A new policy platform is thinking big on forests and climate

December 1, 2020 by  
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A new policy platform is thinking big on forests and climate Kylie Clay Tue, 12/01/2020 – 00:30 The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has sent a clear message : to keep catastrophic climate change impacts at bay, we need to keep our warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius, and the land sector must play a central role in achieving that. We need to stop emissions from deforestation and forest degradation while simultaneously bolstering the carbon sequestration capacity of healthy, growing forests. Following the recent U.S. presidential election, the Forest-Climate Working Group (FCWG) released an ambitious federal policy platform , endorsed by 43 CEOs and organizations representing all dimensions of U.S. forests, intended to help Congress leverage forests for climate change action. The platform includes five detailed proposals that guide policymakers on how to help private forest owners and public land managers overcome existing financial and technical obstacles, enabling them to grow powerful climate solutions in America’s forests and forest product sectors while delivering myriad environmental and economic benefits. Together, the proposals advance the four FCWG goals for climate change mitigation : Maintain and expand forest cover. Improve forest practices for carbon, adaptation and resilience. Advance markets for forest carbon, forest products and skilled labor. Enhance climate data and applied science. Changing priorities Our newly elected leadership is on board with climate action. A crucial component of any carbon-neutral or net-zero plan is offsetting any continued emissions with additional sequestration from natural and working lands, including forests. The threat climate change presents to our well-being is becoming increasingly undeniable, and the need and desire to take impactful action is within reach. In her vice-presidential debate, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris recognized climate change as an “existential threat” and stated that, under a Biden administration, the U.S. would be ” carbon-neutral by 2035 .” President-elect Joe Biden’s official campaign climate plan highlights the next step: achieving ” net-zero emissions no later than 2050 .” To ensure these targets are within reach, FCWG proposals address the following challenges:   Non-industrial family landowners own 36 percent of U.S. forests (with an average parcel size of 67.2 acres ). Due to their small size, the vast majority are unable to benefit from existing carbon markets and face increasing financial pressure to convert forestland into cropland or development. U.S. forests are understocked . Research and funding for increased reforestation are needed to optimize forest sequestration without exacerbating potential for catastrophic fire. The construction sector makes up 8.6 percent of total U.S. GHG emissions. While technology such as cross-laminated timber could dramatically reduce sector emissions if sustainably deployed at scale, it faces upfront informational and perceived cost barriers for architects, builders and developers. Ideas into action With the following specific proposals, the FCWG aims to address the aforementioned challenges and, in so doing, increase the climate change mitigation potential from forests and forest products: Create a new forest conservation easement program. Conservation easements are an important voluntary option for forest landowners to keep their forests as forests. This proposal would meet growing demand for easements by creating a new funding source. Create a landowner tax credit for private forest carbon actions. This policy would create opportunities for private landowners to gain financial incentive for activities that increase carbon sequestration via a transferrable tax credit. Remove the cap on the Reforestation Trust Fund. The outdated cap has left a reforestation backlog of millions of acres, particularly in areas affected by large-scale disturbance from pests or fire. Removing the outdated cap will provide the U.S. Forest Service with increased annual funding to improve national forest health and assure these lands can quickly restart carbon sequestration. Create a low carbon footprint building tax credit. Wood products store carbon and require less energy to manufacture than other materials, reducing the carbon footprint of the built environment. Providing a tax incentive to build with low carbon footprint materials will create incentives to reduce the carbon footprint of the built environment while creating market demand that helps landowners keep forests as forests. Expand Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) Program funding. More frequent and consistent forest measurement data coupled with better analysis capabilities will deepen our understanding of forest carbon. Expanding the U.S. Forest Service’s FIA Program, already a globally recognized source of forest carbon data, will provide more comprehensive and granular data. These proposals are necessary steps toward meaningfully combatting climate change. Richard Kobe, Michigan State University Forestry Department chair, says of the platform:   “The FCWG policy platform is right on target by supporting investments in our forests, landowners and research capacity. These elements are critical to ensure our forests are effective carbon sinks and are resilient to climate change, which in turn supports economic vitality of rural communities, clean water, wildlife and the many other benefits that forests provide.” Uptake and implementation The FCWG policy platform lays out a roadmap of tangible steps to ensure that our forests are part of the climate solution. As the 117th U.S. Congress prepares to undertake a range of legislation, climate inevitably will play a dominant role. The threat climate change presents to our well-being is becoming increasingly undeniable, and the need and desire to take impactful action is within reach. A host of recent bipartisan bills (such as the Growing Climate Solutions Act and Rural Forests Market Act proposals) highlight that being proactive about the environmental and economic potential of our natural and working lands, including forestry and agriculture, is of great interest on both sides of the aisle. The MSU Forest Carbon and Climate Program (FCCP) aims to increase understanding and implementation of climate-smart forest management, which inextricably links climate change mitigation and adaptation. The program focuses on activities that advance best practice implementation, promote robust and inter-disciplinary understanding of forest benefits and co-benefits, and develop and nurture balanced perspectives that include working forests and forest products as a part of the climate change solution. These objectives are achieved through working with strategic partners to better communicate and bring attention to key topics, create educational content and programming, and bridge dialogue gaps on carbon and climate topics related to forests and forested lands. Pull Quote The threat climate change presents to our well-being is becoming increasingly undeniable, and the need and desire to take impactful action is within reach. Contributors Lauren Cooper Topics Forestry Policy & Politics Climate Change Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off

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A new policy platform is thinking big on forests and climate

Lack of cruise ships gives researchers the perfect chance to study humpback whales

October 5, 2020 by  
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Due to the impact of COVID-19, researchers have found the perfect opportunity to understand the Alaskan coast and its humpback whales. Alaska’s southeastern waters are usually busy, with thousands of tourists on cruise ships at any given moment. This disruption impacts how the whales behave. However, researchers have experienced a difference during the summer of this year, thanks to a slow-down of tourist activities, and they are taking the rare chance for a closer study of the area’s humpback whales. Alaska receives many cruise ships every year with over 1 million tourists expecting to enjoy spectacular views of glaciers. However, that number has been drastically reduced to zero during the pandemic . Now that the waters are open, researchers are using the opportunity to understand the ecosystem better. Related: Record number of pilot whales get stranded, die in Tasmania Paul Swanstrom, founder of Mountain Flying Service, said, “The town of Skagway gets a million people a year off cruise ships and is just completely shut down. It’s nuts. All the southeast has been hit pretty hard.” With the ships out of the way, scientists are now preparing to watch whales in their natural habitat. It has been over 40 years since scientists last recorded the sounds of whales in Alaska. In most cases, they have to record the interactions between whales and humans. “It’s the first time in human history that we’ve had the technological ability to listen to these whales in a meaningful way without us interfering … it’s a really, really big deal,” said Michelle Fournet, director of Sound Science Research Collective and research fellow of Cornell University. “The last time researchers were able to listen to humpbacks in a quiet ocean in Alaska was in 1976.” Since whale observations began, the technology has greatly improved, allowing researchers to gather improved data on the whales. “We’re going to see how these humpback whales are interacting with their environment instead of how they’re interacting with us,” Fournet explained. “You can’t figure out whether or not your species is resilient to something if you don’t know what it acts like when it’s happy.” Via The Guardian Image via Pixabay

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Lack of cruise ships gives researchers the perfect chance to study humpback whales

Nordstrom to end the sale of fur and animal skins

October 5, 2020 by  
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One of America’s leading fashion retailers, Nordstrom, has announced that it will be ending the sale of fur and animal skins by 2021. This move comes at a time when the world is faced with various environmental issues that are forcing many people to rethink their lifestyle choices, including what is in their wardrobes. The company has partnered with The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) to implement the plan. This now means that all products made from fur or any other animal-derived material will not be sold at Nordstrom stores, including Nordstrom Rack and Last Chance, or at its online stores by the end of 2021. Nordstrom’s chief marketing officer, Teri Bariquit, announced that the company wanted to honor its customers’ wishes by updating the products it offers. “As part of our ongoing product evolution, we’ve been working with the Humane Society of the United States and recently made the decision to stop offering products made with genuine fur or exotic animal skin in any of our stores or online,” Bariquit said. “Our private label brands haven’t used these materials for years, so extending this policy to all the brands we carry is a natural next step for our business.” Related: Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s to be fur-free by 2021 The decision was welcomed by HSUS, with the organization’s CEO Kitty Block praising the brand for banning not just fur but also other animal skins. “We applaud Nordstrom for ending the sale of fur and becoming the first United States-based retailer to ban exotic animal skins,” Block said. “This is a pivotal step toward a more humane business model and a safer world for animals.” Although Nordstrom is taking a positive step forward, the decision comes after years of push and pull between the retailer and the animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). The group has been demanding that Nordstrom and other retailers stop selling products made out of animal fur and skin since 1999. In 2019, PETA released an investigation showing how Nordstrom was helping to fuel the fur trade in Russia. Now, PETA is calling on other retailers to follow in the footsteps of Nordstrom in an effort to create a better world for both humans and animals. + Nordstrom Via VegNews Image via Nordstrom

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The daily life of a tree farmer with One Tree Planted

August 21, 2020 by  
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Trees make the world a better place for humans by providing shade, sequestering CO2 , intercepting airborne particles, aiding respiratory health and adding great beauty to this planet we call home. Because trees do so much for us, planting more of them is an eco-strategy touted by many environmental organizations. But what’s it really like spending your workday growing, planting and caring for trees? To find out, we talked to a Zach Clark-Lee, a professional tree farmer who works with the environmental charity One Tree Planted. Founded in 2014, One Tree Planted works on reforestation projects in North America, South America, Asia, Africa and Australia. Some of its goals are to restore forests after natural disasters, create jobs and enhance biodiversity . The organization figures that it costs approximately $1 to grow and plant a tree, from land prep to maintaining and monitoring the planted tree. So if you have a dollar, you can sponsor a tree through One Tree Planted’s website. Or learn more about planting some trees yourself. Related: Nonprofit plants 80,000 trees in Kenya and Rwanda Here’s what Clark-Lee had to say about working with One Tree Planted. Inhabitat: What and where is your job, and how did you become affiliated with One Tree Planted? Clark-Lee: I work for the Colorado State Forest Service Seedling Nursery in Fort Collins, Colorado as a tree farmer . I took a tour of the nursery while in school, and I immediately fell in love with their mission and passion. I started as a volunteer in 2014 for about 4-5 weeks and then was offered a seasonal position. One year later, I started training to become the container production supervisor. Now, this is not the only hat that I wear. I’m the volunteer coordinator for the nursery, a licensed drone flier, tree planter and tour guide. Giving tours is how I became affiliated with One Tree Planted. I connected with their mission and values right away and then started growing trees for their vast projects. I’ve gotten a significant number of trees in the ground by working with One Tree Planted and have connected with some fantastic people along the way. Inhabitat: What was your motivation behind getting involved in the industry? Clark-Lee: To be completely honest, my motivation at first was completely selfish. I just wanted to be able to work outside. The more I learned during my hands-on experience, the more I realized how important my work and the work of the nursery was. My motivation adapted quickly. While I still love the fact that I get to work outside, I’m driven by a purpose, a want and a need to make our world a better place. Ultimately, I want to ensure my kids and future generations all over the world have a thriving planet to call home. Inhabitat: How many trees do you cultivate yearly? Clark-Lee: We sell roughly 500,000 native trees , perennials, shrubs and grasses every year. These plants have so many different applications such as going to post-fire/flood affected areas, building habitats, erosion control, creating living snow fences and windbreaks and more. Inhabitat: What’s a typical day like for you? Clark-Lee: I arrive at 6:45 in the morning and get our crew rolling for the day. We may be seeding, transplanting, weeding or getting orders ready for distribution. Every day that I’m on the farm, I get to nurture our plants to help others and Mother Nature. The days are long, and sometimes more challenging than others, but I experience a constant rewarding feeling from my work. A feeling that makes me want to get up and do it again day after day. Home is an interesting concept for me. The nursery is really my second residence, and after a long day on the 130-acre farm, I get to go to my  actual  home and spend time with my family. Inhabitat: What happens after you’ve grown the trees, and where do they go? Clark-Lee: We grow and sell trees for many different reasons. Some of our plants are going to areas that may have been impacted by devastating fires or floods . Some may be for habitat rehabilitation and animal corridors that house birds, lions, bobcats, pollinators and more. We also have specific projects for a number of different conservation efforts, like helping reservations restore their land or helping farmers/landowners with windbreaks or living snow fences to better manage their properties. Inhabitat: Do you plant trees yourself? Why? Clark-Lee: Yes, we plant the trees ourselves, mainly to ensure the success, health and beauty of the tree planting. We want our plants to help Colorado and surrounding states be as healthy and prosperous as we all know they can be. We also plant species on our property for seed increase, when seed may be hard to get your hands on. Inhabitat: Where have you planted trees? Clark-Lee: I have started my own plantings on the “High Park” burn scar, just outside of Fort Collins. I saw this site and realized that not many people were planting there. So, I took it upon myself to change that. With the help of One Tree Planted, I was able to purchase the trees from the nursery and get started. Planting is a passion of mine, and I cannot wait for the pandemic to end so that I can return to the forest with my volunteers. Inhabitat: What wild animals have you seen in the field? Clark-Lee: I have seen amazing wildlife , like mountain lions, bobcats, eagles, hawks and owls. Inhabitat: What do you like the most about working in the industry? Clark-Lee: What I like most about working in the industry is the like-minded people I have the opportunity to connect with. Volunteers are truly a different type of breed — an amazing one! They are happy to get out in the hot sun and traverse all kinds of terrain just to put trees in the ground. Volunteers don’t do it for the money, they do it because they are passionate about the cause and want to help. Inhabitat: How long have you done this work, and how long do you plan to do it? Clark-Lee: I have been doing this work for almost 7 years now, and I don’t think I could be any happier doing anything else. I have been able to grow and plant trees for the world’s health and help others find their path in this industry. Inhabitat: What else should readers know about your work? Clark-Lee: Passion is the ultimate driver for my work. If you’re looking for ways to help fight climate change , or get involved in your own community, you can start with planting trees. Get out and volunteer for an hour or two, or 10 hours, or a whole week. Do it until passion slaps you across the face. You might discover something in you that you never knew you had. Inhabitat: What are your hopes for the future of forests, and how does your work contribute to that? Clark-Lee: I hope that I can pass my torch to the future generations with a smile and know that we are in safe hands. I hope that my passion rubs off on people from all walks of life. I want my work to instill hope in others. Trees are the answer, and don’t let anyone forget it. See professional tree planters in action in this video from One Tree Planted. + One Tree Planted Images via Jplenio , George Bakos and Siggy Nowak

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The daily life of a tree farmer with One Tree Planted

World’s highest temperature, 130F, recorded in Death Valley

August 19, 2020 by  
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On Sunday, August 16, the U.S. National Weather Service recorded the highest temperature reading ever on Earth in Death Valley, California . High temperatures in Death Valley are the norm, but the new high beats previous temperature records and is sounding the alarm on global warming. According to the National Weather Service, the temperature of 130°F (54.5°C) is still awaiting verification after it was recorded by weather monitoring equipment in the area. The occurrence of the highest temperature in Death Valley coincides with a heatwave on the West Coast. The National Weather Service has predicted that the temperatures here are expected to rise further within the week, but the heatwave has already had a devastating impact in California. Residents are experiencing days of blackouts, because the heat is believed to have caused damage to power supply equipment. Related: Global warming to cause more deaths than all infectious diseases Brandi Stewart, who lives and works at the Death Valley National Park , spends most of her time indoors during the month of August each year. The temperatures in the valley can get to unbearable levels this month, and the new record is not a surprise to the residents. “When you walk outside it’s like being hit in the face with a bunch of hairdryers,” Stewart told BBC . “You feel the heat and it’s like walking into an oven and the heat is just all around you.” Before this record, the highest temperature ever recorded on Earth was 129.2°F (54°C). The former highest temperature reading was also recorded in Death Valley in 2013 and has remained unchanged until Sunday. However, there are disputes about a higher reading that was recorded a century ago. The 1913 record of 134°F (56.6°C) in the Death Valley has been widely disputed and is not officially recognized. There have also been other questionable previous high temperature records that surpass the Sunday reading. Besides the disputed 1913 Death Valley reading, a 1931 record of 131°F (55°C) in Tunisia was also been under scrutiny. If the latest Death Valley reading is verified by the National Weather Service, it will be officially recognized as the highest temperature ever recorded. Via BBC Image via Jplenio

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Modular Emergency Hospital 19 pops up in Italy in just 3 months

August 17, 2020 by  
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In the Milan commune of Rozzano, an inspiring pilot project for emergency healthcare architecture has popped up in just 11 weeks in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Dubbed the Emergency Hospital 19, the autonomous healthcare facility was created by Milan-based architectural firm Filippo Taidelli Architetto in collaboration with Humanitas and Techint. The autonomous hospital follows modular and sustainable principles for scalability, user comfort and energy efficiency. Constructed next to the Humanitas A&E, the approximately 2,700-square-meter Emergency Hospital 19 comprises six modular units that include the A&E module with triage areas, first-aid areas and clinical areas; a centrally located Intensive Care module with 12 fully equipped stations; a 17-bed Hospitalization module; a Service module for logistics and changing areas; the Operating Area module; and the Radiology module. All of the clinical spaces, Intensive Care unit and the Hospitalization unit are equipped with negative pressure, and any expelled air is passed through absolute filters that capture infectious particles. Patient pathways have also been separated to ensure safety. Related: Pop-up prefab hospitals proposed as healthcare centers during pandemics Each basic module has also been developed to be “energetically autonomous” and wrapped in a breathable, double-skin facade designed to reduce incoming thermal energy by up to 50%. Natural light is also emphasized in the design to reduce energy demands and improve patient comfort. Patients also benefit from the therapeutic effects of vegetation that are placed in the interiors and in the shared patio area, which has single seats placed at safe distances. Multicolored, pastel striped wallpaper lines the walls and corridors to create a “carefree open-air atmosphere [to help] him to feel less lost or oppressed,” the architects noted. The recently completed Emergency Hospital at Rozzano is the first of three emergency care facilities that are being built in northern Italy . Future facilities are currently being built in Bergamo at Humanitas Gavazzeni and in Castellanza at Humanitas Mater Domini. + Filippo Taidelli Architetto Images via Filippo Taidelli Architetto

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Modular Emergency Hospital 19 pops up in Italy in just 3 months

Mount Rushmore fireworks display sparks concerns

June 30, 2020 by  
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Despite a decade-long ban on fireworks at Mount Rushmore on environmental and public health grounds, President Trump is planning a fireworks show at the famous site on July 3. Critics are worried about the threat of wildfire and the spread of coronavirus . The National Park Service halted fireworks displays at Mount Rushmore in 2010 to avoid wildfires accelerated by drought conditions. The monument is famous for its four presidential faces — George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln — but also includes 1,200 acres of forest and is close to Black Hills National Forest’s Black Elk Wilderness. Related: Crowds fill national park for Yellowstone reopening With a high temperature of 80 degrees predicted for the Fourth of July weekend paired with moderate drought conditions, not everybody is cheering for fireworks. “It’s a bad idea based on the wildland fire risk, the impact to the water quality of the memorial, the fact that it is going to occur during a pandemic without social distancing guidelines and the emergency evacuation issues,” Cheryl Schreier, who was superintendent at Mount Rushmore National Park from 2010-2019, told The Washington Post . Trump has yearned to see fireworks over Mount Rushmore for years and has downplayed the wildfire risk. “What can burn? It’s stone,” he said in January, according to Popular Mechanics . The 7,500 people who won tickets to the event in an online lottery will be urged to wear face coverings if they’re unable to social distance. South Dakota has so far escaped the worst of coronavirus. According to CDC statistics , at the time of writing this article, the state had 6,626 confirmed cases and 91 deaths. A fireworks display over Mount Rushmore is especially symbolic at a time when protesters seeking an end to racial discrimination are tearing down monuments. Statues of Jefferson and Washington have elsewhere been removed by people decrying the former presidents as slave owners. Mount Rushmore has an especially troubled history. The Lakota Sioux hold the Black Hills sacred. Having the faces of their European conquerors immortalized on stolen stone is viewed as the ultimate desecration. Via PBS , Ecowatch and Weather Channel Image via Pixabay

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Mount Rushmore fireworks display sparks concerns

Robert De Niro and partners to open a garden hotel in Poland

May 29, 2020 by  
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If a glimpse into history is on your bucket list, a stay at the soon-to-open Nobu hotel in Poland can help put a check in that column. Decimated by World War II, the city of Warsaw originated in the 1300s and has been under meticulous reconstruction for decades. Blending the old with the new, historical architecture is balanced with nearby neighborhoods that are alive with trendy wine bars, art galleries and cafes. Joining the creative hub is the newest addition to the Nobu family of hotels being built by Nobu Hospitality, a globally established lifestyle brand owned by actor Robert De Niro, chef Nobu Matsuhisa and film producer Meir Teper. The heart of this capital city will be the site of the V-shaped hotel. Nobu Hotel Warsaw will feature 117 sleek and spacious rooms along with meeting and event spaces, an expansive fitness center and the signature Nobu Restaurant and café. “Nobu Hotel Warsaw is a really exciting project for us,” said Trevor Horwell, Chief Executive Officer of Nobu Hotels . “The luxury hospitality market has been gaining momentum in Warsaw for a while. There’s a certain type of energy that extends far beyond the bricks and mortar – we’re very excited to be at the forefront of this new wave of lifestyle and hospitality development – and being from Poland originally, this opening is particularly exciting for our co-founder Meir Teper.” While luxury and the location are undeniably enticing, the building design also represents a marriage of the historic with modern elements that feed a need to completely understand the multifaceted city. Half of the hotel is housed in what used to be the Hotel Rialto, a building dating back to the 1920s that represents Art Deco design elements. A lobby connects this sample of Warsaw’s past to the other wing of the hotel, an ultra-contemporary space designed in collaboration with Polish architectural firm Medusa Group and California-based Studio PCH. The outdoor space features a pyramid of balconies with living gardens for a contrast of green space to cityscape. Hotel Nobu Warsaw is one of 18 hotels by Nobu Hospitality spanning five continents, each offering premium service, unique design elements and an extraordinary culinary experience. The Hotel Nobu Warsaw is expected to open in August 2020. + Nobu Hotel Images via ?ukasz K?pielewski

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Robert De Niro and partners to open a garden hotel in Poland

The farm-to-food-bank movement rescues pandemic-related food waste

May 18, 2020 by  
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Farmers are burying onions, destroying tomatoes and grinding up heads of lettuce to return to the soil. Dairy workers are dumping milk. These images of food destruction have horrified Americans during the pandemic . Farmers shouldn’t have to destroy the crops they’ve poured their money, energy, time and strength into. Hungry people shouldn’t witness the destruction of food that they could cook for their families. But farmers and organizations are working to save this food and bring it to those in need. COVID-19 has hurt people in many ways, but the food supply chain has been hit especially hard. Since restaurants, hotels, schools and cruise ships have shut down, farmers have lost about 40% of their customer base on average. Some farms have lost their main outlets. For example, RC Hatton Farms in Florida has had to disk — that is, grind up and recycle into the soil — hundreds of acres of cabbage since the crop has lost its future as KFC slaw. Related: How to volunteer during COVID-19 Meanwhile, with the U.S. unemployment rate stretching toward 15% , more Americans could make use of those crops. The question is, how can the food supply chains be rerouted before all of the vegetables and milk spoil? Worldwide food insecurity may double this year because of COVID-19. In relatively affluent America, people are waiting in line for hours to get to food pantries. Fortunately, the world is full of clever and helpful people. From individuals to large organizations, people are devising ways to redistribute food to those who need it. From farms to food banks Food banks are nonprofit organizations that store food donated from retailers, restaurants, grocery stores and individuals. This food is then distributed to food pantries, where people can take home food to eat. Food pantries provide millions of free meals per year. With their restaurant and institutional clients closed by COVID-19, more farmers are trying to donate crops straight to food banks. But donation doesn’t come free. While most farmers would vastly prefer to donate their vegetables than to let them rot in fields, those crops don’t harvest themselves. Nor do they pack themselves for shipping or drive to the nearest food bank. Some states are working hard to facilitate getting crops to the people. At the end of April, California Governor Gavin Newsom announced a $3.64 million expansion to the state’s Farm to Family program. By the end of the year, he expects this campaign to reach $15 million. The Farm to Family program is a partnership between the California Department of Food and Agriculture and the California Association of Food Banks. The USDA has approved redirecting $2 million in unused Specialty Crop Block Grant funds to the California Association of Food Banks. This will help cover costs of picking, packing and transporting the produce to food banks. “Putting food on the table during this pandemic is hard for families on the brink,” Newsom said in a press release. “It’s in that spirit that we’re expanding our Farm to Family program while also working to connect low-income families with vital resources and financial support. We thank our farmers for stepping up to donate fresh produce to our food banks . And we want families struggling to access food to know we have your backs.” In New Mexico, the state chapter of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) launched its own Farm to Foodbank program. The group will fund farmers to continue producing organic produce, which will be routed to food pantries. AFSC is also helping farmers buy supplies, such as seeds, masks, gloves and irrigation systems. In return, the farmers sign contracts promising produce to community members suffering from food insecurity. For example, farmers at Acoma Pueblo requested seeds and promised to donate a part of their crops to the senior center. Help from private companies Some companies are also assisting in moving surplus crops to food banks. Florida-based Publix Super Markets has long been donating food to Feeding America’s member food banks and other nonprofits. In the last 10 years, Publix has donated about $2 billion worth of food, or 480 million pounds. Now, the supermarket chain is stepping up its efforts and buying unsold fresh milk and produce from Florida and regional producers and donating these goods to Feeding America food banks. “As a food retailer, we have the unique opportunity to bridge the gap between the needs of families and farmers impacted by the coronavirus pandemic,” Todd Jones, chief executive officer of Publix, told NPR . Other supermarket chains have announced large monetary donations to food banks during the pandemic, including $50 million from Albertsons. Kroger Co. set up a $10 million Emergency COVID-19 Response Fund. To celebrate Earth Day , Natural Grocers donated $50,000 in gift cards to food banks. Individual giving Some farmers have taken direct action to get their crops to families. Idaho potato farmer Ryan Cranney invited the public to help themselves to his millions of unsold potatoes. “At first I thought we’d have maybe 20 people,” Cranney said in an interview . He was amazed when thousands of people drove to his town, with a population of 700, and hauled away potatoes. “We saw people from as far away as Las Vegas, which is an 8-hour drive from here,” he said. Of course, most of us don’t have millions of potatoes to spare. But we can still help food banks. In better times, food banks appreciate shelf-stable foods like peanut butter and tomato paste. But right now, the best thing you can do as an individual is to give money. Feeding America, the biggest hunger relief organization in the U.S, has about 200 member food banks. If you’re able to spare a few dollars, you can donate to its COVID-19 Response Fund . Via CBS 8 , Santa Fe New Mexican and Politico Images via Philippe Collard , Hai Nguyen , U.S. Department of Agriculture and Dennis Sparks

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The farm-to-food-bank movement rescues pandemic-related food waste

Planning a low-water garden with expert Guy Banner

April 28, 2020 by  
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For those fortunate enough to have some outdoor space, gardening has become a top  pandemic  activity. It gets people outdoors doing something constructive while maintaining social distancing. You might even grow something to eat. But as all eco-conscious people know, gardening requires water. Sometimes a lot of water. For low-water gardening tips, we asked horticulturalist Guy Banner of  Red Butte Garden  in Salt Lake City for some tips. Banner worked as a field botanist for federal agencies like the U.S. Geological Service and the U.S. Forest Service in Oregon before going back home to Utah. He now co-owns  Grand Prismatic Seed , which specializes in hardy organic seeds, and works as the assistant horticulturalist in Red Butte’s Water Conservation Garden. Red Butte is a gorgeous 100-acre botanical garden with display gardens, hiking  trails , walking paths, talks, outdoor concerts, flower shows and lots of educational displays for home gardeners. It’s definitely worth a trip once we can leave our houses again. Inhabitat: Could you tell us a little bit about the history and inspiration behind Red Butte’s Water Conservation Garden? Banner: The  Water Conservation Garden (WCG) had been a long-term goal for the garden as a response to our arid climate and regional projected population growth as well as an opportunity to create a garden space with a different feel and plant palette. Ten years of planning and preparation came before the grand opening in the spring of 2017. The hope was to create a water conservation garden that demonstrated low to no water use through design,  plant selection and gardening techniques without sacrificing high aesthetic value. I believe it has been a success. The WCG hosts plants from similar climates across the globe but there is a special emphasis on housing many examples of the beautiful and well-adapted native flora of the western U.S. Inhabitat: Any tips for people planning a low-water garden at home? Banner: There are many lovely dry shade plants, but the majority of the most colorful and structural low-water plants need full sun and warmth. They are great for sunny south and west facing garden beds.  Rocks , slopes, windbreaks, evergreens and structures can be used to create warmer sheltered spaces for more cold-sensitive plants. Low-water plants tend to need good drainage in the  soil , especially in non-arid climates. You can find out your soil’s drainage by doing a simple DIY soil percolation test, like this one from Tennessee State University Cooperative Extension:  Soil Perc. Test. To improve drainage, plant on a slope, use rock, gravel, sharp sand and coarse organic material to amend heavy clay soils and/or use plants adapted to those conditions. You can also build mounded beds with large rocks, cobble, cinder blocks, etc. inside to give height and good drainage. If you are lucky enough to have a naturally moist and/or cool garden site, ‘low-water’ plants for you can have higher water needs. Draw inspiration from your native upland flora . Those plants will indicate plant types that can thrive in your area without extra water. Newly planted and transplanted plants will have to be watered regularly until their roots can establish. Establishment can take between one and three years, depending on how slow-growing the plant is. Only the most low-water plants can establish with little to no water after initial planting. Rainfall should be considered. Plants that grow from seed or seedlings in your beds will create the best root systems most quickly, because the roots are free to grow to their fullest potential while seeking out the nutrients and moisture in your garden soil. Mulch is a great way to improve soil texture, moderate temperature, reduce weeds and retain moisture. Use well-draining inorganic rock or gravel mulches around very xeric plants that are prone to rot if their stems and crowns are surrounded by excess moisture. The spongy organic material, beneficial bacteria and fungi of healthy living soils help plants to better utilize available water and nutrients. The natural symbiosis of roots with beneficial fungi (mycorrhiza) in upwards of 90% of studied plant families help plant roots access much more of the soil’s water and nutrients than they can on their own. To improve sterile and impoverished soils use healthy compost or beneficial soil life inoculants. Be minimal and cautious with pesticides, toxic materials and repeated heavy tillage. Visit and support your local nurseries, botanical gardens, university extension programs and gardening clubs. They can be excellent resources. Inhabitat: What are the biggest water-related mistakes people make when planting a garden? Banner: One of the biggest mistakes in low-water gardening is to mix plants with high and low water needs in the same irrigation zones. This creates a lot of hand watering or drowned low-water plants. The key is to create ‘hydrozones’ of plants with similar water needs that receive the same irrigation. Another water-related mistake is to not maximize the water that naturally falls on your garden area. Unless you live in a heavy rainfall area, slow, spread and sink the water you receive by integrating passive rainwater harvesting into your landscaping . It can be particularly useful to integrate your rain gutter downspouts, create swales and basins and then hydrozone the plantings based on how much water is retained. Be mindful of rainfall patterns, leaks and potential flooding in your designs. Inhabitat: What have you learned from working at the Water Conservation Garden? Banner: It’s always teaching me new things of course but here are some of the most poignant lessons that I have learned. The amount of water used to establish many of our garden’s low-water plants is more than some of the most xeric or sandy soil adapted plants can handle; they establish better now with the lower water scheduling. The natural slopes of our foothill garden have helped significantly with drainage of our rocky, clay soils. The use of native annuals and summer drought-adapted bulbs in the garden can create a wonderfully lush landscape by taking advantage of natural seasonal moisture. People are very excited and often surprised to see the wide range of possibilities in low water gardening that we display, and it inspires me to continue to make the garden botanically interesting, aesthetic and approachable. Inhabitat: Can you recommend some low-water plants? Banner:  My current favorite low-water plants are Northern Blazing Star (Liatris scariosa var. nieuwlandii), Shasta Sulphur Buckwheat (Eriogonum umbellatum var. polyanthum), Long trunked Spanish Dagger (Yucca gloriosa), Palmer’s penstemon (Penstemon palmeri), Smoothstem blazingstar (Mentzelia laevicaulis), Pale stonecrop (Sedum sediforme), Silverleaf Oak (Quercus hypoleucoides), Yellowhorn (Xanthoceras sorbifolium), Texas beargrass (Nolina texana),  Arizona fescue (Festuca arizonica), New Mexico Agave (Agave parryii var. neomexicana), ‘Frazier Park’ Big Berry Manzanita (Arctostaphylos glauca ‘Frazier Park’), Canyon Liveforever (Dudleya cymosa), Saint John’s Chamomile (Anthemis sancti-johannis) Inhabitat: Anything else our readers should know about water conservation and gardening? Banner: There is a lot to explore in finding the best water- conserving garden for your unique situation. While there are many general guidelines and recommendations you will find special opportunities as you dig deeper in your gardening practice (pun intended). Don’t be afraid to experiment and make some mistakes. Have fun with it! For more information on what to plant for your climate zone, check out this EPA site . + Guy Banner, Red Butte Garden Images via Teresa Bergen

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Planning a low-water garden with expert Guy Banner

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