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“Cold Water Brook Trout Down By a Third”

PHOTO: Worried about losses to wildlife, including brook trout now gone from a third of their former homes in Virginia cold-water streams, outdoor groups are backing EPA limits on greenhouse gasses. Picture of native brook trout from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
PHOTO: Worried about losses to wildlife, including brook trout now gone from a third of their former homes in Virginia cold-water streams, outdoor groups are backing EPA limits on greenhouse gasses. Picture of native brook trout from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
November 10, 2014

RICHMOND, Va. – Worried about losses to wildlife, hunting and fishing groups are backing limits on carbon pollution from power plants.

A dozen Virginia outdoor organizations and businesses have released a letter supporting climate change rules by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The groups, led by the National Wildlife Federation and Trout Unlimited, cite damage already happening to moose and migratory bird hunting – and a frightening decline in Virginia's native cold-water brook trout.

"We're in the field constantly evaluating habitat conditions,” says John Gale, national sportsmen campaigns manager for the National Wildlife Federation. "As Mother Nature's bodyguards I think we feel really duty bound to raise the alarm when threats like climate change put our hunting and angling heritage at risk."

Gale says like many, hunting is a family tradition for him.

"I know that one day, when she's all grown up, I'm going to have to look my sweet little 5-year-old daughter in the eyes and tell her I took a stand when it mattered the most," he says.

The EPA is taking comments on a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants 20 percent by 2020.

According to the National Wildlife Federation, the outdoor industry is worth more than $13 billion dollars to Virginia – and nationally, $90 billion.

The group says fishing alone is worth half a billion dollars a year to the state, but Rick Weiss, president of Roanoke Valley Trout Unlimited, says the fishing is threatened by a sharp decline in native brook trout.

He says global warming is driving the brookies out of Virginia's cold-water mountain streams.

"They're already gone from 35 percent of their original habitat, and a recent climate modeling study by the National Wildlife Federation estimated that the species is going to be completely gone by the middle of the century," he points out.

Critics say the power plant limits will be bad for the economy. But the Wildlife Federation says such criticisms have typically been exaggerated.

Jay Chancellor, the NWF’s Virginia sportsmen outreach consultant, points out that the U.S. economy grew 200 percent between 1970 and 2006 – despite new clean air rules that came with the creation of the EPA.

"Since 1970, every dollar invested in compliance with the Clean Air Act has actually yielded four to eight dollars in economic benefit," he says.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - VA