The Environmental Journal of Southern Appalachia

News

  • Nancy Manning is putting in the work for seven generations
    Ben Pounds
    Saturday, 22 June 2024

    0Tennessee Citizens for Wilderness Planning Executive Director Nancy Manning stands in a wetland in the Oak Ridge Cedar Barrens. She is cultivating a project that involves students from nearby Jefferson Middle School.  Ben Pounds/Hellbender Press

    New TCWP director already helping our kids ‘Explore and Restore’

    OAK RIDGE — The students looked for tiny animals, tested water samples and took careful note of plants. Their recorded observations of Oak Ridge Cedar Barrens, a state natural area, were part of their class at the adjacent Jefferson Middle School (JMS), but volunteers from many outside organizations helped them with their scientific processes. They joined the students on the side of a wetland as they walked through the tall native grasses beneath the red cedars that give the small protected area its name.

    Among these volunteers was new Tennessee Citizens for Wilderness Planning Executive Director Nancy Manning. Manning became TCWP’s chief operating agent Aug. 1 of last year, succeeding Sandra Goss after they worked together for a month. Centered in Oak Ridge, TCWP has a storied history preserving and maintaining not just the small Oak Ridge Cedar Barrens area but also Obed Wild and Scenic River and Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area. While Manning is continuing that work, she’s put a special focus on fighting “nature deficit disorder” a term credited to Richard Louv and his book Last Child in the Woods.

    The phrase refers to a lack of direct experience with nature, and Louv tied such a deficit in his 2005 book to psychological disorders and obesity. So Manning conceived the “explore and restore” program, which gives students a chance to both study and maintain natural areas, and brought it with her from Texas to Tennessee. 


  • Gatlinburg bear faces euthanization following viral social media moment
    Thomas Fraser
    Friday, 21 June 2024

    Screen Shot 2024 06 21 at 9.36.41 PMIn this image from a social media video, a woman and child are seen outside the Bearskin Lodge in Gatlinburg. Biologists have concluded the bear is too habituated to humans and plans call for trapping and euthanizing the animal.  Hellbender Press

    The incident caught outside a Gatlinburg hotel was not “normal bear behavior” and relocation of a fed, fearless bear isn’t an option

    GATLINBURG — Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency biologists plan to trap and euthanize a bear featured in a viral video posted June 16 to the Facebook account of a woman who lists Chicago as her home.
     
    The video, which is no longer viewable by the public, shows a woman holding a small child just outside the Bearskin Lodge. The woman and other guests had opted to stay outside despite being asked to come into the hotel lobby after a black bear appeared, according to TWRA.
     
    The bear rears on its hind legs and sniffs the woman and the child’s foot, which she recoiled in fear. At one point the bear’s claws become hooked on the woman’s clothing. The bear ultimately retreats, snuffling and pawing around a nearby rocking chair before leaving with what appears to be garbage in its mouth.
     
    “This is an example of how unfearful people have become of wildlife and how misunderstood black bears can be,” said TWRA spokesman Matthew Cameron via email. “They are not Teddy bears. They are large, powerful animals with sharp claws, sharp teeth and strong jaws.” 

  • City-based projects are pollinating the planet
    Molly McCluskey
    Thursday, 20 June 2024

    IMG 0772 1 scaled e1718391630730 1024x577A parklet in Washington DC with brightly colored planters filled with local pollinator plants.  Molly McCluskey 

    From pocket parks to large-scale projects, cities around the world are working to reverse a troubling trend.

    This story was originally published by The Revelator.

    Every June, cities around the globe celebrate Pollinator Week (this year, June 16-22) an international event to raise awareness about the important roles that birds, bats, bees, butterflies, beetles and other small animals serve in pollinating our food systems and landscapes. These crucial species are declining worldwide, with many on the brink of extinction.

    Cities have responded to this crisis with a variety of urban initiatives designed to foster pollinator habitats and in the process transform once-stark cement landscapes — as well as pocket parks, curb strips and highway dividers — into lush, welcoming areas for pollinators and humans alike.

    In Washington, D.C., ambitious pollinator projects are abundant on rooftops of public, office and private spaces, ranging from the renovated D.C. Public Library’s main branch to National Public Radio’s headquarters, which hosts an apiary. Throughout the District of Columbia, municipal code requires buildings to maintain the tree boxes and curb strips outside their properties. This often leads to creative landscaping on the smallest of scales. 


  • Bee especially kind to pollinators this week
    Doug Strickland
    Tuesday, 18 June 2024

    Bumble Bee (Bombus sp.) collects pollen from Purpletop Vervain (Verbena bonariensis).A bumble bee (Bombus sp.) collects pollen from purpletop vervain (Verbena bonariensis) in a pollinator plot on the Tennessee Aquarium plaza in Chattanooga.  Tennessee Aquarium

    Aquarium celebrates Pollinator Week with activities and giveaways June 17-23

    Doug Strickland is a writer for the Tennessee Aquarium.

    CHATTANOOGA — Pollinators. They’re kind of a big deal.

    From iconic monarch butterflies and humble honey bees to fast-flying hummingbirds and acrobatic ... lemurs?! ... the animals that help plants reproduce are collectively known as “pollinators.” Whether intentional or accidental, the actions of pollen-transporting species contribute tremendously to the health of their respective ecosystems and are responsible for a shocking amount of the food we eat.

    The benefits of the human-pollinator relationship are a two-way street. According to the Pollinator Partnership, a nonprofit dedicated to raising awareness about the role pollinators play, pollinators are responsible for roughly one of every three bites of food we eat and propagate over 180,000 different plant species — including more than 1,200 food crops.


  • All-access passes enabled in Smokies: “This national park belongs to you”
    Ben Pounds
    Monday, 17 June 2024

    unnamedVicky Wallace gets assistance crossing a creek in her off-road GRIT wheelchair during an adaptive camping outing along Cooper Road Trail in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  Yvonne Rogers/Hellbender Press

    Adapted to their environment, wheelchair users venture into Smokies backcountry

    TOWNSEND — Four wheelchair users ventured this month to an Abrams Creek backcountry campsite in a first for the Smokies.

    Borne by GRIT Freedom Chairs, the able trekkers arrived June 8 in a collaborative event featuring Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Knox County, Kampgrounds of America Foundation and Catalyst Sports. The intrepid group had headed up about a mile of the wide, gravel Cooper Road Trail over hills toward Campsite 1, past horses, along and through streams, finally reaching their campsite. The three-wheeled, arm-powered GRIT chairs are designed for off-road routes.

    For much of the route the adaptive hikers used their arms to move their chairs, but other people accompanied them on foot, sometimes helping them up difficult hills or over streams. Those in the chairs enjoyed the mountain water that rushed over their feet.

    Park Ranger Katie Corrigan talked about highlights of the natural world around them and led discussions on the concepts of wildness and wilderness. Just like many other backcountry campers, the group of adventurers ate s’mores and slept in tents at the campsite before heading back down Cooper Road to the trailhead the next day. 


  • Don’t fear the shy Joro
    Hellbender Press
    Thursday, 13 June 2024

    JoroJoro (pronounced “Joe-row”) spiders have made their way to the U.S. from Asia. They may appear intimidating, and can bite like most spiders, but are harmless when left alone.  Pexels via Virginia Tech

    Newest invasive exotic spider is harmless, though it doesn’t belong here

    Theresa “Tree” Dellinger is a diagnostician at the Insect Identification Lab in the Department of Entomology at Virginia Tech, where she identifies insects and other arthropods and provides management suggestions for insect-related problems. This article was provided by Virginia Tech.

    BLACKSBURG — The large, brightly colored Joro spider has been sighted recently on social media in many more places than it has ever been seen in the United States, as exaggerated, misleading stories about the arachnid have gone viral. Yet they pose no threat, except perhaps to insects and to other spiders.

    “Joro spiders will likely continue to spread in the U.S., but they aren’t the ‘flying venomous spider invasion’ that’s been sensationalized in the media,” said Virginia Tech entomologist Theresa Dellinger. Answering the questions below, she shared facts about this much maligned spider species.

    Q: Where do Joro spiders come from?

    “Joro spiders (Trichonephila clavata) are native to east Asia and can be found in Japan, Korea, China, Indochina and Nepal. First reported in northern Georgia in 2014, they are an invasive species of spider that likely entered the U.S. on materials imported from east Asia.” 


  • Judge rules against climate-change denier in UT records suit
    JJ Stambaugh
    Tuesday, 11 June 2024

    Excerpt from 1966 Mining Congress JournalThis is an excerpt from a 1966 article in Mining Congress Journal indicating mining interests were already aware of the potential for climate change due to carbon dioxide emissions.

    Circuit Court ruling: Private emails on public servers don’t always equal public records

    KNOXVILLE — A Knox County judge ruled in a lawsuit that spun off from the “Coal Knew, Too” scandal that emails sent or received by a University of Tennessee professor aren’t public records.

    Circuit Court Judge William T. Ailor turned aside a bid made by Knoxville-based writer Kathleen Marquardt to review the emails of Chris Cherry, a professor with UT’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, according to court records. 

    Marquardt filed the Public Records lawsuit four years ago, but the case didn’t actually make it into a courtroom until a pair of hearings held earlier this year. 

    According to Judge Ailor’s opinion, the bare fact that Cherry and freelance reporter Élan Young (who was also employed by UT at the time and currently writes for Hellbender Press) exchanged emails using their UT accounts “does not raise the emails themselves to the level of being public records.” 

