Chronic Wasting Disease Hitting WV

Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD), a neurological disease that affects mainly deer, has spread throughout West Virginia.  White-tail deer at Front Royal, the northern boundary of Shenandoah Park have been reported to contracting the disease.  CWD is progressing rapidly, since last reported 23 miles away from the site in 2009.

What is Chronic Wasting Disease

CWD is a transmissible, neurological disease.  It is most commonly found among deer and elk in north America.  The infected animals experience extreme weight loss, constant feeding and drinking, and constant urination.  The disease is fatal to those who contract it and is very easily transmitted.

Infected deer--cwd-info.com

Infected deer–cwd-info.com

CWD in North America--cwd-info.com

CWD in North America–cwd-info.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

How is Chronic Wasting Disease transmitted? 

There are several different ways in which CWD can be transmitted.  Bodily secretions, such as saliva, feces, and urination is one of the most common ways an animal could contract the disease.  However, the disease has become so widespread throughout the Northern United States due to humans transporting infected animals.

How has West Virginia been affected by Chronic Wasting Disease? 

Shenandoah Park was just the latest park to have been affected by CWD.  The state has found that 162 white-tail deer have been infected with CWD.  Several environmental agencies have teamed up to monitor the animals infected and stop the spread of this disease.  After testing over 15,000 deer, the labs showed that only 159 deer showed signs of CWD.

Although this number seems relatively small, the results are very alarming.  The number represents a direct threat to the white-tail deer, one of the biggest game for West Virginia hunting.

Screen Shot 2015-04-27 at 1.54.22 PM

WV Deer Harvest steady decline–wvdnr.com

Screen Shot 2015-04-27 at 1.55.22 PM

WV Deer Harvest–wvdnr.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

In 2014, the white-tail harvest decreased 34% over the past five years, ranking in 34th over the past 74 years, according to West Virginia’s Division of Natural Resources.  Unfortunately, CWD could impact hunting for the next several years. WVDNR predicts that 2015 will continue to decline.

Should hunters be concerned? 

As of now, studies show that humans do not run the risk of contracting the disease.  However, that does not mean that hunters should be exposing themselves to animals that have contracted CWD.  While there are no confirmed cases of animals transmitting the disease to humans, hunters can still be harmed from the infection.

How can hunters stay safe and healthy? 

The Chronic Wasting Disease Alliance offers several suggestions to hunters so they can hunt without fear. Hunters are “encouraged” to not eat venison meat that is thought to be diseased (I feel like it’s weird that hunters have to be encouraged–don’t eat sick deer meat, just don’t do it).  The alliance also recommends that hunters take the necessary and proper precautions when field dressing and processing.  These precautions include:

  • Wear latex or rubber gloves when field dressing your deer, and wash your hands and tools thoroughly after completing this process.
  • Bone out the meat from your deer, do not saw through bone, avoid cutting through the brain or spinal cord and minimize the handling of brain and spinal tissues. If you remove the skull cap to save the antlers, use a saw dedicated for only that purpose and dispose of saw blades in a landfill with your other household garbage.
  • Thoroughly clean and sanitize knives, equipment and work areas with household bleach solution after processing your deer.
  • Place unwanted carcass materials (e.g., bones, trimmings, etc.) in a strong garbage bag, and dispose of this material in a landfill with your other household garbage.
  • Avoid eating the brain, spinal cord, eyes, lymph nodes, spleen and tonsils of harvested deer. [Note that normal field dressing combined with de-boning the carcass removes most, if not all, these body parts. Cutting away all fatty tissue removes the remaining lymph nodes.]

WVDNR has banned baiting and feeding deer, as well as transporting game.  Baiting is a popular technique used widely among hunters in which they leave food is strategic locations in order to lure the game to an open area.  The division also banned the public from feeding wildlife statewide.  Hunters are also prohibited from moving meat or parts beyond the containment area.  With these measures, WVDNR hopes to stop the spread of this endemic.

 

 

 

New Rec Center in Morgantown

By Karly Shire

The Board of Parks and Recreation Commissioners brought forth a proposal for a new recreation facility to the Commissioner in early December.  The proposal offered two alternatives for the location of the rec center: Mylan Park or White Park.  Months after the proposal was approved, a concrete plan has yet to be in place.

The “Morgantown Sports, Recreation, and Wellness Center” is aimed to fight the obesity epidemic that has taken over the country, particularly in West Virginia.

“The Morgantown Sports, Recreation, and Wellness Center envisions a healthier and happier Monongalia County. We are committed to working with individuals, companies, and local organizations to help them successfully reach their individual and family health and wellness goals in all areas of their life. In addition, our center is committed to creating a better economy by creating jobs, bringing in additional businesses, and creating a better living environment for our residents.”

– Mission Statement of the Morgantown Sports, Recreation, and Wellness Center

West Virginia leads the nation is adult obesity

West Virginia Adult Obesity by County--WV Department of Health and Human Resources

West Virginia Adult Obesity by County–WV Department of Health and Human Resources

West Virginia Childhood Obesity by County--WV Department of Health and Human Resources

West Virginia Childhood Obesity by County–WV Department of Health and Human Resources

While the original proposal had three separate divisions: the Morgantown Recreation Center, the Morgantown Ice Rink, and the Morgantown Aquatics Center; Commissioner Tom Bloom has updated that there has been a change in plans.

“WVU has decided to move forward on their project, which will be at Mylan Park, that would be the Natatorium.  There has also been talk of adding a track as well as a golf course,” said Commissioner Bloom.

Because of this change, Mon. County will fund the project at White Park.  The facility would take up approximately 15-20 acres, costing the county around $10 to $15 million.  The Commissioner assured that these areas have been approved and there would be no environmental ramifications.

According to the proposal, some residents have expressed concerns regarding the location.  However, Morgantown resident, Greg Riffon, is more than optimistic about the new facility.  “I think White Park would be a great location for this rec center,” Riffon said.  “The nature trails are great but I can only use them in nice weather, this rec center I can use year round.”

Risk Assessment- epa.gov

Risk Assessment- epa.gov

Although the area has been accepted and no environmental concerns have been raised, there is still concern surrounding construction and maintenance.  The Environmental Protection Agency has set forth environmental guidelines for construction sites.

One of the biggest concerns with a project of this size is land disturbance.  This includes the removal of vegetation or reshaping the landscape.  Land disturbance can lead to erosion or runoff, both of which can lead to pollution of waterways.

There are several environmental factors to consider before starting construction.

These construction concerns have yet to be discussed.  Plans to move forward in the project have halted, but there is hope that the project will take place sometime within the next two years.

Oil Spills are a Slippery Slope

By Karly Shire

In mid February, 30 cars of a 100 car train derailed and exploded.  The train was carrying millions of gallons of crude oil, which many feared would run off into the Kanawha River.  The Kanawha River acts as a source for drinking water for Kanawha and Fayette counties.  It’s pollution would mean that almost 2,000 people would be without water.

Train derailment into the river--toledoblade.com

Train derailment into the river–toledoblade.com

Train derailment after the fires were extinguished--Nytime.com

Train derailment after the fires were extinguished–Nytime.com

Fortunately, after testing water near an intake valve, the Kanawha River showed no traces of crude oil.  However, residents were still urged to boil their water as a precaution.  Despite this lucky break, there is still much concern regarding the incident.

We have seen the toll that an oil spill can take.  The BP Oil Spill in 2010 dumped 200 million gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico.  The active cleanup took three years and the Gulf is still not fully recovered.  This incident showed the full potential of an oil spill.

Crude Oil production is on the rise--Association of American Railroads

Crude Oil production is on the rise–Association of American Railroads

According to the New York Timesthese incidents are becoming more common.  Shipping oil by rail has nearly doubled in just one year, allowing more room for error.  The federal Department of Transportation has created several standards for trains carrying crude oil in hopes to prevent another spill.  Oil spills can have catastrophic effects on our health, our environment and wildlife, and our economy

Oil Spills Affecting our Health

When a spill occurs we often see the devastating effects it has on the environment and wildlife.  However, we do not often see or hear about how it can affect the community’s health.  Crude oil is semi-volatile, meaning it evaporates and remains a vapor in the air we breath, it becomes an invisible threat.  Breathing in this vapor can lead to respiratory problems.  Exposure to the vapors can also lead to skin conditions, such as melanoma.  Experts believe there are even more long-term effects on health that have yet to be determined.

Oil Spills Affecting our Environment and Wildlife  

Pelican covered in oil from the BP spill--http://akashictimes.co.uk

Pelican covered in oil from the BP spill–http://akashictimes.co.uk

We are more familiar with the damaging effects an oil spill can have on our environment and wildlife.  Not only can wildlife be killed and potentially wiped out as a species, but also their habitat can be destroyed.  During the BP spill, experts found the the spill can potentially harm an animal’s skin or feathers, their internal organs, and their reproduction.  The spill in 2010 killed over 8,000 various wildlife.  If an animal does survive a spill, they face the long-term effects, such as a lack of food, loss of habitat, and health defects.

Oil Spills Affecting our Economy

The economy takes a major hit every time an oil spill occurs.  Not only do we lose the millions of dollars worth of oil, but also the millions of dollars in cleanup.  The Exxon Valdez spill in 1989 cost the company over $2 billion in cleanup, only recovering about 8% of the oil.  The BP oil spill cost the company over $40 billion, not only in cleanup, but also legal fees for gross negligence.

Although the spill that occurred at the Kanawha river was not quite as big, it will still take a toll on the state of West Virginia.  The exact numbers have not been released, though many are estimating that the train derailment and spill will cost the company, CSX, a few million dollars.  West Virginia’s tourism, recreation, and fishing economy will likely take a hit due to the incident.

_________________________________________________________________________

Since the time of the incident, the Environmental Protection Agency has stepped in.  The EPA order CSX to submit a plan of action, which includes both short-term and long-term cleanup and restoration for the impacted areas.  The EPA has also partnered with the state to ensure proper cleanup, as well as minimizing any further harm.  A long-term monitoring of the air and water has been put in place to ensure that the people and wildlife in the area will remain safe.

Do You Still Think Global Warming is a Myth?

By Karly Shire

Remember the good old days, when a heavy snow storm meant a day off from school and fun in the snow? Well now it means driving in terrible conditions, wearing 10 pounds of clothing, and of course destruction.

The video shows the destruction of the Cheat Lake Marina after Storm Troy.  Chunks of ice floated down the river, ripping off every dock in it’s path.  The current was so strong that it swept up the docks and carried them miles away from where the once were.

Destroyed dock--WDTV.com

Destroyed dock–WDTV.com

Docks floating down the river--wajr.com

Docks floating down the river–WAJR.com

Cheat Lake Marina is looking at a several hundred dollar project, but they do plan on opening in time for the Summer season.  Cheat Lake has experienced the damaging effects a winter storm can cause, fortunately the damage is all reparable and no one was hurt.

Winter storms can have devastating effects.  It seems that winter progressively gets worse each and every year.  “Snowmageddon” and “Snowpocalypse” have become a popular way to describe the snow storms this country, particularly the northeast, has faced.

Many people relate these heavy winter storms to global warming. While I’m not a scientist, I would assume warming means getting hotter–this assumption is correct.  According to a Washington Post article, global warming enhances extreme snowfall because the intense heat that occurs on the other hemisphere combines with the cold air, creating a winter nor’easter.

With winters getting more and more severe, they are costing states more to repair the damage done.  One of the biggest problems (and not just in West Virginia) is potholes.  Road repairs from the freezing and thawing of pavement is a big bill.  Big cities, like New York and Boston, spend millions of dollars in winter recovery plans, much of which goes to filling potholes.

The destruction of the Cheat Lake Marina was just a small look into what a winter storm can cause.  Global warming becomes a bigger problem every year, affecting every one.

Air pollution from West Virginia contributes to haze at Shenandoah National Park

By: Mike Marsh

Haze pollution at Shenandoah National Park is reaching excessive levels and the air pollution is presenting hazardous environmental conditions for the surrounding area.

Fossil-fuel power plants and industrial facilities affecting the Shenandoah are primarily located in the mid-West and the mid-Atlantic regions, particularly from West Virginia, Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Kentucky have air pollution traveling hundreds of miles to reach parks like Shenandoah. Alarmingly, Shenandoah National Park is now rated the second most polluted park in the nation and residents of neighboring counties want to how that air quality is affecting them.

A National Parks Conservation Association report, which ranked Shenandoah the second most polluted nation park in the nation states that “visibility from Skyline Drive and the Appalachian Trail had shrunk to as little as one mile on smoggy summer days, although visibility at the park had improved slightly on the least-polluted days.”

The report also notes that instead of seeing the typical range of 115 miles, the average visibility is now down to 15 miles and also confirmed that ozone from the pollution was hurting vegetation and wildlife in the surrounding areas.

They claim the main sources of the air pollution were fossil-fuel power plants, industrial facilities and motor vehicle emissions. Another eye-popping statistic from the National Parks Conservation report was that the pollution coming from states like West Virginia “accounts for 60 to 80 percent of the visibility impairment in the eastern parks.”

This is an infographic released by the National Park Service that depicts the different ways haze pollution (natural, area, mobile, and stationary sources) can form and where they come from:

types_of_sources_02-2012

According to the Environmental Protection Agency mobile sources account for more than half of all the air pollution in the United States. They also note that stationary sources, like power plants, emit large amounts of pollution from a single location that are also known as major sources of park pollution. The natural and area sources aren’t known to be that much of a problem compared to mobile and stationary sources, but they can still contribute to air pollution.

The National Park Service has a live streaming webcam where you can monitor the haze and see real time streaming webcams of the haze levels at Shenandoah National Park.

Here is a view of the haze and visibility from the park’s webcam from this afternoon. It is easy to see the haze levels in the distance lingering over the valley:

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The National Park Service categorizes the effects of air pollution and haze levels in national parks into four main categories: Visibility, Human Health, Ecological, and Economic.

Visibility:

The NPS says air pollution can create a white or brown haze that affects how far we can see and also affects how well we are able to see the colors, texture and forms of the landscape. Haze is a product of air pollutants, such as fine particles in the air that absorb and scatter sunlight, making it hard to see far distances. Haze is mostly caused by air pollution from industry and motor vehicles.

This is an example from the NPS that shows how air pollution can effect visibility:

effects_visibility_dena

 

 

 

Human Health:

The NPS recorded ozone concentrations and fine particulate concentrations have approached and exceeded the national health standards at several NPS areas including Shenandoah. Particle exposure has one of the most dramatic effects on humans and can lead to a variety of health effects according to the NPS.

Long-term exposures, such as those experienced by people living for many years in areas with high particle levels, contribute to reduced lung function and the development of chronic bronchitis and even premature death. Short-term exposures to particles (hours or days) can aggravate lung disease, causing asthma attacks and acute bronchitis, and may also increase susceptibility to respiratory infections. In people with heart disease, short-term exposures have been linked to heart attacks.

Other hazardous health effects from haze are caused from ozone, toxins and mercury, and sulfur dioxide pollutants.

Ecological:

The NPS claims that air pollutants can harm ecological resources, including water quality, soils, plants, and animals. Ozone is known to cause damage to plant tissues and reduced growth in some sensitive plant species.  Nitrogen and sulfur in air pollution are carried by rain, snow, and fog into park ecosystems where they threaten sensitive aquatic and terrestrial resources.

It is also noted by the NPS that metals (mercury) and toxic compounds (pesticides) can be deposited from the atmosphere and threaten the food chain. This can cause behavioral, neurological, and reproductive effects in fish, birds, and wildlife.

Economic:

The NPS says they have conducted multiple studies have shown that people place an economic value on, or a “willingness to pay” for improvements in visibility where they live. This can impact the value of land around high-air-pollution areas like Shenandoah in Virginia.

The NPS claims that economic benefits from visitation is very dependent upon protection of park natural resources like air quality. Visitor spending in communities surrounding national park sites was estimated at 11.9 billion dollars in 2009. They also report that visitor surveys consistently report that visitors consider clear air to be extremely important.

 

Wild and Lucrative

By Karly Shire

Coopers Rock State Forest is over 12,000 acres of picturesque forestry.  The  forest not only serves as a popular recreation site, but also as an area for forestry research, timber management, and wildlife and watershed protection.  However, a new proposed timber project now threatens all of that.

The Forks of Scott Run-Pisgah Project proposes to deforest 375 acres for commercial purposes.  The project will be confined to areas east of the Scott Run trail and west of Pisgah Road.

The project has several objectives.  The proposal identifies recreational, silvicultural, and wildlife related as the three main goals.

Deforesting the land by Pisgah Road will open up a new entrance way and avoid overcrowding in other areas. The new trails that will be created will add more recreation sites to Coopers Rock.

One of the biggest questions is how will deforesting hundreds of acres be beneficial to the wildlife? The project states that it will stimulate oak regeneration, increase the hickory component, and increase forest age diversity, which in turn will create a diverse habitat for wildlife.  The benefits that are accompanied with these goals will create a better environment for both game and non-game wildlife.

“The Coopers Rock State Forest is continuously, and some on the Foundation would say aggressively timbered. One of the very few areas of the forest where that is not true is the Pisgah area, and that is why it is so special. That part of the forest has not been timbered since about 1936…very unusual for a forest that really is very timbered.”

-A spokesperson from The Coopers Rock Foundation

This proposal is of great controversy.  The Coopers Rock Foundation has posed many questions and concerns which were not answered in the proposal.

The Foundation pointed out that the recreational trails would just be leftover lumber haul roads.  These roads are not suited for recreation.  The group also points out that while the proposal clearly states the possible benefits for wildlife, it fails to mention any possible dangers they may face during timbering.

The Foundation has taken action in several different ways. They asked followers, through their Facebook page, to contact legislators asking them to put the project on hold until these concerns are addressed by the Division of Forestry.

Coopers Rock Foundation circulated a petition that received over a thousand signatures and forwarded it to Governor Tomblin.  The petition cited several reasons as to why the project should be canceled indefinitely.  Most importantly, they believe:

“Because this area does not have defined trails and is an example of an undeveloped recreation area, this area should be preserved as an old growth forest and should be managed for undeveloped recreation and aesthetic preservation.”

Coopers Rock Foundation

In early February, the Foundation, along with Aurora Lights, an environmentalist group,  hosted Hug Our Tree Day.  Supporters went out to hug the trees and to show their discontent with the proposed timber project.

The Forks of Scotts Run-Pisgah Project Photo petitions is a campaign that allows the public to voice their concerns with the timber project.  The campaign has received several entries from residents all over the state of West Virginia.

photopetition3 photopetition1 photopetition2

The Foundation recently sent Board members to Charleston to discuss the concerns of the forest’s management with Governor Tomblin’s staff. They are currently awaiting responses from the state agencies as to the fate of the project.