The Wood Turtle inhabits only the northernmost region of Virginia, from the counties of Arlington and Fairfax west through Frederick County and Shenandoah County. A protected species, given a Virginia Wildlife Action Plan rating of Tier 1 – Critical Conservation Need – Glyptemys insculpta faces many threats.
Due to continual urbanization and intense habitat destruction, the Wood Turtle’s range is shrinking westward and its population numbers are falling in Virginia. In addition to habitat fragmentation, water pollution caused by chemical runoff poisons the Wood Turtle’s aquatic habitats in the Potomac and Shenandoah River Basins. Sadly, these wonderful creatures are even the target of poaching and many are removed from the wild and placed in captivity.
Without the aid of conscious individuals like yourselves, increased education and the spread of awareness, the Wood Turtle will soon disappear from The Old Dominion as its range and population numbers continue to diminish. One helpful course of action is to report any sightings to The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. There is a VDGIF regional office located in Verona, Shenandoah County.
For a great resource to learn more about the Wood Turtle and other turtles of our state, visit The Virginia Herpetological Society’s website by clicking here.
Also, individuals may sign up as citizen scientists or register their land to have their property surveyed for native plants and wildlife, including the Wood Turtle, with Virginia Working Landscapes, a network convened by The Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI)
On July 9th and 10th, learn first aid for outdoor excursions alongside Wild Virginia’s President, Ernie Reed, in a two-day Outdoor First Aid learning program, taught by Matt Rosefsky. With 10% of the course proceeds going to Wild Virginia, this is a great event to not only support us, but to learn how to take care of yourself out in the wilderness! Adults and children 12 and older can enroll for the two day class HERE. Upon completion participants receive the SOLO Wilderness First Aid certification, valid for 2 years.
Mired in a disaster zone, travel or rural area far from a hospital, or natural area miles from an access point … accidents, destructive weather, and terrorism happen, and all-too-often members of a group are not capable of dealing with the emergency. This leads to improper care of the patient, and endangers the entire group. Many recreational accidents are preventable, and improper care of trauma can compound even simple injuries. Very few first aid programs actually address the issues of providing emergency care in a setting where 911 is overwhelmed or not immediately reachable. In this course, classroom instruction and Q&A are interwoven with practical work and problem-solving exercises. Hands-on experience – a most powerful learning tool – during scenarios comprise ~50% of class. 8:30am – 6:30pm both days; you come away with actual do-it-yourself care-giving confidence.
Enroll HERE and make sure you are prepared for anything out there, even making an impromptu splint!
It is not too late to become a FERC Intervenor!! The deadline to sign up and comment is June 2nd.
Wild Virginia works to keep you informed about when and how you can best make your voice heard. One of those moments is now.
1) Make Comments:
The Forest Service is calling for comments on whether or not to issue a “right-of-way grant” that would allow the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to cross and occupy National Forest lands, and whether the George Washington National Forest should amend its 10 year plan to allow the ACP to cross the forest. Click Here for Sample Comments
A study released on May 18 examines effects on areas close to the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) right-of-way during and after construction.
Some of the external costs described would be:
lost property value along the right-of-way: $779,400 to $2.4 million
reduced tax revenues
a decrease in economic development
ecosystem damage and loss: $119.1 – $130.8 million annually
During construction, the right-of-way would be at least 125 feet wide and require the clearing of trees and other vegetation. The pipeline trench would be about seven feet deep in most places. On the way, the MVP would pass through George Washington National Forest as well as Jefferson National Forest.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is currently working with a consultant on an environmental impact study which is necessary before the project continues. A spokeswoman for Mountain Valley Pipeline, pointed to the “broad, bipartisan coalition of public officials, residents, companies and pro-business groups that support the Mountain Valley Pipeline because of its significant economic benefits.” It is the point of view of the FERC that its review policy “balances the public benefits against the potential adverse consequences,” and Gov. McAuliffe is supporting the project.
Lead author Spencer Phillips said, however, that FERC’s review system is “really a rigged game for the industry.”
Overall the report concludes that “no systematic consideration of the potential negative economic effects — economic costs — of the MVP has been completed.”
Charlottesville-based Key-Log Economics prepared the study
Adams, Duncan. (5/18/16). Study backed by Mountain Valley Pipeline opponents suggests negative economic impacts for region. Richmond Times
Large mammals have roamed the Earth for millions of years. From the lions and elephants of the Serengeti, to the bison and grizzly bears of North America, these animals are essential to their surrounding ecosystems. Many are indicator species that signal the health of their ecosystem simply through their presence. These large organisms often control other populations through predator prey relationships and can even create habitat for smaller organisms through grazing and stampedes. But with a large animal comes a large set of requirements to live a healthy lifestyle. These animals require lots of land to roam in order to find food, mate, and continue their traditional migrations. Human development has encroached on the land these large organisms need to survive. Populations are becoming fragmented and species are losing their genetic diversity, forcing some near the brink of extinction. The National Parks created years ago are becoming isolated natural islands across the landscape that lack the amount of room required by many species.
The film Wild Ways, produced by NOVA, explores the conservation progress in the western United States and Canada to connect Yellowstone National Park to the Yukon corridor. Overpasses, tunnels, and protected land areas are being built to establish more natural routes between the currently isolated habitats of these organisms.
The connection of these fragmented environments would produce a safe haven for animals to live, feed, and breed without the threat of getting shot or becoming road-kill on a four-lane highway. This linkage of national parks within the Rocky Mountains would help meet the needs of other species as well and attempt to recreate the large ecosystem that was in place before European colonization of the west.
Our own George Washington and Jefferson National Forests have the potential to encompass a large link in this chain for Virginia. Wild ways have the opportunity to connect valuable areas and protect not only the large mammals that exist in these ecosystems but also educate humans on how we can achieve a healthier balance with nature.
On April 6th, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service protected two species of crayfish in Kentucky, Virginia, and West Virginia under the Endangered Species Act.
This listing comes in response to a petition from the Center for Biological Diversity. The Big Sandy crayfish and the Guyandotte River crayfish have lost more than half of their habitat ranges due to water pollution, primarily from coal mining and the construction of highways and expressways. The protection of these crayfish under the ESA means it is now illegal for any person or corporation to harm the crayfish or their habitat and that federal agencies will need to consult with the Fish and Wildlife Services before permitting any activity that could harm the animal. Crayfish are considered a keystone animal—they create habitat used by other species, help to keep streams clean by eating decaying plant and animal matter, and are, in turn, eaten by fish, birds, and reptiles. They are a crucial link in the food and ecosystem web.
Tierra Curry, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity notes that “protecting these two crayfish under the Endangered Species Act will not only ensure their survival but will also protect streams and water quality that are important for people.” The Center for Biological Diversity concludes that recent scientific studies have determined that mountaintop-removal coal mining has adverse effects on fish, crayfish, mussels, amphibians and stream insects in Appalachia and is also associated with increased risk of cancer and birth defects in humans.
This listing is one step in the right direction to begin to regain the health and integrity of our ecosystems that are depended upon by both humans and animals alike.
With the Harrisonburg show a day away, we are quickly approaching the Wild and Scenic Film Festival in Virginia. With 3 shows hosted by Wild Virginia, we hope to utilize the different selections of films to convey a story about our planet, our beautiful and precious wild lands, and the people of the communities who love and defend them.
The Harrisonburg show will lead off the Festival with a 7pm showing at the Court Square Theater tomorrow, March 30th. As with all of the shows, this showing will have a selection of short films, as well as a longer featured film. The Harrisonburg showing will feature A Line Across The Sky, which displays the harrowing journey of Tommy Caldwell and Alex Honnold as they traverse across seven jagged summits and 13,000 feet of vertical climbing. There are still many tickets available for this showing, so click HERE to get your ticket and join us for a great night of environmental films!
Following the Harrisonburg show, there will be a screening in Charlottesville on April 5th at the Violet Crown Theater. The following week, on April 10th, we will have our final set of films in Staunton at the Visulite Cinema. Both of these shows will feature a unique lineup of films so make sure you are there!
In an effort to demonstrate the profound impacts of the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP), the Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition (DPMC) has published an online interactive mapping system detailing the environmental risks and sensitivities associated with the proposed route. As the User Guide points out, this program hopes to “organize and provide access to environmental information and to support engagement in ACP permitting and oversight.”
This map includes nearly 200 miles of the western mountainous and upland sections of the proposed pipeline.
Dominion has proposed to adopt an alternative route (GWNF 6) for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) in order to avoid the threatened species in the Cheat and Shenandoah Mountain ranges.
In order to avoid these mountains, the new, proposed route will pass through Pocahontas County, cross into Highland County and then into Bath and Augusta County, where it will rejoin the original ACP route at West Augusta. This route crosses through 6.7 miles of the George Washington National Forest (GWNF) and 79 miles of private land, 8.5% of which includes conservation easements held by the Virginia Outdoors Foundation.
And these are only some of the concerns this new route raises.
Data from the USGS Soil Survey Geographic Database indicates that approximately 24.3 miles of the route crosses slopes greater than 30 percent and approximately 8.6 miles of the route crosses side slopes greater than 30 percent. A total of approximately 55.5 miles of the route crosses areas characterized by the USGS as having high incidence for landslides. 26.8 miles of the GWNF 6 route would cross through Karst topography.
This all suggests that the proposed route will be built on steep, highly erodible, unsuitable terrain that will cause serious problems with revegetation, erosion, and landslides.
While Dominion claims to avoid sensitive areas within the GWNF including Wilderness Areas, special biological areas, and high and very high scenic integrity areas, it has yet to consider a route that avoids the National Forest altogether. (Dominion 2/12/16 Press Release)
As Wild Virginia President, Ernie Reed, points out, in order for Dominion to build the pipeline across the National Forest, they must first prove that the private use of the forest is necessary “to serve the public interest and (that it) cannot be accommodated on non-Federal land.” Neither of which Dominion has demonstrated. While the move away from Cheat and Shenandoah Mountains sought to alleviate certain environmental pressures, this new route is equally as troublesome.
This week, Congress will be voting an appropriations bill that is slated to include provisions that would that would significantly harm national forests. These appropriations are part of a wider deal to reform federal spending on the wildfire budget, allowing more disaster funds to be used for fire fighting. What this means, however, is that more U.S. Forest Service funds could be used for forest management projects such as logging and biomass removal. We’re asking you to make a quick phone call to ask your Senators and Representatives to oppose including any forest management provisions in this appropriations bill, especially any new categorical exclusion (CE) for intensive logging to create early successional habitat.
CE’s exempt projects from normal rules for environmental analysis and public input. This promotes clear cutting of mature forest and would have a disproportionate, harmful impact on our small, special national forests in the Southern Appalachian mountains and would contradict efforts to encourage more restoration-oriented forest management.
How do we keep Congress from passing these provisions?
Call your Senators and Representatives as soon as possible to urge your lawmakers that no forest management provisions should be incorporated into the appropriations bill. We are especially adamant that a categorical exclusion for early successional habitat not be included. Here’s a link to search for your elected officials.
Below you will find a few terms that help you understand what is at risk:
Early successional habitat (ESH): ESH is a “change in plant communities as a result of some kind of disturbance,” caused by forest fires or human activity such as logging. ESH is also what hunters call “cover,” including the early growth vegetation in a forest, such as underbrush, thickets, and saplings. In terms of this bill, creating ESH entails a clear-cutting technique of mature forests favorable to commercial logging. Those of us in the conservation camp are concerned about ecosystem restoration, and we know that leaving forests intact contributes to soil health, ecosystem integrity, and carbon sequestering.
Categorical exclusions: “a category of actions which do not individually or cumulatively have a significant effect on the human environment…and…for which, therefore, neither an environmental assessment nor an environmental impact statement is required.” –40 CFR 1508.4. Categorical exclusions eliminate the mandate for environmental analysis of potential impacts and remove the ability of the public to participate in the decision.