    The origins of the lawsuit date back to 2019, when Cherry rescued some old coal industry trade journals that a colleague was about to toss in a dumpster after cleaning out an office.

    In one of the discarded issues of the Mining Congress Journal was an article from 1966 that contained a statement from the then-president of a coal mining organization explaining that fossil fuel use was causing an increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide that would cause vast changes in the Earth’s climate through global warming. 


  • Little River dam-removal project flowing forward, specific timeline TBA
    Élan Young
    Wednesday, 05 June 2024

    peerys mill damPeery’s Mill Dam on the Little River is slated for removal by the Army Corps of Engineers for environmental and public safety reasons.  Elan Young/Hellbender Press

    Army Corps still committed to Little River dam removal for ecological and safety reasons, but timeline uncertain 

    TOWNSEND — The remainders of two low-head dams on the Little River in Blount County, Rockford Dam and Peery’s Mill Dam, are slated for removal by the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) following the release in July 2023 of a Project Report and Environmental Assessment that investigated the lower 32 miles of the Little River.

    The Corps confirmed this week that plans are moving ahead to remove the two dams. 

    Peery’s Mill Dam was the site of 4 separate drownings in the last 15 years, giving it the notorious reputation as the deadliest dam in Tennessee in the past quarter century. Late last month, three women had to be rescued from the churning waters there, prompting questions from the community about the status of the Corps’ removal effort. 

    Little River Watershed Association president Andrew Gunnoe says that watershed advocates are eager for the dam removal project to move forward because doing so would provide both ecological and community benefits. 


  • Stripes and spots: A tale of two Southern Appalachian skunks
    Matt Dhillon
    Saturday, 01 June 2024

    Eastern spotted skunk handstand Agnieszka Bacal.An eastern spotted skunk is seen in its signature defensive handstand. If the stance doesn’t deter predators it will let loose a caustic and malodorous spray akin to mace.  Agnieszka Bacal via Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources

    Striped skunks thrive as spotted cousins decline

    This story was originally published by The Appalachian Voice.

    BOONE — A characteristic white stripe on a black pelt is an instant warning to tread gently.

    Nature’s stink bomb, the striped skunk (Mephitis mephitis) carries this distinctive mark on its back. But Appalachia has a second variety of this master of malodor, marked instead by a blotchy pattern of black and white fur.

    The eastern spotted skunk (Spilogale putorius), was not always as rare as it is today. Decades ago, it was relatively common for trappers to catch the polecat, as it’s also known, for its pelt. But spotted skunk populations crashed between 1940 and 1970, according to a landmark paper from the University of Missouri looking at harvest data from trappers. By the 1980s, the study found, harvest numbers had plummeted by 99 percent, reflecting a steep decline in the skunk’s population.

    Meanwhile, the spotted skunk’s striped cousin has thrived throughout the United States. So why have their populations diverged so drastically?

    SpottedSkunkStudyBlogA spotted skunk trapped as part of Emily Thorne’s Virginia Tech study of the animals.  Emily Thorne


  • Update: Rangers find body of man swept away by high water near Obed
    Thomas Fraser
    Tuesday, 28 May 2024

    IMG 0793 1Cleanup crews clear a section of roadway in Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area following storms that swept the park May 26.  National Park Service

    Search came as Big South Fork cleans up after May 26 storm that brought May rainfall total to 12 inches

    WARTBURG — Searchers found the body of a man that was the subject of a search that began Memorial Day after he was swept away by high water in Daddy’s Creek in the Catoosa Wildlife Management Area in Morgan County. 

    Morgan County emergency management director Ethan Webb late Friday identified the victim as 57-year-old Wade Davis, originally identified by authorities as a Cumberland County resident. National Park Service personnel recovered the body about a mile downstream from Devils Breakfast Table near the Obed River. It is a rugged, steep area traversed by the Cumberland Trail.

    Daddy’s Creek is a popular kayaking destination featuring class III and IV rapids that flows into the Obed River. Heavy rain had swollen the creek out of its banks, Webb said. Davis was with a family member when he lost his footing while wading and was swept downstream.

    Multiple agencies were involved in the search “by air, by water and by land,” Webb said. “There wasn’t a day we didn’t search.” Drones, inflatable boats and a Highway Patrol helicopter were used. At least 25 people were involved at some point during the search, which was complicated by the speed of the water and rapids.

    “We were in constant contact with the family,” he said. On Friday, the family received at least a measure of closure.


  • Rockslide spawns dangerous waves at popular quarry teeming with holiday weekend revelers
    JJ Stambaugh
    Sunday, 26 May 2024

    One person hung on for dear life as big waves churned back and forth for minutes. 

    hanging onThanks to our friends at Compass for linking our original coverage and pointing us to the video of the spine-chilling incident. Tap the More…  button to access the full original article, which begins below, and the video from which we snapped this frame.

     

    Mead’s Quarry lakeshore after the rockslideTowels, shoes, plastic toys and sunglasses were among the items left behind Saturday afternoon when dozens of people were forced to flee as powerful waves battered the shoreline after a rockslide at Mead’s Quarry Lake.  J.J. Stambaugh/Hellbender Press

    At least one person transported by ambulance; witness describes other injuries at Mead’s Quarry

    KNOXVILLE — Calvin Sebourn was one of dozens of men, women and children who found themselves fighting for their lives Saturday afternoon at Mead’s Quarry Lake when a sudden rockslide triggered 10-foot-tall waves that inundated the opposite shore. 

    Luckily, it appeared that no more than five people received minor injuries and only one of them was hurt badly enough to warrant an ambulance trip to a nearby hospital. 

    The quarry is one of the most popular attractions at Ijams Nature Center in South Knoxville, and authorities said Saturday night it would be closed until further notice while the site is inspected. 


  • Nashville Zoo gives hellbenders a head start in Middle Tennessee
    Nashville Zoo
    Thursday, 23 May 2024

    The species is listed as endangered in the state of Tennessee; zoo heads up years-long conservation effort

    This Nashville Zoo blog post is reprinted with permission. 

    NASHVILLE — Nashville Zoo’s ectotherm team, in partnership with Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency and Tennessee State University, traveled to a waterway in Middle Tennessee to successfully release a total of 27 eastern hellbender salamanders back into the wild. These hellbenders had been raised since 2018 at the Zoo as part of a headstart program. Since the start of this conservation initiative, the Zoo has released more than 100 hellbenders into local Tennessee streams to help bolster the population of this state-endangered species.

    The hellbenders released this year had been raised since 2018 at the Zoo as part of a headstart program, after being collected as eggs from streams in Middle Tennessee. Each animal was fitted with a radio transmitter earlier this year, allowing a team of graduate students to track and monitor the hellbenders throughout the summer. This is the fourth group of hellbenders to be released back into the wild since the summer of 2021.


  • Water supply demands could strain Duck River’s rare riverine habitat
    Anita Wadhwani
    Wednesday, 22 May 2024

    Duck River 023 2048x1366 John McEwan, whose family has lived on the banks of the Duck River since the 1860s, skips stones on the Duck River. Environmental groups fear excessive demand is fueling drawdowns that are affecting the rich biodiversity of the Middle Tennessee river.&nsp; Tennessee Lookout/John Partipilo

    Long time residents and conservation groups say industry lured by the state, population growth are draining water from a river prized for its biodiversity

    This story was originally published by Tennessee Lookout.

    COLUMBIA ­­— When Gov. Bill Lee announced the state had lured a General Motors lithium battery supplier to Spring Hill three years ago, it was his largest economic announcement to date:

    A $2.6 billion corporate investment; 1,300 new jobs; a major stepstone along Tennessee’s path to become an EV hub — helped along by a then-record $46,000 per job in taxpayer incentives.

    The factory deal’s less conspicuous specs — its continuous need for 1.4 million gallons of water per day — is now figuring in a larger battle pitting citizens and conservation groups against state environmental regulators.

    Last month, the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) granted permission to Columbia Power and Water Systems — which pumps water to the new Ultium Cells plant — to increase its current withdrawals from the Duck River by 60 percent.

    It’s one of eight water companies along the Duck River seeking to dramatically increase water draws to meet rising demands for water in the rapidly growing five-county region southwest of Nashville. 


  • Hellbender Press garners first-place award for investigation into proposed Oak Ridge airport
    Thomas Fraser
    Monday, 20 May 2024

    Golden Press Card clear 

    The honor continues Hellbender Press’s tradition of excellence in journalism.

    KNOXVILLE — Hellbender Press: The Environmental Journal of Southern Appalachia, was honored with a first-place award by the East Tennessee Society of Professional Journalists (ETSPJ) for its probe into a controversial municipal airport proposed by the city of Oak Ridge.

    Reporters Wolf Naegeli and Ben Pounds and Hellbender Press editor and publisher Thomas Fraser accepted the award during ETSPJ’s 2023 Golden Press Card awards, held May 16 at Maple Hall in downtown Knoxville. The honors, which are bestowed upon television, radio, print and digital media, “strive to honor the best journalism in the eastern region of Tennessee from the past year,” according to ETSPJ.

    Hellbender Press was honored with first place in the digital space for its investigation into the proposed airport, which the city maintains would juice economic development, especially in the high-tech business realm. 


  • Follow some protocols during No-Mow May or risk the sting of a city codes violation
    Thomas Fraser
    Wednesday, 15 May 2024

    IMG 3876Gerry Moll is seen in the native garden of his home in the 4th and Gill neighborhood of Knoxville in this file photo. Moll tends to his natural habitat in keeping with city codes protocols.  Ben Pounds/Hellbender Press

    City: Overgrown lots don’t automatically qualify as wildlife habitat

    KNOXVILLE — City government wants people to know that though “No Mow May” is a worthy observation there are still some protocols residents have to follow to avoid codes violations and potential fines.

