National Parks are offering free entry on April 20 to celebrate National Park Week

April 19, 2019 by  
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Take advantage of the warmer weather by visiting any number of the hundreds of national parks across the country on April 20 for absolutely free. The National Parks Service is celebrating National Park Week by offering free entry into all of the 418 parks spread throughout the United States. If you have never been to a national park or if it has been a while since your last visit, you may be surprised to learn about all the fun and excitement that awaits you. Here is a quick guide on some of the most popular national parks in the country and how you can spend your time in the great outdoors. Yellowstone Yellowstone National Park is the oldest and one of the most famous parks in the U.S. The park is known for its abundant wildlife , hot springs and exploding geysers. Given its enormous size, there are plenty of things to do at Yellowstone for children and adults alike. Related: An adventurer just journeyed into America’s largest national park — here’s what he found Located mostly in Wyoming, the park boasts 12 campgrounds with tent and RV access, plus 300 isolated campsites. There are nearly 1,000 miles of hiking trails that offer plenty of photo opportunities. You can also bike at the park and enjoy some kayaking on one if its many lakes. If you plan on bringing your family along for the ride, the park offers specialized programs for children as well as horseback riding. Yosemite Established in 1890, Yosemite National Park  attracts many visitors for its beautiful waterfalls. But the 1,200-square-mile park also features vast meadows, large sequoias and a grand wilderness section. While sightseeing is the main attraction, there are plenty of things to keep your entire family busy. Common activities at California’s Yosemite National Park include biking, wildlife watching, camping , fishing, horseback riding and water activities. Before booking your trip to Yosemite, check with the park for any closures due to inclement weather. Glacier Point Road, for example, is often closed until May because of excess snowfall. Great Smoky Mountains The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most-visited park in the country. According to DK , the Smoky Mountains record more than double the number of tourists every year than any other location. While this is a popular destination, there are ways to avoid the large crowds. Skip out on the popular scenic highway and opt for one of the many side trails. The ancient mountain range features one of Earth’s most widespread deciduous forests and boasts a wide diversity of life. This includes a large selection of wildflowers and black bears . When it comes to activities, visitors can enjoy camping, hiking, wildlife watching, fishing and scenic driving. Acadia If you are looking for a good coastal drive, then Acadia National Park is right up your alley. Acadia National Park is the only one of its kind in Maine and features some dramatic views of the Atlantic coastline. You can also hike some trails on Cadillac Mountain, kayak in the ocean or partake in some amazing whale watching from just outside of Bar Harbor. Related: Get ready for an adventure with this ultimate checklist of backpacking essentials A good strategy to see most of Acadia is to navigate the Park Loop Road, either by bike or motor vehicle. The 27-mile road has an array of different viewing points. One of the more popular stops is Otter Cliff, which overlooks a 110-foot drop. The park, of course, also features plenty of other things to do, such as camping, climbing, geocaching, fishing , swimming and bird watching. Tips for visiting a national park Once you decide to visit a park , it is always a good idea to call or stop by the visitor center and check in. Park rangers are valuable sources of information and can tell you what type of activities are available during the time of your visit. They can also tell you if there are any construction projects going on or special events that might make navigating through the park difficult. Speaking of the visitor center, it contains everything you need to know about the park, including typical rates and interesting places to visit. You can also find guided tours, which are a great way to get introduced to the history of the park and learn why it is significant to the region. Free admittance on April 20 In honor of National Park Week, the National Parks Service is offering free admittance to all parks in the United States on April 20. That day coincides with National Junior Ranger Day, which is geared toward children, making the free offer perfect for families. According to Matador Network , there are other themes throughout the rest of week, including Military and Veterans Recognition Day,  Earth Day , Transportation Tuesday, Wild Wednesday, Throwback Thursday, Friendship Friday, Bark Ranger Day and Park Rx Day. You can learn more about National Park Week, plus find important information about a national park near you, by visiting Find Your Park and the  National Parks website . Images via Ian D. Keating , Mobilus in Mobili , Jeff Gunn , Thomas , Eric Vaughn , Badlands National Park and Grand Canyon National Park

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National Parks are offering free entry on April 20 to celebrate National Park Week

Drone operators disturbing wildlife incur fines and jail time in Scotland

September 4, 2018 by  
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The number of cases in Scotland involving drone interference with animals on nature reserves has increased, causing police and wildlife experts to become “increasingly concerned” for the welfare of the protected animals. While nature reserve managers and wildlife specialists are encouraging outsiders to watch and enjoy the environment and animals in the sanctuaries, mounting numbers of injuries caused to the creatures by drones are leading Scottish lawmakers to impose fines on or even arrest individuals caught disturbing the peace. Drones are being flown inconsiderately according to Andy Turner, wildlife crime officer with Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH). “There have been several incidents involving drones disturbing seals at designated haul-out sites,” he said. Seals that have protective considerations during breeding season are having their pups crushed in these haul-out zones, where they tend to flee when scared into the water by drones. Related: Daan Roosegaarde reveals vision for air-purifying Smog Free Drones “Likewise, there have been anecdotal reports of drones being used to film seabird colonies and raptors,” Turner continued. “While the footage from drones in these circumstances can be very spectacular, the operator must be mindful of the effect on wildlife.” The interference with some birds , such as guillemots and razorbills, has “almost catastrophic” implications according to nature reserve coordinators RSPB Scotland . Drones that fly in too quickly cause birds to panic and dive headfirst into the cliffs or plummet into the sea. Ian Thompson, Head of Investigations at RSPB Scotland, had a message for wildlife observers. “Watch the animals. You will get a sign if you are causing them any stress, you’ll see from their behavior,” he warned. “You might see birds take flight or suddenly lift their heads and run off or walk off. If the birds start altering their behavior, that shows that you are disturbing them, and then it is time to move a drone away.” Fines for harassing wildlife in the nature reserves can cost disrespectful droners up to £5,000 (about $6,425 USD). Alternately, severe infractions can earn individuals up to a six-month sentence in a Scottish penitentiary. Officers of the U.K. National Wildlife Crime Unit are taking the disturbances very seriously, regardless of the perpetrator. “Irrespective of whether the offender is an egg collector, boat skipper or drone operator, the possible sentences are the same,” said PC Charlie Everitt of the crime unit. “It is therefore essential that drone operators understand the law, research the legal status and behavior of any wildlife they intend to film and obtain the necessary licences to keep on the right side of the law.” Via BBC Image via Joe Hayhurst

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Drone operators disturbing wildlife incur fines and jail time in Scotland

Solar-powered POP-UP Park takes over underused Budapest square

August 31, 2018 by  
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Hungarian design studio Hello Wood has teamed up with the Municipality of Budapest City yet again to revive a forgotten public space with a dazzling summer haven that’s free and open to everyone, 24 hours a day. Located beside City Hall Park, the temporary, solar-powered park is Hello Wood’s latest POP-UP Park, a short-term urban intervention with eye-catching street furniture. This year’s version is inspired by the Mediterranean with its use of olive trees and wave-shaped seating. This year’s POP-UP Park serves as both a respite from the summer heat as well as a destination for outdoor exercise. Inspired by the World Cup craze, as well as Budapest’s upcoming status as the European Capital of Sport in 2019, Hello Wood teamed up with HardBodyHang to incorporate free-to-use street workout equipment that can be enjoyed by both amateur and professional athletes alike. The summer-only intervention also includes ping pong and Teqball tables — a mainstay of last year’s POP-UP Park — and chessboards. “The park is open to all 24 hours a day, available to all walks of life: the traveling tourist arriving into the city from the airport, the businessperson eating their lunch, local elderly people meeting to relax and chat or the homeless,” Hello Wood explained. “We wanted this sense of democracy to be epitomized by the POP-UP Park, a unique, free-to-use space that was put together in conjunction with the Municipality of Budapest — who recognized the power of utilizing the space temporarily until its development is completed and supported its creation.” Related: Confluence Park’s new solar-powered pavilions collect rainwater and provide shade The designers also installed colorful wave-shaped wooden seating and structures to make the pop-up park an inviting space to linger and lounge. To warm up the otherwise drab, cobblestone-lined square, Hello Wood brought in palms and olive trees for a Mediterranean touch. Sail shades provide additional shading, while string lights add a romantic twinkle at night. Moreover, Hungarian startup Platio supplied solar panels to power charging stations, where visitors can charge their laptops and other electronic devices. The POP-UP Park will be available until October. + Hello Wood Images by BVA

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Solar-powered POP-UP Park takes over underused Budapest square

Confluence Park’s new solar-powered pavilions collect rainwater and provide shade from the summer sun

July 12, 2018 by  
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San Antonio’s idyllic Confluence Park just became a little greener and more scenic, thanks to a collaboration between firms Lake Flato and Matsys Design with the support of landscape architect Rialto Studio . The riverfront park now boasts sweeping sculptural pavilions that provide shade from the fierce Texas sun as well as an elegant method for collecting rainwater. Confluence Park is located where the San Pedro Creek merges into the San Antonio River. Covering just over three acres, the public park now features a main pavilion , three smaller pavilions and a classroom. Flowing water and confluence served as strong influences these new structures, which imitate the sculptural atmosphere of the surrounding landscape. The team strategically designed these additions for minimal site impact . The focal point of the park is the main pavilion. This structure is constructed from 22 concrete pieces resembling petals, which were made on site and lifted into place. The pieces form giant archways that are illuminated at night with subtle accent lighting that merges seamlessly into the swooping petal formations. The main pavilion as well as the smaller pavilions are both beautiful and functional. The petal shapes help to funnel rainwater that is collected in the park’s catchment system. This system serves as the park’s main water source. In addition to collecting water, the pavilions provide a cool respite from the fierce summer heat that often plagues southern Texas . The Estella Avery Education Center stands near the main pavilion. This structure generates 100 percent of the energy it uses through solar panels while offering a space for the city’s residents to learn more about the San Antonio River watershed and surrounding environment. The green roof that tops the classroom is planted with native grasses and allows for passive heating and cooling through thermal mass. Thanks to the new classroom and pavilions, Confluence Park now offers more opportunities for park-goers to learn and explore the local environment . “Confluence Park is a living laboratory that allows visitors to gain a greater understanding of the ecotypes of the South Texas region and the function of the San Antonio River watershed,” Lake Flato architects said. “Throughout the park, visitors learn through observation, engagement and active participation.” + Lake Flato + Matsys + Rialto Studio Via Dezeen Images via Casey Dunn

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Confluence Park’s new solar-powered pavilions collect rainwater and provide shade from the summer sun

New resilient waterfront park helps protect NYC from storm surges

June 28, 2018 by  
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Waterfront parks have been springing up all over New York City, including in Long Island City, where Hunter’s Point South Waterfront Park just completed its second phase this week. Designed by SWA/Balsley in collaboration with Weiss/Manfredi , this resilient stretch of parkland replaces 11 acres of abandoned industrial sites and boasts spectacular views of Manhattan’s skyline. In addition to a wide array of recreational facilities and equipment, the park was also integrated with salt marshes and native plantings that serve as a natural line of defense against extreme weather and storm surges. As New York City moves full-speed ahead on reclaiming the waterfront for the public, Hunter’s Point South Waterfront Park joins an impressive lineup of post-industrial parks including the recently completed Domino Park in Brooklyn . Crafted to feel like New York City’s newest “island,” the new park features lush habitat as well as recreational and cultural features, like New York-based artist Nobuho Nagasawa’s ‘Luminescence’ land art installation. The landscape was sculpted in response to projected flooding patterns and rising water levels of the East River. “It’s a new kind of park,” said lead landscape architect Tom Balsley of SWA/Balsley, for whom the $100 million park project has been 25 years in the making. “Hunter’s Point South is at once resilient infrastructure and contemplative retreat — a dynamic, living platform with extraordinary power to touch the daily lives of so many people.” Related: 10 landscape design projects that turned neglected spaces into incredible parks The first phase, located closer to the ferry terminal, was completed in 2013 and serves as the more active half of the park with bicycle pathways, basketball courts, a playground, fitness equipment and a turf field. The second 5.5-acre phase added more walking trails, a kayak launch, picnicking areas and a  promenade that leads to the Overlook, a 30-foot-tall cantilevered platform with sweeping views of Manhattan skyline and East River. The park officially opened to the public this week. + SWA/Balsley + Weiss/Manfredi Images by Albert Vecerka Esto and Bill Tatham

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New resilient waterfront park helps protect NYC from storm surges

Yellowstone superintendent says the Trump administration forced him out of his job due to wildlife advocacy

June 11, 2018 by  
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Yellowstone National Park superintendent Dan Wenk says he was forced out of his position by President Donald Trump’s administration because of his wildlife advocacy, The Guardian reported . Former National Park Service director Jon Jarvis told the publication the move was meant to make Wenk into an example to weaken a culture of conservation . Wenk said, “It’s a hell of a way to be treated at the end of four decades spent trying to do my best for the park service and places like Yellowstone, but that’s how these guys are. Throughout my career, I’ve not encountered anything like this, ever.” Last week, the United States Department of the Interior (DOI) told Wenk, who has been the Yellowstone superintendent since 2011, that he must accept a reassignment to the Capital Region in Washington, D.C. in 60 days or resign. The Guardian said Wenk had been outspoken about creating more room for wild bison to ramble outside the national park to Montana, a move opposed by the cattle industry, which comprises a core section of Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke ‘s constituency. Wenk had also questioned proposed sport hunting of grizzly bears. Related: US DOI scientist claims he was reassigned for speaking up on climate change Jarvis told The Guardian that preservation in large parks, largely in Alaska and the American West, conflicts with Zinke’s hopes to increase industrial development and monetize natural resources located on public lands . He said that Zinke “holds little regard for the esprit de corps traditions of the park service. Dan [Wenk] was set up as the first domino to fall.” An April 2018 Office of Inspector General at the DOI report scrutinized the reassignment of 27 senior executives between June 15, 2017 and October 29, 2017 and discovered the DOI’s Executive Resources Board “did not document its plan for selecting senior executives for reassignment, nor did it consistently apply the reasons it stated it used to select senior executives for reassignment.” They also found the board “did not gather the information needed to make informed decisions about the reassignments” and didn’t effectively communicate with the senior executives or most managers impacted by the reassignments. The report said, “As a result, many of the affected senior executives questioned whether these reassignments were political or punitive, based on a prior conflict with DOI leadership, or on the senior executive’s nearness to retirement. Many executives…believed their reassignment may have been related to their prior work assignments, including climate change , energy, or conservation.” Via The Guardian Images via Wikimedia Commons (1)

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Yellowstone superintendent says the Trump administration forced him out of his job due to wildlife advocacy

Thoreau’s Walden Pond is under threat from human activities

April 6, 2018 by  
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In his book first published as  Walden; or, Life in the Woods , transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau reflected on living simply in green spaces while cultivating self-sufficiency and carefully observing the natural world. His reflections were informed by his experiences living in a cabin near the edge of Walden Pond in Concord, Massachusetts . Today, Walden Pond remains a cherished local landmark, where people enjoy hiking and swimming. However, since Thoreau’s time, Walden Pond has suffered from climate change,  erosion  and even human pee. In the mid-1800s, Thoreau described the “crystalline purity” of the water in Walden Pond, a characteristic still observable today. However, that may soon change as the effects of climate change take hold. In  a recently published paper on the environmental health of Walden Pond , researchers concluded that major changes in the algal content of the lake began in the 20th century and continue to threaten it today. According to the paper, “The sediment darkening and high percentages of [ algae ] in the recent sediments of Walden Pond … indicate not only that the lake ecosystem is now quite different from that described by Thoreau but also that it may be primed for more severe reductions in water clarity in a warming future.” Related: Thresher sharks die in Massachusetts – likely due to cold shock As global temperatures continue to rise , more people looking for relief from the humid summer weather in Massachusetts may find their way into the pond for a refreshing dip. Researchers concluded that more than half of the phosphorous content in the pond “may now be attributable to urine released by swimmers.” The good news is that Walden Pond has seen its environmental health improve in recent decades. However, vigilance is necessary to preserve Walden for future generations. Via The Guardian Images via Ekabhishek , Terryballard and Cbaile19

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Thoreau’s Walden Pond is under threat from human activities

The world’s first space hotel could launch by 2022

April 6, 2018 by  
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We’ve all heard of the companies promising to launch humans on trips to space , but have you thought about where you will stay once you get there? Startup Orion Span thinks they have the answer – and they’re planning to launch a luxury space hotel into orbit in the next few years. If this sounds like something you’d be interested in, start saving your pennies – a 12-night stay will set you back a mere $9.5 million PER PERSON. But don’t worry, the price includes transportation, food and drinks, and a three-month training course. The Aurora Station hotel will be able to accommodate four guests at a time, plus two crew members. The station will float above the Earth in low orbit (about 200 miles above the planet – 50 miles below the ISS) and the company claims it will be ready to start hosting guests by 2022. That’s extremely soon – keep in mind that other companies have set lofty goals for space hotels that didn’t quite get realized . The company plans to start with one station and expand as demand grows. If you want to book your stay right away, 80k will hold you a spot until the hotel is built and launched. Related: Elon Musk says trips to Mars coming as soon as next year Speaking of, Orion Span hasn’t provided much in the way of details for its space hotel. For instance, the company says it plans to manufacture the station at a Houston facility that hasn’t been built yet. Nor has it disclosed how it plans to transport people to the station – it seems likely that it will team up with one of the companies who is developing private space travel. Even still, it’s a pretty exciting idea, and not a bad price considering that it costs $81 million for an astronaut to hitch a ride to the ISS on a Russian rocket. Via Engadget Images via Orion Span

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The world’s first space hotel could launch by 2022

Treasure trove of Triassic fossils found at Bears Ears

February 26, 2018 by  
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What may perhaps be the world’s greatest cache of Triassic-era fossils was discovered by scientists at Utah ‘s Bears Ears National Monument, which recently lost its protected status. Despite vociferous opposition from the Native community and environmentalists, President Trump issued an order in December that shrunk the Monument, which was established by President Obama in late 2016, by 85 percent. This monumental fossil discovery is a reminder of what we stand to lose if protections and support for public land are dismantled. Looting, oil and gas extraction, and loss of essential research funding are just some of the potential consequences that researchers are contending with at Bears Ears and other formerly protected sites. The site itself represents a rare, rich look into our planet’s distant past.“Based on our small, initial excavation, we believe that this 69-yard site may be the densest area of Triassic period fossils in the nation, maybe the world,” paleontologist Rob Gay said . “If this site can be fully excavated, it is likely that we will find many other intact specimens, and quite possibly even new vertebrate species.” Unfortunately, Gay’s team is at risk of losing funding from the Bureau of Land Management, which supported the team’s 2017 dig but no longer has jurisdiction over what was Bears Ears . Related: Ryan Zinke recommends shrinking two more national monuments Despite previous protections, the fossils were not entirely unscathed. “It is extremely rare to find intact fossil skulls of specimens from this period,” Gay said. “It is rarer still to recover fossils that have been looted, which was the case with one specimen that was missing a portion of its skull. We did a little more digging before realizing this site had been looted by someone without a permit for this kind of fossil removal.” Nonetheless, the protection granted through National Monument status is key to protecting sites of scientific, cultural, and scenic importance. “That President Trump acted to revoke protections for these lands is outrageous,” said Scott Miller of the Wilderness Society,  “and that he did so despite the Department of the Interior knowing of this amazing discovery is even more shocking. I hope the courts will act quickly to restore protections for Bears Ears National Monument before any more fossils are looted from the area and lost to science .” Via Washington Post Images via The Wilderness Society

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Treasure trove of Triassic fossils found at Bears Ears

Wave of earthquakes shake Yellowstone’s supervolcano

February 22, 2018 by  
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Since the start of February, Yellowstone National Park and its supervolcano have been hit with a wave of at least 20 earthquakes and a number of smaller tremors. Although the largest earthquake only registered a 2.9 on the Richter scale and all have struck about five miles below the Earth’s surface, this so-called earthquake swarm is noteworthy, though likely not reason for alarm. “While it may seem worrisome, the current seismicity is relatively weak and actually represents an opportunity to learn more about Yellowstone,” wrote researchers Michael Poland and Jamie Farrell for the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory . “It is during periods of change when scientists can develop, test, and refine their models of how the Yellowstone volcanic system works.” Though the name may conjure images of aggressive insects , earthquake swarms are actually a fairly common, benign occurrence at Yellowstone. The largest earthquake storm came in 1985, when more than 3,000 earthquakes struck Yellowstone over several months. The area typically experiences 1,000 to 3,000 earthquakes each year, most of which are not felt. Swarms are caused by stress changes at fault lines due to either tectonic forces or local pressure increases resulting from changes in water, magma , or subterranean gas. The highly seismic Yellowstone is affected by both swarm-causing factors. Related: Scientists construct new theory of Yellowstone’s supervolcano hotspot While the earthquake swarms and Yellowstone’s supervolcano are both currently harmless, there is always a small chance that, someday, the big one will arrive. The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that there is a 1 in 730,000 chance that the supervolcano will experience a major eruption; this is roughly equivalent to the probability of an asteroid collision with Earth. As for what might trigger such an event, tiny tremors serve as reminders. Seismologist Jamie Farrell told National Geographic, “The most likely hazard in Yellowstone is from large earthquakes”. Via National Geographic Images via Depositphotos (1)

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Wave of earthquakes shake Yellowstone’s supervolcano

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