Monthly Archives: December 2020

Frustration in Blacked-Out Puerto Rico With Electric Company’s Resistance to Change

first_img FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享GreenTech Media:Three weeks since the storm, still only about 17 percent of Puerto Rico is with electricity. The lack of power has severely exacerbated a humanitarian crisis. Food sits rotting on shelves, the majority of hospitals are relying on generators, and with 40 percent of the island still without running water, the likelihood for disease has increased.While the U.S. president has literally thrown paper towel rolls at the problem, private citizens and industries have stepped in to coordinate efforts. The renewable energy industry, for one, has seen aiding in the crisis as both a moral imperative and an opportunity to demonstrate the effectiveness of its technology. Though some in the renewables industry have cautioned against putting the cart before the horse when so many lives are still in peril, many have also raised questions about the future. Several companies and experts have seized on the power outages as a segue to discuss longterm resilience and the potential for distributed energy to protect island grids. Cecilio Aponte, a current fellow at the Clean Energy Leadership Institute, said the destruction has compelled him to consider a future rebuilding of Puerto Rico’s grid. When I catch up with Alejandro Uriarte, president of San Juan-based solar company New Energy, he’s just returned from a meeting with cell phone providers about how renewables might power cell towers now running solely on diesel. When Uriarte describes the status of electrical distribution on the island, he speaks of complete devastation. “Everything is gone,” he said. Renewable installations, though, fared a bit better. Uriarte said all of his solar installations sustained some damages, affecting maybe 10 to 15 percent of the panels. That’s a much better percentage than the estimated 80 percent of transmission lines taken down. But Uriarte notes that because nearly all existing renewable systems were connected to the island’s now-destroyed grid, most are still unable to produce energy.“Our work has certainly changed from selling grid interconnected solar equipment to selling storage for those systems that were already installed, or selling solar-plus-storage to be off-grid until the grid comes back,” said Uriarte. “Then we can talk about interconnecting them.”Most renewable companies with a presence on the island are in immediate repair mode. Although Puerto Rico, like all Caribbean islands, relies heavily on fossil fuels for power, the island did have 215 megawatts of solar before the storm. Companies such as Sunnova, Tesla (New Energy is a certified Tesla installer), and Sonnen have residential and small-scale projects. Sonnen said all its systems fell offline after the hurricanes. It’s working on stabilizing its existing fleet, and has started working with solar installer Pura Energía to provide new microgrid systems for sale and some for free. Sunnova was also working to repair parts of its 10,000 installed systems. Many other companies and clean energy trade associations have also pledged to divert supply to help in the short-term. After a call for coordinated efforts, the Solar Energy Industries Association received 160 responses with offers for help. The Distributed Wind Energy Association (DWEA) is coordinating micro-grid deliveries from three manufacturers with funding from United Wind. And on Friday, Tesla CEO Elon Musk spoke on the phone with Puerto Rico’s governor, Ricardo Rosselló, about how the company’s solar and battery technologies can contribute to immediate relief efforts, and possibly remake the grid entirely. Clean energy manufacturers and resilience experts are asking what can be done to harden the island’s grid even in the initial stages of Puerto Rico’s recovery.“Typically, investments that are made right after a storm, almost in emergency mode, you can see ten years later those investments have remained,” said Roy Torbert, principal at the Rocky Mountain Institute’s Islands Energy program. “Ask these questions now, so the investments you make for the long term are the right way to go.”Though renewable installations on islands like Puerto Rico did sustain damage, renewable companies and advocates say distributed sources that could function apart from the grid would be easier to repair and get back online than centralized power and distribution. To brace for a storm, Torpert said nacelles on wind turbines can be tilted down and the blades turned away from the wind so they don’t overspin.Even before the storm, Puerto Rico’s electric grid was a delicate system. Its utility and sole electricity provider, the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA), has become notorious for its $9 billion bankruptcy and poor management. The Puerto Rico Energy Commission (PREC) enshrined its issues in a 2016 report, writing “the severe outages, deferred maintenance, and a lack of experienced staff have resulted in an increasingly brittle transmission system.” According to Torbert, the aftermath of the hurricane “requires an immediate reckoning” with PREPA’s difficulties. Almost everyone interviewed for this story expressed concerns with the functioning of the island’s utility.“The entire organization, PREPA, stem to stern, top to bottom, is incapable of carrying out its mission,” said Tom Sanzillo, director of the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis. “It’s largely a function of upper management and the toxic effect it has on morale and competencies of the workers.”Uriarte, too, expressed frustrations, specifically about the lack of commitment he sees from PREPA on transitioning to clean energy. “They have never come out against renewables,” he said. “They always say they’re friendly to renewables. But in practice, they are not.” The 2016 report from PREC notes much of PREPA’s work had become “triaging” in the place of preventative maintenance. In 2016, President Obama signed the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act. That act created a board that this summer rejected a restructuring deal for PREPA’s debt.“That decision was encouraging in that it suggested support in Washington for an actual path to recovery for the power authority,” Sanzillo wrote in an opinion for the Hill. More: Can the Clean Energy Industry Protect Puerto Rico From Maria-Scale Damage? Frustration in Blacked-Out Puerto Rico With Electric Company’s Resistance to Changelast_img read more

