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Earth Month, Day 5: Clean Coal?

michelle nijhuisFor today's installment of our Earth Month series we bring you just one story, but it's a doozy: Michelle Nijhuis tackles coal for National Geographic.  

 

Juliette, Georgia Steam and smoke rise from the cooling towers and chimneys of the Robert W. Scherer power plant, the largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the U.S. It burns 12 million tons of coal a year. (Photo by Robb Kendrick)

Can Coal Ever Be Clean?

Coal provides 40 percent of the world’s electricity. It produces 39 percent of global CO₂ emissions. It kills thousands a year in mines, many more with polluted air.

Environmentalists say that clean coal is a myth. Of course it is: Just look at West Virginia, where whole Appalachian peaks have been knocked into valleys to get at the coal underneath and streams run orange with acidic water. Or look at downtown Beijing, where the air these days is often thicker than in an airport smoking lounge. Air pollution in China, much of it from burning coal, is blamed for more than a million premature deaths a year. That’s on top of the thousands who die in mining accidents, in China and elsewhere.

These problems aren’t new. In the late 17th century, when coal from Wales and Northumberland was lighting the first fires of the industrial revolution in Britain, the English writer John Evelyn was already complaining about the “stink and darknesse” of the smoke that wreathed London. Three centuries later, in December 1952, a thick layer of coal-laden smog descended on London and lingered for a long weekend, provoking an epidemic of respiratory ailments that killed as many as 12,000 people in the ensuing months. American cities endured their own traumas. On an October weekend in 1948, in the small Pennsylvania town of Donora, spectators at a high school football game realized they could see neither players nor ball: Smog from a nearby coal-fired zinc smelter was obscuring the field. In the days that followed, 20 people died, and 6,000 people—nearly half the town—were sickened...Read more. 

Also, don't miss the story's accompanying slideshow by photographer Robb Kendrick. (Click photo below to see the full show.)

Nijhuis_kendrick

Earth Month, Day 3: Mongolia and the Mekong

josh zaffosFor today's Earth Month installment, we bring you a two-fer: A pair of essays from Colorado-based writer Josh Zaffos, who traveled to the other side of the globe to report on some big stories from some beautiful places. An hour’s drive east of the city of Ulaanbaatar, a steel statue of Mongolia’s legendary warrior Genghis Khan rises 131 feet above the country’s 68 million-acre grassland steppe. © Nick Hall

Giant Steppes: Protecting Mongolia's Grasslands in the Face of a Mining Boom

 Amar Purev, a square-jawed ranger with a no-nonsense demeanor, peers through binoculars from the window of an SUV as it bounces along a double-track path through a green-and-golden sea of hip-high grass. He spots only a few gazelles in the distance, but when the vehicle crests a hill, it halts: Fifty yards away, hundreds of gazelles and their calves graze on stipa, or feather grass. Before Purev can open his door, the animals take off, coursing 40 miles per hour across the flat and boundless expanse that reaches to the horizon.

This grassy ocean is Mongolia’s Toson Hulstai Nature Reserve, a protected area of more than 1 million acres. It is part of a 68 million-acre expanse of grasslands that stretch from forests to desert across the country’s Eastern Steppe. The steppe is the largest intact temperate grassland on Earth, and this reserve protects calving habitat for the Mongolian gazelle, whose herds can eclipse the horizon with thousands of animals. Scientists estimate the gazelle population here at a million, rivaling the wildlife herds of Africa’s Serengeti... Read more.

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Life on Mekong Faces Threats as Major Dams Begin to Rise

A villager washes in the Mekong, with Xayaburi Dam construction in background. (Photo courtesy International Rivers)

In the sleepy northern Thai border town of Huay Luk, a community leader, Pornsawan Boontun, still remembers the day when villagers netted a Mekong giant catfish more than a decade ago. The fish weighed 615 pounds, and it surprised everyone since the elusive species has never been common in this stretch of river.

The giant catfish, among the planet’s largest freshwater fish species, is now rare throughout the entire Mekong River Basin. While overfishing and past practices, such as dynamiting or electroshocking pools in the river, contributed to the species’ decline, a much larger threat now looms for aquatic life and human populations along the Lower Mekong River: dams... Read more.

The Best of 2013, Day 12: Crown of the Continent Follow-up

Davidson_B&C dawn

Happy Holidays from IJNR!

We hope you have enjoyed our Twelve-Days-of-Christmas, Best-of-2013 Bonanza here on The Nooze.  Here's one final offering before we take a break for the holiday. We'll be back on December 30 with a few final reminders to support IJNR before the end of the year.

In the meantime, happy holidays to all of you, from all of us here at IJNR!


