Friday, December 13, 2013
Precious Sierra Water, Nevada Wilderness, Rallying to Save a Watershed
Climate change portends less snowfall in the Sierras, and that means less water in California's Sacramento and San Joaquin watersheds, two of the nation's most important and sensitive estuary systems. Snow melt from the Sierras feeds $400 billion in economic activities, supports four million acres of farmland, and supplies drinking water for more than 23 million people. In another look at how the Natural Resources Conservation Service works with communities, farmers and agencies, we follow the Cosumnes River and see how NRCS advisors assist in improving water quality and quantity along the downstream flow from the mountains to the coast. In the dry, harsh landscape between Las Vegas and Reno, most people see only a wasteland without much value except as a site for gold and silver mines. The mining boom days are long past, yet they still affect the way many people think about public lands like Emigrant Peak, Volcanic Hills, and Silver Peak. But now a growing number of Nevadans are beginning to appreciate the sustainable value of these lands as destinations for outdoor recreation. Visitors see a stunning variety of landscapes: the dust-dry Mojave desert, verdant marshes and pools, a maze of steep canyons with near vertical walls - a rugged and serene world that is far away in both distance and time. In Colorado, the Hermosa Creek Watershed north of Durango encompasses one of the state's largest, biologically diverse forests, including some of the biggest stands of old-growth ponderosa pine remaining in the San Juan Mountains. Most of the watershed is roadless and generally unblemished by past human activities, so it's an ideal home for native Colorado River cutthroat trout, rare Canada lynx, and vast herds of deer and elk that draw thousands of hunters annually. An expansive trail system attracts countless hikers, mountain bikers, hunters, horseback users, and other recreational enthusiasts. In a landmark collaboration, a working group of diverse local interests has developed a long-term conservation plan to manage
Tuesday, December 17, 2013
Montana Wilderness, Bald Eagle Recovery, Lionfish Derby, Crocodile Man
Montana Wilderness: There's an ambitious plan to protect 700,000 acres of new wilderness in Montana. And after many years of argument, it looks like local residents, loggers, hikers, and conservation groups have put aside their differences so nature is the big winner. You'll meet one veteran outdoorsman, Smoke Elser, who's almost as comfortable in this back woods as the elk and the bears are! Bald Eagle Recovery: It was almost a national tragedy. The bold symbol the United States, the bald eagle, was nearly wiped out when pesticides interfered with their breeding. Our national bird has made quite a comeback, but there are still mysteries to solve in keeping the population healthy. Oregon Field Guide takes us to a "convocation, " a gathering of these regal birds, and introduces us to some of the heroes who saved them from extinction. Lionfish Derby: It's one of the most dramatic displays of how an invasive species can upset an ecosystem. Lionfish, originally from Asia, have found a comfortable home in the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean. Government and conservation organizations have come up with some sporty ways to control these aggressive fish, because they are competing with commercially important species like snapper and grouper. We'll take you to one "Lionfish Derby." Crocodile Man: "If it can't bite you, it's not interesting," laughs Mississippi State University biologist David Ray. Ray does very interesting work, studying alligators, crocodiles, bats, and flies, among other creatures. Mapping alligator and crocodile genomes is helping scientists with everything from trying to save the odd looking Indian gharial, to tracing the links between modern reptiles, dinosaurs, and birds.
Friday, December 20, 2013
Critical Colorado, Checkups for Manatees, Appalachian Forests
The Colorado River brings drinking water, irrigation, recreation and livelihood to millions of people in the West. But it's clear now that there's not an unlimited supply of this precious resource. Business owners on and near the river are working to make sure their neighbors, and policy makers in Washington, get a complete picture of how critical this river is. Traveling through Arizona and northern Mexico, Bruce Burkhardt shows us there's a lot that needs to be done to protect these waters now and for the future. Different hikers get different inspiration from the Cherokee National Forest in Tennessee. An artist takes photos that she will later paint; a woodworker studies how trees grow to get ideas for the furniture he builds; and a retired Marine gives back to his community by clearing fallen limbs from the trail. They all support a Congressional designation of this beautiful area as wilderness, so it will be preserved from development for future generations. From the amphibians to the wildflowers to the fishes the array of diversity in the southern Appalachian forest is just astounding! Shy, smart, curious and vulnerable: Manatees are slow-moving marine mammals that have not had it easy in recent decades. Diseases and red tide, but mostly strikes from boats and propellers, have killed and injured hundreds of them. Both Florida and federal authorities are stepping up protection of manatees, especially in their winter sanctuaries on the state's west coast. Veterinarians and volunteers conduct physicals on these gentle giants to gauge their health and long- term outlook. Our host Caroline Raville swims with some manatees to bring us the story! Removing a dam can cause big changes to a community, and to the environment. Before cities make the decision to take down a dam that's either deteriorating or no longer needed, they must be prepared. Researchers at Dartmouth College use sophisticated tools to study river systems to help predict what will happen when the dam is gone. It's all about "shoring up" what we kno
Tuesday, December 24, 2013
Idaho Wilderness, Loggerhead Turtles, Sandfish Lizard, Wrangling Water
Idaho Wilderness: Its wild residents could fill a volume of some of the most iconic American wildlife: From elk and moose to spawning salmon, mountain goats and sheep to black bears and cougars. Efforts are underway to protect central Idaho's Boulder-White Clouds Mountains, designating 330,000 acres as wilderness. The proposed federal legislation would both protect these lands, and ensure economic sustainability. Loggerhead Turtles: These animals make one of the most treacherous journeys of any creatures, without any parental involvement. Human development is making their survival even more dangerous. Sharon Collins of Georgia Public Broadcasting shows us how these amazing reptiles struggle in an epic journey. These large sea turtles are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Sandfish Lizard: The sandfish is a little lizard that lives in the Sahara Desert. Scientists are fascinated by its slithering moves. It can tuck its limbs close to its body, and literally "swim" through the sand, just like an eel wiggles its way through water. Physicists are studying this little creature, and using it to inspire new robotic moves that could one day help search-and-rescue crews find survivors in piles of rubble, left from disasters like Hurricane Katrina. The little sandfish is teaching us a lot about what it takes to worm through rugged terrain and debris. Wrangling Water: Cattle are not the only things being rounded up in Florida. Ranchers are also herding water! For years, experts have searched for answers about how to increase water storage in the northern Everglades, and reduce the pollution levels. A pilot program pays ranchers to use their low-lying lands for "environmental services" - namely to store water. Water that's captured during the June through October wet season can then be slowly released during dry months into the tributaries of Lake Okeechobee. And it's proving to be a good thing both for the economy and the environment.
Friday, December 27, 2013
Wolverines, Desert Wilderness, Military Base Makeover
Among the most solitary and elusive mammals in North America, wolverines were wiped out decades ago by fur traders and poison in the lower 48 states. Now these mammals with a ferocious reputation are making a slow comeback, migrating south from Canada. It takes rugged and dedicated scientists and photographers to sneak a peek into their world! See how they are working to understand and preserve the wolverine's habitat. For decades U.S. soldiers headed for battle spent weeks in training at Fort Ord, California. Trucks, tanks, grenades and artillery they spread over this land on the Pacific Coast. When the base was shuttered in the early 1990s the community nearby was devastated economically. But residents, the military and local businesses put their heads together to give a re-birth to these tens of thousands of acres. Now it attracts hikers, mountain bikers, researchers, even young school kids who can share and enjoy this land. Host Bruce Burkhardt takes us on a tour. What do casino executives, Moapa Paiute Indians and nature photographers have in common? They are all eager to protect an area known as Gold Butte in Nevada. The group "Friends of Gold Butte" is working to add the highest federal protection to the region, by designating it a wilderness. This could help add law enforcement to this huge acreage, to protect ancient cultural sites and prevent vandalism in this stark and beautiful desert. It's a detective story that has unfolded in the waters off Key West, Florida. What's been killing the Elkhorn coral? Biologist Kathryn Sutherland has identified human sewage as the source of the coral-killing pathogen that causes white pox disease. Elkhorn coral was listed for protection as an endangered species in 2006, largely due to white pox disease. Sutherland works with water treatment facilities in south Florida to try to make sure water is cleared of this pathogen before it goes back into the Atlantic.
Tuesday, December 31, 2013
Rio Grande Del Norte, Climate Adaptation, Flying Aces of the Insect World, Peel Watershed, Indigo Snakes
Saving the Upper Rio Grande: In northern New Mexico the Rio Grande runs through a spectacular gorge formed by a rift in the Earth's crust. This river corridor is a critical flyway for migratory birds, and the arid plateau on either side of it is a major migration habitat for elk and deer. A pending bill in Congress would protect these areas as the Rio Grande del Norte National Conservation Area, in addition to designating two majestic cinder cone mountains east and west of the plateau as protected wilderness. The bill has widespread support among local Hispanic farmers and ranchers because it would allow their traditional hunting, grazing, fishing and wood-gathering to continue, preserving the culture that developed there over hundreds of years. Facing Climate Change with Wind Power: Severe drought has taken a toll on farming and ranching communities in Eastern New Mexico. Residents are trying to adjust for prolonged dry times, and some are finding salvation in wind turbine projects that generate revenue for them as well as power for the Southwest. Flying Aces of the Insect World: Just how do these insects pull off complex aerial feats, hunting and reproducing in midair? These four- winged insects pre-date dinosaurs, and can fly straight up, straight down, or hover like helicopters. Researchers are getting some inspiration from these insects, to improve small- scale aircraft design. Peel Watershed: A hundred miles from the Alaska border in Canada's Yukon Territory, the Peel Watershed is a huge area of wild and pristine rivers, arboreal forests and mountain ranges. Caribou from Alaska migrate to and from the region, but they face threats from a modern day gold rush that also threatens other wildlife including grizzly bears and wolverines. Efforts are underway to protect this land, and these fragile ecosystems. But it looks like a fight is brewing with miners and developers. Indigo Snakes: Known as the "Lord of the Forest", the eastern indigo snake is the largest native snake in North America, averaging six to seve