Quick Hits: The last Caribou

Fortnite billionaire is saving forests in Western North Carolina

Tim Sweeny, owner of North Carolina-based Epic Games, which produces mega-hits such as Fortnite, is quietly using his fortune to conserve the mountains in Western North Carolina. Since 2008, Sweeny has spent millions to preserve and protect nearly 40,000 acres of land, making him one of the largest private landowners in North Carolina. Sweeny has used his money to purchase 1,500 acres to expand Mount Mitchell State Park and spent $15 million to protect 7,000 acres of the Box Creek Wilderness. Sweeny also purchased 193 acres in Alamance County, guaranteeing that the land would not be developed. Just last year, he purchased a 1,500 acre tract of land known as Stone Hills which had been slated to be turned into two championship golf courses, a hotel and spa, over 1,000 homes and up to 90,000 square feet of retail, dining and office space. Sweeny plans to hold the land until he can find a permanent nature conservation home for it.

The last caribou in the contiguous United States has been removed from the wild

This week a team of biologists captured a mountain caribou in the Selkirk Mountains just north of the U.S.- Canada border. The female caribou is believed to be the last member of the last herd to regularly cross into the lower 48 states from Canada. The captured caribou was moved to a captive rearing pen. In about a month, biologists plan to release the caribou, along with two other caribou from a different endangered herd, back into the wild into a larger and more stable Canadian herd. The fate of the animals is unclear and biologists cannot say if there will ever be caribou in the continental United States again.

US offshore drilling rule revisions will likely be challenged by states

Revisions to a US offshore drilling safety rule are being held up because of the government shutdown, but when the changes are finalized they will likely be challenged in court by multiple states. The revisions make changes to the Blowout Preventer Systems and Well Control Rule that was implemented in 2016 in response to the Deepwater Horizon explosion and spill. The current rule requires better performance of the blowout preventers that act as a last line of defense for an out-of-control offshore well. Opponents of the rule revision have criticized the administration for weakening offshore safety regulations. The most likely case against the revisions was laid out in August letter to the director of the Interior’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement. Ten state attorneys general, including those from North Carolina and Virginia, signed the letter.


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