Gujarat sets 30GW renewable energy goal by 2022, 17% of India’s overall target

first_img FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享PV Magazine:Solar-rich Gujarat has raised its renewable energy ambition by aiming for at least 30 GW of renewable energy generation capacity by 2022 – some 17% of the national 175 GW target by that point.“We plan to increase capacity to 30,000 MW by 2022,” finance minister Nitin Patel said while presenting the Gujarat budget in the state capital of Gandhinagar. “Of this, 20,000 MW will be used in Gujarat and 10,000 MW will be sold to other states.”The state minister also announced the allocation of Rs1,000 crore for a new rooftop solar scheme that aims to provide installations to 2 lakh families. Under the program, households will receive a subsidy worth 40% of the cost of rooftop systems with a capacity of up to 3 kW and a 20% subsidy for systems with capacities of 3-10 kW.According to the Ministry of New & Renewable Energy’s state by state breakdown of the national renewable energy target, Gujarat was slated to achieve 8,020 MW of solar generation capacity by 2022 plus 8.8 GW of wind power and 255 MW of biomass facilities.Earlier this year, the Gujarat state government announced it would add 3 GW of renewables capacity annually until 2022 – 2 GW from solar and 1 GW of wind. Since the first Vibrant Gujarat summit in 2003, more than 100 investments have seen Rs40,000 crore pour into renewables in the state.More: Gujarat targets 30 GW of renewable capacity by 2022 Gujarat sets 30GW renewable energy goal by 2022, 17% of India’s overall targetlast_img read more

Post-pandemic energy investments could give green hydrogen a big boost

first_imgPost-pandemic energy investments could give green hydrogen a big boost FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Reuters:Hydrogen has long been touted as a clean alternative to fossil fuels. Now, as major economies prepare green investments to kickstart growth, advocates spy a golden chance to drag the niche energy into the mainstream of a post-pandemic world.Green hydrogen was pushed to the fore last week when Fatih Birol, head of the International Energy Agency, said the technology was “ready for the big time” and urged governments to channel investments into the fuel.Some countries, including the Netherlands, Australia and Portugal, have already begun investing in the technology. Now investors, politicians and businesses are pushing the European Union and others to use its post-crisis recovery plan to support hydrogen in areas like trucking and heavy industry.The promise of hydrogen as a fuel to help power vehicles and energy plants has been a talking point since the 1970s, but it is currently too expensive for widespread use. Proponents say infrastructure investment and more demand from transport, gas grids and industry will bring the cost down.Most hydrogen used today is extracted from natural gas in a process that produces carbon emissions, which defeats the object for many policymakers. But there is potential to extract “green” hydrogen from water with electrolysis, an energy-intensive but carbon-free process if powered by renewable electricity.EU officials, one of whom described green hydrogen as the “holy grail,” said it could replace fossil fuels in sectors that lack alternatives to align operations with the EU’s Green Deal plan to reduce net emissions to zero by 2050.[Nina Chestney, Kate Abnett, Sonali Paul, Aaron Sheldrick]More: Green hydrogen’s time has come, say advocates eying post-pandemic worldlast_img read more

Sweet Revival: Carolina Chocolate Drops Deliver String Band Roots

first_imgFor the Carolina Chocolate Drops there’s a fine line between offering a history lesson and a foot-stomping good time. The Durham, N.C., trio has spent the last five years unearthing the largely unsung traditions of black string band music, and along the way become one of the most dynamic live acts on the continuously exploding youth-charged old-time revival scene. The formula mixes a throwback of past generations—plucking banjos and sawing fiddles—with an underlying progressive edge.“We’re depicted as a very traditional group, but the way that we approach the music is not very strict,” says band member Dom Flemons, who plays guitar, banjo, and a variety of old-fashioned percussion, including jugs and bones. “We add things to bring it forward.”The Carolina Chocolate DropsThe group, which also includes versatile instrumentalists Rhiannon Giddens and Justin Robinson, met in 2005 at the Black Banjo Gathering. The event was held at Appalachian State University in Boone, N.C., by scholars as a one-time symposium and festival to discuss the African roots of the banjo. After realizing a shared love of old-time sounds, the trio was collectively mentored by Joe Thompson, a 91-year-old elder statesman of traditional Carolina Piedmont music, who’s regarded as one of the last original black string band players. With Thompson’s tutoring, the Chocolate Drops soon started bringing pre-Civil War sounds of the rural South to stages across the country.While the group is committed to mining material from the past, they also can’t help but incorporate the influences that come from being in their ‘20s. The band’s latest album, last year’s Genuine Negro Jig, which was nominated for a Grammy for Best Folk Album, strikes a proper balance between the generation gaps. In addition to longstanding traditional tunes like “Cornbread and Butterbeans” and “Cindy Gal,” the effort also features front porch-style takes on Tom Waits’ “Trampled Rose” and R&B singer Blu Cantrell’s dance club anthem “Hit ‘Em Up Style.” It’s all part of a dual mission to be ambassadors of forgotten sounds and to encourage crowds to get up and move.“We’re presenting a particular form of music, but interpreting it in a way that’s true to our generation,” says Flemons. “All of the history is important, but what’s most important is that the music needs to be hot and swinging. We want people to get up and shake it.” 1 2last_img read more

