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Posts tagged ‘national parks’

U.S. Parks Take Deep Breath

The Clean Air Act is now over 40 years old!
From National Parks Conservation Association

Clean Air

Air pollution is among the most serious threats to national parks. Dirty air can darken the horizon and ruin scenic views. It also damages plants, harms fish and other wildlife, and even affects the health of visitors and park staff. Most of the air pollution affecting national parks results from the burning of fossil fuels, especially by coal-fired power plants.

NPCA advocates for new regulations to clean up hundreds of outdated power plants spewing pollution that harms our lungs and parks. We’re also taking steps to protect America’s national parks from ill-conceived proposals to build new coal-fired power plants near the parks. November 2011 marked a major victory in the fight to reduce haze throughout the country—read about the consent decree that is set to reduce pollution in 43 states this year.

NPCA at work

For decades NPCA has advocated for park air quality protections and currently leads a national coalition whose efforts have resulted in an agreement mandating enforceable air plans for 47 states.

NPCA successfully fought an unnecessary power plant near Hampton Roads, Virginia. Thanks to more than 9,000 supporters who spoke out against it, Old Dominion Electric Company suspended its plans to build the plant. As a result, the air around several national parks will be subjected to less haze from airborne emissions, and people in nearby communities will be able to breathe easier, too.

NPCA recently reached a historic agreement with the Tennessee Valley Authority to retire some of its coal-fired power plants and reduce pollutants in the region.

NPCA’s California Clean Air and Climate program focuses on outreach, education, legislation and advocacy to promote cleaner air in the Pacific region. Field offices in Fresno, Joshua Tree, and San Francisco work with the parks, public, decisionmakers, and schools to fight for cleaner air.

NPCA helps coordinate a network of businesses in Virginia who voluntarily pledge to promote cleaner air. Learn more about the Virginians for Healthy Air Network.

National parks harmed by air pollution

Joshua Tree National Park has some of the worst air quality of any park, with record high ozone levels. On clear days, visibility is 100 miles, but haze pollution can cut views to 17 miles.

From 1999-2003, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks recorded 370 days with unhealthy air from ozone pollution. Over half of the Jeffrey and ponderosa pine trees are showing some level of ozone damage.

Ozone pollution in Rocky Mountain National Park has been higher than in urban Denver. On the haziest days, visibility at Rocky Mountain is approximately 57 miles- half the distance it should be.

The State of Florida has issued fish-consumption advisories in Everglades National Park due to high mercury levels in largemouth bass and other fish species.

Scientists at Mammoth Cave National Park have documented elevated levels of mercury in bats, including one species at risk of extinction—the endangered Indiana bat.

Estimated annual average natural visibility at Acadia National Park is 110 miles. However, air pollution reduces visibility to approximately 33 miles. Scientists measured some of the highest mercury concentrations in this park’s warm-water fish species, such as bass, perch, and pickerel.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park- our nation’s most visited national park, has spectacular overlooks that are severely impaired by haze. Scenic views in the park should extend for more than 100 miles, but air pollution cuts those views to around 25 miles.

Big Bend National Park has some of the worst visibility of any national park in the West. Scientists believe that mercury and other toxic compounds may be contributing to reproductive failure among peregrine falcons in the park.

Read more about clean air at National Parks Conservation Association, as well as information about all our countries beautiful national parks.

Protect Alaska’s Bristol Bay

Go Fish, Go! Protect Alaska’s Bristol Bay
from National Parks Conservation Association.

In response to local concerns from Alaska Native Tribes and stakeholders, including NPCA, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a draft watershed assessment in May 2012 that examines the extraordinary values of Alaska’s Bristol Bay watershed and identifies a multitude of serious, potential impacts that could result from developing an industrial mining district right next to Lake Clark National Park and Preserve.

This report will guide EPA’s use of the Clean Water Act to protect Bristol Bay’s clean waters and wild salmon from billions of tons of toxic mining waste. Learn More.

EPA should act now, and so should you! Send a letter thanking EPA for fighting to protect Bristol Bay.

Vacation In Rwanda?

If Africa and especially Rwanda, are not the travel destination that first come to mind when you think about relaxation, luxury and “getting away from it all”, you may want to seriously reconsider. The friendly greetings, bustling city and countryside belie the fact of the genocide which occurred in the early nineties. The majority of Rwandans now see themselves as one people and one country. There are an increasing number of tourists descending upon this beautiful lush land of national parks, mountain gorillas and terraced hillsides. Contrasting styles of traditional mud huts and dress are interspersed among paved roads, modern amenities and comfortable accommodations.

Same sex couples walk together on the streets of Kigali, the capital of Rwanda and nobody bats an eye. In fact, it is quite common to see men embracing, putting their foreheads together when greeting one another and walking hand in hand, as they stroll down the streets of the capital or along highways, dirt paths and country roads in one of the few African countries that has no laws against homosexuality. That doesn’t mean that these men are gay (most are probably non-sexual friends), but who knows who is and who isn’t?

Homosexuality is illegal for lesbian women in 20 African countries and for gay men in 29. In Zimbabwe, Uganda, Somalia and Northern Africa you can be prosecuted and imprisoned. South Africa is one of the exceptions, where homosexuality is legal and national legislation bands discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Rwanda doesn’t actively acknowledge homosexuals positively or negatively, but has no laws against it. It follows an unspoken policy of “don’t ask, don’t tell”. There is no kissing displayed in public, by homosexual or heterosexual couples, but other affections are accepted (hugging, touching hands).

The national parks and wildlife are not the only attractions in this lovely country known as the “land of a thousand hills”, as there are also traditional dance performances, art centers, shopping and an active social scene in Kigali and the northern city of Ruhengeri.

Kigali has a large market in the Nyabugogo district where you will be inundated with clothing, both women’s and men’s, as well as household goods and other local merchandise. Expect to bargain until you’re hoarse, as it is expected and part of the experience. One U.S. dollar equals approximately 550 Rwandan Francs. A new shopping center uptown houses a modern shopping center, complete with a Starbucks like coffee house called Bourbon Street, which has free internet access and all the caffeine you can handle. Rwandan’s don’t drink much coffee, as tea is their thing, even though Rwandan coffee has become a thriving export. There is live music at the Cadillac, Abraxis and Planete Club and numerous bars throughout town.

Some very fine hotels in the city include the Chez Lando (near the airport); Hotel Gorillas; Iris Guesthouse; The Presbyterian Guesthouse; and the famous Mille Collines (Hotel Rwanda). Prices range from $50 to $160 per night.

Some area restaurants include an exquisite Indian establishment called Khazana; the Shangh Hai, a Chinese restaurant with great service and food and; Sole Luna, an upscale Italian eatery out towards the airport. You can expect to spend anywhere from $10 to $20 per person for a good meal. People also partake of local Rwandan food at diners and cafes around town, but they can get rather boring, as they consist of the same overcooked vegetables, potatoes and meat, without any spice or seasoning. It is however cheaper than the “foreign” restaurants (about $5 to $10 per meal).

Ruhengeri, the largest city in the north, is the gateway to the Virunga National Park, which borders The Congo and Uganda in Eastern Africa. The scenery from Kigali to Ruhengeri is spectacular and The Gorilla Nest Lodge just outside the park is stunning. Imagine a luxury hotel, superbly crafted from local stone, wood and bamboo, tucked into the jungle at the bottom of a blue-green volcanic range. Top that off with spacious rooms, fine dining and friendly service from people that speak English, French and Kinyarwanda (the national language) and you have a virtual Shangri-la in the middle of Africa. The Hotel Muhabura is reported to be another great place to hang your hat and much less expensive ($35 to $50) than the Mountain Gorilla’s Nest, which charges $100 and up per night.

No matter how beautiful the drive north has been or how luxurious your accommodation, nothing quite prepares you for the magnificent mountain gorillas that reside in the Virunga National Park. Even though tourists are only allowed an hour visit, to protect the gorillas, the $500 fee charged to see them is worth every penny. The funds from the fees (permits) are used to maintain the sanctuary, continue research, guard the gorilla families and support local communities and projects outside the park. These creatures, which have 97 percent of the same DNA as humans, are gentle vegetarian mammals that live in clusters of communal families and alternate between play, sleep and time to enjoy a tasty meal of bamboo, greens and fruit. If you take the time to travel to Rwanda, do not miss the adventure of visiting the mountain gorillas.

The people of Rwanda are as beautiful as their country, which has to rate a ten on the lush green scale of tropical paradises. From smiles and generosity in the cities hotels, shops and fine restaurants, to the lodges and safari’s to see the gorillas, volcanic mountains, game parks and lakeside resorts, this Central African country has moved leaps and bounds beyond their tragic civil war over sixteen years ago. It has literally risen from the ashes and become the “new Eden” of Africa. With a stable government, abundant overseas investment and a pervading sense of hope and reconstruction, Rwanda is now considered one of the safest countries to visit on the continent.

When you go:

Easy access from the U.S. via England to Kenya and from Kenya to Kigali (the capital of Rwanda), makes it an affordable, though lengthy trip. The time spent traveling is well worth the long haul. There may soon be an even quicker route from Atlanta to Kigali, via Johannesburg South Africa.

National language is Kinyarwanda, but many people also speak English or French and there is a big push for everyone to learn English.

You will need up to date vaccinations and malaria precautions.

A great resource for touring Rwanda is: Bizidanny Tours & Safaris B. P. 395 Kigali, Rwanda. Phone 250 08501461. Web Site: www.bizidanny.com

Barbara Jenkins at Rancho Del Mar Travel has been arranging trips to Africa for thirty years. 1327 La Sobrina Court, Solana Beach, CA 92075-2105. Phone: 858-755-7368.

The Rwanda Tourist Board can be contacted at: www.rwandatourism.com.

Beautiful Rwanda

Rwanda is becoming increasingly noticed for its environmental policies, gender equality, stable government and breathtaking beauty. Positive internal and international support for infrastructure, education, security and eco-tourism has made it an attractive African destination.

The friendly greetings, bustling city and countryside belie reminders of the genocide that occurred in Rwanda in 1994. There are an increasing number of tourists descending upon this beautiful lush land of national parks, mountain gorillas and terraced hillsides. Contrasting styles of traditional mud huts and dress are interspersed among paved roads, modern amenities and comfortable accommodations.

I traveled to Rwanda with my wife and son primarily to work at The ROP Center for Street Children. However, we take advantage of the opportunity to explore Kigali, the nation’s capital, and discover a modern city center. MORE

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