Former Patagonia CEO announces largest land donation in history

March 21, 2017 by  
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Land conservation in Chile could reach a new high with a recent pledge to conserve 11 million acres of wilderness as national parks . As part of the proposal, former Patagonia CEO Kris Tompkins gifted one million acres to the country in what her organization, Tompkins Conservation , says is the “largest land donation in history from a private entity to a country.” Tompkins and Chilean President Michelle Bachelet signed an agreement to add the one million acres of land from Tompkins Conservation to around 10 million acres of federal land to create a large system of parklands. Under the pledge the government will establish five new national parks. The land under the proposal is three times the size of Yellowstone National Park and Yosemite together. Volcanoes, coastal areas, and forests will be protected under the pledge. In a speech, the president said, “We are bequeathing to the country the greatest creation of protected areas in our history.” Related: Patagonia launches campaign to protect Utah’s Bears Ears National Monument This historic proposal is a step to start a Route of Parks, or a 17-park network, stretching from Cape Horn up to Puerto Montt to conserve Chile’s incredible wilderness and offer outdoor destinations for travelers. The parks could potentially yield around $270 million each year from ecotourism , and could employ as much as 43,000 people, according to Tompkins Conservation. The organization has also committed to start a Friends of National Parks foundation in Chile to support the Route of Parks. Kris said her late husband, conservationist Douglas Tompkins, who passed away in 2015, inspired the pledge. She said, “I know that if Doug were here today, he would speak of national parks being one of the greatest expressions of democracy that a country can realize, preserving the masterpieces of a nation for all of its citizenry.” Via Tompkins Conservation and The Guardian Images via Tompkins Conservation Facebook

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Former Patagonia CEO announces largest land donation in history

China approves massive new park for endangered leopards and tigers

March 15, 2017 by  
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China just approved a massive new national park to help protect endangered big cats . The 5,637 square mile park – which will be 60 percent bigger than America’s Yellowstone National Park – will serve as a sanctuary for Siberian tigers and Amur leopards. Big cats have struggled in northeast China, where the park will be built. Excessive logging deteriorated the ecosystem and caused the population of wild Siberian tigers to plummet dramatically. A field survey by scientists from the United States, Russia, and China found signs of just six to nine of the tigers in the area in 1998. A 2015 northeast China logging ban may have helped; now experts estimate there are around 27 Siberian tigers there. Meanwhile Amur leopards are critically endangered , according to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), which said there are only over 60 of these animals still alive in the world. Related: Russia built a critical wildlife corridor to help save endangered big cats Small habitat areas have prompted Siberian tigers and Amur leopards to roam into residential areas looking for food, according to EcoWatch, which quoted a Jilin Forestry Department spokesperson as saying to ease conflict between humans and the big cats, they will relocate some communities and factories currently inside the area for the park. China’s new national park will be in the provinces of Jilin and Heilongjiang, bordering Russia . The park will include a monitoring and rescue center for wild big cats, along with research facilities. WWF Beijing’s Species Program Director Fan Zhiyong said the initiative could help improve cooperation between the two countries to conserve wildlife . Jilin Forestry Department Director Lan Hongliang also said they expected the national park to act as a channel for international interchange on protecting wild animals. The Jilin government said they will start preparing for national park management by the end of this year. According to Xinhua, a plan and pilot park could be finished before 2020. Via Xinhua and EcoWatch Images via Tambako The Jaguar on Flickr and PublicDomainPictures.net

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Wild bison return to Canada’s Banff National Park for the first time in 140 years

February 9, 2017 by  
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Wild bison are coming home to Canada’s Banff National Park for the first time in roughly 140 years. Although bison were common sights in the Canadian landscape with a population that numbered in the millions in the early 1800s, these huge and herbivorous mammals nearly disappeared by the end of the 19th century as a result of hunting. Now 16 bison are back at Banff as part of a carefully planned conservation effort to re-establish the species within the area’s ecosystem. With any luck, the herd’s numbers will be growing soon: many of the transferred bisons are pregnant.

