2009 and 2015 would have been enough to serve more than 6 million households for a year.

Read full story…


A wildfire burning through the forest of Chimney Rock is so strange, it’s baffling the experts

Posted by on Nov 15, 2016 @ 7:25 am in Conservation | 0 comments

A wildfire burning through the forest of Chimney Rock is so strange, it’s baffling the experts

No one can remember a wildfire as peculiar as the monster gnawing through the gorge above the village of Chimney Rock.

It burrows beneath swaths cut to contain it. It conjures unforeseen winds from the steep terrain. It dashes erratically this way and that, like a running back punching for open field.

And never mind the frustration of fire managers – it has even spooked the hardy, reclusive mountain coyotes. “We’ve had sightings of them from several people,” Carrie Harmon of the N.C. Forest Service said.

Chimney Rock, population 109, was deserted except for about 200 firefighters from as far away as Florida and Oregon battling the stubborn inferno with shovels, rakes, hoes, backfires and bulldozers. Helicopters thumped through the air during the weekend, muscling water buckets the size of a compact car.

Chimney Rock was under mandatory evacuation and boating was discouraged on Lake Lure to let the whirly-birds dip at will.

“This fire has the characteristics of western fires, of California fires,” said Richard Barnwell, Bat Cave’s 74-year-old fire chief. “This is the worst I’ve ever seen.”

Read full story…


Joint Information Center Opens to Provide NC Wildfire Information

Posted by on Nov 14, 2016 @ 5:14 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

A joint information center is now open to provide timely and accurate information about wildfires in western North Carolina and related issues.

This one-stop information center will provide the public with updates on wildfires, evacuations and shelters, road and trail closures, air quality, current burning restrictions, and the schedule for public meetings for wildfires.

The center will be staffed by US and NC Forest Service public information officers, county emergency management officials, public health officers, and wildlife resources commission staff.

Call 828-575-2840 from 8 am to 8 pm or email Information will also be posted at


Highly Skilled Firefighters Use Blasting to Remove Hazard Trees

Posted by on Nov 14, 2016 @ 4:15 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

Bug kill and severe drought conditions have weakened and killed trees throughout the southeastern US, including North Carolina. On the Boteler Fire, in Clay County, a tiny invasive insect—the hemlock wooley adelgid—has had a devastating effect on established stands of the magnificent eastern hemlock.

Some of these trees are 20 to 30 inches in diameter and up to 100 feet tall. Unlike most trees, which fall to the ground in an arc from their weakest point, dead hemlocks tend to breakup from the interior and collapse as the tree is weakened.

Trees pose a significant hazard to firefighters during firefighting operations. Many firefighters have been killed or severely injured by falling trees or dropping limbs, often without warning. After a fire, hazard trees may remain and continue to be a significant danger to the public hiking and driving through the area.

Because hemlocks crumble and fall apart when felled using traditional techniques, another method has been developed to safely get them down. This method involves highly trained, certified, and skilled firefighters using blasting agents.

To remove hazardous hemlocks on the northern edge of the Boteler Fire—specifically along Chunky Girl Trail, Bruce Ridge, and Nelson Ridge Road—fire managers brought in a US Forest Service blasting team to scout and identify hazard trees suitable for removal with blasting.

Removing eastern hemlock hazard trees around trails and roads in the Boteler Fire will protect people and animals long after the fire is out.

Read full story…


How An Unexpected Friendship With A Wolf Transformed A Whole Town

Posted by on Nov 14, 2016 @ 7:37 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Despite their incredible beauty and their obvious similarities with our considerably tamer canine companions, everyone knows not to play with wolves. So when wildlife photographer Nick Jans and his Labrador encountered a wild wolf behind their home, adrenaline started pumping through them both.

When the wolf approached the Labrador, Nick could only stand helplessly by and watch. But what he didn’t know then, on that cold winter day of 2003 was that that encounter was the beginning of a relationship that defied all logic – and fundamentally transformed an entire community.

During the winter of 2003, a jet-black wolf showed up on the edge of suburban Juneau, Alaska. But this wolf didn’t bear his teeth and growl aggressively. Instead, it seemed to long for companionship. Wildlife photographer Nick Jans was on his back porch when he saw the wolf for the first time. Despite the danger, Nick’s Labrador went to meet the visitor.

