Category Archives: NATURE

Camping Gear is the Best for Emergency Preparedness

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We would not be considered ‘camping purist’, as we usually try to take as many comforts along
the we can handle. This means we have a selection of gear that includes all kinds of cooking,
heating and lighting. The tents and sleeping bags are well-used, but they remain some of the
best investments that we ever made. What we didn’t expect, was that we would have to rely on
them during a natural disaster.

Every time we return from a camping trip we go through everything to make sure that we
replace anything that we have used. It is a habit that I’m glad we established. When a hurricane
hit and the power was off for an entire week, we were some of the only people that we knew
that were set up to ‘survive’.

Without power, the first thing that you grab are the candles, and we had a lot of large one. We
took stock of the lanterns, flashlights, batteries and most of all water. Having a well, no power
also meant no water, but the bottled water wasn’t enough. Food in the refrigerator had to be
depleted first, so we headed to the store to get water and ice. The store was like a moment of
hysteria as everyone was in line and the shelves were almost empty.

We used our small camping stove for cooking and the sleeping bags on the floor to try keep
cool. The hurricane had knocked tree limbs down everywhere and removing them meant
getting bruised and cut. Thank heavens for the emergency medical kit.

I was also thankful that we had packed those ugly rubber boots. There was minor flooding on
the streets and that brought out a lot of snakes. Most are harmless, but we weren’t taking
any chances.

We went around the neighborhood, checking on some of our older neighbors and sharing some
of our food and candles, making sure that they were safe and uninjured. We trudged up and
down the streets in large rubber boots, carrying plastic bags and our camping knives, which is
a strange site to see in a neighborhood.

Luckily, we were only power for one week, but during that time, we used almost all of camping
gear. I would never have thought that this would happen, but then again, who anticipates it?

Emergency Preparedness Kit

Every Home Should Have an Emergency Preparedness Kit

There is nothing that brings the shock of reality than when a natural disaster hits. Sometimes it
can be as simple as a power outage that brings you to the forefront, while others are much
more serious. Almost every day we see news broadcasts about one part of the country or the
world experiencing a disaster, and yet most people aren’t prepared for even the smallest
situation.

Today’s existence relies on being ‘connected’ via internet and cell phone. When the power goes
out, so does the connectivity with the rest of the world, along with the needed heat, cooling and
refrigeration of our food. We are usually lucky enough to have power returned rather quickly,
but this is not always the case if a natural disaster happens. Every home and family should have
some kind of emergency preparedness ‘kit’.

The size of your kit will depend on the amount of room that you to store it in. Those that
live in apartments have less space, but an upper closet shelf can do for the basics. If you have
an attic, basement or garage, then you have a bit more room. If you are a camper, then you
may have your camping gear spread out, and the first is to get all of the gear in a single
location that would be easy to access.

All of the smaller items can be easily stored in a brand new ‘trash container’ or any other
container that seals tightly. Choose your kit contents carefully, placing things that have to be replaced every year (such as batteries) on top, as the last items. It’s best to have a ‘check list’
on the lid of the container.

A basic kit typically includes: flashlight (no batteries), hunting or fishing knives, duct tape,
plastic bags (multiple sizes), a complete emergency health kit, candles, matches, lighters a
camping lantern, small cooking stove, AM or weather radio, rubber boots, paper towels, toilet
paper, and blankets. It’s suggested that you look into a hand crank or solar powered radio
and/or cell phone generator, water purification systems. If the power is out everywhere, the
cell towers won’t work either, and the radio may be your best method of being aware of what
is going on.

For those that are more serious, you may want to have additional containers that hold extra
clothes, shoes and freeze dried food. The biggest need will be water, so if have the space,
bottled water is a must. A gas generator is another added plus, but you will need to have the
gasoline and that need to be changed out every year.

May you never have to use it.

Obama Administration Protects 30,000 Acres from New Mining Claims near Yellowstone National Park

OFFICE OF THE SECRETARY
A herd of bison move from left to right across a grassy hillside with foggy mountains in the background.
11/21/2016

Date: November 21, 2016
Contacts: Interior_press@ios.doi.gov
Mike Illenberg; Mike.Illenberg@oc.usda.gov

PRAY, Mont. – U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell today joined Under Secretary of Agriculture Robert Bonnie, U.S. Senator Jon Tester and Montana Governor Steve Bullock to announce actions to protect important land near Yellowstone National Park from the threat of mining.

New mining claims will now be prohibited on approximately 30,000 acres of U.S. Forest Service land near the park’s northern entrance. The segregation will be in effect for two years while the Departments of Interior and Agriculture evaluate whether to withdraw this land from new mining claims for an additional 20 years, consistent with the Secretary’s authority.

“There are good places to mine for gold, but the doorstep of Yellowstone National Park is not one of them,” said Secretary Jewell. “As we celebrate 100 years of the National Park Service, today’s action helps ensure that Yellowstone’s watershed, wildlife and the tourism-based economy of local communities will not be threatened by the impacts of mineral development.”

“As trustees of our national parks and forests, taking a time-out to balance the benefits of our natural resources and recreation-based local economies against mineral extraction is a commitment we owe the American taxpayer,” said U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. “This need is much more pressing where the potential risks to our extraordinary natural resources and the health of our rural towns are significant.”

Yellowstone National Park saw record breaking visitation in 2015 — 4.1 million visitors — many of whom came to experience the spectacular scenery, abundance of wildlife and relatively undisturbed natural conditions of this remarkable ecosystem. Maintaining high water quality and high-value fisheries are critical to local fisherman and outfitting and guiding businesses. A particular draw for visitors to the Park and the surrounding National Forest lands are the thousands of elk, mule deer, moose, bighorn sheep, pronghorn and bison that migrate from winter ranges in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho to high-elevation summer ranges near the core of Yellowstone National Park. The proposed mineral withdrawal provides critical linkages to major corridors for wildlife migrating to and from Yellowstone.

Neither the Yellowstone segregation nor any withdrawal would prohibit ongoing or future mining exploration or extraction operations on valid pre-existing claims. An exploration permit for the Emigrant tract is currently pending with the Montana Department of Environmentally Quality. Neither the segregation nor the proposed withdrawal would prohibit any other authorized uses on these lands.

During the segregation period, the agencies will conduct an environmental analysis to determine if the lands should be withdrawn for a period of 20 years. This process will invite participation by the public, tribes, environmental groups, industry, state and local government, as well as other stakeholders. Only Congress can legislate a permanent withdrawal.

A 90-day public comment period on the proposed withdrawal will end February 20, 2017. The Custer-Gallatin National Forest will conduct a public meeting for the proposal on January 18, 2017 from 4-7 p.m. at the Shane Center in Livingston, Montana. During the public comment period, written comments about the proposed mineral withdrawal may be submitted to:  Supervisor’s Office of the Custer-Gallatin National Forest, 10 East Babcock Ave., Bozeman, Montana.

re-posted from twitter

 

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Birding

Better Know a Bird: The Clark’s Nutcracker and Its Obsessive Seed Hoarding

Hiding away tens of thousands of pine seeds every year makes the nutcracker a prolific natural forester.

One sunny day in California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains, Diana Tomback met her first Clark’s Nutcracker. As she rested under a pine tree, she noticed a bird wrenching scales from a pinecone. Its persistence in stabbing the cone with its bill, peeling off the scales, and extracting individual pine seeds mesmerized her. She had to know more, and when a park ranger ambled by, Tomback demanded information. That bird, the ranger said, was a ‘pine crow,’ and the tree was a whitebark pine.

When she returned to graduate school, she was determined to find out more. “I was utterly consumed by this bird, its behaviors, and the interaction with the whitebark pine,” Tomback says. A bit of research revealed this ‘pine crow’ to be a Clark’s Nutcracker. But she couldn’t find much else. The Eurasian Nutcracker had been studied in Russia, Germany, and France, but there was little known about its North American cousin.

“I realized: My gosh, what an incredible bird and interaction to study,” she says. So Tomback devoted herself to the cause. Since the 1970s, Tomback, who’s now an ecologist at the University of Colorado, Denver, has published dozens of papers about the Clark’s Nutcracker. Along the way, she’s discovered that the birds are more remarkable than she imagined. Clark’s Nutcrackers are winged foresters, whose penchant for hoarding seeds contributes to the growth of new pine forest.

A Craving for Cones
Clark’s Nutcrackers are experts at the difficult art of freeing seeds from pinecones. Each cone contains dozens of seeds, which are inaccessible to most animals until autumn when the cones open and spread their protective scales. But nutcrackers don’t have to wait. As stiff, unripe cones become available each July, they jab their strong, piercing bills between scales to loosen and tear out bits of seeds.

It’s not easy work. Clark’s Nutcrackers spend so much time hacking apart pinecones that sticky resin sometimes dyes their grey feathers a reddish-purple color. But the prize is worth the effort: Pine seeds are a nutritious food, packed with fats, proteins, and carbs. They are so rich that it doesn’t take many to satiate a nutcracker’s appetite—and it’s then that the bird’s habits get really interesting.

Photo: Marshal Hedin/Flickr CC (BY- SA 2.0)Hide and Seek
While other birds prepare for winter by feasting and fattening up for lean times, these sleek gray corvids use their landscape as a larder. After a Clark’s Nutcracker eats its fill of pine seeds, it stores the rest—upwards of 100 pine seeds at a time—in an expandable pocket below its tongue.

The bird then flies around the forest, burying clusters of four or five seeds in the soil; during peak pinecone season, it will cache up to 500 seeds per hour. By the end of the fall, each nutcracker has stashed tens of thousands of seeds, a food source it relies on throughout the winter.

Remarkably, the birds manage to find their caches later. They often hide seeds near the base of tree trunks, a tendency “that may play an important role in their spatial memory system,” Tomback says. Landmarks help nutcrackers remember the precise locations of caches, so they can retrieve and eat seeds when trees are coneless and the weather turns cold.

“These birds probably remember up to 10,000 caching locations” at a given time, says ecologist Mario Pesendorfer of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. But their memory fades over time. Within nine or 10 months, many uneaten seeds lie forgotten beneath the forest floor.

Foresters with Wings
Nutcrackers often bury their seeds at the perfect depth for germination, and given time and a bit of luck, abandoned seeds will sprout and grow into new trees. In this way, their overzealous seed hiding means that Clark’s Nutcrackers play a critical role as foresters, planting new generations of pine trees that conveniently spring up from the oversupply.

Crucially, the birds will hide seeds as far as 20 miles away from their source trees. In doing so, they help trees expand their territory into new areas. As development continues to fragment forests and climate change demands rapid migration, “animals that move between patches of habitat are increasing in importance,” Pesendorfer says.

Nutcrackers have an especially close relationship with the whitebark pine. Even in the fall, whitebark pinecones don’t open on their own; the seeds remain trapped behind tightly locked scales. It’s largely up to Clark’s Nutcrackers to free those seeds with their hammering beaks and then help spread them. Also unlike other pines, whitebark seeds don’t have “wings” that let them ride gusts of wind across the landscape. Instead, the seeds and cones seem optimized for a nutcracker’s bill, and as such, the trees rely on the birds’ forgetfulness to reproduce.

The relationship has served both species well, but researchers are growing worried because whitebark pines are now in decline. A deadly fungus called white pine blister rust is spreading through the West’s pine forests. Simultaneously, mountain pine beetles are chewing through the trees, a problem made worse by climate change. The loss of pinecones shouldn’t threaten Clark’s Nutcrackers; they can feed on a variety of seeds and cones along with insects and fruits, so they are safe for now. But as whitebark pines vanish from the landscape, they will produce fewer seeds, and the birds that once helped them proliferate might not be able to cache enough to sustain the tree.

However, it’s possible that the birds could play a part in helping the whitebark pine recover. Human foresters are now studying how to attract Clark’s Nutcrackers to aid in forest restoration. As fantastical as it sounds, this isn’t an unprecedented effort. Since at least the 1950s, German foresters have harnessed the abilities of another scatter-hoarding corvid, the Eurasian Jay, to their advantage. Instead of doing the hard labor of replanting oak trees, they put out buckets of acorns and “let the jays do their thing,” Pesendorfer says. It’s estimated that the jays plant up to 1,600 oaks per acre. If Clark’s Nutcrackers could do the same—but with whitebark pine seeds resistent to blister rust—they could be the savior’s of the West’s pine forests.

 REPOSTED FROM AUDUBON