Thursday, February 26, 2009

Callaway Gardens Places Thousands of Additional Acres Into Permanent Conservation Project

Pine Mountain’s Beauty and Biodiversity Protected Forever

In partnership with Harris County and the State of Georgia, Callaway Gardens® once again demonstrates its commitment to the environment with the placement of another large tract of land into a conservation easement.

Through the Georgia Land Conservation Program (GLCP), the Ida Cason Callaway Foundation™ (ICCF), the non-profit parent organization of Callaway Gardens, has worked with the government of Harris County to protect 2,078 acres of ecologically important green space. The GLCP is a program created by Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue that offers competitive grants, low-interest loans and tax incentives for land acquisition or conservation easement purchases. The goal is to bring together private and public entities to conserve our natural resources for current and future generations to use and enjoy.

“We were excited to partner with Harris County’s Board of Commissioners and Development Authority as well as the State of Georgia to protect this ecology significant tract of land for future generations,” Edward C. Callaway, ICCF chairman/CEO.

This GLCP project accomplishes several important goals: connects 2,507 acres of ICCF land that was designated as a Georgia Forest Legacy conservation easement in December 2004 with the existing green space of Georgia’s largest state park, Franklin D. Roosevelt State Park; maintains forever the natural view shed of the Pine Mountain Ridge; and protects three miles of the ecologically important Pine Mountain Ridge and its adjacent watershed from future development. Remnant stands of rare, mountain Longleaf Pine (Pinus palustris) can be found across this tract of land. The protection and restoration of this key species and its associated habitat are a high priority for this project.

In addition, there are approximately 25 acres of land set aside as permanent green space as part of three LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) projects at Callaway Gardens as certified by the U. S. Green Building Council.

This transaction brings the total amount of land to 4,610 acres that the ICCF has placed under permanent conservation protection. While relinquishing the developmental rights, Callaway Gardens retains the rights to implement wise land stewardship and environmental education to fulfill our mission of connecting man and nature in a way that benefits both.

The Georgia Forestry Commission holds the conservation easements on both tracts. These tracts together create a portion of The Preserve at Callaway Gardens™. Today, The Preserve encompasses over 10,000 acres of forested land adjacent to the Gardens, resort and residential living areas of Callaway Gardens, which have existed for over 50 years near the town of Pine Mountain, Georgia. The management of the easement tracts is designed to be holistic and fit seamlessly with the management of the adjacent, non-easement portions of Preserve area.

A conservation easement is a legally binding agreement transferring a negotiated set of property rights from one party to another, without removing the property from private ownership. Under this type of easement, the ICCF is giving up development rights while retaining accessibility for ecological restoration, environmental education, responsible recreation and appropriate active land management which supports the conservation values of the property.

So what does this mean for the public? LuAnn Craighton, Preserve executive director, said, “We don’t want to lock this land up and throw away the key. Our objectives are to get visitors on the land and educate them about the natural world through guided programs; be a role model of wise land stewardship and land management techniques; host conservation-minded groups, share what we learn; and last but not least, re-establish the population of Longleaf Pine.”

“It is very exciting to know that this land will continue to provide future visitors with a better understanding of the living world as my grandparents Cason and Virginia Callaway, founders of Callaway Gardens, dreamed,” Callaway said.

Callaway Gardens, a premier travel and meeting destination in the South, is owned and operated by the non-profit Ida Cason Callaway Foundation™. For more than 50 years Callaway has provided “a place of relaxation, inspiration and a better understanding of the living world” for millions of visitors. Callaway Gardens is committed to its mission of environmental education and land stewardship for the benefit of future generations.

Callaway Gardens is in Pine Mountain, Ga., 60 minutes southwest of Atlanta and 30 minutes north of Columbus. For additional information, call 1-800-CALLAWAY (225-5292) or visit www.callawaygardens.com.
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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Are You Drowning Your Houseplants with Love?

(ARA) - Whether you have rooms filled with houseplants or a choice few displayed throughout your home, growing houseplants is a great way to decorate and is good for both body and soul.

But did you know that the No. 1 reason indoor plants die is people drown them with love? That’s right. They overwater them. If your pretty peace lily is changing its color and losing its leaves, you may be pouring on the “love” a bit too much.

Uh-Oh: Signs of Trouble
We all know the signs ... wilted, yellow, droopy leaves, mushy stems and blossoms that are leaning over and falling off. And then we try to bring the plants back to life by overwatering them, thinking they need a really big drink.

“Overwatering your plants can lead to root rot damage while underwatering can cause sudden wilting,” says Luke Miller, editor of Garden Ideas & Outdoor Living magazine.

Miller recommends not watering all your houseplants automatically on the same schedule because indoor plants have different watering needs. Rather than empty an entire can of water into your plant’s container until you see water dripping over the sides or sticking your finger in the soil to “guesstimate” when it’s time to water, there really is an easier solution.

Moisture meters take the guesswork out of watering. These meters are easy to use and accurately measure the soil’s water content.

Fertile Earth has taken this technology to the next level with an inexpensive moisture probe. The new WaterStik is a simple device that monitors the water content in any type of soil and gives an automatic signal of your plant’s water status that’s quick, easy and accurate.

“The WaterStik is a no-brainer watering system even a 5-year-old can use,” says Dan O’Very of Fertile Earth. “You simply press the Insta-Read button and it instantly shows your plant’s water needs.”

The WaterStik blinks four warning colors. Blue means, “Stop! I’m drowning!” Yellow means, “Water me soon.” Red is “Water me now!”, and green is “Ah, just right!”
Quick Watering Tips to Grow Healthy Houseplants

* Give your plants a healthy start by choosing containers with proper drainage holes and avoid letting your plant sit in water in the catch basin.

* Use a light potting soil instead of garden soil, which tends to be heavy and doesn't allow water to drain through. Potting soil must be porous enough to allow drainage of excess water and provide oxygen needed by the roots.

* Pour enough water until it drains out the bottom. Pour off any excess water since plants don’t like to have their “feet” wet.

* Most indoor plants prefer room temperature water and need to be watered more frequently in spring and summer, when they’re actively growing, than in winter.

* Follow the watering directions on your plant’s tag. Some plants like succulents and cacti require less watering than moist-soil plants such as ferns and African violets. These fleshy-leaved plants need the opportunity to dry out between watering.

From pothos and spider plants to Chinese evergreen and jade plants, moisture meters such as WaterStik make it easy to water each of your indoor plants just like a pro. For more information or to find a retailer near you visit www.WaterStik.com.

Courtesy of ARAcontent

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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Spring’s Top Home Decor Trends Draw Inspiration from Nature

(ARA) – It is time to pay tribute to the joy and jubilance of nature as the welcoming signs of spring arrive. The familiar will appear refreshingly new as we take in its splendor. This spring, the hottest trends in home decor reflect this breathtaking beauty as Mother Nature awakes from her slumber.

"Spring is such an exciting time of year," says Susan Atchison, manager of trend development for Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores. "Nature inspires decorating trends that are simple, yet grand. What you might see on a stroll through your local park has become the backdrop for interior designers and do-it-yourself home decorators across the country."

Here are the top home decor trends for spring 2009:

1. Emulate outdoor serenity.

"Lush leaves and exquisite florals convey outdoor serenity," says Atchison. She notes that creating a peaceful element within your home might be as simple as adding a flower or greenery arrangement. "It's amazing what plant life can do to liven a room. A vase of flowers in the bathroom can make your morning routine more cheery, or a green centerpiece on the kitchen table might make dinner a mini-retreat from the long day at work."

Whether fresh or silk, use leaves and flowers to bring a touch of classic nature into your home. Bright colors have pick-me-up appeal, while earthy tones convey calmness. Match complementary options with the current color scheme of your home, or combine to celebrate the harmony of the season.

2. Make practical pretty.

The things you use on a regular basis in your home are often the things that don't have a lot of flair. But this spring, practical items are getting a stylistic boost with new designs and fresh ideas that make them stand out.

Take a flowerpot for example. You don't have to spend a lot of money to get a unique, beautiful pot. "Flowerpots made of fabric are undoubtedly one of the freshest ideas for spring," says Atchison. She suggests creating your own by using durable yet breathable Sun N Shade outdoor fabrics to create fun yet functional pots. From bright, eye-catching colors, to earthy, subtle tones, choose fabrics that mimic your favorite theme, whether you plan to use these planters indoors or out. Plus, at the end of the season, you can fold for easy storage and use next year.

3. Refresh what you already have.

With the tight economy, many people have limited budgets for updating their home decor. Taking note from springtime renewal, an affordable, smart idea is to update what you already have in your home.

Atchison suggests using polymer clay to add spring-inspired designs to different glass items you have around your house. For example, take a set of wine glasses and use different shades of green clay to create leaves on the outside of the glass. Bake the glass with the new clay design for 30 minutes at 230 F and you'll have an entirely new glass set to toast the spring sunset. Consider updating other items in your home such as old vases, candy dishes and hand and lotion dispensers. According to Atchison, pretty much anything made of plain glass is a potential subject.

"As you walk though the woods or sit on a park bench in the city, note the sights and sounds of springtime," says Atchison. "This will inspire fresh home decor that is sure to make your home beautiful and leave a lasting impression on guests."

For more ideas on spring home decorating trends, visit www.Joann.com.

Courtesy of ARAcontent

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Sunday, February 22, 2009

Call of the Wild (Flowers)

(ARA) – At a time when “green” is the color of thoughtful lifestyles, gardening practices are going greener, too. Some gardens awash in the biggest, brightest, newest flowers are sadly lifeless, lacking the buzz of the bees, the fluttering of butterflies and the zip of hummingbirds. To make these creatures welcome, gardeners need to go a little wild themselves, setting aside their visions of gardens groomed and sprayed into submission.

Gardeners need to re-imagine their gardens as an outdoor café and build safe havens for birds, bees and butterflies. How? By setting the table with nectar and seeds that are on the menus of local wildlife. This spring, plant a patch of wildflowers and watch the garden come alive.

Wildflowers and their dependents -- insects and birds -- work together in harmony with local climates. Naturally adapted to soil, sun and moisture conditions, wildflowers offer more than simple grace and unaffected charm.

They represent an earth-friendly, attractive alternative, thriving without fertilizers, pesticides and constant irrigation.

In nature, wildflowers mark the seasons with glorious bursts of color. Spring bluebells and columbines might give way to yarrows and rues, which in turn leave the season’s last word to coneflowers and asters.

The wildflower patch is typically an exuberant and ever-changing continuous carpet of carefree blossoms. Since the look is more relaxed than that of formal garden beds, wildflowers can beautify areas that are very difficult to maintain -- hillsides, woodland edges, lake borders or that awkward strip between the driveway and the property line.

While the aim is a casual, unstudied appearance, wildflower gardens do require some planning. One key is choosing a seed mix created for your region, taking into account the hardiness zone, elevation and typical soil, sun and moisture conditions.

Wild-flower-seed.com offers a wide variety of blends for nine areas of the country, from the rainy northeast to the dry southwest. The company also has specialty mixes specifically designed to attract beneficial insects and butterflies -- as well as a blend deer find unappealing. Each mix includes 10 to 20 plant species, providing flowers season-long and a mix of annuals and perennials for both quick color and staying power.

Site preparation is important and a little up-front effort can pay big dividends. Follow these steps:

* Choose a sunny, well-drained location. Most wildflowers want six to eight hours of direct sunlight and few will tolerate “wet feet.”

* Remove any sod and till to a depth of just 1 or 2 inches. More will only bring additional weed seeds to the surface.

* Weed control is crucial to get wildflowers off to a good start. Instead of using a strong, chemical pesticide to kill weeds, manage weeds naturally. Encourage weeds to grow with regular watering and then pull the weeds before sowing wildflowers, or use a low-toxicity herbicide.

* Sow seeds according to directions -- the maximum amount recommended will produce a dense patch, the minimum a more scattered look.

* For easier sowing, mix seed with dry sand, which is more visible against the soil. Blend well, using a ratio of one part seed to one or two parts sand.

* Good seed-to-soil contact encourages germination. A lawn roller is ideal, but stepping across the bed, compressing soil underfoot, will do the job.

* No fertilizer is necessary, but the seedbed should be kept moist for about four weeks until seeds sprout. Then watering can taper off unless conditions are unusually dry.

Once established, a wildflower garden requires little routine maintenance. A once-a-year mowing to 4 to 6 inches in late fall will keep tree seedlings from intruding and spread the season’s crop of seeds.

To see wildflower mixes offered for your region and view details on individual species, visit www.wild-flower-seed.com.

Courtesy of ARAcontent

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Friday, February 20, 2009

Georgia Citizens Create Legacies by Planting Trees in The Grove

/PRNewswire/ -- In an effort to educate, engage and encourage Georgians to plant trees and protect Georgia's urban tree canopy, the Georgia Urban Forest Council (GUFC) and the Georgia Forestry Commission (GFC) have joined forces to create a new Web site and online community called The Grove, GeorgiaGrove.org.

The Grove allows families and friends to share the experience of planting trees and commemorating special life moments. The Grove members can share their memories by uploading pictures and stories of their tree planting experiences for others to see and discuss. The Grove members can also create groups, or "groves," to connect, share and interact with other members within the virtual community.

"This is a great tool that allows families to create a legacy and leave a positive mark on the world for their children and grandchildren to enjoy," said Mary Lynne Beckley, director of the Georgia Urban Forest Council. "By planting trees, we renew our commitment to protecting Georgia's green legacy, ensuring future generations will share in the life events we celebrated, while enjoying the benefits of living in healthy communities."

To be a part of The Grove, Georgia residents can log onto GeorgiaGrove.org. There they can create a free account, plant a tree with family and friends, take pictures of the occasion, then upload their photos and post their stories to share the experience with other Grove members. In addition, The Grove offers an interactive Tree Match Tool that provides guidance on choosing the right tree to commemorate a special event, as well as information on tree planting, tree care tips and the benefits of maintaining a healthy urban forest.

According to GFC, Georgia's urban forests have been diminishing, due to the rapid growth in development. To counteract the negative impact of tree loss, Georgia residents must be informed, educated and activated to help plant trees and preserve urban forest health.

"Strategically planted trees improve energy efficiency in homes, encourage people to linger and shop longer in business districts, provide shade to keep our cities cool and make communities healthier and safer places to live," said Larry Morris, associate chief of sustainable forestry with Georgia Forestry Commission. "It is important to encourage Georgia residents to plant trees and help develop vital green infrastructures, which offset the impact of grey infrastructures such as roads and utilities, and help sustain Georgia's green legacy."

The Grove is part of GUFC and GFC's Create Your Legacy initiative, which aims to educate citizens about the ways tree loss impacts the economy, the environment, our health and our social interactions. For more information or to share a legacy, log onto GeorgiaGrove.org today and share a tree planting experience.

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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Freeze-Dried Food and Organic Heirloom Seeds

Note: Thought this one was interested. When you go to the site a video plays and we couldn't find a way to stop it, but still, it is an interesting concept. Especially since a few of us have been talking about the need to possibly grow some of our own food this year:

Now... freeze-dried food and heirloom seeds from a Southern outfit!

Emergencies are a part of life, especially in the times in which we live. Weather, man-made disasters, and job layoffs are all times when it is important to have a reliable source of food for you family. And when those times strike is NOT the time to begin preparing!

Our friends at www.HeartlandEmergency.com Heartland Emergency are proud to announce that they now offer freeze-dried foods and heirloom seeds... and from fellow Southerners!

Quality freeze-dried food from world-famous Mountain House is available in several different sized packages for individuals and families, or you can put together your own order with the a la carte option. The food tastes great and has a storage life up to 30 years! What better investment for your family's safety than to begin investing in freeze-dried foods for emergencies?

And many Southerners are returning to our roots by growing their own safe, healthy food in their own Liberty Gardens at home. It's a much better alternative than eating processed foods or vegetables containing pesticides and other dangers from foreign countries! And, unlike the majority of seeds on the market today, these heirloom seeds can be used to grow your food AND to start your own stock of seeds for replanting from year to year... something that you can't do with the infertile seeds sold on the market today!

Browse the website for yourself and place an initial order today to give it a try... do it for the safety of your family... BEFORE it's too late!
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Clayton State Presents Free Seminar on Nutrition Supplements

Clayton State University’s Department of Recreation & Wellness will present a free seminar on a topic that’s been making headlines recently – nutrition supplements – on Friday, Feb. 20 in the University’s Student Activities Center.

“Not sure whether that pill you are popping is doing any good? How about those metabolism boosters and protein shakes?” asks Cindy Lauer, Clayton State’s director of Recreation & Wellness.

The seminar, which is open to the public, will be presented by Darin Spurlock, dietetic intern on “Supplement 101.” Spurlock’s presentation will begin at 11:45 a.m. and is expected to run for 30 minutes. Feel free to bring a lunch.

