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Across Appalachia

Wildlife Center Sues for Survival, Bad Fracking Rules for Tenn., Other Shorts

Wildlife Center Sues for Survival

A non-profit wildlife center known for rehabilitating thousands of animals including red-winged hawks, great horned owls and bobcats has filed a lawsuit against the resort town of Beech Mountain, N.C., for what it says is unjust and illegal treatment.

According to Genesis Wildlife Sanctuary, a new ordinance was passed by the town in early 2009, suddenly rendering the 10-year-old facility in violation of its lease. In Sept. 2010, the town gave the sanctuary six months to comply or vacate. Many animals housed at the sanctuary were taken to other facilities and private properties for care, but some had to be euthanized.

In the spring of this year, the town served Genesis with a lawsuit and eviction notice, claiming the sanctuary was still in violation although no animals had been housed on-site since the initial relocation. “From 1999 to 2009, we had no issue with the town,” states Genesis board member Frank Steele. “Out of the clear blue, without even notifying Genesis, we find out the town had voted to adopt this new ordinance.”

The wildlife center has a 60-year land lease with Beech Mountain on what is one of the last remaining developable properties beside the town’s picturesque Buckeye Lake. According to Steele, the town has sought to gain full-use recreation status for the lake, but the state requires additional parking, security and restroom facilities before the designation will be granted.

The center’s most famous resident was North Carolina’s official groundhog, Sir Walter Wally, who traveled to the state capital each February to offer his spring weather prediction. Prior to the removal of the animals, the sanctuary says it had hundreds of visitors each week for educational and volunteer purposes.

Bad Fracking Rules for Tennessee

New fracking rules in the Volunteer State will have little to no effect on the state’s emerging natural gas drilling operations, the Tennessee Clean Water Network says. According to the new Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation rules, the public will be notified of new fracking only if the operation’s water use will exceed 200,000 gallons more more, although no current or proposed fracking sites are close to meeting that threshold. Prior to TDEC’s
finalization of the rules, environmental and citizen groups proposed numerous changes, including lowering the threshold water use, extending public comment periods, prohibiting chemicals such as diesel fuel in fracking fluids and extending the proximity protection for drilling near homes from 200 feet to 1000 feet. TDEC rejected the citizens’ proposal, and passed the new rules at the Oil and Gas Board meeting on Sept. 28. For more information, visit: tcwn.org/frack.

Old-Growth Trees Survive College Football

University administrators at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va., denied a proposal to raze three acres of old-growth forest to develop an athletic practice area, but fell short of guaranteeing the site permanent protection. A campus-wide petition garnered more than 10,000 signatures in support of the area known as Stadium Woods, which includes dozens of white oaks ranging from 100 to over 400 years old.

Shame On Your Neighbor

Duke Energy became the latest utility to hop on the peer pressure bandwagon when it received approval to mail residential customers monthly energy reports showing how their energy usage compares with neighbors living in similar homes. More than 75 utilities in the nation use this tactic to encourage consumers to lower thermostats, turn off the lights or invest in energy efficiency measures to lower their monthly consumption of electricity. Approximately 500,000 eligible households in North Carolina will receive the monthly reports, targeted at customers who have at least 12 months of usage and are not participating in other energy-efficiency programs.

Are Pesky Pests a Plus?

A recently released study from Cornell University shows that getting rid of “unwanted” insects such as mosquitoes, ants and roaches might have unwelcome ecological consequences. The five-year National Science Foundation-funded
project that studied the evening primrose and its natural enemy, plant eating moths, found that removing the pests from the plant’s environment resulted in significant loss in the plant’s natural defenses in as few as three or
four generations, leaving it vulnerable to attack.
The study also showed a loss in yield and taste, and has generated speculation that the results may be applicable to other insect-plant interactions — including food-bearing plants.
For more details, visit: news.cornell.edu

NC Drags Feet Over Offshore Wind

A new report by the National Wildlife Federation shows that despite having more coastal wind energy resources than any other state on the Atlantic coast, North Carolina has only taken the first of nine steps toward developing offshore wind. Studies indicate that the state’s wind resources could produce $22 billion for North Carolina’s economy and create more than 10,000 permanent jobs while providing up to 130 percent of the state’s energy needs.

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