Tag Archive: Yosemite National Park

(C) Desert Rose Creations/Family Survival Protocol  2013Ethanol Sign 2 photo ethanolsign2_zps0d43f94d.jpg



The Associated Press is running a terrific and long investigative article, “The Secret, Dirty Cost of Obama’s Green Power Push,” on the environmental downsides of the ethanol fuel mandate. From the AP…

…the ethanol era has proven far more damaging to the environment than politicians promised and much worse than the government admits today.

As farmers rushed to find new places to plant corn, they wiped out millions of acres of conservation land, destroyed habitat and polluted water supplies, an Associated Press investigation found.

Five million acres of land set aside for conservation — more than Yellowstone, Everglades and Yosemite National Parks combined — have vanished on Obama’s watch.

Landowners filled in wetlands. They plowed into pristine prairies, releasing carbon dioxide that had been locked in the soil.

Sprayers pumped out billions of pounds of fertilizer, some of which seeped into drinking water, contaminated rivers and worsened the huge dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico where marine life can’t survive.

The consequences are so severe that environmentalists and many scientists have now rejected corn-based ethanol as bad environmental policy. But the Obama administration stands by it, highlighting its benefits to the farming industry rather than any negative impact.

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Climate change is taking a visible toll on Yosemite National Park, where the largest ice mass in the park is in a death spiral, geologists say.

During an annual trek to the glacier deep in Yosemite’s backcountry last month, Greg Stock, the park’s first full-time geologist, found that Lyell Glacier had shrunk visibly since his visit last year, continuing a trend that began more than a century ago.

Lyell has dropped 62% of its mass and lost 120 vertical feet of ice over the last 100 years. “We give it 20 years or so of existence — then it’ll vanish, leaving behind rocky debris,” Stock said.

The Sierra Nevada Mountains have roughly 100 remaining glaciers, two of them in Yosemite. The shrinkage of glaciers across the Sierra is also occurring around the world. Great ice sheets are dwindling, prompting concerns about what happens next to surrounding ecological systems after perennial rivulets of melted ice disappear.

“We’ve looked at glaciers in California, Colorado, Wyoming, Washington and elsewhere, and they’re all thinning because of warming temperatures and less precipitation,” said Andrew Fountain, professor of geology and geography at Portland State University in Oregon. “This is the beginning of the end of these things.”

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A pick-up truck and buildings destroyed by the Rim Fire, August 28, 2013

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The wildfire threatening Yosemite National Park is spreading further into the US tourist landmark, officials said as they battled to stop it clouding a holiday weekend.

Efforts to contain the so-called Rim Fire, which has grown to become California’s sixth biggest wildfire ever, were also being boosted by the deployment of a military drone approved by the Pentagon.

The fire, which now covers more than 192,000 acres, or 300 square miles, and is 30 percent contained, has also threatened San Francisco’s water supply, due to ash falling on a key reservoir.

The blaze, about a quarter of which is now inside the park’s boundaries, “is expected to continue its eastward spread farther into the west side of Yosemite National Park,” said the latest firefighters’ online update.

The fire, which started west of the park on August 17, is threatening some 4,500 structures and on Wednesday forced the closure of a second main road into the major US tourist attraction ahead of the Labor Day weekend.

A surge of visitors is typically expected over this weekend’s Labor Day holiday at Yosemite, which draws millions of tourists every year, most in July and August. Labor Day traditionally marks the end of the summer season.

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Raging California wildfire threatens more of Yosemite

Los Angeles County firefighters hike in on a fire line on the Rim Fire near Groveland, Calif., Aug. 22.

The wildfire near Yosemite National Park is 20 percent contained, while more than 4,000 firefighters work towards quelling the huge blaze altogether. NBC’s Tom Costello reports.

By Tom Costello and Tracy Jarrett, NBC News

A California wildfire that has scorched an area nearly as large as New York City near Yosemite National Park was 20 percent contained Tuesday, officials said. But the raging blaze was expected to move farther into the park and threaten a reservoir that provides most of San Francisco’s water.

The so-called Rim Fire, has charred 179,480 acres, or about 280 square miles, making it California’s seventh largest fire in state history, according to the state’s Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. It threatens 4,500 structures as well as the power and water utilities for San Francisco, roughly 200 miles to the west.

The flames also loomed over towering sequoias that are among the largest and oldest living things on the planet. The iconic trees can withstand fire, but brutal conditions — including harsh winds and thick brush — have prompted park employees to take extra precautions in the Tuolumne and Merced groves, according to the Associated Press.

“All of the plants and trees in Yosemite are important, but the giant sequoias are incredibly important both for what they are and as symbols of the National Park System,” park spokesman Scott Gediman told the AP.

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Firefighting felons: Hundreds of inmates battling the Yosemite blaze

Jae C. Hong / AP

Inmate firefighters, who are paid $1 an hour as part of California’s conservation prison-camp program, work the Rim Fire threatening Yosemite.

They swing the same Pulaskis, buzz the same chainsaws and face the same dangers.

But 673 of the wildland firefighters battling the ferocious blaze around Yosemite National Park have something that other hotshot crew members do not: a prison identification number.

They’re part of California’s conservation camp program, which takes convicts out of jail cells and puts them on the front lines of wildfires, where they earn $1 an hour cutting containment lines that keep flames from spreading.

“They are in the thick of it,” said Capt. Jorge Santana of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

The agency has sent 621 men and 52 women to tackle the so-called Rim Fire, which has engulfed nearly 300 square miles of land in 12 days. More have been deployed to 20 other fires across the state.

Max Whittaker/Reuters

Inmate firefighters line up for dinner at the Rim Fire camp near Buck Meadows, Calif.

“They work 24-hour shifts,” Santana said. “They sleep in tents at base camp. They work side-by-side with other firefighters.

“They risk their lives.”

Other states have inmate firefighters, but California’s program — with 42 minimum-security camps and more than 4,100 volunteers — is the biggest and oldest, dating to 1946.

Aaron Olguin, 30, said he heard about it soon after he was sentenced to four years and four months for a drunken-driving crash in which people were injured.

Like other applicants, he underwent two weeks of punishing fitness training: grueling hikes, 9-minute mile-long runs and a regime of military-style calisthenics. Then came two weeks of job training by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

“We hiked straight up mountains with 45 pounds on our back, carrying tools and water and other necessities,” he said.

Olguin got some time shaved off his sentence and spent almost three years in the program before being released last November. He estimates he worked up to 20 fires and recalled some “close calls” with falling rocks and trees at night.

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Military drone drafted to tackle massive Yosemite wildfire; smoke cancels football games

The Rim Fire burns along Highway 120 near Yosemite National Park, Calif., on Aug. 25. With winds gusting and flames jumping from treetop to treetop, hundreds of firefighters have been deployed to protect communities in the path of the Rim Fire raging north of Yosemite National Park.

A DC-10 air tanker drops fire retardant on a ridge ahead of the advancing Rim Fire on Aug. 22, in Groveland, Calif.

The fight against the Western wildfires just got upgraded. Unmanned military drones are being used in the battle against California’s massive wildfire. NBC’s Lester Holt reports.

An unmanned military Predator drone, similar to those that  have seen action in Afghanistan, has been called in to battle against a raging California wildfire that has scorched an area almost as large as New York City.

The enormous Rim Fire, which has charred 200,000 acres in 13 days, has unleashed a smoky haze that has worsened air quality more than 100 miles away in Nevada. High school athletics officials canceled all football games Friday and Saturday across eight counties in both states as the air quality index hovered around the “unhealthy” level.

The drone, an MQ-1 aircraft remotely piloted by the 163rd Wing of the California National Guard, is helping to provide round-the-clock information to firefighters.

The wildfire burning near Yosemite National Park was more than 30 percent contained as more than 4,000 firefighters continued to make progress. NBC’s Miguel Almaguer reports.

“The drone is providing data directly back to the incident commander, allowing him to make quick decisions about which resources to deploy and where,” California fire spokesman Daniel Berlant said.

Previously, crews tackling the blaze relied on helicopters that needed to refuel every two hours, for their air information.

But the drone, which is the size of a small Cessna plane, will remain over the burn zone for up to 22 hours at a time, its fitted cameras providing real-time video  on the fire’s movement.

Pilots will operate the craft remotely from March Air Reserve Base in Riverside. It will be escorted by a manned aircraft.

Officials were eager to point out that the images are being used only to aid in the effort to contain the fire, which has become California’s sixth-largest  on record.

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Fire rages out of control with only 2% of the Rim Fire contained in the Stanislaus National Forest on Thursday, Aug. 22, 2013. ANDY ALFARO — The Modesto Bee Buy Photo

Published: August 21, 2013 Updated 1 hour ago

UPDATE, 3:45 p.m.: A wildfire outside Yosemite National Park more than tripled in size Thursday, shutting down businesses in surrounding communities and leading scores of tourists to leave the area during peak season.

California Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency due to the huge fire, one of several blazes burning in or near the nation’s national parks and one of 50 major uncontained fires burning across the western U.S.

Fire officials said the blaze near Yosemite, which threatens several thousand homes, hotels and camp buildings, had grown to more than 84 square miles and was only 2 percent contained Thursday, down from 5 percent a day earlier. Two homes and seven outbuildings have been destroyed. (Click here to see a PDF map of the area.)

UPDATE: As of Thursday morning, the fire is 53,866 acres, with more than 1,300 firefighters battling it. Containment has been reduced from 5 percent Wednesday to 2 percent as the fire moved up Cherry Creek and the Tuolumne River Canyon.

Nearly 1,000 firefighters continued to wage an uphill battle against the Rim fire, which jumped a containment line and has grown in nearly every direction.

The Tuolumne County Board of Supervisors held an emergency meeting Wednesday afternoon, saying in a resolution that the fire “is now directly threatening various communities and businesses within the County and is beyond our capabilities.” Members asked Gov. Jerry Brown to declare a state of emergency. (Click here for update.)

The fire, which broke out in a remote area near Groveland on Saturday, has consumed more than 16,000 acres in Tuolumne and Mariposa counties and is threatening 2,500 structures. Firefighters have struggled to protect small communities and campgrounds in the area, but nine structures have been destroyed.

It’s one of 51 major uncontained wildfires burning in California, Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming. More than 19,000 firefighters were fighting the fires.

On Wednesday, authorities broadened their evacuation area for the Rim fire, adding the community of Pine Mountain Lake. Evacuations so far remain advisory rather than mandatory, said Ashley Taylor, public information officer for the U.S. Forest Service.

Fire rages out of control with only 2% of the Rim Fire contained in the Stanislaus National Forest on Thursday, Aug. 22, 2013. ANDY ALFARO — The Modesto Bee Buy Photo

“The message we’re just sending out there is that we are aggressively fighting this fire and looking for new opportunities to take it down,” Taylor said.

The wind picked up on Wednesday, bringing another challenge to firefighters already dealing with intense heat and the steep, rocky terrain of the Stanislaus National Forest.

“Those are all factors that are affecting how this fire is going to behave,” Taylor said. Containment remained at 5 percent.

The fire jumped a containment line along Cherry Lake Road near the firefighters’ base camp. Crews managed to keep the fire along the east side of the road, Taylor said.

No injuries have been reported, though firefighters are working in higher than normal temperatures for the area.

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Earth Watch Report  –  Biological Hazards


(Photo : Wikimedia Commons) Recent outbreaks of norovirus and hantavirus in US national parks have officials warning visitors to take precautions against disease.


21.06.2013 Biological Hazard USA State of Wyoming, [Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park] Damage level


Biological Hazard in USA on Friday, 21 June, 2013 at 02:57 (02:57 AM) UTC.

After 200 park employees and visitors reported bouts of gastrointestinal illness at Yellowstone National Park and nearby Grand Teton National Park this month, national park officials have warned visitors to be vigilant about hygiene. The outbreak started on June 7, when a group touring the Mammoth Hot Springs complained of stomach flu and other gastrointestinal problems. After the tour group members reported their illnesses, about other 50 visitors and 150 park employees reported similar symptoms. Preliminary reports found that they had norovirus, or “stomach flu,” which affects up to 21 million people, every year according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Al Mash, spokesman for Yellowstone National Park, said campers who were worried about the outbreak should take care to properly store their food and wash their hands with soap and water before eating. “Don’t rely on hand sanitizer. It’s good for a while if you don’t have access to water,” said Mash. “But sanitizer is a poor second to washing your hands.”

According to the CDC, the norovirus can be very contagious and is usually passed from contaminated surfaces or food. Mash said that while it might be more difficult to wash hands before and after meals on camping trips, sporting goods stores sell soap slivers or biodegradable soap that can be used on camping trips. “My manta is be aware but not afraid,” said Mash. Employees at Yellowstone and nearby Grand Teton park have been cleaning and disinfecting the areas where the illnesses were first reported. Yellowstone National Park regularly has 20,000 visitors a day. The norovirus outbreak is just the latest one to hit the national parks. Last year, Yosemite National Park experienced an outbreak of the deadly hantavirus. Infection with hantavirus, often contracted through contact with contaminated mouse feces or urine, can lead to hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, which can be fatal, according to the CDC. Kathy Kupper, a spokeswoman for the National Park Service, said if campers were worried about becoming sick they should be sure to check in with the park’s website or information line before they arrive. Any potential hazards from disease outbreaks from high concentrations of ticks, for example, will be listed in each national park’s newsletter or on its website.

Biohazard name: Norovirus Outbreak
Biohazard level: 2/4 Medium
Biohazard desc.: Bacteria and viruses that cause only mild disease to humans, or are difficult to contract via aerosol in a lab setting, such as hepatitis A, B, and C, influenza A, Lyme disease, salmonella, mumps, measles, scrapie, dengue fever, and HIV. “Routine diagnostic work with clinical specimens can be done safely at Biosafety Level 2, using Biosafety Level 2 practices and procedures. Research work (including co-cultivation, virus replication studies, or manipulations involving concentrated virus) can be done in a BSL-2 (P2) facility, using BSL-3 practices and procedures. Virus production activities, including virus concentrations, require a BSL-3 (P3) facility and use of BSL-3 practices and procedures”, see Recommended Biosafety Levels for Infectious Agents.
Status: suspected


Norovirus outbreaks reported in Yellowstone, Grand Teton parks

In the northern section of the mountain valley known as Jackson Hole, Wyo., Grand Teton National Park is seen in this image.

In the northern section of the mountain valley known as Jackson Hole, Wyo., Grand Teton National Park is seen in this image. / Jon Cook

JACKSON, Wyo.A norovirus outbreak that may have originated at Yellowstone National Park in Wyo. may have affected around 200 people at both Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park.

About 50 visitors have reported symptoms associated with norovirus, a highly contagious stomach flu that is easily spread by touching an infected person or contaminated surfaces. Up to 150 park employees may have been infected, though not all those cases have been confirmed.

The outbreak is believed to have started with a group of tourists who visited the Mammoth Hot Springs area in Yellowstone on June 7. They complained of stomach flu symptoms and, within 48 hours, employees who work with visitors also reported being sick.

Physician’s assistant Michael Takagi told the Jackson Hole Daily that the outbreak is one of the most significant ones he’s seen.

The National Park Service issued a June 19 statement urging visitors to northwestern Wyoming to be vigilant about washing their hands, due to “greater-than-normal reports of gastrointestinal illness” after visitors and employees visited medical clinics with symptoms of norovirus.


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