Minnesota’s burgeoning wind industry is paying millions in dividends to county governments

first_img FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Energy News Network:Minnesota’s wind energy tax is helping rural counties hold the line on levy increases and pay for road repairs and other infrastructure projects.Revenue from the state’s wind energy tax has increased more than fivefold over the past decade to $12.7 million in 2018, according to Minnesota Department of Commerce. Wind farms larger than 12 MW pay $1.20 per MWh, while smaller farms pay just 36 cents per MWh.“Wind revenue is now a key source of income for many counties, relieving the property tax burden on homeowners and businesses,” said Commerce Commissioner Jessica Looman.The revenue is especially important because wind developments tend to be sited in counties with lower than average income. The five leading Minnesota counties for wind revenue have median family incomes more than $10,000 below the state average of $57,000.“In some of these rural counties, wind revenues represent 20 percent of their annual operating budgets,” said Isak Kvam, a communications and policy associate with the pro-wind advocacy group Wind on the Wires. “It’s not often that these communities have a multi-million business knocking on their doors.”The boon is hardly confined to Minnesota or the Midwest. A Moody’s Investment Service report released earlier this year found 400 counties around the country receive tax revenues.  More: Windfall: Minnesota counties use wind tax money for roads, tax relief Minnesota’s burgeoning wind industry is paying millions in dividends to county governmentslast_img read more

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$1.4 billion Baltic offshore wind farm begins producing power

first_img$1.4 billion Baltic offshore wind farm begins producing power FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享CNBC:A large offshore wind farm, operated by German utility firm E.ON in partnership with Norway’s Equinor, has sent its first electricity to the German grid.An equally-shared joint venture between E.ON and Equinor, the Arkona wind farm is situated in the German part of the Baltic Sea, Equinor said Monday. Investment in the project amounts to 1.2 billion euros ($1.41 billion).When fully up and running, it will have an output of 385 megawatts (MW) and will be able to send power to around 400,000 German homes. Pal Coldevin, Equinor’s head of new energy development, said Arkona was the company’s fourth wind farm to come online in Europe since 2012.“It is yet another important contribution to Equinor’s ambitious strategy, where the company is developing from a focused oil and gas company to a broad energy major, building on our extensive offshore experience and more than 40 years as one of the largest energy providers in Europe,” Coldevin said.The project, which is made up of 60 turbines from Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy, is in the last stages of construction, with 44 turbines installed so far. The aim is to have all installed by the end of the year.Europe’s total offshore wind capacity increased by 25 percent in 2017, according to WindEurope. Just over 3.1 gigawatts (GW) of new offshore wind was installed in Europe last year, with total capacity hitting almost 15.8 GW, the trade body states.More: E.ON and Equinor’s $1.41 billion offshore wind farm sends first electricity to gridlast_img read more

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Wyoming board votes to tighten self-bonding reclamation rules for coal companies

first_imgWyoming board votes to tighten self-bonding reclamation rules for coal companies FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Wyoming Public Media:Wyoming’s Environmental Quality Council, an independent board within the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), has approved updates to how companies guarantee reclamation costs. If signed by the Governor, the decision would limit mining companies’ access to self-bonding— essentially an IOU to pay reclamation costs, rather than a financial guarantee.Bob LeResche, vice chair of the Powder River Basin Resource Council, said it’s a risky method. Its weaknesses were amplified when three major coal companies went bankrupt several years ago, with reclamation payments at risk. LeResche said the modernized rules, if passed, will help ensure land from coal mines actually gets returned to their original state.“I think it certainly protects the taxpayers against the increasing potential that reclamation might not be funded sometime in the future,” LeResche said, adding Wyoming now has the strongest self-bonding rules in the country.DEQ’s Keith Guille said proposed regulations use a new method to determine financial health so a struggling company doesn’t end up too self-bonded. “Now, what we went to is to credit ratings, and so credit ratings will now give us an idea of where they stand in their financials to be able to do that test and whether or not they can qualify for a self-bond,” Guille said.DEQ’s Land Quality Division has been in the process of updating the regulations since 2015. Its administrator, Kyle Wendtland, said in a statement the changes would ultimately reduce reclamation liability risk. It could take up to two and a half months for the Governor to consider the updates.More: EQC approves revised self-bonding rules to reduce risklast_img read more

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The Last Howl: Red Wolves Being Shot In N.C.

first_imgPrintPhoto: Ryan Nordsven UFWSOutside of illustrations in fairy tales and pictures in magazines, there’s a good chance you’ve never seen a red wolf before. Most of us never will. Thanks to aggressive wolf pelt bounties, the largely nocturnal animals were hunted into near-extinction by the ‘60s. Today, roughly 100 to 120 red wolves live in the wild, reintroduced to the landscape by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service within a five-county recovery zone in Eastern North Carolina near the Alligator River. It’s the world’s only population of red wolves living in the wild, and they may once again be under the gun. Only this time, it’s a case of mistaken identity. Gunshot wounds are the leading cause of death for red wolves in North Carolina. In many cases, the hunters responsible for the deaths are unaware they’re shooting wolves. They think they’re shooting coyotes, a species that has migrated back East in abundance.The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission has allowed unlimited hunting of coyotes on private property for decades. But in August 2012, the commission enacted a temporary rule allowing spotlight hunting of coyotes at night. Unfortunately, coyotes and wolves look similar, especially at night, a move that may put red wolves at risk.“We have nothing against hunters,” says Kim Wheeler, executive director of the Red Wolf Coalition. “But the number of accidental deaths of red wolves from hunters increases every year. Ideally, we’d like to see no coyote hunting in the five-county recovery zone. We’re certainly pushing to stop night hunting. A gun in the dark is just nuts.”Gordon Meyer, director of the NC Wildlife Resources Commission, says hunting coyotes at night is simply too effective to dismiss. “It gives landowners the tool they need to manage coyotes and protect their private property.”The trouble is, some landowners may not recognize what animal they’re actively managing when they’re hunting. Coyotes and red wolves have similar colored coats and are similar in size, making it easy for a hunter to mistake a red wolf for a coyote. According to the most recent Fish and Wildlife Service’s report, gun shot wounds are the leading cause of death for red wolves. In 2012, eight wolves were killed by hunters. Two have already been shot in 2013. Most of the wolf deaths are the subject of ongoing investigations, but in at least three of those incidents the responsible hunter confessed that the shootings were cases of mistaken identity.“That’s clear evidence that wolves are being mistaken for coyotes,” says Derb Carter, a senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center. “The Wildlife Commission is taking the view that hunting coyotes poses no threat to the red wolf, but after the Fish and Wildlife Service report, that’s no longer a viable stance.”After SELC challenged the rule, the Wake County Supreme Court blocked the temporary rule that allowed spotlight hunting of coyotes at night in the five-county wolf recovery zone. But a separate, permanent rule is still on the table and scheduled for a vote by the North Carolina Legislature in the Spring. If the rule passes, and night hunting is allowed permanently within the red wolf habitat, the SELC is prepared to bring a federal lawsuit against the NC Wildlife Commission for allowing an action that violates the Federal Endangered Species Act.“We’re working with the Fish and Wildlife Service on the recovery of red wolves, but we have two responsibilities in this situation: recover the wolf species and manage the growing coyote population,” says Meyers of the NC Wildlife Resources Commission.  It’s a difficult situation to strike a balance. If we don’t allow coyote hunting, you’re telling the landowner that they can’t protect their private property.”The Red Wolf at a GlanceHabitat: An estimated 100-120 red wolves roam a 1.7-million acre landscape in Eastern North Carolina. It’s the only wild red wolf population in the world.Pack Life: Red Wolves live in “family packs” of five to eight, consisting of the parents and offspring.Average size: 50-80 pounds.Diet: White tailed deer, rabbits, raccoons and small rodents.Life expectancy: Under 10 years in the wild.Maximum penalty for shooting a red wolf: One year in prison and $100,000 in fines.last_img read more

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Snowsports Industry Association Ticks Off 60 Years with Industry in High Spirits

first_imgTwo weeks ago, the snowsports industry celebrated it’s 60th year working together to improve the sport.Whether it was the feet of snow falling in the mountains, Colorado skier visits up in the double digits, record sales numbers, the Broncos in the Super Bowl, freshly legalized marijuana in Denver, or a combination of all of the above, the annual Snow Show in the Mile High City was full of optimism.The show moved from Vegas to Denver in 2010 after 37 years as organizers hoped to put the “snow” back in “Snow Show.” This year marks SIA’s 60th anniversary.The 2014 SIA Snow Show took place January 30-February 2, 2014 at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver; followed by the On-Snow Demo/Ski-Ride Fest at Copper Mountain Resort February 3-4.Copper Mountain welcomed the demo days with open arms as it moved from Winter Park Resort with two days of alpine-oriented gear testing and one day of Nordic demos. Coinciding SIA-sponsored demo days took place in other regions around the country during the same time span. The event was sold-out. Copper is home to the U.S. Ski, U.S. Snowboarding, and U.S. Freeskiing Teams and the U.S. Ski Team Speed Center — the only full-length training venue of its kind in the world available early season.The show follows the momentum of Outdoor Retailer Winter Market, the ISPO trade show in Munich, the X-Games in Aspen, and also served as a send-off to Sochi.“It’s been fabulous this year; we’ve had a lot of cold weather, a lot of snow,” said retailer Bob Thomas of Skier’s Peak, Bloomfield Hills, MI. “We’re considerably up from last year. As long as we keep the cold weather coming we’ll be in good shape.”Recent SIA data for August-December indicated $2.2 billion in snow sports retail sales. And a record holiday sales season was tempered only by severe drought in the Sierra and Cascade mountains.DPS Skis was one of the hot ticket items at this year's SnowShow in Denver. DPS Skis was one of the hot ticket items at this year’s SnowShow in Denver.The Show kicked off with a “Sendoff to Sochi” opening ceremony led by Doug Lewis (1984 and1988 Olympian and Alpine Analyst for Universal Sports), where Lewis named team members and revealed official uniforms for the U.S. Alpine, Freestyle, Freeski and Snowboarding teams developed by Spyder, Columbia, The North Face and Burton. “The relationship between SIA and USSA is really pivotal to the success of our athletes,” said Tom Kelly, Vice President Communications, USSA.The ceremony also included video thank you messages from athletes to the industry, and officials from the city of Denver, USSA, SIA Board Members and industry leaders. Klaus Obermeyer added his signature yodel, which he’s done at the end of the Snow Show for 30 years.“This is an exciting moment for everyone in snow sports,” said David Ingemie, SIA president. “Walking the Show this year, you couldn’t help but appreciate the huge amount of time and talent required to forge innovation on this scale. And there isn’t one ski or snowboard athlete going to Sochi that hasn’t benefited from our industry’s collective determination to innovate.”SIA hosted a special screening of the critically acclaimed documentary The Crash Reel on the first night of the show, with Kevin Pearce and his brother Adam on hand to take questions from the audience.The annual SIA/SOS Outreach Hockey Shootout went down again at the Pepsi Center following the Colorado Avalanche/Minnesota Wild game Thursday night. The game benefits Save Our Snow with snowboard/ski industry members from U.S. and Canada squaring off against NHL alumni.Day Two began with a breakfast co-hosted by Protect Our Winters (POW), SIA and Aspen Skiing Company’s Environment Foundation where Rolling Stone contributing editor Jeff Goodell spoke about “Field Notes From The Climate Wars” to a full house. “We’ve hit several milestones in the last six months for Protect Our Winters and today is one of them, where we officially have this climate discussion at the SIA Snow Show,” said Jeremy Jones, founder and CEO of Protect Our Winters.Jones screened the trailer of “Higher,” the third movie in his trilogy, in the Backcountry Experience — an exhibit that drew enthusiasts across the industry to safety seminars, expert appearances, panel discussions and happy hours. Featuring backcountry products from more than 50 brands, Backcountry Experience connects suppliers, retailers, reps and the media invested in cultivating the backcountry category. “We’re trying to affect human behavior and some basic understanding in newcomers to the backcountry – trying to make people aware – and consistency is very important,” said Kim Miller of SCARPA.“The main reason I wanted to come to the SIA Snow Show was to visit Rental World,” said Adrian Spiker of Deep Creek Marina, McHenry, MD. “I’ve sent other people to check out the Show in other years, but Rental World is what pushed me over the edge to come this year.”“We’ve got friends from different companies that we catch up with while we’re here and we look forward to that, but so far we’ve kind of been going with the flow,” said Kara Gabriel and Agatha Lugowski, buyers for Big White Ski Resort in Colona, BC.Sponsored by TransWorld Business, the BlueBird Social Zone hosted seminars to help retailers in their day-to-day social marketing efforts. Also prominent were celebrations like The Assembly, a convention where snow sports stakeholders presented on the importance of year-round mountain tourism.Trend forecasters predicted that fashion is finally settling down in snowsports apparel, with hues and patterns inspired by arctic landscapes and by academia. Heritage and native patterns continue to affect apparel and accessories; along with more blended wools, blended down, and increasingly technical fabric technologies. Just like in outdoors and in run, color continues to be an important story.Day Two culminated with recognition of specialty retailers and reps from the United States and Canada who received 2013 SnowSports Rep and Retailer of the Year awards. Shops from seven regions in the U.S. and six regions in Canada were honored and nine U.S. reps and six Canadian reps were also honored.At the 15th annual TransWorld SNOWboarding Riders’ Poll Awards at the Odgen Theatre, the best riders, video parts and performances of the year were voted on and honored. With Emcee’s Preston Strout and Jack Mitrani at the helm, top riders were recognized for the best in individual progression and style and filmmakers were awarded for excellence. This year’s TransWorld SNOWboarding Legend Award went to Bryan Iguchi, recognizing his lifetime of commitment and contribution to snowboarding.OIWC kicked off Day Three by announcing the winners of the 2014 Pioneering Woman and First Ascent Awards and a panel discussion on the economic future of the snow. During the breakfast, OIWC announced Laura Fergusson, Arc’teryx as the recipient of the First Ascent award and Kathy MGuire, K2 the Pioneering award winner. Following the awards, Kelly Davis of SIA hosted a panel discussion entitled The Money Stash: Uncovering the Economic Future of the Snow. One of panelist, Anne-Marie Dacyshyn, VP of marketing for Burton Snowboards, joked with the audience: “The secret to capturing a woman’s heart is three more hours of sleep.”The panel discussion focused on the women’s market – being called the most significant and profitable opportunity in the snow industry today. Industry veterans discussed data showing growth and potential, advertising messages and ways to empower women in the snow sports. “We need to mentor and invest in female employees and help them see all their career opportunities,” said Krista Parry, founder of Snowmamas.com.With relatively non-existent logistical problems in Denver and good attendance on the first day of the show, exhibitors were upbeat. However Saturday was a little more casual than vendors might have liked after more than two feet of snow fell in the mountains and many people were out late Friday at Icelantic Skis’ Winter on the Rocks featuring the Jurassic 5 and Ghostland Observatory. Said Annelise Loevlie of Icelantic: “People were pumped, the music was great and Mother Nature reminded us all how good a wintery night with friends can be.”“Where else can you have hundreds, if not thousands, of your favorite people in a single building? Knowing we’re all slammed during the day, early evening receptions are the way to go,” said Robert Yturri, SVP of global sales, product and brand management, Obermeyer, on Saturday’s traffic.Buyers from around the world come to the show to preview next season's product.Buyers from around the world come to the show to preview next season’s product.At the 5th Annual Youth Summit, Social Impact Awards were presented to Chaos Hats and Nicky DeFord of the Vail Echo program, with remarks from SOS Outreach, SIA President David Ingemie and Kevin Pearce (former pro-snowboarder and founder of Love Your Brain). Malakye.com also held another successful “Shmooz fest” snow sports job fair. The new exhibit CRAFT @ SIA, which spotlights craft brands (independent, smaller ski/snowboard manufacturers), saw decent action with craft-brewed beer happy hours each afternoon.At SIA’s Annual Meeting — and after two, two-year terms as board chairman — K2 Sports Sales and Marketing President Tim Petrick handed the gavel to Bob Gundram, co-founder of Capita Snowboards, Union Bindings and Coal Headwear. With the addition of four female board members during the same meeting, a third of Board of Directors positions are now filled by women: Lisa Branner of Venture Snowboards, Wendy Carey of Seirus Innovation, Patty Duke of Point6, Julie Garry of Outdoor Gear, Erin Snow of Erin Isakov, Annelise Loevlie of Icelantic Skis and Rhonda Swenson of Krimson Klover.SIA provided the following data coming into the last quarter of ski season:Alpine Touring/Randonee equipment continues to enjoy significant increases in sales, through December AT equipment sales increased 23% in dollars sold and 20% in units sold.Sales of Alpine/AT boots defined as alpine DIN boots that can be converted to an AT/Touring sole for Backcountry use may be one of hottest items in the alpine market.Sales of alpine/AT boots are up 28% in units sold to 53,000 units sold, and up 21% in dollars sold to $20 million. Alpine/AT boots make up nearly 15% of dollars sold and 10% of units sold in the alpine boot market so far this season.Women are getting prepped to hit the trails. Sales of women’s specific cross country equipment increased 50% in units sold and 43% in dollars sold to over $4 million through December.Overall, sales of cross country equipment were up 16% in dollars sold this season.More girls are getting snowboard equipment this year. Junior girls snowboarding equipment sales grew 17% in units sold and 18% in dollars sold through December.Overall snowboard equipment sales are up 2% in dollars sold to $167 million.Backcountry accessories sales including beacons, probes and shovels increased 17% in dollars sold and 14% in units sold through December. Beacons led the way with a 20% increase in units sold to 13,500 units through December.Sales of protective gear including pads, wrist guards and general impact gear increased 28% in units sold and 34% in dollars sold through December.Sales of action cameras were up 19% in units sold to 81,000 cameras and up 36% in dollars sold to $27 million through December.Alpine insulated tops sales were up 20% in dollars sold to $362 million and up 15% in units to more than 2 million units sold.Apparel accessories that include gloves, baselayers, headwear and neck gaiters increased 12% in units sold and 15% in dollars sold to $402 million through December.SIA Snow Show Day 1last_img read more

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First Ever Overland Expo EAST in Asheville

first_imgInterested in discussions, demonstrations, and film festivals, all geared toward DIY adventure travel? The Overland Expo will give you all of this and more in a beautiful setting surrounded by your fellow outdoor and four-wheel enthusiasts.After six years of incredible growth in the Western U.S., Overland Expo will debut outside Asheville, N.C., October 3-5, 2014. Overland Expo EAST will feature the same dynamic event experience with a blend of professional trade show and educational opportunities that have made Overland Expo WEST so successful.Overland Expo is an annual event, founded in Arizona in 2009, that brings together overlanding enthusiasts and the rapidly growing industry that serves them. This three-day weekend is designed to educate and inspire people to get out and explore their world, whether 100 miles from home or 10,000 miles. There are over 300 session-hours of classes, workshops, and roundtable programs for four-wheel-drive and adventure motorcycle enthusiasts; a large trade exposition with exhibitors, vendors, authors, and filmmakers; and evening inspirational programs and local food.This will be the first Overland Expo EAST, located at the beautiful Taylor Ranch (1005 Cane Creek Road, Fletcher, North Carolina), with 100 acres of beautiful Carolina hardwood forests and lakes for a remote-feel camping experience and yet it is just a few miles from dynamic downtown Asheville and its world-class restaurants, breweries, galleries, and shops.The Overland Expo WEST regularly sells out of 600 full-weekend package tickets, with nearly 6,000 day pass visitors. Both EAST and WEST events feature a custom instructional driving course built and staffed by the world-famous Land Rover driver team and an “Adventure Motorcycle Village” with a teaching arena anchored by the legendary RawHyde Adventures and their partners BMW and Triumph.Overland Expo EAST exhibitors include Land Rover, Four Wheel Campers, Sportsmobile, Lance Campers, Tiger Expedition Vehicles, ARB-USA, Global Xpedition Vehicles, as well as BMW, KTM, Triumph, Kawasaki, Honda, and Ural dealers—100+ other makers of equipment, camping gear, vehicles, as well as providers of services and travel resources and authors and filmmakers.The first ever East Overland Expo at Taylor Ranch will feature adventure motorbiking lessons on a specially designed driving course, a professional trade show with more than 100 exhibitors, 140 classes and workshops, camping opportunities, the Overland Film Festival, evening happy hours, and plenty of adventure inspiration. Each of the Expo’s three days will be so packed with events and opportunities that you’ll never suffer a dull moment.It’s not too late to register. Weekend and day passes are available for the Expo, which will give you access to all the vendors and exhibitions, demos, films, and happy hours. You can also register to join as an exhibitor if you wish to sell your products, feature your vehicles, or advertise an organization. Plus, kids 17 and under can attend for free.2014-EAST_Banner Generic_729X90last_img read more

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Monumental Momentum

first_imgWhat will be President Obama’s legacy? The Affordable Care Act? The death of Osama bin Laden? Or perhaps his public lands legacy. President Obama has designated or expanded 23 national monuments and protected more than 265 million acres of public lands and waters, more than any other president.Unfortunately, none of those new designations lie east of the Mississippi. Only 22 of the nation’s 121 national monuments are in the East. West Virginia currently has none. However, a group of Mountain State conservation advocates, businesspeople, outdoor recreation enthusiasts, and other citizens has organized to secure a federal designation for the proposed Birthplace of Rivers National Monument.Screen shot 2016-06-28 at 5.33.30 PM“There are no landscape-scale national monuments in the East,” says David Lillard, special projects manager with the West Virginia Rivers Coalition (WVRC). “There’s a need and a worthiness in the East as well.”Where is the birthplace of rivers? The proposed national monument is centered around the existing 47,815-acre Cranberry Wilderness, which lies within the Monongahela National Forest in east-central West Virginia and drains via the Cranberry and Williams Rivers. To encompass the headwaters of the adjacent Cherry, Gauley, Elk, and Greenbrier Rivers, the monument boundaries strategically include 75,000 additional acres, all within the national forest, in two sections along the Monongahela’s northeastern and southern borders.The naturally diverse area already attracts hikers, mountain bikers, paddlers, anglers, hunters, and other outdoor enthusiasts. Protecting the area as a national monument would provide a wide range of benefits for West Virginia. A WVRC poll showed that 84 percent of voters support the proposed monument.2016-05-30-16-45-55_27324597822_o_FIXWhy create a national monument? First, says Lillard, a national monument designation would permanently protect the land from industrial development, a significant step in this fossil fuel-rich state.Second, this measure would help ensure the purity of the rivers, a critical step given that millions of people downstream depend on them every day for fresh, clean drinking water. Just two and a half years ago, a massive chemical spill into the Elk River polluted more than 300,000 people’s tap water for months, which highlighted the vital need for this protected resource.2016-05-30-20-13-10_26814375774_o_FIXClean headwaters also facilitate positive recreation experiences downstream for fishing and paddling. More than 90 percent of West Virginia’s native trout streams fall within the proposed monument’s borders. And creek boaters flock to the headwaters of these rivers.Third, says Lillard, a monument designation would help ensure that any future logging remains at a sustainable level.The monument can significantly boost tourism revenue throughout the area. According to an economic impact study, the monument’s designation would create 143 jobs, increase visitor-related spending in communities surrounding the monument by 42 percent, and generate more than $14.5 million in economic output annually. Similarly, land-management research group Headwaters Economics studied the local economies of communities bordering or adjacent to 17 national monuments in the western U.S. from 1982 to 2011, and they found that jobs grew at four times the rate of similar communities that didn’t have a national monument as a neighbor.How can it be designated?National monuments can be created either by a majority congressional vote or by a signed presidential designation under authority of the Antiquities Act. “We’ll take it either way,” says Lillard.The International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) and the West Virginia Council of Trout Unlimited have also joined in supporting and advocating for the monument. And over the past several months, Lillard has witnessed many local community members living adjacent to the proposed site evolve from skeptics to advocates.“There’s been a groundswell of local support around the area where the monument would be,” he says. “They’re self-organizing and have local leadership on the ground with more plans to boost community engagement. A number of outdoor and tourism businesses have been rising up and saying they really want this for West Virginia. We even have Birthplace of Rivers information centers now. At 14 local shops, they have maps people can take and postcards at the counter.”In mid-May, Lillard and three Pocahontas County, West Virginia, advocates traveled to Washington, D.C., to meet with representatives from President Obama’s administration to discuss the Birthplace of Rivers proposal. Upon arrival, they delivered 1,500 letters of support for the monument to the president.“Around the beginning of this year, the focus of this campaign shifted strongly toward the president,” Lillard explains. “He has indicated there will be more monuments designated. We’ve been meeting with his administration’s monument people for a long time, and they’re very interested.”A presidential precedent of sorts exists for departing commanders-in-chief to establish 11th-hour public lands on their way out the door. For example, during the first seven years of President Clinton’s two terms in office, he designated one national monument. In his last year, he established 19, with seven of those only becoming official in his last week and a half in the White House.2016-05-30-16-59-30_27146952550_o_FIXWhat happens next? Some have expressed concerns that the national monument designation might restrict access, especially since the management plan for the landscape wouldn’t be fully developed until after the president or Congress approves the designation. The West Virginia state chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation has expressed concern over the president’s potential use of the Antiquities Act to establish the monument, which in their view would be a federal back door that bypasses public approval.To ease these concerns, Lillard explains that sustaining current levels of access both now and for future generations is one of main motivations guiding the designation push.“For the most part, things would continue to be what they are now,” says Lillard. “Our proposal calls for some more restorative forestry, spruce in particular, but most everything else would stay the same. One of the biggest developments over the past few months has been that many former opponents are now at the table and see how the monument can be good for West Virginia and how they can have a role.”If designated, the monument would remain under the management of the U.S. Forest Service. U.S. Forest Service Chief Thomas Tidwell explains that typically, as has been the situation on recent Forest Service monuments, “monument designations complement the underlying management plan — which is developed with public input. If hunting and fishing are permitted under the current forest management plan, that would typically continue as a national monument.”Lillard agrees. “National monument status would allow the Forest Service to continue to manage it. We are not trying to create a national park, and we certainly don’t want to create more wilderness there or exclude people using it currently. What’s there now is what we want to keep. There are other types of protection, and we think this is the highest level of protection available.”26816777053_4e0d9b8975_o_FIXTo help increase publicity for the proposed monument, a pair of Birthplace of Rivers advocates—paddlers Matt Kearns and Adam Swisher—journeyed from the Elk River headwaters in Southern Monongahela National Forest to the mouth of the river in Charleston. On the final day of their adventure, more than 100 fellow Birthplace of Rivers advocates joined in for a flotilla escort of the last few miles.Said Swisher afterwards, “As President Obama wraps up his second term, designating this monument would be a significant way to ensure his lasting legacy in the Mountain State.”last_img read more

