This tree-lined sanctuary sits at the end of the Missisquoi River’s winding path through northern Vermont, and it’s a vital feeding, nesting and resting habitat for many different types of wildlife that can be found in smaller numbers throughout the state. It’s also one of many areas that would be threatened by a break in an aging oil pipeline that cuts through Vermont, and which could be used to transport a type of heavy crude oil that is nearly impossible to clean up.
Just a few hundred feet downstream from the highway, a Great Blue Heron – the iconic creature of the refuge – watched us paddle close before opening his wide blue-grey wings, slowly flapped a few feet above the marsh grass, and settled on a branch farther away. Several more herons made appearances throughout the afternoon, but none let us get as close as this one did. And the graceful white egrets standing miles farther into the refuge were the least willing to be photographed of all.
After an easy float with the current out to the bay, we drifted around the outside of Shad Island, which is one of the region’s most important and productive Great Blue Heron rookeries. In the spring, the young birds are so loud you can barely hear anything else. Today, it was quiet. A screech prompted us to look up, in time to see an osprey carrying a fish in its claws, over our heads and high into the trees. Osprey are relatively common in the area, fishing in the choppier waters of the lake and nesting in trees throughout the refuge.They have lots of food to choose from – as do local fishermen, who ply the waters in small fishing boats almost every day the lake and river aren’t frozen over. The most-sought-after fish are walleye, northern pike, largemouth bass, bullhead, white perch and yellow perch.
Paddling back through the dark, still waters in the central channel of the refuge, we saw a fish jump every few minutes. A huge, spotted brown bird of prey saw them too – body too big to be a heron, huge wingspan, mottled coat, most likely a red-shouldered hawk – which swooped in and out of the trees waiting for the right moment to grab one. Bald eagles also nest in the refuge from time to time, but we weren’t lucky enough to spot an eagle.
Of the dozens of birds common to the refuge, we did see sparrows, wood ducks, a group of double-crested cormorants, common terns, and a belted kingfisher.
Unfortunately, all of these birds, fish and other residents of the refuge would feel the adverse effects of an oil spill. A break in the WWII-era pipeline where it crosses the Missisquoi, or a problem at the pumping station just over the border in Quebec, could cause oil to spill – and the company that operates the pipeline admits that the oil could make it this far. If the pipeline were being used to transport tar sands oil – a thick, heavy, sticky substance that sinks to the bottom of rivers and has proven nearly impossible to clean up – the impact would be much worse.In fact, the 2010 tar sands spill that polluted the Kalamazoo River in Michigan reached a similar distance (40 miles) and a lake at the farthest point was still so dirty that the EPA directed the company to dredge it again three years later. Oil spills can travel fast – the Portland Pipe Line Company estimated that a spill in the Missisquoi would cover about 1 mile every hour – and based on the wind speed and direction, can move even faster.
Residents and neighbors of the area near where the pipeline crosses through Vermont in the Northeast Kingdom have been coming together over the threat to their waters and local wildlife. The threat extends many miles beyond the postcard-perfect spot where the pipeline itself crosses under the covered bridge in North Troy: It reaches into the darkest inlets of the wildlife refuge nearly 40 miles away. Getting out on the water in person to marvel at just how tall a heron really is, or how high fish can jump, reminds us exactly what’s at stake when we make decisions that involve risks to our water, land and air. Vermont’s wildlife habitat is priceless, and we owe it to future generations of noisy young blue herons – and the people who love them – to protect it.
Help keep moose in the Northeast safe from tar sands. Tell your governor to say “No” to tar sands.]]>
During the three days, there was a mix of actual in-class type workshop presentations that were given in an engaging way with educational facts about the Chesapeake Bay, watermen, fisheries and shellfish, the NWF Eco-Schools USA program, and spending time on Tangier Island, truly “the island that time forgot.”
But, there were also actual hands-on experiences on the Bay, such as a sunrise canoe trip to go “progging” (Tangier-speak for looking for sea treasures on the beach), setting and harvesting crab pots, and crab scraping. Crab scaping is not what you might think, but rather a way to dig up sea grasses (widgeon and eel sea grass) to see what small sea creatures live there (blue crabs, pike fish—a cousin to the sea horse—small shrimp, and so many others).We learned about the Menhaden, part of the Herring family, which are a mainstay of the fisheries in the Bay. Not good for eating, but excellent as a fertilizer, and used in many common grocery items such as cookies, cat food, and cosmetics. We used Menhaden as the bait in the crab pots. The crab harvest is low this year, most likely due to the cold winter, and the watermen are concerned but have faith it will recover. We saw water birds, too – amazing Osprey pairs, Herons, Egrets, American Oystercatchers, Least Terns, Greater Yellowlegs, and even the tracks of a Muskrat. And, I was able to talk with and listen to the principals at 22 different elementary and middle schools in Fairfax County to hear how they’d like to green their school, and how they want to learn how best to help their teachers and students to become more environmentally literate. We worked together on plans for the coming year, laying out goals for increased environmental stewardship and action.
