ENVIRONMENT

Jun 05, 2013
Years ago, a friend in Uwharrie showed me a crooked tree on his family’s property. Its trunk was bent at two right angles, creating a horizontal span about 4 feet off the ground. Some believe these trees are a legacy of the American Indian presence in our region. (Photo: John Mabry)
May 22, 2013
The discovery of a new species conjures images of explorers in pith helmets hacking through remote regions of the Amazon and stumbling across something outlandish. The reality is generally much less dramatic. (Photo: David Blevins)
May 15, 2013
Have you ever wondered what you might see if you spent a whole weekend outside just looking? How about if you could also bring a few expert field biologists and naturalists with you? (Photo: Courtesy of the LandTrust for Central North Carolina)
May 01, 2013
A friend of mine recently rescued a snake from the parking lot where he works, and released it back into the woods. He sent me a picture asking for help identifying it. The coloration threw me off a bit, so I had to ask an expert. (Photo: Crystal Cockman)
Apr 25, 2013
In 1963, the General Assembly boldly proclaimed the official state tree of North Carolina would be – drum roll, please – the pine. The legislature missed the opportunity to herald an unsung hero that occurs in every region of our state – the noble shortleaf pine. (Photo: Ruth Ann Grissom)
Mar 20, 2013
The LandTrust for Central North Carolina and staff from the North Carolina Museum of Sciences are hosting the Uwharrie Naturalist Weekend on May 4 and 5 – a first of its kind in the area. (Photo: Ruth Ann Grissom)
Feb 20, 2013
Defining environmental art is about as difficult as defining art itself. It’s a catch-all term encompassing different types of art-environment fusion. Writer Melissa Currie tries to sort out the different types of art that, together, make up environmental art in this article.  ...
Feb 18, 2013
Brightwalk is unique among Charlotte’s new developments, and not just for its size and location –1,000 homes on 98 acres 2 miles from uptown. What also sets Brightwalk apart is that it will make environmental art a central part of the neighborhood. (Don’t know what environmental art is? We have an article and photos that explain it.)
Feb 12, 2013
The recent wet weather and warmer temperatures must have been a cue for the upland chorus frogs that their breeding season has arrived, as they were calling loudly from the small stream at my apartment complex. (Photo: Jeff Beane)
Feb 05, 2013
Birds flock to Mama’s feeders this time of year. She has several seed and suet feeders hanging from the maple outside her living room window. When the Cooper’s hawk swoops across the yard, they blast off in all directions. Mama kicks back in her La-Z-Boy and takes in all the action. (Includes photo gallery)
Jan 14, 2013
Old Man Winter is stingy with his days.  He seems to begrudge us every second of tepid light.  At sunset, though, he becomes an extravagant spender – the bon vivant who picks up the tab for everyone at the bar.
Jan 10, 2013
Since 1993 the City of Charlotte has tallied information about some (and in later years all) city neighborhoods, in its regular Quality of Life reports. But this year major changes are afoot for the project, which opened its online doors to the public on Monday.
Dec 17, 2012
2013 may be a year historians look back on as the time local leaders hit the “reset” button on issues that had been at the forefront of public policy discussions before the 2008 economic meltdown. Will leaders revisit these issues following the same assumptions and conventional strategies as before? Or will lessons learned in the past five years and a new set of leaders take the region down an entirely different path in addressing some of these issues?
Dec 13, 2012
What if you want a “green” Christmas tree but don’t share my sentimental attachment to scrawny, prickly cedars cut down from the fields – or don’t have access to one? “Reduce, reuse and recycle” might point you toward a fake tree to be used year after year, but with Christmas trees, the issues are a little more complicated.
Nov 28, 2012
There’s really nothing quite like trout fishing for immersing yourself in nature and becoming part of the landscape. Cool mountain waters swirl around your feet as you gingerly pick your way along a stream bottom of smooth stones in hues of copper, slate, and ebony.
Nov 27, 2012
Learning to speak each other's language about urbanism means understanding New Urbanism, Landscape Urbanism and more. So let’s sort a few things out and get at some simple definitions.
Oct 23, 2012
Cemeteries are popping up in yards across our region. Zombies claw their way back to the surface of the earth, refusing to rest in peace. Real cemeteries are even scarier – and not because of the haints that might lurk there. Many of our common burial practices can be harmful, even deadly.
Oct 03, 2012
Mecklenburg County is not on track to meet its 2008 goals for acquiring nature preserves and open space, and the trend is continuing downward, according to the 2012 State of the Environment Report. Greenways and parks are rated just “fair.”
Oct 02, 2012
We talk quite a bit in the conservation community about invasive species and the threats they pose to habitats and ecosystems. Here's one species we have to deal with on a far too regular basis – the fire ant.
Sep 25, 2012
Most water quality indicators in Mecklenburg County are “good,” but its streams are not as clean as they should be, says the county’s latest State of the Environment Report. Three of four water quality indicators are rated “good,” while “streams,” is rated only “fair.”
Sep 24, 2012
In the Western United States, fire season generally runs from April to September. This year has seen historic fires. The largest wildfire on record in New Mexico started in the Gila National Forest in May, eventually growing to nearly 300,000 acres.
Sep 19, 2012
Air quality continues to be Mecklenburg County’s biggest environmental problem, says the county’s latest State of the Environment Report. Ozone pollution is the particular weak spot, the report says, rating that indicator “poor” – the only such rating in the report.
Aug 27, 2012
Hiking the ridgelines and hillsides of the Uwharries, you pass through forests dominated by hickory, oak and sourwood. On occasion, an attentive and adventurous outdoor enthusiast might also run across natural areas that change abruptly and appear remarkably different from this typical forest.
Aug 22, 2012
While walking on my grandparents’ property last week, I was fortunate to stumble upon one of the most common and understated orchids in bloom – the Crane-fly orchid (Tipularia discolor).
Jul 30, 2012
Stand Up That Mountain recounts how Jay Erskine Leutze fought for the Appalachian Trail and for the people of the North Carolina mountains – and won.
Jul 25, 2012
Although some folks find snakes incredibly fascinating, and others shriek in terror and run from them, most people are somewhere in the middle – either casually interested or coolly indifferent.
Jul 02, 2012
Tea has been synonymous with political protest ever since colonists dumped shiploads of the stuff into Boston Harbor in an act of rebellion. In historian Eric Rutkow’s recent book, American Canopy: Trees, Forests, and the Making of a Nation, he notes that trees were an important symbol of liberty in the years leading to the Revolutionary War.
Jun 20, 2012
Several years ago, when we were planning to change the way we manage some of our land, I happened to meet Bob Askins, a biology professor at Connecticut College and author of Restoring North America’s Birds: Lessons from Landscape Ecology.
Jun 13, 2012
What better summertime activity for a kid in the country than playing in a creek? If you look, you may find salamanders, mayfly or dragonfly larvae. If you wait patiently until the silt settles, you just may see a cautious crustacean with pinchers waving.
May 25, 2012
You are probably familiar with their loud trilling or chirping calls in late summer – a rhythmic and echoing “katy-did, katy-did, katy-didn’t.” An old wives’ tale says they are constantly arguing over whether Katy told a lie or not.
May 22, 2012
At first glance, Eastern hardwood forests seem a homogenous block of green, but if you train your eye and look closer, you’ll notice subtle differences. Two of my favorite trails in the Uwharries take me from one type of forest to another.
May 21, 2012
Photos by Ruth Ann Grissom Related article: The abundant diversity of the hardwood forest
May 01, 2012
A prescribed burn on a part of the Low Water Bridge Preserve in February should help a particularly interesting species along the river – giant river cane.
Apr 24, 2012
Only about a dozen of these rare landscapes remain in the Charlotte region, but those that have been protected are doing well, experts say. 
Apr 24, 2012
Oliver Wendell Holmes said, “Taxes are what we pay for civilized society.” Given the sticker shock many of us received when we opened our property revaluation notices, I imagine plenty of folks wouldn’t mind our society being a little less civilized.
Apr 18, 2012
I carry around a photo book of pictures I’ve taken of wildflowers of every size, shape and variety – everything from rare roadside sunflowers, to striking orange Indian paintbrush, to tiny and common cranefly orchids.
Mar 05, 2012
If you’ve driven by the Low Water Bridge recently, you probably have seen a good bit of bulldozer activity and wondered what exactly was happening to this beautiful natural area. The LandTrust of Central N.C. is partnering with the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission to create a recreational amenity that will improve access to one of the region’s precious natural resources.
Feb 22, 2012
There I was, pencil poised over a large drawing of Gastonia. It was 1997 and I was running a public workshop to design a network of greenways and open spaces for residents to enjoy as recreational and natural amenities.  Someone in the background was fiddling with a radio. Then, as I remember the moment,  the strident sounds of a local radio station blared through the room. “Did you know there’s a foreigner working in Gastonia, helping the United Nations send troops to take away your freedom?”
Feb 14, 2012
Many birds lead lifestyles of the rich and famous – they “summer” in one location and “winter” in another.  Find out more about our winter visitors and add to the scientific knowledge about these species by participating in the Great Backyard Bird Count Feb. 17-20.
Feb 06, 2012
The Flat Branch Nature Preserve, in the southernmost tip of Mecklenburg County, holds the county’s largest remaining upland depression swamp forest. It's a place where water naturally fills forest depressions in winter and early spring. But just weeks ago, the pools were gone and the ground parched. And when the pools returned in recent days, they were smaller than they used to be. What does that mean for the future of this uncommon ecosystem?
Jan 18, 2012
Cutting your own firewood not only can help with the heating bill; it can stop the spread of invasive insects that travel long distances on firewood shipped in from other states.
Jan 11, 2012
Imagine being able to hop on your bicycle in Huntersville and pedal on greenways and trails to your job near UNC Charlotte. The Carolina Thread Trail promises to make  options like that a reality all over the Charlotte region. Try out our new, online map to help you find trails that are open and ready for you to explore.
Jan 09, 2012
A newly preserved tract of longleaf pine is a stand of old-growth trees, some near 200 years old. Longleaf pine forests are a unique ecosystem with a whole suite of endemic species that call them home. ...
Dec 19, 2011
This has been a year of change and growth for the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute.  As I look back on the year’s highlights – and look forward to a new project we’ll debut early in 2012 – I’m reminded of the role the institute has played since 1969 in the greater Charlotte region.
Nov 22, 2011
Say you wake up in the middle of the night with a few hives on your arms.  You might take some Benadryl and go back to sleep.  Another night, you wake up with hives covering your body. You end up in the emergency room with a dose of epinephrine and a doctor asking questions.  What caused this anaphylactic reaction?
Nov 22, 2011
Our new family Thanksgiving tradition is to run the neighborhood 5k and donate nonperishable food items as an entry fee.  This run is my favorite of the year.  It has social cause, allows one to eat guiltlessly and gives a good early winter jolt to the metabolism.
Nov 10, 2011
Charlotte is a city of transplants and has been for years. But in these trying economic times are people continuing to move here?  You’d better believe it.  In 2010, more than 65,000 people moved to Mecklenburg County from somewhere else – the equivalent of the whole city of Rock Hill moving over the state line. Who are these newcomers and where do they come from? Find out, and view a slide-show presentation of other economic and demographic analysis from the institute's researchers.  
Oct 11, 2011
I’ve never thought of a loblolly plantation as a bona fide forest. But my perspective changed last fall after an eye-opening tour of Boon Chesson’s pines. The stand is as beautiful as some of the well-managed longleaf tracts I’ve seen in the Sandhills.
Oct 04, 2011
Although the name is hard to pronounce, the gentian is a pretty flower found on all continents except Antarctica, and found in habitats that range from rainforest to desert. In this area, the gentians are beginning to bloom, so keep your eye out for their brilliant blue hues in forest habitats.  
Aug 31, 2011
This time of year, I’m trying to get my fill of fresh tomatoes from the farmers market and my parents’ garden in the Uwharries.  As fall approaches, I start to crave heartier food and switch to recipes that call for canned tomatoes.