The beauty and grandeur of our national parks may best be witnessed through the eyes of those visiting them for the first time. And in a new film by Amy Marquis, a vision of Yosemite is revealed to a group of people absent from the parks not just over their own lifetimes but for many generations. ‘The Way Home: Returning to the National Parks" follows a brief but compelling journey of African-American seniors who came to claim their rightful place among the millions of citizens who cherish the beautiful park lands first preserved and protected -- in some cases by their ancestors -- in the last century.
Produced while on a six-week sabbatical from her job as associate editor of National Parks Magazine, Marquis’ 9-minute movie poignantly explores the issue of racial diversity as it pertains to park visitation in general and Yosemite specifically. Making up a mere one percent of park visitors annually, African-Americans are woefully under represented in national parks. With the support of the National Park Conservation Association, Marquis hopes her film will help to show not only what people of color are missing, but will also demonstrate their long-standing heritage as park stewards.Read More ...
Editor's note: These stories were produced for High Country News by students in the University of Montana's online news class. They will be running over a period of two weeks in the Range blog. See a list of all the stories here.
By Tor Haugan
When bestselling alternative-history writer Harry Turtledove published a recent novel, Supervolcano: Eruption, that described a devastating explosion of the Yellowstone supervolcano, he brought to life the fantasies of a subset of geologic doomsdayers.
Christopher C. Sanders is one of these Cassandras. On Jan. 1, 2009, at the tail end of a Yellowstone earthquake swarm in late 2008 and 2009, Sanders, who identifies himself as a geologist and whose website displays the logo of the United States Geological Survey, did not hesitate: He ordered an evacuation of Yellowstone National Park.
"I ask that some politicians or everyone that can get together with your politicians, your friends or local advisers and ask that everybody leaves the caldera, the surface of Yellowstone National Park, immediately,” he says in a video warning he posted on YouTube. “We have a potential eruption on our hands.”
But Sanders had no authority to order an evacuation, or anything like it. Despite the logos on his website, the man has no affiliation with either the USGS or the National Park Service. Nor did the earthquake swarm indicate a potential volcano eruption. In fact, earthquake swarms are common in the park. They have occurred as recently as January 2010, when the northwestern edge of the Yellowstone Caldera started to experience what became the second-largest swarm ever recorded in the park.Read More ...
The US Forest Service maintains habitat for endangered owls and salmon -- so why is the agency retreating when it comes to habitat for Boy Scouts?
Today, the Idaho Panhandle National Forest is reviewing its forest plan, including its plan for one of the most special places it manages -- the Mallard-Larkin Area. Mallard-Larkin is a local secret -- canyons of ancient cedar, rushing streams and alpine tarns full of trout, all connected by rocky trails well suited to the hiker and horse-packer.
It is prime habitat for Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. I know because I was one of the former. Each summer of my teens, my troop disappeared into the mountains for a week, most often in the Mallard-Larkin.
Decades later, the memories are vivid: an unruly mob of grubby adolescents, provisioned with pocketknives, bedrolls and fishing rods. Our scoutmaster, a former WWII Marine and pro-football player named Carl Kiilsgaard, narrowly prevented us from igniting forest fires or getting gored by mountain goats.Read More ...
By Heather Hansen, Red Lodge Clearing House
It used to be that oil and gas development happened somewhere ‘out there’ in rural areas that most of us living in the highly-populated areas of the Rockies didn’t think much about. But now that tapping domestic fuel sources is being supported on all political levels, that development is encroaching on cities and suburbs, making it harder to ignore the potential health hazards.
When it comes to extractive industries, we often focus on protecting our water supply, which is obviously important but, as a result, there’s less of a focus on air quality. Given the push to step-up exploitation of these resources, and the health impacts that westerners are already suffering from air pollutants, the issue needs to be a more prominent part of the national conversation on energy development.
When it comes to air quality and oil and gas drilling operations, there are some major issues to consider—is our air healthy to breathe and what harm are we doing to our atmosphere by extracting oil and gas? Are federal and state emissions standards stringent enough?Read More ...
Editor's note: This is the third blog in a series by contributor Wendy Beye, chronicling a restoration effort on Montana's Musselshell River.
Montana's 2010-2011 winter was a skier's delight. Snow began piling up early, and continued to fall in record amounts through March. In April, when the expectation at this latitude is that snow will begin melting, it just kept coming down, even in the foothills. Disaster coordinators around the state began nervously checking on water content data from Snotel sites, and kept their fingers crossed that spring would be colder and drier than normal. No such luck.
In the Musselshell basin, water stored in mountain snow manteled thousands of acres with the equivalent of 26-36 inches of liquid, and the soil beneath the snow was still soggy from a similar bumper crop of snow and rain the previous year. The snowpack peaked in mid-May, and then warm spring rain began to fall. In Harlowton, near the upper reaches of the Musselshell River, May's total precipitation was more than 300 percent of normal. A storm during the third week of May poured nearly 9 inches of rain on top of the water poised for release from the snowpack. Gravity pulled the torrents downhill, out of the mountains and into the breaks where ranchers had spent their lives caring for their fields and livestock.Read More ...
Now that February has arrived, I’d like to wish everyone a happy and festive Arizona Centennial! But wait – you say you didn’t realize that Arizona became a state one hundred years ago, on February 14th, 1912? Well, I’m not surprised. What with the recession, most of the publicity and celebrations had to be scaled back. President Obama’s recent visit might have provided our governor, Jan Brewer, a convenient opportunity to plug the Centennial, but you saw how that turned out instead.
Still, there are some things to celebrate and it’s not too late for you join in. I’m not talking about the official events at the state capitol (live music, speeches, that sort of thing) and elsewhere throughout the state, although if you’d like to visit for those please be our guest.
No, amidst the still boiling-hot feuds over immigration, union-busting (Wisconsin’s Scott Walker may not know it, but he has many kindred spirits among Arizona politicos, unfortunately), and yet more tax-cutting, the Grand Canyon State can be proud of a few recent victories on the environmental front.Read More ...
Anyone who cares about wildlife should pay attention to a scandal unfolding in Alaska.
Earlier this month, Alaska Fish & Game Division of Wildlife Conservation director Corey Rossi resigned under allegations that he systematically falsified bear hunting records and violated guiding regulations shortly before being appointed to the agency in 2008. If convicted, Rossi is guilty of defrauding the people he was appointed to represent and undermining the wildlife resource he was sworn to defend.
That may be Alaska’s mess for Alaskans to clean up. But Rossi’s fall exposes a cancer that is spreading through America’s wildlife management: cronyism and big money undermining the foundation of North American wildlife management.
North America’s wildlife is the envy of the world. Our wildlife management is based on the principle that wildlife belongs to everyone equally. By comparison, in Europe wildlife belongs to the rich and royal, who have hoarded the resource since the day of Robin Hood.
In North America, heroes like Theodore Roosevelt forged a different story with a far better outcome: wildlife is managed as a public trust using scientific principles for the common good.Read More ...
By Maria Gallucci, InsideClimate News
A high-stakes legal battle is underway in California over whether the state's clean air agency can enforce a first-ever rule to slash carbon emissions in transportation fuels. The fight is being closely watched because the rule could choke global market demand for Alberta's carbon-intensive oil sands at a very precarious time for the industry.
On Wednesday, the Obama administration rejected a permit for the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, which could have increased imports of the fuel into the U.S. by up to 830,000 barrels a day. It was a major setback for the oil industry and its allies and an unexpected victory for environmentalists and their allies. The two sides are now facing each other down in this court case.
California's low-carbon fuel standard is the world's first attempt to require oil suppliers to slash the carbon footprint of their motor fuels, measured not just by emissions from tailpipes but across their full lifecycle, from extraction to combustion. Eleven Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states, and the European Union, are closely tracking California's case because they are working to adopt similar rules.
The state's influential Air Resources Board, or CARB, adopted the Low Carbon Fuel Standard in 2009 as part of its landmark global warming law, A.B. 32. The agency was supposed to begin enforcing the rule on Jan. 1, 2012. But oil companies, which say it unfairly penalizes high-carbon fuels like oil sands crude, have fought furiously to kill the standard. And on Dec. 29, a federal judge in Fresno, Calif., handed them a victory by ruling that CARB can't enforce the measure until an outstanding lawsuit by the oil industry and ethanol advocates is resolved in 2013.
The judge, Lawrence J. O'Neill, a George W. Bush appointee, said the rule unconstitutionally discriminates against out-of-state fuel sources and regulates commercial activity outside California's borders.Read More ...
In the past few days, Twitter has been hopping with responses to the White House’s #VisitUS campaign. Initiated by President Obama’s speech on January 19th announcing new proposals to boost tourism (and the jobs that it creates), tweeters (tweeps) were invited to solicit visitation to their hometowns, and they have, in droves. “Rapid City SD – Most Patriotic City!” boasts one of the dozens of posts I scrolled past in one of my daily visits to the site.
Many of us here in the West are lucky enough to live in areas that are attractive to tourists, so we’re familiar with both the benefits and drawbacks of that industry. It does provide jobs, without a doubt, and boost economies. Unfortunately, it also can contribute to crowding, pollution, and other ills at popular sites (such as the Grand Canyon in my home state), and is subject to boom-and-bust cycles. Likewise, as right-leaning websites such as The Daily Caller were quick to point out, most tourism-related jobs are currently low-skill, low-wage hospitality industry positions, such as servers, maids, and groundskeepers.
Despite the latest attempts at social media fueled boosterism, tourism is one of those complicated phenomena that cannot easily be diluted, by politicians or others, into neat sound bytes. It’s good and bad in varying degrees, and it’s probably disingenuous to contrast it with other industries, such as energy extraction, as The Daily Caller attempted to do by noting that the Keystone XL pipeline scheme would have generated some high-wage positions.Read More ...
There's an old Doors song which tells us that "The future's uncertain and the end is always near." That pretty well sums up the message I got from the new book by William deBuys, A Great Aridity: Climate Change and the Future of the American Southwest.
He takes us around the region -- its heart, he writes, is a stretch from the Four Corners south to where the states of New Mexico, Arizona, Chihuahua and Sonora almost come together -- to meet climatologists, archaeologists, river runners, forest rangers and border crossers, among many others.