The following list includes a list of possible feature and news stories on the environment for reporters, photographers and assignment editors.
Many of North Carolina's most-visited tourist attractions are managed by the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources. Chimney Rock State Park, the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences and the North Carolina Zoo are included on this list.
Aside from being places for recreation, each state park is a natural laboratory of sorts and a place for aggressive natural resource management. Many have programs for prescribed burning, invasive species control and restoration of habitat for plants and animals. There is regular and serious research in almost every state park at various times, adding to cumulative knowledge about the state's resources. There are interesting natural history projects, large and small.
Interpretive programs in state parks have gone way beyond the simple nature hike with a ranger -- although that's still offered, too. Programs in parks are always being devised in such subjects as astronomy, storytelling, music, wilderness navigation, etc. And, there are new exhibit halls, self-guided nature trails and trailside displays in many parks that offer new ways to learn about nature.
Among all government employees, state park rangers may be among the most highly skilled. They're law enforcement officers and many have degrees in science or natural resource fields giving them qualifications as researchers. All have advanced skills in environmental education, search and rescue, public speaking/interpretation, wildfire control and emergency medical response. And, almost every park has a veteran ranger who's seen it all.
There's no better place for truly low-cost, family entertainment than a state park, whether it's an afternoon hiking or canoeing or a weekend camping trip. And, a park ranger can suggest ways to shave the costs further on a family outdoor excursion.
In every county where a state park is located, it is the single biggest draw for visitors. (The state parks system attendance represents more than three times the combined attendance for Lowe's Motor Speedway and Atlantic Coast Conference basketball in North Carolina). A recent state parks system study found that each visitor spends a minimum $23 a day. A look at historical attendance figures for any park can often reveal an interesting story.
How can you be a more environmentally conscious consumer? Follow some of the tips DENR offers for making your home eco-friendly.
How can scientists and engineers keep busy in retirement, and help North Carolina businesses and organizations save money and help the environment? They can join the Waste Reduction Partners program, in Asheville and RTP. These teams of volunteers provide no-cost waste and energy reduction assessments and technical assistance to business, industry and government entities in their service areas.
The Clean Marina program shows how marina operators can help safeguard the environment by using management and operations techniques that exceed regulatory requirements.
Clean Marina is a voluntary program that began in the summer of 2000. Marina operators who choose to participate must complete an evaluation form about their use of specific best management practices.
If a marina meets criteria developed by N.C. Marine Trades Services and the Division of Coastal Management, it will be designated as a Clean Marina. Such marinas will be eligible to fly the Clean Marina flag and use the logo in their advertising. The flags will signal to boaters that a marina cares about the cleanliness of area waterways.
There are 22 designated Clean Marinas on the North Carolina coast.
The N.C. Division of Coastal Management and the N.C. Clean Marina program unveiled the North Carolina Clean Boater program in 2011. The North Carolina Clean Boater program is an important part of the North Carolina Clean Marina program, which is designed to assist marinas and boatyards in protecting our environment through the use of best management and operation practices. Both programs are strictly voluntary, but they show that marinas and boaters care about the environment.
Boaters commit to clean boating by signing a pledge card and displaying a Clean Boater sticker on their vessel. By adopting pollution prevention measures and using best management practices, North Carolina Clean Boaters can take satisfaction in knowing that they are doing their part in:
· Keeping North Carolina waterways and shores clean.
· Making sure the watercraft is properly registered and meets the state requirements for safety.
· Preserving our waterways for future generations.
· Learning and teaching clean and safe boating habits.
North Carolina’s coastal area contains a number of important undeveloped natural areas that are vital to continued fishery and wildlife protection, water quality maintenance and improvement, aesthetic enjoyment, and public trust rights such as hunting, fishing, navigation, and recreation. Such land and water areas are necessary for the preservation of estuarine areas of the state, constitute important research facilities, and provide public access to waters of the state.
The N.C. Coastal Reserve Program has preserved more than 40,000 acres of maritime forests, marshes and other coastal habitat for education, research and traditional recreational uses. The four National Reserve Sites are: Currituck Banks, Rachel Carson, Masonboro Island and Zeke’s Island.
North Carolina has 10 reserve sites, including four sites designated as part of the National Estuarine Research Reserve. The coastal reserves operate as living laboratories for research, education and management.
The six state reserve sites are: Kitty Hawk Woods, Emily and Richardson Preyer Buckridge, Buxton Woods, Permuda Island, Bald Head Woods and Bird Island.
The reserve program staff members conduct research; lead field trips for students, educators and the public; and educate citizens about the importance of estuaries and coastal environments. Through the North Carolina Coastal Training Program, staff members conduct workshops, seminars and demonstrations to provide opportunities for information exchange, skill training and networking to improve local understanding of the environmental, social and economic consequences of human activity along the North Carolina coast.
How do kids learn about marine life when they can't go the beach? The beach comes to them. The N.C. Aquarium at Fort Fisher has a vehicle that allows experts to take marine invertebrates commonly found along the North Carolina coast and a number of reptile and amphibians to schools, libraries, camps and community groups. The children can see, touch and learn about sea stars, crabs, whelks and host of marine invertebrates as well as reptiles and amphibians. Is the outreach van coming to your area for a visit? Contact Amy Kilgore at the N.C. Aquarium at Fort Fisher, at (910) 458-8257, ext. 211.
The Division of Air Quality and the Climate Action Plan Advisory Group completed a report that analyzes ways to reduce and mitigate greenhouse gas emissions in North Carolina. The report also evaluates the costs and economic benefits of reducing those emissions.
The N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources recently developed a series of maps that are being used to help prioritize conservation funding decisions and inform land use planning efforts. The maps, known as the One N.C. Naturally Conservation Planning Tool, streamline the state's process of identifying and prioritizing the areas of North Carolina's landscape that are essential for conservation. Examples include areas near other environmentally-significant land under state protection, as well as farms, forests or habitat for rare plant and animal species. The maps can be found at www.oneNCnaturally.org.
Solar power is becoming an increasingly popular alternative as we seek more efficient forms of energy for the future. Last year, the North Carolina Zoo took strides toward energy efficiency when it launched the state's largest solar power project. The zoo constructed a 1-4-kilowatt, 9,600-square-foot grid-tied photovoltaic solar system mounted on three picnic pavilions, thanks to help from the Carolina Solar Energy and Randolph Electric Membership Corporation. The annual production is projected to be 130,000 kilowatt-hours per year, which is enough to power 13 average homes.
North Carolina has launched an innovative recycling program to collect oyster shells from individuals and businesses and place them back overboard to help turn the tide on declining oyster stocks. Baby oysters begin life as free-floating organisms but quickly settle to the bottom attaching themselves to hard surfaces. That's why oysters grow in clumps on pilings and concrete, but their favorite most productive place to grow is on other shells. A mound of oyster shells placed in brackish water with good tidal flow will quickly become colonized by a multitude of marine organisms, including oysters. This mound, also called an oyster reef, serves a number of purposes - first and foremost, it helps produce oysters. Secondly, it provides habitat for other beneficial organisms, such as algae, worms, barnacles, crabs, small minnows and fish. The small fish attract a diversity of larger fish and before you know it, you have a veritable metropolis of critters congregating at your reef and all you did was put the shells over - in the right spot. Oysters serve an additional important purpose - they clean water by feeding on plankton and waterborne detritus. One oyster can filter up to 50 gallons of water a day, so the larger and healthier our oyster population, the cleaner the water.
How do human changes to the land such as development affect North Carolina's fisheries? Take a look at how all systems are connected, whether they are on land or in the water.
Shrimp may be the nation's favorite seafood. But in North Carolina, blue crab is still No. 1. Indeed blue crab supports the state's most valuable commercial fishery and is No. 1 in terms of overall pounds of fish harvested. Want to know why blue crabs are such an abundant fishery?
Do you cover fishing and want to know what's biting? Then, check out the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries Web site, http://www.ncfisheries.net/ and click on the "Recreational Fishing" section, then on "Recreational Fishing Report." Port agents with the Division of Marine Fisheries interview anglers each week and post their findings on the division's Web site.
Why is the Albemarle-Pamlico estuary system home to some of the East Coast's richest fish habitats? Contact Patricia Smith with the Division of Marine Fisheries at (252) 726-7021.
The Albemarle-Pamlico National Estuary Program, in partnership with several other federal and state agencies, completed acquisition of aerial images along the entire coast of North Carolina and southeast Virginia. These digital orthographic, photo quarter-quadrangles will be used to map submerged aquatic vegetation and wetlands in the APNEP region, which includes 35 counties in southeastern North Carolina and southeastern Virginia.
Sea level rise and population growth will continue to impact people who live, work and play on North Carolina's coast. To better educate people about these two trends, the Albemarle-Pamlico National Estuary Program helped host seven listening sessions in the summer of 2008 for residents in areas vulnerable to sea level rise. The sessions enabled community members to share their perceptions of changes occurring in their communities as well as what those changes could mean and how to respond to sea level rise and population growth. The results of those presentations were included in this report: http://www.apnep.org/pages/PublicListeningSessionsReport.pdf