Super Human

first_imgSee videos of professional traceurs The Tribe as well as footage from Primal Fitness, the country’s first parkour gym.last_img

Farewell Budweiser Pyramid

first_imgLet’s do a quick poll. Raise your hand if you ever wanted to be like Dan O’Callahan. Anyone else? No? Okay, you may not know that Dan O’ was the hard drinking, freeskiing guru in Hot Dog…The Movie (circa 1983). He wore a blue jumpsuit and New York Mets hat, and he changed my life and the life of so many other young, impressionable skiers during that decade of decadence. If you’re not familiar with Hot Dog…The Movie, the tagline from the trailer pretty much sums it up: “By day, they’re the finest hot dogging, freestyle skiers in the world. By night, they really take chances.”Imagine 1.5 hours of gratuitous nudity, binge drinking, and state of the art (for the ‘80s) ski scenes. Oh, and ‘80s super-hottie Shannon Tweed was in it. You can see why I’d be so smitten.I don’t know what was more inspiring to me, the rad skiing or the hot tub scenes. Okay, that’s a lie, the hot tub scenes were what really got me motivated to be as much of a ski bum as I could possibly be while growing up in Georgia. Yes, the ballet ski scenes were enlightening, but I was more impressed with the skier lifestyle. Specifically, the notion of doing shots at a dive bar where the men wear fur coats and the women don’t wear much at all. First tracks and powder shots are great, but the off chance that you’ll meet Shannon Tweed in a hot tub is why you ski.My buddies and I watched Hot Dog during every ski trip, whether we were traveling to the Rockies or hitting North Carolina for a weekend. It was our inspiration, our self-help guide through the slopes and après ski shenanigans.Picture half a dozen dudes from Georgia tailgating at the base of Breckenridge, blaring David Allan Coe and piling Budweisers up in the snow at an alarming rate. I never skied without a flask of whiskey. One year, I even mixed martinis on the lift. With vermouth. And olives.We ate nothing but Apple Jacks and pizza, skied eight hours straight, then proceeded to trash the condo while blaring the entire Beastie Boys catalogue. We slept eight to a room, rarely showered (there was always a keg in the tub, anyway), and never napped. The final run of each day followed strict Chinese Downhill Rules (google it).Our latest ski trip was a bit different. First, the number of participants has slimmed quite a bit in recent years. For many of the original crew, four days of powder has been pushed down the priority list by mortgage payments and children’s classes.So, only a hardy few adhere to the ski trip ritual, which looks nothing like the original four days of powder and debauchery. Instead of finding the cheapest room for the latest trip, one of our wives wouldn’t rest until she found a condo with hardwood floors. So she could do yoga every morning. Yoga. I’d like to single her out as lame, but the fact is, I joined her for yoga routinely. It’s the only way I could get my hip moving properly.Back in the day, there was nothing quite like the potential of foreplay in the hot tub, but now I have to avoid that sort of concentrated heat altogether because it puts me right to sleep.Instead of a keg of Keystone Light, the fridge was stocked with craft beer and wine—most of which we left for the housekeeper when we checked out. After skiing all day, we managed two beers before falling asleep on the couchInstead of pizza, we hunted for sushi. Or Thai. Or something with a farm-to-fork philosophy behind it. Something I never said to a waiter during a ski trip when I was younger: “Is that chicken locally raised?”It was a rare night that any of us made it past 10pm.I’m not exactly sure when the ski trip shifted from winter frat party to relaxing yoga retreat. I guess it just evolved slowly, like some ancient slug-beast making its way out of the primordial ooze. But here’s the most shocking aspect of this evolution: I like our ski trips so much more now. Yes, I miss tailgating and every once in a while when I’m on the lift, I crave a martini, but it turns out, I’m a much better skier when I’m sober. Skiing trees when your blood alcohol level is .08 percent is basically Russian roulette with a $75 lift ticket. I’m amazed I survived through so many years of stupidity. Chalk it up to pure luck. Now I ski trees and steeps with clarity. I’m well nourished, well-rested, and thinking relatively swiftly. So while most athletes see their skill level wane as they get older, I’m hitting my prime, mostly because my reaction time and sense of balance aren’t hindered by morning beer bong hits.Getting older never felt so good. •Chinese Downhilllast_img read more

The French Broad River Threatened By Toxic Waste

first_imgOnce referred to as the “Trashy Broad,” today people no longer smell the French Broad River before seeing her. The French Broad now supplies over one million people with drinking water, countless recreational opportunities, and scenic vistas. But the lurking dangers of the unsafe disposal of coal ash threaten the long-term health of the river and the region.The Beautiful BroadHer HistoryIf the Southern Appalachian peaks are the soul of Western North Carolina, the French Broad River is the region’s pulse. During the 18th century, industrialization swept the river’s banks and the river’s pollution kept rate with the urban development. By 1951, author Wilma Dykman called the river “too thick to drink and too thin to plow.” She wrote The French Broad, which raised awareness about the polluted river. With the passage of the Clean Water Act in 1972, the river was on its way to becoming the world-class recreation area enjoyed today.North-Flowing River The French Broad is one of the few north-flowing rivers in the country. For 117 miles, the French Broad River flows freely northward from its headwaters in Transylvania County, N.C. There it teems with fish and is wild and untamed.As the French Broad nears Asheville, the river becomes much wider, and a water-treatment facility built on the river’s banks provides drinking water to the region. On river right, the stacks from Duke Energy’s Asheville coal-fired power plant adjacent to the French Broad can be seen through the trees.Just downstream of the facility, the river becomes a hotbed for recreational opportunities and riverside tourist destinations. Fishers, swimmers, tubers, and flat water paddlers find plenty of river access. From the two river parks in the Bent Creek area to the six miles of continuous river parks in the city of Asheville, there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy the river. The parks lining the river’s edge create an urban oasis, interrupted only by the occasional tall building hinting of downtown Asheville.Tourists and residents alike visit the urban waterfront, where once abandoned industrial warehouses have been transformed into artists’ studios, breweries, and restaurants. The renaissance of the River Arts District, as the area is commonly known, continues with New Belgium Brewing Company’s announcement last year of plans to invest $175 million into building a new beer-making operation in the industrial zone. The plans involve new bike lanes and greenways along with a summer concert series, sure to encourage more people to come enjoy a beer by the riverside.The Ledges Whitewater Park offers the perfect post-study or after-work paddling destination. Only fifteen minutes from downtown, a series of ledges spread out over about 200 yards of river provides paddlers the opportunity to work out doing attainments up the rapid.Paddlers looking for a longer stretch of whitewater only have to drive some thirty minutes to Madison County. There the river becomes wilder, winding through Pisgah National Forest. Commercial outfitters and paddlers flock to this area to paddle the Barnard to Hot Springs section. The stretch consists mostly of splashy and fun Class II and Class III rapids, with one Class IV rapid, Frank Bell’s, just before the town of Hot Springs.THREATS TO HER HEALTHThe Duke Energy coal-fired power plant sits on a 90-acre complex adjacent to the French Broad River just seven miles downstream of Asheville. The plant has two ponds built in 1964 and 1982 to hold coal ash, the waste left over after coal is burned to generate power. The coal ash mixes with water to form a toxic slurry. The ponds are unlined and earthen dams are used to contain the contamination.As staff attorney Amelia Burnette of the Southern Environmental Law Center put it: “Wet storage of coal ash waste in unlined ponds causes a slew of problems. Polluted water seeps through the earthen dams into streams, rivers, and groundwater; and these impoundments can suffer from structural problems.” As of now, there’s no reason to stop recreating in the French Broad, but we must take action and address the three major threats posed by wet coal ash storage to ensure that the river stays healthy.1. Potential Dam Failure One only has to look five years back in time to be reminded of the catastrophic risk associated with using earthen dams – a dam could burst. The 2008 Tennessee Valley Authority’s Kingston, Tenn., ash spill devastated the Emory River. When the dam failed, 1.1 billion gallons of coal ash slurry destroyed nearby homes and property. Cleanup efforts are expected to continue into 2014 and cost $1.2 billion.The Kingston catastrophe isn’t an isolated incident. Three years before the Kingston catastrophe, a similar dam failure on a smaller-scale occurred in Martin’s Creek, Penn. In that accident, the dam released over 100 million gallons of coal ash, contaminating the Oughoughton Creek and Delaware River.After the Kingston disaster, the EPA sent out inspectors to determine the structural safety of these dams and rated the 1964 Asheville pond as “poor.” Since then, the EPA has upgraded the dam to a “satisfactory” rating.Wet coal ash storage is untenable in the long term. The Asheville plant, constructed in the 1960s, lacks the advancements of newer plants that use a dry-storage system where coal is stored in lined holes under a secure covering. Outdoor groups are advocating for the EPA to implement strong, enforceable rules to regulate coal ash. In the absence of federal safeguards, state laws govern coal ash. Too often state laws are a cobbled patchwork of inconsistent and confusing laws, difficult to enforce. Some Southeast states have tougher standards for handling household garbage than they do for the disposal of coal ash.2. Contaminated GroundwaterStoring wet coal ash in unlined ponds causes groundwater contamination, and the groundwater eventually flows into tributaries of the French Broad or directly into the river itself.Independent samples taken within a two-mile radius of the Asheville plant over the past two years show that the groundwater contains iron, magnesium, and, most troubling, thallium, in levels exceeding health standards. Thallium poses health risks to people and is suspected to cause cancer. Despite the acknowledged contamination, in December 2012 the North Carolina Environmental Management Commission voted to allow the Asheville facility to continuing contaminating groundwater.3. Leaks Bypassing the On-Site Treatment SystemThe earthen dams leak, seeping heavy metals and other pollutants found in coal ash into the French Broad. By design, the dams leak in order to avoid the potentially catastrophic safety problem of pressure build-up over time.Samples taken by the French Broad Riverkeeper showed higher than normal levels of pollutants from coal combustion waste, including boron and metals like cobalt, barium, manganese, and nickel, all listed as toxic substances by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.The samples were taken far from where the pollutants are first discharged into the tributaries. Nobody knows the real levels of contamination.WATER FIGHTIn January 2013, the Southern Environmental Law Center gave Duke Energy a 60-day notice that, if the environmental problems go unaddressed, a lawsuit will be brought pursuant to the Clean Water Act. The legal claim is that Progress is essentially bypassing the standards, conditions, and monitoring required by the Clean Water Act, since the seeps are exiting through the permitted area.The Clean Water Act requires any entity that plans to discharge a form of wastewater directly into a body of water to receive a federal permit given and enforced by the state. Essentially permits-to-pollute, each permit allows the recipient to discharge a certain amount of pollution daily. Progress moved its discharge point in 2012. Pollutants continue to flow through the seeps, entering the river at points that used to be, but now aren’t, covered by the permit.In March the state of North Carolina filed a separate lawsuit. The lawsuit stated that, “continued operation of the Asheville Plant in violation of groundwater standards (and state law) without assessing the problem and taking corrective action poses a serious danger to the health, safety, and welfare of the people of the State of North Carolina and serious harm to the water resources of the state.” The lawsuit demands Duke Energy report the cause and extent of their discharge into the French Broad and groundwater.BEYOND WESTERN NORTH CAROLINAThe Asheville facility is a microcosm of communities across Appalachia. Nearly every major river in the Appalachia has one or more unlined ponds on its banks holding slurries of coal ash from power plants. Dams throughout Appalachia hold back tens of millions of coal ash. The dams, some of which are forty or more years old, are essentially ticking time bombs.In the words of Leonardo da Vinci, “Water is the driving force of all nature.” Nowhere in the world is that more true than in the water-rich Blue Ridge. We can prevent the insidious threats coal ash slurry poses to the region’s most prized resource now, while it’s still possible. If we wait too long, we won’t be able to separate contaminated groundwater from the river or pull heavy metals from the deep sediment layers. As a community, it makes no sense to subsidize energy costs with the health of our rivers. The price of safeguarding our water today is a fraction of the cleanup costs imposed by tomorrow’s polluted waterways.A Look at Coal Ash in Your StateOn the West Virginia and Pennsylvania border, the Little Blue Run coal ash pond is the largest in the country, covering three square miles. The color is so bright that the pond can be viewed from space.In Virginia, the EPA has only inspected five of thirteen power plants for on-site coal ash dam safety.In Tennessee, all eight of the state’s power plants received ratings of either “significant danger” or “high-hazard” from the EPA for dam safety.North Carolina has more “high-hazard” coal ash impoundments than any other state in the Southeast.South Carolina plants have inadequate data for the EPA to even assess dam safety. Only one of the state’s twelve facilities has received a safety rating.Kentucky has more coal-fired power plants than any other state in the Southeast. About one half of the facilities have “significant” or “high-hazard” ratings from the EPA.In Georgia, seven out of eleven coal power plants have been rated by the EPA for safety and the dams at all but one of the plants were rated “high-hazard.”Visit for more information about coal ash in your area and what you can do to put a stop to wet coal ash storage.last_img read more

The Future of Two National Forests

first_imgSpeak for the TreesAs a veteran section hiker on the Appalachian Trail, Bill Van Horn has plenty of stories about how the world-famous footpath has changed over the years. Although much of the trail lives up to its world-class billing, not everything they saw was worthy of a postcard.“Some places look like someone went in with a mower,” he said. “There are clear postage-stamp boundaries where everything was cut, and it’s not a pretty sight. It’s extremely obvious where they clear-cut and there’s nothing left.”Even so, he recognizes the need for some logging on the public lands that the trail transects, including the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests.“I fully believe our forests need to be sustainable and that we need to strike a balance between different uses,” Van Horn said.  “Everyone loses a little bit, but hopefully everyone gains a little bit too.”Public meetings are often divided between outdoor enthusiasts who want to keep the forest intact and loggers and hunters who would like to see it cut.Public meetings are often divided between outdoor enthusiasts who want to keep the forest intact and loggers and hunters who would like to see it cut.That sentiment nicely encapsulates the dilemma facing the U.S. Forest Service as it undertakes an ambitious four-year effort to revise the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests Land and Resource Management Plan, which will guide management of these public lands for the next two decades. The two contiguous national forests comprise more than one million acres and collectively are among the most visited in the country. Not surprisingly, lots of people have different—and often diametrically opposed—ideas of what to do with them.The forests must simultaneously maintain habitat diversity, improve the health of watersheds, and support multiple uses such as logging and various forms of sustainable recreation. Juggling these goals is a Herculean and thankless task that will satisfy no one completely. In the balance lies the fate of almost 1,900 types of plants, including nearly 130 tree species, and more than 300 species of vertebrate animals. Some of these are found nowhere else on earth.With so much riding on the management plan, the agency has been hosting epic talk-a-thons with as many stakeholders as possible in an effort to see how, and to what extent, competing visions can be reconciled. The effort should inform similar discussions around country about the fate of our public lands.Stevin Westcott, the Forest Service official charged with overseeing the plan revision, is at the forefront of the forest debate. And although he’s taking heat from all sides, he’s okay with that.“The Forest Service is charged with managing for the greatest good,” he explains. “All of the uses in these forests are important. Our goal is to find a middle ground and manage the land and the facilities to meet the needs of all users, and at the same time maintain ecological sustainability.”That means somehow balancing activities that range from bird watching and hiking to ATV riding and logging—a tall order, and some would say an impossible one. But the Forest Service is determined to try by facilitating meetings between different groups.This approach marks something of a departure for the agency. In 1987, when the forest management plan was last revised, competing factions retreated to their corners and yelled at each other. The result was glacial progress and endless plan appeals. Westcott and others are determined to avoid that result this time around. “There’s probably a bigger emphasis on collaboration today than there was years ago,” he said. “We actively encourage stakeholders to talk.”Jill Gottesman, Southern Appalachian outreach coordinator for The Wilderness Society, welcomes the change. Her group is part of the Nantahala-Pisgah Forest Partnership, a diverse collection of stakeholders that includes environmental organizations, logging companies, and outdoor recreation groups. Members of the partnership explicitly agree to focus on common interests rather than conflicting positions.“We want to use a better process and work toward a better plan, as well as supplement a Forest Service approach that has been traditionally disappointing,” she said. “We’re doing what the agency really can’t do in terms of tackling the thorny issues that come up to build trust and common ground.”Speaking for The Wilderness Society and not the partnership, Gottesman said she would like to see additional recommendations for new wilderness. She cited 41 places in the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests that her group dubs “North Carolina Mountain Treasures” deserving of better protection, either as full-on wilderness or some lesser designation such as national recreation areas.At the same time, she acknowledges the legitimacy of competing uses; the Wilderness Society simply wants input as to where they happen. “We need a good, solid, productive plan that isn’t just going to protect the vulnerable areas, but is also going to identify suitable places for logging and other uses,” Gottesman said. “We think there are places that should be designated as wilderness, but we also recognize there are a lot of other values and needs.”For example, logging could be concentrated near existing roads, which would be cheaper and less environmentally destructive than scarring virgin wilderness. The Wilderness Society even would be willing to help locate suitable logging areas using its considerable mapping expertise. That sort of give-and-take is integral to the new collaborate approach. “In building relationships and trust with other groups, they in turn hopefully will support us in setting aside new wilderness,” she said.Gottesman also would like to count on support from Forest Service managers. Some of these Forest Service managers are from a more progressive school of thought, but there are a lot of local folks who fondly remember very inflated levels of logging in the 1980s and 1990s. As the agency gets more and more younger personnel, their focus is gradually changing away from extractive uses like logging toward more sustainable, non-extractive uses like recreation.Westcott pointed out that logging in the forests is only permitted in four out of the 15 official management areas, and that the final management plan will require sustainable harvesting practices. “The emphasis on logging in the Forest Service is nowhere near what it used to be,” he said. “What we do today is very different from what we did in the late ‘80s.” Timber harvesting is down 35 percent since then, primarily because of slashed federal budgets. Logging methods are different too; clearcuts now are limited to 10 acres and are usually done to diversify wildlife habitat. Today the majority of harvests are of the “two-age” variety where mature trees are left behind. At the same time, 97 percent of North Carolina forests are considered available for timber production—a number that hardly appears balanced to many environmentalists.Still, many of them are hopeful for the future. Josh Kelly, field biologist for the Western North Carolina Alliance (WNCA), said environmental organizations “pretty much won the argument” over clear cutting on federal lands in the state when the 1987 Nantahala-Pisgah management plan was amended in 1994 to reduce timber harvesting to about 3,000 acres per year. That was a significant change from the ‘80s and ‘90s, when “basically the entire forest was on a regular rotation for logging,” he said. Today, although theoretically the vast majority of the state’s public forests can be logged, 70 to 90 percent of them are now managed for some other use. “Timber sales have plummeted, and even some people outside of the industry are questioning that,” he said. “Some strategic logging should continue in national forests in short-leafed pine and other areas because it’s done with the most environmental controls and maintains traditions of woodcraft.  Prioritizing based on ecological restoration needs can really help eliminate conflicts over land management. We want to work with as many groups as we can to identify the parts of the forest that are appropriate and inappropriate for logging.”Kelly has a laundry list of other priorities he would like to see addressed in the plan revision, including better management of major ecosystems, establishment of migration corridors for key species, and enhanced protection for hundreds of “special biological areas” identified since 1987. “I think public opinion has always been with a use of public lands that doesn’t hand over too much of the forest to industry,” he said. “Most people don’t want an industrialized landscape, and they value clean water and recreational opportunities.”Of course, the debate isn’t limited to environmentalists vs. loggers. Outdoor recreation enthusiasts are also important players who often find themselves at odds with others in their own camps. As Westcott points out, recreation and tourism bring in hundreds of millions of dollars annually to Western North Carolina, an amount that dwarfs timber revenues. But it also costs the Forest Service huge amounts to maintain trails, cabins, and other public facilities. And what happens when someone comes bombing down the trail on a mountain bike and scares away the bird that another just spent all day finding? trees3Fault lines between outdoor recreation groups can sometimes seem like unbridgeable chasms. What happens when mountain bikers and hikers collide, literally or figuratively? Are hikers obstructing everyone else and just asking to get plowed over, or are bikers tearing up trails that hikers lovingly maintain? Anglers and boaters are also famously at odds, with the former wanting to limit the latter’s access to some trout waters out of concern that fish don’t take kindly to big rafts and thrill-seeking paddlers. And every outdoor enthusiast in the forest during hunting season is a potential accident waiting to happen.These issues can be resolved if the parties are so inclined. For example, equestrians and mountain bikers have been known to take turns using popular trails, like those at Tsali Recreation Area. But too often disputes degenerate into acrimony when groups don’t focus on common interests, with hiking clubs refusing to help maintain trails unless they’re designated hiking-only and mountain bikers lobbying against wilderness areas where biking is banned. The resulting compromises can end up pleasing no one.Sergio Capozzi, president of Society of Outdoor Recreation Professionals, agreed that the balance is difficult. “Access is a very broad, very complex term as it relates to recreation, he said.” “The plan revision process should engage as many user groups as possible to avoid issues before they bubble up. Of course, that’s easier said than done.”David Lippy is the current president of the Nantahala Hiking Club, which maintains about 60 miles of the A.T., all of it in the Nantahala National Forest. He wants to ensure that current protections for the A.T. corridor are preserved. “If we come out of this plan revision without losing any ground, we’ll be happy,” he says. “We would always like to see the Forest Service acquire more land next to the trail, but with today’s budget, I don’t know if that will happen.” Although he worries about logging operations visible to hikers, he also wants to maintain bans on bikes and horses from many parts of the trail—within reason, of course. “We’re trying to work with these other groups who have a legitimate need to use the forest, and we try to be good neighbors so they can enjoy their sports without intruding on what we’re trying to do,” he said. “We have members that ride horses, hunt, all the various uses. There’s plenty of forest to go around. We just don’t want activities that aren’t compatible in the same area at the same time. We have a lot common goals, and if we all work together, we’ll probably get a lot further than if everyone demands their little pieces without cooperating.”VOICES FOR THE WILDNow is the time to voice your opinion on the next two decades of forest management. A new 20-year management plan is being developed this spring, and this is the public’s opportunity to chime in. Visit for dates and times of public meetings. You also can submit comments or questions about the plan to [email protected]last_img read more

Quick Hits: Outdoor News

first_imgGovernment Shutdown Costly for National ParksWashington, D.C.Last fall’s government shutdown took its toll on the National Park system. Numbers revealed by the Obama administration in March totaled $414 million lost by parks and surrounding communities due to closures. According to a report by the AP, eight million fewer people visited parks due to the 16-day shutdown, and five states, including California and Arizona, lost more than $20 million. Six states—Utah, Arizona, Colorado, New York, South Dakota, and Tennessee—decided to reopen parks using state funds, and according to the report, a Congressional bill is pending to reimburse those states.Finishing the Allegheny TrailPaint Bank, Va.After 40 years of hard work from dedicated volunteers, the lengthy Allegheny Trail may soon be completed. According to a story in the West Virginia Gazette, a local hiking group started blazing the final 30 miles of the 330-mile trail back in March. The West Virginia Scenic Trails Association was formed back in 1974 to construct the yellow-blazed trail, which starts on the Mason-Dixon Line at the Pennsylvania-West Virginia border near Bruceton Mills and leads hikers south until it intersects with the Appalachian Trail on Peters Mountain at the Virginia-West Virginia border. To finish the trail, the WVSTA is hard at work on the 30-mile stretch that crosses under I-64 near the Virginia-West Virginia state line east of White Sulphur Springs. It will extend to the Laurel Branch community in Monroe County.Thread Trail GrowsCharlotte, N.C.The Thread will be one of the longest regional trail systems in the country, spanning some 1,500 miles through the Carolinas. Currently about 135 miles of the Thread are open. The longest continuous segment is the 15-mile Ridgeline Trail, which Kings Mountain State Park, Kings Mountain National Military Park, and Crowders Mountain State Park, all of which are great destinations for rock climbing, hiking, and biking.Another top priority is building a 50-mile canoe and kayak blueway along the Rocky River, which runs through North Carolina’s Piedmont region. The goal is to put additional access points and put-in areas along the river near bridges and roads.The Thread is not a point-to-point path, but rather a spider web network of trails extending across North and South Carolina. Funding new trail construction remains a challenge, but Karl Froelich, the Thread’s new executive director, says his organization provides grants to some towns to help with the process—the towns have to match at least 10 percent—along with expert trail design and building support. “Bottom line is people love trails,” he says. “We’re just giving them what they want.”Ray Runs the ParkwayBoone, N.C.In the North Carolina High Country, people don’t get the forecast from The Weather Channel. They get it from Ray’s Weather Center. The Boone-based online weather service was started as a hobby more than a decade ago by Ray Russell, a computer science professor at Appalachian State University. Now the mountain area’s most trusted weather source employs five forecasters and is read by 250,000 people a month.At the end of this month, Russell, an avid runner, will take off in an attempt to run the entire Blue Ridge Parkway in 30 days. During the End to Ender, Russell will cover all 469 miles as a fundraiser for the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation and to celebrate the launch of his new website The journey can be followed with daily video blogs at in UndiesGrand Rapids, MichiganIn March, runners in a Michigan 5K were encouraged to complete the course in some interesting attire. Organizers of the 3.1-mile FUNderwear Run asked racers to don their drawers on the outside of regular running apparel. The interesting dress code was meant to inspire good humor, as the race was part of the annual Gilda’s LaughFest, which attracted some big time comedians including Jay Leno, Lily Tomlin, and Chris Tucker. Despite a temperature of 21 degrees, 300 runners proudly wore their underwear (some of them wore it on the outside of their clothes) for a good cause. Proceeds benefitted Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids, which offers emotional support to those suffering from grief due to cancer and other illnesses.Pee-Wee’s Cruiser Fetches Big Bucks on eBayOceanside, CaliforniaThe iconic red cruiser bike ridden by actor Paul Reubens as the character Pee-wee Herman sold on eBay for big money in March. The souped-up Schwinn, which anchored the plot of the 1985 film Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, fetched $36,600 after a competitive 55 bids were placed on the online auction site. The bike came with an autographed photo of Ruebens, an additional pic of him signing the photo, a certificate of authenticity, and a Warner Bros. spec sheet on the cruiser.New Half-marathon Treadmill RecordBoston, MassachusettsIn March, 23-year-old Tyler Andrews set the new unofficial world record for the fastest half-marathon time on a treadmill. Andrews ran the 13.1-mile distance in 1:07:18, 11 seconds quicker than the previous record held by Scottish runner Andrew Lemoncello. According to a story on the Runner’s World website, Andrews, who ran in place at Marathon Sports in Boston, was six seconds behind the record heading into the final 1.1 miles, but a late burst of energy led to a 4:58 final mile to accomplish the feat. The record was attempted as a scholarship and community development program fundraiser for Strive Trips, an organization that sends high school athletes to South America and Africa for training and community work programs.—Jedd Ferris and Sam Boykinlast_img read more

The April Issue of Blue Ridge Outdoors is live!

first_imgEDITOR’S NOTEPlay together, stay together: meet the BRO family.LETTERSDear readers: will you stand up for nature?QUICK HITSWardian shatters seven-day, seven-continent marathon record • Bike Share planned for Roanoke • Camping improves sleepFLASHPOINTCan the South ever be powered by 100% renewable energy?THE DIRT50 is the new 30 • Can elk coexist with landowners outside of the Smokies? • Louisville is home to world’s first underground bike park • High school mountain biking climbs higher in AppalachiaA BRIGHT FUTURE Despite a change in administration, solar energy is shining in the South.THE GOODSA.T. expert Zach Davis picks his favorite thru-hiking gear.TRAIL MIXOffstage, Steep Canyon Ranger bassist Charles Humphries III tackles big trails.WHY ADVENTURE MATTERSAdventure is not irresponsible, says A.T. female speed record holder Jennifer Pharr Davis. It actually makes you smarter and more socially engaged.ADVENTURE FAMILIESCan you be an accomplished athlete and a first-rate parent too? Meet five families redefining adventure—including the Quirins, whose one-year-old could become the first baby thru-hiker in 2017.RECREATE BY STATEYou’ve been to Shenandoah and the Smokies, but what about Hungry Mother or Frozen Head? Explore new terrain in this state-by-state guide to our region’s top parks.SOUTH BEYOND 6,000The 40 summits above 6,000 feet in Appalachia should be on every Southern adventurer’s bucket list. Which ones will you tick off in 2017? Two SB6K record holders share their favorites.last_img read more