The Environmental Journal of Southern Appalachia

News

  • Lost and found: The long-awaited return of the robust redhorse
    Ethan Hatchett
    Sunday, 26 June 2022

     

    Georgia's Ocmulgee River is a case study in the decline of Southern river fisheries, and their revival

    Ethan Hatchett is a writer for the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.

    MACON The Ocmulgee River has changed. The cloudy water once ran clear. The sandy bottom was once rocky. Fish swam upriver to breed from places as distant as the Altamaha River, which the Ocmulgee and Oconee rivers join to form near Lumber City and the Atlantic Ocean.

    European settlement changed the river. Centuries of agriculture and development stripped away much of the land’s vegetation that filtered the flow, causing the Ocmulgee to fill with sediment. The soil particles gradually moved through the waterway, covering gravel that fish spawned in, smothering fishes’ eggs, mucking up the water and even building up on the banks, saturating the ground with sediment.

    It is impossible to know how many freshwater fish the Ocmulgee lost since the first Europeans arrived. Many species disappeared without being discovered. Yet on a clear afternoon in May, DNR aquatics biologist Paula Marcinek led a team on the upper Ocmulgee in search of robust redhorse, a “lost” fish found in 1991.

    Read DNR’s blog post about efforts to restore the robust redhorse, plus news of a new grant that will expand the work and rare video of these fish spawning.

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  • 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.

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  • The South’s hidden climate threat
    Dan Chapman
    Tuesday, 21 June 2022

    Spreading avens in bloom 9406109069Spreading avens are seen in bloom in the Appalachians. The endangered long-stemmed perennials survive in higher mountain elevations but their lack of space to move higher in elevation in times of climate change and warming further threaten the plant.  USFWS

    It’s not just the coastlines that are recording climate change. Even the mountains of North Carolina are feeling the heat — including some endangered plants

    “Atlanta reporter Dan Chapman retraced John Muir’s 1867 trek through the South, including the naturalist’s troubling legacy, to reveal environmental damage and loss that’s been largely overlooked.” This is an excerpt published by The Revelator from his book, A Road Running Southward: Following John Muir’s Journey Through an Endangered Land.

    BOONE It’s a wonder anything survives the ice, snow, and winds that pummel the ridge, let alone the delicate-seeming yellow flowers known as spreading avens.

    The lovely, long-stemmed perennials are exceedingly rare, officially listed as endangered, and found only in the intemperate highlands of North Carolina and Tennessee. They sprout from shallow acidic soils underlying craggy rock faces and grassy heath balds. At times blasted with full sun, but mostly shrouded in mist, the avens are survivors, Ice Age throwbacks that refuse to die. Geum radiatum is only known to exist in fourteen places, including hard-to-find alpine redoubts reached via deer trail or brambly bushwhacking.

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  • New SACE report documents shortfalls and headwinds against utility decarbonization
    Amy Rawe
    Monday, 20 June 2022

    Southern Alliance for Clean Energy's fourth annual “Tracking Decarbonization in the Southeast: Generation and Carbon Emissions” report will be released Wednesday, June 22

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

    KNOXVILLE The report examines power-sector generation and emissions throughout the Southeast, which is home to some of the biggest utility systems in the nation, including Duke Energy, Southern Company, NextEra Energy, and the Tennessee Valley Authority.

    Many of these Southeastern utilities have been in the national spotlight for their professed commitment to decarbonization, but there are often inconsistencies between stated goals and resource plans.

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  • Tennessee Aquarium marks a milestone in its effort to bring native brook trout back to mountain streams
    Casey Phillips
    Thursday, 16 June 2022

    Reintroduction Assistant Kaylee Clayton, left, Jim Hill Fellow for Conservation Anthony Hernandez, center, and Reintroduction Biologist Teresa Israel cross a stream during a Southern Appalachian Brook Trout release.Reintroduction Assistant Kaylee Clayton, left, Jim Hill Fellow for Conservation Anthony Hernandez, center, and Reintroduction Biologist Teresa Israel cross a stream during a Southern Appalachian brook trout release. Tennessee Aquarium

    Emblematic brook trout get a second chance at home in Southern Appalachian streams

    Casey Phillips is a writer for the Tennessee Aquarium.

    CHATTANOOGA A team from the Tennessee Aquarium, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency and Trout Unlimited hiked along — and occasionally waded through — a pristine tributary of South Fork Citico Creek in Cherokee National Forest. 

     Navigating an obstacle course of tangled mountain laurel branches and moss-slickened boulders in late May, the team followed the stream as it gently descended through the Appalachian uplands. When a calm pool or shaded rocky overhang presented itself, they paused to dip their nets into five-gallon buckets filled with wriggling juvenile Southern Appalachian brook trout.

