Patagonia National Park Chile ~ Tompkins Conservation

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Photo: Linde Waidhofer

Dear Friends,

As you may have already heard, January 29th, 2018 was an historic day for Chile and for Tompkins Conservation. On a clear summer afternoon, we welcomed President Michelle Bachelet to Patagonia Park headquarters to sign the decrees creating the network of Patagonia parks, solidifying the pledge we both signed in March 2017 to create five new national parks and expand three more. I was proud to represent TC on behalf of Doug and our team members and partners around the world. After 25 years of work, we can hardly believe this day finally arrived.
The collection of land and infrastructure we donated for Patagonia National Park Chile alone took 14 years of work and many partners. Supporters from Hong Kong to Laguna Beach, from schoolteachers to investment banking executives, employees, volunteers, and partners of Conservacion Patagonica and The Conservation Land Trust have made immeasurable contributions to this shared endeavor – This grand donation and parks creation, the largest of its kind in history, would not have been possible without all of your help. The one million acres given by Tompkins Conservation, combined with nine million acres of federal land designated by the government, will expand Chile’s national parklands by over 10.3 million acres. The signing of these decrees cements Chile as one of the global leaders in conservation today.

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President Michelle Bachelet and key ministers sign the national park decrees, January 29th, 2018. Photo: Linde Waidhofer

The one million acres given by Tompkins Conservation, combined with nine million acres of federal land designated by the government, will expand Chile’s national parklands by over 10 million acres.

In an era filled with very discouraging news about the daily destruction of our beautiful planet, we hope this day is a reminder to everyone that there are still ways to fight back. After the announcement, The New York Times published my op-ed “Protecting Wilderness as an Act of Democracy,” which may serve as a reminder that the continuing degradation of wilderness is not the only path forward.

Doug and I have always been firm believers that a country’s natural masterpieces are best held and protected by the public for the common good. National Parks are the gold standard of conservation—they belong to everybody. They remind us that we are part of something larger than ourselves. National Parks, monuments and other public lands remind us that regardless of race, economic standing or citizenship, we are all part of the community of Life.

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Kristine Tompkins and President Michelle Bachelet visit the Patagonia Park cemetery and the grave of Douglas Tompkins just before the donation ceremony. Photo: Dani Casado

The story of the creation of these parks, this wild legacy, belongs to us all. I am forever grateful for your involvement, the work we have done together, Doug’s incredible vision, and this spectacular commitment by the government of Chile. We hope you can all take a moment to enjoy this unprecedented step towards the protection of wild nature.

In congratulations,

Kristine McDivitt Tompkins
President, Tompkins Conservation

Snow-Making For Skiing During Warm Winters Comes With Environmental Cost ~ NPR

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Snow-making has been called a Band-Aid to the bigger problem of warming temperatures.

Patrik Duda / EyeEm/Getty Images/EyeEm

 

In the height of ski season this year, blades of grass and patches of dirt still dot cross country ski trails in Aspen, Colo. Conditions like this present a conundrum for professional skiers: Their livelihood relies on snow and cold temperatures, but essentials like travel and snow-making come with an environmental cost.

Simi Hamilton is one of the fastest cross country skiers in the world, and before the snow fell this season, he hit the pavement in his hometown of Aspen on roller skis. Training without snow is something Hamilton is getting used to. Year after year, he watches the snow line move further up the mountains.

“We would be in the high Alps at 6,000 feet trying to train in mid-January and we’d still be training on just, like, a two-foot deep platform of man-made snow and there’s just green grass next to the trails,” Hamilton said.

Olympic cross country skier Simi Hamilton trained on roller skis in his hometown of Aspen, Colo., last fall.

Elizabeth Stewart-Severy/Aspen Public Radio

 

A missed turn on this ribbon of snow means skiers get grass stains, and that’s the new reality of cross country skiing. Warming temperatures mean a later start to winter. Even after winter hits, more precipitation is falling as rain rather than snow. The lack of snow means ski areas have to fill in the gaps.

“There’s not a whole lot ski resorts can do other than buff out snow-making,” said Auden Schendler, vice president for sustainability at Aspen Skiing Company.

Most of the snow that cross country skiers race on is artificial. Resorts and cross country race venues across the world blow huge piles of man-made snow. They truck it across the landscape to create ski trails, and some resorts are even storing manufactured snow through the summer months to be sure they can provide skiing early in the season.

This sets up a tricky situation: a warming climate is undeniably detrimental to the ski industry. But Schendler said the man-made snow solution is just a Band-Aid, and one that actually aggravates the problem.

“You’re using a very energy-intensive fix to deal with a changing climate and the fix cannibalizes the very climate you care about,” Schendler said.

As global temperatures rise, researchers have tracked an upward trend in both the number of resorts that are making snow, and the number of acres they cover with the artificial stuff. Elizabeth Burakowski studies changes in winter climate at the University of New Hampshire.

“It is a challenge for professional athletes to say, walk the walk when it comes to carbon emissions,” Burakowski said.

But snow-making technology is becoming more efficient, according to Burakowski. In terms of global greenhouse gas emissions, the industry is “probably a drop in the bucket.”

Nonetheless, athletes like Olympic cross country skier Noah Hoffman are aware that every drop counts.

“We see the changes to the climate on a yearly basis, and yet, we’re burning huge amounts of fossil fuels flying from venue to venue, and then the snow that we ski on is incredibly energy intensive,” Hoffman said.

Hoffman tries to offset the harm caused by his Olympic skiing dream by speaking out on environmental issues.

“I don’t know how to settle those two sides of the coin in my own mind,” he said.

But he thinks it starts with acknowledging his own role in contributing to the problem.

LISTEN

Floods Are Getting Worse, and 2,500 Chemical Sites Lie in the Water’s Path

 

Anchored in flood-prone areas in every American state are more than 2,500 sites that handle toxic chemicals, a New York Times analysis of federal floodplain and industrial data shows. About 1,400 are located in areas at highest risk of flooding.

As flood danger grows — the consequence of a warming climate — the risk is that there will be more toxic spills like the one that struck Baytown, Tex., where Hurricane Harvey swamped a chemicals plant, releasing lye. Or like the ones at a Florida fertilizer plant that leaked phosphoric acid and an Ohio refinery that released benzene.

 

More Than 2,500 Sites That Handle Toxic Chemicals
Are Located in Flood-Prone Areas Across the Country.

 

‘Deep Scars’ as Trucker Drives Across Peru’s 2,000-Year-Old Nazca Lines ~ NYT

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The condor geoglyph in the Nazca Lines south of Lima. Credit Rodrigo Abd/Associated Press

A 2,000-year-old United Nations World Heritage Site in Peru was damaged this week when a trucker intentionally drove his tractor-trailer off a roadway that runs through the protected historic area, the authorities said.

The site, the famed Nazca Lines, is a sprawling series of images scratched into the surface of a coastal plain about 225 miles south of Lima, the capital. The site was created between 500 B.C. and A.D. 500, and is the world’s best-known example of geoglyphs — large designs created by arranging rocks or altering the landscape — that depict animals, plants and other figures.

The truck driver, Jainer Jesús Flores Vigo, was arrested and is expected to be charged with an “attack against cultural heritage,” according to the government-owned news outlet Andina.

The Nazca Lines, created by a pre-Inca civilization, are believed to have been used for religious and ceremonial gatherings for hundreds of years. From the ground, the lines are nearly impossible to identify; their true splendor is best viewed from above.

The Pan-American Highway, which runs through the protected site, has left it increasingly vulnerable to human actions, according to the United Nations.

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Keep Our Mountains Free. And Dangerous.

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Mont Blanc, which is known among climbers as the White Killer. A recent spate of fatalities has prompted efforts to force climbers to take safety precautions. Credit Bruno Barbey/Magnum Photos

Last August, after several accidents and deaths among climbers on Mont Blanc, Western Europe’s highest and most treacherous mountain, Jean-Marc Peillex, the mayor of the French town of St. Gervais-les-Bains, issued an order: Anyone attempting to climb the nearby Gouter route up the mountain must now have specified gear including a harness, rope and headlamp. Those who do not take these precautions are to be fined.

On the face of it, the order is common sense. Mont Blanc, known among climbers as the White Killer, is 15,774 feet high, and as the recent spate of casualties make clear, its ascent is a dangerous one — as one French climbing website describes it, “a vertiginous high mountain route prone to natural hazards: rockfalls, crevasses, avalanches and extreme weather.”

And yet, the decree appears to be a first — no such regulation exists on any of the world’s mountains, and it threatens to unravel a centuries-old ideology based on the understanding of mountains as wild, inherently risky places of conquest, not to be confused with busy boulevards and cafe-lined city streets.

The mayor’s order is more than a matter of public safety. It raises existential and philosophical questions, too: Where, and when, can we take life-threatening risk? Should we continue to see mountains as wild and dangerous natural places, or extensions of our urban environment?

~~~  FOLLOW THE EXISTENTIAL  ~~~

Leaked Documents Reveal the Trump Administration’s Plan to Sell off Our Public Lands ~ Mother Jones

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This story was originally published by The HuffPost.

President Donald Trump and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke have repeatedly said they oppose selling off federal lands.

“I want to keep the lands great, and you don’t know what the state is going to do,” Trump told Field & Stream magazine in January 2016. He re-emphasized this in a subsequent interview with the Outdoor Sportsman Group: “We’re not looking to sell off land.”

 

It was over this very issue that Zinke—a former Montana congressman—resigned as a delegate to the Republican National Convention in 2016. And in a speech one day after arriving at his new post, Zinke promised Interior staffers: “You can hear it from my lips. We will not sell or transfer public land.”

But a leaked White House infrastructure plan has many conservation groups concerned that Trump and Zinke could soon be singing a different tune: that of the Republican Party, whose platform calls for transferring control of federal lands to states.

 

The draft plan, which Politico and Axios obtained this week, includes this line: “Disposition of Federal Real Property: would establish through executive order the authority to allow for the disposal of Federal assets to improve the overall allocation of economic resources in infrastructure investment.”

 

To be clear, the document is a draft plan—one Paul Teller, a special assistant to the president for legislative affairs, told Politico this week does not reflect the final proposal. Nonetheless, it is easy to see how one might read “disposal” to mean that the government will look to sell off, trade or transfer federal assets, including land, to help pay for crumbling bridges and highways.

 

White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters declined to say whether this “disposal” would include federal lands. “We are not going to comment on the contents of a leaked document but look forward to presenting our plan in the near future,” she wrote in an email to HuffPost.

Politico reported Wednesday that Trump could release his long-anticipated infrastructure plan in as little as two weeks. If it takes aim at public land, Zinke will almost certainly face the brunt of public outrage. After all, it was Zinke who said last month, “No one loves public land more than I. You can love it as much, but you can’t love it any more.”

 

Fearing a looming about-face, conservation groups sent a shot across the administration’s bow this week.

 

“It raises suspicions from everybody that cares about public lands,” Brad Brooks, public lands campaign director at The Wilderness Society, told HuffPost. “And if they are proposing to sell off public lands, the American public is not going to stand for D.C. politicians trying to steal our land.”

 

Brooks added that Zinke needs to explain—one way or another—what’s going on. To his knowledge, there is no precedent for public land being disposed of via executive order.

Jennifer Rokala, executive director of the Center for Western Priorities, said in a statement that the draft infrastructure plan is the latest example of Zinke saying one thing and doing another.

 

“This plan calls for the disposal of federal lands, it’s right there in black and white,” she said. “The secretary owes the American public an honest answer: Will he continue to be complicit in President Trump’s attempts to sell off our public lands?”

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