The Environmental Journal of Southern Appalachia

News

  • Obsolescence meets absurdity in parking-garage design debates
    Kevin J. Krizek and John Hersey
    Thursday, 02 February 2023

    Pryor Brown 1 McClung 1024x730The Pryor Brown Transfer Company and garage is shown in 1936 on West Church Avenue in downtown Knoxville. Established in 1929, it is reputedly the first full-service parking garage in the U.S., and now faces demolition after years of neglect and disuse.  Thompson Photograph Collection, McClung Historical Collection

    Wasted space or community asset? As urban space dwindles, debate gears up over utility of parking garages

    This story was originally published by The ConversationKevin J. Krizek is professor of environmental design at University of Colorado Boulder. John Hersey is a teaching assistant professor of environmental design at University of Colorado Boulder.

    For the past century, the public and private sectors appear to have agreed on one thing: the more parking, the better.

    As a result, cities were built up in ways that devoted valuable space to storing cars, did little to accommodate people who don’t own cars and forced developers to build expensive parking structures that increased the cost of living.

    Two assumptions undergird urban parking policy: Without convenient parking, car owners would be reluctant to patronize businesses; and absent a dedicated parking spot for their vehicle, they’d be less likely to rent and buy homes. Because parcels of urban land are usually small and pricey, developers will build multistory garages. And so today, a glut of these bulky concrete boxes clutter America’s densely populated cities.

    We have been studying urban development and parking for decades. The car’s grip over city planning has been difficult to dislodge, despite a host of costs to the environment and to the quality of life for many city dwellers.

    Read 61 times More...

  • Potentially toxic Oak Ridge landfill won’t be built until cleared by operator’s water research
    Ben Pounds
    Thursday, 26 January 2023

    Image of historic Elza Entrance signage

    Potential water runoff issues stall future Oak Ridge landfill construction

    OAK RIDGE — A landfill intended to hold potentially toxic debris from the demolition of legacy Oak Ridge research facilities is moving forward but construction won’t start until it is definitively determined whether the site could pollute ground and surface water.

    As reported previously by Hellbenderpress, environmentalists fear toxins leaking out of the proposed landfill could contaminate waterways and make their way into fish that people might catch downstream. The landfill’s contractor, however, said leaving buildings full of toxic residue standing may be more dangerous for workers and nearby residents and the landfill will help get the buildings quickly demolished. The contractor is doing a mock-up study this year to see how best to handle water issues on the future landfill site.

    This summer, the contractor United Cleanup Oak Ridge LLC will choose a subcontractor and do field work. Ben Williams, the Department of Energy’s public affairs specialist, said roads and utilities will need to move to get the site ready at that time. But UCOR stated it won’t build the landfill until after a water study spanning “two wet seasons,” beginning later this year. 

    Read 87 times More...

  • Migrating sandhill cranes descend on Southeast
    Ray Zimmerman
    Thursday, 26 January 2023

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

    Beyond festivals, sandhill cranes pass through Southeast in increasing numbers

    BIRCHWOOD — Every year in mid-January, a few thousand people gather here for The Sandhill Crane Festival because the cranes have returned. The community center at Birchwood is filled with vendors selling wildlife art or promoting conservation. The nearby Cherokee Removal Memorial at Blythe Ferry offers a chance to celebrate Cherokee culture and learn the story of indigenous people who were taken from their homes and sent on a long journey to Oklahoma.

    Meanwhile, there are opportunities to see and appreciate these amazing birds through February in East Tennessee and beyond.

    At least 20,000 cranes gather or pass through Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge, having come from their nesting grounds in southern Canada and the upper Midwest to winter here in the American South. Many spend the winter there, but some will continue southward to Okefenokee Swamp in Georgia and the Gulf Coast.

    Read 255 times More...

  • Orange STEM: UT links East Tennessee students with Science, Technical, Engineering and Math studies
    JJ Stambaugh
    Tuesday, 24 January 2023

    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

    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.

    Read 190 times More...

  • Mad about saffron: Cardinals of color fly through Appalachian winter
    Stephen Lyn Bales
    Wednesday, 18 January 2023

    Reddick Yellow CardinalA rare yellow cardinal is seen at a residence in Roane County this winter. Catherine Reddick

    As yellow cardinals proliferate, are we watching evolution unfold in real time?

    HARRIMAN — During the pandemic, when isolating at home became a necessity, birdwatching and bird feeders soared in popularity. Watching our avian friends come and go is entertaining, and sometimes quite surprising.

    When it comes to songbirds, especially at this time of year, the northern cardinal is perhaps the most recognized and beloved.

    It is the state bird of no less than seven states: Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia and West Virginia.

    It’s also the nickname of more sports teams than any other icon. There are the St. Louis Cardinals in baseball, and the Arizona Cardinals in professional football. In the NCAA, there are the Louisville Cardinals and 17 other colleges that sport the red mascot, as well as a gaggle of high school teams across the country.

    Since we were children, we have all known what a male northern cardinal looks like. He’s bright red. Right? Yes, unless he’s bright yellow!

    Finding a golden treasure usually requires a long arduous quest through terra incognito.

    Read 207 times More...

  • Water and waste on TVA agenda as utility plans Bull Run shutdown
    Ben Pounds
    Tuesday, 17 January 2023

    TVA’s Bull Run Fossil Plant — then and nowBull Run Fossil Plant in Claxton, Tennessee, was originally commissioned 55 years ago but TVA is now soliciting public input on the best way to shut down operations. Tennessee Valley Authority

    TVA solicits public input following release of environmental assessment for Bull Run Fossil Plant decommission

    CLAXTON — Tennessee Valley Authority plans to close its Bull Run Fossil Plant (BRF) in Anderson County, but it’s still looking for public input on what comes next.

    “As a large, inflexible coal unit with medium operating costs and a high forced outage rate, BRF does not fit current and likely future portfolio needs,” the federal utility said in a draft Environmental Assessment.

    TVA is looking at three different options for the future of the structures still standing on the site by the Clinch River near Oak Ridge: taking down all structures; taking down some of them; or leaving everything standing. A recent report lays out the environmental consequences of each of these actions. The report, in draft form, is against that third choice, listing it as only an option for the sake of comparison.

    “If the facility is left in the “as-is” condition, it likely would present a higher risk than Alternatives A or B for the potential to contaminate soil and groundwater as systems and structures degrade. As such, this alternative is not a reasonable alternative,” the draft states.

    TVA stated its considering removing “all or most of the buildings and structures” on a 250-acre area. After closing the plant, but before any demolitions, TVA will begin by removing components that may be used at other TVA sites, draining of oil and fluids from equipment, taking ash out of the boilers, removing information technology assets, removing plant records and other tasks.

    The Bull Run Environmental Assessment is 170 pages long and available for public review. It doesn’t directly tackle the coal ash storage conundrum that has grabbed the attention of politicians, nearby residents and environmental activists, because that issue involves separate regulations. 

    Read 367 times More...

  • The electric-vehicle revolution brings environmental uncertainty at every turn
    Tim Lydon
    Friday, 13 January 2023

    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.

    Read 289 times More...

  • Ahead of retiring Bull Run Fossil Plant, TVA faces questions about the site’s toxicity
    Ben Pounds
    Thursday, 12 January 2023

    bull run 107 hero0196f525 b2ce 46c9 88ad 0f2337a86726

    CLAXTON  Even though TVA is about to retire Bull Run Fossil Plant, water pollution issues related to it are still up for debate.

