This American Land
A unique series of magazine-style episodes hosted by Bruce Burkhardt, former environmental reporter for CNN, and Caroline Raville. Each episode links 5 or 6 stories, sometimes in a theme, showing how conservationists, fishermen, hunters and outdoor recreationists are sharing responsibilities for protecting America's natural heritage for future generations.
Artificial Bat Cave, Rocky Mountain Gas, Backpacking with Llamas (#302) Duration: 26:46 STEREO TVG
There comes a point during a wildlife crisis when scientists are compelled to stop studying, and do something. That's what prompted researchers who have been studying the deadly white nose fungus in bats to develop the idea of an artificial bat cave. Built right next to a huge natural cave, this underground Tennessee facility was built to try to slow the spread of the disease. After bats leave following their hibernation, the human-built cave can be disinfected. Experts say white nose disease is likely to be the worst wildlife disaster of our time, and that the human-built bat cave is an experiment that must continue. Rich deposits of oil shale in Colorado's Garfield County are yielding huge amounts of natural gas and oil for energy companies, but local residents are pushing back against intrusive air and water pollution, noise and traffic from drilling and hydraulic fracturing ("fracking"). Residents in communities like Rifle, Parachute and Battlement Mesa argue that oil and gas operations have gone out of control, and they're demanding more regulation of the industry to protect their homes and lands. In central Colorado's North Fork Valley, amid dozens of organic farms, orchards and ranches, the federal government has shelved plans to lease thousands of acres of public lands for oil and gas drilling. It was a victory for local residents, who came out overwhelmingly against the idea of drilling, saying it threatens a new economy rooted in tourism, wineries, and organic produce. Like the backcountry but can't carry a heavy pack? Try a llama! Monica Drost and her friends have been backpacking together since they were in college. But now, in their 50s, they can't carry their loaded packs anymore. Luckily, they found a llama outfitter and can now enjoy the Oregon wilderness without the aches and pains. Monarch butterflies, up to two billion of them, have to fly hundreds of miles to get to their wintering site in Mexico. So even a tiny impact on their migration ability could mean the difference between survival and death. Researchers study how long-distance migration in flying animals may also affect the spread and evolution of infectious disease. These beautiful insects face many threats, including habitat destruction but their winter home is one of the most stunningly beautiful sights in nature!
Prairie Chickens and Bog Turtles, Watershed Filtering, Bycatch Survival (#303) Duration: 26:46 STEREO TVG
Maintaining extensive tracts of open, well-managed prairie is critical to the conservation of greater prairie chickens, a species of grouse found in parts of 10 states. In Kansas, where 97 percent of the land is privately owned, ranchers are the most important stewards of the prairies, and they get assistance from the Natural Resources Conservation Service to clear their land of invasive trees like the eastern red cedar, improving grassland habitat for prairie chickens as well as for cattle. A similar program helps landowners protect wetland habitat for threatened bog turtles in Delaware and other areas on the East Coast. In an Oregon high school, students design and develop a "bioswale", a strip of land with plants that filter silt, oil and grime out of the runoff from the school's parking lot - "hands-on" learning about pollution, watershed management and environmental impacts. Off the coast of San Diego, marine biologists test a new device for increasing the survival rate of fish caught as bycatch by sport fishermen. Entered in a competition sponsored by the World Wildlife Fund, the SeaQualizer is proving effective as a solution to the problem of barotrauma with bottom-dwelling fish that are released at the surface as bycatch. The expanded bladder prevents the fish from returning to their original depth when released at the surface as bycatch, and mortality is very high. The SeaQualizer employs a non-invasive method of returning fish to depth and is highly effective at increasing the survival rate. "If it can't bite you, it's not interesting," laughs Mississippi State University biologist David Ray, who does very interesting studies on alligators, crocodiles, bats, and flies, among other creatures. Mapping alligator and crocodile genomes is helping scientists with everything from trying to save the odd-looking Indian gharial, to tracing the links between modern reptiles, dinosaurs, and birds.
Navajo Conservation, Brokeoff Mountains, Bycatch Survival (#304) Duration: 26:46 STEREO TVG
After decades of yearning for lost ancestral lands, the Navajo Nation in Utah is sponsoring a proposal for a national conservation area that would preserve Cedar Mesa and adjacent areas. Just outside the Navajo Reservation, Cedar Mesa has a rich history - occupied by ancestral Anasazi for thousands of years and now filled with some of America's oldest archaeological treasures that need urgent protection. Facing the formidable challenge of winning support from a wide range of local and state interests, the Navajo's mission would benefit all Americans if it succeeds. Off the coast of San Diego, marine biologists test a new device for increasing the survival rate of fish caught as bycatch by sport fishermen. Entered in a competition sponsored by the World Wildlife Fund, the SeaQualizer is proving effective as a solution to the problem of barotrauma with bottom-dwelling fish that are released at the surface as bycatch. The expanded bladder prevents the fish from returning to their original depth when released at the surface as bycatch, and mortality is very high. The device employs a non-invasive method of returning fish to depth and is highly effective at increasing the survival rate. Between Carlsbad Caverns in southeastern New Mexico and Guadalupe National Park in Texas, the Brokeoff Mountains are a little-known stretch of rugged canyons and peaks that are still relatively untouched by development. In a classic Chihuahuan Desert landscape of steep cliffs, caves, shelters and stunning rock formations, limestone canyons cut through the mountains and empty onto plains full of an unexpectedly wide variety of plants and animals. Local advocates want federal authorities to extend wilderness protection to the Brokeoffs while there's still time to avoid intrusion by oil and gas drilling and other invasive threats. The unusual body shape of a snake may seem like quite a disadvantage compared to other creatures. But boas, pythons and pit vipers have a secret weapon when it comes to sensing both predators and prey: they can sense danger - and lunch - even with their eyes closed!
Backyard Wilderness, Switchgrass Biofuel, Restoring Native Plants (#305) Duration: 26:46 STEREO TVG
In Iowa and Tennessee, we see a new energy future where gas comes from grass. Researchers are working with different types of grasses and other cellulosic plant material, learning more about what it's going to take to grow our own fuel. In the first of a series of stories about the biofuel revolution, host Bruce Burkhardt takes us to the frontlines where farmers grow switchgrass, sourgum and miscanthus specifically as renewable fuel sources. Unlike most wilderness areas that are remote and hard to access, the San Gabriel Mountains are within easy reach of the Los Angeles urban sprawl. Less than an hour from downtown, the San Gabriels are home to alpine forests, chaparral hills, clear trout-filled streams and the often snow-capped 10,068-foot Mt. Baldy, L.A. County's tallest peak. Most of the range is in the Angeles National Forest, which gives L.A. County more than one-third of its drinking water, 70 percent of its open space, and scenic and critical natural habitat. The mountains are now the centerpiece of an imaginative plan for a 600,000-acre national recreation area with large portions of the National Forest, 36,000 acres of additional wilderness, 44 miles of wild and scenic rivers and creeks, and park-poor lower river urban areas, an idea that would bond L.A.'s 17 million residents even closer to the natural wonders in their backyard. Many students in the frontier-like setting of Kanab, Utah are from families who have been in the region for generations. But some are learning for the first time the importance of protecting native plants, tackling invasive species, and coming up with a balance for the human needs of farming and raising livestock. Targeting the invasive-threatened and protein-rich "winter fat" plant, they harvested seeds, sprouted them in their high school greenhouse, then transplanted them to an acre-sized test exclosure in the magnificent Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. With instruction from experts, they mapped each plant with portable GPS devices so they could track their progress. Western wildfires can move swiftly and leave massive destruction. Researchers also have to move quickly, after a fire, to begin the restoration of water and wildlife in these ecosystems. We see how some powerful new tools are making their job a little easier.
Precious Sierra Water, Nevada Wilderness, Rallying to Save a Watershed (#306) Duration: 26:46 STEREO TVG
Climate change portends less snowfall in the Sierras, and that means less water in California's Sacramento and San Joaquin watersheds, two of the nation's most important and sensitive estuary systems. Snow melt from the Sierras feeds $400 billion in economic activities, supports four million acres of farmland, and supplies drinking water for more than 23 million people. In another look at how the Natural Resources Conservation Service works with communities, farmers and agencies, we follow the Cosumnes River and see how NRCS advisors assist in improving water quality and quantity along the downstream flow from the mountains to the coast. In the dry, harsh landscape between Las Vegas and Reno, most people see only a wasteland without much value except as a site for gold and silver mines. The mining boom days are long past, yet they still affect the way many people think about public lands like Emigrant Peak, Volcanic Hills, and Silver Peak. But now a growing number of Nevadans are beginning to appreciate the sustainable value of these lands as destinations for outdoor recreation. Visitors see a stunning variety of landscapes: the dust-dry Mojave desert, verdant marshes and pools, a maze of steep canyons with near vertical walls - a rugged and serene world that is far away in both distance and time. In Colorado, the Hermosa Creek Watershed north of Durango encompasses one of the state's largest, biologically diverse forests, including some of the biggest stands of old-growth ponderosa pine remaining in the San Juan Mountains. Most of the watershed is roadless and generally unblemished by past human activities, so it's an ideal home for native Colorado River cutthroat trout, rare Canada lynx, and vast herds of deer and elk that draw thousands of hunters annually. An expansive trail system attracts countless hikers, mountain bikers, hunters, horseback users, and other recreational enthusiasts. In a landmark collaboration, a working group of diverse local interests has developed a long-term conservation plan to manage 108,000 acres so that much of it would still remain open to historic uses - including mountain biking, motorized recreation, selective timber harvesting and grazing, while also designating some 37,000 acres of wilderness and a 43,000-acre roadless area. Ice cores may be the closest things scientists have to a time machine. They provide remarkably accurate details about the environment from tens of thousands of years ago. They can also help researchers look into the future of the changing climate on our planet.