March 5, 2015

The Pyongyang Marathon in 2014. North Korea started allowing foreign runners to participate in 2000.     Photo: Uri Tours North Korea/Flickr

North Korea Reopens Pyongyang Marathon to Foreigners

Had closed borders due to Ebola fears

After shutting its borders to foreign runners in October for fear of the Ebola virus, North Korea will reportedly allow overseas entrants into a marathon in the capital city of Pyongyang in April, Reuters reports.

Troy Collings, manager of China-based Young Pioneer Tours, told Reuters that he had talked to the company’s North Korean partners who were in discussions with the marathon committee to reopen the race to foreign runners. “It looks like we’ll be able to have our groups join the race as planned,” he said. “We’re still awaiting full confirmation, which should come in a couple of days.”

Two other companies, Uri Tours and Koryo Tours, also told Reuters that they had received similar information, and Koryo is in the process of re-booking runners who had signed up for the marathon.

The Ebola outbreak originated in West Africa, and despite its fears, North Korea has had no reported case of the virus. According to a memo obtained by Reuters from North Korean officials, tourists from Ebola-stricken countries in West Africa—like Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia—are still banned from entering the country. And all tourists, no matter where they are traveling from, must undergo medical and temperature checks and sign a statement saying they have not recently traveled to any Ebola-affected areas.

The marathon, officially known as the Mangyongdae Prize International Marathon, was opened to foreign recreational runners for the first time last year, the AP reports. A statement on the Uri Tours website said that registration has been extended to March 20 for the April 12 run.


There are 52 known gray wolves in Washington today.     Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Lawsuit Contests Gray Wolf Killings

Conservation groups say the animals are in danger

Conservation groups have filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Agriculture arguing that a plan in Washington State to allow Wildlife Services to shoot and trap wolves that threaten farm animals has put gray wolves in grave danger, according to Courthouse News Service.

As Outside wrote in January, the West’s gray wolf population has undergone a major population recovery over the past three decades, owing largely to the animals’ protection under the Endangered Species Act. Now, many ranchers and livestock farmers would like to see those protections lifted in cases in which wolves pose aggressive threats to grazing animals.

In December 2013, to judge whether lifting the protections would be beneficial, Wildlife Services began an environmental impact assessment of a plan that authorized the killing of wolves in places where species protections were invalid. Though the plan was approved by the director of USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s western region, complainants say that the environmental impact assessment failed to consider an alternative to killing wolves.

Quoting a series of articles published in the Sacramento Bee, conservation group Cascadia Wildlands and its co-complainants say Wildlife Services’ contract has placed the lives of the state’s gray wolves in the hands of employees who don’t know what they’re doing. The lawsuit claims that Wildlife Services has not been disciplined for killing wolves unnecessarily and irresponsibly in recent years. As a result, they argue, the state's 15 packs, comprising 52 known gray wolves, may be needlessly and indiscriminately killed.

The lawsuit also asserts that wolf attacks are responsible for a very small fraction of total livestock losses, and that lethal removal of wolves is not effective at reducing the number of depredation incidents.


Blake Ford was in Hell's Canyon, which is beyond the boundary of Snowbasin, when the avalanche happened.     Photo: pauljoehancock/Flickr

Snowboarder Dies in Utah Avalanche

Was in the backcountry near Snowbasin Ski Resort

A snowboarder died in an avalanche after leaving the Snowbasin Ski Resort’s boundaries Wednesday, reports the Ogden Standard-Examiner.

Twenty-one-year-old Blake Ford was snowboarding with a friend when they accessed an avalanche-prone area near the resort called Hell’s Canyon. They were traversing back to the resort when Ford triggered the slide.

Neither snowboarder was equipped with beacons or other avalanche safety equipment. Ford’s body was found by one of the Snowbasin ski patrol’s rescue dogs. He had been buried under about three feet of snow, and rescuers estimate he had been carried about 1,800 feet in the slide.

A series of big storms has created dangerous avalanche conditions in much of the West. “It’s considerably dangerous,” Lt. Brandon Toll of the Weber County Sheriff’s Office told the Standard-Examiner. “A few days ago, conditions were stable. With that big snow that came in and put two to three feet of snow on that hard pack, it really caused unstable conditions.”

This was the first avalanche death of the season in Utah.