Nick, who had photographed and tracked wolves for years, immediately knew that the wolf was wild. So he was shocked when his Labrador suddenly started to play with him. He hurriedly grabbed his camera, and began to capture the unexpected moment.

See the story of Romeo here…


Inside the Arctic Seed Vault Designed to Save Humanity From Extinction

Posted by on Nov 13, 2016 @ 10:07 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Inside the Arctic Seed Vault Designed to Save Humanity From Extinction

In the Arctic Circle, on the far-northern Norwegian island of Spitsbergen, a drab facility carved into the mountainside could be humanity’s last hope in the event of a global catastrophe. This is the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, a roughly 400-foot-long building designed to store seed samples for 4.5 million different varieties of crops from around the world, or 2.5 billion individual seeds. The vault even contains seeds from North Korea.

Among the crops stored in the cavernous underground ice tunnels at -18º C (-0.4º F): 150,000 samples of rice, and 140,000 samples of wheat. Now you can take a look inside as Motherboard tours this awe-inspiring facility.

The goal is to create a kind of genetic vault of human agriculture, or a “Noah’s Ark” of genetic diversity, as the Global Seed Vault has been called. In a time of great uncertainty, it’s a ray of hope for how humanity can come together across borders, and use science to ensure the survival of our species.



Court rules that children can sue the government over climate negligence

Posted by on Nov 11, 2016 @ 5:09 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

Court rules that children can sue the government over climate negligence

Oregon federal judge Ann Aiken has ruled that a climate lawsuit brought against the U.S. government by a group of youths can move forward, a win for the strategy of fighting climate change through the judicial branch.

Our Children’s Trust, an Oregon-based non-profit, has filed lawsuits in every state and at the federal level, claiming that the U.S. government’s actions to address climate change have been inadequate and are endangering young people throughout the country. Fossil fuel companies and the U.S. government filed to have the federal lawsuit dismissed, and their requests were roundly denied, as Judge Aiken found the group’s complaints to be valid.

Aiken wrote in her decision, “There is no contradiction between promising other nations the United States will reduce C02 emissions and a judicial order directing the United States to go beyond its international commitments to more aggressively reduce C02 emissions.”

The lawsuit is based on the idea of the public trust, which says that the U.S. government must protect common held elements, like waterways and coastlines, for the public. Under the public trust doctrine, the lawsuit argues, the U.S. government must also protect the commonly held atmosphere — and by taking inadequate action to address climate change, they argue, the government is failing to protect the public trust.

Read full story…


TOTAL FIRE BAN in effect for Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests

Posted by on Nov 10, 2016 @ 12:27 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

TOTAL FIRE BAN in effect for  Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests

The Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests in North Carolina are implementing a TOTAL FIRE BAN due to the extremely dry conditions, high fire danger, and little chance of rain in the immediate forecast.

Beginning on November 10, 2016, the following restrictions are in place for the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests until further notice:

Building, maintaining, attending or using a fire or campfire (including charcoal based fire whether in a grill or not) is NOT ALLOWED anywhere on the National Forest.

The use of commercially available portable lanterns, stoves, or heating equipment that utilize gas or pressurized liquid fuel is allowed.

The updated order expands the restrictions issued on October 28, 2016, to include restrictions in fee-area campgrounds. This restriction only pertains to the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests, however, the State of North Carolina has also issued a burn ban for 25 western counties.

Everyone has a part to play in preventing wildfires. Do not have open flame anywhere on the forest and be very cautious about activities that could produce fires such as extinguishing tobacco products or operating equipment without a spark arrestor. For more tips, go to

More than 20 wildfires are burning on over 17,000 acres across the Nantahala National Forest. All fires are being investigated for suspected arson. Please call the National Forests of North Carolina at 828-257-4200 if you have information about persons setting fires or bragging about setting fires. If you see someone starting a fire, call 911.


These maps help fill the gaps on the Dakota Access Pipeline

Posted by on Nov 8, 2016 @ 4:54 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

As protests escalated in North Dakota, Jennifer Veilleux sat in her office at Florida International University in Miami, Florida, reading an environmental assessment of the Dakota Access Pipeline over and over again. The report, prepared by the company developing the pipeline, raised red flags. An international water security and transboundary river post-doctoral researcher, Veilleux was used to vetting assessments. The one in front of her didn’t have information about appropriate methods for monitoring what people, waterways, and ecosystems leaks in the pipeline could affect.

