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Conservation News

A list of news items relating to Conservation



Greenhouse Gases

In an effort to address the effect of greenhouse gases on global climate change, nine northeast and mid-Atlantic states are developing a regional strategy to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide from power plants, called the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).

There is broad consensus among climate scientists that human activities have contributed to the observed increase in global surface temperatures. In the Northeast, average annual temperature has risen 1.4o F in the last 30 years alone. While uncertainties exist in predicting the global response to climate change, our region has already experienced reduced snowfall, earlier ice-out dates on New England lakes, and fewer days with snowcover as a result of this warming.

The recent warming trend is attributed to an increase in heat-trapping gases, such as carbon dioxide (CO2), that are generated during combustion of fossil fuels. A continued increase in greenhouse gases poses major environmental, public health, and economic risks. Lacking a national plan to address this issue, nine northeast and mid-Atlantic states are developing a regional strategy to reduce emissions of CO2 from power plants, called the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).

RGGI is designed to achieve reductions in CO2 emissions from power plants in its member states (CT, DE, ME, MA, NH, NJ, NY, RI, VT) in a cost-effective manner. Under this cap and trade system, an overall regional CO2 emission limit will be established and divided among power plants into "right to emit" permits, which possess financial value. The plants may then purchase and sell permits, establishing a market-based strategy for reducing overall emissions. The proposed goal of RGGI is to stabilize current regional CO2 emission levels by year 2015, and achieve a 10% reduction of those levels by 2020. Combined, RGGI states emitted more CO2 than all but five industrialized countries in 2000; therefore, such a regional initiative has the potential to considerably reduce the global atmospheric concentration of heat-trapping gases.

AMC is encouraging its members to contact their governors to urge the strengthening and finalizing of the RGGI draft rule. AMC members may also adopt personal measures to reduce CO2, such as:

Personal energy use. Reduce gasoline consumption by carpooling, using mass transit, walking, or biking. Reduce the amount of electricity used at home, and ask a local utility company to perform an energy audit of your home.
Energy-efficient purchases. When in the market for a vehicle, consider gas mileage efficiency. If purchasing a new appliance, look for models that are energy-efficient.
Take action! Promote carpooling and bike lanes in your community. Write to senators and congressional representatives to support actions that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Contact governors, state legislators and public utility regulators to promote energy efficiency measures.
Stay informed. You can join AMC's Conservation Action Network for monthly updates on RGGI and other important conservation issues.


Ecological Reserves

The Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs (EOEA), with research help from The Nature Conservancy, is proposing to designate eight large tracts of state-owned lands, totaling 52,000 acres, as ecological reserves. The reserves are part of a larger effort to achieve "green certification" for the lands under the Forest Stewardship Council, which would require the state to 1) develop and implement sustainable forestry management plans for those places where logging is practiced and 2) create ecological reserves on state lands that are set aside from logging and managed for mature forest habitat. Existing recreational activities would continue on the reserves, but new motorized recreation and logging would not.

AMC's conservation website contains more information on potential reserves, or visit EOEA's Forest Management website to find out more about the proposal.


Leave No Trace

Leave No Trace™ (LNT) is a philosophy of backcountry recreation that stresses leaving the wilderness as untouched as possible by your visit. It’s also a program designed to assist outdoor enthusiasts understand and minimize their recreational impacts on the land.

AMC partners with Leave No Trace, Inc. to promote responsible outdoor recreation. Leave No Trace, Inc. has established the seven Leave No Trace Principles that serve as guidelines for those who enjoy outdoor recreation.

You can learn more about AMC’s committment to LNT on the AMC Leave No Trace web page.

Leave No Trace principles for paddlers

Story by Karen Ingraham

AMC Outdoors, March/April 2013

A downed tree can provide a valuable ecological service in a river. It can serve as a bridge or a basking area, and can create shade for fish.
When I paddled on the Allagash Wilderness Waterway a few years back, I hadn’t expected to find a mowed lawn at our first “primitive campsite.” We had driven 50 miles on logging roads to our put-in and paddled another 8 on one of Maine’s northernmost rivers. Yet there was not only ample room for tents on the cut grass, but a picnic table and, at a discreet distance, an outhouse.
It certainly beat pulling our boats out and “creating” our own campsite, an act prohibited on the Allagash and, according to Alex DeLucia, AMC’s Leave No Trace program manager, on most Northeast waterways. “Utilizing those designated campsites helps to minimize impact,” DeLucia says—a key goal for the agencies charged with managing these ecosystems. It’s also a cornerstone principle of Leave No Trace (LNT), a program founded by the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics and advocated by AMC. DeLucia, who is currently developing a paddling LNT trainer course with AMC’s New Hampshire Chapter, outlines how each principle applies to water-based recreation.
Plan Ahead and Prepare
It may be tempting to open a gazetteer and choose a put-in spot, but much of the shoreline in the Northeast is privately owned, so determine ahead of time where vehicles can be left legally and safely, DeLucia advises. “You have to check permits; you have to check regulations,” he adds. “With a lot of the designated sites, especially in the Northeast, you have to make reservations.”
Dispose of Waste Properly
The “pack it in, pack it out” mantra applies to paddling as well as to hiking. DeLucia says many designated campsites have outhouses. If not, human waste—like all other waste—should be packed out. Some campsite regulations may allow for human waste to be buried. Check before you go.
Boaters packing rod and reel should also pack out fish guts and bones, unless paddling through bear country makes doing so unsafe. DeLucia then recommends burying the waste.
Leave What You Find
Protecting aquatic ecosystems means leaving natural objects, like downed trees or limbs, undisturbed, as well as preventing the spread of non-native or invasive species.
Didymo, or “rock snot,” is invasive freshwater algae that blooms on rock beds in rivers and streams and chokes out native species. It’s a growing threat in the Northeast as boaters and fishermen unwittingly pick up the microscopic algae, which can be spread in a single drop of water. Washing gear, paddles, and boats between trips is essential to containing the spread.
Minimize Campfire Impacts
“We really recommend you bring stoves,” DeLucia says. “Be independent, be self-sufficient, and don’t rely on fires.” If you choose to have a fire (check if it’s permitted), know that heavily used campsites will yield little to no wood. On certain bodies of water it is illegal to harvest wood, dead or alive, so you must bring it.
“What’s important is where you get your wood from,” DeLucia cautions. “Wait until you get where you are going” to buy it. Wood brought across state lines could harbor invasive and destructive insects, such as the emerald ash borer.
Respect Wildlife
Paddling grants us intimate access to wildlife, but we need to be unobtrusive. DeLucia suggests using binoculars or a camera with a zoom lens to observe from a safe distance. “It’s very enticing to paddle right up to a moose,” he says, “but that’s where they live, where they are trying to eat, where they are breeding.” The same applies to nesting loons.
To prevent wildlife from visiting your campsite, you should securely stash all food. Coolers, for instance, may deter rodents but what about bears?
Be Considerate of Other Visitors
Noise travels farther over water, DeLucia says. “I could be a mile away, and I may hear people as clear as day. The sense of wildness that you have…just disappears.” Keep a check on the noise level, especially music.
Water is also public space. “You can’t ignore the fact that other people are using that resource,” DeLucia says. “We have to be accepting of a lot of different forms of recreation.”

Conservation Links & Books

There are a number of conservation organizations that are active in Western Mass. Please check out the links to these great organizations, some of which are listed below:

AMC Conservation
Berkshire Environmental Action Team
Berkshire Natural Resources Council
Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture
Housatonic Valley Association
Kestrel Land Trust
Mass Audubon
Mass Nature Conservancy
Springfield Naturalist's Club
New England Wildflower Sociaety
Trustees of Reservations
Westfield River Watershed Association
Westfield River Watershed
Massachusetts Introduced Pests Outreach Project

There are also a number of conservation-related and environmental books to check out:

Low Carbon Diet: A 30 Day Program to Lose 5000 Pounds--Be Part of the Global Warming Solution! by David Gershon

Review excerpted from the Christian Science monitor: Mr. Gershon created a step-by-step program, à la Weight Watchers, designed to reduce a person's carbon footprint. Replete with checklists and illustrations, the user-friendly guide is a serious attempt at changing American energy-consumption behavior. Although representing 4.5 percent of the world's population, the United States contributes an estimated 25 percent of its greenhouse gases. The book guides participants through a month-long process of behavioral change. Each participant calculates his or her footprint - the average US household emits 55,000 pounds of carbon dioxide annually, the book says - and then browses a list of emissions-lowering actions. But the key to the program's success, say those who've participated, is in forming a support group. People have good intentions, says Gershon, but alone, they often lack the will to follow through. Like Weight Watchers or Alcoholics Anonymous, the formation of a group encourages follow-through by socially reinforcing the new, desired behavior.

Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder (revised edition) by Richard Louv

Review excerpted from Scientific American: According to newspaper columnist and child advocate Richard Louv, boys and girls now live a 'denatured childhood.' He cites multiple causes for why children spend less time outdoors and why they have less access to nature: our growing addiction to electronic media, the relinquishment of green spaces to development, parents' exaggerated fears of natural and human predators, and the threat of lawsuits and vandalism that has prompted community officials to forbid access to their land. Drawing on personal experience and the perspectives of urban planners, educators, naturalists and psychologists, Louv links children's alienation from nature to attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, stress, depression and anxiety disorders, not to mention childhood obesity. According to Louv, the replacement of open meadows, woods and wetlands by manicured lawns, golf courses and housing developments has led children away from the natural world. What little time they spend outside is on designer playgrounds or fenced yards and is structured, safe and isolating. Such antiseptic spaces provide little opportunity for exploration, imagination or peaceful contemplation.

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver

Review from School Library Journal: This book chronicles the year that Barbara Kingsolver, along with her husband and two daughters, made a commitment to become locavores–those who eat only locally grown foods. This first entailed a move away from their home in non-food-producing Tuscon to a family farm in Virginia, where they got right down to the business of growing and raising their own food and supporting local farmers. For teens who grew up on supermarket offerings, the notion not only of growing one's own produce but also of harvesting one's own poultry was as foreign as the concept that different foods relate to different seasons. While the volume begins as an environmental treatise–the oil consumption related to transporting foodstuffs around the world is enormous–it ends, as the year ends, in a celebration of the food that physically nourishes even as the recipes and the memories of cooks and gardeners past nourish our hearts and souls. Although the book maintains that eating well is not a class issue, discussions of heirloom breeds and making cheese at home may strike some as high-flown; however, those looking for healthful alternatives to processed foods will find inspiration to seek out farmers' markets and to learn to cook and enjoy seasonal foods.

50 Simple Things You Can Do to Save the Earth: Completely New and Updated for the 21st Century by The Earth Works Group (also available: 50 Simple Things Your Business Can Do to Save the Earth and 50 Simple Things Your Kids Can Do to Save the Earth)

Publisher comments from Powell's Books: The revolutionary 1990 bestseller, is back in a completely revised, updated edition... and it's just as innovative and groundbreaking as the original. The authors have teamed up with 50 of America's top environmental groups, including the Natural Resources Defense Council, the National Wildlife Federation, and Rainforest Action Network. Each group has chosen one issue and provided a simple, step-by-step program that will empower you and your family to become citizen activists in the fight to save the Earth.


Local Initiatives

Community leaders from the Appalachian Mountain Club Berkshire Chapter and Westfield Transition Towns are presenting the Work of 1000 Civic Engagement Program at the Westfield Athenaeum on Wednesday, March 27th at 6:30 PM.

This program, a 30-minute film complemented by a personal discussion with the film’s central figure, citizen activist Marion Stoddart - provides a gripping profile of an ordinary citizen who realized her power to make a difference. The film, The Work of 1000, shares Marion’s exhilarating story of her work to clean up the Nashua River, once one of the most polluted rivers in America.

Our communities are facing real challenges. Economic uncertainty, global climate change, and other critical social issues are literally right at our doorstep. And now, more than ever, we need stories of hope, grit, empowerment and change. We need an inspirational model that engages people to make a difference in the world.

The presentation at the Westfield Athenaeum is part of Work of 1000’s campaign to help nurture a strong corps of engaged citizens, raise awareness, build leadership skills and give people confidence that they can make a difference. Come view the film, participate in the discussion and see how you can take specific actions to improve Westfield’s quality of life.

The Appalachian Mountain Club promotes the protection, enjoyment and stewardship of the mountains, forests, waters, and trails of the Appalachian region. We believe that mountains, forests, and waters have intrinsic worth and also provide recreational opportunities, spiritual renewal, and ecological and economic health for the region. Because successful conservation depends on active engagement with the outdoors, we encourage people to experience, learn about, appreciate, and understand the natural world. Berkshire Chapter volunteers maintain about 300 miles of hiking trails in Western Massachusetts, including 90 miles of the Appalachian Trail, and the chapter sponsors hundreds of outdoor events throughout the year.

Transition Towns is a global movement tackling economic deterioration, climate instability, and increasing weather emergencies with creative local action. Over 100 towns, cities, suburbs and neighborhoods in the Northeast have started Transition Initiatives to increase local resilience and economic vitality.

For additional information, please see or contact Sabine Prather at 413-949-3914



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