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Wild bison return to Canada’s Banff National Park for the first time in 140 years

Trump presidency could spell the end for wolves in America’s West

January 23, 2017 by  
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A couple hundred years ago, there were around two million wolves in the United States, but human expansion dramatically slashed those numbers. Conservationists recently celebrated victory as gray wolves slowly returned to the American West, but Donald Trump’s presidency threatens to undo that progress as Republican lawmakers look to roll back the Endangered Species Act (ESA). While some 60,000 wolves reside in Canada and Alaska, in the American West there are only around 1,700 of them left. The ESA helped these animals gain ground again, but with wolves still only living in only 10 percent of their old range in the American West, there’s still a long way to go to ensure the species recovers. But some industries – like industrial agriculture and oil and gas – wish to operate in wolf habitats that are currently protected. The Center for Biological Diversity tracked donations to Congress from those large industries and found as campaign donations increased, so did bills threatening the ESA, which limits the land those industries can utilize to protect animals. Related: Gray wolves spotted in California for the first time in over 90 years Now, according to the Associated Press, Republicans want to alter the ESA “from a tool to protect huge areas of habitat for imperiled species into little more than limits on hunting for protected animals” even though a 2015 survey revealed 90 percent of registered voters support the ESA. Trump hasn’t said anything about wolves or the ESA, but he’s already shown he supports industries over national parks . If Republicans want to severely limit the ESA’s power, it doesn’t seem likely Trump would stop them. Wolves are in trouble, but don’t lose hope yet. There are a few actions you can take to help these majestic animals. Outside recommends donating money to the Center for Biological Diversity or Defenders of Wildlife , both of whom would fight anti-wolf legislation. Or you could write to your representative and remind them they’re supposed to represent the people, many of whom support the ESA, not the interests of big industries. Via Outside Images via Angell Williams on Flickr and Ronnie Macdonald on Flickr

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Trump presidency could spell the end for wolves in America’s West

Endangered Borneo pygmy elephants cruelly slaughtered for ivory

January 4, 2017 by  
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Elephant poaching has ravaged populations in Africa for years – and now poachers are starting to target endangered pygmy elephants in Sabah, Borneo. On New Year’s Eve wildlife officials found the bones of Sabre, a male pygmy elephant known for having tusks similar to a sabre-tooth tiger’s. Only days before, they’d found another mutilated male elephant. Both horrifying incidents occurred less than a mile away from each other. Sabre was probably murdered in late November. Conservationists fitted him with a satellite collar after finding him on a palm oil plantation in October. They released him back into the wild, as poaching wasn’t thought to be a grave danger to elephants in the area. Related: 8 Heartbreakingly Adorable Endangered Animals That We Need to Save The other unnamed male elephant was likely killed about a month after Sabre; his face had been hacked off so the poacher could grab his tusks. Danau Girang Field Centre director Benoit Goossens said a professional hunter may have cruelly slaughtered the elephants. Goossens told The Guardian, “My hope is that Sabah wakes up…we are losing our megafauna, the rhino is gone, the banteng [wild cow] is going, the elephant will be next. Those crimes should not go unpunished. Let’s not lose our jewels, the next generation will not forgive us.” According to the World Wildlife Fund, only around 1,500 pygmy elephants are alive in the world. These small elephants struggling for survival in Sabah face deforestation and habitat loss, mainly at the hands of the palm oil industry. Wildlife Conservation Society Vice President of Species Conservation Elizabeth Bennett told The Guardian that elephants will be safe from poaching only when ivory markets are closed. China has announced plans to ban the ivory trade by the end of the year – and for imperiled elephants, that date can’t come soon enough. Via The Guardian Images via shankar s. on Flickr and Bas Leenders on Flickr

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Endangered Borneo pygmy elephants cruelly slaughtered for ivory

Obama creates two new western national monuments in last minute effort

December 29, 2016 by  
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The clock is ticking. Before the United States and the world is snapped by political whiplash on January 20, 2017, the Obama Administration is working quickly to secure its environmental legacy by creating new national monuments in environmentally sensitive areas of the Western United States: Bears Ears National Monument in Utah and Gold Butte National Monument. As usual, the land on which these new public resources have been created has been fiercely contested for their political and economic significance. President Obama has nonetheless pushed forward with the national monuments to cap off an ambitious and sometimes controversial environmental agenda that his successor will likely seek to dismantle. The establishment of Bears Ears National Monument in the Four Corners region of Utah , a state where two-thirds of the land is owned by the federal government, represents a victory for the American Indian tribes that have called the region home. In an historic first, an inter-tribal commission composed of members from the Hopi, Navajo, Uintah and Ouray Ute, Ute Mountain Ute and Pueblo of Zuni will be established to provide management input of the national monument, which contains sacred sites, ancient petroglyphs, and remnants of Pueblo structures over 3,500 years old. Most elected officials in Utah are opposed to the site’s protection, though the state’s congressional delegation had supported a scaled-back plan. “The midnight move is a slap in the face to the people of Utah, attempting to silence the voices of those who will bear the heavy burden it imposes,” said Republican US Rep. Jason Chaffetz. Chaffetz intends to seek assistance from President-elect Trump in abolishing the national monument. Related: President Obama establishes controversial new National Park in Northern Maine The Gold Butte National Monument in Nevada is similarly packed with politics. Supported by retiring Democratic Senator Harry Reid but opposed by Nevada’s Republican Representatives, the national monument outside of Las Vegas will preserve 300,000 acres of ecologically sensitive, pristine land that contains important archaeological sites and rare fossils. Gold Butte carries special significance because of its proximity to the site of the armed standoff led by rancher Cliven Bundy in 2014. The establishment of these national monuments “protect some of our country’s most important cultural treasures, including abundant rock art, archaeological sites, and lands considered sacred by Native American tribes,” said President Obama in a statement. “Today’s actions will help protect this cultural legacy and will ensure that future generations are able to enjoy and appreciate these scenic and historic landscapes.” Through authority granted under the 1906 Antiquities Act, President Obama has protected more land than any president since Franklin Delano Roosevelt. His successor and his supporters seek to use the Act, which allows for the creation of national monuments without congressional approval, to unilaterally remove protections, a policy that has not been attempted in modern times. Via the Guardian  / Washington Post Images via Ron Reiring   (1)

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Snow-free images of Arctic polar bears show the harsh reality of climate change

December 29, 2016 by  
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When Patty Waymire headed to Barter Island, Alaska a few months ago, she expected to take lots of photographs of polar bears frolicking in freshly fallen snow. However, once the photographer arrived at her destination, a stark reality became evident. Not only was there no snow for frolicking, but there was no ice to be seen either. The typically snow-covered island was warm and dry, and the water’s edge was met with sandy beaches rather than icy ground. Waymire took photos anyway, capturing still frames of the ever-unfolding saga that pits climate change against the survival of one of the Earth’s most majestic creatures. One of Waymire ’s images—aptly entitled “No Snow, No Ice” (above)—shows a lone polar bear perched at the edge of a brown, sandy shoal which should have been white with snow at that time of the year. That startling photograph won an honorable mention in the 2016 National Geographic Photographer of the Year contest in the Environmental Issues category. Monica Corcoran, director of the photography contest, noted that the polar bear appears to be “in a meditative Buddha stance” which contributes to the image’s impact. Related: Photo of frail polar bear illuminates the tragedy unfolding in the Arctic Alaska’s Barter Island is situated off the state’s northern coast in the Arctic. The relatively small island has served as a major trading hub and was also home to a large whaling village prior to 1900. All the while, polar bears have roamed the island’s icy shores doing what polar bears do: hunting prey, raising young, and just living. In early October, at the time of Waymire’s visit, the island would normally have been covered in snow, according to locals. However, unusually warm weather all year has ushered in a less-than-impressive autumn and winter, and the resulting scene of fluffy white polar bears cast against drab brown dirt inspired the California-based photographer to show the world what climate change really looks like. In a series of 33 images , Waymire documented several Barter Island polar bears, including some young cubs, both on land and in the water. Without a date stamp, one might think the photographs were captured in the midst of the warmest summer months, because there is not a single snowflake or ice crystal visible in any of the images. But, since we know the photos are from October, we must accept the sad reality that they represent: an ever-changing climate in which even the coldest climes are not exempt from global warming. For now, the Barter Island polar bears are surviving, but with the growing impact of climate change on their habitat and food sources, it’s only a matter of time before they disappear just like the snow. + Patty Waymire Photography Images via Patty Waymire

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Snow-free images of Arctic polar bears show the harsh reality of climate change

World’s largest cluster of massive sinkholes discovered in China

December 2, 2016 by  
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Scientists just discovered the largest cluster of sinkholes on Earth—49 in all—in northwest China . The massive natural sinkholes, all of which had been previously undiscovered, have geologists concerned about what may have caused them and how many more might occur in the future. Ongoing research continues, but early opinions suggest these sinkholes were formed over exceptionally long periods of time, and aren’t necessarily an indication of future danger. The sinkholes were discovered during a four-month survey of a 2,000-square-mile area of the the Qinling-Bashan Mountains, which are located in the Hanzhong area of northwest China’s Shaanxi Province. Geologists tallied a cluster of 49 separate sinkholes within a 230-square-mile patch of land, and the largest of the holes measures an impressive 1,706 feet in diameter with a depth of 1,050 feet. In addition to the cluster of natural sinkholes, the study also revealed the presence of several rare plant species and Chinese giant flying squirrels . Related: A massive sinkhole has reopened in Florida, two years after it swallowed a local man Upon studying the newly discovered sinkholes, the research team suggests they were most likely formed over hundreds of thousands of years. Underground water dissolves carbonate rock, such as limestone, under the surface and causes the ground to sink in upon itself. The result is an irregular but totally natural landscape that grabs the attention of scientists and cave enthusiasts alike. French cave explorer Jean Poutasi told local Chinese media that one of the formations is “the world’s most beautiful sinkhole” after a close inspection. Via NatGeo Images via China Daily

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Croatian freshwater aquarium by 3LHD is built right into the hillside

November 30, 2016 by  
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Designers at 3LHD transformed an abandoned campsite into a unique hillside aquarium in Karlovac, Croatia . Freshwater fish and plant life are featured at the aquarium to give the public a deeper understanding of the area’s ecosystems . The educational center and its nearby shops are located both alongside and underneath the natural hillside, covered in green grass as a sign of unity with the surrounding habitat. The Karlovac aquarium sits alongside the river Korana, where a diverse array of wildlife flourishes. 3LHD derived inspiration for the center’s design from the revered “Karlovac star”, upon which many buildings and city structures are based. Visitors can stroll through the open center of the attraction to reach the gift shop, reading room, and cafe bar, which is accessible by strategically placed, multidirectional walkways. Related: South America’s largest aquarium boasts a 650-foot underwater tunnel Once guests walk inside, they are greeted by a symbolic river exhibit that displays the full biodiversity of the area. Surface waters give way to deeper aquariums on the lower level, where species no longer flourishing in the area can be found. On the other side of the tunnel, marshlands are displayed with lilies and rushes, which eventually give way to a climactic collection of waterfalls. The entire center is an experience unlike any other aquarium – an educational story told from beginning to end. The Karlovac aquarium is co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund . Scientific research facilities and fish acclimatization spaces can be found on site, proving the center’s dedication to preserving the natural state of the surrounding ecosystems. +3LHD Via World Architecture News Images via 3LHD

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Croatian freshwater aquarium by 3LHD is built right into the hillside

Copenhagen now has more bikes than cars

November 30, 2016 by  
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It’s no surprise that cycling is popular in Denmark but a new study shows the number of bikes in Copenhagen is now officially higher than the number of cars . The capital city has been tracking bike numbers manually for decades, and now 20 electric sensors across the city help count the number of cycles wheeling around the streets. Over the last year, an additional 35,080 bikes have been tallied, resulting in a total bike count of 265,700. That surpasses the city’s 252,600 cars by a hefty margin. Copenhagen’s bicycle count is the product of 20 electric sensors installed at city hall and around the city, which automatically tally bikes as they travel through the metropolitan area. The first such sensor was installed in 2009, with others added in the intervening years. Tracking bicycle traffic is just one facet of the government’s aim to encourage more urban cycling, and it’s working. Two-wheeled traffic has increased 68 percent over the past 20 years. Related: Copenhagen is building the craziest bike lane… ever The Danish government has plunked down some $143 million since 2005 in order to support cycling in the city and encourage more commuters to choose two-wheeled transportation. Bike and pedestrian-only bridges are among the added infrastructure that reduce car-bike incidents and help keep cyclists away from toxic vehicle exhaust . While bike traffic continues to increase (with a 15 percent spike in just the last year), car traffic is slowly falling, down 1 percent from a year ago. Copenhagen leadership isn’t finished, either. Morten Kabell, the current mayor of technical and environmental affairs, told the Guardian the city aims for 50 percent of all commutes to be made on bikes by 2025. Given that 41 percent of trips are already taken on two wheels, getting to 50 percent is well within the realm of possibility. A new metro expansion planned to open in 2019 could slow the increase of bike traffic, but Kabell doesn’t mind, since the metro is also an emissions-free form of transportation . “The important thing for me is to have a green transport system,” he said. “As long as it’s fossil-free and alleviates congestion and air pollution, I’m cool with that.” Via The Guardian Images via Wikipedia ( 1 , 2 )

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Copenhagen now has more bikes than cars

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