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July 13, 2017

Sounding the alarm on climate

By Marguerite Jill Dye

I met Marc Findeisen at the boat landing on Kent Pond where he was about to kayak across the water to check on the loon family. He updated us on the Canada geese and ducks and their chicks, and revealed the location of the eagle’s nest in a towering pine around the bend. When we first came to Vermont I was 7, and I remember a toddler, Marc’s Dad, Butch, with his constant companion, a St. Bernard. Our two year old grandson’s nanny is a Newfoundland, Shiloh, about the same size.

Marc recently completed a B.A. in environmental science with a minor in global communication and biology at Roger Williams University at Mount Hope Bay in Bristol, R. I. Marc’s favorite focus was the field work because growing up in the Green Mountains of Vermont bestowed on him a love of nature, the outdoors, and sports.

Marc’s main concerns for Vermont are that our economy strictly revolves around tourism and so a healthy ecosystem is necessary. Climate affects the skiing economy with good and bad winters. The maple industry and farming also suffer from climate change.

Boating, fishing, and swimming depend on healthy water. Avoiding the spread of non-native invasive species of freshwater plants is critical. Every time a boater doesn’t properly drain water from their boat or clean their boat trailer they can contaminate another body of water with Eurasian Watermilfoil, which originated in Europe and Asia. Thick milfoil mats form on the water’s surface, rob it of oxygen, increase mosquitoes and sedimentation, and interfere with water sports. Boaters need to be responsible and take precautions to avoid infecting new waters. More recent invasive species are the zebra and quagga mussels from inland lakes in Russia. The mussels and their eggs also contaminate boats and have spread quickly, finding a large niche that allows them to thrive in various waters. They push out our mussels and other indigenous species, which results in our species’ decline.

Climate change can be noticed with weather events like tropical storm Irene. Such storms push further north and their storm cells have a prolonged life. They are drastic and harsh, with massive rainfall which causes erosion, the destruction of foundations of houses, land, and rivers. Irene affected migratory species like salmon and other fish that breed in the ocean and travel upriver to mate and lay eggs in fresh water, then return to the ocean. With blocked and flooded rivers, fish couldn’t return to mate and reproduce in our rivers, which resulted in declines of their populations. In addition, the regional fish hatchery was shut down due to damage.

Vermont is progressive and fairly liberal. I’d like for Vermont to preserve what we have here and keep it a green state. We can lead other states in conservation efforts and renewable energy such as solar and wind. We know that pipelines can break and damage surrounding areas and drinking water. The loosening or absolution of current regulations that were implemented to reduce and control emissions and limit pollution, such as the Clean Water Act, are concerning. Getting rid of the Clean Water Act would allow oil companies to drill near a water body that will no longer be protected. They may not break the law then, but their actions would still have consequences.

One of my professors works for the EPA and shared an inside view of their department in Rhode Island. Much of the budget is being frozen for research about pathogens, toxins, and other hazardous elements affecting species. Losing this funding will slow down the process on how these lethal elements are affecting species, such as one particular type of fish, then a larger group of fish, determining the number that die from a lethal concentration called “LC 50” — that can kill 50 percent of the population. Understanding the LC 50 of mercury for example, helps us determine what could affect larger animals, from a small fish, to a trout, all the way up to a bear.

What can we do to help? Be open minded and understand others’ viewpoints by actively listening and accepting their opinions.

“I’ve lived 18-plus years in Killington, and I haven’t seen a decline in animal species. Good people are coming in and we can see such diversity such as on this rich, small body of water, Kent Pond,” Marc said. “It’s good to see people keep their distance, observe and be respectful of the wildlife. Feeding the ducks or geese creates dependency.” Marc keeps tabs on the bald eagle, red tail hawk, loon, Canada goose, and duck families. “Loons mate for life and always return to same spot — that tiny island in the center of Kent Pond is their breeding ground for life.”

I was concerned about the proposed bike trail parallel to the Appalachian Trail beside Kent Pond and asked Marc for his thoughts. He responded, “It’s good to see different types of people who share a love of the outdoors and can go by foot or bike. The uphill pedaling trail will be a technical biking trail, not for coasting or speed downhill. It, too, will bring more revenue and tourism to Killington.”

Since we’ve been hiking up Bear Mountain some evenings, I was especially excited when Marc added, “I’ve seen seven black bears around Killington this summer — four full grown and a female with three cubs between 25-45 pounds on Bear Mountain.” He said, “The fact that they can coexist and don’t need to fight for resources and territory shows that we are a healthy ecosystem for their dietary needs. It’s a good sign that we have a rich and bountiful wildlife diversity with an ability to thrive. Keeping the biodiversity mixed with a high number of species coexisting shows we have a healthy ecosystem here.”

“I try to keep a positive outlook and feel we have to try to adapt to what’s coming our way. Killington is expanding. There will be huge increases of people which is both good and bad. As long as we have a common ideology of sharing, preserving, and conserving the environment around us, I see Killington as having a very good future.”

Having young citizens like Marc in our midst is a real boost to my optimism.

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