By Trisha White
It is now officially summer and that means many Americans are packing up the family truckster like the Griswolds and taking the tribe cross country. Whether you're on your way to America's favorite family fun park or a national park, staying in a motel or sleeping under the stars, you may be seeing wildlife in their native habitat. And if you keep your eyes open, you might see a special part of our built environment ー a wildlife crossing.
What is a wildlife crossing?
Wildlife crossings are clever, man-made structures built over or under highways that allow animals to cross the roadway without having to enter the right of way, preventing deadly accidents. In addition to preventing wildlife-vehicle collisions, they reconnect habitat that has been carved up by roads, allowing animals to move safely around their habitat.
Unless you know where to look, you might not even notice them. Crossings may seem like a regular overpass or underpass from the road, but they have vegetation and other habitat features to make them more inviting for animals.
Which wildlife species use wildlife crossings?
Wildlife crossings help many different species, from muskrats to mountain lions ─ and yes, even Marty Moose! (The moosiest moose we know…)
Since animals can be picky about what kinds of structures they will use, crossings are specifically designed to fit snugly into the landscape around them, and are custom made for the species that will use them. Some critters that are more adaptable, like coyote and deer, will take to crossings right away, while others may take longer to get used to them. After all, the crossings are a new experience for them and can be scary at first.
Biologists believe each species' preferences are based on their environment and how they evolved. For example, ungulates with antlers (deer, elk, moose) prefer open structures like an overpass. Smaller animals that are used to more cover are more comfortable in small crossings like a culvert. Eventually mother animals teach their young to use them, passing along the intergenerational knowledge just like other behaviors.
Where can we see a wildlife crossing?
Although wildlife crossings are relatively new to the U.S., we have them from coast to coast. Here are just a few examples you might see this summer near popular destinations:
Are you motoring through the many mountains of Montana? Drive U.S. Highway 93 across the Flathead Indian Reservation to see the most extensive wildlife-sensitive highway design effort in the U.S. to date. A whopping 81 wildlife crossing structures were built over a 76-mile stretch of highway, keeping 25 species safe, such as elk, mountain lions, bobcats, badgers, grizzlies and black bears.
The Montana 93 overpass.
On your way to the beach, you may choose the 18-mile Intercounty Connector (ICC). Opened in 2011, the ICC has ten underpasses providing safe passage for deer, foxes, raccoons, groundhogs, skunks, snakes and great blue herons.
Maryland State Highway Administration
Wildlife in La-La Land? You bet! While you're stuck in traffic on the 405, wildlife will be cruising along the 31-mile stretch of the Puente-Chino Hills Wildlife corridor. Along the way, they will pass through the Harbor Boulevard Wildlife Underpass, connecting 4,600 acres of protected habitat to the west with 14,000 acres to the east. Built in 2006, the underpass serves mule deer, coyotes, bobcats, squirrels, opossum, raccoons and jackrabbits. Without it, many of these species would have been trapped on the west side of Harbor Boulevard and possibly extirpated.
So after you drop off Aunt Edna in Phoenix, skip the house of mud and learn more about keeping wildlife on the move while you're waiting in line at the world's second largest ball of twine. Have a great summer!
Is your family taking a road trip this summer? While you drive on the highway, wildlife may be safely crossing above or below you! Keep an eye out for these structures: https://t.co/VKlYLB9JrU #wildlifecrossing pic.twitter.com/jOG6aWprHQ— National Wildlife Federation (@NWF) August 14, 2019
By Stephanie Gagnon
Happy National Parks Week! This year, between April 20 and 28, escape to the beautiful national parks — either in person or in your imagination — and celebrate the amazing wildlife that calls these spaces home.
Here are 5 ways to celebrate our national treasures:
1. Kick off the week with free entry to all national parks on Saturday, April 20.
Grand Teton National Park.
The National Park Service offers 5 free entry days each year, where fees to enter the park are waived. This is a great opportunity to visit your first national park and see what the buzz is about. Check out their Find Your Park website and make plans today!
2. Take photos of wildlife (from a distance).
Roseate spoonbills feed in Florida's shallow waters by swinging their heads from side to side and sifting muck with their flat bills.
The wildlife that call our national parks their home can be cute (like the American pika), majestic (like the Florida panther), or just plain weird-looking (like the roseate spoonbill). They're great subjects for amateur and professional nature photographers alike. Just remember tokeep your distance and be aware of your surroundings at all times.
3. When you’re there, look for butterflies.
A pipevine swallowtail butterfly in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
These beautiful creatures are particularly photogenic. Species like the monarch butterfly can be observed in National Parks all over the country, while other species may be localized to one region. Want to take it one step further? Be a butterfly hero!
4. Use digital tools to engage with the natural world.
A visit to the national parks is a great way to spend some time away from screens enjoying the benefits of fresh air and beautiful sights. But if your family has trouble unplugging, there are plenty of resources that can help you use your devices to better understand the world around you, including Google Earth! Movies, magazines, games, and apps offer a variety of options, too.
5. Can’t make it to the parks in person? Journey in your mind to these breathtaking destinations.
Denali National Park.
The best way to celebrate our national parks is to take care of them.
From successfully advocating for the reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund to opposing mining plans next to Minnesota's Boundary Waters, the National Wildlife Federation is a leader in protecting our public lands for wildlife and future generations of Americans.
Embracing solar power means reducing both your reliance on traditional utility companies and your environmental footprint, but the high upfront cost of solar panels can be a big deterrent for some homeowners.
