Tennessee developing a plan to reduce polution
Tennessee wants to prioritize a developing plan to reduce pollution causing climate warming and wants to hear from residents. A survey was created for residents to share what they wanted to see in a statewide climate pollution reduction plan. The survey closed on Nov. 15.
This planning process is being led by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) and is part of the Tennessee Volunteer Emission Reduction Strategy (TVERS), an emission reduction plan currently being developed by TDEC with support from various partners. This plan is funded through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Climate Pollution Reduction Grant (CPRG) program, which was established in the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 (IRA).
Arbor Day Bonus: $4.3 mil in FED grants means more Knoxville trees
Please join Mayor Kincannon, City Council members, Trees Knoxville and University of Tennessee leaders, and others at the City Tree Board’s Arbor Day tree-planting at 2 p.m. Monday, Nov. 6, at Harriet Tubman Park, 300 Harriet Tubman St.
Thanks to two federal grants totaling $4.3 million, tree lovers hoping to expand Knoxville’s canopy — especially in neighborhoods needing it the most — are especially joyful this Arbor Day.
The federal government has awarded $1.7 million to Trees Knoxville, a City nonprofit partner, to plant and maintain 7,500 trees along streets, in parks, at schools, in public housing communities, in historic African-American cemeteries and elsewhere.
The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, was awarded another $2.6 million to increase tree canopy coverage, reduce stormwater runoff, mitigate extreme heat and bring ecosystem services to underserved communities in East Knoxville.
Both tree grants were funded through the federal Inflation Reduction Act, touted as the biggest climate investment in U.S. history.
“The investments made possible by these federal grants will be transformative,” Mayor Indya Kincannon said. “We’re going to reverse the slow decline of tree canopy, and in fact prioritizing the greening up of areas that we know are the most in need of additional plantings.”
No one trashes Tennessee — It’s No Trash November
It’s time for the 3rd annual No Trash November
This year Tennessee is out to make history again. All volunteer groups who regularly pick up litter on Tennessee roadways will rally together and host a cleanup event in November — cleaning up Tennessee right before friends and families visit for the holidays.
Creation Care Alliance announces the 2024 Winter Symposium
ASHEVILLE — The theme of our 2024 Creation Care Alliance Symposium is “Sacred Symbiosis: Relationships for Eco-Justice.” Our presentations, workshops and conversations will explore the relationships needed to build and nurture justice for all creation–human and non-human. We’re excited to dive in and learn together!
Hosted at Montreat Conference Center in Black Mountain, the symposium will begin on Friday, February 2nd, with a full day of workshops and conversations and will run through Saturday, February 3rd.
Our keynote speaker, Mary Crow of Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN), will speak on the 3rd.
Unlike past years, Friday and Saturday’s programs are open to all and will not be limited to clergy. We hope you join us!
- Early-bird discount. Register before December 4th to receive $15 off both days of the conference. If you attend both days, that is $30 savings!
- Group discount. Groups of three or more people from the same congregation are eligible for the group discount of $10 off both days of the conference. If your group attends both days, that is a $20 discount per person. This offer is open until the close of registration on January 19th. The link for group discounts can be found on the symposium registration page (follow the below link).
- Student discount. If you are a current student, you can attend the symposium for a fraction of the cost ($20 on Friday and $30 on Saturday). We hope you will join us!
Join Keep Knoxville Beautiful on Friday, Nov. 3 for its annual Sustainability Summit
Why do we have all this asphalt, how is it keeping us apart, what is it doing to the fabric of our cities, and what can we do about it?
From 2nd Avenue in Nashville to The Stitch in Atlanta to the Placemaking Hub in Charlotte, travel with us to different Southeastern cities with professionals who are reshaping their urban environments to create more equitable, sustainable and beautiful places, and get inspired about what we can do in our own city. Join us on Friday, November 3rd for KKB’s 5th annual Sustainability Summit for a day of learning.
Lunch will be provided for free to all attendees, sponsored by the Tomato Head.
9:00 AM - Doors open
9:15 AM - Opening remarks by City of Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon
9:45 AM - Jack Cebe, Landscape Architect/Engineer, Atlanta
11:00 AM - Eric Hoke, Urban Designer, Nashville & Kate Cavazza, Urban Designer, Charlotte
12:00 PM - Lunch provided by Tomato Head
12:45 PM - Beverly Bell, Landscape Designer, Chattanooga & Caleb Racicot, Urban Planner, Atlanta
1:45 PM - Closing remarks
Learn-to-Fish clinic and Music Jam at Oconaluftee visitor center
CHEROKEE — Great Smoky Mountains National Park will host a free youth fishing clinic and an Old Time Music Jam at the Oconaluftee Visitor Center on Saturday, October 21, 2023. Both events are free and open to the public.
In collaboration with the International Game Fish Association, the park will hold the fishing clinic from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Try your hand casting a line for local trout and earn your Junior Ranger Angler badge. Learn about fish conservation and ethical angling practices at fun, interactive stations. All fishing equipment will be provided. The first 25 families will receive a free fishing pole to keep! A valid Tennessee or North Carolina fishing license is required for participants 16 or older.
Cumberland Trails summit coming in October
The Cumberland Trail Summit is happening October 19-21, 2023. The Cumberland Trail Summit is an opportunity to showcase our trail communities. The Summit will focus on outdoor recreation, community building and educational programs
The mission of the Cumberland Trails Conference is to provide paid and volunteer labor, equipment, supplies and vehicles to design and construct the Cumberland Trail under the auspices of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation.
The continued development and construction of the Cumberland Trail is accomplished through a working relationship between the Cumberland Trails Conference (CTC), the Cumberland Trail State Scenic Park, and the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation. The CTC, private corporations, foundations, individuals and others assist TDEC in raising funds for land acquisition, providing maintenance and further developing the Cumberland Trail.
The Cumberland Trail State Scenic Trail State Park operates a professional trail crew mostly in the north sections.
The Cumberland Trails Conference also maintains a professional trail crew that works twelve months a year. Additional labor comes from thousands of hours of volunteer service provided through the CTC, including through the CTC BreakAway, a college Alternative Spring Break program.
The Cumberland Trail is an extensive foot trail constructed and maintained largely by volunteers from Tennessee and across the nation. The Trail is managed by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC).
Building the Cumberland Trail is a grassroots effort, driven by communities along the trail, government agencies and a broad network of volunteers. This successful private/public partnership is a model often cited to demonstrate the power of volunteerism and public/private partnerships.
When completed, the Cumberland Trail will extend more than 300 miles from its northern terminus in Cumberland Gap National Historical Park in Kentucky to its southern terminus at the Chickamauga-Chattanooga National Military Park located on Signal Mountain just outside Chattanooga, Tennessee.
— Cumberland Trails Conference
Public Lands Day looking for volunteers
Big South Fork celebrates National Public Lands Day 2023 on Saturday, September 23 with a Volunteer Trails Event
ONEIDA — Take part in the National Public Lands Day celebration at the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area.
On this day, the park is looking for volunteers to help build out the last section of the Sheltowee Trace National Recreation Trail.
Interested volunteers should meet at the R.M. Brooks General Store (2830 Rugby Parkway, Robbins TN 37852) on Saturday the 23rd at 8:30 a.m. Eastern Time. Please wear long pants and sturdy footwear.
Established in 1994 and held annually on the fourth Saturday in September, National Public Lands Day celebrates the connection between people and green space in their community, inspires environmental stewardship and encourages use of open space for education, recreation and health benefits.
For more information visit the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area website or call 423-569-9778.
Public can learn more about distilled Knox Urban Forest Master Plan Sept. 13
KNOXVILLE — Trees Knoxville and the city will update citizens on progress on the Urban Forest Master Plan. Trees Knoxville, an organization dedicated to preserve and increase the urban tree canopy on private and public lands in Knoxville and Knox County, will host an open house from 5:30-7 p.m. Sept. 13, at the Public Works Service Center (3131 Morris Ave.) to discuss the latest Urban Forest Master Plan.
Trees Knoxville and city urban forester Kasey Krouse will share recommendations from Urban Canopy Works LLC based on public input.
“We have taken everything we’ve learned over the last year and developed draft goals, as well as strategies and action steps to meet those goals,” Trees Knoxville Steering Committee said in a release. “While the plan is not yet fully developed, we would like to update the community on the direction the plan is headed, providing an opportunity to give feedback before the final draft is produced.”
This forum will update the planning process Trees Knoxville and city staff have been working on with a consultant from Urban Canopy to learn about the public thoughts, opinions and goals for the city’s urban canopy — tree cover in public places and on private property.
The hope is a successful forest plan will help the city preserve, grow and care for trees, which play a significant role in public and environmental health.
Public meeting about solutions to remove solid waste in downtown Knoxville is set for Sept.14
KNOXVILLE — On Thursday, Sept. 14, the city, MSW Consultants and DSM Environmental will present findings from the 2023 Downtown Solid Waste Study. The meeting will take place at 5:30 p.m. at Lox Salon, 103 W. Jackson Avenue.
Members of the public are welcome to attend and learn about how downtown solid waste and recycling is currently being collected, costs involved, and a look at future collection options.
The Downtown Solid Waste Study was launched to address concerns about downtown growth and increased solid waste production. The city currently spends more than $550,000 each year for downtown trash and recycling services.
— City of Knoxville
Inflation Reduction Act charges positive clean-energy results in Southeast
KNOXVILLE — This month marks the one-year anniversary of the Inflation Reduction Act, the most significant clean energy and climate action legislation in U.S. history, and our region is already seeing massive economic benefits. Consider this: just one year into the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), four Southeastern states rank in the top 10 nationally for new clean energy investments:
- Georgia: $18.83 billion with 22 new major clean energy projects, the 2nd most in the nation
- South Carolina: $11.71 billion with 20 new major clean energy projects,
the 3rd most in the nation
- Tennessee: $5.76 billion with 13 new major clean energy projects, the 6th most in the nation
- North Carolina: $9.61 billion with 9 new major clean energy projects, the 10th most in the nation
- Florida: $503 million with 5 new major clean energy projects
The Southeast will also be a leading hub for electric vehicle (EV) manufacturing with more than 60,000 announced jobs, according to SACE's fourth annual Transportation Electrification in the Southeast report, produced with Atlas Public Policy, which will be published next Wednesday, September 6. The report also shows that Georgia leads all states in the country for announced EV manufacturing jobs. Join us for the webinar on September 6 at 11:00 a.m. ET to hear more highlights of the report.
