Mountain Mama: Paddlers for Pisgah

first_imgBoaters supporting social justice in Western North CarolinaPaddlers for Pisgah combines two things I’m most passionate about – paddling and social justice. Join us this Thursday, May 28, 2015 from 5:30 – 7:00 p.m. at The Bywater (796 Riverside Drive, Asheville, NC). ASTRAL, the Asheville-owned company that designs and manufacturers some of the best kayaking lifevests and footwear around, teams up with Pisgah Legal Services, a grassroots non-profit poverty law firm, to host a one-of-a-kind event at our favorite river venue, The Bywater. ASTRAL presents its famous products, games and activities. The crowd will also have an opportunity to learn about Pisgah Legal Services’ life-saving work that keeps our community afloat. Your $15 donation at the door supports PLS and gets you two of the Bywater’s signature cocktails or drafts.To learn more about the inspiration behind this unique event, I sit down with ASTRAL’s VP of Operations, Yonton Mehler and Pisgah Legal Service’s staff attorney, Molly Maynard who are engaged to be married later this summer.Mountain Mama: What’s your connection to Asheville and why do you care about the community here?Yonton: I’m originally from Tel Aviv, Israel and fifteen years ago the freestyle circuit brought me to the U.S. After visiting WNC many times, I started working at ASTRAL and have been living in Asheville for ten years.Molly: I came to Asheville to work at Pisgah Legal Services a little over three years ago, and now I can’t really imagine living anywhere else. I went to law school because I wanted to work in public interest law, and I feel really lucky to do it in a community that is so supportive of that work. It’s pretty unique.Mountain Mama: How did you first become involved in Pisgah Legal Services?Yonton: I drive by Pisgah Legal Services almost every day and I’d heard the about it on the radio, but it wasn’t until I met Molly that I really learned about the work Pisgah does and began to understand how much need there is for Pisgah’s services in this area. Last year I became part of PLS’s Young Professionals Board and we were brainstorming how to reach out to let more people know about Pisgah Legal Services and tap into slightly different circles. That’s how the idea to host Paddlers for Pisgah originated.Mountain Mama: How did you get involved in kayaking?Molly: I grew up in Wilmington and did a little kayaking at the beach, but it was all in a giant two person sit on top kayak that was mostly good for getting picnics out to barrier islands. I didn’t really learn anything about whitewater kayaking and the community around it till I met Yonton. I’m actually signed up for beginner lessons this weekend!Mountain Mama: What is the connection between paddlers and the services of Pisgah Legal Services?Yonton: This area is a very tight knit and strong paddling community. Although kayakers aren’t known for being the most ethnically diverse group, we are socioeconomically diverse. Kayakers are likely to be very sympathetic to the kind of work and services that Pisgah provides in the area. We often band together to promote and support causes that we believe in, but I think the cause of social justice is just not on the radar for a lot of kayakers yet. I hope this event can bring it to their attention.Molly: I think social and economic justice are causes that people in this community feel very strongly about, but don’t always have ways to act on directly. It’s been exciting for me to talk about Pisgah’s work to people who aren’t familiar with it because helping people get access to civil legal services- whether it’s to stop the illegal repossession of the car they need to get to work each day or to get someone a protective order that stops life threatening domestic violence- is a way to have a direct, measurable impact on those issues.Mountain Mama: ASTRAL seems to mostly sponsor environmental causes. Do you see any links between alleviating poverty and improving the environment?Molly: Being poor is really expensive. Many of our clients move frequently and the cost of moving is staggering with having to pay the security deposit and first and last month’s rent. People are in survival mode. Once we help our clients stabilize their financial situations and legal issues, they can think about saving money and higher level concerns like their environmental impact, or even doing the kind of outdoor activities that cultivate a lifelong love and appreciation for the environment. Yonton: Until now I actually saw this as a completely unrelated from the environmental philanthropy that Astral is usually involved in, but Molly brings up a good point. I didn’t even think of that.To learn more about Astral, visit them online or join us this Thursday at Paddlers for Pisgah to meet Yonton and Molly. More information about the event can be found here.last_img read more

The Brookies Are Back

first_imgThanks to scientists and anglers, brook trout are returning to native streams.When Cormac McCarthy wrote these words in 2006, he offered a beautiful, powerful image of the brook trout among a bleak apocalyptic novel. This image of the brook trout from a clear mountain stream made you forget everything that happened in the rest of the harrowing story, and put you on a mossy, cool bank of a mountain stream, watching a brookie sway from one side to the other.Though the brook trout doesn’t face marauding bandits like the protagonist of The Road, brook trout face very real dangers today. Most people who live in Appalachia don’t realize that the brook trout is our only native species.“Once there were brook trout in the streams in the mountains. You could see them standing in the amber current where the white edges of their fins wimpled softly in the flow. They smelled of moss in your hand. Polished and muscular and torsional. On their backs were vermiculate patterns that were maps of the world in its becoming. Maps and mazes. Of a thing which could not be put back. Not be made right again. In the deep glens where they lived all things were older than man and they hummed of mystery. ”—Cormac McCarthy, The RoadBrook trout, or Salvelinus fontinalis, are more closely related to Arctic char in Canada and Alaska than other trout species. Holdovers from the last Ice Age, brook trout reside in clean mountain lakes, streams, and rivers from Northeast Canada to North Georgia and over to areas in the upper Midwest. They are the only trout native to the Eastern United States, and they struggle to compete with non-native rainbow and brown trout.While you would be hard-pressed to find an angler who would want to eradicate non-native species from every stream and river, fly fishers and scientists across the Blue Ridge are stepping up to protect brook trout in many of their native streams.Photo: David CannonBrookies vs. Rainbows and Browns“The most immediate and pervasive threats to brook trout are habitat loss and nonnative species—brown trout and rainbow trout, in particular,” says Shannon White, a fisheries biologist at Penn State.How did non-native brown and rainbow species end up in the mountains in the first place? During the early 20th century, logging and other resource extraction industries took a heavy toll on the water quality of mountain waterways across Appalachia. When those industries began to subside and tourism in the mountains began to rise, well-intending sportsmen introduced hardy species of European brown trout and rainbow trout from the West Coast.These species did very well in a lot of places, especially in lower elevation streams and rivers where brook trout are not suited to live. They continue to flourish throughout the Smokies. Rainbows and browns have not been stocked in over 70 years in the park, but they still thrive and provide exceptional sporting opportunities.However, rainbows and browns have encroached on the habitat of the brook trout. Brook trout struggle to survive in the Smokies and the rest of the Blue Ridge, usually hanging on in headwaters and higher-elevation streams.To fulfill their mission of protecting native fauna and flora, the National Park Service decided to remove rainbows and browns where possible in Great Smoky Mountains National Park to ensure populations of Southern Appalachian brookies could be reintroduced in 2007. To accomplish this, biologists essentially poisoned the water for browns and rainbows with a pesticide on the Lynn Camp Prong of the Little River. Though the biologists tested the pesticide and insisted to the public that there was minimal damage to the other species in the streams, the practice was nonetheless very controversial.Rainbow trout and brown trout continue to be artificially reared and stocked in streams across the region. Trout stocking programs are a top priority of the state. Tourism hotspots like Gatlinburg, Tenn., and Cherokee, N.C., attract folks from all over the country to catch trout. These stocked, non-native trout excel at reproducing in Appalachian streams and rivers, and can quite easily get right back into brook trout habitat. On the Lynn Camp Prong and other sites, anglers still occasionally catch rainbows above the natural barriers.In Hot WaterClimate change is another major challenge facing brook trout, says White. Trout streams that historically stayed cold all year long are warming up, and the fish cannot tolerate warmer water temperatures during the summer. As summers become hotter, the habitat and possible sites of restoration begin to shrink.White also reminds us that habitat loss through logging and resource extraction is still a very real threat to brook trout. Logging leads to increased sedimentation and more exposed streams with higher temperatures.One leading national group, Trout Unlimited, is focusing on habitat protection and restoration, with a pioneering project working to restore brook trout habitat in the headwaters of the Potomac, the Upper Gunpowder Watershed of Maryland, and Wilson Creek in North CarolinaThe first task is to take down small dams, culverts, and other obstructions that prevent brookies from traveling up and downstream. They’ve also developed a Brook Trout Portfolio Analysis, a GIS tool that shows areas where brook trout have the best chance to survive in the coming decades as conservationists cope with climate change. The map takes into account water pH, public land access, elevation, spring sources, proximity to logging and development.Trout Unlimited is also trying to improve eight miles of stream-side roads in Western NC to reduce stream sedimentation.“It’s common sense conservation,” says Trout Unlimited’s Appalachian coordinator Andy Brown. Everyone wants clean water, and no one can deny the impact of fishing on North Carolina’s economy. Last year it was around $380 million.”Brook trout face other challenges regionally. In Pennsylvania and West Virginia where coal was king, abandoned mines have acidified headwater streams. Across coal country, brook trout no longer inhabit 40 percent of the range that they once enjoyed.  Brook trout restoration organizations like Trout Unlimited and Eastern Brook Trout Joint Venture have added limestone over time to balance the harsh acidity, and have seen success that lays the foundation for brook trout restoration in the coming years.Even well-intentioned trout stocking programs need to be mindful of brook trout habitat. Fish stocking agencies can often release rainbow and brook trout in or near brook trout habitat. Since these programs respond to pressures from the state, it is crucial for voters and taxpayers to support brook trout restoration.How + Where To Fish For BrookiesThough we should guard brook trout for the treasure that they are, don’t be shy about spending a day chasing these incredibly beautiful and aggressive fish. For many, it’s some of the most rewarding and fun fishing to be had. You’re often in places where you’re the only angler, and brook trout attack the fly ferociously.To get started, strike out with 7’ to 8’6” 3 or 4 weight rod with a floating line and a box of big brushy dry flies, like stimulators and yellow sallies in a size 12-16. Fish every pool and riffle in the stream, and try to cover a lot of ground while being stealthy. Don’t be afraid to crawl over boulders and get into skinny water, as the less-pressured fish are always the easiest to catch.You can fish for brookies in different places throughout the year, but the best dry fly season is between May and October. Just try to lay off the fishing if water temps climb to 70 degrees or more.While you can find your own hidden stream in the mountains above 3,000 feet, here’s a few places to start in your state:Virginia – Shenandoah National Park Find a spot to park along Skyline Drive, or go to the headwaters of the Rapidan River for some truly impressive brookies.West Virginia  – Seneca CreekHailed as one of the best fishing destinations in the East, Seneca Creek is known for wild fish that are very spooky and challenging to catch.North Carolina – Upper Deep CreekHike along Deep Creek Trail and go beyond the major bridge where tubers put in. Also cast a fly into the mouths of smaller feeder streams, especially the ones that are hard to get to.Tennessee- Lynn Camp ProngHead to the parking lot, rig up, and cross the bridge over the cascades to get into some wild brookies. It’s very steep, so be prepared to spend a lot of time negotiating boulders and steep terrain. Georgia – Noontootla CreekThe lower part of Noontootla Creek is private water, but head upstream on Forest Service Road 58 to fish the headwaters. The creek can be quite wide in some places, and trophy brookies reside in the deeper pools.last_img read more

Costa Rica, U.S. Team Up to Implement SIMEP Security Program

first_img SAN JOSÉ — In 1994, when Mayor Rudolph Giuliani took office in New York, he promised to clean up the city’s streets. “It’s about time law enforcement got as organized as organized crime,” the politician famously said during his campaign. Giuliani’s resulting CompStat program led to a 66 percent reduction in murders and a 50 percent drop in major crimes by 2001, according to the FBI Uniform Crime Report’s 2001 Index of Crime. The program’s success led to its adoption by other cities throughout the country including Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. Now, more than 12 years later, it’s spreading overseas — this time to Costa Rica. “This change is historic for our country,” said Deputy Security Minister Walter Navarro. “This program is going to completely change the structure and effectiveness of the nation’s police force.” Costa Rica’s new initiative has been dubbed the Integrated System for the Improvement of Police Strategy (SIMEP), and has been branded a complete new philosophy by the nation’s Ministry of Security. SIMEP is rooted in community development through the integration and cooperation of regular citizens into police work. This, combined with a U.S. investment of nearly $500,000 worth of mapping technology, will help police pinpoint where and when crime occurs. “This technology is absolutely the best tool our police force could have in fighting crime,” said Navarro. Costa Rica is not CompStat’s first appearance abroad. Panama has slowly been implementing the program over the past few years with U.S. assistance from the State Department. Panamanian officials have credited the program, at least in part, to a decrease in corruption within the police force in the capital city. SIMEP’s three pillars SIMEP, like CompStat, is based on three pillars: dividing community police into quadrants, the use of mapping technology and accountability. In the first phase, sectoring the city, personnel are permanently assigned to a quadrant. This is designed to help the community familiarize itself with law enforcement in the area. The program relies heavily on the participation of civilians in reporting crime. “This is designed to grow this relationship with the community,” said Navarro. “There are things citizens know that the police do not, and if they learn those things they will be able to fight crime much more effectively.” Information collected from civilians and patrols is then aggregated and statistics are inputted into the new mapping software. This software, called R2Police, takes data from incident reports and forms digital maps of where and when crimes take place. “With this new working philosophy we will have police that are closer to communities,” said Mario Zamora, Costa Rica’s minister of security. “We will have a new technological tool that will monitor crime incidents daily and enable us to prevent crime by taking preemptive, immediate action.” The third and, according to Navarro, “key component” to the new management system is a series of mechanisms designed to analyze its effectiveness. In order to do this, the Security Ministry will hold frequent meetings with both the community and officers in order to develop future action plans. This accountability is important not only for determining how well the program works but also for cutting down on corruption within the police force. During the four years following implementation of Panama’s version of CompStat, public approval of the police force grew nearly 10 percent, according to Panamanian government statistics. The process is cyclical, and after each set of evaluations the patrols change to respond to each quadrant’s needs, and the statistics are collected again. The goal is an immediate reaction to changes in crime patterns. Fighting international crime CompStat’s main goal is to help every city is to fight crime locally, the same as with Costa Rica’s SIMEP. Through community involvement, the program seeks, first and foremost, to battle local crime. “We are looking for the guy who always sells drugs on your street, the convenience store that consistently sells alcohol to underage children,” said Navarro. Several years ago, local petty crime would have been Costa Rica’s only concern, but recently it has seen dramatic growth in the entry of drugs, and with it, increased drug-related violence. In 2007, cocaine seizures were seven times as high as in 2005, according to the Costa Rican Institute of Drugs. The World Bank noted in a report last year that the number of crime victims in Costa Rica jumped 50 percent between 1997 and 2008, and that the country’s homicide rate is almost double what it was in 2004. These problems are more complicated than local crime. In its latest annual report, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime found that nearly half of all drug-related arrests in Costa Rica were foreigners. “We aren’t talking about crime that stops at the border,” said Zamora. “In order to operate through our country it is necessary that these organizations have some kind of local operation. This is what we hope this program can fight.” SIMEP’s execution After almost five years of technology development and training, SIMEP’s pilot program was launched in the small San José suburb of Tibás this past September. The little community received several cycles of the program and served as a training ground for newcomers to the technology. Creating the mapping software proved to be a challenge for programmers in a country without addresses or street names. While a final version of the software has been released, U.S. consultants will maintain a hands-on training role until the police force is comfortable with the new system. Based on the success of the past few months, Tibás officials have given the program a tentative stamp of approval. “We are not even scared to say good things about this program,” said Víctor Hugo Segura Carvajal, president of the San Rafael Security Committee in Tibás. “We can tell already, based on feedback, that this is working.” Feeding off the pilot’s success, the Security Ministry has begun expanding the program to other parts of the country. Some of the nation’s largest cities — among them San José, Alajuela, Cartago, Heredia and Limón — are the first on the list for the police force makeover. The ministry hopes to finish Phase III the project by the end of 2013, bringing the new program to both the Pacific and Caribbean coasts along with more rural regions of the country. This level of expansion is an unprecedented move for the program that has previously only been implemented at a city level. “Our hope is to bring the project to the entire country very soon,” said Zamora. “Our goal is that through this type of concrete cooperation, between the police force and ordinary citizens, we can bring better service to each community.” The strategy is fabulous and full of hope but none of this will be possible as long as there isn’t an equal distribution of the mobile, logistic and human resources among the different police units that are part of our Ministry of Public Security. By Dialogo December 26, 2012last_img read more