April was another month of dealing with the restrictions associated with COVID-19, what is now known as the silent enemy. Although the coronavirus has us all hunkered down, Mother Nature is on the move. Spring has arrived in our mountains. As winter has faded away, driving and hiking through the mountains, one finds evidence of the different stages of the annual transition. While in some areas the trees are greening with this year’s leaves, high on the mountain ridges the trees are still the stately statues of winter waiting for it to get a little warmer. Birds are returning and are busy with their nesting rituals. Mammals who have been sleeping during the long winter have reappeared and are scurrying about filling long empty stomachs. Spring flowers and fruit trees are blooming, and individuals are getting ramps and morels at their very secretive honey holes. What a wonderful time of the year.
I saw an interesting AP article by Seth Borenstein titled “As People Stay Home, Earth Turns Wilder and Cleaner.” The first line stated that we are having an unplanned experiment in changing Earth. Observations in the article:
As people across the globe stay home to stop the spread of the new coronavirus, the air has cleaned up. Nitrogen dioxide in the northeastern United States is down 30%. https://www.nasa.gov/feature/goddard/2020/drop-in-air-pollution-over-northeast Stars seem more visible at night and people are noticing animals in places and at times they do not usually.
“It’s giving us this quite extraordinary insight into just how much of a mess we humans are making of our beautiful planet,” says conservation scientist Stuart Pimm of Duke University. “This is giving us an opportunity to magically see how much better it can be.
Scientists have been assembled to access the ecological changes happening with so much humanity housebound. They are eager to discover such things as changes in weeds, insects, weather patterns, noise and light pollution, sea changes and air pollutants. It is going to be interesting to see what they learn and the affects to our highlands of West Virginia.
I found another interesting AP article that described the difficult but rewarding work of planting trees to aid the climate. In it, it talks about the restoration work being done on Cheat Mountain and other Appalachian forests, projects that WVHC is involved with. That makes for a great article for the June Highlands Voice.
During April, the board and committees have stayed busy. The Climate Change Committee finished the survey and the results are reported herein, the Public Lands Committee continues to review the USFS projects and has provided comments as appropriate; several of its members will attend an upcoming meeting with the USFS concerning the proposed Grassy Ridge Project reported in the April Highlands Voice. The Extractive Industries Committee has been reviewing and approving sign-on letters concerning various issues to WVHC and WVHC has signed onto those letters with other conservation organizations.
Please, everyone, stay safe during this coronavirus situation. These times are unprecedented, as Francis Weller notes in his new e-book, “There is nothing ordinary about these days of viruses and deaths, masks and social distancing. Our language has adapted to the pandemic. We speak of peaks and ventilators, hot zones and flattening the curve, washing hands and wiping down surfaces…we have entered a time of descent that takes us down into a different geography…we are hunkered down. Down being the operative word. From the perspective of soul, down is holy ground.”