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Going Home Again

first_imgA steep mountain road Brings a Runner Back to His Roots“You OK, son?”It’s mid-October of 2003—one of those crystal-clear fall afternoons that never seems to end—and an older man in a sedan has pulled up beside me on Georgia Highway 180 Spur. The two-lane blacktop snakes its way up Brasstown Bald, the highest point in the state, and I’ve decided to try running the three miles from its base at Jack’s Gap all the way to the thimble-shaped observation tower at the summit.“Oh, yeah. I’m fine. I just—” I wheeze as he interrupts me, asking if I need a ride. I’m hardly a mile up the highway, and he’s worried. Things aren’t going well.That run up Brasstown 15 years ago was the first of many I’d take while I attended college just a few miles down the road. In fact, those trips became a near-weekly occurrence: aim the car north, find a rock station broadcasting out of Atlanta, and wind my way on mostly empty state highways into the cluster of high mountains the next county over.And then there was the run itself. The climb up Brasstown is a beast, ascending at grades approaching 20 percent—a road steep enough to give pro cyclists fits during the Tour de Georgia in the early 2000s. Running to the summit just felt like you’d accomplished something badass, even in the age before a selfie was needed to make an outdoor trip complete.Looking back, I’m not sure why my runs up Brasstown became a thing. Maybe it was an escape from studying, or maybe it was a chance to get my mind off of stumbling my way into adulthood. Maybe it wasn’t even the running at all but the chance to get out alone in the mountains for awhile. One of my friends says that you never feel more alive than when you’re driving a little too fast down a southern backroad with the windows down and the radio blaring. He’s not wrong.Even though I and everything else around it had changed, the mountain—and the struggle of climbing it—was the same. And when it comes to why we get outdoors in the first place, isn’t that the point?Regardless of the reason, that feeling didn’t last. I eventually started a career and moved from visiting the mountains once a week to living in them, albeit a few hours north in Virginia. And over time, driving into the mountains quit being so special. It’s a feeling that all of us who live in the Blue Ridge risk. Our favorite parks and trails can become all too familiar, and the hills that once seemed so striking on our horizon can become just another part of the landscape. Today, I’ll often catch myself grumbling through traffic on my way to the trailhead after work to squeeze in an evening run.I never really thought about that change until this past winter, when a work trip put me back in Georgia and not too far from Brasstown. I ended up with a free afternoon, so I pointed the car north again and headed for the mountains just like I’d done years earlier. I wasn’t sure how it would turn out. The world seems angrier now, my understanding of it a bit wearier, and my body an undisclosed amount of weight heavier than when I made that first run up the mountain as a teenager. As I drove into the hills, I fumbled around for that old rock station but ended up finding someone shouting over political talk radio instead.I wish I could report that my return to Brasstown went well, but it didn’t. I started out from Jack’s Gap too fast, forgot my pacing, and blew up midway through a particularly steep grunt where the road angles right up the nose of the ridge. I walked, cussed, and trotted at intervals from there.At the top, though, I remembered why I made those runs so many years ago. In 15 years’ time, not much was different on the summit. The Brasstown Wilderness still cloaked the ridges surrounding the lookout, while the Blue Ridge gradually faded to the Piedmont to my south. Lake Chatuge glittered in the valley below. Even though I and everything else around it had changed, the mountain—and the struggle of climbing it—was the same. And when it comes to why we get outdoors in the first place, isn’t that the point?Maybe I’m just turning this essay into a therapy session, but maybe that’s also one of the many things the mountains can be. A few weeks after my trip to Georgia, I was sitting through an especially dull workday when that run up Brasstown came to mind. I snuck out of the office early, but this time I headed for the highest summit in the county instead of the park where I do my usual evening run. I left the car in a pull-out at the base of the mountain and began climbing an approach road that led to a lookout tower a couple of thousand feet higher up. It wasn’t Brasstown, but it was close enough.This run didn’t go any better, but as I eased around a sharp curve, an engine revved behind me. A pickup crept up the road, and a concerned voice called out from the driver’s seat.“You alright?”For a moment, it didn’t matter what mountain I was on. Everything clicked into place, and a goofy smile flashed across my face. “Oh, yeah,” I yelled back. “Everything’s fine.”last_img read more

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Mountain Medicine: Part 2 – Why We Need Ecotherapy

first_imgThe Changing American Life Click here to read the whole article Combine these elements and it’s easy to see why nature has taken a backseat. The average American does not feed himself directly from the land, lives in a concrete jungle, works within the shelter of walls and cubicles, and decompresses by vegging out in front of the computer or television. Our children are learning from our example, and are beginning to see the natural world as a threatening place. Engagement with nature is now viewed as a dispensable recreational and aesthetic amenity. It’s nice, but it’s not at the top of most people’s priority list. Part 2: Why We Need Ecotherapy As I sit here pecking at my keyboard in the darkness of my basement apartment, F.lux dims my computer monitor and transitions to a warm, yellowish glow. Every evening when the sun goes down, the app faithfully changes the color temperature of my display to reduce white-blue light, an all-too-common detractor of good sleep in a world full of screens. Though I admit it’s a clever piece of technology, it occurs to me that I’ve just been informed of the setting sun by a computer application. Though the idea of reconnection to nature was originally championed by artists and writers, scientists eventually joined the bandwagon. In 1984, Roger Ulrich studied hospital patients after surgery and discovered that people assigned to rooms with a window view of a natural setting had shorter post-operative stays and requested fewer painkillers. That initial study gave a modicum of credence to what many people have intuitively known for years: nature is good for us. From there, the field of ecopsychology truly took off. A cohesive definition of ecopsychology is a bit hard to pin down, since it is not only an academic discipline of study — it’s a little bit of biology, ecology, psychology, art, philosophy, environmentalism, and even a touch of the spiritual all mixed into one. Connecting them is the underlying desire to understand and revitalize the relationship between human beings and the natural world. I’ve learned more than I can possibly cover in this short series, but most importantly that a stronger relationship with nature is good for everyone, everywhere. Regardless of how old you are, what you do for work, where you live, whether or not you have a disability, or your level of income — reconnecting to nature is healing and possible, the consequences of which have a ripple effect through our lives, the lives of others, and the living things on the earth. Much has changed since Lucy, both for the world and for us. But one of these has changed much faster than the other. We stood on two legs four million years ago and the first homo sapiens walked the earth at least 300,000 years ago. 10,000 years ago we developed agriculture. And only 200 years ago did we have the first industrial machines. Digital technology emerged in the last 70 years, and it’s only been a decade since humans became predominantly urban rather than rural species. The field is beginning to gain traction and respect, particularly on the West Coast. Medical doctors have started prescribing time in the park, the Japanese practice of “forest-bathing” has entered the mainstream, and mental health practitioners are incorporating powerful therapeutic interventions to address depression, anxiety, ADHD, trauma and more. But perhaps most importantly, ecotherapy is challenging people to change their perspective about our relationship with nature — for ourselves, and for the good of the planet.  As I’ve illustrated, humans are prone to revolution. The Agricultural Revolution, the Industrial Revolution, the Digital Revolution, and the Information Revolution each catapulted humans to new heights of progress and change. This progress has come with its share of painful repercussions, but the fact remains: we are a revolutionary species. And while our penchant for aggressive problem-solving is partially to blame for why we’ve gotten into this mess, it’s also the way we will get out.  — — This is particularly problematic when you consider the fact that our climate is changing in dangerous ways — rising global temperature, warming oceans, melting glaciers, sea-level rise, extreme weather events, ocean acidification — and our children are the policy-makers of tomorrow. Canadian conservationist Robert Bateman remarked, “If you can’t name things, how can you love them? And if you don’t love them, then you’re not going to care a hoot about protecting them or voting for issues that would protect them.” Photo credit: Jordan Madrid But these technological solutions bring about new problems, and our vocabulary has expanded to include phrases we never knew we’d need. Ever experienced separation anxiety from your phone? That’s nomophobia. If you’ve ever felt jilted by a partner and jealous of a screen, that’s technoference. Was the vibration from your pocket entirely a figment of your imagination? Phantom phone syndrome. If you’ve ever diagnosed a skin tag on WebMD and convinced yourself of imminent death, that’s cyberchondria. I’ve experienced all of these at least once, and I suspect I am not alone. And for all of you on WedMD right now, channel your inner Arnold and repeat after me: it’s NOT a tumor. Appalachian Ecotherapy and Why We Need it Now Ecotherapy is one of those words that we didn’t know we’d need. It reminds us that we are not actually separate from nature, and that it’s time to check back in. Though I consider myself an avid lover of the outdoors, there are times when I forget that I haven’t gone outside for a few days. There are periods of my life that feel like everything else is just too important to bother with it. But neglecting my relationship with nature harms my wellbeing, and it’s nice to feel like it’s okay to prioritize it. Today only 2% of the population makes a living from farming, and they do it with a lot of help from powerful machines. Jobs and people have moved to cities, which generally discourage interaction with the natural world. According to the Pew Research Center, employment opportunities now require more social and analytical skills opposed to physical skills. That is, interpersonal skills, critical thinking, writing, and communication skills are in greatest demand. Of course, jobs that require these skills are mostly indoors. Hell, I can order my groceries online. Not only is my food processed, packaged, and presented in a temperature-controlled, well-lit environment, I no longer need to bother with the saga of actually shopping for it. Okay, so we might not be hunter-gatherers anymore. But you can’t visit a Walmart on Black Friday or watch someone in the produce section thumping on a cantaloupe and tell me that humans don’t still scavenge, hunt, compete, and gather in our own weird ways. But that’s no longer any need either — an hour of scrolling from the comfort of your recliner will provide sustenance for a week. Truly amazing.  It can be depressing to think about the damage humans have done to the planet and to think about where we are headed. But in my search for knowledge, I found others who still believe that we can change. I found solidarity to push back against apathy. Humans are defiant, and that is where my hope lies. When our ancestors harnessed the power of fire over a million years ago, our collective credo was born: the dark may frighten us, but it will not win. I don’t want to confuse my amusement for derision, however. Romanticizing the life of an Ice Age caveman would be an exercise in futility, besides a little silly. I am thankful for technology and the fact that it’s here to stay. It yields profound possibilities: food security, clean water, modern medicine, accessible information, civil engineering, global communication. The ability to poop while sitting on a ceramic chair. It’s probably fair to say that life is easier and more comfortable than it used to be. But the sword of human innovation has a sharp double-edge.  Photo credit: Sarah Vogel Thankfully, this problem isn’t as new as you might think. People have distrusted our increasing alienation from nature for a long time. Lord Byron wrote, “There is pleasure in the pathless woods, there is rapture in the lonely shore, there is society where none intrudes, by the deep sea, and music in its roar; I love not Man the less, but Nature more.” This changing world comes at a cost to our children as well. Nature has been shown to promote intellectual, emotional, and social development in children, but they are spending less time outside. Parents and schools have increasingly discouraged unstructured outdoor play, fearful of the dangers from traffic, malicious strangers, and from nature itself. Even children’s vocabulary has begun to change, with the most recent Oxford Junior Dictionary scrapping words like beaver, dandelion, otter, acorn, and ivy in favor of more modern words like blog, broadband, and voicemail. M stands for MP3, not magpie.  Unfortunately, the earth doesn’t give a damn about our priorities. Whether we like it or not, the health of the planet is directly tied to our own — air pollution causes respiratory disease, heavy metals cause neurotoxicity, global climate change is likely to fuel the spread of infectious diseases. A healthy planet makes for healthy humans. But beyond basic survival of the species, evidence shows that personal connection and engagement with nature is critical for individual wellbeing and happiness. Full consequences yet untold, the longstanding relationship between humans and the natural world has become heartbreakingly estranged. But let’s refuse to let that be the end of the story. Changing the culture of a society to re-prioritize nature is a challenge that any conservationist would love to solve. But it begins with each individual caring enough about themselves to re-prioritize their own time to commune with nature, and to discover individually what that means. It takes caring enough to want to share that experience with others. It takes the curiosity and awe of children. It takes the curiosity and awe of your inner child.  Patients with a window view of a natural setting had shorter post-operative stays and requested fewer painkillers. When we’re not working or sleeping, most of the remaining time is spent on leisure — another fast-changing piece of American life. While recreation used to revolve around unstructured outdoor play, hunting, fishing, camping, and athletics, the popularity of these activities has either stagnated or declined. According to the Nielsen Company Audience report, Americans now spend more than 11 hours per day in front of a screen, a figure unsurprising when we consider how integral information technology has become. Whether it’s finding a place to eat, settling a debate, playing games, getting directions, taking photos, scheduling, setting alarms, listening to music, or finding your future spouse — there’s an app for that. For the vast majority of human history, we’ve been keenly aware that we are at nature’s mercy. Its bounty and destruction drew life’s boundaries and we had to color inside its lines. Violent storms, razor-toothed predators, pestilence, and drought were high stakes. Good harvest, dry shelter, plentiful game, and clean water were high stakes. While these facts remain true today and always will, it feels like our awareness isn’t quite as keen and the stakes aren’t quite as high.   Evolution Ecotherapy: A Revolutionary Movement It wasn’t always like this. In fact, it was almost always not like this. Back in Lucy’s time about three and half million years ago, our bipedal ancestors took great heed of the dark and the predators that came with it. The setting sun was final call to get to shelter, bed down, and conserve energy for a new day. Understanding this cue from nature was vital to the survival of our forebears, and they certainly didn’t need an app to send that message home. Ecotherapy is where theory meets application — communing with nature to heal. This covers a huge range of activities from listening to nature sounds on your headphones to volunteering and eco-activism to month-long wilderness therapy programs in the remote backcountry. Still a nascent field, it is unrestricted by official licensing boards and brings a diverse group of people with equally diverse practices. It can mean structured interventions with a therapist or activities practiced individually. With globalization, outsourcing of labor, and changes in technology, the landscape of American life is pretty different that it used to be. In the 1800s, 90% of the U.S. population lived on farms. They made shelter from sod, rose with the sun, tilled soil, planted seeds, irrigated the land, and cultivated crops by way of literal horsepower and handheld tools. The harvest determined one’s financial and actual survival. Life was constant negotiation with nature. Now that’s a lot of zeros flying around, and it’s hard for me to wrap my head around millions of years, so let’s scale it down. If the span of human history were only 400 years long rather than four million, we’ve spent 399 of those hunting and gathering. Agriculture came about within the last year, we’ve had machines for about a week, digital technology for two and a half days, and we’ve been city dwellers for nine minutes. In other words, 99% of our time on this earth has required a very different lifestyle than the one we live today.  Living in the heart of Appalachia has been a blessing. Though I’ve climbed these old, blue hills again and again, I’ve never lost my reverence for their magic. They have granted me my best memories and carried some of my heaviest burdens. Though ecotherapy is less common on the East Coast, I knew there must be researchers and healers in the Blue Ridge who recognized the potential in channeling the beauty of this place we call home. We’ve become so enmeshed with our technology we’d rather commit to a relationship with our devices over of a relationship with ourselves, other people, and nature. Communicating digitally can superficially satisfy the desire for social interaction without even needing to leave the house. Entertainment is available from the push of a button in your living room. And every product is designed to entice and to addict, making it difficult to peel away and do something else. On my journey I met with some old colleagues, therapists, academic researchers, entrepreneurs, activists, artists, parents, and trauma survivors to learn more about this growing field. I wanted to know their experiences and thoughts about why nature is such a powerful healer and how we can use these concepts in our daily lives. A Brief Lesson in Human History Let’s figure out how to get that back.last_img read more

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Ricky Martin Visits Port-au-Prince Neighborhoods Affected By The Earthquake

first_imgBy Dialogo January 20, 2010 Port-au-Prince, 19 January (EFE).- Singer Ricky Martin traveled to Port-au-Prince today to visit the areas affected by last Tuesday’s earthquake, a catastrophe that he characterized as a “living nightmare,” the organization Habitat for Humanity International announced in a press release.” The images that are now in my head will be impossible to erase. Children and families impacted by this disaster will need long-term help restoring their lives, in every sense of the word,” Martin said. Martin called on society to think about the future of the affected children, who, once they have received appropriate care, will need “a safe and decent home.” The organization will provide those affected by the earthquake with kits and tools to repair damaged residences. “We want to provide the widest range of resources available to get families back into their homes,” said Habitat for Humanity’s chief executive officer, Jonathan Reckford, who accompanied the artist. “I think the last thing any of us wants is for a child to be without a home. Together, we need to protect the children and families displaced by the earthquake in Haiti,” said Martin, who asked for donations to the RMF/HFH Fund, created jointly by Habitat for Humanity and the Ricky Martin Foundation.last_img read more

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