So, Happy New Years to all my blog-o-mites. I think I am up to 3! We at MMI, participate in steering committees for relevant conferences such as the upcoming Mid-Atlantic Stream Restoration Conference (MASRC 2019) being held in Baltimore, MD in November 2019. It is a great show and I encourage you all to attend but that is not the subject of this post. Recently, I have seen numerous threats to the hard fought environmental protections our country has established to protect our great land and waters. In NC, the previous administration was proposing significant rollbacks on the nutrient and buffer protection programs that the NCDEQ-DWR administers. These programs have proven very effective in reducing pollutants in the various river basins. The election and subsequent administration stopped that process for now but it is just one example. The new federal WOTUS rules will no doubt reduce protection over wetlands not directly associated with flowing water. This will be particularly severe in the mid-western states that have prairie potholes and a substantial amount “isolated wetlands”. Think SWANCC. In some eastern states, the valuable Carolina bay wetlands (elliptical, depression basins along the east coast) will lose their jurisdictional status and no longer be protected under the Clean Water Act. During the most recent MASRC steering committee meeting several topics were discussed. These included the State of Maryland’s new proposed nutrient offset formulas. These calculate how much Nitrogen (N) and Phosphorous (P) reduction needs to be met for municipalities and developments to comply with the federal NPDES TMDL’s coming in 2020. I know that’s a lot of acronyms but what it means is that the Maryland Department of the Environment is changing the way new AND existing impervious surface N & P runoff is calculated in the Chesapeake Bay – and apparently in wrong direction. In other words, the new formulas will require much less “mitigation” and/or storm water management work. This seems counterproductive to the great improvements that have just begun in the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland and Virginia. Is all this being done in the name of promoting a better economy? Why else would we want less protection of our precious environment? Well, isn’t the economy doing just fine with the current rules and regulations in-place now? Hmmmm….. Just my two cents.
Well, its been awhale (get it a whale) since the MMI blog has spoken. The recent election has awakened the creative writing juices required for a “Blog Post”! Are Blogs still relevant? That’s another issue. Let’s discuss voting and the environment. Overall the trend recently has been to roll back regulations of all kinds including ones that protect our environment (also known as Earth or “our home”) in the name of jobs or that bigger amorphous entity called the “economy”. Like it’s some sought of living thing. I think both the environment and the economy can be friends and can live happily ever after despite what some may want you to believe. In fact, for many companies and industries good environmental regulations stimulate a healthy business. Clean air regulations have created new technologies such as solar developers, wind farm designers, specialized construction and maintenance jobs. Clean Water Act regulations created an entire ecological restoration industry stimulated by requiring compensatory mitigation for stream and wetland impacts. The Endangered Species Act has increased the interest in nature, species habitats and birding. Mindlessly rolling back hard fought state and federal environmental regulations is short-sighted at best and downright foolish. If you think this will “stimulate the economy” or “bring back our jobs” you probably work for an industry designed to extract, exploit or manipulate our natural environment. If you ask me, taking away good, sound, scientifically justifiable environmental regulations will put me out of business. Next time there is an election, please vote for the environment, you live here and it’s our only one. Please don’t poop in the house!
Well it finally happened, Superman alias Richard Kent Mogensen (get it Clark Kent) found his kryptonite in the form of a rugged, mindless creation that but most folks enjoy. Call it an All-Terrain Vehicle or an Off-Road Vehicle or 4-Wheeler or just a Gator these machines are dangerous if used in steep conditions. They are fine on farms and maintained public ATV trail systems such as the Hatfield and McCoy Trails in WV. But, in unimproved trails in steep conditions, often found in the Appalachian Mtns. and out west in the Rockies, these machines can be a hazard. I found out the hard way a few weeks ago when I was touring a large forested site in Nelson County, VA (Alcoholic Valley to the locals) and found myself stuck between a 4,000 lb. running ATV and a large beech tree. Yup I was pinned and my associate (who will remain nameless because I haven’t asked him if I could use his name) was instrumental in my survival. Thank you KW! Anyway on to the story, we were driving in the landowners ATV on a trail that I had been on several times before but was deteriorating due to steep slopes, wet conditions and above average rainfall this year. I was driving while KW was holding on for dear life. I thought I was doing OK but unfortunately the trail fell off abruptly and so did my 2 left tires. We stopped and got out to survey the situation. It didn’t look good to me, but being Superman as you recall, I said we can get this out by building a rock platform under those dang hanging tires! So that’s what we did. I got in and said “OK KW, get out of the way and I’ll pop this thing back up on the trail”. Famous last words. Before I knew it I was pinned to a tree by a large angry machine sputtering smoky fumes and glaring at me. Not good I thought. KW looked as dazed as me but said “What should I do?” I said “get in and put it in reverse and slowly back this thing off me” which he did with an expert touch and I rolled out of my Aaron Ralston-like predicament. You know the guy who got his arm stuck between two boulders in Utah, oh never mind! Anyway, back to the story, I looked down at my newly freed left leg and noted that I could see my femur. This, I knew, was not good. I grabbed my leg to hold it together while KW tried to use his sweater as a tourniquet. It didn’t seem to be bleeding very badly so I said you have to go get help. We were a mile into the wilderness mind you and KW stepped up like a trooper. He ran for help and I patiently waited while I held my leg together and tried not to hyperventilate or go into shock. About an hour later, which seemed like 4 hours, help arrived and I was taken out by ambulance to the University of VA Medical Center in Charlottesville. The fine medical staff worked diligently to patch me up and send me on my way. Well, it was a bit more than that but I was on my way that evening. Still groggy as the adrenaline wore off, I made it to a little hotel and crashed (figuratively!).
Epilog – Superman is healing at home but no more field work this year!
(This blog post was written by Gabby Chiarenza – Summer Intern at MMI, 2017)
A teenager in this day and age has four choices on how they wish to spend their summer vacation. The choices are to get a job, join a college summer program, get an internship or sit around. With adulthood looming in the near future and colleges already watching and analyzing your every move, it’s important to do something worthwhile with your time off. To me, the idea of taking orders at the drive through of a fast-food restaurant or going back to school once again seemed unappealing. An internship was on my mind- preferably one that dealt with my interests.
I received a call one day from a connection through volunteering work. I was asked if I would be interested in an internship involving social media. I enthusiastically agreed and was given a list of different companies that I could choose to contact. It was at this point that I found Mogensen Mitigation Inc., described to me as “an environmental company.” I was ecstatic. I had wanted an internship and I had wanted to pursue something that I was passionate about. I dreamed, and still do, of being a journalist that writes on environmental, political and/or social issues. I did my research on the company and all about what Mitigation Banking truly is. With permission from my parents, I called Rich Mogensen right away and left a voicemail applying for the position. I had even written out a script for myself on what it would say. The next day we spoke, and I was given the opportunity to email my contact information and decide a date to meet. Over a Caesar salad at Showmars, we sealed the deal.
Now I have been working at MMI since mid June. I come in to work about once or twice every week for four hours each day. I have my own little work station and a sweet cat named Ivory that keeps me company and lets me run my ideas by her (she never offers much input). I have created, raised and groomed a LinkedIn page, designed a letterhead and worked on website visuals and design. Not only have I worked on the social media and search optimizations of the company, but I have also helped in dealing with the numbers. I have learned all about credit sales and the math that goes into MMI (math!). I have also learned what Mitigation Banking is and what MMI really does. I have learned so much about business, marketing, math and computers. I’m hoping to continue the rest of this summer by improving existing social media and expanding into all other forms of social media marketing. I hope to continue learning with every visit, as I have so far.
It’s been nice to know that I am working somewhere, and with someone, that really helps to improve the environment. My boss, Rich, is passionate about what he does and the state of the world we live in. It is always an advantage to work for someone with passion. It’s even better if you also share that same passion. I am looking forward to the rest of what we will accomplish in this quest to advance MMI’s business and I am proud of what we have already done.
So, I remain mystified by Blogs. I think I understand Tweets, which are just a way to reach a larger, younger audience. I now understand that there is a Blog-O-Sphere World that is inhabited by Blog-O-Files. This world, as most worlds are, is virtual. But a world none the less. The Blog-O-Files consume Blogs for their kicks. No that isn’t quite right. I needed to do some more research. So I asked my class this year to critique the MogMit.com/Blog. “What is a Blog?” I asked. “Who reads it? Why should I spend my time writing it?” I queried. “That is your next Assignment.”
Despite many comments that were clearly meant to “kiss up” to the teacher (“Overall I think this is an interesting and informative blog”), the papers were very enlightening and confirm the fact that most people do not live in the Blog-O-Sphere. Some anonymous quotes from the critiques will help explain. “First off, I do not read blogs.” OK. Next, “There’s a stigma around blogs: They’re unprofessional, unedited, never accurate, and only certain types of people read them.” Hmmm…… and Finally, “I personally don’t have too much experience with reading or interacting with a blog.”
For those students who do travel or have a working knowledge of the Blog-O-Sphere, several comments stood out. Change the name to something a tad more creative than “The MogMit.com/Blog”. From now on my Blog will be named “The MMI Ecosystem”. Several papers said “I don’t know who your audience is.” Well, dad gummit, that was the question! Also this, “More color and pictures maybe some music.” OK you want to be entertained, I get it! Post more often was a common comment. “If someone is going to read your blog they would usually want posts every day or every other day at the least.” That sounds like a full time job! No can do and I really doubt Blog-O-Files are hanging on my every word. Then there was the hurtful comments like “Comma’s are your friend” and “reread your posts before posting!” OK OK I will have them reviewed before posting but you don’t have to be mean!
As always, there were the helpful comments too that mentioned the fact that the site is not interactive and should be. I should use key words and social media to help promote MMI’s place in the Google World (when world’s collide), more blogs on your work and projects and finally “you have a blog; it’s your professional journal.” Now that makes sense!
Now, I realize writing about blogs as the subject of your blog is like a TV news helicopter covering the crash of another TV news helicopter. But, I needed to get this out to the many Blog-O-Files who were hungry for more content to consume.
Well, I started teaching my class at UNCC again this spring and it’s called “The Business of Ecological Restoration”. It is under the Geography/Earth Sciences Department. This year I have 21 students which is the largest class I have ever had. One of the messages I try to teach is “real world” experiences- as I think many colleges lack that kind of curriculum. This year, many of my students will learn hands-on wetland and stream restoration and make some extra spending money doing it! How you ask, well Mogensen Mitigation, Inc. is not only a full-service environmental consulting firm we also do mitigation banking. We happen to be building several restoration projects this spring and some lucky students are doing the tree planting. They get paid and get to stay in hotels for a few days. We planted 4,000 gallon containerized trees this month at the Tar River Headwaters Wetland Restoration Site in Person County, NC and we will plant another 2,500 trees in March at the Tar River Stream Mitigation Bank. The students love the experience and the comradery as well as the free beer at night. These are college kids after all (and are all 21)! Not only do they plant trees they have learned how to harvest willow live stakes for stream restoration work and how to store them prior to planting. I can lecture until I’m blue in the face but they can’t learn what it means to plant 4,000 trees unless they actually do it. In my class they do!
The title for this episode of the MogMit Blog was derived by combining two news articles I came across recently. One was in the Charlotte Observer and one was in Time Magazine. The Time’s article was entitled “The healing power of nature” by Alexandra Sifferlin and the Observer’s article was under the heading ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY and called “Payoff from clean-air rules: Long mountain views” by environmental staff writer Bruce Henderson. With all the discussion about environmental regulatory rollbacks to stimulate economic development right here in NC (refer to the recent report entitled “DISMANTLED: THE NORTH CAROLINA GOVERNMENT’S ATTACK ON ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTIONS by the Southern Law Institute). It seems that these two articles make a compelling argument against that line of faulty socio-economic reasoning. In the Time article, according to Japanese researches “Spending time in the forest induces a state of physiologic relaxation.” Other researches found that “trees and plants emit aromatic compounds called phytoncides that, when inhaled, can spur healthy biological changes in a manner similar to aromatherapy”. Studies have shown that “when people walk through or stay overnight in forests, they often exhibit changes in the blood that are associated with protection against cancer, better immunity and lower blood pressure.” Forests have been linked to reducing heart disease, depression, anxiety and attention disorders. Not bad for clean air and a few trees and shrubs. In our second article, Bruce Henderson happily reports that “North Carolina’s mountains and skylines are emerging from the milky haze that cloaks them in summer, thanks to cleaner air rules in place years ago.” In fact, “State officials say long-distance views have steadily improved since the 1990’s, when state and federal rules began limiting pollutants released by power plants, motor vehicles and industries.” Bruce O’Connell, owner of the Pisgah Inn on the Blue Ridge Parkway says of the views today “Now they’re fabulous. That means we can influence things if we try.” State officials even agree, “We are literally able to see the improvements in air quality across North Carolina,” said Sheila Holman, NC state air-quality director. This all flies in the face of the current NC government’s efforts to “DISMANTLE” our beautiful state’s air and water quality. Environmental Regulations do work and, indeed, have healing powers.
Stan Ridgway, formerly of Wall of Voodoo, once had a song and album called The Big Heat. I feel like I would call this summer The Big Heat II. I have only lived in North Carolina for 16 years but I don’t remember June having everyday in the mid to high 90’s. This June and July have been absolutely brutal. I dread any field work that comes up which I love in the fall and winter. As I write, I check my I-Phone Weather App (us old folks still get a kick out of those gadgets!) and it says 95 which we all know is extremely accurate as its tied to the USGS weather station at the North Pole or some such voodoo. Looking in to the future forecast I note the following temperatures we can look forward to in Charlotte: 97, 93, 90, 90, 91, 93, 93, 93, 97! Anyway, its been hot. I don’t mean warm or toasty I mean dangerously hot. I must say that as a scientist with a background in ecology and geology, I understand global processes to some degree (Get it? Degree?) and I was a skeptic regarding climate change for many years. That was until I talked with a true climate scientist about 10 years ago and began looking at the data so famously portrayed in Al Gore’s movie, An Inconvenient Truth. The graphs track too closely to be a coincidence. Did I ever say I don’t believe in coincidences. Well I don’t generally. I hope this is just a phase we are going through and this climate change slows down because I may have to move to Canada and start watch Terrance and Phillip!
There is a new initiative by the current North Carolina administration through the Senate Spending Bill to create a statewide “comprehensive management strategy to protect and improve water quality” by REPLACING RULES IN PLACE IN THE NEUSE, TAR-PAMLICO, FALLS LAKE AND JORDAN LAKE WATERSHEDS. A new sweeping set of legislative “findings” says “Existing nutrient management strategies have shown little to no improvement in water quality, have created an increased regulatory and economic burden in the billions of dollars to the State, its municipalities, and its citizens, and have rendered thousands of acres of public and private property useless” the section reads. Let’s analyze this gross misstatement. 1). First, how on Earth does the North Carolina legislature know if the current rules are improving water quality or not. They have not done ANY studies. To reach a conclusion, we need data and proof. This is totally anecdotal and down right wrong. I operate a nutrient offset mitigation bank under the current rules in the Tar-Pam watershed and let me tell you the water quality downstream of my project has drastically improved. We have the data. 2). “The rules have caused increased economic burden in the billions of dollars”. So, we should not use the rules that are cleaning our water because everyone had to chip in and help pay for the mess we have created? To me, clean water is priceless. Ask the people of Flint, MI. Further, “billions of dollars”, really, where is the data for that stat? 3). “rendered thousands of acres of public and private property useless”. Wow! It’s not useless if it cleans our water, provides flood storage services and desperately needed wildlife habitat. This kind of governmental thinking went out with the new deal. This is just another very serious threat to North Carolina’s environment by one of the most damaging state administrations in NC history. The environment should be a priority, and any claims about it need to be backed up by science. My two cents.
School started again for me this spring and I am teaching a great group of young people at UNCC. I teach a class every spring called “The Business of Ecological Restoration”. I do this, not for for the money (because I can make more working at Target) but because I think it is the right thing to do and I really enjoy it. Working ones’ craft for three or four decades and then passing on what we learned is the way our society should function. My brilliant father, A.C. Mogensen was an architect for 40 years then taught at Hartford Technical College until the advent of CADD which made him finally retire. Of course we should be paying our teachers better but that’s another issue. This year I have an excellent group and happen to be teaching one of my son’s best friends which makes this even more fun. Watching Seth, my son’s friend, grow up and now participating in his higher education is extremely interesting and rewarding. Education is so important these days and anyone who doesn’t take advantage of our amazing colleges and universities is missing out. Education is something I value and respect greatly. If you ever have the opportunity and the patience for teaching I recommend it for topping off a career.