Australia scrambles to reach thousands trapped by bushfires

Australia has launched a major operation to reach thousands of people stranded in seaside towns after deadly bushfires ripped through popular tourist areas on New Year’s Eve.

Navy ships and military aircraft were deployed alongside emergency crews to provide humanitarian relief and assess the damage from one of the worst days yet in Australia’s months-long bushfire crisis.

Thousands of holidaymakers and locals are bedding down at beaches after fleeing the deadly blazes.

In seaside communities along a 200km strip of coast, terrified crowds – wrapped in blankets and wearing make-shift facemasks – sought refuge from the inferno near the water.

Some with boats took to the sea in near-darkness, hoping to find safety, as one of the worst days yet in Australia’s months-long bushfire crisis prompted a military deployment to help relief efforts.

Three people have died, five more are unaccounted for, and scores of properties were feared destroyed after flames reached well-populated towns like Batemans Bay, normally busy with visitors during Australia’s summer holidays.

Information was trickling out of coastal communities where thousands of holidaymakers and locals were thought to have seen in the New Year taking refuge from flames at surf clubs, as power outages and damage to telecommunications towers brought down phone lines and the internet.

New South Wales (NSW) Rural Fire Service commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said emergency services faced a “real challenge” trying to help injured people – some reportedly suffering burns – in isolated areas.

“We haven’t been able to get access via roads or via aircraft. It’s been… too dangerous and we simply can’t access, nor can the people in these areas get out,” he said.


10:30am update from Dad at the wharf in Mallacoota – “fire front not far away”

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But there was cheers and relief in the town of Mallacoota – where towering columns of smoke turned the sky pitch black and nearby fires caused waves of “ember attacks” – after around 4,000 people who had huddled on the foreshore ringed by fire trucks survived unharmed.

“I understand there was a standing ovation at the end of that for the firefighters,” Victoria Emergency Management commissioner Andrew Crisp told public broadcaster ABC.

Cooler temperatures and lighter winds also provided a window of opportunity for relief efforts, but there were concerns over new fires in alpine regions.

“There’s a lot of people holidaying, again, up in those areas,” Crisp said. “We’ll be prioritising those and hitting them as hard as we can. We don’t need any new fires.”

Firefighters were racing to take advantage of the mild weather to contain dozens of blazes, as authorities warned the fire danger would spike again on Saturday.

“At the very least, weather conditions will be at least as bad as what they were yesterday,” NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said.

Bradley Deacon 🇦🇺@BradleyWDeacon

This picture just in from family boarding boat in approx time of photo 9:45am

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In some places the blazes were so intense, the smoke so thick and the dry lightning storms precipitated by the fires so severe that aerial reconnaissance and waterbombing had to be halted.

The situation was scarcely better in inland rural communities, where countless more people were displaced and forced into makeshift camps.

Hundreds of “anxious and stressed and traumatised” people were gathered at Bega’s showgrounds, said 44-year-old Beck Walker, who had been holidaying with her husband and two young sons when they heard sirens warning them to evacuate before dawn.

“We had to pack up and leave straight away,” she told AFP. “It was pretty scary because the sky was red… By 7.30 am we thought it was still night because the sky had turned black.”

Australia’s defence minister Linda Reynolds said helicopters, aircraft and naval ships would be sent to the region.

The military is expected to conduct damage assessments and potentially provide those displaced with food, shelter and electricity and even evacuation.

More back-up has been requested from firefighters in Canada and the United States.

News Breakfast


Francesca Winterson is in a building on the main street of and describes the wind, darkness and falling embers as fires burn about 500 metres away.

She says it’s too late to leave and fire crews are on hand to offer as much protection as they can.

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Australia’s unprecedented bushfires have been burning for months, but the latest in a series of heatwaves and high winds have wrought new devastation.

The crisis has also hit cities like Sydney and Melbourne, home to several million people.

Yesterday, around 100,000 people were urged to flee five Melbourne suburbs as the blaze bore down on homes just 16km from the centre of Australia’s second-biggest city.

Sydney was again shrouded in toxic bushfire haze.

Sydney’s New Year’s Eve fireworks went ahead, but a similar event has been cancelled in Canberra and several regional towns.

A Rural Fire Service spokesman said a 28-year-old volunteer firefighter died yesterday in New South Wales when a “fire tornado” picked up an eight-tonne truck “and flipped it over”.

A 63-year-old man and his 29-year-old son died in the devastated town of Cobargo.

RTÉ News


Thousands of tourists and residents in the Australian seaside town of Mallacoota sought refuge in boats, hunkered down in public buildings or waded into water at the seafront, as wildfires circled the town | 

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Ten others, including two other volunteer firefighters, have been killed so far this fire season.

The blazes have destroyed more than 1,000 homes and scorched about 13.5 million acres – an area bigger than Denmark or the Netherlands.

The crisis has focused attention on climate change – which scientists say is creating a longer and more intense bushfire season – and sparked street protests.

While conservative Prime Minister Scott Morrison belatedly acknowledged a link between the fires and climate change, he has continued his staunch support of Australia’s lucrative coal mining industry and ruled out further action to cut carbon emissions.

California Legislation Would Bolster Hunting and Fishing Opportunities


Popular opinion of California may be dominated by the cultures permeating from Hollywood and Silicon Valley, but hundreds of thousands of acres of public land border all of our major cities. Three bills essential to protecting and expanding California’s public lands are expected to pass through the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands this week.

Though Rep. Judy Chu’s (D-CA) San Gabriel Mountains Foothills and Rivers Protection Act (H.R. 2215), Rep. Salud Carbajal’s (D-CA) Central Coast Heritage Protection Act (H.R. 2199), and Rep. Jared Huffman’s (D-CA) Northwest California Wilderness, Recreation, and Working Forests Act (H.R. 2250) affect lands within the State of California, the California Chapter hopes members throughout the country will reach out to their representatives in support of these bills.

Each bill will protect lands that represent undisturbed landscapes and habitats vital to unique fish, wildlife and plant species. Importantly, these bills maintain existing uses or expand access to recreational opportunities, including fishing and hunting, for millions of public land owners.

As a resident of Southern California who lives in close proximity to the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument, I am particularly invested in Rep. Chu’s H.R. 2215. I’ve caught, reveled in, and safely released descendants of the Southern California steelhead on waters within the monument. In turn, I’ve had the chance to take a number of members on their first fly fishing trip, where they’ve caught their first trout on the fly. The streams of the San Gabriels are a few of the last remaining waters where the genetics of California’s steelhead ancestors remain strong, and these fish could serve as stock to help repopulate watersheds with navigable access to the ocean.

In addition to our steelhead, the monument contains areas critical to threatened and endangered species such as the California condor, Arroyo chub and Nelson’s bighorn sheep. The Mediterranean climate provides ideal conditions for 300 plant species native only to the San Gabriel Range. With over five million visitors each year seeking out the unique flora, fauna and landscapes, the monument is a refuge from the persistent traffic and horns of the city and a crowning jewel to some of the vast public lands just outside the front door of all Southern Californian families.

H.R. 2215 would expand the existing monument, add over 30,000 acres of wilderness, designate over 45 miles of river as Wild and Scenic and establish a National Recreation Area along the perimeter of the monument. These additional protections seek to maintain the untamed nature of the West in this area by limiting commercial activities and motorized vehicles while retaining critical hunting, fishing and existing outdoor recreational access within close proximity to a major metropolis.

Backcountry Hunters & Anglers has organized a backpacking course and Hike to Hunt events and hopes to continue its recruitment, retention and reactivations efforts (R3), within the monument. These public lands remain the closest access to solitude and an undisturbed outdoor recreation experience for the greater part of the Los Angeles area outside of city parks. The proposed National Recreation Area under H.R. 2215 would only serve to increase opportunities and exposure to the outdoors for underserved communities.

The California Chapter encourages BHA members nationwide to contact their representatives and express support for these bills. The bills may be specific to California in nature, but the overarching message of support for wild, untouched and accessible public lands is one we can all stand behind.

Justin Bubenik
California Chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, Chair

Protect the Arctic Refuge




The fight to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is nothing new. Talks of opening the Refuge to oil and gas development have been ongoing since 1977. But a major shift in the discussion occurred in 2017 when the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act legally opened the Arctic Refuge to drilling. POW has been sending thousands of comments to our lawmakers––working to block forward momentum on oil and gas development in the Refuge––ever since.

And now we have a chance to turn this bill around. A bipartisan group of 100 House lawmakers recently introduced and passed a bill that repeals the section of the 2017 tax-cut law that opened the Refuge for drilling. Now a new bill is off to the Senate and we need help getting it across the finish line. This is a chance for the entire outdoor community to defend the Arctic Refuge and set an example for the rest of our public lands. The oil and gas industry doesn’t own our public lands.


How Did We Get Here:

In 2017, GOP lawmakers introduced the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, sneaking in a small provision that mandated opening Area 1002 (a 1.5 million acre section of the Coastal Plain within the Arctic Refuge) to oil and gas development. It passed along party lines by an ultra-thin margin: 51-48.

Had it been presented as its own bill, it would have required at least 60 votes to move forward, making it unlikely to pass.



Why Are We Talking About This Now:

A little while ago, representatives Jared Huffman (D-Calif.), Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) recently co-signed a bipartisan bill, along with support from 97 other representatives, that would repeal that section of the 2017 GOP tax-cut law that opened the refuge for drilling in the first place.

That bill, called the Arctic Cultural and Coastal Plain Protection Act, states that “oil and gas activities are not compatible with the protection of this national treasure.” And in September 2019, it PASSED. Now a new bill has been introduced to the Senate that we’re working to pass.

Will you write to your lawmakers?


Why is POW Getting Involved:

Opening the Arctic Refuge to oil and gas development would not only irreversibly destroy the largest national wildlife refuge in the country––and deeply impact the outdoor enthusiasts who seek adventure and solitude there––but would also add significantly to the climate crisis at a time in which it is imperative to curb our emissions and adopt clean energy.

“Drilling in the Arctic is a pristine example that we’re going down the wrong path…It’s not only about the fact that we’re potentially irreversibly decimating a fragile and unique public land but that we’re continuing to extract oil to support our lifestyle when we have other options to put our energy toward.” -Kit DesLauriers, Professional ski mountaineer and POW Alliance member

The IPCC says we have 12 years to mitigate the worst impacts of the climate crisis. Opening the Arctic Refuge to oil and gas development would not only further us from this incredibly time-sensitive benchmark but set a precedent that removes public lands from the people and places them in the hands of private industry.

The Arctic Refuge is a place of adventure, solitude and consists of a wilderness that simply doesn’t exist anywhere else in the world. As outdoor enthusiasts, it’s important that we protect where we play.

“The oil industry argues technology is great so their impact is small. But in Prudhoe bay, just 100 miles away from the Arctic Wildlife Refuge, the environment has been devastated. The north slope experiences an average of 504 oil spills a year, totaling more than 1.9 million gallons of toxic substances between 1996 and 2004 (according to the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation). The air pollution is worse than in Washington D.C. They are constantly fined for ignoring environmental regulations. The list goes on. Even if you trusted the oil companies when they say it will be different in the Refuge it doesn’t solve the effects of extraction on climate change in a place where average temperatures have already exceeded three degrees. Ninety-five percent of the Arctic is already open to oil and gas. Can we keep just five percent off-limits? ” – Tommy Caldwell, POW Alliance member & professional climber


In May 2019, we headed to Washington D.C. for our Arctic Fly-In alongside partner organization The Alaska Wilderness League. We brought leaders from the outdoor community to talk with our lawmakers about the importance of voting yes on the Arctic Cultural and Coastal Plain Protection Act.

In September 2019 our sister organization, the POW Action Fund headed back to D.C. to continue to urge lawmakers to protect our public lands, and the bill PASSED the House while the POW Action Fund team was on Capitol Hill.

Now the Senate has a chance to take the next step and pass Arctic Refuge Protection Act (Senate Bill 2462) to not only halt drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge but also designate wilderness to keep drilling out for decades to come.


Meet a scientist: The sustainable-seafood guru

Jack Kittinger is senior director of the global fisheries and aquaculture program for Conservation International’s Center for Oceans, focusing on sustainability in the seafood sector.

Human Nature spoke with Kittinger about his aquatic upbringing, and the uncertain future of the seafood we eat.

Question: What made you want to work in the seafood industry?

Answer: I grew up in the coastal Carolinas on the East coast of the U.S. and I was very lucky that I had a highly “aquatic” upbringing. I actually learned how to drive a boat before a car, and grew up surfing, swimming, diving and fishing on the coast. So you could say the ocean has always been in my blood. I went to school for marine biology and found that a lot of colleagues also connected to the ocean because of their proximity to it growing up. People work to protect the places they care about.

My mission is to protect special places like the one where I grew up, so I joined Conservation International eight years ago to do just that. It’s incredible to work at an organization where everyone treats their work as a vocation rather than merely a profession. I firmly believe we need healthy oceans to survive, and every day I’m becoming more excited about the progress we are making in this sector.

Q: What does that progress look like?

A: The vast majority of major buyers in the American and European markets have made commitments to sustainability in their purchasing of seafood. The sector is getting serious about social responsibility and human rights. And where we have invested in better governance, fisheries are recovering.

Q: What are the top 3 issues in the seafood world at the moment?

K: Seafood is the last thing on Earth that we still hunt on a global level — everything else we cultivate or grow — so we must manage wild populations sustainably, or we simply won’t have enough food. Three billion people rely on fish for their primary animal protein source, so that puts the responsibility on everyone in the conservation sector to ensure we sustainably manage it. But we are overfishing about half of all fisheries in the world.

Another environmental concern is unsustainable aquaculture, which you might know as fish farming. In a lot of developing countries, people are destroying mangroves — which absorb massive amounts of carbon and are vital to fighting climate change — to grow shrimp or other seafood species. We have to ensure both wild-caught and farmed seafood is sustainably produced.

While the environmental concern is major, what’s increasingly come to light over the past five years is how people are treated in the seafood sector. Because of the pioneering work of journalists and researchers, we now know that the seafood sector has a poor track record when it comes to human rights — it’s even worse than mining. We have to ensure that there are social safeguards put in place that keep fishers free from abuse and ensure they can support themselves and their families.

Q: How do you make sure you’re eating seafood that is sustainably and responsibly sourced?

K: The easiest way is to ask the restaurant or grocery store where it sources its fish from and whether it is certified sustainable. All consumers are part of the solution and doing this gives us the opportunity to vote with our money. If we choose to only buy things that are produced with people and the planet in mind — meaning sustainably and responsibly sourced — we can shift market demand. You can also research different retailers’ commitments to sustainability on the internet — there are quite a few that have made commitments and are working to sell seafood that is produced in the right ways. Lastly, purchase as close as you can to the source — meaning local fish and seafood from local fishers.

Q: How is climate change impacting seafood?

K: As the oceans heat up and become more acidic and the currents change, the fish are moving. Seafood is much different than our other food sources such as livestock, because it’s mobile and always shifting. Climate change is causing this shift to happen more often and permanently. This has a major impact not just on the local fishing communities who can’t catch enough fish to eat or support their families, but on the economies of countries as well, particularly small island nations. For example, the Pacific Islands produce most of the world’s tuna, and their economies rely on the revenue that the tuna fisheries bring in. But, because of climate change, the tuna populations are shifting to the east — and outside the waters of the Pacific Islands — so the Pacific Islands are going to start losing the backbone of their economies. Climate change is a social justice issue for these countries, who depend on it fully but have contributed almost nothing to the problem of global warming.

Because of the climate crisis, we are going to deal with new realities in terms of who owns fish, how they reproduce and where they live. We’ve already seen adaptations to climate change among the aquaculture community — for example, in the Pacific Northwest, oyster farmers have had to change how they are growing and harvesting oysters in response to more acidic waters.

This isn’t a future threat. Climate change is happening now, and countries are witnessing these changes in real time — and it’s going to have a huge impact on how we feed ourselves.

Jack Kittinger is senior director of the blue production program for Conservation International’s Center for Oceans. Olivia DeSmit is a former staff writer for Conservation International.

Human rights abuses in the seafood industry occur every day. To learn about some of the heroes fighting to bring justice and freedom to enslaved fishers, check out the new film “Ghost Fleet” here.

Jul 10, 2019
By Olivia DeSmit

2018 versus 2019: Florida’s water crisis idle, but not over

Image source: Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation Memorandum, Caloosahatchee & Estuary Condition Report released June 11, 2019

Here we are, living out a beautiful Florida summer—one that’s defined by our iconic vibrant water, reports of incredible fishing, and the return of visitors to our beaches.

Thoughts of last year’s “lost summer” are but a distant memory. We breathe a sigh of relief, but clean water now doesn’t mean the problems have been resolved and the same threats that destroyed our water still remain.

Why is our water quality vastly different this year? What’s being done to prevent future disasters? In this post, we’ll look back at a few of the factors that contributed to the 2018 water crisis, how things were different in 2019, and future prevention efforts.

Disclaimer: This information is intended to illustrate that 1) Florida’s water quality issues are multi-faceted, 2) the sequence of variables that affect water quality is ever-changing, and 3) there is a solution.

There is not a singular cause of our water quality issues. In 2018, Florida experienced a chain of worst-case events, circumstances, and actions, that led to a disasterous situation for estuaries around the state. Some factors are within control, some are uncontrollable, and some are consequential, but combined, they all impact our water quality. The better you understand this relational concept, the better-suited you are to form your own opinions and perspectives on future issues.

A Look Back

In July 2018, we were neck-deep in the worst water crisis Florida has arguably ever experienced. Record rainfall, massive discharges of polluted fresh water, and a questionably-motivated water management district, all combined to help fuel this widespread water quality disaster.

Toxic blue-green sludge suffocated our waterways and red tide lingered for months, leaving dead marine life scattered along 300 miles of Florida coastline. Businesses suffered, vacations were cut short and cancelled, residents feared for their health, and Florida made national headlines—and not in a good way.

Just to name a few. While there are still many issues impacting water quality around the state, the magnitude to which our waters improved in a year is astounding. To better understand the 2018 water crisis versus a year of relatively good water, here is a chart highlighting a few key factors that collectively impacted our water quality.

2018 and 2019 Key Factors Impacting Water Quality

South Florida Water Management District

  • The powerful, tax-levying agency responsible for protecting and managing our water resources.


Governing board serving special interests.

The previous governing board made decisions that favored special interests over the public, such as renewing a lease with Florida Crystals for land slated for the EAA Reservoir.

Public outrage prompted a spotlight on their actions and the demand for their resignations.


Governing board serving the public.

A new board was appointed as a result of public demand and is now made up of individuals who share our concerns, making significant strides to protect our water quality.

Rainfall Levels
Fort Myers levels shown as sample

  • Rainfall directly affects the water level in Lake Okeechobee.
  • Florida rainy season is May through October.


Above average rainfall.

12.77 ” in May (normal 2.64″)

Lake levels jumped 6 feet in 2017, largely due to Hurricane Irma, followed by heavy rainfall in May 2018.



Average rainfall.

5.57” in May

Brought no significant or unexpected water level changes.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Water management strategy

  • Attempts to keep Lake Okeechobee level between 12.5 to 15.5 feet.
  • Currently manages lake level by discharging “excess” water to the coast via Caloosahatchee & St. Lucie Rivers.
  • Water is discharged at a rate measured in cubic feet per second (cfs).
  • 500 to 1,000 cfs = desired flow for Caloosahatchee River, needed to balance salinity.
  • 0 cfs = desired flow for St. Lucie River.


Began high-volume discharges June 1, continued through summer.

3,000 to 7,800 cfs to Caloosahatchee
Up to 1,800 cfs to St. Lucie

Heavy rainfall and high lake levels, combined with a fear of more rain, led to massive discharges throughout the summer.

2,800 cfs is the high-flow “ecological harm threshold” established by water managers for the Caloosahatchee.

USACOE later admits to knowingly releasing water from Lake Okeechobee into the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie Rivers containing toxic cyanobacteria and harmful algal blooms.


Began low-volume discharges in February, minimized need for high-volume discharges during rainy season.

1,500 to 1,800 cfs to Caloosahatchee
250 to 500 cfs to St. Lucie

Low rainfall and low lake levels maintained by low-volume releases, mitigated need for high-volume summer discharges.

Blue-green algal blooms visible on Lake Okeechobee, but no visible cyanobacteria at sample testing sites. The lower rate of discharges has helped prevent toxic algae from reaching the coastal estuaries.

Red Tide
Known as Karenia brevis (K. brevis)

  • A naturally-occuring algal bloom that originates offshore in the Gulf of Mexico.
  • Depletes oxygen in the water and releases toxins that kill marine life and may cause illness to humans.
  • Sustained by nutrients from pollution sources.


Significant presence of red tide.

Originated in October 2017 and persisted for 17 months.

Devastated marine life, killing thousands of tons of baitfish, game fish, sea turtles, manatees, dolphins, even a whale shark.

Red tide bloom was possibly intensified and sustained by nutrients from toxic blue-green algal blooms.


No presence of red tide.

As of February 2019, the presence of red tide has been non-existent at sample testing sites.

Lake Okeechobee Water Levels

Below is a graphic representation of the Lake Okeechobee water levels from July 2017 to July 2019. This illustrates the significant water level spike after Hurricane Irma in October 2017, followed by the heavy rainfall event in May 2018 that led to the high-volume, devastating discharges.

Captains For Clean Water - Lake O Levels

The Water Crisis Brings Progress in 2019

  • Florida received the largest amount of funding for Everglades restoration in state history. This means there’s a significant spotlight on water quality issues and efforts; from media to conservation groups to the informed public eye, this creates an arena where elected officials and government agencies are held accountable.
  • New Lake Okeechobee management manual coming soon. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has shown willingness to change their operations procedures in order to avoid harmful, large-scale discharges and is in the process of developing the new Lake Okeechobee System Operating Manual (LOSOM). “The purpose of this effort is to reevaluate and define operations for the Lake Okeechobee regulation schedule that take into account additional infrastructure that will soon be operational.” Expected completion of the manual is September 2022.
  • Key priority projects. There are more than two dozen projects that must be accelerated and completed in order to provide improvements to water quality, water quantity, and water supply for Florida. Collectively, these will help achieve the greatest benefit for Everglades restoration. The projects are detailed on SFWMD’s website.

The Big Picture: We Must Send Clean Water South

Infrastructure projects, operating manuals, record budget, various agencies and stakeholders, policy and procedures, bureaucratic complexity, outward opposition, emails, paperwork, approvals, denials, meetings upon meetings; the path to progress is littered with red tape. For every step forward, it took countless people and calculated actions to get there.

It’s not realistic to think that the southward flow of water can be restored overnight, but every project completed gets us incrementally closer. Progress is a process. It requires a vigilant public who speaks up and takes action which drives political will that turns to policy, which becomes new law which eventually leads to the benefits that we all want to see: clean water and healthy estuaries at all times.

Changing operations alone won’t fix the problems. We need critical infrastructure projects completed in order to store, treat, and convey more water south. The EAA Reservoir is predicted to cut Lake Okeechobee discharges by over 50%. The Tamiami Trail project will remove significant barriers to flow, allowing more water to reach the Everglades and Florida Bay where it’s desperately needed. We can’t simply cross our fingers and hope the rain won’t come.

Closing Thoughts

It begins to sound redundant, almost, to keep repeating this message. The truth is—for decades, scientists have said the solution is to send water south. So why weren’t we seeing progress at the highest level? The difference between now and then is awareness.

A lack of public awareness has historically allowed special interests and corrupt politics to dictate where our water goes—or doesn’t go. The 2016 and 2018 water crises may have sparked national attention, but it’s because we’ve refused to “shut up” that we’ve been able to keep the focus on water quality and move the needle.

This progress is only possible because of you. Without your efforts to get involved, get educated, and spread the word, the smoke and mirrors would continue, and the greater public would remain oblivious to the injustice happening in our backyards.

Thank you for seeing the bigger picture. For understanding the process. And for spreading the word about Everglades restoration—even when the water is beautiful and the fishing is good.

Meet the Veteran Finalists: The 2019 National Fly Casting Competition

We are pleased to announce the finalists in our Second Annual Fly Casting Competition hosted in-conjunction with Fly Fishers International (FFI).  Through the fly casting competition and the strategic partnership between PHWFF and FFI, we aim to bring fly fishing and it’s proven therapeutic elements to more disabled veterans who can benefit from it.

The competition was open to disabled veterans and disabled military service personnel actively participating with PHWFF Programs and was facilitated by our volunteer-run programs around the country.  PHWFF programs are divided up into geographic regions comprising over 200 programs nationwide that serve disabled veterans in their local communities.  The Fly Casting Competition began at the local program level where disabled veteran participants learn the skills and nuances of the fly cast from experienced volunteer anglers during regular program meetings.  For the competition, each PHWFF program selected a casting champion who proceeded to compete in their respective Regional Finals against fellow program champions. The winners and runner-ups of the Regional Competitions advance to compete in the PHWFF Casting Competition Finals during the Fly Fishers International Expo in Bozeman, Montana July 24 – 27, 2019.

A total of 27 PHWFF veteran participants will compete in the National Fly Casting Competition finals on July 24 – 27, 2019 and we are thrilled to introduce them to you below by Region:

ALASKA Rick Knight – Wasilla, AK Program | David Widby – Anchorage, AK Program

THE HEARTLAND Michael Davis – Kansas City, MO Program | David Landon – Omaha, NE Program

FLORIDA Lonnie Devore – Viera, FL Program

NEW ENGLAND Mark Michaud – Saugus, MA Program | Walter Morse – Togus, ME Program

NORTH CAROLINA Vincent Taylor – Winston-Salem, NC Program | Gregorio Robles-Velez – Fayetteville, NC Program

PENNSYLVANIA Darryl Mosher – Erie, PA Program | Ed Transue – Kunkletown, PA Program

ROCKY MOUNTAIN NORTHEAST Kenneth Hickok – Casper, WY Program

ROCKY MOUNTAIN NORTHWEST Harley Harrison – Bozeman, MT Program | Travis Wilson – Boise, ID Program

ROCKY MOUNTAIN SOUTH Bradley Kalblinger – Grand Junction, CO Program | Valentine Roberts – Denver, CO Program

SOUTH CENTRAL Christian Fritz – San Marcos, TX Program | Jason Farrar – Conroe, TX Program

SOUTHEAST Allan Sweat – Atlanta, GA Program | Heyward Wall – Charleston, SC Program

SOUTHWEST Lawrence Diggins – Long Beach, CA Program | Joe Hiney – San Francisco, CA Program

TENNESSEE VALLEY Henry Stockman – Chattanooga, TN Program | Joshua Berry – Johnson City, TN Program

VIRGINIA Aric Moss – Charlottesville, VA Program

WEST VIRGINIA Stu Mynes – Wheeling, WV Program | Michael Elliott – Clarksburg, WV Program

The National Fly Casting Competition Finals will be judged by an esteemed panel of fly casting experts;

  • Larry Allen – PHWFF volunteer, Master Casting Instructor, recipient of Mel Krieger Fly Casting Instructor Award, and winner of two golds, a silver and a bronze at the World Fly Casting Championships in the Veteran Men’s Division.
  • Ted Bounds – PHWFF volunteer, Casting Instructor and tournament caster.
  • Bruce Richards – Master Casting Instructor, line designer for Scientific Anglers, author of Modern Flylines, and recipient of the Lifetime Achievement in Fly Casting Instructor Award.
  • Molly Semenik – Master Casting Instructor and author of 25 Best Off-the-Beaten Path Montana Fly Fishing Streams.
  • Mark Tsunawaki – Head Judge, PHWFF volunteer, and ACA National Tournament Senior Division Champion.

Following the competition, the disabled veteran participants will enjoy a special fly-casting demonstration from World Champion fly caster Maxine McCormick and her father, World Championship Bronze Medalist, Glenn McCormick.  At the age of 12, Maxine became the youngest adult division World Champion in sports history, outscoring every woman and man in Trout Accuracy.   In 2018, at the World Championships in England, she earned two gold medals and one silver.

The Fly Fishers International Expo will also offer a bevy of activities for all the competitors during their time in Bozeman, MT.  From seminars, activities, demonstrations, authors and entertainment the Fair will serve as fun and educational opportunity for our participants to further their growth in the sport of fly fishing.

Join us in wishing all the veteran competitors the best of luck at the Finals!

By Daniel Morgan per Project Healing Waters

Vermont adopts the most comprehensive plastics ban in U.S.

Vermont adopts the most comprehensive plastics ban in U.S.

Single-use plastics—from straws to retail bags—will be illegal in Vermont by summer 2020.

Vermont has joined the growing list of states swearing off single-use plasticsby adopting the nation’s broadest restrictions yet on shopping bags, straws, drink stirrers, and foam food packaging.

The new law, which takes effect in July 2020, prohibits retailers and restaurants from providing customers with single-use carryout bags, plastic stirrers, or cups, takeout, or other food containers made from expanded polystyrene. Straws may be provided to customers on request. People requiring straws for medical conditions are exempted from the law.

The bag ban applies only to bags at point-of-sale and not to bags sold as household trash bags or bags used in grocery stores to contain loose produce.

Vermont Gov. Phil Scott signed the bill into law without comment Monday. Earlier he had expressed doubts about the new ten-cent-per-bag charge retailers and restaurants are required to collect for paper bags. Small paper bags are exempted from the ten-cent charge.

“Throughout the session, he did say that given the overwhelming bipartisan support in the legislature and having not heard opposition from the retailers who will be impacted, he expected to sign it,” says Rebecca Kelley, Scott’s communications director.

Multiple states have banned one or more of these plastics. But Vermont is the first to ban all four products in a single bill.


“Vermont has now established a national precedent of tackling three of the worst examples of plastic packaging in one sweeping state law,” says Judith Enck, a former EPA regional administrator who heads a plastics pollution initiative at Bennington College, in a statement.

Not all bags created equal

Hawaii, California, Maine, and New York have banned disposable plastic bags. Supporters of Vermont’s bill say lawmakers took extra steps to promote bag reuse and discourage bag makers from skirting bag bans by making them thicker. As a result, the Vermont ban outlaws plastic carryout bags that do not have stitched handles.

Jen Duggan, director of the Vermont Conservation Law Foundation, says cities and counties that have passed bag bans often defined prohibited bags by their thickness or applied measurements requiring that it carry a certain weight a certain distance.

“What happened was the bag makers flooded the markets with thicker bags,” she says.

The requirement for stitched handles, she says, was simply an easier solution. Because of the cost of stitching handles, it effectively ensures that carryout bags will be made from cloth or reusable polypropylene, encouraging reuse‒one of the goals of the law.

Matt Seaholm, executive director of the American Progressive Bag Alliance, an industry lobbying group, in an interview in April cautioned that bag bans result in the importation of thicker bags manufactured in China. He added that plastic retail bags in the United States are regulated by more ordinances than any other plastic product, and suggested a better solution for sustainability is for bags to be returned by customers to retailers, where they can be sent back to the factory and remade into new bags.

Vermont’s action builds on a growing movement across the world to ban single-use plastics. Plastic bags have been taxed or banned in 127 nations, according to a United Nations count. The European Union banned the top plastic items found on European beaches earlier this spring.

Earlier this year, Vermont’s most famous business, Ben and Jerry’s, announced plans to eliminate the use of plastic straws and other single-use plastics in its 600 ice cream shops worldwide.

This story is part of Planet or Plastic?—our multiyear effort to raise awareness about the global plastic waste crisis. Learn what you can do to reduce your own single-use plastics, and take your pledge.


By: Laura Parker

The plastic industry is on track to produce as many emissions as 600 coal-fired power plants

When you think about plastic, what comes to mind? Microplastics at the bottom of the Mariana Trench, whales dying with truckloads of garbage in their bellies, that zero-waste Instagram influencer you follow?

A new report shows it’s high time to think more about the fossil fuels that go into making those plastic products. The global plastic industry is on track to produce enough emissions to put the world on track for a catastrophic warming scenario, according to the Center for International Environmental Law analysis. In other words, straws aren’t just bad for unsuspecting turtles; plastic is a major contributor to climate change.

If the plastic industry is allowed to expand production unimpeded, here’s what we’re looking at: By 2030, global emissions from that sector could produce the emissions equivalent of more than 295 (500-megawatt) coal plants. By 2050, emissions could exceed the equivalent of 615 coal plants.

That year, the cumulative greenhouse gas emissions from production of single-use plastics like bags and straws could compose between 10 and 13 percent of the whole remainder of our carbon budget. That is, the amount of CO2 we’re allowed to emit if we want to keep emissions below the threshold scientists say is necessary to ensure a liveable planet. By 2100, even conservative estimates pin emissions from plastics composing more than half of the carbon budget.

So, congrats on ordering that metal straw from Amazon! But the report shows that the plastics industry is still planning on a major expansion in production.

Here are a few more takeaways from the report, which looked at the emissions produced by the plastics industry starting in 2015 and projected what emissions from that sector could look like through the end of the century:

  • Of the three ways to get rid of plastics — recycling, landfilling, or incinerating — incinerating is the most energy intensive. In 2015, emissions from incinerating plastic in the United States were estimated to be around 5.9 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent.
  • This year, production and incineration of plastic products will make as many emissions as 189 coal power plants — 850 million metric tons of greenhouse gases.
  • Plastics that wind up in the ocean could even fuck with the ocean’s ability to do what it has historically done a superb job at: sequestering carbon. That’s because the phytoplankton and lil ocean critters that help capture the CO2 at the surface of the ocean and drag it under are being compromised by — you guessed it — microplastic.

But it doesn’t look like the industry is going to slow its roll on refining oil for plastics anytime soon. In 2015, 24 ethylene facilities in the U.S. produced the emissions equivalent of 3.8 million cars. There are 300 more petrochemical facilities underway in the U.S. Two of those, one being built by ExxonMobil and another by Shell, could produce emissions equivalent to 800,000 new cars on the road per year.

So if you’re gonna boycott single-use plastics, keep in mind that you’re not just doing it for the turtles — you’re doing it for us.


Costa Rica Set To Become The Worlds First Plastic-Free And Carbon-Free Country By 2021

Costa Rica is in the top 5 of countries that are leading the way into renewable resources. It might seem small but it has a really big environmental impact. Since 2014 the country’s energy has been coming from 99% renewable sources, and it has been running on 100% renewable energy for over two months twice in the last two years. Then, since June 2017 they have been set on eradicating single-use plastic by 2021. The first be the first country in the world to do this. And most recently, in the summer of 2018, the country announced its aims to become completely carbon-neutral by the year 2021 – The first completely carbon-free country in the whole world.

“Basing [electricity] generation on renewable resources allows the country to achieve one of the lowest ratios of greenhouse gas emissions to electrical consumption on the planet,” the Costa Rican Electricity Institute (ICE) indicated in a statement.

Over the past 4 years, Costa Rica has generated all but 1 percent of its electricity from renewable sources such as its rivers, volcanoes, wind and solar power. The hydroelectric plant on the Reventazón River, on the Caribbean slope, began operations in 2016. It’s the largest plant of its kind in Central America. They also have seven wind turbine plants, six hydroelectric plants and a solar plant. A statement from ICE indicated that ¾ of renewable energy came from hydroelectric plants using river water; the rest was geothermal and wind power, with biomass then solar power constituting the smallest percentage.

A dam in Costa RicaSince the 1980s, the government recognized that nature is Costa Rica’s strongest asset and has therefore made every effort to protect it: including, among other things, zoo closures, reforestation, and establishing protected areas (25% of the total surface area of the country).

“With its rich biodiversity, Costa Rica has also demonstrated far-sighted environmental leadership by pursuing reforestation, designating a third of the country protected natural reserves, and deriving almost all of its electricity from clean hydro power.” – Joseph Stiglitz

Costa Rica frog

The plastic dilemma came next. So, last year on World Environment Day the country announced its new national plan to eradicate all single-use plastics by 2021. From that day on, plastic has to be replaced by alternatives that are 100% recyclable or biodegradable and not petroleum-based. The country has the technical and financial support of the United Nations Development Program to help them accomplish this.

Economist Mónica Araya, a Costa Rican sustainability expert and director of Costa Rica Limpia,  which promotes renewable energy and electric transport, said:

“Getting rid of fossil fuels is a big idea coming from a small country. This is an idea that’s starting to gain international support with the rise of new technologies. In a country already rapidly weaning itself off fossil fuels, focusing on transport – one of the last major challenges – could send a powerful message to the world.”

Wind Turbines in Costa RicaEarlier this year, Carlos Alvarado Quesada was elected as Costa Rica’s new president. His first act in the office was to take a giant leap forward into reducing carbonization. During his inauguration as a world leader he announced his initiative to ban fossil fuels and become the world’s first decarbonized society. He says to an excited crowd:

“Decarbonization is the great task of our generation and Costa Rica must be one of the first countries in the world to accomplish it, if not the first.”

And he does admit that to create the first carbon-free society will be an extremely massive task, but an extraordinary one that he is confident they will achieve. He is very hopeful and excited to get rid of the fossil fuels created by their transportation system by 2021 – all just in time to celebrate the nation’s 200th anniversary of achieving its independence.

He said: “When we reach 200 years of independent life we will take Costa Rica forward and celebrate… that we’ve removed gasoline and diesel from our transportation.”

Keel billed Toucan

The future-minded small country of Costa Rica has made a giant impact in environmentalism. And it is also conscious of the well-being of its citizens. It is part of the Wellbeing Economies Alliance—a coalition that includes Scotland, New Zealand, and Slovenia—which instead of emphasizing countries’ GDP, “seeks to ensure that public policy advances citizens’ wellbeing in the broadest sense, by promoting democracy, sustainability, and inclusive growth,” according to a recent column by economist Joseph Stiglitz.

In the following video interview Democracy Now! speaks with Mónica Araya. They talk about many things, such as how it will be the first country in the world to decarbonize its economy and how wonderful the country is of course. It is very inspiring and well worth your time to watch it!


How Pro Skier David Wise Does Climate Action

Talking to your elected officials about climate change

We know from research that one of the biggest actions you can take to fight climate change is talking to your elected officials. We also know it’s one of the more nerve-wracking steps to take (no, unfortunately, we cannot solve the climate crisis on reusable coffee cups and water bottles alone––but boy that would make life a lot simpler if we could).

Two-time Olympic gold medalist and Alliance member David Wise took the plunge this week and testified before the Nevada Senate Growth and Infrastructure Committee to talk about increasing the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard to 50 percent renewable energy by 2030.

Sound complicated? We’ll break it down for you. We’ve got a video of the thing so you can see just how easy it is to talk to your elected officials about climate change. Click the link to see the video:

Ready to take action? Start by introducing yourself to your member of Congress (we even gave you a draft to start with)!

“This past year, I launched what I’d call a passion project, called ‘Wise Off The Grid.’ Through social media, it gives followers the chance to learn more about my family’s work to reduce our carbon footprint, from growing our food to harvesting our meat to powering our home with solar energy. Our family’s goal is to live completely off the grid.

But unfortunately, we live in a world where individual change isn’t going to be enough to achieve a stable climate. We need our lawmakers– we need you– to help us in passing systemic policy change to drive down carbon emissions at a much larger scale. We need you to help us ensure the everyday choices we make as individuals and families are good for the climate.”

David Wise is a two time Olympic Gold Medalist in halfpipe skiing and is a Protect Our Winters Alliance member. He lives in Verdi with his wife and two children.