Archive for July, 2011

World water sustainability; feedlot politics

July 25, 2011

Is the world running short of water?
Water, water, everywhere, but not enough to drink — at least not where it’s needed. That’s the dilemma that Indiana University geochemist Chen Zhu and colleagues explore in the current issue of Elements, a peer-reviewed publication sponsored by 16 geological societies.

Zhu serves as guest editor of the special issue on global water sustainability, along with Eric H. Oelkers of the University of Toulouse in France and Janet Hering of EAWAG, a Swiss research institute. In the lead article, “Water: Is There a Global Crisis?” they examine what seems to be a paradox:

 The Earth’s renewable water resources are 10 times as much as required by the demands of the current population. Yet an estimated 1 billion people lack safe drinking water, and poor water quality and management are responsible for more than 1.5 million deaths per year. While there is excess water in some parts of the globe, other areas face severe shortages or water that is ruined by pollution.

 “Is there really a water crisis? In a sense yes; our current water policy is unstable and unsustainable,” the editors write. “Yet, in contrast to non-renewable resources such as petroleum, we will not run out of water. The solution to this global water crisis is improved management of this valuable resource.”
 –Indiana University News Release

 Environment bill exempts big feedlots
Read a fine blog post by the Land Stewardship Project’s Brian DeVore on a Minnesota budget bill that eliminates a state permitting requirement for large livestock feedlots. 

Changes to federal regulations during the last Bush administration allowed operators of large feedlots to avoid applying for a Clean Water Act National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit if they certify that they will not discharge pollutants to public waters. However, until now Minnesota law still required big feedlots to apply for and obtain the federal permit. The environmental spending bill approved last week dropped that requirement.

In his blog, DeVore criticizes both the law change affecting about 1,000 feedlots and the legislative practices that led to enactment of the change without public input.

 Park Rapids well hits nitrate limit
The water supply in the city of Park Rapids is contaminated with nitrates, and many suspect the source is the fertilizer used on local farm fields.

Park Rapids has had elevated nitrate levels in its water for years. But last April was the first time a city well exceeded 10 parts per million, the threshold for what’s considered safe. The well was shut down.

City administrator Bill Smith says residents aren’t panicking, they are concerned. Nitrate contamination can cause health problems. It’s especially dangerous for infants, who can get something called blue baby syndrome — when nitrates inhibit a baby’s ability to use oxygen.

Smith says some blame local farmers who put tons of nitrogen-based fertilizer on their fields. That includes the R.D. Offutt Company, or RDO — the largest potato grower in the U.S., and the community’s largest employer.
–Minnesota Public Radio 

Government’s role in the Asian carp debacle
If you say “Arkansas fish farms” and “Asian carp” in the same sentence, you can almost hear the boos and hisses. They’re the ones who let the fish escape into the wild, right?

Maybe not, although that’s the story that people hear over and over. It’s one of many myths about Asian carp that persist. It’s true that a fish farmer was the first to bring three species of Asian carp into the U.S., but from there, the carp ended up in the hands of government agencies that spawned them in research ponds, stocked them in sewage lagoons as an alternative to chemicals and experimented with canning bighead as a cheaper substitute for tuna.

 Heads of some of the state and federal agencies that raised the carp admit that they were lax in the 1970s and early 1980s, an era when no one was terribly concerned about invasive species, and that the fish are as likely to have escaped from government ponds as those of fish farmers.

 Farmers who have raised bighead carp since the 1980s say they were encouraged by government agencies to do so. Now that their carp crop was essentially banned last December, they say they feel they’re being unfairly punished for someone else’s misdeeds.
–The Detroit Free Press (One of a six-part Free Press series)

 Tests indicate Asian carp penetrate Chicago barrier
Even as the federal government insists its electric fish barrier is working just fine, evidence of Asian carp above that barrier continues to roll in.

 With no fanfare, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers posted on its website news that nine water samples taken above the barrier in recent weeks have tested positive for the giant, jumping fish. The federal government is spending tens of millions of dollars to keep them out of the Great Lakes.

 Seven of those positive “environmental” DNA tests – taken between May 10 and June 27 – came from Lake Calumet south of downtown Chicago, a body of water that has a direct connection to Lake Michigan. 

The other two positive samples came from an area near downtown and an area north of downtown on the North Branch of the Chicago River.

 Lake Calumet also is the site of the only confirmed find of an Asian carp in waters directly connected to Lake Michigan. Last summer a commercial fisherman hired by the State of Illinois to hunt for the fugitive fish pulled out a 19-pound bighead carp.
–The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Forests remove a third of global carbon emissions
Forests play a more significant role in removing carbon from the atmosphere than first reported —  absorbing one-third of global carbon emissions annually, a new U.S. Forest Service study says.
“Forests provide us with abundant clean air,” said U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. “This study shows the important role global forests play in keeping the air clean and it also broadens our understanding of how climate change relates to forest management in today’s world.”

Forests absorb carbon like a giant sponge into what scientists call a carbon sink. Oceans serve as the only other natural source for absorption of significant amounts of carbon. Until these new findings, many experts said forests played a less important role in removing carbon from the air we breathe.

 This report indicates otherwise.

 The study, conducted by the U.S. Forest Service’s Northern Research Station and a team of scientists from around the world, was recently published in the journal Science online, at the Science Express website, an online publication of the nonprofit American Association for the Advancement of Science.
–U.S. Forest Service News Release

Ecolab buys water sustainability firm
Ecolab, the St. Paul-based cleaning giant, is deploying its hefty cash for its biggest purchase ever: an Illinois-based company that makes chemicals used in water treatment, pollution reduction and the oil and gas industry, for about $5.4 billion.

 The deal to acquire Nalco Holding Co. of Naperville immediately gives Ecolab a strong position in the increasingly important market of water sustainability, now an insignificant part of Ecolab’s $6.1 billion business.

 Nalco also will expand Ecolab’s presence in emerging markets such as India and China. When the deal closes, the combined company will have more than $10 billion in revenue, making it one of the world’s leading companies in cleaning and water management.
–The St. Paul Pioneer Press

Coalition helps Washington State river adapt
For 10,000 years the Nisqually Indians have relied on chinook salmon for their very existence, but soon those roles are expected to reverse.

 Based on current warming trends, climate scientists anticipate that in the next 100 years the Nisqually River will become shallower and much warmer. Annual snowpack will decline on average by half. The glacier that feeds the river, already shrunken considerably, will continue to recede.

 Play the scene forward and picture a natural system run amok as retreating ice loosens rock that will clog the river, worsening flooding in winter, and a decline in snow and ice drastically diminishes the summer runoff that helps keep the river under a salmon-friendly 60 degrees.

 To prepare for these and other potentially devastating changes, an unusual coalition of tribal government leaders, private partners and federal and local agencies are working to help the watershed and its inhabitants adapt. They are reserving land farther in from wetlands so that when the sea rises, the marsh will have room to move as well; they are promoting hundreds of rain gardens to absorb artificially warmed runoff from paved spaces and keep it away from the river; and they are installing logjams intended to cause the river to hollow out its own bottom and create cooler pools for fish.
–The New York Times

Environment spending mixes cuts, compromises
The environment bill negotiated between Gov. Mark Dayton and lawmakers includes some budget cuts and some compromise on policy issues.

 The Chamber of Commerce is satisfied with the changes, but environmental groups say the law weakens protections of natural resources and goes against voters’ wishes for Legacy Amendment money.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s general fund is cut by 40 percent over the biennium. That’s a smaller cut than the 66 percent that Republican legislators had initially proposed. Still, it prompts environmental leaders like Steve Morse of the Minnesota Environmental Partnership to charge negotiators with stepping over the constitutional line against substituting Legacy Amendment money for existing expenditures.

 “When overall state funding is going up, the environment is getting cut, and that’s contrary to what voters directed legislators to do just two and a half years ago with the Legacy Amendment,” Morse said.
–Minnesota Public Radio

 Southeastern U.S. drought worsens
Streamflow and groundwater conditions in southwestern Georgia and adjacent parts of Florida and Alabama continued to worsen during July. Waterways in many of the regions rivers are setting new record lows with gauges on the Flint, Suwannee, Ochlocknee, Alapaha, and Apalachicola rivers recording the lowest water levels in their history due to lower than normal rainfall. Groundwater levels were below normal and set new records in much of the southern Georgia, with some wells going dry.

 To determine the impact of the drought on water resources and ecology of southwestern Georgia and adjacent parts of Florida and Alabama, almost two dozen researchers from three U.S. Geological Survey water science centers in Alabama, Florida and Georgia will conduct field studies in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint and Aucilla-Suwannee-Ochlockonee river basins.

 “This is the first effort of its kind ever completed during the peak of the summer irrigation season”, said Brian McCallum, assistant director of the USGS Georgia Water Science Center. “This effort will help us see hydrologic and ecological conditions at their most stressed condition.”

 USGS field crews will visit more than 200 stream sites and 400 private and public supply wells to assess streamflow decline and drops in groundwater levels. Additionally, field crews will collect water-quality information that will help in the determination of the drought’s impact on ecological conditions in the region. Later in the summer, they will visit the same stream sites to assess populations of fish and mussels affected by drought conditions. The work is being completed as part of the USGS WaterSmart initiative, a program to assess sustainability of water supplies in the ACF basin.
–USGS News Release

 Loss of large animals hurts ecosystems
The loss of large animals is wreaking havoc on Earth’s ecosystems, according to a scientific review published in Science,, causing food chains to fall into disarray, clearing the way for invasive species, and even triggering the transmission of infectious diseases. The decline and disappearance of these large animals, due in large part to human factors such as hunting and habitat loss, has such strong and wide-ranging effects that the review’s authors say it may well be “humankind’s most pervasive influence on nature.”

The researchers reviewed data from recent studies investigating the loss of so called “apex consumers,” large predators and megaherbivores, from terrestrial, freshwater, and marine ecosystems around the world.

 Whether on land or at sea, the researchers found, the result was the same: Remove the apex consumer and the whole ecosystem suffers, as the initial loss sets off a cascade of changes all the way down the food chain. “Predators have a huge structuring influence,” ecologist Stuart Sandin, one of the researchers, told LiveScience. “When you remove them you change the biology, which is typically profound and complex. And in many cases it’s not necessarily predictable.”

Forest Service denies groundwater for Pa. ‘fracking’
Fortune seekers first pulled mineral riches from the floor of the Allegheny National Forest lands more than 100 years ago using the technology of the time — explosives, pipe and towering wooden oil derricks.

 Today’s natural-gas hunters are welcome to drill down and inject millions of gallons of water and sand to fracture, or, “frack,” wells in the deep, natural gas-laden Marcellus Shale on that same public land — but they are going to have to bring their own water with them.

 That is the stance the U.S. Forest Service has struck as the lucrative Marcellus Shale drilling wave spreads across the state and into the historic gas and oil fields of the vast Allegheny National Forest, which sprawls across a large swath of northwestern Pennsylvania.

 The position — announced by Forest Supervisor Leanne Marten to a Shell Oil Co. affiliate amid planning for three new Marcellus wells in the national forest — has reignited the long-running legal dispute over how much control the Forest Service may have over the development of the mineral resources that lie below the 513,325-acre Allegheny National Forest’s surface.
–Erie Times-News

Cows, carp, salamanders, muskies and more

July 18, 2011

Each week, the Freshwater Society publishes a digest of important regional, national and international articles and research on water and the environment. Scan the articles here, then follow the links to read the articles in their entirety where they originally were published.

House bill would curb EPA’s water regulation
The Environmental Protection Agency’s powers to set clean-water standards would be limited under legislation passed by the Republican-led U.S. House over threats of a veto by the Obama administration.

 The bill blocks the EPA from tightening water pollutant limits without a state’s consent if the agency previously approved the state standard. The measure, which passed 239-184, is part of an effort to rein in what Republicans say is an agency’s regulatory overreach threatening the economy. Sixteen Democrats joined Republicans to support the measure.

Supporters said limits on the EPA would give farmers, coal companies and other businesses that discharge pollutants into waterways greater certainty that standards won’t be changed.

 The EPA is engaged in an “unprecedented regulatory grab” during a “difficult time in our economy,” Representative John Mica, a Florida Republican and chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said during debate.

The bill is the “single-worst assault on clean-water protections in a generation,” Steve Fleischli, a senior attorney at the New York-based Natural Resources Defense Council, said in a statement.

 Asian carp: How big an impact in Great Lakes?
The question of how deadly an Asian carp invasion would be to the Great Lakes has led to a fierce debate among researchers, environmental groups and governments, who disagree on the answer.

 The issue has become urgent as researchers have found that, while much of the public’s attention has been focused on the Chicago canal where an electric fence so far is keeping the fish away from Lake Michigan, there are at least 13 other lesser-known pathways for the fish to get into the lakes. Most allow carp to breach wetlands during floods, dumping them into rivers leading to the lakes.

 In Indiana’s Wabash River, spawning carp actually are closer to Lake Erie than spawning populations near Chicago are to Lake Michigan.

 If they do get in, Duane Chapman, a leading Asian carp expert, said the fish probably could survive in all the Great Lakes, including cold Superior, because they feed in the top layers of water, where the temperatures are warmer. But spawning might not happen in all of them.

 Not all scientists agree; some say fears of the fish devastating the lakes are severely exaggerated.
–The Detroit Free Press

Study documents herbicides entering the atmosphere
When soil moisture levels increase, pesticide losses to the atmosphere through volatilization also rise. In one long-term field study, U.S. Department of Agriculture scientists found that herbicide volatilization consistently resulted in herbicide losses that exceed losses from field runoff.

 Agricultural Research Service (ARS) soil scientist Timothy Gish and ARS micrometeorologist John Prueger led the investigation, which looked at the field dynamics of atrazine and metolachlor, two herbicides commonly used in corn production. Both herbicides are known to contaminate surface and ground water, which was primarily thought to occur through surface runoff.

Gish works at the ARS Hydrology and Remote Sensing Laboratory in Beltsville, Md., and Prueger works at the agency’s National Laboratory for Agriculture and the Environment in Ames, Iowa.

Prueger and Gish observed that when air temperatures increased, soil moisture levels had a tremendous impact on how readily atrazine and metolachlor volatilized into the air, a key factor that had not been included in previous models of pesticide volatilization. When soils were dry and air temperatures increased, there was no increase in herbicide volatilization, but herbicide volatilization increased significantly when temperatures rose and soils were wet.

Most surprising was that throughout the study, herbicide volatilization losses were significantly larger than surface runoff. When averaged over the two herbicides, loss by volatilization was about 25 times larger than losses from surface runoff.
–USDA News Release

 Endangered salamander sparks San Antonio conservation
Who would believe that a translucent sightless amphibian that dwells only in dark underground caves could force a big Texas city to not only slash its water use but make water waste illegal? But the rare, four-inch Texas blind salamander has done pretty much just that – and spawned an unusual water story in San Antonio, where impressive conservation efforts are now being tested by one of the worst droughts in memory.

 While most Americans can’t even name the source of their drinking water, many San Antonians know not just their water source – an underground limestone formation called the Edwards Aquifer– but its height above sea level. That’s because that level, which is posted every day on the city water authority’s website, determines whether they can sprinkle their lawns — and whether the water police are likely to be out in full force.  Recently the Edwards level has measured between 640 and 650 feet, which means that residents can irrigate only once a week. If the aquifer’s level drops below 640 feet, the city will declare Stage 3 Drought and allow landscape watering only every other week.

 So what’s all the fuss about the level of the Edwards Aquifer?  Enter the Texas blind salamander.
–The National Geographic Daily News

Have some sympathy for the reviled invasives
Maybe weeds and invasive species aren’t such bad things. Listen to National Public Radio’s “Talk of the Nation” host Ira Flato interview two experts who suggest we all might want to revise our opinions on invasives.
–National Public Radio

Chinese farm feeds on pollutants
China has some of the world’s worst water pollution. And the country’s farms are responsible for a big part of that problem. So there is a certain irony in visiting a farm here that purports to actually help reduce pollution from other sources. But that’s the claim of a 100-acre hydroponic farm in China’s southwest.

 The farm on the edge of Dianchi lake grows some 30 types of vegetables, including long green rows of lettuce and spinach that sway in the wind and float on platforms with their roots in the water.

 Where other farms would need fertilizer to provide nutrients for their crops, the vegetables here get their nutrients from sewage that’s been dumped in the water by the city of Kunming and its environs. Sales representative Cao Jiangrui said that’s all the fertilizer they need. She said government inspections to prove the vegetables are safe to eat, and that by putting the nutrients to use, the pilot project helps, in a small way, to clean up Dianchi lake.
–Public Radio International

 Research: Dairy cows pollute less on pasture
Computer simulation studies by scientists at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) suggests that a dairy cow living year-round in the great outdoors may leave a markedly smaller ecological hoofprint than its more sheltered sisters.

 Agricultural Research Service (ARS) agricultural engineer Al Rotz led a team that evaluated how different management systems on a typical 250-acre Pennsylvania dairy farm would affect the environment. ARS is USDA’s chief intramural scientific research agency.  Rotz works at the ARS Pasture Systems and Watershed Management Research Unit in University Park, Pa.

 For this study, Rotz and his team used the Integrated Farm System Model, a computer program that simulates the major biological and physical processes and interactions of a crop, beef or dairy farm. The scientists collected a range of field data on grazing systems, manure management and their effects on nutrient loss to the environment. Then they used their farm model, supported by the field data, to evaluate the environmental dynamics of four different dairy farms in all types of weather over 25 years.

 The model generated estimates for ammonia emissions from manure, soil denitrification rates, nitrate leaching losses, soil erosion and phosphorus losses from field runoff. Estimates for emissions of carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide from both primary production and the secondary production of pesticides, fuels, electricity and other resources were also considered.

 Compared to high confinement systems, keeping dairy cows outdoors all year lowered levels of ammonia emission by about 30 percent. The model results also indicated that the total emissions for the greenhouse gases methane, nitrous oxide and carbon dioxide were 8 percent lower in a year-round outdoor production system than in a high-production confinement system.
–Science Daily

Study finds benefits in switchgrass production
The Midwest could produce more food, more fuel, less nitrogen runoff and lower greenhouse gas emissions if farmers switched some corn plantings to dedicated energy crops, according to a new study.

 A move from corn to next-generation ethanol feedstocks miscanthus and switchgrass could switch the Corn Belt from a net greenhouse gas source to a sink, according to the research, published in this month’s edition of Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment.

The paper, written by researchers with the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, Colorado State University, the Agriculture Department’s Agricultural Research Service and the Energy Biosciences Institute, focuses not on the conversion of non-agricultural land to biofuels production but on how changed planting patterns could affect agricultural outputs and the environment.

Pointing out that 30 percent of the 2009 corn crop was dedicated to ethanol, the authors argue that redirecting the land on which that corn was planted could have a significant impact on domestic land use without triggering major food and feed market changes.
–The New York Times

 State shutdown may affect muskie record
Put an asterisk next to Art Lyons and his 54-pound, 56-inch muskellunge that has held the mantle of Minnesota state record since 1957.

 An Arizona angler caught a bigger one, he and his family say, but with the state Department of Natural Resources largely shut down with the rest of Minnesota’s government, they stumbled in their attempts to get the fish in the record books.

 And with the 57.5-inch, 54.5- to 55-pound bruiser now lying in pieces in a taxidermist’s studio, we’ll likely never know for sure.
–The St. Paul Pioneer Press

Wisconsin court affirms DNR role in groundwater
A unanimous Wisconsin Supreme Court decision upholds the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources’ authority to protect all waters in the state, including groundwater.

 At stake in Lake Beulah v. DNR was whether the DNR had authority to consider the impact pumping groundwater has on lakes, rivers and streams. In a 7-0 decision, the Court found that the DNR has both the authority and the duty to consider the environmental impact of pumping large quantities of groundwater.

 “We conclude that… the DNR has the authority and general duty to consider whether a proposed high capacity well may harm waters of the state,” reads the decision written by Justice Patrick Crooks. “We further hold that to comply with this general duty, the DNR must consider the environmental impact of a proposed high capacity well when presented with sufficient concrete, scientific evidence of potential harm to waters of the state.”
–The Ashland Current

 2009-10 West Coast beach erosion was severe
Knowing that the U.S. west coast was battered during the winter before last by a climatic pattern expected more often in the future, scientists have now pieced together a San Diego-to-Seattle assessment of the damage wrought by that winter’s extreme waves and higher-than-usual water levels. Getting a better understanding of how the 2009-10 conditions tore away and reshaped shorelines will help coastal experts better predict future changes that may be in store for the Pacific coast, the researchers say.

“The stormy conditions of the 2009-10 El Niño winter eroded the beaches to often unprecedented levels at sites throughout California and vulnerable sites in the Pacific Northwest,” said Patrick Barnard, USGS coastal geologist. In California, for example, winter wave energy was 20 percent above average for the years dating back to 1997, resulting in shoreline erosion that exceeded the average by 36 percent, he and his colleagues found.

Among the most severe erosion was at Ocean Beach in San Francisco where the winter shoreline retreated 184 ft., 75 percent more than in a typical winter. The erosion resulted in the collapse of one lane of a major roadway and led to a $5 million emergency remediation project. In the Pacific Northwest, the regional impacts were moderate, but the southerly shift in storm tracks, typical of El Niño winters, resulted in severe local wave impacts to the north-of-harbor mouths and tidal inlets. For example, north of the entrance to Willapa Bay along the Washington coast, 345 ft. of shoreline erosion during the winter of 2009-10 destroyed a road.
–USGS News Release

Feedlot violations yield penalty

July 4, 2011

Feedlot penalized for manure pollution
A Marshall-area cattle producer has agreed to pay a $10,000 civil penalty for alleged violations stemming from manure-contaminated water runoff during land application of manure from a feedlot holding about 3,000 cattle.

In a Stipulation Agreement with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, Donald DeLanghe will also revise the feedlot’s manure-management and emergency-response plans.

On Sept. 8, 2010, the MPCA received a complaint about manure-contaminated water runoff from cropland about four miles south of Marshall. Manure from the feedlot, which is stored in two earthen basins, was being applied to the cropland as fertilizer. Over-application of liquid manure, combined with the marginal field conditions due to wet weather last fall, resulted in manure-contaminated water escaping to field drain tiles and to an intermittent stream.

In a related Administrative Penalty Order, the manure application contractor received a $10,000 penalty for failing to report the discharge, and for not taking immediate steps to contain or recover it.

The MPCA regulates the collection, transportation, storage, processing and disposal of manure, and provides assistance to counties and the livestock industry. Large feedlots with National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permits must operate so that no manure or contaminated water is allowed to enter waters of the state. More information about feedlot regulation and assistance is available on the MPCA feedlot program Web page.
–MPCA News Release

Radio series probes Great Lakes’ future
Interested in the Great Lakes? Check out a remarkable series of news and feature reports on the lakes’ future assembled by WBEZ, Chicago Public Radio. The series, titled Front and Center, deals with a range of issues: from the threat of invasive species, to the recovery of the bald eagle, to the nagging question: How likely is it that the arid west eventually will buy — or steal – the Great Lakes’ water.

Spotted owl plan released
It has been two decades since the fate of a bashful bird that most people had never seen came to symbolize the bitter divide over whether to save or saw down the ancient forests of the Pacific Northwest. Yet it was not until Thursday that the federal government offered its final plan to prevent the bird, the northern spotted owl, from going extinct.

Barred owls, bigger and more adaptable, now increasingly compete with spotted owls.

After repeated revisions, constant court fights and shifting science, the Fish and Wildlife Service presented a plan that addresses a range of threats to the owl, including some that few imagined when it was listed as a threatened species in 1990.

The newer threats include climate change and the arrival of a formidable feathered competitor, the barred owl, in the soaring old-growth evergreens of Washington, Oregon and California where spotted owls nest and hunt.

One experiment included in the plan: shooting hundreds of barred owls to see whether that helps spotted owls recover.

–The New York Times

Report: Deferred maintenance plagues parks
America’s national parks are threatened by unchecked human development, voracious invasive species and climate change and the government has failed to protect or catalog millions of priceless artifacts, according to a decade-long
report (pdf) released by the National Parks Conservation Association.

The group’s report, “State of America’s National Parks,” warns that adjacent residential, commercial and industrial developments threaten air, water and noise pollution and fragmented wildlife habitats for the National Park Service’s nearly 400 parks and other attractions.

It also warns that cultural resources such as battlefields and prehistoric sites have received far less attention and funding than natural resources and are threatened by looting, vandals and a lack of qualified staff to interpret their meaning for visitors.

The report cites a recent agency estimate that 43 million of the NPS’s 80 million museum artifacts were uncatalogued, and that 28 million objects were at risk of decay or loss.

–The New York Times

2010 was one of two warmest years ever
Worldwide, 2010 was one of the two warmest years on record according to the 2010 State of the Climate report, which NOAA released. The peer-reviewed report, issued in coordination with the American Meteorological Society, was compiled by 368 scientists from 45 countries. It provides a detailed, yearly update on global climate indicators, notable climate events and other climate information from every continent.

This year’s report tracks 41 climate indicators ― four more than last year ― including temperature of the lower and upper atmosphere, precipitation, greenhouse gases, humidity, cloud cover, ocean temperature and salinity, sea ice, glaciers, and snow cover. Each indicator includes thousands of measurements from multiple independent datasets that allow scientists to identify overall trends.

While several well-known cyclical weather patterns had a significant influence on weather and climate events throughout the year, the comprehensive analysis of indicators shows a continuation of the long-term trends scientists have seen over the last 50 years, consistent with global climate change.
–National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration news release

Homebuilders sue over Chesapeake Bay plan
The National Association of Home Builders is the latest group to sue the federal government in an attempt to thwart the new Chesapeake Bay “pollution diet.”

The builders group filed its lawsuit in federal court in Pennsylvania on Friday, alleging that the Environmental Protection Agency’s computer modeling is faulty, the process didn’t allow for adequate public review and the federal government doesn’t have the authority to define specific pollution limits.

Tom Ward, an attorney for the home builders, said he hopes the court will require the EPA to complete a do-over on the new pollution rules.