April 5, 2013

    Photo: Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Tree Sap Thievery On the Rise

Maine forest rangers remain vigilant

Sticky-fingered thieves have been pilfering the sap from Maine’s maple trees. According to the state’s Forest Service rangers, there has been a dramatic rise in sap theft over the past several years. The thieves typically trespass on private property to tap the trees with a spout and bucket, then steal away into the night with gallons of sweet liquid gold. "It could be that landowners are more willing to contact us,” Ranger Thomas Liba told the Associated Press. “But it also may be that more people are venturing out into the woods to try their hand at this.”

Syrup production peaks between late February and mid-April, when conditions are right for the extraction of sap for making maple syrup, which sells for roughly $50 per gallon.

Last year, thieves in Canada made off with nearly $20 million in syrup from a Quebec warehouse, temporarily driving up global prices of the pancake aid.

Illegal tapping is often harmful to trees. According to Liba, thieves commonly use oversize drill bits for their tap holes, which leaves the trees more susceptible to decay and disease. Badly damaged trees will often end up as firewood or industrial pulp. So far only one thief has been caught in the act and is working with the landowner out of court to determine the appropriate level of remuneration.


Wildwood Trail in June 2008.     Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Green Spaces Simulate Meditation

Study finds decreased frustration, engagement

Walking through green spaces may affect the brain in the same way as meditation, according to a new study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. Researchers from Heriot-Watt University in the U.K. wired up volunteers with a device to track their brainwaves, then had them walk through an old shopping district, a park, and a busy commercial area. They found that participants entered into a kind of meditative state while walking through the park, experiencing less frustration and engagement.

The British study is the latest in a string of research on the benefits of spending time in nature. In 2011, Japanese scientist Yoshifumi Miyazaki of the University of Chiba  said in a paper that walking in the forest lowered levels of the stress hormone cortisol by 12.4 percent in research subjects as compared to strolling in an urban environment.

Read more about the science of "forest bathing" in Florence Williams's ASME-nominated feature Take Two Hours of Pine Forest and Call Me in the Morning


Kyndall Jack     Photo: Courtesy of Orange County Sheriff's Department

Second Missing California Hiker Found

Dehydrated but doing well

An 18-year-old hiker lost in Trabuco Canyon since Sunday has been found and airlifted to a hospital. Kyndall Jack was found dehydrated and exhausted in Falls Canyon after a hiker heard her yelling for help Thursday. It took a rescue team 90 minutes to hoist her from a steep canyon wall. One rescuer fell 60 feet into the canyon during the process and also required an airlift.

Rescuers found her companion, 19-year-old Nicholas Cendoya, Wednesday night, just half a mile from the pair's car. Both teens are expected to make a full recovery, though Jack is suffering from an arm injury in addition to low blood pressure, shortness of breath, and pain in both legs.

The pair had gone hiking Sunday on a popular moderate trail in the area. It is still unknown how they got separated.