PacifiCorp Foote Creek project shows wind industry’s huge strides: Same power output, 80% fewer turbines FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Associated Press:Bigger, more efficient equipment will allow an electric utility to redevelop Wyoming’s first commercial wind farm so it produces the same amount of power with far fewer turbines, an example of the growing feasibility of renewable energy in the top U.S. coal-mining state.Portland, Oregon-based PacifiCorp plans to replace 68 wind turbines at the Foote Creek I wind farm with 13 turbines. The wind farm atop the barren and blustery ridge called Foote Creek Rim west of Cheyenne will continue to generate about 41 megawatts, or enough electricity to power nearly 20,000 homes.Solar power often gets attention for efficiency gains, but many U.S. utilities also are working to squeeze more megawatts out of wind, PacifiCorp spokesman Spencer Hall said. “Just imagine buying a new cellphone today versus in ’98,” Hall said, referring to when the wind farm’s first turbines were installed. “It’s becoming a thing where we can’t even get labor on some of them, there are so many projects going on.”PacifiCorp has 1.9 million customers in Wyoming, Utah, Idaho, Washington state, Oregon and California and wants to get more electricity from wind power in the years ahead, while reducing what it generates from coal.Environmental groups are waiting for an October announcement by PacifiCorp outlining its future plans for coal-fired power. PacifiCorp has been weighing whether to shut down as many as nine coal-fired generating units at power plants in Colorado and Wyoming over the next several years.“All indications are showing it will include some early retirements on at least some of the units,” said Hall.More: Wyoming wind farm making same power with 80% fewer turbines
FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Nikkei Asian Review:NTT will enter the renewable energy market and invest more than 1 trillion yen ($9.3 billion) by 2030 to set up its own transmission network, Nikkei learned on Monday.NTT hopes to generate 7.5 million kW of electricity, which will be equivalent to 10% of renewable power capacity in Japan, by 2030. Japan had capacity of 61.35 million kW of renewable energy in 2019.NTT will sell directly to customers, rather than go through another power transmission network. This will be the first time for a company to enter the nationwide distribution network since the market was liberalized in 2016.Amid the global move toward greener energy, the entrance of NTT, which has a strong capital base, into the market could change the competitive dynamics.NTT Anode Energy will be leading and expanding the group’s power generation business. Most of company’s 7,300 telephone stations nationwide will be equipped with storage batteries. The company will also develop large solar and offshore wind facilities.More: NTT to enter Japan’s renewable energy sector with $9bn investment NTT, Japanese telecom giant, planning $9.3 billion investment in green energy, transmission assets
Regulators tell Mississippi Power to plan for early retirement of 950MW of fossil fuel generation FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享S&P Global Market Intelligence ($):Mississippi Power Co. must study the early retirement of 950 MW of fossil-fueled generation in its next integrated resource plan, or IRP, as Mississippi regulators find the utility needs to reduce excess capacity.“The evidence in this docket suggests that [Mississippi Power’s] current reserve margin is projected to be higher than targeted reserves and, if [Mississippi Power’s] units are left to operate through their remaining projected useful lives, this excess persists for over  years,” the Mississippi Public Service Commission wrote in a Dec. 17 order.Regulators noted that Mississippi Power and a final report from Bates White Economic Consulting “both agree’” that the utility’s excess reserve capacity is “largely due to decreases in projected load primarily driven by changes in customer usage” since the company’s last IRP was filed in 2010.“All agree that accelerating the retirement of some combination of [Jack Watson] units 4 and 5, [Greene County] units 1 and 2, and/or [Victor J. Daniel Jr.] units 1 and 2 represents the most attractive option for reducing [Mississippi Power’s] excess reserve margin,” regulators wrote.The Southern Co. subsidiary is scheduled to file its next IRP in April 2021.“[Mississippi Power’s] upcoming IRP filing should include the schedule of early or anticipated retirement of approximately 950 [MW] of generating capacity by year-end 2027 or show cause with detailed evidence why the continued operation of some or all of [Mississippi Power’s] existing fossil steam generation is in the best interest of customers and [Mississippi Power],” the order states. “To be clear, while there may be real and important operational constraints that could convince this commission to alter its findings in this order, the economic evidence available to the commission to date makes a compelling case for early retirement of some portion of [Mississippi Power’s] aging fossil steam generating fleet.”[Darren Sweeney]More ($): Mississippi Power ordered to study early retirement of 950 MW of fossil plants
When Holy Ghost Tent Revival first emerged five years ago, the band’s rowdy, foot-stomping, banjo-driven sound received immediate comparisons to the Avett Brothers. But the five-piece outfit from Greensboro has never intended to follow the formula of their successful fellow North Carolina predecessors.“The Avett Brothers paved the way to play traditional instruments in a punk rock kind of way,” says Holy Ghost founding member Stephen Murray. “A lot of bands have latched on to that genre, but at this point I don’t think it’s advantageous to categorize things that way. Our music is going in a new direction.”Murray insists, though, that the group still delivers the raucous, energetic live shows that first attracted fans.The band members met as students at Greensboro College, and began playing shows together five years ago. On the group’s latest full-length album, 2009’s “So Long I Screamed,” it’s easy to see what garnered the band their loyal grassroots following. With Murray plucking and pounding his banjo alongside additional main songwriter Matt Martin on electric guitar, the band pulses through raw, rootsy tunes, like the speakeasy- ready “Walking Over My Grave,” with time-tested themes of love and loss. Add in the brass blasts of Hank Widmer (trombone) and Charlie Humphrey (trumpet) and the band adeptly combines a rock edge with a vintage, hip-shaking Dixieland spirit.But now the band’s musical vision is changing. Bassist and harmony vocalist Patrick Leslie recently left the group, forcing keyboardist Kevin Williams to pick up low-end duties and giving Holy Ghost a chance to explore new sonic territory.“The initial sound had a much more Dixieland and Rag Time kind of feel,” says Murray. “Since we all have extremely different musical backgrounds and influences, it’s becoming a sound that has a wide mix of everything. I used to look for five adjectives to describe it, but now I just say we play rock ‘n’ roll. I like people to decide what we are on their own.”During rare openings in a rigorous national touring schedule, the band is recording a new album at On Pop of the World Studios in Reidsville, N.C. Recent tracks posted online reveal a retro revival in the vein of the indie heroes of Dr. Dog. Murray has been taking inspiration from The Band and Van Morrison, and leading the evolving group on a path toward dusty mountain rock. He’s planning to release the new record this summer, so fans can come along for the ride.“It’s important for us to get these new songs out soon, so fans can connect with them and feel like they are part of our growth,” he says. “We still play an extremely high-energy show, but we’re moving toward more ‘60s and ‘70s rock. The banjo is still a part of the show, but the sound has changed.”Southern ShelterRefuge for Athens Music Lovers If you dig the bands coming out of Athens’ storied music scene, check out Southern Shelter (southernshelter.com), a website chock full of free downloads of live shows happening in the Georgia college town. From Of Montreal at the 40 Watt Club to the Drive-By Truckers at the Georgia Theater to newer acts like the Futurebirds at the Caledonia Lounge, the site offers the opportunity to get a pulse on the current state of a town that yielded the likes of R.E.M., the B-52’s, and Widespread Panic.required readingAllman Bears AllLast month Gregg Allman released a new autobiography, My Cross to Bear. In the memoir, the Allman Brothers Band keyboardist and founding member opens up about the seminal Southern rock band’s early years, including the crushing deaths of Allman’s brother, legendary guitarist Duane Allman, and bassist Berry Oakley, both in motorcycle accidents a year apart. In addition to his struggles with substance abuse and a rocky high-profile marriage to Cher, Allman also covers his youth growing up in the South and how he came to form the band’s signature expansive blues sound. In the end, Allman gets a new lease on life, as he discusses the life-saving liver transplant he received in 2010. allmanbrothersband.com
Every summer at the OutDoor Friedrichshafen show in Germany — the largest outdoor industry trade show for Europe and really the global market — brands hope to take away one of the shows coveted OutDoor Industry Award recognitions. The OutDoor Industry Award is one of the highest design prizes available to companies in the outdoor industry.Awards go to products and technologies that indicate a possible new trend and demonstrate a high degree of innovation and design quality. Among those 35 awarded were seven gold awards this year for exceptionally outstanding products. This year the panel of judges reviewed 361 products. “The OutDoor Industry Award honors innovative products that represent an exceptional achievement. They have the potential to become future trendsetters in the outdoor industry. Among these OutDoor Industry Award winners are products that set new benchmarks for the entire industry. These products are the gold award winners,” said Stefan Reisinger, Head of OutDoor. The OutDoor Industry Award is held by Messe Friedrichshafen this year for the first time in association with the German Designer Club (DDC).In addition to the new Arc’teryx Alpha² FL Men´s, the Salewa Speed Ascent also won a Gold Award for footwear innovation. Salewa is based in South Tyrol, Italy, and while many people in the U.S. are still learning about the brand, globally they have been a footwear leader for a very long time.“For the second year in a row, Salewa has won three awards at the same time from the leading European outdoor trade fair. With the additional launch of a new logo, these awards are even more important to us because they emphasize our strong drive for brand renewal and leadership in innovation. I’m particularly pleased that in addition to two innovation awards, we also won in the area of sustainability,” said Heiner Oberrauch, president of the Salewa-Oberalp Group.The fast-hike Salewa Speed Ascent features “Take-Off Technology,” a pre-cambered position for the toes, in addition to Vibram’s “Rolling Gait System,” a rocker-shaped sole for quicker, more effective acceleration. The shoe also features a double-row lacing system and an overlapping tongue system for superior support, fit and function.
Paul Collingwood fell so hard for scuba that he went out and bought another leg. The 53-year-old computer programmer wears a prosthesis below his left knee, the result of an amputation after a motorcycle accident when he was 25. But after he plunged into diving 10 years ago, he went all in, purchasing a specialized artificial limb that allows him to flutter with the same graceful ease as a dolphin.“I love to explore,” the Columbia, S.C., dive instructor says during a warm Saturday morning at Lake Jocassee. “There’s plenty of fun stuff to do underwater. It’s like taking a trip to outer space without leaving the planet.”Scuba is a gear-intensive sport—a lifestyle, Collingwood calls it—that can start at around $1,500. Still, anyone who has spent more than just a few seconds underwater will tell you that the passion of scuba diving hits fast and hard. That’s pretty obvious when you see 71 divers sink into mid-60-degree water for the annual Poker Dive in Lake Jocassee.Today, everyone’s clad from toes to nose in black neoprene wet suits, weight belts, air tanks with 3,000 pounds per square inch of pressure, buoyancy-compensator vests, masks, snorkels and fins. And … down … they go. Bubbles betray their progress as they flipper along pink lines that lead to buckets filled with poker chips.The underwater card game kicks off scuba season for the Bermuda Triangle Dive Shop in Columbia, S.C. They make regular vists to Lake Jocassee throughout the summer, as well as to Lake Keowee’s “hot hole,” where the Oconee Nuclear Station generates bathtub-warm water.On this 84-degree morning in late May, the school of human fish has collected the poker chips. They waddle up the boat ramp to turn in their chips and collect their prizes. The winning hand belongs to Reynolds McLeod, a 16-year-old rising sophomore at Greenville High School.Scenes from Deliverance, the iconic James Dickey film, were shot in this pristine, idyllic valley before Duke Energy bought up all the land there and flooded it. Among the drowning victims: the Attakulla Lodge, a sprawling wooden bed-and-breakfast that for half a century sat only 20 yards from water’s edge. Now it sits more than 300 feet below the surface, too deep for all but the most technical divers; only a handful of people have ventured down to the legendary lodge.Where many do dive, though, is the submerged Mount Carmel Baptist Church Cemetery, which also played a role in Deliverance. The cemetery’s previous residents were relocated. But the eeriness remains about 130 feet down.Beyond ghosts, there’s still much to see: a soda machine, a basketball goal, a few plastic skeletons in lawn chairs and, under an algae-covered platform, a giant fish that could scare the air right out of you… until you realize it’s not real.Scuba is real, though, a unique experience that gives folks who enjoy traveling yet another way to see places that most tourists don’t go—including a World War II U-boat submerged off the coast of North Carolina. While everyone must have a “dive buddy” for every descent, it’s still possible to get a little lost in a way. After all, you’re hearing little more than bubbles from your own measured breath in a dream world of weightlessness. Or, as Burt Reynolds’ character, Lewis, says in Deliverance: “Sometimes you have to lose yourself ’fore you can find anything.”
