Friday, September 27, 2013

IPCC report out: 'Extremely likely' that humans behind climate change

This is The Associated Press's report, but what makes it noteworthy to me, at least, is the fact that I found it on the Daily Oklahoman's Web site. That's the daily serving the Oklahoma City metro area - in the heart of the state served by climate change denier-n-chief U.S. Sen. James Inhofe. Hah.

Warming climate worsening mercury pollution

Mercury pollution will, among many things, lead to the extinction of the Common Loon, THE bird of the North Country. Americans continue to thumb their noses at doing anything to stop the poisoning of our atmosphere. See

Thursday, September 26, 2013

President of Marshall Islands republic calls for climate action

No other nation on Earth faces greater danger and adaptation challenges than does the Marshall Islands in the South Pacific. Sea-level rise caused by the melting of polar ice and glaciers is causing world sea-levels to rise. It's not just a problem for America's East Coast metroplexes (Miami, Norfolk, Jacksonville, Tampa, Houston, etc.), but far, far more of our planet. Solid op-ed here.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

IPCC to release its fourth climate assessment

And now, more than ever, the man-made situation is tipping to disaster for people of Earth's future. Read all about it right here.

Is naural gas 'cleaner' than coal (i.e., dirt)?

A wittle bit, I suppose. But it is still a fossil fuel and burning it still releases a greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, into our atmosphere (the only one we have, buckaroos). No matter matter how many holes we cram into Earth to get natural gas, we're still in trouble and future generations are in even more dire straits. But yet another debacle associated with gas and oil drilling remains under the news media's fuzzy umbrella: Drilling means road-building, which means wiping out a ribbon of natural landscape, which means fragmenting wildlife habitat, which means losing more biodiversity. This op-ed looks at the natural gas vs. coal/methane question.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Bark beetle going after N.M.'s pinon pines - again

The battle against tree-killing bark beetles is only to grow more intensive in the future as the globe's climate warns, making winter-killing frosts a thing of the past. Read about New Mexico's plight.

A good walk spoiled

This is the column I wrote for today's Hazleton, Pa., paper. I love to ramble across our land. You can see, hear and smell a helluva lot more than sitting behind the steering wheel of your car allows.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

North Carolina 12: Nature's toll road

I know just how tough it can be to make a decision affecting a local economy and communities' livelihoods. But if ever a road cried "close me down!" it would be North Carolina 12, the often weather-fractured asphalt ribbon that snakes down the Outer Banks. Yes, I live in Vermont, but in my many years of reserve duty at Langley Air Force Base, Hampton, Va., I traveled on NC 12 many a time. The latest media coverage includes this article.

Welcome to Oregon, land of the clearcut

That's the tag line on an advertisement conservationists had hoped to put on display at the Portland, Ore., airport, but which has been banned by the Portland Port Authority as somehow violating a policy prohibiting political ads. What a crock. This article describes what happened.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Bug attacks, kills snake in Arizona mountains

Read about this natural history observation right here. I remember the Rincn mountains from the two trips Monica and I made to Tucson earlier this decade.

Making it easier to pollute: Rev up the speed limit, to 80 mph

This is both a dangerous steering of Utah state law AND a way to make it easier for motor vehicle drivers in a car-centric society to pollute, as in carbon dioxide, crbonmonoxide, particulate, etc. etc. What a sham.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Mich. sues sprawl developer over alleged wetland destruction

The McMansion development in the Flint, Mich., area is called "Liberty Shore," according to this article about the pending lawsuit. The sprawl machine keeps on chewing up America's natural landscape, and this is just one result.

Monday, September 16, 2013


The Nature Conservancy gets credit for a conservation win as described in this piece. But I remain shaken by the organization's kow-towing to big-money interests as of late.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Colorado’s flooding becomes a 1,000-year event as rescuers search for 500 missing people

Boulder County, Colorado is bracing for up to four more inches of rain Sunday afternoon, a forecast that Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper says would magnify the problems rescuers are already facing in trying to reach stranded residents. Read about this extreme weather event that's got climate change-relation written all over it.

Oceans and their fisheries in trouble and human actions to blame

The video presentation at this link (Seattle Times) is areal eye-opener. All Americans who enjoy eating seafood, whether at home or at an eatery, had better wake up right now and call for action to stem what's causing climate change.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Is sprawl development coming back?

