By Anna Norwood
High winds and low humidity were the perpetrators in starting multiple wildfires in southeast Virginia that burned almost 40,000 acres of national forest in April.
The Fire and Aviation Supervisor for the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests, Michael Quesinberry, says these fires were the largest on record for Virginia. Quesinberry accredited the wildfires to low humidity, and particularly high winds, rather than drought.
While the U.S. Drought Monitor shows a concentrated area of extreme drought intensity in parts of the Southeast, the soil moisture of the George Washington and Jefferson national forests was at normal levels, suggesting that drought was not the cause of the wildfires.
Quesinberry describes a “recipe for disaster;” four days of high winds and a low humidity of 10 percent, which caused these Virginia wildfires to be so severe.
Luckily, Quesinberry says, there were no catastrophic losses to wildlife. He does not anticipate any wildfires of this magnitude during the summer. These fires grew because of a “four day weather event that came through,” Quesinberry says. He expresses how unfortunate it is that these fires simply ignited in such perfect conditions for wildfires to spread.
68 percent of surveyed Americans who think it’s a bad idea for the nation to put progress toward clean energy on hold during economic difficulty*
76 percentage of Americans who think the U.S. should move to sustainable energy by 2050 *
36 percent of U.S. electricity generated by coal in the first quarter of 2012, the lowest in history, and down more than 8 percentage points since the first quarter of 2011 **
3.1 million new jobs in the U.S. in 2010 associated with the production of green goods and services***
*Civil Society Institute’s Americans and Energy Policy Survey; ** U.S. Energy Information Administration; ***Bureau of Labor Statistics Study
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has extended the deadline for public comments about possible changes to the incentives for landowners and others to take voluntary conservation actions that will help species at risk of becoming threatened or endangered. The organization works with landowners to reverse species decline by taking early and effective actions. The extended deadline for public comment is July 13, 2012. Comments can be submitted at regulations.gov.
A report released on May 14 by Land for Tomorrow, a coalition of North Carolina organizations advocating land and water protection, calls for the protection of 399,000 acres of land and 1,750 miles of waterways across the state during the next five years and urges state leaders to build on past conservation successes. “Securing North Carolina’s Future: A Five-Year Plan for Investing in Our Land, Water and Quality of Life” provides targets for land protection advocates and state policymakers, and highlights conservation’s tremendous impact on North Carolina’s economy. Visit: landfortomorrow.org
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is taking steps to improve air quality by implementing 2008 air quality standards for ground-level ozone and finalizing standards to reduce harmful air pollution associated with oil and natural gas production. Based on the most recent air quality data, the agency determined that 45 areas across the country are not meeting the 2008 standards. One factor contributing to dangerous levels of ozone is oil and natural gas production. New EPA standards will require operators of new gas wells to use technology that prevents the escape of natural gas. High levels of ozone can aggravate asthma or other respiratory conditions and contribute to premature death, especially in people with heart and lung disease.
The first non-profit meat processing center in the country allows local meat to become even more local. The Foothills Pilot Plant, located 40 miles east of Asheville, N.C., in Marion, opened in January and saves area farmers money and time usually spent transporting fowl and game to other plants. The plant is designed to process chickens, turkeys, rabbits and ducks at the rate of 1,000 per day. McDowell County donated the land, the North Carolina Golden LEAF Foundation provided money to build the facility, and eight inmates from the nearby prison provide most of the plant’s staff.
Students from Appalachian State University won a $90,000 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for a project inspired by a hair stylist to prevent hair treatment chemicals from going down the drain. For the “Grow Clean Water” program, students created a model biological graywater system that sends chemical water through aquatic plants chosen for their ability to filter water in natural wetland settings. Once installed, the system will recycle the remaining water through the salon’s toilets for flushing. Over the next two years, students will use the grant money to install the first prototype into the Boone, N.C., salon, Haircut 101.