Earth Month, Day 1: Wolves, Water, and Frac Sand

We’re kicking off Earth Month in style, with stories about three classic, controversial topics: Wolves, water, and energy.

michelle nijhuisFirst, from Michelle Nijhuis, writing for OnEarth magazine, a look at the brouhaha over the removal of wolves from the Endangered Species List:

Howls of Outrage

(Photo by Tim Fitzharris/Getty)

(Photo by Tim Fitzharris/Getty)

About 300 wolves live in the nearly 2-million-acre swath of central Ontario forest known as Algonquin Provincial Park. These wolves are bigger and broader than coyotes, but noticeably smaller than the gray wolves of Yellowstone. So how do they fit into the wolf family tree? Scientists don’t agree on the answer—yet it could now affect the fate of every wolf in the United States.

That’s because last June, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed removing gray wolves across most of the country from the endangered species list, a move that would leave the animals vulnerable to hunting. To support its proposal, the agency used a contested scientific paper—published, despite critical peer review, in the agency’s own journal—to argue that gray wolves never existed in the eastern United States, so they shouldn’t have been protected there in the first placeRead more.


codi yeager kozacekCodi Kozacek, writing for Circle of Blue, covers the unusual steps being taken at a Michigan mine to monitor pollution:

Rio Tinto’s Michigan Nickel Mine Introduces Citizen Water Quality Testing Program

Scheduled to begin production of nickel and copper next year, the Eagle Mine is the first new hard rock mine to open in northern Michigan’s Copper Country in decades. It’s so new that Chevy pickups need Kevlar tires to prevent blowouts on the sharp edges of stones not yet worn by mine traffic.

Puncture-proof tires, though, are hardly the only distinctions that separate the Eagle Mine from others in Michigan or across the United States. Two years ago, Rio Tinto, the mine’s developer, made an unusual proposition to the nonprofit Superior Watershed Partnership and Land Trust, a local environmental organization...Read more.

The Lake Superior beach at Sand Point is still covered with stamp sands from old copper mines. Approximately 500 million tons of them were dumped into Lake Superior and its tributaries in the Keweenaw Peninsula. (Photo by Codi Kozacek)

The Lake Superior beach at Sand Point is still covered with stamp sands from old copper mines. Approximately 500 million tons of them were dumped into Lake Superior and its tributaries in the Keweenaw Peninsula. (Photo by Codi Kozacek)


And from Richard Mertens, writing for The Christian Science Monitor, a story about the newest fracking-related unrest:

Next Fracking Controversy: In the Midwest, a Storm Brews Over ‘Frac Sand’

A truck dumps a load of sand at the loading terminal for Modern Transport Rail in Winona, Minn. (Phot by Andrew Link/Winona Daily News/AP/File)

A truck dumps a load of sand at the loading terminal for Modern Transport Rail in Winona, Minn. (Phot by Andrew Link/Winona Daily News/AP/File)

Kyle Slaby bounds up the slope behind his house, stopping at the sandstone outcrop he hopes will save his family’s farm. The Slabys grow corn and soybeans on the ridgeline above. But these days there’s more money – a lot more – in mining the sand below.

Sand has become a valuable – and deeply divisive – commodity in the upper Midwest. Hydraulic fracturing, a method of extraction also known as fracking that has boosted oil and natural gas production across theUnited States, requires sand, and there’s plenty of it here. And so in dozens of small towns and rural townships in MinnesotaIllinoisIowa and especiallyWisconsin, the demand for frac sand, as it’s called, has brought a surge of new mining activity. Scores of companies have poured in, eager to take advantage of the thick sandstone that underlies the bluffs and ridges of the region’s picturesque river countryRead more.



Posted in Fisheries, Energy, Technology, News from Fellows, Development, Pollution, Wildlife, Endangered Species, Legislation, Public Lands, Water, Health, Mining, Earth Month | Leave a comment

Earth Month!

Hooray for spring! Hooray for Earth Month!

Hooray for spring! Hooray for Earth Month!

In honor of Earth Day, we decided to go big: Why celebrate with just one day? Why not celebrate with a whole month?

Starting tomorrow, we’ll be bringing you “Earth Month” here on The Nooze. From April 22 – May 22, we’ll offer one blog post every weekday, highlighting recent noteworthy stories from alumni. We have a backlog (backblog?) of great stories that our Fellows have produced in the past month or two, so be sure to stay tuned!

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North Carolina Recap – Plus, the IJNR Blues!

Did you miss out on our dispatches from the road during our North Carolina Institute? Are you curious to hear more about where our intrepid Fellows went, and what they covered?

If that’s the case, you can check out our North Carolina Institute Page on our website.

Starting now, each Institute we produce will receive its very own page on our website, chock full of useful info, photos, an overview of the itinerary, the full contents of our pre-institute companion reader, and a (ever-growing) list of institute-related stories produced by Fellows following the trip.

And, in case you missed them, you’ll definitely want to watch these two fabulous videos that emerged from the trip: The first-ever IJNR Institute Trailer, and a blues song all about the Institute experience. (Don’t worry, no journalists were harmed in the making of these videos – nor were they harmed during the Institute, despite what blueman Randy Loftis would have you believe!)

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Historic Colorado Flood – From Two Perspectives

We love it when we get to see two or more of our alumni (or, in this case, an alumna and a staff member) reporting on the same issue on the same day. Today, two great stories about an historic event on the Colorado River:

adam hintFirst, from our own Adam Hinterthuer, writing for The Last Word on Nothing:

The Year of the Flood

Until last Sunday, the Colorado River ended in Yuma, Arizona, backed up against an unremarkable span of concrete called the Morelos Dam on the Mexican border. Every drop of water above the dam was already spoken for -– supplying water to Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Phoenix and Denver as well as irrigating farm fields in both the U.S. and Mexico. Barely a trickle of the river that had carved the Grand Canyon continued past the dam. And all of that was headed toward Mexicali farmland, not the last seventy miles to the Gulf of California.

But, on March 23rd, the gates of the Morelos Dam lifted, sending a pulse of water downstream that will mimic the increased flow that used to be provided by spring rains and Rocky Mountain snowmelt. After the pulse, the gates will remain open for roughly two months, giving the lower Colorado enough flow to, perhaps, complete its run to the Sea of CortezRead more.

After being allocated for municipal needs in major American cities and irrigation in the U.S. and Mexico, the Colorado River runs no more south of the border. (Photo by Pete McBride, USGS)

After being allocated for municipal needs in major American cities and irrigation in the U.S. and Mexico, the Colorado River runs no more south of the border. (Photo by Pete McBride, USGS)


sarah gilmanAnd, from Sarah Gilman, writing in High Country News:

Four Women Joyride the Flood that will Revive the Colorado River

The guides warned us, of course. Or they sort of did.

It was sometime after the river outfitter’s shuttle van had passed through the latticework of gates and fences that guards the steep, hairpinned road to the boat-launch at the base of the Hoover Dam, and possibly right before we realized that we had left our two-burner stove back in Alison’s truck, in the parking lot of a casino hotel towering beigely over an otherwise nearly buildingless swath of desert around Lake Mead.

March 19 had dawned beautiful and bluebird in what we had dubbed Baja, Nevada – a 12-mile stretch of clear turquoise water with intermittent hotsprings through the Black Canyon of the Colorado River, where my three college lady friends and I planned to kayak at a luxuriantly sluggish pace for four days. Green rattlesnakes will chase you, the guides told us as we wound into the steep gorge. Scorpions will roost in your sandals. Brain-eating amoebas will Swiss-cheese your frontal lobes if you’re stupid enough to snort the hotspring water. And in the afternoon and at night, the water level can rise without warning as dam operators let more or less through Hoover’s hydroelectric turbines to feed fluctuating power demands in Arizona, Nevada and California. Make sure your gear is secure, the guides fingerwagged, and your kayaks well-tied overnightRead more.

High and dry. Photo courtesy Sarah Gilman.

High and dry. Photo courtesy Sarah Gilman.

Posted in Agriculture, Climate, Development, News from Fellows, Politics, Public Lands, Water | Leave a comment

Announcing our Shale Country Institute

A well pad on the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania.  Photo courtesy of Pennsylvania State University Outreach / Flickr Creative Commons

A well pad on the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania.
Photo courtesy of Pennsylvania State University Outreach / Flickr Creative Commons

Journalists: Apply for IJNR’s
2014 Shale Country Institute!

Our Shale Country Institute will take place in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York from June 24th through the 28th.

While we’ll continue the “roving journalists” approach to this Institute, Shale Country will focus entirely on one subject: Fracking.

We’ll talk economics, ecology, and environmental toxicology. We’ll hear about human health, water and air quality, and citizen science. And we’ll get on the bus and meet with scientists, industry representatives, concerned citizens, and many others in the forests, fields and neighborhoods where these important stories are taking place.

While Shale Country is still in active stages of planning, journalists attending the Institute can expect to visit:

  • Buffalo, New York to talk about natural gas transport and pipelines,
  • The Allegheny National Forest to discuss hydraulic fracturing on public lands,
  • Sites near Youngstown, Ohio, where a recent spate of earthquakes led to a pause in fracking while authorities pinpoint the cause,
  • The Finger Lakes of New York, where a contentious proposal is brewing to use abandoned salt mines for natural gas storage.

Application deadline: Friday, May 2, 2014

Map courtesy USGS

Map courtesy USGS

This Institute dovetails with the SEJ-hosted Shale Gas and Oil Development workshop at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, from June 22 through mid-day on June 24. IJNR and SEJ will present topically different yet complementary programming, and journalists are encouraged to apply to both if they so choose. Please note, however, that each program requires a separate application, and acceptance to one program does not impact or guarantee acceptance to the other.

Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons user Nicholas

Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons user Nicholas

Posted in Development, Economics, Energy, Forestry, Health, Institutes, Journalism, Legislation, Mining, Politics, Pollution, Public Lands, Technology, Water, Wildlife | Leave a comment

Announcing the Frank Allen Field Reporting Award

lumberjackFrank Allen founded IJNR in 1995. For more than fifteen years he led journalists on intense reporting expeditions throughout North America, introducing them to the people and places involved in important environment, natural resource, energy, and development issues. When Frank retired in 2012, he left behind a legacy dedicated to fairness, accuracy, high-quality storytelling and on-the-ground journalism.

It is with this legacy in mind that IJNR invites applications for our first-ever round of Frank Allen Field Reporting Awards.

IJNR is now accepting proposals for grants of up to $1,000 to help defray the costs of reporting projects that focus on natural resources, the environment, energy, development, agriculture, environmental justice, and public health.

The purpose of these grants is to provide financial support for qualified, professional journalists, in order to allow them to report on important topics that they may not otherwise be able to cover. At the discretion of the selection committee, up to eight awards may be granted.

Grants may be given for the full amount requested, or may be given for a percentage of the full amount.

Grant money may be spent on any costs incurred for normal reporting activities: travel, lodging, research, etc. If you have questions, please feel free to ask:

Apply NowPlease note:
IJNR reserves the right not to issue any grants in a given year, based on the caliber of proposals.

Applicants must be working journalists, including freelancers, who have demonstrated a continued commitment to the tenets of fairness, accuracy and journalistic integrity. Applicants may not be lobbyists, public relations personnel, or communications employees writing solely on behalf of an organization or corporation.

IJNR pledges to keep confidential all of the applicants’ proposed story-project topics and specific story ideas until the time of publication.

IJNR pledges to give award winners complete control over their work with no editorial interference.

Award recipients will agree in writing to provide IJNR with a brief progress report at a mutually specified time during the reporting process and a final report after publication.

Wherever permitted by editor’s approval, or where the awardee has editorial control (personal website, etc.), IJNR asks that grant recipients include acknowledgement of IJNR’s support in or appended to stories resulting from the grant.

IJNR funding may not be used as reimbursement for reporting that has already occurred.

Liability disclaimer: IJNR’s role is solely to provide grants for reporting purposes. IJNR assumes no liability for the legal or safety risks undertaken during the course of reporting.

Email applications will be accepted. However, we very strongly encourage applicants to submit their proposals online via Submittable.

Award proposals due Friday, April 25, 2014.

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Dispatches from the Road: North Carolina!

Well, the weather has thrown some curveballs at our intrepid North Carolina crew, but they have soldiered on despite gale warnings, ice storms, and the threat of the Outer Banks washing away completely while they watch. (Ok, maybe not completely, but they are seeing some serious wave action!)

Because of this – and because they’ve needed to make some last-minute adjustments to the itinerary – they haven’t been able to send any formal dispatches from the road.  But they are doing an awesome job of keeping us in-the-know via Facebook and Twitter, at the hashtag #ijnr_carolina.

And, some of the journalists have even been writing breaking-news stories based on what they’re learning during the trip!

North Carolina fishermen used their meeting with IJNR journalists to break the news that they’re seeking to end endangered-species protection for sea turtles. Sammy Fretwell with The State in South Carolina filed the story from the road:

Sea turtles should no longer be protected, fishing groups argue

HARKERS ISLAND, N.C. — Two North Carolina commercial fishing groups are seeking to end endangered-species protections for sea turtles, a move that could loosen regulations that the groups say are unnecessary.

In a notice this week to federal agencies, the N.C. Fisheries Association and a local group said sea turtles “are at or near recovery and strict regulation is unwarranted.’’ The notice gives the federal government 60 days to conduct an assessment of how many turtles inhabit the ocean – or the groups will take further legal action.

An attorney for the groups said the action applies to a variety of sea turtles that now enjoy federal protection under the Endangered Species Act, including the loggerhead sea turtle that can be found off the South and North Carolina coasts… Read more.

Meanwhile, in lieu of a formal from-the-road dispatch, here are some photos to give you a sense of what this crew has been up to!


“It is not the barrier island that is fragile, it is the road and the houses,” says Professor Stan Riggs. Photo by Sammy Fretwell.


In the 1980s, this home was in the third row of houses back from the beach. Now, oceanfront. Photo by Ambar Espinoza.

Mennel_Mirlo Beach

A day at the beach. Photo by Eric Mennel


Posted in Climate, Development, Economics, Endangered Species, Fisheries, Institutes, Journalism, Legislation, News from Fellows, Oceans, Politics, Water | Leave a comment