Outdoor News October 13, 2017 - Explore! Outdoor News October 13, 2017 - Explore!

Outdoor News October 13, 2017

Contaminants at Congaree

Yesterday the U.S. Geological Survey announced the results of a recent study it led in cooperation with the National Park Service.  The study found dozens of contaminants within the protected areas of Congaree National Park in South Carolina.

The study examined whether contaminants are commonly found within protected areas, and if so, their sources. These insights have implications for managing these, and other, protected lands in the United States.

Congaree National Park PhotoThe contaminants found were detected at levels below any considered to pose a risk to the health of park visitors who might drink or come in contact with waters in the backcountry. Additional research would need to take place to determine if the present levels or mixture of contaminants could cause adverse health impacts to aquatic organisms.

“Congaree National Park, like other parks around the country, is positioned in a landscape where surrounding land uses, municipal wastewater discharges and on-site visitation can potentially introduce contaminants into the protected areas,” said Paul Bradley, USGS Research Ecologist/Hydrologist and lead author of the study. “Our main goal with this study, which was requested by the National Park Service, was to provide key information to help park managers understand the potential sources of a variety of water contaminants detected in protected areas.”

The researchers collected 72 water and sediment samples from 16 river and lake sites around the park and found 49 pharmaceuticals and 47 other contaminants, including pesticides and chemicals associated with wastewater.

“While there was a large variety of contaminants found during the study, many were detected in locations that could be explained by agriculture or wastewater treatment plants on rivers upstream and outside of the park,” Bradley said. “However, some of the contaminants were found in lakes far away from the rivers flowing into the park, leading us to believe the source of these was likely people within the park.”

Pharmaceuticals were found in water samples from across the park, with higher occurrences and concentrations near the Congaree and Wateree Rivers and in Horseshoe Lake, which are all locations downstream of municipal wastewater discharges from Columbia, South Carolina and Charlotte, North Carolina.

Metformin, a drug used to treat diabetes and one often found when wastewater discharges into rivers or streams, was the most frequently detected pharmaceutical. It was found in 61 percent of the samples, and was the only pharmaceutical observed in either water or sediments at all 16 sites. 

Some of the contaminants found, like antibiotics and antibacterials, have been shown in studies elsewhere to negatively affect microbes, which form the base of aquatic food webs. Other pharmaceuticals detected in the park have been shown elsewhere to alter fish behavior and health.

The insect repellant DEET, or N, N-diethyl-m-toluamide, was one of the most commonly found contaminants in the park, being detected in 71 percent of all water samples. It was found at least once in every surface water body within the park, including those deep in the park unaffected by wastewater discharges.

In order to protect aquatic life and minimize human exposure to contaminants, all municipal wastewater is treated to add oxygen, disinfect water, and in some cases remove nutrients before it is released back into rivers and streams. However, wastewater treatment plants are not required to remove pesticides, pharmaceuticals, and other organic compounds commonly found at low levels in wastewater effluents.

The researchers also examined the likelihood that sediment-bound contaminants could naturally biodegrade in the park. They determined the park’s marsh-like floodplains are characterized by low oxygen conditions that are not conducive to biodegradation.      

“Most of the detected contaminants are not going to disappear very quickly,” Bradley said. “The National Parks are protected areas, but contaminants that may be of health concern to aquatic life have the potential of entering the park from both inside and outside sources. Understanding if contaminants are present and, if so, what their likely sources are is key to helping park leadership manage the risk of exposure to people and wildlife.”

The entire study, “Widespread Occurrence and Potential for Biodegradation of Bioactive Contaminants in Congaree National Park, USA,” is available for a fee.

Street View at Quttinirpaaq

Yesterday, Emma Upton, Quttinirpaaq National Park Manager for Parks Canada announced, Relocation Monument, Grise Fiord, NUthrough a Google blog, that Street View photography is now available for the Park.  She said: “Last summer, our team threw on the Google Trekker and explored the park’s incredible terrain – it was the furthest north Street View has ever gone. Wilderness and extreme isolation characterize this area, where fewer than 50 people visit each year. The park’s name itself translates to ‘the top of the world’ in Inuktitut, the local indigenous language.  

“With treks along the ocean shoreline, climbs up to lofty ridges, strolls beside glacial melt-water rivers, and scrambles at the foot of monumental glaciers, the resulting imagery is spectacular – a digital reflection of one of the world’s most rural locations

“Aside from Quttinirpaaq National Park, we captured Street view imagery of Grise Fiord, Canada’s northernmost community, and Resolute Bay, which has a population of just under 200 people.”

The interactive photography is available as a collection on Google’s Street View website.  Park’s Canada has also published a video showing how the photography was automatically shot from a hiker’s backpack.


Monument Creation and Protection Act

On Wednesday,  Representative Rob Bishop of Utah and Chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources said: “The National Monument Creation and Protection Act would, like the writers of the Antiquities Act intended, allow the president to unilaterally designate land up to 640 acres. Monument designations between 640 and 10,000 acres would be subject to review under the National Environmental Policy Act. Designations between 10,000 and 85,000 acres would be required to obtain the approval of all county commissioners, state legislatures, and governors in the affected area. The bill also standardizes and limits the president’s power to reshape monuments.

Grand Canyon“No longer would we have to blindly trust any president to do the right thing. These provisions ensure consultation with locals and robust scientific evaluation through public processes that would be required by law. It strengthens the president’s authority to protect actual antiquities without the threat of disenfranchising people.”

The Committee met Wednesday and completed markup of the Act.  The committee went on to report the bill to the full house on a 23 to 17 vote.

“This legislation is an appalling, unprecedented attack on our national monuments and public lands,” said Randi Spivak, public lands director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The Grand Canyon, Grand Teton, Zion and nearly every national monument created over the past hundred years wouldn’t have been possible under Bishop’s bill. Extreme doesn’t begin to describe how reprehensible his scheme is. There’s no public support for this kind of radical legislation. Bishop’s only motivation is greed. He’s offering a gift to the fossil fuel, mining and timber industries and expecting something in return.”

The bill (H.R. 3990) is available on Congress’ website.  Bishop sponsored the bill.  Co-sponsors are: Rep. Doug Lamborn [R-CO-5], Rep. Tom McClintock [R-CA-4], Rep. Paul A. Gosar [R-AZ-4], Rep. Doug LaMalfa [R-CA-1], and Rep. Bruce Westerman [R-AR-4].

Boy Scouts to Welcome Girls

On Wednesday, the Boy Scouts of America Board of Directors unanimously decided to welcome girls into its Cub Scout program and to deliver a Scouting program for older girls that will enable them to advance and earn the highest rank of Eagle Scout. The historic decision comes after years of receiving requests from families and girls, the organization evaluated the results of numerous research efforts, gaining input from current members and leaders, as well as parents and girls who’ve never been involved in Scouting – to understand how to offer families an important additional choice in meeting the character development needs of all their children.

BSA Logo“This decision is true to the BSA’s mission and core values outlined in the Scout Oath and Law. The values of Scouting – trustworthy, loyal, helpful, kind, brave and reverent, for example – are important for both young men and women,” said Michael Surbaugh, the BSA’s Chief Scout Executive. “We believe it is critical to evolve how our programs meet the needs of families interested in positive and lifelong experiences for their children. We strive to bring what our organization does best – developing character and leadership for young people – to as many families and youth as possible as we help shape the next generation of leaders.”

Families today are busier and more diverse than ever. Most are dual-earners and there are more single-parent households than ever before, making convenient programs that serve the whole family more appealing. Additionally, many groups currently underserved by Scouting, including the Hispanic and Asian communities, prefer to participate in activities as a family. Recent surveys of parents not involved with Scouting showed high interest in getting their daughters signed up for programs like Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts, with 90 percent expressing interest in a program like Cub Scouts and 87 percent expressing interest in a program like Boy Scouts.  Education experts also evaluated the curriculum and content and confirmed relevancy of the program for young women.

“The BSA’s record of producing leaders with high character and integrity is amazing” said Randall Stephenson, BSA’s national board chairman. “I’ve seen nothing that develops leadership skills and discipline like this organization.  It is time to make these outstanding leadership development programs available to girls.”

Starting in the 2018 program year, families can choose to sign up their sons and daughters for Cub Scouts. Existing packs may choose to establish a new girl pack, establish a pack that consists of girl dens and boy dens or remain an all-boy pack.  Cub Scout dens will be single-gender – all boys or all girls. Using the same curriculum as the Boy Scouts program, the organization will also deliver a program for older girls, which will be announced in 2018 and projected to be available in 2019, that will enable them to earn the Eagle Scout rank. This unique approach allows the organization to maintain the integrity of the single gender model while also meeting the needs of today’s families.

This decision expands the programs that the Boy Scouts of America offers for both boys and girls. Although known for its programs for boys, the BSA has offered co-ed programs since 1971 through Exploring and the Venturing program, which celebrates its 20th anniversary in 2018. The STEM Scout pilot program is also available for both boys and girls.

For more information about the expanded opportunities for family Scouting, see the family Scouting page.


No Dogs at Egmont

Egmont National Park on the west coast of New Zealand’s North Island is cracking down on dog owners.  Those bringing dogs into the park are potentially facing fines of up to $100,000 under the National Parks Act.

No dogs sign. The number of people bringing their dogs into the park has been steadily increasing over the past few years, says Dave Rogers, DOC Senior Ranger Recreation/Historic. “People have been using excuses that they haven’t seen the no dogs sign at the park entrance, or think that the sign doesn’t apply to them and their dog. Dogs big or small, ugly or cute, are a danger to kiwi and other native wildlife in the national park. We’re not going to take excuses any longer.” 

While a fine of up to $100,000 may seem extreme the life of a kiwi or blue duck/whio is priceless, says Mr Rogers.

“There’s estimated to be just 3,000 whio left in the world. We’ve got around 100 of them here in our park. Imagine if someone’s dog killed a whio – how devastating that would be to the whio population.” 

Dogs have been known to escape their owners. Even docile dogs can be predatory animals and a threat to native wildlife. A dog can sniff out a kiwi or whio with ease. 

Large ‘no dog’ signs have been installed on Egmont Road leading up to North Egmont road-end. The signage is very clear – no dogs – not even in peoples’ cars. “People think it’s ok to leave their dog in the car while they go for a walk or have a coffee. Not only is it not allowed, it’s dangerous for the dog as it could overheat in a hot car.” 

DOC rangers will be monitoring trails and car parks over summer to check compliance. Anyone seen with a dog in the national park may face prosecution.


Special Savings for Our Readers

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Video of the Week

Parks Canada has produced many outstanding videos.  This week we feature a video of Torngat Mountains National Park that not only showcases the spectacular scenery and wildlife but also shares the experience of visiting the park.  For more information and to plan your visit, see the Park’s website.

This newsletter is compiled by Jerry Haugen and brought to you by
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