Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Interior and Agriculture Departments Announce Joint New Climate Change Research Projects on SE and NW Freshwater Systems

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar today(July 27) announced joint scientific research projects that address the effects of climate change on freshwater systems and sensitive aquatic species in the northwestern and southeastern United States.

"Addressing the challenges of climate change will require new tools that enable our leaders to develop successful strategies," said Vilsack. "This research will provide tools and information to help ensure that aquatic ecosystems in the Northwest and Southeast remain healthy in the face of climate change."

"Conserving our nation's fisheries and aquatic ecosystems will be a challenge as climate change continues," said Salazar. "These collaborative research projects will provide the science and technology needed by the Interior Department and other natural resource managers to plan for coping with these challenges, especially in sensitive aquatic environments."

Salazar noted that these projects are an early indication of the kind of science and management support that will be generated by the Interior Department's regional climate science centers, which will be established in the Northwest and Southeast later this year. "Collaborative science targeted at managers needs is our agenda," Salazar said.

The multi-year $500,000 joint USDA-DOI projects, which will be carried out by U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and U.S. Forest Service (USFS) scientists, will make use of existing data, field studies and modeling to better understand the effects of climate change on aquatic ecosystems. Information from the project will help guide science-based land-use decisions by federal agencies and others engaged in long-term planning for climate adaptation.

In the Northwest, a region known for its abundant supply of cold and clean fresh water, the project's goal is to identify how climate change will affect water temperature, quality and quantity, as well as the likely effects of increasing and more fluctuating water temperatures on coldwater-dependent fish such as trout and salmon.

Regional climate change will likely cause altered hydrology and water temperatures, vital components of water quality and healthy life cycles for species such as Pacific salmon, trout and chars, which depend on coldwater habitats. At the same time, little is known about existing and potential impacts of climate change for stream temperature in the Pacific Northwest. With a better understanding these factors – temperature and altered water flows – experts will be able to help guide land-use decisions by federal and state agencies planning for climate adaptation in the area.

In the Southeast, the project's goal is to develop tools managers can use to minimize the effects of climate change on aquatic ecosystems and the coldwater-dependent species in them, as well as on related ecosystem service such as drinking water quality and wildlife-based recreation. The scientists will refine and combine climate and hydrologic models for the region that will help resource professionals assess how land-use and water-management decisions will affect coldwater fish species such as brook trout, and the transition from coldwater fisheries in the mountains to warm water fisheries in the lower-lying Piedmont area.
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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Five Star Program Awards Nine Wetland Restoration Grants

/PRNewswir/ -- Southern Company (NYSE:SO) , the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the National Association of Counties and the Wildlife Habitat Council today (July 26)  announced that nine new wetland, riparian and coastal conservation grants have been awarded in the Southeast through the Five Star Restoration Program.

This year, Southern Company provided $238,303 in grants and, combined with partner matching funds, a total of more than $1,458,000 to restore more than 21 wetland acres and 4,019 feet of riparian buffer across nine projects in Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi. Cumulatively, since 2006, Southern Company has contributed $1,058,513 through 50 grants across its service area, which will result in an on-the-ground conservation impact of $3.58 million to restore more than 10,000 acres of wetlands and nearly 50,000 feet of riparian buffer in the Southeast.

"EPA's Five Star Restoration Grants support community-based projects, including environmental education and training in order to make a significant contribution to the environmental landscape," said Stan Meiburg, EPA acting regional administrator. "This program is an excellent opportunity for citizens to not only understand the importance of healthy aquatic ecosystems, but to become better stewards of their environment."

"Five Star is possible because of a unique collaboration with our public, private and corporate funders," said Jeff Trandahl, executive director of NFWF. "Because of their generous contributions, these community-based habitat restoration projects not only provide immediate benefits to fish and wildlife but also help to build a local environmental stewardship ethic."

The Five Star Restoration Program is a national initiative providing financial and technical support to wetland, riparian and coastal habitat restoration projects. It brings together diverse partnerships of citizen groups, corporations, students, landowners, youth conservations corps and local, state and federal government agencies to foster local natural resource stewardship through education, outreach and training activities. Beginning in 2006, Southern Company pledged $1.92 million over eight years to fund community-based, wetland and streamside restoration across its four-state service territory. Additionally, Southern Company and its four operating companies - Alabama Power, Georgia Power, Gulf Power, and Mississippi Power - collaborate with the program partners to select the projects each year and works with many of the grantees to provide additional training and capacity-building support.

"As the Southern region lead corporate sponsor of Five Star Restoration, Southern Company is in the fifth year of our eight-year commitment of matching funds for projects in our region and we're proud of the progress that's been made," said Chris Hobson, chief environmental officer for Southern Company. "These grassroots efforts make a significant contribution to our environmental landscape and to the understanding of the importance of healthy wetlands, streams and coastal environments in our communities."

The following organizations have been awarded Five Star grants in 2010:

In Alabama:

-- The Freshwater Land Trust will remove approximately 1.5 acres of
invasive Chinese Privet from Tapawingo Springs, a former thriving
wetland and bottomland ecosystem, and re-plant the area with
approximately 1,500 native bottomland species and flowering plants.
The goal is to create a haven not only for the Watercress Darter but
also for songbirds and other wildlife. Partners include the Whole
Foods Team Leadership Program, Society to Advance Resources at Turkey
Creek (START)/Pinson Boy Scouts of America, Freshwater Land Trust Land
Steward, Southern Environmental Center; Turkey Creek Nature Preserve,
as well as Samford University and Birmingham Southern College Biology
Departments

-- The Freshwater Land Trust will construct and maintain a trail system
along the Village Creek head waters that will include invasive plant
removal, wetland enhancement, and bioswale construction. Invasive
plants, such as privet, will be removed and a pervious walkway will be
installed. Educational signage will be added, and the Southern
Environmental Center, Jefferson County Health Department and the
Freshwater Land Trust will offer public tours. This project will be
implemented in partnership with the Freshwater Land Trust, Jefferson
County Department of Health, the Southern Environmental Center,
Birmingham-Southern College and the Champions for Village Creek
Greenway.

In Georgia:

-- Keep Rome Floyd Beautiful - City of Rome, Georgia will restore 80
linear feet of eroding stream bank, provide hands-on education
promoting wildlife preservation and stream buffer protection, and
establish a permanent water monitoring site. Partners on the project
include The ECO River Education Center, the City of Rome, Georgia Boys
and Girl Scouts of America, University of Georgia's Floyd County
Cooperative Extension, Georgia Northwestern Technical College,
Darlington School, Evans Construction Company, Georgia Power, Coosa
River Basin Initiative, The Nature Conservancy and the Citizens of
Georgia Power Company-Rome Chapter.

-- DeKalb County will work with project partners to clear trash and
debris from a headwater stream. Stream banks will be replanted to
improve water quality and habitat. Environmental education will be
offered to seven local schools. Project partners include DeKalb
County, Museum School of Avondale Estates, White Oak Hills
Neighborhood Association, Healthy Belvedere and Avondale High School.

-- Trees Atlanta will restore and stabilize an eroded 400 feet of Clear
Creek along the Atlanta BeltLine Arboretum by planting native riparian
species. This will include the treatment and removal of invasive
exotic plant species. Project partners include Atlanta Audubon
Society, BeltLine Partnership, Atlanta Public Schools, Ansley Mall,
Ansley Square, Park Pride, Georgia Power, Ansley Park Neighborhood,
Morningside Neighborhood Midtown Neighborhood Association, Upper
Chattahoochee Riverkeeper and HGOR Landscape Architects.

-- Piedmont Park Conservancy will restore a 3.4-acre wetland, including
unearthing six streams that comprise headwaters of Clear Creek. The
project creates a rare wetland habitat in the center of Atlanta. The
project will also result in the addition of amenities including paths
and boardwalks allowing for public visitation of the wetlands and the
creation of a field study site including interpretive signage for
passive learning as well as environmental education curriculum to
serve students and community groups. Project partners include
Aquascape Environmental, Arborguard Tree Specialists, Arthur M. Blank
Family Foundation, Atlanta Audubon Society, BEST Academy, Brasfield &
Gorrie, City of Atlanta, Department of Parks and Recreation and
Department of Watershed Management, Georgia Tech, Grady High School;
Kimley-Horn and Associates and the Silverman Construction Program
Management.

-- Ducks Unlimited will enhance a 7-acre wetland at the Arrowhead
Wildlife Management Area in Floyd County that will be managed for
waterfowl while providing long-term outdoor education. Volunteers from
several local groups and organizations will benefit from personal
interaction via designated community work days that will incorporate
hands-on conservation and restoration activities. Project partners
include J. Supply Company, Vellano Bros., Inc., Kerry Brown, Hugh
Glidewell, Sunbelt Turf Farms, Neely Raper Lumber, Ducks Unlimited,
Inc. and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.

In Mississippi:

-- Mississippi State University will partner to enhance 7.5 acres of
partially filled and culverted wetlands of Bayou Auguste in the urban
neighborhood of East Biloxi, Mississippi. Residents and public
agencies have identified restoring urban bayous as important for flood
protection and ecological health. The partnership will coordinate
debris and invasive species removal, marsh grass propagation and
planting and stream bank reshaping to improve the Bayou's water
quality and retention capacity, habitat function, biodiversity and
visual appeal. Mississippi State will work with the following
organizations to implement this project: the Land Trust for the
Mississippi Coastal Plain, Biloxi Housing Authority, Biloxi Public
Schools, and the City of Biloxi.

-- Mississippi Fish and Wildlife Foundation will implement the Cumbest
Bluff Restoration Project, a 200-acre tract of hardwoods, bogs and
cypress swamp located just east of the lower Pascagoula River in
Jackson County, Mississippi. This gifted property will allow the
Mississippi Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks Foundation through its
partnership alliances to restore and monitor the area's unique
ecological balance and allow the educational community complete access
for study. Mississippi Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks Foundation;
Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks; Mississippi
State University; Mississippi Power; Deviney Construction; and D&C
Limited Investments, LLC, will work with the Mississippi Fish and
Wildlife Foundation to carry out this project.

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Friday, July 23, 2010

We’re Canning and So Can You

(BUSINESS WIRE)--Over the past few years, people have been inspired by the trend of growing their own food to save money and to eat fresh, healthy food. Along with edible gardening, the art of home canning is hot once again with renewed appreciation for local and homegrown food. We have entered the harvest season and it’s time to take those summer crops and preserve food to last you through winter. Lowe’s has all of the resources you need to get started canning for the first time or just the products for those who have canned for years.

For those just beginning, it may seem like a daunting task but it really can be a simple Sunday afternoon with the right tools and these garden tips. Preparation and information are the keys to successful home canning. Make sure you have the right tools, the best ingredients, and the best step-by-step guide for the recipe you're canning, and you're set!

Step one: Gather and wash your garden-fresh fruits and vegetables from your garden or local farmers market. Strawberries, raspberries and blackberries will make delicious jams, while tomatoes are great for salsa or spaghetti sauces. One reminder is to make pickles; you need to begin with ripe cucumbers.

Step two: Gather all of the necessary tools you will need to prepare your food. Many of the small items you will already have in your home: a funnel, tongs, pot holders, measuring spoons and utensils. The main kitchen item you will also need is a stock or boiling pot and a canning rack. Lowe’s carries an affordable, easy all-in-one Ball® Home Canning Discovery Kit (#331448, approx. $11) for the beginner, which includes a canning rack with integrated jar lifter, three Ball pint jars with lids and bands, and a simple three-step guide to canning using delicious recipes.

Step three: A good recipe book and guide to preserving will take you a long way and kick start you with some delicious new recipes. One of the best books containing a guide to preserving food, recipes and tips for all canners is the 100th Edition Ball Blue Book® Guide to Preserving.

Step four: After you have prepared all of your food, your last step is to store it in a pint or quart jar. Be sure to use airtight bands and lids to ensure your jars are properly sealed to store your food through winter. Use a jar with a design and wrap with a pretty bow to create a perfect gift during the holidays. Label your jars with the date and type of food to ensure they are incorporated into seasonal recipes throughout the winter.

And don’t forget after you’ve eaten all your food in the winter season, you’ll need a Rubbermaid storage container for your empty jars once they are washed and sterilized, so you’re ready to start again next summer!

Visit any Lowe’s store nationwide for all of your canning needs: from the glass jars and lids sold separately for the expert, to the Ball® Home Canning Discovery Kit for the beginner. For more information on Canning 101 and some delicious recipes, visit www.lowescreativeideas.com/Extras.

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Thursday, July 15, 2010

Click to Conserve: Supporting Georgia Nongame Wildlife Goes Online

In five minutes, a ruby-throated hummingbird can beat its wings more than 15,000 times, a black racer can cross a quarter-mile and a web-savvy Georgian can donate online to nongame wildlife conservation.

OK, so maybe the hummingbird’s wing speed is more astounding, but the new “Click&Pledge” option at www.georgiawildlife.com is a fast, easy and secure way to support programs for native Georgia animals and plants that are not legally harvested or collected.

“Because we receive no state general funds, we truly appreciate the generosity of people when they donate to the Nongame Wildlife Conservation Fund,” said Lisa Weinstein, an assistant chief of the Nongame Conservation Section.

The section, part of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, recently added online donations. Simply follow the www.georgiawildlife.com links at “Donate to the Nongame Wildlife Conservation Fund.” Fill in the donation, payment and contact details. Hit submit.

Gifts to the Nongame Wildlife Conservation and Wildlife Habitat Acquisition Fund are tax-deductible, Weinstein said. Contributors will receive a receipt by e-mail.

The fund supports research, restoration, outreach and land conservation efforts covering Georgia’s most threatened wildlife and wild places, from loggerhead sea turtles and golden warblers to endangered relict trillium and longleaf pine ecosystems. More than 1,000 plant and animal species in the state are considered species of conservation concern.

The Nongame Conservation Section of the Georgia Wildlife Resources Division receives no state general funds. Instead, it depends on public support, provided through fundraisers and direct donations.

Online donations are done through Click&Pledge. Those who prefer donating off-line can contact Nongame Conservation offices in Social Circle (770-761-3035), Forsyth (478-994-1438) or Brunswick (912-264-7218).

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Wednesday, July 07, 2010

The great outdoors doesn't have to be itchy

With a host of state and national parks within a day’s drive, Georgia is the perfect place for those who enjoy outdoor activities. But fishermen, hikers, campers and mountain bikers often encounter a host of pests on their adventures.

Being familiar with these pests and being prepared can make outdoor experiences more enjoyable and less itchy-scratchy.

The top three

The top three most miserable pests in the Southeast are poison ivy (and its relatives poison oak and sumac), ticks and chiggers. Every year, University of Georgia Cooperative Extension offices receive numerous calls about these annoying Georgia natives.

These pests have been here a lot longer than humans. And getting rid of them is easier said than done.

Count the leaves

Knowing how to avoid these common pests is the best defense. Children should be taught at an early age what poison ivy looks like. The old saying, “Leaves of three? Let it be!” is a good rule to follow.

Poison ivy comes in many different shapes and sizes and can be found alongside even the best maintained park trails. It can produce fuzzy vines as thick as Tarzan’s rope. Sometimes, it’s a seemingly innocent looking ground cover, and other times it hangs down from trees with branches producing compound leaves as big as your head.

Know what to look for and avoid touching it at any cost. Since poison ivy commonly grows along trails, wearing socks and closed-toe shoes is the best way to protect your feet. Sandals and flip-flops, although comfortable, will not provide protection. Long pants are recommended when walking along rugged trails. And, because poison ivy can climb trees, be aware of your surroundings and don’t forget to look up and duck your head.

As soon as possible, take a bath or shower and soap repeatedly to limit exposure to poison ivy.

Hitching a ride

Ticks and chiggers are more commonly encountered off the beaten path. These insect-like arachnids prefer tall grassy or weedy areas. Ticks and chiggers are more likely to latch on to your legs and torso when you brush against tall grass, weeds or underbrush.

Staying on manicured lawns and areas that are frequently mowed reduces the risk of exposure to ticks and chiggers. If you must travel into weedy, unmaintained areas, wear long pants and apply a repellent containing the active ingredients DEET or permethrin, which are available in many brands. Apply repellents according to the product label.

Check yourself and bathe thoroughly

Check yourself for ticks at least twice a day. There is evidence that the longer an infected tick feeds, the greater the chance it has of transmitting a disease.

Take a bath or shower and soap repeatedly to help remove chiggers and ticks.

After returning from the great outdoors, launder field clothes in soapy, hot water that is at least 125 degrees Fahrenheit for half an hour. Properly washing clothes will remove chiggers, ticks or oil residues from poison ivy. Infested clothes should not be worn again until they are properly laundered and dried.

UGA publications give more details

For more information, see UGA Extension Circular 937 - “Protect Yourself from Ticks,” Circular 867 - “Controlling Poison-Ivy in the Landscape” and Circular 782 - “Stinging & Biting Pests of People” at www.ugaextension.com . These publications are also available through your local county Extension office.

By Paul Pugliese
University of Georgia 

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Monday, July 05, 2010

Rains bring back the spittlebugs

Some people call them cuckoo spits. Others call them froghoppers or devil spits. No matter what you call spittlebugs they make a devil of a mess in landscapes. With the end of the drought, University of Georgia experts say spittlebugs are making a comeback around the state.

“During our drought years, two-lined spittlebugs were not as much of a problem because they need a high-moisture environment for the nymphs to develop in turf,” said Kris Braman, an entomologist with the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences in Griffin, Ga. “We have had better moisture for two years now, so we might expect spittlebugs to make a comeback.”

Gooey mess

Atlanta radio garden show host Walter Reeves says callers began reporting spittlebug sightings in the spring. “Back in May, people were calling about seeing spittlebugs in Leland Cypress trees in big gooey masses,” he said.

The “goo” Reeves’ callers are seeing is spittle the nymphs make to protect themselves from predators and to maintain their preferred moist environment. It’s not the spittle that should cause concern, it’s the adult bugs that will follow that cause the damage.

"The adults have needle-like mouthparts to extract fluids from the plants," said Braman. "They inject a toxin that causes the grass to wither and turn brown. You will notice purplish streaking, browning and dieback on grasses that are repeatedly heavily infested.”

Nymphs are easy to spot. The spittle gives them away. The adults have distinctive markings. They are a quarter-inch long and have black, wedge- or tent-shaped bodies with two red lines across their backs.

“Because their backs are bright scarlet and exposed when the wings are spread, the effect is almost like a laser pointer zooming across the lawn,” said Will Hudson, a CAES entomologist in Tifton, Ga., who reports spittlebug populations are popping up in southwest Georgia, too.

Grass lovers

Spittlebugs prefer centipede, but feed on other warm-season grasses such as bermuda, zoysia and St. Augustine, too. In the Southeast, they also feed on some woody ornamentals, especially holly trees such as ‘Savannah’ Holly, Braman said.

“If hollies have been infested, the new growth will be twisted and deformed and the leaves will have irregular brown blotches,” she said.

But, if the nymph spittle is appearing in trees, don’t blame the two-line spittlebug.

“Spittlebugs appearing in Leland cypress in north Georgia are a different species, not the two-lined spittlebug that infests turfgrasses and attack hollies,” she said. “The nymphs of the two-lined spittlebug species only feed on nonwoody plants like turfgrass. If you see spittle masses in trees, they weren't put there by two-lined spittle-bugs."

Control measures

Braman says the best way to control spittlebugs is to disrupt their environment.

“Dethatching and topdressing can disrupt the high-moisture environment the nymphs need to survive,” she said. “You can treat with labeled pyrethroid insecticides.”

Be vigilant, though. The season isn’t over.

“The first of two generations have become adults now, so they are very visible,” Braman said. 
“However, usually the second generation is bigger than the first. It is starting to get dry where I am unless you happen to be underneath one of those pop up thunderstorms. We could have another big adult emergence from late July through August if there is sufficient moisture to support their development.”



By J Faith Peppers
University of Georgia

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Defending a Coastline From Oil, Florida County Turns to Recycled Carpet

/PRNewswire/ -- In their efforts to protect the Gulf Coast from the mammoth runaway oil slick, emergency responders have turned to an array of standard defenses such as booms and industrial skimmers.

But as part of their coastal defenses, officials in Walton County, Florida, also are employing tried and true technologies in non-traditional ways. One standout example is the use of GeoHay, a highly absorbent recycled carpet product, as a defense for the slick threatening the Florida coastline.

Designed for erosion control, GeoHay works by allowing water to flow through its structure while trapping suspended sediments such as oil.

GeoHay is a substitute for staked hay bales and silt fences that are normally used to meet the permit requirement for temporary erosion control at construction sites. Unlike hay bales, GeoHay is reusable and does not fall apart or decompose with use.

Rolls of GeoHay are part of the emergency management plan in Walton County to protect the coastal dune lakes and their white sand beaches. The plan calls for lining jersey barriers with GeoHay to greatly increase the level of protection.

In a statement outlining its coastal defense plan, Walton County Sheriff's Office said that, "GeoHay is made from 100 percent recycled synthetic fiber. This product acts as a filter and is highly absorbent, as well as non-biodegradable, strong and durable."

"GeoHay is an excellent example of recycled carpet product coming onto the market to fill a critical need," said Georgina Sikorski, executive director of Carpet America Recovery Effort (CARE). "Even though GeoHay was designed for erosion control and not for absorbing oil, it makes perfect sense to use it that way."

She noted that GeoHay is addressing two environmental needs: "The immediate one, which is to protect beaches and wetlands, and CARE's long-term goal of reducing waste going to landfills."

CARE is a joint public-private sector venture that encourages the reuse and recycling of spent carpet. In 2010, CARE members diverted more than 311 million pounds of post-consumer carpet from landfills. Of that amount nearly 80 percent was recycled back into carpet and other consumer products. For more information visit www.carpetrecovery.org.

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