The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service guts protections for the last red wolves in the wild.Ron Sutherland drove for hours through the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge, alternately inching forward and braking to scan swaths of cropland as long as jetliner runways. He was determined to make a good stab at seeing a red wolf, but carried on a casual conversation, aware that his pursuit was an extreme long shot.He then stopped talking mid-sentence and focused his binoculars at a couple of distant specks. “Two wolves. Score!” he says, rushing from behind the wheel for a better view. His lenses revealed a pair of German shepherd-sized animals, dark along the spine, copper-colored at the flanks and shoulders, with white patches under their jaws that were visible even from 200 yards away, even in the fading light of evening. Sutherland, a conservation scientist with the non-profit Wildlands Network, watched and photographed until nightfall as the wolves rooted for mice and then lay down to rest. Back in the car, he tried to put this sighting into perspective.“If you think of this in the grand scheme of endangered species spotting, there’s probably 5,000 snow leopards and 2,000 Bengal tigers,” says Sutherland. “There are fewer than 30 red wolves. Maybe a species of rhino is the only thing as bad off as these guys.”Just how bad off was documented in a 2016 study on the viability of red wolves commissioned by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. In the previous nine years, the world’s only wild population, which lives in and around the refuge in eastern North Carolina, had dwindled from 148 animals to fewer than 60, and the most recent estimates put this number as low as 29. Without bold intervention, the study said, a species that once roamed most of the Southeast is doomed to extinction in the wild, probably within the next decade.“You have an agency [the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service] that is charged with the recovery of the species. Instead, it seems intent on overseeing the elimination of the species.”—Sierra Weaver, Southern Environmental Law Center attorneyBut instead of scrambling to save the wild population, state and federal wildlife agencies have steadily rolled back protections, culminating in late June with U.S. Fish and Wildlife announcing plans to slash the wolves’ reintroduction zone by 90 percent, leaving it far too small to sustain a wild population, and allowing unrestricted hunting of wolves on private property outside of that zone.“This is a death sentence for red wolves in the wild,” says Ben Prater, Southeast program director for Defenders of Wildlife.Several factors have contributed to the population’s decline, including hostility from influential landowners, the spread of the coyote population into the recovery zone, and questions about both Fish and Wildlife’s management practices and the genetic provenance of red wolves.But by far the main reason that wild wolves now appear doomed, according to environmentalists, is that government bodies have turned their backs on a population they are mandated to protect.“You have an agency that is charged with the recovery of the species,” says Sierra Weaver, a lawyer with the Southern Environmental Law Center, about U.S. Fish and Wildlife. “Instead, it seems intent on overseeing the elimination of the species.”Ron Sutherland scans the Alligator River Wildlife Refuge searching for the last red wolves in the wildThe ComebackThis is especially disappointing to activists because for decades the service touted red wolf reintroduction as a groundbreaking victory.After the passage of the 1973 Endangered Species Act and before the species was declared extinct in the wild in 1980, Fish and Wildlife captured 400 of the last remaining red wolves from coastal Louisiana and Texas. Fourteen wolves, meticulously scrutinized and selected as the most representative of their kind, were chosen as the founders of an ongoing captive breeding program that now holds about 200 wolves at zoos and other facilities across the country.The first of these cage-raised animals were released in 1987 at Alligator River, selected for its remote location and the absence of the wolf’s close relative and competitor, the coyote. According to the Fish and Wildlife website, it was “the first time in this nation’s history that a federally listed species was reintroduced to the historic range from which it had been extirpated.”The program pioneered techniques that helped build the population from the original eight wolves to its peak in 2007. These included the introduction into wild litters of weeks-old, captive-born pups, which were often adopted and raised to adulthood by breeding pairs. And, after coyotes began to spread onto the 1.7 million-acre, five-county wolf reintroduction zone in the 1990s, the program started capturing and sterilizing the smaller animals to serve as “placeholders.” This proved to limit breeding between coyotes and wolves and discourage intrusion by fertile coyotes, a species hard-wired to detect and advance into unoccupied territory.“There were multiple scientific reviews of the placeholder theory, and they found it to be extraordinarily successful,” Weaver says.“It was all learning as you go, but we developed a blueprint that was applied to a lot of other programs,” says David Rabon, a former federal wildlife biologist who started helping with the program in 1999 and served as recovery coordinator from 2009 to 2014.A faded sign outside the temporarily shuttered Red Wolf Education Center in Columbia, just west of Alligator River, proclaims the program “A Howling Success,” and lists its many benefits: controlling the exotic nutria that destroy crops and the raccoons that kill ground-breeding birds; promoting the health of the deer herd by preying on weak and sick animals; and drawing tourists eager to see endangered wolves.“Why are we not proud of that?” asks Kim Wheeler, executive director of the Red Wolf Coalition. “I don’t know why the state of North Carolina is not saying, ‘Come see the only population of red wolves in the world!’ Why is the state not shouting from the rooftops?” The OppositionFar from bragging about the wolves, activists say, the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission further exposed them to the same threat that wiped them out in the first place, what scientists call “gunshot mortality.”A 2007 spike in the number of wolves shot and killed by hunters was blamed partly on abundance; there were just more of them to kill. But these deaths remained high through 2013, when hunters killed nine wolves, even as the wolf population declined. These killings drove the decline far beyond the direct loss of animals felled by bullets. Because many were breeding adults, their deaths left unattached mates unable to produce young and more likely to breed with coyotes.“If you had 12 to 15 packs on the ground, you were losing a third to a half of the breeding pairs per year,” Rabon says. “It was just unsustainable.”Grim as the findings were, the scientists who wrote the study said it pointed to a clear solution. “USFWS should enhance recovery by providing information and education about red wolves to hunters and the general public.”North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, however, was sending a different message.In 2012, the agency allowed night hunting of coyotes throughout the state, saying it needed to provide landowners “more tools” to manage the animals on their property—even though science has shown hunting fails to control the species’ advance.Because most wolves are killed by hunters who mistake them for coyotes, or at least claim to, the Southern Environmental Law Center sued N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission on behalf of three environmental groups, arguing that hunting would result in more deaths of a federally endangered animal. The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission lawyers have argued that wolves were already adequately protected by the captive breeding program and that this “experimental and non-essential” wild population didn’t deserve the full protection of the Endangered Species Act.After the federal judge sided with the wolf advocates in 2014, issuing an injunction to temporarily stop coyote hunting in the reintroduction zone and the two sides reached a settlement banning night hunting there, N.C. Wildlife Commission ramped up its opposition.In 2015, it issued resolutions asking U.S. Fish and Wildlife to remove the wolves from the wild, declare the species extinct and “terminate the Red Wolf Reintroduction Program for free-ranging red wolves in North Carolina.”It’s not hard to trace the forces behind this stance, Sutherland said. As Republicans gained power in the state, including taking control of both the governor’s office and the legislature in 2012, politicians appointed commissioners who were more conservative and more likely to listen to activist hunters such as developer Jett Ferebee, who owns a large farm in the recovery zone.Ferebee, who didn’t respond to interview requests, has relentlessly pushed the idea that wolves are a menace to wildlife, writing in a 2014 guest column on an eastern North Carolina news website, The County Compass, that wolves had wiped out deer on his farm, where they were once so numerous his children called it “the Zoo.” The $30 million program, he continued, is a prime example of government intrusion and waste, and the species, never pure to begin with, had become a hopelessly hybridized “coywolf.”In an interview with Blue Ridge Outdoors, N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission Executive Director Gordon Myers denied political influence and said the resolutions were “absolutely based on science.”And neither he nor the resolutions repeat Ferebee’s claim about declining deer populations—the main complaint of landowners—which was discounted by a 2013 Fish and Wildlife analysis of state deer hunting statistics. These numbers, the report concluded, “suggest either a flat rate of harvest or an increase from the time of the first wolf releases…through 2013.”Federal documents, meanwhile, support the commission’s claim that Fish and Wildlife expanded the program beyond its original scope.Opponents of reintroduction convinced the Department of Interior to look into this question in 2015. Investigators with the department’s Auditor General’s Office noted that the agency had been careful to obtain permission from the owners of farms where the agency introduced pups and performed coyote sterilizations. But it also concluded the program “released more wolves than it originally proposed.”There is less support, however, for another of Myers’ claims, that “hybridization is really the existential threat to red wolves in the wild.”A 2015 report on the genetic analysis of scat in the recovery zone estimated hybrids account for only 4 percent of red wolf population. And in 2014, a review of birth records found “over four times as many red wolf litters as hybrid litters over a 13-year time period.”The findings are really no surprise, Sutherland says: “Wolves prefer to mate with other wolves.”Ron SutherlandThe GeneticsAre they really wolves?It’s a question that has undermined public support from the start, and an especially damning, headline-grabbing report was released in 2016 by a team led by a Princeton University researcher. It determined that all North American wolves are more closely related to coyotes than previously believed, traceable to a common ancestor as recently as 50,000 years ago. The red wolf, these scientists found, was an even more recent “admixture” of the two species, and really mostly coyote.Because this issue has been the subject of dueling scientific inquiries for decades, wolf advocates had plenty of other studies to point to. Some researchers have found that bones of current wolves compare closely to fossilized wolf remains from the region, while others have determined that, despite the animals’ similarities, wolves and coyotes look to be, and function as, different species. Red wolves, which top out at about 80 pounds, are nearly twice as big as coyotes, and are far more likely to hunt big animals, especially deer. Based partly on this information, a group of scientists convened by Fish and Wildlife in 2016 unanimously agreed the red wolf was distinctive enough to retain endangered species status.How much support this debate has bled from the program is another murky matter, partly because the two sides also can’t agree whether lack of support is a problem.In a 2016 poll, a solid majority of respondents statewide and in the reintroduction zone approved of the recovery program. And when the Fish and Wildlife put out a call for public input about the program last summer, 99.8% of all respondents favored the species’ preservation in the wild. Of the 55,000 comments received, only 10 opposed the program.But in Columbia, N.C., residents tend to be all for hunting and suspicious of the federal government, said Tim Nielsen, owner of Maggie Duke Antiques on the town’s sleepy, historic Main Street.He supports the program, saying it provides a much-needed tourist draw, but adds that “everybody hates it. People are pissed off that tax money is involved and they think it’s a foolish endeavor. I kind of agree with that because…from what I understand, the red wolf is genetically identical to the coyote.”Mike Johnson, who cooperated with FWS scientists on the 10,000 acres of private hunting land managed by his company, Coastal Wildlife Consultants, said he is “neither a friend nor a foe of red wolves.”But because of their uncertain origin, he gets no thrill from seeing them in the wild, he says. “A pure-bred red wolf is a good-looking animal, but so is a zebra.”Fish and Wildlife still asserts the red wolf is a distinct species, but as opposition mounted, it steadily retreated from protecting wild wolves.It has cut the program’s staff and, in 2014, reassigned Rabon, who later left the agency in discouragement. In 2015, it issued a permit that resulted in the killing of a lactating mother wolf and put an end to the pup-fostering and coyote-sterilization initiatives. And in 2016, it announced plans to consider a drastic downsizing, limiting wild wolves to the 160,000-acre Alligator River Refuge and the adjacent Dare County Bombing Range—historically home to only one pack of about 15 animals.The reason Fish and Wildlife cited for the downsizing—that it needed to focus on propping up the imperiled captive wolf population—was immediately discredited by authors of the scientific study on which it relied. Fish and Wildlife, the scientists said, had based this announcement on several “alarming misinterpretations” of their work.Fish and Wildlife’s latest announcement in June could finalize the downsizing of territory and also declares open season on young wolves who naturally seek new territory as they mature.“I don’t think any of us imagined that they would lift restrictions on killing wolves outside of the area,” says Ben Prater, Defenders of Wildlife’s Southeast program director. “This is a stunning and very cruel fate to propose for these red wolves that North Carolinians have expressed overwhelming support for.”Ron SutherlandThe IronyEnvironmentalists point to a central irony in such anti-wolf actions: they are likely to bring about exactly the results that opponents of the restoration program have railed against.Ferebee and his allies claim to be anti-coyote, but shrinking the range of the wolves and ending the placeholder program gives coyotes free rein, Rabon says. “We have seen, on several occasions, red wolves kill coyotes…The red wolves kept the coyotes at bay.”Reintroduction opponents also decry the waste of tax money, but the real waste would be abandoning a program built on an unusually efficient investment of government funds. The $800,000 to $1.2 million spent annually on the recovery program leveraged as much as 20 times that amount in commitments from conservation groups and the “40-plus sites” that breed the captive wolves, Rabon said, adding that these sites may be less likely to cooperate if they don’t see this work as supporting a wild population.About the only aim the critics seem to be accomplishing, wolf advocates say, is ridding a region of its landmark predator and ending an opportunity to restore the natural order that existed before the arrival of European settlers.Hearing and seeing wolves, Sutherland says, “makes you feel like there’s a place of wild America that we have maintained or, in this case, a piece of wild America that we have recreated, and I just don’t want to lose that.”Still A Fighting ChanceSign the petition to stop the U.S. Fish & Wildlife’s proposal to reduce red wolf habitat by 90 percent and allow red wolves to be shot by private landowners.Red Wolf Myths + FactsMyth: “The red wolf is nothing but a gray wolf or coyote hybrid.”FACT: Since 2000, genetic tests have been able to distinguish red wolves from coyotes. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the agency responsible for managing all endangered species, reaffirmed that red wolves are a separate species last year.Myth: “The red wolf is a hopeless case now that the coyote has taken over its former range.”FACT: The red wolf recovery program flourished for 30 years and effectively reduced coyotes within the red wolf’s range. When 150 red wolves roamed the landscape, coyote hybridization rarely occurred. Hybridization with coyotes only began occurring when red wolf populations were drastically diminished by gunshot mortality and fewer wolves were available for reproduction.Myth: “Red wolves have inflicted great damage to deer and other game species.”FACT: The red wolf recovery area is home to plentiful populations of deer, turkey, and other wildlife, and the region offers some of the foremost wildlife viewing opportunities in the eastern U.S. Deer populations have remained steady in the red wolf recovery area, and both the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and even the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commissions have acknowledged that deer populations have not been negatively affected by red wolves.Myth: “We can pull the wild red wolves from North Carolina and keep the species safe in zoos.” FACT: Living and breeding in encaged environments for too many generations will lead to genetic erosion. The long-term health and viability of red wolves will be jeopardized without a wild population on the landscape. The goal of the Endangered Species Act is to recover species in the wild.Myth: “People don’t support red wolf recovery, particularly people who live in the red wolf recovery area in eastern North Carolina.”FACT: Over 99.8% of the 55,000 comments received by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service supported the red wolf recovery program. Only 10 comments opposed the program. A vast majority of North Carolinians support red wolf recovery according to a 2016 survey.
A huge thank you to this year’s contest sponsor, Pilot Cove!Over 50,000 votes poured into our 8th annual Top Adventure Towns Contest. From 55 adventure hubs across the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic, our readers narrowed down their choices to the top three: their favorite large town (population 85,000+), mid-sized town (population 8,500-85,000), and small town (population less than 8,500). Which towns were tops in 2018?Humpback Bridge, the oldest of its kind in the United States / Photo by Ellen KanzingerTop Small Town: Clifton Forge, VirginiaPopulation: 3,715Back in the day when the railroad was king, Clifton Forge, Va., was a major stop along the Chesapeake and Ohio line. When the maintenance yard moved out of state, jobs began disappearing from the area. But the town was blessed with a location the railroad could not take away.Clifton Forge sits along Interstate 64 in Alleghany County, a few miles from the West Virginia border. More than 50 percent of the county is national forest and public lands, offering adventurers of every kind plenty of space to explore the outdoors.Alleghany County, which also encompasses the town of Covington, had the potential to become an outdoor destination but lacked the amenities to capitalize on the location.“You can’t just have it and hope people will come. You have to create the infrastructure and get people here,” said Chad Williams, the director of parks and recreation for Alleghany County.In a small town like Clifton Forge, support from the community is vital to building up that foundation and bringing more visitors to the area.Michael Scales, a transplant from Virginia Beach, is on a mission to turn Clifton Forge into a top mountain biking destination.One of the very first races he competed in was the Middle Mountain Momma at Douthat State Park, one of the six original Virginia State Parks. After that first visit, he could not stay away.“I found that whenever I had a few days off, I’d shoot down here,” Scales said.He lived on the road for a few years, his bikes strapped to the back of his car, visiting when he could. When Scales finally decided to move to Clifton Forge, he wanted to bring other mountain bikers with him. Although he has only lived in town for two and a half years, he saw the future of Clifton Forge that first visit.“It’s kind of fun to see how people have discovered it just like we did and see that small town coolness that you just don’t find in a lot of places anymore.”“People know Douthat State Park, but they don’t know the 150 plus miles of trails in the national forest,” Scales said. “I live here in town, and it’s less than two miles to most trailheads. Once you’re at those trailheads, you can ride for a full day without seeing any pavement. Everything is connected.”When Scales is not working as the general manager at Jack Mason’s Tavern and Brewery, he is setting up travel accommodations for biking groups coming into the area and organizing volunteers to maintain overgrown trails. Ride CFVA is a manifestation of his plan to market Clifton Forge as a top mountain biking destination. Scales plans to offer guided tours, shuttle services, and mountain biking events as business grows.Like Scales, Martha Atherholt and Wendy Hudler moved to Clifton Forge after falling in love with the area. In 2009, they opened Jack Mason’s Tavern and expanded in 2017 to include Clifton Forge’s first brewery.“It’s kind of fun to see how people have discovered it just like we did and see that small town coolness that you just don’t find in a lot of places anymore,” Atherholt said.They were used to the bustle of Phoenix, Ariz., and liked the change of pace.“It’s a peaceful area, it’s not a congested area,” Hudler added. “So you can enjoy a hike on a trail and not pass a million people.”The county took advantage of its railroad history to construct the Jackson River Scenic Trail. When completed, the 16-mile trail will connect the town of Covington with Bath County. Built on an old C&O Railroad bed, the trail follows the Jackson River as it flows from Lake Moomaw.Twin brothers Dan and John Mays will be opening Alleghany Outdoors, the area’s only outfitter, at the southern-most trailhead for kayaking, tubing, and mountain bike rentals in April 2019.The push to expand outdoor recreation opportunities in the area extends beyond the public lands. More shops and restaurants have opened in downtown Clifton Forge, offering visitors a taste of the community.“There seems to be a lot of enthusiasm for this renaissance we’re getting into here in this area,” Atherholt said. “Those that have been here for a long time are coming around to the fact that they really have something to offer visitors.”Must SeeStop at the roadside park to take in Humpback Bridge, the oldest bridge of its kind in the United States. Drive up Route 220 to see the 80-foot Falling Spring Falls, an Alleghany landmark.Outdoor EventsSign up for the Jackson River Scenic Trail Marathon, a Boston Marathon qualifying event, in June. Mountain bikers should look out for the Gran Fondo Alleghany, which offers more than 100 miles of racing.Get Out of the SunSee a show or movie at the newly restored Historic Masonic Theatre. If you have extra time, take a stained glass or blacksmith class at the Clifton Forge School of the Arts.Spend the NightBook a room at the Hill Crest Mansion Inn or The Red Lantern Inn for an immersive experience in the history of Clifton Forge. Reserve one of the many cabins or campsites at Douthat State Park to be close to the action.Runner-Up: Abingdon, Va. Population: 8,083Abingdon, Va. may be a small town, but the opportunities for outdoor adventure are endless. Located in Southwest Virginia, Abingdon offers easy access to the Blue Ridge Mountains and beyond, including Roanoke, Va., Asheville, N.C., and Knoxville, Tenn.Bike the 34-mile scenic Virginia Creeper Trail • “Float the Fork” with a kayak trip through Adventure Mendota • Hike in Grayson Highlands State Park, home to Virginia’s highest peakFounders Park / Photo courtesy of Johnson City CVBTop Mid-sized Town: Johnson City, TennesseePopulation: 66,500Although the mountains and rivers have always been there, Johnson City is a relatively new adventure town.Like many boom towns, Johnson City was once a meeting place for the railroads, musicians, and bootleggers. Johnson City has embraced outdoor recreation as an economic driver in the last five years, capitalizing on what the locals had always enjoyed but had not advertised to the rest of the world.Chad Wolfe moved from Chicago to Johnson City at a time when Trek bike stores were virtually nonexistent in the Southeast. He and his wife looked at Asheville, N.C., but the market there was already saturated with other bike shops.Johnson City was not really on the map as an outdoor destination and Wolfe wanted to be at the forefront of an emerging cycling community.“Outdoor recreation is probably the sexiest thing in America right now because it’s not going to go away,” he said. “Johnson City is authentic in the sense that we actually have mountains here, as opposed to 45 minutes away in another town.”To engage the local community, Wolfe started with the Taco Trek. Four years later, hundreds of riders come out for the 30-minute bike ride from the Trek store to Holy Taco and Cantina.Capitalizing on that success, Wolfe started a second group ride every other Saturday morning, fittingly titled Bikin’ and Eggs.“This is a beautiful location with immediate access to world-class outdoor areas with some of the best resources.”Since Wolfe moved five years ago, the city has opened four new parks.In 2015, the city completed the 10-mile Tweetsie Trail without any federal or state funding. A state study predicted the project would cost six million dollars. Johnson City turned the old rail line into a multipurpose trail for a third of that cost through private funding and donations.On any given day, you will find dozens of runners, bikers, and those just enjoying the scenery on the trail connecting Johnson City and Elizabethton.The success of Tweetsie Trail demonstrated how much the community was behind this kind of project.Tannery Knobs, the town’s most recent city park, is almost ready to open to the public.This bike skill park is designed for riders of all abilities, featuring multiple green, blue, and black level trails as designated by the International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA).“Every single trail in there was built almost like a theme,” Wolfe said. “One might be narrow and rocky, the other one might be wide, flowy, and jumpy. Another one might just have the great overlook with the very gradual slope. But it’s all designed around the experience.”Johnson City also received a grant from the State of Tennessee to put in a pump track at the top of the mountain. The track is designed to help kids and beginners get used to the feel of mountain biking.The project came together in about a year and a half, largely due to the volunteers who helped shape the park.Hikers at the Buffalo Mountain overlooks / Photo courtesy of Johnson City CVB“We would have anywhere from 50 to 75 people out there helping dig the trails,” said Jacob Grieb.Grieb, a co-owner of Atlantic Ale House in downtown Johnson City, was on the original committee tasked with planning Tannery Knobs.“I think it’s one of the hidden gems of the Great Smoky Mountains and Blue Ridge Mountains,” said Jacob Grieb. “You can be in the middle of the mountains in a matter of 15 or 20 minutes.”Beyond what is available immediately in Johnson City, visitors can access world renowned hiking trails, whitewater, and fishing. The Appalachian Trail, Nolichucky River, and Watauga Lake are all within a 30-minute drive from the downtown.In March of 2018, Scott Fisher opened one of the first comprehensive outdoor schools in the region. The Nolichucky Outdoor Learning Institute (NOLI) offers a wide range of instructional classes, including whitewater and flatwater kayaking, wilderness first aid, conservation, and outdoor arts right on the river.Although NOLI has only been operational for two months, they have already offered 25 classes for beginners through advanced adventurers.“This is a beautiful location with immediate access to world-class outdoor areas with some of the best resources,” Fisher said. Must SeeIt is only a ten-minute drive from downtown to Buffalo Mountain, a city park that offers a 360-degree view of the town below. There are almost two dozen waterfalls to visit within a 25-mile radius of Johnson City.Outdoor EventsIn August, Johnson City hosted the first annual Meet the Mountains Festival. People of all ages were invited to test their bike skills, navigate the ropes course, or demo paddle boarding at Founders Park. At 15 other sites around the region, visitors participated in sunset and sunrise hikes, disc golf, and trial runs at Tannery Knobs.Get Out of the SunAt the active Gray Fossil Site, paleontologists uncovered the fossils of a saber-tooth cat, alligator, and a mastodon. The International Storytelling Center celebrates the power and tradition of stories as the host of the first national storytelling festival.Spend the NightStay at the Carnegie Hotel for easy access to all of the restaurants and shops downtown. Set up your camp away from the city lights at Roan Mountain State Park.Runner-Up: Cumberland, Md. Population: 20,900Spend the day hiking through the Allegheny Mountains or on the waters of the Potomac before unwinding in downtown Cumberland, Md. Explore all the history and scenery that this town has to offer.Pedal the Great Allegheny Passage • Paddle the North Branch of the Potomac River • Search for fossils at Bone CavePaddlers on the Northwest River Natural Area Preserve / photo by Ellen KanzingerTop Large Town: Chesapeake, VirginiaPopulation: 237,940Chesapeake, Va. may not be a mountainous town, but its extensive waterway and trail systems offer opportunities for adventurers of all abilities to explore a city rooted in history.For a long time, Chesapeake’s neighbors, Virginia Beach and Norfolk, overshadowed what the city had to offer. When Kim Murden was brought on as the Chesapeake Tourism Manager in the early 2000s, one of her responsibilities was to market the city’s outdoor recreation opportunities.Murden said the city focused on “improving upon what was here naturally.” This meant adding water access points that are ADA compliant and walking trails around the city.For adventurers looking for a coastal destination with fewer crowds, Chesapeake has plenty of miles to explore.Kevin Fonda has been leading custom kayak and SUP tours in eastern Virginia and North Carolina for eight years but has been paddling the waterways since he was a teenager. He called the Great Dismal Swamp and Northwest River Natural Area Preserve some of the top paddling on the east coast.“There is variety here that you can make your getaway what you want it to be.”“It’s really an untouched environment,” Fonda said. “A lot of places you paddle, you’re going to run into a lot of buildings and people. Chesapeake is a lot more isolated. It hasn’t changed in thousands of years. Sometimes you have the whole place to yourself.”At one time, the Great Dismal Swamp covered more than a million acres across what is Virginia and North Carolina today. Over time, agriculture and business ate into the swamp. The 112,000 acres that remain are protected as a National Wildlife Refuge.The refuge and preserve are two of the only places in eastern Virginia with dark skies.“A lot people who live in the cities forget how much you can’t see up in the sky,” Fonda said. “People don’t understand until they get out here, away from the city lights.”Lake Drummond at the center of the Great Dismal Swamp / Photo by Ellen KanzingerDeloras Freeman has worked at the refuge for 18 years. As the visitor services specialist, she is in charge of environmental education and special events at the swamp. She said that the Birding Celebration in early spring never fails to attract bird-watchers.“We have visitors that come from all over the United States and out of the country to see the Swainson’s warbler,” Freeman said.The swamp is one of the best places to see this rare species because they nest in such large numbers.The swamp was once home to more than the wildlife. In the last few decades, historians and archaeologists started extensive research into the people who found refuge from their oppressors in the swamp.Indigenous people driven off their land in the early colonial period took to the swamp they knew. Later, slaves sought protection in the dense forest as they made their way north along the Underground Railroad. The water acted as a moat around the islands scattered throughout the swamp and helped cloak their escape.“They had to get all of their needs from the swamp,” Freeman said. “They weren’t just hiding out, it was a whole other society living in the swamp.”The water in the swamp provided a source of drinking water. Tannic acid from the bald cypress forests seeps out and purifies the water of bacteria and algae.Visitors can explore the swamp by foot or bike on one of the many trails running through the refuge. Cars towing boats can access Lake Drummond, one of Virginia’s two natural lakes, in the middle of the swamp through the Interior Ditch.Above the city, the South Norfolk Jordan (SNJ) Bridge offers a unique urban adventure and aerial view of the city. The bridge crosses the Elizabeth River, connecting Chesapeake and Portsmouth. Dubbed the “Brooklyn Bridge of the South,” the SNJ Bridge is taller than the New York landmark at 169 feet above water. Beneath the bridge, the Elizabeth River Park offers water access and a pier that does not require a fishing license.“There is variety here that you can make your getaway what you want it to be,” Murden said. “Whether you want a relaxing experience or you want to do a 50 mile bike ride through the city, all of those things are there and you can really tailor your experience.”Must SeeKayak or canoe along the eastern edge of the refuge through the Dismal Swamp Canal. If you are feeling adventurous, spend the night at the campsite near Lake Drummond. Travelers over 21 should check out Big Ugly Brewing, named for the owner’s 1955 Chevy.Outdoor EventsIn Paddle for the Border, join more than 300 paddlers on the water as you cross from North Carolina into Virginia on the Dismal Swamp Canal. Foodies should travel in October to check out the Great American Food Fest or the Dismal Swamp Art Festival.Get Out of the SunStarting in Spring 2019, visitors can learn about the Battle of Great Bridge at the Great Bridge Battlefield and Waterways History Museum. Stop by 3 Little Black Birds for some vintage, repurposed, and handcrafted shopping.Spend the NightWith more than 40 hotels, you are sure to find a place to stay in Chesapeake. Camp on the bank of the river at the Northwest River Park and Campground.Runner-Up: Roanoke, Va. Population: 99,400The Blue Ridge Mountains in the East Coast’s Mountain Biking Capital have something for everyone. Roanoke, Va. is the perfect place to test your endurance and skill as you hike, bike, or climb above the Roanoke Valley.Boulder at McAfee Knob • Ride mountain bikes to Mill Mountain Park • Float the Roanoke River
Strongest earthquake in a decade jolts Eastern Tennessee On Wednesday a 4.4-magnitude earthquake struck rural east Tennessee, rattling structures as far away as Atlanta. The quake struck at 4:14 a.m. just outside of Decatur, Tennessee near the Great Smoky Mountains. The earthquake was shallow, about 5.5 miles below the surface of the earth, and was the strongest earthquake in the region since 1973 when a 4.7-magnitude earthquake shook Maryville, Tennessee. The United States Geological Survey (U.S.G.S.) said that people in a 310-mile area, from Southern Kentucky to Southwest Georgia, felt the quake. The earthquake struck about two miles east of the Watts Bar Nuclear Plant, one of the largest nuclear power stations in the country. The Tennessee Valley Authority, which operates the plant, reported no damage. About 15 minutes after the initial quake a smaller, 3.3-magnitude jolt also struck. The U.S.G.S. reports that the quakes were not on a fault but did take place in the Eastern Tennessee Seismic Zone, one of the most active earthquake zones in the Southeast. New organization advocates for Virginia’s trailsFormed in early November, the Virginia Trails Alliance is a new coalition of trail-focused organizations dedicated to advocating for trails and trail funding across the state of Virginia. The group grew out of a recommendation from the State Trails Advisory Committee and will advocate for outdoor recreation with the Governor and General Assembly. The coalition is currently inviting all trail-focused non-profit, for-profit and governmental organizations to join. There are no dues, so membership is free. A court decision on Thursday by Virginia’s Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals cancelled the US Forest Service’s federal approval for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to cross the George Washington National Forest, Monongahela National Forest and the Appalachian Trail. The ruling found that the Forest Service approval fell short of federal requirements and that the Forest Service failed to evaluate the risks of landslide and erosion or consider alternative pipeline routes that avoid national forests entirely. The Court also ruled that the Forest Service cannot authorize the pipeline to cross the Appalachian Trail. The Appalachian Trail is part of the National Park System and has Congressional protection from projects such as natural gas pipelines. Court rules that Atlantic Coast Pipeline cannot cross the Appalachian Trail
Study reveals University of North Carolina coal plant releases dangerous toxins well above Clean Air Act limits An analysis released by the Center for Biological Diversity has revealed that the permit for the University of North Carolina’s coal-fired power plant allows four to six times the limits of dangerous nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide pollution found to be safe under the Clean Air Act. In 2010, former Chancellor Holden Thorpe committed to closing the plant and abandoning the use of coal by 2020. After a change in administration in 2017, UNC changed course, announcing it would not close the coal-fired power plant. Models indicate that nearly the entire campus, including outdoor athletic facilities, and numerous residential neighborhoods in Chapel Hill, are at risk from the toxins. UNC-Chapel Hill operates the last coal-fired power plant at a university in the state of North Carolina. University officials claim the plant currently operates more than 15 times lower than their permit limit and said that by the end of 2019 the university will convert the plant to 50 percent natural gas.