environment

Kentucky Heartwood

The U.S. Forest Service has marked and illegally sold thousands of trees in excess of its own plans for the Daniel Boone National Forest, according to a survey from the Kentucky Heartwood forest advocacy organization.

You know that old saying about a tree falling in the forest? Kentucky Heartwood Director Jim Scheff may not hear it fall, but he can tell you which one is marked for felling.

It’s not because Scheff did his graduate research on forest and old growth ecology in the Daniel Boone National Forest in southeastern Kentucky (He did). It’s because you don’t need a master’s degree to see the blue spray paint.

 


Since the coronavirus hit the U.S., coal mines across the country have begun shutting down, laying off workers and slowing production.

Ryan Van Velzer

The first Earth Day was 50 years ago today, April 22, 1970. Marking the anniversary and celebrating the planet present unique challenges for people around the globe while social distancing in the middle of a pandemic. But some young activists in Kentucky believe they’ve found a way, through technology.

Organizers at Kentucky Youth Climate Strike are calling on their peers to join in a week of digital action to combat Climate Change and the coronavirus.

“I think both crises that we’re seeing, of COVID-19 and the climate crisis, create a unique opportunity for a regained sense of shared humanity, where people realize what matters most,” said Kentucky Youth Climate Strike State Director Fernanda Scharfenberger.

Updated Friday, 6:45 p.m. ET

This past Wednesday marked the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. Instead of feeling gratitude and oneness with the planet you may have experienced darker emotions as we weather the pandemic: a fear that more disruptive events are on the horizon due to climate change.

For some, feelings of sadness about the state of the planet aren't new — they're constant and at times debilitating. This experience goes by many names, among them eco-anxiety, climate grief and climate despair.

Rhonda J. Miller

The future of recycling in Warren County remains unclear, now that residents no longer have curbside pickup of recyclable aluminum, glass, paper and plastic.

Changes in the international market for scrap materials and the coronavirus have created “double trouble” for recycling.

The international recycling market ran into a roadblock when China stopped importing plastics and other materials in 2018.

That roadblock has hit in Warren County, which stopped curbside recycling pickup on March 31.

Southern Recycling General Manager Keith McKelvey said the challenge of finding markets is the main reason the company decided not to seek to renew its contract  with the county. 


Barb Sargent, Courtesy WV DNR

U.S. Forest Service district biologist Shane Jones stands on an overlook high up on West Virginia’s Cheat Mountain. Behind him lush, red spruce trees stand like sentinels on this frozen landscape. As he looks out, small patches of green dot what is largely a view of the barren, brown trunks of leafless hardwoods.

More than a century ago, this high-elevation ecosystem, now located inside the Monongahela National Forest, would have been dominated by the evergreen spruce. After being logged and suffering from fires in the 1880s through early 1900s, today an estimated 90 percent of this ice age-relic of an ecosystem has been removed from West Virginia.

And that has been a challenge for another iconic species: the West Virginia northern flying squirrel.


Kenton County Public Library

Snow is melting faster in Kentucky as warmer average winters bring about fewer days of snow cover, according to State Climatologist Stuart Foster.

Foster, with the Kentucky Climate Center at Western Kentucky University, analyzed decades of winter weather data across the Commonwealth looking at how long snow sticks around.

In three of four cities, he found a defined downward trend in the number of days when snow covered the ground. And across the state, he’s seen fewer winters where cold temperatures maintained the snow cover for weeks on end.

 


The Appalachian Trail – the 2,200-mile hiking stretch that goes from Georgia to Maine — is at the center of a legal battle that has risen to the Supreme Court.

The case involves a proposed pipeline that would connect natural gas fracked in West Virginia to population centers in Virginia and North Carolina. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline would cross the Appalachian Trail within the George Washington National Forest in Virginia, and some environmental groups are challenging the legality of the permit the U.S. Forest Service issued allowing that to happen.

paringaresources.com

Some of the employees at the Poplar Grove coal mine in McLean County, Kentucky, received a letter on Feb. 17 informing them that their employment will end Feb. 18.

The letter is from Hartshorne Mining Group, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Paringa Resources in Australia.

The letter said the project will transition from two mining units to one and some employees will be retained as the effort continues to seek additional financing or possibly the sale of the mine.

Paringa has encountered financial and geological problems at the Poplar Grove mine.

Jeff Young

On a recent soggy Wednesday evening, dozens of West Virginians packed a conference room inside the Charleston Coliseum and Convention Center to discuss the need for a “just transition” for coal-impacted communities.

As the nation grapples with climate change, the need for a fair transition for workers and communities that depend upon coal jobs and revenue has also gained traction. Nearly every 2020 Democratic presidential hopeful has touted some version of the idea, ranging from the expansive “Green New Deal” championed by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders to former Vice President Joe Biden’s more modest mix of worker training and direct assistance for coal country.

 


Anti-Pipeline Protest Bill Moves To Kentucky Senate

Feb 11, 2020
Erica Peterson

A bill discouraging protests against pipelines and other “key infrastructure” has passed out of the Kentucky House of Representatives after a receiving an amendment quelling some advocates’ free speech concerns.

Republican Sponsor Rep. Jim Gooch of Providence pre-filed the measure shortly after Louisville Gas & Electric began pursuing eminent domain actions to build a natural gas pipeline in northern Bullitt County.

The House approved an amended version of House Bill 44 on Monday that would make tampering with the operations of a “key infrastructure asset” in ways that are dangerous or harmful a Class D felony punishable by up to five years imprisonment and up to a $10,000 fine.


National Park Service

Kentucky’s last three budgets have swept millions of dollars from the state’s primary source for funding the protection and management of natural lands, leaving less money for the preservation of historical sites, pristine habitats and rare and endangered species.

After the legislature swept $2.5 million in the 2019 budget year, it got to the point where the legislature was taking more than the Kentucky Heritage Land Conservation Fund [KHLCF] was bringing in on an annual basis. And the sweeps took place at a time when revenues were already in decline.

 


Sydney Boles / Ohio Valley ReSource

Heavy rains caused extensive flooding across eastern Kentucky this week, and city and county officials say it could take weeks to fix some of the damage.

Some residents were evacuated from their homes, and officials across the region declared states of emergency, including mayors in Whitesburg and Jenkins, and county judges in Letcher, Harlan and Knox counties.

“We want people to understand that they’re safe. They’re out doing everything they can do, from the volunteer fire department pumping out basements still today, to the city workers,” said Jenkins Mayor Todd DePriest.


Ohio River Regulators Planning Riverwide PFAS Study

Feb 5, 2020
Ryan Van Velzer

Scientists are designing a new study to test for PFAS, so-called “forever chemicals”, along the entire length of the Ohio River. Concerns are mounting about PFAS contamination in drinking water systems along the Ohio Valley. Studies have shown the contaminants in the drinking water of dozens of cities.

The scientists work with a multi-state commission charged with overseeing water quality on the Ohio River known as the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission (ORSANCO).

The commission’s work has always included monitoring pollution in the river and it makes sense to examine these emerging contaminants, executive director Richard Harrison said.


Kara Lofton/WVPB

The rain came hard and fast early on the morning of June 23, 2016. By 2 p.m., water was knee deep in Bill Bell’s appliance store on Main Street in Rainelle, a small town on the western edge of Greenbrier County, West Virginia. Bell began elevating the washing machines and dishwashers, thinking that would be enough. Within hours, he’d lose it all. Today, his shop is up and running once again, but the memory of the flood runs deep. 

“To be honest with you, everybody here sleeps on pins and needles when it calls for a big rain,” he says.


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