For more information, contact Lauer at (678) 466-4974.

A unit of the University System of Georgia, Clayton State University is an outstanding comprehensive metropolitan university located 15 miles southeast of downtown Atlanta.
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New Birding Boot Camp Geared to Teens June 14-19

Teens interested in birds and nature can take part in a week-long, action-packed summer camp held by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources in concert with the Georgia Ornithological Society and the Atlanta, Ogeechee and Coastal Georgia Audubon societies.

The name? Camp TALON, short for Teen Adventures Learning about Ornithology and Nature.

St. Simons Island will serve as base camp as teens and leaders explore the “birdiest” hotspots along the coast. Each trip will involve hands-on projects, such as helping monitor endangered wood storks, surveying marsh birds, and banding songbirds and mourning dove. Leaders will teach young naturalists the basic tools of bird research and monitoring, and help them with field identification skills by sight and sound. From open beaches to live oak hammocks and fresh water wetlands to salt marshes, the group will visit many of the critical bird habitat types found on the Georgia coast.

Field trips will be punctuated by lessons introducing bird biology, ecology and conservation, as well as a broader introduction to coastal ecology. Participants will visit barrier islands that few Georgians get to see. Some of Georgia’s top ornithologists and ecologists will give afternoon and evening presentations.

That’s the overview. Here are the basics:

** When: June 14-19, 2009

** Where: Staying on St. Simons Island; visiting numerous coastal habitats, including Savannah National Wildlife Refuge, Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge, Fort Stewart, Altamaha Wildlife Management Area and more.

** Whom: Camp TALON is open to teens ages 13-17. Camp capacity: 20.

** Travel: A bus will make stops in Atlanta and Macon the afternoon of June 14 to pick up students. The bus will return them June 19. Participants who cannot make these pickup points will need to find transportation to St. Simons Island.

** Cost: $500.00. Scholarships are available

** To learn more, contact:

Julie Duncan
director, The Outdoor Discovery School
Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center
Georgia DNR Wildlife Resources Division
543 Elliott Trail
Mansfield, GA 30055
phone: (770) 784-3059
fax: (770) 784-3061
Julie.Duncan@gadnr.org

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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Kodak Launches Sweepstakes to Award Photographers with an Exclusive Nature Photography Experience

/PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Eastman Kodak Company (NYSE:EK) today announced a sweepstakes that will award ten exclusive Nature Photography experiences to participants who buy KODAK PROFESSIONAL EKTAR 100 (EKTAR 100) Film. Each winner can bring up to three guests to enjoy a package that includes a four-night stay at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge. In addition, each winner will enjoy unique behind the scenes access to Disney's Animal Kingdom Theme Park and the Nature Conservancy's Disney Wilderness Preserve, and workshops with award-winning professional nature photographer Eddie Soloway.

"Kodak is excited to award nature photography experiences that are truly one of a kind," said Shona Mead, marketing director, Worldwide Film Capture Film, Photofinishing & Entertainment Group, Eastman Kodak Company. "For the commercial photographers and advanced amateurs who love EKTAR 100 Film's ability to capture stunning levels of detail in exceptionally vivid color, our Exclusive Nature Photography Experience is an incredible opportunity to put EKTAR 100 Film through its paces in a highly photogenic setting. We're thrilled to offer exclusive workshops with renowned professional photographer Eddie Soloway as part of this special experience."

Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge is a deluxe African Lodge-style resort set in a 33-acre wildlife preserve, featuring over 30 species of wildlife that roam amid three lush, tropical savannas. In addition to their stay at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge, behind the scenes access to African wildlife, and photography workshops, winners will take part in an early-morning safari with Disney wildlife photographers, receive workshop guidance from Eddie Soloway and meet well-known Florida nature photographer Clyde Butcher. The package also includes round-trip domestic US flights for 4, airport transfers between the Orlando International Airport and the Walt Disney World Resort, a gift card valued at $200 and a supply of KODAK Film.

Anyone who purchases three rolls of 35mm or a 5-pack of 120 format KODAK PROFESSIONAL EKTAR 100 Color Film between February 17, 2009 and July 31, 2009 and mails in a proof of purchase will receive a $5 rebate and automatically be entered for a chance to win*. For more information and full terms & conditions of the sweepstakes, please visit www.kodak.com/go/ektarexperience.

KODAK PROFESSIONAL EKTAR 100 Film, launched in September 2008, is the ideal choice for applications such as nature, travel, fashion and product photography, where the emphasis is often on color. With ISO 100 speed, high saturation and ultra-vivid color, EKTAR 100 Film offers the finest, smoothest grain of any color negative film available today. Since its introduction last September, there has been strong customer interest in a medium format version of EKTAR 100 Film. Kodak today also announced it will offer EKTAR 100 Film in 120 format beginning in April.

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Monday, February 16, 2009

Fayette County Challenge: Keeping Local Sports Fields In Shape

NF Note: Come on Fayette County! Here is your chance to really help out our kids and nominate one of our sports' fields for a makeover. See a field that needs some work? Check this out. This could help offset some of those pesky budget cuts.

(NAPSI)-A unique program could give local sports fields and parks a much-needed face-lift--and the result could be happier, healthier children.

The National Recreation and Park Association projects a $38 billion funding deficit for basic needs of local parks over the next four years. Budget cuts for these parks and recreation departments could result in fewer places for kids to play, particularly in the inner cities.

Public fields are an invaluable resource to our nation's communities. That's why the Kellogg's Frosted Flakes Earn Your Stripes program plans to renovate 50 fields across the United States as part of its field renovation program. This initiative was created to provide children with the opportunity to stay active and be their very best by giving them better places to play.

The Earn Your Stripes initiative kicked off with the reveal of the first fully renovated field in Tampa with New Orleans Saints quarterback, Drew Brees. This event initiated a nationwide opportunity for parents to nominate local fields for renovation, demonstrating that before anyone can earn a single stripe, someone has to help give kids places to realize their promise and potential.

"Frosted Flakes' field makeover program and the first field renovation in Tampa are great examples of what we can do to help encourage our kids to be active and stay healthy," said Brees. "It just takes a few minutes for parents to go online to frostedflakes.com, nominate a field and make a difference in kids' lives."

How to "Earn Your Stripes" in The Community

• Adults 18 years of age or older may nominate a designated outdoor baseball, softball, T-ball, soccer, football, lacrosse, field hockey field, track or basketball court in their local community for a makeover.

• Registration and entry submission are free and entrants are required to answer a few questions about the field, why it needs to be renovated and how a makeover would help the community.

• Nominations will be accepted online at www.frostedflakes.com until March 31, 2009. The site also has more information on the program and on ways to get involved in the field renovation initiative.

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Sunday, February 15, 2009

Stone Mountain’s Rock Outcrops, Forests, Streams and Lakes are the Focus of New Photography Exhibit at Fernbank Museum

Fernbank Museum of Natural History reveals the natural beauty seen within Stone Mountain’s parks and nature trails in the new exhibition Scenic Stone Mountain: Photographs by Larry Winslett, on view from February 14 through May 17, 2009.

Scenic Stone Mountain features 51 color photographs taken by Winslett during 30 years of exploration of the mountain. The photographs reveal the personal and intimate connection Winslett feels with Stone Mountain.

“They [the photographs] have been part of a spiritual journey to connect with nature and share that connection with the viewer,” Winslett says about the exhibition. “It is my sincere hope that these images capture some of the beauty and mystery that is to be found in Stone Mountain Park.”

The collection reveals much beyond the granite outcrop seen rising above the Atlanta skyline. From sunsets to blooming flowers, and from Native mortars to winter scenes reflected on Venable Lake, the exhibition offers many sights familiar to park regulars and some vistas that are unknown to all but a few. The majority of the photographs were taken throughout Stone Mountain’s Natural District, which is accessible to visitors, but other photos showcase the restricted areas of the famous mountain, including the steep South slopes and quarries.

When Winslett first started his photography career, he lived and worked near the mountain, finding inspiration in the rock outcrops, forests, streams and lakes surrounding Stone Mountain—natural features that can rarely be found in one park, especially in an urban area.

“Every afternoon, I would walk there, with camera, and I quickly realized what a special place it is for photography. Over time I have learned a lot about both nature and photography at the mountain. It will always be a special place to me,” he says.

He says that as an artist, it’s difficult to choose a favorite photograph from Scenic Stone Mountain, but he admits autumn provides some beautiful scenery.

“The fall shots are some of my favorites,” Winslett says. “The great tree diversity in the park helps it have one of the better fall color displays in Georgia.”

The park is also home to hundreds of species of flowering plants and boasts one of the highest concentrations of biological and habitat diversity in the state. Winslett says he hopes the exhibition will open people’s eyes to how much beauty exists here and will also help lend inspiration to protect Georgia’s remaining wild places.

“Most people see my Stone Mountain photos and say, ‘Wow, I didn’t realize there was any nature left there,’” Winslett says. “Most people who haven’t really explored it think the park is totally developed, when in reality the majority of it is off-limits to development, and there has been a major commitment to preserve those areas by the state and park managers.”

Winslett studied photography at the New York Institute of Photography and learned by studying with several well-known nature photographers, including John Shaw and David Middleton, but he says experience has been his biggest teacher.

“When I first started in nature photography, I would go out and say, ‘Today I’m going to get this shot or that shot,’” Winslett says. “That almost never worked out.

“With nature photography, at least for me, the more time I spend with the subject or place, the more possibilities begin to open up. Very often, if you are open to it, something totally unexpected will reveal itself to you. For me, it gets very intimate—it’s then that I usually get the shots I like best.”

Scenic Stone Mountain: Photographs by Larry Winslett is on view at Fernbank Museum of Natural History from February 14 through May 17, 2009. The exhibition is included with Museum admission. Tickets are $15 for adults, $14 for students and seniors, $13 for children ages 3-12, and free for children ages 2 years old and younger and for Museum members.

Fernbank Museum of Natural History is located at 767 Clifton Road in Atlanta. Tickets are available by phone at 404.929.6400 or online at fernbankmuseum.org
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Friday, February 13, 2009

Backyard Botanical™ to Launch Exciting Makeover Sweepstakes on Popular Television Show "The Balancing Act"

(BUSINESS WIRE)--Backyard Botanical™ is giving away six exceptional outdoor products as part of its Makeover Sweepstakes which will kick-off during its appearance on "The Balancing Act" on February 16th. After filling out the entry form at www.balancingact.com or www.backyardbotanical.com, one lucky winner will be selected in April to receive the Backyard Botanical™ Sky Fort Play Set with Clubhouse, Monkey Bars & Slide, Cedar Play House, Backyard Botanical™ Oasis Gardening System, outdoor picnic table and a deluxe Cedar Doghouse. All of these delightful additions to the backyard are offered by Leisure Time Products™.

The sweepstakes is the latest element of Backyard Botanical's national marketing campaign which will include multiple television appearances on the educational television shows "Designing Spaces" and "Kitchen Spaces," produced by O2 Media's subsidiary Quorum Productions as well as "The Balancing Act," which is produced by its subsidiary BrandStar Entertainment. Production is also underway for short and long form direct response spots which are created by O2 Media's subsidiary DR Marketing Group. The shows will air nationally on Lifetime, TLC, the WE network and more.

"This is an ideal time to launch the sweepstakes, as the weather is improving and homeowners are looking for ways to enhance their yards and outdoor living experiences," says Devon Cohen, Chief Marketing Officer of O2 Media. ""The Balancing Act" is an ideal venue for this portion of the campaign as the show's demographic coincides with parents, gardeners and homeowners who are looking for high-quality outdoor products."

"We find it appropriate that the sweepstakes is launching this month and that the winner will be chosen and announced on April 22nd, which is Earth Day," said Ron Scripsick, CEO of Backyard Leisure. "Our commitment to enjoying the outdoors with products made of cedar, which blend in with the beauty of nature."

To enter, and view the full Sweepstakes rules and prize details, visit www.balancingact.com or www.backyardbotanical.com.

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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Make Every Day Earth Day For Recycling

(NAPSI)-According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the average American produces approximately 1,600 pounds of trash per year. Too much trash going into landfills contains material that can be recycled instead. Here are a few simple tips for recycling plastic bottles and bags on Earth Day (April 22) and throughout the year.

Be Plastics Smart: Find out which plastics are recycled in your community. Though recycling varies across communities, most curbside programs collect plastic bottles and many grocery stores recycle plastic bags.

Recycle These Items with Your Bottles: Milk jugs; beverage bottles (e.g., water, soft drinks, juice, beer); shampoo, toiletry, detergent and household-cleaning bottles; salad dressing, cooking oil and condiment bottles; food jars (e.g., peanut butter, mayonnaise).

Recycle These Items with Your Bags: Grocery and retail shopping bags; newspaper bags; dry-cleaning bags; bread bags; wraps from paper towels, napkins, bathroom paper and cases of soda.

Clean and Empty: Recycle only clean and empty bottles and bags. Unless directed otherwise, remove bottle caps. Do not recycle bags that have food residue or material that has been painted or glued.

Bring it Back to the Bin: Many bottles and bags are used away from home, so remember to bring them back to the recycle bin. When you're out, store them in a backpack or briefcase, or simply leave them in the car until you arrive home or at the grocery store.

Pitch in Beyond the Kitchen: While many recyclable bottles come from the kitchen, don't forget to check bathrooms and the laundry room for recyclable plastics, such as shampoo and detergent bottles.

When in Doubt, Leave it Out: Keep in mind that mixing the wrong types of materials can lower the quality of the recyclables, so include only the items your community accepts. Avoid recycling items such as automotive, pesticide or solvent bottles, the pumps from spray bottles (the bottles themselves should be recycled) and toys.

Remember that recycled plastics are valuable and go on to become second-generation products. Bottles are used to make hundreds of everyday items, including carpets and fleece jackets. Plastic bags can be made into durable backyard decks, fences, benches, shopping carts and new bags.

For more information, visit www.plasticsinfo.org/recycling and www.plasticbagrecycling.org.

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Monday, February 09, 2009

Statewide Survey Reveals Support and Demand is Strong for Recycling Programs

/PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- When it comes to the environment, Georgians get it! According to a statewide survey, conducted by Responsive Management and commissioned by the Georgia Department of Community Affairs (DCA), the majority of Georgians do care about the environment and agree that they can make an impact through personal action.

Recycling also was seen as an effective way to help the environment. As a matter of fact, 97 percent of Georgians feel that recycling should be a high priority for their fellow residents. Findings provide insight into residents' awareness and attitudes about recycling. With extremely tight budgets available to promote recycling, the survey results will serve as the foundation for developing a very targeted and cost-effective statewide recycling education campaign.

"We were pleasantly surprised to hear that 67 percent of Georgians strongly agree that they personally can have an impact on the environment by recycling," said Randy Hartmann, Director of DCA's Office of Environmental Management. "The research reaffirms our belief that people do want to make a difference and believe they can, by taking a small step like recycling. We know we have work to do to increase recycling rates throughout the state, but this is a great place to start."

Recycling Behavior and Barriers

When it comes to current recycling behavior, the good news is that a whopping 84 percent of Georgia residents have recycled something in the past 12 months. In addition, 82 percent of Georgians also admitted to feeling guilty when they throw away an item that could have been recycled. The bad news is that only 58 percent say they recycle always or often, with 21 percent recycling only sometimes and 22 percent doing so rarely or never.

A primary barrier to recycling in Georgia is the lack of curbside collection in many communities. Only two in five Georgia residents (41 percent) say they live in a community that offers curbside or bin pickup recycling. And 90 percent said they would recycle if it "were easier to do."

"We know that curbside is the most convenient way to recycle. This survey showed us that when communities lack these programs many would-be recyclers are deterred," says Hartmann. "Many communities offer alternative programs such as drop-off and workplace recycling, programs that many use. But convenience still plays a role, and having a program at your front door, literally, is the most effective option for the average resident."

The survey further revealed the extent to which accessibility to programs impacts where and how much Georgians recycle. More specifically:

-- 70 percent of residents with curbside recycling take advantage of the
program and recycle.
-- Meanwhile, when asked of those WITHOUT curbside access, only 45
percent recycle "always" or "often."
-- Not surprisingly, 55 percent of those without curbside access
strongly or moderately agree that not having a program is a source
of frustration for them.
-- Two-thirds of Georgia residents take recyclables to drop-off sites
(even if only once a year). Among those who do not have curbside
recycling available, 89 percent take recyclables to drop-off sites,
even if only about once a year.
-- The average distance a resident drives to a drop-off location is 6
miles.
-- 42 percent of Georgians who have recycled in the past 12 months and
who work outside of home say they always recycle at work, with 31
percent saying often or sometimes; 16 percent never recycle at work.


