Day: March 20, 2019

Could more private land conservation reverse bird declines?

Read the full story from The Wildlife Society.

Throughout rural Illinois, more than 140,000 acres of farmland have been conserved for wildlife. That’s about as much as one-third the acreage of public land in the state. Like similar programs in other states using federal Conservation Reserve Program dollars outlined in the Farm Bill, Illinois’s program compensates farmers for taking some of their fields out of production to aid wildlife.

Field sparrows have increased in abundance in Illinois, but researchers found they lack sufficient habitat to reach state population goals. ©Michael Jeffords and Sue Post

Field sparrows have increased in abundance in Illinois, but researchers found they lack sufficient habitat to reach state population goals. ©Michael Jeffords and Sue Post

“The program is benefiting a wide variety of species,” said Bryan Reiley, avian ecologist with the Illinois Natural History Survey. But when he looked deeper, he found Illinois’s Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program was benefiting some declining bird species more than others. Could CREP lands be harnessed, he wondered, to provide more benefits to more species?

“Based on the numbers we see and other nesting ecology data we have, we know that habitat created through these programs is pretty decent habitat for avian species and many other taxa,” he said. “We just need a lot more of it.”

In a study published in Ecosphere, Reiley and his colleagues looked at four bird species to see how well their populations responded to the creation of CREP lands. All four had seen their populations fall by more than 50 percent since 1966. Only two, they found, were close to being recovered: Bell’s vireo (Vireo bellii bellii) and the willow flycatcher (Empidonax trailli trailli).

People & Planet Award for Green Businesses

The People & Planet Award recognizes US small businesses for their dedication to a green economy: a bottom line that includes protecting workers, communities, and the environment. Twice each year, they award two $5,000 cash prizes in a range of green business categories, such as zero-waste, worker empowerment, and sustainable food.

Spring 2019: Alternatives to Plastic

They’ll reward two businesses that either produce a product that is an alternative to plastic, or that produce a product commonly made from plastic but which the business is making from other materials. Ideas include businesses that produce alternatives to plastic wrap, plastic straws, plastic bags, plastic containers, plastic toys, and more.

Nomination Deadline: April 1, 2019

EPA Identifies 40 Chemicals to Prioritize for Risk Evaluation

Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is publishing a list of 40 chemicals to begin the prioritization process – the initial step in a new process of reviewing chemicals currently in commerce under the amended Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).

“Initiating a chemical for high or low prioritization does not mean EPA has determined it poses unreasonable risk or no risk to human health or the environment; it means we are beginning the prioritization process set forth in Lautenberg,” said Alexandra Dapolito Dunn, Assistant Administrator for EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention.

The Agency is releasing this list in order to provide the public an opportunity to submit relevant information such as the uses, hazards, and exposure for these chemicals. A docket has been opened for each of the 40 chemicals. The publication of this list in the Federal Register initiates a 90-day public comment period. Publication also activates a statutory requirement for EPA to complete the prioritization process in the next nine to 12 months, allowing EPA to designate 20 chemicals as high priority and 20 chemicals as low priority by December 2019.

TSCA requires EPA to publish this list of 40 chemicals to begin the prioritization process to designate 20 chemicals as “high-priority” for subsequent risk evaluation and to designate 20 chemicals as “low-priority,” meaning that risk evaluation is not warranted at this time.

One of the chemicals identified for high-priority evaluation is formaldehyde, a chemical that has been studied by EPA’s Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) program for many years.

“Moving forward evaluating formaldehyde under the TSCA program does not mean that the formaldehyde work done under IRIS will be lost,” added Dunn. “In fact, the work done for IRIS will inform the TSCA process. By using our TSCA authority EPA will be able to take regulatory steps; IRIS does not have this authority,” she noted.

When prioritization is complete, chemicals designated as high priority will begin a 3-year risk evaluation process to determine if the chemical, under the conditions of use, presents an unreasonable risk to human health and the environment. The designation of a chemical as a low priority means that further risk evaluation is not warranted at this time.

The 20 high priority candidate chemicals include seven chlorinated solvents, six phthalates, four flame retardants, formaldehyde, a fragrance additive, and a polymer pre-curser. EPA has received a manufacturer request for a risk evaluation of two additional phthalates and is currently determining whether the request contains the minimum needed elements to proceed under EPA’s regulations. If complete, EPA has 15 days to provide notice of such a request.

The 20 low priority candidate chemicals have been selected from EPA’s Safer Chemicals Ingredients List, which includes chemicals that have been evaluated and determined to meet EPA’s safer choice criteria.

The list of chemicals can be found here:

Boeing to Offer Biofuel for Airlines to Fly New Airplanes Home

Read the full story from Boeing.

Boeing will begin offering airlines and operators the option of powering their new commercial jet with biofuel for the flight home. The program is designed to further spur the use of sustainable aviation fuels – which cut emissions up to 80 percent – and support the industry’s drive to protect the environment.

NOAA science report highlights 2018 research accomplishments

Read the full story from NOAA.

Forecasting hurricane track and intensity, providing decision support for wildfires, issuing warnings for harmful algal blooms: these are just a snapshot of how NOAA’s research over the past year has provided vital services to Americans every day.

NOAA is the nation’s premier ocean, weather, and atmospheric science agency. Our scientists explore from the bottom of the ocean to the surface of the sun, to protect lives and property, support a vibrant economy, and help build national security. Nearly every American relies every day on the many products and services that come from NOAA research.

The NOAA Science Report celebrates NOAA’s research and development in four sections: (1) Introduction, (2) Theme Chapters (3) Bibliometrics, and (4) NOAA’s Scientific Workforce. Together, these sections highlight how NOAA’s research products impact the lives of all Americans.

Japan Is Betting Big On The Future Of Hydrogen Cars

Read the full story from NPR.

It may feel like the electric car has been crowned the future of transportation.
Auto companies have plans to make more electric car models, and sales — still only a tiny fraction of the overall market — are expected to get a boost as more countries pass regulations to reduce carbon emissions. But Japan isn’t sure that the battery electric car is the only future, and it’s betting big on something it says makes more sense in big cities: hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.

Activist and Artist Eleanor Ray Combats Waste by Giving Teachers Recycled School Supplies

Read the full story at Eco-Chi. See also this profile of Champaign-Urbana’s IDEA Store, which relocated to Urbana’s Lincoln Square Mall in late 2018.

Saving the world is no easy task. That’s why the team at the WasteShed is attempting to do it one piece at a time—literally. The WasteShed is chock-full of second-hand materials and resources for people in the Chicago area. The group provides artistic project materials, school supplies, coloring books for young ones, tools and equipment. But it is not only a place to shop for sustainable resources. Its founder, Eleanor Ray, has also created a place that is working to combat serious issues facing Chicago.

Is This the End of Recycling?

Read the full story in The Atlantic.

After decades of earnest public-information campaigns, Americans are finally recycling. Airports, malls, schools, and office buildings across the country have bins for plastic bottles and aluminum cans and newspapers. In some cities, you can be fined if inspectors discover that you haven’t recycled appropriately.

But now much of that carefully sorted recycling is ending up in the trash.

What Poop Can Teach Us About an Ancient City’s Downfall

Read the full story at Atlas Obscura.

Never underestimate the power of poop. After more than 1,000 years, it can still have a lot to offer.

Just ask the authors of a new study, out today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, which discusses how fecal remains can teach us about the rise and fall of Cahokia, an ancient city less than 10 miles outside of present-day St. Louis, Missouri. According to UNESCO, Cahokia was “the largest pre-Columbian settlement north of Mexico.”

Previous excavations of houses in the area, said co-author Sissel Schroeder in a press release, had found that the city’s population began to grow around the year 600, peaking by 1100 with tens of thousands of residents. Things began to change around 1200, with the city emptying out by 1400. AJ White, lead author of the new study and a Ph.D. candidate in archaeology at the University of California, Berkeley, set out with his colleagues to fuse data from both the archaeological and environmental records, in hopes of clarifying what drove out Cahokia’s residents.

Stomach Of Dead Whale Contained ‘Nothing But Nonstop Plastic’

Read the full story from NPR.

Darrell Blatchley received a call from the Philippines’ Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources early Friday morning reporting that it had a young Cuvier’s beaked whale that was weak and vomiting blood.

Within a few hours it was dead.

Blatchley, a marine biologist and environmentalist based in the Philippine city of Davao, gathered his team to drive two hours to where the whale had washed up.

When the necropsy was performed, Blatchley told NPR, he was not prepared for the amount of plastic they found in the whale’s stomach.

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