Darts and laurels

  • Posted: Saturday, September 28, 2013 12:50 a.m.

Laurels to North Carolina’s rivers, lakes, forests and fields, which are due special appreciation as we mark National Hunting and Fishing Day. North Carolina is a great state for enjoying the great outdoors, and those activities provide a lot of economic stimulus. The results of a survey by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Census Bureau show how nature translates into some eye-catching numbers. In 2011, for instance, $3.3 billion total was spent on wildlife-related recreation in North Carolina. That included $1.5 billion from fishing-related activities, $525 million from hunting-related activities and $930 million spent on wildlife-watching activities. That spending not only helps support local merchants but also provides funding for conservation work through licenses and user fees. Rowan County is fortunate to have many outdoor recreation spots virtually in our backyards or within a few hours drive to the mountains or the coast.

Dart to state officials for rejecting $580,000 in federal grants that would have helped protect some of the natural resources cited above. The state Department of Environment and Natural Resources has turned away two EPA grants that would have funded studies of state streams and wetlands, in part to help establish a baseline for water quality in advance of fracking in the future. Defending the action, state water quality chief Tom Reeder said the grants would have applied only to surface waters, and the necessary studies can be accomplished more cheaply using state resources. Perhaps — but this action does little to allay concerns that the McCrory administration’s streamlining of environmental regulation functions may green-light fracking or other industries while weakening safeguards.

Laurels to new medical technology that will expand mobility for amputees. The latest breakthrough, reported this week by the New England Journal of Medicine: A 32-year-old man controlled the motion of a mechanical lower leg and ankle using only his own thoughts. The man, who lost his right leg in a motorcycle accident, was able to walk up and down inclines and even climb stairs much as with a normal leg. The device involves a mechanical prosthesis that responds to impulses from the same nerves and muscles that controlled the missing leg. While the technology is still in the developmental stage and years from mass availability, it shows how bionic advances will eventually improve life and mobility for amputees — including some of the 1,600 U.S. soldiers who’ve lost limbs in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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