Outdoor Updates: Drilling ban restored + Hellbender sightings

A federal judge restores Obama-era drilling ban

On Friday, a federal judge in Alaska threw out President Trump’s order to revoke an Obama-era ban on oil and gas drilling in the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans, calling the order illegal. The judge’s ruling protects 128 million acres of federal waters from drilling, including 98 percent of the Arctic Ocean and undersea canyons in the Atlantic that stretch from the Chesapeake Bay to New England. The decision could impact a five-year leasing plan the administration was planning on issuing this summer and block six offshore lease sales it hoped to schedule in the Artic as early as this year. In recent months the Trump administration has suffered close to two-dozen setbacks, primarily on procedural grounds, as they seek to roll back Obama-era conservation policies. The administration is appealing many of the decisions.

NC Wildlife Resources Commission seeks the public’s help with Hellbender sightings

Biologists with the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission are asking the public to report any Hellbender sightings so they can continue their long-term inventory of the aquatic salamander. Hellbenders are large, harmless salamanders found in the mountain streams of Western North Carolina. They are sensitive to poor water quality and considered to be a species that can warn scientists about degrading environmental conditions, called a “bioindicator.” Hellbenders were once common throughout Western North Carolina but have disappeared throughout much of the region due to declining water quality and habitat degradation. Hellbenders are listed as a species of special concern in North Carolina. Anyone who spots a Hellbender is asked to leave it alone but to note the location of the sighting and email the information to lori.williams@ncwildlife.org, attaching a photo of the Hellbender if possible.

New research shows regular exercise in your 40s can cut your risk of dementia

A new study in the journal of Neurology shows that regular exercise in midlife can drastically cut your risk of developing dementia in old age. Researchers studied a group of 800 Swedish women for 44 years, beginning when they were, on average, 47 years old. The women reported their mental activities, like singing, writing, reading and gardening and their time exercising. The women were then divided into groups based on the amount of physical activity they undertook each week. Over the course of the study, 194 women developed some form of dementia. Researchers found that those with a high level of mental activities were 34 percent less likely to develop the disease and those with a high level of physical activity were 52 percent less likely to develop it. The researchers also determined that a high level of mental activity correlated with a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s while a high level of physical activity was associated with a lower risk of vascular dementia.

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