Invasives

Earth Month, Day 9: Great Lakes Duo

As Earth Month continues on The Nooze, we bring you two stories this Tuesday,(Twosday?) looking at some big issues and big names in the Great Lakes Basin. Gary WilsonFirst, Gary Wilson with the Great Lakes Echo sits down in a rare one-on-one interview with Michigan Governor Rick Snyder to talk about Asian carp, an aging oil pipline, and pet coke storage:

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder: 'Atmosphere of Crisis' Needed for Stronger Action on Asian Carp

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder brought his Great Lakes message to Chicago today as the region’s governors gathered in Chicago for an annual meeting.

Snyder co-chairs the Council of Great Lakes Governors with Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn. The two executives revived the dormant governors group on Mackinac Island last year and the Chicago meeting is an attempt to maintain momentum.

I sat with Snyder at Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium overlooking Lake Michigan and he shared his thoughts on physical separation of the Great Lakes from the Mississippi River, the 60-year-old Enbridge pipeline that transports tar sands oil through the Straits of Mackinac and the volatile pet coke storage issue... Read more.

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john flesherAnd from John Flesher with the AP, a closer look at the Enbridge pipeline, and the higher-ups who are pressuring the company to prove that the pipeline is safe:

Officials Seek Assurances from Enbridge on Pipeline

TRAVERSE CITY — Michigan’s attorney general and chief environmental regulator have asked the company that owns two oil pipelines stretched beneath an ecologically sensitive area of the Great Lakes for evidence that the 61-year-old lines are properly maintained and in good condition.

Attorney General Bill Schuette and Dan Wyant, director of the state Department of Environmental Quality, posed a lengthy series of questions and requested stacks of documentation in a letter sent Tuesday to Enbridge and obtained by the Associated Press ahead of its scheduled release. They said the pipelines, which run beneath the Straits of Mackinac — the waterway linking Lakes Huron and Michigan — pose a unique safety risk.

“Because of where they are, any failure will have exceptional, indeed catastrophic effects,” their letter said. “And because the magnitude of the resulting harm is so great, there is no margin for error. It is imperative we pursue a proactive, comprehensive approach to ensure this risk is minimized, and work together to prevent tragedy before it strikes.”... Read more.

Workers pull oil-soaked absorbing booms from the Kalamazoo River near Marshall on Friday, Aug. 6, 2010. (Photo by Patricia Beck/Detroit Free Press)

 

 

Earth Month, Day 2: Tumbleweeds and Steelhead

Earth Month continues! sarah gilmanFirst, from Sarah Gilman with High Country News, an investigation of some pesky plants:

Troubleweeds: Russian thistle buries roads and homes in southeastern Colorado

J.D. Wright pauses to check in with his wife of 51 years. “Do you remember, Mama, when that wind was?” After a few minutes perusing her cellphone photos, she reports back: Tumbleweeds first buried the house on November 17. The gusts screamed up and there they were, piled so deep over the doors and windows that Wright, who has a ranch on the Crowley-Pueblo County line in southeastern Colorado, had to call his grandson to come dig the couple out with a front end loader and pitchfork... Read more.

For more on this story - including hilarious, reader-inspired suggestions about how to eliminate tumbleweeds - see here.

Gilman_tumbleweeds

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Ashley AhearnAshley Ahearn with EarthFix Radio learns how science can help save salmon:

Stalking Puget Sound steelhead with science

TACOMA, Wash. — You might call Barry Berejikian a steelhead stalker.

Ahearn_steelhead

The government scientist’s pursuit of these anadromous trout has brought him to the deck of the Chasina, a research vessel that’s motoring through choppy gray waters of southern Puget Sound near the Tacoma Narrows Bridge.

He’s here to lay the groundwork for an experiment that could explain why so few steelhead are completing their journey through Puget Sound and on to the Pacific Ocean.

Since 2007, Puget Sound steelhead have been listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Millions of dollars have been spent improving their habitat but the fish are not recovering.

And scientists can’t pinpoint why... Read more.

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Wolves, Wind River Boundary Battles, and Struggling Mountain Frogs

Tuesday Noozeday! Here's some reading to keep you busy on this wintery day: michelle nijhuisFirst, from Michelle Nijhuis writing for On Earth magazine, a look at wolves and their status on the endangered species list:

Howls of Outrage

About 300 wolves live in the nearly 2-million-acre swath of central Ontario forest known as Algonquin Provincial Park. These wolves are bigger and broader than coyotes, but noticeably smaller than the gray wolves of Yellowstone. So how do they fit into the wolf family tree? Scientists don’t agree on the answer—yet it could now affect the fate of every wolf in the United States.

That’s because last June, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed removing gray wolves across most of the country from the endangered species list, a move that would leave the animals vulnerable to hunting. To support its proposal, the agency used a contested scientific paper—published, despite critical peer review, in the agency's own journal—to argue that gray wolves never existed in the eastern United States, so they shouldn’t have been protected there in the first place... Read more. 

Photo by Matthew Pugliese

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Irina ZhorovNext, Irina Zhorov reports for Al Jazeera America on the complex relationship between the EPA, reservation boundaries, and racial tensions in Wyoming:

Wyoming reservation's redrawn borders put old conflicts back on the map

 

RIVERTON, Wyo. — Look at a map of the pretty pocket of land in central Wyoming known as the Wind River Indian Reservation, and you’ll see towns strung like pearls on the lines of road that traverse the territory. At the southeast corner of the reservation lies Riverton. On the map, the town of 10,615 appears to be part of the shaded rectangle marking Indian Country, yet Wyoming has considered Riverton nontribal land for more than 100 years.

 

That may have to change. A technical ruling on air monitoring by the Environmental Protection Agency in December put the town in the reservation, an action that has awakened dormant racial tensions, inflamed an already uneasy relationship between Wind River and Riverton and raised questions about what the boundaries really mean... Read more.

Neither the EPA nor Wyoming monitors air quality over the 2.2 million acres of the Wind River Reservation. But a new EPA ruling giving the reservation the right to monitor air has brought up old disagreements. Photo by Irina Zhorov for Al Jazeera America

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eric wagnerEric Wagner reports on the fight to save the Cascades frog for the National Parks Conservation Association:

Between a bog and a hard place

Late September isn’t the coldest time of year to be in the Seven Lakes Basin of Olympic National Park, but it’s getting there, and so it is with no small amazement that Wendy Palen and I watch Maureen Ryan wade into an alpine pond up to her waist.

“Cold?” Palen asks from the shore, where she is nice and dry.

“It’s actually not too bad,” Ryan says as she rolls up her sleeve and roots around the bottom. She’s searching for a device she placed in the center of the pond last spring, which has been tracking its temperature for several months. By comparing the data from another temperature logger placed on the shore with the one she soon wrests from the muck, she’ll be able to see whether the pond dried out completely during the summer. This, in turn, will help her predict the survival prospects of amphibians in the alpine wetlands of the American West... Read more.

Wagner_Mushaw_frog

Bakken Boom, Trout Fiasco, NSA Climate Edge, and Pete Seeger

New reporting from IJNR alums for your Thursday reading! kirk sieglerFirst, check out this great multi-medi package from NPR's Kirk Siegler and his colleagues about the Bakken oil boom in North Dakota:

The Great Plains Oil Rush

A remarkable transformation is underway in western North Dakota, where an oil boom is changing the state's fortunes and leaving once-sleepy towns bursting at the seams. In a series of stories, NPR is exploring the economic, social and environmental demands of this modern-day gold rush.

On a Sunday at dusk, Amtrak's eastbound Empire Builder train is jampacked, filled with people heading to their jobs in North Dakota towns like Minot, Williston and Watford City.

Jennifer Brown is watching the snowy plains of northern Montana pass by outside the train's frosty windows. She's moving to North Dakota from Idaho to join her husband, who's been working in the oil fields since last summer.

"I haven't seen him in two months," she says. "It's been really hard."

The Browns ran a logging truck business in northern Idaho, but work was hard to come by. Out in North Dakota, though, a person can make $100,000 or more starting out in the oil fields... Read, hear, and see more.

The "horsehead" pump of an oil rig has become a common feature along the rural North Dakota skyline. (Annie Flanagan for NPR)

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eric wagnerFrom Eric Wagner writing for High Country News, a look at invasive trout in Flathead Lake - a story based on our 2013 Crown of the Continent Institute in Montana.

The great Flathead fish fiasco

The ding! is soft, but Capt. Rod's response is Pavlovian, and he skips over to the charter boat's console with a nimbleness remarkable for a man his size. "Fish on 2!" he calls. He hurries back to the stern and pulls the appropriate rod from its sleeve, then hands it to me. "OK, reel her in."

I steel myself for battle, but this particular fish, a lake trout, is blasé in the face of death. I reel. It resists a little. I reel again. It tugs, kind of. After a minute or so, Rod scoops the trout out of Flathead Lake and hands it to me. Jim Vashro, an avuncular biologist with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, appraises it with a practiced eye. "If you want to be respectable, say 'Less than 10,' " he advises... Read more.

Fishing for trout on Flathead Lake. (IJNR photo)

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Peter ThomsonOn PRI's The World, Peter Thomson investigates the idea that NSA spying gave the U.S. a leg up in the climate-change debate:

Did NSA spying give U.S. an edge at the Copenhagen climate conference?

The latest NSA targets to be revealed by Edward Snowden’s purloined document archive might surprise you: participants in the high-stakes UN climate change conference in Copenhagen in 2009.

The latest revelation comes from a joint reporting project between the Huffington Post and the Danish newspaper Information, which says it got a top secret NSA briefing paper on the negotiations from Snowden.

The document, which the news outlets have published online, is barely more than a page, and is dated December 7, 2009, the opening day of the Copenhagen conference.

Most of it reads like an article a news summary of the basic issues and conflicts heading into the summit, but it’s distinguished by two short paragraphs at the end of the document marked “TS”—for Top Secret—and “SI”—for Signal Intelligence, or electronic monitoring...Read more.

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michelle nijhuisAnd, from Michelle Nijhuis writing on The Last Word on Nothing, a tribute to Pete Seeger and his environmental legacy

 

Photo of the Clearwater sloop on the Hudson courtesy of Flickr user Sea of Legs. Creative Commons.

My Dirty Stream

You’ve probably heard a lot of Pete Seeger songs in the last couple of days. And no wonder: When Seeger died on Monday, he left behind a very long lifetime’s worth of beautiful, cheeky, unforgettable songs. But what he left me — and the millions of other kids who grew up along the Hudson River during his tenure there — is not a song but a story. And the story is as good a cure for cynicism as any I know.

It goes like this.... 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 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 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

Flesher_radioactive

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

Flesher_Waukesha

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

Flesher_Grass Carp

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 Global Lunchscape, Drought in the Southwest, Great Lakes-Mississippi Split, and Allies Against Natural Gas

New Nooze for your Wednesday reading pleasure!  Lots of really fantastic stuff today:

Peter Thomsonsam eatonFirst, from Peter Thomson, Sam Eaton, and the rest of the good folks at PRI's The World, an exciting new blog:  What's For Lunch, which is the newest chapter of their Food For 9 Billion project.

What's for Lunch: Under Pressure from Climate Change, A Global Tour of Our Changing Lunchscape

What’s for lunch?

It’s a question just about everyone on the planet asks every day, but it’s also one that most of us don’t really have to think much about. If we’re lucky enough not to be among the world’s billion or so chronically undernourished souls, we can generally be confident that whatever we have for lunch — or breakfast, or dinner — will be tasty, familiar, affordable and as available as ever.

But for how much longer?... Read more.

Listen to part of the project:

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Cally CarswellCally Carswell with High Country News weighs in on the drought's impacts on New Mexico, and not just in the form of fire:

New Mexico on Fire

New Mexico is burning. Again. In June 2011, winds gusting up to 40 miles per hour propelled an aspen into a power line in the Jemez Mountains, near Los Alamos, igniting a 156,593-acre blaze that became known as the Las Conchas Fire. It was the biggest wildfire in the New Mexico's recorded history, until the next year, when lighting struck the Gila National Forest in the southern part of the state, sparking the 297,845-acre Whitewater-Baldy Fire. Now, in its third year of drought, northern New Mexico is burning anew. Two fires started late last week, one in the Santa Fe National Forest east of Santa Fe, and another in the Jemez Mountains, quite near the Las Conchas burn scar. Both were kindled by trees falling on power lines.... Read more.

Firefighters march into the Gila during the Whitewater-Baldy fire of 2012. Courtesy Gila National Forest.

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john flesherJohn Flesher with the AP brings word of new steps in the fight against Asian carp:

Gov. Quinn Open to Great Lakes-Mississippi Split

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn said Saturday that separating the Great Lakes and Mississippi River systems is the "ultimate solution" to prevent voracious Asian carp from overrunning the lakes, a potential step toward resolving a longstanding regional feud.

During a meeting with governors of several neighboring states, Quinn said it would be a massive and costly undertaking to rework the Chicago canal project that linked the two giant watersheds a century ago. He defended Illinois' efforts to block the advance of silver and bighead carp toward the lakes by hiring commercial fishermen and operating an electric barrier, but acknowledged more needs to be done... Read more.

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Photo Doby/NPR

Jeff Brady with NPR talks about how natural gas is creating some unexpected alliances in Oregon:

Natural Gas Export Plan Unites Oregon Landowners Against It

Rancher Bill Gow doesn't want the proposed Pacific Connector Gas Pipeline to travel across his Douglas County, Ore., ranch. While he has refused to negotiate with the pipeline company, ultimately a court may force him and other landowners to allow the project on their land. (Photo Jeff Brady/NPR)

A radical shift in the world energy picture is raising environmental concerns in the United States.

Until recently, the U.S. had been expected to import more natural gas. But now, because of controversial technologies like "fracking," drillers are producing a lot more domestic natural gas; so much that prices are down, along with industry profits. And drillers are looking overseas for new customers.

Whether the United States should export some of its newly abundant supplies of natural gas is a controversial issue before the Department of Energy. About two-dozen applications have been submitted to the agency for exports to countries that don't have free-trade agreements with the U.S... Read and hear more.

Stormwater Goals, Horse Farms' Impact on the Chesapeake, Far-Reaching Asian Carp, and the Fate of Large-River Fish

New Nooze for a Monday morning: Jennifer LangstonFirst, Jennifer Langston with Sightline writes about Seattle's new measures to combat the city's run-off woes:

Seattle's Green Stormwater Goals

Source: City of Seattle's Office of Sustainability.

Recently, the city of Seattle announced a goal to dramatically increase the amount of water treated by rain gardens, green roofs, green streets, permeable pavement and other alternatives that seek to treat stormwater more naturally instead of carry it away in pipes.

Right now, as the graphic below shows, the city estimates it’s managing somewhere north of 100 million gallons of polluted runoff with “green stormwater infrastructure,” which helps control flash flooding and helps filter out pollution that might otherwise wind up in Puget Sound. Mayor Mike McGinn and some city council members want to ramp that number up to 700 million gallons by 2025... Read more. 

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Whitney PipkinNext, Whitney Pipkin reports in the Bay Journal about the impact of livestock on the Chesapeake Bay:

Horse farms becoming larger part of Bay's landscape, nutrient effort

From the apex of her aptly named Rolling Acres Farm in Brookeville, MD, Pam Saul pointed to the gridlike pattern of horse paddocks below. A brown square of wooden fencing encloses each one, allowing for a row of grass between them that Saul said keeps the horses from playing across the fence, making mud tracks along the edge.

Pam Saul of Brookville, MD, points out the grassy sections between her horses’ paddocks that she said buffers some of the nutrients before they reach the nearby stream. (Photo by Whitney Pipkin)

Saul noted that the grass sections also act as buffers to absorb manure runoff, with four of them and an open field separating the top paddock from the meandering stream below. But, unlike riparian plantings along streams, grass strips between paddocks aren't a traditional best management practice — or one known to help reduce pollutants to the Chesapeake Bay watershed for livestock operations.

And the extra grass is unlikely to earn the horse farm relief from new requirements that it build a fence alongside the rest of the stream to prevent horses from accessing it.

"Everything that we could do so far that made sense to us, we've done," said Saul, who has run the former cattle farm as a horse boarding facility with her parents and two sisters since the early 1970s.

Now, she said, the Maryland Department of Agriculture "is asking us to do stuff that's so expensive... You name another business that has to comply with nutrient management laws that add no value to their business. We can't pass it on.".. Read more. 

In Maryland, which has more horses per square mile than any state in the nation, horse farms represent a quarter of its agricultural land. (Photo by Dave Harp)

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john flesherFrom John Flesher with the AP,  news that Asian carp have likely expanded their range further than we thought:

Report: Asian carp probably reached Great Lakes

Asian big head carp, weighing up to 100 pounds, have progressed steadily northward since being introduced in Arkansas in the 1970s. (Photo by M Spencer Green / Associated Press)

Traverse City — At least some Asian carp probably have found their way into the Great Lakes, but there's still time to stop the dreaded invaders from becoming established and unraveling food chains that support a $7 billion fishing industry and sensitive ecosystems, according to a scientific report released Thursday.

Written by experts who pioneered use of genetic data to search for the aggressive fish, the paper disagrees with government scientists who say many of the positive Asian carp DNA hits recorded in or near the lakes in recent years could have come from other sources, such as excrement from birds that fed on carp in distant rivers.

"The most plausible explanation is still that there are some carp out there," Christopher Jerde of the University of Notre Dame, the lead author, told the Associated Press in a telephone interview. "We can be cautiously optimistic ... that we're not at the point where they'll start reproducing, spreading further and doing serious damage."... Read more.

