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Real Christmas Trees Growing in Popularity in American Homes

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Real Christmas trees are making a comeback this year, according to a specialist at Purdue University. Daniel Cassens, professor at the Department of Forestry and Natural Resources, says more than one billion dollars will be spent in the United States this year bringing real Christmas trees into the house. He says the environmental impact of real trees versus that of fake trees has become something of a debate in recent years. A Christmas tree farmer himself, Cassens says there are benefits to avoiding the more convenient, artificial trees.

“It’s a difficult thing to measure because there are so many variables involved,” Cassens says, “If you look at a real tree, you see it takes in carbon dioxide and keeps it in the ground. Depending on how the tree is disposed of, the rest of the carbon is released in the atmosphere and can be

Cassens says artificial Christmas trees are petroleum-based products, which release carbon stored in the ground, becoming directly harmful to the environment. Shipping artificial trees to the United States creates another source of impact.

“About all the artificial trees are manufactured overseas,” Cassens says, “Real trees grown here create local jobs and contribute to the local economy. Fake trees, as they’re shipped, also takes energy and pollutes the environment.”

Proponents of the artificial Christmas tree industry point out that its product can be reused, saving real trees from being cut down, and that artificial trees of course do not need fertilizers or pesticides. If you’ve decided you want a real tree in your house this year, Cassens says there are a few things to keep in mind.

“If you’re a first time real-tree-buyer, you want to be careful not to get too big a tree, “Cassen says, “Stay within the five to six feet category, at the most nine feet. They are more manageable and the bigger the tree, the more difficult to handle. Also, make sure to have a high-quality

When the holidays are over, Cassens says, there are also options to consider when getting rid of a real tree.

“One option, that is the most simple, is to take the tree and put it in your backyard until spring,” Cassen says, “Most towns also have recycling centers that turn real Christmas trees into mulch.”

For more information on real Christmas trees, or how to find a choose-and-cut tree farm in your area, you can visit the National Christmas Tree Growers Association online at RealChristmastrees.org.

 

 

Griffy Lake To Be Refilled and Stocked With Fish

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In 2012 the City of Bloomington drained Griffy Lake to work on drain control.

Work finished on Nov. 16, when contractors closed the lake gate and began allowing it to refill.

Dave Kittaka, from the local Division of Fish & Wildlife, says that the sluice gate has been leaky for years, and because it’s at the bottom of the lake, they had to drain it.

“Basically they replaced the gate valve and do some preventative maintenance,” Kittaka says, “Also they were able to drudge the lake for better access from the boat ramp.”

This presented problems for the lake, Kittaka says, especially during droughts

“it got to the point that the upper end was so shallow, you couldn’t get a boat off the ramp and into the lake,” Kittaka says.

DNR’s Division of Fish & Wildlife, which manages the fishery at Griffy Lake, plans to restock it with bluegill, red-ear sunfish, black crappie, largemouth bass, and channel catfish.

The division stocks fish based on decades of fish management experience to ensure a proper balance of predator and prey, with the goal of creating a self-sustained, balanced game fish population.

Deer reductions to close 21 Indiana state parks

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21 Indiana state parks will be closed temporarily for deer reductions by local hunters . They do this annually, Mike Mycroft, chief of natural resources for the Department of Natural Resources State Parks and Reservoirs, said.

“It’s mainly to manage the impact of high density deer herds on the native habitat throughout the parks,” Mycroft said.

The parks affected are Brown County, Chain O’Lakes, Charlestown, Clifty Falls, Fort Harrison, Harmonie, Indiana Dunes, Lincoln, McCormick’s Creek, Ouabache, Pokagon, Potato Creek, Prophetstown, Shades, Shakamak, Spring Mill, Summit Lake, Tippecanoe, Turkey Run, Versailles, and Whitewater Memorial. For Fort Harrison, Indiana Dunes, Spring Mill, and Turkey Run, a public standby drawing to fill spots left vacant will take place on these properties, each morning of the reduction.

Mycroft says the standby drawings are used to counter low attendance at these four parks, compared to the other parks being affected.

The dates for the temporary closings will be today, Nov. 19, and Dec. 2 and 3. The state parks will be closed to the general public the evening before each of these two efforts, and reopen the morning after each two-day reduction.

Free driving tour of Lake Monroe offered for geology buffs

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Anyone interested in geology will have the opportunity for a free driving tour of Monroe Lake on December 1st. Beginning at the Paynetown State Recreation Area on South State Road 446, there will be stops highlighting the Mt. Carmel Fault, Leesville Anticline, Edwardsville Formation, Harrodsburg Limestone, and Salem Limestone. Jill Vance, Interpretive Naturalist at Monroe Lake, is the tour guide. She will explain geological features, the area’s history, and the many influences on its present landscape. You can register by calling the Paynetown Activity Center at 812-837-9967 by November 25th.

 

IU Owned-And-Operated Air-Monitoring Tower Fully Funded For Next Three Years

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The Federal Department of Energy has announced that an air-monitoring station, owned and operated by Indiana University in Morgan Monroe State Forest, will be fully funded for the next three years.

The station, which sits atop a 150-foot tower in the forest since its installation in 1998, monitors the exchange of carbon dioxide between the atmosphere and the forest ecosystem, as well as water vapor levels in the air.

It’s part of the AmeriFlux system of 120 such towers in the Western Hemisphere which, in turn, is part of the world-wide FluxNet system of 1000 towers.

Kim Novick, Assistant Professor at IU’s School of Public and Environmental Affairs, says the data mined from this tower is very valuable and that’s why this tower’s operation was deemed worthy of more funding. We then asked Doctor Novick to summarize the findings from the tower’s measurement of carbon dioxide production and absorption over the period of its operation.

“As temperature has been increasing, the growing season has lengthened,” Novick says, “And since the leaves are on the trees longer, we’ve noticed that carbon absorption in the air has increased. We’ve also noticed over the past six or seven years that there’s been a tend toward dryer conditions, and this can counteract the effects of the longer growing season.”

During the first half of the monitoring period, there was a net increase in the amount of carbon taken up by plants in the forest.

However, the increasing dryness during the second half has negated the previous increase. The tower station can also monitor other green-house gases,

such as methane and nitrous oxide, but doesn’t do so, as their emission from relatively dry eco-systems like the Morgan-Monroe forest are negligible.

The  tower receives the bulk of its funding from a federal government department, Novick respons about the sequestration cuts may have affected the local monitoring station.

“Generally, it’s become increasingly more difficult for scientists to get federal funds to support their research,” Novick says, “When you’re given other options to support your project, it’s something to be happy about.”

Listeners who are interested in visiting the tower individually or as a group can contact the researchers via Steve Chapman at IU Communications.

This Year’s Deer Season Looks To Be Productive After Last Year’s Record-Setting Harvest

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Hunters in Indiana can expect another productive deer season in 2013, but probably not as productive as last year’s record setter.

The deer harvest record has been broken in four of the last five seasons.

But Chad Stewart, deer biologist with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (the DNR), doesn’t expect the trend to continue.

“Last year was a record deer harvest for Indiana,” Stewart says, “We took 136,248 deer and that exceeded all previous years. I think the number will probably go down a little bit this year, but the trends in last year’s harvest told us the herd was on a downward swing, which is exactly what we’re trying to accomplish.

Stewart says the antler deer harvest being down, as well as an increase this year in antler-less deer killing, tends to mean the overall deer population is down.

He says that reducing the deer population to a more balanced level has been the DNR’s goal for years.

New hunting regulations in 2012 worked toward that goal.

“We’re making an effort to balance the deer herd,” Stewart says, “And when you reduce the deer herd in total to achieve that, over time the deer harvest falls off as well.”

Deer hunting season in some urban areas began on Sunday. Archery season starts on October 1st, and this year firearm season starts in mid-November.

 

 

Romanian IU Students Protest Mining Project in Rosia Montana

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The Romanian Student Organization at Indiana University is protesting Friday against an invasive mining project that was supported by the Romanian government in 2007.

The Romanian government has signed their approval for the project to commence. The area that has been affected by this project is Rosia  Montana, Romania.

Alexandra Cotofana, a first-year graduate student in the Anthropology Department and a citizen of Romania, is one of the leaders of the protest. Cotofana told us some history of the project and how it is creating problems for the people in Rosia Montana.

“It got the attention of the media in 2007 because that’s when the people started to rebel. The government kept putting pressure on people to leave their houses. They tried to pay them, but some people didn’t want to leave,”Cotofana said.

This year the Romanian government passed a law that will allow the company to force people out of their homes and this is one of the main reasons why the Romanian Student Organization is protesting against this project.

“This year, the company has raised the percentage of what they are going to pay the state for the whole project, from 4% to 6%. Now, a law has passed that will allow the company to expel residents. This is the part we are most worried about,” Cotofana said.

The Romanian Student Organization is hoping that this protest will give more attention to this issue and bring in more supporters to keep something like this from happening again.

“The media in the country doesn’t say anything about this. They support the project by keeping quiet, but the rest of the world knows. Romanian citizens care about what happens and we know that the next project when the government allows a private company to expel people might set a precedent for these sort of non-democratic acts. This could happen in my hometown next. We want them to know we are aware and we are fighting it even though we are away from home. Home is still home,” Cotofana said, explaining why this protest matters even though it is far from Romania.

The protest will take place Friday at 6 pm at the Sample Gates.

Duke Agrees To Close Old Terre Haute Coal Power Plants

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A private coalition of environmental groups has forced Duke Energy Indiana to agree to close its old coal-fired power plants in Terre Haute.

The settlement between Duke and the coalition, composed of the Sierra Club, Citizens Action Coalition, Valley Watch, and Save the Valley, was reached before an Indiana Department of Environment administrative law judge. The settlement requires Duke to cease burning coal at most of its Wabash River coal-fired power plant in Vigo County and to invest in new renewable energy projects.

In return, the environmental coalition will drop its appeal of the air pollution permit issued by IDEM to Duke for its Edwardsport coal-gasification and combined-cycle power plant to the south.

We spoke to Jodi Perras, of the Indiana branch of the Sierra Club, about this settlement, as well as another parallel suit concerning Duke.

She said that Duke agreed to retire their coal-fired units and that there was a commitment from Duke to invest in some clean-energy projects.

The result is that a total of 668 megawatts of coal-fired power will come offline.

Currently, Indiana gets more than 90 percent of its electricity from burning coal.

Besides emitting more green-house gases than other fossil fuels, coal-fired power plants are also the country’s biggest source of mercury, sulfur dioxide pollution, carbon pollution, and many other pollutants that can trigger heart attacks and contribute to respiratory problems.

Duke also agreed to pursue either a new feed-in tariff program to purchase at least 30 megawatts of solar power from its Hoosier customers or to purchase or install at least 15 megawatts of wind or solar generating capacity from new facilities built in Indiana.

A feed-in tariff enables customers to earn money from their own solar panels by selling excess power back to electric utilities.

“Duke said previously that they thought they would retire the units at Wabash river because of the mercury and the toxin rule that’s supposed to go into effect in 2015. Those are old plans from the 50’s or 60’s but the mercury rule is being challenged in federal court. If we were to lose that case, Duke still has to retire those units by 2018,” says Perras.

Four coal burning units are required to close by 2015 and the sixth by 2018. While they have settled this suit, the coalition is still continuing with its parallel suit against Duke before the Indiana Court of Appeals to overturn Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission decisions regarding the Edwardsport plant.

In December of 2012, the IURC approved additional rate increases tied to the Edwardsport coal gasification plant which would allow Duke to pass on rising construction costs to power consumers.

The plant is currently $1.6 billion over budget and still not operating at full capacity after eight years of design, construction, and testing.

“We have briefs that are due on Monday so we have been working on that and there’s an opportunity for the folks involved to do a reply brief. The court of appeals will probably schedule those and it’ll take several months before the court issues a decision,” Perras says.

There are several issue in question in this suit: whether the IURC violated the law by failing to consider the long-term costs to Duke Energy ratepayers of controlling the plant’s carbon pollution.

This issue was raised in testimony by citizens groups and ignored in the IURC’s decision, in violation of Indiana law; whether the IURC should have appointed a Special Administrative Law Judge to conduct a formal investigation into reports of behind-closed-doors communications, undue influence, conflicts of interest, and other misconduct involving high-level officials of Duke Energy and the IURC and whether the IURC failed to act as an impartial judge by directing Duke Energy to hire an outside consultant to monitor problems at Edwardsport and report to the IURC on its progress, and then refusing to place the reports into the public record.

This scandal involving conflict of interest between state regulators and Duke has resulted in several firings and transfers but no reversal of the resulting tainted regulatory rulings.

Standing Room Only – Nature Deficit Disorder

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On April 12th Richard Louv  spoke at the Reynold E. Carlson lecture. His talk centered on the importance of nature to the sociological and psychological health of humans, particularly in large cities. Richard Louv is a journalist and author of eight books on the connection between family nature and community, and he coined the term “Nature-deficit-disorder.  This lecture was recorded on location at the IU Memorial Union by WFHB correspondents for Standing Room Only.

MRF Voted Down

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By Joe Crawford

Proponents of a major recycling operation vowed to keep fighting for the project after it was voted down a second time on a technicality. The Monroe County Solid Waste Management District’s Board of Directors called an emergency meeting August 15th to effectively redo a vote on a materials recovery facility, also known as a MRF. The previous vote at a meeting August 8th produced confusion and frustration when several Board members either didn’t show up for the meeting or needed to leave early. In the end, only three of the Board’s seven members voted for a budget that specifically excluded $60,000 to investigate the viability of a MRF.

But, as Board President Steve Volan explained, attorneys for the District later decided those three members successfully passed their version of the budget. One of those three members, Cheryl Munson, made a motion August 15th to effectively reverse her previous vote. The motion was to approve a version of the budget that includes money for a MRF, which would allow the District to process and sell its own recyclables. The two main opponents of the MRF were Board members Patrick Stoffers and Iris Kiesling, who are also both County commissioners. Kiesling said she opposed spending money on the project partly because the District is on track to run a deficit next year. Members of the public and the District’s Citizens Advisory Committee spoke in favor of the MRF. Committee member Stephen Hale said the facility could give the District an opportunity to make more money on its recyclables.

When the Board voted on the motion to include the MRF in next year’s budget, three of the five members present approved. Volan, Munson and Julie Thomas voted for the MRF. But another technicality worked to help the opposition. Because this was a vote to amend a budget that had already been approved, attorneys said this time a majority of the full Board – or four members – was needed. Without enough votes to support the MRF, Volan said he planned to force another vote on the subject as soon as all seven members could attend a meeting. Volan said the two absent members, Bloomington Mayor Mark Kruzan and Ellettsville Town Council member Dan Swafford, were absent for health reasons.

 

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