While the economic growth numbers from the first year of the IRA are encouraging, the real impacts will be measured by the people and communities that will benefit from the transition to clean energy.
— Southern Alliance for Clean Energy
SELC settlement protects blue-blood horseshoe crabs and their avian dependents
CHARLESTON — A landmark settlement prohibits horseshoe crab collection on the beaches of more than 30 islands along the South Carolina coast that are established feeding sites for rufa red knots during their annual migration — as well as any harvesting in Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge — for at least five years.
Every spring, red knots time their 9,300-mile migration from South America to the Canadian Arctic perfectly so they stop on the same beaches of South Carolina at the exact moment horseshoe crabs begin to spawn.
These protein-rich crab eggs are critical for red knots, providing the fuel they need to complete their transpolar journey. This delicate relationship between horseshoe crabs and red knots has developed over millions of years.
Beginning Farmer Field Day
Beginning Farmer Field Day Teaches New Farmers About Agriculture, Profitability
University of Tennessee and Local Partner Organizations Host Free Regional Event
TRENTON — Tennessee AgrAbility, UT-TSU Extension Gibson County, and various partner organizations hosted Beginning Farmer Field Day on July 20, 2023. This free educational class was open to all West Tennessee farmers with less than 10 years of agricultural experience, providing them with the information and resources needed to become successful long-term producers.
Presentation topics included business planning, agricultural decision making, income management, production strategies and more. Attendees also received a tour of a Gibson County farm where they learned about agriculture conservation practices as well as locally available assistance programs.
The event was led by Gibson County Extension agents along with representatives from various local, state and national organizations including Tennessee AgrAbility, the UT MANAGE program, The STAR Center, Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Soil and Water Conservation Districts (SWCD), Farm Service Agency (FSA), Center for Profitable Agriculture (CPA) and various independent farmers.
Joetta White, Extension area specialist for AgrAbility in West Tennessee, says she hopes the event will positively impact the future of agriculture by ensuring farmers of all sizes have the resources they need to be successful. “Farming can be a challenging and costly industry to get started in. However, we believe that the best way to become a successful producer in West Tennessee is not to do it alone, but to instead learn from one another and from those who came before us. Beginning Farmer Field Day is about making sure agriculture is accessible for people of all ages, backgrounds and skill levels.”
Jake Mallard, county director of UT-TSU Extension Gibson County, says that countless people every day depend on the work of our local farmers. “Our need for farmers and what they produce cannot be emphasized enough, and programs such as Beginning Farmer Field Day can have a widespread impact on our local community and beyond. Attendees were able to receive the tools and tactics they need to better improve production or begin farming for the first time. I know we will all benefit from their success.”
The field day was made possible thanks to a grant from the Tennessee Department of Agriculture (TDA) as well as through local support from Farm Credit Mid-America and Gibson County Young Farmers & Ranchers. Over 40 local farmers from across West Tennessee attended the event.
Tennessee AgrAbility is a community-based program that assists Tennessee producers who have temporary or permanent disabilities. The program is offered in partnership with University of Tennessee Extension, Tennessee State University Extension, USDA, The STAR Center and Tennessee Technology Access Center. Tennessee AgrAbility educates and assists Tennessee’s farmers, farm workers and their family members that have disabilities so they can increase their independence and productivity. Their mission is to enhance and protect the quality of life and preserve livelihoods for farm families touched by disability.
Through its land-grant mission of research, teaching and extension, the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture touches lives and provides Real. Life. Solutions. utia.tennessee.edu.
Biden-sponsored legislation trickles down to cap defunct Big South Fork oil wells
ONEIDA — Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area (NRRA) received $1 million for the orphaned well reclamation project, funded through the Inflation Reduction Act and Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. This project is part of a nationwide effort to restore natural habitats and address climate change impacts.
In fiscal year 2023, President Biden’s Investing in America agenda, through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act will provide $52 million to the National Park Service to fund projects throughout the country related to ecosystem resilience, restoration, and environmental planning needs.
The Big South Fork project will plug and reclaim six orphaned well sites throughout the park in Tennessee and Kentucky. The project, funded by the Inflation Reduction Act, will mitigate abandoned mine drainage and close open mine portals at Big South Fork NRRA.
Methane pollution from many of these unplugged wells is a serious safety hazard and is a significant driver of climate change, with methane being more than 25 times as potent as carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere.
“Plugging the wells removes abandoned aboveground oil or gas production equipment, improves visitor safety and protects park groundwater and other park resources,” said Big South Fork NRRA Superintendent Niki Stephanie Nicholas in a press release.
“The restoration of these sites through these investments will stabilize access roads and production sites and promote ecosystem health by planting native plant species.”
— National Park Service
Opposition mounts to Pisgah/Nantahala national forest management plans
ASHEVILLE — An alliance of conservation groups notified the U.S. Forest Service of its intent to sue the federal department unless officials fix what it calls glaring deficiencies in the Nantahala-Pisgah Forest Plan.
Potential plaintiffs allege the Forest Service’s management plan for the Nantahala and Pisgah national forests is flawed. They maintain the Forest Service plan favors commercial logging, ignores the best science available, and puts several endangered bat species at risk of extinction.
The endangered species potentially affected are the northern long-eared bat, Indiana bat, Virginia big-eared bat, and the gray bat. Two species that are being considered for the endangered species list — the little brown bat and the tricolored bat — would also be adversely affected.
MountainTrue, its lawyers at the Southern Environmental Law Center, and coalition partners — the Sierra Club, The Wilderness Society, Defenders of Wildlife, and Center for Biological Diversity — sent a 60-day Notice of Intent to Sue (NOI), which is a prerequisite to filing a lawsuit under the Endangered Species Act. The letter alleges the Forest Service relied on inaccurate and incomplete information during the planning process, resulting in a plan that imperils endangered wildlife.
ORNL showcased its best science projects at July 14 tech conference
OAK RIDGE — Scientist-inventors from the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory presented seven new technologies during the Technology Innovation Showcase on July 14 at the Joint Institute for Computational Sciences on ORNL’s campus.
The inventions are supported by ORNL’s Technology Innovation Program, or TIP, which provides targeted investments in new lab-developed technologies to enhance their commercial readiness. Since 2012, ORNL has invested more than $11 million in 49 projects, resulting in 37 commercial licenses and options with partners ranging from Fortune 100 companies to early-stage startups.
“ORNL’s researchers are creating next-generation technology for buildings, manufacturing, medicine and chemistry,” said Mike Paulus, ORNL Partnerships director. “The inventions selected for TIP investment show significant potential for commercialization.”
The showcase brings together inventors and commercialization professionals from ORNL with industry representatives for a morning of presentations followed by one-on-one meetings, tours and demonstrations.
— Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Completed Walker Sisters Cabin renovations secure moments in Smokies time
GATLINBURG — Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials announced the Walker Sisters Cabin is once again open to the public. The park closed the two-story cabin in late 2021 while the park’s Forever Places crew addressed safety concerns and completed renovations. The crew, a team of skilled carpenters and masons, replaced the roof and portions of the wall timbers, stabilized the foundation, added new floorboards, and restored the fireplace.
“We are proud of the expert work our dedicated Forever Places team did to restore the cabin,” said Deputy Superintendent Alan Sumeriski. “And we are grateful to the Friends of the Smokies for their generous support to help us preserve such an iconic piece of Smokies history.”
The Friends of the Smokies, the park’s philanthropic partner, provided funding for this critical work as part of the Forever Places campaign. Forever Places protects and preserves the historical resources in the park by hiring skilled preservation crew members and supplying materials and tools.
Visitors may reach the Walker Sisters Cabin by hiking about 1.5 miles along the Little Brier Gap Trail located near the Metcalf Bottoms Picnic Area. The cabin dates to the 1800s and the Walker sisters lived there until 1964.
— National Park Service
Help protect an Oak Ridge graveyard dedicated to the study of life
OAK RIDGE — Tennessee Citizens for Wilderness Planning will for the second year host a group of volunteers from Transformation Church on July 15 at the Worthington Cemetery Ecological Study Area to remove Dahurian buckthorn and other invasive species. This is the second year of help at the site from church members, and is one of several service projects church members will conduct throughout the Knoxville area. Volunteers will also help pick up litter and do some trail work.
— Tennessee Citizens for Wilderness Planning
Gloves up to honor Knoxville boxer Big John Tate
KNOXVILLE — Mayor Indya Kincannon joined city Councilwoman Gwen McKenzie and documentarian William Winnett on June 6 to unveil a new honorary street sign at Lakeside Avenue next to Chilhowee Park to honor former heavyweight boxing champion Big John Tate (1979-80).
Tate trained nearby at the “Ace” Miller Golden Gloves Arena and is the subject of the documentary “Knoxville’s Forgotten Champion: The Story of Big John Tate.”
The honorary sign renamed that section of the road as “Big John Tate Corner.”
— City of Knoxville
Take a moment at a wayside to think of African Americans in the Great Smokies
GATLINBURG — Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials unveiled two new waysides at Mingus Mill on May 23 as part of the larger African American Experiences in the Smokies project.
“The new signs and the African American Experiences in the Smokies project are so important to tell the untold stories of Black people in the region,” said Superintendent Cassius Cash.
Vocalist, multi-instrumentalist, and poet Eric Mingus performed a new piece of music that speaks to and of Mingus Mill, its location, and the people who lived there, including his ancestors. A Santa Fe-based musician, Eric has recently re-connected with his family’s story that is rooted in the park through the African American Experiences in the Smokies project. Eric is descended from Daniel Mingus, a formerly enslaved carpenter, and Clarinda Mingus, the daughter of Daniel’s enslaver.
Hellbender Press previously reported on the Smokies project.
One of the new waysides tells the story of the nearby Enloe Slave Cemetery, where several African Americans are interred. The other wayside tells the story of Eric’s father, legendary jazz bassist Charles Mingus Jr., and his family.
The African American Experiences in the Smokies project is supported by the Friends of the Smokies and Great Smoky Mountains Association, which help fund research of the historic presence and influence of African Americans in the southern Appalachian Mountains from the 1540s through today.
— National Park Service
Quaff some brews and pour some out on Endangered Species Day
Friday, May 19 is Endangered Species Day. Not just in Knoxville. The U.S. Postal Service is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act by releasing a collection of stamps featuring endangered animals and fishes. All 4,000 of the Endangered Species Limited Edition Collector's Sets are already sold out, but other collector items are still available. The fish were photographed by Joel Sartore, a friend of local nonprofit Conservation Fisheries. His National Geographic Photo Ark collection also features boulder darters, which are native to the Elk River in Middle Tennessee and have been federally listed as endangered since 1988.
Here’s another link to the celebration: Endangered Species Day in the Old City.
Join in various festivities, ranging from Riverside Tattoo Flash Day to Pint Night at Merchants of Beer to honor those critters who may not be with us much longer.
KUB and SACE provide a guide to a home efficiency uplift
KNOXVILLE — Are you looking to take control of your utility bills to not only save money but also breathe easier knowing your home is healthier and more comfortable? Join us this Wednesday, May 17, from 6-8 PM for a free workshop to learn about newly available, once-in-a-generation funding, resources, and rebates that everyone can benefit from, regardless of if you own or rent your home, or if you have high or low income, through local and federal funds.
KUB is providing free (yes, free) home energy improvements for income-eligible customers through the Home Uplift program. New or repaired HVAC units, attic and wall insulation, appliances, and electric water heaters are just a few of the home energy upgrades that you may receive. Plus, professional crews are ready and waiting to do the work so you don’t have to.
— Southern Alliance for Clean Energy
Townsend citizens protest proposed resort development
TOWNSEND — Yonder Hospitality is facing backlash as the company proposes to develop a new resort. More than 100 people showed up at the planning commission meeting on Thursday, May 11 to protest the development. Local residents do not feel the new resort fits in with the local landscape and will add even more congestion to the area. Representatives of Yonder Hospitality requested the planning commission delay the vote to rezone the area until June.
The development proposal includes 27.6 acres of commercial land off Lamar Alexander Parkway as well as some residential parcels, which will need to be rezoned. The resort includes 130 cabins, 36 RV parking spaces, a drive-in movie theater, dining area and a resort style pool and hot tubs.
The petition to thwart the development already has 1,000 signatures.
Enviros cheer new Biden plan to limit fossil pollution
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on May 11 proposed new carbon pollution standards for coal and gas-fired power plants to protect public health and reduce harmful pollutants.
EPA’s proposed standards are expected to deliver up to $85 billion in climate and public health benefits over the next two decades and avoid up to 617 million metric tons of total carbon dioxide (CO2) through 2042.
EPA estimates that in 2030 alone, the proposed standards will prevent more than 300,000 asthma attacks; 38,000 school absence days; 1,300 premature deaths; 38,000 school absence days; and 66,000 lost work days.
Dr. Stephen A. Smith, Executive Director of Southern Alliance for Clean Energy: “Individuals and communities across the country are doing whatever they can to protect against the immense dangers of climate pollution and are depending on the federal government to do the same. Federal limits on climate pollution from power plants are a critically needed and long overdue protection for public health and the environment.
“We will be reviewing the proposal and hope that the proposal hits the mark in giving our communities the safeguards they need from deadly fossil pollution.”
EPA will be taking comments on these proposals for 60 days after publication in the Federal Register.
Knoxville trees need a canopy of support
KNOXVILLE — Trees Knoxville wants to hear from residents to help develop an Urban Forest Master Plan that considers the city’s unique challenges, priorities, and opportunities. A successful plan will help Knoxville preserve, grow and care for trees, which play a significant role in public health and environmental health.
Upcoming opportunities to learn more and provide feedback:
May 4, 6-7:30 p.m.
Urban Trees Virtual Open House
If you haven’t attended an in-person event, this virtual option may fit your schedule. Learn about the urban tree canopy and provide your thoughts and perspective on what Knoxville needs. Participants will need to preregister online to receive the link to the virtual workshop.
May 11, 4-7 p.m.
Urban Trees Open House
616 Jessamine Street
Trees in cities are vital to human health, especially as the climate warms. What does Knoxville need? Come to this open-house-style event to learn more and add your two cents. Trees Knoxville will give 15-minute presentations at 5 and 6 p.m. Attendees will learn more about the Urban Forest Master Plan process and how to engage neighbors, friends and other residents who value trees in this important process.
Invite Trees Knoxville to your meeting! Go to KnoxvilleTreePlan.org to schedule a presentation.
Online Survey. If none of these engagement options work, fill out the online survey at Knoxville Tree Plan to make sure your voice is heard.
Trees Knoxville was formed in 2016 and grew out of the community’s deep appreciation for trees and their many benefits. Its mission is to expand the urban canopy on both public and private land throughout Knox County. Trees Knoxville is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to planting trees, educating people, and promoting the health and well-being of our community and our environment in Knoxville and Knox County.
— City of Knoxville
Udderly amazing: University of Tennessee to unveil robotic cow-milker
WALLAND — The University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture will host a demonstration of its new robotic milking technology at the UT AgResearch and Education Center’s Little River Unit in Blount County. The new system, developed by the Lely Corporation in the Netherlands, allows for the cows to be automatically milked at their own will in a stress-free environment. The demonstration is set for 10 a.m. May 2 and will include remarks from prominent university and community leaders.
The cows are trained to walk up to the robotic system, where each animal will be recognized by a sensor on its collar. The system then knows how much feed to give the cow while she’s being milked, based on historical data. The cow is free to eat, drink and rest while being milked, and in an area where there’s less cattle traffic. About 120 dairy cows can be milked and individual records kept through two robotic systems in a relatively short amount of time.
“The mission of UT AgResearch is to conduct leading-edge projects to serve the evolving needs of the agriculture and forestry industry in Tennessee and beyond,” said Hongwei Xin, dean of UT AgResearch.
“The introduction of milking robots into our existing traditional dairy production system at the Little River dairy facility allows our researchers to find answers to questions ranging from interactions between the animals and robots, impact on the animal’s production performance, and labor savings and profitability. The robotic milking system is part of the UT Precision Livestock Farming (PLF) initiative that aims to improve production efficiency and food supply chain robustness through enhanced animal welfare. UTIA is poised to be the leader in PLF in the region, the nation and the world.”
— University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture
The State of Bats: Grim news for our winged mammals
North America’s first State of the Bats report gives a sobering outlook for the winged mammals. According to the North American Bat Conservation Alliance report:
- More than half of the 154 known bat species on the continent could face severe population declines over the next 15 years.
- During that time, up to 82 percent of bat species will be negatively affected by climate change, especially extreme drought and temperatures.
- The scope and severity of threats — including habitat loss, wind turbines and the deadly bat disease white-nose syndrome — are increasing.
The news isn’t all bad. The report outlines ways to help and emphasizes the wide-ranging benefits of bats, from improving crop yields to eating insect pests. It also highlights the promise of focused, collaborative conservation efforts.
Case in point, the lesser long-nosed bat was once endangered in Mexico and the U.S. But thanks to international efforts, it is now delisted and recovered in both countries.
The North American Bat Conservation Alliance is another example. The coalition involving the U.S., Mexico and Canada created the 2023 State of the Bats report with Bat Conservation International and others.
“Bats face many challenges and the conservation landscape is increasingly complex,” said Dr. Jeremy Coleman, alliance co-chair and white-nose syndrome coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “While there is more to do, the level of international collaboration we have achieved for bat conservation in North America is a bright spot and a cause for optimism going forward.”
— Georgia Department of Natural Resources
ORNL gets boost to make airliners cleaner
OAK RIDGE — The Center for Bioenergy Innovation has been renewed by the Department of Energy as one of four bioenergy research centers across the nation to advance robust, economical production of plant-based fuels and chemicals. CBI, led by Oak Ridge National Laboratory, is focused on the development of nonfood biomass crops and specialty processes for the production of sustainable jet fuel to help decarbonize the aviation sector.
The DOE announcement provides $590 million to the centers over the next five years. Initial funding for the four centers will total $110 million for Fiscal Year 2023. Outyear funding will total up to $120 million per year over the following four years, contingent on availability of funds.
“To meet our future energy needs, we will need versatile renewables like bioenergy as a low-carbon fuel for some parts of our transportation sector,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. “Continuing to fund the important scientific work conducted at our Bioenergy Research Centers is critical to ensuring these sustainable resources can be an efficient and affordable part of our clean energy future.”
— Sara C. Shoemaker, Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Knox County mayor honors women leaders in STEAM all month
KNOXVILLE — Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs is observing Women’s History Month throughout March by sharing videos each Wednesday highlighting time spent in different Knox County Schools’ Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math (STEAM) classrooms taught by female teachers.
The March 15 video features a visit with South Doyle High School STEM/Computer Science and 2022 KCS Secondary Teacher of the Year Katie DeVinney who was teaching a class on the principles of advanced manufacturing and practical design.
“I hope out of courses like this, that young women are able to see the opportunities available in sectors of the economy like advanced manufacturing and hopefully pursue those,” Jacobs said in a press release.
DeVinney is a 10-year educator who began her career as a foreign language instructor but was inspired by her husband who started the Robotics program at South Doyle High School, to switch paths.
“I just love it. It’s so much fun to see the excitement in kids when they get to take something that they designed on this computer and then hold it in the real world. It’s the coolest process I have ever seen so that’s kind of why I do it.” DeVinney said.
Mayor Jacobs said celebrating women in STEAM is important for young girls because it shows them that women can succeed in technical fields — industry typically driven by men.
Later this month, he will share visits with Gibbs Middle School Art Teacher Dorothy Verbick and STEM Teacher Lauren Downs; as well as Karns Middle School Math Teacher Rebecca Layton.
— Knox County Mayors Office
Get a free virtual science lesson in the Smokies this Thursday
A rundown about science efforts in Great Smoky Mountains National Park is set for March 2.
You can learn about myriad scientific studies ongoing in the Smokies from the comfort of your own home.
Attendees will “learn about a wide variety of scientific topics, from natural history and weather to geology and more, from researchers currently working in the Smokies,” according to an announcement from DLIA.
The schedule is likely to change, but a tentative schedule is available on the DLIA website.
— Ben Pounds
Updated: Her Oak Ridge story is finally told in a federal space
OAK RIDGE — For the month of April 2023, the exhibition can bee seen, Thursdays and Fridays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., at the Oak Ridge History Museum, which is housed in the Midtown Community Center at 102 Robertsville Road, Oak Ridge, TN. That building itself is a significant landmark of Oak Ridge history. Constructed 1944-45, it has been used as a bathhouse and laundry, a hangout for students, a senior center, the Oak Ridge Convention & Visitors Bureau, and office of the Oak Ridge Heritage and Preservation Association. Many long-term Oak Ridgers refer to it simply as the ”Wildcat Den,” harking back to the time it was home base of the high school’s football team, the Oak Ridge Wildcats that were national champions in 1958.
NORRIS — The W. G. Lenoir Museum in Norris Dam State Park will be hosting “HerStory: A Photography Exhibition of Women in the Secret City.” The exhibit will open on March 1, and be on display through the month in honor of Women’s History Month.
Constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and opened in May 1936, Norris Dam State Park was managed by the Tennessee Valley Authority for 18 years prior to becoming a Tennessee State Park in 1953. Oak Ridge’s selection for the Manhattan Project was, in part, due to rural electrification that Norris Dam accomplished.
During the early 1940s, the park was closed to the public and the CCC vacation cottages winterized to house Manhattan Project workers. Later serving as a popular recreation destination for the growing government town, Norris Dam State Park continues to attract visitors from throughout the region. The construction of Norris Dam and Oak Ridge necessitated the relocation of countless families of the Clinch River valley by the federal government. These historical events connect these parks, and this new partnership will strive to tell the full stories of these places.
From janitors to homemakers and chemists, the women of the Manhattan Project worked hard and talked little. During WWII, Oak Ridge was a government town of 70,000 workers; primarily women who lived in a camp-like environment of barbed wire, security checkpoints, and code words. Workers were fingerprinted, interviewed, assigned a job, and given a clearance badge. Housing was limited and cramped and often unheated. Food at the cafeterias was in short supply and lines were long.
The photographs were taken by James Edward Westcott, a renowned photographer who worked for the U.S. government in Oak Ridge during the Manhattan Project and the Cold War. Westcott was one of the few people permitted to have a camera in the Oak Ridge area during the Manhattan Project. For more information call the Manhattan Project National Historical Park at (865) 482-1942.
— National Park Service
The crucial Amazon rainforest is nearing a point of no return
The Amazon has long served as a vast carbon sink, even as vegetation pumped oxygen into the atmosphere to the point it was called the “lungs of the Earth.”
But vast deforestation, despite calls to save the Amazon that originated decades ago, portends profound changes in the ecology of the huge, increasingly fragmented forest that lies mainly within Brazil.
“Just in the past half-century, 17 percent of the Amazon — an area larger than Texas — has been converted to croplands or cattle pasture. Less forest means less recycled rain, less vapor to cool the air, less of a canopy to shield against sunlight,” according to a report from Alex Cuadros.
“In one study, a team led by the researcher Paulo Brando intentionally set a series of fires in swaths of forest abutted by an inactive soy plantation. After a second burn, coincidentally during a drought year, one plot lost nearly a third of its canopy cover, and African grasses — imported species commonly used in cattle pasture — moved in.”
Updated: Smokies crews recover drowned Knoxville kayaker
TOWNSEND — Smokies recovery teams on Monday found the body of Carl Keaney, 61, of Knoxville, in the Little River.
Keaney was last seen kayaking the Sinks during high flow when he vanished under water, prompting calls to Great Smoky Mountains National Park rangers who, along with other local crews, proceeded to search for his body for three days.
Here’s the previous Hellbender Press report:
Teams are searching for a missing kayaker in what Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials are now calling a “recovery operation” after a 61-year-old man disappeared underwater while boating above the Sinks on Little River. High water levels from recent heavy rains are making search and recovery difficult.
“Around 3:40 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 16 Great Smoky Mountains National Park dispatch received a call that a 61-year-old man had disappeared underwater while kayaking above The Sinks and did not resurface,” according to a news release from the park.
Park releases Smokies air-tour plan
GATLINBURG — Great Smoky Mountains National Park and other federal officials completed a management plan to formally regulate aircraft tours over the park.
Don’t expect much to change in the skies over the park: The plan allows 946 air tours a year by select helicopter operators, unchanged from the average number of annual flights recorded from 2017 to 2019. Flights may only operate from two hours after daybreak to two hours before sundown.
“The plan establishes measures to protect park resources including natural and cultural resources, preservation of wilderness character, and visitor experience,” according to Smokies officials. Flights will be restricted to six routes over the park, and must maintain an elevation above 2,700 feet of the highest terrain. Cades Cove is off limits, as are several historical sites, including the Walker Sisters Cabin.
Air tours, often to the dismay of many hikers and others, have occurred over the park for most of its history, but no formal flight guidelines were in place.
“We appreciate the tireless work that went into the development of the Smokies air tour management plan,” said Superintendent Cassius Cash. “The plan incorporates several improvements that allow continued air tour activity, while at the same time better protecting the wilderness character of the backcountry, wildlife populations, natural soundscapes, and the visitor experience in historic areas like Cades Cove.”
Eastern Band of Cherokee Indian members provided notable input into the development of the plan, which will go into effect in 90 days from Dec.3.
Hellbender Press previously reported on development of the Smokies aircraft management plan.
Real or fake Christmas trees? Like most things in life, the answer is a function of time.
Nothing beats the fresh aroma of a live Christmas tree, if you are into that kind of thing, but both real and fake trees carry their own load of sustainability pros and cons.
Live trees offer holiday beauty and scent and are a traditional addition to households. But they are harvested from a vast monoculture and require multiple levels of carbon-burning transport.
Artificial trees offer convenience, and can be reused for a decade. But they are largely made of plastic, manufactured in places with unsavory human rights records, and require global transit.
This article breaks it down pretty well. Maybe it’s just best to not have a Christmas tree?
Beavers mitigate forest fires
NPR: California enlists beavers in battle against climate change
Forest areas with beaver dams are less prone to severe fire damage because of more consistent soil moisture and less extreme air aridity and temperature conditions. Read about it or listen to Randy Simon’s 2-minute beaver podcast on National Public Radio’s Earth Wise web page.
Food myths hurt Mother Earth
The average American family of four annually spends more than $2,000 on food they never eat!
Nearly one in nine people suffer from hunger worldwide.
Agriculture contributes to global greenhouse gas emissions, deforestation and soil degradation.
Climate change increases crop losses.
One third of all food produced in the world is lost or wasted.
It’s not just the food that’s wasted.
Consider the energy wasted to grow, process and transport it.
That all contributes to climate change, food shortages and to the rising costs of food, energy and health care.
Food waste stresses our environment, humanity and the economy.
Austria to sue the European Union if it labels nuclear and gas power plants as “green infrastructure”
VIENNA — Leonore Gewessler, Austria’s energy and climate minister announced that she would take the case to the European Court of Justice if the union’s executive proceeds with plans to include nuclear and natural gas in the EU taxonomy of sustainable finance.
About gas, Gewessler said that it releases unconscionable amounts of greenhouse gases. “Just because something is less bad than coal doesn’t make it good or sustainable.”
Regarding nuclear energy she said it has unpredictably high risks, referring to Chernobyl and Fukushima. She also mentioned as great concerns, the safe disposal of spent nuclear fuel and lack of a global solution for its final storage.
Smokies researchers make a formal acquaintance with a familiar salamander
Great news from the Smokies via Instagram!
The “salamander capital of the world” just gained a new member! Meet our 31st species: the Cherokee black-bellied salamander, or Desmognathus gvnigeusgwotli. Its species name means “black belly” in the Cherokee language. Scientists used genetics to find out that it is different from the other black-bellied salamander in the park.
Climbers can clean their crags during Obed event
WARTBURG — The Obed Wild and Scenic River will host the park’s annual Adopt-a-Crag event on Saturday, Sept. 11 in cooperation with the East Tennessee Climbers Coalition.
Volunteers are needed to help with a variety of projects, including general trail maintenance and litter pickup. Participants should meet at the Lilly Pad Hopyard Brewery at 9 a.m. to register and receive a project assignment. Carpooling is suggested, and volunteers should bring their own lunch, water, hand tools and gloves.
When the work is done, volunteers are invited to spend the day climbing, kayaking or hiking. The ETCC plans a volunteer appreciation dinner that evening at the Lilly Pad.
For more information, contact the Obed Wild and Scenic River at (423) 346-6294.
Falling trees accountable for very few deaths in Smokies, but they do happen
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.
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.
Congo retreats from climate commitments to fuel its fossil energy sector
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.
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.
Rare bipartisan legal effort under way for widespread wildlife protections
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.
UTK has quite the collection of earthly remains
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.
Initial Advance Knox growth studies available for review
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.”