We were blessed to have Stephen Ritz from the Green Bronx Machine with us on this trip. Stephen is a teacher in New York’s tough South Bronx, where he and his kids grow lush gardens for food, greenery — and jobs and he is a true environmental hero, and newfound friend to NWF. I’m looking forward to doing so much more with Stephen in the future as we look at ways we can work together.
Check out Stephen’s TED talk to learn more about the amazing way that he is transforming at-risk student lives in the Bronx.
A sign I saw at Spanky’s Ice Cream Shop stayed with me and epitomizes the good people of Tangier Island but also what we’re all trying to do to green our schools, students, teachers, and communities.
“Good character is more to be praised than outstanding talent. Most talents are, to some extent, a gift. Good character, by contrast is not given to us. We have to build it piece by piece — by thought, choice, courage, and determination.”
– H. Johnson Brown, Jr.
Then, sadly, it was time to go home. But I left the Bay with a newfound appreciation for this incredible watershed, the people who live and depend on it, the people at CBF that work to protect it, and the principals and schools that I’m lucky enough to work with in Fairfax County. I’m looking forward to doing this again and again.]]>
We hope that you get outside and run and play this weekend, and if you are riding your bike or boating that you wear a properly fitted helmet or life jacket. The US Coast Guard has a lot of information on safety rules and how to select the correct life jacket, and here in Seattle there are a lot of resources available for bicycle safety.
The thought of losing these special places tugs at my heart. As I sift through hundreds of photos capturing countless memories of special moments that I have spent in our parks, I am reminded just how important they have been, and continue to be, in my family’s lives.
Please share your own photos of your favorite moments at Washington’s State Parks so we can remind our leaders what’s really at stake!
How to Submit Your Photos:
Attach your photos to an email, put the name of the State Park in the subject line, and add a short description in the text body. Email your photos to email@example.com.
Upload your photo to the Pacific Regional Center’s Facebook page with a short description, and tag with #wastateparks.
Please only send us photos that belong to you, and note that by sending us photos, you give us permission to post them on our website (with attribution).
What’s at stake if our Washington State Parks were to close? The way I look at it, people and wildlife have a lot to lose. These stories and photos help me to remember that Washington State Parks are our legacy to our children and to their children, to our future:
The fourth oldest park system in the country, Washington has 117 parks and 700 historic structures. These natural places are a delight to explore and learn about the history of our region and about nature and wildlife. With so many great state parks just a short road trip away, you are sure to find the perfect weekend destination.
Picnics and family gatherings, annual camping trips, wildlife and tranquil natural settings away from the city and immersed in nature is what you will find at State Parks.
There are so many beaches, hikes, mountains and natural places in our State Parks to walk and explore! You may discover marine debris from faraway places. Build elaborate drift wood forts, scoop up seashells, and pocket colored sea glass and shiny pebbles. Skip rocks on calm water, first one then three and sometimes five skips, and fly kites in a vast blue sky next to weathered war-time bunkers, where harmonicas make a sweet sound resonating off dark silent walls.
Play football, ride bikes and tend to scuffed knees and scraped hands. Hike along paths lined with tall trees that sway in the wind, and see bushes filled with birds eating berries, and bees buzzing in the heat of the day. Discover a deer hidden in the tall grass.Around campgrounds kids learn to chop wood and build hot blazing fires for the creation of the perfect s’more. They learn to handle a pocket knife, like the one that grandpa handed down, and sing campfire songs, like “I Know An Old Lady Who Swallowed A Fly”, or my favorite, “She’ll Be Coming Around The Mountain”. When darkness falls silly spooky stories are told while listening to sticky pitch sputter and pop in hot flames. Overhead satellites glide by among millions of stars; a rodent scouts out the camp at night for left over crumbs.
These treasured times, out in nature on our public lands, in our State Parks, cannot be taken for granted or forgotten. They are a place of discovery and learning about our natural world, they teach us to understand and respect our history and our land. They are a place for personal growth and of treasured moments with family and friends.
Over the past four years, the State Park Commission’s budget has suffered an 88% reduction in general fund support. In 2011, the Washington Legislature created the Discover Pass to replace general fund tax money, but not enough passes are being sold to make up for the deep budget cuts. This means there are not enough funds to cover the cost of operating and maintaining state-managed recreation lands.
It’s not too late to stand up for our State Parks! Here’s how you can help make sure these special places continue to protect wildlife and inspire the next generation of conservationists:
This Thursday, we celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Clean Water Act. This landmark act has ensured, and will continue to ensure, that America’s waters are fishable, swimmable, and drinkable. Since its inception, the Clean Water Act has logged numerous successes: it has prevented pollution by providing assistance to publicly-owned wastewater treatment facilities, and maintaining the integrity of wetlands.
**Help us celebrate this milestone and tell everyone how important clean water is to you!**
Facebook: This week change you profile picture to the image below and share it with your friends. Remind people that October, 18th we celebrate four decades of the Clean Water Act and the historic results this keystone legislation has achieved: healthier water to drink; cleaner streams, rivers and lakes in which to swim, fish and play; and dramatically lower rates of natural wetland loss.
Twitter: Tweet a message showing your support for clean water. Feel free to use some of the samples we have provided below or create your own.
* When tweeting be sure to use #CleanWaterAct.
Links to include as needed:
*Follow us (@NWFCleanH2O) and other organizations working to protect America’s waters!*
If you care about clean water and would like future generations to have fishable, swimmable and drinkable waters, take action and help restore clean water today!]]>
Fast forward to 2012 and a beautiful September Saturday when ECC joined the National Wildlife Federation, Anacostia and Potomac Riverkeepers, and Water Keeper Alliance nationwide in honoring the 40th Anniversary of the Clean Water Act–and recommitting ourselves to clean rivers and clean water for all—here along the Anacostia and nationwide.
Since Congress passed the Clean Water Act in October 1972, we have made incredible progress in cleaning up our rivers and streams. The Potomac River is our source for drinking water and many people are using the Anacostia and Potomac rivers to canoe, kayak and fish.
But we have much more work to do to restore the streams and wetlands that flow through the District of Columbia and on to the Chesapeake Bay. Please join the Earth Conservation Corps, the National Wildlife Federation, and our local, regional, and national clean water partners in celebrating the 40th birthday of the Clean Water Act and standing up for a strong Clean Water Act, and fishable swimmable waters for all.
Kellie Bolinder is Executive Director of Earth Conservation Corps. She has been working with the organization for over nine years. Earth Conservation Corps became the DC affiliate of the National Wildlife Federation in 2008, joining the network of 48 state and territorial affiliates across the country.]]>
“The Govs” (like “The Avengers”), led by chair Governor Chris Gregoire, were unanimous in their push to get kids outdoors.
As Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper said: “[Y]ou can’t truly experience a state park or beautiful natural area until you actually go there and get dirty.”
We already know there are lots of good reasons to get kids off the couch. It is better for their physical and mental health, and it makes them more likely to be conservationists when they grow up.
The Govs added another motivation: economics. Tourism is a huge economic driver for the west. If America raises a generation of kids who don’t care about the outdoors, our national and state parks, forests and recreational areas will get less use, and western communities will take a financial beating.
The Govs aren’t just wagging fingers–they have a plan. During the meeting, WGA released a report titled Connecting Kids and Families to the West’s Great Outdoors. This report highlights the many ways that governors can reconnect people with nature.
Among other recommendations, the report encourages governors to create “Healthy Kids Outdoors Councils” to establish comprehensive statewide strategies for getting kids outdoors. That strategy, which has already been implemented in Maryland and Kansas, will enable states to tap into resources from the federal Healthy Kids Outdoors Act once it passes in Congress.
The report also encourages Governors to create Children’s Outdoor Bills of Rights (the first such Bill was created in California), broker new partnerships, recognize youth leaders, promote the North American Conservation Education Strategy and promote fee-free days in parks. At the meeting, several Western governors also agreed to participate in a pilot project that aims to increase park visits by creating a position of Youth Outdoor Recreation Outreach Coordinator in their offices.
NWF looks forward to working with WGA and our Western Governors to advance state policies that reconnect children with nature! And we hope you will join us in supporting the Healthy Kids Outdoors Act in Congress, a bill that will support the “Healthy Kids Outdoors Councils” called for in the WGA report!]]>
Many Northeastern game species are threatened by mild winters (also see NWF’s “Game Changers” report), not to mention that sportsmen and hikers are coming home with ticks on them or on their dog. A recent radio piece talked to the president of the Berkshire County League of Sportsmen, and he said they had to cancel all their ice fishing derbies this year.
Right here in Massachusetts, we are seeing impacts that are more severe, too: the Springfield tornadoes, the Halloween snowstorm and power outages, and increased flooding from extreme storms (100 year storms every few years) throughout the region.
There are economic impacts not only from cleaning up from those natural disasters, but also from things like a shorter and less sweet maple sugaring season from New York to Vermont, cancelled ice fishing derbies, and a bad ski year on the East Coast all add up to a drop in revenue for businesses not to mention a drop in fun.
For gardeners, the whole map has moved! Who knows when the last frost free date is in their area any more? I put corn and peas in at least a month too late last year, because I went by the zones on the packages. This year I am going in a month ahead, but who knows if some late freak storm will kill all my plants.
This kind of oddball winter weather is exactly what climate scientists say we can expect in a warming world. This is why it is more important than ever to stand up for clean air now. The more we cut down on mercury and industrial carbon pollution coming out of smokestacks, the better chance we have of being able to enjoy our fine New England winters as well as our beautiful New England summers, each in their own time.
Murky Supreme Court decisions in SWANCC (2001) and RAPANOS (2006) and conflicting agency guidance are eroding the Clean Water Act and putting millions of acres of wetlands and streams at risk for contamination and destruction. Tributaries and wetlands that provide clean water to iconic systems like the Chesapeake Bay, Great Lakes and the Mississippi River Basin and Delta are at risk. These at risk waters supply at least some of the drinking water for 117 million Americans. These water bodies provide important fish and wildlife habitats that fuel local economies and support outdoor traditions across the country. As these resources are polluted and diminished, so are the tremendous natural and public health benefits they provide, including food, drinking water and flood protection.As the Clean Water Act turns 40 this year, America needs to renew its commitment to clean water and a strong Clean Water Act so that we do not slide back into that time almost four decades ago when you could light a river on fire because of the pollution. Our waterways and wetlands should not be the dumping grounds for factory farm animal sewage, toxic mining waste and other health-threatening contaminants.
We cannot protect our drinking water or restore the Great Lakes, Chesapeake Bay, or Florida’s clear springs and bays unless we commit to strengthen, not weaken, the Clean Water Act. It is time for the Administration to move forward and sustain that legacy by restoring longstanding Clean Water Act protections for the Nation’s wetlands, lakes, and streams.
New guidance from the Administration will clarify which waters are protected under the Clean Water Act, removing confusion for landowners, conservationists and state and local agencies. Providing a stronger, clearer definition of “Waters of the United States” through new guidance and rulemaking is a policy based on commonsense and common ground between conservation and industry interests.
The Corps and EPA took a positive first step this year by submitting draft guidance for public comment. Their proposal respects the Supreme Court’s rulings and related science. The agencies received over 230,000 comments on the guidance. To protect America’s waters, in keeping with the Clean Water Act, this guidance must be finalized quickly. The agencies must also initiate a vigorous and transparent rulemaking process to clarify and reinforce the safeguards and scope of the Clean Water Act for landowners, developers, conservationists and state and federal agencies.
The Corps and EPA are now prepared to take final action – but time is running out.
Send a message to the Obama Administration, urging them to act now to restore Clean Water Act protections to small streams and wetlands.
Clean water sustains lives and livelihoods and habitat for fish and wildlife. Renewing America’s commitment to a strong and effective Clean Water Act also strengthens our country, our quality of life and our commitment to our children and grandchildren.]]>
Prior to this 2010 report, the national trend of toxic releases had been dropping significantly. However, in 2010 Alaska’s toxic releases increased twenty percent, producing a total of 835-million pounds of toxic material being discharged in local air, water and land. 92.3 % of this total comes from metal mining. This fact joins the long list of reasons why the proposed Pebble Mine is the wrong mine in the wrong place.
For some perspective: Pebble Mine is estimated to dump 10 billion tons of hard rock mining waste at the headwaters of the greatest wild salmon fishery in the world. That’s twelve times more toxic waste than all toxic material released in Alaskan air, land and water the entirety of 2010. This is why the majority of Bristol Bay Natives oppose Pebble Mine. It is why commercial fishers, sport fishers and even seafood processors oppose Pebble Mine.As the new EPA report indicates- the mining industry is the single largest source of toxic waste and one of the most environmentally destructive industries in the country. Discharging wastes into waters may be cheaper for mining companies, but it is not a necessary way of doing business. Right now the EPA can close two loopholes in the Clean Water Act that would greatly reduce the amount of toxic waste mining companies are allowed to release into our watersheds.
Take action now and help stop the Pebble Mine. For Pebble Mine campaign updates check out our Facebook page “Stop Mining Pollution” and follow us on Twitter @NWFSalmon.]]>