I. 3 New National Monuments Make History on Land—and in the Sea

Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument

The newly-designated Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument spans more than 87,000 acres of mountains and forests in the North Maine Woods. © Zach Frank/Shutterstock

Roughly 150 miles offshore from New England’s rocky coves and sandy beaches lies a dramatic landscape beneath the waves. Steep canyons, one of them deeper than the Grand Canyon, plummet more than 8,000 feet to the deep ocean floor, where they meet a chain of extinct volcanoes that rise thousands of feet—the only underwater mountains along the East Coast. These canyons and seamounts are home to a marine wonderland teeming with rare corals, sharks, whales, seabirds, fish, and invertebrates. As of Sept. 15, the region has another distinction: It is the first marine national monument in the Atlantic Ocean.

The Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument, for which Pew advocated and which President Barack Obama designated, covers 4,913 square miles of remarkable topography. Powerful currents scour the rock walls of the canyons and seamounts, revealing the hard surfaces that deep corals need to gain purchase. Scientists studying the area have documented coral species found nowhere else in the region. These corals, in turn, attract many other species, building biodiversity hotspots for a wide range of animals, from protected species such as Kemp’s ridley sea turtles to marine mammals including endangered fin, sei, and sperm whales.

The designation by President Obama spares these habitats and wildlife from the threat of fishing, drilling, and seabed mining, and offers a refuge for them to better weather the effects of climate change. Ocean temperatures in the Northeast are forecast to rise nearly three times faster than the global average, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and recent research found that, in the past decade, the area has warmed faster than 99 percent of the world’s ocean.

Studies show that warming waters threaten a number of fish species in the region, including cod, lobster, and scallops. Warming can drive down fish populations in numerous ways. It can reduce or change the timing of plankton blooms that fish rely on for food; it can force fish to expend more energy to regulate their body temperatures, leaving them weak and vulnerable to a range of threats; and it can drive fish to seek deeper, colder water in new habitats that could be less suitable in other ways. Marine reserves can serve as refuges for species under stress, allowing them a place to build their numbers and adapt to the shifting conditions.

The Commerce and Interior departments will jointly manage the new monument.

In August, President Obama declared two other monuments—the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (see Page 10), and Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, about 220 miles north of Portland, Maine.

That land, which was donated through the federal government by Elliotsville Plantation, a private foundation, offers outdoor activities from hiking, canoeing, and hunting to mountain biking, fishing, cross-country skiing, and snowmobiling.

More than 200 Maine businesses and a range of citizens and interest groups backed the monument designation, including the Katahdin Area Chamber of Commerce, the Katahdin Area Rotary Club, the Greater Houlton Chamber of Commerce, the Bangor City Council, and the Maine Innkeepers Association. Studies show that the protected area will be a boon to the local economy, creating much-needed jobs and attracting tourists from around the world.

In the book The Maine Woods, Henry David Thoreau marveled at the untamed beauty of the region, much of which is relatively unchanged today—even after decades of logging.

“Katahdin Woods and Waters still harbors the virtues that drew Thoreau to this area more than 150 years ago,” says Mike Matz, who leads Pew’s work to protect public lands. “Locals and visitors seek out places like this for solitude, healthy recreation, and a connection to the natural world that is increasingly elusive. Protecting this area in perpetuity gives people a chance to find all of those things today and far into the future.”

John Briley

II. Dental Therapists to Expand Oral Health Care in Vermont

Dental care in Vermont

In June, after a five-year campaign by the Vermont Oral Health Care for All Coalition, Vermont became the third state to authorize the practice of dental therapy. It now joins Maine and Minnesota in allowing dentists to hire these midlevel providers, who function much as physician assistants do in medical practices. Dental therapists are also authorized to work with dentists caring for Native American tribes in Alaska, Oregon, and Washington.

Like millions of people across the country, many Vermonters have limited access to oral health care. Nearly 100,000 people in the state went without care in 2011 and 2012, and 38 percent of children covered by the state’s Medicaid program received no dental health services in 2014.

“Dental therapy is such a powerful antidote to our state’s dental care crisis because it puts providers in communities where people struggle to get the care they need,” Representative Kiah Morris (D-Bennington) wrote in a Bennington Banner op-ed supporting the legislation. “Once they graduate, dental therapists will be able to practice in a range of settings, such as community health centers, school-based health clinics, private practices, nursing homes, and mobile dental vans.”

Under the new law, which received strong backing from legislators and Governor Peter Shumlin, dental therapists in Vermont will work under the supervision of dentists, either in the same office or remotely, with the help of telehealth technology. This flexibility will allow dental therapists to provide care to underserved people in a range of private and public settings.

Vermont Technical College plans to educate the state’s dental therapists. The proposed curriculum will extend the college’s dental hygiene education—the only such program in the state—by one year, creating a four-year dental therapy program.

Pew was a member of the coalition that advocated for the new law as part of its campaign to close the gaps in access to dental care by increasing the number of providers and expanding oral health services.

—Daniel LeDuc

III. Readers Still Prefer Print Books, Survey Finds

Americans vastly prefer print books to digital
Americans have more ways to read than ever before, with a range of formats and digital devices. Yet the share of U.S. adults who have read a book in the last 12 months has stayed steady in recent years at 73 percent.

The Pew Research Center surveyed Americans about their reading habits for its report Book Reading 2016, released in September. It also found, says report author Andrew Perrin, that “when people reach for a book, it’s more likely a traditional print book rather than an e-book.”

Sixty-five percent of those surveyed said they read a print book, though a sizable share read books in both print and digital formats. “Print still remains front and center in the book reading world, but there has been real change in use of e-books over the past five years,” Perrin says. The share of book readers using tablet devices has tripled, and the percentage reading on phones has doubled. But the share using specific e-book reading devices has remained constant.

The study also found that college graduates are about four times as likely to read e-books and about twice as likely to read print books or listen to audiobooks compared with those who have not graduated from high school.

The research center has been studying American reading habits and the role of public libraries in the digital age over the past several years with support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

—Daniel LeDuc

IV. The Changing Faces of Philadelphia Residents

Philadelphia demographics

When newcomers unpack in Philadelphia, they're likely to do it in Center City and the surrounding neighborhoods. A Pew study also found that new arrivals are younger and better educated than the city's population as a whole. © Katye Martens

Each year as new people move in and some residents move out, Philadelphia changes just a bit.

To grasp what these changes mean for the city, Pew’s Philadelphia research initiative examined data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the Internal Revenue Service. The analysis, released in July, found that even though the city has been growing modestly in the past decade, there is actually little turnover when compared with other big cities. For instance, newcomers in 2013 (the most recent year with available data) amounted to less than 3 percent of Philadelphia’s overall population; in Denver it was 9 percent, in Washington almost 6 percent, and in Baltimore about 5 percent.

Most new arrivals gravitated toward Center City and its surrounding neighborhoods. They tended to be younger and better-educated than the city as a whole—more than half of the newcomers 25 or older had bachelor’s degrees, which is nearly double the share of the city overall.

“We first looked at city migration in 2010,” says Larry Eichel, who directs the Philadelphia research initiative. “Examining these population patterns helps policymakers as they plan the city’s future—and it allows all Philadelphians some new insight into their city.”

Among other findings: Half of the new arrivals are non-Hispanic white, while 36 percent of city residents fit that description. African-Americans, who represent 42 percent of Philadelphia’s population, account for just 20 percent of newcomers. The Hispanic share of both new arrivals and the general population is about the same, at around 13 percent; the number of Asians moving to the city was too small to produce reliable data.

“We also looked at those people leaving,” Eichel says. “In several ways, they look a lot like those coming in: better-educated than the city as a whole, with a higher percentage of whites and a lower share of African-Americans.” But those leaving stand out in one key respect: age. Departing residents outnumber new arrivals in several age groups, including 0-17 and 35-49, both of which include many school-age children and their parents.

“We decided to build on this research and examine another aspect of migration in Philadelphia: who is moving from one place to another within the city’s boundaries,” Eichel says. “According to the latest census data, covering 2011-13, an average of 156,900 people moved within Philadelphia each year—that’s far more than the number of those coming into the city or leaving it.”

The analysis showed that these people more closely resembled the population of Philadelphia as a whole in terms of educational attainment, age, and household composition. But those moving within the city were more likely to be poorer or living with children under 18 than the city’s overall population, and they stood out from all three groups—the overall population and those arriving and leaving—in terms of ethnicity: Nineteen percent were Hispanic, compared with 13 percent of arrivers, leavers, and residents.

—Daniel LeDuc