The Environmental Journal of Southern Appalachia

News

  • Monarch butterflies, an ephemeral but regular glimpse of beauty, are fluttering toward extinction
    Stephen Lyn Bales
    Wednesday, 10 August 2022

     Bales Monarch on coneflowerA monarch butterfly, recently declared endangered despite decades of conservation, is seen atop a coneflower. Stephen Lyn Bales

    Dramatic monarch declines mean the bell tolls for we

    KNOXVILLE Monarch butterflies are ephemeral by nature. The orange and black dalliances that flitter through our lives, our yards, and our countryside like motes of dust are here one minute and gone the next. We pause for a few seconds to watch the “flutter-bys” and then move on.

    For about all of the Lepidopteran family, where they come from, where they go, their raison d'être, we don’t ask. They are winged wisps that pass through our busy lives. But that is not true with this orange and black butterfly, named to honor King William III of England, the Prince of Orange. But two people did ask.

    Norah and Fred Urquhart lived in Southern Canada and in the late 1930s they noticed that the monarch butterflies seemed to all be fluttering south this time of the year. Could they possibly be migrating and if so, where did they go? The notion that a butterfly might migrate south for the winter seemed hard to fathom. Yes, broad-winged hawks migrate. But a flimsy butterfly?

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  • At Gray Fossil Site, paleontologists let the bone-crushing dog out
    East Tennessee State University
    Tuesday, 09 August 2022

    Gray fossil site bone crushing dogIllustration of the Gray Fossil Site bone-crushing dog, recently determined to have been active in the ancient Southern Appalachians. Mauricio Anton via ETSU

    Discovery of ancient ambush predator is one of few large carnivores found at East Tennessee paleontological site

    JOHNSON CITY Overseen by the Don Sundquist Center of Excellence in Paleontology at East Tennessee State University, researchers have studied the Gray Fossil Site for over 20 years. They have identified many extinct animal and plant species of the Pliocene epoch that lived there some 5 million years ago. While large herbivores are well known from the site, large predators are relatively uncommon, so far including only alligators and scarce remains of at least one sabertooth cat. 

    Now, there’s a new predator on the scene.  

    A recent study published in the Journal of Paleontology describes a single right humerus (upper arm bone) of an animal named Borophagus, a member of an extinct group more commonly called bone-crushing dogs. The animal is so named for its powerful teeth and jaws. This is the first evidence of any animals in the dog family from the Gray Fossil Site.

    The research was conducted by Emily Bōgner, a doctoral student at the University of California, Berkeley, and alumnus of ETSU’s paleontology master’s program, and Dr. Joshua Samuels, associate professor in the ETSU Department of Geosciences and curator at the Gray Fossil Site and Museum.  

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  • SACE sees many silver linings in Senate climate bill; House passage expected
    Amy Rawe
    Monday, 08 August 2022

    UN Climate ChangeA rainbow pierces gray skies during the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow. United Nations

    Climate activists stress positives of Senate climate bill despite its shortcomings 

    Amy Rawe is communications director for Knoxville-based Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.

    KNOXVILLE The U.S. Senate passed the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), an estimated $430 billion bill, of which approximately $370 billion will be allocated to investments in clean energy and to address climate change.

    It’s the single largest climate investment in U.S. history, and if it passes the House, will put the country on a path to be able to achieve roughly 40 percent emissions reduction from 2005 levels by 2030, reestablishing our influence in meeting the Paris Agreement goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. 

    If passed, the Inflation Reduction Act will:

    • Give opportunities to hundreds of thousands of Americans to work in well-paying jobs manufacturing, installing, and maintaining clean energy, energy efficiency, and clean transportation
    • Lower Americans’ cost of electricity by spurring the development of hundreds of gigawatts of low-cost clean energy, including wind, solar, and battery energy storage.
    • Protect drivers from expensive and volatile fuel costs through financial incentives to switch to electric vehicles.
    • Reduce households’ bills through historic investments in rebates and tax credits for home energy efficiency and efficient electric appliances.
    • Promote environmental justice and direct resources and benefits to disadvantaged communities, which are often overlooked for investment and bear heavy costs of fossil fuel pollution.
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  • Dems pass huge climate bill assailed by some as another fossil energy sop
    Airiana Figueroa and Jacob Fischler
    Monday, 08 August 2022

    5 July 2022 US Significant Climate Events Map

    Record-setting bill will fund extensive efforts to address climate change, but the sausage-making deal is decried by some as a ‘suicide pact’

    This story was originally published by Tennessee Lookout.

    WASHINGTON The U.S. Senate, along party lines, passed a sweeping energy, health care, climate and tax package Sunday afternoon, following an overnight marathon of votes that resulted in just a handful of notable changes to the legislation.

    The 755-page bill was passed after Vice President Kamala Harris broke a 50-50 tie in the evenly divided Senate. It now heads to the House, where Democratic leaders have announced they will take it up on Friday.

    At last, we have arrived,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said.  Democratic senators broke out into applause as Harris announced passage of the bill, expected to total more than $700 billion.

    Schumer, a New York Democrat, said he dedicated the measure to young Americans who have pushed and protested for the Senate to take action on climate change. 

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  • An under-appreciated Black scientist pioneered the modern study of bees and other insects
    Edward D. Melillo
    Wednesday, 03 August 2022

    Charles Henry Turner zoologistZoologist Charles Henry Turner was the first scientist to prove certain insects could remember, learn and feel. Charles I. Abramson via The Conversation

    Charles Henry Turner concluded that bees can perceive time and develop new feeding habits in response 

    This story was originally published by The Conversation. Edward D. Melillo is a professor of history and environmental studies at Amherst College.

    On a crisp autumn morning in 1908, an elegantly dressed African American man strode back and forth among the pin oaks, magnolias and silver maples of O’Fallon Park in St. Louis, Missouri. After placing a dozen dishes filled with strawberry jam atop several picnic tables, biologist Charles Henry Turner retreated to a nearby bench, notebook and pencil at the ready.

    Following a midmorning break for tea and toast (topped with strawberry jam, of course), Turner returned to his outdoor experiment. At noon and again at dusk, he placed jam-filled dishes on the park tables. As he discovered, honeybees (Apis mellifera)Apis melliferahoneybees (Apis mellifera) were reliable breakfast, lunch and dinner visitors to the sugary buffet. After a few days, Turner stopped offering jam at midday and sunset, and presented the treats only at dawn. Initially, the bees continued appearing at all three times. Soon, however, they changed their arrival patterns, visiting the picnic tables only in the mornings.

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  • Updated: Summer of weather anomalies continues as deadly floods ravage SE Kentucky
    Thomas Fraser
    Thursday, 28 July 2022

    ky floodsHeavy flooding is seen in eastern Kentucky this weekend. State of Kentucky/Office of Gov. Andy Beshear

    Another round of severe flooding hits the Southern Appalachian region

    UPDATED: The death toll from last week’s unprecedented flooding in Kentucky reached at least 29, as some areas contended with additional flooding over the weekend. Fifteen of those, including four children, died in Knott County, which is about 100 miles north of Kingsport.

    Water service to nearly 67,000 connections has been affected, as well as 17 wastewater-treatment systems in eastern Kentucky, according to Gov. Andy Beshear’s office. 