    A water discharge permit hearing took place Thursday, Jan. 12 at the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation building, 761 Emory Valley Road in Oak Ridge. 

    If you missed the meeting, you can still provide comments by email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. through Thursday, Jan. 26

    The permit would, if approved, allow releases of “cooling water, process wastewater and storm water runoff” from Bull Run Fossil Plant into the Clinch River and operation of a cooling water intake system. Environmental groups have concerns. 

    Tennessee Valley Authority plans to retire Bull Run Fossil plant by 2023. Over several years and at meetings, both connected to TVA and organized by activist groups, citizens have voiced concerns about water quality issues due to the continued coal ash waste TVA stores on the site. In advance of this meeting, representatives of the Sierra Club, Southern Environmental Law Center, Appalachian Voices, Statewide Coalition for Community eMpowerment and Center for Biological Diversity all signed a letter asking for TDEC to set standards for water pollution from coal ash based on available technology.

    This story will be updated.

    Read 194 times  

  • Hellbent Profile: Amber Parker brings nature to the people
    JJ Stambaugh
    Thursday, 05 January 2023

    Amber ParkerIjams Nature Center Executive Director Amber Parker poses with opossum Opal. She was an Ijams animal ambassador for more than three years. “She came to us after her mother was hit by a car and Opal would fit in the palm of your hand. Sadly, Opal passed away earlier this year. Opossums live short lives, usually about three years, so Opal had a nice long one by opossum standards. She was beloved by all and we miss her.” Courtesy Ijams Nature Center

    Each year more than 600,000 people visit Ijams Nature Center

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

    KNOXVILLE — On any given day, the parking lot at Ijams Nature Center in South Knoxville is packed with cars, trucks, and buses as folks of all ages flock to hike, climb, swim and paddle its 300-plus acres of protected wildlands.

    Making sure the center’s 620,000 or so annual visitors have a positive experience interacting with Mother Nature requires dozens of full-time employees plus a generous contingent of volunteers. Ensuring the complex operation stays on course and within its $1.8 million operating budget is a tough job, but Ijams Executive Director Amber Parker has been doing it for six years now and has no desire to be doing anything else.

    When Amber talks about Ijams she fairly bursts with giddy, infectious energy. This is a woman who has clearly found her place in the world, and even a brief walk along any of the center’s 21 trails makes one wonder if the land itself hasn’t responded in like fashion to her devotion.

    Read 178 times More...

  • Updated 1/3: Conservationists express dismay as Feds conclude ‘no significant impact’ from construction of Wears Valley mountain bike complex
    JJ Stambaugh
    Thursday, 29 December 2022

    Foothills parkway

    Feds clear 14-mile mountain bike trail network off Foothills Parkway, but no funding is secured 

    GATLINBURG — Those who logged protests against a National Park Service plan to carve a 14-mile mountain bike trail network through the forest off Foothills Parkway said they still opposed the plan despite federal conclusions it would not adversely impact the natural environment of the area. 

    “I’m very disappointed,” said Donna Edwards, an outspoken conservationist who lives in Walland and participated in the public scoping process. “What are (the) reasons for choosing the alternative with the largest footprint and greatest environmental impact?

    “I fail to understand why mountain bikers’ needs are considered to be more important than those of birders and hikers, considering the extensive mountain bike trail networks in other areas of East Tennessee.”

    She said arguments against approving the Wears Valley mountain bike trails were wise and well documented.

    Here is the original Hellbender Press story:

    A proposed off-road bike trail in the Wears Valley section of the Foothills Parkway that would be operated by the National Park Service has overcome a procedural hurdle but appears to be no closer to actually being built due to a lack of funding. 

    An environmental assessment to determine the project’s potential impact on wildlife and the environment led to an official “Finding of No Significant Impact” (FONSI), park officials said in a press release issued Thursday. 

    “We understand the public’s desire to have a purpose-built bike trail, and this marks a step for potential future development of a trail in Wears Valley,” said Cassius Cash, superintendent of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. “Having the signed FONSI allows us the opportunity to explore potential funding paths for both the construction and the annual operational costs.”

    Read 198 times More...

  • Updated 12/27: Temperatures climb and snow melts as bitter cold finally moves out of Southern Appalachians
    JJ Stambaugh
    Wednesday, 21 December 2022

    IMG 2686The sun breaks through the clouds in a South Knox County neighborhood on Tuesday morning following days-long subfreezing temperatures and snowfall Monday night. Thomas Fraser/Hellbender Press

    Southern cities emerge from frigid airmass after Christmas weekend of brutal cold and snow

    KNOXVILLE — Temperatures rose above freezing on Tuesday for the first time since Dec. 23 following a weekend bout with historic cold, high winds, burst water and sewage lines and power outages. The chaos was punctuated with unexpectedly potent snowfall Dec. 26 on frigid roadways that snarled traffic in the city and metro area.

    The snow came in the wake of a brutal cold front that first moved into the region in the early hours Friday morning. 

    Snow didn’t start falling until Monday afternoon, and by sunrise Tuesday between .5 and 2 inches of the white stuff had blanketed the area, falling upon already frigid roadways.

    Public safety officials across the region urged motorists to stay home, and numerous government offices either closed or got off to a late start Tuesday due to icy roads.

    Both the Knoxville Police Department and Knox County Sheriff’s Office activated their Severe Weather plans, which meant that officers would only respond to emergencies and wrecks with injuries.

    Crews from the city used brine and rock salt to treat streets designated as Level I (main thoroughfares like Kingston Pike and Broadway) and Level II (connector roads like Sutherland Avenue and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard).

    In Great Smoky Mountains National Park, where more than 4 inches of snow fell, officials closed several roads, including the Gatlinburg Bypass, Foothills Parkway West, Laurel Creek Road at the Townsend Wye, and Little River Road from the Sugarlands Visitors Center to the Townsend Wye.

    Among the lower elevations in the East Tennessee Valley, Blount County had the most snow with 2 inches on the ground; most of Knox County registered 1.5 inches, according to meteorologist Allan Diegan of the National Weather Service office in Morristown.

    While the snow brought its own share of problems and excitement, many people were still recovering from a bitter cold front that swept through the region over the Christmas weekend.

    While some native East Tennesseans can remember even colder storms, the type of single-digit temperatures seen from Dec. 23 to 25 came as a surprise to many residents, according to Diegan.

    “I wouldn’t say this was rare by any means, but it normally doesn’t happen in December,” Diegan said. “Our coldest days are usually in January and February. This just hasn’t happened in several years, so for people who are just now moving here it might be a little different than what they expected.”

    At Knoxville’s McGhee-Tyson airport, the mercury fell as low as 4 degrees early Friday morning, which was the lowest reading on a Dec. 23 since 1988, he said.

    But that was by no means the coldest temperature ever recorded in the Knox County area, stressed Diegan — that record was set on January 21, 1985, when the mercury dropped to a bone-chilling 24 degrees below zero.

    “I don’t think we saw any daily low records broken this weekend, which is kind of hard to believe,” he said. “This was, at least, the coldest it’s gotten since 2015.”

    On February 20, 2015, the low in Knoxville was 3 degrees, records show.

    One record that was set in Knoxville over the weekend was for the lowest recorded high temperature for December 23, said Diegan. The high on Friday never climbed above 22, which broke the record of 24 set in 1989.

    The blast of cold Arctic air that wreaked havoc over much of the nation last week was so intense it managed to bring single-digit lows even though there wasn’t any snow on the ground until the cold front had already blown through.

    “Typically, it takes us having snow on the ground that’s followed by a clear night for the temperatures to drop so low,” he explained. “Cloud cover acts like a blanket and solar radiation is trapped. When it clears, the solar radiation escapes and the temperatures tend to plummet.”

    So what was the coldest spot in East Tennessee over the past few days and who got the most snowfall?

    Unsurprisingly, Diegan said the answer to both questions was Mt. LeConte in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

    Weather equipment installed on the 6,593-foot-tall mountain went as low as 22 degrees below zero on Christmas Eve and, after Monday’s snow storm, approximately 4.5 inches of precipitation was on the ground. 

    Previous updates and the original article are below:

    UPDATED Dec. 23: Rolling blackouts, icy spots and subzero wind chills are only some of the challenges facing hundreds of thousands of people across East Tennessee and the Southern Appalachians as a Siberian cold front barrels through the region.

    In Knox County, up to 26,000 KUB customers had lost power at one time due to a combination of wind damage and a massive surge in demand for electricity. High temperatures in the Knoxville area hovered near 10 degrees throughout Dec. 23.

    If your power went out for up to an hour today, in a home or commercial establishment  it was likely due to rolling blackouts imposed on local utilities by the Tennessee Valley Authority.

    “TVA is requiring KUB to reduce power load due to extreme demand on the electric system,” Knoxville Utility Board said in a press release.

    “KUB customers are likely to experience temporary outages until TVA provides more information,” according to a statement released in the early afternoon of Dec. 23 by officials at the utility. “KUB is striving to keep rolling outages to 15 minutes and is rotating outages across the service area until TVA lifts the requirement.”

    The planned outages were stopped around 1:30 p.m. but around 7,200 customers remained without power due to the high winds at that time, KUB’s website said. 

    The cold front — which has wreacked havoc and shattered records across much of the continental United States — roared into the Tennessee Valley in the early morning hours Friday, driving temperatures down into the single digits as winds gusted up to 40 mph.

    The lowest recorded temperature in Knox County was 3 degrees in Karns; the low in downtown Knoxville stood at 7 degrees, said meteorologist Allan Diegan. 

    The real danger came from the wind chill, which was estimated at 5-10 degrees below zero in the early morning hours, he said. The good news was the roads were mostly clear, with few areas in the Tennessee Valley seeing more than a dusting of snow.

    The mercury isn’t expected to climb above freezing until Monday, although the winds should begin to diminish on Saturday.

    The rolling blackouts triggered confusion and no small amount of swearing in Fountain City during the noontime “lunch rush.” Power went out along Broadway just before 12 p.m., forcing surprised store clerks and restaurant managers to ask their customers to leave until the situation could sort itself out. 

    “I can’t believe I drove down here for this,” said 44-year-old Debra Wells of Halls as she walked back to her car in the Kroger parking lot. “I was going to get lunch at the deli but now it looks like I can’t even go to Chik-Fil-A (across the street).”

    One manager at Kroger shook his head apologetically when asked when the store would reopen. “No idea,” he said as he locked the front doors. 

    The grocery store reopened within the hour, however — just as power was cut to thousands of customers in the residential areas of the Fountain City and Inskip neighborhoods for about 20 minutes.

    One of the biggest concerns this weekend has been the safety of the hundreds of men, women and children who live on Knoxville’s streets, according to officials from Knox Area Rescue Ministries (KARM).

    A white flag has been flying outside KARM’s emergency shelter for the homeless on North Broadway, signaling that normal rules restricting who can stay there have been temporarily waived.

    “People have been streaming in all day long,” said KARM spokesperson Karen Bowdle. “There are probably close to 450 people in the building. There so many people that they’ve separated the men into the chapel and the women into the dining room.”

    Karen said that KARM crews had even been taking meals and coffee to the City’s warming station across the street. 

    “We’re very grateful, and we’re all trying to work as a team,” she said. “There are a lot of people who will die across our country this weekend.”

    The original Hellbender Press article continues below:

    A historically brutal cold front expected to move into East Tennessee late Thursday has people across Knox County and beyond bracing for a potentially deadly drop in temperatures.

    The approaching storm is expected to shatter low-temperature records as the temperature drops as low as 7 degrees Dec. 24, the coldest temperature ever reported in Knoxville on Christmas Eve, according to officials from the National Weather Service station in Morristown.

    “The biggest concern is the wind chill,” said NWS meteorologist Kyle Snowdin, who said that daytime highs on Friday are expected to hover in the mid-teens. “There will be wind gusts of 30 to 40 mph, which means we could see temperatures of negative single digits or even negative double digits.”

    Read 191 times More...

  • Knoxville Urban Wilderness will be love at first sight
    JJ Stambaugh
    Tuesday, 20 December 2022

    Knoxville Urban Wilderness — Baker Creek Preserve mapTrails at Baker Creek Preserve.  Visit Knoxville

    City cultivation of urban nature amenities proceeds apace

    KNOXVILLE — The latest phase in a multimillion dollar plan to turn the southern end of the James White Parkway into an integral part of the city’s Urban Wilderness officially kicked off Monday afternoon (Dec. 19). 

    Numerous officials, including Mayor Indya Kincannon, showed up for the groundbreaking of the Baker Creek Pavilion, a key component of the ambitious project.

    The city is pouring $2.7 million into the Baker Creek area of the Urban Wilderness Gateway Park, which will offer public restrooms, a picnic area and plenty of parking.

    Read 205 times More...

  • 8 billion people and counting in the face of climate change
    Maureen Lichtveld
    Friday, 16 December 2022

    Canopy Nexus Hotel after floodingFlooding is seen outside a popular hotel in Pakistan following historic and devastating flooding linked largely to the melting of highland glaciers.  Wikipedia Commons

    Global population growth promises a drastic spike in public health emergencies

    This story was originally published by The Conversation. Maureen Lichtveld is dean of the School of Public Health at the University of Pittsburgh. 

    There are questions that worry me profoundly as an environmental health and population scientist.

    Will we have enough food for a growing global population? How will we take care of more people in the next pandemic? What will heat do to millions with hypertension? Will countries wage water wars because of increasing droughts?

    These risks all have three things in common: health, climate change and a growing population that the United Nations determined passed 8 billion people in November 2022, which is double the population of just 48 years ago.

    Read 264 times More...

  • You can help Knoxville become a wood-powered tree city
    JJ Stambaugh
    Thursday, 15 December 2022

    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.

    Read 288 times More...

  • Seeing the city for the trees
    JJ Stambaugh
    Tuesday, 13 December 2022

    IMG 2632This mighty oak is but one of many growing for decades in South Knoxville.  Thomas Fraser/Hellbender Press

    Contribute to the master plan to grow tree canopy in Knoxville

    KNOXVILLE — No matter where you are in the city, you’re not far from a patch or two of trees.

    These copses range from small groupings of oaks or dogwoods that are commonly used to mark property boundaries to lush belts of temperate mixed-hardwood forest that sprawl across hundreds of acres. 

    While Knoxville may be blessed with an abundance of these urban forests, many local residents and leaders believe it’s nowhere near enough.

    Read 387 times More...

Earth

  • Real or fake Christmas trees? Like most things in life, the answer is a function of time.
    Thomas Fraser
    Monday, 28 November 2022

    Nature Conservancy: Keep it real

    Nothing beats the fresh aroma of a live Christmas tree, if you are into that kind of thing, but both real and fake trees carry their own load of sustainability pros and cons.

    Live trees offer holiday beauty and scent and are a traditional addition to households. But they are harvested from a vast monoculture and require multiple levels of carbon-burning transport.