Hell, it never left, as far as I can tell. And I have watched it chew up the natural landscape for decades. That's a byproduct of life as a long-distance fitness walker. You get to see American ugly and listen to its noise pollution (leaf blowers!) along the way. The photo with this posting is sprawl happening about two miles from m home in Williston, Vermont. The NY Times offers this reporting on the subject of sprawl.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Judge blocks shipment of oil equipment through Idaho national forest

The national forest is, of course, public land that's owned by all Americans. That makes the judge's decision explained in this article all the more forthright.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

EPA to revise climate rule for new power plants; will still require carbon capture

This month, the Environmental Protection Agency will propose standards that will establish stricter pollution limits for gas-fired power plants than coal-fired power plants, according to individuals who were briefed on the matter.Okay, that's good. But that's not going to rein in the carbon pollution from coal-fired power plants, much less the mercury air pollution. So, this is a good step, but it is far from what is really needed for our natural heritage and for the future of our country and our planet.

Stdy says (at least) 7 eagles killed at wind farms in five years

That's likely a low estimate, though. With all the things that humans now place in the path of migratory birds, it's amazing that . . . And shouldn't a coal-fired power plant or two (or more) have been shut down by now with all this wind development? Or is wind energy just giving developers and their fellow land rapists an excuse to categorize their "developments" as "green?" Read about the eagle-death study right here.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Boise city council to decide on election day bond for open space

Without cruising around the country, it is hard for me to think of another city that's hurting itself more often and badly by sprawl development than my pre-Air Force career hometown of Boise, Idaho. The Boise City Council will decide soon whether voters should be given the chance to approve a $10 million bond to be spent for the preservation of fast-diminishing open, green space. This photo shows just one case study to consider.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

A watershed more than what a public agency says it is

This newspaper column of mine was published in late August

I’ve lived and worked in many watersheds in my 60-plus years.

There’s the Rio Grande in New Mexico; the Platte River in Nebraska; Lake Champlain (once at Plattsburgh Air Force Base on its west side, in New York State, and now on the east side, in Vermont); Lake Thunderbird and the Canadian River in Oklahoma; the Snake River in Idaho; and the Lower Ocmulgee in central Georgia.

They all have lots in common, much of it on the negative side of the graph, unfortunately: The loss of natural land to sprawl and the gougers, diggers, bulldozers, chainsawers, polluters, dam builders, graders and asphalters of urban America.

My home in Vermont is – like yours in Pennsylvania – actually in several watersheds. First is the Winooski River (I live a half-mile from it). Second, and much larger, is the Lake Champlain watershed, which is international- and multistate in scope.

“We all live in a watershed,” reads the election campaign-style lapel button I got from the Puget Sound Partnership in Washington State some years ago.

That conservation outfit is correct. We do.

The EPA gives us this definition: “A watershed is the area of land where all of the water that is under it or drains off of it goes into the same place. John Wesley Powell, scientist geographer, put it best when he said that a watershed is: ‘that area of land, a bounded hydrologic system, within which all living things are inextricably linked by their common water course and where, as humans settled, simple logic demanded that they become part of a community’."

Many residents of metro Hazleton (oftentimes called “Greater Hazleton”) live in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, but neighbors in Carbon County reside in the Lehigh River watershed, part of the Delaware River’s watershed.

Roads, homes and other human activities have altered the composition of forests across the Chesapeake Bay watershed (and all the others, too), reducing tree cover and fragmenting those forests that still exist.

Fragmented forests are less resilient to disturbances and more prone to negative influences like wildfires and invasive species. The ongoing loss of trees and entire forests, with financial profit the true motive, toughens the cleanup and restoration.

But just because some thousands of acres are (thankfully) owned by a public agency, the Hazleton City Authority, as watershed land, does not mean Pennsylvanians need not worry about the ecological health of that land or, even more so, the diminishing naturalness of other land, private or public, elsewhere in the same watershed.

The logging of hardwood trees relates poorly to the goal of healthy watershed land and the replenishment of groundwater.
The Chesapeake Bay Program: “Forests are critical to the health of the Chesapeake Bay. Large stands of trees can protect clean water and air, provide habitat to wildlife and support the region’s economy.
“But human activities have altered the watershed’s forests, reducing tree cover and fragmenting forests that still exist. Conserving and expanding forest cover is a critical, cost-effective way to reduce pollution and restore the Bay.”
Streams across the United States are suffering a decline in health, as human development alters stream flow and pushes pollutants into the water. It’s a sad commentary on our times when one can stand on the shore of a major Chesapeake tributary (the York River at Yorktown) and watch was rainwater polluted with the blue sheen of automobile engine oil dribbles into the current and out into the Bay. I’ve done so myself, a bunch of times.
The Bay Program ( “There are two broad categories of chemical contaminants that can be found in the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries: metals and organics.
  • Mercury is the most common metal found in the Bay watershed.
    • Common organic chemical contaminants include:
-        - Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), which act as a flame retardant in electrical equipment. Though their production has been banned since 1977, PCBs still pose a risk to humans and wildlife because they persist in the environment.
-        Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which form when gas, coal and oil are burned. PAHs are common in areas with high rates of development and motor vehicle traffic.
    • Organophosphate pesticides (OPs), which are mostly herbicides and insecticides used in agriculture. OPs can affect functioning of the nervous system.
Storm runoff from cities, towns and suburbs picks up oil, pesticides and other chemicals as it flows across lawns, roads and parking lots and into nearby streams and storm drains. This type of pollution is significant and difficult to control.
Protecting the sources of our clean drinking water does not fit well with the selling of saw timber or the building of a road to get the truck in. Every municipal water agency in Pennsylvania could preclude all sorts of problems, some of which I’ve discussed, by buying and protecting natural lands.
I call it Wild Nature and it’s where good water and a lot more come from.

Monday, September 9, 2013

In South Florida, a polluted bubble ready to burst

As this in-depth article wryly notes, the problems with Lake Okeechobee are many and varied. But Florida's leadership just doesn't seem to get it. But a certain estuary will if things are allowed to proceed as feared.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Case study: Climate change making life difficult for Snowshoe Hare

It's just one example, sure, of what is happening as the climate changes due to human actions. But it is a telling one. I was lucky - darn lucky - to see a showshoe hare here in Vermont last winter. And I used to see them when living in the Adirondacks in the late 80s. Things are different now, of course. It's no longer just a concern for the loss of habitat, but now a changing climate as well. Read about it here.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Some on Jersey shore just don't get the fact: The sea level is rising

As this article explains, some homeowners on the New Jersey shore refuse to grant easements because they fear losing their view of the ocean to newly built dunes. Well, geez, view or no view, the Army Corps of Engineers is hardly going to be able to stop the Atlantic Ocean from rising. Nor will it be able to halt future storm surges. Dah?
A new paper released on Thursday reported that climate change compounded Hurricane Sandy's flooding, the damage. The paper also said that climate change worsened the U.S. heat waves, the shrinkage of Arctic sea ice, drought in Europe's Iberian peninsula, and extreme rainfall in Australia and New Zealand.And still, the U.S. Congress refuses to pass even the most mundane anti-greenhouse gas legislation. Still. Read more about the paper's findings.

Monday, September 2, 2013

A senator's fight for a Montana stream

The senator is Max Baucus. I wish him luck in the endeavor this article focuses on, but I can't help but wonder where he was on a lot of other public land issues - things that Frank Church would have fought for and won.

Oil spill and Lake Champlain pollution source

This, of course, is just one of a million-plus oil spills in the Lake Champlain watershed. I shot this pix in a local warehouse "park" yesterday. This is exactly the sort of non-point-source pollution that bedevils any and all efforts to clean up the water quality of this big lake and basins like Chesapeake Bay, too.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Give new Adirondack Forest Preeserve lands a wilderness classification, groups say

They're right, as a matter of fact. True wilderness, whether in New York State's Adirondack Park or on federal public land, is the surest and most responsible category for wild lands. The media likes to categorize the decision-making process as some sort of "debate," but there is no real debate: Wild places deserve to be protected as wilderness.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Forecast: Only moderate rise in gasoline prices

OK, that's good news for the gazillions of American suburbanites who commute hours and hours just so they can get enough cash to keep filling it up. The NY Times has this coverage. Actually, if American motorists had to pay what Europeans do, we might finally start using a lot less gasoline to keep ourselves moving.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Loons sound alarm on mercury pollution

