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Conservation Clip List is a weekly collection of articles distributed by NACD that provides our members and partners with the latest news in what's driving conservation. If you have a relevant submission, please contact your NACD Communications Team.

Gatlinburg Wildfires Force Evacuations: ‘It Was Like Driving Into Hell’ via The New York Times

Deadly wildfires ripped through the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee, forcing thousands to flee as emergency responders sought to contain a blaze that conjured biblical comparison. Fueled by high winds and a drought in Tennessee, the fires damaged about 150 buildings and forced thousands to evacuate. Three people died and 14 others were injured, officials said. More than 14,000 people left Gatlinburg, and others were evacuated from nearby Pigeon Forge as well as other parts of Sevier County, in the eastern part of the state. More than 10,000 people had been left without power in Sevier County.

General Mills joins effort to support bee and butterfly habitats via Minneapolis Star Tribune

General Mills has made its largest contribution to help save pollinators, announcing a $2 million commitment that will add more than 100,000 acres of bee and butterfly habitat on or near existing crop lands. The five-year agreement with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Xerces Society, the world's oldest and largest pollinator conservation group, will focus its efforts in Minnesota, North Dakota, California, Nebraska, Iowa and Maine. The USDA and Xerces will match this donation with another $2 million toward the project.

Sides brace for hearing on California river flow plan via The Modesto Bee

The plan would reduce water supplies by 14 percent in an average year of rain and snow and by 38 percent in “critically dry” years. The plan tries to balance the needs of fish and humans; the increased reservoir releases would help struggling fish in the lower rivers. The agency also aims to reduce salinity in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, which is tapped as a water supply for much of California.

How big data could save aquatic species via The Christian Science Monitor

Last week, the US Forest Service announced what is perhaps its loftiest conservation goal ever: to map every aquatic animal in the Western states. By next summer, the department hopes to release the first-ever Aquatic Environmental DNA Atlas. Using new DNA testing technology, researchers plan to comb rivers and streams for the genetic material of every otter, salmon, and water bug west of the Mississippi. The resulting biodiversity map, cataloging thousands of species by population boundary, would be a public resource. Such a map could inform future land management decisions and help allocate limited conservation funding. Meanwhile, the technology behind the map could identify unknown populations or invasive species.

North America’s grasslands are slowly disappearing — and no one’s paying attention via The Washington Post

The Great Plains lost more grassland to agriculture in 2014 than the Brazilian Amazon lost to deforestation. The continued expansion of cropland in the region may be threatening birds, pollinators, and even drinking water, while releasing millions of tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year.  For more than a century, the area has been known chiefly for cattle ranching — but in more recent years, millions of acres have also been converted into farmland for crops like wheat, alfalfa, corn, and soybeans.  The two greatest concerns about grassland conversion in the Great Plains involve reduced water quality and increased greenhouse gas emissions.

Targeting poachers: Wildlife crimes a persistent problem via The Blade

Both Ohio and Michigan battle poachers who plunder the resources of white-tailed deer, waterfowl, game fish, and even ginseng. Poaching includes killing an animal out of season, trespassing with the intent of hunting or stealing game without the landowner’s permission, killing protected species, using prohibited firearms or tactics, exceeding the legal bag limit, or attempting to hide or mask the amount of game in one’s possession. In simpler terms, poaching is the illegal taking of game, fish, or protected plants.

Trying to Solve the Fishy Problem Behind Livestock Feed via TakePart

There’s a market for high-quality livestock feed that meets the same measures of sustainability consumers have come to expect from farmers and their animals. But even farms motivated solely by the bottom line may soon be forced to consider alternative animal feeds. The question is whether at-scale alternatives will beget new environmental problems.

Boulder County to proceed with phasing out GMO crops via Daily Camera Boulder News

Boulder County will proceed with a policy and plan for phasing out the growing of genetically modified corn and sugar beets on county-owned farmland. Tenant farmers who have been growing genetically engineered corn on the lands they lease from the county can continue to plant it next year but will have to end using county-owned fields for GMO corn crops by the end of 2019. Genetically engineered sugar beets will continue to be allowed for the next five years but will have to be phased out completely by the end of 2021.

Ready for Some Good Environment News? It’s About Coal via Bloomberg

Thanks to a decrease in coal use in North America and better technology to make the fossil fuel less harmful, the amount of mercury in the atmosphere is on the decline—and our air, our oceans, and even our food appear to be getting safer. 

Southern wildfires burn 80,000 acres across six states via CNN

Crippling drought conditions are sparking blaze after blaze across six states in the South. More than 30 large wildfires have left a trail of destruction through 80,000 acres in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, and Kentucky, according to the US Forest Service. Eight large fires are still blazing in the mountains of western North Carolina while 15 smaller ones burn elsewhere in the state.

Bullock declares natural resource emergency due to invasive mussels via Independent Record

Gov. Steve Bullock declared a natural resource emergency following the detection of invasive aquatic mussels in Montana. The executive order triggers the development of an interagency rapid response team and allows the response team to tap $750,000 in special state funding.

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