Half a billion Australian animals, even 30% of koala population, likely lost to wildfires

January 6, 2020 by  
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Record-breaking wildfires have ravaged millions of Australian acres for many months now. Ecologists estimate upward of 480 million mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and insects have died, as well as more than 8,000 koalas from New South Wales, equating to over 30% of the region’s entire koala population. Figures continue to rise as the fires rage on. Heat from the fires has driven many animals, such as kangaroos, to flee. But not all can escape, exemplified by flightless endemic birds unable to venture far from the ground. The plight is worse for koalas, already a vulnerable species experiencing significant habitat loss . Koalas are slow-moving by nature, incapable of escaping highly flammable eucalyptus trees. The flames will need to subside further before their losses can be fully assessed. Related: Koala-sniffing detection dog, Bear, helps save koalas from Australian bushfires Other species have been devastated as well. Insects, vital to pollination and nutrient cycles, have suffered massively. Many rare plants are also feared to be entirely decimated, with no chance of recovery for their species. These staggering losses jeopardize species populations and ecosystems in Australia. Environmental activists are consequently sounding alarms on climate change , demanding halts to logging and coal use due to their exacerbation of wildfire conditions. “The compelling issue here is climate change. Yes, Australia is burning, and national parks and our native animals are being decimated,” said Clover Moore, mayor of Sydney. “As the driest continent on Earth, we’re at the forefront of accelerating global warming . What is happening is a wake-up call for our governments to start making effective contributions to reducing global emissions.” Various animal care facilities are struggling to help the surviving animals. Eventually, once they have healed, these animals still need to return to their natural habitats. The surviving animals may have trouble finding food and shelter in the blazes’ aftermath. “We’re getting a lot of lessons out of this, and it’s just showing how unprepared we are,” said Kellie Leigh, executive director of Science for Wildlife, to the Australian parliament during an urgent December hearing regarding the koala population. “There’s no procedures or protocols in place — even wildlife carers don’t have protocols for when they can go in after the fire.” Typically, wildlife authorities advise against feeding wild animals . But the ravaging wildfires have prompted a message change — people are now encouraged to provide crucial food and water to wildlife in affected areas. Lands affected range from at least 8.9 million acres in New South Wales, 2.9 million acres in Western Australia, 1.8 million acres in Victoria, 618,000 acres in Queensland and 250,000 acres in South Australia. Via HuffPost Image via Simon Rumi

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Half a billion Australian animals, even 30% of koala population, likely lost to wildfires

