The Environmental Journal of Southern Appalachia


  • How many will have made it from start to finish?
    Hellbender Press
    Friday, 08 December 2023

    Half-minute video with olympian and fitness expert Missy Kane.

    2023 Mountain Commerce Challenge is almost finished

    KnoxvilleLegacy Parks Foundation will wrap up another great year of the Mountain Commerce Challenge on Saturday, December 9 with the 17th Tour de Lights bike ride and celebration. The free and family-friendly holiday bike ride is presented by Visit Knoxville and Bike Walk Knoxville. Riders will meet 4 p.m. at the Outdoor Knoxville Adventure Center to decorate their bikes before heading to Mary Costa Plaza for the festivities.

    Meanwhile, spectators and costume contestants will already enjoy themselves at a more leisurely pace at Holiday Market & Expo, which opens 3:30 p.m. on Mary Costa Plaza by the Knoxville Civic Coliseum.

    The glamorous 5-mile pedal parade will circle through East Knoxville neighborhoods to culminate coming down Gay Street.

    Illuminated bicycles at nightCourtesy of Bike Walk Knoxville

    Those who bring their ‘Challenge Checklist’ showing 75 miles completed will receive a special patch to commemorate all of the great hiking, biking and paddling accomplished this year!

    Everyone who registers for the Tour de Lights or the Costume Contest will receive a commemorative T-shirt and be entered for some exciting ‘door prizes.’

    Mountain Commerce Challenge 

    The Mountain Commerce Challenge is named for Mountain Commerce Bank (MCB), which sponsored this challenge for its third year with a $15,000 donation to the Legacy Parks Foundation. The locally-owned community bank was founded 1910 in Erwin, where it acquired the former Erwin National Bank. MCB is 5-star rated by Bauer Financial and nationally ranks among the top 50 community banks.

    Community banks are a cornerstone of community economic resilience because they invest customer deposits in the regional economy. That is particularly important for businesses that depend on regional natural resources and a local workforce with extensive experience and a deep understanding of local conditions.

  • TVA and DOE declare that modular reactors are on the horizon here
    Ben Pounds
    Friday, 08 December 2023

    U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer GranholmThe Tennessee Valley Authority’s Bob Deacy shows U.S. Department of Energy secretary Jennifer Granholm the site of a future nuclear reactor in Oak Ridge.  Ben Pounds/Tennessee Lookout

    DOE chief: Little nuke plants posited to provide clean energy 

    This story was originally published by Tennessee Lookout.

    OAK RIDGE — U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm visited the site of a possible first-of-its-kind nuclear reactor for the Tennessee Valley Authority this week. 

    The utility’s board authorized $200 million to explore building a reactor on the site last year after the Nuclear Regulatory Commission gave TVA an early site permit in 2019. 

    This first-of-its-kind small modular reactor would be smaller than standard nuclear reactors and generate less power, but it could have other advantages. While typical nuclear power plants need to provide power at 100 percent of their capacity constantly, a small modular reactor can more easily increase or decrease the amount of power it provides to the overall grid. Melinda Hunter, TVA nuclear communication specialist explained that this flexibility can complement renewable plants elsewhere in the TVA grid.

    “When the sun’s not shining, you can bring the power up,” she said, adding that during sunnier periods the small modular reactors can provide less power.

    TVA CEO Jeff Lyash said the utility will likely start building its first reactor on the site in 2027 and finish by the early 2030s. TVA is looking to build four of these reactors on the site, but it’s not made a final decision on the first one yet. Each reactor would generate 300 megawatts. 

  • TVA’s Bull Run coal plant goes dark in Oak Ridge. More fossils to follow?
    Ben Pounds
    Monday, 04 December 2023

    IMG 9617 2Bull Run Fossil Plant in Anderson County, Tennessee, is officially offline as of Dec. 1, 2023, according to the Tennessee Valley Authority.  Abigail Baxter/Hellbender Press

    TVA retires coal-fired plant; just four more to go

    OAK RIDGE — The Tennessee Valley Authority took another step toward its goal to phase out all its coal plants by 2035.

    TVA officially announced Bull Run Fossil Plant, at 1265 Edgemoor Road in Anderson County’s Claxton community, closed on Friday, Dec. 1. The TVA board decided to close the plant four years earlier on Feb. 14, 2019. Now the utility says it plans to retire all of its coal plants by 2035. The utility has cited the environment and efficiency as reasons for closing the plants. TVA plans to create solar and natural gas plants to replace the power formerly generated by coal. TVA has not made final plans for the Bull Run site.

    “It’s not an easy decision to retire a plant, but it’s one we must make to secure a reliable and cleaner energy future as our generation portfolio and load shapes change,” Jacinda Woodward, senior vice president of power operations, said in a press release. 

  • South River Watershed Alliance helps save an Atlanta river
    Paige R Penland
    Monday, 27 November 2023

    IMG_0020.jpgDr. Jacqueline Echols shows off rehabbed Panola Shoals, a rustic kayak launch site that will be the beginning of South River Water Trail.  Paige Penland/Hellbender Press

    After years of activism, Atlanta’s South River is now a font of sustainability and fun

    This article has been edited since its original publication.

    ATLANTA — It has taken decades, but the once-polluted South River is now approved for fishing and recreation, and 40 navigable miles from Panola Shoals, about 30 minutes southeast of downtown Atlanta, to Lake Jackson, are being developed into the South River Water Trail for canoes and kayaks.

    “This has always been an environmental justice issue,” said Dr. Jacqueline Echols, board president of the South River Watershed Alliance (SRWA) and driving force behind the cleanup.

    The 60-mile South River begins in the 80-percent Black city of East Point, then runs through other predominately Black, South Atlanta communities and into Arabia Mountain Natural Heritage Area, where the Flat Rock Archives “preserves rural African-American history in Georgia.”

  • ‘Where dreams go to die’ — Frozen Head State Park needs your input
    Melanie Mayes
    Tuesday, 14 November 2023

    frozen_head.jpg Commemorative sign in Frozen Head State Park.   Creative Commons Mark BY-NC 4.0  Jim “Gravity” Smith — Hike with Gravity: North Bird Mountain Trail

    Written comments will be accepted until Nov. 30, 2023

    WARTBURG — Harvey Broome Group of the Sierra Club and Tennessee Citizens for Wilderness Planning want to encourage the public to weigh in on the proposed Tennessee State Management Plan for Frozen Head State Park & Natural Area in Morgan County.

    Some of the proposed developments could drastically impact park natural resources and visitor experiences. Frozen Head hosted nearly 400,000 visitors in 2022. It is frequented by many East Tennessee residents and is an important destination tourist attraction. Importantly, it is an outstanding reservoir of biodiversity in the heart of the Cumberland Mountains.

    The Management Plan states Frozen Head State Park and Natural Area mission is “to protect and preserve the unique examples of natural, cultural, and scenic resources and to save one of the last vestiges of undisturbed landscapes in the Cumberland Mountain region,” and park management is intended to “restore and maintain the diversity and integrity of the resource.”

  • Cades Cove Loop Lope raises more than $110,000 to support the GSMNP
    Friends of the Smokies
    Wednesday, 15 November 2023

    Cades Cove Loop Lope finish line 2023Debi Nixon of Belton, Missouri crosses the finish line at the Cades Cove Loop Lope.

    750 people from 27 states participated in the 7th Annual Cades Cove Loop Lope

    On Sunday morning, Nov. 12, Friends of the Smokies hosted approximately 700 runners and walkers for the 7th Annual Cades Cove Loop Lope to support Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Through registration and sponsorships, the experience generated more than $110,000 to support a wide range of park programs including historic preservation, wildlife protection, search and rescue efforts, and Parks as Classrooms education programs.

    “Experiencing Cades Cove on foot is an incredible opportunity to unplug and enjoy the splendor of the mountains, while also raising critically needed funds to support their care,” said Friends of the Smokies President Dana Soehn.

  • Southeast highlighted in latest national climate assessment
    Southern Environmental Law Center
    Wednesday, 15 November 2023

    Climate change mitigation activities at state and city levelsThe Tennessee Valley states (TN, AL, MS) are among the most irresponsible in their languid pondering about climate change mitigation.  Illustration from the 5th National Climate Assessment

    Urgent investments in local solutions are needed now more than ever as climate impacts grow across the South

    The 5th National Climate Assessment, released this week by the U.S. Government, reports on the current climate trends, impacts and solutions across the country. It underscores the urgency and opportunities for meaningful climate action.

    This year, it includes a chapter highlighting how climate is impacting our Southeastern landscape and communities, plus what trends we can expect in the years ahead. 

    The report substantiates what we’ve been witnessing on the ground: Extreme heatwaves are already more common, sea level rise is encroaching into coastal communities and throughout the region, we’re seeing more flooding from increasingly unpredictable, volatile storms. According to the report, the country now sees a billion-dollar weather disaster every three weeks on average. In the 1980s, that average was every four months. 

    The National Climate Assessment lays the basis for why sound planning to adapt and prepare for climate impacts is so important. The good news is we’re already seeing great strides in adaptation and resilience planning in our region. 

    “The report is a call to action.” said Alys Campaigne, Leader of SELC’S Climate Initiative.

  • Mountain Commerce Challenge
    Legacy Parks Foundation
    Tuesday, 14 November 2023

    The 2023 Mountain Commerce Challenge is almost finished, and we hope you’ve had a great time hitting the trails with us! If you haven’t reached 75 miles yet, check out these 8 Great Hikes below to help you across the finish line.


    We will wrap up another great year of the Mountain Commerce Challenge on Saturday, December 9 with the Tour De Lights bike ride and celebration. We will meet at the Outdoor Knoxville Adventure Center at 4 p.m. to decorate our bikes before heading to Mary Costa Plaza for the festivities. There will be food and beverage trucks on site.

    Please bring your Challenge Checklist showing 75 miles completed and you will receive a special patch to commemorate all of the great hiking, biking and paddling we accomplished this year!

    Everyone who joins us for the celebration will receive a commemorative T-shirt and be entered for some exciting door prizes.


  • Extreme drought endangers fish species
    Casey Phillips
    Monday, 13 November 2023

    USFWS_and_Tennessee_Aquarium_biologists_collect_Laurel_Dace_during_2016_drought.jpgRepresentatives from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute work together to rescue Barrens Topminnows imperiled by an exceptional drought in Nov. 2016.  Tennessee Aquarium

    Drought conditions threaten some of the nation’s most-endangered fish species

    Casey Phillips is a communications specialist at the Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga.

    CHATTANOOGA — The endless parade of sunny, cloudless days in Chattanooga for the last two months may seem like the stuff of dreams to anyone planning an outdoor activity. However, this fall has turned into a blue-sky nightmare for aquatic species living in smaller creeks and streams.

    “Some of those headwater pools are going to dry up, and we’ll lose large numbers of populations,” said Dr. Bernie Kuhajda, an aquatic conservation biologist at the Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute. “It just doesn’t look good for our headwater fish communities out there. They’re really getting stressed.”

    Less than half an inch (0.42 inches) of rain fell in Chattanooga during a 72-day span between Aug. 30 and Nov. 9, according to meteorological data recorded at Lovell Field. That’s just 0.16 inches more than fell in Death Valley, California, during the same period, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

    As of the latest weekly report by the government’s U.S. Drought Monitor, most of Hamilton County is now considered to be experiencing a D4 or “exceptional” drought, the Monitor’s most severe drought category.

    Bad news for endangered fish species like the Barrens Topminnow and Laurel Dace.

  • Ela dam removal proceeds to make a river run through
    Erin Singer McCombs
    Monday, 13 November 2023

    Ela-Dam_Oconaluftee-River_Erin-McCombs28-1-2048x1536.jpgEla Dam on the Oconaluftee River in Cherokee. The dam is slated for removal to benefit aquatic species and the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians.  Erin McCombs

    Ela Dam Removal Coalition moving forward after $4 million grant from U.S. Fish and Wildlife to commence river restoration project 

    Erin McCombs is the Southeast Conservation Director of American Rivers.

    CHEROKEEAmerican Rivers is working with a team on a massive effort to remove the Ela dam and restore the land and Oconaluftee River to its natural condition. Partnering with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI), American Rivers is part of a coalition of federal, state, public, private, and non-profit organizations that has formed to remove the Ela dam.

    Truly a village effort, the Ela Dam Coalition includes the EBCI, American Rivers, Mainspring Conservation Trust, the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Southern Environmental Law Center, the Environmental Protection Agency, American Whitewater, Swain County, the Army Corps of Engineers, and Northbrook Carolina Hydro II.

    “Healthy rivers are essential to all life, and removing a dam is the fastest way to restore a river’s health. We appreciate this initial investment by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in  the restoration of the Oconaluftee River. We look forward to working with them to leverage this investment to fully realize this project to revitalize fish and wildlife habitat and restore vital cultural connections. We are grateful to the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians for their leadership, and for the partnership of Mainspring Conservation Trust,” said Tom Kiernan, American Rivers President and CEO.  

    Blocking the Oconaluftee River’s natural flow impacts the aquatic habitats of many native fish, mussels, birds, and other wildlife which require it for sheltering, feeding, reproducing, and thriving in their natural environment. The removal of Ela dam will result in a cultural reconnection of the Oconaluftee River to the Cherokee people and the Qualla Boundary. 

    The Oconaluftee River is home to 11 sensitive and rare aquatic species, some of which are only found in a few streams and rivers in western North Carolina, including the federally endangered Appalachian elktoe freshwater mussel, the Sicklefin Redhorse (NC Threatened), and Eastern Hellbender (NC Special Concern). Once complete, 549 miles of the Oconaluftee River watershed will be restored and expand habitat for these species. 

  • There’s now nearly 13 tons less trash on the shorelines of local waterways
    Kathleen Gibi
    Friday, 10 November 2023

    trash_boats_with_group.jpgVolunteers that came out to clean Wheeler Lake of the Tennessee River in Decatur, Ala. helped to remove 4,017 lbs. of trash, nudging Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful past their 600,000 lb. milestone at the last cleanup during Keep the Tennessee River Watershed Beautiful Month in October.  Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful

    Volunteers collected 25,397 pounds of trash from waterways during Tennessee River Month

    More than 100 volunteers who came out to participate in river cleanups to celebrate October’s ‘Keep the Tennessee River Watershed Beautiful Month presented by TVA.’ They helped Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful (KTNRB) cruise past its milestone of 600,000 pounds (or 300 tons) of trash removed from the Tennessee River watershed since it became a nonprofit. To give a physical perspective — a Boeing 747, one of the world’s largest planes weighs 300 tons — the weight of trash removed from the Tennessee River watershed.

    For context of the group’s momentum: KTNRB removed 47,756 pounds of trash before putting its first boat in the water in 2019.

    “We’ve come such a long way in a short window of time, and it’s all thanks to the good people who volunteer their time to protect their waterways by cleaning trash that wasn’t even theirs,” said Kathleen Gibi, KTNRB Executive Director. “This year has been full of new records broken, and the records belong to those thousands of volunteers who have made a commitment to this precious river system of ours.”

  • 50th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act
    Southern Environmental Law Center
    Tuesday, 07 November 2023


    For decades, the Endangered Species Act has served valuable in preserving species and making our region so unique

    Dec. 28 marks the 50th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act — an important legal tool for protecting imperiled Southern species and their habitat. Since its passage in 1973, we’ve seen a nearly 99 percent success rate in preventing the loss of animals and plants protected under the law, including the iconic bald eagle and American alligator.  

    The Endangered Species Act establishes protections for fish, wildlife and plants that are listed as threatened or endangered; provides for adding species to and removing them from the list of threatened and endangered species, and for preparing and implementing plans for their recovery; provides for interagency cooperation to avoid take of listed species and for issuing permits for otherwise prohibited activities; provides for cooperation with States, including authorization of financial assistance; and implements the provisions of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna.

    This bedrock environmental law reminds us there is still more work to do to protect the South’s rich biodiversity — including fighting in court to save at-risk species, advocating for more protective regulations, and defending the Endangered Species Act. 

  • Residential glass collection program to launch in November, as Knoxville startups tackle sustainability
    MaryBeth Mahne
    Wednesday, 25 October 2023

    KnoxFill’ Michaela BarnettKnoxFill founder Dr. Michaela Barnett was recently featured on WUOT to address trash and sustainability.  KnoxFill

    This article was originally published on WUOT in a collaboration with students from the University of Tennessee's Department of Journalism and Media

    Two Knoxville-based startups are tackling the challenges of waste and sustainability, one household at a time

    KnoxFill, founded by Dr. Michaela Barnett, is the city’s only refillery, and provides household and food products, ranging from shampoo and laundry detergent to coffee and tea.

    Vitriform3D, a 3D printer technology focused on using glass waste and converting it into architectural building products, was founded by Alex Stiles, PhD and Dustin Gilmer, PhD.

    Both businesses are filling a void left by a lack of state and local policies to address sustainability issues, and by the logistics challenges of recycling. “We know from the science that recycling can be part of a sustainable waste management program, but it really comes after trying to reduce source waste,” Barnett said. “Recycling really should be a last resort.”

    Vitriform3D offers consumers the chance to recycle, and know that their recyclables are also being re-used. Knoxville has long lacked easy glass recycling capabilities; currently, residents have to transport their own glass to one of five repositories around the city. “We’re launching a service we call Fourth & Glass, Stiles said. “That is Knoxville’s first dedicated glass only recycling program. We do have the equipment to handle glass and turn it into new products.”

  • Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful receives State Recycling Award for Cigarette Litter Prevention Program with Dollywood
    Kathleen Gibi
    Wednesday, 01 November 2023

    TRCAward-atconference.jpgThe Tennessee Recycling Coalition presented its ‘2023 Nonprofit Recycler of the Year Award’ to Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful at their annual conference held in Gatlinburg, Tenn. in August.  LEFT TO RIGHT: Amber Greene, Executive Director of the Tennessee Recycling Coalition; Edmond McDavis, Executive Director for the Tennessee Delta Alliance (who worked on the project when he was with Keep Tennessee Beautiful); Kathleen Gibi, Executive Director of Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful; Monica Kizer, Communications Director at Keep Tennessee Beautiful, and Lincoln Young, President of the Tennessee Recycling Coalition. 

    Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful (KTNRB) was just named 2023 Nonprofit Recycler of the Year

    Since the project launched at Dollywood in 2021, the program has led to the plastic getting recycled from approximately 350,000 cigarette butts. The project also made Dollywood the first theme park in the world to recycle the plastic from every cigarette butt collected in guest-facing receptacles on its property.

    “We’re so proud of this honor, more than anything because of the commitment from Dollywood and the other supporting partners who worked to ensure that this trailblazing collaboration would protect the Tennessee River watershed from the harmful effects cigarette litter,” said Kathleen Gibi, KTNRB Executive Director.

    “Taking the effort to the next step of recycling the plastic from otherwise discarded cigarette waste makes it all the more impactful and is yet the latest example of Dollywood’s reputation of working toward the greater good.”KTNRB was able to provide Dollywood with 26 art-wrapped cigarette receptacles through a collaboration of grants and sponsorships from Keep America Beautiful, Keep Tennessee Beautiful, the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), and the American Eagle Foundation.

  • Waste at Smokey Mountain Smelters finally sealed
    Ben Pounds
    Monday, 30 October 2023
    EPA’s Peter Johnson addressed the cleanup efforts and some general ideas of what will come next in a recent YouTube video uploaded Monday, Oct. 23.

    EPA consolidated toxic South Knoxville smelter refuse in single on-site landfill.

    KNOXVILLE — The Smokey Mountain Smelters site is in the Vestal Community at 1508 Maryville Pike near Montgomery Village Apartments.

    “We are excited to announce the cleanup at Smokey Mountain Smelters has been completed,” EPA remedial project manager Peter Johnson said.

    From the 1920s through the 1960s, agricultural and chemical companies operated at the site before Smokey Mountain Smelters, also known as Rotary Furnace Inc., came to the location in 1979. The company melted scrap aluminum and aluminum dross together to cast the byproduct into aluminum bars. These operations continued until 1994.

    Johnson has said in other talks the dross and saltcakes left over from the process react with water, releasing heat and ammonia gas. They leach aluminum, ammonia, chloride “and many other contaminants,” he said. Smokey Mountain Smelting’s toxins have flowed through groundwater into a tributary of Flenniken Branch, causing concerns about effects on fishing.

    In 2010 the EPA placed the site on the Superfund program’s National Priorities List (NPL) because of contaminated soils, sediment and surface water resulting from past industrial operations at the site. The EPA did some cleanup work in 2010 and 2011.


    Hellbender Press
    Monday, 13 November 2023


    America Recycles Day® (ARD), a Keep America Beautiful national initiative, is the only nationally-recognized day dedicated to promoting and celebrating recycling in the United States.

    When: Wed. Nov. 15, 2023 /  3 – 6 pm
    Where: UT Surplus/Warehousing
    2111 Stephenson Dr, Knoxville, TN

    ONE DAY to educate.
    ONE DAY to motivate.
    ONE DAY to make recycling bigger & better.

    America Recycles Day by the numbers

    In the past year, our hard-working volunteers and affiliates have recycled:

    2,335,135+ pounds of mixed paper
    1,492,898+ pounds of electronics
    535,918+ pounds of beverage containers
    157,958+ pounds of clothing/textiles
    1,899,869+ pounds of single-stream recycling
    6,056,816+ pounds of other recycled materials
    And more.

    In total, we’ve recycled over 16.5 million pounds of recyclables and counting.

    Find out more about sponsoring an event or finding one in your area by visiting


  • Arbor Day Bonus: $4.3 mil in FED grants means more Knoxville trees
    Thomas Fraser
    Wednesday, 01 November 2023

    Please join Mayor Kincannon, City Council members, Trees Knoxville and University of Tennessee leaders, and others at the City Tree Board’s Arbor Day tree-planting at 2 p.m. Monday, Nov. 6, at Harriet Tubman Park, 300 Harriet Tubman St. 

    Thanks to two federal grants totaling $4.3 million, tree lovers hoping to expand Knoxville’s canopy — especially in neighborhoods needing it the most — are especially joyful this Arbor Day. 

    The federal government has awarded $1.7 million to Trees Knoxville, a City nonprofit partner, to plant and maintain 7,500 trees along streets, in parks, at schools, in public housing communities, in historic African-American cemeteries and elsewhere. 

    The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, was awarded another $2.6 million to increase tree canopy coverage, reduce stormwater runoff, mitigate extreme heat and bring ecosystem services to underserved communities in East Knoxville. 

    Both tree grants were funded through the federal Inflation Reduction Act, touted as the biggest climate investment in U.S. history. 

    “The investments made possible by these federal grants will be transformative,” Mayor Indya Kincannon said. “We’re going to reverse the slow decline of tree canopy, and in fact prioritizing the greening up of areas that we know are the most in need of additional plantings.”  

  • Fall in to the Ring of Fire on Oct 14
    Thomas Fraser
    Wednesday, 27 September 2023

    74_annular_eclipse_detail.jpg“Ring of Fire” annular eclipse.  NASA

    While most people associate “Ring of Fire” with the great Southern country singer Johnny Cash, it will feature a different beat on Oct. 14 when the “Ring of Fire” annular eclipse will cross North, Central and South America. 

    eclipse time and dateFor other locations and more details visit Time and Date.

    The moon will pass in front of the sun, and an annular eclipse will be visible over much of the United States and Central and South America. Unlike a total solar eclipse, the moon will not completely block the sun and make day appear like night. It will, however, make the sun appear like a thin ring of fire. The difference between an annular and a total eclipse is that the moon’s orbit varies slightly in it’s distance from Earth. If an eclipse occurs when the moon is at a farther point during its orbit, it will appear slightly smaller and not large enough to cover the sun completely. 

    All eclipse-watchers on Oct. 14 will need to use special eye protection — such as eclipse glasses or a specialized solar filter — or an indirect viewing method to safely watch. Such safety measures must be used throughout the entire eclipse, no matter a viewer’s location, as even the small ring of sun visible at the peak of the annular eclipse is dangerous if viewed directly.

    Live coverage of the eclipse will air on NASA TV and the agency’s website from 11:30 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. Oct. 14 The public may also watch live on social media accounts on Facebook, X, and YouTube. 


  • Public Lands Day looking for volunteers
    Thomas Fraser
    Wednesday, 20 September 2023

    National Public Lands Day NPS poster


    Big South Fork celebrates National Public Lands Day 2023 on Saturday, September 23 with a Volunteer Trails Event

    ONEIDA — Take part in the National Public Lands Day celebration at the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area.  

    On this day, the park is looking for volunteers to help build out the last section of the Sheltowee Trace National Recreation Trail.

    Interested volunteers should meet at the R.M. Brooks General Store (2830 Rugby Parkway, Robbins TN 37852) on Saturday the 23rd at 8:30 a.m. Eastern Time. Please wear long pants and sturdy footwear.

    Established in 1994 and held annually on the fourth Saturday in September, National Public Lands Day celebrates the connection between people and green space in their community, inspires environmental stewardship and encourages use of open space for education, recreation and health benefits.

    For more information visit the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area website or call 423-569-9778.


  • Public can learn more about distilled Knox Urban Forest Master Plan Sept. 13
    Thomas Fraser
    Monday, 11 September 2023


    KNOXVILLETrees Knoxville and the city will update citizens on progress on the Urban Forest Master Plan. Trees Knoxville, an organization dedicated to preserve and increase the urban tree canopy on private and public lands in Knoxville and Knox County, will host an open house from 5:30-7 p.m. Sept. 13, at the Public Works Service Center (3131 Morris Ave.) to discuss the latest Urban Forest Master Plan.

    Trees Knoxville and city urban forester Kasey Krouse will share recommendations from Urban Canopy Works LLC based on public input.

    “We have taken everything we’ve learned over the last year and developed draft goals, as well as strategies and action steps to meet those goals,” Trees Knoxville Steering Committee said in a release. “While the plan is not yet fully developed, we would like to update the community on the direction the plan is headed, providing an opportunity to give feedback before the final draft is produced.”

    This forum will update the planning process Trees Knoxville and city staff have been working on with a consultant from Urban Canopy to learn about the public thoughts, opinions and goals for the city’s urban canopy — tree cover in public places and on private property.

    The hope is a successful forest plan will help the city preserve, grow and care for trees, which play a significant role in public and environmental health.



  • Biden-sponsored legislation trickles down to cap defunct Big South Fork oil wells
    Thomas Fraser
    Wednesday, 09 August 2023

    ONEIDA — Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area (NRRA) received $1 million for the orphaned well reclamation project, funded through the Inflation Reduction Act and Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. This project is part of a nationwide effort to restore natural habitats and address climate change impacts.

    In fiscal year 2023, President Biden’s Investing in America agenda, through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act will provide $52 million to the National Park Service to fund projects throughout the country related to ecosystem resilience, restoration, and environmental planning needs.  

    The Big South Fork project will plug and reclaim six orphaned well sites throughout the park in Tennessee and Kentucky. The project, funded by the Inflation Reduction Act, will mitigate abandoned mine drainage and close open mine portals at Big South Fork NRRA.

    Methane pollution from many of these unplugged wells is a serious safety hazard and is a significant driver of climate change, with methane being more than 25 times as potent as carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere.

    “Plugging the wells removes abandoned aboveground oil or gas production equipment, improves visitor safety and protects park groundwater and other park resources,” said Big South Fork NRRA Superintendent Niki Stephanie Nicholas in a press release.

    “The restoration of these sites through these investments will stabilize access roads and production sites and promote ecosystem health by planting native plant species.”

    — National Park Service


  • Here’s an updated summer primer for the end of the world as we know it
    Rick Vaughan
    Wednesday, 26 July 2023

    halloween sun 2014 2kThe Earth’s sun is seen in this NASA image. Scientists said July might be the hottest month in 100,000 years.  

    The global heat wave of July 2023 has spared Southern Appalachia. So far.

    KNOXVILLE July 2023 has so far offered a scary look at global climate change around the world, and the month is already one for the record books.

    This month will likely end up being the hottest July on record, globally speaking. That comes after quantitative conclusions from multiple scientists that the past week was, globally, the warmest in 100,000 years.

    The Southern Appalachians have generally been spared from the heat settling on vast portions of the country and world, but that will soon change. The National Weather Service predicts higher than average temperatures flirting with 100 degrees in the Tennessee Valley next week. Record-breaking temperatures are possible. The average high temperature for July in Knoxville is 87 degrees.

  • Southern enviros again take aim at budding TVA strategy to replace coal with fossil gas
    Anita Wadhwani
    Wednesday, 21 June 2023

    Dickson County pipeline warning sign of Tennesse Gas Pipeline Company, LLC Warnings posted in Dickson County near Tennessee Gas Pipeline property. John Partipilo/Courtesy Tennessee Lookout

    Environmental groups sue Tennessee Valley Authority over proposed new power plant

    This story was originally published by Tennessee Lookout.

    NASHVILLE — A trio of environmental groups filed suit against the Tennessee Valley Authority, claiming the utility violated federal law by failing to properly evaluate climate, environmental and financial impacts of a proposed new gas-fired plant in Cumberland City, Tennessee.

    The lawsuit, filed in a Nashville federal court this month, also claims that TVA quietly inked a deal with an international pipeline company to supply the gas-fired plant, even as it publicly went through the motions of seeking input on alternative sources of power to replace the Cumberland Fossil Plant, its aging coal-fire facility located about 60 miles northwest of Nashville.

    The groups are seeking an immediate halt to construction on the gas plant and an order forcing the utility to revise the existing environmental impact study used as the basis for moving forward with the gas-fired plant.

    “Our country’s largest utility has gamed the system to fast-track dirty energy projects and that’s why we’re going to court to stop it,” Gaby Sarri-Tobar, a campaigner with the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement. “TVA needs to be held accountable for its reckless pursuit of a new fossil gas plant in the midst of the climate emergency.”

  • To critics’ dismay, TVA plans to replace coal with natural gas. The utility also plans to double its solar supply.
    Ben Pounds
    Friday, 02 June 2023


    Citizens call on TVA to stop passing gas

    KNOXVILLE — The Tennessee Valley Authority in coming years plans to add both natural gas and solar plants to its portfolio to meet what it says are rising energy demands.

    TVA’s Board of Directors laid out the federal utility’s plan in a meeting at Norris Middle School in May. Environmentalists at a previous hearing criticized the utility’s focus on natural gas rather than renewables or other measures. Other people, largely tied to local power providers, argued that a switch to renewable energy would be unreliable.

    TVA showed a map in a press release following the meeting, showing four proposed natural gas plants and two proposed solar plants. Two of those natural gas plants would be in Tennessee while the other two are planned for Alabama and Kentucky. It stated these new plants will total 3,800 megawatts. It also spoke of its System Operations Center, set to open in fall 2024 in Georgetown to manage the utility’s grid. TVA also stated a desire to research nuclear technologies.

    “Our region is experiencing growth at six times the national average, which means we must invest in our current power system and build new generation so we can continue meeting our region’s demand,” said TVA president and CEO Jeff Lyash.

    Several citizens criticized TVA’s focus on natural gas plants and new pipelines at the listening session May 9. Among them was Clinton resident and activist John Todd Waterman.

  • Enviros cheer new Biden plan to limit fossil pollution
    Thomas Fraser
    Thursday, 11 May 2023

    WASHINGTON — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on May 11 proposed new carbon pollution standards for coal and gas-fired power plants to protect public health and reduce harmful pollutants.

    EPA’s proposed standards are expected to deliver up to $85 billion in climate and public health benefits over the next two decades and avoid up to 617 million metric tons of total carbon dioxide (CO2) through 2042.

    EPA estimates that in 2030 alone, the proposed standards will prevent more than 300,000 asthma attacks; 38,000 school absence days; 1,300 premature deaths; 38,000 school absence days; and 66,000 lost work days.

    Dr. Stephen A. Smith, Executive Director of Southern Alliance for Clean Energy“Individuals and communities across the country are doing whatever they can to protect against the immense dangers of climate pollution and are depending on the federal government to do the same. Federal limits on climate pollution from power plants are a critically needed and long overdue protection for public health and the environment. 

    “We will be reviewing the proposal and hope that the proposal hits the mark in giving our communities the safeguards they need from deadly fossil pollution.”

    EPA will be taking comments on these proposals for 60 days after publication in the Federal Register.

    — SACE



  • Little River Run 5K November 18, 2023
    Thomas Fraser
    Thursday, 02 November 2023

    Little River Run 5K - Townsend Tennessee logo 

    Join Keep Blount Beautiful (KBB) and Little River Watershed Association (LRWA) for a run (or walk!) by the Little River in view of the Great Smoky Mountains for the 5th Annual Little River Run 5K at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 18 at the Townsend Abbey. This race is a great way to support a clean, green and beautiful Blount County. The Little River Run encourages participants to engage with their community, enjoy the beauty of Blount County and help spread the message of environmental stewardship. All proceeds will support the many free events, programs and educational initiatives including litter pickups, stream cleanups, invasive removals, recycling events and educational programs.

    In-person and virtual options for the race: This will be a chip-timed event. Participants of all ages are welcome. Race tickets will be $30 beginning, Sept. 5. Race registration increases to $35 starting Nov. 13. Children 12 and under can register for a rate of $15 at any time. Registration will also be available on race day. Virtual race runners are not chip-timed and are at a flat rate of $30.

  • Learn-to-Fish clinic and Music Jam at Oconaluftee visitor center   
    Thomas Fraser
    Friday, 06 October 2023


    CHEROKEE — Great Smoky Mountains National Park will host a free youth fishing clinic and an Old Time Music Jam at the Oconaluftee Visitor Center on Saturday, October 21, 2023. Both events are free and open to the public.

    In collaboration with the International Game Fish Association, the park will hold the fishing clinic from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Try your hand casting a line for local trout and earn your Junior Ranger Angler badge. Learn about fish conservation and ethical angling practices at fun, interactive stations. All fishing equipment will be provided. The first 25 families will receive a free fishing pole to keep! A valid Tennessee or North Carolina fishing license is required for participants 16 or older. 

  • Appalachian trout in trouble as temps rise, storms rage
    Dan Chapman
    Monday, 11 September 2023

    trout_bradley.jpg.webpMichael Bradley, a fly-fishing guide, on Raven Fork in the Oconaluftee area of the Great Smoky Mountains.  U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

    Climate change could steal your fish

    Dan Chapman is a public affairs specialist for the Southeast Region of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

    CHEROKEE — The mountains of the Southern Appalachians were scraped clean a century ago. Headwater ecology changed as the canopy of trees disappeared that was shading the streams from all but the noonday sun. Rainstorms pushed dirt and rocks into the water muddying the feeding and breeding grounds of fish, amphibians and insects. 

    Lower down the mountain, newly cut pastures edged right up to the creeks while cows mucked up the once-pristine waters. Invasive bugs killed hemlocks, ash and other shade-giving trees. Pipes, culverts and dams blockaded streams and kept animals from cooler water. 

    The trout never had a chance.

    Now they face an even more insidious foe — climate change. 

  • TWRA investigating fish kill on Pigeon River
    Thomas Fraser
    Tuesday, 15 August 2023

    TWRA logo with YouTube video start arrow

    Officials mull farm runoff as possible cause

    NEWPORT  Tennessee state conservation, agricultural and environment officials are investigating a widespread fish kill along the lower Pigeon River.

    The probe began on Aug. 12 after Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency officers noticed multiple species of dead fish along the river near Newport.

    Aquatic life in the Pigeon River, a popular rafting, kayaking and fishing spot boasting big smallmouth bass, has steadily recovered following years of pollution from the upstream paper mill in Canton. The Pactiv Evergreen site permanently closed earlier this year, after it and previous owners drastically reduced the amount of effluent into the river. Fishing and whitewater sports rapidly took off from there.

    TWRA didn’t immediately identify the reason for the fish kill, which remains under investigation, but alluded to sediment and agricultural runoff that spiked during heavy rains this month.

    Here is the full news release from TWRA:

    “The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) and the Tennessee Dept. of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) are jointly investigating a fish kill on the Pigeon River above Newport. 

    “On Friday, TWRA wildlife officers reported dead fish on the Pigeon River from Edwina Bridge down to the Newport police station.  TWRA fisheries biologists responded to the area documenting multiple species of dead fish at several locations. Based on the dispersal of the fish, recent water generation from the dam likely pushed them further downstream while leaving higher numbers of dead fish at the top of the kill zone.

    “To determine potential contributing factors, biologists investigated the surrounding area and documented muddy runoff from agriculture fields likely caused by heavy rains in the area.

    “TWRA biologists contacted the TDEC field office in Knoxville to assist with the incident and notified the Tennessee Department of Agriculture of the investigation. 

    The incident currently remains under investigation.”


  • Tennessee Aquarium brings more baby sturgeon into the world
    Casey Phillips
    Thursday, 06 July 2023

    Lake Sturgeon 1A young lake sturgeon is viewed through a photographic aquarium after arriving at the Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute.  Tennessee Aquarium

    Tennessee Aquarium welcomes 2,500 baby lake sturgeon as restoration effort turns 25 years old

    Casey Phillips is a communications specialist at the Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga.

    CHATTANOOGA — The approach of summer coincided with the arrival of thousands of juvenile lake sturgeon in the Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute

    Biologists at the Aquarium’s freshwater field station welcomed 2,500, 2-inch babies into their care. After a steady diet of bloodworms and brine shrimp, bringing the fish to at least 6 inches, they will be reintroduced into the Tennessee River.

    These tiny fish hold tremendous promise. Adult lake sturgeon may reach lengths of 8 feet and live 150 years

    “They start out really small, so it’s shocking to think how big they can get,” says reintroduction biologist Sarah Kate Bailey. “The first year of life is when they grow the quickest. 

    “They grow so fast while we have them here. You’ll go home for the day, come in the next morning, and they look like they’ve grown overnight.” 


  • Updated: Interactive map now available of proposed Knox County Growth Policy — for Nov. 27 meeting
    Thomas Fraser
    Wednesday, 15 November 2023

    Knox County, TN proposed future land use map

    KNOXVILLE — Members of the Knox County Growth Policy Coordinating Committee will hold their second (but first official) public meeting on Monday, Nov. 27 to hear from the public and consider amendments to the Growth Policy Plan that dates back to 2000. The meeting will take place at 5 p.m. in the Main Assembly Room of the City County Building. (This meeting was previously scheduled for Nov. 16.)

    The committee’s first of two meetings required by Tennessee State Law to change a growth policy plan had initially been announced for Oct. 24. However, when it became known that the announcement had not been published with due notice in a local newspaper to met the letter of the law, the Oct. 24 gathering was relabeled as a public information meeting only, and its agenda limited to merely provide an introductory presentation about the Advance Knox process and its proposals, with an opportunity for brief citizen statements.

    Late breaking news: Interactive map available now

    Several of those who commented on the proposed plan complained about the published maps’ lack of detail. The just released interactive map makes it possible to drill down to the neighborhood and parcel levels.

    Hints: To more easily find your home or your parcel, tap the Map Layers icon in the bottom left corner of the map. It pops up a menu from which you may hide the Policy Plan Draft and Future Land Use layers to more clearly see the street labels and to identify exact building locations, before turning on topical layers again to explore them in the local context.

    Anyone who wants to address the Growth Policy Coordinating Committee at the Nov. 27 meeting can register by calling 865-215-2005 by noon on Monday, Nov. 27, 2023.

  • Creation Care Alliance announces the 2024 Winter Symposium
    Thomas Fraser
    Thursday, 19 October 2023


    ASHEVILLE — The theme of our 2024 Creation Care Alliance Symposium is “Sacred Symbiosis: Relationships for Eco-Justice.” Our presentations, workshops and conversations will explore the relationships needed to build and nurture justice for all creation–human and non-human. We’re excited to dive in and learn together! 

    Hosted at Montreat Conference Center in Black Mountain, the symposium will begin on Friday, February 2nd, with a full day of workshops and conversations and will run through Saturday, February 3rd.

    Our keynote speaker, Mary Crow of Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN), will speak on the 3rd.

    Unlike past years, Friday and Saturday’s programs are open to all and will not be limited to clergy. We hope you join us! 

    • Early-bird discount. Register before December 4th to receive $15 off both days of the conference. If you attend both days, that is $30 savings!
    • Group discount. Groups of three or more people from the same congregation are eligible for the group discount of $10 off both days of the conference. If your group attends both days, that is a $20 discount per person. This offer is open until the close of registration on January 19th. The link for group discounts can be found on the symposium registration page (follow the below link). 
    • Student discount. If you are a current student, you can attend the symposium for a fraction of the cost ($20 on Friday and $30 on Saturday). We hope you will join us! 

  • Proposed Oak Ridge airport still doesn’t fly for many
    Ben Pounds
    Wednesday, 09 August 2023

    Rober Kennedy of Tennessee Valley Stellar CorporationRobert Kennedy shows a prototype drone under development by the nonprofit Tennessee Valley Stellar Corporation. He had removed the propellers and battery to make it easier to bring it inside and to avoid security and safety concerns about his intentions. He wanted to use it for show and tell, but was denied the opportunity to speak. Attendees were offered to dictate comments to a court recorder. Few were willing to stand in line and do so. Written comments may be sent until Aug. 18, 2023.  Wolf Naegeli/Hellbender Press

    Public hearing on proposed Oak Ridge airport suggests there is no easy glide path for project

    OAK RIDGE — Citizens of Oak Ridge and surrounding communities continue to debate the pros and cons of a new airport in the area. A public forum on Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2023, brought together those for and against the proposed airport to study documents and discuss the project.