    The month of May is hyped as a prime time to refrain from cutting your grass or portions of your lawn to allow pollinating plants and the pollinators they support to get six legs up late spring and early summer nectar season. It’s also an occasion to consider the fact that traditional lawns are largely ecological deserts.

    “No Mow May” is a quick and catchy name for a movement that aims far beyond not mowing the yard for a month,” according to Bee City USA, a proponent of keeping your yard real and wild when and where it is practical.

    “It’s more than long grass and dandelion blooms. It’s a gateway to understanding how we share our lawns with many small creatures.”

    It goes beyond bees and butterflies and other pollinating insects. Many ground-nesting birds are on the decline due to loss of grassy habitat. Native grasses also serve as habitat for small mammals such as rabbits and mice, which in turn provide a buffet for raptors such as owls, hawks and eagles.

    Hellbender Press has reported on cultivation of such natural landscapes and habitats within the city limits. Groups such as the Native Plant Rescue Squad can also provide plants and guidance.


Earth

  • Happy Earth Day to you
    Ben Pounds
    Thursday, 18 April 2024

    2017 Eclipse GIF dscovr epic 21 aug 2017 solar eclipse shadowThis image of Earth captures the 2017 eclipse shadow.  NASA

    Get dirty. Get wet. Have fun. Love your mother.

    Celebrate our planet’s beauty and bounty at one of many Earth Day events in the region this weekend and beyond. You can pick up trash, kayak a river and even get sustainable fashion tips and tricks. 

    The official observation of Earth Day 2024 is Monday, April 22, but ways to give back and respect the Earth abound for days before and after. Here’s a sampling of observations and activities. And remember: Every day should be Earth Day.

    Knoxville

    — Little River Watershed Association plans its annual cleanup and paddle for 12-4 p.m. Saturday, April 20. Participants will put in at Peery’s Mill near Townsend and remove trash from the river for about three hours before taking out at Sevierville Bridge. Albright Grove Brewery will offer beer after the cleanup. A limited number of kayaks are available for use, and a shuttle is available. Get more information and sign up here.

    — Keep Knoxville Beautiful will hold the South Knoxville Community Cleanup from 9 a.m. until noon Saturday, April 20 starting at Mary Vestal Park, 522 Maryville Pike, Knoxville. The group is removing litter from South Knoxville streams, roads and parks. All reserved spots are full, but Amanda Seale, director of programs for Keep Knoxville Beautiful said her group still welcomes help from anyone who shows up.

    — The third annual Fleurish: A Sustainable Fashion Event (and Fundraiser) at Ijams Nature Center will bring eco-friendly and sustainable Punk vs. Funk designs to the runway Sunday, April 21. Tickets are $30 and are available at Ijams.org/fleurish. All proceeds support Ijams Nature Center. The cocktail hour from 6 until 7 p.m. will feature photo ops on the “green” carpet, education stations and information about conservation efforts in the fashion realm, as well as a cash bar featuring punk and funk signature cocktails, and food from Coffee & Chocolate, Cafe 4, and The Kennedy. The fashion show will feature clothing with sustainable, reused and recycled materials from 25 designers. Following the fashion show, attendees will be able to meet the artists, designers, and models on the nature center’s hillside. Brent Hyder and Duck Experience will provide live music. Ijams Visitor Services Director Sarah Brobst said there may be some surprise elements as well.

    “Fleurish shows how the average consumer can make changes to their day-to-day lives while never losing sight of the beauty of nature and the human experience,” she said. She encouraged the audience to come dressed in their favorite punk or funk fashions.

    — The University of Tennessee will host an Earth Day Festival from 11 until 2 p.m. April 22 at the Student Union Plaza.

    “Come meet campus and community organizations, enter some giveaways, participate in sustainable activities, and more!,” according to organizers. Other Earth Week events will continue on and near the campus that week. A full list of them is online


  • Observe, upload and preserve during the City Nature Challenge
    Thomas Fraser
    Sunday, 07 April 2024

    City Nature Challenge logo 

    KNOXVILLE — People across 13 counties in East Tennessee are urged to record animals, plants and fungi they observe for four days in late April.

    City Nature Challenge 2024 is international, but the Knoxville-area challenge includes anyone in Anderson, Blount, Campbell, Claiborne, Grainger, Jefferson, Knox, Loudon, Morgan, Roane, Scott, Sevier and Union counties. It will run April 26 through April 29 via the iNaturalist app, which is available on Google play or the App Store. While the focus is largely centered on urban areas, participants don’t have to live within a city or town to record their observations.

    Participants can upload photos from a digital camera to the iNaturalist website even if they lack a smartphone. Zoo Knoxville, Tennessee Butterfly Monitoring Challenge, the city of Knoxville, Ijams Nature Center, Sierra Club, South Doyle Middle School and Discover Life in America are partnering to support the project. No experience is needed to participate. Results will be announced on May 6.


  • Plans taking shape to prod people from Smokies to other area natural treasures
    Ben Pounds
    Monday, 01 April 2024

    From Cataloochee to Cherohala: Officials pondering ways to spread the love

    GATLINBURG With ever more people crowding Great Smoky Mountains National Park, should the park and others encourage them to go somewhere else?

    Enter “de-marketing:” A presentation at the 2024 Great Smoky Mountains Science Colloquium laid out a study examining ways to draw people away from Great Smoky Mountains National Park and toward the Cherohala Skyway. The colloquium, sponsored by Discover Life in America, can be found on YouTube along with other presentations from the day, ranging from elk to ozone’s effects on plants. Justin M. Beall gave the presentation on crowds and de-marketing and said he conducted the research while at North Carolina State University. His was the only social science presentation of the day.

    “That doesn’t mean we want to stop people from getting outdoors,” Beall said. “It just involves trying to convince visitors, maybe on their next trip, to explore a less visited destination in order to reduce crowding in certain spots.” He called it “diversion de-marketing” and said it was better than other de-marketing strategies. Two such other de-marketing strategies — forcing people to make reservations or raising the prices — he said, might price out people who earn less money or could confuse and frustrate visitors.

    Beall said his study involved giving brochures to people at Alum Cave and Laurel Falls trailheads and Clingmans Dome. One focused on nature opportunities at Cherohala Skyway; one focused on social media photo and video posting opportunities there; and a third was more “of a boring control” in its approach to promoting the Skyway. His team distributed 500 surveys, evenly divided by both site and type of brochure. He said he expected to be there for 10 days but the group finished it in a little more than three days.

    That “is amazing from a social sciences perspective, but I think again it shows you during these peak visitation times, such as peak leaf season, how many visitors can actually be in the park at one time,” he said.


  • Federal law helping parks avoid methane release
    Ben Pounds
    Saturday, 23 March 2024

    Inactive but uncapped oil wellMethane emissions, such as those that emanate from this oil well on federal property, are being capped across federal land in the Southeast thanks to a Biden Administration grant.  NPS

    Even federally protected areas can be full of old oil and gas wells, and they may need plugging to avoid releasing gas into the air.

    ONEIDA — Eric Bruseth of the National Park Service Geologic Resources Division gave a talk on this issue in Historic Rugby at the 2024 Science Meeting, March 13.

    Two Tennessee National Park Service areas — Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area near Oneida, straddling the Kentucky state line, and Obed Wild and Scenic River near Wartburg — have over 300 oil and gas wells total throughout the parks. The wells are left over from a time before they were public land. The earliest go back to the 19th century. The danger, Bruseth said, comes from the methane these wells can continue to release.

    “Methane as a greenhouse gas can be up to 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide as far as trapping heat in the atmosphere. So smaller sources can have a bigger impact,” Bruseth said.


  • ‘Park it Forward’ and camping fees bring in $10m for Smokies
    GSMNP
    Thursday, 21 March 2024

    Roving park rangers and visitors

    Fees will support increased ranger presence, improved visitor experience and more

    This article was provided by Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

    GATLINBURG In the first year since Great Smoky Mountains National Park launched the Park it Forward program, the park generated over $10 million in recreation fee revenue, which includes parking tag sales and camping fees. The park is using this money to improve visitor safety and increase park ranger presence, as well as repair, enhance and maintain public park facilities. The park’s second year of the parking tag program began this month.  

    “Our team at Great Smoky Mountains National Park is grateful for the support of our partners, our neighbors and the millions of visitors who are helping us take care of one of the country’s most visited national parks,” said Superintendent Cassius Cash. “We’re already using this funding to increase our search and rescue program, add parking spaces at Laurel Falls trailhead and we are in the process of hiring more than 25 new park rangers." 


Air

  • Learn about TVA’s switch from coal to natural gas at June 12 teach-in
    Appalachian Voices
    Thursday, 23 May 2024
     AppVoices 25th anniversary logo horiz white outline
    Join Appalachian Voices and allies for a teach-in examining the Tennessee Valley Authority’s plans to replace coal with natural gas as its primary energy source in many locations.
     
    The event is set for 6 p.m. June 12 at the Birdhouse Neighborhood Center, 804 N. 4th Ave. near the 4th and Gill neighborhood in Knoxville. Food will be served until 6:30 p.m. outdoors; attendees are asked to wear masks indoors.
     
    TVA is gearing up for the largest gas buildout of any utility this decade, swapping coal for gas. This would include a new gas plant at the site of the Kingston Coal Ash Spill, and the 122-mile Ridgeline pipeline.
     
