Thanks to the help of 11-year-old Aiden Coleman, Virginia’s official state reptile may soon be the eastern garter snake. The snake, though fearful and notoriously smelly, is harmless to humans and known to be excellent at pest control. Coleman believes these factors, among others, make it deserving of the state title. After he detailed this to State Delegate Brenda L. Pogge, she drafted a bill to honor the snake. The bill slithered its way through the general assembly with minimal opposition and was approved at the end of February. A decision from Gov. Terry McAuliffe will finalize the designation. — Dylan Turner
After 17 years of moving through five different stages of subterranean growth, this spring cicadas’ wings will sing across a swath of eastern Ohio and northern West Virginia, according to the Charleston Gazette. Scientists expect that around mid-May, when the soil is warm enough and sufficient rain has fallen, a mass emergence of the locust-like insects will occur. Severe weather and changes to the landscape, among other factors, influence how many will emerge. When these cicadas last flew, in 1999, the U.S. Department of Agriculture described the 17-year brood as the largest that occurs in either state. — Eliza Laubach
For the fourth time in the past eight years, Congress has the chance to increase conservation protections for land in east Tennessee to the highest level. Rep. Phil Roe (R-TN) and Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) introduced legislation in February to designate more than 7,000 acres of Cherokee National Forest as wilderness. Big Laurel Branch and Sampson Mountain wilderness areas would also be expanded in some areas along the Appalachian Trail corridor. This proposal includes far less acreage than past unsuccessful proposals in the Senate, but it still garners substantial local support. — Eliza Laubach
In a study of 75 streams across the Southeast, the U.S. Geological Survey found that nearly 40 percent of the streams tested contained a toxin called microcystin. The toxin is produced by algae, and in high concentrations can cause “nausea, dermatitis and, in severe cases, liver failure,” the report stated.
While no areas tested contained high levels of the toxin, further research is needed to assess possible risks to drinking water and aquatic ecosystems. — Elizabeth E. Payne
Appalachian Trail Conservation Leadership Corps, formed by a partnership between The Appalachian Trail Conservancy and the CAN’d Aid Foundation, offers 10-week paid internships for 18 to 25 year-olds to experience leadership and gain outdoor management skills from May to June.
Focusing on various skills including trail crew operations, invasive species control, visitor management, conservation leadership and more, these internships aim to prepare participants to work in outdoor conversation programs. For more information, visit tinyurl.com/at-conserve
Have you ever wanted to learn how to start a fire by friction? Or how to make bark into a basket? You can learn these skills and more at the sixth annual Whippoorwill Festival in eastern Kentucky this July.
The festival’s goal is to promote sustainable living through sharing and practicing earth-based skills. The event also seeks to preserve ways of life that have fallen out of practice since modernity and manufacturing have changed the way humans interact with nature. At Whippoorwill, in addition to onsite camping, people can participate in workshops on medicinal plants, birds, sustainable agriculture and survival skills. The gathering also honors Appalachian culture with a workshop on ballads and by offering nightly entertainment from regional musicians and jam sessions around the fire. — Eliza Laubach
When: July 7-10
Where: Lago Linda Hideaway in Beattyville, Ky.
Cost: $35 – $125