Fellow Trailer_DavidsonToday, instead of highlighting an alumnus, series, or publication, we'd like to shine the spotlight on some of the great reporting that came out of our 2013 Crown of the Continent Institute. The journalists covered a lot of Davidson_questionsground (Read dispatches from the Crown of the Continent trip here, herehere, here, and here), and learned about wildfire, hydroelectric dams, water quality, non-native vs. native fish debates, collaborative conservation, ranching in predator country, Davidson_marciworking landscapes, native science, species reintroduction, oil and gas exploration, and climate change. Participating reporters represented a wide variety of publications, including the the Bozeman Chronicle, the Helena Independent Record, High Country News, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the La Grande Observer, Aspen Public Radio, Northwest News Network, Earthzine, Wyoming Public Radio, Wyofile, Boise State Public Radio, KQED Public Radio, and several others.

The following are some great examples of reporting that emerged following the trip. We hope you enjoy reading them as much as we enjoyed taking the journalists out to learn about these issues firsthand!

(All photos above by Osha Gray Davidson.)

Crown of the Continent 2013 Post-Institute Highlights

Katy NesbittFrom Katy NesbittThe Observer

Praying for loved ones of fallen Arizona hot shot crews

This past week one of the fellows I met on the Institute of Journalism and Natural Resources journey around Montana kept us updated on the temperatures at his home in Phoenix, which were to rise to 118 degrees.

The only time I’ve experienced that kind of heat was on a wildland fire. I was a member of a 20-person crew from the Malheur National Forest dispatched to Tucson to battle a blaze where temperatures reached 122 degrees.

We were put on the night shift and warned of tarantulas, scorpions and rattlesnakes. I encountered each of these creatures during the fire, luckily at a safe distance. But the heat was the biggest risk we were to encounter... Read more.


Osha Gray DavidsonFrom Osha Gray Davidson, freelance

The Great Burning: How wildfires are threatening the West (Rolling Stone)

It was the sound of her neighbors' propane tanks exploding that convinced Nancy Myers she had run out of time. Twenty minutes earlier, the 57-year-old potter had been standing with some friends on a rock-strewn hillside above the village of Yarnell, Arizona, on a hot Sunday afternoon, watching the red coil of flames unspool in the distance, certain that everything was going to be OK – despite the "prepare to evacuate" order issued by the county sheriff's office earlier that day. "Then the storm came down the mountains," she remembers. "The wind shifted and it came straight into town. There was ash and smoke everywhere and big old flames. I went into panic mode."...Read more. 

The fire mappers (Earthzine)

Maps of a wildfire tragedy show why escape was impossible (Earthzine)


anna kingFrom Anna King, Northwest News Network

Hoof-to-Ground: Bringing wild bison back to the west

Northwest Montana’s Blackfeet Indian Reservation stretches across 1.5 million acres. But it turns out that isn’t enough room for the free-roaming bison herd that tribes are attempting to establish. Northwest Native Americans are hoping restored buffalo herds may reopen ancient trade and cultural traditions.

Most American bison were exterminated more than 100 years ago. Now, tribes across the country are trying to coordinate with Canada, the federal government, states and even private ranchers to once again bring herds back to the Western landscape... Read more.


eve byronFrom Eve Byron, Independent Record

The great trout divide

YELLOW BAY — It’s a blustery afternoon at the Flathead Lake Biological Station, but the chill in the air isn’t just from the breeze coming off the water.

Five men are involved in a lively and pointed debate over the future of the fishery here. It’s clear that they’ve had this discussion among themselves before, and on this cool June day no one is making any headway in winning the argument.

The debate boils down to two fish species, some nearly microscopic shrimp and unintended consequences. But it’s also about an ongoing philosophical dilemma over native species vs. introduced species, as well as when to concede defeat and when to continue fighting... Read more.

Anti-fossil fuel coalition asks to be included as defendant in Badger-Two Medicine lawsuit

Gladstone invites energy exec to Front


Marci KrivonenFrom Marci Krivonen, Aspen Public Radio

Tribes in Western U.S. use water to assert sovereignty

In Colorado’s southwest, the Ute Mountain Ute tribe co-manages part of the Dolores Water Project. And, near Durango, the Animas/La Plata project is partially managed by the state’s two tribes. Ernest House directs the Colorado Commission of Indian Affairs.

"Not only do these water projects strengthen tribal sovereignty, but they also solidify a treaty obligation to the Utes here in Colorado. I think that by the tribe’s involvement in a lot of these projects, it provides a very important tool for future economic development, especially, specifically, water," he says.

While the project is different, the goals are similar in Montana. When the tribes take over the dam there, they say, their sovereignty will be strengthened... Read and hear more.


Frankie BarnhillFrom Frankie Barnhill, Boise State Public Radio

13 words you need to know during wildfire season

Idaho's wildfire season is here, and that means you're going to be hearing a lot of firefighting jargon to describe what's going on.

We put together this list of key firefighting terms you're likely to hear in the next few months... Read more.

Why letting some wildfires burn could save homes and prevent future fires


Laura LundquistFrom Laura Lundquist, Bozeman Daily Chronicle

Hoof-to-Ground

People will go to great lengths to bring a missing relative home. Calling politicians, making appeals and raising money are just the start. Even as years go by, they don't give up, especially if the first wisps of hope begin to take on the semblance of success.

For Native Americans throughout the West, those wisps came in the form of some high-court rulings and a successful yet controversial quarantine experiment. The ultimate success will be when the tribes can welcome their relatives — bison from Yellowstone National Park — home to their lands. Within the past two years, the tribes of the Fort Peck and Fort Belknap reservations have had a small taste of that success. Now they and dozens of other tribes want more.

To them, the Yellowstone bison — they use the word “buffalo” — is more than just meat on the table, said LeRoy Little Bear of the Blood Tribe of the Blackfoot Confederacy in a June interview... Read more.


Matt FrankFrom Matt Frank (editor), Science Source

Icon of Change: Notes from the edge of a vanishing glacier, Flathead Beacon, by Allison Mills

In the center of Glacier National Park, Mount Gould’s rounded ridge cradles Grinnell Glacier. On a September afternoon, Dan Fagre walks over a smooth patch of bedrock toward the slab of ice. Below it, newly splintered icebergs fill an opaque blue lake.

The U.S. Geological Survey research scientist, who studies the retreat of the park’s namesakes, stops at a small boulder and taps it with his trekking pole.

“You can tell that this was only recently uncovered by the retreating ice,” Fagre says, pointing out the dusty rock flour left behind by the slow grinding of the glacier. He’s likely the first person to ever touch the boulder... Read more.

Pioneers contribute to world climate study, The Montana Standard, by Kindra McQuillen


Sarah KellerFrom Sarah KellerHigh Country News

Montana's largest utility diversifies its energy mix with hydropower

Montana’s largest utility company, NorthWestern Energy, is moving to diversify its energy mix – an increasing trend in the industry. Seeing the regulatory noose tightening on coal, and questioning the long-term promise of natural gas, the company recently announced plans to buy Montana’s 11 hydroelectric dams from their Pennsylvanian owners. By adding 630 megawatts of stable hydro to a portfolio of wind, coal and natural gas, NorthWestern is fortifying itself for a future when energy prices could be higher and more volatile... Read more.

Montana takes another step toward restoring free-roaming bison herds


Irina ZhorovFrom Irina Zhorov, Wyoming Public Radio

When it comes to environmental policy, science isn't always as helpful as lawmakers hope

Science has long been something we look to for answers. But when it comes to policy making, science can’t always provide the clear solutions lawmakers and the public want. That has to do with how science works and the politics that sometimes infiltrate. Two issues in Wyoming demonstrate uncannily well the shortcomings of science when it comes to decision making in the environmental sphere.

IRINA ZHOROV: Remember that scene in Ghostbusters, when Bill Murray’s character is pursuing a seemingly irrelevant line of questioning with a laid out woman as a concerned man stands by?... Read and hear more.

The Best of 2013, Day 11: Ashley Ahearn and EarthFix

Happy Holidays from IJNR! During the month of December, we'll be bringing you a sampler from the "Best of 2013" - a recap of some of the best stories and series of the year from our alumni. Some of them have already been featured here on the Nooze, but many of them haven't! We hope you enjoy reading, hearing and exploring these top-notch stories as much as we have.


Ashley AhearnToday we hear from alumnus Ashley Ahearn, who is based at KUOW Public Radio in Seattle and reports for EarthFix. She has joined IJNR on a couple of Institutes, and currently serves on the board of SEJ. Along with her colleagues at EarthFix, Ashley produces award-winning multimedia stories about environment and natural resource issues in the Pacific Northwest; currently their high-quality coverage of coal in the region has been causing quite a stir. Ashley is a tireless and enthusiastic reporter who does a great job of making complex environment stories accessible to the general public. She also rides a motorcycle, which we think is pretty badass.

Ahearn_coal trainFirst, you should check out this page devoted to EarthFix's ongoing coverage of coal. This project won them the 2013 Online Journalism Awards for Best Explanatory Reporting (Small), so it's definitely a worthwhile series to explore. Highlights include a documentary, and a "Voices of Coal" multimedia  series that offers perspectives from many members of the public from throughout the region.

Recent highlight stories from Ashley (some related to coal, and some not) include:

Coal ships and tribal fishing grounds

BELLINGHAM, Wash. — Dozens upon dozens of crab pot buoys dot the waters around Jay Julius’ fishing boat as he points the bow towards Cherry Point. The spit of land juts into northern Puget Sound.

SSA Marine says Cherry Point is an excellent location to build a terminal because it’s surrounded by deep water with quick access to the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Pacific Ocean. If the company has its way, up to 48 million tons of coal could move through these waters each year aboard more than 450 large ships bound for the Asian market.

But if the Lummi and other tribes exercise their treaty fishing rights, there may not be any coal ships servicing American terminals in these waters... Read, hear and see more.

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Documents reveal coal exporter disturbed Native American archaeological site at Cherry Point

China imposes first-ever West coast shellfish ban

New research: Lab fish fed plastics more likely to develop tumors, liver problems

Toxic algal blooms and warming waters: The climate connection

Washington tribes grow impatient with fish-killing dam

The Cascades frog is only found in the alpine wetlands of the Pacific Northwest, though its range used to extend down to Northern California and up to British Columbia. Scientists are concerned its range will continue to shrink with climate change. (Photo by Ashley Ahearn)

Tracking an alpine frog that chuckles and beeps for climate change research

Taking killer whale research to the classroom

Tidal power project in Puget Sound one step closer to approval

Vanquishing zombie fishing nets in Puget Sound

The call (and noise) of the open road

Do you like what you see from Ashley? If you want more, just type "Ashley Ahearn" into the search bar here on The Nooze, and see how many more of her stories pop up! Feel free to search for any of our other alumni as well, and see what kind of Nooze you find!

The Best of 2013, Day 10: Kalamazoo River Follow-up

Happy Holidays from IJNR! During the month of December, we'll be bringing you a sampler from the "Best of 2013" - a recap of some of the best stories and series of the year from our alumni. Some of them have already been featured here on the Nooze, but many of them haven't! We hope you enjoy reading, hearing and exploring these top-notch stories as much as we have.


Kzoo oil samplesToday, instead of highlighting an individual alumnus, or a series, or even a publication, we'd like to shine the spotlight on some of the great reporting that came out of the first IJNR Institute of 2013: Kalamazoo River. The journalists covered a lot of ground (Read dispatches from Kzoo Kayaksthe Kalamazoo trip here, here, and here), and learned about crude-oil spills, PCB clean-ups, Superfund sites, sturgeon, sand dunes, development, cutting-edge agriculture, and, of course, beer. Participating reporters represented a wide variety of publications, including the Kzoo EPA 1AP, Scientific AmericanNational Geographic NewsNative Sun News, Detroit Free Press, Canadian Geographic, Petoskey News-Review, Michigan Radio, National Driller, Tulsa World, ClimateWire and several others.

The following are some great examples of reporting that emerged following the trip. We hope you enjoy reading them as much as we enjoyed taking the journalists out to learn about these issues firsthand!

 

 

Kalamazoo River 2013 Post-Institute Highlights

christine dell'amorefrom Christine Dell'AmoreNational Geographic News

Breweries raising their glasses to clean water

Inside Arcadia Ales’ brewery, the air is pungent with fermenting beer, and Tim Suprise is talkingwater. The founder and president of the Battle Creek, Michigan, microbrewery recently signed on to Brewers for Clean Water, a Natural Resources Defense Council program that launched in mid-April.

Surrounded by giant sacks of malt and wooden barrels, a glass of beer appropriately in hand, Suprise told a group of journalists he’s sending a simple message: “You can’t have a sustainable culture or society without our most precious resource, and that’s water.” (Learn more about freshwater.)... Read more. 

Rebirth of Lake Sturgeon: freshwater Species of the Week

 


lindsey smithFrom Lindsey Smith, Michigan Radio

Kalamazoo residents struggle with EPA over "Mount PCB"

People in Kalamazoo are rallying to get rid of a major dump site that contains cancer causing waste.

Imagine decades’ worth of wood pulp and grey clay waste from the paper mill industry. There are 1.5 million cubic yards of it and it’s laced with polychlorinated biphenyls or PCBs.

Now, plop it in the middle of a neighborhood.

Sarah Hill lives a little more than a mile away from what neighbors have dubbed "Mount PCB."... Read more.

Prehistoric fish species with 'personalities' get help from humans to survive

EPA delays decision on 'Mount PCB,' cleanup continues at another site

3 years and nearly $1 billion later, cleanup of Kalamazoo River oil spill continues

A good summer for raising baby sturgeon in northern Michigan

 


Rod WaltonFrom Rod WaltonTulsa World

Keystone pipeline critics point to 2010 Enbridge disaster

KALAMAZOO, Mich. - Those opposing the Keystone XL Pipeline warn incessantly about dangers to aquifers, rivers and farm land, but perhaps the loudest strike comes from a distant, now quiet watershed in western Michigan.

For it was into Talmadge Creek and, ultimately, the Kalamazoo River that a ruptured Enbridge line spilled nearly a million gallons of Canadian tar sands crude oil and diluent in July 2010. The Enbridge disaster response involved thousands of people, 80 miles of shoreline, close to $1 billion and years of recriminations... Read more.

McClendon development plan raises dispute in Michigan community

 


sharon oosthoekFrom Sharon OosthoekStudent Science

Unconventional Spill

On July 26, 2010, people living along Talmadge Creek in Marshall, Mich., awoke to a sharp, sickening smell. Those who followed their noses to the creek witnessed an environmental horror.

The water flowed black and shiny. It coated turtles and waterfowl with a smelly goo. It transformed grasses and bushes along the banks from green to oily black.

Eyes watered and throats burned as people breathed in the fumes. Some developed headaches and felt sick to their stomachs.

"It was like something from a science fiction movie. It was creepy," recalls Paul Makoski... Read more.

 


Tiffany SteckerFrom Tiffany SteckerScientific American

What helps organic soils store more carbon?

Phil Robertson may be on the cusp of solving a long-standing mystery.

Boosters of organic food often say the practice, which rejects synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, is a good method for curbing climate change because it stores more carbon in the soil. But aside from anecdotal observations, no one could really explain the dynamics behind why organic fields keep more carbon underground than conventional ones... Read more.

 


Jacob wheelerFrom Jacob WheelerThe Uptake

Three years later, Michigan tar sands oil disaster spells urgent warning for Midwest, Country

Sue Connolly knew immediately that something was terribly wrong. Three years ago, the resident of Marshall, a town of 7,400 in southwestern Michigan, awoke to a burning sensation in her eyes and throat that made her and her family sick.

“There was a strong odor in the air that took your breath away,” Connolly recalls. “If you tried to take a deep breath, you would feel it all the way down to your stomach. Migraine headaches, lethargy and diarrhea followed.”

Connolly and her neighbors were among the first witnesses to the July 25, 2010, Kalamazoo River oil spill — a massive pipeline rupture that dumped nearly one million gallons of bituminous crude oil into Talmadge Creek, which feeds the Kalamazoo River... Read more.

The Best of 2013, Day 9: High Country News

Happy Holidays from IJNR! During the month of December, we'll be bringing you a sampler from the "Best of 2013" - a recap of some of the best stories and series of the year from our alumni. Some of them have already been featured here on the Nooze, but many of them haven't! We hope you enjoy reading, hearing and exploring these top-notch stories as much as we have.


HCN logo For Day 9 of our Best of 2013 series, we bring you not a specific journalist, nor a series, but a publication: High Country News. Winner of Utne Reader's 2013 Award for Best Environmental Coverage, HCN is a fantastic publication based in the tiny town of Paonia, Colorado, and focused on environmental news in the West. Incidentally, a dozen of their writers and contributing editors are IJNR alumni!

hcn_logo_dog_tshirtSome of the following stories require a subscription, although most don't. That being said, we can't recommend HCN highly enough, and we hear that subscriptions make great Christmas gifts! (We don't usually use the blog to promote consumerism, but you can also get great HCN swag on their website, including dog t-shirts. How great is that? Now you know what to get for that pooch who loves high-quality environment journalism.)

Without further ado, a line-up of some of the greatest hits of 2013 from our HCN alumni:

Cally CarswellFrom Cally Carswell:

The Tree Coroners: To save the West's forests, scientists must first learn how trees die

There are few better places than Frijoles Mesa to study the mortality of trees. This tongue of land lies partly within the grounds of Los Alamos National Laboratory in northern New Mexico's Jemez Mountains. To the west rises Cerro Grande, a mountain riddled with the charred skeletons of fir and pine trees. To the southwest are the lingering scars of another fire, one so intense that its heat alone killed trees that weren't consumed by the flames themselves... Read more.

Second Yarnell investigation reaches damning - and tragic - conclusions

Lessons from the flooded Front Range

Snapshots of a forest two years after a megafire

sarah gilmanFrom Sarah Gilman:

Will drilling cost the Arctic its wildness?

In the dark of a far-north winter night, amidst 70-mph winds, the nine-member crew of the tugboat Alert released its towline and set the Kulluk oilrig adrift on heaving seas. Loaded with about 139,000 gallons of diesel and 12,000 gallons of combined lubrication oil and hydraulic fluid, the Kulluk ran aground off uninhabited Sitkalidak Island 45 minutes later. It was New Year’s Eve, 2012, and the Alert and the Aiviq, another boat contracted by Royal Dutch Shell, had been towing the Kulluk from Shell’s first exploratory well in the Beaufort Sea, off Alaska’s north coast, to a Seattle shipyard, when they were caught in the terrible Gulf of Alaska storm... Read more.

After South Dakota's deadly whiteout, a look at blizzards past

The Blue Window: Journeying from redrock desert to icy wasteland

A field program teaches undergrads to think differently about public lands

Sarah KellerFrom Sarah Keller:

Montana tribes will be first to own a hydroelectric dam

Most of the people who run Kerr Dam on northwest Montana's Flathead Reservation sit hundreds of miles away, and some are even across the country, in the offices of Pennsylvania Power and Light.

But that's likely to change in 2015, when the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes have the option to buy the dam, thereby becoming the country's first tribal hydroelectric owners and operators. Rocky Mountain Power Company built the 205-foot-tall impoundment on the Flathead River, four miles downstream of Flathead Lake, against the will of many tribal members in 1938. Gaining control of Kerr Dam will have significant economic and cultural benefits for the Salish, Kootenai and Pend d'Oreille – the three tribes of the Flathead Reservation... Read more.

New study shows how helping desert soil could save our snow

Montana takes another step toward restoring free-roaming bison herds

Climate change: moving from science to policy

Jodi petersonFrom Jodi Peterson:

Public lands with no way in

What do the Troublesome Wilderness Study Area in Colorado, the Sabinoso Wildernessand Cowboy Springs WSA in New Mexico, and the Fortification Creek WSA in Wyoming have in common?

They’re all public lands – and none of them can be reached by the public.

Western lands have long had a patchwork of owners: federal, state, local, tribal and private. In the late 1800s, the federal government gave railroad companies every other square mile along rail corridors, creating a public-private checkerboard. But because it’s illegal to even step across a corner from one public parcel to another, many of those pieces of land remain inaccessible. Others are marooned in a sea of private property with no right of way. Some landowners even illegally close public roads across their holdings... Read more.

Feeding elk - and spreading chronic wasting disease

Death in the desert

Made in the American West, consumed in China

michelle nijhuisFrom Michelle Nijhuis:

For the love of trees

Last summer, after 15 years in western Colorado, my family moved back to the Pacific Northwest. The move was a shock in many ways, taking us from dry to wet, rural to town, red politics to blue. The topography here is different, the wildlife is different, and the trees are very, very different.

But our neighbors' attachment to the forests is familiar. Whether surrounded by graceful aspen or scrubby juniper or majestic Douglas fir and western hemlocks, people care about trees in a way that goes beyond politics and logic. For most of us, forests are part of the personality of our places, and when they change, we change, too... Read more.

The mysterious reappearance of the white-bottomed bee

From other contributors:

nathan rice

 

 

Seeking balance in Oregon's timber country, by Nathan Rice

josh zaffos

 

'Port Gamble Predicament' inches toward resolution, by Josh Zaffos

 

Judith Lewis Mernit

 

Dead Southern California puma would have spread genetic diversity, by Judith Lewis Mernit

 

 

Matt Jenkins

 

New Hope for the Delta, by Matt Jenkins

 

Photo by Robert Campbell

The Best of 2013, Day 8: Ocean Acidification from Craig Welch

Happy Holidays from IJNR! During the month of December, we'll be bringing you a sampler from the "Best of 2013" - a recap of some of the best stories and series of the year from our alumni. Some of them have already been featured here on the Nooze, but many of them haven't! We hope you enjoy reading, hearing and exploring these top-notch stories as much as we have.


Craig WelchWe featured this series on The Nooze back in September, but we think it's so fantastic, we just can't help highlighting it again. Craig Welch, an environment reporter with The Seattle Times, and photographer Steve Ringman traveled the world to produce this remarkable series on ocean acidification, the "lesser-known twin of climate change" that "threatens to scramble marine life on a scale almost too big to fathom."

This series is not to be missed. Fabulous photographs, top-notch reporting, all wrapped up in a really sharp multi-media digital package. Here is a true example of the future of environment reporting.

Welch_diver

 

Sea Change: The Pacific's Perilous Turn

NORMANBY ISLAND, Papua New Guinea — Katharina Fabricius plunged from a dive boat into the Pacific Ocean of tomorrow.

She kicked through blue water until she spotted a ceramic tile attached to the bottom of a reef.

A year earlier, the ecologist from the Australian Institute of Marine Science had placed this small square near a fissure in the sea floor where gas bubbles up from the earth. She hoped the next generation of baby corals would settle on it and take root.

Fabricius yanked a knife from her ankle holster, unscrewed the plate and pulled it close. Even underwater the problem was clear. Tiles from healthy reefs nearby were covered with budding coral colonies in starbursts of red, yellow, pink and blue. This plate was coated with a filthy film of algae and fringed with hairy sprigs of seaweed.

Instead of a brilliant new coral reef, what sprouted here resembled a slimy lake bottom.

Isolating the cause was easy. Only one thing separated this spot from the lush tropical reefs a few hundred yards away.

Carbon dioxide... Read, see and hear more.

Welch_reef

Welch_reef 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Like what you see from Craig? Find more stories from him, and other IJNR alumni, here on The Nooze, simply by typing their name into the search bar. You never know what kind of treasures you'll find on The Nooze!

The Best of 2013, Day 4: What's for lunch?

Happy Holidays from IJNR! During the month of December, we'll be bringing you a sampler from the "Best of 2013" - a recap of some of the best stories and series of the year from our alumni. Some of them have already been featured here on the Nooze, but many of them haven't! We hope you enjoy reading, hearing and exploring these top-notch stories as much as we have.


sam eatonToday we hear from alumnus Sam Eaton.  On offer we have some of his contributions to the incredible series "Food for 9 Billion: What's for Lunch?" which is a project of Marketplace, PBS, Homelands Productions, and The Center for Investigative Reporting. This globe-spanning investigation explores how we might keep ourselves fed during this time of rapid environmental and social change.

Intensive Lunch: Indians Find Hope in a Controversial Rice Growing Technique

Eaton_riceIn Bihar, India's poorest state, a group of women in colorful saris sing a song about Sri. "Sri," is another name for the Hindu goddess of wealth, Lakshmi. But these women are all farmers and for them SRI has another meaning: System of Rice Intensification.

The song describes each of the simple steps involved in this novel way of growing rice and ends by describing how it's transformed their lives.

45-year-old Sako Dev says the SRI method has doubled and tripled her harvests of not only rice, but also wheat and vegetables. She says before she couldn't grow enough food on her small plot to feed her seven children. But now she not only has enough food, she also has money to send her children to school...Read and hear more. 

Carbon Neutral Lunch: Costa Rica Looks to Lead on Climate-Friendly Ag

Eaton_carbon lunchCosta Rica is a tiny country with big plans. Four years ago its leaders declared that it would become the world's first carbon-neutral nation by 2021 — transportation, energy, everything — including agriculture, which represents a whopping 37 percent of Costa Rica's emissions.

Agricultural emissions can be some of the toughest to reduce. But you wouldn't know it talking with farmers like Maria Luisa Jimenez, one of hundreds of Costa Rican small farmers who are replacing conventional agricultural practices with cheap, low-carbon technologies... Read and hear more. 

Alt Staple Lunch: Mexicans Push Return of an Ancient Grain

Eaton_AmaranthOnce as fundamental to Central and South American diets as corn and beans, amaranth virtually disappeared after the Spanish banned it because of its use in Aztec human sacrifice rituals. Now there are efforts to bring it back as a staple in Mexico, for its both superior nutritional qualities and its resistance to the pressures of a changing climate.

In some ways this is a tale of two seeds–corn and amaranth. Both were domesticated long ago in southern Mexico's Tehuacan valley. Both were pounded into flour to make tamales and tortillas. Along with beans, the two were the staples that allowed the Aztec empire to prosper. The difference is that corn went on to become the cornerstone of the world food system, while amaranth went mostly into the history books... Read and hear more.

Scaling Up: Vietnamese Fish Farms Search for Eco-Friendly Formula

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In the 1960s, Vietnam’s late communist leader, Ho Chi Minh, encouraged the rural poor to dig fishponds as a way to boost their nutrition. The small ponds were integrated into family farms, where fish fed on agricultural waste until they became food themselves. The farmers then drained the ponds and fertilized their fields with the sludge before starting the cycle all over again – never buying a single bag of feed or fertilizer.

Today's model couldn’t be more different. This is the sound of feeding time at a catfish farm in the Mekong River Delta. Workers bang the floorboards on a raft and then pour 50-pound bags of commercial fish pellets, which consist mostly of imported soy meal, into the water. The surface of the pond explodes with fish so dense, it looks like you can walk across them... Read more. 

Do you like what you see from Sam? If you want more, just type "Sam Eaton" into the search bar here on The Nooze, and see how many more of his stories pop up! Feel free to search for any of our other alumni as well, and see what kind of Nooze you find!

The Best of 2013, Day 3: John Flesher, IJNR alumnus extraordinaire

Happy Holidays from IJNR! During the month of December, we'll be bringing you a sampler from the "Best of 2013" - a recap of some of the best stories and series of the year from our alumni. Some of them have already been featured here on the Nooze, but many of them haven't! We hope you enjoy reading, hearing and exploring these top-notch stories as much as we have.


john flesherOn Day 3 of our "Best Of" series, we'd like to bring you a few stories from our most-determined IJNR recidivist, John Flesher. John has been on more Institutes than any other alumnus, and we wouldn't want it any other way! Writing for the Associated Press, John is based in Traverse City, Michigan, and covers everything environment-related in the Lower Peninsula, the Upper Peninsula, and the Great Lakes Basin in general. The scope of his coverage expanded in 2009 when he was named one of seven reporters on AP's national environment-beat team. His coverage of environmental disasters has lead him all over the country recently: He reported on the Deepwater Horizon oil spill; post-tornado dangers in Joplin; flooding in Minot; and the plight of wolves on Isle Royale. This year John joined us on our Kalamazoo River Institute as a "Mentor Fellow," providing guidance to younger and less-experienced journalists as we learned about oil spills, Superfund sites, sustainable agriculture, dune ecosystems, and development. Please enjoy a few of John's stories from 2013!

Nuclear waste burial debate produces odd alliances

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KINCARDINE, Ontario (AP) — Ordinarily, a proposal to bury radioactive waste in a scenic area that relies on tourism would inspire "not in my backyard" protests from local residents — and relief in places that were spared.

But conventional wisdom has been turned on its head in the Canadian province of Ontario, where a publicly owned power company wants to entomb waste from its nuclear plants 2,230 feet below the surface and less than a mile from Lake Huron.... Read more.


Not far from Lake Michigan, city yearns for water

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WAUKESHA, Wis. (AP) — Lake Michigan is just 15 miles from this city of 70,000 in the Milwaukee suburbs. But these days it seems like a gigantic, shimmering mirage, tantalizingly out of reach.

The aquifer that has provided most of Waukesha's drinking water for the last century has dropped so far that what's left has unhealthy levels of radium and salt. The city would like to draw from the Great Lakes, just as more than 40 million people in eight states — from Minnesota to New York — and two Canadian provinces do every day.

If only it were that simple....Read more.


Asian carp reproduce in Great Lakes Watershed

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TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) — Scientists said Monday they have documented for the first time that an Asian carp species has successfully reproduced within the Great Lakes watershed, an ominous development in the struggle to slam the door on the hungry invaders that could threaten native fish.
An analysis of four grass carp captured last year in Ohio's Sandusky River, a tributary of Lake Erie, found they had spent their entire lives there and were not introduced through means such as stocking, according to researchers with the U.S. Geological Survey and Bowling Green State University...Read more.

Masses of plastic particles found in Great Lakes

In this 2012 photo provided by 5gyres.org is a sample collected in eastern Lake Erie showing tiny bits of plastic on a penny. Scientists discovered masses of floating plastic particles in Lakes Superior, Huron and Erie last year. This summer, they’re widening the search to Lakes Michigan and Ontario. They are trying to determine whether fish are eating the particles, which may come from city wastewater, and passing them up the food chain to humans. (AP Photo/Courtesy 5gyres.org, Carolyn Box)

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) — Already ravaged by toxic algae, invasive mussels and industrial pollution, the Great Lakes now confront another potential threat that few had even imagined until recently: untold millions of plastic litter bits, some visible only through a microscope.

Scientists who have studied gigantic masses of floating plastic in the world's oceans are now reporting similar discoveries in the lakes that make up nearly one-fifth of the world's fresh water. They retrieved the particles from Lakes Superior, Huron and Erie last year. This summer, they're widening the search to Lakes Michigan and Ontario, skimming the surface with finely meshed netting dragged behind sailing vessels.

"If you're out boating in the Great Lakes, you're not going to see large islands of plastic," said Sherri Mason, a chemist with State University of New York at Fredonia and one of the project leaders. "But all these bits of plastic are out there."... Read more.

The Best of 2013, Day 2: Glacier Caves on Mt. Hood

Happy Holidays from IJNR! During the month of December, we'll be bringing you a sampler from the "Best of 2013" - a recap of some of the best stories and series of the year from our alumni. Some of them have already been featured here on the Nooze, but many of them haven't! We hope you enjoy reading, hearing and exploring these top-notch stories as much as we have.


ed jahnTo continue in the wintery vein, we bring you another chilly feature: alumni Ed Jahn's exceptional multi-media reporting project on the glacier caves of Mount Hood, in Oregon. Jahn says that this piece that he did for Oregon Public Broadcasting "nearly killed him," but it was also a highlight of his career.  The stunning work that Ed and his colleague Amelia Templeton from EarthFix produced is not to be missed. This is long-form journalism at its finest!

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Thin Ice: Exploring Mount Hood's Glacier Caves

On the slopes of Mount Hood, six explorers set off in a line up the Sandy Glacier. Eddy Cartaya pulls ahead of the group, a stony expression on his face.

He’s wearing a white helmet with his name and “Cave Rescue” printed on it. Cartaya is worried because the sun is starting to rise and hit the ice.

His climbing partner Brent McGregor follows at a more reasonable pace. The bearded 60-year-old takes in the morning and smiles.

“One of the best sounds in alpine mountaineering is the sound of crampons and ice axes on good firm snow,” he says.

The Sandy Glacier flows down a steep bowl about two-thirds of the way up Mount Hood’s northwest side. You can see it from Portland, Oregon, a wedge of snow and ice between two broken ridgelines that rise toward Hood’s 11,250-foot peak.

The team isn’t interested in the summit. McGregor and Cartaya are leading their expedition to a gaping hole in the glacier. It’s a moulin: an icy pit that drops like an elevator shaft from the surface of the Sandy Glacier down to the bedrock below... Read and see more. 

Click here to watch the 30-minute documentary.

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