Biggest environmental news stories of the decade

December 31, 2019 by  
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As we begin a new decade, we’re taking a look over the biggest environmental news stories since 2010. There’s a little good news, and a lot of not-so-good news. Still, we can look back and learn from what is happening in the hopes of taking action and restoring a brighter future for our planet. Climate change moves into the mainstream, and more kids get involved While a few climate deniers still fill high-ranking political posts, climate change is much more widely accepted as fact — rather than something to “believe in” — than it was in 2010. According to the TED blog, only four TED Talks specifically on climate change were posted in 2010 and 2011, although speakers mentioned the phenomenon. By 2015, TED said, people had shifted to seeing climate change as happening now, rather than in the far-off future, thanks to debates about whether or not places like the island nation of Kiribati were already sinking. Related: 12 good things that happened for the environment in 2019 By the end of the decade, climate change is on the forefront of many people’s minds, especially young people. Worldwide movements like Extinction Rebellion use massive, nonviolent protests to urge politicians to slow the warming. Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg rose to international prominence, taking politicians to task about ignoring climate change and even being named Time Magazine’s person of the year in 2019. Deepwater Horizon The decade started with a tragic oil spill on April 20, 2010, one of the worst in history. The explosion on British Petroleum’s Deepwater Horizon, an oil rig operating in the Gulf of Mexico, killed 11 people. It leaked oil into the gulf for 87 days, for a total of 3.19 million barrels of crude oil polluting the coasts of Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and Florida. Images of people trying to wipe oil off pelican wings filled the news. Cleanup costs reached at least $65 billion . In addition to economic blows, especially to Louisiana’s shrimp and oyster industries, the animal death toll was high. According to the Center for Biological Diversity, about 82,000 birds, 6,165 sea turtles, 25,900 marine mammals and uncountable numbers of fish perished in the spill. Researchers are still gauging the long-term effects. Extreme weather events become more frequent As the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration warned, global warming escalates weather disasters. The last decade saw 111 climate-related natural disasters that each cost more than $1 billion in damage. These include tornadoes, hurricanes, wildfires, floods, drought, heatwaves and winter storms. In 2017, Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, killing 2,981 people and costing an estimated $93.6 billion in damages. Notable U.S. disasters included Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and the Missouri tornadoes of 2011. Animal extinctions Humans continued to edge out other animals in the struggle for habitat and resources. According to the World Wildlife Fund , species loss currently stands at between 1,000 and 10,000 times higher than the natural extinction rate, which is the rate Earth would lose species if humans didn’t exist. In 2012, Lonesome George, the last Pinta tortoise , died at over 100 years old. Formosan clouded leopards no longer slink across Taiwan. The Christmas Island pipistrelle, a microbat, has ceased its ultrasonic squeaking. No more baiji dolphins cavort in the Yangtze River. In this last decade, the planet also lost Caribbean monk seals, West African black rhinos, Madagascar hippopotami and Liverpool pigeons. Rainforest deforestation The decade’s final year witnessed much of the Amazonian rainforest go up in smoke. Brazil and Bolivia were particularly hit hard. Many attributed this tragedy at least in part to Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s push for development over preservation. Horrifying photos from the National Institute for Space Research revealed enormous bald swaths where trees once stood. During its peak in August 2019, more than 70,000 individual fires were burning. The rainforest plays a critical role in regulating the entire world’s climate, so concerns stretched far beyond Brazil. Related: Amazon rainforest might reach irreversible tipping point as early as 2021 Increase in ocean plastic During the last decade, plastic continued to fill the oceans. But awareness of ocean plastic also grew. A 2018 United Nations study reported that people dump approximately 13 million tons of plastic into the world’s oceans annually, and the researchers expected this number to grow. At the same time, many concerned citizens in cities around the world worked to decrease plastic waste by banning straws and plastic bags. Some hotel chains vowed to no longer stock beverages packaged in single-use plastic bottles. Many companies started developing products made from recycled plastic. Reusable water bottles became an important fashion accessory. China stopped buying American recycling Americans became more adept at recycling , but they weren’t necessarily aware where their recycled goods went. In 2018, China enacted a policy called National Sword. Suddenly, Americans realized their old plastic had largely been going to China , but China didn’t want it anymore. Now at the end of the decade, American cities are scrambling to save unprofitable recycling programs. Ironically, some cities have canceled these programs just when they’ve convinced people to recycle. Right now, it’s cheaper for American companies to produce new plastic than to recycle old. This is one of the many environmental problems that must be addressed in the coming decade. Images via Shutterstock

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PANGAIA presents FLWRDWN, a down alternative made from biodegradable wildflowers

December 26, 2019 by  
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With a concern for the treatment of ducks and geese during the gathering of feathers for down bedding and clothing, one company has developed a proprietary, cruelty-free alternative to traditional down. Called FLWRDWN, this down alternative, made from wildflowers , has taken scientists 10 years to develop. The result is a fully biodegradable material that can be used in coats, comforters and other products. The dried wildflowers — mixed with a biopolymer and infused with Aerogel for performance and durability — create a blend that is super-warm, certified hypoallergenic and breathable. Because it is made from natural materials, it is also biodegradable. Related: Collection of plant-based T-shirts raise awareness of endangered species PANGAIA uses flowers sourced from areas focused on habitat restoration and the conservation of butterfly species. The plants for FLWRDWN require no irrigation, so they preserve groundwater. The flowers are harvested with no damage to the ecosystem through the process of regenerative agriculture. For its initial release, PANGAIA used FLWRDWN in oversized puffer jackets made in Italy. Both the short and long versions of the coat feature exterior shells made from 100 percent quilted recycled polyester . The products have obviously resonated with consumers looking for a natural down alternative, as both styles of coats are currently sold out. PANGAIA is a development company with a mission to create safer and more earth-friendly materials . In its own words, “PANGAIA is a direct-to-consumer materials science company on a mission to save the environment. We are a global collective of one heart and many hands — scientists, technologists, designers — creating essential products from innovative tech and bio-engineered materials.” FLWRDWN is just one product in an exciting lineup made of eco-textiles , such as recycled cotton tracksuits, a shirt infused with seaweed and botanical T-shirts dyed with natural and non-toxic plant products. + PANGAIA Images via PANGAIA

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PANGAIA presents FLWRDWN, a down alternative made from biodegradable wildflowers

