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Native Americans eye huge South Dakota wind energy project

A map from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory shows areas with the potential for windpower and the associated transmission grid.

A map from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory shows areas with the potential for windpower and the associated transmission grid.

Sioux Nation wants to focus on renewable energy, not dirty tar sands oil

Staff Report

FRISCO — Just a few days after responding angrily to the U.S. House vote to approve the Keystone XL Pipeline, Sioux Nation Native American leaders met with the Obama administration to explore renewable energy options.

The meeting included representatives from more than eight federal agencies and offices, including representatives from the Departments of Agriculture, Interior, Treasury, and Tribal Relations. Continue reading

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Tracking ancient greenhouse gas pulses shows climate trouble ahead

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Massive permafrost meltdown could lead to runaway warming.

Carbon cycle subject to major changes as permafrost melts

Staff Report

FRISCO — There’s yet more evidence that melting Arctic permafrost will amplify global warming by releasing huge amounts of heat-trapping greenhouse gases.

In the latest study, Scientists with the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research tracked a pulse of CO2 and other greenhouse gases released to the atmosphere about 14,600 years ago. Continue reading

Wildlife: Feds say genetic testing confirms that wolf near Grand Canyon is from the Northern Rockies

Trapping efforts suspended for now

Grand Canyon wolf

A gray wolf that wandered at least 450 miles from the northern Rockies is now living near the Grand Canyon in Arizona. Photo courtesy Arizona Game and Fish Department.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Federal biologists say that, based on a genetic analysis of scat, they’re now 100 percent sure that the wolf-like animal spotted near the North Rim of the Grand Canyon is in fact a wild Rocky Mountain gray wolf.

The confirmation clarifies that this gray wolf is fully protected under the Endangered Species Act, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced. Biologists have been tracking the canid since early October and were able to collect scat samples in early November. Continue reading

Environment: Cold weather road ecology institute seeks alternatives to chemical road de-icers

This is what we like to see!

Clearing the roads in Frisco, Colorado.

A little bit of salt on your french fries is fine; a lot of salt on the road kills trees and fish

Staff Report

FRISCO — Highway engineers and scientists know that that massive use of chemical road de-icers has significant environmental impacts. Salt and the various derivatives used to keep roadways open kills trees and degrades water quality.

Just last year, the EPA found salt building up in groundwater near highways in the eastern U.S. Across the country, the U.S. spends $2.3 billion each year on the removal of highway snow and ice plus another $5 billion to mitigate the hidden costs associated with the process.

The hidden costs include long-term impacts of salt, sand and chemical deicers on the natural environment and road infrastructure as well as short-term impacts on semi-trailer trucks and other vehicles from rust and corrosion. Continue reading

Toxic legacy of acid rain lingers in Canadian lakes

Calcium loss turning lakes to ‘jelly’

Even high mountain lakes are feeling the sting of nitrogen pollution.

Acid rain has fundamentally changed the chemistry and biology of some lakes.

Michael Arts, Canada Centre for Inland Waters

Tiny jelly covered plankton are displacing other organisms in some Canadian lakes to the detriment of fisheries and public water supplies. Photo courtesy Michael Arts, Canada Centre for Inland Waters.

Staff Report

FRISCO — The toxic legacy of acid rain lives on in lakes in Canada, and possibly other places around the world, according scientists who say they’ve traced a trend of reduced calcium levels leading to a “jellification” of some lakes.

Specifically, the changes in water chemistry have reduced populations of  calcium-rich plankton such as Daphnia — water fleas that dominate these ecosystems. Falling calcium levels mean Daphnia cannot get the nutrients they need to survive and reproduce, leading to a rise in other plankton species, including small jelly-clad organisms.

According to the new research, populations of those organisms has exploded in lakes across eastern Canada in the past 30 years. The average  population of these small invertebrate jellies in many Ontario lakes doubled between the mid-1980s and the mid-2000s. Continue reading

Environment: 15 years after endangered species listing, lynx are still spurring lawsuits

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A lynx in Colorado watches on the snow-covered forest floor. Photo courtesy Tanya Shenk/Colorado Division of Wildlife.

New lawsuit challenges inadequate critical habitat designation

Staff Report

FRISCO — It’s been 15 years since Canada lynx were listed as a threatened species, and wildlife conservation groups are still battling the U.S. government in court over critical habitat designation for the rare, snow-loving cats.

In the latest legal move, the Sierra Club, Rocky Mountain Wild, and Alliance for the Wild Rockies went back to court this week, claiming that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service still hasn’t got it right. According to the lawsuit, the agency neglected to include numerous large areas of prime lynx habitat, corridors and occupied areas throughout five national forests in Montana and Idaho, as well as millions of acres in the Southern Rockies. Continue reading

Study show drop in Beaufort Sea polar bear numbers

A polar bear in the Arctic. PHOTO COURTESY USGS/SUSANNE MILLER.

A polar bear in the Arctic. PHOTO COURTESY USGS/SUSANNE MILLER.

Is dwindling sea ice a factor?

Staff report

FRISCO — Polar bear populations in the southern Beaufort Sea  dropped 40 percent between 2000 and 2010, biologists say in a new study. The research suggests that survival of adult bears and cubs was especially low from 2004 to 2006, when most of the decline occurred.

“Of the 80 cubs observed in Alaska from 2004 to 2007, only 2 are known to have survived,” said Jeff Bromaghin, a U.S. Geological Survey research statistician and lead author of the study. Continue reading

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