In northcentral Montana, along the Missouri River as it flows east from its origins, a nonprofit organization is working hard to conserve a large piece of the plains. By blending the public with the private, philanthropy with entrepreneurship, patience with boldness, the American Prairie Reserve is stitching together a 3.5 million-acre park for people and wildlife. And their ambition is paying off, both for the land and wildlife conservation targets they hope to reach. “The way we see it, we have a last, best chance to save – to restore – a functioning ecosystem right here and right now,” explains Hilary Parker, the reserve’s communication and outreach coordinator.“We are in a unique position because of what’s here. We have a large area of previously untilled prairie, so we have the land itself. And we have the rule of law, unlike some places in the world” says Parker, where conservation activities can be threatened by property disputes or poaching. “This means we can plan and implement restoration work with confidence over the long term.”That confidence appears warranted, as the American Prairie Reserve has moved aggressively to achieve its goals. Since its 2001 founding, the organization has:Acquired 86,586 acres of private lands.Acquired grazing leases on 266,518 of federal and state public lands.Established and expanded a 700-head bison herd.Conducted ecological restoration work.Established a conservation restoration tool, the Freese Scale, to measure the reserve’s practices and inspire other prairie restoration projects.Launched a private-label grassfed beef enterprise, Wild Sky beef, to provide income and incentives for beef producers on bordering ranches to adopt wildlife-friendly grazing practices.
Cargill Inc. said its Wichita, Kans.-based North American protein business is donating $50,000 in new fencing materials to ranchers who lost fences during last week’s fast-moving wildfire in western Kansas and two nearby states. The wildfires consumed more than 1,000 square miles of grazing land in rural Kansas, destroying an estimated 100,000 miles of ranch fencing in Kansas alone, Cargill noted in a news release. The company said the Kansas Livestock Association told officials that replacement fencing materials were needed more than anything else to rebuild what the fire destroyed.
Once a dominant species of the eastern US, the American chestnut (Castanea dentata) was devastated early last century by the disease chestnut blight, caused by the fungal pathogen Cryphonectria parasitica which was recently detected in southwest England. Now researchers at the College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF), part of the State University of New York, have planted 100 transgenic young trees which carry a wheat gene enabling them to withstand the blight in a "seed orchard"in upstate New York. When they grow large enough to produce pollen, this will be used to fertilise the flowers from wild-type "mother trees" to preserve genetic diversity. Half of the resulting nuts will inherit the blight-resistance gene. "They will be the basis of the trees we will eventually give out to the public," said ESF professor William Powell, who has led the project. "And they'll be the basis for the trees we will use for demonstration and research for the next 100 years."
The number of bats counted in the Soudan Underground Mine has dropped 70 percent due to white-nose syndrome, according to the annual survey of the state's largest bat wintering area.Researchers have known since 2013 that the deadly fungus was present on some bats that spend their winter deep underground in the former iron ore mine near Tower. Last winter was the first time they had seen hundreds of dead bats outside the mine during winter months, a sure sign of white-nose syndrome. This winter, the deaths have mounted to catastrophic levels. "Last year we had maybe 1,000 dead bats on the surface. This year it's more than 2,000 and counting. The ravens are really enjoying it, so it's hard to get a good count of the dead bodies," said Jim Essig, manager at Lake Vermilion-Soudan Underground Mine State Park.
The election of Donald Trump signals an end to the recent optimism about reducing the mass imprisonment of two million U.S. citizens each year. Trump supports policies like the immigrant ban and increased stop-and-frisk that will undoubtedly lead to more arrests and strain an already bloated prison system. After taking office, Trump signed an executive order authorizing the secretary of homeland security to “allocate all legally available resources to immediately construct, operate, control, or establish contracts to construct, operate, or control facilities to detain aliens at or near the land border with Mexico.” It seems clear that more American prisons are on the way. While much has been written about mass incarceration, less is known about the prison building boom and the role it plays in slowing reform of the criminal justice system. The prison boom is a massive public works program that has taken place virtually unnoticed because roughly 70 percent of prisons were built in rural communities. Most of this prison building has occurred in conservative southern states like Florida, Georgia, Oklahoma and Texas.
Hungry honey bees appear to favor flowers in agricultural areas over those in neighboring urban areas. The discovery has implications for urban beekeepers and challenges assumptions that farmland and honey bees are incompatible, said authors of a new study from The Ohio State University.The team positioned honey bee colonies in an apiary in a central Ohio cemetery smack in the middle of where urban residential development transitions into farmland. They left the colonies to forage for nectar and pollen wherever they preferred.The bees, studied from late summer to early fall, overwhelmingly went for the agricultural offerings instead of the assorted flowering plants in and around the urban neighborhoods nearby, said lead author Douglas Sponsler, who was a graduate student in entomology at Ohio State when the research was conducted in 2014. The study appears in the Journal of Urban Ecology.Throughout the study, the honey bees’ haul always favored plants from the agricultural area, and hit a high of 96 percent of the pollen collected at one point.“Honey bees didn’t seem to care that much what the floral diversity was. What they wanted was large patches of their favorite stuff,” said Sponsler, who now works at Penn State University. Goldenrod was particularly popular, the researchers found. The bees’ agricultural foraging preference was especially pronounced at the end of the season, as the colonies prepared to overwinter.
Two broadband companies -- one for-profit, one co-operative -- are providing reasonably priced broadband to rural communities in Minnesota.
Many dog owners don’t think twice about settling Fido in their lap for a drive to the store, or rolling down the windows so Rover can feel the breeze in his ears. But a bill pending in the Maine Legislature would require dog owners to restrain dogs inside a moving vehicle and keep them out of the way of the driver.
A Canadian firm's subsidiary is taking over a former machine shop in West Virginia's Northern Panhandle to make and sell natural gas compression equipment that will create up to 130 jobs. Gov. Jim Justice says Bidell Gas Compression will operate out of a 100,000-square-foot facility in Weirton that was previously owned by ArcelorMittal Steel. The property had been recently purchased from ArcelorMittal by the Frontier Group, an industrial and commercial facility redeveloper. Bidell is a subsidiary of Calgary, Alberta-based Total Energy Services Inc. The facility will be the company's first U.S. manufacturing operation.
Greg Gardiner is a cowboy. His wide-brimmed hat carries a band darkened by years of sweat and dust. Decades of 100-degree sun, 10-below cold and wicked winds from every direction have left his face as leathery as an old baseball glove. Below his lip is a small goatee and above it a wide trademark mustache. Several days after the biggest fire in the state’s history swept through Clark County, Gardiner slowly drove along some of his family’s 48,000 acres. Occasional tears left trails through the dust on his face, and he wondered whether he was witnessing the biggest natural disaster his family had seen since they’d arrived by covered wagon in 1885. “I still can’t believe we didn’t get anybody hurt or killed,” he said. “My brother and his wife probably shouldn’t be alive today, but they are.”He found few signs of life in four hours of checking pastures. “I know how it sounds, but it’s literally worse than I ever could have imagined,” Gardiner said as he slowly drove by some of the estimated 500 cattle that had died in Monday’s massive wildfire. “They never stood a chance in a lot of these pastures, the fire was so fast.” The tiny town of Englewood probably suffered the most damage per capita of any town in Kansas in the largest wildfire to ever burn across the state.