Archive | December, 2010

Exploring EPA’s RePower America Data on Renewable Energy

Exploring EPA’s RePower America Data on Renewable Energy

EPA and the National Renewable Energy Lab have produced a database of more than 15 million acres of public and private lands around the country that are Superfund or other brownfield sites and where renewable energy can be produced – its called the ‘RePowering America’s Land’ Initiative.  They have been providing funding for evaluation, feasibility studies and planning necessary to install renewable energy infrastructure on these sites. For example, in Pennsylvania acid mine discharge sites are being evaluated for hydropower microturbine installation.

EPA has a series of static maps you can use to see where the best solar, wind, geothermal and other renewable energy sites are in their database, however its difficult to understand the types of site and power potential without being able to explore the data yourself.

The visualization linked to below uses EPA’s data ( sites > 10 acres) on solar energy potential for sites, wind potential of landfills, brownfield, Superfund, abandoned mines and other sites and EPA programs. Unfortunately, there are few sites in California and the Southwest of a size to support commercial scale solar power except sites on U.S. military lands. Using the legends at the bottom, you can select and view only large or small sites, excellent wind power sites, the highest solar potential sites, and EPA programs individually.

Click the static image below to open the visualization in a new window. Note that, because of the large data size, the initial load time may take several seconds.

Posted in Uncategorized0 Comments

Pronghorn buck by William Dunmire

Treasuring a Wildlife Landscape in Wyoming

The Wyoming Department of Transportation just announced it is spending the state’s general transportation funding on an important series of highway overpasses and underpasses that will reduce collisions between deer, antelope and cars along a busy highway near Pinedale, Wyoming.  This is one part of what I see as one of the most successful examples of a cross-jurisdictional effort to save a landscape scale wildlife need – a migration corridor.

Although there are about 2 million pronghorn antelope in the United States, some herds are more important than others, in particular the herd of a few hundred (and growing) pronghorn that migrate 150 miles every spring into Grand Teton National Park, across a complicated mix of private, Bureau of Land Management, Forest Service and National Park land.

In 2008, the U.S. Forest Service made history by designating the first National Forest ‘Wildlife Corridor’ to make management of the pronghorn’s migratory corridor a higher priority for Bridger-Teton National Forest.  “This migration is an important part of Wyoming’s history and we want to do all we can to maintain it,” said Kniffy Hamilton, Bridger Teton National Forest Supervisor.

In 2009, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation made a 5-year commitment to help fund the reduction of fence barriers to pronghorn movement on private and BLM lands in the area.

In 2010, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and WalMart, in partnership with The Conservation Fund and Wyoming Department of Game and Fish made the corridor a priority, by funding an easement on Carney Ranch that will keep a key bottleneck in the pronghorn migration route undeveloped and another 19,000 acres of nearby pronghorn habitat was also protected.

Now Wyoming Department of Transportation has let a contract to begin construction of a series of wildlife overpasses and underpasses that will allow the pronghorn to continue their migration without causing accidents and risking human lives on Highway 191.  Once completed, the highway will no longer have the potential to disrupt a many thousand year old migration path of pronghorn and mule deer.

When the Administration rolls out its ‘America’s Great Outdoors’ initiative in January 2011, one measure of its success will be whether we see more collaborative successes like the efforts that have gone into conserving the Path of the Pronghorn.

Posted in Imperiled Wildlife, Northern Rockies0 Comments

Fifty Years of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

Monday, December 6, marked 50 years since the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (then known as the Arctic National Wildlife Range) was established under the Eisenhower administration. It’s a milestone that once again brings attention to the need to safeguard this iconic natural landscape from the destruction that would inevitably result from oil and gas development.  The Arctic Refuge deserves protection for ecological, scientific, cultural, aesthetic, and even spiritual reasons.  It also deserves protection for the value it gives to the larger system of which it is a part.

With more than 550 refuges, thousands of waterfowl production areas, and about 150 million acres, the National Wildlife Refuge System is the largest system of protected land and water in the world.  Yet beyond a tautological definition, most Americans would be hard pressed to explain what the National Wildlife Refuge System is – that is, if they had even heard of it at all.

Despite this, the Arctic Refuge is one of the world’s best-known protected areas.  As one of the largest and most recognizable unit of the National Wildlife Refuge System, the Arctic Refuge provides us the opportunity to put a face to the name, ‘Refuge.’  It gives an identity to the Refuge System and, in turn, a reason to care about it.  In the face of a $3.7 billion backlog and tightening budgets, it needs all the support it can get.

As one of our last large, intact landscapes, where ecological processes have persisted largely without human interference and evolution carries on unchallenged, the Arctic Refuge teaches and inspires us.  And as the National Wildlife Refuge System formulates a new vision for the future, it represents the possibility.  Rallying around the Arctic Refuge can help garner strength for the countless other unique and remarkable units that the Refuge System protects.

The importance of the Arctic Refuge can be evidenced by the fact that its 50th anniversary has been so highly celebrated, with a play, a gala, a new film from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and a presidential proclamation all marking the occasion.  In the fight to keep this treasured place free from oil and gas development for another 50 years, protecting the Arctic Refuge and the National Wildlife Refuge System will go hand in hand.

Posted in Alaska, National Wildlife Refuges, Public Lands0 Comments

National Security is Natural Security

The New York Times ran a story over the weekend called, “Why We Might Fight” about the role of the environment and natural resources in driving future conflicts.   In a series of five examples, Thom Shanker talks about how desertification, pollution, overuse of water and climate change may drive future international conflicts.  The subject has spawned new academic research programs and new non-government organizations dedicated to the development of ‘natural security’ policy.

Shanker doesn’t talk about how the same struggle for resources or against resource pollution bedevils neighbors here at home.  In Pennsylvania, residents in small towns across the state are fighting water pollution from ‘fracking’ for natural gas occurring on nearby properties.  In Nebraska, a Public Power and Irrigation District sued upstream farm water users because they were draining a downstream reservoir important in making the state’s electricity – and feeding precious water to other farms.

Posted in Fossil Fuels, Uncategorized0 Comments

National Research Council Spill Study Draws 150 Scientists

More than 150 scientists were nominated to serve in the twelve vacancies on the National Research Council’s Gulf spill committee to advise the government on the best techniques with which to value natural resources damaged by BP in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.  The first public meeting of the committee is likely to occur in January or February of 2011.  NOAA and other agencies continue to make summary data available to the public on the analyses and assessments they are leading.  This diagram produced by NOAA gives a quick summary of the ongoing science to carry out the assessment of damages to America’s Gulf ecosystems.

Posted in Energy, Fossil Fuels0 Comments

photo of what the wildlife crossing at I-70 might look like

A new design for Nature?

photo of what the wildlife crossing at I-70 might look like

One finalist's design for the I-70 wildlife crossing

Earlier this week, the ARC International Wildlife Crossing Infrastructure Design Competition unveiled the five finalist designs for a next generation wildlife crossing, to be built at West Vail Pass on I-70 in Colorado.  This first-ever international competition asked designers from all over the world to imagine solutions to the age-old problem of moving wildlife across the landscape while keeping them out of harm’s way on our highways.

Five finalists were chosen from 36 team submissions from nine countries, representing more than 100 firms worldwide.  The finalists showed great innovation and creativity, including the use of an inverted arc shape that creates a valley floating above the highway.  One design team chose laminated timber for building material, rather than concrete and steel.  Another design incorporates a bright red bridge to attract the interest of drivers as they pass under, yet remain unremarkable to color-blind mammals as they pass over.

“Collectively, the designs have the capacity to transform what we think of as possible,” said Jane Wernick, ARC juror and structural engineer, director of Jane Wernick Associates, London.

The five designs are now available for public viewing at The winning design team will be announced at the Transportation Research Board 90th Annual Meeting in Washington, DC on January 23, 2011.

Posted in Imperiled Wildlife, Northern Rockies0 Comments

dotWild is the blog of scientists and policy experts at Defenders of Wildlife, a national, nonprofit membership organization dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities.