London Becomes World's First National Park City

Patrick Wong/iStock via Getty Images
Patrick Wong/iStock via Getty Images

London is one of the biggest, busiest cities on Earth. The 2000-year-old metropolis is home to modern skyscrapers, historic architecture, and more than 8.6 million residents spread across 33 boroughs. But if London mayor Sadiq Khan has his way, the UK capital's reputation as a strictly urban center will soon change. As the Independent reports, London has elected to be the world's first-ever National Park City.

The title National Park City may sound like an oxymoron; national parks are often natural areas protected from human development. But a new initiative from the National Park City Foundation called the International Charter for National Park Cities (NPC) aims to apply many of the same qualities of national parks—like well-managed green spaces, clean air, and diverse wildlife—to the world's largest cities.

On Monday, July 22, Mayor Khan announced that London would be the first city to sign on. He said in a tweet: "A cleaner, greener London is central to my vision for our city—and we're taking bold action to ensure people, places are nature are better connected."

The main way city officials plan to achieve that goal is by adding more green space. London is already 33 percent green public space [PDF]. By connecting public parks, adding green roofs to existing buildings, and expanding private backyards and gardens, the city will work to achieve 50 percent green space by 2050. Not only would the new natural areas improve the quality of life of London's residents, but they would also support the city's animal population, which includes 15,000 species today.

London is the first of what the National Park City Foundation hopes will be many cities to join the charter. The goal is to bring 25 cities on board by 2025, with Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Glasgow already in talks to gain National Park City status.

[h/t Independent]

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Watch: In 1948, Idaho Officials Sent 76 Beavers Parachuting Into Idaho’s Wilderness

A young beaver with all four feet firmly on the ground.
A young beaver with all four feet firmly on the ground.
yrjö jyske, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

When people started building up the area around Idaho’s Payette Lake after World War II, its original residents began interfering with irrigation and agricultural endeavors. They weren’t exactly staging an organized protest—they were just beavers doing what beavers do.

Nevertheless, officials at the Idaho Department of Fish and Game decided their best bet was to find a new home for the long-toothed locals. The surrounding wilderness provided plenty of options, but transportation was another issue entirely. Traversing the undeveloped, mountainous terrain would require both trucks and pack animals, and experts knew from past relocation efforts that beavers weren’t fond of either.

“Beavers cannot stand the direct heat of the sun unless they are in water,” department employee Elmo W. Heter explained in a 1950 report [PDF]. “Sometimes they refuse to eat. Older individuals often become dangerously belligerent ... Horses and mules become spooky and quarrelsome when loaded with a struggling, malodorous pair of live beavers.”

To keep Payette Lake’s beavers healthy and happy during the journey, their human handlers would need to find another method of travel. As Boise State Public Radio reports, that’s when Heter suggested making use of their leftover WWII parachutes.

Two beavers would sit inside a wooden box attached to a parachute, which could be dropped from an airplane between 500 and 800 feet above their new home in the Chamberlain Basin. The cables that fastened the box to the parachute would keep it shut during the flight, but they’d slacken enough for the beavers to open the box upon landing. After testing the operation with weights, Heter and his colleagues enlisted an older beaver named Geronimo for a few live trials.

“Poor fellow!” Heter wrote. “You may be sure that ‘Geronimo’ had a priority reservation on the first ship into the hinterland, and that three young females went with him.”

Once Geronimo had certified the safety of the mission, the team began migrating the whole beaver population. During the fall of 1948, a total of 76 beavers touched down in their new territory. It wasn’t without tragedy, though; one beaver fell to his death after a cable broke on his box. Overall, however, the venture was deemed much safer (and less expensive) than any trip on foot would have been. And when department officials checked in on the beavers a year later, they had already started improving their ecosystem.

“Beavers had built dams, constructed houses, stored up food, and were well on their way to producing colonies,” Heter wrote. As Idaho Fish and Game’s Steve Liebenthal told Boise State Public Radio, the area is now part of “the largest protected roadless forest” in the continental U.S.

You can watch the Idaho Fish and Game Commission’s full 14-minute documentary about the process below.

[h/t Boise State Public Radio]