Conservation group purchases grasslands in Montana

A conservation group is buying up grassland in Montana, USA, with the intention of returning it to its natural state.

Tourists and conservationists have long been attracted to eastern Montana’s prairie, and have often been at odds with cattle ranchers for whom the area’s nature and conservation is of secondary importance to their business interests.

The grasslands, which have been such a hit with eco tourists, were often marred by thousands of miles of fences that were erected to fence in cattle. Philanthropists and conservationists are now pulling down the fences and returning the grasslands to their natural state.

The fences break up the habitat for native wildlife and hamper their movement across the varying grassland regions. When the fences are taken away, new corridors are opened up for the migration of wildlife.

Some areas in eastern Montana’s cattle country, the American Prairie Reserve, are being converted into a wildlife sanctuary. The area, once owned and operated by private cattle ranchers, have the potential to develop into natural reserves that could be larger than Connecticut, and even provide competition for some the greatest national parks in the West.

On Tuesday of this week, a Bozeman-based group purchased the 150,000-acre South Ranch and plans to develop the grassland as a natural reserve. When the deal closes, it will double the amount of public and private property under the reserve’s control, just north of the CM Russell National Wildlife Refuge, which is also close to the Canadian border.

Scientists said that the move would support an ecosystem that includes hundreds of species of birds, mammals, plants and insects. Organisers said that they were aiming for a free flow of wildlife made up of pronghorn antelope, predators and up to 10,000 bison, across three million acres or more of public and private land.

Accor Group Go Environmentally Sustainable

Accor SA (EPA:AC), a France-based hotel company, has committed itself to sustainable tourism with the launch of its new sustainability programme, Planet 21.

The new programme provides strategies to convert each of the company-owned hotels into environmentally sustainable properties. In a briefing held at its Novotel Tower Bridge hotel in London, the Accor group’s executive vice-president for sustainable development, Sophie Flak, said, ‘Energy is the second layer of costs after employees. It’s a huge cost, EUR350 million per year, and we need to focus on reducing consumption of energy because costs won’t go down, particularly with taxes going up in countries such as the UK.’

The new strategies, to be implemented through the Planet 21 initiative, will be aimed at reducing the group’s environmental impact at around 4,400 individual hotels, and also at addressing local environmental issues in the 92 countries where the brand currently operates.

The Planet 21 programme is presently targeting around 21 commitments to operate a sustainable business, with specific goals that should be achieved by 2015. The sustainable initiatives include a 10 percent reduction in energy requirements; a 15 percent reduction in water usage; using eco-friendly products in 85 percent of the hotel properties; and promoting healthy meal options at around 80 percent of the properties. The Planet 21 programme also includes planting around 21 plantations within one year, and having a plantation in every country of operation within the next five years.

The company has earlier surveyed around 7,000 people across the globe before developing its sustainability campaign, and around 80 percent of respondents had voted for a sustainability strategy for its hotels. Flak commented, ‘They want to be a part of it but at the same time they don’t want to be forced into it or be made to feel guilty about it.’

South Florida Travel Could Suffer ‘Long Term’ Due to BP Oil Spill

It’s the peak of Miami’s warm summer, and tourists are nowhere to be seen. The city, usually one of the United States’ top summer tourism destinations, remains almost completely devoid of travellers or families, despite clear skies and a comfortable temperature. It’s a frequent scene throughout other cities in the region, and despite a series of pro-tourism efforts it seems unlikely to disappear.

The Deepwater Horizon oil spill was one of the most devastating in US history, filling the country’s southern coast with hundreds-of-thousands of gallons of unwelcome crude oil. But it doesn’t look as if the oil is scaring away tourists – from Miami’s beaches it’s not even remotely visible – but reports of its presence. Despite a fairly clean southern coastline, tourists are afraid to venture to the gulf.

It’s a sad state of affairs, particularly as the region’s fishing industry is at real risk of collapse. With a two-month string of media reports, ‘on-the-scene’ press attention, and editorial content describing it as America’s ‘disaster zone’, the Gulf Coast and its neighbouring states are in the midst of one of the worst tourism seasons in recent history. From Louisiana to Florida, hotels are beaches are deserted.

It’s a ‘disaster’ that’s been almost completely manufactured, although the oil spill itself hasn’t closed in on the regions in question. Cleanup efforts have left the Gulf Coast largely free of any excess oil, although fears produced by the nation’s media have contributed to a lack of understanding in major cities and points outside of the region. Even a visit from the President himself can’t save the gulf.

Industry experts believe it could cause long-term damage, citing the heavy press coverage’s effects on the area’s reputation. Others believe that the Gulf Coast and Florida may rebound once national holidayers witness their cleanliness and lack of damage. Whatever the future circumstances, today is not a happy day for Florida’s large and essential tourism and hospitality industry.