Mar
21
2012
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End of the road: Group aims to finish Corridor H by 2020

http://www.wvgazette.com/News/Business/201203160177

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — It’s been in the works for nearly 50 years, but a local group is hopeful that Corridor H will be complete by 2020.

The highway, which will stretch from Weston to just beyond the Virginia border, is the last in West Virginia to be completed as a part of the Appalachian Corridor System. Congress commissioned the system of highways in 1964 to spur commerce and business throughout the Appalachian region.

 

Read more…

Written by Administrator in: Environment,Public Lands |
Mar
17
2012
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Medical and health groups file suit to protect limits on mercury, air toxics pollution

http://www.apha.org/about/news/pressreleases/2012/matsfiling.htm

For Immediate Release

For more information, please contact APHA Communications at (202) 777-2509 or mediarelations@apha.org .

Washington, D.C., March 16, 2012 – Today five professional medical societies and public health groups took legal action to support public health safeguards that reduce mercury and toxic air pollution from power plants.  The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Lung Association, the American Nurses Association, the American Public Health Association, and Physicians for Social Responsibility, represented by the Southern Environmental Law Center, filed a motion to intervene in support of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, which set long-overdue limits on the emissions of hazardous air pollutants from coal- and oil-fired power plants.

These groups acted to support the EPA’s official limits on toxic emissions from the 600 coal- and oil-fired power plants located in more than 40 U.S. states. Not only are these power plants the largest producers of mercury pollution, they emit more than 80 of the 187 hazardous pollutants identified for control by the Clean Air Act.  Many of these pollutants, such as dioxins, arsenic, and lead, can cause cancer and cardiovascular disease. Some harm the kidneys, lungs, and nervous system. Others can kill.  The groups support the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards as the best way to reduce these pollutants and prevent up to 11,000 premature deaths each year.

“The dangerous health risks associated with coal-burning power plants are no longer elusive, distant threats,” said Georges C. Benjamin, MD, FACP, FACEP (E), executive director of the American Public Health Association. “Blocking these standards could mean the difference between a chronic debilitating, expensive illness or healthy life for hundreds of thousands of American children and adults.”

Big polluters have fought and delayed implementing tighter standards for more than twenty years. Now, they and their allies have filed challenges to the EPA on the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards before the U.S. Circuit Court for the District of Columbia. Refuting those challenges is why the medical societies and public health groups filed papers to intervene today.

“Children and pregnant women need protection from mercury, because of the harm it does to developing neurological systems, resulting in learning disabilities and birth defects,” said Robert W. Block, MD, FAAP, president, American Academy of Pediatrics. “We should all work to protect children from such a devastating threat, or from arsenic, dioxins or other toxic pollutants from these power plants.”

These five groups support the Standards because of the expected public health benefits that will begin once the controls are in place. The EPA has estimated that reducing the emissions of these toxic air pollutants will annually prevent up to 11,000 premature deaths, 4,700 heart attacks, 130,000 asthma attacks and 5,700 hospital and emergency room visits.

The EPA also estimates that cleaning up these emissions will provide $3 to $9 in healthcare and economic benefits for every $1 spent on clean-up. Yet, cleaning up mercury and toxic air pollution will probably benefit public health more than the EPA has calculated.

“PSR has worked for over 20 years for this standard.  Economic models don’t begin to calculate all the health benefits from avoiding more than 80 toxic emissions from these power plants,” explained Catherine Thomasson, MD, Physicians for Social Responsibility. “For example, cancers from these toxic emissions, or damage to kidneys, liver and reproductive systems, were not included. Those benefits are in addition to the quantifiable terrific public health savings.”

Power plants are by far the biggest emitters of many toxic air pollutants, including mercury, arsenic and acid gases.  Among the pollutants that this rule would limit are recognized carcinogens such as benzene, formaldehyde, and dioxins and metals such as beryllium, chromium, nickel and lead.

“Nurses are here today to support EPA’s efforts to close a toxic loophole that has existed for 20 years by updating standards to protect Americans all across the country from hazardous air pollution,” said Amy Garcia, MSN, RN, CAE, Chief Programs Officer of the American Nurses Association. “Without these standards, more people will suffer—and even die—unnecessarily. We need these standards in place, protecting our patients and our families.”

“Attempts to delay or dismantle the Clean Air Act, or rules like the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, reward industry polluters and punish those most vulnerable to dirty air,” said Albert Rizzo, MD, Chairman of the Board for the American Lung Association. “These new standards mark a huge step forward in clean air protections and will be responsible for saving thousands of lives each year.”

“Protecting American lives and the health of our children from toxic mercury and other hazardous air pollution is a core Clean Air Act requirement that cannot be delayed further by politics and polluter profit margins,” said John Suttles, the Southern Environmental Law Center attorney representing the five health groups in today’s filing.  “Defending national limits on toxic emissions from big polluters promotes our clients’ commitment to protecting the health of American families—from vulnerable newborns to senior citizens.”

# # #

Founded in 1872, the APHA is the oldest, largest and most diverse organization of public health professionals in the world. The association aims to protect all Americans and their communities from preventable, serious health threats and strives to assure community-based health promotion and disease prevention activities and preventive health services are universally accessible in the United States. APHA represents a broad array of health providers, educators, environmentalists, policy-makers and health officials at all levels working both within and outside governmental organizations and educational institutions. More information is available at www.apha.org.

Written by Administrator in: Air Quality,Energy,Environment,MERCURY |
Feb
27
2012
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Bald eagles win a round against Red Wing wind farm

http://www.startribune.com/local/140226163.html

Wind turbines won’t sprout near Red Wing for at least a year, state regulators decide.

Article by: JOSEPHINE MARCOTTY , Star Tribune

Bald eagles won an unexpected victory Thursday when Minnesota regulators delayed a wind farm near Red Wing for at least a year because the developer failed to produce an adequate plan to protect America’s national symbol and other flying creatures.

Local residents who have been fighting the 48-turbine farm for years hugged each other and wiped away tears when the three-member Public Utilities Commission (PUC) voted 2-1 to deny the plan. The PUC demanded that AWA Goodhue Wind, owned by Texas billionaire T. Boone Pickens, provide better research on how many eagles and bats fly through or near the site, which is prime hunting and nesting territory.

 

Read more…

Written by Administrator in: Environment,Wind Energy |
Feb
18
2012
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Leading Bird Conservation Group Says Wind Eagle Take Permit Not Justified

Data Deficient in Several Areas, Standards Prescribed in Feds’ Own Rules Not Met

 

MEDIA RELEASE
Contact: Robert Johns, 202-234-7181 ext.210, Email click here

 

http://www.abcbirds.org/newsandreports/releases/120217.html

Golden Eagle by Martin Mecnarowski

(Washington, D.C., February 17, 2012) American Bird Conservancy (ABC), the nation’s leading bird conservation organization, today sent a letter to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) voicing strong concerns about the first-ever application for a special permit that would allow Golden Eagles to be incidentally killed. The proposed “incidental take permit,” submitted under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, would allow Oregon’s West Butte Wind Project to kill, harm, or disturb up to three Golden Eagles over five years, as long as certain conservation measures were implemented.

 

ABC’s letter charges that the data upon which an FWS decision would be based are markedly deficient, and that the federal government is not meeting standards prescribed in its own regulations published less than three years ago. ABC also cites emails, obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, between senior Department of Interior staff casting doubt on the whether the project could ever be safe for birds, including Golden Eagles.

 

“American Bird Conservancy is in favor of wind power so long as it is bird-smart. This includes permitting, which would allow FWS to advance good projects while preventing bad ones. It is vital that we get this first permit right since it will likely be used as a model for future similar permits. But more information is needed to determine the actual risk to Golden and Bald Eagles, and the permit should not be issued without that information. We’re already seeing significant Golden Eagle mortality issues emerge from another project that was thought to be low risk at Pine Tree Wind Farm in California where eight Golden Eagles have been killed in two years,” said Kelly Fuller, ABC’s Wind Campaign Coordinator.

 

Specifically, the project has failed to provide adequate data on the Golden Eagle population and Golden Eagle prey abundance in the area, and has not performed sufficient avian-use surveys. Additionally, ABC has raised concerns that Bald Eagles are also known to be very near the site, but the FWS environmental analysis does not give enough information to determine whether they are at risk, or what FWS would do if Bald Eagles were killed. The project developer has not applied for an incidental take permit for Bald Eagles, just for Golden Eagles.

 

“The developer did the right thing in applying for the permit instead of simply proceeding with development.  Unfortunately, the draft Environmental Assessment for the proposed West Butte permit doesn’t offer enough information to show how much risk the project really poses to both Bald and Golden Eagles, and whether the proposed conservation measures in the permit could ultimately help them,” Fuller said.

 

“The data provided in the application are clearly insufficient to demonstrate that a resultant decline in eagle populations will not occur. This contradicts FWS’s own 2009 regulations designed to implement the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act,” Fuller said.

 

The take permit application was submitted by West Butte Wind Power LLC. FWS subsequently prepared a Draft Environmental Assessment on the proposal and allowed public comments through February 2. They subsequently extended the deadline until February 17 after ABC and other groups asked for more time to assess the nearly 600 pages of relevant documents.

 

The West Butte Wind Project, if built, would be a 104 MW project located on private land in Crook and Deschutes Counties, Oregon. Necessary infrastructure for the project, including power lines and an access road, would be located on public land administered by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. The Secretary of the Interior approved a Right of Way permit for that infrastructure in 2011.

 

ABC’s comment letter is available here.

 

ABC supports bird-smart wind energy that is properly sited, constructed, and operated to minimize bird impacts, with appropriate compensatory mitigation for unavoidable losses. ABC leads a coalition of more than 60 groups promoting mandatory federal standards to protect birds, including Golden Eagles and their habitats, from wind energy development rather than the voluntary guidelines proposed by the federal government and backed by the wind industry.

 

In December 2011, ABC formally petitioned the federal government to regulate the wind industry’s impacts on migratory birds. More than 70 groups have endorsed the petition.  The public can help protect birds at wind power projects by endorsing ABC’s petition to regulate the wind industry.

 

#

 

American Bird Conservancy (ABC) is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit membership organization whose mission is to conserve native birds and their habitats throughout the Americas. ABC acts by safeguarding the rarest species, conserving and restoring habitats, and reducing threats, while building capacity in the bird conservation movement.

Written by Administrator in: Environment,Wind Energy |
Feb
10
2012
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AMERICAN BIRD CONGRESS PETITIONS FOR REGULATION OF WIND ENERGY

When not dealing with issues pertaining to public lands, timbering, and extractive industries, the volunteers on the board of the Highlands Conservancy continue to grapple with the matter of wind facilities. One resource is the American Bird Conservancy and its “Bird Smart” program and its petition to the Fish and Wildlife Service on regulation of impacts of wind energy.

The full petition, and details of Bird Smart, can be seen on the ABC site at http://www.abcbirds.org/abcprograms/policy/ collisions/wind_farms.html .Here though, is a very brief summary of the petition.

ABC recognizes that properly sited wind facilities may help with climate change, but they can be a threat to birds. Voluntary guidelines are not working. Developer-hired consultants may have conflicts of interest. A mandatory permit mechanism in proposed regulations will help birds and all because— .

  • developers will be required to consult with Fish & Wildlife Service
  • species as yet unlisted will be protected,
  • opportunities for citizen input will be ensured
  • FWS resources will not be constrained
  • protections of the Endangered Species Act and Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act will be complemented, and
  • certainty will be afforded to all involved.

The Wind Committee of the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy continues to give much time and thought to the question of whether wind power can be an effective alternate energy source and to whether ABC and other groups and agencies recognize the scope of impacts to the highlands.

Written by Administrator in: Environment,The Highlands Voice,Wind Energy |
Jan
13
2012
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Research could cut bat deaths at wind farms

10 January 2012, source edie newsroom

Researchers have developed what they claim is a new way to reduce the amount of bats killed by flying into wind turbines.

According to a team from the USDA Forest Service’s Pacific Southwest Research Station (PSW) in the United States deaths of migratory bats at wind energy plants have become a ‘frequent occurrence’.
Written by Administrator in: Environment,Wind Energy |
Jan
10
2012
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Mon River QUEST harnesses volunteers as early warning system

http://www.statejournal.com/story/16487343/mon-river-quest-harnesses-volunteers-as-early-warning-system

Mon River QUEST harnesses volunteers as early warning system

By Pam Kasey

MORGANTOWN -

In a watershed hit by two major pollution events in recent years, a West Virginia University-based program is helping residents monitor and document the quality of the streams they care about.

Mon River QUEST is a volunteer water quality monitoring program for the Monongahela River organized by the West Virginia Water Research Institute at WVU.

Read more…

****************************************

http://wvutoday.wvu.edu/n/2011/12/28/wvu-institute-partners-with-volunteers-on-quest-for-mon-river-water-quality-info

WVU Institute partners with volunteers on “QUEST” for Mon River Water Quality info

Mon River Quest isn’t the name of an upcoming Indiana Jones movie; it isn’t a board game you can find in the local toy store; and it isn’t the name of some kind of river geography quiz.

Mon River Quest is a major West Virginia University -based initiative that is empowering hundreds of volunteers in an effort to keep an eye on thousands of miles of Monongahela River tributary streams so that any detected irregularities can be quickly monitored, traced and alleviated.

Read more…

Written by Administrator in: Environment,Water Quality |
Dec
23
2011
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PROJECT STATUS REPORT –BARTON BENCH ECOLOGICAL RESTORATION

The Barton Bench area refers to a 90 acre parcel of land mined for coal in the 1970s prior to becoming part of the National Forest system (Figure1). This tract is a portion of the 40,856 acres acquired by the US Forest Service in the late 1980s that has become known as the Mower Tract. The federal standards followed by the coal companies for the cleanup operation left the area in a less than desirable condition. The soils in the project area were degraded and heavily compacted. In addition, the area was planted with predominately non-native grass species, resulting in a dense grass mat as the only vegetation inhibiting native species recolonization. This is a permanent condition referred to as „arrested succession? and was unlikely to correct itself without intervention. There are approximately 2,500 acres of previously mined land on the Mower Tract and 1,800 acres are in a similar vegetative state as the Barton Bench Ecological Restoration Project Area. This high elevation area was a red spruce-northern hardwood ecosystem prior to mining activities. The red spruce ecosystem of the Central Appalachians is characterized by exceptionally high biodiversity and is a regional priority for conservation and restoration. A remarkable 240 rare species have been documented in the surrounding red spruce ecosystem in West Virginia including one federally-listed endangered species (Cheat Mountain salamander), a recently delisted endangered species (West Virginia northern flying squirrel), and rare birds such as the northern goshawk, golden eagle, and saw-whet owl. In addition, at least five highly valued game species (white-tailed deer, black bear, ruffed grouse, snowshoe hare, and woodcock) inhabit these limited spruce forests.

 

Read full report…

Written by Administrator in: Environment,Forestry,Mining Matters,Red Spruce |
Dec
15
2011
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Leading Bird Conservation Group Formally Petitions Feds to Regulate Wind Industry

Petition presents a viable alternative to inadequate, unenforceable voluntary guidelines drafted by the government

MEDIA RELEASE

Contact: Robert Johns, 202-234-7181 ext.210, Email click here

 

Reddish Egret by Greg Lavaty
Reddish Egret by Greg Lavaty

(Washington, D.C., December 14, 2011) American Bird Conservancy (ABC), the nation’s leading bird conservation organization, today formally petitioned the U.S. Department of the Interior to protect millions of birds from the negative impacts of wind energy by developing regulations that will safeguard wildlife and reward responsible wind energy development.

 

The nearly 100-page petition for rulemaking, prepared by ABC and the Washington, D.C.-based public interest law firm of Meyer, Glitzenstein & Crystal (MGC), urges the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to  issue regulations establishing a mandatory permitting system for the operation of wind energy projects and mitigation of their impacts on migratory birds. The proposal would provide industry with legal certainty that wind developers in compliance with a permit would not be subject to criminal or civil penalties for violation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA).

 

The government estimates that a minimum of 440,000 birds are currently killed each year by collisions with wind turbines. In the absence of clear, legally enforceable regulations, the massive expansion of wind power in the United States will likely result in the deaths of more than one million birds each year by 2020. Further, wind energy projects are also expected to adversely impact almost 20,000 square miles of terrestrial habitat, and another 4,000 square miles of marine habitat.

 

The petition highlights the particular threat from unregulated wind power to species of conservation concern and demonstrates the legal authority that FWS possesses to enforce MBTA regulations and grant take permits under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. The petition also provides specific regulatory language that would accomplish the petition’s objectives, identifying the factors that would be considered in evaluating a permit for approval, including the extent to which a given project will result in adverse impacts to birds of conservation concern and species that are under consideration for listing under the Endangered Species Act.

 

ABC is filing this petition because it’s clear that the voluntary guidelines the government has drafted will neither protect birds nor give the wind industry the regulatory certainty it has been asking for. We’ve had voluntary guidelines since 2003, and yet preventable bird deaths at wind farms keep occurring. This includes thousands of Golden Eagles that have died at Altamont Pass in California and multiple mass mortality events that have occurred recently in West Virginia,” said Kelly Fuller, Wind Campaign Coordinator for ABC.

 

“The status quo is legally as well as environmentally unsustainable.  The federal government is seeking to promote “a smart from the start” energy sector in a manner that is in violation of one of the premier federal wildlife protection statutes. ABC’s petition seeks to bring wind power into harmony with the law as well as with the needs of the migratory bird species that the law is designed to safeguard,” said Shruti Suresh, an attorney at MGC, the law firm that prepared the petition with ABC and that has brought many legal actions enforcing federal wildlife protection laws.

 

The petition is available online here.

 

ABC supports wind power when it is “bird-smart”. A coalition of more than 60 groups has called for mandatory standards and bird-smart principles in the siting and operation of wind farms. The coalition represents a broad cross-section of respected national and local groups. In addition, 20,000 scientists, ornithologists, conservationists, and other concerned citizens have shown their support for mandatory standards for the wind industry.

 

“ABC’s petition would safeguard more than just birds covered by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. It proposes a model rule that would allow the government to consider impacts of wind farms on all bird species, as well as bats and other wildlife,” said Fuller.

 

ABC’s petition states that properly sited and operated wind energy projects may be an important part of the solution to climate change, a phenomenon that poses an unprecedented threat to species and ecosystems. However, poorly sited and operated wind projects pose a serious threat to birds, including birds of prey such as Bald Eagles, Golden Eagles, hawks, and owls; endangered and threatened species, such as California Condors and Whooping Cranes; and species of special conservation concern, such as the Bicknell’s Thrush, Cerulean Warbler, Tricolored Blackbird, Sprague’s Pipit, and Long-billed Curlew.

 

Under the MBTA, FWS has the capacity to authorize, subject to appropriate conditions, the unintended but foreseeable take of protected birds. However, the MBTA prescribes that FWS can exercise this authority to allow incidental take only through “suitable regulations.”  This is particularly significant for the wind industry because it is virtually impossible to operate a wind energy project without killing or injuring at least some migratory birds. Wind energy projects that are already in operation are therefore in ongoing violation of the Act. In addition, FWS itself is aware of planned projects that will also kill migratory birds in violation of federal law.

 

However, instead of imposing mandatory regulations on wind energy projects to anticipate and avoid such impacts before they occur, FWS has prepared “voluntary guidelines”. The petition asserts that, by allowing the industry to police itself, FWS has permitted widespread disregard for legal mandates the Service is entrusted to enforce. The guidelines attempt to offer legal assurances to the wind industry that it will not be prosecuted under the MBTA based on industry self-certification; assurances that are without any legal basis.

 

#

 

Meyer Glitzenstein & Crystal represents clients in federal and state court litigation on a wide range of public interest issues, including Wildlife and Animal Protection; Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation; and Open Government Laws.

 

#

 

American Bird Conservancy (ABC) is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit membership organization whose mission is to conserve native birds and their habitats throughout the Americas. ABC acts by safeguarding the rarest species, conserving and restoring habitats, and reducing threats, while building capacity in the bird conservation movement.

http://www.abcbirds.org/newsandreports/BirdFriendlyBuildingDesign.pdf

Written by Administrator in: Environment,Wind Energy |
Dec
07
2011
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CHANGES ON THE ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY BOARD

By Cindy Rank

Perhaps not surprising, but quite disappointing, newly elected WV Governor Earl Ray Tomblin took swift action just days before Thanksgiving to replace two valued members of the Environmental Quality Board (EQB).

The five-member EQB hears appeals from companies and citizens who object to water permits granted by WV Department of Environmental Protection.

While the terms of both Dr. Jim Van Gundy and Ted Armbrecht had expired, that’s rarely been cause for any governor to move quickly to appoint new board members. … In fact, most – if not every – member of all three appeal boards (environmental quality, surface mine, and air) are serving well beyond the expiration date of their terms.

While I’m not saying the move is politically motivated, it is surely interesting that the appointments were announced on nearly the same day that newly elected Governor Tomblin was sworn into office.

Whether prompted by the Board’s recent (and unpopular to industry) decision about the Arch Coal/Patriot Mining New Hill West permit in northern WV [article elsewhere in this issue] or not, citizens who follow the actions of the EQB are bitterly disappointed.

Dr. VanGundy is a highly qualified and knowledgeable scientist who brought great depth to the discussions and opinions of the Board these past few years. His breadth of understanding and clarity of thinking will be difficult to replace.

Ted Armbrecht will be a significant loss as well. A respected business man with a strong sense of conservation, Mr. Armbrecht brought an important perspective and sense of balance to the Board.

… To be fair, we’ll have to wait to learn more about the two replacements, Charles Somerville (Dean of the College of Science at Marshall University) and Mitch Blake (manager of coal programs at the WV Geologic and Economic Survey). But having watched and attended many Board meetings since the early 1980’s when it was the Water Resource Board, I am deeply saddened. Board members’ comprehension of the often complicated interaction of scientific, technical and legal issues has improved over the years — with this recent Board being the most thoughtful and even handed.

Both Dr. VanGundy and Mr. Armbrecht will be missed.

Written by Administrator in: Environment,State Government,The Highlands Voice |
Dec
07
2011
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CLEARCUTTING IN THE MONONGOHELA NATIONAL FOREST: ITS STATUS IN 2011

By Don Gasper

For many years I have believed that the policy of the United States Forest Service on clearcutting in the Monongahela National  Forest was unwise. I have engaged in an ongoing dialogue on the topic, contending that the practice was hydrologically damaging to stream channel recovery.

That dialogue included a letter dated November 14,2011, which I received from the Forest Service. In the letter, it repeated its support for clearcutting.

That letter included these paragraphs, offered in response to my questions or assertions (reproduced in bold).

What is your position on clearcutting?

Our position on clearcutting has not changed. Unless we are clearing an area to construct a road or well pad or building, we do not typically do clearcutting, which Is the removal of every tree In the activity area. We almost always leave residual trees on site in our timber harvests. We do use regeneration harvests, which are designed to remove most of the trees from a site In order to stimulate regeneration. Regeneration harvesting has been a successful tool in creating age class and habitat diversity.

There must be no clearcutting as it reverses channel recovery.

Research has shown that extensive clearcutting can have Impacts to stream channels, including changes to water yield and timing, and Increases in sedimentation. However, we are careful to schedule the timing and amount of regeneration harvests on the Forest so that these types of Impacts do not occur. In fact, Forest Plan Standard TR06 states: “No more than 20 percent of NFS lands within each prescription area unit shall receive regeneration harvest over a 10-year period.” We also have direction that limits timber harvest In streamside buffer zones, and we have many management requirements and mitigation measures that we apply to timber harvest that reduce the potential for Impacts to stream channels. Therefore, we are not seeing any harvest-related reversal of channel recovery on our Forest.

The term “regeneration cuts” is little more than a euphemism for clear cuts and we see them as such. In regeneration cuts the few trees left are cut a few years later.

The Forest Service is clinging to an indefensible position: if “no more than 20% will be clearcut over a 10 year period, then there will be no impact to stream channels. They mean 20% of the watershed above, and the canopy removed at the time of the clearcut will begin to function again within 10 years. They fail to realize this same 20% is 100% of the clearcut area. If clear cuts over 23% of the watershed will result a measurable increase in flow, surely 100% will.

Clearcuts remove the forest canopy and its interception and

evaporation of precipitation (rain and snow) and also the transpiration of soil water up and out of the leaves. If 58” of precipitation falls, as it does at the Parsons, West Virginia, U.S.F.S. research station, under forested conditions 27” is evapotranspired, and 24” runs off. If the area is clearcut then none is evapotranspired and all must run off. Runoff must now be 27+24 for a total of 51” until the canopy begins to function again. In the interim the stream channel immediately below, and within the clearcut, is likely to carry 51 inches. This is over twice as much flow as it has carried for the last 100 years! The channel erodes from within causing sediment that impacts the channel downstream-far off-site. Thus clearcuts destabilize stream channels, reversing recovery. These hydrological processes of destabilization are suggested to be the driving forces resulting from clearcuts.

The U.S.F.S. has not been able to deny these. It is suggested that on these special watersheds caution be used-and clearcuts banned.

Written by Administrator in: Environment,Forestry,The Highlands Voice |
Dec
07
2011
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VIRGINIA BROOK TROUT STREAMS MOSTLY RECOVERING FROM ACID DEPOSITION

By Fariss Samarrai

Virginia’s brook trout streams are showing encouraging signs of recovery – in most cases – from the debilitating effects of acid rain, according to the most recent results from a long-term study led by University of Virginia environmental scientists.

“This is good news and real evidence for the value of our national investment in improving air quality,” said Rick Webb, a U.Va. environmental scientist in the College of Arts & Sciences and coordinator of the Virginia Trout Stream Sensitivity Study. “At the same time, there is more to be done, and many Virginia brook trout streams may never fully recover.”

U.Va., with the support of the conservation organization Trout Unlimited and several state and federal agencies, has been studying the health of Virginia’s remote mountain streams since initiating a large-scale survey in 1987. Another such survey was conducted in 2000, and again in the spring of 2010. Quarterly sampling of stream water chemistry also is conducted in 66 streams and regularly in Shenandoah National Park.

The study demonstrates a clear improvement in water quality between the 2000 and 2010 surveys. Little improvement was noted between the 1987 and 2000 surveys. Webb attributes this to a delayed effect of streams’ ability to purge acidification that has settled for years into surrounding soils and that continues to leach into streams.

Janet Miller, a graduate student in environmental sciences who analyzed survey data, found that 77 percent of the sampled streams in 2010 were suitable for brook trout reproduction. The

1987 and 2000 surveys showed that only 55 percent and 56 percent, respectively, were suitable for brook trout reproduction.

Webb attributes the improvement to the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 that imposed strict regulations on emissions from coal-fired power plants, as well as improvements to technologies that reduce emissions from power plants, automobiles and other machinery.

Between 1990 and 2009, sulfur dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants declined by 64 percent. Dominion Virginia Power, as a notable example, removes 95 percent of the sulfur dioxide emissions from its largest coal-fired power plant, located at Mount Storm, W.Va., which is upwind of Virginia’s mountains and Shenandoah National Park.

Organizers plan to continue long-term monitoring by conducting surveys every 10 years, and have launched a $500,000 fundraising campaign to support the ongoing studies. They emphasize the importance of maintaining such long-term research on trout streams in Virginia – not only for monitoring their recovery from acid rain, but also for understanding the potential effects climate change and other man-made disturbances.

The Virginia Trout Stream Sensitivity Study is one of the nation’s largest and most comprehensive long-term stream chemistry surveys. It is designed to track the effects of acidic deposition (often called acid rain) and other factors affecting water quality and related ecological conditions in Virginia’s native trout streams.

The brook trout is the only native trout in Virginia and the eastern United States. The fish require clean water to propagate and are highly susceptible to acidity deposited to the water from pollution in the air. Brook trout, and the generally pristine and remote streams they inhabit, are considered indicators of the overall health of the environment.

In the study, water samples are analyzed for sulfate levels and a stream’s natural ability to neutralize acidity. The researchers are finding that sulfate levels are dropping in most streams, indicating that air pollution reductions are having a positive effect on the environment. Due to prevailing winds that carry pollution from coalburning power plants – primarily sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides – many mountain streams and forests in Virginia and throughout the Southeast have suffered long-term damage.

A given stream’s level of susceptibility to acidification is affected by its bedrock composition and the chemistry of nearby soils. Streams with sandstone or quartzite bedrock – about onethird to one-half of the native trout watersheds in Virginia – are most vulnerable to acid deposition because they do not neutralize acid even years after pollution has been reduced.

During the 2010 survey, 165 volunteers, mostly from Trout Unlimited and some government agencies, sampled 384 streams, which, together with the program’s 66 routinely sampled streams, represent about 80 percent of the forested mountain headwater streams in the state that contain reproducing brook trout.

“Through the years this has continued to be a team effort between U.Va. scientists, Trout Unlimited and the U.S. Park and Forest services, the EPA and the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries,” said Jack Cosby, an environmental scientist who co-directs the stream study effort. “We’ve even received a lab equipment grant from the Dominion Foundation. The cooperation between entities that might sometimes seem to be at odds has been inspiring.”

Data from the survey helps scientists determine the health of headwater streams throughout western Virginia. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and other federal and state agencies use such data to inform resource management and to develop, evaluate and recommend national air pollution control policies.

“It’s a cause for hope that so many people share a determination to protect and preserve out brook trout streams and the natural world they represent,” Webb noted. “The remarkable volunteer contribution to the trout stream surveys over more than two decades is a real testament to this determination.”

Note: This article previously appeared in UVa Today, an online publication of the University of Virginia. Rick Webb is a longtime WVHC member and former Braxton County resident known for his vigorous opposition to acid mine drainage.

 

Written by Administrator in: Environment,The Highlands Voice,Water Quality |
Nov
14
2011
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State could be haven for thousands of bird watchers

http://www.wvgazette.com/Opinion/OpEdCommentaries/201111070098

online: November 7, 2011 Print edition November 8, 2011

Cynthia D. Ellis:

State could be haven for thousands of bird watchers

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A new movie could bring unique opportunities to West Virginia. “The Big Year,” starring Jack Black, Owen Wilson, and Steve Martin showcases modern birding and the one aspect of that hobby in which motivated competitors will spend lots of money and travel many miles — to see new birds.

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Written by Administrator in: Environment,Wildlife Watching |

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