Here's a solid bit of reporting on what has emerged as yet another threat to fish-eating birds, especially the Common Loon.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

More than Lyme carried by ticks, research finds

I've had several close run-ins with ticks over the years, one of which required a trip to the emergency room to have two of the critters removed from the skin along my waistline. As the globe's climate warms, I think it's reasonable to expect that ticks will continue expanding their ranges northward. Read about the latest research.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Vermont Yankee nuclear plant will be shut down

Owner Entergy made the announcement this morning and Vermont media outlets immediately pounced on the company's "news" release. Here's what the Rutland Herald paper has on this matter at this moment. My primary thought is this: Why hasn't a utility shut down a coal-fired power plant? Think of all the megawatts now generated by solar-panel farms and wind turbines. Or are they just for show-and-tell, giving a sprawl developer an excuse to call his new "project" a "green" one?

Monday, August 26, 2013

Carbon dioxide and sea life

The NY Times today: "A new collection of scientific papers provide fresh insights on how the ecology of the oceans is being affected by the global buildup of carbon dioxide released by human activities."
Yes, the research papers found what journalists like to call "mixed results," but the underlying damage is still pretty horrifying, according to this citizen scientist, i.e., me.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Carl Hiaasen on bad water, campaign dollars and other ills

This is a great read from Carl Hiaasen. Proof again that campaign contributions from polluters are paving the way toward no action on pollution. Save the Everglades?

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Western Pond Turtle gets population recovery help

Nice feature article right here about a major effort to restore the dwindling Western Pond Turtle to habitat in the Columbia Rive Gorge, Oregon.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The future of clean water

Daily, here in Vermont, I walk pass small oil spills. Their black imprints are everywhere - everywhere cars, trucks, and SUVs roll. When it rains, their presence is also indicated by the bluish sheen they exude. Is this the future of clean water? Read about that question right here.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Keystone pipeline could harm wildlife, Interior Department says

The LA Times notes: "A letter contradicts the State Department's draft environmental assessment of the pipeline, saying animals could suffer lasting damage."
Hah, I was present at the very protest rally at which the picture with this article was taken. Yahoo! In any case, my only concern with the findings contained in Interior's letter is this: What took so long?
Interior, in its letter, says, in part: "species displacement, increased predation rates and predator travel lanes, increased nest parasitism, vehicle collisions with wildlife … invasive plant species, increased wildfire risk, lower wildlife density, increase in collisions with power lines and electrocutions on power poles … and increase in poaching."
What is so damn hard to understand about this? Just the roads and other infrastructure that would go in as teh pipeline is built would harm our natural heritage.

The image of shipping coal by train: Dirt, dust, dirt and more dust

That's because coal, even the hard anthracite coal once pulled from the Earth by hardscrabble miners in northeastern Pennsylvania, is dirty, filthy stuff. If the Americans of the Pacific Northwest think they can keep and build on their "green" image by welcoming coaltrains, they are mistaken -- sad and otherwise. Read about that "green" image vs. coal right here.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Important Bird Area

I've long been a critic of National Audubon's Important Bird Area, or IBA, program. I was a critic even while serving on the board of Audubon Pennsylvania, that state's state-level project. IBAs, in my view, amount to little more than fund-raising tools and have little to do with real, on-the-ground conservation. Ownership of the land is important, yes. But of greater importance for wild birds, is what kind and quality of habitat exists on the land.I post this photo I took in Plattsburgh, N.Y., as a bit of IBA satire. Nothing more. Think about it for a moment though, and you can't help but wonder just how much of built-America is destined to look like this once the realities of Peak Oil really hit society.

BuREC to cut Powell releases into Meade

The decision, announced today, to cut back on Colorado River water releases from Glen Canyon Dam into Lake Meade, the reservoir created many decades ago by the building of Hoover Dam, is unprecedented and amounts to further the toll that climate change is having on the United States alone. But will Cngress act? Hah.

Crater Lake NP a showplace for mountain pine beetles

That's because the Whitebark Pine, a signature tree of the national park's landscape, is the beetles' target. Yes, Crater Lake is hardly alone in seeing its whitebark pines fall to the killing beetles' lifestyle. And armchair naturalists have got to remember, please, that the beetles' presence does not stop at the park boundary or even at Oregon's boundaries with Idaho, California and Washington. Read about Crater Lake here.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Wolf decision guided by science, or politics?

Dear Alan:
The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s (FWS) clumsy handling of its drive to strip federal protections from the gray wolf is making a mockery of its claims to be guided by science. The latest episode is jaw-dropping embarrassing.

After the agency railroaded its plan to a final stage, it announced a slap-dash,fast-track peer review process to be completed in one month. Then last week, PEER revealed that the Service had three of the seven reviewers selected by its contract consultant purged from the panel. The three removed scientists are among the very top wolf experts but the Service barred them because they had signed a letter with 13 other scientists expressing concern about the scientific basis for the federal delisting plan.

This week, FWS cancelled the peer review altogether, refusing to answer media questions beyond issuing a terse statement explaining that what occurred “doesn't meet the standard for independent peer review selections.” 


Since it was FWS which compromised the independence of the panel by screening out potential scientific critics its action is like a lothario spurning his conquest because she is no longer chaste. In any event, the Service is certain to cook up yet another charade that allows it to avoid confronting the issues raised by eminent scientists (whose May 21st letter was never answered).

The transparent official hypocrisy does not stop there. As much as it wanted to, FWS could not strip federal protections from the highly endangered Mexican wolf, with only a mangy handful left in the wild.  But the Service has done everything it can to limit reintroduction of the Mexican wolf in the Southwest. 

Now, an August 1 letter from the Arizona Game & Fish Department confirms another backroom deal in which FWS committed that any Mexican wolves who ventured beyond the Mexican Wolf Experimental Population Area (a sliver of land on the Arizona/New Mexico border) “would be captured and returned.” The letter complains that this “issue of critical importance” was not explicitly written into the final plan despite the “comforting clarification” provided by top FWS officials.

The letter encapsulates what is rotten at FWS – rampant political deal-making that is the exact opposite of promises to rely upon the best available science. Yet, despite a new “Scientific Integrity Policy,” FWS is unwilling to police against even the most blatant abuses. Even in the rare instance thatscientific misconduct is determined, FWS leadership apparently will not act. (The agency is refusing to turn over the findings to PEER but we will continue to pursue them).

Had this occurred under Bush, there would be a huge hue and cry.  Arguably, what is going on now under Obama is far worse. Let Sally Jewell, the new Interior Secretary, know what you think and urge her to step in and stop these appalling shenanigans. 

If you support this work, please let us know.

Pull the plug on Las Vegas water

That's the gist of this report published this morning by the Salt Lake Tribune in Utah. Oh, and Lake Powell is not really a lake at all. It is a reservoir, a fake lake.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Nature coming back at ex-parking lot

I found this relic from the happy motoring age just off Cornelia Street in Plattsburgh, N.Y., yesterday. It'll take another decade, at least, but nature is slowly pushing the asphalt off the land at this spot. Best wishes on fighting sprawl

No this, no that, and . . .

It is very much a country of "no" these days, as this sign indicates. I found this one on the edge of the entrance street to a Mallwart complex in suburban Plattsburgh, N.Y., yesterday. If there was more room on the signboard, this is what it should say: Don't even try walking here because this town cares only about cars, trucks, SUVs and climate-change pollution.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

How to waste water without really trying

That's what business boosters have been up to in Lake Placid, N.Y., twice home to the Winter Olympic Games. On the day last week I took this photo, the air temp was 93. Back at my hotel, the Hampton Inn, the automatic lawn sprinklers were trying their best to water non-existent plants trying to get a foothold in sidewalks. Amazing the level of di
mmess there is out there. And the money for resort advertising is apparently a bottomless pit.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Dr. James Hansen presses the climate case for nuclear energy

Good video with some transcribed remarks here. I still wonder why we find it so damn hard, for starters, to simply turn off the lights.

Monday, July 22, 2013

What killed invasive Asian carp In Missouri River?

That's the big question these days for fisheries professionals in Iowa, Nebraska and elsewhere, both so they know what works to rid the river and its tribs of the invasive Asian carp and what impact it's all having on native fish. Read about it all.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Ongoing drought prompts fish harvesting from Nebraska's Platte River

The Platte, as you'll see in the photo accompanying this article, is now a mere series of muddy puddles. The river I remember from early spring visits to it in 1990-92 is pretty damn sad to see.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Here's a new way to cater to our cars

And that would be this: Rip rap the parking lagoons (a k a parking lots), just like this one I found in Lake Placid, N.Y. After all, Americans do love their cars.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Thursday, July 11, 2013

More signs of 'peak us' in peak oil studies

Of one thing we can be sure of: The world will someday run out of producible oil. I' bet that not a single one of the half-dozen-or-so motorists that joined me in refueling this morning at a local gasoline station have any idea - any notion - of what future generations are in for. Nosiree. It's still, simply, fill-er-up and drive off. Read about the peak us situation.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Fake news shows gave more air time to climate speech then the big boys

The "big  boys" being ABC, CBS, NBC and so forth and so on. Apparently, Jon Stewart, star of Comedy Central's "The Daily Show," understands our planet's climate and how we are trashing it better than Brian Williams, et al. Hah, hah, hah. Read Media Matters' take.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Get ready: Changing climate making wildfires more frequent, intense

This is hardly rocket science to those who've taken the time to learn the dynamics, but was continues to amaze me is the absolute lack of action on the part of Congress to take any sort of substantive, positive action to even slow climate change. What is wrong with those people?

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Anti-wolf group vague on how it spent taxpayers' money

Big Game Forever (BGF) is the group in question. And it, apparently, has little to no understanding of the historic role of predators (like wolves) in the ecological world of wild nature. BGF is akin to many anti-predator organizations that would wish very much if wildlife "management" in the United States was once again utilizing paid hunters and the bounty system to kill predators. Read about the alleged scam.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Jaguar roving near Rosemont mine site in southern Arizona

The Santa Rita mountains named in this article are beautiful. And a population of jaguars would make them even prettier.

A carbon dioxide factory - one of gazillions

Actually, by the time a motor vehicle has been abandoned for a while in a parking lagoon like this one next to a Vermont strip shopping center, it already has belched a whole lot of carbon dioxide, the greenhouse gas most responsible for our planet's changing climate. Car sales reps should inform would-be buyers (jus

t to be nice) what a particular model-and-production-year car emits per gallon of gasoline burned. Just to be nice!

Friday, June 28, 2013

In A;laska, a historic salmon fishery and real people under threat of open-pit mine

This is a great read - great because of the quality of its prose and its argument. But that argument, conservationists are sorry to say, may very well not see the light-of-victory-day. Bristol Bay will be immediate loser, but in a long-term sense all of America and especially the native people of the far north will be on the losing end. We do better.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Seekign more presidential action, less rhetoric, on climate change

There is very little to compromise on, for starters. And it's too damn bad that Mr. Obama waited as long as he did before broadcasting his plan of action. Still, more needs to be done and mighty soon. Read about the rhetoric vs. action.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Disease claims bighorn sheep in Nevada

I dream, every now and then, of the Bighorn Sheep I saw trundling along a rocky escarpment in the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness in the summer of 2004. Very special.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Spending gazillons to widen the Outer Banks?

This, buckaroos, is a giant waste of tax dollars. Sure, in the short-term, a widened beach may look OK and attract some tourism dollars, but the long term outlook, given sea-level rise and an increasing number and severity of storms, says otherwise. This article, in the  Virginian-Pilot paper of Norfolk, Va., says nothing about climate change and who is responsible.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Pesticide Safari blamed in death of bees; tally of dead now 50,000

Just a few hours ago, I happened to visit a hardware store and just happened to walk down the aisle in which all manner of pesticides, herbicides, etc., are displayed to unwary shoppers. I am reminded of the little signs left along curb lines by the outfits that spread chemical fertilizers on residential turf farms. What a waste. Read about the dead bumblebees.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Why Miami, Fla., is doomed to drown

Read this piece by Jeff Goodell. Then ponder a bit and ask yourself why our political leadership is clueless and has not done anything but burn more coal.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Adirondack loon sentinels lack funding this summer

I had two really memorable experiences with common loons - a true bird of the North -- while living on Plattsburgh Air Force Base in the late 1980s. One spring night, as Monica and I were sleeping the night in the new camping tent we had just purchased, a loon called from Lake Champlain. Our house in on-base housing was literally right on top of a bluff overlooking the lake and its Crab Island a mile or so off shore. Teh other occasion also involved a calling loon. We were getting settled in the bunk room of the Adirondack Mountain Club's Adirondack Loj one spring night when the bird called from nearby Heart Lake. Two great wilderness-quality experiences for two budding birders. Here's sad news about the men and women who watch over those Adirondack lakes known to harbor nesting loons.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Obama (finally) prepping to do something about climate change

Sure, it's a so-called "legacy" issue for the president, but he build a truly impressive environmental legacy by coming up with tough-minded rules that will really do something to sharply limit greenhouse gas emissions. Really do something.

How to protect the Gulf of Mexico from future oil spills?

Buy and protect, as public land, the remaining coastal marshes and wetlands, as this excellent op-ed I just read makes the case for doing.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

A new look at ancient trees on Washington's Orcas Island

My brother and I did in fact see some migrating Orcas from  high bluff in Lime Kiln State Park, and the price was a helluva lot better than what the boat riders out yonder paid their captains. The real joy of hiking Orcas Island, though, is the chance to see some ancient western redcedars and Douglas-firs and Pacific madrones in all their glory. Here's what I wrote:

I’ve had the privilege and honor to enter and pray and ponder things in a number of historic churches, some of them cathedrals, throughout my adult life.
The apartment Monica and I rented in Pittsburgh while we awaited her lung transplant was a 10-minute walk from St. Paul’s Cathedral.
And the St. Miguel Mission Church, long a photographic backdrop for tourists as they take snapshots of each other in Santa Fe, N.M., is a must-see-and-visit place for anyone traveling to the capital of New Mexico.

Mission San Xavier del Bac is one of several storied places of worship in and near Tucson, Ariz.

And in New York City there is the great Cathedral of St. John: The Great Divine.

To visit one of these places – or any of the dozens like them in our country – is to draw closer to what’s really important.

I felt the same waves crash over me while hiking last week through the Pacific maritime forest of Moran State Park ( in Washington State’s Orcas Island, the largest of the islands that make up San Juan County.

To get to Orcas, visitors ride a ferry from Friday Harbor on San Juan Island. The town of Friday Harbor is the county’s seat of government.

Hiking into this cathedral forest of centuries old Douglas-fir, Western Red Cedar, Pacific madrone ( and trees of several other species was akin to entering a great monument to religiosity. I enjoyed that feeling throughout the hike to Mountain Lake within Moran State Park. And as I am often labeled a “tree hugger,” as if such a moniker is somehow a put-down, I easily accepted my brother’s suggestion (he was my hiking/exploring partner) to pose for a tree-hugging photo next to the trunk of a 400-year-old Western Redcedar (

Even simply taking a moment to stand next to an old-growth tree (many conservationists refer to them as “ancient” trees) is to share space with wild, untamed nature.

There are many types of old-growth forests still extant across our country, but generally speaking, old growth means a forest that has not undergone any major unnatural changes (such as logging) for more than 100 to 150 years, contains young, mature and standing dead trees (snags) and provides a home for a diversity of wildlife species. I found many good and newsy articles and essays about old-growth forests in a Google search. One of them, from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, can be read at

Wildness is perhaps the most sorely missing thing on Americans’ rapidly dwindling natural landscape. As more roads are cut, trees are logged, and drill bits sunk into Earth in search of natural gas and petroleum, the quality of wildness disappears, replaced by noise pollution, air pollution, water pollution and all the other scars that come with industrialization.

Hiking through the cathedral forest in Moran State Park also allowed me to really listen to the sounds of nature (as opposed to the noise of urban America): the territorial song of red crossbills and winter wrens and Swainson’s thrushes chief among those sounds.

In this era of near-constant loss of “wild America,” I look to statements like this from the conservation outfit Wildlands Network: “We want future generations to inherit a continent rich in wildlife, with plenty of room for all species to roam.  We want to feel safe knowing that our environment can weather the effects of growing human development and climate change.  We want to be proud of our natural heritage.  And we want to know that we have acted responsibly by caring for and sustaining the lands, waters and wildlife that enrich our lives.”  See more at: