Migrating monarch butterflies get the right-of-way in new agreement

May 22, 2020 by  
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A new nationwide right-of-way agreement aims to protect migrating monarch butterflies. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) signed the agreement, which involves more than 45 transportation and energy companies and many private landowners in creating protected corridors across the country. These promised lands are mostly along roadsides and utility corridors. The agreement allows participants to dedicate parts of their land as monarch conservation management areas. In exchange, the USFW assures landowners that they won’t have to take additional conservation measures on the rest of their land if the monarch butterfly later is listed as endangered. This change in status could happen as soon as December 2020, when the USFWS plans to decide whether the monarch meets criteria for being listed as an endangered species . Related: What’s causing the decline in monarch butterfly populations? “Some companies wanted to wait to see how the listing would play out,” Iris Caldwell, a program manager at the Energy Resources Center at UIC and part of the Rights-of-Way as Habitat Working Group , told Mongabay . “But if you are following what’s happening with the butterflies , you know we really can’t wait. We need to be creating habitat on a variety of different landscapes, as much as we can.” The working group included 200 energy, transportation, government and nonprofits who tried to determine a win-win solution for butterflies and landowners. “How can you incentivize a regulated entity or a utility to do this voluntary proactive work,” Caldwell asked, “and still give them kind of the flexibility and the certainty that they need and be able to, in fact, invest in that work without kind of a fear of repercussion?” Under the new agreement, landowners may alter some of their practices, including timing mowing to avoid times when monarch larvae are developing, not using herbicides on the conservation corridors, replanting if the land is disturbed by construction and planting more beneficial native plants the butterflies will enjoy. UIC’s role will be to coordinate efforts between all partners and to be an intermediary between the USFWS and landowners. Monarchs are one of the most popular and recognizable butterflies on Earth, with their bright orange wings, black lines and white dots. Every year, millions of these butterflies migrate from the northern and eastern U.S. and Canada to spend winter in southern California and Mexico. Monarch butterflies are native to North and South America, although they’re no longer found south of Mexico. They’ve followed milkweed to expand their range as far as Portugal, Spain, Hawaii, Australia and New Zealand. In the continental U.S., they fall into two categories: western monarchs — which are found west of the Rockies and spend winter in southern California — and eastern monarchs, whose breeding grounds are Canada and the Great Plains and who migrate to Mexico in the winter. Both populations have plummeted more than 80% in the last 10 years. Via Mongabay and National Geographic Image via Jessica Bolser / USFWS

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Migrating monarch butterflies get the right-of-way in new agreement

The growing movement to help farmers reduce pollution and make a profit

April 2, 2020 by  
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In Pennsylvania, an innovative program is showing farmers how to plant cash crops in buffer zones to help stabilize stream banks and clean up waterways.

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The growing movement to help farmers reduce pollution and make a profit

Nonprofit plants 80,000 trees in Kenya and Rwanda

March 30, 2020 by  
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The name of global environmental charity One Tree Planted seems excessively modest now, as they’ve just finished planting 80,000 trees in Africa.  Rwanda  got 60,000 new trees, and Kenya got 20,000. In Rwanda, One Tree Planted aimed to boost local farmers’ harvests and incomes by planting coffee seedlings in the Kayonza and Gakenke districts. One Tree partnered with Kula Project to train local farmers in agronomy, technical skills and sustainable practices. Once the  coffee  Arabica seedlings mature, they should provide a sustainable income for up to three decades. This program fits in with a country-led effort to restore 100 million hectares of land in Africa by 2030. One Tree’s work in Kenya aimed to restore part of the Kijabe Forest, which suffers from overgrazing, fires and illegal harvesting. Trees native to this highland mosaic forest, also called Afro-alpine forest, include the African olive and the East African pencil-cedar. Charcoal burning and logging have damaged the forest, eroding soil and frightening people with impending mudslides. Nearly 200,000 people living in the surrounding areas depend on the forest for  water , grazing and wood. Resident wildlife includes leopards, monkeys, dik-diks and buffalo. This work in  Kenya  is part of an ongoing project which uses enrichment planting, avoided  deforestation  and assisted natural regeneration. Enrichment planting means introducing valuable species to degraded forests while retaining existing valuable species and is commonly used in forest management. Avoided deforestation is when “countries receive funding in exchange for literally avoiding and preventing deforestation.” Assisted natural regeneration happens when humans speed up natural processes by planting seedlings and protecting them as they grow. Since its founding in 2014, One Tree Planted has worked in Africa, Asia, North America and South America to restore forests, create jobs and protect  biodiversity . In 2018, the nonprofit planted 1.3 million trees. + One Tree Planted Images via One Tree Planted

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Nonprofit plants 80,000 trees in Kenya and Rwanda

Three prefab modules make up this contemporary rural home

March 30, 2020 by  
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On a 190-hectare working farm near the NSW city of Orange, Australian modular design company Modscape has completed a new prefab home that takes in dramatic landscape views in all directions. An exercise in efficiency, the 225-square-meter residence was constructed in a controlled factory environment and comprises just three modules. Dubbed Project Kangaroobie, the contemporary home combines floor-to-ceiling glazing, a neutral palette of natural materials and a minimalist design to keep focus on the outdoors.  When the Sydney-based clients of Project Kangaroobie approached Modscape, prefabrication was already at the top of their minds. Because their rural property was a four-hour drive from their primary residence, the clients wanted the home to be built in a controlled environment to eliminate weather-related delays and any difficulties in coordinating multiple trades. Related: A prefab home in Sydney celebrates indoor-outdoor living The three-bedroom, two-bedroom home that Modscape designed and built perfectly complements the clients’ rural land both visually and physically. The new modular home stretches across a ridge to follow the natural topography. Vertical Silvertop Ash timber cladding will develop a silvery patina over time and blend the home into its surrounding landscape. The light-filled interior features a neutral palette of warm timber , Scyon-lined walls and ceramic tiles. Project Kangaroobie’s T-shaped plan creates separate wings for living, sleeping and utilities and opens up to outdoor terraces to the west, south and east. The spatial layout also ensures that the living spaces remain clutter-free to preserve sight lines across the home and toward the landscape. The architects noted, “Windows and doors have been positioned to maximize their effect as frames to the landscape: the low wide window which, when seated, frames a view toward the tree line; the enclosed porch (complete with outdoor fireplace and hammock-hanging hooks) is a perfect vantage point for watching the weather roll up the valley; and the window in the living area perfectly captures the spectacular sunsets.” + Modscape Photography by John Madden via Modscape

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Three prefab modules make up this contemporary rural home

Is almond milk bad for the environment?

March 30, 2020 by  
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Almonds are a nutritious and satisfying food source. Not only are the munchable nuts a popular snack , but they are also used in a variety of other consumable products, such as almond butter and almond flour, and can be used in a milk alternative for people with dairy allergies or vegan preferences. Almond milk, a supermarket staple, is used in everything from coffee to baking. But like many other crops, the spotlight has been on whether almonds and the increased demand for almond milk are damaging the environment. How is almond milk produced? It’s important to first understand that almond production is a regional issue. In the United States, California grows nearly every almond in the country and also provides more than 80% of almonds shipped around the world. Needless to say, that level of production affects a significant part of the state’s land, economy and resources. The result is an industry criticized for extreme water consumption and pesticide use. Related: How to choose the healthiest, most sustainable milk alternative Water use in the almond industry The main headline on almonds echoes fears regarding excessive water use. The truth is that farming uses water and a lot of it; almonds are no exception. In fact, a single almond takes about 1.1 gallons of water to produce. However, to put this in perspective, a single pound of beef requires a whopping 1,800 gallons of water , proving that raising cattle is much more resource-intensive than growing almonds. Collectively, meat and dairy production in California uses more water than that of all homes, businesses and government buildings in the entire state. Those figures make choosing almond milk over dairy milk much easier. Farmers realize water is a precious resource, and it’s been a topic of conversation for decades. As a result, California almond producers have spent two decades reducing the amount of water it takes to grow one pound of almonds by 33%. Additionally, they are dedicated to further cutting water usage by another 20% by 2025. Farmers achieve this by targeting water usage where it is needed rather than spraying large areas. Technology is helping, too, with computer-programmed water probes that measure moisture levels in the soil and respond accordingly. Pesticides for growing almonds Another concern centers around the use of pesticides in almond production, as pesticides then end up in the soil and water supply. The answer to this problem is a basic one; simply buy organic . Although the transition has been gradual, an increasing number of almond farmers in California are converting to organic growing methods.  Is our obsession with almond milk killing bees? Then there are the claims that almond milk is killing bees , but almonds are important to bees. Not only is almond nectar the first feast bees have early in the year, but the almond groves support roughly 2 million hives from across the country, making it the world’s largest managed pollination event. With the good comes the bad — pesticides are indeed credited with contributing to colony collapse, enforcing the need to grow and buy organic almonds along with other nuts, fruits and vegetables. Almonds and the economy While California remains cognitive of the potential negative impacts of almond production, the benefits appear to outpace those concerns. As far as the economy goes, The California Agricultural Issues Center says the California almond community delivers significant economic value to the state, including providing 104,000 jobs in the state and boosting GDP by $11 billion. Almond milk’s overall impact on the environment While the discussion of almond production is important to whether almond milk is bad for the environment or not, it’s also critical to realize that most almond milk uses very few almonds. Most almond milks are high in added ingredients, like sugars, artificial flavors and thickeners. Almond milk packaging and transport both have a negative impact, and all of the added ingredients make the nutrition benefits of almond milk questionable at best. You can curb the environmental impact of prepackaged almond milk by making your own at home. There are recipes all over the internet that explain how to do so and even offer twists on the traditional almond flavor by using spices and natural flavorings. So to address the question, “Is almond milk bad for the environment?” the answer is somewhat, but the benefits of a healthy snack producing a healthy economy and a healthy bee population outweigh the water consumption issues. Also remember that almonds offer the same environmental benefits of any other tree, cleaning the air by removing carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen. Plus, the branches offer shade to the soil allowing for better water retention and less evaporation. When the leaves drop, they add nutrients to the soil through natural composting. In all, the carbon footprint is somewhat small, especially compared to conventional dairy, while the economic, nutritional and environmental rewards are high. Images via Pixabay

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Is almond milk bad for the environment?

Protecting tropics could save half of species on brink, report says

March 27, 2020 by  
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Local farmers could be part of the key to helping to prevent extinction.

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Protecting tropics could save half of species on brink, report says

Border wall could end jaguar recovery

March 25, 2020 by  
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The Department of Homeland Security announced last week that it will waive many public health and environmental laws to fast-track border wall construction in remote, mountainous areas of California, Texas and Arizona. The new sections of the border wall will block the remaining corridors that connect jaguars from the U.S. to Sonora, Mexico. The wall will also harm more than 90 other threatened and endangered species . “The new border walls will mean the end of jaguar recovery in the United States,” Randy Serraglio, a conservation advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity, said . “This tragedy’s all the more heartbreaking because walling off these beautiful wildlands is completely unnecessary and futile. It has nothing to do with border security and everything to do to with Trump’s racist campaign promise.” Related: $87M wildlife bridge in California will be a haven for mountain lions Jaguars are shy animals that mostly move around at night over highland trails. Conservationists worry that blocking border access will halt the jaguars’ ability to repopulate the Peloncillo Mountains east of Douglas, Arizona and that jaguars fleeing human encroachment in northern Mexico will have nowhere to go. Other threatened, endangered and rare species that call the border region home include the lesser long-nosed bat, Sonoran pronghorn, Mexican gray wolf, ocelot and the cactus ferruginous pygmy owl. The more than 650 miles of barriers currently blocking the border disrupt animal migration, cause flooding and decimate these animals’ fragile ecosystems . Jaguars are found from the southwestern U.S. down to south-central Argentina. This mammal is the most powerful and largest cat in the western hemisphere and one of four big cats of the Panthera genus. The other three are lions, leopards and tigers . “Jaguars are a key part of the stunningly diverse web of life in the borderlands that will fall apart if these walls are built,” Serraglio said. “The crisis of runaway extinction is devastating wildlife and wild places all over our planet. Trump’s border wall is pouring gas on that fire, and we’ll continue to fight it every step of the way.” The Center for Biological Diversity has helped launch a campaign to oppose the border wall. Individuals can sign the nonprofit conservation organization’s pledge to oppose the wall here . + Center for Biological Diversity Images via Center for Biological Diversity and Pixabay

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Border wall could end jaguar recovery

The hidden risks nature loss poses for businesses

March 16, 2020 by  
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Over $44 trillion of economic value generation, more than half the world’s total GDP, is moderately or highly dependent on nature.

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The hidden risks nature loss poses for businesses

Elevated climate-related risks spur new approaches to doing business

March 16, 2020 by  
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Researchers from University of Cambridge found that climate change could add around 20 percent to the global cost of extreme weather events by 2040. They are urging businesses to evaluate their own exposures to the growing risk to improve their resilience and sustainability.

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Elevated climate-related risks spur new approaches to doing business

How using biodiversity indicators can improve conservation effectiveness

March 2, 2020 by  
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Data can help companies make decisions about their conservation initiatives — and improve outcomes.

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