Researchers are putting together an online service
that will help determine nature’s contributions to the economy.
The GLRC’s Rebecca Williams reports the economic benefits
of the natural system aren’t always considered when developers
Researchers are putting together an online service that will help determine nature’s contributions to the economy. The GLRC’s Rebecca Williams reports the economic benefits of the natural system aren’t always considered when developers start building:
We don’t get a bill from wetlands for purifying our water, but scientists say we might pay
more in our utility bills if wetlands weren’t there to clean up the water.
Bob Costanza directs the Gund Institute for Ecological Economics. He and his colleagues are
building computer models that will be turned into an interactive website. He says the website
will put a price on the services things such as wetlands and forests provide:
“If you are gonna, you know, put a new housing development or shopping center, what are
you losing in terms of ecosystem services and where could you put those things that would
lose as little as possible?”
Kostanza says the website will be live in about a year and a half. It will be open
to the public so you’ll be able to get a better sense of what your local pond and forest
are doing for you.
While the Department of Energy faces several lawsuits
to its proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste site in Nevada,
tens of thousands of tons of nuclear waste are stored at nuclear
plants. The GLRC’s Lester Graham reports:
While the Department of Energy faces several lawsuits to its proposed Yucca Mountain
nuclear waste site in Nevada, tens of thousands of tons of nuclear waste are stored at
nuclear plants. The GLRC’s Lester Graham reports:
A U.S. Court of Appeals recently sidelined a lawsuit challenging the Energy Department’s plans to transport high-level radioactive waste to Yucca Mountain, but at least seven other lawsuits are waiting in the wings.
The plan to store radioactive waste such as spent nuclear fuel rods from power plants
under Yucca Mountain has been in the works for two decades. The government had
planned to open Yucca Mountain in 2012. That schedule has
been pushed back five years to 2017. The government needs the time to get approvals
from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and to prepare environmental impact reports
that are expected to face further court challenges.
Nuclear power plants, which are often situated near rivers or lakes, are storing the
radioactive waste on site and some plants are running out of room and are to store the waste
in containers outside.
We’ve all heard those disgusting stories about the dust mites and mold lurking in those seemingly beautiful hotel rooms. But there’s new technology that’s attempting to clean up even what you can’t see, and to make you feel better. For the GLRC, Joyce Kryszak has more on the allergy-friendly rooms that scientists are putting to the test:
We’ve all heard those disgusting stories about the dust mites and mold lurking in those seemingly
beautiful hotel rooms. But there’s new technology that’s attempting to clean up even what you
can’t see, and to make you feel better. For the GLRC, Joyce Kryszak has more on the
allergy-friendly rooms that scientists are putting to the test:
They’re in there all right. And we’re not talking about the hotel guests. There are millions of bed
bugs, mold spores and other nasty things you wouldn’t want to sleep with. And no amount of
housecleaning, even in the nicest hotels, is going to chase them all out. So what’s a weary
traveler to do? Call in the professionals:
“We clean and sanitize the air-handling system, clean and sanitize all the soft surfaces. We
apply a shield to every surface in the room. We shock the room with ozone. We encase the
mattresses and pillows with mattress and pillow encasements. We install a purification system. And we filter chlorine from the water in the shower,” said Tom Pickles.
Tom Pickles is director of operations for Pure Solutions. The company is one of those taking
part in this new, experimental research. They have an arsenal of what they call seven different
interventions. The company uses a process that combines chemistry and technology, to
prevent or greatly reduce air born pollutants. Pickles says it’s definitely needed especially in
hotel rooms, where people aren’t the only ones enjoying the fine linens:
“The conditions inside your mattress and inside your pillow are very hospitable to a dust mite,”
said Pickles. “Their favorite food in the world is dead skin cells. You lay in your bed, you toss
and you turn and you’re constantly shedding dead skin cells. As you do that the dust mites will come
up from the bowels of your mattress, eat your dead skin cells and then go back down into your
Okay, that’s gross. But don’t pack for home just yet. Some hotels, such as this Marriot in
Buffalo, are offering what indoor air experts are calling “allergy-friendly rooms.” The idea is to
first literally shield everything in the room from microscopic mold and bacteria. Robert Baier
heads a research center at the University at Buffalo. He says the room is misted with a
“And so you create a vapor of a silicone. It goes to the surface and it makes it like an easy-
release surface, just like if you would have an easy-release label that you were going to stick
onto an envelope,” said Baier.
But what about the dust mites? Where do they go? Well, the experts agree some still might be
hanging out. But mattresses and pillows are covered with tightly woven microfiber wraps that at
least keep you from inhaling what they leave behind. What does break through all these
barriers is then filtered away.
The advanced technology filters are used in air conditioning units and under the bed, constantly
processing and pulling out air contaminants. Baier says that makes breathing a whole lot easier.
“We’ve got living cells, called macrophages, which are like zambonis that are cleaning the ice at
the ice rink, and they’re cruising around the base of the lung all the time, dealing with cleaning up
these particles,” said Baier.
He says on a bad day, or in a room with poor air quality, that can mean lungs get over-taxed,
and that means people get sick easier. But scientists at UB want to make sure these new
technologies are actually doing what they advertise.
Baier demonstrates the hand-held device used to sample the air. The readings indicate that the
particle count does drop, about 75% once you leave the hallway and enter the purified room.
But he says more scientific tests will be done on the actual air particles. If tests bear out the
claims, it will be good news for the hotel industry. But Baier says scientists hope to find out if
the process could be used in hospitals and other places where air quality is critical:
“We’re very much concerned about eliminating infection, which as you know has become a big,
big problem as we’re getting into antibiotic resistant micro-organisms,” said Baier. “We think
that’s because of the hiding places that these organisms are finding in things like air conditioning
units, in coils and filters.”
For now, industry officials are glad to be making hotel stays a bit more pleasant for travelers in
several states around the country. The cost to convert and maintain each room is roughly 2,500
dollars. But right now, some hotels are offering the rooms for no extra charge, just to get
people comfortable with the idea of being able to breathe a little easier.
Biologist find signs of regeneration shortly after a forest fire. (Photo courtesy of Stephanie Hemphill)
Some seeds, such as Jack Pine, need fire to germinate. (Photo courtesy of Stephanie Hemphill)
After a fire, the ground is ready to receive a new generation of seeds. (Photo courtesy of Stephanie Hemphill)
Forest fires capture a lot of attention and concern. Loggers worry about lost resources. People who hike and camp in the forest worry they’ll see nothing but ugly, blackened vistas for years to come. But a big fire this summer in the northwoods gives people a chance to see just how fast the forest can recover. Even as the fire still burns, foresters see signs of life. The GLRC’s Stephanie Hemphill reports:
Forest fires capture a lot of attention and concern. Loggers worry about lost resources.
People who hike and camp in the forest worry they’ll see nothing but ugly, blackened vistas for years
to come. But a big fire this summer in the northwoods gives people a chance to see just
how fast the forest can recover. Even as the fire still burns, foresters see signs of life.
The GLRC’s Stephanie Hemphill reports:
The Cavity Lake fire started in mid-July this summer. It turned out to be the fire people have been
worrying about for seven years. In 1999, huge straight-line winds knocked down millions
of trees. They toppled into an impassable tangle of drying fuel in and near the Boundary
Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in northeastern Minnesota. Locals call it “the
The Cavity Lake fire gobbled up the blown-down trees. It roared across lakes,
threatening homes and resorts.
(Sound of boat motor)
Two forest service workers hop in a small boat to document the fire and its aftermath. In
places, the fire seems to have consumed everything, down to the soil, but these two are
looking for life.
Black, powdery ash covers the ground. Burned snags, limbless trees the color of
charcoal, stand against the sky. But even here, biologist Lissa Grover can find signs of
“If you look around, you can see the 20-foot tall trees that took off after the blowdown,
and a lot of them still have cones on the top, and those cones are open now, and the seeds
will fall from them into the bare soil and germinate.”
In fact, some seeds, such as Jack Pine, wait for fire to open:
“There’s a seed bank in the soil, just waiting for a disturbance like this. There’s one plant
called Bicknell’s geranium that sprouts after fire, produces flowers the second year, sets
seed. Those seeds will stay in the soil until the next fire, even if it’s 200 years from now.”
And some plants aren’t waiting for the next generation. Grasses are already pushing
green shoots through the blackened dirt.
(Sound of motor)
Our next stop is a big island. After the 1999 blowdown in northeastern Minnesota, the
Forest Service purposely burned some areas near homes and resorts. The idea was to
reduce the amount of fuel available for wildfires. Crews set this island on fire four years
Wilderness ranger Tim McKenzie says that intentional burn saved the island, and the
resorts, from the Cavity Lake fire:
“It was traveling pretty good distances and spotting on these islands. As soon as it hit
here it just lay down.”
The blowdown fuel was already burned, and the young trees were too small and green to
keep the fire going.
Animals here are also adapted to fires. Bears, wolves and moose can walk away from a
fire. Birds can fly away or take refuge in the water.
Grover does worry about the young eagles, still in their nests and unable to fly.
“The trees are still there, the nest is still there, the adult eagles are still here, but it’s
unlikely that the juveniles in the nest survived the fire.”
But a few minutes later, we hear a sound that gladdens Grover’s heart: a young eagle
screaming for food.
(Sound of eagle)
At least one young eagle survived the Cavity Lake fire.
This land has been swept repeatedly by fires. They start, grow, move, and burn out in a
patchwork pattern. A fire last year burned until it ran into an area that had burned thirty
years ago. And here, in a thirty-year-old burn, is a picture-perfect Boundary Waters
(Sound of walking)
Young balsams scent the air with their clean, northwoods smell. Young birches lean
across the path. The moss is soft underfoot. The air is moist, and the mosquitoes are
Tim McKenzie fought that fire, thirty years ago. He says whenever fire burns, it’s nature
“People are used to seeing a snapshot in time. But the landscape that they’re used to
seeing became that landscape because of this process.”
And canoe outfitters here are busy planning routes that will show that landscape changing.
The American eel migrates from the salty Sargasso Sea into the fresh waters of the eastern U.S. and Canada. But their numbers have dropped significantly. Now, the eel is getting help from dam operators. The GLRC’s Martha Foley explains:
The American eel migrates from the salty Sargasso Sea into the fresh waters
of the eastern US and Canada. But their numbers have dropped significantly. Now, the
eel is getting help from dam operators. The GLRC’s Martha Foley
Fifty years ago, the American eel accounted for half the biomass in Lake
Ontario. Now it’s almost gone. Scientists don’t exactly know why, but some
researchers say dams are partially to blame.
Kevin McGrath is a scientist with the New York Power Authority. He’s been
looking for ways to help the migrating eels get past a dam in Massena, New York.
The dam is jointly operated by the US and Canada. McGrath helped design a
new eel passage that opened this summer. He says the new passage is working
“The thing that is really amazing us is how quickly they’re going through
the system. They’re moving through the entire system in about an hour and a
half and we’re just incredibly pleased that it’s working as well as it is.”
McGrath says he wouldn’t be surprised if the new passage – and an older
one on the Canadian side – combine to pass 30,000 eels this season.
Farmers who use a highly toxic pesticide will have to quickly find an alternative. That’s if the EPA sticks with a
decision to phase it out in four years. But some farmers say
they have no alternative. The GLRC’s Tracy Samilton
Farmers who use a highly toxic pesticide will have to quickly find an alternative. That’s if
the EPA sticks with a decision to phase it out in four years. But some farmers say they
have no alternative. The GLRC’s Tracy Samilton reports:
Carbofuran has been widely used to combat aphids for many crops, including
soybeans, corn, tobacco and wine grapes. Many farmers have been phasing in
crops that are bred to be resistant to aphids. But agriculture industry
officials say in many instances, there’s no replacement for carbofuran.
Dale Huss of artichoke grower Ocean Mist Farms says carbofuran is the only
pesticide known that kills aphids that feed on artichokes. He says it’s
possible his industry will collapse:
“I don’t think we quite understand the full impact it’s gonna have on us. It really has us
Agriculture lobbyists say they’ll press the EPA to reverse the decision.
Environmental groups say the EPA did the right thing. Even small amounts
of carbofuran are lethal to birds, and it’s been blamed for the deaths of
millions of birds over the twenty years it’s been in use.
The first logging under new Bush administration rules has begun in a National Forest roadless wilderness area. The GLRC’s Lester Graham reports:
The first logging under new Bush administration rules has begun in a National Forest
roadless wilderness area. The GLRC’s Lester Graham reports:
This is the first logging since the Bush administration eased a rule put in place by the
Clinton administration. That rule had made tens of millions of acres of wilderness areas
off-limits to logging, mining and development.
Protesters near Grants Pass, Oregon delayed the logging for a few hours by blocking a
bridge, but one person was arrested and the blockade removed to allow loggers to enter.
The logging operation is cutting down trees killed by a fire in 2002. The timber is being
taken from the site by helicopter.
According to an article in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, the logging began after a
federal judge refused to block it pending the outcome of a lawsuit challenging the Bush
administration’s new “roadless rule.” The suit was brought by conservation groups and
the states of Oregon, Washington, California and New Mexico. The court ruling is not
expected before September.
The U.S. Forest Service is loosening rules to deal with
predators. The new rules would allow livestock owners and others to hunt down wolves, bears, coyotes and mountain lions using trucks, helicopters and cyanide-laced traps. The GLRC’s Lester Graham
The U.S. Forest service is loosening rules to deal with predators. The new rules would
allow livestock owners and others to hunt down wolves, bears, coyotes and mountain
lions using trucks, helicopters and cyanide-laced traps. The GLRC’s Lester Graham
The Forest Service says the proposed new rules simply clear up a program that’s
designed to get rid of nuisance animals that prey on livestock. Erik Ryberg is with the
Center for Biological Diversity. He says the new rules permit killing any local predator
instead of just the animal that’s killing livestock. They would also allow off-road
vehicles and even helicopters to chase down the animals on federal land, and they would
allow baited traps that explode with poison gas:
“These are buried cyanide bombs that when triggered release an explosive cloud of
sodium cyanide crystals and kill whatever has triggered it. They’re very dangerous both
to domestic pets, to children and to people. They certainly don’t belong in federally-
protected wilderness areas.”
The current rules state that the agency is to “consider the benefits of predator species in
the ecosystem” before it starts killing any predators.
Developers want to put wind turbines in offshore locations like Lake Ontario and off the coast of Massachusetts. (Photo by David Orsborne)
Already, several environmental groups are behind the idea of putting wind farms in waterways. (Photo by Lester Graham)
The U.S. Department of Energy wants 20 percent of the country’s electricity supply to eventually come from wind power. Some of that power could come from wind turbines located on the water. The GLRC’s Chuck Quirmbach reports some power companies are hesitating:
The U.S. Department of Energy wants 20 percent of the country’s
electricity supply to eventually come from wind power. Some of that
power could come from wind turbines located on the water. The
GLRC’s Chuck Quirmbach reports some power companies are hesitating:
Until recently, the strength of the wind on the water was mainly of
interest to the shipping industry, anglers, and to people who like
(Sound of sail ruffling and folding)
Lee Konczak is folding up the sail on a small sailboat that he often
takes out into Lake Michigan. Konczak says he likes the serenity of
riding on the wind and the beautiful view from offshore. Even so, he
says he wouldn’t mind if the view included a few wind turbines:
“With energy certainly being at the top of the news practically on a
daily basis right now, and with limited resources, I think an
experimental kind of thing with wind turbines would be excellent.”
Some wind power companies are planning more than a small
experiment. An effort is underway to put up 140 wind turbines in Lake
Ontario and another developer wants a wind farm off the coast of
Massachusetts. The industry would like to develop more projects. It
says the US is behind some European countries when it comes to
going offshore for wind. Compared to the US, European countries are
short on fossil fuel supplies and they don’t have as much land. So
they began placing turbines offshore a few years ago.
John Dunlop is with the American Wind Energy Association. He says the land-based
wind turbines in the US and Canada are important but often trigger local
disputes over new overhead transmission lines. Dunlop says lake-based
wind turbines would avoid some political squabbles by being close to
“We enjoy living next to water, so consequently our population centers
tend to be close to the water which means a lake-based installation
may be no more than 10-20 miles away from that load center. Now, to get
that energy, that electricity from that wind project back to the city
you do need to have underwater cabling, but that’s a fairly common
technology so that’s not a huge impediment or a huge cost.”
Several environmental groups are getting on board with the idea of
putting wind farms in waterways. Charlie Higley is with the Citizens’
Utility Board in Wisconsin. He says there are already many coal and
nuclear plants near the water:
“Both of those have huge environmental and economic costs
associated with them, so we’re supportive of the development of
wind, not only on land but we really think the time is now to
start looking at developing wind resources on Lake Michigan.”
Higley acknowledges some people may not like the look of wind
turbines if they’re installed within view of the shoreline. Other
supporters concede there also needs to be more study of wind speeds
over the water. They also say there needs to be a cheaper way to fix
turbines that break down in waters dozens of feet deep.
Walt Musial helps oversee offshore wind projects at the National Renewable Energy
Lab. He says getting to a turbine in water is no easy task:
“You can’t drive a truck, so you have to drive a boat, or perhaps a helicopter like they do
in Europe. These add costs as well, and so these methods of accessing turbines have to be
developed and minimized.”
Still, Musial says because the Energy Department’s long-term goal is
to promote more wind production, he predicts some of that wind power
will come from offshore. But for now, the uncertainties have many
power companies rooted in inland turbines.
Kim Zuhlke is with Alliant Energy. He says his firm prefers a place
like Iowa, where there are already 800 wind turbines and a
desire from public officials to have more:
“You couple the acceptance, the economic growth, existing
transmission, all of those things together make it a logical place
for us to go.”
Still, Zuhlke says offshore wind turbines in the U.S. may become
a reality. He says engineers have to perfect a turbine that provides a big
enough payback for the additional expense of putting something way out in
There’s a trend among some food buyers. People are
signing up for a diet that means they can’t get what they need
from the supermarket. The GLRC’s Rebecca Williams
There’s a trend among some food buyers. People are signing up for a diet
that means they can’t get what they need from the supermarket. The GLRC’s Rebecca
These people are setting out to eat only foods that are grown and produced
near their homes. A lot of times that means tropical fruit, chocolate and
coffee are off limits.
Writers James Mackinnon and Alisa Smith went on what they call the 100-Mile
Diet for an entire year. The couple wanted to challenge themselves to eat a
diet more friendly to the environment.
“Are we doing greater environmental good by eating out-of-season organic
apples from New Zealand in the winter? I would argue that that’s not a
compromise we need to make.”
Mackinnon says he worries about wasting energy by transporting food from far
Farm researchers at Iowa State University say there are two opposing trends
at work. There are more people demanding locally grown food, but at the
same time, imports of produce from countries such as China continue to grow