Boom & Bust, Fracking Contamination, Realities of Wildfire, and Ghost Net Busters

After a bit of a summer hiatus, The Nooze is back in action!  Over this week we'll bring you highlight stories from the past month, and pick back up with regular blog posts starting in August. josh zaffosFirst, from Joshua Zaffos, writing for the Sierra Club's magazine, a look at oil and gas exploration in the West:

Busting Out of Boom and Bust

IN LATE JUNE, WHEN THE SNOW DISAPPEARS from the high-country forests, Jock Jacober moves hundreds of cows into the meadows of Coal Basin in Colorado's White River National Forest. Located between 9,000 and 10,000 feet, the mid-elevation pastures are part of the 221,500-acre Thompson Divide, undeveloped public lands that provide important summer livestock forage and essential elk-calving habitat.

From the growing mountain town of Carbondale, Jacober and his three sons operate Crystal River Meats, processing grass-fed beef that he and other local ranchers raise. Started in 1999, the specialty business has grown to distribute to Whole Foods and Natural Grocers supermarkets. Most of the ranchers rely on U.S. Forest Service grazing leases in Coal Basin and other designated roadless parcels in the Thompson Divide. "For 100 years, guys have been running cattle up there," Jacober says. "It's a good place to grow food for the valley." Read more.

Colorado rancher Jock Jacober (Photo by David Clifford)

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John roachNext, from John Roach, contributing writer at NBC News, a story about the bottom line in the debate about fracking and water quality:

Natural gas found in drinking water near fracked wells

Elevated levels of methane and other stray gases have been found in drinking water near natural gas wells in Pennsylvania's gas-rich Marcellus shale region, according to new research. In the case of methane, concentrations were six times higher in some drinking water found within one kilometer of drilling operations.

"The bottom line is strong evidence for gas leaking into drinking water in some cases," Robert Jackson, an environmental scientist at Duke University in Durham, N.C., told NBC News. "We think the likeliest explanation is leaky wells," he added... Read more.

A Marcellus shale gas extraction well pad and farm in Pennsylvania. New research finds contaminated drinking water, in some cases, in homes within one kilometer of these wells. (Photo by Robert Jackson)

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Michael Kodas_2In the midst of fire season and in the wake of the tragic Yarnell Hill fire, an interview on NPR with IJNR alumnus Michael Kodas about the realities of wildfire today:

The New World of Firefighting Realities, Climate and Humans

An aerial tanker drops fire retardant on a wildfire threatening homes near Yarnell, Ariz., on July 1. An elite crew of firefighters was overtaken by the out-of-control blaze on June 30, killing 19 members as they tried to protect themselves from the flames under fire-resistant shields. (Photo by Chris Carlson/AP)

Writer and photojournalist Michael Kodas has been documenting firefighting and firefighters for more than a decade. His current book project, Megafire, an examination of the new world faced by firefighters, will be released in 2014. Kodas, also the author of High Crimes: The Fate of Everest in an Age of Greed, lives in Boulder, Colo. He traveled to Arizona after 19 elite Granite Mountain Hotshots firefighters from Prescott died June 30 battling a lightning-sparked wildfire in nearby Yarnell... Read more. 

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Ashley AhearnFrom Ashley Ahearn with EarthFix, a story on Public Radio International's The World about deadly abandoned fishing nets, and the folks who are battling them:

Ghost Net Busters: Global Activists Dive to Remove Deadly Lost Fishing Nets

Pascal van Erp saw his first ghost net when he was exploring a ship wreck in the North Sea.

“It was a very scary thing,” the Dutch diver says. He says the abandoned fishing net almost got him. Other creatures weren’t so lucky.

“A lot of sea life was captured by the nets and the fishing lines,” he says.

The experience haunted van Erp, and he soon realized that ghost nets – nets lost or cut from fishing boats – were a global problem. So he founded an organization called Ghostfishing International to help raise awareness about the issue and connect people around the world who are working to remove nets... Read and hear more.

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