She scoured the internet, searching for the major waterways the pipeline would impact, and where Indigenous people lived in relation to those – basic information she couldn’t find anywhere.

So she decided to map it herself.

What resulted were two detailed socio-ecological maps of the Missouri River Basin, created by Veilleux and the team she assembled, in total 16 geographers, cartographers, lawyers, and researchers who are all collaborating voluntarily. One outlines major waterways the pipeline would intersect and possibly leak into and the nearby tribal lands. The other shows the percentage of Indigenous people by county living near waterways that could be affected by the pipeline, which crosses four Western states.

Learn more here…


National Park Service Commemorates Veterans Day with Special Programs and Free Admission on November 11

Posted by on Nov 5, 2016 @ 1:23 pm in Conservation, Hiking News | 0 comments

In honor of Veterans Day, many national parks across the country are hosting special events, displays, and ceremonies to commemorate the service and sacrifice of the U.S. Armed Forces. The National Park Service will waive entrance fees on November 11, 2016.

“It’s a special responsibility to be the stewards of the memorials, battlefields, and historic sites that tell the story of the honor, courage, and sacrifice of our veterans,” said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis. “All 413 of our parks nationwide offer the chance to reflect on what our veterans fought to protect, and may also provide opportunities for veterans and their families to find peace and healing.”

National parks and other public lands can be used to facilitate healing and reflection, physical and mental challenges, and rest and recuperation for veterans, active duty service members, and their families. Rivers of Recovery, one of the nonprofit organizations that uses national parks for this purpose, partnered with Saint Croix National Scenic Riverway to create the “Vets on the River” program, which offers multi-day trips on the park’s rivers to combat veterans suffering from physical or psychological injuries.

The National Park Service cares for many sites across the country related to the military experience, including more than 25 battlefields, 14 national cemeteries, and hundreds of memorials and monuments. Port Chicago Naval Magazine National Memorial, Manhattan Project National Historical Park, and other historic sites tell greater story of contributions, sacrifice, and consequences of conflict off the battlefield.

Active duty military members and their dependents can pick up a free military annual pass at any national park that usually charges a fee. A free lifetime pass is also available to disabled veterans. These passes provide free entrance to more than 2,000 national parks, wildlife refuges, national forests, and other federal recreational areas. More information about the passes can be found at


The Bundy Standoff is a Sign of Things to Come

Posted by on Nov 5, 2016 @ 6:56 am in Conservation | 0 comments

The acquittal of Ammon Bundy and other militia members who occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon last January leaves our public lands and the people who steward them in a vulnerable position. Indeed, it puts a target on their backs.

The Bundy family has said as much. “The government should be scared,” Ryan Bundy asserted to the Washington Post less than a week after their acquittal. “They are in the wrong. The land does not belong to the government. The land belongs to the people of Clark County, not to the people of the United States.” When asked whether he and fellow militiamen had the right to take up arms to assert their control of the public land, Bundy declared: “Ask George Washington.”

This brazen and unapologetic rhetoric is a striking contrast to the Oregon jury’s carefully tailored language about their decision to free those men who bore arms against the federal government. As one juror told the Portland Oregonian in response to the post-verdict uproar: “Don’t they know that ‘not guilty’ does not mean innocent?”

The SPLC’s Intelligence Project, drives the point home: “This is a growing movement that is probably going to grow more due to this verdict because they have shown they can use armed interventions and not be punished for them.”

One of the Bundy jurors even anticipated this dire possibility: “It was not lost on us that our verdict(s) might inspire future actions that are regrettable, but that sort of thinking was not permitted when considering the charges before us.”

Fair enough. But whatever regrettable “future actions” occur, it will not be the jurors who will endure them but the dedicated men and women stewarding our public lands, our most treasured terrain. Who will step up and protect them?

Read full story…


Drought and wildfires plague a region typically known for its ‘rainforest-like’ climate

Posted by on Nov 4, 2016 @ 7:19 am in Conservation | 0 comments

The Southeast is not a region that we tend to associate with wildfires. It’s humid, it’s wet, and twice this year deadly floods ravaged vast areas of two states — Louisiana and North Carolina. Yet here we are, talking about tinderbox conditions propelled by a historic drought and record-breaking heat.

With little to no rain in the immediate forecast, fire restrictions have been put in place in the national forests, including Cherokee in Tennessee; Nantahala and Pisgah in North Carolina; Chattahoochee and Oconee in Georgia; and Bankhead and Conecuh in Alabama.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, along the Tennessee-North Carolina border, banned back-country fires — very unusual because much of the park, climate-wise, is considered a “temperate rain forest.” The last time the park instituted fire restrictions was in 2007.

As of November 2, 2016, there were 11 active, large fires burning across the region. There are at least 10 large fires burning in six states, according to the U.S. Forest Service. Dozens of smaller fires are smoldering across the Southeast, filling populated valleys with a hazy, brown smoke.

On October 31, a gas pipeline exploded in Alabama, setting off three new wildfires in the region.

In fact, so many fires are raging in the mountains of far-western North Carolina that the Forest Service called in reinforcements from California, New Mexico, Michigan, Minnesota, Florida and Oregon. The fires have burned at least 800 acres since Oct. 23.

Read full story…


Mississippi’s Claim That Tennessee Is Stealing Groundwater Is A Supreme Court First

Posted by on Nov 3, 2016 @ 10:17 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Sometime in the next few months, lawyers for the state of Mississippi will stand before a U.S. Supreme Court-appointed legal expert, clear their throats, and argue that Tennessee, a neighbor, is stealing water.

However it is decided, the courtroom tussle breaks new legal ground and more. It is the first time the Supreme Court has considered a lawsuit that involves the use and distribution of groundwater reserves that lie beneath multiple state boundaries. Dozens of major aquifers cross state borders. None, though, is subjected to the well-established legal instruments for allocating water that rivers are.

The discord between two southern states also illustrates how in an era of droughts, storms, and other hydrological disturbances risks to stable water supplies have steadily risen as prominent health and economic priorities in the United States. Law experts say that the case foreshadows a new field of play for water rights in the United States.

These circumstances expose a mismatch between the way water behaves and the policies that govern it. Mississippi and Tennessee share an aquifer — water-use decisions on one side of the political border affect water availability on the other — but they do not share a system of management and oversight.

Read full story…


“Hey! We’re totally into clean technology now!” say major oil companies

Posted by on Nov 3, 2016 @ 7:11 am in Conservation | 0 comments

If rumors are to be believed, Shell, Total, BP, Eni, Repsol, Saudi Aramco, and Statoil will join forces this week to invest in clean technologies.

Sources told Reuters that the fund will focus on developing technologies to lower oil sector emissions, reduce methane leaks and natural gas flaring, increase car engine and fuel efficiency, and improve carbon capture and storage.

That might sound like sweaty, desperate greenwashing from an industry whose entire business model depends on a) getting themselves some oil and b) selling it. But it also could be motivated by legitimate existential terror. During the oil crisis of the ’70s, for example, Exxon got scared and promptly invented the first rechargeable lithium-ion battery.

The full details of the plan should be formally announced this Friday, but as long as these companies put forward substantial cash and invest it wisely, this is good news.



Great Smoky Mountains National Park announces temporary ban of backcountry campfires

Posted by on Nov 2, 2016 @ 11:42 am in Conservation, Hiking News | 0 comments

Due to extremely dry weather conditions and fresh leaves, Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials announced a temporary ban on campfires in the park’s backcountry.

The fire ban applies to campers using the park’s backcountry sites and shelters. It does not affect campers at the park’s frontcountry campgrounds or people using fire grills at picnic areas.

A representative with the Great Smoky Mountains National Park said the potential for escaped fires has dramatically increased.

“With the current drought conditions, it is imperative that we reduce the risk of human-caused wildfires during this period of extreme fire danger,” said Superintendent Cassius Cash. “The park has not banned backcountry campfires since 2007, but these unusually dry conditions warrant the restriction.”

The ban impacts the availability of water at springs at the backcountry campsites and shelters throughout the park. Backcountry campsites 5, 6, 16, 26, 113, Mollies Ridge Shelter, Russell Field Shelter, Spence Field Shelter, Silers Bald Shelter, Double Spring Gap Shelter, and Pecks Corner Shelter are known to be without water.

Officials say the fire restriction will be in effect until further notice.

The backcountry office can be reached by calling 865-436-1297.


North Dakota Oil Leak Proves Native American Protesters Right For Fighting Dakota Access Pipeline

Posted by on Nov 1, 2016 @ 9:20 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

Are you still wondering why so many people support the #NoDAPL protectors? This spill in October, 2015 is part of the reason. Imagine, if you will, tens of thousands of gallons of oil pouring into the river that provides the drinking water for over 10 million people. Would you want to drink it? or swim in it? or eat anything from it?

A North Dakota oil well owned by Oasis Petroleum Inc blew out on October 30, 2015 leaked more than 67,000 gallons of crude and endangered a tributary of the Missouri River. The blowout may have been caused by hydraulic fracturing of a nearby well in a situation referred to in the industry as “communication” between wells.

Thick gray smoke rose from the Helling Trust 11-15H well site as dozens of tractor-trailers hauled in vacuum trucks and other cleanup equipment. Oasis capped the well by pumping in a thick mixture of mud and clay, state officials said.

State officials reported approximately 84,000 gallons of saltwater also leaked from the well. Crude oil extracted from the state’s Bakken shale formation typically contains high concentrations of brine (salt water) that must be separated.

When you are deciding whether or not you should support the #NoDAPL protectors or corporate profits, take this oil spill into consideration.



Colville National Forest looking to fill 50 seasonal jobs

Posted by on Oct 31, 2016 @ 12:09 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

The Colville National Forest is looking to fill 50 seasonal jobs in northeast Washington for next summer. Forest officials are going so far as to hold workshops to help applicants fill out forms. Applications must be submitted online at from Nov. 15-21, 2016. Selections will be made from Feb. 13-17, 2017.

Jobs would start anywhere from mid-April to mid-June, 2017 depending on the position, and they typically last until fall.

Available positions are in wildland fire, timber presale and stand improvement, recreation, range, archeology, soils, fisheries, botany, hydrology and wildlife. Positions available range from entry level to those requiring one to four years of experience in a specific field.

Open-house help sessions are scheduled for Wednesday, November 2, 2016 at 5:30 p.m. at the Republic Ranger Station in Republic, and Thursday, November 3, 2016 at 5:30 p.m. at the Three Rivers Ranger Station in Kettle Falls.

The hiring process for summer positions is happening earlier than it has in past years, said Franklin Pemberton, forest spokesman. “Some people may not think about applying until the spring, but by then it will be too late,” he said.


Feds issue burn bans for Cherokee, Chattahoochee and Oconee national forests amid high fire danger

Posted by on Oct 30, 2016 @ 10:22 am in Conservation, Hiking News | 0 comments

The U.S. Forest Service has implemented special fire restrictions due to extremely dry conditions, high fire danger and little chance of rain in the immediate forecast. The move comes days after similar restrictions were issued in the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests in Georgia, and the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests in North Carolina.

Very high wildfire danger continues across much of the Tennessee Valley and Georgia because of the hot, dry weather combined with dead and dry vegetation. Fall leaves have started to drop, which can burn in a fire or cause an area that has already seen fire to be re-burned.

Starting on Oct. 29, 2016, all 655,000 acres of the Cherokee National Forest are off-limits to campfires. Specifically, “building, maintaining, attending or using a fire, campfire or charcoal fire outside of developed recreation areas” is prohibited. However, “the use of portable lanterns, stoves or heating equipment that utilize gas or pressurized liquid fuel is allowed,” according to a news release.

Fires at developed recreation areas are still allowed for now, but must be confined to “receptacles designed for fire,” such as metal fire rings and grills.

Campfires should always be put out and cold to the touch before left for any period of time.


Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests Fire Restrictions

Posted by on Oct 28, 2016 @ 4:39 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

The Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests will implement fire restrictions due to the extremely dry conditions, high fire danger, and little chance of rain in the immediate forecast.

Effective October 28, 2016, the following fire restrictions are in place for the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests until further notice:

Building, maintaining, attending or using a fire, campfire, or stove fire is NOT ALLOWED outside of developed campgrounds where a fee is paid.

The use of portable lanterns, stoves, or heating equipment that utilize gas or pressurized liquid fuel is allowed. Charcoal fires are not allowed.

Permissible fires must be confined to metal fire rings and grills that are provided in the National Forest campgrounds. Never leave a fire unattended. Campfires should always be put out and cold to the touch before left for any period of time.

This restriction only pertains to the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests. Visitors are asked to be very careful with fire and to obey all state and federal fire related laws and regulations.