NATURE NOTE – Number 80                                                              November 14, 2023


From time to time I find nature articles that I find interesting and hope that you might also, but they don’t deserve an entire NATURE NOTE to cover.  So I’m using this NOTE to introduce a few of these items to you.  Some relate to earlier NOTES, and others are stand alone.  So I’m calling…

Our Current Topic:  Odds and Ends

Here they are, in no particular order:

  1. Disturbances in our National Forests: The Society of American Foresters’ The Forestry Source, reported in its September 2023 edition that within the last 15 years, 28% of the National Forests have been “disturbed” in some way or another. Keep in mind that this is not ALL American forests, but only those owned by the U.S. Forest Service (193 million acres - the size of Texas).  The breakdown of these disturbances is as follows:  Disease and insects: 17%; wildfire: 8%; and timber harvesting: 3%.  This shows the huge impact disease and insects have on the health of our forests – something most people totally overlook.  Fire is the first thing people think of when they think of damage to the forest, however, it accounts for a relative small part of the disturbances.  Finally, timber harvesting disturbs only a very small part of the total National Forest.  See NATURE NOTES #17 “Fire” and #45 “Forest Insects”.

  2. A recent VA Tech College of Natural Resources and Environment (CNRE) newsletter discussed a number of research projects that the college is currently involved. I list just a few of these just to show the diversity of subjects that fall under their research. Most of these studies are totally unknown except to those in the college or involved in the subject matter.  These are examples of opportunities for future college students that may be in scouting today.
  • Promoting conservation efforts in Botswana while improving the livelihoods of the people through outreach and education.
  • Researching chronic wasting disease (CWD) found in white-tailed deer, and a threat to wildlife conservation. While focusing on Virginia, the study has national impact as well. See NATURE NOTE #41 “Deer”, and #18 “Wildlife Management”.
  • Working in India to help provide clean water to rural populations on an industrial-size scale by using technology developed at the University of Virginia for disinfecting water.
  • Studying and gaining new perspectives on the impact of moisture on soil carbon process and sequestration of soil carbon stocks.
  • Conducting research funded by the NASA to look at sea-level rise: can satellite imagery detect where landscape change is happening, and what are landowners doing in response to those changes?
  1. A new term entering our vocabulary is “wilding”. It has nothing to do with mobs running amok and creating a path of destruction behind them, but it is defined in the nature or conservation world as restoring or renewing an ecosystem that has been destroyed or has declined because of agriculture or other human use. It means to return the land to the “wild”.  It involves soil, plant, wildlife, air and water, as well as carbon sequestration, and providing space for nature to return to its original form.  The word is being used commonly in Europe, and it is catching on in the U.S. in various forms, and under different names.  Individuals or groups establishing nature parks, pollination gardens, backyard wildlife preserves, etc. are types of wilding on a very small scale.  Larger projects involve allowing old agriculture land to convert back to the “wild” with all of the benefits it brings.  Some efforts in Britain have involved illegal introduction of some animals into a new “wild” area, with various results.

  2. This is a follow-up to NATURE NOTE # 63 “Solar Farms”. Virginia Tech is doing a 6 year study on the impact of large solar farms on soil and water quality. At the request of Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), the $3.4 million project will allow installation of instrumentation to measure run-off, nutrient loss, erosion, etc. at six large solar farm sites across the state that will develop real world data that can be compared to models that provided prediction of the soil impact prior to the construction on the sites.  There is continued concern over the impact of these sites, not only during construction, but over the long term.  There have been cases of erosion that have brought fines by the DEQ on the utility companies.  Appalachian Power, the major provider in southwest and central Virginia has only one large solar farm, and will not be part of the study.  (From Cardinal News, August 10, 2023). 

  3. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is conducting aerial distribution of oral rabies vaccine baits in several Southwest Virginia counties to help prevent the spread of the virus. Raccoons are the targeted species, but other animals might be attracted to the small packets as well. The bait is not harmful to humans or pets, but should be avoided.  This program has been going on in multiple states over the last 20 years, and has helped stopped the spread to the west of the Appalachian target area.   (Cardinal News, September 7, 2023.)  See NATURE NOTE # 69, “Rabies”.


You may not be able to use these notes directly, but they create awareness in scout leaders of what is going on every day, all over the globe, that impact on our natural world, and also show the opportunities available for young scouts that may not know of these things for future careers.  As I mentioned in NATURE NOTE #14  “Careers in Natural Resources”, many high school counselors, teachers and parents are not aware of what areas of study are out there for someone who is interested in nature, conservation, the environment, or natural resources, but is inclined to go to college and study something.  As a scout leader, you may the best person in the world to match up that young scout with an interest in nature and a path forward into that career field.  The more you are exposed to nature, the better equipped you are for pointing out that path.  Keep reading NATURE NOTES for more exposure.   And thank you for preparing yourself and that young scout.

Bob Garst

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