    While there was an opportunity to give verbal comments to a court reporter, many decided to put comments in writing. Additional comments can be submitted by Friday, Aug. 18 via mail to FAA Memphis District Office, 2600 Thousand Oaks Blvd., Suite 2250, Memphis or by email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

    The city plans to construct a 5,000-foot runway, partial parallel taxiway, and associated facilities at a location north of U.S. 58 between Perimeter and Blair roads. It’s in the Heritage Center around the former K-25 site from the Manhattan Project era

    The city of Oak Ridge government commissioned GMC to write an Environmental Assessment and the Federal Aviation Administration will review it, along with public comments to make decisions about moving forward with the airport construction. In a press release the city of Oak Ridge stated it organized the hearing to follow federal laws and policies. Other reasons for the meeting included issues such as “area wetland, streams, and ponds; archaeological and historical sites; biological issues; airport noise and social effects such as road closures and realignments; view shed and lighting impacts.”

  • Oak Ridge airport project topics: Neighborhoods, City debt and tax revenues
    Wolf Naegeli
    Sunday, 06 August 2023

    K 25 overlookThe neighborhoods of The Preserve are a mere 1.5 mi away from the end of the proposed runway. Project location, scale and dimensions superimposed on this Google Earth snapshot are approximate; for illustration purposes only. Please ignore the eye altitude indicated. That value depends very much on the size of your screen. It gets updated only when viewing a scene in the live Google Earth app.  If you were sitting in an airplane — approaching the airport on the 3-degree glidepath shown here in yellow — you would pass barely more than 500 feet above these homes. During ascent many of the planes could already be higher, but because running engines at full throttle, emissions would be more perceptible and concerning.

    How would the airport project affect livability and property values?

    OAK RIDGE — For the past three decades, the City of Oak Ridge has been complaining that most who get hired to work in Oak Ridge prefer to live in Knoxville or Farragut. Low population growth and few new home starts did not make up for increasing costs of city services. A considerable amount of city-budget increases, however, were a consequence of poor decisions, driven by wishful thinking. The payback of grandiose plans that had no solid economic foundation was measly, if not lacking for years and ever more years. The underutilized Parcel A Centennial Golf Course and Horizon Center are particularly memorable examples.

    Some of our readers may also remember the scandal when DOE sold a strip of riverfront property near Brashear Island on the Clinch at a price of $54 per acre — drastically below fair market value. That  incidence was related in a roundabout way to another so-called “self-sufficiency parcel,” Parcel E. The latter was sold to the City in 1987 for transfer to the Boeing Company, which planned to build an industrial facility. The project never materialized.

  • Updated 8/8: UT-Battelle affirms support for project as park service says it will study the effect on public NPS assets. How much would Oak Ridge taxpayers be on the hook for an airport?
    Thomas Fraser
    Saturday, 05 August 2023


    City says it presently has little idea how to cover potential cost overruns and the public liability behind proposed Oak Ridge airport

    OAK RIDGE — Opponents of a plan to build a 323-acre general aviation airport near the site of the former K-25 facility on the western side of the Oak Ridge Reservation have voiced ample environmental concerns, but many also have economic-related questions about the $55 million project originally priced in 2016.

    Meanwhile, UT-Battelle, which manages Oak Ridge National Laboratory, provided a statement fully endorsing the project, while the National Park Service said it would closely review the proposed airport’s effect on components of the Manhattan Project National Historical Park.

    “The planned airport project at the East Tennessee Technology Park is an essential component in the future economic growth of the region and an important feature for potential business development. Many businesses or projects that could be positively impacted by the construction of the airport have ongoing research partnerships with Oak Ridge National Laboratory, which is managed for the US Department of Energy by UT-Battelle, LLC,” according to a statement from UT-Battelle.

    In perhaps a bit of contrast, the National Park Service said it would investigate the potential impact of the proposed airport on national park assets, including a visitors center and interpretive facilities centered around the K-25 site in question.

    “The National Park Service has a responsibility to ensure protection of cultural resources significant at the local, state, and national levels. Resource impacts should be considered in their cultural contexts and managed in light of their values. The NPS is reviewing the document to better understand effects and impacts of the proposal,” according to a statement from Niki Stephanie Nicholas, the site manager for the Manhattan Project National Historical Site.

    That statement was issued Monday. A full public hearing on the proposal will commence at 6 p.m. today (Aug. 8) at the DoubleTree Hotel on Illinois Avenue in Oak Ridge.

    The original story continues below:

    While Advocates for the Oak Ridge Reservation (AFORR) has warned of ecological damage to wetlands, woodlands and wildlife in the current proposed airport footprint (and some plans call for the rerouting of Oak Ridge Turnpike adjacent to the site), another citizen group feels the project will lead to another city boondoggle propped up by taxpayers.

    Grants from the Department of Energy, Tennessee Department of Transportation, Appalachian Regional Commission, and other external sources will fund construction of the 5,000-foot runway, apron, and hangars planned for the Heritage Center in west Oak Ridge. Half of the stated cost would go toward extensive grading work that would erase wetlands and fill a remediated pond on the property that is adored by birdwatchers. Several concepts also call for the rerouting of the western end of Oak Ridge Turnpike.

    The City of Oak Ridge would be fiscally obligated by contract with the Federal Aviation Administration to keep the airport fully operational for a minimum of 20 years upon accepting federal grant funding for its construction. There also would be a risk of potentially very high liability cost in case of an accident, should the City be found negligent in fulfilling its obligations.

Creature Features

  • Celebrate the importance of bats at “Bats and Brews” in Asheville 
    Hellbender Press
    Thursday, 12 October 2023

    PallidBat_GRCA_Hope_BatWeek2016.jpgOct. 24 - 31, 2023: Everybody can get in on the Bat Week fun.  National Park Service

    An excellent time to celebrate bats

    ASHEVILLE — The public is invited to “Bats N Brews” in honor of Bat Week from 5:30 to 8 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 26 at Sierra Nevada Brewing Company.

    Bat Week is an international, annual celebration designed to raise awareness about the need for bat conservation. Bats are vital to the health of our natural world and economy. Although we may not always see them, bats are hard at work all around the world each night — eating tons of insects, pollinating flowers, and spreading seeds that grow new plants and trees.

    This year, Bat Week is spreading its wings bigger than ever before by bringing on board partners across Latin America, from Mexico and the Caribbean to Costa Rica, Colombia, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Honduras, Brazil, and more.

  • SELC settlement protects blue-blood horseshoe crabs and their avian dependents
    Southern Environmental Law Center
    Tuesday, 29 August 2023

    Red Knot Red Knot.  Creative Commons Mark BY-SA 4.0  Chuck Homler 

    CHARLESTON — A landmark settlement prohibits horseshoe crab collection on the beaches of more than 30 islands along the South Carolina coast that are established feeding sites for rufa red knots during their annual migration — as well as any harvesting in Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge — for at least five years.

    Every spring, red knots time their 9,300-mile migration from South America to the Canadian Arctic perfectly so they stop on the same beaches of South Carolina at the exact moment horseshoe crabs begin to spawn.

    These protein-rich crab eggs are critical for red knots, providing the fuel they need to complete their transpolar journey. This delicate relationship between horseshoe crabs and red knots has developed over millions of years.

  • Butterfly release scratched at UT Arboretum festival after pushback on ecological wisdom
    Thomas Fraser
    Friday, 25 August 2023

    Lydia_at_Butterfly_Festival.jpgCome join the fun at the annual UT Arboretum Society Butterfly Festival from 10 a.m to 1 p.m on September 9 at the UT Forest Resources AgResearch and Education Center and Arboretum. The event will include educational activities about protecting these pollinators.  Photo courtesy University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture

    UT grounds planned butterfly release but festival will fly

    OAK RIDGE — The University of Tennessee Arboretum canceled a planned release of painted butterflies originally scheduled for its upcoming annual butterfly festival, but the pollinator-positive educational event will go on to the joy of families and nature enthusiasts across East Tennessee.

    “While the fun-filled and educational event is still scheduled for Sept. 9, a mass release of painted lady butterflies is no longer scheduled as part of the event,” according to the UT Arboretum Society.

    The 8th annual festival will occur from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the UT Forest Resources AgResearch and Education Center and Arboretum, 901 S. Illinois Avenue, Oak Ridge. Plenty of activities will provide educational opportunities for the public to learn how we can all protect our pollinators, according to the UT Institute of Agriculture.

    “The butterfly species previously planned for release at the festival was the painted lady, Vanessa carduii. Butterfly releases have been held at past festivals with the intention that the more people understand an organism, the more they are inspired to help protect it. Though there has not been definitive scientific research about the impact of painted lady butterfly releases, the UT Arboretum Society has decided to join many other scientific organizations, such as the North American Butterfly Association and the Smithsonian Institute, in not promoting this practice,” according to a release.

  • TWRA investigating fish kill on Pigeon River
    Thomas Fraser
    Tuesday, 15 August 2023

    TWRA logo with YouTube video start arrow

    Officials mull farm runoff as possible cause

    NEWPORT  Tennessee state conservation, agricultural and environment officials are investigating a widespread fish kill along the lower Pigeon River.

    The probe began on Aug. 12 after Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency officers noticed multiple species of dead fish along the river near Newport.

    Aquatic life in the Pigeon River, a popular rafting, kayaking and fishing spot boasting big smallmouth bass, has steadily recovered following years of pollution from the upstream paper mill in Canton. The Pactiv Evergreen site permanently closed earlier this year, after it and previous owners drastically reduced the amount of effluent into the river. Fishing and whitewater sports rapidly took off from there.

    TWRA didn’t immediately identify the reason for the fish kill, which remains under investigation, but alluded to sediment and agricultural runoff that spiked during heavy rains this month.

    Here is the full news release from TWRA:

    “The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) and the Tennessee Dept. of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) are jointly investigating a fish kill on the Pigeon River above Newport. 

    “On Friday, TWRA wildlife officers reported dead fish on the Pigeon River from Edwina Bridge down to the Newport police station.  TWRA fisheries biologists responded to the area documenting multiple species of dead fish at several locations. Based on the dispersal of the fish, recent water generation from the dam likely pushed them further downstream while leaving higher numbers of dead fish at the top of the kill zone.

    “To determine potential contributing factors, biologists investigated the surrounding area and documented muddy runoff from agriculture fields likely caused by heavy rains in the area.

    “TWRA biologists contacted the TDEC field office in Knoxville to assist with the incident and notified the Tennessee Department of Agriculture of the investigation. 

    The incident currently remains under investigation.”


  • Virginia Tech sleuths are investigating mysterious hellbender disappearances
    Mike Allen
    Monday, 14 August 2023

    hellbender VT 1Virginia Tech Professor Bill Hopkins preparing to gently return a hellbender to its underwater home in a Virginia stream after taking measurements.  Lara Hopkins/Virginia Tech

    One clue: They eat their own in deforested stream corridors

    Mike Allen is a media relations officer for Virginia Tech.

    BLACKSBURG  The gigantic salamanders known as hellbenders, once the apex predators of many freshwater streams, have been in decline for decades, their population constantly shrinking. No one knew why. William Hopkins, professor in the Department of Fish and Wildlife Conservation and director of the Global Change Center at Virginia Tech, suspected the hellbenders’ plight had connections with environmental changes engineered by humans.

    Hellbender males select nesting sites on stream bottoms and guard the eggs laid there by females — and occasionally the salamander dads snack on the eggs, consuming them before they ever get to hatch. A study that Hopkins led, conducted through eight years of snorkeling in ice-cold Southwest Virginia streams and published in The American Naturalist, determined that in deforested areas, hellbender fathers are far more likely to eat their entire brood than in areas that still have lush foliage.

    This behavior, known as filial cannibalism, probably evolved as a survival tactic for enduring harsh conditions. Prior to Hopkins’ results, scientists were not aware that hellbenders’ filial cannibalism drastically increased in cleared lands, actively speeding the species out of existence.


  • On tap: Learn how the local Sierra Club is fighting climate change
    KNOXVILLE — The latest round of Conversation on Tap features members of the local Harvey Broome group of the Sierra Club discussing its efforts to address climate change.

    It’s set for 7 p.m. Dec. 13 at Albright Brewing Company, 2924 Sutherland Ave. Proceeds from the event will benefit Discover Life in America, a crucial science partner with Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

    Join Harvey Broome group vice-chairman Jerry Thornton and others to learn more about the local chapter of the Sierra Club and its efforts to address climate change.

    Named after a Smokies advocate and Wilderness Society founder, the Harvey Broome chapter of the Sierra Club has been fighting to preserve wild places; create clean, safe communities; and encourage recycling and clean energy since 1972. 

  • Creation Care Alliance announces the 2024 Winter Symposium


    ASHEVILLE — The theme of our 2024 Creation Care Alliance Symposium is “Sacred Symbiosis: Relationships for Eco-Justice.” Our presentations, workshops and conversations will explore the relationships needed to build and nurture justice for all creation–human and non-human. We’re excited to dive in and learn together! 

    Hosted at Montreat Conference Center in Black Mountain, the symposium will begin on Friday, February 2nd, with a full day of workshops and conversations and will run through Saturday, February 3rd.

    Our keynote speaker, Mary Crow of Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN), will speak on the 3rd.

    Unlike past years, Friday and Saturday’s programs are open to all and will not be limited to clergy. We hope you join us! 

    • Early-bird discount. Register before December 4th to receive $15 off both days of the conference. If you attend both days, that is $30 savings!
    • Group discount. Groups of three or more people from the same congregation are eligible for the group discount of $10 off both days of the conference. If your group attends both days, that is a $20 discount per person. This offer is open until the close of registration on January 19th. The link for group discounts can be found on the symposium registration page (follow the below link). 
    • Student discount. If you are a current student, you can attend the symposium for a fraction of the cost ($20 on Friday and $30 on Saturday). We hope you will join us! 

  • KCM Knoxville Community Media Engagement Calendar
    Knoxville Community Media (KCM)

    KCM’s Community Engagement Calendar provides information about both, date-specific events and the regular programs & services provided by nonprofit organizations.

    Many people still think it is necessary to have a TV cable connection to watch community TV programs. But that’s old history.

    One does not even need to be in the City of Knoxville or anywhere near it, nor have a TV set anymore.


Your diet of environment and science news

  • ORNL wants to leave watercraft carbon emissions in its wake

    Caterpillar 4-stroke diesel engineThis Caterpillar in-line 6-cylinder marine diesel engine will be the subject of research and development for efficient, more climate-friendly marine propulsion with methanol fuel.  Genevieve Martin, ORNL/U.S. Dept. of Energy

    OAK RIDGE — The Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Caterpillar Inc. have entered into a cooperative research and development agreement to investigate methanol as an alternative fuel source for four-stroke internal combustion marine engines. The collaboration supports efforts to decarbonize the marine industry, a hard-to-electrify transportation sector.

    As the U.S. continues to seek ways to reduce environmentally harmful greenhouse gas emissions, methanol is an attractive fuel alternative to diesel because it reduces carbon emissions. Methanol also reduces emissions of nitrogen oxides and sulfur oxides. In addition, methanol’s relatively high energy density makes it easier to store on marine vessels than gaseous fuels meaning it can be more easily integrated into overall existing engine design and operation.

    Although methanol has many advantages, it is more difficult to ignite than diesel. Under the terms of the CRADA, ORNL researchers will work with Caterpillar over the next few years to identify, develop and test hardware configurations and operating strategies required to maximize use of methanol in engines retrofitted for methanol.

    Research will be conducted on Caterpillar’s in-line 6-cylinder marine engine that has been modified for methanol use and installed at DOE’s National Transportation Research Center at ORNL. New engine designs will also be considered, and several engine combustion strategies will be explored including dual-fuel, dimethyl ether reforming and spark-ignited prechambers. Caterpillar will support ORNL by providing additional materials and research expertise to enable engine performance, efficiency and durability while reducing GHG and other emissions.

    — Oak Ridge National Laboratory

  • Greener solution powers new method for lithium-ion battery recycling

    2023-P12386.jpgORNL researchers Lu Yu and Yaocai Bai examine vials that contain a chemical solution that causes the cobalt and lithium to separate from a spent battery, followed by a second stage when cobalt precipitates in the bottom.  Carlos Jones/ORNL/DOE

    OAK RIDGE — Used lithium-ion batteries from cell phones, laptops and a growing number of electric vehicles are piling up, but options for recycling them remain limited mostly to burning or chemically dissolving shredded batteries. The current state-of-the-art methods can pose environmental challenges and be difficult to make economical at the industrial scale.

    The conventional process recovers few of the battery materials and relies on caustic, inorganic acids and hazardous chemicals that may introduce impurities. It also requires complicated separation and precipitation to recover the critical metals. However, recovering metals such as cobalt and lithium could reduce both pollution and reliance on foreign sources and choked supply chains.

    This research is funded as a project of the Advanced Battery Recycling Consortium, or ReCell, a program of the Vehicle Technologies Office within DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. Lu Yu and Yaocai Bai and researchers Rachid Essehli and Anuj Bisht contributed to the study, which utilized the DOE’s Center for Nanophase Materials Science at ORNL.

    — Oak Ridge National Laboratory

  • TDEC releases money to help rubber meet the road


    KNOXVILLE — The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation granted $350,197 to the University of Tennessee from the Tire Environmental Act Program

    UTK will provide matching funds of $512,793 and use the grant toward a research and development project that will develop multiple sustainable technologies for the application of tire rubber in road construction. The project costs $862,990 and has the potential to create a vast market for waste tires unrivaled in size by any other use of scrap rubber.


    “We are seeing great advances in repurposing tires for environmental benefits,” said TDEC Deputy Commissioner Greg Young. ”Programs like this not only help clean up sites of used tires, they involve innovative new uses for them. We congratulate UT-Knoxville on this project.”

    UTK is partnering with the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) to install a series of pavement test sections using the technologies developed from this project. Benefits of including rubber in asphalt pavement mixes include improved skid resistance, cracking resistance, and noise reduction.

    The purpose of the Tire Environmental Act Program is to select and fund projects that best result in beneficial uses for waste tires. Projects must qualify for one of three categories: tire processing/recycling, tire-derived material use, or research and development. The program provides grant funding to eligible entities, including local governments, non-profit organizations, higher education institutions, K-12 schools and for-profit businesses.

    Tennessee established the Tire Environmental Fund in 2015. Upon the first retail sale of a new motor vehicle to be titled and registered in Tennessee, a flat fee based on the number of a vehicle’s wheels is assessed. The fee goes into the fund, which is used for projects creating or supporting beneficial end uses for waste tires.

    Since 2015, grantees have been awarded almost $6.8 million, and approximately 5.5 million tires or nearly 58,000 tons of scrap tires have been diverted from landfills. The tires are repurposed for use in rubberized asphalt, tire-derived aggregate, tire-derived fuel, granulated rubber porous flexible pavement, and other beneficial end uses that result in tires being diverted from landfills for a higher and better use. 

    — Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation

  • ORNL separates rare earth from the chaff

    Membrane solvent extraction process schematicMembrane solvent extraction schematic.   ORNL

    OAK RIDGE Caldera Holding, the owner and developer of Missouri’s Pea Ridge iron mine, has entered a nonexclusive research and development licensing agreement with Oak Ridge National Laboratory to apply a membrane solvent extraction technique, or MSX, developed by ORNL researchers to process mined ores. MSX provides a scalable, efficient way to separate rare earth elements, or REEs, from mixed mineral ores.

    The MSX technology was pioneered at ORNL by researchers in the Department of Energy’s Critical Materials Innovation Hub, or CMI, led by Ames National Laboratory. The inventors, Ramesh Bhave and Syed Islam of ORNL’s Chemical Sciences Division are named in 26 inventions and five active licenses related to the recovery of REEs.

    REEs are a group of 17 lanthanide elements used in several technologies critical to global economic competitiveness such as electronic devices, wind turbines, electric vehicle motors, medical imaging, optics and advanced defense systems. Separated REEs are essential constituents of the neodymium-based magnets, also known as NdFeB, used in permanent magnets that operate in extreme conditions. Heavy REEs including terbium, dysprosium and holmium are required for electric vehicle motors and advanced defense systems but currently must be procured from foreign suppliers.

    “Developing a domestic supply of these elements is critical to a range of clean energy and national security technologies,” said Cynthia Jenks, associate laboratory director for physical sciences. “ORNL is focused on expanding supply through the development of innovative technologies.”

    — Oak Ridge National Laboratory

  • Grayson Subaru Selects Ijams Nature Center as Hometown Charity for 2023 Subaru Share the Love Event

    Girl_Climbing_Log_Steps_at_Ijams_Nature_Playscape_by_Cindy_Hassil.jpgIjams Nature Preschool students were the first to explore the Ijams Nature Playscape at Grayson Subaru Preserve before it opened to the public in May 2022. Customers who purchase or lease a new Subaru from Grayson Subaru Nov. 6, 2023-Jan. 2, 2024, can choose to have Subaru of America, Inc., donate $250 to Ijams as part of the 2023 Subaru Share the Love Event. Donations will be used to expand this natural play area as well as improve the Mead’s Quarry swim area.  Cindy Hassil.

    Starting in mid-November, getting a new car from Grayson Subaru could mean new places to play and learn at Ijams Nature Center.

    Grayson Subaru has chosen the nonprofit nature center as its hometown charity for Subaru of America, Inc.’s annual Subaru Share the Love Event.

  • Enviva’s financial problems shed light on biomass energy flaws

    npr.brightspotcdn.webpThe Impacted Communities Against Wood Pellet Coalition (ICAWP) organized the protest and says the company has been ignoring the concerns of impacted communities while receiving millions of dollars in subsidies and tax breaks from the state.  ICAWP

    This week Enviva, which is the world’s largest wood pellet manufacturer, saw its stock price fall by more than 90 percent from its height earlier this year following a grim financial report from the company. The company’s money problems show the massive flaws with the biomass energy industry and are due in part to the company being held accountable for its polluting pellet plants.  

    Enviva operates pellet plants across the South. These dirty facilities release huge amounts of air pollution, dust and fine particulates that can cause asthma and respiratory illnesses in nearby communities. The hazardous plants are often times sited near communities of color that are already overburdened with industrial pollution. 

    Enviva’s current financial crisis is due in part to the company being forced to internalize the environmental costs of its dirty operations, rather than pushing them off onto nearby communities. SELC, along with community partners across the region, have scored major victories against Enviva and other pellet companies, forcing them to install pollution controls and better protect people living nearby.  

    “Enviva’s wood pellet plants have caused long-lasting damage to communities across the South. The company’s financial problems are partially caused by communities standing up and pushing back on this dirty industry,” said Heather Hillaker, Senior Attorney for SELC.

  • Intergenerational Playspace open in North Knox


    Legacy Parks Foundation cut the ribbon on the Intergenerational Playspace at Beverly Park in North Knox County. It is the first park in the region to be purposefully designed to create active interactions between multiple generations, especially children and seniors.

    “This park was made possible by our many partners that supported and funded the project,” said Carol Evans, Legacy Parks’ executive director.

    Legacy Parks was awarded a $150,000 two-phase grant from the Trinity Health Foundation to research, design and create the Playspace. Additional grants and construction services provided by Knox County made the park possible

  • Construction continues on Lakeview Drive in GSMNP

    Road tunnel people

    Road will reopen with single-lane closures on Nov. 16 at 12 p.m. 

    GATLINBURG— Great Smoky Mountains National Park continues to rehabilitate Lakeview Drive in North Carolina through Great American Outdoor Act fundingThe NPS will open Lakeview Drive to vehicles on Nov. 16 at 12 p.m., but visitors shouldplan for temporary single-lane closures andperiodic closures of some parking areas as construction is completed

    Construction crews will continue to rehabilitate parking areas, guardrails, headwalls and more over the next few weeks. Crews will complete the road rehabilitation in the spring when they place the final layer of asphalt that will provide for a smoother ride. 

    Hikers and visitors will be able to access the Noland Creek Trail, Lakeshore Trail, Goldmine Loop Trail, Benton MacKaye Trail, or Lakeview Drive Tunnel from the road, but may not be able to park at the closest parking lot to the trailheadVisitors should expect to see machinery and equipment in the area until the project is complete.

  • Great fish caught on Watts Bar Reservoir

    Randy Miller with his Watts Bar Reservoir large-mouth bass

    Rhea County — Watts Bar Reservoir created in 1942, has remained a consistent bass fishery according to data collected over the past decades. Reservoir biologists are hopeful that a recent catch is reflective of Florida largemouth bass stocking efforts started in 2015. 

    Randy Miller of Spring City caught an 11.22-pound largemouth bass on the reservoir and graciously shared the photo with reservoir biologist Mike Jolley. Jolley, an employee with over three decades of professional experience, grew up on the lake and has intimate knowledge of its waters. Jolley shared, “We routinely evaluate our fisheries in reservoirs, including Watts Bar, to assess overall health of population dynamics. Some anglers have questioned the status of the bass fishery in this lake. I’m happy to share that Watts Bar has remained a consistent fishery based on long-term, routine data collection.”

  • Great Smoky Mountains National Park implements backcountry fire restrictions


    GATLINBURG — Due to dry conditions and the increased risk for wildfires, the National Park Service (NPS) is temporarily banning backcountry campfires in Great Smoky Mountains National Park effective immediately. The fire restriction will be in effect until further notice. 

    “We are experiencing dry conditions throughout the park, in both North Carolina and Tennessee,” said Deputy Superintendent Alan Sumeriski. “With dry conditions persisting over the next week, it is imperative that we reduce the risk of human-caused wildfires.” 

    The fire restriction only applies to campers using the park’s 100 backcountry sites and shelters. It does not affect campers at the park’s front country (developed) campgrounds or picnickers using fire grills at picnic areas. Fires in developed areas must always be confined to designated fire rings and grills. The NPS asks front country campers to reduce the risk of wildfires by extinguishing fires completely until ashes are cool to the touch. Backpackers may use stoves with compressed gas canisters.   

    The NPS is working with multiple area agencies in response to current and predicted weather and fuel conditions. Visitors should use extra caution recreating on public lands including national parks and national forests in North Carolina and Tennessee when fire danger is increased.

  • Obed WSR announces restrictions on backcountry fires

    download.jpgObed Wild & Scenic River paddler.  NPS

    WARTBURG — Obed Wild & Scenic River officials announced a temporary ban on campfires in the park’s backcountry effective immediately. Due to abnormally dry weather conditions and the amount of fresh leaf litter on the ground, the potential for escaped fires to occur in the backcountry has greatly increased. The fire restriction will be in effect until further notice.

    The fire ban does not affect campers at Rock Creek Campground or picnickers using fire grills at picnic areas. Fires at developed areas must be confined to designated fire rings and grills. All visitors are asked to take certain precautions to help reduce the risk of wildfires. This includesextinguishing front country fires by mixing water with embers in fire rings and grills. Use of backpacking stoves is still permitted at backcountry campsites.

    “With the current drought conditions, it is imperative that we mitigate the risk of human-caused wildfires during this period of high fire danger,” said Superintendent Niki Stephanie Nicholas.

    “The park has not banned backcountry campfires since November 2016, but these unusually dry conditions warrant the restriction.”

    More information about backcountry trip planning, please visit the park visitor center or call 423-346-6294.

  • ‘Save Money, Save Energy’ Expo — at Ijams this Sunday

    New Free Funding for Home Energy Upgrades that Save You Money workshop posterExplore how to reduce your monthly power bill and increase the health and comfort of your home.

    Federal and local funding opportunities available at all income levels

    KNOXVILLE — As the weather turns colder, many Knoxvillians start to worry about home heating bills. Fortunately, energy efficiency incentives and funding programs are available to Knoxvillians of all income levels through federal tax credits and rebates. Free local funding is available for qualifying customers of KUB through the “Home Uplift” program. Many Knoxvillians are unaware of these opportunities or unsure of how to access the funding programs.

    Family-friendly Home Energy Expo

    The local organizations that cooperate with small local businesses in the Save Money, Save Energy program and the expo and workshop at Ijams are the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE), Knoxville Utilities Board (KUB), Socially Equal Energy Efficient Development (SEEED), Sierra Club – Harvey Broome Group, Three3 (pronounced three cube) and Tennessee Interfaith Power and Light (TIPL).

    Home Energy Expo at Ijams Nature Center, 2915 Island Home Ave, Knoxville, TN 37920 — Sunday, Nov. 5, 2023 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
    Save Money, Save Energy workshop starts at 2:30 p.m. (RSVP recommended to secure a seat)

Action Alerts

  • Celebrate the importance of bats at “Bats and Brews” in Asheville 

    PallidBat_GRCA_Hope_BatWeek2016.jpgOct. 24 - 31, 2023: Everybody can get in on the Bat Week fun.  National Park Service

    An excellent time to celebrate bats

    ASHEVILLE — The public is invited to “Bats N Brews” in honor of Bat Week from 5:30 to 8 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 26 at Sierra Nevada Brewing Company.

    Bat Week is an international, annual celebration designed to raise awareness about the need for bat conservation. Bats are vital to the health of our natural world and economy. Although we may not always see them, bats are hard at work all around the world each night — eating tons of insects, pollinating flowers, and spreading seeds that grow new plants and trees.

    This year, Bat Week is spreading its wings bigger than ever before by bringing on board partners across Latin America, from Mexico and the Caribbean to Costa Rica, Colombia, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Honduras, Brazil, and more.

ES Initiatives

  • Tennessee Tree Day


    It's that time of year again — time to reserve your trees for Tennessee Tree Day 2024. Reserve yours now and plan on picking them up on March 15th or 16th and planting them that weekend.  Here are some special things to know about this year's statewide native-tree-planting extravaganza:

    • This is the 10th Annual Tennessee Tree Day
    • You have more than 12 native species to choose from
    • Plant at home, on the farm, or anywhere you have permission to plant
    • You have more than 150 pick-up sites to choose from
    • We anticipate planting our one millionth tree in 2024 -- we want you to be part of this historic milestone. (We founded the Tree Program in 2007 with a goal of planting one million trees. You can help us cross the finish line!)

  • Join SACE for a Clean Energy Generation webinar on Wed, Oct. 25 at 1:30 PM


    The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy invites people to join the “Clean Energy Generation.”

    We’re gaining momentum as a movement that is rising to one of the greatest challenges of our time: the climate crisis. We’re pushing for new policies and practices and taking action, no matter how small — because it takes small ripples from people at all levels of engagement to create a tsunami of change.

    At the second Clean Energy Generation webinar, SACE staff, including Executive Director, Dr. Stephen A. Smith, Climate Advocacy Director Chris Carnevale, and Climate Advocacy Coordinator Cary Ritzler, will talk about what the “Clean Energy Generation” is and how you can play a role, no matter your age, abilities, income or zip code. 

    SACE’s Executive Director will also share the ways he is taking clean energy action in his home, and how you don’t have to be an expert to connect with your community and make meaningful change: learning more is a good place to start. We’ll also show how small groups of neighbors, students and friends are coming together to accomplish specific climate-actions goals. And we’ll have time on the webinar to answer your questions.

    Can’t make it? Register anyway and we’ll send you the recording plus a few follow-up resources.

    The Clean Energy Generation is motivated by what our daily lives, communities, country, and planet will look like when clean energy replaces decades of dirty pollution from fossil fuels. We are working together for communities powered by clean energy with good jobs, clean air and water, clean transportation, a stable climate and affordable bills, where all of us can thrive.

  • Join Keep Knoxville Beautiful on Friday, Nov. 3 for its annual Sustainability Summit


    KKB Sustainability Summit 2023

    Why do we have all this asphalt, how is it keeping us apart, what is it doing to the fabric of our cities, and what can we do about it?

    From 2nd Avenue in Nashville to The Stitch in Atlanta to the Placemaking Hub in Charlotte, travel with us to different Southeastern cities with professionals who are reshaping their urban environments to create more equitable, sustainable and beautiful places, and get inspired about what we can do in our own city. Join us on Friday, November 3rd for KKB’s 5th annual Sustainability Summit for a day of learning.

    Lunch will be provided for free to all attendees, sponsored by the Tomato Head

    Other sponsors include TVA and Earthadelic.

    Event Timeline

     9:00 AM - Doors open

     9:15 AM - Opening remarks by City of Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon

     9:45 AM - Jack Cebe, Landscape Architect/Engineer, Atlanta
    11:00 AM - Eric Hoke, Urban Designer, Nashville & Kate Cavazza, Urban Designer, Charlotte
    12:00 PM - Lunch provided by Tomato Head
    12:45 PM - Beverly Bell, Landscape Designer, Chattanooga & Caleb Racicot, Urban Planner, Atlanta 
      1:45 PM - Closing remarks

  • Appalachian State Energy Center is crushing it with biochar

    community_biochar-reduced.pngCommunity biochar production in Boone.  Appalachian State Energy Center

    Appalachian State University research helps farmers and crop yield

    This article was provided by Appalachian State University. Hei-Young Kim is laboratory manager and research assistant with the Appalachian Energy Center.

    BOONE The Appalachian State Nexus Project experiments continue to advance agricultural innovations with biochar to help local farmers. Biochar is a charcoal-like material produced from plant material such as grass, agricultural and forest residues that  produce carbon-rich material used for agriculture and horticulture purposes. 

    Adding biochar to soil increases surface area, pH, plant nutrient availability, and enhances water-holding capacity, according to Appalachian State researchers. It also can sequester carbon in the ground for extended periods of time, which may otherwise find its way into the atmosphere as CO2 or methane.

    The qualities of biochar vary depending upon the material it comes from — timber slash, corn stalks or manure. 

  • Tennessee Aquarium wants to up the pollination game

    Pollinator Pathway signPollinator Pathway signs on the Tennessee Aquarium Plaza in Chattanooga lead guests on a self-guided tour highlighting native plants, pollinator behaviors, and unusual pollinators. Courtesy Tennessee Aquarium

    TDOT joins with Tennessee Aquarium to pollinate our pathways

    CHATTANOOGA — With their distinctive orange and black patterns, gossamer wings and harrowing 3,000-mile migrations, few insects are as charismatic or beloved as the monarch butterfly. 

    Just imagine how tragic it would be if they disappeared.

    So it was with alarm in 2022 that the world received news that the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) had declared the monarch an endangered species, citing population numbers that had fallen 80 percent since the 1980s. 

    Similar anxiety met reports in the mid-2000s of colony collapse disorder. This sudden phenomenon dramatically imperiled the survival of European honey bees, whose activity directly or indirectly affects roughly one of every three bites of food we eat, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

    Pollinators are undoubtedly critically important to plants and humans alike, whether they’re investigating our Irises, calling on our Columbine, or buzzing our Blueberry bushes. This week, June 19-25, the world celebrates Pollinator Week, which recognizes the wondrous, vital contributions of butterflies, bees, moths, bats, and other pollinators.

  • KUB and SACE provide a guide to a home efficiency uplift

    KNOXVILLE — Are you looking to take control of your utility bills to not only save money but also breathe easier knowing your home is healthier and more comfortable? Join us this Wednesday, May 17, from 6-8 PM for a free workshop to learn about newly available, once-in-a-generation funding, resources, and rebates that everyone can benefit from, regardless of if you own or rent your home, or if you have high or low income, through local and federal funds.  

    KUB is providing free (yes, free) home energy improvements for income-eligible customers through the Home Uplift program. New or repaired HVAC units, attic and wall insulation, appliances, and electric water heaters are just a few of the home energy upgrades that you may receive. Plus, professional crews are ready and waiting to do the work so you don’t have to. 

    — Southern Alliance for Clean Energy

  • Rocking chair rebellion: Older Americans help drive climate activism

    Third Act ROCKING CHAIRSPhoto courtesy of Third Act via The Revelator

    As their twilight approaches, elders supercharge climate action on behalf of future generations 

    This story was originally published by The Revelator. Eduardo Garcia is a New York-based climate journalist. A native of Spain, he has written about climate solutions for Thomson Reuters, The New York Times, Treehugger and Slate. He is the author of Things You Can Do: How to Fight Climate Change and Reduce Waste, an illustrated book about reducing personal carbon footprints.

    Thousands of senior Americans took to the streets in March in 30 states to demand that the country’s major banks divest from fossil fuels.

    This “rocking chair rebellion” — organized by Third Act, a fast-growing climate action group focused on older Americans — shows that Baby Boomers are becoming a new force in the climate movement.

    Third Act cofounder Bill McKibben, who joined a Washington, D.C., protest, says it’s unfair to put all the weight of climate activism on the shoulders of young people. It’s time for older Americans to take a central role.

    “Young people don’t have the structural power necessary to make changes,” McKibben tells The Revelator. “But old people do. There are 70 million Americans over the age of 60. Many of us vote, we’re politically engaged, and have a lot of financial resources. So if you want to press either the political system or the financial system, older people are a useful group to have.”

  • Knoxville trees need a canopy of support

    KNOXVILLE Trees Knoxville wants to hear from residents to help develop an Urban Forest Master Plan that considers the city’s unique challenges, priorities, and opportunities. A successful plan will help Knoxville preserve, grow and care for trees, which play a significant role in public health and environmental health.

    Upcoming opportunities to learn more and provide feedback:

    May 4, 6-7:30 p.m.

    Urban Trees Virtual Open House


    If you haven’t attended an in-person event, this virtual option may fit your schedule. Learn about the urban tree canopy and provide your thoughts and perspective on what Knoxville needs. Participants will need to preregister online to receive the link to the virtual workshop.

    May 11, 4-7 p.m.

    Urban Trees Open House

    Cansler YMCA
    616 Jessamine Street

    Trees in cities are vital to human health, especially as the climate warms. What does Knoxville need? Come to this open-house-style event to learn more and add your two cents. Trees Knoxville will give 15-minute presentations at 5 and 6 p.m. Attendees will learn more about the Urban Forest Master Plan process and how to engage neighbors, friends and other residents who value trees in this important process.

    Other options:

    Invite Trees Knoxville to your meeting! Go to to schedule a presentation.

    Online Survey.  If none of these engagement options work, fill out the online survey at Knoxville Tree Plan to make sure your voice is heard. 

    Learn more at Knoxville Tree Plan, and find additional community event listings at Knoxville Tree Plan Get Involved.

    Trees Knoxville was formed in 2016 and grew out of the community’s deep appreciation for trees and their many benefits. Its mission is to expand the urban canopy on both public and private land throughout Knox County. Trees Knoxville is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to planting trees, educating people, and promoting the health and well-being of our community and our environment in Knoxville and Knox County.

    — City of Knoxville

  • Refill with KnoxFill. Knoxville startup gets its own storefront.

    IMG 2216Multiple household and personal items such as detergent, shampoo and even toothpaste can be refilled at KnoxFill, which now has a storefront at 3211 South Haven Road in Knoxville.  Photo courtesy Michaela Barnett

    Glass jars aren’t just for moonshine anymore 

    KNOXVILLE The city now has a store where walk-in customers can buy refillable household products. 

    “Zero waste” is commonly heard around concerts, festivals and Earth Day events, but now it is easier to make it a daily priority.  

    KnoxFill opened a 1,600-square-foot store April 8 in South Knoxville at 3211 South Haven Road.

    The company uses reusable glass containers for purchasing common household goods such as shampoo and detergent, like the way you might buy bulk foods. Hellbender Press previously reported on this business. 

    Their products are eco-sourced. The idea is if a container is not reused, it will either be landfilled, incinerated, end up as litter, or recycled, which has its own set of issues. That’s on the back side of the waste stream. Refillable glass containers also combat pollution and waste on the front side by eliminating the petrochemicals needed to produce and ship all the plastic containers needed for consumer products in the first place.  

    Prior to opening her store, owner Michaela Barnett provided her goods and services via the “milkman” method. She would refill the bottles at home and then deliver them to her customers.  

    “The milkman system was very labor intensive; we could never have the impact and scale we now have without a brick-and-mortar store,” she said.

  • Earth Day is every day, but especially this Saturday

    Southern Appalachians NASAThis photo of the Southern Appalachians was taken from 30,000 feet. “Notice how the clouds are parallel with the ridges below them. Wind near the surface blowing up the western slopes forms waves in the atmosphere. At the crest of the wave, over the ridge tops, the air has cooled sufficiently to condense into clouds. As this air descends toward the wave trough, it becomes slightly warmer and drier, inhibiting condensation.”  Seth Adams via NASA

    Earth Day activities have cooled in Knoxville over the decades. The planet has not.

    KNOXVILLE — It’s been 52 years since the modern environmental movement was born on what is now known around the world as Earth Day.

    Now reckoned to be the world’s largest secular observance, Earth Day is the climax of Earth Week (April 16 to 22), which brings together an estimated billion people around the globe working to change human behavior and push for pro-environment economic and legislative action. This year’s theme is “Invest in the planet.”

    Events marking Earth Day in Knoxville tend to vary in size and tone from year-to-year, with 2023 providing environmentally minded residents with a number of ways to celebrate Mother Earth. 

    Perhaps the most memorable of those years was the very first one, when one of the most important voices in the burgeoning environmental movement spoke on the University of Tennessee campus.

    Jane Jacobs, who is now recognized as “the godmother of the New Urbanism movement,” gave a lecture to a crowd of nearly 200 people on the topic of “Man and His Environment” at the Alumni Memorial Hall, according to Jack Neely, who heads the Knoxville History Project.

  • Hellbent: Conservation Fisheries saves what we don’t typically see

    summer2021 jon michael mollishConservation Fisheries Executive Director Bo Baxter (second from right) leads young students in an inventory of Little River fish. The “Stream School” collaboration with Little River Watershed Association gets kids in creeks and rivers.  Michael Mollish /Tennessee Valley Authority

    ‘It’s very good for the soul.’ Bo Baxter and Conservation Fisheries focus underwater to save our Southern fishes.

    This is the latest installment of an occasional series, Hellbent, profiling citizens and organizations who work to preserve and improve the Southern Appalachian environment.

    KNOXVILLE  For more than 35 years, an obscure nonprofit headquartered here has grown into one of the most quietly successful champions of ecology and environmental restoration in the Eastern United States.

    Conservation Fisheries, which occupies a 5,000-square foot facility near the Pellissippi State University campus on Division Street, has spent nearly four decades restoring native fish populations to numerous waterways damaged years ago by misguided governmental policies. 

    In fact, the mid-20th century saw wildlife officials frequently exterminating key aquatic species to make way for game fish like trout.

    “It was bad science, but it was the best they had at the time,” said Conservation Fisheries Executive Director Bo Baxter. “A lot of the central concepts of ecology, like food webs and communities, were not developed back then.”

  • Roll up your sleeves and clean our Tennessee River waterways on April 15

    IMG 1486

    KNOXVILLE — Volunteer registration is open for the 34th Ijams River Rescue on Saturday, April 15, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. A severe weather date is set for Saturday, April 22.

    Ijams Nature Center’s annual event removes tons of trash and tires from sites along the Tennessee River and its creek tributaries. Sites are typically located in Knox, Anderson, Blount and Loudon counties.

    “During this cleanup, between 500-1,000 volunteers come together to make a tangible, positive difference in their community,” Ijams Development Director Cindy Hassil said. “It’s eye-opening to participate because you really get to see what ends up in our waterways. Hopefully it makes people more aware of how they dispose of trash and recyclables, and inspires them to look for ways to reduce the amount of waste they create.”

    There are cleanup sites on land, along the shoreline (boots/waders recommended) and on the water (personal kayaks/canoes required).

  • (Quick update): Orange STEM: UT links East Tennessee students with Science, Technical, Engineering and Math studies

    327549472 642836650863409 3091744227317001155 nHigh school students from across East Tennessee got to check out the latest career offerings in fields like robotics and virtual reality at the Jan. 21 Big Orange STEM event.  JJ Stambaugh/Hellbender Press

    The TN Lunabotics, science and sustainability get together at BOSS event

    Updated March 2023 with notes from a reader:

    My name is Allison, and I am a teaching volunteer with Students For Research. I am reaching out because our class found your website very useful while researching STEM resources that can help students discover the various aspects of science, technology, engineering and math. Many of our current students are interested in learning more about how topics associated with STEM work, especially in relation to online research, either for school or for their future careers. Your website ended up being featured by our students, so we wanted to notify you and say thank you!

    As a part of the assignment, one of our students, Becky, did some research on her own time and found this informative page for more STEM using this resource. The team found it helpful as it provided guidance on how libraries can introduce children to STEM and continue to provide resources as they progress through their education. 

    I was hoping you would be able to include this resource on your website, even if it's only for a short time. I think your other visitors might find it helpful, and it also helps our group of students cite appropriate resources and stay engaged whenever outreach yields positive feedback everyone can see. Please let me know if you would be willing to add it so I can share the exciting news with Sophie and the rest of her fellow students. I appreciate your help!

    KNOXVILLE What do environmental, social and economic sustainability have in common?

    There are numerous ways to answer that question, but for those who pay close attention to education or economics it’s an accepted fact that the future belongs to societies that invest heavily in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). 

    That’s why educators at all levels are pushing students towards those subjects at every opportunity, as was evidenced Jan. 21 at Big Orange STEM Saturday (BOSS) at the University of Tennessee.

    About 150 high school students picked from communities across East Tennessee spent much of their Saturday at John C. Hodges Library, getting a first-hand taste of what awaits them should they choose to pursue careers in STEM through the UT system.

  • The real Wild Ones and others are geared for a Chattanooga symposium

    The Tennessee Valley Chapter of The Wild Ones is accepting registrations for the spring workshop and symposium at the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga University Center, set for March 17 and 18.

    The nature journaling workshop is Friday afternoon, March 17, and will be conducted by Jannise Ray, author of “Ecology of a Cracker Childhood.”

    The symposium takes place on March 18. Speakers include:

    The Wild Ones will hold their Native Plant Sale and Expo at the First Horizon Pavilion on March 25. Ten regional native plant nurseries will participate, along with several local and regional exhibitors and vendors. Food will be available from food trucks.  

    The Wild Ones is a national organization focused on native plants and natural landscaping. The Tennessee Valley Chapter is organized in Southeast Tennessee.

    — Ray Zimmerman

  • Get a free virtual science lesson in the Smokies this Thursday

    A rundown about science efforts in Great Smoky Mountains National Park is set for March 2.

    You can learn about myriad scientific studies ongoing in the Smokies from the comfort of your own home.

    The park and Discover Life in America are presenting this virtual event from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. Register for free on Zoom.

    Attendees will “learn about a wide variety of scientific topics, from natural history and weather to geology and more, from researchers currently working in the Smokies,” according to an announcement from DLIA.

    The schedule is likely to change, but a tentative schedule is available on the DLIA website.

    — Ben Pounds

  • The electric-vehicle revolution brings environmental uncertainty at every turn



    As demand for electric vehicles soars, several roadblocks have emerged

    This article was originally published by The Revelator 

    Manufacturers, governments and consumers are lining up behind electric vehicles — with sales rising 60% in 2022, and at least 17 states are considering a California-style ban on gas cars in the years ahead. Scientists say the trend is a key part of driving down the transportation sector’s carbon emissions, which could fall by as much as 80% by 2050 under aggressive policies. But while EVs are cleaner than gas cars in the long run, they still carry environmental and human-rights baggage, especially associated with mining.

    “If you want a lot of EVs, you need to get minerals out of the ground,” says Ian Lange, director of the Energy and Economics Program at the Colorado School of Mines.

  • You can help Knoxville become a wood-powered tree city

    image0This is a basic breakdown on the social benefits associated with robust tree canopy in cities, including the city center of Knoxville, shown here.  Knoxville City Government

    City kicks off ambitious project to expand the tree canopy that benefits us all

    KNOXVILLE — The people in this city sure seem to love their trees.

    There is at least one tree for every two people who live within the city limits, but officials say they want to add even more over the next 20 years. 

    How many should be planted is currently up in the air, as is the right mix of species and where they should go.

    Those are just some of the questions that will be answered in coming months as the Knoxville Urban Forest Master Plan is developed by officials from the city and the non-profit group Trees Knoxville in conjunction with several other agencies and interested citizens.

  • Hellbent Profile: If you pollute the Tennessee River, Chris Irwin is coming for you

    Chris IrwinChris Irwin poses by the Tennessee River as a TVA vessel makes its way downstream. Thomas Fraser/Hellbender Press

    From the courthouse to the river, Chris Irwin strives for purity

    This is the first installment of an occasional series, Hellbent, profiling citizens who work to preserve and improve the Southern Appalachian environment.

    KNOXVILLE — Chris Irwin scarfed some french fries and drank a beer and told me about his plans to save the Tennessee River.

    We sat at a riverside restaurant downtown between the bridges. Not even carp came up to eat a stray fry, but a mallard family hit the free starch hard.

    I asked him what he saw as we looked out over the river in the still heat of late summer.

    “You know what I don’t see? he said. “People swimming.” It was truth. Nobody was fishing either, in the heart of a metro area pushing a million people. Signs warning against swimming and fishing weren’t readily visible, but he said an instinctive human revulsion likely makes such warnings unnecessary.

    We all know it’s an industrial drainage ditch.”

  • Food myths hurt Mother Earth
     Save money and our planet with tips from  Cheddar News

    The average American family of four annually spends more than $2,000 on food they never eat!

    Nearly one in nine people suffer from hunger worldwide.

    Agriculture contributes to global greenhouse gas emissions, deforestation and soil degradation.

    Climate change increases crop losses.

    One third of all food produced in the world is lost or wasted.

    It’s not just the food that’s wasted.

    Consider the energy wasted to grow, process and transport it.

    That all contributes to climate change, food shortages and to the rising costs of food, energy and health care.

    Food waste stresses our environment, humanity and the economy.

    — EarthSolidarity™

  • Plant native species to help the world just outside your door

    IMG 3876Gerry Moll is seen in the native garden of his home in the 4th and Gill neighborhood of Knoxville.  Ben Pounds/Hellbender Press

    People are restoring native plants on their properties. You should, too.

    ‘There are a lot of messes out there and this is something that you can do right at home that has a positive effect.’

    KNOXVILLE — If you want to help native wildlife and attract it to your yard, plant some native plants and kick back on your porch and watch them grow. That’s a good place to start.

    That’s the message from Native Plant Rescue Squad founders Gerry Moll and Joy Grissom.

    People walking by Moll’s garden in the Fourth and Gill neighborhood off Broadway just north of the city center will see tall plants; not hedges or other foreign plants, but various short trees and native flowers. It looks like an explosion of growth on both sides of the sidewalk, but it’s not chaos.

  • Citizen scientists are taking stock in Smokies, and the inventory keeps increasing

    1 smokies most wanted infographic credit Emma Oxford GSMA

    This story was provided by Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

    Next demonstration on Thursday, Oct. 20

    GATLINBURG — Great Smoky Mountains National Park is celebrating the success of a community science project led by nonprofit partner Discover Life in America (DLiA) called Smokies Most Wanted. The initiative encourages visitors to record life they find in the park through the iNaturalist nature app. DLiA and the park use these data points to map species range, track exotic species, and even discover new kinds of life in the park. 

    “iNaturalist usage in the Smokies has skyrocketed from just four users in 2011, to 3,800 in 2020, to now more than 7,100 users,” said Will Kuhn, DLIA’s director of science and research. 

    In August, the project reached a milestone, surpassing 100,000 records of insects, plants, fungi, and other Smokies life submitted through the app. Among them are 92 new species not previously seen in the park.

  • Wild animals just aren’t that into you. Give them space or suffer the consequences.

    284114AC 1DD8 B71C 0722E2E4CA635D1FOriginalA radio-collared bull elk is seen at rest in Cataloochee Valley.  Great Smoky Mountains National Park

    Please don’t feed or get attacked by the animals

    This story was originally published by The Conversation.

    Millions of Americans enjoy observing and photographing wildlife near their homes or on trips. But when people get too close to wild animals, they risk serious injury or even death. It happens regularly, despite the threat of jail time and thousands of dollars in fines.

    These four articles from The Conversation’s archive offer insights into how wild animals view humans and how our presence affects nearby animals and birds — plus a scientist’s perspective on what’s wrong with wildlife selfies. 

  • Knoxville is a great city to recycle

    recycling postcardCity of Knoxville

    Recycling rates are at a high, but challenges remain 

    This article was provided by city of Knoxville Deputy Communications Director Eric Vreeland.

    KNOXVILLE — How do city residents do recycling? Successfully, enthusiastically and smartly, according to two measurements:

    — Nearly 55 percent of eligible households are now signed up for curbside recycling, which is an all-time high representing about 33,000 families.

    — A Feb. 11, 2022 analysis found that non-recyclable materials make up only 16.8 percent of what goes into Knoxville curbside recycling carts. That’s better than the national average of 25 percent.

  • Please don’t poison the humble carpenter bees

    carpenter bee penstemon lgA male carpenter bee takes a break from building its nest to get nourishing nectar from the base of a penstemon.  Juian Cowles/U.S. Forest Service

    Please don’t wage chemical warfare on these busy bees

    KNOXVILLE — Old George Harvey lived two houses upstream from where I grew up on Baskins Creek in Gatlinburg. He had a strange obsession. Using empty jars, Old George would catch bees he found on the flowers and gardens around his house, screw on the lid and line the jars up on a ledge inside his screened-in porch. He’d then watch the bees die.

    We kids thought it was odd and cruel. We’d plot slipping into his porch and freeing all the bees like Elliot freed the frogs from the classroom in the movie “E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial.”

  • Ancient river, new threats: Water quality officials declare 19 miles of French Broad River in NC impaired by pollutants
    french broad river jason sandfordRecreational uses of the French Broad River in Asheville, including tubing, kayaking and canoeing, have grown dramatically in recent years. Jason Sandford/Ashevegas Hot Sheet

    Booming construction and development, combined with more frequent heavy rains and an aging stormwater system, continue to threaten the age-old Appalachian river

    This story was originally published by Jason Sandford of the Ashevegas Hot Sheet.

    ASHEVILLE — North Carolina water quality officials declared a 19-mile section of the French Broad River in Buncombe County as officially “impaired” because of fecal coliform levels found during recent testing. It’s a sobering alarm bell (though there have been plenty of warning signs, as you’ll see below.) In Asheville, interest in the river as an economic force and tourist destination has never been higher. (The confluence of the French Broad and Holston rivers forms the Tennessee River above Knoxville.)

    The designation will come as no surprise to even casual observers of the wide, northward-flowing river. Often, it runs a chocolate brown color, a clear sign of the sediment and other pollutants running through the waterway.

  • The gritty forever fight to save our soil continues in Tennessee

    imageErich Henry and Julia Konkel of the Blount County Soil Conservation District pose by a recent project.  Blount County Soil Conservation District

    Erich Henry and Julia Konkel anchor East Tennessee soil

    MARYVILLE — The Dust Bowl was a time of extreme drought in the Southern Plains in the 1930s. The dry topsoil whipped by winds created  the infamous “bowl of dust.” It polluted the air and made it nearly impossible to grow crops or maintain livestock.

    East Tennessee gets more rain than the Southern Plains but regional farmers to this day unknowingly use bad agricultural practices.

    Blount County Soil Conservation District’s Director Erich Henry doesn’t want history to repeat itself.

  • Quaff a recycled brew and check your waste line this weekend

    IMG 3189The city of Knoxville has started a pilot composting project for residents and restaurants. Come meet cool people and learn more about limiting food waste and sip some beers April 9 at Crafty Bastard Brewery. City of Knoxville 

    Learn how to reduce food waste Saturday at Crafty Bastard Brewery 

    Paige Travis is a public information specialist for the city of Knoxville.

    KNOXVILLE — The Waste and Resources Management Office invites the public to learn how to reduce food waste and drink a special brew Saturday, April 9 at the culmination of Tennessee Food Waste Awareness Week.

    “The city of Knoxville is committed to reducing the amount of food waste that we put into our landfill,” said Waste and Resources Manager Patience Melnik, whose department recently launched the Knoxville Compost Pilot Project.

    Hellbender Press previously reported on efforts to reduce food waste at the University of Tennessee.

  • Knoxville to citizens: ’Post up!

    City announces plan to encourage composting by residents and businesses

    KNOXVILLE — What do you do with your meatless leftover food scraps?

    Sometimes here at Hellbender Press global headquarters in South Knox we throw them in the yard for winter critters; occasionally sneak some to the dogs; bury them in the vegetable garden; or sometimes slip them into the relatively unused backyard composter by the cat graves way in the back. 

    It seems such a waste to throw it away or even produce it in the first place, and centralized landfill food scraps spew methane and linger for years. It’s a big gnarly stewpot. 

  • Organized crime put a hit on global forests — along with beef, soy, palm oil and timber interests

    santa cruz time lapse 0 

    We are cutting through forests we need more than ever

    This article was originally published in The Conversation. Jennifer Devine is an associate professor of Geography and Environmental Studies at Texas State University.

    Every year the world loses an estimated 25 million acres (10 million hectares) of forest, an area larger than the state of Indiana.

    Nearly all of it is in the tropics

    Tropical forests store enormous quantities of carbon and are home to at least two-thirds of the world’s living species, so deforestation has disastrous consequences for climate change and conservation. Trees absorb carbon dioxide as they grow, slowing its buildup in the atmosphere — but when they are burned or logged, they release their stored carbon, fueling further warming. Tropical forest loss generates nearly 50% more greenhouse gases than does the global transportation sector.

  • Tennessee Aquarium floats citizen-scientist app to extend the reach of public research

    Black Crappie in the Tennessee AquariumA black crappie is seen in the Tennessee Aquarium. Citizen scientists across the region can now plug their fish findings into a new database. Courtesy Tennessee Aquarium

    So you want to be a citizen scientist? There’s a new app for that!

    The Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute wants to assess the status of various fish populations throughout the Southeast so it released a new app to help outdoor folks and anglers identify the fish they spot, report the sighting, and enter their discoveries into a regional fish database.

    The Freshwater Information Network (FIN) accepts and includes data for three major watersheds: The Tennessee and Cumberland rivers, and Mobile Bay.

    Tennesseans may be familiar with the two rivers, but may think of Mobile Bay as a distant place with no connection to them, but its headwaters touch Tennessee in the Conasauga River. With its geographic isolation, the Conasauga is home to species of fish found nowhere else in the world.

  • Limbless bears break hearts but donuts may be worse than leg traps

    83644084 179844060054345 4751008813274890240 n 705x550Courtesy of Help Asheville Bears 

    By any other name: From poaching to cars and traps, black bears face diverse human threats in Southern Appalachians 

    Activists and state agencies agree bear poaching is an age-old problem in the mountains of Tennessee and North Carolina, but they diverge when it comes to some key aspects of the crime and its prevention.

    The non-profit Help Asheville Bears is raising awareness of threats to bears on both sides of the state lines and getting coverage on local media outlets like this piece on Knoxville-based WBIR. Its message has also appeared on a billboard in Sevierville. The Arden, N.C.-based group offers a tip line, rewards and also supports what could be described as a self-styled anti-poaching militia.

    “Bear poaching is a big deal. It happens anywhere where there are bears,” said Jody Williams, the founder of Help Asheville Bears, which is responding to what its members see as an increasing threat to the very symbol of wild Southern Appalachia. HAB is especially concerned about trapping that Williams said has left limbless bears limping throughout the mountains.

  • Knoxville sustainability center posts positive organic growth

    KnoxNews: Sustainable Future Center in Vestal is growing and growing

    David Bolt started the Sustainable Future Center horticulture and environmental education center six years ago on a half-acre with a tiny house, organic garden, horticultural demonstrations and a little fish farm.

    Now he and his allies are expanding the center’s mission with makers markets, camps and other educational programs. The site on Ogle Avenue, a busy urban street in South Knoxville, now is now home to automated organic chicken coops, a chainlink fence transformed into a living trellis, summer camps and educational programs.

  • Michaela Barnett wants to help break your consumer chains

    Michaela BarnettMichaela Barnett is the founder and owner of KnoxFill. She is seen here outside her South Knoxville home-based business in this submitted photo.

    KnoxFill offers Knoxville home delivery and pickup of sustainably sourced personal-care products in refillable containers

    Michaela Barnett has traveled the world, is an accomplished science writer and editor and is closing in on a doctorate from the University of Virginia.

    Now she’s a business owner with a focus on sustainability and waste reduction and that has proven to be her true raison d’etre. She gets out of bed with joyous purpose and determination. And she sings to start her day.

    “My husband says it’s like living with this annoying Disney character,” she said with a light laugh.   

    “I’ve got so much energy and joy and excitement,” said Barnett, who launched KnoxFill in March after eight months of research and preparation and works out of her home to fill multiple orders each day.

    KnoxFill offers sustainably sourced personal-care items, detergents and other everyday household products in reusable glass containers for pickup or delivery. The product line includes shampoo, conditioner, body wash, lotions, laundry detergent, and dishwashing and castile soap. Barnett even offers safety razors, bamboo toothbrushes and refillable toothpaste “bites.”

  • Keep your butts out of the Tennessee River

    Cigarette butt recycling bin 4

    Dollywood joins Tennessee Aquarium effort to limit the introduction of cigarette butts to our shared waterways.

    “As all humans need access to clean water, it’s an incredibly important treasure to protect.” — Dr. Anna George, Tennessee Aquarium vice president of conservation science and education.

    Cigarette butts are everywhere, and are perhaps so familiar they go unnoticed by the millions of people who pass them on our streets and roads.

    Not only are they unsightly, they contaminate our water resources — the puddles after a sudden rainstorm, the streams that flow through our landscapes, and the stormwater drains that ultimately lead to the Tennessee River. The butts quickly break down, polluting water with “tiny plastic fibers and a devil’s cocktail of chemical compounds,” according to the Tennessee Aquarium.

  • Face your fears: It’s time to have a global conversation about spider conservation

    Sue Cameron USFWSU.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist Susan Cameron searches moss mats for the spruce-fir moss spider in this USFWS photo.

    European spidey senses should give us pause across the pond.

    This story was originally published by The Revelator.

    Despite their enormous ecological values, new research reveals we don’t understand how most arachnid species are faring right now — or do much to protect them.

    Spiders need our help, and we may need to overcome our biases and fears to make that happen.

    “The feeling that people have towards spiders is not unique,” says Marco Isaia, an arachnologist and associate professor at the University of Turin in Italy. “Nightmares, anxieties and fears are very frequent reactions in ‘normal’ people,” he concedes.

  • Wildlife rehabbers return birds to the sky in Chattanooga

    0615181554 1

    Restoring wings to rise above the Earth again

    I think the most amazing and rewarding thing about raptor rehab is taking a bird that's literally at death's door to a full recovery and then releasing her back to her wild home.” Alix Parks, Wildlife rehabilitator

    Alix Parks became a certified wildlife rehabilitator 25 years ago. Her new career was sparked by a class in wildlife rehabilitation at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga taught by Debbie Lipsey.

    Parks also counts Lynne McCoy and Katie Cottrell of the Clinch River Raptor Center as early mentors. At first, she prepared food for the animals and worked with any animal brought to her. She is now a certified rehabilitator and has specialized in birds of prey for 16 years.

  • Natural 911: Knoxville Native Plant Rescue Squad whisks threatened plants to safety

    IMG 0996Joy Grissom (left) and Gerry Moll pose for a photograph with their collection of rescued native plants at Knoxville Botanical Gardens.  Photos by Anna Lawrence/Hellbender Press  

    Joy Grissom and Gerry Moll: Preserving East Tennessee’s natural heritage with shovels and wheelbarrows

    If there’s a massive ecological disturbance in your neighborhood, who you gonna call?

    The Knoxville Native Plant Rescue Squad, of course. 

    Joy Grissom and Gerry Moll spent the past six years identifying, digging, hauling and muscling native East Tennessee plants to salvation from construction, grading and logging sites.

    The duo has saved thousands of plants and their communities from certain demise. They have plucked plants to safety from areas ranging from a 170-acre logging operation in Cocke County to relatively small commercial developments in Knox County.

  • Saving America’s “Amazon” in Alabama

    Book cover Saving Americas Amazon in Alabama

    Alabama is home to remarkably diverse ecosystems: They face dire threats.

    This story was originally published by The Revelator.

    When longtime environmental journalist Ben Raines started writing a book about the biodiversity in Alabama, the state had 354 fish species known to science. When he finished writing 10 years later, that number had jumped to 450 thanks to a bounty of new discoveries. Crawfish species leaped from 84 to 97 during the same time.

    It’s indicative of a larger trend: Alabama is one of the most biodiverse states in the country, but few people know it. And even scientists are still discovering the rich diversity of life that exists there, particularly in the Mobile River basin.

    All this newly discovered biodiversity is also gravely at risk from centuries of exploitation, which is what prompted Raines to write his new book, “Saving America’s Amazon.”

  • Bradford pears suck, and a South Carolina county is offering a bounty, dead or alive
    WBIR: County bounty offered to rein in common nonnative landscaping trees

    Confession: Your friendly neighborhood Hellbender Press editor bought a house for his family that featured rows of well-established Bradford pear trees. While they are not my favorite, are distinctly alien and should be made to leave this world, they provide an effective privacy screen. I’m sure many of you are in the same boat: Why eliminate healthy trees and expose your property? Let ’em ultimately die and rot, I guess. And plant natives elsewhere. WBIR also has suggestions for natives to replace Bradford pears.

    Maybe we’ll figure it out, but in the meantime here’s a story about a South Carolina county offering a bounty on Bradfords.

    Interestingly, WBIR has posted numerous, unflattering stories about Bradford pears over the last couple of years. Seems they have an editorial grudge. Good. Keep rolling with it.


  • It’s time we start wearing our hearts on our sleeves!

    In the spirit of Thinking Globally, Acting Locally, consider what you can do to help Mother Earth and its inhabitants.

    Adopting a more sustainable life style to reduce one’s personal ecological footprint is easier to wish for than to accomplish. Some measures that would reap a significant  environmental benefit, such as making a home more energy efficient, may require a substantial investment of physical effort, time and money that will pay back over time only.

    Deliberate choice of clothing, however, is a simple course of action for anyone to start making a big difference in social justice, climate impacts and environmental conservation.

ORNL tips to run your
car more efficiently


  • Hellbender Press

    The Environmental Journal of Southern Appalachia

    (ONLINE version 0.9)
    Copyright © 2020-2023 Hellbender Press | Foundation for Global Sustainability
    Hellbender Press
    P.O. Box 1101
    Knoxville, Tennessee
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    Editor and Publisher
    Thomas Fraser
    Editorial Board
    Bo Baxter
    Jasen Bradley
    Chris Kane
    Wolf Naegeli
    Lauren Parker
    Amanda Womac

    Hellbender Press: The Environmental Journal of Southern Appalachia is a digital environmental news service with a focus on the Southern Appalachian bioregion. It aggregates relevant stories from across the news media space and provides original news, features and commentary.

    Espousing the “Think Globally, Act Locally” ethos of FGS, Hellbender Press promotes the conservation and study of the environment and protections for air, water, climate, natural areas, and other resources that are critical to human health and a robust, resilient economy.

    The Hellbender also champions civil and human rights, especially in matters of environmental justice, equity of access to natural resources and the right to a clean environment.

    Hellbender Press is a self-organizing project of the Foundation for Global Sustainability’s Living Sustainably Program. All donations made for Hellbender Press to FGS are tax-deductible. We offer a free environmental news and information site, but grants and charitable contributions are encouraged and needed to support our work. Much of the content is provided on a volunteer basis by individuals and organizations that share a common cause.

    Hellbender Press encourages the submission of original and relevant articles and photography for consideration to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

    For more details on the history and objectives of Hellbender Press, watch the interview of Thomas Fraser in Knoxille Community Media’s “Serving Knoxville” series.

  • Our name

    The hellbender (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis), a native salamander, is an indicator species. It requires clear, oxygen-rich water to respire, find its prey, and reproduce.

    The presence of hellbenders in a stream indicates good water quality and a healthy intact ecosystem.

    Hellbender Press aspires to help you discover the degrees of resilience and sustainability of your community, our bioregion and planet Earth.

    Hellbender Press informs about what is beneficial for life — here and elsewhere.

    It also points out where we must do better to rescue and restore what can still be saved.

  • Foundation for Global Sustainability

    fgs color

    FGS is a transdisciplinary educational non-profit advocacy organization. It works to restore the balance between human activities and the natural life support systems of the Earth. 

    FGS publications, special reports, events and outreach inform and educate the public about vital regional and global issues and how they interdepend. 

    FGS monitors and addresses social and environmental issues in the Upper Tennessee Valley and the Southern Appalachian Mountains. It fosters and supports conservation initiatives, including 

    — action committees that address egregious assaults, on our natural heritage for example, which require temporary assistance only

    — campaigns by other nonprofits, such as

    — groups that want to address systemic problems in a systematic fashion. Among the latter, three evolved to establish themselves as independent 501(c)(3) organization: