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The Stewardship News
Thursday, March 15, 2012

Welcome to The Stewardship News, a newsletter produced by the NOLS Environmental Stewardship and Sustainability Department devoted to issues affecting our outdoor classrooms and the global climate.

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Yukon's Peel Region At Risk as Government Disregards Planning Commission’s Recommendations
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The Peel is one of the largest expanses of still-intact pristine wilderness in North America.
Photo by Rich Brame

To the dismay of many Yukoners, the Peel Watershed, one of the world's largest and most pristine ecosystems, may soon be opened to increased development. On February 14th the Yukon Party Government announced that it would not follow the final recommended plan of the Peel Watershed Planning Commission. The plan, which took 7 years to complete and cost around $1.6 million, was an effort to effectively balance the interests of native groups, industry and conservationists, and recommended that 80% of the Peel River watershed, located in the Peel region in Northern Yukon, be designated as conservation areas.

Instead, the Government released eight principles that will guide the planning process. The principles will likely guide the plan towards a multiple use philosophy and open much of the area to road development and mining activity. Native groups, conservationists, and the tourism industry see this as an unfair betrayal of the democratic process. NOLS sometimes operates in the Peel Watershed, and the school is concerned that this decision will set a precedent for the management and planning processes in other areas of the Yukon.

Citizens of the area are speaking out against the government’s decision. Many have pointed out that the Yukon Party is acting against the interests of the majority of Yukoners. An independent 2010 report (pdf) by the Datapath group corroborates this stance; stating that three-quarters of Yukoners supported protection of 80% of the planning region.

For more information on the process visit Protect the Peel.

Flaming Gorge Pipeline Rejected by FERC
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NOLS students navigate rapids on the Green River.
Photo by Brad Christensen

NOLS courses floating and paddling the Green River need not worry about low river levels due to water diversion to the Denver Metro area. At least not for now.

On February 23, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) rejected a permit application from Wyco Power and Water, Inc. to study the feasibility of the “Regional Watershed Supply Project”--more commonly known as the Flaming Gorge Pipeline. The project, proposed by Colorado entrepreneur Aaron Million, would pump 81 billion gallons of water per year from the Flaming Gorge Reservoir and Green River in southwest Wyoming over the Continental Divide to the Front Range of Colorado and Southern Wyoming.

The word from FERC's Office of Energy Projects is that the application was premature and lacked specifics about how the building permits would be obtained and where the hydroelectric projects would be sited. The office released a statement (pdf) saying, "Until some certainty regarding the authorization of the pipeline is presented, Wyco will not be able to gather and obtain the information required to prepare a license application for a proposed hydropower project… Therefore, there is no purpose under the [Federal Power Act] for issuing a permit to Wyco for its proposed hydropower project at this time."

Environmental conservation groups and those involved in the recreation industry have raised concerns about the proposed pipeline’s impacts on riparian habitats. Many consider the stretch of river below the Flaming Gorge Dam to be a world-class trout fishery. NOLS has filed comments outlining the detrimental impact of reduced flow rates and difficulty posed to the recreation economy of the Green River, if the project were approved.

Million has said that he will continue to work to get the project up and running.

Read more on the Flaming Gorge Pipeline at Western Resource Advocates.

Solar in the Southwest
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NOLS Southwest in Tucson is an ideal location for gathering solar energy.
Photo by Lindsay Nohl

NOLS Southwest has just completed the installation of a 64-panel solar array. The 19.7-kW system, which was installed by local Tucson company Technicians For Sustainability, sits atop the ranch house and in-town offices. While the project does not dethrone the Noble for the title of largest solar array at NOLS, it will supply between 70 and 80 percent of the branch’s energy demands annually, approximately 37,000 kWh. 

NOLS Southwest received $29,568 for the project through Tucson Electric Power’s (TEP) Up-Front Incentive Program for commercial PV installations. Additionally, the Freeport-McMoran Copper & Gold Foundation, which suports sustainable projects in communities in which they operate, awarded NOLS Southwest an additional $20,000 as part of its Social Investment Program. We are very thankful for the support from both programs.

The solar array is NOLS Southwest’s latest sustainability initiative, keeping in line with their strawbale staff housing and high efficiency solar-powered hot water shower house. NOLS Southwest joins NOLS Rocky Mountain, Mexico, Teton Valley and Australia in reducing their dependence of fossil fuels through the installation of solar arrays. Check out the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s latest solar PV potential map, and you’ll see that NOLS Southwest in Tucson has some of the best average kWh/m2/day in the U.S.

The completion of this project takes NOLS a step closer towards our goal of reducing carbon emissions to 30 percent below 2006 levels by 2020.  Read more about the Environmental Sustainability Initiatives at NOLS in our report, “Creating a Climate for Change.”

For more information on these and other stewardship and sustainability topics, please visit our website or contact Amy, Environmental Stewardship Coordinator at [log in to unmask]

© 2012 National Outdoor Leadership School
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