    “We are currently experiencing one of the worst, most devastating flooding events in Kentucky’s history. The situation is dynamic and ongoing,” Beshear said in a statement.

    “What we are going to see coming out of this is massive property damage and we expect loss of life. Hundreds will lose their homes. And this will be yet another event that will take not months, but years, for our families to rebuild and recover from.”

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  • Nursing vanishing sharks far from the sea
    Doug Strickland
    Wednesday, 20 July 2022

    Newly hatched Shorttail Nurse Shark pups (Pseudoginglymostoma brevicaudatum) at the Tennessee Aquarium.Tennessee AquariumTennessee Aquarium hatches endangered shark species

    CHATTANOOGA The Tennessee Aquarium reached a significant milestone just in time for Shark Week with the recent hatching of three critically endangered short-tail nurse shark pups. 

    The diminutive youngsters, which hatched July 7, are the product of three adult short-tail nurse sharks — one male and two females — which arrived at the aquarium along with eight juveniles and eight fertilized eggs from a facility in Canada last year.

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  • Updated: Knox County Commission approves revisions to “use-on-review” policy
    Wolf Naegeli
    Sunday, 24 July 2022

    Knox County Mayor Jacobs and the Knox County Commission intend to further limit citizen rights to oppose neighborhood disrupting developments.

    KNOXVILLE County Commission passed on first reading Monday an amendment to the county's process for appealing Planning Commission decisions, according to Compass.

    "The revised measure passed on first reading with seven out of 11 votes, but Commission Chair Richie Beeler said his support was soft and he would need to be persuaded to vote for it a second time next month. If approved, the ordinance would give developers the option to have appeals of their plans heard by the BZA or in Chancery Court," Compass reported.

    Hellbender's initial story follows:

    Residents and developers who do not agree with a decision of the Knoxville-Knox County Planning Commission to permit or deny a land use that is somewhat unusual for their neighborhood can appeal to the city’s Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA). If their appeal is denied they may further appeal to the City Council, and as a last resort to the Circuit Court.

    Knox County residents and developers, however, are not allowed to appeal to County Commission if the county BZA denies their appeal. For a second reconsideration, they must directly go to court, which tends to be prohibitively expensive for many.

    Now Jacobs and most county commissioners want to take away the option to appeal to the BZA for such projects outside the city limits, leaving the Circuit Court as the one and only way to have concerns reconsidered.

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  • Thinking Globally: Many places suffer even worse inflation!
    EarthSolidarity™
    Saturday, 23 July 2022

    MOTHER EARTH  Scarcity of food, lack of safety nets and paucity of solidarity lead to famine. 12-minute video raises awareness of how global crises combine with intricate national and international issues to precipitate local predicament.

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  • Light pollution blurs our contact with the heavens and makes our noses run
    Yuyu Zhou
    Friday, 15 July 2022

    nasa middwest nighttimeThe Midwest U.S. is seen in this image taken at night from the International Space Station. It's a good representation of the challenges presented by light pollution in the Southern Appalachians and beyond. NASA

    Light pollution is disrupting the seasonal rhythms of plants and trees, lengthening pollen season in US cities

    This story was originally published by The Conversation. Yuyu Zhou is an associate professor of environmental science at Iowa State University.

    City lights that blaze all night are profoundly disrupting urban plants’ phenology — shifting when their buds open in the spring and when their leaves change colors and drop in the fall. New research I coauthored shows how nighttime lights are lengthening the growing season in cities, which can affect everything from allergies to local economies.

    (Hellbender Press has covered light pollution, such as this great article from Rick Vaughan).

    In our study, my colleagues and I analyzed trees and shrubs at about 3,000 sites in U.S. cities to see how they responded under different lighting conditions over a five-year period. Plants use the natural day-night cycle as a signal of seasonal change along with temperature.

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  • U.S. Supreme Court’s recent clean-air ruling renews spotlight on fossil-energy producers like TVA
    Anita Wadhwani
    Tuesday, 12 July 2022

    TVA 4 Cumberland FP

    Supreme Court air-pollution ruling calls into stark context all that must be done

    This story was originally published by Tennessee Lookout.

    KNOXVILLE The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling limiting the power of the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate carbon emissions that cause climate change has renewed the spotlight on the Tennessee Valley Authority, the nation’s largest public utility and Tennessee’s primary source of electricity.

    The case involved EPA efforts to implement a key provision of the Clean Air Act in a challenge brought by 15 Republican-led states. That provision, which never went into effect, would have required existing power plants to shift from dirty sources of energy — such as coal — to cleaner sources, including solar and wind, as part of an urgent effort to reduce global warming.

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  • ORNL researcher models fire’s growing footprint in a changing climate
    Thomas Fraser
    Thursday, 07 July 2022

    COVER 1208 GatlinburgsInferno3Wild turkeys forage in charred hardwood forest soon after the 2016 Gatlinburg fires, which moved from the Smokies to developed areas in Sevier County. An ORNL model predicts wildfire threats will increase in the Southern Appalachians because of climate change. Thomas Fraser/Hellbender Press via Knoxville Mercury

    ORNL report: Local wildfire danger will likely loom larger because of climate change

    OAK RIDGE This cruel summer, the Southern Appalachian region is already baking in above-normal temperatures and basking in poor air quality. 

    Air temperatures in Knoxville flirted with 100 degrees on July 6, which were well above average and prompted the National Weather Service to issue a heat advisory for much of the metropolitan area.

    It’s hard to definitively link a heat wave to global warming, but one oft-cited consequence of climate change is the growing intensity of wildfires, even in the traditionally moisture-rich Appalachians. The range of climate change effects is difficult to pin down, but one constant in the study of climate change is an expected increase in overall temperatures, which can power wildfires via both fuel increases and volatility.

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Earth

  • Torrential rains in Smokies destroy trails, roads and other infrastructure
    Thomas Fraser
    Thursday, 14 July 2022

    7.13.22 Porters Creek Road washoutA washout is seen along Porters Creek Road in Great Smoky Mountains National Park following torrential rain on July 12. National Park Service

    Flooding causes Smokies damage, prompts water advisory for Sevierville 

    SEVIERVILLE Extremely heavy rain on July 12 in the Smoky Mountains caused a cascade of problems now just coming to light.

    Sevierville and Sevier County issued a boil-water advisory early Thursday after debris flushed by Tuesday’s floodwaters clogged the city water utility’s main intake on the French Broad River, leading to pressure decreases that opened up lines to possible outside contamination.

    In Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Greenbrier campground was closed indefinitely after the swollen Middle Prong of the Little Pigeon River wiped out roads, trails and bridges in the area.

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  • Falcons in flight: Gatlinburg couple earns top conservation honors from Tennessee Wildlife Federation
    Deborah Sosower
    Friday, 08 July 2022

    Worsham Conservationist of the Year1Arrowmont supporters Margit and Earl Worsham named Conservationists of the Year by Tennessee Wildlife Federation

    This story was provided by Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts.

    GATLINBURG Margit and Earl Worsham stood in front of family, friends, and fellow conservationists on stage in Nashville this spring and were presented with a unique award of mahogany shaped like a peregrine falcon in flight.

    They were named the Tennessee Wildlife Federation’s 2022 Conservationists of the Year at the federation’s 57th Annual Conservation Awards in May.

