Red Oaks, Good Fish………………..by Rebecca Jim, Miami Herald reporter

Red Oaks, Good Fish

I love wood heat and have a wood burning stove in the living room at home. This fall like every year our trusted chimney sweep Brad Mitchell came and made sure we are good for the winter. I like to cut my own wood, and have a nifty electric Stihl chain saw. This fall has been different. Although I have cut some, it has been slower and harder due to a shoulder injury. I went to get a load of wood from Timber Hill this week. Since I live on a prairie, I love the hills with the oaks and hickory trees. But there has been a change, all of the RED OAK trees on that property are gone! They died from an insect infestation, the red oak borer, Enaphalodes rufulus. I am pretty used to die-offs, since my pine trees are going one at a time due to the pine bark beetles. I lost 3 more since last summer. It is probably a matter of time until more of our native species die-off, as we deal with the climate changes coming our way. We do live on the great plains, and we are going to look like it soon. We will all be shoring up our homes and making them more fuel efficient as we find alternative ways to heat our homes in the future.

There is an overwhelming scientific consensus that humans are driving climate change, largely by burning fossil fuels that warm the planet. The U.S. EPA, the Environmental Protection Agency has proposed a rule that will regulate power plants that are burning coal. Our state and 16 other states are hoping to keep things as they are and are opposing EPA’s plan. According to our Attorney General the change would threaten our state’s core interests. I am not sure about everyone in the state, but I am not liking the changes in the climate so far, and am hoping for help, even though the plan will take fifteen years to implement. I would like to reverse some of the changes and save the trees, and stave off more of the extreme weather we and others have experienced recently. I would like the plan to kick in and stop the power plants from burning coal, since it is the major source of mercury in our fish.

Mercury is a neurotoxin just as lead is and can cause the same damage to children including lower I.Q. Our Grand Lake watershed has six coal-fired power plants that are polluting our watershed with mercury and that mercury is ending up in some of our fish. The best rule of thumb is to eat smaller fish and release the bigger ones. There are many lakes in Oklahoma that are worse, with fish advisories for mercury where no fish are safe to eat. Much of their mercury emissions comes from Texas, another state hoping to stop EPA’s Clean Air regulations. Some mercury does come from other countries, some from volcanoes.

I would like to advocate that our Attorney General think about this rule. If our coal burning power plants stop burning coal, our fish are safer and if he can talk Texas into changing, many would benefit. For now, check out the Grand Lake Mercury Study website to find out which fish to throw back, which ones to serve at the fish fry and how much to put on your plate.

Climate change is here and I already miss the smell of red oak when you split it and especially when it burns.

Respectfully submitted ~ Rebecca Jim

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0013935114003430

http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/fidls/Red%20Oak%20Borer/redoak.htm

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