    Artificial trees offer convenience, and can be reused for a decade. But they are largely made of plastic, manufactured in places with unsavory human rights records, and require global transit.

    This article breaks it down pretty well. Maybe it’s just best to not have a Christmas tree?

    Read 317 times  

  • Beavers mitigate forest fires
    Wolf Naegeli
    Tuesday, 25 October 2022

    beaver gc2f524423 1280European Beaver  Image by Ralf Schick from Pixabay

    NPR: California enlists beavers in battle against climate change

    Forest areas with beaver dams are less prone to severe fire damage because of more consistent soil moisture and less extreme air aridity and temperature conditions. Read about it or listen to Randy Simon’s 2-minute beaver podcast on National Public Radio’s Earth Wise web page.

    Read 325 times  

  • Brutal Hurricane Ian was just one of budding global weather emergencies at the time
    Mathew Barlow and Suzana J. Camargo
    Thursday, 06 October 2022

    overflight storm ianCatastrophic damage to the Sanibel Island Causeway is shown in this NOAA overflight after Hurricane Ian absolutely demolished most of Fort Myers Beach, Florida.

    Evidence mounts that climate change is creating monster storms as death toll climbs in Ian’s wake

    This story was originally published by The Conversation.

    FORT MYERS BEACH — When Hurricane Ian hit Florida and killed at least 100 people, it was one of the United States’s most powerful hurricanes on record, and it followed a two-week string of massive, devastating storms around the world.

    A few days earlier in the Philippines, Typhoon Noru gave new meaning to rapid intensification when it blew up from a tropical storm with 50 mph winds to a Category 5 monster with 155 mph winds the next day. Hurricane Fiona flooded Puerto Rico, then became Canada’s most intense storm on record. Typhoon Merbok gained strength over a warm Pacific Ocean and tore up over 1,000 miles of the Alaska coast.

    Read 428 times More...

  • Wither wisteria: ‘People care about our land’
    Ben Pounds
    Thursday, 29 September 2022

    IMG 4106Anne Child removes invasive exotic plants during a recent Tennessee Citizens for Wilderness Planning event to mark National Public Lands Day at TVA’s Worthington Cemetery in Oak Ridge. Ben Pounds/Hellbender Press

    Citizens pay it back on Public Lands Day in Oak Ridge, Smokies and beyond

    OAK RIDGE — Rain drizzled as volunteers dug and clipped plants in woods around an old cemetery turned science lab.

    It was a Public Lands Day event at Tennessee Valley Authority Worthington Cemetery Ecological Study area in Oak Ridge near Melton Hill Lake. Tennessee Citizens for Wilderness Planning, an environmental organization based in Oak Ridge, led the Sept. 24 work party in support of American public lands.

    Other events were held throughout the country to mark the date (including Great Smoky Mountains National Park), which has proven itself to be the most productive day of the year for citizen sweat equity in public lands.

    Read 563 times More...

  • Its importance punctuated by the pandemic, Knox Food Policy Council celebrates 40 years
    Ben Pounds
    Monday, 26 September 2022

    Food policy councilKnoxville city public information specialist Paige Travis; senior Knoxville-Knox County planner Jessie Hillman; Nourish Knoxville Executive Director Charlotte Tolley; and Food Policy Council advisor Vivian Williams (from left) share a laugh during a celebration of the FPC’s 40th anniversary.  Ben Pounds/Hellbender Press

    Beardsley Farm and others provided vital food essentials during the pandemic and are better prepared for the future

    KNOXVILLE — Disparate groups banded together as one during the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure all Knox County citizens had reliable sources of food in the midst of disaster. 

    They told their stories at the Knoxville-Knox County Food Policy Council 40th Anniversary Celebration on Sept. 21 at the Community Action Committee (CAC) Beardsley Community Farm.

    University of Tennessee students formed the Food Policy Advisory Council in 1982.

    The oldest municipal food policy council in the United States

    The anniversary program included remarks and proclamations from Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon, Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs, and state officials. Individual achievements on food-related issues were also honored. 

    Read 459 times More...

Air

  • SACE belays solar power on Global Climbing Day
    Thomas Fraser
    Friday, 19 August 2022
     

    MEMPHIS Area residents were invited to a film screening of “Keep the Lights On” and a panel discussion at the Memphis Rox climbing gym with community members, local advocates and policy experts. The event, which ran from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 20, coincided with Global Climbing Day, and professional rock climbers Nina Williams, Manoah Ainuu (who recently summited Everest), Olympic Silver Medalist Nathaniel Coleman, and Fred Campbell hosted and participated in community and climbing-oriented events prior to the film screening and conversation. 

    The film follows Memphis Rox staff member and leader Jarmond Johnson, recounting his experiences with intermittent energy access growing up in South Memphis, his growth into a gang activist and mentorship role at Rox, and, ultimately, working with professional rock climber and environmental activist Alex Honnold (best known for the academy award-winning film, Free Solo) to bring solar energy to the gym. Following the screening, Jarmond and a panel of experts discussed takeaways from the film, and how equitable access to solar energy could help all Memphians keep their lights on. 

    — Southern Alliance for Clean Energy

    Read 478 times  

  • SACE sees many silver linings in Senate climate bill; House passage expected
    Amy Rawe
    Monday, 08 August 2022

    UN Climate ChangeA rainbow pierces gray skies during the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow. United Nations

    Climate activists stress positives of Senate climate bill despite its shortcomings 

    Amy Rawe is communications director for Knoxville-based Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.

    KNOXVILLE — The U.S. Senate passed the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), an estimated $430 billion bill, of which approximately $370 billion will be allocated to investments in clean energy and to address climate change.

    It’s the single largest climate investment in U.S. history, and if it passes the House, will put the country on a path to be able to achieve roughly 40 percent emissions reduction from 2005 levels by 2030, reestablishing our influence in meeting the Paris Agreement goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. 

    Read 602 times More...

  • U.S. Supreme Court’s recent clean-air ruling renews spotlight on fossil-energy producers like TVA
    Anita Wadhwani
    Tuesday, 12 July 2022

    TVA 4 Cumberland FP

    Supreme Court air-pollution ruling calls into stark context all that must be done

    This story was originally published by Tennessee Lookout.

    KNOXVILLE — The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling limiting the power of the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate carbon emissions that cause climate change has renewed the spotlight on the Tennessee Valley Authority, the nation’s largest public utility and Tennessee’s primary source of electricity.

    The case involved EPA efforts to implement a key provision of the Clean Air Act in a challenge brought by 15 Republican-led states. That provision, which never went into effect, would have required existing power plants to shift from dirty sources of energy — such as coal — to cleaner sources, including solar and wind, as part of an urgent effort to reduce global warming.

    Read 694 times More...

  • ORNL researcher models fire’s growing footprint in a changing climate
    Thomas Fraser
    Thursday, 07 July 2022

    COVER 1208 GatlinburgsInferno3Wild turkeys forage in charred hardwood forest soon after the 2016 Gatlinburg fires, which moved from the Smokies to developed areas in Sevier County. An ORNL model predicts wildfire threats will increase in the Southern Appalachians because of climate change. Thomas Fraser/Hellbender Press via Knoxville Mercury

    ORNL report: Local wildfire danger will likely loom larger because of climate change

    OAK RIDGE — This cruel summer, the Southern Appalachian region is already baking in above-normal temperatures and basking in poor air quality. 

    Air temperatures in Knoxville flirted with 100 degrees on July 6, which were well above average and prompted the National Weather Service to issue a heat advisory for much of the metropolitan area.

    It’s hard to definitively link a heat wave to global warming, but one oft-cited consequence of climate change is the growing intensity of wildfires, even in the traditionally moisture-rich Appalachians. The range of climate change effects is difficult to pin down, but one constant in the study of climate change is an expected increase in overall temperatures, which can power wildfires via both fuel increases and volatility.

    Read 953 times More...

  • SACE released its annual utility decarbonization tracking report, and it’s not pretty
    Heather Pohnan and Maggie Shober
    Wednesday, 22 June 2022

    methane leaksBloomberg reports that methane leaks from the natural gas sector may be far worse than estimated by the EPA. While replacing coal-fired power plants with natural gas ones reduces air pollution it may not help at all with climate change because methane is 30 times more effective as a greenhouse gas than CO2.  Image source: Kayrros SAS

    Report: Many utilities are not reducing carbon emissions despite public assurances to the contrary

    KNOXVILLE — Global greenhouse gas emissions must peak by 2025 and experience rapid and deep reductions to avoid a potentially catastrophic future, according to a new analysis by air-quality and climate advocates. Emissions must reach net zero by the early 2050s to limit warming to 1.5 degrees (C) in order to avoid the worst impacts of the climate crisis.

    Many utilities and municipalities have acknowledged this dynamic, but the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy s fourth annual “Tracking Decarbonization in the Southeast" report highlights that current utility resource plans are not in line with this overarching target. Obstacles to getting utilities on track that are discussed in our report include: increasing reliance on fossil gas, underutilizing energy efficiency, and placing limitations on popular technologies such as rooftop solar. There’s still a lot of work to do before any Southeast utility is on track to decarbonize.

    Read 652 times More...

Water

  • Updated: Smokies crews recover drowned Knoxville kayaker
    Thomas Fraser
    Saturday, 17 December 2022

    TOWNSEND — Smokies recovery teams on Monday found the body of Carl Keaney, 61, of Knoxville, in the Little River.

    Keaney was last seen kayaking the Sinks during high flow when he vanished under water, prompting calls to Great Smoky Mountains National Park rangers who, along with other local crews, proceeded to search for his body for three days.

    Here’s the previous Hellbender Press report:

    Teams are searching for a missing kayaker in what Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials are now calling a “recovery operation” after a 61-year-old man disappeared underwater while boating above the Sinks on Little River. High water levels from recent heavy rains are making search and recovery difficult.

    “Around 3:40 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 16 Great Smoky Mountains National Park dispatch received a call that a 61-year-old man had disappeared underwater while kayaking above The Sinks and did not resurface,” according to a news release from the park. 

    “Park rangers, along with emergency personnel from Townsend Fire Department and Blount Special Operations Response Team are on scene searching for the kayaker. High water level from recent rain is complicating recovery efforts. Little River Road from Metcalf Bottoms to the Townsend Wye is closed to accommodate emergency traffic.”

    No more information is immediately available. This story will be updated.

    Read 189 times  

  • Bo Baxter takes helm of the crucial nonprofit Conservation Fisheries
    Thomas Fraser
    Thursday, 27 October 2022

    313389018 6003984879614115 2260947738162227737 nBo Baxter (right) and JR Shute examine one of many tanks hosting native fish species at Conservation Fisheries in this photo taken last year. Thomas Fraser/Hellbender Press

    JR Shute and Pat Rakes declare semi-retirement, hand over operations to Hellbender Press board member

    KNOXVILLE — A career biologist with deep experience in Southern Appalachian aquatic systems is the new captain of Conservation Fisheries.

    The highly productive and robust nonprofit aims to secure, augment, preserve and protect the aquatic environs of the Southeast, namely through the reintroduction of native fish to areas they once inhabited 

    Bo Baxter spent 25 years as a conservation biologist at the Tennessee Valley Authority. He became an active board member at Conservation Fisheries, Inc. (CFI) upon his retirement from TVA. He soaked up knowledge of its operations and was named executive director as of Oct. 20. His path comes full circle, as he was one of the first paid staff members at Conservation Fisheries, some three decades ago.

    Baxter is a member of the Hellbender Press editorial board.

    Read 986 times More...

  • Praying for rain as the Mississippi breaks
    Anita Wadhwani
    Monday, 24 October 2022

    MississippiLow-water challenges on the Mississippi River are evident at Memphis.  Dulce Torres Guzman/Tennessee Lookout

    Despite the pump from Appalachian rainforests, the drought-stricken Mississippi River is the lowest it has ever been

    This story was originally published by the Tennessee Lookout.

    MEMPHIS John Dodson’s corn, cotton and soybean fields are fewer than 10 miles from the Mississippi River, the key transportation artery for West Tennessee grain farmers. But they might as well be a thousand miles.

    Historically low water levels on the river are coming at the worst possible time for him. It’s peak harvest season, but he can’t get his crop to market. 

    West Tennessee farmers have long relied on proximity to the Mississippi, delivering their crops directly from the field to the river. The ease of access has meant many farmers lack large grain storage silos that farmers in the Midwest and elsewhere rely on.  

    While drought strangles transportation on the Mississippi, many of these farmers are now being forced to leave crops in the field and pray for rain to fall anywhere and everywhere else but above their harvest-ready crops.

    Read 452 times More...

  • Hellbent Profile: If you pollute the Tennessee River, Chris Irwin is coming for you
    Thomas Fraser
    Saturday, 22 October 2022

    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.”

    Read 454 times More...

  • 5 big threats to the world’s rivers
    Tara Lohan
    Friday, 14 October 2022

    fresh water Conservation FisheriesA biologist with Conservation Fisheries surveys a stretch of Little River near Walland, Tennessee to determine fish viability and identify rare species for transplantation. Thomas Fraser/Hellbender Press

    Human activities have imperiled our waterways — along with a third of freshwater fish and other aquatic species

    This story was originally published by The Revelator.

    If we needed more motivation to save our ailing rivers, it could come with the findings of a recent study that determined the biodiversity crisis is most acute in freshwater ecosystems, which thread the Southern landscape like crucial veins and arteries.

    Rivers, lakes and inland wetlands cover 1 percent of the Earth but provide homes for 10 percent of all its species, including one-third of all vertebrates. And many of those species are imperiled — some 27 percent of the nearly 30,000 freshwater species so far assessed by the IUCN Red List. This includes nearly one-third of all freshwater fish.

    How did things get so bad? For some species it’s a single action — like building a dam. But for most, it’s a confluence of factors — an accumulation of harm — that builds for years or decades.

    Read 533 times More...

Voices

  • Silent Spring Revolution: The Dawn of the Climate Change Movement
    Douglas Brinkley
    Sunday, 13 November 2022
    2-minute video from CBS Sunday Morning
    Read 419 times  

  • Advance Knox envisions three trajectories for development in Knox County, wants your opinion by Oct. 31
    Wolf Naegeli
    Friday, 21 October 2022

    Advance Knox Choices WeekAdvance Knox proposes three growth scenarios for the future of the unincorporated areas of Knox County.

    If you missed the community meetings and the Zoom event during Advance Knox’s “Choices Week,” you can still take the survey online!

    If you are unfamiliar with the Advance Knox project, you may find it helpful to watch the first 19 minutes of the Choices Week webinar recording before taking the survey.

    Advance Knox is a process to prepare a land use and transportation plan for Knox County that is informed by research and community input,” according to its website.

    In March 2022, Advance Knox offered a first round of public input opportunities during its “Ideas Week.”  As reported in Hellbender Press, community meetings were held all over the county. Participation opportunities at special group presentations, a Zoom webinar, and individual commenting on the website were similar to those of Choices Week.

    Read 578 times More...

  • APIEL, the 13th Appalachian Public Interest and Environmental Law conference is set for Saturday, October 1
    Wolf Naegeli
    Thursday, 29 September 2022

    ELOlogoELO is a student-run organization at the University of Tennessee College of Law. It 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.

    Networking environmental leaders across Appalachia and the State of Tennessee

    Knoxville — APIEL is a relative newcomer to the small circle of inclusive U.S. public interest environmental law conferences. Because it is organized by law school student volunteers, APIEL is affordable to attend for students as well as citizens from all walks of life.

    APIEL is much loved and considered essential by regional nonprofit leaders and activists. It is also highly acclaimed by seasoned environmental lawyers. With just 12 conferences under its belt, APIEL has risen to rank among leading peer conferences with a much longer track record, such as the  Public Interest Environmental Law Conference (PIELC) at the University of Oregon School of Law (39 events), the Red Clay Conference at the University of Georgia School of Law (34) and the Public Interest Environmental Conference (PIEC) at the University of Florida’s Levin College of Law (28).

    Read 450 times More...

  • Updated with image — From Knoxville paper boy to owner of the NYT: Panel and plaque to highlight local roots of Adolph Ochs
    Thomas Fraser
    Tuesday, 27 September 2022

    Adolph Ochs plaque

    KNOXVILLE — Adolph Ochs’s path to running The New York Times started in downtown Knoxville, and local organizations and educators will recognize the historical significance with a panel discussion and dedication of a historic plaque.

    The East Tennessee chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists (ETSPJ); University of Tennessee School of Journalism and Electronic Media (UTJEM); Knoxville History Project; and Front Page Foundation (FPF) have teamed up for two events that are free and open to the public. 

    Read 434 times More...

  • Public comment: Environmental group leaders say TVA makes input difficult
    Dulce Torres Guzman
    Tuesday, 06 September 2022

    Handout from TVA Listening Session Aug. 30 2022Scott Banbury with the Tennessee Chapter of the Sierra Club said a handout provided at TVA’s Aug. 30 listening session stated recordings of the meeting were not allowed; a TVA spokesperson said recordings are, in fact, allowed. Flyer provided by Scott Banbury

    Is TVA trying to gag its critics?

    This story was originally published by Tennessee Lookout.

    KNOXVILLE — While the Tennessee Valley Authority, a utility company that provides power to millions in Tennessee and other states, allows for public input into decisions, the process isn’t simple or transparent, say some regular attendees.

    Take, for instance, a recent public listening session: representatives of the Tennessee Chapter of the Sierra Club say they were told they could not record the session despite a spokesman for TVA saying the opposite.

    According to TVA spokesperson Scott Brooks, attendees are always allowed to record public meetings, provided they don’t cause a disturbance, but minutes before the session, members of the Tennessee chapter of the Sierra Club were prohibited from doing so.

    Read 540 times More...

Creature Features

  • Back to the bog: Zoo Knoxville rears and releases rare bog turtles to stop slide toward extinction
    Ben Pounds
    Thursday, 10 November 2022

    Bog TturtleThis baby bog turtle may be the face of a new generation of bog turtles raised by Zoo Knoxville for a return to the wild.  Zoo Knoxville

    Bog turtles raised for resurrection at Zoo Knoxville’s ARC

    KNOXVILLE — Zoo visitors might overlook the collection of critters behind a small, unremarkable window. But amid the showier gila monster, reticulated python, king cobra and Cuban crocodiles, there’s a regional species on the brink of extinction that’s worth a closer look.

    Behind the glass, tiny juvenile bog turtles poke their heads out from underneath sphagnum moss at Zoo Knoxville’s Clayton Family Amphibian Reptile Conservatory (ARC).They are mostly brown, with splashes of gold on their heads. When they mature, they will move to the Bern Tryon Turtle Propagation Bog just outside. Eventually, the zoo will release the heartiest of the bunch. This process, called head-starting, involves raising the turtles from eggs and feeding them well in captivity so they’ll be bigger and have a better chance to survive after returning to the wild.

    Read 501 times More...

  • To save butterflies, plant a billboard on an island for life
    Ben Pounds
    Monday, 03 October 2022

    IMG 3985Kat Johnson meets a butterfly during a recent event at the University of Tennessee Arboretum in Oak Ridge. Ben Pounds/Hellbender Press

    UT Arboretum event reminds us to love and care for the butterflies among us

    OAK RIDGE — With an orange flutter, a cluster of painted lady butterflies took to the sky.

    It was a timed release, coming toward the end of the seventh annual University of Tennessee Arboretum’s Butterfly Festival last month. 

    Earlier, other live painted lady butterflies were available to watch in mesh tents. Visitors got a chance to touch Madagascar hissing cockroaches and look at preserved insect collections with butterflies and other creatures from around the world. Children ran around the event with butterfly face paint, butterfly masks and butterfly wings. But the event was also a chance to buy butterfly-friendly plants and learn about butterflies and their relationships with other species. 

    Read 575 times More...

  • Foreign freshwater jellyfish have been swimming among us since the 1930s
    Stephen Lyn Bales
    Monday, 12 September 2022

    Bales Freshwater jellyfish

    Freshwater jellyfish: Here one year, gone the next.

    KNOXVILLE — Paddling along the still water of Mead’s Quarry Lake you notice the air bubbles created by your oars. They are all around your canoe near the surface.

    It’s a hot early September afternoon and the nearly transparent bubbles seem to take on a life of their own. You slow to watch and yes, they undulate, rising and falling in the pristine water of the abandoned marble quarry.

    Air bubbles do not undulate!

    Taking a clear plastic cup, you lean over the gunwale and scoop up one of the penny-sized bubbles to get a closer look.

    Tentacles? Air bubbles do not have tentacles. What you are looking at is a freshwater jellyfish and the heat of late summer is its mating season. It’s a blossom of jellyfish as hundreds gather together near the water’s surface. They are commonly known as peach blossom jellyfish

    Read 696 times More...

  • Citizen scientists are taking stock in Smokies, and the inventory keeps increasing
    Thomas Fraser
    Wednesday, 07 September 2022

    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.

    Read 545 times More...

  • Smokies researchers make a formal acquaintance with a familiar salamander
    Thomas Fraser
    Tuesday, 30 August 2022

    black bellied salamanderJonathan Cox

    Great news from the Smokies via Instagram!

    The “salamander capital of the world” just gained a new member! Meet our 31st species: the Cherokee black-bellied salamander, or Desmognathus gvnigeusgwotli. Its species name means “black belly” in the Cherokee language. Scientists used genetics to find out that it is different from the other black-bellied salamander in the park.

    Read 470 times More...

Feedbag

Your diet of environment and science news

  • The crucial Amazon rainforest is nearing a point of no return

    NYT: Decades of extraction have left the South American rainforest at a “tipping point.”

    The Amazon has long served as a vast carbon sink, even as vegetation pumped oxygen into the atmosphere to the point it was called the “lungs of the Earth.”

    But vast deforestation, despite calls to save the Amazon that originated decades ago, portends profound changes in the ecology of the huge, increasingly fragmented forest that lies mainly within Brazil.

    “Just in the past half-century, 17 percent of the Amazon — an area larger than Texas — has been converted to croplands or cattle pasture. Less forest means less recycled rain, less vapor to cool the air, less of a canopy to shield against sunlight,” according to a report from Alex Cuadros.

    “In one study, a team led by the researcher Paulo Brando intentionally set a series of fires in swaths of forest abutted by an inactive soy plantation. After a second burn, coincidentally during a drought year, one plot lost nearly a third of its canopy cover, and African grasses — imported species commonly used in cattle pasture — moved in.”


  • Updated: Smokies crews recover drowned Knoxville kayaker

    TOWNSEND — Smokies recovery teams on Monday found the body of Carl Keaney, 61, of Knoxville, in the Little River.

    Keaney was last seen kayaking the Sinks during high flow when he vanished under water, prompting calls to Great Smoky Mountains National Park rangers who, along with other local crews, proceeded to search for his body for three days.

    Here’s the previous Hellbender Press report:

    Teams are searching for a missing kayaker in what Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials are now calling a “recovery operation” after a 61-year-old man disappeared underwater while boating above the Sinks on Little River. High water levels from recent heavy rains are making search and recovery difficult.

    “Around 3:40 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 16 Great Smoky Mountains National Park dispatch received a call that a 61-year-old man had disappeared underwater while kayaking above The Sinks and did not resurface,” according to a news release from the park. 

    “Park rangers, along with emergency personnel from Townsend Fire Department and Blount Special Operations Response Team are on scene searching for the kayaker. High water level from recent rain is complicating recovery efforts. Little River Road from Metcalf Bottoms to the Townsend Wye is closed to accommodate emergency traffic.”

    No more information is immediately available. This story will be updated.


  • Park releases Smokies air-tour plan

    Commercial air tour routes over Great Smoky Mountains National ParkCommercial air tour routes over Great Smoky Mountains National Park

    GATLINBURG — Great Smoky Mountains National Park and other federal officials completed a management plan to formally regulate aircraft tours over the park.

    Don’t expect much to change in the skies over the park: The plan allows 946 air tours a year by select helicopter operators, unchanged from the average number of annual flights recorded from 2017 to 2019. Flights may only operate from two hours after daybreak to two hours before sundown.

    “The plan establishes measures to protect park resources including natural and cultural resources, preservation of wilderness character, and visitor experience,” according to Smokies officials. Flights will be restricted to six routes over the park, and must maintain an elevation above 2,700 feet of the highest terrain. Cades Cove is off limits, as are several historical sites, including the Walker Sisters Cabin.

    Air tours, often to the dismay of many hikers and others, have occurred over the park for most of its history, but no formal flight guidelines were in place.

    “We appreciate the tireless work that went into the development of the Smokies air tour management plan,” said Superintendent Cassius Cash. “The plan incorporates several improvements that allow continued air tour activity, while at the same time better protectingthe wilderness character of the backcountry, wildlife populations, natural soundscapes, and the visitor experience in historic areas like Cades Cove.”

    Eastern Band of Cherokee Indian members provided notable input into the development of the plan, which will go into effect in 90 days from Dec.3.

    Hellbender Press previously reported on development of the Smokies aircraft management plan.


  • Real or fake Christmas trees? Like most things in life, the answer is a function of time.

    Nature Conservancy: Keep it real

    Nothing beats the fresh aroma of a live Christmas tree, if you are into that kind of thing, but both real and fake trees carry their own load of sustainability pros and cons.

    Live trees offer holiday beauty and scent and are a traditional addition to households. But they are harvested from a vast monoculture and require multiple levels of carbon-burning transport.

    Artificial trees offer convenience, and can be reused for a decade. But they are largely made of plastic, manufactured in places with unsavory human rights records, and require global transit.

    This article breaks it down pretty well. Maybe it’s just best to not have a Christmas tree?


  • Beavers mitigate forest fires

    beaver gc2f524423 1280European Beaver  Image by Ralf Schick from Pixabay

    NPR: California enlists beavers in battle against climate change

    Forest areas with beaver dams are less prone to severe fire damage because of more consistent soil moisture and less extreme air aridity and temperature conditions. Read about it or listen to Randy Simon’s 2-minute beaver podcast on National Public Radio’s Earth Wise web page.


  • 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™


  • Austria to sue the European Union if it labels nuclear and gas power plants as “green infrastructure”

    VIENNA — Leonore Gewessler, Austria’s energy and climate minister announced that she would take the case to the European Court of Justice if the union’s executive proceeds with plans to include nuclear and natural gas in the EU taxonomy of sustainable finance.

    About gas, Gewessler said that it releases unconscionable amounts of greenhouse gases. “Just because something is less bad than coal doesn’t make it good or sustainable.”

    Regarding nuclear energy she said it has unpredictably high risks, referring to Chernobyl and Fukushima. She also mentioned as great concerns, the safe disposal of spent nuclear fuel and lack of a global solution for its final storage.


  • Smokies researchers make a formal acquaintance with a familiar salamander

    black bellied salamanderJonathan Cox

    Great news from the Smokies via Instagram!

    The “salamander capital of the world” just gained a new member! Meet our 31st species: the Cherokee black-bellied salamander, or Desmognathus gvnigeusgwotli. Its species name means “black belly” in the Cherokee language. Scientists used genetics to find out that it is different from the other black-bellied salamander in the park.


  • Climbers can clean their crags during Obed event

    adopt a crag photoVolunteers are needed to improve and maintain climbing and approach areas at the Obed.  National Park Service

    WARTBURG The Obed Wild and Scenic River will host the park’s annual Adopt-a-Crag event on Saturday, Sept. 11 in cooperation with the East Tennessee Climbers Coalition.

    Volunteers are needed to help with a variety of projects, including general trail maintenance and litter pickup. Participants should meet at the Lilly Pad Hopyard Brewery at 9 a.m. to register and receive a project assignment. Carpooling is suggested, and volunteers should bring their own lunch, water, hand tools and gloves.

    When the work is done, volunteers are invited to spend the day climbing, kayaking or hiking. The ETCC plans a volunteer appreciation dinner that evening at the Lilly Pad.

    For more information, contact the Obed Wild and Scenic River at (423) 346-6294.


  • Falling trees accountable for very few deaths in Smokies, but they do happen

    CITIZEN TIMES: Child killed by falling tree was a very rare twist of horrible fate

    Karen Chavez of the Asheville Citizen Times wrote a great article on tree-related deaths in Great Smoky Mountains National Park and beyond following the death last week of a Georgia child killed by a falling tree as she was occupying a tent in Elkmont Campground.

    She reports the death of the child was only the 11th tree-linked death in the national park’s history.


  • Falling tree kills child in Great Smokies

    ELKMONT — A 9-year-old girl died early Wednesday after a tree fell on a tent she was occupying in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

    The unidentified child was among a group of people camping in Elkmont Campground when the red maple, 2 feet in diameter, fell shortly after midnight and crushed the girl in her tent, according to the National Park Service.


  • Congo retreats from climate commitments to fuel its fossil energy sector
    NYT: Why should we care when you built your world with fossil fuels?

    The government of Congo is recruiting fossil-fuel extractors to suck oil from beneath tropical forest and bog ecosystems that rival the Amazon in their role as carbon sinks.

    Opponents say it’s another step in knocking over the dominoes of climate renewal as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continues to roil energy markets and threaten international commitments to addressing climate change.


  • HuffPost: More than 50 House Republicans want to repeal a century-old excise tax that bankrolls wildlife conservation

    In the latest “gun rights” lash-out from the GOP, legislation has been filed to abolish firearms taxes levied on gunmakers that fund wildlife conservation.

