ENVIRONMENT

May 12, 2011
In 1805, one of my ancestors, Stephen Grissom, signed a petition to the state’s General Assembly on behalf of American shad.  The petitioners were concerned that mill dams on the Uwharrie River blocked the passage of this migratory fish.  The petition says those living on or contiguous to...
May 12, 2011
Last week, the Appellate Court for the District of Columbia ruled against Alcoa’s petition requesting that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) proceed with issuing the company a new license to continue operating its dams along the Yadkin River. This ruling was not the final determination concerning who will own and operate Alcoa’s dams and reservoirs in the future, but rather just the latest chapter in a protracted – and for many people, confusing – battle over the future of an important natural, cultural and economic asset.
May 05, 2011
The following commentary first appeared in the April 29, 2011 issue of the Charlotte Business Journal: Initial population data from the 2010 Census show that the Charlotte region maintained its status as one of the nation’s fastest growing metro areas. Charlotte grew to a population of 731,424 in 2010, an increase of 35.24% since 2000. Mecklenburg County is now home to 919,628 residents, an increase of 32.23%.
Apr 28, 2011
It’s an unfortunate fact of life for birders in the Uwharries – spring migration peaks as trees come into full leaf.  Trying to identify palm-sized birds flitting through the canopy can lead to a serious case of “warbler neck.”  If you like to bird along the Uwharrie River, as I do, you...
Apr 20, 2011
“Which is more likely to kill more Americans in the US in the next year, a nuclear meltdown similar to Chernobyl  or a hurricane similar to Katrina?” (Please write down your answer, and then read on…) Catastrophes such as Hurricane Katrina, the 9/11 terrorist attacks, or the earthquake,...
Apr 15, 2011
In the early 1970s, a group of artists rebelled against the market-driven forces in New York. They moved out West and began to use the earth as their canvas. In time, their works became known as earth art or land art. The Lightning Field by Walter De Maria is one of the best examples. On a high plain in the mountains of New Mexico, he placed 400 stainless steel poles in a rectangular array that measures one mile by one kilometer.
Apr 08, 2011
If you’re like me, this warmer weather is more than enough encouragement to spend more time outside. Days are getting longer and bulky winter clothing is replaced with t-shirts and flip flops. Time to start thinking about heading to our lakes and rivers for water-based recreational activities, and for many of you, the activity at the top of your list of favorite warm-weather pastimes will involve a line and a pole.
Mar 31, 2011
Every spring, I walk along scanning the forest floor for wildflowers.  Sometimes I light on an odd arrangement of blossoms.  It takes a few seconds for my mind to shift gears.  I finally realize the flowers aren’t attached to plants on the ground – they’ve...
Mar 24, 2011
We’ve finally had enough rain this spring to fill up the ephemeral pools for amphibian breeding, and (for those of you more adventure-seeking outdoors people) also to create enough flow in our rivers for kayak trips to begin. I haven’t yet made my first inaugural trip of 2011 on the Uwharrie River, but rest assured that I am itching to get out there.
Mar 11, 2011
I have the opportunity to see some pretty neat stuff outdoors with my job. And although I don't have time every week, as it isn't the primary focus of my work to look for neat species, it is one of the most enjoyable activities I get to participate in, and I jump at the chance to participate in outdoor adventures whenever I can.
Feb 25, 2011
Among the many state programs whose futures hang in the balance as North Carolina’s leadership wrestles with how to close the state’s projected budget shortfall are the four “trust funds” that have served as the primary sources of funding for land conservation over the past few decades. As leaders debate their future, a new report released by the Trust for Public Land (TPL) earlier this week demonstrates that the return on investment of these programs since 1998 has been significant.
Feb 17, 2011
Chickens are all the rage these days.  All the fashionable neighborhoods have them.  I recently met a gentleman who’d built a stately coop behind his home in Charlotte’s Myers Park.  In Raleigh, residents flaunt their urban flocks during the annual Hen-side the Beltline Tour de Coop...
Feb 15, 2011
The trend of keeping chickens in urban and suburban settings is growing throughout the U.S.  Here are some examples of backyard chickens in the Charlotte Region.  The City of Charlotte and Davidson are two examples of local jurisdictions that allow chickens within specific guidelines....
Feb 11, 2011
Despite early February blizzards across the northern U.S. that cancelled flights and upended travel plans, over 1,300 people came to Charlotte last week for the 10th annual New Partners for Smart Growth Conference.  About 1,000 of them came from outside the Carolinas, including a dozen or...
Feb 03, 2011
The weeks following deer season are typically busy for taxidermists in the Uwharries.  Some hunters might be reluctant to part with several hundred dollars right now, even for a prized buck, but a European or skull mount can often be done for less than half the price of a traditional mount...
Jan 27, 2011
While walking along the Rocky River one day in Stanly County, I came upon a neat little turtle on the stream banks who had suffered some kind of physical malady, from which he must have recovered a while ago. He had a slight disfigurement of his face, but he had healed nicely, so I placed him back...
Jan 21, 2011
As I write this article, we’re in the wake of our second major snowstorm this season – several inches of pretty snow capped with an ugly layer of ice.  I’m stuck in a condo in Atlanta, negotiating slippery sidewalks with an elderly terrier.  My plans to drive up to...
Jan 18, 2011
The snow at Christmas in 2010 was a rare event in the Uwharries as it was in much of North Carolina.  These photos were taken by Ruth Ann Grissom and Watson Ross as they enjoyed the event. Read story related to these photos.
Jan 06, 2011
We’ve had some heavy machinery on our land in southern Randolph County the past few months.  Rest assured – this earth-moving equipment has NOT been there to prepare the land for a subdivision, fast-food chain or strip mall.  It’s part of a wetlands restoration project through the state...
Jan 04, 2011
Photos chronicling the restoration of a stream through the North Carolina Ecosystem Enhancement Program (EEP).  This project, flowing into the Uwharrie River in southern Randolph County, allows water to flow in a slow, meandering path from a breeched pond to the river.  The project...
Dec 10, 2010
Ask an outdoor enthusiast to name a special natural area in the state and he might mention mountain bogs, Carolina bays or longleaf pine savannas.  If pressed to identify one in the piedmont, he might squint and scratch his head and stammer.  The piedmont is often described as...
Dec 10, 2010
It’s no secret that the Charlotte region has been rapidly growing more urban over the past few decades.  Yet despite the record expansion of the urbanized area experienced during economic boom times, private landowners cling to over two million acres of undeveloped land in the Charlotte...
Dec 03, 2010
During our recent hike in the Birkheads, I noticed more than ever one of the most significant aspects of being in the woods this time of year – and that is just how quiet it is. Other than the occasional loud sounds of crunching leaves under our feet, most of the normal sounds of the...
Nov 12, 2010
With rabbit and quail coming into season later this month, hunters are out with their dogs scouting fields and meadows across the Uwharries.  These species are most abundant in what’s technically known as early successional habitat.  A friend of mine who’s a wildlife biologist prefers to...
Nov 04, 2010
This region is home to a variety of native species that are both important naturally and historically occurring species, and also important game species. White-tailed deer, gray squirrel, and wild turkey are just a few of the more commonly encountered ones that fall into this category. For a number...
Nov 03, 2010
How do you paint a picture of the region’s progress on environmental issues? The Charlotte Regional Indicators Project does it by the numbers. “Environment” is one of several areas covered by the Indicators Project, and includes quantitative measures for air, water, and land. Specifically, the indicators include: unhealthy air quality days, vehicular emissions, water consumption, impaired streams, landfill waste disposal and developed acres.
Oct 28, 2010
Four years ago, my sister, Amy, was diagnosed with breast cancer.  Her treatment – six rounds of chemo, two surgeries and 33 sessions of radiation – took a toll on her right shoulder.  Her surgeon suggested some basic exercises for strength and mobility.  She also started swimming...
Oct 21, 2010
Sunday night I received a photo from Tommy Barbee, showcasing his supper.  “Look at what a farm boy can create,” he said.  The picture displayed a bright green salad, replete with cucumbers, tomatoes, and more; all of which he had grown there at Barbee Farms. As a locavore (someone who...
Oct 21, 2010
Last week, Ruth Ann Grissom’s article focused on seed collection of longleaf pines. Few would argue with the fact that the longleaf pine ecosystem is definitely one of the most beautiful and diverse there is, with a variety of rare and really cool plant and animal species. Unfortunately, longleaf pine forests and savannahs are also a dwindling ecosystem.
Oct 14, 2010
The ground between Roberdo and Wadeville sometimes shakes when the Warrior football team of West Montgomery High takes to the field, but last October the tremors were due to a special project on land adjacent to the campus.  The “West Montgomery tract” includes an 80-acre stand...
Oct 08, 2010
To learn more, read "Fall Wildflowers" by Crystal Cockman. --Photos by Bob Bailey & Crystal Cockman
Oct 07, 2010
This last week in September finally saw a break in the heat from our hotter than average summer this year. Bringing us out of near-drought conditions, rain finally came and with it the 60s and 70s temps we’d all been waiting for so longingly. Unfortunately for some areas this sudden rush...
Sep 17, 2010
In fall, native plants in the Uwharries offer up a bounty of fruits for wildlife and humans alike.   Muscadines seemed to ripen a little early this year.  My mom and I picked dozens of deep purple berries in mid-August.  Their musky scent helped us locate several vines. ...
Sep 17, 2010
This is the first in a series of articles by Christy Shi. She lives, grows, and eats in Davidson NC. She speaks on a range of topics, mostly focused on sustainability and local food systems. She grows food in her edible landscape and teaches people about the connection between food and farm. Shi founded Know Your Farms, LLC in 2008, an organization focused on rebuilding the local food system in the Charlotte NC region. Know Your Farms works on alternative models of local food distribution, fostering intra-grower cooperation, and advocates for local farms at the local, regional, and state level.
Sep 17, 2010
Is it possible to build an oasis in the desert?  Not the desert that brings to mind scorched earth and stretches of hot sand miles away from water and civilization.  No. The question speaks to deserts that exist in urban centers across our country. Neighborhoods in the very heart of...
Sep 08, 2010
I'm writing this essay because I'm worried. I've grown attached to America in the 27 years I've lived and worked here but I'm forced to look elsewhere for useful examples of government action, corporate innovation and citizen activism to meet the fast approaching crises of climate change, future...
Aug 26, 2010
With our warm late summer temperatures, moist conditions from humidity and evening thunderstorms, this is certainly the time of year to spot mushrooms in the woods. Growing up in the area, I’d always took note of mushrooms, but rarely given them more than a passing glance.
Aug 23, 2010
One of the delights of an academic life is the opportunity to spend time in the summer traveling on research trips to foreign countries; there really is nothing like studious foreign travel to give useful perspectives on conditions here in America. This year I went home to England and traveled to...
Aug 23, 2010
Click Here To View An Interactive Map Research done at UNC Charlotte through a collaboration called RENCI shed new light on the effects of growth on counties in the Charlotte region. For the last few decades, much of the Carolina Piedmont has experienced dramatic population growth....
Aug 17, 2010
I’ve traversed some rugged country in the Uwharries.  My dad and I have bushwhacked through laurel thickets and scrambled up and down steep and slippery slopes to blaze trails and mark property lines.  In general, though, our land is more accessible than isolated coves in the mountains or...
Aug 16, 2010
“They come from Tennessee in a covered wagon.”  That was all I could get out of my grandfather..." So begins this essay by Ruth Ann Grissom, first published in 1998 in the newsletter of The LandTrust for Central NC.  Guest contributor Ruth Ann Grissom is a freelance writer who splits...
Aug 10, 2010
The Carolina Raptor Center is a unique local resource.  Please check out this video to learn more about this organization.
Aug 10, 2010
The Renaissance Computing Institute (RENCI) at UNC Charlotte expanded the urban growth mapping and forecasting into 19 counties in the Western part of North Carolina: Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Buncombe, Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Henderson, Jackson, Macon, Madison, Mitchell, Polk, Swain,...
Aug 10, 2010
From 1976 to 2006, land development in the North Carolina mountains increased 568 percent - from 34,348 acres to 229,422 acres - and is expected to increase another 63 percent by 2030.  Population, meanwhile, increased only 42 percent between 1976 and 2006 and is projected to increase only...
Aug 03, 2010
The Renaissance Computing Institute (RENCI) at UNC Charlotte expanded the urban growth mapping and forecasting into 19 counties in the Western part of North Carolina: Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Buncombe, Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Henderson, Jackson, Macon, Madison, Mitchell, Polk, Swain,...
Jul 23, 2010
Photos by Nancy Pierce
Jul 09, 2010
The Charlotte metropolitan region’s future depends on the health of its natural and built environment, from tree canopies to preserved natural areas to sound land use planning and urban design. The institute offers articles and research on a variety of environmental topics. For even more articles...
Mar 30, 2009
  The UNC Charlotte Urban Institute has more than 40 years of experience seeking solutions to the social, economic and environmental challenges facing our communities. Click on the images above to explore how these issues are being addressed in the Charlotte region today.