Friday, February 24, 2012

New law opens better frequencies for broadband

The payroll tax cut extension that became law this week contained some other goodies, including a measure that could encourage development of broadband in rural areas. It opens up the frequencies between the old analog television channels, known as "white space," to unlicensed wireless Internet services. "Since rural areas have fewer TV stations, opening up white space could prove a boon to rural wireless Internet providers, which have struggled to provide service using a more robust version of Wi-Fi," reports Brendan Greeley of Bloomberg Business Week.
Greeley writes that a Federal Communications Commission spokesman told him "several companies are developing devices that carriers could use to deliver broadband data using white space." One such device is already in use in Wilmington, N.C., linking security cameras and providign Wi-Fi in public parks. White spaces make it easier for rural carriers to provide service because “the unlicensed frequencies available today can be stopped by a single leaf,” says Forbes Mercy, vice president of the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association." (Read more)

Hydraulic fracturing rare in Ky., but some question regulation and pollution of natural-gas drilling

Concerns about hydraulic fracturing in Appalachia prompted the Appalachian Center at the University of Kentucky to hold a panel discussion last night on fracking as a means of natural-gas extraction in the state.

Experts told the crowd of about 75 that hydraulic fracturing is rare in Kentucky because its gas geology is not the same as in states to the northeast, and most gas wells are fracked with nitrogen, an inert gas. But they acknowledged that drilling always poses environmental risks, and some in the crowd questioned whether the state is capable of properly regulating the industry.

“It’s up to the citizens to decide whether or not it’s a good industry,” replied Rick Bender of BlackRidge Resource Partners, a former longtime director of the state Division of Oil and Gas.

The discussion was billed as the center's first Appalachian Forum. For a full story, by Ivy Brashear of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, click here. For an online video of the forum, go here.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Appalachia has higher concentration of elderly

The aging population in Appalachia is growing faster than in the rest of the U.S., reports John Raby of The Associated Press. Aging baby boomers are expected to account for one of every five Americans by 2030, but some places in Appalachia have already reached that ratio. According to the 2010 census, more than 15 percent of Appalachia's population is 65 or over, compared with 13 percent nationally. Raby reports the increase in aging increases demand for healthcare, economic assistance, transportation and home health services. (AP photo)

West Virginia's figure is 16 percent, higher than any state but Florida. In Ohio, about one-fourth of the population in 16 counties was 60 or older in 2010, up from three counties in 2000. As in other places, aging people in Appalachia rely on Social Security payments and live on a fixed income, restricting their options for mobility to places with more access to healthcare and other services for older people. However, most elderly in Appalachia don't want to leave the region because of strong ties to their home.

Some organizations are trying to address the increasing elderly population. People Working Cooperatively, a Cincinnati nonprofit, winterizes and conducts minor maintenance on homes for older people in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana. President Jock Pitts said the group has experienced a sharp increase in demand for services over the last two years, up to 66,000 from 40,000. The "village" concept, which calls for volunteers and residents to help provide transportation, handyman work and home health care, is spreading into North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia. There are designated "retirement zones" in West Virginia where aging people can live and receive affordable housing, health care, education, culture and recreation. (Read more)

Soybean farmers hail plan to buy bio-based goods

The chairman of the Ohio Soybean Council told Brownfield Ag News that the Obama administration's plan to buy more bio-based products "will help get those green products from the lab to commercialization," Brownfield Network's Dave Russell reports.

“Our innovations are ongoing, we’ve got a great relationship with the Battelle Institute and they continue to find products to feed that pipeline,” John Motter said. “There’s a growing green industry in Ohio.”

"Two years ago, Ohio became the first state ever to create a statewide bio-based procurement program," Russell notes. It supports the Ohio BioProducts Innovation Center at Ohio State.

