FLEXING MUSSELS: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed Endangered Species Act (ESA) protection for the sheepnose and the spectaclecase, two freshwater mussels found in Alabama rivers. The sheepnose lives in Alabama and 13 other states, according to an FWS news release. It occurs in 24 streams in those states, down from 77, and few of these populations are known to be reproducing. The spectaclecase is found in Alabama and 10 other states. It once occurred in at least 44 streams but now occurs in only 19. Threats to both mussels include loss and degradation of stream habitat due to such factors as mining, sedimentation and chemical contaminants. Freshwater mussels require clean water, and their decline, according to the FWS, often signals a decline in water quality. After a public comment period that began January 19, the FWS decide whether to extend ESA protection to the two mussels. More information can be found at www.midwest.gov/endangered.
MORE WATER CRITTERS: The Friends of Shades Creek is a local non-profit organization working to protect Shades Creek, a tributary of the Cahaba River. The Friends will host their annual Salamander Festival on Saturday, January 29, from 3-5:30 p.m., in the Homewood Community Center at Homewood Central Park. There will be live salamanders to see and hold. There will be displays of fish and wildflowers from Shades Creek, arts and crafts for the kids, live music, information about recycling and rainwater collection, a chance to recycle electronic equipment and other activities. For details, visit www.shadescreek.org.
CRS MEETS: The Cahaba River Society will hold its annual meeting Tuesday, February 1, from 5:30-8:30 p.m., at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens. Attendees will learn more about what it will take to protect the Cahaba, one of the most biologically diverse waterways in the United States. This event is free and open to the public. For information, call (205) 322-5326 or visit www.cahabariversociety.org.
READY… SET… RACE! It’s nearly time for the Locust Fork River Canoe/Kayak Races, presented by the Alabama Cup Racing Association and Friends of the Locust Fork River. The Locust Fork Invitational, the first race of the Alabama Cup Series, will be held Saturday, February 5, beginning at 9 a.m., and Sunday, February 6, beginning at 8 a.m. The races will be held at King’s Bend north of Cleveland, upriver from the Highway 79/231 bridge over the Locust Fork. The Friends are looking for volunteers to help out during the event. There will be a training session the week before the race (time and location to be announced). For all of the details, including volunteer opportunities and race registration, visit www.flfr.org. The Mulberry Race will be held March 5-6 and the Locust Fork Whitewater Classic March 26-27.
PLAY IN THE DIRT: Be a volunteer at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens. In fact, you can volunteer there without getting dirty. You can become an assistant at the largest public horticulture library in the United States. You can become a docent or tour guide and share your love of plants with visitors, including school groups. You could help out at one of the Gardens’ special events, such as Earth Day at The Gardens. Maybe you’d like to work with an instructor in horticultural therapy and assist clients in doing flower crafts. The Gardens also need greeters, tram drivers and office assistants. Oh, and here’s the get-dirty part—you can become a greenhouse or garden assistant and assist in propagating plants or maintaining one of 25 specialty gardens and woodland areas. Adults, teens and groups can volunteer. Contact Mary-Bestor Grant at (205) 414-3962 or email@example.com to sign-up. Learn more about volunteer opportunities at www.bbgardens.org.
ZOO GETS LIT UP: Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden is currently building the largest publicly accessible urban solar array in the country, according to a zoo news release. The 1.56-megawatt system with 6,400 panels is being installed on a canopy structure over one of the zoo’s parking lots. Construction is to be completed by April. The solar panels will provide approximately 20 percent of the zoo’s energy needs, according to the release, and on some days will allow the zoo to be off the grid and send power back to the utility. Over the life of the project, the zoo expects to save millions of dollars in electric bills. According to the release, all major components of the canopy will be manufactured in the United States, and the project will fund 10 scholarships through the Green Workforce Development Program at Cincinnati State Technical & Community College. Learn more at www.cincinnatizoo.org.