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Top Notch
Audubon South Carolina’s Francis Beidler Forest, which encompasses the largest old-growth cypress-tupelo swamp on the planet, has joined distinguished company. The 16,000-acre sanctuary became the 23rd U.S. addition to the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance. “It’s like the Oscars for wetlands,” gushes forest director Michael Dawson. Thirty-five years ago South Carolina Audubon rescued the reserve’s original tract from logging. Now managers hope the new designation will bolster their efforts both to protect Beidler Forest’s borders from rapidly encroaching development and to enhance conservation within the larger Four Holes Swamp region.

Out With the Coal
Colorado’s largest energy provider, Xcel Energy, is the first company in the country set to shut down power plants voluntarily in order to meet greenhouse-gas reduction targets. In August state regulators verbally approved the company’s proposal to shutter two older coal-burning facilities by 2012. At the same time, Xcel received the go-ahead to increase wind-generation capacity and build a large solar plant with storage capability. The closures will cut emissions by 1.4 million tons a year, says company spokesman Joe Fuentes. This amount, though it represents just one percent of Colorado’s total 2005 greenhouse-gas emissions, will help meet the governor’s goal for a 20 percent reduction from 2005 levels by 2020.

Puffin Along
The world’s first seabird colony restoration project has reached a new milestone. For 13 years, beginning in 1973, Audubon scientist Steve Kress and his Project Puffin team transplanted 954 young Atlantic puffins from Newfoundland’s abundant population to Eastern Egg Rock in Maine’s Muscongus Bay, endeavoring to reestablish a lasting colony. The birds, which were coveted for their meat, eggs, and feathers, had all but vanished from the eastern United States by the 1900s. Kress hoped that after the resettled chicks had fledged out to sea, they would return to their adopted home to breed. The colony slowly took hold, and today it is growing faster than ever: This summer saw a record-high 101 pairs nest on Eastern Egg Rock.

Against the Drain
Wetlands were regarded as wastelands back in 1941 when Congress authorized the Yazoo Backwater Project—a Dracula-like flood-control plan that, 67 years later, calls for pumping more than six million gallons of water a minute from some of the nation’s richest aquatic habitat during periods of high water on the Mississippi River. While the attitude toward these precious ecosystems has changed, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was still pushing the controversial project until the Environmental Protection Agency squelched the $220 million boondoggle in September. For the first time since 1990—and only for the twelfth time ever—the agency exercised its veto power after determining that the project would cause “unacceptable damage” to this invaluable resource.—Jessica Leber

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