Hi there, Beacon readers! After a year and a half and more than 330 daily editions of The Beacon, today’s newsletter will be my last. I’m handing it off to a new team of writers, who will be spearheading an updated version of the newsletter that incorporates some of the feedback that you recently shared with us. You’ll still get good climate news and links to some of the most interesting and important climate stories published across the web, but The Beacon will now be published on a weekly basis instead of every day. That means you can catch up on the whole week in climate action all in one place.

It’s been a joy focusing on climate progress for The Beacon — I’ve loved covering everything from the rights of nature to phasing out hazardous chemicals to electrification ordinances. You’ll continue to see my solutions reporting on the rest of the Grist site, and I’m excited to channel some extra time and energy into writing about my other interests: plastics, greenwashing, and corporate accountability, among other topics.

Thanks so much for reading, and keep an eye out over the next couple weeks as we introduce you to The Beacon’s new writers and format.

Yours,
Joseph Winters

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It’s Friday, March 17, and Europe is inaugurating its first wild river national park.

Vjosa river in Albania

After a yearslong campaign from environmental groups, Albania’s Vjosa River — one of the last unobstructed rivers in Europe — has been declared the continent’s first wild river national park. The “historic” designation by the Albanian government aims to preserve the Vjosa’s more than 1,000 plant and animal species and protect its ecosystems from dams, gravel extraction, and other disruptions.

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“Maybe Albania does not have the power to change the world, but it can create successful models of protecting biodiversity and natural assets,” Mirela Kumbaro Furxhi, Albania’s tourism and environment minister, said in a statement.

The Vjosa River originates in Greece’s Pindus mountain range, then runs for nearly 170 miles through Greece and Albania before meeting the Adriatic Sea. While other rivers in Europe are obstructed by more than 1 million dams, culverts, fords, and other barriers, the Vjosa is entirely free-flowing. “It meanders and uses the landscape around it,” said Boris Erg, director of the European regional office for the International Union for Conservation of Nature, or IUCN. The river’s unique habitats support more than a dozen endangered or threatened plant and animal species, including the Eurasian otter and Egyptian vulture.

An international coalition of environmental organizations called the Save the Blue Heart of Europe campaign has waged a nearly decade-long effort to protect the Vjosa from dams, with support over the past few years from IUCN and the clothing company Patagonia. The river has now been given IUCN category II park status, a designation that will protect some 31,500 acres of the river and the land around it from large-scale development while also allowing people already living there to continue to do so. Tourism will be encouraged, and the park is expected to draw visitors from around the world.

Hans Cole, Patagonia’s director of campaigns and advocacy, said it was “absolutely mind-blowing” when he floated down the Vjosa in 2018, marveling at its braided channels. “I had no idea that there was a place in Europe like this.”

Cole and other supporters hope the new park will inspire further action to preserve nature in Europe and beyond. More work is already underway to establish a transboundary park that would protect the Greek section of the Vjosa.

Editor’s note: Patagonia is an advertiser with Grist. Advertisers have no role in Grist’s editorial decisions.

Correction: Yesterday’s newsletter misrepresented the type of battery used in the Adjuntas microgrid’s battery storage system. A corrected version is available here.

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