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The Salmon Cannon

It's no secret that prodigious dam construction in the United States has been a boon for hydroelectric power but hasn't been so fantastic for our native salmon populations, which, in addition to natural predators, have for decades had to contend with man-made obstacles blocking the path to their natural spawning waters.

Many dams have fish ladders to help these migratory swimmers on their (not-so) merry way, but many do not. And as studies have shown, fish ladders have proven to be only moderately effective at best.

Which is why a team of scientists in central Washington has been dabbling with the concept of a pressurized tube transport for fish populations, a method that recalls the pneumatic pipelines in offices of yore. Instead of business memos, however, this pressurized system hopes to help salmon and steelhead trout reach the promised land by shooting them over particularly impenetrable areas.

The concept originated in 2009 with Whooshh Industries, a Washington-based company that initially specialized in fruit transportation. It's still in early phases, but the idea sounds promising and, believe it or not, "less stressful" for the fish, as they would be subjected to minimal human contact.

For more information on dam construction and its effect on fisheries, check out the trailer for DamNation, a new film available on iTunes.


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Former Tour Champs Back Lance

Lance Armstrong is under increasing legal pressure (and increasing risk of bankruptcy), but the Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf provides him one bright spot today. The paper surveyed the 25 other living Tour de France champions, and 12 of them said they believe Armstrong should have his seven Tour titles reinstated.

Take that with a grain of salt. As we've discussed many, many, many times, a significant chunk of past Tour de France champs have likely doped as well. In the midst of Armstrong's fiasco, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency said in a statement that from 1999 to 2005, doping applied to all but one of the 21 TdF podium finishers. Irish cyclist Stephen Roche directly acknowledged this when he said, "Doping has been part of sport, not only for cycling, for decades." Roche—himself the subject of a handful of doping allegations—thinks it would be wrong to leave seven years of a 100-year history blank.

Other cyclists felt the same about preserving the history books, including more recent winner Andy Schleck. But overwhelmingly, Armstrong's supporters veer toward older generations. Recent champs such as Chris Froome and Sir Bradley Wiggins say those seven years should serve as a lesson for other riders. "Those seven empty places symbolize an era," Froome said. (We see the irony too.)

Armstrong's own reaction to the survey? He told De Telegraaf, "I'll keep it to myself for now."

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Buy This Mountain, Become a Lord

Pedigreeless laymen are claiming land and kingdoms left and right, and if you too harbor royal dreams, a progressive British earl has a deal for you. For a paltry $3 million, you could help Hugh Clayton Lowther, Earl of Lonsdale and retired long-distance trucker, chip away at a $15 million inheritance tax on his estate by taking the popular rambling mountain called Blencathra, 2,677 acres of land, and the lofty title of Lord of the Manor of Threlkeld off his hands.

Blencathra, clocking in at 2,848 feet, is hardly the most impressive peak, but it's prime hiking terrain held near to the hearts of a legion of British outdoorsmen—some of whom are eager to put the sloping, bald mountain in the public domain. But before Friends of Blencathra could attract the required funds, it was reported this month that an anonymous high-roller won the bidding war by offering more than the asking price.

Luckily for lord hopefuls and conservationists alike, the mountain had already been declared a public asset, meaning the sale can't go through for another six months. But if you think those six months will go by without turmoil, think again—in the interim, Friends of Blencathra report getting a large dose of death threats despite the fact that they're "trying to do nothing but good," one told the Telegraph.

The real mystery is why bidding is so heated for a property carrying so many caveats. Blencathra might be "a jewel in the lakeland's crown," per the agency handling the bidding, but whoever buys the jewel won't be able to do much with it. The property is regulated by National Park zoning restrictions, and anyone can ramble through or graze their flocks there.

"I could understand if you wanted to buy an island to invite your friends to," Friends chairwoman Debbie Cosgrove told the New York Times regarding the property's potential. "But you can't put a fence up" around the mountain.

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