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The Black Warrior River — listed as one of America’s Most Endangered Rivers® in 2013 and 2011— is the subject of our guest blog today from Charles Scribner, Executive Director of the Black Warrior Riverkeeper. The Black Warrior Riverkeeper is a citizen-based nonprofit organization dedicated to improving water quality, habitat, recreation, and public health throughout the Black Warrior River watershed.UA Shepherd Bend Mine protest | Nelson Brooke
On August 28, around 100 people attended the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) public hearing in Sumiton regarding a water pollution permit for Drummond Company’s proposed Shepherd Bend Mine on the Black Warrior River. Attendees overwhelmingly opposed the strip mine permit, which would allow 29 pollution discharges into the Mulberry Fork daily drinking water source for 200,000 people in greater Birmingham. Only one person spoke in favor of the mine.
Commenters asked ADEM to deny the permit and hold another hearing in Birmingham to allow drinking water customers of the Birmingham Water Works Board (BWWB) equal access to the public hearing comment process. Other comments included concerns about the extremely close proximity of this 1,773 acre coal mine to the drinking water source; potential deterioration of water quality in the river where people regularly swim, recreate, and fish; the BWWB’s potential inability to adequately treat source water contaminated by coal mine pollution; and the fact that the river is already carrying a heavy sediment load which is filling in the river and streams that feed into it.
Despite overwhelming opposition to the mine from a wide array of citizens, organizations, businesses, municipal groups, and the Birmingham Water Works Board over the past seven years, ADEM predictably announced at the beginning of the hearing that they believe the permit is protective of the Mulberry Fork of the Black Warrior River, and that they intend to issue the permit.
Black Warrior Riverkeeper provided comments about our ongoing concern that the ADEM permit is inadequate, as is their oversight and enforcement of coal mine operations along the river. Additionally, we raised our concern that coal mines have runoff issues and rarely have perfect compliance records, leaving far too much room for the possibility of contaminating a major source of municipal drinking water.
Now that ADEM’s permit comment period has ended, Black Warrior Riverkeeper and the large Shepherd Bend Mine Opposition Coalition has shifted the focus back towards pressuring The University of Alabama System to commit that they will never lease nor sell their land and mineral rights for mining at Shepherd Bend, regardless of any mining permits or proposals.
Cycling the roads in Mount Rainier National Park has grown in popularity, but riding these roads in the summer during the height of tourist season is not always pleasant. I prefer to tackle the park’s Sunrise Road early in the season, catching a narrow window of opportunity when the road has been cleared of snow but not yet open to motor vehicle traffic.
Fall is also a good time to bicycle in the park. Visitor attendance has dropped and drive-in campgrounds close by early October. The park recommends the following roads for bike riding:
White River and Sunrise Roads: I saw many cyclists riding this route last weekend when I was up there for a hike. It’s 16 miles one-way, twisting and climbing 3000 feet to Sunrise and an in-your-face view of the mountain. There is again a narrow window of opportunity to experience this route car-free when the Park Service closes it to motorized vehicles in mid to late October prior to the winter snows. Keep in mind that road maintenance may require the closure to bikes and walkers as well, so check ahead. You can read my spring ride description for more info.
Westside Road: Near the Nisqually entrance to the park, this 13-mile (one way) gravel route is open to motor vehicles for the first three miles, then becomes a hiking and mountain biking route to Klapatche Point. This road is sometimes closed due to rockfalls and washouts. Visit Rainier provides a ride description of Westside Road.
Carbon River Road: Due to recurring washouts, this gravel road is open to bikers and hikers only beyond the park entrance. The route is approximately 5 miles long and ends at Ipsut Creek campsite, making it a nice choice for a short bikepacking trip, or a bike-and-hike adventure. Visit Rainier has a Carbon River bike-and-hike post.
Remember, bikes are not allowed on any trails in Mount Rainier National Park. Check ahead before you go to make sure your planned destination is open, and be prepared for changing mountain weather conditions.
Washington State Parks has begun a process to define motorized use on their long-distance trails, such as the popular John Wayne trail that travels from the town of North Bend east 250 miles to the Idaho border.
The agency has received multiple requests from adjacent land owners for motorized use of long-distance trails for “crossings and linear use of the trail for agricultural and other intermittent uses.”
To respond to those requests, State Parks is seeking public input as they determine a policy and procedures to determine when approval for motorized use on traditionally non-motorized trails should be granted.
Other long-distance trails that would be affected include: the Centennial Trail near Spokane; Willapa Hill Trails from Chehalis to Raymond; Columbia Hills Plateau Trail from East Pasco to Spokane; and the Klickitat Trail in the Columbia Gorge.
State Parks needs to hear from hikers, trail runners and bicyclists regarding the future of motorized use on our long-distance trails. Submit your comments today!
The agency is looking for feedback on the following questions.When and where is motorized use of the trail surface reasonable and appropriate?
Submit your comments via a form on Washington State Parks’ website by Friday, Sept. 26, 2014.
American Farmland Trust Supports Climate Smart Agriculture Initiative American Farmland Trust Supports Alliance for Climate Smart Agriculture New partnerships to address climate change were announced this week at the United Nations Climate Summit, including the Global Alliance for Climate Smart Agriculture. Held in New York, the U.N. Climate Summit was attended by leaders from around […]
The Little Plover River was on American Rivers’ list of America’s Most Endangered Rivers® in 2013, due to the threat of excessive groundwater pumping that was sucking the river dry. In a positive turn of events, an administrative law judge recently issued a decision finding that the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) must consider the cumulative impacts of groundwater pumping when considering new high-capacity well permits.
The ruling came in a case brought by Friends of the Central Sands (FOCS) and others challenging a well permit for the proposed Richfield Dairy concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) in Adams County. The DNR had said it lacked authority to take the impacts of existing and future wells into account when issuing new high-capacity well permits.
The judge found that the DNR, “took an unreasonably limited view of its authority,” and that the public trust doctrine, statutes, and decades of court precedent required DNR to consider cumulative impacts. The decision continued:
“It is scientifically unsupported, and impossible as a practical matter, to manage water resources if cumulative impacts are not considered.”
“It is common sense that the DNR must consider cumulative impacts of groundwater pumping before allowing another well,” said Bob Clarke, Founder of FOCS. “This decision recognizes that science and the law compel consideration of cumulative impacts, too.”
The decision comes at a critical time, as studies have shown surface water levels are dropping in the Central Sands area due to high-capacity well pumping, primarily for irrigation. Evidence presented at a hearing showed water resources near the proposed CAFO were already pumping-impacted, including Pleasant Lake, wetlands, and numerous Class 1 and 2 rated trout streams.
Yet the DNR has seen record numbers of well permit applications in recent years.
“For years, we have failed to consider the consequences to our water resources when allowing new high-capacity wells,” said Bill Vance, a home owner on Pleasant Lake and FOCS board member. “This decision recognizes that the DNR must do the math and consider how much is too much.”
This week’s decision caps a process that began in 2011, when Richfield Dairy first applied for a high-capacity well permit. Court decisions in 2012 and 2013 had determined the DNR’s analysis of the well application was flawed. This week’s decision comes after three weeks of hearing, where experts testified on the existing and projected impacts to water resources.
The judge’s decision reduced the allowable amount of water the dairy may pump in one year. In a companion case, the administrative law judge determined the DNR should have established a cap on the number of animals that may be confined at the CAFO.
A copy of the decision is available on FOCS’s website here.
This is great news for the Little Plover River!
This week, the National Forest Service came under intense scrutiny for a set of guidelines they were in the process of finalizing around who needs to secure (and pay for) special permits to take commercial photos and videos in wilderness areas.
A lack of clarity in the federal guidelines left many journalists, professional and amateur photographers, guidebook authors, nonprofits and hikers wondering if the Forest Service guidelines could, or should, be applied to them.Take only pictures, leave only footprints
In reaction to the concerns, the Forest Service issued a statement late today trying to answer some of those questions. They've also delayed finalizing the rules by a month to give the public more time to weigh in. (Find out how to weigh in below.)
The statement seems to confirm that the Forest Service's directive about commercial filming in wilderness was intended as a way to protect wilderness lands from being impacted or altered by large production crews or equipment.
“The fact is, the directive pertains to commercial photography and filming only -– if you’re there to gather news or take recreational photographs, no permit would be required. We take your First Amendment rights very seriously,” said U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. “We’re looking forward to talking with journalists and concerned citizens to help allay some of the concerns we’ve been hearing and clarify what’s covered by this proposed directive.”
However, what constitutes commercial filming or photography in the proposed directive is still far from clear; there's a lot of gray area between a Hollywood production and a photographer for a hiking guidebook.Take action: call for more clarity
Photography and film, including the photographs individuals gather and share within the Washington Trails Association community, have tremendous power to inspire people to visit wild lands. That exploration, in turn, inspires a desire to protect our wild places.
Want to weigh in? Make sure your voice is heard by Dec. 3:
Have a great photo from one of Washington's 31 wilderness areas?
John Pope, WA Bikes board member and volunteer USBRS route coordinator, has put foot to pedal and is riding the newly designated USBR 10. His wife Michele is providing vehicle support and chronicling their cross-state adventure.
We hauled out of Colville in the morning with the goal of making it as far as Ione, crossing over the Pend Oreille River and camping at Edgewater Campground. This is also the crossing that takes you to Leclerc Road and the last stretch of the journey into Newport.
We played our usual game of me driving a distance of 10 miles or so ahead then pulling over and waiting for John to catch up. The climb from Colville was steady and the pavement and shoulder quality were good, John felt it was one of the prettiest Tamarack forests he had biked through. It was going to be a relatively short day. John’s legs were fresh after a day’s rest and he was making good time. My job for the day was to investigate possible campgrounds for future cyclists. It should have been a sign of what was to come when the two campgrounds I checked were closed.
We were now out of the hills and the day was getting hot. With John about a half-hour behind me, I got to the outskirts of Ione and across the stunning red bridge to Edgewater Campground. We were there in time for an early lunch and restful day in camp. Only catch was that Edgewater was closed for the year too. Decision time.
It was disappointing news for John but the only choice we really had was to keep moving toward Newport and hope to find Panhandle Campground open 20 miles ahead. Leclerc Road is a beautiful stretch along the Pend Oreille River. Traffic was light, the drivers were courteous, and the road had both brand new pavement and some of the roughest chipseal along the way.
I probably don’t have to tell you that Panhandle campground…was CLOSED. Our destination would have to be Newport. We broke it up into ten-mile goals. “it’s only 10 miles to the Manresa Grotto. You can do that,” or “It’s 10 miles to Usk. You can do that”.
At Usk John took a 2-mile chance at a back road that turned into a gravel road. He was going to have to pull the last 16 miles of his adventure on a busy stretch of Hwy 20 at the end of a long day. Normally 16 miles would seem like nothing but his legs had gone from fresh to exhausted and his shoulders were cramping. He just kept moving. Naturally, just to make things more exciting, the big hill comes in the final mile.
After John’s very long 92-mile day, the ‘Welcome to Newport’ sign was such a relief. It is a small sign–no bells or whistles–but sure looked beautiful to us!
I stopped at the Safeway in town to buy John some chocolate milk for an immediate reward and a bottle of scotch to celebrate at camp. We got to the OPEN Pioneer Campground a few miles out of town. John took his well-deserved shower and I was making dinner when it occurred to us that I had left the scotch sitting at the cash register. I don’t know which was worse…losing John on the trip out of Twisp or losing the scotch on his last day.
On our way out of Newport John stopped by the County Courthouse to thank Commissioners Steve Kiss & Karen Skoog. Unfortunately Commissioner Mike Manus was on vacation. Mike had worked with John on USBR 10 and he was sorry to miss him.
Including the USBR 10 spur route to Ione, John pedaled 440 miles in six days! This doesn’t include his layover day in Colville where he rode the short route in Blazing Saddles Bike Ride.Related Reading
Bike It: USBR 10 (Day One) Bike It: USBR 10 – The Epic Climb (Day Two) Bike It: USBR 10 – Methow Valley (Day Three) Bike It: USBR 10 – Okanogan Country to Republic (Day Four) Bike It: USBR 10 – Over Sherman Pass to Colville (Day Five) USBR 10, Northern Washington StateWant More News About Bike Travel in Washington State? Sign up for our e-news! Name * First Last name * Last Email Address * City * ZIP code * Optional: tell us about your biking interests (check all that apply): Travel Rides/Events Safety Education Policy/Advocacy Infrastructure/Connections Other (describe below) If other, please describe We send e-news, action alerts, and emails asking for your support of our work Check here if you prefer not to receive emails asking for your financial support of our work. Check here if you do not want us to exchange your email information with other organizations whose missions complement ours By filling out this form, you opt in to receive email updates about bicycling events and issues in Washington State.