September 30, 2017

From Flames to Free: The Symbolic Restoration of the Mighty Cuyahoga River

Soundtrack: Burn On by Randy Newman

There must be a thousand rivers like the Cuyahoga in America, and ten thousand around the world.. it runs only 84 miles, only drops 500 feet, drains only 809 miles of America's 3 million.  On top of that it drains in the ignominious City of Cleveland, which Eddie Murphy implied many years ago in Beverly Hills Cop was not much of a place for classy execution, well before I ever got to see it with my own eyes and give it a personal judgment of coming back but hardly Paris.  Never been off the highway in Akron, but they did produce LeBron. The River Cuyahoga might be able to flow a half million CFM into Lake Erie, and it's got a reputation for some pretty scenery and ledges in it's upper reaches, so impressive they were made a National Park, but it's hardly a world class waterway. What made if famous beyond Ohio was this:

This is a picture of the Cuyahoga someplace I am pretty sure in Cleveland, on fire in 1952. It caught on fire some 13 times between 1868 and 1969 it is reported, about every 7 years it sounds like, and who knows how many minor fires were snuffed out that didn't make the broadsheets.

December 22, 2016

First Nations Become First Restorationists Part III: An Informal List of Species Reintroduction Projects on Tribal Lands

Over the last few months I have been perusing the internet to find examples to back my claim that there is a somewhat recent and growing phenomenon ( explained in part 1), which I hope keeps growing, of Native American/Indian Reservations using their autonomy to restore missing indigenous species to various habitat around the US. Natives Reintroducing Natives.
This phenomenon happens most often west of the Mississippi River in what we know as the High Plains and West, but it's not limited to there. The Upper Midwest seems to also have a thriving tribal ecology focus, and even the Eastern Cherokee, a little birdie whispered in my ear, are starting to take their tribal areas in Western North Carolina more seriously in terms of holistic management. There might be some elk running around soon.
Here is an informal list of what I have found so far. If you want to learn more about any specific introduction effort, I would use the tribe and species as keywords for an internet search and I bet you find something:
Note: I am trying to collect a list of reintroduction, but there are plenty more programs where there are habitat improvements for endangered, or locally extinct species that might not make the list. My scope might be too narrow, but I started a while ago when it seemed a fun challenge and this list would get really long if I listed every habitat improvement program, as much as I applaud them.

July 5, 2016

The Great Salt Lake Causeway Bridge: Balancing the Salinity & Saving the Life of America's Dead Sea


I've got a thing for Utah.. it's wild, it's serene, and it's beautiful. Say what you want about Mormons, they run a tight ship and make great neighbors.. it's a pretty good place. While I spend most of my time when I am there exploring the canyon's of it's southern reaches, one of American's world class locations, I've been all over it, and one adventure took me over one of it's rare and actually closed landmarks, in an RV with a crazy homeless dude no less. This is how I came to care about the topic of this blog, the bridge over the causeway that will hopefully contribute to the restoration of saline balance in this great body of water, the largest salt lake in the western hemisphere, and one of the most unique places in America.

People know the Great Salt Lake from the city named after it.. few actually see the lake proper.. you can spot it landing at SLC airport if there isn't a layer of fog or a bad inversion, or see it's edges from I-80 as you head to Nevada, past Bonneville, or maybe from the houses on the hills above the city that shares it's name, but to the majority of the people of Utah, the lake is something you don't think about much, it's useless and somewhat in the way; Thus is the practicality of the Mormon pioneers. While Brigham Young said "this is the place", this place had a big salt lake that wasn't much use for farming or industry until brine shrimp and magnesium harvesting were figured out in this century.. but it was a nice barrier to moving further west, and the rivers that fed it fed their new civilization, which they eked out of Ute land and made into a successful civilization, territory, and then state of the great United States of America.

April 13, 2016

First Nations become First Restorationists Part II: A Bison Case Study

In Part One I wrote about how I had noticed that American Indian Tribes were using their tribal autonomy to do species restoration on their reservations all over the central and western part of the Contiguous US. I was surprised because I hadn't seen any mention of it as a phenomenon other than one article in the New York Times. It turns out it has been quietly happening for some 30 years or more.
I meant for this post to be a survey of all that is happening, from black footed ferrets to buffalo, but I got so much info on the buffalo I have decided to make a post just on it, Tribal Buffalo Restoration, and then do another final post on the other species that have been popping up (in the case of Prairie Dogs and Black Footed Ferrets, quite literally) all over the west. So this is part two of a three part series.

Right now is the golden age of the return of the Buffalo.. it's happening all over the west, 120 or so conservation herds and growing, in addition to countless meat herds, and it feels like half of those restorations are on government land, and half are on Reservations, and as I dig, a lot of the groundwork was laid as early as the 80's, and the herds are now in some cases becoming big and viable wild herds.

February 13, 2016

Dam Removal Goes Prime Time

First, it was just a trickle...
This post is ripe for water metaphors, but I'm flowing off course.
Something is happening to America's Rivers, and for the first time in a long time, it's good. Positive changes are starting to flow freely over the entire Continental US (sorry, I can't resist), and it really is a deluge. Take a look at these statistics released by a non Profit organization out of Washington DC called American Rivers, which is the national environmental advocacy group for all the river's and streams of the US.

The Baseline:
There are 79,000 dam's registered with the Army Corps of Engineers, who are the major government flood control agency, and are staffed by a combination of civilians and members of the US Army's Combat Engineers.
In the West, an additional agency called the US Bureau of Reclamation has the job of damning ( did I leave an in there.. sorry!) water to produce electricty and provide water for a few cities, but mostly for agriculture and powe rcreation. In the case of the colorado river, about 20% of diverted water goes to cities and 80% goes to agriculture, and the same dams do create enough electricity to power millions of homes (1mw tends to power about 1000 homes is the standard way to think about it).

December 24, 2015

Happy Holiday Hope: The Slow but Steady Return of The American Chestnut

The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire) - Nat King Cole
Its one of the best Christmas songs you have to admit.. some of em feel like a brain tumor (yup.. Jingle Bells, sung by Simon and The Chipmunks   click this link at your peril.. it's a special level of hell made for your Aunt Thelma), but when this one, Nat King Cole, gets stuck in your head, it's not bad, it does make you feel warm.. you feel the fire, smell the smell of roasting sugars, and it feels cozy... pre-global warming cozy... nothing to worry about cozy... it's a damn good song. But what the hell was Nat King Cole talking about?
It's a rare American city where the festive cheer leads to roasted chestnuts, but you can find em sometimes, at Christmas markets and state fairs. My first time seeing them of all places was in Europe where the crop is more steady. It was a lonely Christmas in Munich, and I wandered their famous Christmas Market, complete with Glockenspiel ( A favorite joke German word of a college buddy of mine, and how relieved I was to find out it was just a clock..) and some guy was roasting these little round things over coal and it turns out they were little salty morsels of goodness, Chestnuts in English.

June 21, 2015

This Time for Real: The Electric Car Becomes a Consumer Reality

Think about how complex modern life is. Most of us are so busy keeping up with it we have a hard time getting perspective on it. The world is 7 Billion people strong, all whizzing around on something, and eating a complex diet and fulfilling so many needs, and in more luxurious places wants, for themselves and others. Global trade is massive as well, just look at how many tons of shipping, or TEU's, the measurement of volume in shipping, about one 20 foot long shipping container, go whizzing to every corner where man is. Plus the way we make life comfortable in every corner with heating, air conditioning, and even humidity control in places. It's all fueled by Fossil Fuels, something like 90% of our mechanical energy demands, transportation and electricity generation, product production and even the food we eat, fertilized by nitrogen cracked from oil... mmmmm, tasty.  If 90% of our current societal needs are met with fossil fuels, it's going to take a death by a thousand cuts to take them out of our lives. It's like removing metastasized lymphoma. It's in everything we do, more insidious than High Fructose Corn Syrup, bygum!
So forgetting Natural Gas and Coal for now, huge contributors to global pollution and CO2, but they currently don't power too much of our transportation, which is our eventual topic, which I promise I will get to after some context ( the percentage of natural gas transportation is likely growing right now, from minuscule to negligible, which isn't a horrible thing because it's clean-er (not clean!), but Coal for movement went the way of the steam engine, replaced by more efficient gas around the turn of the century with the creation of oil wells. Coal is bad for the planet, but good for the whales, who were the previous source of energy for many of our needs!)  the world uses about 93.6 million barrels of crude oil per day as projected for 2015.
How much oil do we use as a nation, the USA?