    The Republican legislation is framed as a way to defend gun purchasers from odious taxation under the 2nd Amendment umbrella, but leading hunting and fishing interests said the proposal is misguided and misses the target by a wide mark. 

    The levy as currently written applies to gunmakers, not individual firearms purchasers. 


  • Rare bipartisan legal effort under way for widespread wildlife protections
    NYT: Recovering America’s Wildlife Act a big bipartisan push to preserve animal species

    New York Times columnist Margaret Renkl noted recently that a precious opportunity has presented itself to strengthen wildlife-protection laws and add to environmental protections across the nation.

    The Nashville-based journalist said the act, known as RAWA, “is poised to become the single most effective tool in combating biodiversity loss since the Endangered Species Act.” The resolution is carried in the House by Michigan Democrat Rep. Debbie Dingell.

    “This bill provides funding for (1) the conservation or restoration of wildlife and plant species of greatest conservation need; (2) the wildlife conservation strategies of states, territories, or the District of Columbia; and (3) wildlife conservation education and recreation projects,” according to the U.S. Congress.


  • UTK has quite the collection of earthly remains

    Editorial cartoon depicting Charles Darwin as an ape 1871

    WBIR: UT got good bones

    KNOXVILLE — The University of Tennessee boasts an incredible collection of animal skeletons — from hummingbirds to bison, according to a story from WBIR. It’s among the largest such assemblages in the country. (There are also skeletons at the Body Farm, but that’s a different story).

    The skeletons are part of the UT Anthropology Department’s Vertebrate Osteology Collection.

    “We have over 12,000 vertebrate specimens in our collections. So that’s 12,000 skeletons of individual animals,” Dr. Anneke Janzen, an assistant professor in UT’s Anthropology Department, told WBIR.


  • Initial Advance Knox growth studies available for review

    Advance Knox State of the Cunty

    KNOXVILLE — The Advance Knox State of the County Report outlining the conditions and trends that are currently impacting the lives, work, and travel of Knox County residents has been completed and is available on the project website.

    The report provides a detailed overview of the county’s geography, demographics, economic well being, and infrastructure. The result is a thorough summary of population, land utilization, development potential, economic growth, employment, housing, and infrastructure data.

    “This report is a baseline, a starting point, the first step in creating a new comprehensive land use and transportation plan for Knox County,” said Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs. “It shows us where we are and will help us determine the most responsible ways to manage future development and infrastructure.”


Action Alerts

  • Tell Congress: Support health care for miners with black lung
     

    Ask your representatives to support the Black Lung Benefits Improvement Act!

    Coal miners in Appalachia are getting black lung disease at record rates, even as the amount of coal being mined is declining. It’s past time to make sure they get the care they need.

    Because they can no longer work, coal miners who get the disease are promised certain benefits, like health care and a living stipend. But current laws and processes make it incredibly challenging for miners and their families to access those benefits. And the current benefit levels are not even sufficient to support the miners who are out of work because of their illness. 

    Pennsylvania Congressman Matt Cartwright and Senator Bob Casey have introduced a bill to make it easier for miners with black lung to access vital healthcare and financial support. Importantly, the bill would also tie benefit levels to inflation. With inflation rising, benefit levels are increasingly inadequate, and this change is needed urgently.

    Ask your representatives to support the Black Lung Benefits Improvement Act!


Events

  • Migrating sandhill cranes descend on Southeast

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

    Beyond festivals, sandhill cranes pass through Southeast in increasing numbers

    BIRCHWOOD — Every year in mid-January, a few thousand people gather here for The Sandhill Crane Festival because the cranes have returned. The community center at Birchwood is filled with vendors selling wildlife art or promoting conservation. The nearby Cherokee Removal Memorial at Blythe Ferry offers a chance to celebrate Cherokee culture and learn the story of indigenous people who were taken from their homes and sent on a long journey to Oklahoma.

    Meanwhile, there are opportunities to see and appreciate these amazing birds through February in East Tennessee and beyond.

    At least 20,000 cranes gather or pass through Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge, having come from their nesting grounds in southern Canada and the upper Midwest to winter here in the American South. Many spend the winter there, but some will continue southward to Okefenokee Swamp in Georgia and the Gulf Coast.


  • Hunters are invited to go whole hog on the Tennessee side of Big South Fork

    Big South Fork wild hogsWild hogs are seen rooting in a sensitive area. Hog season opens later this month in Big South Fork.  National Park Service

    ONEIDA — Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area this week announced regulations for those wanting to kill invasive wild hogs during the 2022 fall and winter seasons.

    Most hog populations within the protected areas of BSF are believed to be present on the Tennessee side of the park, which spans the Kentucky border. Feral hogs have been present in East Tennessee for generations. They destroy local flora and fauna mainly by rooting in low-lying mountain and valley areas. They are especially fond of salamanders, many species of which are in grave decline. In Great Smoky Mountains National Park, hunters are regularly deployed to cull hogs throughout the park.

    “The wild hog is an invasive exotic species that has a significant negative impact to native species and do a great deal of damage to farmlands and residential areas. The damage they cause threatens park resources including federally listed plants,” according to a release from the park service. 


  • CTV Community Engagement Calendar
    Community Television of Knoxville (CTV)

    CTV’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.


ES Initiatives

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

    Nearly one in nine people suffer from hunger worldwide.

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

    Climate change increases crop losses.

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

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

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

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

    Food waste stresses our environment, humanity and the economy.

    — EarthSolidarity™


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

    1 smokies most wanted infographic credit Emma Oxford GSMA

    This story was provided by Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

    Next demonstration on Thursday, Oct. 20

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

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

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


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

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

    Please don’t feed or get attacked by the animals

    This story was originally published by The Conversation.

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

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


  • Knoxville is a great city to recycle

    recycling postcardCity of Knoxville

    Recycling rates are at a high, but challenges remain 

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

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

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

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


  • Please don’t poison the humble carpenter bees

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

    Please don’t wage chemical warfare on these busy bees

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

    Erich Henry and Julia Konkel anchor East Tennessee soil

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

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

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


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

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

    Learn how to reduce food waste Saturday at Crafty Bastard Brewery 

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

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

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

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


  • Knoxville to citizens: ’Post up!

    City announces plan to encourage composting by residents and businesses

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

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

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


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

    santa cruz time lapse 0 

    We are cutting through forests we need more than ever

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

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

    Nearly all of it is in the tropics

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

    83644084 179844060054345 4751008813274890240 n 705x550Courtesy of Help Asheville Bears 

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

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

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

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


  • Knoxville sustainability center posts positive organic growth

    KnoxNews: Sustainable Future Center in Vestal is growing and growing

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

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


  • Michaela Barnett wants to help break your consumer chains

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


  • Keep your butts out of the Tennessee River

    Cigarette butt recycling bin 4

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

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

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

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


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

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

    European spidey senses should give us pause across the pond.

    This story was originally published by The Revelator.

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

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

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


  • Wildlife rehabbers return birds to the sky in Chattanooga

    0615181554 1

    Restoring wings to rise above the Earth again

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

    The Knoxville Native Plant Rescue Squad, of course. 

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

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


  • Saving America’s “Amazon” in Alabama
    Book cover Saving Americas Amazon in Alabama

     

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

    This story was originally published by The Revelator.

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

     

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

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

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

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


ORNL tips to run your
car more efficiently

About

  • Hellbender Press

    The Environmental Journal of Southern Appalachia

    (ONLINE version 0.9)
    Copyright © 2020-2022 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, 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: