Assignment Earth

Assignment Earth, Environmental Protection, This American Land, Video / 10.03.2010

For 10 years, the Ski Area Citizens Coalition has published its ski area environmental report card, a rating system that grades ski resports across the west according to their impact on the natural environment. Paul Joyce, a conservation assoicate at the environmental protection group Colorado Wild, says a ski resort’s grade depends on how well it plays in its own backyard. “When a ski area expands into the back country, expands into habitat, affects wildlife, affects vegetation, thereby affecting water, watersheds, water quality,” Joyce said, “those things weigh really heavy with the report card.” Resorts owned by the Aspen Skiing Company dominate the highest rated resorts in the west. “People listen to us in part because we’re an interesting news story, but also because we’re business people.,” Auden Schendler, environmental affairs director at Aspen Skiing. “Ultimately we’re not environmentalists. We’re business people. And we see climate changes as an existential threat to business. In this edition of This American Land we explore ski resorts that employ environmentally sustainable practices to protect natural areas that surround their slopes.
Assignment Earth, Environmental Protection, Video / 08.03.2010

Researcher Aly Courtemanch starts her work day on skis. That’s how she gets around on the alpine terrain where she studies the Teton Range bighorn sheep herd. Using GPS devices and trail counters, Courtemanch a scientist at the Cooperative Fish & Wildlife Research Unit at the University of Wyoming, tracks the movemnts of both sheep and skiers. "We really want to get a better sense of how bighorn sheep survive in the Tetons, both summer and winter,” she said. “We don't know very much about this bighorn sheep herd, it's really small and really hard to study because they're so remote and hard to observe." While other wild sheep move down to more moderate terrain, this herd winteres at some of the highest elevations in Wyoming. But they’ve stopped migrating about 60 years ago due to human development, firs suppression and other factors. In this edition of This American Land researchers take a look at this species on the brink of extinction.
Assignment Earth, Environmental Protection, Video / 05.03.2010

Yellowstone National Park has been described as a winter wonderland. “We find that a lot of people from across the United States enjoy going into the park on snowmobiles, because ... you're out in the fresh air,” said Bill Howell, part owner of a local snowmobile and snowcoach tour company. “You get to see things on a snowmobile. With your guide you can stop and take pictures." But conservation groups have been seeking to ban snowmobiles here for more than a decade. Even snowmobile enthusiasts now admit the machines became a problem in 1990s. “The amount of machines and the amount of people going into the park skyrocketed, a lot more than I think anybody had ever predicted or thought would happen,’ Howell said. “And as a result it probably did get a little out of hand." In this edition of This American Land we take a look at efforts to create a balance between the use of snowmobiles in Yellowstone and those who aim to limit motorized access to the park.
Assignment Earth, This American Land / 03.03.2010

Last year the only known wild jaguar in the United States was captured in a trap and euthanized by Arizona Wildlife authorities. The death of this big cat, called Macho-B, triggered a federal investigation that found violations of the procedures that are meant to protect endangered species. But at the heart of this case are a number of federal wildlife protections that were tossed out in favor of the “Secure Fence Act.” In this edition of the This American Land we take look at the ecological impact of a 600-mile barrier along the Mexican boarder. Ostensibly to keep immigrants from illegally entering the U.S. this border fence is also preventing the migration of several animal species. Our jaguars here depend on a source population in Mexico that are dispersing up to the United States looking for habitat, looking for mates, looking to establish new territories,” said Randy Serraglio of the Center for Biological Diversity. “And if they can’t get through that border wall, they’re not gonna come here.”
Assignment Earth, Video / 27.02.2010

Tougher Drilling Rules on Public Land

Produced by Melinda Binks and Rebecca Hunting Drilling on public land supplies 27 percent of the nation’s natural gas. But producing this relatively cheap, clean burning fuel comes at a cost. “We’re having traditions disrupted,” said Steve Belinda, of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “Places where extended families would spend two weeks hunting and camping together, all of the sudden they show up and they’re in the middle of some energy development with big trucks and noise and tons of roads.” This edition of Assignment Earth takes a look at new regulations enacted by the Obama administration that require an environmental impact report to be filed in advance of drilling on public land. Question: Should the recreational use and preservation of public land supercede oil and gas drilling that could speed the recovery of our economy and reduce our dependence on foreign sources of energy?
Assignment Earth, Environmental Protection / 26.02.2010

There’s a new media organization dedicated to environmental reporting. Assignment Earth creates compelling news stories on issues related to wildlife conservation, industrial pollution, destruction of natural habitats and the ecological impact of climate change.  Distributed online, and on Public Broadcasting Service stations nationwide  under the title This American Land, AE programs aim to educate viewers on these issues, encourage other reporters to cover similar stories, and to energize public debate.