Museum of Plastic pops up at Art Basel Miami

December 6, 2019 by  
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The Museum of Plastic is popping up once again, this time at the EDITION Hotel during Art Basel Miami, from Friday, December 6 through Sunday, December 8. Creative incubator Lonely Whale designed the art installation to raise awareness about plastic pollution in the oceans, first unveiling it earlier this year in New York during World Oceans Week. Lonely Whale is known for campaigns like the anti-straw Stop Sucking and the anti-single-use plastic water bottle Question How You Hydrate . Inhabitat talked with Lonely Whale executive director Dune Ives about the Museum of Plastic, and the importance of personal behavior change and radical cross-industry collaboration to solve the world’s plastic problems. Answers have been edited for length. Inhabitat: What exactly is Lonely Whale Foundation? Ives: We’re located at 30,000 feet. We’re virtual. We spend most of our time in various places around the world addressing ocean health issues. We’ve been around for four years. We actually officially launched at Art Basel in 2015. We call ourselves an incubator for courageous ideas to save the oceans. It got its start out of inspiration from this documentary film about finding this whale that speaks at a frequency no other whale has been known to speak at before or since it was found, which is the frequency of 52 hertz. What our co-founders (Adrian Grenier and Lucy Sumner) wanted to make sure we did as an organization was pull people closer to the ocean. To get them to become aware that there is an ocean, it’s in dire straits, we’re largely the cause for that state of affairs. There’s so much we can do to help make it a better place. Inhabitat: What have been Lonely Whale’s biggest accomplishments so far? Ives: I think our biggest accomplishment to date is connecting people to each other. We set out to raise awareness about plastic pollution . But we wanted to create content and initiatives that broke down barriers to engagement. So we didn’t want to make it feel too heavy or too dire or too negative. We also didn’t want it to feel too far away. So we launched our first campaign, Stop Sucking , and that was launched in tandem with Strawless in Seattle . It was really intended to take a lighthearted look at a really big, serious and growing issue of plastic pollution . It struck a chord with people. You could be funny and be an environmentalist at the same time. Related: Plastic straws are a thing of the past, but which reusable straw is best for the future? We have an Ocean Heroes boot camp, we call it, where we bring kids together from all over the world. To date, over 50 countries. This year alone, we’ll reach about a thousand kids, and they are working with each other across borders, across languages, across time zones, to stop plastic pollution. We work with individuals, with our impact campaigns. We work with youth with our Ocean Heroes program. Next Waves is our third big initiative, where we get global corporations to sit across the table from each other to provoke a conversation about plastic pollution. But really it’s about shifting our perception about what is waste and what is usable material and to challenge each other to do more, to go further than they ever thought that they could in being a solution to the problem of plastic pollution. So I think it’s that connectedness, that togetherness, which is a unique contribution that Lonely Whale has made in the ocean health discussion. Inhabitat: What is Art Basel Miami? Ives: It’s an amazing amalgamation of people who are cultural taste-makers and thought leaders and artists and musicians and business leaders who are really excited to drive a conversation about how art and technology and culture intersect and should really allow us to advance progress on the issues that we’re working on as a society. Inhabitat: Tell us more about the Museum of Plastic. Ives: We call it an experiential activation or art installation . It will be installed at the EDITION Hotel , which is right on Miami Beach. People will go through a series of experiences throughout the open spaces in the EDITION. The first experience they’ll go through is what’s called the Ocean Voyage Room, which shows what will happen if we don’t make much more progress than where we are. It’s estimated that in 2014, ’15, ‘16, ’17 and ’18, we had a minimum of 8-12 million tons of new plastic entering the ocean every year. We’re projecting 2020, ’21 and ’22 to have the exact same situation. This Ocean Voyage experience is going to illustrate that this is how bad it can be. But it will also show how we can help prevent this. Because everyone who’s coming through is going to agree to take a challenge to eliminate their use of single-use plastic packaging . One of my favorite things that we’ve produced is a plastic money receipt. We project, based on estimates, that every year, we spend over $200 billion on single-use plastic water bottles. This plastic money receipt shows everything else that we could spend 200 billion dollars on. We could actually protect the entire tropical rainforest with 200 billion dollars. This is a very engaging, kind of eye-opening, jaw-dropping experience for people, where you see what our choices are doing and what our choices could do instead. The third experience at the Museum of Plastic is what we call the ATTN Theater in partnership with ATTN. It’s an original film about how people are using less plastic and the solutions that they’re moving forward with to help protect our oceans. It’s an exciting way to really get engaged in the topic of solutions, but in a way, that’s really inspiring. Inhabitat: Your partners include fashion designer Heron Preston, tech giant HP, media company ATTN, and the EDITION Hotel. How does that work? Ives: We can’t solve these environmental issues on our own as an organization, as a nonprofit. If we’re going to solve for plastic pollution or climate change or illegal fishing or, name the issue, then we have to do so in partnership with industry leaders. That’s really what we’re doing at the EDITION Hotel, in partnership with Heron and with HP, is demonstrating this is a new model for environmentalism that has been tested out over the last few years and is working quite well. HP released the very first monitor that had several of its component parts made from ocean-bound plastic. What HP has done that others haven’t yet been able to do is that it has created a blended polymer . What [HP] is doing with Heron, though, is really fascinating. It is now taking this young, strong voice in the sustainable fashion industry and connecting it 100 percent to the plastic pollution discussion by getting Heron to build the pilot program to try to find alternatives to plastic poly bags. [Note: Short for polyethylene, poly bags are used in most industries. In fashion, these thin, plastic bags are used to protect garments during shipping. The Heron Preston/HP collaboration resulted in poly bags that are compostable at home.] Millennials and Gen Z are very focused on environmental issues, Gen Z even more so than millennials. So when you collaborate with someone like Heron Preston, you’re taking a somewhat difficult-to-engage-with topic of plastic pollution, and you’re now infiltrating the Gen Z market in a way that we haven’t seen any other technology company do to date. He’s edgy, he’s young. He’s really starting to drive the sustainable fashion conversation. Now, he’s bringing his art and his ingenuity together with a technology company that’s leading on ocean-bound plastic issues. So it’s a really nice integration of those two topics together, and what better place to showcase it than at Art Basel. Inhabitat: What are the top things the average person can do to decrease ocean pollution? Ives: The nice thing about plastic pollution and what the individual can do is that there are so many options. When you think about straws , unless you need a straw to drink, just drink with your mouth. Where you do have access to clean, safe drinking water, just drink from a tap. You don’t need a single-use plastic water bottle. Those are two of the easiest things that you can do. I think the third is just be aware. Be more aware. Once you realize that single-use plastics are everywhere, they’re in your life, then you start making choices about do you need the English cucumber, or are you okay with the regular cucumber that doesn’t come wrapped in plastic? Then, I think once you make those choices, you see how easy it is every day to be a solution to the problem. The plastic pollution crisis is solvable. There’s no doubt in my mind. + Lonely Whale + Museum of Plastic Photography by Craig Barritt / Getty Images via Lonely Whale

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Museum of Plastic pops up at Art Basel Miami

Regenerating natural capital in the rainforests of Costa Rica

December 6, 2019 by  
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The land impact investing company Blacksheep Regenerative Resource Management wants to use the power of business for conservation.

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Regenerating natural capital in the rainforests of Costa Rica

From coffee to cosmetics, companies are looking for ways to protect the plants their products are made from

December 6, 2019 by  
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As crop varieties disappear, boosting biodiversity becomes smart business.

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From coffee to cosmetics, companies are looking for ways to protect the plants their products are made from

San Diego Tropical Fish Societys Annual Show celebrates natural, eco-minded aquascaping

November 26, 2019 by  
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Founded in 1948, the San Diego Tropical Fish Society (SDTFS) is one of the oldest continuously running fish clubs in the United States. In early November 2019, the nonprofit organization hosted its Annual Fish Show, which has been held since the 1970s at Balboa Park. More than 3,000 people attended this year’s two-day event to see aquariums featuring aquatic animals and plants. Join Inhabitat on an exploration of the show, its history and its members’ efforts — past and present — in sustainability and fish conservation. SDTFS has been bringing together fish hobbyists to promote interest in, further the study of and encourage the preservation of aquatic life. “As a club, we’re very concerned about conservation , stewardship and sustainability, and we’re very ecologically involved,” said Victor Tongco, president of SDTFS. “We do consider a lot of the hobby as living art, especially when keeping our fish and plants as healthy as possible, while also educating the public on what is their stewardly responsibility.” Related: Innovative fish adoption program protects San Marcos River from invasive species Besides exhibiting aquatic life , the Annual Show also recognizes the aquascaping efforts of the fishkeepers who participate. Three notable awards given during the Annual Show are the President’s Choice, the Dorothy Cobleigh Trophy for the People’s Choice Award and the Mark Ferguson Memorial Award for the Best Planted Aquarium. SDTFS treasurer Jimmy Cobleigh is popular among SDTFS members, because his mother, Dorothy, was a co-founder of the organization. Cobleigh fondly mentioned that his mother was a strong proponent for young children to also be included as junior members of SDTFS. Oftentimes, she would pay for the membership fees of youngsters who wanted very much to be a part of the team; she would also drive groups of SDTFS junior members to and from meetings. To this day, the San Diego Tropical Fish Society opens its membership to individuals as well as families. In the mid-1960s, Mark Ferguson was one of those SDTFS junior fishkeepers. Even before his membership, Ferguson was already interested in the natural world. “He lived near, at that time, where Qualcomm Stadium is now — that used to be all wild lands and ponds. He would go down there after school with his net and his bucket to collect stuff with his younger brother,” shared Ferguson’s wife, Arlene. “Then, there was a gentleman on his street who had aquariums in his garage. One day the garage doors were open, and Mark saw them, so he went over. He asked the man about his aquariums and found out about the San Diego Tropical Fish Society. Mark was still too young to drive, so his parents would drive him to the meetings. He started setting up a lot more aquariums; they were always natural. That led to his interest in fish as a career.” By age 14, Ferguson was a volunteer intern at the Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, caring for marine life . He eventually became head aquarist. When the Monterey Bay Aquarium was being built, Ferguson was one of the original biologists hired for his expertise with aquarium and exhibit design. He was vital to ensuring that the many exhibits were showcased in very natural ways. Ferguson and his wife were at the Monterey Bay Aquarium for over two decades, and he spent a lifetime working with aquatic life. One of the most prestigious prizes offered at the SDTFS Annual Show is the Mark Ferguson Memorial Award for the Best Planted Aquarium, in honor of Ferguson’s motif and vision of the natural look. The award is given to the entry that best simulates nature with all-natural plants in the entire tank, including substrate and background. There is to be no presence of anything artificial in the tank, just like the public aquarium exhibits Ferguson designed. Arlene elaborated, “He would design an environment for the animals to survive in and flourish in that would also look like their natural world. That captured everyone’s attention. He became known as the man with the magic touch when it came to aquatic plants. To him, that was the most important part of an aquarium. When he would look at aquariums, he would look at the overall environment approach — just this idea that you’re looking at a fish’s world, and you want to see it through their eyes. When he’d look at an aquarium, his eyes are those of the fish — I’m swimming through this, this is where I’m looking for fish, this is where I’d hide, this is where I’m looking for a mate. The [SDTFS] club recognized his expertise. So when we realized he had health issues and that he wasn’t going to be around for a long time, the suggestion [for the award] was a way to remember him and his influence.” Regarding this year’s entries, Arlene gushed, “This year I was excited to see as many entries as there were and to see that everybody had upped their game. The tanks looked better. There was obviously thought going into it. It wasn’t just sticking one plant here and there, or one plant for the whole tank. There were a lot of aquariums that had a variety of plants. Plants were healthy. They were set in a way that fish could be in them and around them, and yet not be hidden by them. The lighting was good — the choices of lighting. The choices of where things were placed — foreground, background, mid-ground, heights — there was a lot of thought that went into it.” Arlene hopes to see participants with better and better aquariums each year, “because Mark’s vision was always to inspire others to do the same thing. It was always to share. The people that he trained up in Monterey and Scripps, where we had his farewell party, all everyone said over and over again was what a mentor Mark was, and how he shared his vision so that they could succeed as well. To this day, when I go to Monterey, people up there always say, ‘All of this and what you see is because of how Mark trained us.’ That’s a beautiful thing to hear, just beautiful. I’m just thrilled the [SDTFS] club is doing this in his name. I think it’s a beautiful tribute.” + San Diego Tropical Fish Society Images via San Diego Tropical Fish Society and Mariecor Agravante / Inhabitat

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San Diego Tropical Fish Societys Annual Show celebrates natural, eco-minded aquascaping

Collection of plant-based shirts raise awareness of endangered species

November 12, 2019 by  
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Sustainable design label PANGAIA  has collaborated with eco-activist Nadya Hutagalung and artist Raku Inoue on a new, limited-edition capsule collection to raise awareness for five of the world’s most endangered species , including the Sumatran Elephant and Tapanuli Orangutan. The collection includes vibrant, hand-drawn images by Inoue that are printed on PANGAIA’s seaweed fiber T-shirts using natural dyes. PANGAIA has built a world-wide reputation for its commitment to designing functional, sustainable products . The entirety of the sustainable fashion company’s designs are made from natural, eco-friendly materials such as seaweed fiber, flower down, natural dyes, recycled materials and more. Related: The sustainable wardrobe — it’s more accessible than you think Now, the eco-fashion leader is teaming up with world-renowned activist Nadya Hutagalung to raise awareness of five of the world’s most incredible animals that are unfortunately also at the top of the world’s most endangered species list. This includes Sumatran elephants, Tapanuli orangutans, Amur tigers, giant pandas and Sumatran Rhinoceros. Hutagalung is a UN Environment Goodwill Ambassador well-known for her work in the preservation of endangered species across Africa and Asia. The PANGAIA x  Nadya Hutagalung capsule collection features designs printed on PANGAIA’s popular seaweed fiber T-shirts. The artwork by legendary artist Raku Inoue features hand-drawn compositions of the five endangered animals, all surrounded by a natural background of the animals’ native habitats. The T-shirts  include a range of colors, and some of the options for sale feature additional animals that are in peril, such as the bumble bee , the Ceylon Rose butterfly and Kemp’s Ridley turtles. The PANGAIA x  Nadya Hutagalung T-shirts can be ordered at PANGAIA for $85 each. The teams behind the designs have announced that 100 percent of the proceeds from the capsule collection will be donated to the Barumun Nagari Wildlife Sanctuary for mistreated elephants  and the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme. + PANGAIA  + Nadya Hutagalung + Raku Inoue Images via PANGAIA

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Collection of plant-based shirts raise awareness of endangered species

Touring restored wetlands at a Wisconsin nature conservancy

November 1, 2019 by  
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The village of Williams Bay, Wisconsin hasn’t changed much since Harold Friestad was a kid, he told me as we walked through Kishwauketoe Nature Conservancy (KNC). Now almost 80 and the conservancy’s chairman, Friestad is proud of being a factor in stunting the small town’s growth. He was president when the village board bought 231 acres of lakefront property in 1989 to create KNC. “What I want on my tombstone,” he said as our sneakers sank into the wetlands , “is, ‘Because of Harold, there will never be a stoplight in Williams Bay.’” Nature conservancy history The nature conservancy sits against Geneva Lake , long a summer playground for rich Chicagoans . Before that, it was home of the Potawatomi people. The name Kishwauketoe comes from a Potawatomi word meaning “lake of the sparkling water.” The current conservancy land was once a rail yard. But when the train was decommissioned, developers swooped in, wanting to build hotels, golf courses and shopping centers. Area residents wished to stop the developers and keep Williams Bay small and quiet. The Williams Bay Village Board, led by Friestad, negotiated a price of $1.575 million for the 231-acre parcel. “People knew I was a businessman,” said Friestad, who worked for Lake Geneva Cruise Line for 50 years, retiring as general manager in 2015. “They didn’t know I love nature so much.” Even though he got an excellent price — a 10-acre estate could now cost $15 million — Friestad said, “A lot of people didn’t like the idea of me spending all that money to buy it.” But now people value the conservancy, and some of Williams Bay’s 2,500 residents even bought their homes in the village so they could walk the wetland trails every day. “It’s almost sacred now,” Friestad said. “I don’t know how you put a value on it. But it’s priceless to me, and it’s priceless to many, many people.” Donations, volunteer hours, summer interns and a few part-time workers power the conservancy, which has never received tax dollars. During my weekday visit, one woman was chainsawing dead branches, a couple of folks were repairing a boardwalk and a controlled burn was going on in the distance. In the conservancy’s nearly 30-year run, the crew has restored more than 65 acres of prairie, planted a 15-acre arboretum, created a spawning area for lake trout, installed boardwalks over the wettest wetlands, cleared invasive species and constructed a four-story viewing tower. They’ve also built and continue to maintain more than 4 miles of trails. Visiting the Kishwauketoe Nature Conservancy On the October day I visited, the conservancy was quiet. I saw only a half-dozen other walkers during the hour or two I was there. Things are busier in summer, Friestad said, when up to 500 people may visit in a day. Non-human residents include deer, coyotes, foxes and raccoons. Some years, beavers move in. The conservancy has a public education campaign about the benefits of beavers, not the most-loved local animal. Reptile-wise, the conservancy is home to garter snakes and the rare Blanding’s turtle, which has a striking yellow throat. People can walk through the area on their own 365 days a year. The conservancy also offers many guided walks, some focusing on particular aspects, such as history, geology, botany or trees . Those who want to get dirt under their nails can join volunteer workdays and autumn seed harvesting. Every summer, the conservancy hosts a 5K run/walk. I’d recommend the Friday morning walk, which Friestad usually leads. Trail cams Kishwauketoe participates in the statewide Snapshot Wisconsin program, a network of trail cameras. The project provides information for wildlife managers and lets citizen scientists get involved in monitoring Wisconsin’s natural resources. Jim Killian, KNC board member, Wisconsin master naturalist program instructor and coauthor of an upcoming book on the conservancy , learned about Snapshot Wisconsin while attending a master naturalist conference in March 2018. “I immediately sought permission from the Wisconsin DNR [Department of Natural Resources] to host a wildlife trail camera for the Wisconsin Snapshot Wisconsin in KNC,” Killian said. “Because of the location and size of KNC, I learned that I qualified to host two trail cameras in our conservancy. While the program participation requirements are quite stringent, I thoroughly enjoy this volunteer work.” The cameras work with a motion sensor. “At night and in low light, the cameras utilize an infrared flash to capture images,” Killian said. “That is why they appear as black and white. One camera is located on the edge of a small open field/prairie area, while the other is located on the edge of a very dense, wooded area and on the bank of a small stream, which is a popular watering spot for wildlife of many varieties. This stream remains as a source of open water all year, including in the midst of a very cold winter.” Killian services each trail camera at least once every three months to replace the memory card and batteries and to upload the captured images to the Wisconsin DNR. The DNR places the images on a website and invites the public to help classify them. Of the thousands of images captured at KNC so far, Killian said deer are No. 1, followed by squirrels, turkeys , coyotes, raccoons, opossums, cottontail rabbits, redtail foxes, woodchucks, blue jays, cardinals, sandhill crane, northern flickers and mink. Do the trail cams reveal any surprises? “The humor of wildlife,” he said. “I would have never suspected that animals do the funniest things, including selfies, when they know or sense that their image is being captured by a camera. This is particularly true for deer.” KNC is open year-round. If you’re looking for immense peace and quiet, visit in winter … and bring your cross-country skis . + Kishwauketoe Nature Conservancy Images via Harold Friestad / Kishwauketoe Nature Conservancy, Wisconsin DNR Snapshot Wisconsin (trail cam imagery) and Teresa Bergen / Inhabitat

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Touring restored wetlands at a Wisconsin nature conservancy

Decrepit barn in Quebec was converted into stunning modern design by salvaging all of its old materials

November 1, 2019 by  
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We’ve seen quite a few amazing barn conversions over the years, but this new design by La Firme is simply breathtaking. Located in a rural area in Quebec, the old barn was in near ruins until the Montreal-based firm was hired to convert it into a secondary family home. Thankfully, instead of bulldozing the beautiful old building to the ground, the studio managed to salvage nearly every single material to reuse in the new design. Referred to simply as The Barn, the building has sat at the foot of the Owl’s Head Mountain for decades. Sitting majestically over the idyllic setting, the barn is elevated up on a small hill with expansive rolling hills on one side and forest on the other. Related: 6 barns converted into beautiful new homes Despite its pristine landscape, the old barn had fallen into dire disrepair. However, the owner had a strong attachment to the building and wished to see it’s life extended. Accordingly, when he approached the La Firme team about converting the barn into a cozy modern home for his children, his primary request was that they do what they could to retain its original character. The architects took his request seriously, approaching the conversion with a strategy of adaptive reuse . According to the team, the project began by numbering and recording each and every single piece of the hemlock structure. As they were rebuilding the new family home, they managed to reuse every every part of the old barn. With the original materials given a second chance, some new elements were added to create a contemporary home. For example, a new standing seam metal roof creates a nice contrast with the barn’s weathered facade. And although the exterior retained its rustic, agrarian roots, the interior of the home is a beautifully contemporary design . With massive 30-foot ceilings with exposed beams and all-white walls, the living space is fresh and modern. Large steel-framed windows and an entire glazed front wall provide breathtaking views of the landscape. + La Firme Via Uncrate Photography via Ulysse Lemerise

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Decrepit barn in Quebec was converted into stunning modern design by salvaging all of its old materials

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