    Ridgeline would be built and owned by the multibillion-dollar company Enbridge Inc., and affect state waterways in more than 400 locations.
     
    The TVA Board of Directors could stop this project, and the gas buildout, in its tracks.
       

  • TVA plans for Bull Run Fossil Plant site remain hazy
    Ben Pounds
    Tuesday, 06 February 2024

    Claxton coal plantA public playground near the site of the since-decommissioned Bull Run coal plant in Claxton, Tenn. Tennessee Valley Authority is weighing options for the site’s future.  Abigail Baxter/Hellbender Press

    Solar production and public green space remain options; coal ash questions remain

    CLAXTONTennessee Valley Authority will demolish most structures at Bull Run Fossil Plant but has not yet shared plans for the ultimate disposition or reuse of the property.

    Bull Run Fossil Plant was a coal-fired plant in the Claxton community, located just outside of Oak Ridge in Anderson County, Tenn. The plant opened in 1967. TVA closed it in 2023, and plans to phase out all its coal fired plants by 203.

    The utility and its spokesman Scott Brooks have listed the scrubbers, coal handling structures and the large chimney, nicknamed the “lighthouse” by locals, as structures that will likely come down.

    TVA has listed some possibilities for the site, including battery storage, park areas, “economic development” and a synchronous condenser, which is a device meant to keep the overall grid's power supply stable without generating any power of its own. This last option would involve keeping and repurposing the turbine building. TVA has not committed to any of these ideas.


  • UPDATED: In much of Tennessee Valley, focus now turns to possible flooding as record snowpack rapidly recedes
    Thomas Fraser
    Tuesday, 16 January 2024

    Snow day 160A child enjoys a snow day on the Norris Commons in the aftermath of the most potent snowstorm to affect the area since 1996.  Abigail Baxter/Hellbender Press

    UPDATED 1/24: Focus turns to flooding as snow melts and heavy rains approach

    30-year winter storm hits Tennessee Valley ahead of a vicious cold front

    KNOXVILLE — A widespread and potent winter storm hit the central Tennessee Valley on Jan. 15-16, disrupting travel and commerce as residents grappled with the most significant snowstorm to hit the area in 30 years. Arctic air subsequently flooded the region Jan. 18-19 with lows in Knoxville hitting 0º.

    As of Jan. 24, most snow had melted across the Knoxville area, washed away in part by moderate rain and temperatures in the 50s. A flood watch is in effect for most of East Tennessee through the evening of Jan. 25. Two to 3 inches rain could fall across the area, compounding runoff from melting snow, according to the National Weather Service.

    At least 36 people died as a result of the winter storm in Tennessee.


  • ORNL wants to leave watercraft carbon emissions in its wake
    ORNL
    Wednesday, 06 December 2023

    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.


  • 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. 


Water

  • Learn the basics and beauty of freshwater snorkeling at a Conservation Fisheries panel
    Thomas Fraser
    Wednesday, 05 June 2024

    HEAD1Andrew Zimmerman

    KNOXVILLE — Join Conservation Fisheries, Inc. and other experts for a discussion on how to HEAD UNDERWATER to snorkel and enjoy the beautiful underwater biodiversity of the Southern Appalachians.

    The free event is set for 6-8 p.m. June 15 at Remedy Coffee, 800 Tyson Place, Knoxville.

    The panel will be led by CFI Director Bo Baxter; Casper Cox from Hidden Rivers of Southern Appalachia; Jennifer Webster from Little River Watershed Association; and TVA Fisheries Biologist Justin Wolbert. 

       

  • Bill to allow development on Tennessee wetlands advances in House; supporters cite property rights
    Anita Wadhwani
    Monday, 25 March 2024

    Shelby Bottoms wetlandWetlands in Shelby Bottom in Nashville. Legislative efforts are underway to undermine state regulatory authority of the important ecosystems.  John Partipilo

    West Tennessee legislation appears to be driven by powerful development interests

    This article was originally published by Tennessee Lookout.

    NASHVILLE A controversial bill to claw back state regulations over thousands of acres of Tennessee wetlands advanced with no debate in a House committee, keeping the proposal alive even after it was shelved in the state senate. The bill is likely to be considered this week in another subcommittee.

    The bill would give developers and landowners a break from needing state permission to build on or fill in wetlands that have no obvious surface connection to a river, lake or stream. Current law gives the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, or TDEC, the power to approve or deny plans to disturb a wetland — and to require that developers pay often-costly mitigation fees if a project is allowed to go forward.

    The bill’s sponsors, west Tennessee Republicans Rep. Kevin Vaughan and Sen. Brent Taylor, have called state rules onerous and an infringement on the rights of property owners.


  • Knox County is trying to fix what we broke at Plumb Creek
    Thomas Fraser
    Thursday, 22 February 2024

    KNOXVILLE — Knox County government announced the kickoff of the Plumb Creek Park Stream Enhancement Project, a strategic effort aimed at revitalizing the water quality and ecosystem of Plumb Creek, a tributary of Beaver Creek, supported by federal funding through the American Rescue Plan Act.

    (Eds. note: Every Republican representing Tennessee in the U.S. Senate and U.S. House voted against the act that provided the money.)

    Plumb Creek Park, located at 1517 Hickey Road, features a disc golf course, playground, shelter, walking trails and an 8-acre dog park.

    The project, which began this month, is expected to wrap up in December and include a comprehensive set of restoration activities. Work includes removing obstructions such as culverts and debris; controlling invasive species; stabilizing stream banks; and installing stream structures to improve habitat quality, erosion, and sediment control measures.

    Some sections of the park will close temporarily during construction. The dog park will remain open.

    This project is funded in part by the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), a federal initiative to aid state and local governments in mitigating the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

    — Knox County 

       

  • Visit the Arctic at Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga. While you still can.
    Doug Strickland
    Wednesday, 03 January 2024

    Arctic 3Polar bears on Wrangel Island, Russia. As the sea ice melts each summer, more than 1,000 bears come to Wrangel to wait for the return of the sea ice. It's the largest concentration of polar bears on Earth. BBC Studios via Tennessee Aquarium

    Learn how the Arctic still thrives in the face of existential climate threats in new IMAX film

    Doug Strickland is a writer for the Tennessee Aquarium.

    CHATTANOOGA — At first glance, the Arctic seems an impossibly inhospitable place, a frigid wasteland of extremes in which nothing can survive.

    Only one-quarter of this vast polar region at the top of the world is made up of land. The rest is comprised of a glacially cold ocean capped by vast stretches of ice. 

    Despite its harsh conditions, life has found a way to endure — and even thrive — in the Arctic. Audiences will meet just a few of the Arctic’s charismatic residents on Jan. 11, 2024 when the Tennessee Aquarium IMAX 3D Theater debuts a new giant-screen film, Arctic 3D: Our Frozen Planet


  • Fish are featured this month at Conservation on Tap
    Thomas Fraser
    Tuesday, 02 January 2024

    347098237 250038400911555 736972369222822085 nBarrens topminnow (Fundulus julisia) at Conservation Fisheries, a native stream fish breeding center. This species is endangered (IUCN). It is only found in the Barrens Plateau in Middle Tennessee, making it one of the rarest fish in eastern North America. © Joel Sartore 2023

    KNOXVILLE — The next round of Conservation on Tap features Conservation Fisheries and its efforts to restore and conserve some of the most diverse fish populations on the planet.

    It’s set for 7 p.m. Jan. 10 at Albright Grove Brewing Company, 2924 Sutherland Ave. Proceeds from the event benefit Discover Life in America, a crucial science partner with Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

    “Did you know the incredibly diverse Tennessee River harbors over 225 species of fish, including more than 50 species at risk of extinction? Come join staff from Knoxville nonprofit Conservation Fisheries Inc. to learn about CFI's mission to prevent the extinction of rare fish species, and to work for their long-term recovery. We will be discussing some of our successes in fish recovery efforts over the past 37 years, including species found in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.”

     

       

Voices

  • No joke: Comic Vasu Primlani starts her job as Knoxville’s new Director of Sustainability on April 1st 2024
    Hellbender Press
    Monday, 01 April 2024
       

  • This 90-year-old theater is on a mission to provide a space for Black artists
    Thomas Fraser
    Monday, 19 February 2024
    BSVB Asset 1 1 1
    ABINGDON — A historic Southern theatre is fostering the next wave of Black playwrights through Black Stories Black Voices, making a visible impact in the Southern Appalachian theatre community and beyond. 
    While theaters nationwide face declining numbers, Barter Theatre is experiencing a surge in audiences eager to witness the creativity of Black artists.
    Since the founding of Black Stories, Black Voices in 2020, organizers and artists alike have seen an outpouring of support:
    — Growing audiences, especially among Black community members.
    — Doubled submissions for play development.
    — Becoming a go-to resource for discovering Black talent in theatre.
    The 90-year-old Barter Theatre of Abingdon, Virginia is on a mission to provide a safe space for Black artists and audiences to share their stories and assert their belonging in American theatre. In the past four years, it’s become clear: Barter isn’t just a safe space for Black artists — it’s drawing larger, enthusiastic audiences too.
    Cris Eli Blak is the latest playwright to participate in Barter’s initiative, which engages Black theatre makers from across the Southern states to identify, develop and present the region’s Black stories on stage. A winner of the 2024 Appalachian Festival of Plays & Playwrights, his play “Girl on a Hill” will be performed on Feb. 23.

    — Barter Theatre

       

  • Experts and citizens plan and commiserate over TVA’s lack of public process 
    Élan Young
    Monday, 19 February 2024

    Justin Pearson addresses People’s Voice on TVA’s Energy PlanTennessee state Rep. Justin J. Pearson speaks to community members assembled for the evening discussion during the People’s Voice on TVA’s Energy Plan.  John Waterman/Appalachian Voices

    A lack of public process brought together a coalition of environmental organizations 

    NASHVILLE  In every state except Tennessee, for-profit utilities and their regulators are required to get public input about energy-resource planning.

    These Integrated Resource Plans (IRPs) provide an opportunity for a utility to demonstrate that the ratepayer money the utility spends is on the best mix of energy investments that meet this objective. 

    In Tennessee, however, TVA, which is the nation’s largest public power provider, has no process for engaging the public on its IRPs.

    It is this lack of public process that brought a coalition of environmental organizations together to host a mock public hearing in a Nashville church last month presided by Ted Thomas, former chair of Georgia Center for Energy Solutions. Their goal was to call attention to the fact that TVA acts more like a corporation or a self-regulated monopoly than as a public utility. The groups say that lack of public involvement in the process harms Tennesseeans across the board. 


  • Come talk words with writers at Tremont conference in Smokies
    Thomas Fraser
    Friday, 16 February 2024

    2023 TWC morning workshop Michele SonsWriters discuss their craft during the 2023 Tremont Writers Conference, which returns in October.  GSMIT

    TOWNSEND — Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont this fall will host the second annual Tremont Writers Conference, an intensive five-day retreat for writers of fiction, nonfiction and poetry coordinated in partnership with Smokies Life, formerly Great Smoky Mountains Association.

    Applications to participate in the event may be submitted online through April 30. 

    From Wednesday, Oct. 23, through Sunday, Oct. 27, a small group of selected writers will join renowned authors and professional park educators on Tremont’s campus in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Participants will enjoy brainstorming and fine-tuning their work with award-winning author workshop leaders while also learning and writing throughout the day. 


  • SELC Celebrates the 2024 Reed Environmental Writing Award winners
    Southern Environmental Law Center
    Tuesday, 13 February 2024

    download.jpg

    The Southern Environmental Law Center congratulates this year’s Reed Environmental Writing Award winners — Emily Strasser, David Folkenflik, Mario Ariza, and Miranda Green — who all demonstrate the power of writing to capture some of the most important environmental issues facing Southern communities. 

    Emily Strasser receives the Reed Award for “Half-Life of a Secret: Reckoning with a Hidden History.” In the book, Strasser examines the toxic legacy of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, one of three secret cities constructed by the Manhattan Project for developing the first atomic bomb. She exposes a suppressed history that forever impacted her family, a community, the nation, and the world. 

    David Folkenflik with NPR, and Mario Ariza and Miranda Green with Floodlight, receive the Reed Award for their story, “In the Southeast, power company money flows to news sites that attack their critics.” Their investigation digs into a consulting firm working on behalf of electric utility giants in Alabama and Florida. The team uncovers how money flows from the firm to influence local news sites to push the utilities’ agenda​s​ and attack their critics. 

    Everyone is invited to join for a celebration honoring the winners and the 30th anniversary of the Reed Award in person or virtually on March 22 at 5:00 p.m. The in-person event will take place at the CODE Building, located at 225 West Water Street on the Downtown Mall in Charlottesville, VA.


Creature Features

  • Rock on: Penguins begin nesting at Tennessee Aquarium
    Doug Strickland
    Thursday, 04 April 2024

    Gentoo Penguin Carla selects a rock for her nest during "Rock Day," which begins penguin nesting season at the Tennessee Aquarium.Gentoo penguin Carla selects a rock for her nest during “Rock Day,” which begins penguin nesting season at the Tennessee Aquarium.  Photo courtesy Tennessee Aquarium

    Penguins swing into spring nesting season — with lots of rocks

    Doug Strickland is a communications specialist at the Tennessee Aquarium.

    CHATTANOOGA — While other birds’ hearts might flutter at the thought of building nests with supple twigs, fluffy fibers, mud or even their own saliva (yes, really), nothing gets the Tennessee Aquarium’s penguins quite as excited as rocks.

    Big rocks. Little rocks. Smooth rocks. Rough rocks. Whatever type of rock a bird prefers, their arrival by the bucketful in the Penguins’ Rock gallery signals the official start of penguin nesting season and a flurry of activity that may — flippers crossed — lead to one or more tiny, fluffy chicks this summer. The birds typically begin nesting around April 1.

    “These guys have been ready for a couple of weeks as the lights are gradually changing, and the days are getting a little bit longer, so they’ve known that this was coming,” says Assistant Curator Loribeth Lee.

    Those steadily lengthening days, courtesy of the Aquarium’s team of systems operators, herald the arrival of spring and trigger biological signals telling the penguins that love is in the air. Nevertheless, it isn’t until the rocks are dumped into inviting piles& that the Gentoo and Macaroni Penguins can get to work building the nests that will help protect their young.


  • Like clockwork, it’s time to scope Sandhill cranes in East Tennessee
    Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency
    Wednesday, 10 January 2024

    cranes sandhill 5During winter migration, visitors to Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge can view thousands of greater sandhill cranes.  Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency via Appalachian Voices

    Sandhill Crane Festival at Hiwassee Refuge set for Jan. 12-14 in celebration of the crane’s revival and survival

    BIRCHWOOD — As many as 12,000 cranes have overwintered at the confluence of the Tennessee and Hiwassee rivers. Whether you’re an avid birder or you’ve never seen a Sandhill crane before, the Tennessee Sandhill Crane Festival represents an extraordinary opportunity to witness a truly unforgettable natural phenomenon.

    Experience the migration of the Sandhill cranes and many other waterfowl, eagles, white pelicans and whooping cranes. The entire region buzzes with birds and birdwatchers alike.

    The festival will be held from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Jan. 12 – 14. Free buses run the short distance from the Birchwood Community Center to the Hiwassee Refuge and Cherokee Removal Memorial. Volunteers are set up at each location for birders and curious visitors alike.


  • From Lil Jefe to hellbenders, wild animals inspired hope and validation for the conservation of the world in 2023
    Tim Lydon
    Thursday, 04 January 2024

    california condor NPSIn September, six California condors repeatedly ventured north from their Pinnacles National Park homeland to Mount Diablo in the San Francisco Bay area, becoming the first condors seen in that area in over a century. Biologists speculate the sorties may indicate new nesting territories. Seen here is a condor deemed California condor 87 by biologists tracking the rare bird population.  Michael Quinn/National Park Service

    Rare and threatened animals used innate skills and courage to recover lost territory, expand their ranges, or simply survive against the odds. Humans helped.

    This article was originally published by The RevelatorTim Lydon writes from Alaska on public-lands and conservation issues. He has worked on public lands for much of the past three decades, both as a guide and for land-management agencies, and is a founding member of the Prince William Sound Stewardship Foundation.

    It’s tradition to honor the past year’s human achievements. From peacemakers and scientists to athletes and artists, we celebrate those who inspire us. But what about the wildlife who surround us who make up the biodiversity that sustains us? Each year standout members of those populations also set records and push boundaries, many with lasting results.

    Consider P-22, also known as the “Hollywood cat.” In 2012 this young mountain lion surprised biologists and captured hearts by establishing a decade-long residency in the Griffith Park area of Los Angeles. Stealthily threading through backyards and freeways, he demonstrated the value of landscape connectivity, even in urban areas. And though he died in 2022, he inspired a massive fundraising campaign that helped build the largest wildlife bridge in the United States, to be completed in 2025 over California’s 10-lane Highway 101. In this way he changed the world.


  • Meet the salamanders making the South a biodiversity hotspot
    Southern Environmental Law Center
    Tuesday, 19 December 2023

    Skip to main codownload-2.jpg An eastern newt in its juvenile stage in Blacksburg, Virginia. Courtesy SELC.

    Salamanders are under siege in a changing world

    Salamanders are extraordinary creatures. Some of these astonishing amphibians boast vibrant colors and patterns while two-thirds of all species are lungless and able to breathe through their skin. All salamanders have the remarkable ability to regrow limbs, tails, and even parts of their heart and brain, a rare ability in the animal kingdom. 

    More salamander species live in the Appalachians than anywhere else in the world. Fifty-four species of salamander call Virginia home.

    Roughly 20 percent of the world’s salamander species can be found in the South

    Unfortunately, the impacts of climate change, habitat loss and pollution pose a real danger to these sensitive creatures. Increased temperatures, changing humidity levels, wildfires and droughts wreak havoc on salamanders, which are impacted by even small changes in habitat conditions and are often specialized to small native ranges. 

    Southern Environmental Law Center’s work addressing climate change, fighting for clean water, and conservation efforts help protect all kinds of salamanders in the South. To celebrate the Endangered Species Act’s 50th anniversary, they are highlighting some of the endangered and threatened salamanders of our region.


  • 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.


Events

  • Want to help wildlife? TWRA to host huge habitat-improvement event
    TWRA logo

     

    CROSSVILLE The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency invites the public for a day of free education and fun at BIRDS BEES BUCKS AND TREES.
     
    The event is set for 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. June 29 at the Cumberland County Fairgrounds, 1398 Livingston Road in Crossville. Registration and more information is available here.
     
    Whether you’re a hunter, gardener, nature enthusiast, farmer or just have a love of the outdoors, there’s something for you.
     
    More than 30 vendors and sponsors will have information on how to create and restore healthy habitat for the benefit of pollinators, birds and other wildlife. 
     
    TWRA wildlife biologists and experts will have presentations on everything from tiny critters to large mammals and everything in between.
     
    Partners include the Natural Resource Conservation Services, Cumberland County Soil and Water, TWRA, Quail Forever and Pheasants Forever.

  • Obed Wild and Scenic River annual photo contest deadline is July 15

    Photo_Contest_PR_2024.jpg

    WARTBURG Do you have beautiful photos of the Obed Wild & Scenic River? Enter your images in the 2024 Obed photography contest. Images may show wildlife, plant life, natural landscapes, historic areas, weather, or people interacting with nature within the boundaries of the Obed Wild and Scenic River. All photographs should accurately reflect the subject matter and the scene as it appeared.
    Photographs may be submitted into one of five categories:
    • Dark Skies — Photographs that show a view of the night sky.
    • Flora & Fauna — Animals in their natural habitat, including close-ups of invertebrates, or plants in
    their natural habitat, including close-ups of flowers, fungi, lichen, and algae.
    • Youth — Entries in any category by photographers 17 years of age and under.
    • Landscapes — Expansive and dramatic views of the land and its features within the Tennessee park
    boundaries.
    • Recreation — Photographs of people participating in recreational activities.


  • Join policy makers, experts and lawyers to discuss Southern Appalachian enviro and legal issues

    APIEL24 STD URLS

    KNOXVILLE — The 15th Appalachian Public Interest and Environmental Law Conference (APIEL) is set for Oct. 5 at The University of Tennessee College of Law. 

    APIEL is an annual gathering of lawyers, scientists, students, and members of the general public to discuss environmental issues and happenings in Appalachia, public policy, and grassroots initiatives.

    The purpose is to create dialogue between lawyers, activists, and scientists on the local areas of need and foster engagement within the community to be forces of change in the legal realm.

     

    APIEL is a conference of the student-run Environmental Law Organization (ELO) at the University of Tennessee College of Law. ELO is not directly affiliated with the University of Tennesse or any particular non-profit organization. It is dedicated to providing students and attorneys with learning opportunities and leadership experiences.


  • Smokies accessibility program opens doors to the outdoors for everyone

    Adaptive program participants in GSMNPAdaptive program participants in Great Smoky Mountains National Park during a backcountry trip. The park plans to expand its program this year with multiple outings throughout America’s most-visited national park.  National Park Service

    Adaptive ranger-led programs include trail, lake and camping outings

    GATLINBURG — The National Park Service (NPS), in partnership with Catalyst Sports, Knox County, Kampgrounds of America Foundation and Friends of the Smokies, will expand adaptive ranger-led programs in 2024. Using assistive technology, the ranger-led programs are designed for visitors of all abilities and their families to learn about the natural and cultural history of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.       

    “We strive to create equal and accessible experiences for visitors of all abilities in Great Smoky Mountains National Park,” said Superintendent Cassius Cash. “And we are thrilled to work with our partners to expand the adaptive programs and offer off-road wheelchairs.”  

    Expanding on the adaptive programs offered in Great Smoky Mountains National Park for the first time in 2023, this year’s lineup includes three opportunities for trail outings, two for biking, one for kayaking and one overnight camping trip:  
    — June 8-9: Hike Cooper Road Trail and Camp Overnight at Backcountry Campsite No. 1
    — June 22: Kayaking from Fontana Marina
    — July 13: Hazel Creek Hike and Boat Tour
    — Sept. 7: Hike Bradley Fork Trail
    — Sept. 14: Mountain Bike at Deep Creek Trail
    — Sept. 15: Mountain Bike at Forge Creek Road
    — Oct. 5: Hike Middle Prong Trail or Little River Trail 

  • 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.


Feedbag

Your diet of environment and science news

  • Less carbon, more chill: ORNL tech reduces refrigerator CO2 emissions by 30 percent

    ORNLfridgeA novel technology developed by ORNL keeps food and beverages refrigerated with an advanced evaporator, phase change materials, metal foam, direct-contact defrosting technology and a low global warming refrigerant.  Oak Ridge National Laboratory 

    OAK RIDGE — A technology developed by Oak Ridge National Laboratory keeps food refrigerated with phase-change materials, or PCMs, while reducing carbon emissions by 30 percent.

    More than 100 million household refrigerators in operation across the United States consume up to 2 kilowatts of electricity daily. These refrigerators contribute to energy consumption and carbon emissions by using compressors that cycle on and off day and night, pumping refrigerants across evaporator coils to maintain low temperatures for fresh and frozen compartments. 

    (Hellbender Press previously reported on the development of new coolants and systems at ORNL).

    ORNL’s innovation uses advanced evaporators with PCMs installed in each compartment for cold energy storage. PCMs are useful for heating and cooling because they store and release energy when changing from solids to liquids or vice versa. Researchers applied porous metals, direct-contact defrosting technology and a refrigerant with low-global-warming potential to enhance performance and minimize environmental impact.

    “PCMs are integrated with evaporator coils to keep temperature constant, requiring one operating cycle and allowing refrigerators to operate almost 100% at nighttime, when energy use is lower,” ORNL’s Zhiming Gao said. “This reduces electricity demand, saves costs and maintains efficiency.”

    — Oak Ridge National Laboratory


  • TWRA recovers body of teenage drowning victim

    TWRA logo

    ROCKWOOD — Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency officers and local agencies recovered the body of Roane County resident, 19-year-old Braeden Hartup, from Watts Bar Reservoir just after 2 a.m. May 26. 

    The initial 911 call, concerning a male who had jumped from a boat and did not resurface, came in just after 9 p.m. May 25. Hartup and 10 others were on an anchored pontoon just south of Rockwood, near the Winton Chapel Access Area. Witnesses stated that Hartup decided to swim and jumped into the water from the front of the boat. Hartup was not wearing a life jacket. 

    TWRA officers and local agencies used a remote-operated vehicle to locate and recover Hartup’s body in 24 feet of water. The body was transported to the Knox County Medical Examiner’s Office. This is the eighth boating related fatality this year. The incident remains under investigation. 

    Find boating and statistical information at tnwildlife.org.


  • Sharing the love: Grayson Subaru presents $39K check to Ijams Nature Center

    Ijams Jerry Weaver Hailey Manus Jennie McGuigan Amber Parker Sarah Brobst JC Marquardt Melanie Thomas Gianni Tesfaye Joseph Bailey Joseph Mack Ben NannyGrayson Subaru presented a check for $39,000 from Subaru of America’s 2023 Subaru Share the Love Event to Ijams Nature Center on April 24. Funds will be used to expand the popular Ijams Nature Playscape at Grayson Subaru Preserve and the Mead’s Quarry Lake swim area.  Ijams Nature Center

    KNOXVILLE — Grayson Subaru gave $39,000 to Ijams Nature Center to expand the popular Ijams Nature Playscape at Grayson Subaru Preserve and the Mead’s Quarry Lake swim area.

    The local retailer chose the nonprofit nature center as its hometown charity for Subaru of America Inc.’s 2023 Subaru Share the Love® Event. From Nov. 15, 2023, to Jan. 2, Subaru and its retailers donated a minimum of $300 for every new Subaru vehicle purchased or leased at more than 628 of its retailers nationwide to several national charities and a hometown charity chosen by each retailer.

    “Subaru of America and Grayson Subaru are committed to the communities we serve,” Subaru Sales Manager JC Marquardt said. “We do that by showing support in ways that make a meaningful difference, and we’re incredibly grateful to our customers, who share our values and are committed to doing the same. This is a proud day for all of us.”

    Work has already begun on Phase 2 of the Ijams Nature Playscape.

    “Thus far, Ijams staff have scouted the new trail and, with the help of 115 trained volunteers, removed invasive species from about one acre of the new section,” Ijams President and CEO Amber Parker said. “This is the most time-consuming part of the process, because there is a more diverse mix of invasive and native species, and removal has to be done by hand.”

    In addition to preparing the upper section of the 13.46-acre property, Ijams is planning a new feature to Phase 1 of the playscape after conducting a survey of the people who were using it.

    “We learned that people wanted a way to cross through the mushier spots of the floodplain in an area we call the ‘Soggy Bottom Room,’ so we’re creating a narrow path of wood over utility poles to make a bog walkway,” she said. “We recently salvaged a large palette that was mired in the mud along the Tennessee River and will use that reclaimed wood in the project. There are perks to having an Ijams River Captain keeping our waterways clear!”

    Parker said improvements to the Mead’s Quarry swim area will start at a later date.


  • ORNL chemists invent a more efficient way to extract lithium

    ornllithiumOak Ridge National Laboratory

    OAK RIDGE  Chemists at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory have invented a more efficient way to extract lithium from waste liquids leached from mining sites, oil fields and used batteries. They demonstrated that a common mineral can adsorb at least five times more lithium than can be collected using previously developed adsorbent materials. 

    “It’s a low-cost, high-lithium-uptake process,” said Parans Paranthaman, an ORNL Corporate Fellow and National Academy of Inventors Fellow with 58 issued patents. He led the proof-of-concept experiment with Jayanthi Kumar, an ORNL materials chemist with expertise in the design, synthesis and characterization of layered materials.

    “The key advantage is that it works in a wider pH range of 5 to 11 compared to other direct lithium extraction methods,” Paranthaman said. The acid-free extraction process takes place at 140 degrees Celsius, compared to traditional methods that roast mined minerals at 250 degrees Celsius with acid or 800 to 1,000 degrees Celsius without acid.

    Lithium is a lightweight metal commonly used in energy-dense and rechargeable batteries. Electric vehicles, which are needed to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, rely on lithium-ion batteries. Industrially, lithium is extracted from brines, rocks and clays. The ORNL innovation may help meet rising demand for lithium by making domestic sources commercially viable.


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

  • City-based projects are pollinating the planet

    IMG 0772 1 scaled e1718391630730 1024x577A parklet in Washington DC with brightly colored planters filled with local pollinator plants.  Molly McCluskey 

    From pocket parks to large-scale projects, cities around the world are working to reverse a troubling trend.

    This story was originally published by The Revelator.

    Every June, cities around the globe celebrate Pollinator Week (this year, June 16-22) an international event to raise awareness about the important roles that birds, bats, bees, butterflies, beetles and other small animals serve in pollinating our food systems and landscapes. These crucial species are declining worldwide, with many on the brink of extinction.

    Cities have responded to this crisis with a variety of urban initiatives designed to foster pollinator habitats and in the process transform once-stark cement landscapes — as well as pocket parks, curb strips and highway dividers — into lush, welcoming areas for pollinators and humans alike.

    In Washington, D.C., ambitious pollinator projects are abundant on rooftops of public, office and private spaces, ranging from the renovated D.C. Public Library’s main branch to National Public Radio’s headquarters, which hosts an apiary. Throughout the District of Columbia, municipal code requires buildings to maintain the tree boxes and curb strips outside their properties. This often leads to creative landscaping on the smallest of scales. 


  • Follow some protocols during No-Mow May or risk the sting of a city codes violation

    IMG 3876Gerry Moll is seen in the native garden of his home in the 4th and Gill neighborhood of Knoxville in this file photo. Moll tends to his natural habitat in keeping with city codes protocols.  Ben Pounds/Hellbender Press

    City: Overgrown lots don’t automatically qualify as wildlife habitat

    KNOXVILLE — City government wants people to know that though “No Mow May” is a worthy observation there are still some protocols residents have to follow to avoid codes violations and potential fines.

    The month of May is hyped as a prime time to refrain from cutting your grass or portions of your lawn to allow pollinating plants and the pollinators they support to get six legs up late spring and early summer nectar season. It’s also an occasion to consider the fact that traditional lawns are largely ecological deserts.

    “No Mow May” is a quick and catchy name for a movement that aims far beyond not mowing the yard for a month,” according to Bee City USA, a proponent of keeping your yard real and wild when and where it is practical.

    “It’s more than long grass and dandelion blooms. It’s a gateway to understanding how we share our lawns with many small creatures.”

    It goes beyond bees and butterflies and other pollinating insects. Many ground-nesting birds are on the decline due to loss of grassy habitat. Native grasses also serve as habitat for small mammals such as rabbits and mice, which in turn provide a buffet for raptors such as owls, hawks and eagles.

    Hellbender Press has reported on cultivation of such natural landscapes and habitats within the city limits. Groups such as the Native Plant Rescue Squad can also provide plants and guidance.


  • Sharing the love: Grayson Subaru presents $39K check to Ijams Nature Center

    Ijams Jerry Weaver Hailey Manus Jennie McGuigan Amber Parker Sarah Brobst JC Marquardt Melanie Thomas Gianni Tesfaye Joseph Bailey Joseph Mack Ben NannyGrayson Subaru presented a check for $39,000 from Subaru of America’s 2023 Subaru Share the Love Event to Ijams Nature Center on April 24. Funds will be used to expand the popular Ijams Nature Playscape at Grayson Subaru Preserve and the Mead’s Quarry Lake swim area.  Ijams Nature Center

    KNOXVILLE — Grayson Subaru gave $39,000 to Ijams Nature Center to expand the popular Ijams Nature Playscape at Grayson Subaru Preserve and the Mead’s Quarry Lake swim area.

    The local retailer chose the nonprofit nature center as its hometown charity for Subaru of America Inc.’s 2023 Subaru Share the Love® Event. From Nov. 15, 2023, to Jan. 2, Subaru and its retailers donated a minimum of $300 for every new Subaru vehicle purchased or leased at more than 628 of its retailers nationwide to several national charities and a hometown charity chosen by each retailer.

    “Subaru of America and Grayson Subaru are committed to the communities we serve,” Subaru Sales Manager JC Marquardt said. “We do that by showing support in ways that make a meaningful difference, and we’re incredibly grateful to our customers, who share our values and are committed to doing the same. This is a proud day for all of us.”

    Work has already begun on Phase 2 of the Ijams Nature Playscape.

    “Thus far, Ijams staff have scouted the new trail and, with the help of 115 trained volunteers, removed invasive species from about one acre of the new section,” Ijams President and CEO Amber Parker said. “This is the most time-consuming part of the process, because there is a more diverse mix of invasive and native species, and removal has to be done by hand.”

    In addition to preparing the upper section of the 13.46-acre property, Ijams is planning a new feature to Phase 1 of the playscape after conducting a survey of the people who were using it.

    “We learned that people wanted a way to cross through the mushier spots of the floodplain in an area we call the ‘Soggy Bottom Room,’ so we’re creating a narrow path of wood over utility poles to make a bog walkway,” she said. “We recently salvaged a large palette that was mired in the mud along the Tennessee River and will use that reclaimed wood in the project. There are perks to having an Ijams River Captain keeping our waterways clear!”

    Parker said improvements to the Mead’s Quarry swim area will start at a later date.


  • Chattanooga Earth Day Week continues

    Earth Week Poster Billboard Landscape


  • Ijams and other volunteers pull, push to restore riverine beauty

    Broken plastic toys found by volunteersOdd robotic forms were among the every-worldly items pulled by volunteers from the Tennessee River and its tributaries earlier this month.  Courtesy Ijam’s Nature Center.

    Betty Boop recovered from drink during widespread river cleanup

    KNOXVILLE Rain didn’t stop 441 volunteers from cleaning up the community’s waterways during the 35th annual Ijams River Rescue on March 9.

    They tackled trash at 31 sites in Knox and Blount counties, filling 1,097 bags with garbage weighing an estimated 21,958 pounds (10.48 tons). That doesn’t include the weight of 46 tires and large items such as household appliances, furniture and car parts.

    Plastic and Styrofoam waste was common in all areas, but Ijams River Rescue volunteers found items such as a robot puppy, drug paraphernalia, an antique lounge chair, a full patio set, suitcase, Betty Boop doll and shoes, sofas, stove parts, traffic barrels, a car seat, sports gear, a “nice watch” and a $10 bill.


  • Experts and citizens plan and commiserate over TVA’s lack of public process 

    Justin Pearson addresses People’s Voice on TVA’s Energy PlanTennessee state Rep. Justin J. Pearson speaks to community members assembled for the evening discussion during the People’s Voice on TVA’s Energy Plan.  John Waterman/Appalachian Voices

    A lack of public process brought together a coalition of environmental organizations 

    NASHVILLE  In every state except Tennessee, for-profit utilities and their regulators are required to get public input about energy-resource planning.

    These Integrated Resource Plans (IRPs) provide an opportunity for a utility to demonstrate that the ratepayer money the utility spends is on the best mix of energy investments that meet this objective. 

    In Tennessee, however, TVA, which is the nation’s largest public power provider, has no process for engaging the public on its IRPs.

    It is this lack of public process that brought a coalition of environmental organizations together to host a mock public hearing in a Nashville church last month presided by Ted Thomas, former chair of Georgia Center for Energy Solutions. Their goal was to call attention to the fact that TVA acts more like a corporation or a self-regulated monopoly than as a public utility. The groups say that lack of public involvement in the process harms Tennesseeans across the board. 


  • Sequoyah Hills is now officially the arboretum we always shared

    Sequoyah Hills Arboretum sign identifying the Eastern Red Cedar to which it is attached.Many such new identifying tags highlight trees such as this red cedar in the newly designated Sequoyah Hills Arboretum near Bearden in Knoxville.  Ben Pounds/Hellbender Press

    The arboretum designation will  allow for more extensive tree walks, scout projects, school outings, and other educational programs on the value and beauty of native trees

    KNOXVILLE — A small crowd of volunteers with tags and tools descended on Sequoyah Park on a February afternoon, preparing to affix identifying labels to the bark of old trees in one of the city’s most storied neighborhoods.

    Sequoyah Park sits along the Tennessee River at 1400 Cherokee Boulevard, tucked behind the Sequoyah Hills neighborhood but open to all who want to run, walk, cycle, or enjoy its open fields and other features. It’s Tennessee Valley Authority land, maintained by the city. The many species of native trees that tower over the park’s long field got recognition this year. The park and other Sequoyah Hills neighborhood areas are now part of the Sequoyah Hills Arboretum, an accredited level one ArbNet arboretum.


  • Foothills Land Conservancy commits more land to memory

    DJI 0246Foothills Land Conservancy recently completed a conservation easement on 100 acres near Cane Creek in Anderson County, Tenn.  Shelby Lyn Sanders/ Foothills Land Conservancy

    Generations have crisscrossed the expansive pastures near Cane Creek in Anderson County

    Shelby Lyn Sanders is the senior biologist at Foothills Land Conservancy
     
    CLINTON Not much of Mrs. Betty Smith, 92, is visible as she pokes among the tall grasses on her land in Anderson County, Tenn. on this warm mid-spring day.  
     
    She’s looking for scraps of metal or wood or some relic that might reveal the exact location of a barn that stood here near Cane Creek some time ago.  
     
    Mrs. Smith and her husband Paul purchased this property from the prominent Hollingsworth family in the 1960s while living nearby in Clinton. They had big dreams about owning a farm close by to work and play on.  

  • Fighting our own worst enemy along the way to better seeds and systems

    Seed_Swap.pngTennessee Local Food Summit participants were encouraged to bring their favorite heirloom seeds for a seed swap and social.  Courtesy Matt Matheson

    Tennessee Local Food Summit is a hive for food justice in the Southeast

    NASHVILLE — About 70 miles north of Nashville in the town of Red Boiling Springs in Macon County, farmer and educator Jeff Poppen, better known as the Barefoot Farmer, runs one of the oldest and largest organic farms in Tennessee. For nearly 40 years, he built rich soil for his bountiful farm before the second-largest meat producer in the world forced him to move from the 250 acres he’d been farming since 1974. 

    When his neighboring property owner partnered with Cobb Vantress, a subsidiary of the multinational mega-giant Tyson Foods, to place a concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) — aka a factory farm — 450 feet from his homestead and garden, Poppen’s first instinct was to organize. 

    This self-described “dirty hippie” found unlikely allies in his neighbors — a Baptist preacher, a state trooper, a politician, and what he calls a “chemical farmer” — all opposed to an industrial chicken house moving in.


  • Tennessee Tree Day

    download-1.png

    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 a community of Tennesseans carving out gardens to attract, feed and nurture pollinating wildlife

    img-4888.jpgThese signs will show your friends and neighbors that your wildflower garden supports pollinators and hopefully get them excited about starting a pollinator garden too! Our original signs are made from embossed, recycled aluminum and measure 8 x 12 inches. They are available for a donation of $25 each and can be shipped directly to you.  Tennessee Environmental Council

    Through Generate Some Buzz, the Tennessee Environmental Council aims to engage hundreds of Tennesseans in establishing new pollinator habitats statewide. All gardens, both big and small are welcome and by participating in this program, you are joining a vibrant community of Tennesseans committed to protecting our pollinators, one plot at a time.

    Populations of many pollinator species like bees, butterflies, moths, beetles and hummingbirds have been negatively impacted by agricultural practices such as using synthetic pesticides, disease and habitat loss. These creatures are experiencing a drastically different world compared to just a few decades ago.

    Native pollinators depend on native plants to provide habitat and food, and plants need pollinators to help them reproduce. In fact, pollinators assist in the reproduction of 75 percent of flowering plants worldwide. Turning manicured lawns that provide little to nothing for pollinators into havens full of native flowers and wild grasses, we will effectively "Generate Some Buzz" and bring back these essential workers full force.
       guide-to-growing-wildflowers_orig.png


  • Solar for All: An opportunity to expand alternative-energy access

    10443176025_00a582b883_o-1-scaled.jpgThe historic federal climate legislation known as the Inflation Reduction Act passed last summer. The $7 billion program will help fund rooftop solar projects benefiting communities with lower incomes and provide workforce development enabling millions of households’ access to affordable, resilient, and clean solar energy.  Southern Environmental Law Center

    A competitive grant program to bring solar power to people with limited incomes has found huge demand in the South

    CHARLOTTESVILLE — Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia, as well as other tribal governments, municipalities and nonprofits submitted applications for Solar for All, a new program designed to expand solar access.

    “I’m thrilled to see enthusiasm for this funding in Southern states, which have traditionally lagged behind the rest of the country in residential solar while many households struggle to pay their electricity bills,” said Gudrun Thompson, leader of Southern Environmental Law Center’s Energy Program.

    Part of the historic federal climate legislation, the Inflation Reduction Act passed last summer, the $7 billion program will fund rooftop solar projects benefiting communities with lower incomes and provide workforce development enabling millions of households’ access to affordable, resilient and clean solar energy and related jobs. These funds have the potential to double the number of rooftop solar customers with 100 percent of cost saving solar, benefiting customers that would not otherwise be able to access solar.  

    “This is a generational opportunity to enable low-income households in the South to access affordable, resilient, and clean solar energy,” Thompson said.


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

    CEG_Webinar_2_231025_banner.png

    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.


  • Homeward bound: local students release hundreds of lake sturgeon into Tennessee River

    TN_Aquarium_Lake_Sturgeon_Release_in_Coolidge_Park_5.jpgConservation scientists with the Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute pose in the Tennessee River before releasing more than 600 juvenile lake sturgeon into the waterway. Tennessee Aquarium

    CHATTANOOGA — After bulking up all summer on a steady diet of bloodworms and brine shrimp, hundreds of juvenile lake sturgeon finally were returned to their ancestral waters this morning. 

    Under a nearly cloudless autumn sky, biologists from the Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute and third through fifth grade students from Girls Inc. of Chattanooga’s Fall Break Camp gathered on the north bank of the Tennessee River in Coolidge Park. 

    One by one, they carefully made their way to the river’s edge holding clear, water-filled plastic buckets containing five-month-old lake sturgeon. Amidst excited squeals and nervous laughter, they squatted down, gently depositing each sleek, armor-skinned fish into the shallows.

    This latest release “class” included 667 lake sturgeon. Comparatively tiny now, these miniature river giants have the potential to reach nine feet in length and could live for up to 150 years. 

    Reintroduction events like this are the capstone payoff to a summer spent tirelessly caring for and — most of all — feeding these sturgeon, says Reintroduction Biologist II Teresa Israel

    “It’s really special. It’s hard to see them go, but it’s a happy day since we’ve seen them get so big, so we know they’ll be successful out there,” she said. “It’s a great accomplishment that completes the circle for all our hard work.” 

    Lake Sturgeon are considered endangered in Tennessee. As recently as the 1970s, this species had disappeared from both waterways due to the impacts of damming, poor water quality and over-fishing. Today’s release is the latest in the now-23-year-old effort to bring Lake Sturgeon back to the Tennessee River and Cumberland River.


  • October 24 is United Nations Day

    united nations day

     

    Despite strong US popular support for the UN, House Appropriations Bill wants to eliminate UN funding

    NEW YORK — In a poll of nearly two thousand registered voters, 73% of respondents from across the political spectrum support America’s engagement with the United Nations.

    Conducted by Morning Consult in August 2023, the survey finds that roughly two-thirds of Republicans and 86% of Democrats believe it’s important for the U.S. to “maintain an active role” in the UN.

    UN favorability stood at 52%, with a plurality of Republicans saying they view the UN in a positive light.

    More than half of all voters support paying full dues to the UN’s regular budget, and an even greater percentage (nearly 60%) are in favor of paying dues to the UN’s peacekeeping budget.

    These numbers reflect similar nationwide data — including a 2023 survey by Pew Research — noting strong UN favorability among Americans.

    What’s at stake?

    The House budget proposal recommends eliminating funding for the UN regular budget — for the first time in history. That would cause the U.S. to lose its vote in the UN General Assembly!

    Why that would be a grave and costly mistake is well explained by Jordie Hannum, Executive Director of the Better World Campaign.

    This UN Day, make sure to tell your members of Congress that you support the UN’s mission.

    Here are easy to follow help and sample scripts for your call and for leaving voice mail. Or, send them a customizable email message.

    “As Congress considers making drastic cuts in U.S. contributions to the UN, this is a powerful reminder that Americans value the institution and want the U.S. to stay involved,” said Peter Yeo, President of the Better World Campaign. “The UN is a critical space for the U.S. to demonstrate our global leadership and support our allies. Americans clearly understand that it’s in our best interest to nurture this vital relationship.”


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

    Reimagining-the-Asphalt-Jungle.jpg

    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


  • Tennessee Project Milkweed orders top 300,000 and exhaust the free supply. TDOT says there’s more to come.

    download 2Monarch butterfly feeding off milkweed. TDOT launched a program to promote milkweed production, a common source of food for butterflies, birds and other insects. cc zero 2

    Free milkweed seed will help citizens restore landscapes and preserve habitat; orders commence again in June for popular TDOT project

    NASHVILLE — Amid unprecedented citizen demand, the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) halted online orders for free milkweed seed, offered as part of its Project Milkweed. Launched in June 2023, this mail-order resource was aimed at restoring landscapes and preserving habitats for monarch butterflies and other pollinator species. Since June, TDOT has taken nearly 131,000 individual orders from Tennesseans for milkweed seed. In total, 779,601 red and common milkweed seed packets were requested. The program will return in June 2024.

    “TDOT is happy to offer such a popular program to the public, and to empower Tennesseans to do their part in saving pollinators as they are vital to life, growing food, and the economy of Tennessee,” said TDOT Commissioner Butch Eley in a release.

    Orders exhausted a stock of 300,000 milkweed seed packets by Sept. 30. Additional seed material has been ordered and is expected to arrive in October. All remaining orders will be fulfilled then, according to TDOT. 


  • 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

    Zoom

    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 KnoxvilleTreePlan.org 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

    TVApamphlet

     

    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. 


  • Waste not want not at the University of Tennessee

    Food for deep thought

    KNOXVILLE — On a Saturday afternoon, cheers (rare until recently) echo through Neyland Stadium. Guests in skyboxes watch the football game.

    Platters line the buffet: Piled high with chicken wings. Packed with hotdogs. Brimming with bowtie pasta. Flush with alfredo.

    It is nearing the end of the fourth quarter, and more than half of the food hasn’t been eaten. The Office of Sustainability will be by soon to transport these covered platters to the Culinary Institute to be recovered.


  • 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.


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About

  • 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
    37901-1101
    865-465-9691
    This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
     
    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 logo.art 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: