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October 25, 2012

The Pronghorn Overpass

The fastest land animal in the U.S. now has safe passage across a Wyoming highway -- extending a seasonal migration that's been going on for 6,000 years.

Pronghorn antelope have started using two overpasses atop Highway 191 that were completed this fall, the Wildlife Conservation Society announced this week. Eight-foot high fencing channels the animals to the crossing points.

“The importance of these overpasses and their use by pronghorn cannot be overstated,” Joel
Berger, a Wildlife Conservation Society scientist, said in a statement announcing the first successful crossings. “They eliminate the danger of collisions and will help to preserve a spectacular element of our natural heritage -- the longest mammal migration in the 48 contiguous United States.”

The group has been tracking pronghorn in the area and provided data for Wyoming to decide where to put the overpasses.

The entire $10 million project includes six underpasses used by deer, moose, elk and other animals. Pronghorn got the overpasses because they don't like going into tunnels.

The eight passages are along a 13-mile stretch of Highway 191. The state's aim was to reduce car-wildlife crashes -- from 2002 and 2006, 49 deer and three pronghorn were killed in crashes.

Able to run at speeds up to 70 mph, pronghorn probably numbered around 35 million in North America two centuries ago, the Wildlife Conservation Society stated. Today, Wyoming is home to more than half of the estimated 700,000 pronghorn left in North America.

The pronghorn use the corridor to get back and forth between winter sagebrush in the Upper Green River Basin and summer grounds in Grand Teton National Park.

Several hundred make the 93-mile migration each season -- and now they have the chance to do it without stopping at Highway 191.

The Associated Press, NBC news and Y2Y Conservation

October 19, 2012

10 Ways to Reduce Your Plastic Footprint

Just like everyone has a carbon footprint, people also have a plastic footprint – which measures how much plastic a person uses during a given time period.
While it is impossible – and arguably impractical – to entirely eliminate plastic from your life, you can take steps to cut unnecessary plastics. Here are 10 easy ways to reduce your plastic footprint:
 1. Stop using single-use plastic water bottles. In nearly all cases, the water out of your tap is just as safe – if not safer – than the water distributed in single-use plastic bottles.  Instead, buy and use a reusable bottle and fill it with water.
 2. Whenever possible, buy food in bulk. Buying food in bulk helps to reduce the total amount of packaging materials consumed.
 3. Buy your music/movies electronically. By purchasing your music electronically, you avoid the need to create plastic compact discs, plastic jewel cases, and cellophane wrapping.
 4. Stop using plastic grocery bags. Each year over one trillion plastic bags are used worldwide. Because these bags are so light and thin, they are easily carried by the wind out into the environment. Instead, use reusable bags to get your groceries and other purchases home.
 5. Say “NO” to pre-packaged single serving portions. These types of products are among the worst when it comes to excess packaging.
 6. Reusable containers are rad! When it comes to lunch and leftovers, ditch the plastic bag and use reusable containers instead. Reusable containers are just as easy to use and far less harmful to the planet
 7. Buy a reusable travel mug. Use a reusable travel mug or to-go cup for your coffee, tea and other beverage purchases. Think of all the lids (as well as the waxed paper cups) you’ll save.
 8. Always look for alternative packaging. Many items such as soft drinks, detergent, cat litter, etc. come in alternate packaging (such as aluminum or cardboard) that can be more easily recycled than plastic.
 9. Buy and sell secondhand. Clothing, toys, baby gear, furniture, household supplies, sporting goods and many other consumer items can often be found through secondhand sources, thereby reducing the amount of new plastic entering the waste stream.
 10. Recycle! In those instances where you must use plastic, please make sure to recycle it. Most plastics can be upcycled to make cool and useful items.

Gardening with Autumn Leaves

What should you do with the leaves that fall in your yard?

Autumn leaves are a huge gift to gardeners. With minimal effort, they can be used to feed plants, build the soil, protect against disease, shelter tender perennials, and control weeds. And they're free!

What's important is shredding them. Left whole, they'll mat together, preventing oxygen and bacteria from penetrating the layers. The easiest way to shred them is to simply run over them with the lawn mower a few times. This is particularly handy if it's the lawn you want to feed; just mow them into bits and leave them.

Or, if you have a leaf blower, forget the "blowing" part and turn it to "vacuum." Your leaves will be nicely shredded, and contained too.

Once they're shredded you can:
  • Feed the soil - cover garden beds with a 3- to 4-inch layer of shredded leaves, or turn them under with a tiller.
  • Compost them - Leaf mold is a horticultural mainstay that can even be used to replace peat in potting soil mixes. Whether you're composting them alone or adding them to an existing pile, be sure to soak them down.
  • Use as mulch - Tuck a 4- to 6-inch layer around perennials for winter protection.

This is a beautiful time of year. Make the most of what nature has to offer you.

Clean Water Act turns 40

This week marks the 40th anniversary of one of America’s landmark environmental bills, the Clean Water Act (CWA). In 1972, Democrats and Republicans alike supported the passage of this bill as citizens across this country were outraged at the gross and rampant pollution that was spreading through our waterways. While most of our national attention focuses on the upcoming elections, I hope that our leaders in DC remember that nothing is more essential to our health, economy, and quality of life than clean water.
Read more here about what the CWA has achieved over the last four decades and the challenges we face going forward.

October 18, 2012

Giant Mysterious Eyeball

A giant blue eyeball washed ashore last week in Pompano Beach, Florida and left many wondering about the origin. Researchers from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission declared that the eyeball most likely came from a swordfish. The experts based their conclusion on the eyeball’s color, size and structure, along with the presence of bone around it. Genetic testing will be done to confirm the identification.

October 17, 2012

The Winner of Worst Environmental Offender of 2012 is...

Take your pick. Below are the three top environmental offenders of 2012 according to a poll taken by the Center for Biological Diversity. Every year CBD asks the public to vote for the "winner" of the worst. They are calling this "award" the Dodo Award, named after the most famous extinct animal.

Here they are, in no particular order:

Sen. James Inhofe: When it comes to denying the climate crisis -- the single-greatest threat facing life on Earth -- James Inhofe has few peers. The Oklahoma Republican is the ringleader of right-wing climate-deniers in Congress and a driving force behind the tragic lack of U.S. action to tackle this crisis. Sure, every major scientific organization on the planet is sounding the alarm bells about global warming, and more than 40,000 temperature records have been broken in the United States this year alone. Yes, a new study says climate change may kill 100 million people by 2030. But Inhofe insists it's all an elaborate hoax. Rather than heed the call from the world's scientists, Inhofe is doubling down on "denialist politics," insisting on projects like the Keystone XL pipeline that will dig us deeper into a climate hole that already comes up to our chins.
Sen. Jon Tester: If you're wondering why most wolves in the West are no longer protected by the Endangered Species Act, look no further than Mr. Tester. The Montana Democrat stuck a rider on a must-pass budget bill that eliminated federal protections from wolves in Montana, Wyoming, Idaho and parts of three other states. The bill set a dangerous precedent, marking the first time that politicians, rather than scientists, decided when a species should lose its protections. It's had disastrous on-the-ground impacts, too: Since Tester's bill, more than 600 wolves in the West have been killed by hunters, trappers and government agents. What's more, Tester just added another provision to another bill, aiming to ban the government from saving thousands of eagles, condors, swans and other birds from being lethally poisoned by lead hunting ammunition left in the wild.
Shell: Talk about not taking "no" for an answer. Shell Oil is determined to sink its drills into the pristine Arctic, no matter how great the danger that poses to polar bears, walruses or other Far North wildlife. Since 2007 Shell had tried and failed to launch industrial oil-drilling operations in the Arctic Ocean (and recently sued a dozen environmental groups that had kept the company out of the region). The Obama administration opened the door to the Arctic this year, only to see Shell caught up in a series of blunders. First the company announced it couldn't comply with air-pollution permits and asked the EPA to waive Clean Air Act requirements. Next its drillship slipped its moorings off the coast of Alaska and drifted dangerously close to shore. Finally a mishap with an oil-spill containment device forced Shell to call off plans to drill for oil this year. But certainly the oil giant will try to return to the Arctic in 2013 -- much to the dismay of anyone who cares about clean oceans, safe sea life and a climate that's not choked by fossil-fuel pollution.
Tell me who you think should win the Dodo Award.

October 15, 2012

Circus without Animals

Bob Barker delivers a service announcement for Circus PAWS, a collaboration between Cirque du Soleil and the Performing Animal Welfare Society. No animals feature in the performances, and the main attraction are some extremely talented kids.

“Come on Down!” And check it out.

October 14, 2012

Legend of the Woolly Bear Caterpillar

I was out with a group of elementary-aged kids on a field trip, having lunch near a garden, when one of the kids noticed what they called a "fuzzy worm." I told them the "fuzzy worm" was actually called a "woolly bear caterpillar." Then one of their chaperons looked at the woolly bear and exclaimed, "It looks like we're in for a mild winter!" I knew what she was talking about. I also knew that, like most people, she has it wrong - but it's not her fault...


Legend has it that the wider the woolly bear caterpillar's orangey-brown middle band, the milder the impending winter. But the woolly bear's famous prognosticating band is actually an indicator of age: the wider the band, the earlier in the season the woolly bear was hatched. And, as early hatchings indicate a warm and early spring, the woolly bear does indeed wear the weather in its wool, but it's last season's pattern, not the next.

Find the truth to other legends.

October 13, 2012

Ten Ways to Save Water – and Our Water Sources

The water problems we face are complex and urgent. The only way to create a healthier future is for everyone to do their part. We must use less water and save the sources of our water. There are actions that each of us can take, inside and outside, to reduce our own impacts.
Inside -
1. Run washing machines & dishwashers only when they’re full. Large loads = less water used. And save energy by turning off the auto-dry setting and letting your dishes dry naturally.
2. Keeping a timer in your bathroom will help you take a shorter shower. And please turn off the faucet while brushing your teeth. All that perfectly clean tap water is just going down the drain.
3. Turn off lights and unplug chargers. Water is used in all forms of energy generation. It can take over 4 gallons of water to keep a 60-watt light bulb lit for 12 hours.
4. Use biodegradable cleaning products. The water that goes down your drains will eventually flow into streams and bays.
5. Skip meat for one meal a week (at LEAST).  It can take about 600 gallons of water to produce a hamburger. (Think of all the grain that’s grown to feed the cattle.)
Outside -
6. Plant a tree in your yard or a friend’s yard. Trees help keep soil in place – rather than flowing into our streams and lakes – and help slow water down, reducing flooding and enabling more rainwater to trickle down into groundwater supplies.
7. Landscape irrigation is by far the largest source of domestic water uses so consider taking these steps to reduce your impact:
•Water your lawn or garden in the morning or the evening when the water will evaporate less rapidly. Adjust sprinklers to avoid the pointless watering of sidewalks or paved areas.
•Sweep patios and sidewalks rather than hosing them, which wastes water and carries contaminants into freshwater systems.
•Limit pesticide use. Pesticides are the only substances we intentionally introduce into our environment to kill living things, and besides being potentially dangerous to people, pets and wildlife, they’ll eventually be carried into our freshwater supply by runoff.
8. Make sure your hiking gear is free of plant matter when you head out into nature. Seeds of invasive plant species can hitch a ride on boots. Invasive species can cause many water problems, including absorbing more water than native species and sending erosion and bacteria into rivers and lakes.
9. Volunteer for a stream-clean up or wetland restoration event.
10. Take someone on a hike near a river or lake – or better yet, get in or on the water – swimming, kayaking, canoeing, etc. People protect things they care about.

October 12, 2012

Save the Stamp that Saves Species

Right now, the global wildlife poaching crisis has reached epidemic levels and stopping it requires all of us to do our part. Rangers are serving on the front lines, protecting wildlife. WWF is working with U.S. officials to combat illegal wildlife trade. And thousands of Americans like you are helping save those same species one stamp at a time through the U.S. Postal Service’s Save Vanishing Species stamp.

However, despite raising more than $1.5 million over the last year to protect rhinos, tigers and elephants at no cost to the federal government, the Save Vanishing Species stamp could itself vanish if Congress doesn’t vote to renew it before they adjourn in December.

At a time when the wildlife species we love are facing the worst threats to their survival we have ever seen, ending programs that help to save them is the last thing we should do. Critical funds generated by the stamp mean more rangers on the ground, more training for park guards and fewer animals lost to poachers.

A simple vote to extend the life of the Save Vanishing Species stamp could literally mean the difference between life and death for these animals.

Make your voice heard.

October 8, 2012

Marine Biologists use Dog to Track & Save Whales

A dog named Tucker, once a stray on the streets of Seattle, is playing a vital role in saving orcas, an endangered species. Tucker, a black lab mix, bears the proud distinction of being the world’s only working dog that is trained to detect and follow the scent of orca scat in the open ocean at distances of up to a mile away.

Desalination no Remedy for California Water Woes

Producing drinking water from seawater has been technologically achievable for several decades. Until recently, however, application of seawater desalination ("desal") on a large scale has been primarily limited to arid regions of the world that have a cheap supply of energy, such as in the Middle East. Desalination plants can take water from the ocean or drill down and grab the less salty, brackish water from seaside aquifers. It is a worldwide phenomenon that has been embraced in thirsty California, with its cycles of drought and growing population. But many projects have been stymied by skyrocketing costs and legal challenges.

October 7, 2012

Mysterious Deep Sea Circles

Yoji Ookata, a deep-sea photographer and diver who has been documenting the ocean for more than 50 years, saw something he had never observed before: A circular pattern of rippling sand about 80 feet below sea level and 6 feet in diameter on the ocean floor. Ookata dubbed his new find the "mystery circle" and was shocked to discover that a single puffer fish, no more than a few inches long, had created the circles using just one fin.

Northeast Ocean Temperatures Reach Record High

Federal ocean scientists said this year’s sea surface temperatures along the northeast coast of the U.S. set all-time records, with as-yet unknown consequences for marine ecosystems. Above-average temperatures were found in all parts of the ecosystem, from the ocean bottom to the sea surface. The average sea surface temperature exceeded 51 degrees during the first half of 2012, topping the previous record high set in 1951. The average sea surface temperature the past three decades has ranged around 48 degrees.

October 6, 2012

Japanese Tsunami Debris Washes Ashore in Hawaii

More than 16 months after an earthquake and tsunami devastated parts of Japan, debris has begun to wash ashore in the U.S.'s Pacific Ocean coastal states. The debris first arrived on beaches in Alaska and Oregon but now Hawaii is being affected. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has confirmed that a large plastic bin which washed ashore on Friday was a piece of debris from Japan and had floated across the Pacific Ocean. The sad reality is that the massive amount of tsunami debris is still only a fraction of total amount of marine pollution that is out there. The battle exists on many fronts.

Ice Record Set in Antarctic

In a potential distraction from the news that Arctic sea-ice extent reached a record low, Antarctic sea ice reached its highest level ever recorded for the 256th day of the calendar year on Sept. 12. The physical geography of the two hemispheres is very different, so the effects of global warming would be seen first in the Arctic and not the Antarctic.

October 5, 2012

Shark Saves Man Drifting at Sea

A lost fisherman, who drifted at sea for 15 weeks, sleeping next to his dead brother-in-law, was eventually helped to safety - by a shark. Toakai Teitoi was stuck on a 15ft wooden boat for more than 100 days after he ran out of fuel and the vessel drifted deep into the Pacific. Teitoi claims it was only after the intervention of a circling shark that he was eventually rescued

Seismic Testing off California Coast

Seismic testing is slated to begin off the coast of Central California this November. Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) proposed the tests to assess the susceptibility of the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Generating Facility to seismic activity. A 240-foot ship will tow powerful air cannons along a 50-mile stretch of the Central Coast, shooting deafening underwater explosions (upward of 250 decibels) every 13 seconds for 42 straight days. This action will be catastrophic to local marine life, especially marine mammals, which rely on their sensitive auditory capabilities for communication and navigation. The takings permit for the project – the estimated amount of wildlife that could be killed – includes 15 blue whales, 13 humpback whales, 1,652 bottlenose dolphins, 1,062 California sea lions and 1,485 southern sea otters There is also the possibility of death or injury to thousands of other marine mammals, and untold scores of fish and birds. This potential loss of wildlife is even more staggering considering it will impact areas specially designated to protect marine life.

October 3, 2012

How to Decorate to Save Energy during Winter

For many of us, cooler weather means higher utility bills. As the temperatures drop, it takes more energy and money to power our homes. Research conducted by EnergyStar.gov found that lighting accounts for 12 percent and heating nearly 30 percent of energy usage in an average American home.
While you may be aware of measures that can reduce energy bills – like adding insulation to your attic, programmable thermostats, or energy efficient appliances – did you know that your home decor can also help boost your home’s energy efficiency? Here are a few simple home decor tips that can help trim your utility bills this winter:
Work those windows                                                                                                                                    
Windows add beauty to a home, but they are also a major contributor to energy waste. Experts estimate that 10 to 25 percent of residential heating costs are due to unprotected or ill-fitting windows. Proper weather stripping of windows is essential. Installing double-paned Energy Star windows with a low-e coating is an excellent way to preserve heat and energy. The gas center of the dual panes adds protection from the cold, while the low-e coating reflects heat back into the home.
Additionally, the window treatments you choose can greatly enhance your home’s energy efficiency, limiting expensive dependence on heating and air conditioning. Online retailer Blindsgalore.com carries a large variety of energy-efficient window treatments, including cellular shades, wood blinds, faux wood blinds and solar screens. The honeycomb design of cellular shades traps an insulating layer of air within the pockets of the shade. Wood and faux-wood blinds add elegant style to a home, while also blocking drafts and trapping heat inside. Solar screens are interior window treatments that diminish energy transfer and heat loss through windows, while still admitting light and allowing line of sight.
Window tinting is another emerging energy conservation technique. During the warmer months the tinting eliminates 60 percent of solar heat from entering the home, while also blocking 99 percent of the harmful ultraviolet rays that fade furniture and carpet. The nearly transparent film helps reduce glare on televisions and computer screens, but most importantly, can reduce cooling costs by 30 percent. During the winter, the tinting material works as another layer of window insulation.
Kick it up with color
Color affects mood in home decor, but did you know it also changes a room’s energy efficiency? It is more than a psychological effect; painting in darker warm colors, especially the exterior of a house, increases the temperature. Dark colors absorb more light, pulling heat into the home. 
Another opportunity for a pop of color can be found in flooring. Dark-colored wood floors (for example, espresso) are much more energy efficient than tiled floors. Tile is a highly effective heat conductor that pulls warmth away from your feet, making it feel much colder than wood, which pushes the heat back toward your feet.
Choosing darker blinds and flooring can increase absorption and retention of warmth from the day, helping lower your heating bills throughout the winter.
Insider insulation
Quality of insulation is the keystone of energy-efficiency. Adding chic fabrics to the walls is a great way to insulate a room, making it feel warmer and quieter. Heavy fabric drapes help block drafts and keep heat in your home. Increase the insulation in your room by covering large areas of bare floor with thick area rugs. Attractive throw blankets and decorative pillows on your couch will add a sense of comfortable warmth and allow for a lower thermostat setting.
Updating your home decor is more than just fun; it can also help make your home cozy and more energy-efficient for this winter season.

Make a Game with Autumn Leaves

Old leaves can become a new game. Make an autumn obstacle course.

What you need:

•a yard full of leaves
•rakes and bags
•3 bean bags (optional)
What you do:

1.Design your course. Decide where you will build your course, what shape it will take, and what obstacles you will include. Here are some obstacle ideas to get you started:
◦Pile of leaves to crawl through,
◦Bags of leaves to leap over,
◦Paper grocery bags that must be filled with leaves before continuing on,
◦Stations where your child must find three bean bags (or other objects) that are buried in a leaf pile, and
◦A huge pile of leaves to dive into as the grand finale.
2.Start raking. To make an obstacle course, you’ll need leaves, lots of them. Give your child a small rake so he or she can help collect the leaves you’ll need. Then arrange the leaves into the obstacle course you designed earlier. (If you have two kids who want to race, make two identical courses.)
3.Ready, set, go! Now it’s time to have fun. Race with your child or referee two kids racing. Or time your child as he or she runs the course. Change the obstacles to keep the fun going.
What you talk about:

1.Fall into the season. Tell your child that autumn has another name – fall. Ask if he or she can guess where the name came from. Explain that it refers to the time of year when the leaves on some trees turn color and “fall” off.
2.Why do leaves change color? Explain to your child that leaves are green because they contain chlorophyll, a substance that helps plants make food. In fall, leaves stop making chlorophyll, and their green color fades. That’s when other colors that were underneath—the beautiful yellows, reds and oranges of fall—can show through. Ask your child to guess the most common leaf color (Answer: yellow.)
3.Fall recycling. Help your child discover ways that nature reuses old leaves. Overturn a bunch of leaves that have been on the ground for a while. You’re likely to find insects and other creatures. That’s because leaves provide these animals with food and shelter. Look for leaves from last year, and show your child how the old leaves have begun to decay. Explain that these old, rotten leaves enrich the soil, supplying food so other plants can grow.

October 2, 2012

Marine Park the "Size of the Moon"

An ambitious plan to link marine parks across a vast swathe of ocean - whose surface area would equal that of the Moon - is slowly coming together piece by piece, say conservationists.

Former international rugby league player turned environmentalist, Kevin Iro, is a driving force behind the part of the park that will encompass the Cook Islands - a nation whose combined landmass is barely bigger than Washington DC.

"When I was a kid, this was all alive," said Iro, grimacing as he scooped up a lump of dead, grey coral while walking the white sands of a Cook Island beach in the Pacific.

"There were tracks in the coral and if you walked off them you could hear the coral crunching. Now there's no coral here, basically."

The Cooks' Prime Minister Henry Puna formally unveiled the 1.065 million square kilometre (411,000 square mile) reserve when he hosted the Pacific Islands Forum last month, vowing to protect the ocean for future generations.

Puna said the commitment by the tiny nation of 15 islands was its major contribution "to the well-being of not only our peoples, but also of humanity".

Peter Seligmann, co-founder of green group Conservation International (CI), said the establishment of such a large marine park was a courageous move for the Cooks and placed the Pacific at the forefront of ocean conservation.

But to Seligmann the Cook Islands park, while welcome, is just a single piece of the jigsaw.

The American is working with Pacific island states to create a network of similar parks across the region to ensure one of the world's last pristine ocean ecosystems is managed sustainably.

The scale of the proposed network, dubbed the Pacific Oceanscape, is unprecedented - a 40 million square kilometre area stretching from the Marshall Islands in the north almost to New Zealand in the south.

That's about eight per cent of the world's surface area, almost four times larger than Europe and big enough to fit Australia in five times over. It's almost exactly the same size as the surface area of the Moon.

"What we are seeing is the largest conservation initiative in history," Seligmann told AFP. "Piece by piece, nation by nation, it's coming together. It's massive."

Source: US Fish & Wildlife


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