"The global economic crisis has hit recycling markets hard. Yet, despite recent volatility, communities can rest assured there is strong demand for programs," says Gloria Hardegree, Executive Director for the Georgia Recycling Coalition. "When 76 percent of Georgians without a curbside program say they would be very likely to participate in a program if it were offered, that is a statistic that cannot be ignored."

Need for Education

The survey also indicated that lack of ongoing education is keeping many Georgians from participating; suggesting communities need to improve their communications efforts. Specifically, more than half of Georgians say they would be "very likely" to recycle or recycle more if they received more information about recycling in their community, indicating that knowledge increases participation in recycling.

"The results of this survey gave us a positive direction regarding recycling in Georgia. Georgians, as a whole, may not need as much 'convincing' as we initially thought to understand the benefits of recycling," says Lena Davie, Vice President of Hill & Knowlton, the public relations firm hired by DCA to help promote recycling to Georgia residents. "Instead of focusing on the 'why recycle?' we need to make recycling more personal. It's not about adding complications to their daily life, it's about showing them how easily recycling can become a habit and how folks who don't want to participate are really not the norm."

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Friday, February 06, 2009

Fighting Reveals Lack of Genetic Connection

University of Georgia scientists are using DNA technology and old-fashioned animal instinct to find the best ways to control wood-destroying carpenter ants.

“Carpenter ants are a major pest problem nationwide,” said Dan Suiter, an entomologist with the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. “They cause significant damage each year.”

Wood-chewers

Unlike termites, carpenter ants don’t eat wood. They chew it. “They expand it into a nest gallery that looks like Swiss cheese,” Suiter said. “Then they live in the galleries.”

Carpenter ants are big and black and live mostly in trees, he said. In the Northeast, carpenter ants destroy more wood than termites.

Based on the UGA Griffin, Ga., campus, Suiter and CAES genetic entomologist Tracie Jenkins test baits designed to kill the ants. They are monitoring 20 sites in the local city park because the hardwood trees there replicate those found in a typical suburban neighborhood.

They monitor the test sites at night when the ants forage for food.

Huge and nocturnal

“During the day, they live up in the leaves and in hollowed-out tree holes and knotholes,” Jenkins said. “At night, they come down, and you can literally see the well-worn foraging trails they habitually use.”

Ant samples are taken from the park back to the laboratory where Jenkins uses DNA biotechnology to determine the ants’ lineage or family relationships, which form colony structure.

“We assume each colony has a single queen, so knowing the queen’s maternal fingerprint will help us track her progenies’ movements,” she said. “The winged ants are the ones that mate. We’ve discovered colonies that are physically far apart can actually be descended from the same female queen.”

Once a colony’s genetic structure and movements are known, Suiter and Jenkins can develop management strategies and determine which baits are effective.

Families don't fight

To find out if colonies are related, Suiter said, you can also do what he calls “ant behavioral studies.”

He places ants from different sites in a Petri dish. The ants that fight each other are not related.
“The ants have colony-specific smells on their bodies,” Suiter said.

Ants pick fights by using their antennae to spar, he said. Then it gets aggressive.

“They grab each other by a leg, and one will take another’s leg off,” he said. “Then they lock jaws and do a circle-dance.”
Deadly acid

Then somebody bring out the heavy artillery.

“Carpenter ants can spray formic acid,” Suiter said. “So, the first one to turn around and spray formic acid is the winner. It’s like getting a face full of tear gas, and they have to be very irritated to do it.”

After six months have passed, Suiter and Jenkins will return to the test sites at the park. If they find ants, they will again take samples and run DNA analyses to determine if the ants are from the same colony that initially occupied the site.

“We want to eliminate the ants in a colony by using the baits, then go back and see if the ants that come back are from the same colony,” he said. “To truly know how well the baits work, we have to know if the same colony of ants or a different colony move in after we eliminate the first colony.”

To see carpenter ants, go outside after 9 p.m. armed with a flash light. “You may see a couple in the daytime, but you’ll see hundreds if not thousands at night,” Suiter said.

By Sharon Dowdy
University of Georgia

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Monday, February 02, 2009

Land Conservation Program Tops 100,000 Acres

State and Private Investment Conserves Land in 71 Counties Across Georgia

Governor Sonny Perdue announced today an important milestone for land conservation in Georgia. The Georgia Land Conservation Program (GLCP) has surpassed 100,000 acres of preserved land since its inception in 2005.

“Thanks to the state’s efforts and to contributions by landowners and other partners, valuable conservation lands and historic sites are conserved for future generations to use and enjoy,” said Governor Perdue. “As Georgians we are blessed to live in a state that is rich with natural beauty and we will continue to be good stewards of our lands.”

The GLCP accomplished the 100,000-acre mark with an investment of $66 million in state dollars since 2005 that leveraged more than $175 million in non-state grants and donations, a ratio of better than two-to-one.

“The GLCP, partnering with organizations and landowners dedicated to land conservation, has worked hard to reach the 100,000-acre milestone,” said GEFA Executive Director Chris Clark. “We look forward to the continued success of this program and to preserving more and more of our state’s natural resources.”

The most recent property protected through the GLCP, and the project responsible for the program reaching the 100,000-acre mark, is the Jim L. Gillis Forest Legacy Easement. The easement covers 1,453 acres of working forest, waterways and farmland in Treutlen and Laurens counties and was donated to the state through the Georgia Forestry Commission’s Forest Legacy Program. The property contains pristine and ecologically sensitive resources, including Anderson Pond, Pendleton Creek and longleaf pine stands, which will be permanently protected by the conservation easement. The conservation easement also ensures that the Gillis family, and any future owners of the property, will be able to continue harvesting forest and agricultural crops in perpetuity.

“Mr. Jim L. Gillis is a true icon of Georgia forestry,” said Robert Farris, director of the Georgia Forestry Commission. “It is especially fitting that he is the landowner to take us to this outstanding milestone.”

Through direct land purchases, conservation easements and tax incentives, the GLCP has completed 133 projects in 71 counties resulting in the permanent protection of 100,344 acres of Georgia’s most important natural lands and historic sites. Fifty-four state-funded projects have conserved 69,664 acres and 79 tax credit projects have conserved 30,680 acres.

The following are some of the GLCP projects completed in 2008 and included in the 100,000 acres of conserved land.

Silver Lake Wildlife Management Area

The new Silver Lake Wildlife Management Area (WMA) opened to the public in August of
2008. This WMA protects 8,430 acres of native longleaf pine forest and wetlands located along Lake Seminole and the Flint River in southwest Georgia. The property also supports the federally threatened red cockaded woodpecker and provides valuable habitat for gopher tortoise, white-tailed deer, wild turkey, waterfowl and the declining northern bobwhite quail. This land is now open for all Georgians to hike, fish, hunt, bird-watch and picnic on the shores of Lake Seminole. In addition to the GLCP, primary funding partners include Decatur County, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and the Robert W. Woodruff Foundation.

McLemore Cove

In Walker County, one of the most beautiful sites in Georgia will be preserved through the GLCP. McLemore Cove will be permanently protected through the purchase of 1,565 acres by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and 295 acres by Walker County as well as a conservation easement covering an additional 740 acres. Funding and cooperation by GLCP, Walker County and the Open Space Conservancy, Inc. all contributed toward this preservation of greenspace, historic values, and scenic beauty in the northwest corner of the state.

Paulding Forest Wildlife Management Area

In Paulding County on the edge of metro Atlanta 6,865 acres were permanently protected as part of the Paulding Forest WMA. Bisected by the popular and heavily used Silver Comet Trail, this large tract also contains thriving populations of the rare Etowah and Cherokee darters in pristine Raccoon Creek. Primary funding partners for this project include Paulding County, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Forest Service and the Robert W. Woodruff Foundation in addition to the GLCP.

Pine Mountain

In Harris County, the backbone of scenic Pine Mountain is being protected through the purchase of a conservation easement covering 2,131 acres by the Georgia Forestry Commission using GLCP grant and loan funds. An additional 150 acres is being purchased by Harris County. Located adjacent to Georgia’s largest state park (FDR State Park), this project helps create a large continuous conservation area covering the ridges and slopes of Pine Mountain. The protection of this property also conserves an important example of the very rare montane longleaf pine ecosystem.

North Marsh

Along Georgia’s coast in Glynn County on St. Simons Island, a tract of coastal marsh and upland was acquired to prevent development and maintain the scenic and historic qualities of the adjacent Fort Frederica National Monument, one of the earliest English settlements in Georgia. The 21-acre property includes an undeveloped Native American shell midden dating to 1,000 B.C., salt marsh, maritime forest, and habitat for wood storks, diamondback terrapins and bald eagles. Glynn County used a GLCP grant and low-interest loan to acquire the property.

The Lost Corner Preserve

In metro Atlanta’s Sandy Springs, Georgia, a new city park has been established covering 24 undeveloped acres. Owned and preserved by the same family for more than 100 years, the tract contains a mature loblolly pine and mixed hardwood forest with a large number of trees greater than 100 years in age as well as springs and a creek that feeds into the nearby Chattahoochee River. In addition to support from the GLCP, this project benefitted from a contribution from the city and a greatly discounted sale of the property from the owners.

For more information on the GLCP, please visit www.glcp.ga.gov.
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Yellow School Buses: Greener Than Many Think

(NAPSI)-Here's good news about the environment that may surprise you: The nation's yellow school buses are turning green as the industry actively works to reduce emissions through positive environmental initiatives.

Many people overlook the inherent environmental advantage of school buses. It's estimated that every school bus replaces an average of 36 passenger cars. With more than 480,000 school buses out each day, nearly 17.3 million fewer vehicles are needed to transport kids to and from school.

Recent advances in school bus engine technology have created more environmental advantages. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says heavy-duty trucks and buses will soon reduce particulates by 90 percent.

"Not only are school buses the safest form of transportation for our students, they are more efficient than ever," said Mike Murray, CEO of FirstGroup America, the nation's largest provider of school transportation. "By continuously investing in our fleet, adopting new technologies, exploring alternative fuels and enacting the right policies, we significantly reduce bus emissions."

Reduced Idling

Even the little things make a difference. Drivers are trained to adhere to a no-idling policy, which requires them to turn off idling buses after no more than five minutes, unless weather conditions make it unsafe. Drivers are also trained to keep tires inflated at the proper pressure and follow the most fuel-efficient route possible.

Better Buses

School bus manufacturers are also working to improve technology to meet progressively stringent emissions standards. For example, new school bus engines from IC Bus reduce particulate matter by 90 percent and nitrogen oxide by 50 percent compared to previous emissions standards. John McKinney, president of IC Bus, notes, "By next year, our engines will even further reduce emissions and be fully compliant to the 2010 standards."

Further Improvements

The school bus industry is doing more to reduce school bus emissions, including:

• Updating bus fleets with vehicles that research shows run 60 times cleaner than buses built before 1990;

• Retrofitting older buses with special exhaust filters to reduce diesel particulate matter by approximately 40 percent;

• Exploring the use of green technologies and alternative fuels, such as hybrid electric, biodiesel, propane or compressed natural gas;

• Keeping school buses at peak performance through rigorous preventative maintenance programs.

Learn More

For more information, visit www.firststudentinc.com.

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