Tag Archives: Vermont

Natural gas drilling front lines move to highway billboards

This is my latest newspaper conservation column.

The ongoing battle between the pro-natural gas drilling people and conservationists who see and realize more value in a natural landscape not punctured by drill rigs and drill pads and heavy-equipment roads hacked out of former wildlife habitat have taken their respective campaigns to roadside billboards.

This is, coincidentally, something that would never happen in the Green Mountain State (where I sit) because nearly a half-century ago the people of Vermont wisely voted to permanently outlaw billboards and impose stringent limits on the size and height of business ID signs and such.

One recent billboard – the space bought and paid for by anti-drilling folks – makes its point with a collage of photos. One shows a drill rig and concrete drill pad, labeling the scene as a roadside “attraction.” And that spurs memories of a PennDOT placard on the southbound side of I-81 telling motorists of an attraction we know as “Humboldt Industrial Park.”

But back to the drilling biz. Punching holes into Earth across the Marcellus shale region is akin to bulldozing and paving more roads across Penn’s Woods. Sure, a handful of native wildlife continue doing alright population wise afer their habitat has been fragmented by roads, sprawl, cul de sacs, drill pads, and even airport runways. These include critters like the white-tailed deer and eastern cottontail. And skunks, raccoons and European starlings, too. Most of our native wildlife, though, suffers and their population numbers decline until, someday, the federal Endangered Species Act comes into play and a given species is approved for listing as a threatened or endangered one.

Naturalists don’t need a science degree in order to put the principles of “citizen science” to work and help gather the data showing such downward population trends. I have countless hours and days myself walking along the shoulders of rural roads – in Pennsylvania, Virginia and elsewhere – and counting the roadkill specimens found along the way.

A five-mile hike one year along the southern Delmarva Peninsula reach of Highway 13 sticks in mind for the horrendous slaughter I found; a toll most motorists are oblivious to as they race on to their next appointment, gas station, or motel room. On that day, my field notes remind, I found 15 dead turtles, many of them the species we know as the eastern painted turtle, their carapaces crushed by car or truck tires. Terrestrial wildlife like amphibians and reptiles seem, more often than not, to be the roadkill targets. But that’s only because they can only crawl, walk or slither so fast.

Here in Vermont, there is no shale formation underground, its rocks harboring natural gas. There is no danger lurking of a drilling rig suddenly showing up one day to start punching a hole into terra firma outside the front door. But through much of the mid-Atlantic region just the opposite is the case. And like much else these days, many people whose lives are disconnected from wild nature see only money when a drilling company rep knocks on the door.

Convertising to solar power at home: A Vermont success

This feature from today’s Burlington Free Press here in Vermont is a good read and has a message of success for all of us who feed our electricity diet with coal-fired power.

If you live inVt., like I do, vote for Bernie Sanders

Thank you for contacting me in regard to S. 2372, the Preserving Public Access to Cape Hatteras Beaches Act. I am glad for the opportunity to discuss this important issue with you.

The controversy at Cape Hatteras National Seashore revolves around using vehicles on the beaches, which are breeding grounds for sea turtles, piping plovers as well as home to seabeach amaranth and other endangered species. Vehicles driven on the beach crush these rare animals and plants, particularly the nests and eggs of the birds and turtles. In order to protect the endangered species native to Cape Hatteras beaches, the National Park Service (NPS) issued a rule stating that vehicle operators must purchase permits to drive on the beaches. Exceptions are made for the handicapped and for local commercial fishermen. NPS also designated specific routes that vehicles must adhere to. Additionally, some areas are closed during breeding season, and driving by night is prohibited while turtles are laying eggs and hatching because they are nocturnal.

Currently, S. 2372 would eliminate this rule in favor of the much more lenient Interim Protected Species Management Act from June, 2007, leaving the task of developing a new final rule up to the Secretary of the Interior. It would also invalidate the consent decree from the District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, in which conflicting parties agreed to create buffer areas and restrict night driving during turtle breeding season. Data show that while stricter vehicle statutes lead to a significant rise in species populations, they do not result in less revenue from tourists, which is the main cause of concern for proponents of S. 2372.

I understand your concern for the species that make the Cape Hatteras National Seashore their home. I will keep your thoughts firmly in mind when considering this legislation.

Again, thank you for contacting me about this important issue. Feel free to contact me again in the future about this or any other subject of interest to you, or for up-to-date information on what my office is working on please visit http://www.sanders.senate.gov. While there, I invite you to sign up for my e-newsletter, the Bernie Buzz, at http://sanders.senate.gov/buzz/. Please be aware that due to security screening procedures, postal mail to my office experiences delays that will lengthen the time it takes me to get back to you. The fastest way to contact my office is by calling 1-800-339-9834.

Sincerely, BERNARD SANDERS United States Senator


For the wild…
Alan Clark Gregory
Lt Col USAF, Ret.

Toxic blue-green algae plaguing Lake Champlain

It’s a byproduct of human-created water pollution and it is not pretty. This North Country Public Radio article explains the situation.

 

Battling invasive milfoil in Vermont lakes, ponds

Well, geez, according to this article more than 70 lakes and ponds in Vermont are now infested with Eurasian milfoil. It is the traveling, from one waterway to another, by boats that carry bits of milfoil that’s responsible.

Agency chief: Vermont misdirected waterway restoration after Irene

This is the kind of thing that makes a lot of people doubt the efficacy of a whole bunch of government policies and regulations. And Vermont was not alone in doing the wrong thing after that epic storm. New York State did a low of the same misdirected chores, even in the Adirondacks, after the big rain event.

Public needs to know about disease killing bats, group says

The group is the Center for Biological Diversity, which happens to have an office here in Vermont. Read this article to learn more about white-nose syndrome and the center.

Biodiversity group sues for bat-disease documents

As if a lawsuit against federal agencies will actually help bat species recover their populations from the decimating effects of white-nose syndrome. This article includes quotes from Mollie Matteson of the Center for Biological Diversity.

Lake Champlain near record low

And that’s just a year after record highs and lake-side flooding. This piece has the ins and outs.

Hiking in the Green Mountains of Vermont

Growing up in Vermont, my late wife Monica did a heck of a lot of hiking and walking, principally near her childhood home in the town of West Rutland. When she became my partner in marriage and we got to the Adirondacks of New York, then she and I did dozens of hikes together, sometimes up one of the 46 high peaks (those with elevations of 4,000 feet or higher) but also on valley terrain in search of native birds. It was all great and I have many a good dream in which I look back on it all. Here’s a photo of Monica at the summit of Mount Mansfield, Vermont. Mansfield is the state’s highest peak.