    It’s a prestigious honor presented to nominees considered to have the most significant contribution to the cause of natural resources conservation in Tennessee. 

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  • Cumberland wildlands grow in popularity and boost area economies
    Thomas Fraser
    Thursday, 30 June 2022

    OBED DSP Poster Web 

    2021 economic numbers prove small parks have big impacts

    ONEIDA Both the Obed National Wild and Scenic River and Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area offer wilderness options free of the hassles associated with Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the most visited national park in the country.

    The Cumberland Plateau-area destinations continue to grow in popularity as more tourists seek solace in nature, a trend that began during the Covid-19 pandemic.

    Those tourists also spend millions of dollars in nearby rural communities, some of which face chronic economic challenges.

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  • The South’s hidden climate threat
    Dan Chapman
    Tuesday, 21 June 2022

    Spreading avens in bloom 9406109069Spreading avens are seen in bloom in the Appalachians. The endangered long-stemmed perennials survive in higher mountain elevations but their lack of space to move higher in elevation in times of climate change and warming further threaten the plant.  USFWS

    It’s not just the coastlines that are recording climate change. Even the mountains of North Carolina are feeling the heat — including some endangered plants

    “Atlanta reporter Dan Chapman retraced John Muir’s 1867 trek through the South, including the naturalist’s troubling legacy, to reveal environmental damage and loss that’s been largely overlooked.” This is an excerpt published by The Revelator from his book, A Road Running Southward: Following John Muir’s Journey Through an Endangered Land.

    BOONE It’s a wonder anything survives the ice, snow, and winds that pummel the ridge, let alone the delicate-seeming yellow flowers known as spreading avens.

    The lovely, long-stemmed perennials are exceedingly rare, officially listed as endangered, and found only in the intemperate highlands of North Carolina and Tennessee. They sprout from shallow acidic soils underlying craggy rock faces and grassy heath balds. At times blasted with full sun, but mostly shrouded in mist, the avens are survivors, Ice Age throwbacks that refuse to die. Geum radiatum is only known to exist in fourteen places, including hard-to-find alpine redoubts reached via deer trail or brambly bushwhacking.

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  • Smokies rangers kill bear after it hurts Elkmont campers while seeking food
    Thomas Fraser
    Monday, 13 June 2022

    6-minute video about what to do if you see a black bear

    Smokies officials say euthanized bear was overweight and seeking human food

    GATLINBURG Great Smoky Mountains National Park wildlife biologists and park rangers responded to Elkmont Campground on Sunday (June 12) after a peculiarly large black bear injured a toddler and her mother sleeping in a tent.

    Wildlife biologists captured the responsible bear, and it was euthanized Monday, June 13, according to a news release from the park service.

    “The bear weighed approximately 350 pounds, which is not standard for this time of year, suggesting the bear had previous and likely consistent access to non-natural food sources,” said Lisa McInnis, resource management chief.

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Voices

  • Has the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians lost its ‘right way’ at Exit 407?
    Rick Vaughan
    Sunday, 31 July 2022

    Will West LongCherokee tribal council member, historian and ethnographer Will West Long holds a traditional Cherokee mask, which he often recreated. He was an active chronicler of Cherokee custom, heritage and tradition and died in 1947 on the Qualla Reservation in Swain County, North Carolina. WikiCommons

    As plans gel for massive new developments, has the Eastern Band lost its ancient way?

    SEVIERVILLE The Tennessee Department of Transportation is eyeing a second interchange for exit 407 at Highway 66 along Interstate I-40 in Sevier County. 

    Exit 407, already one of the most congested interchanges in Southern Appalachia, accesses the main highway to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the most visited national park in the nation. The park reported a record 14 million visitors in 2021.

    The exit also serves crowds flocking to Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg.

    But the new interchange would primarily serve a 200-acre development to be called Exit 407: The Gateway to Adventure.   

    Scheduled to open spring 2023, and fully operational in 2024, it’s expected to attract 6.7 million people annually. The first phase includes a theme park and a 74,000-square-foot convenience store with 120 gas pumps, making it the world’s largest such store.

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  • Report Card for U.S. Department of Energy, Oak Ridge Operations: Failing grades in stakeholder engagement and environmental decision making
    Virginia Dale
    Friday, 10 June 2022
    EMDFlocation

    Editor’s note: As reported in Hellbender Press, the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management (OREM) was reprimanded by the Southern Environmental Law Center for neglecting its duty to follow guidelines and proper procedures mandated by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Of immediate concern was OREM’s pretext and information — or specifically lack of pertinent information — released ahead of the public meeting on May 17, 2022 about its project for a new “Environmental Management Disposal Facility” (EMDF).

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  • Foundation for Global Sustainability appeals to Knox County Commission to preserve the Dry Hollow heritage area in South Knox County
    FGS
    Sunday, 22 May 2022

    Dear Commissioner {last-name}:

    We implore you to vote against the request to strip the Agricultural zoning from the core area of the historic Twin Springs Farm in Dry Hollow.
    (11-B-21-SP & 11-F-21-RZ   Request of Thunder Mountain Properties, LLC for rezoning from A (Agricultural) ... Property located at 8802 Sevierville Pike and 0 Dry Hollow Road.)

    This property is an integral part of a forgotten Knox County heritage area that has unique historical, cultural, economic and ecological values.

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  • Is TVA providing the best prices for energy consumers? Congress wants to know.
    Amy Rawe
    Thursday, 10 February 2022
    kingstonThe Tennessee Valley Authority's fossil plant at Kingston. TVA
     

    Southern Alliance for Clean Energy: TVA is not coming clean in Congressional inquiries

    KNOXVILLE On Jan. 13, the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce sent a letter to the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) requesting information regarding business practices that appear inconsistent with TVA’s statutory requirement to provide low-cost power to residents of the Tennessee Valley.
    TVA’s response to the committee’s 16 questions dodges some of the committee members’ key concerns and provides misleading information on several issues, including:
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  • Something is rotten in Russia
    Thomas Fraser
    Monday, 07 February 2022
    download 2

    Menacing military buildup on Ukraine borders and Orwellian denials could snuff peaceful scientific cooperation

    OAK RIDGE  I went to Russia in 2000 on one of the most extraordinary trips of my life. It was a long time ago, and a generation has passed, but I was left with many enduring and positive impressions of the country and its people.

    The newspaper I worked for, The Daily Times in Maryville, paid for my trip to Moscow, then to Siberia, (and back again, to my surprise) to cover a contingent of Blount County politicos/bureaucrats and Oak Ridge DOE types visiting a far eastern Russian town, Zheleznogorsk, that had long been home to both nuclear and chemical weapons processing facilities.
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Water

  • Torrential rains in Smokies destroy trails, roads and other infrastructure
    Thomas Fraser
    Thursday, 14 July 2022

    7.13.22 Porters Creek Road washoutA washout is seen along Porters Creek Road in Great Smoky Mountains National Park following torrential rain on July 12. National Park Service

    Flooding causes Smokies damage, prompts water advisory for Sevierville 

    SEVIERVILLE Extremely heavy rain on July 12 in the Smoky Mountains caused a cascade of problems now just coming to light.

    Sevierville and Sevier County issued a boil-water advisory early Thursday after debris flushed by Tuesday’s floodwaters clogged the city water utility’s main intake on the French Broad River, leading to pressure decreases that opened up lines to possible outside contamination.

