High Five: February 2012

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1. The Fishing Was Good, But Then… – Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, VA

Authorities are warning would-be anglers to be safe on the water after six fishermen had to be rescued from the chilly waters of the Chesapeake Bay—in one day. The crux of the issue is fishermen using small boats, and especially kayaks, on the open water to get to the prized striped bass. Although the Coast Guard is not requesting that fishermen stop fishing from kayaks, they are asking that safety be a bigger priority on the water. This should cut down on the incidences of mass capsizing, but also limit the amount of “I caught a fish so big it tipped over my boat” stories.

2. And a Child Shall Lead Them – Washington, DC

Global warming has been a hot topic. Now one group is tired of federal foot-dragging and is taking action the old-fashioned way: suing the government. Oh, did I mention it was a group of kids? Led by 17-year-old Alec Loorz, the gang filed 10 lawsuits against the feds and a bevy of states, hoping to spur the government into action on the issue before it is too late for them and for future generations. The argument is an expansion of the common-law principle of public trust doctrine: the government’s duty to protect assets for the public—the planet being a pretty big asset in this case. How long until we can elect these wee world-beaters? Kids these days!

3. Flying the Coop – Chattanooga, TN

East Tennessee received a rare visitor from the Far East when a hooded crane found its way to Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge outside Chattanooga. Avid bird watchers were craning their necks  trying to catch a glimpse of the presumably tired bird, which typically winters in Southeast Asia and Russia. With an estimated population of less than 10,000, the rare species could hardly afford to have one of its own miss the exit and fly 7,000 miles off course. Over the past two years, hooded cranes have also been spotted in Nebraska and Idaho.

4. The Ultimate Adventure Race – Campbell County, VA

Some of the hottest trends in the outdoor industry are survival shows and adventure races featuring treks in the woods, crazy obstacles, and the occasional fireball. Well, this cozy, simulated scenario became all too real for Kevin Lunsmann of Virginia when the 14-year-old was kidnapped by militants while vacationing with his family in the Philippines. Held captive for five months, Lunsmann was finally able to escape by telling his captors he was going to bathe in a creek, then taking off through the jungle running barefoot and following a river. Lunsmann was eventually picked up by the real military and returned home unharmed.

5. Reefer Madness – Washington, DC

A top U.S. Forest Service official testified before the Senate that the “illegal cultivation of marijuana on our National Forest System is a clear and present danger to the public and the environment.”  The problem is most acute in California – duh – but illicit grow sites were found in 67 national forests in 20 states in 2011. Problems cited ranged from environmental damage from pesticides and water diversion to armed run-ins with law enforcement, hikers, and park employees—personified more by Pablo Escobar than Cheech and Chong. The Forest Service is calling for a joint partnership between multiple agencies to try and stop the illegal pot plantations before our public lands go up in smoke.

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