    These little fish, raised to about two inches over six months, were the focus of more than six months of work at the Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute and the impetus for the hours-long trek into the East Tennessee woods.

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  • Hot weather doesn’t always equal evidence of climate change, but the puzzle is almost complete
    JJ Stambaugh
    Thursday, 16 June 2022

    heat photoThomas Fraser/Hellbender Press

    TVA sets record power day for June as region swelters and common sense degrades

    This story was originally published by Hard Knox Wire.

    KNOXVILLE City residents this week joined scores of others around the world — from the Southwest United States to the Indian subcontinent — sweltering through late spring with eyes toward a summer that portends to be very hot.

    Whether directly attributed to climate change or not, the heat waves are causing untold misery in locations across the Northern Hemisphere, straining power grids to the brink and causing a sharp rise in heat-related illnesses. 

    Knoxville Utilities Board asked this week that consumers curtail their electricity use by setting their thermostats a little higher and holding off until night on energy-sucking tasks like doing laundry or running the dishwasher. That request was met in many cases with derision and unsubstantiated claims that charging electric vehicles had overburdened energy infrastructure.

    So exactly how hot is it in East Tennessee and how bad is it going to get?

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  • Doing good deeds for the Tennessee River, and enjoying it, too
    Keenan Thomas
    Monday, 13 June 2022

    Suttree LandingRacers of all stripes assembled Saturday for Cheers to Clean Water boat races on the Tennessee River. Keenan Thomas/Hellbender Press

    Cheers to Clean Water celebrants race, learn and scrub the river at Suttree Landing Park

    KNOXVILLE Beneath the sound of a beckoning banjo, partiers and athletes alike paddled the shores of Suttree Landing Park, picking up trash as they floated down the Tennessee River.

    The fifth Cheers to Clean Water Celebration on Saturday (June 11) featured 4k- and 8k-kayak races, a cleanup in and around the Tennessee River, and a central gathering area punctuated by booths for land- and water-based advocacy organizations.

    “It’s both on water and on land, cleaning up this section of the Tennessee River,” AmeriCorps member Madison Moore said on Saturday from the park. “After the boating is over, they’ll come down here for the celebration, where we have a whole bunch of other vendors that are helping us make this day a possibility.”

    The celebration promotes the importance of maintaining and cleaning major waterways like the Tennessee River.

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  • Smokies rangers kill bear after it hurts Elkmont campers while seeking food
    Thomas Fraser
    Monday, 13 June 2022

    6-minute video about what to do if you see a black bear

    Smokies officials say euthanized bear was overweight and seeking human food

    GATLINBURG Great Smoky Mountains National Park wildlife biologists and park rangers responded to Elkmont Campground on Sunday (June 12) after a peculiarly large black bear injured a toddler and her mother sleeping in a tent.

    Wildlife biologists captured the responsible bear, and it was euthanized Monday, June 13, according to a news release from the park service.

    “The bear weighed approximately 350 pounds, which is not standard for this time of year, suggesting the bear had previous and likely consistent access to non-natural food sources,” said Lisa McInnis, resource management chief.

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  • Report Card for U.S. Department of Energy, Oak Ridge Operations: Failing grades in stakeholder engagement and environmental decision making
    Virginia Dale
    Friday, 10 June 2022
    EMDFlocation

    Editor’s note: As reported in Hellbender Press, the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management (OREM) was reprimanded by the Southern Environmental Law Center for neglecting its duty to follow guidelines and proper procedures mandated by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Of immediate concern was OREM’s pretext and information — or specifically lack of pertinent information — released ahead of the public meeting on May 17, 2022 about its project for a new “Environmental Management Disposal Facility” (EMDF).

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  • Wild animals just aren’t that into you. Give them space or suffer the consequences.
    Jennifer Weeks
    Wednesday, 08 June 2022

    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. 

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  • In throwback to early naturalist techniques, Big Camera! helps us picture plants under the sun
    Ben Pounds
    Monday, 06 June 2022

    big cameraDonna Moore and Anna Lawrence are pictured at a Big Camera! event in May at Ijams Nature Center in South Knoxville. Ben Pounds/Hellbender PressLessons in early and enduring photo techniques are an organic way to spread the arts and cultivate love of nature

    KNOXVILLE Donna Moore and Anna Lawrence showed people how to take photos with the sun.

    The method, demonstrated this spring at Ijams Nature Center, involved putting one or more leaves on photo paper and spraying it with two sprays. One spray contained lemon and water. The other contained water with vinegar.

    Children then placed these leaves on wet photo paper in the sun. The sun’s light gives a permanent impression of the leaf on the paper.

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  • Updated: Power line project threatens regionally popular greenway on the Oak Ridge Reservation
    Wolf Naegeli
    Thursday, 02 June 2022

    OAK RIDGE WBIR channel 10 News 2-minute video highlighting a controversy that has been brewing for a decade.

    Infographics and more details added May 5, 2022

    Tree clearing would radically degrade the visual experience and take away shade crucial to enjoyment of a walk during increasingly hot weather

    On April 4, TRISO-X LLC, a subsidiary incorporated last August by X-Energy LLC, disclosed plans to build a plant at Horizon Center to manufacture a new kind of “unmeltable” tri-structural isotropic nuclear fuel (TRISO) for high-temperature pebble-bed gas reactors. It will use uranium, enriched to less than 20 percent, to fabricate spherical, billiards-ball sized High-Assay Low-Enriched Uranium (HALEU) pebbles.

    Horizon Center,

    situated among sensitive natural areas, was designed as an upscale light-industrial and office park. Despite its fancy landscaping with sculpture gardens, it failed to attract the many buyers that had been anticipated when it was created a quarter century ago. A principal argument for its establishment was that Oak Ridge needed to attract more private enterprise to reduce dependency on Federal jobs.

    Terragenics’ $38 million plant, which was built to manufacture implantable radioactive pellets to treat prostate cancer never went into full production and was abandoned in 2005. 2015, with Governor Haslam in attendance, Canadian CVMR promised 620 jobs, using the plant for it’s first U.S. production site and to move its headquarters to it from Toronto, too.

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Water

  • Race your ride and scoop some gnarl this weekend on the Tennessee River
    Thomas Fraser
    Tuesday, 07 June 2022

    KNOXVILLE Knox County and the Water Quality Forum will host the ​fifth-annual Cheers to Clean Water Celebration and Clean-Up on Saturday (June 11) at Suttree Landing Park across the river from downtown.

    The event, which includes a water race for kayaks and paddle boarders, kicks off at 11:30 a.m. and registration is open until 10:30 a.m. the day of the event. ​Following the race there will be a celebration that includes local vendors and booths, kids’ activities, kayaks for rental, blue grass music, food trucks, rain barrels, and prizes. The celebration and cleanup are free and open to the public. The race costs $15. Local breweries ​have donated beer for purchase.

    “This event is a fun way to promote the importance of keeping our rivers and streams clean,” said Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs.

    For a full list of prices and to register for the event click here.

    The Water Quality Forum is a coalition of diverse partners including local governments, non-profits, utility companies and businesses that work together to keep East Tennessee waters clean. The Knox County stormwater office is working with the forum to host the event.

    -Knox County government

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  • Maybe we should call it Ocean Day
    Wolf Naegeli
    Friday, 22 April 2022

    Best Earth Day feature: We still know so little about so much that is vital to life on our planet

    CBS News  Stunning midwater creatures of the deep sea

    You have to endure a half-minute commercial to see this 6-minute report on the fascinating footage captured by a high-tech marine science project of the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

    Make sure to turn on full-screen viewing, if you can. Have you ever seen a bloody belly comb jelly?

    We think you’ll agree it’s the most worthwile video you watched today.

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Earth

  • Smokies to reopen Parson Branch Road after massive clearance of trees killed by exotic insect
    Thomas Fraser
    Wednesday, 25 May 2022

    CADES COVE Great Smoky Mountains National Park on Thursday plans to officially reopen Parson Branch Road, first cut through the ridges around Cades Cove 180 years ago.

    The narrow, 8-mile one-way mountain road out of Cades Cove to U.S. 129 has been closed since 2016 following washouts that were compounded by a steady diet of collapsing diseased and dead hemlocks. A ceremony is set for Thursday morning at the beginning of the road in Caves Cove.

    The road was closed because of the tree hazards and damage to the road surface. The hemlocks succumbed to the hemlock woolly adelgid, an exotic insect that has wreaked havoc on hemlock stands and their accompanying ecosystems.

    The road passes several trailheads, and is used by emergency vehicles as needed. The park initially identified some 1,700 trees that posed a hazard to the adjacent roadway, but that number has naturally declined by about half over the past six years.

    Friends of Great Smoky Mountains National Park provided $100,000 for the hazard-mitigation project. That was matched with $50,000 from the federal government.

    Attendees of Thursday’s event will include former Cades Cove resident Larry Sparks, whose great-great-grandfather, Russell Gregory, was assigned to oversee construction of Parson Branch Road in 1838, according to the park service.

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Creature Features

Air

  • Carson-Newman professor hosts installment of worldwide “Climate Teach-in”
    Thomas Fraser
    Sunday, 27 March 2022

    Brian SohnCarson-Newman University Professor Brian Sohn is hosting a climate-oriented webinar on March 30.  Thomas Fraser/Hellbender Press

    Local installment of worldwide virtual Climate Teach-In is set for 2:30 p.m. March 30

    JEFFERSON CITY Brian Sohn had “the closest thing to a panic attack” when his second daughter was born.

    He had long been alarmed by climate change and its potentially disastrous effects, but her arrival brought home the need to address the environmental challenges of a rapidly changing planet.

    So now the Carson-Newman University education professor is putting some final touches on a virtual climate-related “teach-in” he’ll host from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 30.

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Voices

  • Foundation for Global Sustainability appeals to Knox County Commission to preserve the Dry Hollow heritage area in South Knox County
    FGS
    Sunday, 22 May 2022

    Dear Commissioner {last-name}:

    We implore you to vote against the request to strip the Agricultural zoning from the core area of the historic Twin Springs Farm in Dry Hollow.
    (11-B-21-SP & 11-F-21-RZ   Request of Thunder Mountain Properties, LLC for rezoning from A (Agricultural) ... Property located at 8802 Sevierville Pike and 0 Dry Hollow Road.)

    This property is an integral part of a forgotten Knox County heritage area that has unique historical, cultural, economic and ecological values.

    Knox County has promoted and engaged in placemaking for three decades as an important part of fostering community identity, mutuality and quality of life, but somehow we have overlooked this place with its exquisite potential!

    This property is part of and connects the
    19th century Loveday Springs stage coach station

    — most important relay between Knoxville and Sevierville
    — reputedly the fastest coach service in the nation
    — horses recovered on this farm from their grueling labor between shifts

    and the 20th century Camel factory, aka “Factory on the Farm,”

    — founded by WWI veteran Benjamin Alleman Bower, serial entrepreneur and owner of the 700-acre farm
    — oldest and largest supplier of canvas products to U.S. DoD
    — its tents have been crucial to the welfare of our veterans fighting overseas
    — a dynamo for the rural economy
    — employed primarily farmers giving them the extra income to keep their farms in the family
    — pioneered flex time to accommodate periods of critical farm work
    — early experiment with 4-day work week proved very popular with its work force.

    ET History Center,  Knox Heritage and TN Historical Commission have next to nothing about this.

    I have been researching it over many weeks. We’ve published a comprehensive, well illustrated article about what we uncovered so far in our online journal Hellbender Press. We'll continue to fill the gaps as quickly as we can.

    The article is intended to give you as complete a picture as now possible to make a well informed decision.

    The article includes links to more detailed information and to the TV coverage of this case.

    Thank you for your attention to this important issue.

    Sincerely,

    Wolf Naegeli, PhD
    President
    Foundation for Global Sustainability

    Read 98 times  

  • Is TVA providing the best prices for energy consumers? Congress wants to know.
    Amy Rawe
    Thursday, 10 February 2022
    kingstonThe Tennessee Valley Authority's fossil plant at Kingston. TVA
     

    Southern Alliance for Clean Energy: TVA is not coming clean in Congressional inquiries

    KNOXVILLE On Jan. 13, the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce sent a letter to the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) requesting information regarding business practices that appear inconsistent with TVA’s statutory requirement to provide low-cost power to residents of the Tennessee Valley.
    TVA’s response to the committee’s 16 questions dodges some of the committee members’ key concerns and provides misleading information on several issues, including:
     
    • Insufficient energy efficiency plans to address high electricity bills and reduce reliance on fossil fuel
    • Suppression of distributed solar
    • Unclear future renewable plans and decarbonization goal
    • Misuse of ratepayer funds
     
    The House Energy and Commerce Committee members and staff will be reviewing TVA’s response. If the response is deemed inadequate, the committee members may issue another oversight letter or schedule an oversight hearing. 
     
    The latest SACE blog post outlines where TVA has fallen short in its response to the committee and its customers.
    Read 248 times  

  • Something is rotten in Russia
    Thomas Fraser
    Monday, 07 February 2022
    download 2

    Menacing military buildup on Ukraine borders and Orwellian denials could snuff peaceful scientific cooperation

    OAK RIDGE  I went to Russia in 2000 on one of the most extraordinary trips of my life. It was a long time ago, and a generation has passed, but I was left with many enduring and positive impressions of the country and its people.

    The newspaper I worked for, The Daily Times in Maryville, paid for my trip to Moscow, then to Siberia, (and back again, to my surprise) to cover a contingent of Blount County politicos/bureaucrats and Oak Ridge DOE types visiting a far eastern Russian town, Zheleznogorsk, that had long been home to both nuclear and chemical weapons processing facilities.
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Feedbag

Your diet of environment and science news

  • 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.

    "The Department of the Interior must use a portion of the funding for a grant program. The grants must be used for innovative recovery efforts for species of greatest conservation need, species listed as endangered or threatened species, or the habitats of such species.

    "In addition, the bill requires certain revenues generated from fees and penalties for violations of environmental requirements to be used as a source for the funding."

    The legislation, which has already passed the House of Representatives, would allocate $1.4 billion each year across the country to protect and restore endangered plant and animal populations, and protect species already tipping toward endangered status. It is up for consideration in the Senate, where it has already garnered the support of at least a dozen Republicans and a majority of Democrats, virtually ensuring its passage, according to Renkl.

    "You don’t have to nurse a fondness for spotted owls or snail darters — creatures at the heart of two of the most contentious environmental debates in recent history — to understand that what is best for the ecosystems we share with nonhuman animals is what’s best for us, too," Renkl wrote.


  • 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.

    The collection includes skulls and skeletons ranging in size from small bats to bison. It also includes skulls of dolphins, ostriches and alligators.

    “Beyond just being able to identify bones and identify different species based on tiny bone fragments, I think students have a much greater appreciation for, you know, the diversity of animal life out there and much greater appreciation for animals in our backyards as well,” Janzen told WBIR.

    The collection is available for analysis by professional researchers, and parts can be seen by the public during the annual Darwin Day at the university. 


  • 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.”

    Now that this report is complete, the project team is working on scenario planning by analyzing data to help illustrate possible strategies for guiding the county’s future growth. This work will be presented at public meetings in the fall.

    Advance Knox is a unique opportunity to align land use and transportation goals and create a fiscally responsible blueprint to help guide decisions about where and how future growth and infrastructure investments will occur.

    -Knox County Government


  • Hellbender Press nets two top awards from Society of Professional Journalists

    KNOXVILLE Hellbender Press took home two awards from the 2021 Golden Press Card contest sponsored by the East Tennessee Society of Professional Journalists.

    Hellbender Press was recognized with two first-place awards for East Tennessee digital journalism: The Hal DeSelm Papers and Requiem for the Lord God Bird

    The Hal DeSelm story chronicled his decades-long effort to document terrestrial biomes in all but one Tennessee county, and subsequent work by the University of Tennessee to craft his datasets into an accessible database.

    The other award was for reporting on the extinction of the ivory-billed woodpecker relying heavily on the work of Ijams Nature Center naturalist Stephen Lyn Bales.

    Judging was conducted by the SPJ chapter in Cincinnati.

    “We are incredibly grateful to our editorial board, readers and others who helped with this great win,” said Hellbender Press editor Thomas Fraser. “Our stories are only as good as the sources.”


  • Smokies rangers, swift-water teams retrieve body from Little River near Metcalf

    TOWNSEND Great Smoky Mountains National Park rangers responded to a report of a body in Little River about a mile west of Metcalf Bottoms at 1:30 p.m. May 9. Rangers and Gatlinburg EMS/Fire discovered the body of Charles Queen, age 72 of Bybee, Tennessee, partially submerged in the middle of the river.

    A technical swift water rescue team recovered the body, which was released to the Sevier County Medical Examiner’s office. A vehicle registered to Queen was found in a pullout 600 feet upriver along a steep embankment. 

    No witnesses were immediately found; there are no signs of foul play, according to the park service, but officials plan an autopsy.


  • TDOT wants your input on electric-vehicle infrastructure

    1650898862011Proposed electric-vehicle infrastructure corridors in Tennessee. TDOT

    Inside of Knoxville: State seeks input on charging stations, EV corridors

    The Tennessee Department of Transportation’s traveling and electrifying road show made an appearance in Knoxville this week. The intent of the meeting, as others scheduled around the state, was to collect public feedback on proposed charging station networks and other components of EV infrastructure.

    Tennessee will receive a significant chunk of change toward developing its own share of National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure, provided as part of the infrastructure bill passed by Congress last year. The state will receive $88 million over five years, and has begun drafting some options.

    “The initial push nationally is for travel corridors to have charging stations at least every fifty miles,” according to Knoxville blogger Alan Sims. “They must have at least four chargers and they must be within one mile of the travel corridor. Most travel corridors are identified as Interstates, though Tennessee, for example, has also included U.S. Highway 64. Once those corridors are built out, any remaining funds may be directed elsewhere. The cost of each station is approximately $1 million, which is largely infrastructure cost.”

    Clean-air and EV advocates are encouraging public input. Here’s an action alert from the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy:

    “The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) and Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) are currently seeking public feedback to inform the state’s National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) Formula Program Plan.

    “The NEVI program represents a $5 billion investment from the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) to provide a network of 500,000 ultra-fast EV charging stations along the nation’s travel corridors to help make cross-country electric travel accessible to all Americans. The charging stations will be along designated Alternative Fuel Corridors designated by the Federal Highway Administration.”

    Tennessee must develop and submit an EV infrastructure deployment plan by Aug. 1 to receive the federal funds.

    SACE encourages citizens to take this survey to express preferences for EV infrastructure development.


  • UT journalism stalwart James Crook dies at 82

    James Crook

    KNOXVILLE Dr. James Crook, the former director of the University of Tennessee School of Journalism and Electronic Media, died April 30 in Knoxville. Dr. Crook led the School of Journalism for 28 years before retiring in 2002 and becoming professor emeritus. He also served as a president of the East Tennessee Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.

    Crook died at the age of 82, just two days short of his 83rd birthday.

    He was considered the “father” of the Front Page Follies, an annual satiric send-up of Knoxville’s newsmakers that raised funds for the Front Page Foundation. Dr. Crook, a co-founder of the Follies, was an excellent vocalist and served as musical director for a number of years. His wife, Diane, an experienced theater person and teacher, teamed with her husband during the productions. The couple met while they were teaching journalism, speech and drama in Iowa in high school and community college and married in 1966.

    During his teaching career, he established the national scholarly journal, Journalism & Mass Communication Educator. In 2003, the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication awarded Crook the Eleanor Blum Distinguished Service to Research Award, which recognizes individuals who have devoted their careers to promoting research in mass communication, according to the UT School of Journalism and Electronic Media.

    A Celebration of Life will be held Saturday, May 7, at 11 a.m. at Church Street United Methodist Church, 900 Henley St., in downtown Knoxville. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Front Page Foundation to fund journalism scholarships

    -East Tennessee Society of Professional Journalists


  • Ocoee Whitewater Center destroyed in huge fire

    ocoee whitewater centerU.S. Forest Service

    WKRN: Building a total loss after overnight fire

    Investigators are on the site of Polk County’s Ocoee Whitewater Center after it burned down in the early morning hours of April 26. No injuries were reported, and the building was closed to the public because of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Forest Service website. Several trails in the area were closed as authorities, including state arson investigators, probed the cause of the massive fire.

    The center featured native stone and massive beams and overlooked the Class V rapids of the section of river used for whitewater events during the 1996 Olympics.

    It later became a great place for spectators to watch commercial rafters hit such holes as Humungous, and was used as a regional visitors center, event venue and educational facility.

    Some 300,000 people visited or paddled by the center every year. It was a center for educational programs and hiking, biking and watersports.

    “Native gardens honoring Olympic athletes and Cherokee Indians invite you to stroll through the grounds. A historic trail, built by Cherokee Indians and used by 19th century miners to transport copper ore by mules and wagons follows the river upstream. Along the way you can see rock formations deposited more than 750 million years ago,” according to a Forest Service description of the facility.

    “The Ocoee Whitewater Center was a unique site not just here on the Cherokee National Forest, but across the Forest Service. It is a difficult loss for us,” Mike Wright, acting forest supervisor for the Cherokee National Forest, told WKRN of Nashville.

    This article has been corrected to note WKRN is a Nashville TV station.


  • Another look at the parallel war Russia is waging against the natural environment

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    New York Times: Ukraine environmental holocaust just the latest in ways war scars the Earth 

    Open armed conflict understandably abrogates immediate concerns about the natural environment.

    Despite the tens of thousands of human deaths already caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the war’s impact on natural systems can’t be understated.

    In some cases, Russian troops have taken up positions in natural parks and protected ecological areas in Ukraine. The Black Sea coast is an important remaining area of biodiversity in Europe. Ukrainian counterattacks, while understandable, have also inflamed environmental consequences.

    There are also immediate risks to human respiratory health from the fires sparked by attacks on fuel depots and chemical facilities.

    War’s negative environmental impacts are by no means a new thing: See the use of Agent Orange by the U.S. in Vietnam and the wasteland of burning oil fields left behind in the Gulf War.

    War is bad for every living thing.


  • Bobcats vs. pythons in the swamps of Florida

    Bobcat vs. python 2USGS

    New York Times: Evolving native predation may help stem invasion of Burmese python

    The proliferation of the exotic and invasive Burmese python in the swamps and wilds of Florida is demonstrably bad for native birds and mammals.

    Researchers now have evidence the best solution might have been there all along.

    A bobcat was captured on a trail camera by the U.S. Geological Survey eating python eggs and challenging one of the gigantic snakes. It was the first instance of natural, native predation on the snake’s eggs. Bobcats are already known to target reptile eggs, including those of sea turtles.

    “While it is possible that this interaction was just an isolated incident, it is also possible that native species are beginning to respond to the presence of the python," the New York Times reported.

    “‘Most cat species adapt their diet to what is available, so bobcats predating on python eggs is actually not that surprising’” said Mathias Tobler, a wildlife ecologist at the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance.”


  • Parson Branch Road improvements under way in Smokies

    Parson Branch RoadDead hemlocks are seen along Parson Branch Road near Cades Cove. National Park Service

    CADES COVE Great Smoky Mountains National Park contractors began removing at least 800 dead hemlock trees along Parson Branch Road, an eight-mile primitive backcountry road that connects Cades Cove with U.S. 129 on the western edge of the park.