Cattle count drops as demand for beef soars

The cost of doing business has become increasingly difficult for some cattle ranchers, even as the price of beef has reached record highs. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. lost 9,000 beef operations from 2009 to 2010, and the national cattle inventory is at its lowest since 1952, reports Stacy Finz of the San Francisco Chronicle. As of Jan. 1, the head count of beef cattle dropped 3 percent to 29.9 million, and the dwindling supply is costing consumers an average 10 percent more per pound last year.

California Cattlemen's Association President Kevin Kester told Finz expenses are increasing with demand, which "hasn't faltered." The price of feeder calves is expected to rise this year, and the market for U.S. beef is rising overseas, with 14 percent exported last year. Ranchers, experts and the USDA say there are several reasons for beef cattle decline: loss of grazing land due to development, high feed prices, drought, and aging ranchers whose children don't want to take over the business. (Read more)

N.Y. court rules local governments can ban fracking, could set precedent

For the first time, a New York state court yesterday ruled that towns have the right to ban natural-gas drilling, overruling a state regulation that says they can't, Lena Groeger of ProPublica reports. (UPDATE, Feb. 25: A second judge ruled likewise yesterday.) The decision comes after Denver-based Anschutz Exploration Corp. sued the town of Dryden saying its ban on drilling within town limits was illegal because state law had precedent over local zoning laws, and state law "promotes the development of oil and gas resources in the state," Groeger writes. The court's decision could set national precedent for how local governments regulate gas drilling.

Supreme Court Judge Phillip Rumsey said in his decision, "Nowhere in legislative history provided to the court is there any suggestion that the Legislature intended — as argued by Anschutz — to encourage the maximum ultimate recovery of oil and gas regardless of other considerations, or to preempt local zoning authority." Groeger reports the Dryden case is just the latest in a string of conflicts from Colorado to Pennsylvania that pit local and state governments against each other. Local governments often zone industrial land, but the industry says they shouldn't be allowed to make those decisions.

Groeger reports the rights of localities against state or federal laws has been a fundamental issue in recent debate over drilling. Many local governments have continued to place bans and moratoria on drilling in the last few years despite threats of lawsuit from major corporations. Environmental attorney Joseph Heath told Groeger people feel local officials are their best protection against hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. Natural Resources Defense Council attorney Eric Goldstein told Groeger the right of local governments to govern use of their land "has been guaranteed by the Constitution for over a century." (Read more)

Alaska school of 7 students fights to stay open

The Gusty Michael School in Stony River, Alaska, is facing closure because of low enrollment, but the school's seven students are fighting hard to save it. Alex DeMarban of the Alaska Dispatch reports the students have launched a Facebook page and are selling merchandise in a store they established in their 40-resident village to raise funds for a trip to Washington, D.C. They've requested a meeting with President Obama and hope he'll hear their concerns. (Photo from the school's Facebook)

"Schools are community centers in rural Alaska, and districts fight to keep them open because losing a school could mean losing a village if families and children move away," DeMarban writes. Schools in Alaska must have at least 10 students to receive state funding for operations, including maintenance and heat. The Kuspuk School District is considering picking up the school's operating costs if enrollment doesn't rise above 10. Students are planning to visit Alaska's congressional delegation to ask for support for their trip. They've made $7,000 so far for the $58,000 trip, and are asking the public for help. (Read more)

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Researchers link insecticides to bee colony collapse

Scientists at Purdue University think they have identified one of the causes of honeybee death close to agricultural fields: insecticides. Science Daily reports analyses of bees found dead at hives from several apiaries in Indiana show the presence of neonicotinoid insecticides commonly used to coat corn and soybean seeds before planting. High concentrations of the insecticide were found in farm machinery talc exhaust. This is not the first study to imply a link between colony collapse disorder and insecticide use, but is the first to find conclusive evidence. (Photo: Junji Takano, Pyro-Energen)

Researcher Christian Krupke said insecticides, which are highly toxic to bees, were found in each sample of dead bees collected over a two-year period. He said live bees at collection sites were exhibiting odd behavior, including tremors, uncoordinated movement and convulsions, which are all signs of insecticide poisoning. Krupke said the corn pollen bees were taking to hives was contaminated with neonicotinoids at levels high enough to kill bees if "sufficiently consumed," but talc exhaust from machinery contained levels up to about 700,000 times the lethal dose for bees.

Researcher Greg Hunt said there is no single cause of colony collapse disorder, which is devastating bee populations. Scientists believe other factors, including parasitic mites, habitat destruction, lack of food sources and poor quality food, could all contribute.

Rural areas' population growth slowed from 2000 to 2010, but they became more diverse

America's rural population is declining but many rural areas are becoming more diversified, a new study by the Carsey Institute at the University of New Hampshire shows. The rural counties experiencing the most increases in minority populations are in the Mississippi Delta, the Rio Grande region, the Southeast and the northern Great Plains.

Nationwide, the rural population grew only 2.2 million between 2000 and 2010. Minorities represented only 21 percent of the rural census, but accounted for 83 percent of rural population growth. Children are the main contributing factor. The researchers found 356 rural counties have more minority children than non-Hispanic white children and another 178 have between 40 and 50 percent minority youth. (Carsey Institute map)
"While rural America remains less diverse than urban America, minority growth now accounts for most rural population increase, just as it does in urban areas," Kenneth Johnson, senior demographer at Carsey and UNH professor of sociology, said in a news release.

Agricultural herbicide use could double in 10 years because weeds have become resistant to Roundup

Herbicide-resistant weeds are removed by hand
in Arkansas. (Photo by Brad Luttrell,
The Commercial Appeal)
Herbicide use could double in the next decade unless farmers practice better weed management, according to a report from Penn State. Since the mid-1990s, seed companies have genetically modifed crops to be resistant to the glyphosate, sold as Roundup. It was meant to be a "more flexible way to manage weeds," said Penn State weed ecology professor David Mortensen. But now farmers rely on genetically modified seeds, with 95 percent of the current soybean crop being modified, and herbicide-resistant weeds are developing.

In a report published in BioScience, researchers found 21 different weed species had developed resistance to glyphosate, despite company-sponsored research predicting that wouldn't happen. Weeds have developed ways to move herbicides away from targeted enzymes. Seed companies are responding by making new generations of herbicide-resistant seeds, but researchers say that is not a sustainable solution. They suggest integrated weed management strategies, including planting cover crops, rotating crops and using mechanical weed control methods. (Read more)

Fracking forum hopes to better inform Kentuckians about technique for gas drilling

The University of Kentucky Appalachian Center will host a panel discussion Thursday night about hydraulic fracturing as a method of natural-gas extraction in Kentucky. Fracking has received much attention as state governments and citizens rush to keep up with the booming industry. A moratorium on it in New York is set to expire soon, and residents of Pennsylvania and Wyoming are blaming it for damage to underground water supplies. Geologists have said minor earthquakes in Ohio could have been caused by the method.

In Eastern Kentucky, fracking is not as deep, expensive and complicated as in other areas of Appalachia, and generally does not use the chemicals used there, but drillers have the freedom to frack without special permits and don't have to notify the state about it until after the well is completed. Al Cross, director of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues at UK and moderator of the discussion, said "As fracking expands to fill our energy needs, landowners and other citizens need to know more about the topic."

Appalachian Center Director Ann Kingsolver said the panel follows the university's land-grant mission by providing information to citizens. "As decisions are being made across the state about hydraulic fracturing, we organized this panel to help Kentucky’s citizens have more in-depth information to make individual and collective decisions on this key topic for the state’s future," she said. The panelists "represent a variety of relevant areas of expertise," the release says. They are Pat Banks, director of environmental group Kentucky Riverkeeper; Kim Collings, director of the state Division of Oil and Gas; Rick Bender, former oil and gas director and current vice president of BlackRidge Resource Partners; Melissa Dlieckmann, Eastern Kentucky University geology professor; Frank Ettensohn, director of the UK Honors Program and geology professor; and, Brandon Nuttall, senior geologist with the Kentucky Geological Survey.

The event will be held Thursday, Feb. 23, from 7 to 9 p.m. in Room 106 of the White Hall Classroom Building near the center of the UK campus in Lexington. It is free and open to the public. For more information, contact Shane Barton at 859-257-3948 or

Mine inspector charged with conspiracy in disaster; appears to be cooperating with investigators

Coal-mine superintendent Gary May was charged with conspiracy to violate mine-safety laws today as part of a continuing investigation into the Upper Big Branch mine explosion that killed 29 miners two years ago in West Virginia, reports Ken Ward Jr. of The Charleston Gazette. U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin alleged May "plotted 'with others known and unknown' to put coal production ahead of workers protection and then cover up serious safety violations on numerous occasions during the two years" prior to the explosion. May is also accused of taking part in providing advanced warning of federal inspections and concealing violations before inspectors arrived. He's also alleged to have ordered someone to falsify mine examination records.

May is the third person to be charged in the federal criminal investigation of the disaster. He could face up to five years in prison if convicted. The charges were outlined in an "information" rather than a grand jury indictment, something that usually means the accused is cooperating with prosecutors and is expected to reach a plea agreement. He wasn't charged under criminal provisions of the federal Mine Safety and Health Act, Ward reports, but rather as taking part in criminal conspiracy, which is "an agreement by two or more people" to break the law.

Ward says on Coal Tattoo that this is the "most interesting" aspect of the charges. Federal prosecutors rarely use this strategy "against bad actors in the coal industry," Ward says, adding "this means he wasn't acting alone." Ward says it's likely May will provide testimony "that moves this investigation along up the corporate ladder" of the old Massey Energy company, which was bought and absorbed by Alpha Natural Resources. (Read more)

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Power-plant regulations cost jobs at plants and coal mines, but create jobs in retrofitting industries

When the Environmental Protection Agency announced new air-pollution standards for power plants last year, utilities and the coal industry protested, saying electricity rates would soar, plants would close and workers would lose jobs. Bloomberg Businessweek's Elizabeth Dwoskin and Mark Drajem report that regulations do cut jobs, but those are almost completely replaced by jobs created at companies that make retrofitting equipment for power plants.

The Institute of Clean Air Companies, a trade group that represents emission-reduction companies, said 300,000 jobs could be added per year through 2017. "The job creation and the job destruction roughly cancel each other out," said Richard Morgenstern, researcher with the non-partisan Resources for the Future.

The job figures are national, so the regulations could cost jobs in certain geopgraphical areas and add them in others. Studies also show that reduction in air and water pollution around power plants decreases illness, medical tests, missed work and hospitalizations in the work force.

Utilities and states reliant on coal are suing EPA to block the regulations. The federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., put the new rules on hold until the suit is resolved. (Read more)

Open conference call set Tuesday, Feb. 28 on 'Environmental Literacy and the News Media's Role'

Journalists are invited to join a conference call on “Environmental Literacy and the News Media's Role” Tuesday, Feb. 28 at 1 p.m. ET.

The call is prompted by completion and launch of the Vision for Improved Environmental Coverage, developed by the nonprofit organization SEE Innovation in consultation with Tess Croner of Solutions Journal, Peter Fimrite of the San Francisco Chronicle, Jennifer Grayson of the Huffington Post, Beth Parke of the Society of Environmental Journalists, Dave Poulson of the Knight Center for Environmental Journalism at Michigan State University, Libby Waldo of Grist magazine, Bryan Walsh of Time magazine and Rebecca Williams of Michigan Public Radio.

The goal of the call is to explore the news media’s role in supporting improved environmental literacy and to chart a path for innovation in this arena. To join, call 415-363-0070 and enter code 769-269-994#. Questions? Contact Shannon Binns by email or by calling 704-257-6723.

States documenting old barns to focus attention on rural landscape and its preservation

Rotting barns are an iconic part of the rural American landscape, serving as a reminder of our history. Colorado, Connecticut, Michigan, Missouri, New Hampshire, Ohio, Oklahoma, Vermont and Washington and perhaps other states are conducting barn surveys to document these structures, The Associated Press reports. (Photo by Brian Brown; to view more photos of rural South Georgia, click here.)

Surveyors are taking photographs and collecting details "about the architecture, historical character, use and condition of the barns" to "give preservationists a glimpse of rural America and hints about how to save its bucolic landscape," the wire service reports. James Lindberg, a field director for the National Trust for Historic Preservation told AP the loss of these rural barns means "losing a connection to a really important part of our country's heritage."

Missouri is among the states with limited documentation on barns. Few of its farms are documented well enough to be included in the State Historic Preservation Office database of rural farmsteads, but some barn enthusiasts are hoping to change that by hosting a meeting to to investigate possible partnerships to encourage more documentation and reuse of rural barns as homes or businesses. (Read more)

Feds announce moves to boost biobased goods, regional job creation, rural health technology

Three major Obama administration officials held a conference call today to announce three rural initiatives that will "leverage existing programs and funding," as a White House press release put it. "We know that when rural America is growing, the rest of America is getting stronger," Commerce Secretary John Bryson said on the call. The initiatives are:

• A directive by the president to federal agencies "to take decisive steps to dramatically increase the purchase of biobased products over the next two years," the release said. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the order would increase by half the number of new products that are designated as biobased.

• A national grant competition called "Rural Jobs Accelerator" with about $15 million for projects that promote innovation for regional job creation. The money will come from the Department of Agriculture, the Economic Development Administration, the Delta Regional Authority and the Appalachian Regional Commission. Details will be released in the next few weeks.

• The Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Labor will connect  "community colleges and technical colleges that support rural communities with the materials and resources they need to support the training of health information technology professionals" in rural areas, the release said. Mary Wakefield, administrator of the Health Resources and Services Administration, said the curriculum has already been developed and will be promoted by local and state workforce investment boards.

Santorum targets smaller cities and towns for religiously conservative, blue-collar voters

Felicia Sonmez of The Washington Post reports from Steubenville, Ohio: "To any visitor, the best days of this small, former steel-mill town nestled in the Ohio Valley would appear to be behind it. . . . For Rick Santorum, small towns like Steubenville aren’t about the past. They’re the very towns that will determine his political future. . . . Steubenville is home to precisely the combination of religious conservatives and blue-collar Rust Belt voters that Santorum is hoping will lead him to victory on Super Tuesday and beyond."
Brad Swenson, retired political editor of The Pioneer in Bemidji, Minn., and Santorum
(Photo by Charles Rex Arbogast, The Associated Press)
Sonmez reports that many in the crowd of 500 seemed to respond well to "the positive tone that Santorum was seeking to strike" on social and economic issues. "Santorum has made small, working-class towns such as Steubenville a key part of his potential road to the White House. Over the past several days, he has attended local Republican Party Lincoln Day Dinners across Ohio and has honed and fine-tuned his campaign-trail rhetoric to play up his blue-collar appeal." (Read more)

Study: Growing up on farm good for immune system

For the first time, there is conclusive evidence that growing up on a farm is good for the immune system. Researchers from the University of Bristol's veterinary sciences school have published a study showing that "spending early life in a complex farm environment" increases the number of T-cells one has, reports Sarah Muirhead of Feedstuffs. T-cells have been identified as universal regulators of immune systems, with low numbers increasing risk of developing allergies, autoimmune and inflammatory diseases. Researcher Marie Lewis said it wasn't previously known whether farm life increased immunity to allergies, or if people more prone to allergies weren't living on farms.

Piglets were used in the study since they share many aspects of human physiology, metabolism, genetics and immunity. Some of the piglets were nursed by their mother on the farm, while the others were kept in an isolator unit under hygenic conditions and fed formula milk to reflect the "extremes of environment" in which many humans are raised. Farm-raised piglets had increased levels of T-cells compared to those raised in the isolator. Lewis said it's not clear yet exactly what caused the increase in T-cells in farm-reared piglets, but said previous work shows that intestinal bacteria "plays a pivotal role." (Read more)

Monday, February 20, 2012

In our Great Recession, unwanted horses are taken to a wild herd started in the Great Depression

Members of the Missouri Wild Horse League are noticing a big influx of domesticated horses roaming with the state's only wild horse herd, all of which descended from horses set free during the Great Depression when owners couldn't care for them. The same thing is happening now, with the Great Recession. They are dumping them in the Ozarks National Scenic Riverways, "apparently thinking they will be warmly received" by the wild herd. The reality, though, it much different, reports Donald Bradley of The Kansas City Star. (Star photo by Keith Myers)

Wild Horse League member Bill Smith said wild stallions will fight former domestic horses, adding that old pets and saddle horses don't know how to forage for food, and are easy targets for coyotes. Rescuers have found dumped horses starving and near death. One horse was hit by a truck. Smith said he and his cousin recently pulled 25 dumped horses from the wild. The League tries to save orphaned horses and adopt them out, but lately it finds it can't keep up with the large number of dumped horses. The group's secretary Carolyn Dryer said domestic horses "don't belong out here."  (Read more)

Texas rancher Tom Heck is rescuing abandoned horses from the Mexico border, where they have been abandoned in the desert, reports Robert Gray of El Paso Inc. Heck plans to rehabilitate them, then sell gentle ones to dude ranches and wild ones to area rodeos. If they're too far gone, he'll send them to Mexican slaughterhouses. He views it as a business venture. "If we have the medication, the hay, the minerals and such, we can rehabilitate them and sell them," Heck said. "We think this can be a very viable business because nobody has done this before."

Public-notice advertising in newspapers is under increasing attack from local governments

Paid-public notice advertising, or "legal ads," in newspapers are "under threat," Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues Director Al Cross wrote for Quill, the magazine of the Society of Professional Journalists. Cross, who also publishes The Rural Blog, said SPJ members and chapters "need to help defend" public-notice laws from lobbying by local governments who tell state legislators publishing the notices on government websites would be just as effective and cheaper for taxpayers. Cross disputes that, citing lack of Internet adoption (especially in rural areas) and research that shows citizens aren't likely to surf websites to find notices.

Cross says the notices are an important part of the business side of journalism, while informing citizens and helping reporters find stories. They "encompass a wide range of important information," including government budgets, financial statements, audits, local ordinances, hearings, environmental permit applications, water-system reports and foreclosure sales, he writes. They are also "a necessary leg of the three-legged stool of open government, along with open-records and open-meetings laws." They are also a "significant source of revenue" for county-seat weekly newspapers, and cutting them would "lead to fewer jobs in journalism, and less journalism."

State newspaper associations are lobbying against the move, but have not always been successful, Cross writes, noting new laws in Ohio. They will likely be a greater target as governments face more pressure to make cuts, he writes. Reporters with no knowledge of how public notices work compounds the problem, he adds, noting that SPJ chapters should educate journalists about their importance and function and join newspapers in lobbying against elimination or reduction of them. (Read more)

Low coal demand, not EPA rules, key to closure of old plants; warm winter causes mines to shut

Old, coal-fired power plants are closing because of a long-term decline in demand for coal, not the Environmental Protection Agency's most recent air pollution regulations as the industry has said, according to a study by Susan Tierney, managing principal of The Analysis Group, a consultancy. She says closings are the result of a long-term trend tied to cheap natural gas, rising cost of coal and reduced demand for electricity. The trend, she says, started before EPA announced its new rules.

Regulations do place some financial burden on coal-fired plants, but the other factors put more pressure on the industry. Tierney compares the situation to a family deciding to repair an old family car. "Often, making the repair is more expensive and risky" than buying a new car, and the same holds true for coal-fired power plants, she told Taylor Kuykendall of The State Journal in Charleston, W. Va..

Falling natural gas prices, driven by increased availability of gas hydraulically fractured from deep shales, make it more attractive to utilities than more expensive coal. Companies often blame EPA-required retrofitting of plants as the reason for closure, but Tierney said market conditions contribute more to the final decision to close. (Read more)

In current terms, the warm winter has further depressed demand for coal, and three Eastern Kentucky coal companies have laid off 370 miners. Hazard Herald Editor Cris Ritchie wondered last week what will happen to the region when coal jobs are cut and not promised to return. There isn't much natural gas in the region, fracking is risky to the environment, and there's not much hope for "green energy" in the region because of limited solar and wind potential. Where all this leaves the region, he said, "is ever-dependent on the coal industry." (Read more)

Mike Mullins, head of Hindman Settlement School and progressive leader in Eastern Ky., dies at 63

Mike Mullins, who revived Eastern Kentucky's Hindman Settlement School and was a leader for education, economic development, the arts and progress in one of the nation's poorest areas, died last night of a heart attack. He was 63.

He became executive director of the school in 1977 after a stint as an Appalachian history professor at Alice Lloyd College, where he led the Appalachia Oral History Project. He helped establish the annual Appalachian Writers Workshop, which drew authors from across the region to Hindman for a week-long stay. Author Silas House told Jennifer Hewlett of the Lexington Herald-Leader that Mullins' contribution to the literary community of the region can not be underestimated. "I think of him as holding us all together as Appalachian artists," House said. "He fostered a community of musicians and writers and thinkers in the region, and he was like a father figure to many of us."

Mullins established the Marie Stewart Crafts Shop in 1995 to showcase quality art made by Appalachian artists, and was instrumental in starting an education program for children with dyslexia and the now closed Hindman Montessori School. In 2003, he received an honorary doctoral degree from the University of Kentucky for his service to Appalachia. But perhaps his two proudest accomplishment, Hewlett writes, were being named Knott Countian of the Year in 1992 and being inducted into the Knott County Hall of Fame in 2010.

House said the school was Mullins' home and he wanted visitors to feel at home. "He cared a lot about respect and honesty. ... He had a great wit. ... he was very proud of his accent and where he was from. ... He defied stereotypes," House said. He will be greatly missed, as is evident from the school's Facebook page, where more than 100 comments have been posted as of this writing. There's also a memorial to Mullins on the homepage of the Appalachian online literary journal, Still.

Visitation will be Wednesday, Feb. 22 from 6 to 9 p.m. at Hindman Funeral Services, where the funeral will be held Thursday at 1 pm. Burial will be at Mountain Memory Gardens in Hindman. The family asks that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Hindman Settlement School New Office Fund.

Foresters battling wooly adelgid to save hemlocks

Hemlock trees across the eastern U.S. have been under attack by the microscopic wooly adelgid insect for several years. The bug came to America from Asia and can drain the life from hundred-year-old hemlocks within five to 10 years. Some are trying to save the trees with specialized pesticide treatments, by introducing predator beetles to kill the parasitic adelgid, or a combination of both. Foresters in the Cherokee and Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests are fighting to save the hemlocks there, reports Pam Sohn of the Chattanooga Times Free Press. (TFP photo by Jake Daniels)

Foresters have spent about $100,000 in each forest this year treating "the handful of hemlocks that have been prioritized by their location or their level of infestation," Sohn reports. Cherokee forester Eric Taylor said the forests have lost a lot of trees, but they hope the stands on which they are focusing can survive "in the worst-case scenario." Their treatment combines predator beetles and pesticides, which are injected into the ground around the roots so the tree takes it up through the trunk. Foresters said the pesticide "is more of a Band-Aid" until the beetle population builds up naturally.

There are 91 treatment sites in the Cherokee National Forest, with each site containing between 12 and 150 hemlocks. In Chattahoochee National Forest, there are 144 treatment sites of about nine acres each, with most infestation in the Blue Ridge and Chatooga districts. Foresters are trying to not only save the hemlocks, but also the habitat they provide. "It’s more than just saving a tree,” Chattahoochee public affairs officer Mitch Cohen said. "It maintains a higher diversity of species in those areas, and that makes the ecosystem more stable in the long run." (Read more)