If you're considering solar, you may have questions like: How much does it cost to install a solar energy system? What are some of the factors that can impact pricing? What else should home- and business owners know about going solar? In this article, we'll touch on each of these important topics, with the goal of helping you make a fully informed, financially responsible decision about solar energy.
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
How Much Do Solar Panels Cost to Install?
To begin with, let's take a look at the basic price range for solar panel installation. According to the most recent U.S. Solar Market Insight report, in the first quarter of 2021, the national average price of a residential solar system was $2.94 per watt, which would mean a 5 kWh system would cost $14,700 and a 10 kWh system would cost $29,400.
The exact price you'll pay for solar panels will depend on a number of factors, including your geographic location, the size of your home and more.
Now, you might rightly wonder: What exactly are you paying for? The solar panels themselves usually make up just about a quarter of the total cost. Remaining expenses include labor, maintenance and additional parts and components (such as inverters).
What Factors Determine Solar Pricing?
As mentioned, there are a few key things that can lead to variation in solar system installation costs. Analyzing these can help you determine whether solar panels are worth it for your home. Let's take a look at them in greater detail.
Your Electrical Needs
The solar panels themselves will be rated for a particular wattage, which reflects the amount of energy they can absorb for storage and ultimately for power generation. You will actually pay according to wattage, which means that the greater your household energy needs, the more you'll have to spend to get the correct number of solar panels.
So, how do you determine how much energy you need for your home? The best way to figure this out is through a consultation with a solar installer. (We recommend shopping smart by requesting free consultations with two or three top solar companies in your area.)
Your installer will evaluate your home energy needs based on total square footage, the number of people who live in your home, the number of appliances and power-draining devices that you have connected and more. It can then recommend the ideal solar panel system size to accommodate your energy usage.
Type of Panels and Other Components
Variation in manufacturing can also affect the cost of solar panels. There are three basic types of solar panels, two of which are commonly used residentially: monocrystalline and polycrystalline panels. Of these two, monocrystalline options tend to be more energy-efficient and thus may provide you with greater savings in the long run. They are also a bit pricier on the front end. With that said, homeowners with a smaller roof surface area may benefit from getting the most efficient solar panels, even if the initial cost is a bit steeper.
Other components you'll need to purchase include inverters, wiring, charge controllers, mounts and more. The quality of these materials can affect your total solar system cost. For example, if you spring for the best solar batteries, they may add a few thousand dollars to your investment.
Another factor that can have a big impact on solar pricing? Your geographic area. Solar installation tends to be most cost-effective in parts of the country that get a lot of sun exposure, and thus a lot of photovoltaic light. This basically means that solar panels can operate more efficiently, and in many cases means that fewer total panels are needed. Those who live in states like California, Florida and Arizona — or really any areas of the Sun Belt or Southwest — will likely get the most out of their home solar power systems.
Both state and federal governments have established incentive programs to encourage homeowners to buy solar panels. There is currently a 26% federal solar tax credit, called an Investment Tax Credit (ITC), available for homeowners who install residential solar panels between 2020 and 2022. It is scheduled to reduce to 22% in 2023 and may not be extended thereafter.
Local incentives vary by state, but most of the best solar panel installers will help you identify and apply for these programs so you don't miss out on savings.
There are plenty of other factors that can impact solar panel installation costs. Different vendors are going to offer different levels of customization, expertise and consumer protections (including guarantees and warranties). The bottom line? It is wise to shop around a bit, determine the average cost of solar panels in your area and evaluate the value of services offered by a few solar installation companies.
Solar Panel Price Vs. Return on Investment
Clearly, your upfront solar panel installation cost may be a little steep. Now, let's look at the flipside: How much money will you actually save? And will your energy savings be enough to offset the initial cost of your solar energy system?
It is not unreasonable to think that you can cut your monthly utility bills by as much as 75% or more by switching to solar energy. Of course, the specific dollar amount will depend on where you live, the size of your home and the number of people in your household.
One way to look at it: The average household energy bill is somewhere between $100 and $200 monthly. It would probably take about 15 years for your energy savings to cancel out the cost of solar panel installation. In other words, within a decade and a half or so, your solar system might pay for itself. Factor in savings from tax rebates and other incentives, and most solar systems pay for themselves in closer to seven or eight years.
Note that most solar energy companies offer free solar calculators, which help you arrive at a ballpark for monthly energy savings. While these calculators are imprecise, they can certainly give you a general sense of the financial benefits you will experience when you convert to solar energy.
Free Quote: See How Much You Can Save on Solar Panels
Fill out this 30-second form to get a quote from one of the best solar energy companies in your area. You could save up to $2,500 each year on your electric bills and receive tax rebates.
Frequently Asked Questions About the Cost of Solar Panels
As you continue to weigh the pros and cons of solar energy, it's natural to have a few questions. The best way to resolve these is really to set up a solar consultation with a local expert, but in the meantime, here are a few general answers to some of the most common solar inquiries.
How much will it cost to maintain my solar energy system?
In general, solar systems are designed to run smoothly for decades without requiring any maintenance or upkeep. As such, you should not really need to factor maintenance into the equation for the first 20 years or so after you install your system. (And most solar companies will offer you warranties and guarantees to give peace of mind on this front.)
How will solar energy impact my property values?
Many homeowners want to know how going solar will impact the value of their homes. Going solar increases property values. In fact, the U.S. Department of Energy has reported buyers are willing to pay an average premium of about $15,000 for a home with a solar panel system. With that said, you are only going to see your property values go up if you own your solar system outright, as opposed to leasing it.
How can I finance the cost of solar panels?
Different solar installers may offer different financing plans, allowing consumers some flexibility. With that said, there are three basic options for paying for your solar energy system:
- Purchase your solar energy system outright (that is, pay in cash).
- Take out a solar loan to purchase the system, then pay it back with interest.
- Lease your system; you will pay less month-to-month but won't actually own the system yourself.
Which is better, buying or leasing my solar system?
It all depends on your motivation for going solar. If you want to maximize long-term savings and increase the value of your home, then purchasing your solar system is usually best. However, if you just want a low-maintenance way to reduce monthly energy costs and practice environmental stewardship, then leasing might be a better option. Also note that leasing can be a good option for those who do not plan on being in their home for exceptionally long.
How can I be sure my roof will accommodate a solar system?
If your roof faces south, has ample space and has little to no shade cover, it should work just fine. Even roofs that are not optimal can still be utilized with a few tweaks and adjustments. Your solar energy consultant will advise you on whether your home is a good fit for solar energy.
How long will my solar energy system last?
Solar systems are designed to be exceptionally durable. With just the most basic upkeep, most solar energy systems should continue to work and produce power for anywhere from 25 to 35 years.
Make the Best Choice About Solar Energy
Solar energy is not right for every homeowner, nor for every home. With that said, many homeowners will find that the initial cost of solar panels is more than offset by the long-term, recurring energy savings. Make sure you factor in cost, energy needs, tax incentives, home value and more as you seek to make a fully informed decision about whether to embrace solar power.
By David Mizejewski
The holiday season (or any time of the year) is a great time to give gifts that help out your local wild birds. Even if it's a gift for yourself!
Here are five gifts ideas that will help you provide the basics of habitat for wild birds right outside your door and to create a wildlife habitat garden that will provide year-round habitat for bird and other backyard wildlife. When you provide food, water, cover and places to raise young and maintain your yard or garden naturally, the National Wildlife Federation will recognize it as a Certified Wildlife Habitat in our Garden for Wildlife program.
The items below from National Wildlife Catalog will help you meet the basic requirements to certify your garden for wildlife–plus all the proceeds of sales go directly to support our wildlife conservation programs.
1. Birds Seed Wreath
Native plants are the best way to provide the seeds, nuts, berries and insects that wild birds rely on for food. But a few feeders can supplement those natural food sources and help attract birds for you and your family to enjoy. Our bird seed wreath is perfect as a holiday treat. It's made with black oil sunflower seeds, peanuts, safflower and red millet seeds that most seed-eating birds will enjoy. Plus, it's decorative.
2. Birdbath De-Icer
Birds need water year-round, both for drinking and for bathing to keep their feathers in good condition. When the temperatures dip below freezing, finding a water source that isn't frozen becomes difficult. If there's no snow on the ground for birds to consume as a liquid source, they risk dehydration. Keep birds happy and hydrated during periods of freezing temperatures with our birdbath de-icer. Constructed of patented cast aluminum for efficiency and safety, this de-icer is thermostatically controlled to operate only when necessary. The 150-watt de-icer is fully grounded with a three-prong cord and is safe for all birdbaths.
3. Roosting Box
Just like us, birds seek shelter when the weather turns bad. This roosting box provides protection from the winds, heavy rain and bitter cold for many backyard birds including wrens, chickadees, nuthatches, titmice and bluebirds. The entry hole located at the bottom of the front panel is protected by a slate guard to keep squirrels from gnawing it open. The three internal perches can accommodate 6 or more birds. Handcrafted in Maine from eastern white pine.
4. Nesting Box
Nesting boxes, also known as birdhouses, are used by cavity-nesting birds as a place to raise their young. Wrens are some of the easiest birds to attract to a use a nesting box. It's important to install nesting boxes by February so that they are in place when wrens begin scouting out potential nesting spots in late winter or early spring. This box is made of kiln-dried hardwood and decorated with a purple coneflower design with non-toxic water-based paint. The box hangs with the metal chain from a tree or bracket, and opens easily to clean out.
5. Wildlife Gardening: Tips for Four Seasons
Excerpted from the pages of the award-winning National Wildlife® magazine, each article in Wildlife Gardening: Tips for Four Seasons® combines compelling narrative from world-class writers with stunning images and practical, step-by-step tips on topics ranging from wildlife garden design and choosing the best bird houses to helping monarch butterflies, providing wildlife with water in winter and attracting native bees and pollinators to help gardeners grow bigger, better fruits and vegetables.
By David Mizejewski
Want to help bees?
Take a look at Beesponsible's "Honey-Do" List to learn how you can make a difference for native bees in your backyard and community!
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By Alyson Merlin
The scale of global conservation can seem daunting, and it is hard to incorporate the fight against global deforestation into our daily routines. If you want to help, but don't have the stored-up vacation days to participate in on-the-ground activism, the National Wildlife Federation has good news for you! The places where you rest your feet after work or school—from fancy sectionals to self-assembled futons—are actually key to saving the world's forests!
The furnishings industry (which includes indoor furniture and decorations) is the third greatest user of wood in the U.S. after the construction and paper industries. So, where do manufacturers (and later, retailers) get this wood? Do your favorite companies proudly display on their websites that their products come from certified forests, such as those that the Forest Stewardship Council have vetted for responsible management? Or is the sourcing information of major furniture retailers hard to find? We believe you have a right to know. That's why National Wildlife Federation and the Sustainable Furnishings Council have partnered to bring you our Furniture Scorecard.
How We Did It
We scored 57 major furniture retail companies on the existence, availability and quality of their wood sourcing policies, as well as for visibly selling products made from recycled or reclaimed wood. Then we got to work, reaching out to give every firm the opportunity to dispute or confirm their scoring. Now, we're giving that information to you. On this site, you can browse our collected data, check up on your favorite brands and weigh the environmental cost of that new coffee table you've been eyeing online.
Why Should You Care?
Deforestation and forest degradation are devastating our planet. Currently 13 million hectares of tropical forest are cut down each year– that's an area the size of England– and these forests are home to some of the world's most endangered species. At current rates, habitat loss will drive many species of tigers, elephants, orangutans and numerous other plants and animals to extinction. Not to mention, deforestation accounts for about 12 percent of greenhouse gas emissions caused by human activity; protecting forests is essential to halting and moderating the effects of Global Climate Change.
This destruction is more than just statistics. Take for example, the orangutan. All three species of orangutan (Pongo abelii, Pongo pygmaeus and Pongo tapanuliensis) are known for their intelligence and advanced maternal care, and all three are listed as Critically Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature RedList. The biggest threat to their existence is habitat loss due to deforestation and forest fragmentation. It is estimated that 61.5 percent of Bornean Orangutan habitat will be lost by 2025. Unless current trends of global deforestation are reversed, these amazing apes will disappear forever.
How to Help From Home
National Wildlife Federation wants to show companies that we, as consumers, care about where our products come from and how they affect wildlife! Start by taking a look at the Furniture Scorecard and then make an informed decision about where you purchase your next loveseat. And sign a pledge to help us demonstrate to brands and retailers that consumers want products that are not associated with habitat destruction. With your pledge, we can all help make a positive change in the market to save forests and wildlife!
By Jane Kirchner
Right now, more than a 150 species of birds are on their way northward from tropical wintering grounds to take advantage of emerging insects, budding plants and an abundance of nesting locations. While larger birds tend to travel during daylight hours, songbirds and smaller species fly at night and will stop off and stick around for a day to eat and build up fat stores before continuing their journey. The best time to see and hear them in your yard is the first two hours after the sun rises!
Here are five of our favorites:
1. Magnolia Warbler
Most magnolia warblers are on their way to Canada, but a small percentage nest in the boreal forests in the northernmost states, from Minnesota to Maine. You can spot the males by their bright yellow feathers with patches and streaks of black on their undersides contrasted by a combination of black and white on their top half!
2. Western Tanager
Western tanager.Dennis Morrison
Birders often describe the male Western tanager as looking like a flame – with a bright orange-red head, yellow body and coal colored wings, back and tail. Many western tanagers are making their way now to breed in Canada's chilly Northwest Territories, and will then return to their summer habitat that includes our western pine forests.
3. Ruby-Throated Hummingbird
Ruby-throated hummingbird.Linda Roy Walls
Some of these little birds undertake an arduous trip during spring migration, flying up to 600 miles nonstop across the Gulf of Mexico. Ruby-throated hummingbirds nest from the southern U.S. up into Canada and winter as far south as Panama.
4. Yellow-Breasted Chat
Yellow-breasted chat.Alan Schmierer
The yellow-breasted chat is large for a songbird and its stream of whistles, cackles and hoots is often likened to improvisational jazz. This long distance migrant travels singly or in small groups during evening hours.
5. Yellow-Billed Cuckoo
Yellow-billed cuckoo.Larry Smith / Flickr / CC BY 2.0
Yellow-billed cuckoos are hard to spot as they prefer woodlands and dense thickets. But their distinctive, drawn-out knocking call is easy to identify and often heard just before thunderstorms or showers. Yellow-billed cuckoos are one of only a few bird species that eat hairy caterpillars, and can consume as many as 100 tent caterpillars in one sitting!
Help keep these amazing migratory birds safe! Tell President Trump to uphold the Migratory Bird Treaty Act that has protected vulnerable birds for 100 years from intentional and preventable harm, such as oil spills in coastal waters, poorly placed transmission lines, and other actions that result in bird deaths.
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By Lisa Moore
Imagine yourself, camera in hand, suddenly spotting a grazing elk, a hummingbird feeding its chicks, a grizzly charging a rival or a bumble bee gathering pollen. You want the shot, but how do you get it without disturbing the natural behavior of the beautiful animal you're hoping to capture through your lens?
Find four compelling answers to this question in a brief and beautiful video from National Wildlife magazine, highlighting the work of wildlife photographer Claudio Contreras Koob.
A winner in the magazine's 2017 photo contest, Koob offers four basic tips that any photographer—amateur and professional alike—can use to make ethical images in the field, whether it's in your own backyard or around the globe. His advice:
To avoid disturbing an animal, keep a suitable distance, approach very slowly and wear camouflage or use a blind. "You have to get them to accept you as if you were a stone," said Koob.
Know your subjects.
"Learn the behaviors of what you are going to photograph," said Koob. "They have a language, and they are always telling us what they think, but we have to understand it."
Take your time.
"Give yourself a lot of time to return and return and return … so you can understand the cycles of life and death in the place you want to photograph," said Koob. While photographing flamingoes, for example, Koob said he "could see their reactions to my presence and I could see that there was no problem if I really made it slow, slow, slow."
Green sweat bee. Dave Weth
Do not disturb.
"No image is as important as the creature that you are photographing or as the environment that you are photographing," said Koob. Animals can be easily spooked. So tread lightly, and if you notice even a small change in an animal's behavior—especially if the animal is courting, feeding, nesting or with its young—slowly and quietly move away.
Koob's final bit of advice has special value for the millions of avid amateur photographers out there who may think that the greatest wildlife images have to come from the hands of a pro in an African savanna or some other exotic locale. "You can go in your backyard and find conservation stories out there and find beautiful details." he said, "In the details, there are lots of beautiful things to see."
We, the editors of National Wildlife magazine, have seen how true that is. Hundreds of people who submit images to our annual photo contest are amateur photographers who see the beauty in the details—people like house painter Dave Weth, whose image of a green sweat bee landed on the cover of our December-January 2018 issue, and people like Anne Grimes, whose lovely image of a crab spider shedding its skin won second place for backyard habitats in our 2017 contest.
These people, and everyone else who submits to National Wildlife's annual contest, take the time to see and appreciate the natural world. So, please submit your favorite photographs to our 2018 photo contest, which is now open. All entries are judged blind, so everyone has an equal chance to win. And every entry, whether a winner or not, helps advance the conservation work of the National Wildlife Federation.
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By Beth Wallace
In June, the state of Michigan released a draft report on alternatives to Enbridge's Line 5 pipeline, which pumps up to 23 million gallons of oil and natural gas liquids (NGLs) per day along the bottom of the Straits of Mackinac. The draft report, written by Dynamic Risk, was met with heavy criticism from all sides, and the National Wildlife Federation joined with many others to suggest numerous and substantive changes. On Nov. 20, the final alternatives report was released to the public. As per an agreement with the state to obtain funding for the report, Enbridge has had five days to review this report before it is released publicly.
Mike Shriberg, executive director for the National Wildlife Federation's Great Lakes Regional Center and a member of the Michigan Pipeline Safety Advisory Board, issued the following statement Monday about how we're evaluating the final alternatives analysis:
"We're looking for this report to address four issues, at minimum, lacking in the first draft. It must assess what's best for Michigan—not Enbridge; it must analyze Michigan's share of product transported through Line 5; it must accurately assess the risk of Line 5 and treat that risk with the seriousness it deserves; and it must fully analyze all alternatives to Line 5."
Here's a little more detail about what we're looking for in the report.
What's Best for Michigan?
Dynamic Risk needs to focus the final report so Michigan's interests are the main focus. The draft report prioritized the business interests of Enbridge over the interests of Michigan's citizens. The final report should start with a clear accounting of what products on Line 5 are actually utilized in Michigan and conduct the analysis by looking at alternatives for these uses for the state. Without this fundamental change, their assessment of risk and viability of alternatives fails to meet even the most basic expectations for the citizens of Michigan and the understanding of the Line 5 review process.
A blue heron covered in tar sands oil from the Kalamazoo River pipeline disaster.Michigan DEQ
Michigan's Share of Product
A majority of the oil and NGLs pumped through Line 5 originate in Canada and are delivered to Canada from this Canadian pipeline company, Enbridge. Michigan has only three uses for Line 5. First, less than 5 percent of Line 5 product goes to Rapid River, Michigan for processing into propane. Second, oil injected into Line 5 from northern Michigan wells is less than 5 percent and falling steadily, according to Dynamic Risk. Third, regional refineries fed by Line 5 could easily be fulfilled by other pipeline networks throughout our region. Addressing these three very solvable problems for Michigan, which is largely buried in the draft report, should be the focus of the final report.
Evaluating the Risk of a Line 5 Rupture
The draft report significantly underestimated both the risk of failure of Line 5 and the cost of a failure. The cost figures assigned to alternatives and possible spill costs were grossly under represented and failed to consider major factors such as permitting, tribal treaty rights and threatened ecosystems (just to name a few). Moreover, Dynamic risk must correct the apples to oranges comparison on risk from alternatives. While Dynamic Risk only evaluated risk for up to 5 miles of Line 5 (traveling through the Great Lakes), for most of the outlined alternatives, they evaluated risk and cost associated with an entire project.
Dynamic Risk needs to assess risk for all of Line 5 and provide a more comprehensive cost breakdown to provide a proper assessment. Despite this poor analysis, Dynamic Risk did note, both in writing and during public information sessions, that the odds of a break in Line 5, under the Straits of Mackinac, is only one in 60.
Endangered piping plovers nest along the Great Lakes shorelines which would be impacted by a Line 5 oil spill. Vince Cavalieri / USFWS
The University of Michigan, conversely, estimated that a worst-case spill would pose a threat to 700 miles of Great Lakes shoreline, with more than 150 miles at risk from any one spill, and almost 17,000 square miles of Great Lakes open water vulnerable, with over 600 square miles impacted by any one spill. These models show threats to fish and wildlife habitat for species like the endangered piping plover (pictured), and sport-fish like atlantic salmon, steelhead, and lake trout which contribute to the Great Lakes $7 billion sport-fishery.
The draft report failed in its core mission: to fully analyze the alternatives to Line 5. For example, the report failed to properly take into account all alternative modes of transportation, including using rail to deliver propane or a detailed analysis on a new 4 inch pipeline to feed propane to Rapid River, Michigan. Perhaps one of the most viable and least risky alternatives is to divert Line 5 product to other Lakehead pipelines that Enbridge owns and has been expanding for years. Dynamic Risk failed to provide any practical details on why they removed this alternative.
Their failure to forecast and take into account even the most basic and publicly available information around how Enbridge's system is expanding downstream and perhaps shrinking upstream from Line 5 shows a possible bias in their review. With the debate heating up around the fate of Line 3 in Minnesota, which is one of the only light crude oil pipelines upstream to Line 5, a complete review of this alternative is warranted and should be expected of Dynamic Risk in the final report.
In the months since the draft alternatives report was released, Enbridge's credibility in Michigan has been eroding faster than the protective coating on the pipeline itself. After telling the Michigan Pipeline Safety Advisory Council last Spring that there were no patches of missing protective coating on Line 5, Enbridge admitted that they have known of multiple "holidays" in protective coating since 2014.
It is critical that this alternatives report answers at least our four questions to restore some measure of trust in the process of accurately evaluating the risk that Line 5 poses to the Great Lakes and possible alternatives to it. Our Great Lakes depend on it.
An aging oil pipeline moves 23 million gallons of oil and natural gas liquids per day along the bottomlands of the Straits of Mackinac, where Lake Michigan and Lake Huron crash into each other in the heart of the Great Lakes.
This pipeline—Line 5, built in 1953—is operated by the same company responsible for one of the largest inland oil spills in North American history: Enbridge. During that pipeline rupture, previously known cracks formed into a 6 foot gash which spilled more than 840,000 gallons of oil into the Kalamazoo River in 2010.
Endangered piping plovers nest along the Great Lakes shorelines which would be impacted by a Line 5 oil spill.Vince Cavalieri / USFWS
What's Wrong with the Pipeline?
There are numerous places along the underwater section of the pipeline where protective coating is missing, and for much of the history of the pipeline, sections of pipe were not properly supported on the Lake Michigan lakebed—where it gets pummeled by oscillating currents. In fact, those supports were not replaced until video from a National Wildlife Federation dive inspection revealed they were lacking. Recently, Enbridge itself confirmed that part of its outer protection coating was missing from sections of the pipeline, and revealed in October 2017 that it has known about missing sections of coating since 2014 but failed to report the easement violation to state officials.
An April 2017 National Wildlife Federation report revealed that the land-based sections of Line 5 have leaked at least 29 times since 1968, spilling more than 1 million gallons of oil. We cannot risk a spill in the Straits, which a 2016 University of Michigan study estimates could put up to 700 miles of shoreline at risk depending on current and weather conditions, with up to 150 miles impacted in any one spill, risking a 17,000-square mile spill zone.
Additionally, the pipeline has been operating without an adequate spill response plan, as required by the Clean Water Act. Due to this, the National Wildlife Federation sued the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration in January 2017, challenging this illegal operation of the pipeline.
The Old, Hidden Pipeline at the Bottom of the Great Lakes https://t.co/BSFIAmiYic @waterkeeper @FreshWaterCLE— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1507932072.0
What's at Stake?
At risk are the fish and wildlife of the Great Lakes, the drinking water relied upon by citizens, and the region's recreation and tourism economy which supports the northern Michigan way of life. So it should be no surprise that two-thirds of Michiganders oppose the continued operation of the pipeline under the Straits, as reported by a 2016 EPIC-MRA poll commissioned by the National Wildlife Federation.
Of particular note is the threat to the endangered piping plover shorebird. Piping plovers nest in the summer along the sandy beaches of the Great Lakes, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has designated critical habitat for piping plovers which falls within the spill zone risk identified by the University of Michigan.
What's Being Done About It?
The State of Michigan released a report on alternatives to Line 5 on June 29, while the week before it scrapped a risk analysis due to a conflict of interest arising from an employee of the firm hired to do the analysis also working on a separate project for Enbridge.
In September, Michigan's Pipeline Safety Advisory Board authorized a panel of academic experts from Michigan's universities, led by Dr. Guy Meadows of Michigan Technological University, to resume the risk analysis.
"This is a positive step in getting the state the actionable information it needs to decommission Line 5," said Mike Shriberg, executive director of the National Wildlife Federation's Great Lakes Regional Center, and a member of the Pipeline Safety Advisory Board when the academic study was approved. "Engaging top academic minds will ensure that Michigan's residents and resources will be prioritized."
Demand Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder act to keep the Great Lakes safe!
By Anne Bolen
On Aug. 21, for the first time since 1918, a total solar eclipse will cross the U.S. from coast to coast. Along the path of totality, the moon will completely block out the sun, turning day to twilight for nearly three minutes. While a partial eclipse will be visible throughout the U.S., millions will be flocking to spots along the path of totality, which begins in Salem on Oregon's coast about 10:15 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time and exits the nation at Charleston, South Carolina, where maximum coverage will occur about 2:47 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time. Perhaps no other natural event will inspire so many people to go outdoors.
But the eclipse won't be the only spectacle nature has to offer that day, so why not pledge to participate in the National Wildlife Federation's Great American Campout? You can simply camp in your own backyard or that of a friend. However, if you can still get in, some of the best viewing locations will be in or near parks or other outdoor areas that offer campsites and fabulous wildlife watching opportunities—which could give you a glimpse of some unusual wildlife behavior, if past eclipses are any indication.
During a 1998 total eclipse, for example, Galápagos reef fishes that were normally active during the day darted into shelter while nocturnal fish came out to feed, and pelicans and frigatebirds in Venezuela that had been out hunting returned to shore. Orb-weaving spiders in Mexico took down their webs during a total eclipse on July 11, 1991, only to start rebuilding them once the sun reappeared. Researchers from the Boston Society of Natural History described observations of wildlife from both scientists and the public during the August 31, 1932, total eclipse in the northeastern U.S. They reported that during the sudden darkness, ants carrying bounty stopped in their tracks, crickets chirped louder, bees hurried back to their hives, toads frantically started hunting insects and worms, songbirds went silent, bats emerged and flowers began to close their petals.
Whatever you see before, during or after the eclipse, you might want to report your wildlife observations through citizen-science apps such as iNaturalist, which is part of the California Academy of Sciences' Life Responds Project. And whether you are camping in your own backyard or at a campout event in a national park, you can use the University of California–Berkeley's eclipse simulator to find out what the eclipse will be like at your location.
Here are some perhaps lesser-known campout locations and events, as well as parks and refuges along the eclipse's path. Don't forget your wildlife binoculars and special eclipse-viewing glasses to enjoy all that nature has to offer. As National Wildlife Federation Naturalist David Mizejewski said, "The eclipse is a great inspiration for us all to get out into nature and see wildlife in action."
Camping and Wildlife-Watching Spots
1. Powerland Heritage Park in Brooks, Oregon, is hosting a special eclipse campout at its electric railway museum. The nearby Baskett Slough National Wildlife Refuge, is home to some 200 species of birds, including Canada geese, bald eagles, black-necked stilts and great horned owls (above). Will the owls appear and begin to hoot when day turns into night?
2. While not within the path of the total eclipse, Last Chance Camp in Cheyenne, Wyoming, says the sun will have 97.5 percent coverage and offers both tent and RV camping sites. You can also visit the Pawnee National Grasslands just over the border in Colorado to see raptors such as eagles and prairie falcons as well as elk, bighorn sheep, burrowing owls and prairie dogs (above). Will these rodents dive into their burrows as the sky darkens?
National Park Service
3. Foxcreek Campout in Victor, Idaho, is hosting a five-day solar eclipse festival from August 18 to 22. This is less than an hour from Grand Teton National Park, which is also offering special eclipse viewing areas and is where bison (above), elk, moose and grizzly bears roam. Cattle have been known to move toward their barns during eclipses. Will the bison lie down and begin to doze?
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
4. Hopkinsville, Kentucky, is close to the "point of the greatest eclipse," where the sun and moon align most perfectly. Christian Way Farm nearby is offering sites for primitive camping as well as a place to park and view for noncampers. It is only about an hour and half to Illinois' Shawnee National Forest, another great place to not only view the eclipse but also animals such as beavers, grey and red foxes, bobcats and bats, including the endangered Indiana bat (above). Keep an eye to the skies for bats emerging during the eclipse.
5. Tennessee's Great Smoky Mountains National Park offers expansive views to see the eclipse and a range of camping, from backcountry camping to a place for you and your horse. Known as the salamander capital of the world, you can find at least 30 species here, including red-spotted newts (above). As toads were observed going into a feeding frenzy during an eclipse, will salamanders follow suit?
6. The pathway of the total eclipse will end at Charleston, South Carolina, with maximum coverage occurring at about 2:47 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time. Holly Oaks Farm in Saint Matthews about an hour and half away is offering primitive tent and RV camp sites. Less than 40 miles away from Charleston and still in the path of totality is the Francis Marion National Forest, which also offers camping and a plethora of wildlife, including 1,600 species of plants, 48 mammal species, 43 amphibian species, 58 species of reptiles and 250 bird species, such as swallowtail kites (above). During the eclipse, will birds fall silent only to break out into the second "dawn chorus" of the day as the sun re-emerges?
While we won't know for sure what wildlife will do, we do know that this will be one of the greatest outdoor events of our century. Go out and enjoy it.
Support is strong despite attempts to transfer, sell off or carve up the lands that belong to all Americans, whether they live next door to a national forest or park—or 2,000 miles away. Support is strong despite efforts to shrink some of our national monuments or rescind the designations altogether. Or dramatically restrict presidents' ability to designate national monuments.
685,000+ Send Comments in Support of Bears Ears National Monument https://t.co/iMtHs5aJ0Z #BearsEars @SierraClub @greenpeaceusa @foe_us @350— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1495813400.0
On June 8, 1906, Congress approved the Antiquities Act, which authorized the president to designate federally managed lands as national monuments to conserve important historic, scientific and archaeological sites.
Since then, 16 presidents from both parties have used the law to establish 157 national monuments. These sites are among some of our most treasured public landmarks, some of which were later made national parks—the Grand Canyon, Acadia, Zion, Grand Teton, Arches, the Great Sand Dunes. They're also part of a system of parks, historic trails, waters and other sites that a 2016 study by Harvard's Kennedy School of Government says annually generates $92 billion in economic benefits.
So, on the 111th anniversary of the law that has contributed so much to our nation's heritage, culture, economy and sheer enjoyment, you'd think there would be a lot to celebrate. And there is.
Law, Monuments Targeted
However, there's also work to be done to ensure the law and monuments remain intact. After more than a century of success, the Antiquities Act and some of the monuments created using the law are in danger. An executive order by President Trump has mandated a review of 27 national monuments designated since 1996. That review could result in recommendations to rescind the designations in their entirety or significantly alter the monuments.
In Congress, some members have introduced legislation to restrict the president's authority to establish national monuments. A bill by Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska would require authorization by Congress, legislatures in the affected states and compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act for approval of a national monument.
It's important to keep in mind that many of the monuments being scrutinized by the administration were designated after years of effort by local residents, sportsmen and women, hikers, campers, business owners, tribal members and elected officials. Bears Ears National Monument, whose review had been fast-tracked, was established last year following decades of effort by members of tribes with ties to the area going back several centuries. The Utah monument is home to more than 100,000 archaeological and cultural sites, many of them sacred to several tribes. But for years, looters and vandals have stolen and damaged historic artifacts and even robbed ancient graves. One goal of designation is to better protect these treasures.
Public meetings on proposals to establish other monuments being reviewed drew big crowds of supporters. Business owners joined hikers, mountain bikers, hunters, anglers and Latinos with centuries-long roots in the region to rally for making Rio Grande del Norte and Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks national monuments. When Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks was proclaimed a monument, Kent Salazar, an Albuquerque, New Mexico resident and member of the National Wildlife Federation Board of Directors, said the action "preserves this iconic area for future generations and allows continued traditional uses of the land, helping maintain the local economy and wildlife habitat."
Other monuments under review are:
• Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument, Montana
• Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument, Arizona
• Grand Staircase Escalante, Utah
• Katahdin Woods and Waters, Maine
• Northeast Canyons and Seamounts, coastal Massachusetts
• Papahānaumokuākea, Northwestern Hawaiian Islands
• Cascade-Siskiyou, Oregon
The administration says it wants public input on these monuments and that "local input is a critical component of federal land management." So far, an estimated 1 million comments have been submitted in response to the administration's review of Bears Ears. Let's boost that number for the other 26 monuments under review and celebrate the 111th anniversary of the Antiquities Act, one of this nation's most important conservation tools, by speaking out publicly for our national monuments and all our public lands.
By Cindy Hudson
Winter and spring in Oregon can be cold, wet and muddy, but thanks to seed grants from the National Wildlife Federation (NWF), 10 schools in the Portland area are learning the joys of getting outside and getting their hands dirty despite weather conditions.
Part of the NWF's Eco-Schools USA program, the $1,000 seed grants are funded by the Gray Family Foundation. The grant is used for green school projects like the one at Beaverton School District's McKinley Elementary School. In fact, McKinley is one of only three schools in Oregon to be awarded native tree seedlings through the NWF's Trees for Wildlife program this year.
"A lot of students at our school live in apartments," said ESL teacher Debbie Abel, who works with fourth and fifth graders on several projects. "For some, this is the only opportunity they have to explore outdoors."
That exploration has included digging for worms and learning about slugs—fun! Students are also identifying native and non-native trees on campus and writing up tags with facts about them. Each tag contains a QR code linked to plantsmap.com, where anyone interested can find out more information.
But the school's biggest project is yet to come. McKinley is using the seed grant to purchase native plants such as wildflowers, ferns, herbs and shrubs as well as plant tags, ID books, soil, mulch, garden chairs and a mason bee condo. In honor of Earth Day later this month, students, parents, staff and volunteers will be planting 200 trees on the school's extensive grounds as part of their efforts as a Certified Schoolyard Habitat.
A few miles away at French American International School, science lab instructor Molly Hamill said pathways available through Eco-Schools USA are helping teachers provide the curriculum that connects students to the outdoors and tie together the whole community.
When third graders explore the wooded trail on the school's property, they are asked to look for signs of wildlife among the trees. Deer, owls, snakes, salamanders, frogs and even coyotes! And yes, all of these species have been spotted in the natural area.
"At the beginning of spring in the forest, the sound of birds is incredible," said Hamill, noting that they can identify five different kinds of woodpeckers in the area. Students are excited to improve habitat for wildlife like birds and more by planting more than 50 tree seedlings awarded to the French American International School through the Trees for Wildlife program.
Hamill also said information from Eco-Schools USA makes it easy to tie in what's being taught in the classroom to further learning. "We have freedom to pull in ideas and involve kids and go from there," she said, explaining that it's a lot more interesting and effective when you can teach kids about the parts of a flower, and then help them plant milkweed and watch the butterflies show up when those flowers bloom.
Yet some of the biggest buzz on campus, said Hamill, was generated by a project the seed grant made possible. Fish Eggs to Fry, a program administered by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife with help from the NWF's Oregon affiliate, the Association of Northwest Steelheaders, provided Hamill with trout eggs to nurture until they hatched and could be released into a local waterway.
In February, Molly Orr, AmeriCorps member with the Association of Northwest Steelheaders, and NWF delivered 500 rainbow trout eggs to the 20-gallon aquarium the school purchased with grant funds. For two weeks, Hamill said the aquarium became the most popular site on campus, providing learning opportunities for both students and adults. "We had kids checking the pH, temperature and the conditions of the fish," said Hamill. "First graders journaled about the progress and recorded changes in what they saw." Those first graders, she said, also learned that not all fish grow up to be clownfish, like Nemo.
The interest extended to the headmaster and other staff, who Hamill said stopped by the aquarium regularly, and parents who came in when they dropped their kids off in the morning.
When the trout were large enough, staff released them into a local pond approved by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. Now that the school has the equipment, Hamill hopes to sign up for the program again in the fall, when Chinook salmon eggs will be available.
That kind of enthusiasm and continuity of learning is exactly what Morgan Parks, Oregon education coordinator for the NWF, loves to hear. "School budgets are stretched thin," said Parks. "Because the (Eco-Schools) pathways are linked to curriculum standards, it can help take the load off teachers."
Parks said other schools receiving grants are working on a variety of pathway projects, including removing invasive species and replacing them with native plants, creating monarch butterfly gardens and community gardens, performing energy and waste audits and developing a bioswale on school grounds.