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Orange-bellied Parrot Show Signs of Survival as Numbers Increase

The initial summer nestlings have volunteers anxiously awaiting their arrival and fighting to save the orange-bellied parrot against extermination.

When it comes to the birds, they are an average of 20 centimeters long and weigh barely 45 grams.

The birds spend winters in Victoria, South Australia, and New South Wales. They breed at Melaleuca (south-west Tasmania).

Melaleuca has welcomed 70 birds back to breed this year, exceeding 51 birds set last year.

Wildlife expert Shannon Troy stated, “That’s a rebound throughout the last five years out of a downtrend of 17 birds.”

Three-quarters of the birds are female, while the other three-quarters are first-year birds that flew to the wilderness or got released from the controlled population at the beginning of the year.

The season’s first wild eggs were discovered on December 16th, indicating that breeding had begun.

A nest of eggs was spotted while meeting the Orange-bellied Parrot Program participants by Federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley.

There is still much to understand about the parrot, and dangers to its existence entail exotic species, predators, and destruction of habitats.

Dr. Troy speculated that when the population shrinks, other variables such as genetic variety and disease may come into play.

Changing fire regimes in southwest Tasmania have also resulted in decreased food availability.

A future cold burn in the Melaleuca region, Ms. Ley explains, will bring back tiny woodland daisies, which will provide a variety of food sources for the area’s birds at different times of the year.

Mr. Domrose has been acting senior wildlife officer at the orange-bellied parrot research and breeding center near Hobart for the past four years.

Since then, according to Mr. Domrose, the number of birds kept in captivity has grown from 170 to 304.

However, I suppose we might expect some unexpected challenges from the parents when increasing their nestlings. We may have to intervene with some of them, but in most cases, they do a good job.”

Green vegetables and fruits also form part of the birds’ diet.

As well, we strive to provide them with native species of [grass].” They also prefer the dock, which is typical vegetation in the area, according to Mr. Domrose.

Captive-bred birds sometimes get liberated as adults. However, the program sometimes uses youngsters for the release project. Volunteers anticipate that up to 50 fledglings will be released into the wild this summer, with the release taking place between January and March of 2019.

According to Dr. Troy, captive-bred birds have played an essential part in the rehabilitation of the wild population.

When we reached 17 birds in the wild, just four were female. Additionally, birds were released into the wild so that more birds could breed and create young.

It has been a tradition to release our products in the spring for many years now. “After the season, we also free captive-bred adolescents to boost the number of the wandering flock,” she said.

At Melaleuca, captive-bred birds successfully reproduce, so we know they will breed if released.

“We release adult captive-bred birds that reproduce effectively, but their migration is less than that of wild birds. While it’s true that when we liberate captive-bred birds as adolescents, they migrate equally as effectively as wild birds.”

A controlled breeding population is also in place in Victoria. When migrating birds arrive in Victoria, they can use the release of captive-bred birds as a signal to find locations to eat.

Orange-bellied parrot experts and the general public can look forward to an updated national recovery strategy for the birds getting released next.

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One Woman Turns a Ghost Town Into an Artists’ Retreat

Kelly Taylor

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The Beginning and End of Cisco

Cisco, Utah, started out in the 1880s as a saloon and water-refilling station for the railroad. As time passed, more visitors came, and businesses sprung up around the original structure, including hotels, stores, and restaurants. Cattle ranchers and sheep herders took advantage of the resources there, there was sheep shearing, and oil and natural gas were discovered. Once the steam locomotive was discovered, the town started to die, and Cisco finally lost relevance after Interstate 70 was built, bypassing Cisco and taking away any reason for people to even pass through.

With no permanent residents, vandals came in and acted as vandals do. Even though there were many historical artifacts left over, the vandals destroyed many of those. Sometimes migrants go through trying to extract the shale oil deposits. A passenger train goes through Cisco, but there is no scheduled stop. Cisco became a ghost town.

Eileen Muza Had a Dream

Eileen Muza was a visual artist who had no real connection to Cisco. However, she became fascinated with the area during her travels and spoke to the owner. She took the brave and very unusual step of buying the town, for what she claims was the price of a used vehicle. Then she lived there with only her dog Rima while she worked on making her dream a reality.

As an artist, Eileen saw the potential in the area. The atmosphere and the scenery were just part of what made her think that this would be the perfect place to have an artists’ colony. Her plan was to take what had essentially become a ghost town and turn it into a self-sufficient community where a group of like-minded people could work together toward the same goals.

Making the Necessary Changes

Cisco has dry, hot days and cold nights because of its position in the Mojave Desert. Because of its placement, the area still has no running water even after her renovations. In just a couple of years, Muza set up outdoor toilets and kitchens. She repaired windows and made other improvements to make the area livable again. Her little community even has electricity and WiFi now. Tourists from around the country once again see Cisco as a viable place to check out when making out tourist routes.

Home of the Brave

Eileen Muza’s real dream project was the artist residency, which she calls Home of the Brave. The program itself offers a month-long program twice every year, one in September and one in May, and comes with a $500 stipend for the Artists in Residence. Runner Up Artists can live and work there for up to 3 weeks but do not receive a stipend, and Contributing Artists work there during the off-season. The program is supported mostly by donations. Home of the Brave also gets funding from Airbnb guests who visit. Artists can live, work, and make art in the community.

From ghost town to artist residency — this is a story that could only have come from someone who was passionate about creating art. Anyone who visits becomes a part of this dream. The world is better off for having people who see something other people have seen but can imagine its possibilities.

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Georgia’s All-Terrain Wheelchairs for Park Visitors

Shannon Jackson

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Wheelchairs have been a common sight since the beginning of the 20th century. Designed to help the disabled obtain some kind of movement and mobility without the ability to walk, wheelchairs have been a staple of both hospitals as well as necessary equipment for the disabled, special needs and seniors. However, even though they provide users with greater mobility than crutches, wheelchairs are generally limited by the need for flat surfaces to roll on. The State of Georgia has now created a gamechanger in this regard.

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources decided to launch an innovative program that would allow greater access for disabled people to visit their parks. Clearly, the fundamental problem with a traditional wheelchair was the inability of the user to travel on non-flat, irregular ground. So, with a bit of creativity and mechanical design work, the agency was able to locate and procure a number of “all-terrain” wheelchairs to provide for enhanced wheelchair access in its parks.

The idea came from a partnership between the Department of Natural Resources as well as the Aimee Copeland Foundation. Named after a social work program employee who suffered a horrible medical condition causing the removal of both hands, one leg and one foot, The Aimee Copeland Foundation works regularly to find ways to help disabled people gain better access despite their physical limitations. The organization puts a big emphasis on outdoor recreation, which is why the partnership with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources was a natural connection.

Dubbed “All Terrain Georgia,” the enhanced wheelchair program has been a big winner for all involved. The Foundation is fully supportive, and a good number of those involved feel the particular all-terrain effort has been long overdue.

The all-terrain wheelchairs go beyond the limitations of the traditional design by doing away with the wheel altogether. Since wheels usually can’t handle irregular terrain, the new park wheelchair format chosen involves tracks, like those on tanks. Because the tracks can handle and spread out weight distribution over rocks, mud, dirt and similar, they allow the rider far greater access than slim traditional wheelchair wheels ever could allow.

Based on the Department’s plans, all-terrain wheelchairs will be provided in 11 different parks as well as heritage/historic locations in-state. The first units were displayed and made available at Panola Mountain State Park. Additionally, to help with maneuvering and power to go up and down inclines, an assigned “buddy” will help the visitor get around during any time spent in the designated park. And, as mentioned earlier, the Department used the introduction of the new vehicle to re-emphasize their dedication to providing access for all to the state’s parks and recreation resources.

All the above said, Georgia is not the first state to start using all-terrain wheelchairs. That honor goes first to Minnesota and Michigan. Theirs are all-terrain and electric-powered, so there’s no need to even push the units when in use. The Department of Natural Resources expects their units will be a big hit, allowing users to explore far more than one basic asphalt path or road as is typically the case.

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Riker’s Island Might Get an Enviro-Positive Facelift

Kevin Wells

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Getting sent to Riker’s Island was like a criminal’s bad luck ending in a Batman movie. For decades, the location has been the New York City prison for the worst of the worst, including much of organized crime too dangerous to be held anywhere else. Being sent “up the river” literally meant spending a good chunk of one’s life on Riker’s Island as an inmate.

Today, however, the same dreaded location is being planned for a major makeover. Instead of more jail cells and prisons, Riker’s Island is getting bounced around as the new home for a green energy hub, literally. Some of the plans project that the location could produce enough power to juice up at least 45,000 homes on a regular basis. While all this project is basically conceptual ideas, it’s part of a bigger movement to finally do away with New York City’s reliance on gas-burning energy.

Riker’s Island itself was put on the path of decommission and shutdown last year. By 2027, the once infamous destination will no longer be home to the City’s worst criminals. Instead, with the prisoners remaining moved elsewhere, the Island is instead expected to have its own version of real estate plastic surgery.

Location-wise, Riker’s is actually in a very good spot. It’s within the overall immediate range of one of the busiest airports in the country, La Guardia. The Island itself is extremely solid and more than capable of handling heavy infrastructure without worry or sinking. The combination makes the Island ideal for a power generating plant that could conceivably put out some 275 megawatts of energy as well as storage six times that size. And in doing so, that same plant could eliminate the current five gas-fired plants the City relies on for major energy production.

Of course, a good thing can’t be understated. In addition to an energy production plan, the planning team determined there is also enough room on Riker’s Island to operate a new wastewater facility. Instead of being the location where the human trash is sent for prison time, the Island would be ideally the place where trash is made good and useful again, at least in terms of wastewater. The Island is so big, it could could handle facilities replacing old systems both in the Bronx as well as Queens and Randall Island.

In a nutshell, the closure and repurposing of Riker’s Island is a bit of a godsend for the City administration in terms of future infrastructure asset-siting. Instead of having to struggle with eminent domain procedures on existing property, including tear-down of dense property mid-city, the City management could instead work with practically a clean slate on the Island.

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Libraries Are Branching Out To Include Bikes

Renee Yates

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Madison, WI has a total of nine public libraries. They stock everything from classic books to magazines to newspapers to digital reading assets, like audiobooks and ebooks. They also carry an extensive network of disk products such as movies and videos. Now, it turns out, they also lend electric bikes to their patrons as well.

Libraries across the country are looking for more creative ways to make themselves useful, branching out well beyond just books and encyclopedias of the past. Madison’s libraries are no exception, but they may very well be the first library in the U.S. that provides electric bikes for borrowing, like a library book. Well, maybe not the first. There are now 35 other similar programs across the country, from Texas to Vermont. And, bikes may very well just be the tip of the iceberg in whatever else libraries get into the business of lending.

The odd thing is, lots of people avoid cycling for an assortment of reasons. Some think that it’s a pastime only adult white men engage in. Others can’t find anything viable to ride a bike on, whether it be a public sidewalk or a dirt trail. Still others think it’s too dangerous altogether, especially with traffic and uncaring vehicle drivers. And, finally, simply having a place to park and lock a bicycle is a convenience people enjoy in big cities but it tends to be a rarity in smaller towns. Money is a barrier as well; a decent bicycle today averages a couple hundred dollars in cost out the door. And an electric bike is well over $1,000 in most locations they are available.

So, Madison’s library network and management decided that an electric bike was going to be the next big asset in their inventory of things residents could borrow. Partnering with Madison BCycle, the libraries set up a borrowing system, providing a total of 300 different bike units across the town. Similar to what people see with e-scooters in big cities, those with a library card can now rent a bicycle to get around Madison, but without any charge to a credit card. All the patrons need to activate the bike is a key fob they get from a library. Since the start of the program, almost 280 fobs have been borrowed.

From the library’s perspective, the e-bike program has multiple benefits. Instead of having to use Uber or similar at a cost, borrowers can use an e-bike for free. They get exercise which they would not realize with a car. E-bikes connect people and allow them to be more social. E-bikes also help people stay healthier, which avoids medical costs and eventually community costs associated with sickness, lost productivity and public health problems. It also lets patrons try something new around their town and travel more instead of just using a car.

A key factor of success was the fact that Madison City had already put in the infrastructure for the e-bikes all over town. So, they had plenty of docking stations and lockups near libraries and elsewhere. The grid is strategically placed, so no one person has to walk too far to get to an e-bike easily. The only slowdown to the new bike borrowing program was COVID, but since that has passed, bike borrowing is up and running again in Madison.

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Declaring War on Hidden Consumer Fees

Kevin Wells

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November launched with yet more last-minute grabs for political attention, with President Biden trying to shore up average voter support. And one of the most traditional targets for that support tends to be the consumer pocketbook. In that regard, the President’s announcement to go after hidden consumer fees for entertainment, travel and cable access as well as banking was intended to garner quick support for the Administration, especially given that the midterm elections seem to be going down to the wire in a number of states for 2022.

Dubbed “junk fees” by the President, the consumer account charges are expected to range from bounced check charges to late fees to confusing and ambiguous cable service fees. For the various affected industries, the announcement goes direct to their bottom line as fees represent a viable revenue channel that costs nothing in terms of additional service or goods. For the President, however, the direction is also a high gain if he can translate it into voter action next week with the mid-November elections nationwide.

Using the already existing network of government regulators over various industries, the Biden Administration is expecting to use executive power to protect the consumer benefit and fight greedy businesses. At least that’s how this week’s President’s message comes across. The move is an attempt to shift the enforcement of the Consumer Financial Protection Act, particularly on banks and the billions they raise annually on non-sufficient fund charges and penalties. For example, the banking industry pocketed a no-cost $15.5 billion in 2019.

On the regulatory side, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is generally charged with the role of enforcement. The President’s announcement is generally being seen as a mandate for action by the Bureau, but they won’t be acting alone. The Federal Trade Commission is also getting in on the act with its own additional rules to prevent further deceptive fee practices in various industries.

Aside from banks, various entertainment miscellaneous charges are on the radar as well. Concert ticket sellers, resort fees from hotels and similar are also getting close attention. A common one for recent travelers is the resort fee, which is essentially an ambiguous charge of $25 to $100 a day, added on top of the advertised room rate for nothing but simply being a tourist visiting during the tourist season. Ironically, liberal San Francisco, for example, is notorious for such charges just for delivering a newspaper to a hotel customer.

President Biden emphasized in his early November speech a dedicated strategy to wipe out such fees after examination, or at least to reduce them significantly. How exactly that will occur remains to be seen, but the reach is across industries and is not limited to banks alone. Of course, the messaging is part of a larger theme to show action in the face of the highest inflation rate in four decades. Vowing to protect the family budget, the Biden Administration likely hopes the November announcement will resonate, supporting Democratic candidates in tight races. Critics are quick to argue the move is too little, too late, punishing businesses that create jobs. Who is right will become clearer after the midterm elections are counted in a few days.

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