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adam hintAnd finally, Adam Hinterthuer, writes for the UW-Madison Center for Limnology about the challenges of saving large-river fish. Also, a cute picture of a baby paddlefish:

Thinking "Big" May Not Be Best Approach to Saving Large-River Fish

This tiny paddlefish needs a large river to grow up big and strong – in some cases, upwards of 100 pounds. (Photo by  Brenda Pracheil)

Large-river specialist fishes—from giant species like paddlefish and blue catfish, to tiny crystal darters and silver chub – are in danger.

According to a new study, in the U.S. 60 out of 68 species, or 88% of fish species found exclusively in large-river ecosystems like the Mississippi, Missouri and Ohio rivers, are of state, federal or international conservation concern.The report is in the April issue of the journal, Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment and was authored by Center for Limnology postdoctoral researcher, Brenda Pracheil, faculty member, Pete McIntyre, and Wisconsin DNR fish biologist, John Lyons (also a CFL alumnus).

What makes the findings especially worrying, is that conservation opportunities in America’s largest rivers are scarce.

“If I’m [trying to conserve species in] Wisconsin inland lakes,” explains Pete McIntyre, “I have 8,000 lakes to choose from. The lakes are fundamentally similar in their fauna, flora and other ecological processes. But, if you care about big-river specialist fishes, n equals one. There’s only one main trunk of the Mississippi.”... Read more.

Climate Report Cover-up, Conservation Triage, Fishless DNA, and a Day Aboard an Icebraker

New Nooze for your Tuesday! A really fantastic line-up of stories today: Sammy fretwellFirst,  Sammy Fretwell with The State in South Carolina digs up a secret climate report that has been hushed-up by agency officials with the state Department of Natural Resources:

Secret climate report calls for action in SC

A team of state scientists has outlined serious concerns about the damage South Carolina will suffer from climate change – threats that include invading eels, dying salt marshes, flooded homes and increased diseases in the state’s wildlife.

But few people have seen the team’s study. The findings are outlined in a report on global warming that has been kept secret by the S.C. Department of Natural Resources for more than a year because agency officials say their “priorities have changed.”

DNR board members never put the study out for public review as planned. The State newspaper recently obtained a copy... Read more.

This marsh in Georgetown County near Debordieu Beach is among those expected to be vulnerable to coming climate changes detailed in a state report. Saltier water would threaten freshwater species. (Photo by Kim Foster-Tobin)

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michelle nijhuisNext, from Michelle Nijhuis writing for Slate Magazine, a look at a theoretical ark, and how we select which animals we rescue:

Conservation triage: Which species should be saved?

Politically controversial species attract more funding, as do those with symbolic value, like bald eagles (Photo by Reuters/Victor Fraile)

Let’s say you’re in charge of picking the survivors. You’ve got a boat—oh, let’s just make it an ark, shall we?—and you can load it with any kind of animals you like. The species you coax on board will probably make it through climate change. The ones you leave on shore probably won’t. While you can choose your passengers, there are limits: Put too many critters in the ark and the whole thing, you included, will start to sink.

Which species will you save? Will you pick the rarest, the largest, or the smallest? The strongest or the weakest? The most beautiful … or just the tastiest?

The thing is, most of us are already making these choices, and making them all the time. Not that we think much about it. But every time we decide what to buy, where to build, or who to put in charge of spending our tax dollars, we’re indirectly deciding which species deserve our consideration and which species can do without it... Read more. 

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john flesherFrom John Flesher with AP, evidence that just because there's DNA, there may not actually be fish:

Study: Asian carp DNA may not signal live fish 

Live Asian carp don't necessarily have to be present for their DNA to turn up in the environment, according to a government study released Wednesday that could intensify the debate over how to prevent the aggressive, hungry invaders from reaching the Great Lakes and other vulnerable waters.

DNA is found in excrement, slime and scales from live fish. But the report by three federal agencies identifies six other possible means through which genetic fingerprints from bighead and silver carp could find their way into locations such as the Chicago waterway system and western Lake Erie, where it has been detected in dozens of samples taken in recent years... Read more. 

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Cassandra BrooksAnd finally, from Cassandra Brooks, reporting from an icebreaker in Terra Nova Bay in the Antarctic, a look at a day onboard the research vessel:

Sampling the Ross Sea Time Lapse: A Day's Work Condensed Into 60 Seconds

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pxGahzW22PQ?rel=0&w=420&h=315]