    The road has been closed since 2016 because of the tree hazards and damage to the road surface. The hemlocks succumbed to the hemlock woolly adelgid, an exotic insect that has wreaked havoc on hemlock stands and their accompanying ecosystems.

    The road passes several trailheads, and is used by emergency vehicles as needed. The park initially identified some 1,700 trees that posed a hazard to the adjacent roadway, but that number has naturally declined by about half over the past six years.

    Friends of Great Smoky Mountains National Park provided $100,000 for the hazard-mitigation project. That was matched with $50,000 from the federal government.

    Once the dead trees are removed, work will begin to rehabilitate the roadway and ensure its safety. 

    The roadway could reopen this summer, according to a news release from the National Park Service.


  • Hike and learn at Trails and Trilliums Festival in South Cumberland State Park

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    MONTEAGLE Naturalists and nature lovers are invited to South Cumberland State Park April 8-10 for the Trails and Trilliums Festival sponsored by Friends of South Cumberland State Park. The Dubose Conference Center will be the base of operations for activities throughout the park.

    Registration opens at noon April 8 with activities for those who arrive early, followed at 5 p.m. by Wine and Wildflowers, a kickoff event featuring author David Haskell. In 2012,  “The Forest Unseen” was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in nonfiction. Haskell is expected to speak about his latest book “Sounds Wild and Broken” released by Penguin Random House on March 1.

    The rest of this weekend-long celebration of nature and education will feature activities throughout the park and the community. From Foster Falls to Savage Gulf and Sherwood Forest, participants will enjoy bird walks, wildflower walks, nature journaling and sketching, and a university herbarium and greenhouse tour. The Saturday evening star party is sure to be a hit, weather permitting.

    Find a full schedule and registration information at Trails and Trilliums.


  • Baby whale! Cruise with a humpback and her calf at Tennessee Aquarium 3D movie

    Sylvia Earle and Pico Island 6 Catarina FazendaSylvia Earle  Courtesy Catarina Fazenda

    The Tennessee Aquarium IMAX Theater in Chattanooga premiered its new 3D educational movie Ocean Odyssey on March 4.

    Author,  oceanographer and National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Sylvia Earle visited the aquarium to help launch the movie, which she and Rupert Degas narrate.

    The movie follows a humpback whale mother and calf as they navigate the East Australian Current from the Great Barrier Reef to Antarctica. The planet’s oceans are home to the most diverse and abundant array of life on earth, but they are threatened by climate change, pollution and acidification. Still, life lives on.

    The Tennessee Aquarium encourages filmgoers to enhance the 3D film experience with a visit to the Secret Reef exhibit in their Ocean Journey building. This exhibit replicates the Flower Garden Banks off the coast of Texas and Louisiana. 

    In 1990, Dr. Sylvia Earle became the first woman appointed chief scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.  

    She left that agency to work in the private sector to promote healthy oceans and public access to ocean environments, including Mission Blue.


  • Kayaker drowns in Smokies near Smokemont

    An Ohio woman drowned Thursday while kayaking the Oconaluftee River near Smokemont Campground in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

    It was the first fatality of the year in the park.

    Rangers said Megan Thompson, 34, of Cleveland Heights, Ohio was trapped underwater “between a fallen tree and the riverbank” after floating through a rapid. It was not immediately clear whether she was out of her boat.

    Her fellow boaters alerted rangers at 2:18 p.m. and her body was recovered at 2:57 p.m., according to a release from the park service.

    Drowning is the third-leading cause of death in the Smokies, after vehicle and aircraft accidents.

    This story will be updated.


  • Seal it up: Inefficiency increases energy costs across the board

    Editors note: SACE executive director Stephen Smith is on the board of Foundation for Global Sustainability. Hellbender Press operates under the FGS nonprofit umbrella.

    The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) released its fourth annual “Energy Efficiency in the Southeast” report, which tracks recent policy developments and performance trends in electric utility efficiency from 2020.

    It continues to highlight that despite being a proven low-cost clean energy resource with enormous potential to reduce carbon emissions and customers’ energy burden, Southeastern utilities continue to underinvest in energy efficiency.

    As a result, households in many Southeastern states have some of the highest electricity usage and monthly energy bills in the nation. Some states and utilities are making progress, and it’s not too late for local policymakers to take advantage of untapped efficiency savings to help reach crucial decarbonization goals.


  • Good enviro reporting from Knox News: Smokies air quality and more salamanders!

    News Sentinel: State takes path of least resistance with air-quality plans; and researchers are gauging how Southern Appalachian salamanders will respond to climate change.

    KNOXVILLE Local journalists delivered a double tap of critical conservation coverage this week:

    The state air quality board is outlining its 10-year haze-reduction plan for Tennessee, and some enviros are arguing the state is not going much beyond the bare minimum required by the feds. That was the crux of a detailed report from News Sentinel reporter Anila Yoganathan that also examined lingering air quality and deposition issues in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. While air quality in some aspects has improved in recent decades, there are still some insidious issues that affect the park’s viewshed, and on occasion, the health of park visitors, too. Acid and nitrate deposition continue to take a toll on park streams.

    The report is extensive. A digital subscription is required to view the stories at Knox News, but hopefully they’ll open it up as an introductory freebie.

    Speaking of streams and the threat they face: 

    Science reporter Vincent Gabrielle waded into a story about research at the Tennessee Aquarium delving into the effects of global and regional climate change on Southern Appalachian freshwater denizens such as the black-bellied salamander.

    “Their teeming millions make up a substantial proportion of the animal life of a forest. In the headwaters of the Appalachian Mountains, salamanders frequently outnumber fish, birds and other small animals,” Gabrielle reported.

    “Lungless salamanders, like the black-bellied salamander, breathe only through their skin. They will notice water pollution, including sediment, agricultural runoff or acidic seepage from old mines, and relocate to cleaner water.” — If they can, we might add. Too often, that is impossible for them.


Action Alert

  • 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.

    The fashion industry is responsible for around 10 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions — more than maritime shipping and international flights combined!

    World production of clothing has doubled in the last 15 years. Until the 1950s, it was common for garments to be used until worn out after having been passed along to second and third wearers. Nowadays, that’s a rare exception. Most items end up in a landfill within days or weeks after having been purchased and worn just a few times. Massive amounts of overstock items are routinely discarded, not having been used once.

    Low prices — made possible by cheap synthetic fibers produced with fossil fuels and by sweatshops that churn out textiles under often inhumane conditions — contributed to this relatively new phenomenon of consumerism.

    Along with single-use packaging, plastic fibers common in today’s textiles are a major source of invisible microplastic fragments that float in the air we breathe and get into the water that leaves the washing machines. Some of these particles may absorb toxic chemicals and be taken up and accumulated by fish, livestock and, eventually, humans.

    Sustainable Jungle, an Australian nonprofit, has an excellent article about the global predicaments caused by the fashion industry. This is a treasure trove of great ideas, practical suggestions, experiences and links to further how-to instructions. It will not only help you get off the fast-fashion treadmill, it will aid you in discovering or creating a style that accentuates your personality.

    Sustainable Jungle: How to Avoid Fast Fashion
    See also ScienceDirect: Plasticenta — First evidence of microplastics in human placenta

Events

  • Step up for fresh produce at New Harvest Park

    KNOXVILLE The New Harvest Park Farmers Market kicked off in East Knoxville on April 14 and will be open from 3-6 p.m. every Thursday through Sept. 29.

    The market will feature 15 small, locally owned businesses and showcase a wide variety of seasonal produce, meats, eggs, plants, prepared foods, and artisan crafts, and will grow to 20 vendors during peak season, according to a release from Knox County.

    A community booth will house the Nourish Moves walking program in which market patrons can track their steps and redeem them for Produce Bucks to be spent at market on fresh fruits and vegetables. New Harvest Farmers’ Market Nourish Moves is a free, weekly walking program for adults and children 2 years or older. To participate, stop by our Community Booth to pick up a pedometer. Each participant receives $3 in Produce Bucks per visit that can be spent on any fruits, vegetables, and food-producing plants at the market.

    Nourish Knoxville will continue to offer SNAP & P-EBT processing and doubling at the market through the Double Up Food Bucks Program. SNAP & P-EBT purchases will be doubled, up to $20 per day in Double Up Food Bucks tokens that are redeemable at the market for free fresh fruits and vegetables.


  • 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.

    You can watch all live coverage by Community Television of Knoxville — AND previously aired programs — on any device that has internet access, even on your smart phone.

    (However, be careful to know about any data transmission caps and charges that may apply to your internet connection, and especially your mobile data plan if you’re not using a WiFi connection.)

    Knox CTV also streams Fulton High School's Falcon Radio WKCS-FM 91.1, which is one of only four high school radio stations in Tennessee; one among few nationwide, too.


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About

  • Hellbender Press

    The Environmental Journal of Southern Appalachia

    (ONLINE version 0.7)
    Copyright © 2021 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
    Jason Bradley
    Kim Pilarski-Hall
    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.


  • 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 is indicative of high water quality and an 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 save what may still be savable.


  • Foundation for Global Sustainability

    FGS is a transdisciplinary, non-profit advocacy organization. It monitors and addresses social and environmental issues in the Upper Tennessee Valley and the Southern Appalachian Mountains.

    FGS works to restore the balance between human activities and the natural life support systems of the Earth. Events, publications, special reports, and outreach by FGS inform and educate the public about vital regional and global issues and how they interdepend.

    FGS 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: