New England briefs

Vermont birders tally 36 eagles during annual count Jan. 9

Conservation biologists and birders say Vermont's bald eagle population, decimated by concentrations of the pesticide DDT decades ago, is showing strong signs of recovery.

A total of 36 eagles were tallied during the annual eagle count on Jan. 9.

That number is down from last year's record count of 50, but up substantially over the early 1980s, when only a handful of bald eagles were spotted.

Audubon Vermont conservation biologist Maureen Fowle says it's premature to declare victory for the endangered species, but said the state's population is getting closer to recovery goals.

Lyndon State College's atmospheric sciences to get award

The New England Board of Higher Education is honoring Lyndon State College's program in atmospheric sciences.

The program will receive the Vermont State Merit Award at a ceremony March 4 in Boston.

Each year the board gives out state merit awards to honor innovative work or organizations, institutions or individuals in each New England state. It also presents regional excellence awards to people and organizations that have shown exceptional leadership in higher education and the advancement of educational opportunity.

"We are very proud of this award," Lyndon President Joe Bertolino said. "LSC's atmospheric sciences program has evolved to be one of the top programs in the nation. This award speaks to the caliber of the program's students, faculty, and alumni as well as the excellence of the program itself."

Students pick concentrations in broadcasting, national weather service/military, private industry, and climate change. More than 90 percent of atmospheric science sciences students complete an internship or some form of work experience before graduating, the college said. Student meteorologists forecast from the on-campus TV studio and others do research at NASA on land surface characteristics or forecast at National Weather Service offices, the school said.

LSC said it produces sought-after meteorologists with graduates working in more than a quarter of all US television markets.

Children's Literacy Foundation to award book grants

The Children's Literacy Foundation is inviting elementary schools in Vermont and New Hampshire to apply for $25,000 in Year of the Book grants.

The foundation says it will provide the grants to eight elementary schools in need of extra support for literary experiences and to purchase books.

Eligible literacy programs include presentations by authors, storytellers and illustrators, writing workshops and field trips.

Schools are selected based largely on the percentage of students receiving subsidized meals and schools with students underperforming in reading and writing.

Deadline for applying for the eight grants of $25,000 each is Feb. 10. Grant recipients will be announced in late February.

Children's Literacy Foundation director Meredith Scott says the grants are intended to support school-wide and classroom-based initiatives "to make reading and writing fun for kids."

"CLiF encourages schools to use the grant to enhance their relationships with parents, the public library, early learning centers and community members," Scott said.

The grants are also designed to allow participating students to choose up to 10 new books to bring home.

"New books for school and public libraries, classrooms, preschools and for the students to bring home are an incredibly important part of the Year of the Book grants," Scott said. She said the organization estimates that 50-70 percent of their populations do not have books at home.

Applications and guidelines are available at

Vermont History Museum hosts diversity talk

Vermont's historic and growing diversity will be the topic of a discussion at the Vermont History Museum in Montpelier on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Gregory Sharrow, co-director of the Vermont Folklife Center, will lead the community discussion at 1:30 p.m. on Monday on what it means to be a Vermonter. The free talk is called Finding Home: Vermont's Historic and Growing Diversity.

The museum will be open from noon to 4 p.m. Monday with free drawing activities for all ages.

Vermont judge gives cattle rustler 38 months in prison

A modern-day cattle rustler is serving more than three years in jail after pleading guilty to wire fraud in connection with a scheme to defraud 13 ranchers out of more than $2 million.

A federal judge in Vermont this week sentenced 28-year-old Jason Amidon of Coudersport, Pennsylvania, to 38 months in prison and ordered him to pay nearly $145,000 in restitution.

Federal prosecutors say Amidon brokered fake contracts and paid with counterfeit checks for the purchase and sale of cattle from 13 ranchers across the country, including two in Vermont.

Authorities say he gave a Lyndonville farmer a counterfeit check for $100,000 for 55 Belted Galloway cattle and calves, then sold the cattle for beef — contrary to his representations they were going to a farm in Minnesota.

Libertarian group nearing 20,000 signers to move to NH

New Hampshire's Free State Project founder says he believes the group will soon get its 20,000th pledge from like-minded libertarians vowing to move to the Granite State and work to limit the government's interference in their lives.

Founder Jason Sorens doesn't believe all will follow through on the non-binding agreement, but said about 2,000 have moved to the state to join the movement so far. Sorens estimates there will be 6,000 to 8,000 Free Staters living in New Hampshire in five years.

Sorens, who has a doctorate in political science from Yale University and lectures at Dartmouth College, launched the movement in 2001. He said 18 Free Staters currently serve in the state House of Representatives.

The group's annual Liberty Forum next month in Manchester will feature a video link with former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.

Snowden leaked millions of documents about government surveillance to a United Kingdom newspaper in 2013. He has been living in Russia under a grant of asylum and faces charges in the U.S. for leaking details of the once-secret program.

Free State Project President Carla Gericke confirmed the speaking engagement at their convention, which runs from Feb. 18-21. She said the topic has yet to be decided.

Gericke told the Concord Monitor she's not disappointed that more signers haven't yet moved to New Hampshire. She said it takes time to sell a house in another state and find a job in New Hampshire.

"Honestly, I'm glad it's taken its time because people have laid a lot of groundwork," said. "I think that it is actually going to benefit the movement as a whole," she said.

Plymouth State tower charts forest's reaction to atmosphere

A 110-foot-tall tower in Plymouth is measuring how forests react to changes in the atmosphere.

The steel structure — located in the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest — is part of a joint project between Plymouth State University and the U.S. Forest Service. Scientific instruments mounted atop the tower gather data on moisture, carbon dioxide content and temperature, which will add to similar data being collected by towers around the world.

Hydrology Professor Mark Green says the research tower is essentially watching the forest breathe. As moisture is released into the atmosphere, the resulting change in air temperature helps measure how the forest is responding to climate warming.

A Maine town creates a neighborhood network for the aging

The town of York is creating a neighborhood network to help aging residents remain in their homes.

York Housing Executive Director Patricia Martine said she's long pondered how to keep seniors with no community connections or nearby family in the homes where they're happiest and out of elderly complexes that typically have long waiting lists.

Now York Housing and York Hospital are joining up to start Neighborhood Network, a program to provide resources, referrals and social opportunities to seniors in the towns of York, Kittery, Eliot, South Berwick, Ogunquit and Wells.

Martine said "a neighborhood is a neighborhood; it doesn't have to be bricks and mortar."

Network members pay an annual fee. The network is also recruiting volunteers willing to assist seniors, knowing they'll someday need some help themselves.

Martine said another key component of Neighborhood Network is marshalling a team of pre-approved vendors and service providers, such as plumbers, dog sitters, computer technicians and hairdressers, who are willing to undergo criminal background checks.

Neighborhood Network is modeled after Boston's Beacon Hill Village, which pioneered the concept in 2002 to help the aging remain in their beloved Beacon Hill neighborhood.

Laura Collins of Beacon Hill Village told the newspaper the power of the model "is that older adults are taking charge of their own aging by designing the supports, services and programs that they want for themselves."

Martine said she's embracing the venture as an extension of York Housing's goal.

"Our mission is patience, acceptance and compassion for all. That's huge for us," Martine said. "Neighborhood Network gives us a larger audience."

– The Associated Press


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