Thursday, July 26, 2007

BEN - July 25, 2007 #288

1) Nature Conservancy to Expand Lands in Jackson County
2) Alabama Lands National Landowner Incentive Grant for Endangered Species
3) Montgomery Establishes "No Net Loss" Tree Policy
4) Sierra Club Exposes "Toxic Katrina Trailers" in Alabama and the Gulf States
5) BEN Notes: NWF Position, Teddy Roosevelt Conservation Partnership Seeking Organizer, Save the Alabama Red-Bellied Turtle, West Blocton Elementary School Honored, Forestry Commission's New Publications, Holt Lake Cleanup, NWF's Climate Classroom, Alabama Power "Plant a Tree" Grants


Leaving a Legacy

She is leaving behind a beautiful legacy.

My good friend Jane Reed Ross, founder of Ross Land Design in Birmingham will be leaving Alabama in August to join her husband and family in Australia. A tireless environmental advocate, Jane's enthusiasm for her work and her innovative designs have touched and enriched many of our lives in the Birmingham area. Beautiful, gentle, graceful and livable open spaces and landscapes are the words that best describe her work. Some of her projects include - The Homewood Central Park, Homewood Shades Creek Greenway, Veteran's Memorial Park, the Birmingham Zoo, Regional Greenway Trail Designs and Master Tree Plans for municipalities.

More importantly, her firm, Ross Land Design will remain here in Birmingham through her business partner Lea Ann Macknally. What a wonderful gift to our community.

Thank you Jane for touching our lives.


The Changing South

Check out the Wilderness Society's "Housing Sprawl in the Southeast - Our Vanishing Wild Places".


Florida is Tackling Climate Change - Will Alabama?

Governor Charlie Crist, the Republican Governor of Florida, last week announced a series of policy initiatives and executive orders tackling head-on the issue of Global Climate Change. Some of Florida's initiatives include:

* Florida will immediately adopt rules to compel utilities to limit pollution causing emissions to 2000 levels by 2017, to 1990 levels by 2025.

* Most state agencies and departments will have to reduce greenhouse gas emissions faster than the rest of the state.

* Orders for the adoption of California's motor vehicle emission standards.

* The Public Service Commission will be asked to require electric companies to produce at least 20 % of their electriciy from renewable sources, with a strong focus on wind and solar energy.

To read the entire list, visit: or visit

In Alabama, the question that needs to be proposed to our state government - Will Alabama follow Florida's lead?


1. Nature Conservancy to Expand Lands in Jackson County - Last month, according to the Huntsville Times, The Nature Conservancy (TNC) of Alabama announced plans to more than double the size of its scenic Sharp-Bingham Mountains Preserve in Jackson County.

Lynne Berry, the Conservancy's local spokesperson said that the organization plans to use a $1.5 million grant from the Minnesota-based 3M Foundation to buy 1,120 acres next to the existing preserve. Located in the Paint Rock watershed, TNC scientists have long considered this area in Northeast Alabama as one of North America's most pristine and biologically diverse watersheds. The Sharp -Bingham Preserve may also have more caves per square mile than any other spot in America, according to Berry.

For additional information about this successful project, contact The Nature Conservancy at 205-251-1155.

2. Alabama Lands National Landowner Incentive Grant for Endangered Species - Earlier this month, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced the recipients of $13 Million in the Landowner Incentive Program grants nationwide. The program supports cooperative efforts with private landowners interested in conserving natural habitat for species at risk, including federally listed endangered and threatened species.

Alabama's state fish and wildlife agency was one of 17 nationally to secure this competitive grant. The Alabama Department of Conservation will receive $849,510 to expand the landowner incentive program to address statewide issues. The program will focus on Longleaf Pine ecosystem restoration and stream restoration in the Cahaba, Choctawhatchee and Coosa river basins.

3. Montgomery Establishes "No Net Loss" Tree Policy - The city of Montgomery has established a new "No Net Loss Tree Policy" program to replace trees in the community.

Last year, with the help of volunteers, the city planted over 1000 native trees. Volunteers have maintained their efforts by watering weekly many of the new trees during the recent drought. Despite losing approximately 10% of the newly planted trees due to this summer's drought, the city has committed to replace them in the fall with a fresh planting effort.

4. Sierra Club Exposes "Toxic Katrina Trailers" in Alabama and the Gulf States - Here is an emerging issue from the Sierra Club. After hearing from a number of FEMA /Katrina trailer residents experiencing health problems consistent with high levels of formaldehyde exposure, the Sierra Club began testing trailers in the Spring of 2006.

The first formaldehyde exposure tests of trailers were for residents along the Gulf Coast of Mississippi. After a stunning 94% of the 31 tests came in higher than the OSHA recommended limit, Sierra Club did additional testing in Alabama and Louisiana in June and July of 2006. Out of a total of 52 tests, 83% of the trailers were above the OSHA specified limit of 0.10 parts per million. Of the remaining trailers, 4% were at the limit. Only 13% were below the limit of 0.10. The Sierra Club found formaldehyde concentrations as high as 0.34 parts per million in one trailer - a level nearly equal to what a professional embalmer using industry proscribed safety equipment would be exposed to on the job.

An estimated 150,000 FEMA trailers were distributed in Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama and Texas following the hurricanes of 2005. About 66,000 households affected by Katrina remain in trailers today. Earlier this month, Rep. Henry Waxman's House committee on oversight and government reform held a hearing on this important issue.

5. BEN Notes: NWF Position, Teddy Roosevelt Conservation Partnership Seeking Organizer, Save the Alabama Red-Bellied Turtle, West Blocton Elementary School Honored, Forestry Commission's New Publications, Holt Lake Cleanup, NWF's Climate Classroom, Alabama Power "Plant a Tree" Grants

NWF Position - The National Wildlife Federation is seeking a Regional Outreach Coordinator for their Southeast Office in Atlanta. To learn more about this position and how to apply, go to

Teddy Roosevelt Conservation Partnership Seeking Organizer - The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership (TRCP), a coalition of organizations and individual grassroots partners, working together to preserve the traditions of hunting and fishing, is seeking a Lower Mississippi Regional Organizer. TRCP's policy initiatives fall into 3 categories: Expanding public access to hunting and fishing; conserving and enhancing fish and wildlife habitat; and increasing funding for fish and wildlife management. The organizer will mobilize efforts in Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, Kentucky, and Tennessee. This is a contract position. To apply, send a cover letter and resume to: Tom St. Hilaire, Vice President of Conservation Management, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership -

Save the Alabama Red-Bellied Turtle - According to Dr. David Nelson at the University of South Alabama, up to 444 Alabama red-bellied turtles were reported killed on Alabama highways between 2001-2006. Learn how you can help protect and save the Alabama red-bellied turtle, the "Official State Reptile of Alabama" by visiting the Save the Red Belly website at

West Blocton Elementary School Honored - Here is some good news - Students at the West Blocton (Bibb County) Elementary School landed top honors in a global contest that challenges students to create innovative websites. The group of 4th graders formed a team that developed the website around the importance of keeping the Cahaba River clean. Check out their award winning website at:

Forestry Commission's New Publications - The Alabama Forestry Commission has released two new publications on their website . The first publication is an updated version of the Commission's 31 page Best Management Practices guide. The other publication is a copy of the Forest Industries Directory.

Holt Lake Cleanup - The Black Warrior Clean Water Partnership will be hosting the 3rd Annual Renew Our Rivers Holt Lake Cleanup. The event is scheduled for August 18th, 8:00 AM at Rocky Branch Park in Peterson (just off Alabama Highway 216). For additional information about the project and how to volunteer, call Mark Meadors 205-553-9373 or Kellie Johnston 205-264-8461.

NWF's Climate Classroom - Please check out the National Wildlife Federation's new website that helps parents and teachers talk to children about global warming. It is a great new site.

Alabama Power "Plant a Tree" Grants - Alabama Power and the Alabama Urban Forestry Association is teaming up again to offer grants to needy communities seeking funds to support tree planting efforts. The deadline for this grant program is August 31st. To apply, visit

Monday, July 09, 2007

BEN - July 6, 2007 #287

1) AEMC Rejects Cancer Risk Proposal ... Orders More Study
2) New Gulf of Mexico Red Snapper Plan Approved
3) TVA Approves Green Power Plan in Huntsville
4) "The Hooked on the Alabama River" Clean Water Partnership Project
5) BEN Notes: Southwings Position, Baldwin County Trailblazers Seeking Executive Director, NWF Seeking Regional Representative, EPA Power Profiler, EPA - Climate Change "What you can do", Photographer Beth Young & the SEC on WBHM's Tapestry, Alabama's Boll Organic Dress Shirts


Check out the latest interactive maps from the Wilderness Society
Housing Density from 1940 to 2030


1. AEMC Rejects Cancer Risk Proposal ... Orders More Study - On June 29th the Alabama Environmental Management Commission unanimously rejected a petition proposed by 18 organizations to decrease cancer causing chemicals discharged into the state's river, streams and lakes.

The Petitioners' petition asked the Commission to upgrade Alabama's environmental regulations to a more protective of health cancer risk standard (from 1 cancer to every 100,000 to 1 cancer for every million), joining 28 other states, including neighbors Mississippi, Florida and Georgia who have adopted and implemented the more health protective standard.

After the Commission's denial of the petition, the Commission asked ADEM's director Trey Glenn to appoint a committee to study and address the issue. Glenn identified five state agencies including Medicaid, Department of Conservation, Department of Agriculture, the Alabama Development Office and Department of Public Health to serve on the committee. The director also announced his intention to invite 12 industry groups or companies to report to the committee the financial impact of changing the rule. The Commission then decided that commissioners suggest members for the water quality committee and asked for the group's work to be completed by the end of the year.

In response to the use of economic factors to determine water quality standards, the attorney for the petitioners, David Ludder, stated that the commission under state and federal laws cannot consider the economics of changing the water quality standard. It may only report the economic impact to a state legislative committee, he said.

After the meeting, Commissioner Dr. Laurel Gardner, in the Birmingham News provided a glimmer of hope to advocates wanting to strengthen Alabama's water quality standard, stating, "The petition has been denied. It has not been killed. It still is very much alive."

Below are links to a video of the Commission meeting, the petition, comments and responses, and the reaction from the editorial pages of several state newspapers.

Video of the Commission Meeting
The petition,comments and articles/editorials

2. New Gulf of Mexico Red Snapper Plan Approved - According to the Mobile Register, last month the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council approved a plan to protect red snapper, one of the Gulf's most popular catches.

The plan includes reducing the recreational catch limit from four fish to two per person, and sets a limit for all commercial boats at 5 million pounds for the year instead of 9.1 million as in past years. The 2 fish recreational catch limit rule had been temporarily in place over the past year, while the commercial catch had been placed at 6.5 million pounds before the current season. Along with the new more restrictive rule on commercial fishing, shrimpers must cut the amount of red snapper that come up in their nets as part of the "bycatch" - by 74% from the average for the 2001-2003 seasons.

Red snapper was declared "overfished" in 1997.

3. TVA Approves Green Power Plan in Huntsville - Last month, according to the Huntsville Times, Huntsville Utilities (HU) was given the go ahead to develop a Green Power Program that would allow customers to sell solar generated electricity to the TVA power grid.

Participants must sign a 10 year agreement to supply the supplemental energy. Meanwhile, the utility company will pay 15 cents per kilowatt hour. Today, residential customers pay on average 7 cents per kilowatt hour for electricity coming into a home. Presently, only one HU customer has expressed interest in the program, but the utility expects more interest once the marketing of the program begins in August.

4. "The Hooked on the Alabama River" Clean Water Partnership Project - Remember several years ago, the fiberglass cow sculptures that were painted and placed in front of businesses around the city of Chicago? Well, the cities of Montgomery and Prattville have one upped Chicago.

They will be placing 6 foot long "fishing lures" throughout the region in celebration of the Alabama River.

Developed by the Alabama River Clean Water Partnership, the "The Hooked on the Alabama River " project works like this: First 30 fiberglass fishing lures will be decorated by local artists and sponsored by area organizations. Each lure will be unique and will attract people to the importance of the Alabama River for our region and to the business that sponsors it. Tackle boxes (or groupings) of 2-3 lures will be on display throughout Montgomery and Prattville after the initial unveiling, which is scheduled for September 15th in downtown Montgomery along the banks of the Alabama River.

Several businesses and organizations have joined forces to make this exciting project happen, including the Alabama Power Foundation, who funded the fiberglass bases and artists supplies and groups such as the World Wildlife Fund, the Mid-South Resource Conservation Development Council, Alabama Forestry Association, International Paper, CH2M Hill and LWT Marketing. To learn more about the "Giant Fishing Lures" contact Ashley Henderson, with Alabama River Clean Water Partnership at 334-300-3392 or . You can also visit their website at .

5. BEN Notes: Southwings Position, Baldwin County Trailblazers Seeking Executive Director, NWF Seeking Regional Representative, EPA Power Profiler, EPA - Climate Change "What you can do", Photographer Beth Young & the SEC on WBHM's Tapestry, Alabama's Boll Organic Dress Shirts

Southwings Position - Southwings, "The Environmental Air Force," is a nonprofit conservation organization based in Asheville, NC. Currently, they are seeking an Administrative and Fundraising Associate. If you are interested - email to request a detailed job description.

Baldwin County Trailblazers Seeking Executive Director - The Baldwin County Trailblazers, a group whose mission it is to establish a network of county wide biking, jogging and hiking trails, is seeking an Executive Director. To apply, email resumes to

NWF Seeking Regional Representative - The National Wildlife Federation is seeking a regional representative to be based in their Southeastern Natural Resource Center in Atlanta. To apply online, visit

EPA Power Profiler - With a few clicks on your mouse, you can see how your energy use is affecting the Earth through the new "EPA Power Profiler" calculator. Some of the results may surprise you. Check it out at

EPA - Climate Change "What you can do" - After you use your EPA Power Profiler Calculator, visit EPA's Climate Change - "What you can do" website. The site provides 25 easy action steps everyone can take. Go to -

Photographer Beth Young & the SEC on WBHM's Tapestry - Check out this week WBHM's "Tapestry" radio program featuring Nature photographer - Beth Young and the Southern Environmental Center at Birmingham Southern College. You can listen to the programs at:

Alabama's Boll Organic Dress Shirts - Check out an Alabama business that is pioneering the organic cotton dress shirt industry. Started two years ago by Kevin Russell "Boll Organic" remains the only company in the world making organic dress shirts. Visit their website at

Monday, July 02, 2007

B'ham News - Preserve God's Tapestry in Alabama

My latest Commentary in the Birmingham News

We must preserve God's vibrant tapestry in this state

Sunday, June 10, 2007

To look around at the richness of Alabama's diversity of plants and animals is to be struck by the awesome responsibility of preserving God's vibrant tapestry in this state.

That's not an idle concern for Bishop Heron Johnson, pastor of the Faith Apostolic Church in Powderly, concerning the endangered watercress darter: "I think, if you have something this valuable and God-given, something this special, you've got to protect it. But where to begin?"

The rare and colorful two-inch watercress darter was found in a local Jefferson County spring that originates on the property of Bishop Johnson's church.

Johnson doesn't ask why we should care about a fish no bigger than an index finger, but rather where we begin the process of ensuring its survival. Alabama is blessed with more different kinds of fish, turtles, crayfish, snails and mussels than any other state in the United States. Our biodiversity is what makes this place special. Protection of these gifts is a difficult and challenging responsibility. But we must find a place to begin.

Perhaps we should begin by taking the lead from the many people who have dedicated their lives to preserving the watercress darter.

Recently, I was treated to a fascinating story by Mike Howell, the retired fish biologist who discovered the watercress darter and a beloved teacher from Samford University. He told of how a generation of Alabamians took responsibility for one of the state's tiniest citizens, and saved it.

His tale began more than 43 years ago when he was a graduate student at the University of Alabama under Herb Boschung, a scientist many consider the father of fish biology in this state.

In 1964, scientists from Tulane University had found a new species of salamander in Jefferson County springs near Bessemer. Following up on the new discovery, Howell and a fellow graduate student Dale Caldwell were asked by Boschung to venture into the same place the salamanders were found, but this time they were dipping their nets to find fish.

You can only imagine the breathtaking excitement and wonder that the two graduate students felt when their dip nets revealed a species never before seen or described in science - the watercress darter. For a fish biologist it must have felt like Columbus on first seeing the New World.

"The world's greatest artists couldn't dream up the (watercress darter's) colors. A visual treat that does something to the spirit - like a beautiful sunset," Howell told me.

Little did Howell know at the time, but his discovery of the rainbow-colored, two-inch darter would have a dramatic impact on his life and the lives of so many others.

After its discovery, Howell spent a couple of years describing, naming and making "known" to science the watercress darter. A specimen of the darter was even sent to the National Museum of Natural History at the Smithsonian. More importantly, after the discovery process was complete, the real work of saving the watercress darter began in earnest.

In 1973, the Endangered Species Act became the law of the land. Shortly after its passage, the watercress darter was listed as endangered, the first fish in Alabama to be so protected. This action led to the creation of a watercress darter recovery team headed by Howell. Their task was simple: to monitor and take care of the darter.

Immediately, the scientists and conservationists worked to enhance the darter's habitat, taking out a small dam. The group also removed predatory bass from the darter's stream. After additional research and exploration, the darter also was discovered in a nearby Bessemer spring fed lake and subsequently in the Roebuck and Powderly areas of Jefferson County.

The watercress darter was even transplanted into springs near Turkey Creek where scientists were fortunate to discover two additional endangered fish, the Vermillion and Rush darters. These three darter species are found only in one place in the world: right here in our region's creeks and streams.

Seven years after the passage of the Endangered Species Act, the watercress darter's habitat was permanently protected when federal conservation funds were made available to preserve approximately 23 acres of watercress darter habitat in Jefferson County. The area was then designated as the Watercress Darter National Wildlife Refuge, the smallest National Wildlife Refuge in the nation.

Today, local groups and communities have become guardians of the darter. In 2002, the Faith Apostolic Church congregation lovingly embraced the watercress darter as a sacred reminder of God's creation and our responsibility to care for it. They enlisted local friends like the Freshwater Land Trust that developed ways the church can protect the stream, the land, and the fish.

Birmingham Audubon members have for years adopted the Bessemer site, keeping a watchful eye on the refuge, removing litter while enjoying the birds that visit the area. Along with these groups, the Freshwater Land Trust, Samford University, Birmingham-Southern College, the Fish and Wildlife Service, and Alabama's Department of Conservation have joined forces on behalf of the darter.

Asked why he put such an effort into saving this one, tiny creature, Howell replied, "God put us in the most beautiful garden and told us to take care of it. That fish is an extension of the Garden of Eden."

Now, that is a place to begin. Ecologist Pat Byington is a senior associate with the Wilderness Society. E-mail:

BEN - June 10, 2007 #286

Bama Environmental News - BEN
June 10, 2007 #286

1) Environmental Commission Committee Denies Cancer Risk Rule
2) Beach Mouse Prevents Construction of Condos On Fort Morgan Peninsula
3) Study: Alabama Ranks 46th in Energy Efficiency
4) BEN Notes: Environmental Council Seeking Director, Teaching Position at Turtle Point Science Center, JSU Breaks Ground on New Little River Canyon Center, 2007 Water Resources Conference at Auburn University, Alabama Nature Center to Open, Black Warrior Riverkeeper MySpace Supporters Reach 10,000, Black Warrior Riverkeepers Benefit, Mobile Manatees to be Tracked, Commute Smart in Birmingham


Please check out today's Birmingham News Sunday Commentary that was written by BEN editor and publisher Pat Byington. You can access the article at the following link.


Check out the transcript of this recent address given by former President Bill Clinton at Harvard College Class Day 2007. Link to the transcript here -


1. Environmental Commission Committee Denies Cancer Risk Rule - On June 1st, the Alabama Environmental Management Commission's rulemaking committee voted to deny a petition for rulemaking offered by state environmental groups to lower the threshold for industry discharge of 58 known carcinogens into state waterways.

According to the Montgomery Advertiser, at the proposed lower concentration, scientists estimate there would only be one chance in a million of a human getting cancer from potential exposure. At Alabama's current level - the minimum that the federal government requires - the estimate is 10 people in a million.

Every state in the South (including Alabama's neighbors Mississippi, Florida and Georgia) except for Tennessee and Alabama, presently use the more stringent cancer risk health standard. Written comments in opposition to the more stringent cancer risk health standard were submitted by the Alabama Power Company, the Business Council of Alabama and the Alabama Coal Association.

On June 29th, the entire Environmental Management Commission will have an opportunity to accept or reverse the rulemaking committee's decision. For a copy of the proposed petition go to:

Breaking News - On Friday, the Birmingham News wrote an editorial in support of the proposed more stringent health standard.

2. Beach Mouse Prevents Construction of Condos On Fort Morgan Peninsula - According to a June 1st Mobile Register report, the endangered Alabama beach mouse temporarily stopped the construction of a controversial multi-million dollar condo development on the Fort Morgan peninsula.

Judge William Steele granted the preliminary injunction against the 40 acre Beach Club West development after finding that a critical document from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, known as a "Biological Opinion" likely reached "arbitrary and capricious" conclusions.

The suit which was brought forth by the Sierra Club, the Gulf Restoration Network and the Center for Biological Diversity contented that the Fish and Wildlife Service failed to adequately address how development would impact the survival and recovery of the endangered mouse. The Alabama beach mouse, which has been on the Endangered Species list since 1985, has seen its habitat greatly diminish from development and hurricane damage over the years.

3. Study: Alabama Ranks 46th in Energy Efficiency - Last week, the nonpartisan American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy released a state by state scorecard grading and ranking states on various policy actions taken to become more energy efficient. Alabama ranked 46th nationally, receiving just two (2) points out of a maximum 44 points. Only Mississippi, North and South Dakota and Wyoming placed lower in energy efficiency.

Among the factors contributing to Alabama's poor ranking: no statewide building energy code, no policy to encourage better fuel economy and no ratepayer-funding to invest in electric energy efficiency programs. The State Energy Efficiency Scorecard for 2006 can be found at

4. BEN Notes: Environmental Council Seeking Director, Teaching Position at Turtle Point Science Center, JSU Breaks Ground on New Little River Canyon Center, 2007 Water Resources Conference at Auburn University, Alabama Nature Center to Open, Black Warrior Riverkeeper MySpace Supporters Reach 10,000, Black Warrior Riverkeepers Benefit, Mobile Manatees to be Tracked, Commute Smart Birmingham

Environmental Council Seeking Director - The Alabama Environmental Council is seeking an executive director. To learn more about the position and how to apply, visit The deadline to apply is July 1st.

Teaching Position at Turtle Point Science Center - There is an environmental education teaching position open at the Turtle Point Science Center in Escambia County. To apply, visit

JSU Breaks Ground on New Little River Canyon Center - Jacksonville State University will be "breaking ground" on the Little River Canyon Center, Monday, June 11th at 9:00 AM. The event will feature architectural renderings, floor plans, three dimensional models, building materials and a construction schedule. The Center will be built as a public facility that is centered on the Little River Canyon National Preserve. For more information about the project, visit .

2007 Water Resources Conference at Auburn University - Auburn University will be holding its 2007 Water Resources Conference "Bridging the Gap Between Science, People and Policies" on June 14-15 at The hotel at Auburn University and Dixon Conference Center. For details visit

Alabama Nature Center to Open - The Alabama Nature Center in Milbrook will be open to the public 8:00 am to 6:00 pm on June 16 and 17. General admission is $3 per person/per day for ages ten and older, $2 per person/per day ages three to ten, and children under three are free. Please check out this new and exciting nature center at the headquarters of the Alabama Wildlife Federation. Visit for more info.

Black Warrior Riverkeeper MySpace Supporters Reach 10,000 - The Black Warrior Riverkeepers were recently nominated as one of 3 Finalists for the MySpace Impact Award - an award honoring MySpace members for the positive impact they have had on our culture. Presently, more than 10,000 people have become Black Warrior Riverkeeper "My Space Friends." Check out the group's Friends page at

Black Warrior Riverkeepers Benefit - The Black Warrior Riverkeepers will be holding a benefit concert at The Bottletree in Birmingham on June 14th, at 8:00 pm. Tickets are $10.00. For additional information call Charles Scribner - 205-458-0095.

Mobile Manatees to be Tracked - Scientists from the Dauphin Island Sea Lab have created "Mobile Manatees" a group dedicated toward helping track manatee sightings in local waters. For info on how to participate, visit

Commute Smart in Birmingham - Tired of rising gas prices? Want to do something to reduce your ecological footprint? Contact Commute Smart Birmingham by calling 1-87 - RIDEMATCH or visit