Do your Part

Comment on pending decisions in your National Park!

Ever wonder how major environmental decisions are made? Well, the National Park Service, and other federal agencies, must comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) when deciding about “major federal actions having a significant effect on the environment. Essentially, a federal agency has to consider reasonable alternatives to any proposal that might significantly effect the environment, and gather public input while doing so.

They are not necessarily constrained to choose the alternative with the least impact. They are, however, required to make a statement about it and are subject to public scrutiny. Such statements are called Environmental Impact Statements. They are created when it is fairly clear that there will be significant impacts. When the implications of an action are not as clear, and Environmental Assessment (EA) may be completed. An EA is less comprehensive than an EIS, but analyzes whether an EIS must be done or not.

When preparing an EA or EIS, agencies are required to seek public input, both early in the process (called scoping) and when they have formulated the alternatives and are ready to make a decision. How does the public get involved? How can you and I make a difference?

Well, since this blog is mostly interested in parks, here is a link to the National Park Service’s site where you can find opportunities to comment on current decisions being considered. For those of you in northeast Ohio like me, here is a link to find what decisions are being made at Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

If you care about parks and the environment, you have an obligation to keep up on the decisions our public employees are making, and to tell them how you feel. If you support the decisions they are making, tell them so. If you don’t support their path, tell them that too, and tell them what they ought to do and why. After all, maybe your comment will be the one that saves a precious resource that would otherwise have been lost.

So, keep tabs on what is going on in your National Park, and get outside and get to know the nature of the parks so that when the time comes to defend it, you know what you value about your parks!


Appalachian Forest School in Southern Ohio

From a press release sent out by The Arc of Appalachia Preserve System:

Those of us living east of the Mississippi River all share something in common. We live within the primeval boundaries of what was once North America’s great temperate broadleaf forest. Only a few hundred years ago, this nearly unbroken forest cloaked the entire eastern third of the continent. Despite its size, for most citizens our native biome has become an “invisible forest,” fragmented from its original unified grandeur, and unrecognized as a living force in our daily lives.

The Arc of Appalachia Preserve System is encouraging Eastern citizens to awaken to their common forest heritage. Acknowledging our shared home in what was once among the world’s largest forests could help us connect more deeply with our native landscape, connect more strongly other forest stewards across multiple state lines, and anchor a more meaningful sense of place in the world.

To advance forest literacy among citizens, the non-profit Arc of Appalachia Preserve System of southern Ohio is sponsoring the new Appalachian Forest School, an institute offering 3-7 day long courses to be held at various locations within the historic range of the Eastern Forest. Each course includes an emphasis on global and national perspectives, and invites a cross-disciplinary understanding of the temperate forest biome in which the majority of U.S. citizens work and live. Instructors have been carefully selected from professors, field researchers, land managers, and naturalists — combining talents and specialties to present a broad and integrated view of the Eastern Forest. Even as disturbed as America’s Eastern forest is today, the second growth forest that remains in Eastern United States is the largest remnant temperate forest in the northern hemisphere, offering significant potential for ecological study and restoration.

The 2009 Course Schedule includes:

Forests of the Ozarks, “Life on the Edge,” May 26-June 1st.
Visit pine-oak woodlands and remnant old-growth forests on the interface of two major biomes — where the Eastern temperate forest meets the prairies of the Midwest. See the nation’s largest and cleanest spring-fed river systems, rich canebrake communities sheltering Swainson’s warblers, wild rarely-explored caves, collared lizards and other fascinating reptiles, and wet orchid-strewn glades in one of the largest forest wilderness areas left in Eastern United States.

Trees of the Temperate Forest, July 12-17th.
Learn how to recognize 45 species of primary temperate forest trees, learn forest succession principles, and apply skills in interpreting the health and history of any single woodlot. This course will prepare you to recognize approximately 90% of the standing trees in forests located throughout the forest heartland, from Maine to Tennessee.

Forest Waterways, Lifeblood of the Eastern Forest, August 16-21st.
An integrated view of the richest aquatic systems to be found anywhere in the temperate world — the streams and rivers of Eastern United States. Learn the global significance of our rivers’ fresh-water fish, mussels, salamanders, crayfish, and other aquatic wildlife; and their ecological inter-relationships.

Private Forest Landowners Course – Managing for Biodiversity, Sept 18-20th
Learn how to clarify the management goals you hold for your privately-owned forest. Unlike most courses which teach owners how to make financial profit from the timber assets of their forest, this course teaches interested owners how to sustainably manage a forest for the primary purpose of restoring high biodiversity of native plants and wildlife.

2010 and beyond:

Forests of the Far South – Exploring the Wilderness of Florida’s Panhandle

Forests of the Far North – Forests of the Boundary Waters of Minnesota

Forests of the Heartland – The Mother Forest of the Southern Appalachians

Spring Ephemerals – Wildflowers of the Eastern Forest

Interpreting our Eastern Forest Heritage – Training for Teacher Naturalists

For more information on the non-profit Appalachian Forest School, see
For recent copies of Nature Notes from the Eastern Forest, click here:

Description of Sponsor:

The Arc of Appalachia Preserve System is an educational non-profit organization that operates 12 preserves and stewards a total of 3000 acres in rural southern Ohio for the purpose of forest biodiversity preservation. The Arc of Appalachia operates visitor education and hiking trails at the Appalachian Forest Museum, featuring dramatic educational murals that interpret the global significance of the temperate broadleaf forest. The Appalachian Forest Museum is located in its headquarters, the Highlands Nature Sanctuary, in Bainbridge, OH, 45612. The Arc of Appalachia also sponsors The Appalachian Forest School, offering adult courses that advance temperate forest education and conservation among Eastern citizens.


America's Most Endangered Rivers

Today, American Rivers released its list of America’s Ten Most Endangered Rivers. The nonprofit group stands up for healthy rivers, and has compiled this list based on the magnitude of threat faced by the rivers, major decisions that could impact the health of the rivers, and the regional or national significance of the river.

Making this list doesn’t mean a river is polluted, but it does mean degradation looms in the near future. It also seems that the rivers listed change from year to year, so this is not a list of the worst, or most endangered, so much as a list of currently threatened waterways.

My question is this: Why, in today’s enlightened atmosphere, where the environment is finally becoming a mainstream issue, do we have rivers that are endangered? Why, when human life depends on clean water, would we take actions that threaten the lifeblood of our species?

What can we do about it? We can make sure our leaders in our state capitals and Washington know how important rivers are to our environmental and economic health. We can make sure we don’t mow to close to out backyard streams. We can reduce our use of lawn chemicals. We can build rain gardens that allow water to sink into the ground instead of running off into storm sewers, which in turn run into our rivers.

We can also spend out leisure time along rivers and in natural areas, which sends a strong message to political leaders. When parks and rivers are visibly loved, it will make it that much tougher to make political deals that allow for their destruction. Now, get outside and enjoy a river!


Its Spring, but there's snow on the ground

Well, it had to happen. I was walking a beautiful property along a tributary to Tinkers Creek in northeast Ohio last week, and one of the land owners commented on what a beautiful day it was. Then his brother-in-law noted that it would snow one more time.

“When was the last Easter you remember without snow?”, he said.

I grinned for lack of any memory of Easter weather. I did, however, silently hope he was wrong. Well. He was right. I woke up this morning to a blanket of snow. We had planned to be camping this week, but my astute wife checked the weather and we realized this was not the week to take two little kids, and a rambunctious dog out in a tent. I was disappointed, but of course she was right. Allegheny National Forest can wait.

Instead, I had to comfort myself with some low quality photos of last weekend’s outdoor wanderings at Punderson State Park and Geauga Park District’s West Woods. I am including a couple of early bloomers in this post just to make it feel more like spring today. The first is a photo of a cluster of skunk cabbage Symplocarpus foetidus flowers taken in a wetland at West Woods. I have seen skunk cabbage blooming around northeast Ohio wetland and seep areas since the last week of February this year.

The yellow flower is coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara). A naturalized wildflower, coltsfoot grows along trailsides, roads, and in disturbed areas. It is one of the earliest spring flowers. Although non-native, it does not appear to cause ecological harm, at least as far as I can tell.

This next photo isn’t a flower, but it is as beautiful as one. This is the nature center at West Woods. Geauga Park District did a great job on this wonderful building. If you are looking for a great place to learn about nature, or just love cool buildings, visit West Woods nature center.


State of the Birds The 2009 Report

State of the Birds The 2009 Report: “we see heartening evidence that strategic land management and conservation action can reverse declines of birds.”

In this first ever comprehensive report on U.S. bird populations, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, American Bird Conservancy, Cornell Lab of Ornithology: Pat Leonard, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, National Audubon Society, The Nature Conservancy, Klamath Bird Observatory, U.S. Geological Survey and other conservation partners lay out the status of our country’s avian health. The report shows great increases in some birds, while alerting our leaders to the potential loss of other bird species and the habitat that supports them.

The good news from the report is that proper habitat management and land protection is helping the precarious position of many bird species. More progress must be made, but national and international land conservation groups like the Nature Conservancy, and local land conservancies like Western Reserve Land Conservancy, which has has worked with multitudes of partners to conserve over 14,000 acres of important habitat in northern Ohio, are playing a vital role in protecting remaining habitat.

Read this report, then get outside and watch some birds this spring.


Southern Ohio Wildflower Pilgrimage

The following is from a recent email announcement from the Highlands Nature Sanctuary:

Spring will soon return.

Why not spend it in the woods, among the company of flowers?

In all the world, nothing compares to the verdant beauty of an Appalachian Forest in the spring. Join us as we celebrate the return of the flowers.

Southern Ohio Wildflower Pilgrimage
April 17, 18, 19, 2009
The Arc of Appalachia Preserve System

Three days of over thirty field trips to southern Ohio’s spectacular wildflower showcases. Led by some of our area’s best botanists and naturalists. Each field trip is limited to 15 participants. The Arc of Appalachia region has some of the most beautiful wildflower displays in the U.S. Eastern Temperate Forest. You are encouraged to register as quickly as possible. Area lodging and complete meals available.

This year’s keynote speaker is Kentucky’s superlative Photographer, Tom Barnes, author of Kentucky’s Last Great Places, Wildflowers and Ferns of Kentucky, and the just-released Rare Wildflowers of Kentucky.

Sponsored by the Arc of Appalachia Preserve System with the cooperation and assistance of The Nature Conservancy Ohio Chapter, Cincinnati Museum Center, Cincinnati Nature Center, Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, Ohio Division of Natural Areas and Preserves, Ross County Park District, Shawnee State Park & State Forest, Southern State Community College, and the Ohio Historical Society.

TO REGISTER: click here

For general information see Arc of Appalachia’s web site.