    In Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Greenbrier campground was closed indefinitely after the swollen Middle Prong of the Little Pigeon River wiped out roads, trails and bridges in the area.

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  • Lost and found: The long-awaited return of the robust redhorse
    Ethan Hatchett
    Sunday, 26 June 2022

     

    Georgia’s Ocmulgee River is a case study in the decline of Southern river fisheries, and their revival

    Ethan Hatchett is a writer for the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.

    MACON The Ocmulgee River has changed. The cloudy water once ran clear. The sandy bottom was once rocky. Fish swam upriver to breed from places as distant as the Altamaha River, which the Ocmulgee and Oconee rivers join to form near Lumber City and the Atlantic Ocean.

    European settlement changed the river. Centuries of agriculture and development stripped away much of the land’s vegetation that filtered the flow, causing the Ocmulgee to fill with sediment. The soil particles gradually moved through the waterway, covering gravel that fish spawned in, smothering fishes’ eggs, mucking up the water and even building up on the banks, saturating the ground with sediment.

    It is impossible to know how many freshwater fish the Ocmulgee lost since the first Europeans arrived. Many species disappeared without being discovered. Yet on a clear afternoon in May, DNR aquatics biologist Paula Marcinek led a team on the upper Ocmulgee in search of robust redhorse, a “lost” fish found in 1991.

    Read DNR’s blog post about efforts to restore the robust redhorse, plus news of a new grant that will expand the work and rare video of these fish spawning.

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  • Tennessee Aquarium marks a milestone in its effort to bring native brook trout back to mountain streams
    Casey Phillips
    Thursday, 16 June 2022

    Reintroduction Assistant Kaylee Clayton, left, Jim Hill Fellow for Conservation Anthony Hernandez, center, and Reintroduction Biologist Teresa Israel cross a stream during a Southern Appalachian Brook Trout release.Reintroduction Assistant Kaylee Clayton, left, Jim Hill Fellow for Conservation Anthony Hernandez, center, and Reintroduction Biologist Teresa Israel cross a stream during a Southern Appalachian brook trout release. Tennessee Aquarium

    Emblematic brook trout get a second chance at home in Southern Appalachian streams

    Casey Phillips is a writer for the Tennessee Aquarium.

    CHATTANOOGA A team from the Tennessee Aquarium, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency and Trout Unlimited hiked along — and occasionally waded through — a pristine tributary of South Fork Citico Creek in Cherokee National Forest. 

     Navigating an obstacle course of tangled mountain laurel branches and moss-slickened boulders in late May, the team followed the stream as it gently descended through the Appalachian uplands. When a calm pool or shaded rocky overhang presented itself, they paused to dip their nets into five-gallon buckets filled with wriggling juvenile Southern Appalachian brook trout.

    These little fish, raised to about two inches over six months, were the focus of more than six months of work at the Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute and the impetus for the hours-long trek into the East Tennessee woods.

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  • Doing good deeds for the Tennessee River, and enjoying it, too
    Keenan Thomas
    Monday, 13 June 2022

    Suttree LandingRacers of all stripes assembled Saturday for Cheers to Clean Water boat races on the Tennessee River. Keenan Thomas/Hellbender Press

    Cheers to Clean Water celebrants race, learn and scrub the river at Suttree Landing Park

    KNOXVILLE Beneath the sound of a beckoning banjo, partiers and athletes alike paddled the shores of Suttree Landing Park, picking up trash as they floated down the Tennessee River.

    The fifth Cheers to Clean Water Celebration on Saturday (June 11) featured 4k- and 8k-kayak races, a cleanup in and around the Tennessee River, and a central gathering area punctuated by booths for land- and water-based advocacy organizations.

    “It’s both on water and on land, cleaning up this section of the Tennessee River,” AmeriCorps member Madison Moore said on Saturday from the park. “After the boating is over, they’ll come down here for the celebration, where we have a whole bunch of other vendors that are helping us make this day a possibility.”

    The celebration promotes the importance of maintaining and cleaning major waterways like the Tennessee River.

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  • Race your ride and scoop some gnarl this weekend on the Tennessee River
    Thomas Fraser
    Tuesday, 07 June 2022

    KNOXVILLE Knox County and the Water Quality Forum will host the ​fifth-annual Cheers to Clean Water Celebration and Clean-Up on Saturday (June 11) at Suttree Landing Park across the river from downtown.

    The event, which includes a water race for kayaks and paddle boarders, kicks off at 11:30 a.m. and registration is open until 10:30 a.m. the day of the event. ​Following the race there will be a celebration that includes local vendors and booths, kids’ activities, kayaks for rental, blue grass music, food trucks, rain barrels, and prizes. The celebration and cleanup are free and open to the public. The race costs $15. Local breweries ​have donated beer for purchase.

    “This event is a fun way to promote the importance of keeping our rivers and streams clean,” said Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs.

    For a full list of prices and to register for the event click here.

    The Water Quality Forum is a coalition of diverse partners including local governments, non-profits, utility companies and businesses that work together to keep East Tennessee waters clean. The Knox County stormwater office is working with the forum to host the event.

    -Knox County government

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Creature Features

  • Smokies rangers kill bear after it hurts Elkmont campers while seeking food
    Thomas Fraser
    Monday, 13 June 2022

    6-minute video about what to do if you see a black bear

    Smokies officials say euthanized bear was overweight and seeking human food

    GATLINBURG Great Smoky Mountains National Park wildlife biologists and park rangers responded to Elkmont Campground on Sunday (June 12) after a peculiarly large black bear injured a toddler and her mother sleeping in a tent.

    Wildlife biologists captured the responsible bear, and it was euthanized Monday, June 13, according to a news release from the park service.

    “The bear weighed approximately 350 pounds, which is not standard for this time of year, suggesting the bear had previous and likely consistent access to non-natural food sources,” said Lisa McInnis, resource management chief.

    Read 396 times More...

  • Wild animals just aren’t that into you. Give them space or suffer the consequences.
    Jennifer Weeks
    Wednesday, 08 June 2022

    284114AC 1DD8 B71C 0722E2E4CA635D1FOriginalA radio-collared bull elk is seen at rest in Cataloochee Valley.  Great Smoky Mountains National Park

    Please don’t feed or get attacked by the animals

    This story was originally published by The Conversation.

    Millions of Americans enjoy observing and photographing wildlife near their homes or on trips. But when people get too close to wild animals, they risk serious injury or even death. It happens regularly, despite the threat of jail time and thousands of dollars in fines.

    These four articles from The Conversation’s archive offer insights into how wild animals view humans and how our presence affects nearby animals and birds — plus a scientist’s perspective on what’s wrong with wildlife selfies. 

    Read 269 times More...

  • Please don’t poison the humble carpenter bees
    Stephen Lyn Bales
    Tuesday, 24 May 2022

    carpenter bee penstemon lgA male carpenter bee takes a break from building its nest to get nourishing nectar from the base of a penstemon.  Juian Cowles/U.S. Forest Service

    Please don’t wage chemical warfare on these busy bees

    KNOXVILLE Old George Harvey lived two houses upstream from where I grew up on Baskins Creek in Gatlinburg. He had a strange obsession. Using empty jars, Old George would catch bees he found on the flowers and gardens around his house, screw on the lid and line the jars up on a ledge inside his screened-in porch. He’d then watch the bees die.

    We kids thought it was odd and cruel. We’d plot slipping into his porch and freeing all the bees like Elliot freed the frogs from the classroom in the movie “E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial.”

    Read 359 times More...

  • Bald eagle release by Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency
    TWRA
    Sunday, 10 April 2022

    This bald eagle was shot but successfully rehabbed at Memphis Zoo

    STEWART COUNTY  April 8, 2022  Return to the wild!

    Read 413 times  

  • Fly away on an adventure at Avian Discovery Days
    Thomas Fraser
    Monday, 04 April 2022

    Chattanooga Audubon Society EC0980DD 5056 B365 AB0AEAA199A63197 ec0980515056b36 ec09813f 5056 b365 abfce9f6a01f72a3Chattanooga Audubon Society

    CHATTANOOGA Birds of a feather are called to flock together this week at Chattanooga Audubon Society’s Avian Discovery Days April 5-7. This is the third year of this event at the Audubon Acres sanctuary, and reservations are required.

    Call (423) 892-1499 or check out Avian Discovery Days for more information.

    Participants will learn about birds during four activities, including bird walks specifically designed to teach identification skills. They will also learn how birds survive migration in the Great Migration Challenge game.

    Read 223 times More...

Air

  • SACE released its annual utility decarbonization tracking report, and it’s not pretty
    Heather Pohnan and Maggie Shober
    Wednesday, 22 June 2022

    methane leaksBloomberg reports that methane leaks from the natural gas sector may be far worse than estimated by the EPA. While replacing coal-fired power plants with natural gas ones reduces air pollution it may not help at all with climate change because methane is 30 times more effective as a greenhouse gas than CO2.  Image source: Kayrros SAS

    Report: Many utilities are not reducing carbon emissions despite public assurances to the contrary

    KNOXVILLE Global greenhouse gas emissions must peak by 2025 and experience rapid and deep reductions to avoid a potentially catastrophic future, according to a new analysis by air-quality and climate advocates. Emissions must reach net zero by the early 2050s to limit warming to 1.5 degrees (C) in order to avoid the worst impacts of the climate crisis.

    Many utilities and municipalities have acknowledged this dynamic, but the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy’s fourth annual “Tracking Decarbonization in the Southeast" report highlights that current utility resource plans are not in line with this overarching target. Obstacles to getting utilities on track that are discussed in our report include: increasing reliance on fossil gas, underutilizing energy efficiency, and placing limitations on popular technologies such as rooftop solar. There’s still a lot of work to do before any Southeast utility is on track to decarbonize.

    Read 186 times More...

  • New SACE report documents shortfalls and headwinds against utility decarbonization
    Amy Rawe
    Monday, 20 June 2022

    Southern Alliance for Clean Energy's fourth annual “Tracking Decarbonization in the Southeast: Generation and Carbon Emissions” report will be released Wednesday, June 22

    Amy Rawe is communications director for Knoxville-based Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.

    KNOXVILLE The report examines power-sector generation and emissions throughout the Southeast, which is home to some of the biggest utility systems in the nation, including Duke Energy, Southern Company, NextEra Energy, and the Tennessee Valley Authority.

    Many of these Southeastern utilities have been in the national spotlight for their professed commitment to decarbonization, but there are often inconsistencies between stated goals and resource plans.

    Read 179 times More...

  • Hot weather doesn’t always equal evidence of climate change, but the puzzle is almost complete
    JJ Stambaugh
    Thursday, 16 June 2022

    heat photoThomas Fraser/Hellbender Press

    TVA sets record power day for June as region swelters and common sense degrades

    This story was originally published by Hard Knox Wire.

    KNOXVILLE City residents this week joined scores of others around the world — from the Southwest United States to the Indian subcontinent — sweltering through late spring with eyes toward a summer that portends to be very hot.

    Whether directly attributed to climate change or not, the heat waves are causing untold misery in locations across the Northern Hemisphere, straining power grids to the brink and causing a sharp rise in heat-related illnesses. 

    Knoxville Utilities Board asked this week that consumers curtail their electricity use by setting their thermostats a little higher and holding off until night on energy-sucking tasks like doing laundry or running the dishwasher. That request was met in many cases with derision and unsubstantiated claims that charging electric vehicles had overburdened energy infrastructure.

    So exactly how hot is it in East Tennessee and how bad is it going to get?

    Read 360 times More...

  • Carson-Newman professor hosts installment of worldwide “Climate Teach-in”
    Thomas Fraser
    Sunday, 27 March 2022

    Brian SohnCarson-Newman University Professor Brian Sohn is hosting a climate-oriented webinar on March 30.  Thomas Fraser/Hellbender Press

    Local installment of worldwide virtual Climate Teach-In is set for 2:30 p.m. March 30

    JEFFERSON CITY Brian Sohn had “the closest thing to a panic attack” when his second daughter was born.

    He had long been alarmed by climate change and its potentially disastrous effects, but her arrival brought home the need to address the environmental challenges of a rapidly changing planet.

    So now the Carson-Newman University education professor is putting some final touches on a virtual climate-related “teach-in” he’ll host from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 30.

    Read 522 times More...

  • Get involved: Protestors lock arms to demand TVA swear off fossil fuels for good
    Thomas Fraser
    Tuesday, 09 November 2021

    3D2A2F6C B919 4295 B244 36D48A4BF9BD 1 105 cProtestors chant and wave signs urging TVA to commit to a fossil fuel-free future during a protest in downtown Knoxville this summer. Courtesy Amy Rawe/Southern Alliance for Clean Energy

    Activists will demand TVA allow public comments during a protest planned for Wednesday morning outside TVA HQ in downtown Knoxville

    Knoxville clean-air activists plan another protest  Wednesday outside of Tennessee Valley Authority headquarters to demand a return to public-comment periods and a commitment the huge utility won’t rely on fossil-fuel energy sources in the future.

    “Public input is critical right now, while TVA is considering building new, large fossil gas power plants and pipelines, even though they would be contrary to our need to cut greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030,” said protest organizer Brady Watson of Southern Alliance for Clean EnergyStatewide Organizing for Community Empowerment is also coordinating the protest.

    Read 897 times More...

Feedbag

Your diet of environment and science news

  • Falling trees accountable for very few deaths in Smokies, but they do happen

    CITIZEN TIMES: Child killed by falling tree was a very rare twist of horrible fate

    Karen Chavez of the Asheville Citizen Times wrote a great article on tree-related deaths in Great Smoky Mountains National Park and beyond following the death last week of a Georgia child killed by a falling tree as she was occupying a tent in Elkmont Campground.

    She reports the death of the child was only the 11th tree-linked death in the national park's history.

    The first such death was reported in 1934, when a Civil Conservation Corps worker was killed. Tree-related deaths since are normally associated with roadways and hiking trails.

    “‘Deaths related to falling trees or limbs account for about 2 percent of total recorded deaths in the park. It's an incredibly rare and tragic occurrence and accounts for the first-ever fatality caused by a tree falling on a tent in park history,’” according to an interview Chavez had with park spokeswoman Dana Soehn.


  • Falling tree kills child in Great Smokies

    ELKMONT A 9-year-old girl died early Wednesday after a tree fell on a tent she was occupying in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

    The unidentified child was among a group of people camping in Elkmont Campground when the red maple, 2 feet in diameter, fell shortly after midnight and crushed the girl in her tent, according to the National Park Service.

    The girl and her family had traveled to the national park from Georgia. Her father and two siblings weren’t injured, according to the park service.

    Elkmont Campground remains open, but the family’s campsite and an adjacent campsite were temporarily closed.


  • Congo retreats from climate commitments to fuel its fossil energy sector

    NYT: Why should we care when you built your world with fossil fuels?

    The government of Congo is recruiting fossil-fuel extractors to suck oil from beneath tropical forest and bog ecosystems that rival the Amazon in their role as carbon sinks.

    Opponents say it’s another step in knocking over the dominoes of climate renewal as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continues to roil energy markets and threaten international commitments to addressing climate change.

    “The oil and gas blocks, which will be auctioned in late July, extend into Virunga National Park, the world’s most important gorilla sanctuary, as well as tropical peatlands that store vast amounts of carbon, keeping it out of the atmosphere and from contributing to global warming,” according to the New York Times.

    Leaders say the global energy paradigm has shifted to the point it makes little sense to prioritize the natural environment over boosting the economy of an impoverished nation.

    According to NYT: “That’s our priority,” Mr. Mpanu said, in an interview last week. “Our priority is not to save the planet.”


  • HuffPost: More than 50 House Republicans want to repeal a century-old excise tax that bankrolls wildlife conservation

    In the latest “gun rights” lash-out from the GOP, legislation has been filed to abolish firearms taxes levied on gunmakers that fund wildlife conservation.

    The Republican legislation is framed as a way to defend gun purchasers from odious taxation under the 2nd Amendment umbrella, but leading hunting and fishing interests said the proposal is misguided and misses the target by a wide mark. 

    The levy as currently written applies to gunmakers, not individual firearms purchasers. 

    The GOP target is the Pittman-Robertson Act, which “helped confront decades of overhunting and habitat loss by creating a financial link between hunting and conservation,” according to HuffPost.

    “This year, the Interior Department will distribute a record $1.5 billion to state wildlife agencies through the Pittman-Robertson Act and its fisheries equivalent, the Dingell-Johnson Sport Fish Restoration Act. To date, the programs have divvied up a combined $25.5 billion for conservation and outdoor recreation projects,” according to reporting from HuffPo reporter Chris D’Angelo.


  • Rare bipartisan legal effort under way for widespread wildlife protections

    NYT: Recovering America’s Wildlife Act a big bipartisan push to preserve animal species

    New York Times columnist Margaret Renkl noted recently that a precious opportunity has presented itself to strengthen wildlife-protection laws and add to environmental protections across the nation.

    The Nashville-based journalist said the act, known as RAWA, “is poised to become the single most effective tool in combating biodiversity loss since the Endangered Species Act.” The resolution is carried in the House by Michigan Democrat Rep. Debbie Dingell.

    “This bill provides funding for (1) the conservation or restoration of wildlife and plant species of greatest conservation need; (2) the wildlife conservation strategies of states, territories, or the District of Columbia; and (3) wildlife conservation education and recreation projects,” according to the U.S. Congress.

    “The Department of the Interior must use a portion of the funding for a grant program. The grants must be used for innovative recovery efforts for species of greatest conservation need, species listed as endangered or threatened species, or the habitats of such species.

    “In addition, the bill requires certain revenues generated from fees and penalties for violations of environmental requirements to be used as a source for the funding.”

    The legislation, which has already passed the House of Representatives, would allocate $1.4 billion each year across the country to protect and restore endangered plant and animal populations, and protect species already tipping toward endangered status. It is up for consideration in the Senate, where it has already garnered the support of at least a dozen Republicans and a majority of Democrats, virtually ensuring its passage, according to Renkl.

    “You don’t have to nurse a fondness for spotted owls or snail darters — creatures at the heart of two of the most contentious environmental debates in recent history — to understand that what is best for the ecosystems we share with nonhuman animals is what’s best for us, too,” Renkl wrote.


  • UTK has quite the collection of earthly remains

    Editorial cartoon depicting Charles Darwin as an ape 1871

    WBIR: UT got good bones

    KNOXVILLE The University of Tennessee boasts an incredible collection of animal skeletons — from hummingbirds to bison, according to a story from WBIR. It’s among the largest such assemblages in the country. (There are also skeletons at the Body Farm, but that’s a different story).

    The skeletons are part of the UT Anthropology Department’s Vertebrate Osteology Collection.

    “We have over 12,000 vertebrate specimens in our collections. So that’s 12,000 skeletons of individual animals,” Dr. Anneke Janzen, an assistant professor in UT’s Anthropology Department, told WBIR.

    The collection includes skulls and skeletons ranging in size from small bats to bison. It also includes skulls of dolphins, ostriches and alligators.

    “Beyond just being able to identify bones and identify different species based on tiny bone fragments, I think students have a much greater appreciation for, you know, the diversity of animal life out there and much greater appreciation for animals in our backyards as well,” Janzen told WBIR.

    The collection is available for analysis by professional researchers, and parts can be seen by the public during the annual Darwin Day at the university. 


  • Initial Advance Knox growth studies available for review

    Advance Knox State of the Cunty

    KNOXVILLE The Advance Knox State of the County Report outlining the conditions and trends that are currently impacting the lives, work, and travel of Knox County residents has been completed and is available on the project website.

    The report provides a detailed overview of the county’s geography, demographics, economic well being, and infrastructure. The result is a thorough summary of population, land utilization, development potential, economic growth, employment, housing, and infrastructure data.

    “This report is a baseline, a starting point, the first step in creating a new comprehensive land use and transportation plan for Knox County,” said Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs. “It shows us where we are and will help us determine the most responsible ways to manage future development and infrastructure.”

    Now that this report is complete, the project team is working on scenario planning by analyzing data to help illustrate possible strategies for guiding the county’s future growth. This work will be presented at public meetings in the fall.

    Advance Knox is a unique opportunity to align land use and transportation goals and create a fiscally responsible blueprint to help guide decisions about where and how future growth and infrastructure investments will occur.

    -Knox County Government


  • Hellbender Press nets two top awards from Society of Professional Journalists

    KNOXVILLE Hellbender Press took home two awards from the 2021 Golden Press Card contest sponsored by the East Tennessee Society of Professional Journalists.

    Hellbender Press was recognized with two first-place awards for East Tennessee digital journalism: The Hal DeSelm Papers and Requiem for the Lord God Bird

    The Hal DeSelm story chronicled his decades-long effort to document terrestrial biomes in all but one Tennessee county, and subsequent work by the University of Tennessee to craft his datasets into an accessible database.

    The other award was for reporting on the extinction of the ivory-billed woodpecker relying heavily on the work of Ijams Nature Center naturalist Stephen Lyn Bales.

    Judging was conducted by the SPJ chapter in Cincinnati.

    “We are incredibly grateful to our editorial board, readers and others who helped with this great win,” said Hellbender Press editor Thomas Fraser. “Our stories are only as good as the sources.”


  • Smokies rangers, swift-water teams retrieve body from Little River near Metcalf

    TOWNSEND Great Smoky Mountains National Park rangers responded to a report of a body in Little River about a mile west of Metcalf Bottoms at 1:30 p.m. May 9. Rangers and Gatlinburg EMS/Fire discovered the body of Charles Queen, age 72 of Bybee, Tennessee, partially submerged in the middle of the river.

    A technical swift water rescue team recovered the body, which was released to the Sevier County Medical Examiner’s office. A vehicle registered to Queen was found in a pullout 600 feet upriver along a steep embankment. 

    No witnesses were immediately found; there are no signs of foul play, according to the park service, but officials plan an autopsy.


  • TDOT wants your input on electric-vehicle infrastructure

    1650898862011Proposed electric-vehicle infrastructure corridors in Tennessee. TDOT

    Inside of Knoxville: State seeks input on charging stations, EV corridors

    The Tennessee Department of Transportation’s traveling and electrifying road show made an appearance in Knoxville this week. The intent of the meeting, as others scheduled around the state, was to collect public feedback on proposed charging station networks and other components of EV infrastructure.

    Tennessee will receive a significant chunk of change toward developing its own share of National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure, provided as part of the infrastructure bill passed by Congress last year. The state will receive $88 million over five years, and has begun drafting some options.

    “The initial push nationally is for travel corridors to have charging stations at least every fifty miles,” according to Knoxville blogger Alan Sims. “They must have at least four chargers and they must be within one mile of the travel corridor. Most travel corridors are identified as Interstates, though Tennessee, for example, has also included U.S. Highway 64. Once those corridors are built out, any remaining funds may be directed elsewhere. The cost of each station is approximately $1 million, which is largely infrastructure cost.”

    Clean-air and EV advocates are encouraging public input. Here’s an action alert from the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy:

    “The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) and Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) are currently seeking public feedback to inform the state’s National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) Formula Program Plan.

    “The NEVI program represents a $5 billion investment from the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) to provide a network of 500,000 ultra-fast EV charging stations along the nation’s travel corridors to help make cross-country electric travel accessible to all Americans. The charging stations will be along designated Alternative Fuel Corridors designated by the Federal Highway Administration.”

    Tennessee must develop and submit an EV infrastructure deployment plan by Aug. 1 to receive the federal funds.

    SACE encourages citizens to take this survey to express preferences for EV infrastructure development.


  • UT journalism stalwart James Crook dies at 82

    James Crook

    KNOXVILLE Dr. James Crook, the former director of the University of Tennessee School of Journalism and Electronic Media, died April 30 in Knoxville. Dr. Crook led the School of Journalism for 28 years before retiring in 2002 and becoming professor emeritus. He also served as a president of the East Tennessee Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.

    Crook died at the age of 82, just two days short of his 83rd birthday.

    He was considered the “father” of the Front Page Follies, an annual satiric send-up of Knoxville’s newsmakers that raised funds for the Front Page Foundation. Dr. Crook, a co-founder of the Follies, was an excellent vocalist and served as musical director for a number of years. His wife, Diane, an experienced theater person and teacher, teamed with her husband during the productions. The couple met while they were teaching journalism, speech and drama in Iowa in high school and community college and married in 1966.

    During his teaching career, he established the national scholarly journal, Journalism & Mass Communication Educator. In 2003, the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication awarded Crook the Eleanor Blum Distinguished Service to Research Award, which recognizes individuals who have devoted their careers to promoting research in mass communication, according to the UT School of Journalism and Electronic Media.

    A Celebration of Life will be held Saturday, May 7, at 11 a.m. at Church Street United Methodist Church, 900 Henley St., in downtown Knoxville. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Front Page Foundation to fund journalism scholarships

    -East Tennessee Society of Professional Journalists


  • Ocoee Whitewater Center destroyed in huge fire

    ocoee whitewater centerU.S. Forest Service

    WKRN: Building a total loss after overnight fire

    Investigators are on the site of Polk County’s Ocoee Whitewater Center after it burned down in the early morning hours of April 26. No injuries were reported, and the building was closed to the public because of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Forest Service website. Several trails in the area were closed as authorities, including state arson investigators, probed the cause of the massive fire.

    The center featured native stone and massive beams and overlooked the Class V rapids of the section of river used for whitewater events during the 1996 Olympics.

    It later became a great place for spectators to watch commercial rafters hit such holes as Humungous, and was used as a regional visitors center, event venue and educational facility.

    Some 300,000 people visited or paddled by the center every year. It was a center for educational programs and hiking, biking and watersports.

    “Native gardens honoring Olympic athletes and Cherokee Indians invite you to stroll through the grounds. A historic trail, built by Cherokee Indians and used by 19th century miners to transport copper ore by mules and wagons follows the river upstream. Along the way you can see rock formations deposited more than 750 million years ago,” according to a Forest Service description of the facility.

    “The Ocoee Whitewater Center was a unique site not just here on the Cherokee National Forest, but across the Forest Service. It is a difficult loss for us,” Mike Wright, acting forest supervisor for the Cherokee National Forest, told WKRN of Nashville.

    This article has been corrected to note WKRN is a Nashville TV station.


  • Another look at the parallel war Russia is waging against the natural environment

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    New York Times: Ukraine environmental holocaust just the latest in ways war scars the Earth 

    Open armed conflict understandably abrogates immediate concerns about the natural environment.

    Despite the tens of thousands of human deaths already caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the war’s impact on natural systems can’t be understated.

    In some cases, Russian troops have taken up positions in natural parks and protected ecological areas in Ukraine. The Black Sea coast is an important remaining area of biodiversity in Europe. Ukrainian counterattacks, while understandable, have also inflamed environmental consequences.

    There are also immediate risks to human respiratory health from the fires sparked by attacks on fuel depots and chemical facilities.

    War’s negative environmental impacts are by no means a new thing: See the use of Agent Orange by the U.S. in Vietnam and the wasteland of burning oil fields left behind in the Gulf War.

    War is bad for every living thing.


  • Bobcats vs. pythons in the swamps of Florida

    Bobcat vs. python 2USGS

    New York Times: Evolving native predation may help stem invasion of Burmese python

    The proliferation of the exotic and invasive Burmese python in the swamps and wilds of Florida is demonstrably bad for native birds and mammals.

    Researchers now have evidence the best solution might have been there all along.

    A bobcat was captured on a trail camera by the U.S. Geological Survey eating python eggs and challenging one of the gigantic snakes. It was the first instance of natural, native predation on the snake’s eggs. Bobcats are already known to target reptile eggs, including those of sea turtles.

    “While it is possible that this interaction was just an isolated incident, it is also possible that native species are beginning to respond to the presence of the python," the New York Times reported.

    “‘Most cat species adapt their diet to what is available, so bobcats predating on python eggs is actually not that surprising’” said Mathias Tobler, a wildlife ecologist at the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance.”


  • Parson Branch Road improvements under way in Smokies

    Parson Branch RoadDead hemlocks are seen along Parson Branch Road near Cades Cove. National Park Service

    CADES COVE Great Smoky Mountains National Park contractors began removing at least 800 dead hemlock trees along Parson Branch Road, an eight-mile primitive backcountry road that connects Cades Cove with U.S. 129 on the western edge of the park.

    The road has been closed since 2016 because of the tree hazards and damage to the road surface. The hemlocks succumbed to the hemlock woolly adelgid, an exotic insect that has wreaked havoc on hemlock stands and their accompanying ecosystems.

    The road passes several trailheads, and is used by emergency vehicles as needed. The park initially identified some 1,700 trees that posed a hazard to the adjacent roadway, but that number has naturally declined by about half over the past six years.

    Friends of Great Smoky Mountains National Park provided $100,000 for the hazard-mitigation project. That was matched with $50,000 from the federal government.

    Once the dead trees are removed, work will begin to rehabilitate the roadway and ensure its safety. 

    The roadway could reopen this summer, according to a news release from the National Park Service.


  • Hike and learn at Trails and Trilliums Festival in South Cumberland State Park

    download 6

    MONTEAGLE Naturalists and nature lovers are invited to South Cumberland State Park April 8-10 for the Trails and Trilliums Festival sponsored by Friends of South Cumberland State Park. The Dubose Conference Center will be the base of operations for activities throughout the park.

    Registration opens at noon April 8 with activities for those who arrive early, followed at 5 p.m. by Wine and Wildflowers, a kickoff event featuring author David Haskell. In 2012,  “The Forest Unseen” was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in nonfiction. Haskell is expected to speak about his latest book “Sounds Wild and Broken” released by Penguin Random House on March 1.

    The rest of this weekend-long celebration of nature and education will feature activities throughout the park and the community. From Foster Falls to Savage Gulf and Sherwood Forest, participants will enjoy bird walks, wildflower walks, nature journaling and sketching, and a university herbarium and greenhouse tour. The Saturday evening star party is sure to be a hit, weather permitting.

    Find a full schedule and registration information at Trails and Trilliums.


Action Alert

  • Ancient river, new threats: Water quality officials declare 19 miles of French Broad River in NC impaired by pollutants

    french broad river jason sandfordRecreational uses of the French Broad River in Asheville, including tubing, kayaking and canoeing, have grown dramatically in recent years. Jason Sandford/Ashevegas Hot SheetBooming construction and development, combined with more frequent heavy rains and an aging stormwater system, continue to threaten the age-old Appalachian river

    This story was originally published by Jason Sandford of the Ashevegas Hot Sheet.

    ASHEVILLE North Carolina water quality officials declared a 19-mile section of the French Broad River in Buncombe County as officially “impaired” because of fecal coliform levels found during recent testing. It’s a sobering alarm bell (though there have been plenty of warning signs, as you’ll see below.) In Asheville, interest in the river as an economic force and tourist destination has never been higher. (The confluence of the French Broad and Holston rivers forms the Tennessee River above Knoxville.)

    The designation will come as no surprise to even casual observers of the wide, northward-flowing river. Often, it runs a chocolate brown color, a clear sign of the sediment and other pollutants running through the waterway.


Events

  • Step up for fresh produce at New Harvest Park

    KNOXVILLE The New Harvest Park Farmers Market kicked off in East Knoxville on April 14 and will be open from 3-6 p.m. every Thursday through Sept. 29.

    The market will feature 15 small, locally owned businesses and showcase a wide variety of seasonal produce, meats, eggs, plants, prepared foods, and artisan crafts, and will grow to 20 vendors during peak season, according to a release from Knox County.

    A community booth will house the Nourish Moves walking program in which market patrons can track their steps and redeem them for Produce Bucks to be spent at market on fresh fruits and vegetables. New Harvest Farmers’ Market Nourish Moves is a free, weekly walking program for adults and children 2 years or older. To participate, stop by our Community Booth to pick up a pedometer. Each participant receives $3 in Produce Bucks per visit that can be spent on any fruits, vegetables, and food-producing plants at the market.

    Nourish Knoxville will continue to offer SNAP & P-EBT processing and doubling at the market through the Double Up Food Bucks Program. SNAP & P-EBT purchases will be doubled, up to $20 per day in Double Up Food Bucks tokens that are redeemable at the market for free fresh fruits and vegetables.


  • CTV Community Engagement Calendar

    Community Television of Knoxville (CTV)

    CTV’s Community Engagement Calendar provides information about both, date-specific events and the regular programs & services provided by nonprofit organizations.

    Many people still think it is necessary to have a TV cable connection to watch community TV programs. But that’s old history.

    One does not even need to be in the City of Knoxville or anywhere near it, nor have a TV set anymore.

    You can watch all live coverage by Community Television of Knoxville — AND previously aired programs — on any device that has internet access, even on your smart phone.

    (However, be careful to know about any data transmission caps and charges that may apply to your internet connection, and especially your mobile data plan if you’re not using a WiFi connection.)

    Knox CTV also streams Fulton High School's Falcon Radio WKCS-FM 91.1, which is one of only four high school radio stations in Tennessee; one among few nationwide, too.


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About

  • Hellbender Press

    The Environmental Journal of Southern Appalachia

    (ONLINE version 0.7)
    Copyright © 2021 Hellbender Press | Foundation for Global Sustainability
     
    Hellbender Press
    P.O. Box 1101
    Knoxville, Tennessee
    37901-1101
    865-465-9691
    This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
     
    Editor and Publisher
    Thomas Fraser
     
    Editorial Board
    Bo Baxter
    Jason Bradley
    Kim Pilarski-Hall
    Chris Kane
    Wolf Naegeli
    Lauren Parker
    Amanda Womac
     

    Hellbender Press: The Environmental Journal of Southern Appalachia is a digital environmental news service with a focus on the Southern Appalachian bioregion. It aggregates relevant stories from across the news media space and provides original news, features and commentary.

    Espousing the “Think Globally, Act Locally” ethos of FGS, Hellbender Press promotes the conservation and study of the environment and protections for air, water, climate, natural areas, and other resources that are critical to human health and a robust, resilient economy.

    The Hellbender also champions civil and human rights, especially in matters of environmental justice, equity of access to natural resources and the right to a clean environment.

    Hellbender Press is a self-organizing project of the Foundation for Global Sustainability’s Living Sustainably Program. All donations made for Hellbender Press to FGS are tax-deductible. We offer a free environmental news and information site, but grants and charitable contributions are encouraged and needed to support our work. Much of the content is provided on a volunteer basis by individuals and organizations that share a common cause.

    Hellbender Press encourages the submission of original and relevant articles and photography for consideration to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


  • Our name

    The hellbender (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis), a native salamander, is an indicator species. It requires clear, oxygen-rich water to respire, find its prey, and reproduce.

    The presence of hellbenders in a stream is indicative of high water quality and an intact ecosystem.

    Hellbender Press aspires to help you discover the degrees of resilience and sustainability of your community, our bioregion, and planet Earth.

    Hellbender Press informs about what is beneficial for life — here and elsewhere.

    It also points out where we must do better to save what may still be savable.


  • Foundation for Global Sustainability

    FGS is a transdisciplinary, non-profit advocacy organization. It monitors and addresses social and environmental issues in the Upper Tennessee Valley and the Southern Appalachian Mountains.

    FGS works to restore the balance between human activities and the natural life support systems of the Earth. Events, publications, special reports, and outreach by FGS inform and educate the public about vital regional and global issues and how they interdepend.

    FGS fosters and supports conservation initiatives, including

    — action committees that address egregious assaults on our natural heritage, for example, which require temporary assistance only

    — campaigns by other nonprofits, such as

    — groups that want to address systemic problems in a systematic fashion. Among the latter, three evolved to establish themselves as independent 501(c)(3) organization: