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Environment and Outdoors

From Virginia State Police: BUENA VISTA, Va.  The Buena Vista Police Department expanded its search efforts Saturday (June 15) for a missing 30-year-old resident. With the assistance of the Virginia State Police, Virginia Department of Emergency Management (VDEM) and Amherst County Sheriff’s Office, an extensive search is underway near the Panther Falls area along Route 60 in Amherst County. Buena Vista Police also hope to hear from anyone who may have been passing through the Panther Falls area over the Memorial Day weekend and may recall having seen Chad H. Austin or his vehicle, a silver 2006 Hyundai Tiburon.

Mr. Austin was last seen this past Memorial Day (May 29) by campers in the Panther Falls area, east of the Blue Ridge Parkway. He was wearing a gray tank top with long shorts below the knees, possibly beige in color.

Mr. Austin was reported missing after his silver Hyundai Tiburon was found around 12:30 p.m. Tuesday (May 28, 2019) on Panther Falls Road in the Shady Mountain/Pedlar River area of Amherst County. The car was found abandoned about 2 miles down the turnoff for Panther Falls Road. His beloved, mixed-breed companion, a dog named Gunner, was locked inside the car.

“This is extremely unusual for Chad to have gone this long without communicating with his family or close friends,” said Buena Vista Police Chief Richard Hartman. “It’s also very out-of-character for Chad to have left Gunner behind and put at risk by being left inside a locked vehicle. Chad’s family says the two have been inseparable since Chad got him as a puppy and would never willingly let any harm come of him or to any animal, for that matter.”

A search of the immediate area resulted in several keys and other personal items belonging to Mr. Austin being found about a ½ mile from the abandoned car.

“Chad was well-known among the hiking community in this region and along the Appalachian Trail for his charitable goodwill, as he would often help with rides and food, and help folks find places to stay,” said Chief Hartman. “We are asking anyone who may recall seeing Chad, his car or even his dog, Gunner, at any time over the Memorial Day weekend to please contact us. No detail is too minor as it may be the very information we need to bring him safely home to his family.”

Austin is 6 feet in height and weighs between 150 to 170 lbs. He has brown eyes and brown hair. His dog, Gunner, is now being cared for by Mr. Austin’s family.

Anyone with information about Mr. Austin is encouraged to call the Buena Vista Police Department at 540-261-6171 or the Virginia State Police at #77 on a cell phone or dial 911.

The Blue Ridge Marathon created a decade ago had its largest economic impact to date on the region this past April – more than $800,000. Pete Eshelman is with the Roanoke Outside Foundation and the Roanoke Regional Partnership.  He was live in-studio this morning (along with John Hall) to talk about how the Roanoke area compares to other “peer outdoor communities” around the country. Hear our extended conversation below:

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PEMBROKE, Va. (AP) – The fee to visit one of the most visited waterfalls in Virginia is set to more than double.The Roanoke Times reports that the U.S. Forest Service is proposing to charge $8 per vehicle to visit Cascades Falls in southwest Virginia. The current fee is $3.The 69-foot waterfall gets about 150,000 visitors a year and is one of the region’s most popular outdoor recreation spots.The forest service is currently seeking public comment about the fee increase for finalizing a decision.

Public Domain:

This is peak season for the birth of fawns, and you might come across one that looks abandoned in a field or yard. But state game officials say in almost all cases, it is perfectly normal, and the worst thing you can do is intervene; mothers instinctively leave their newborn deer alone for lengthy periods to avoid leading predators to them. WFIR’s Evan Jones has more:

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If you see a fawn that appears visibly injured, or one that you know has been orphaned, the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries says you should contact a licensed wildlife rehabilitator from the list on its website.

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A large trash collector in Virginia will use recycling bins that are partly made from recycled trash.The Central Virginia Waste Management Authority said this week that it ordered 2,000 bins from Israeli company UBQ. The firm uses a patented process that converts municipal waste into a plastic-like composite material.UBQ said the authority is its first U.S. customer. CVWMA serves about 280,000 households in the Richmond area. Executive Director Kim Hynes said it’s testing out the bins, which she said are comprised of 25 percent of the UBQ material.UBQ says it creates the material by milling anything from banana peels to dirty plastics into a powder. The powder is then placed into a reaction chamber. UBQ says the process produces no greenhouse gas emissions or residual waste.

Photo: Appalachians Against Pipelines

A grandmother from Elliston hopes her weekend tree-sitting protest will encourage others to continue opposition to the planned Mountain Valley Pipeline. 44-year-old Crystal Mello has a job and wasn’t interested in losing it, so she knew her protest would not last long. She spoke with WFIR’s Evan Jones:

05-21 Pipeline Protests Wrap1-WEB


A new AAA survey suggests many Americans are willing to consider buying an electric-powered vehicle, but less than half believe most vehicles on the road in ten years will actually be electric. The main concerns surround the cost of battery repair or replacement, how far a charge will take you and availability of charging stations.WFIR’s Evan Jones has more:

05-13 Electric Vehicles Wrap1-WEB