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Posts Tagged ‘protection’

062120whitefish20lake

Photo: Doug Struck
Access to streams in Whitefish, Montana, was threatened by development, so the town used the increasingly popular strategy of buying rights to the forest.

People can change their minds.

That’s what happened in Montana as property-rights advocates began to see that their water bills would be cheaper if they let government entities buy rights to forests on private lands.

Doug Struck writes at the Christian Science Monitor, “When the appetite for high-priced housing threatened the water source of [Whitefish, Montana], the residents raised taxes and spent money on forests. Three years later, when rising tourism upped the summer demand for water, more money was raised to buy more forests.

“The equation used by local and state officials, nonprofit groups, and private residents was straightforward: It’s cheaper and easier to have the forests cleanse the water than to throw chemicals and machinery at the task.

“ ‘Protecting forests of watersheds makes economic sense,’ says John Muhlfeld, the mayor of this town of 7,000 nestled in Montana’s Rocky Mountains. ‘And it’s a much different way of traditionally looking at a public water supply infrastructure.’ …

“As town planners look at the high cost of building water filtration plants and operating them year after year, the thought of letting the trees do it becomes a budgetary no-brainer.

“And the trees do it well. The natural filtering process that rain and snow undergo in seeping through forest canopies and forest beds, slowly toward streams and lakes, is so effective that five major cities in the United States – New York, Boston, Seattle, San Francisco, and Portland, Oregon – can pump unfiltered water from distant pristine watersheds to customer homes.

“New York is the poster-city example in this country. Twenty years ago, the city engaged in a wrenching political battle over whether to build a $6 billion water filtration plant that would cost $300 million per year to filter water for the city. Instead it gambled and spent $2 billion to protect the forested watershed in the Catskill Mountains, 125 miles away, the source of 90% of the city’s water. It was a bold and controversial decision – and it worked.

“ ‘Here we are, 20 years later they have been meeting the safe drinking water standards through tropical storms and superstorms,’ says Paul K. Barten, one of the junior architects of the original Catskills program who now chairs a current National Academy review of the system. …

‘People are not necessarily doing it because they love trees. … ‘They are doing it because it’s a lot less expensive.’ …

“The state and national park programs that began to emerge in the U.S. 150 years ago, and evolved at the prodding of such visionaries as John Muir, Frederick Olmsted, Gifford Pinchot, and Teddy Roosevelt, now preserve 13% of U.S. land, according to the World Bank. Another 56 million acres are held by various forms of private or public ‘trusts’ that allow some use but prohibit development, according to the Land Trust Alliance in Washington, D.C.

“In the case of Whitefish, that meant keeping land for logging. The Haskill Basin northeast of town was forestland owned for more than a century by the Stoltze lumber company. …

“Over the years, development pressures loomed larger as Whitefish blossomed into a high-end, expensive resort town sprouting multimillion-dollar second homes. … Stoltze ‘could have gotten an offer that they couldn’t refuse,’ says Kris Tempel, a biologist at the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks agency. …

“The Trust for Public Land … helped bring together $9 million from federal conservation funds. And Stoltze agreed to take a $4 million cut on the $21 million price of giving away development rights to its 3,000 acres in Haskill Basin. …

“That left a shortfall of $8 million. City residents had balked before about increasing the town’s ‘resort tax’ on restaurants, lodging, and retail. But in 2015, after a ‘Vote Yes for Water’ campaign by the mayor and others, residents gave an overwhelming 84% approval to a 1% tax increase. Late last year, the purchase of another 13,000-acre property helped protect a watershed for Whitefish Lake, a secondary source of water for the town.

” ‘The public support is a change in a place where encroachment on private land is viewed with suspicion, says [Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks resource conservation manager Alan Wood]. ‘Twenty years ago there was a lot of opposition’ to these proposals.’

“But this deal ‘gave everyone what they wanted,’ says Mr. Wood. The town kept its access to clean and cheap water. Stoltze can keep harvesting timber on the land, employing an average of 110 workers.”

More at the Christian Science Monitor, here.

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monarch-on-tropical-milkwee

Photo: Rose Franklin’s Perennials
A Monarch alights on Butterfly Weed. It also loves milkweed.

Sometimes I find the background for a post in a roundabout way. I heard about Mexico’s Monarch butterfly hero, Jose Luis Alvarez, recently on Public Radio International, which had borrowed his story from the BBC. But because I like to have text to work with, not just audio, I searched online for additional information.

I’m glad I did because practically in my own backyard there’s an organization that’s partnering with Alvarez and helping folks far from Mexico to plant the Butterfly Weed that Monarchs love. Here’s what I learned at Vermont Woods Studio.

According to Peggy Farabaugh, “Jose Luis Alvarez  … is a silviculturist in Mexico who has devoted his life to restoring the forested winter habitat of the Monarch.  [In March 2016] I traveled to Michoacan, Mexico, to meet Jose Luis & see his work. I love Monarchs & we’ve been conserving their summer habit here in Vermont for many years, so I thought maybe we should collaborate and get some Vermont-Mexico synergy going!

“In 1997, Jose Luis created a non-profit called ‘Forests For Monarchs,’ which came to be known as the La Cruz Habitat Protection Program (in the USA) and the Michoacan Restoration Fund (in Mexico).  With donations from people all across the USA, Canada and Mexico, ‘Forests for Monarchs’ has been able to plant nearly 6 million trees.  …

“During the winter Michoacan, Mexico, is home to the entire species of the Eastern Monarch Butterfly (which summers in Vermont). [Illegal] deforestation has devastated the area. … [Jose Luis has] made great progress, but much re-planting still needs to be done.

“Here in rural Vernon, Vermont, a number of friends, neighbors, customers, gardeners and Vernon Elementary School children have been planting milkweed. … We’ve been growing milkweed from seed and giving the seedlings away to fellow Monarch lovers.

“Monarchs summering in Vermont are programmed to migrate to Michoacan, Mexico, in the fall.  There they join the entire population of their species, huddled together in the shelter of the last few remaining acres of their wooded winter habitat.  Mind-boggling, right?  How can an insect (that only weighs as much as a raisin) fly 3,000 miles, to the exact same location its ancestor came from –- when it’s never even been there before? I had to see it to believe it.  So …

“I traveled to Mexico (with my now grown up sons) to meet Jose Luis and we took his Spirit of Butterflies Tour last month. It was amazing.  But we were alarmed to see the extent of deforestation in the area.  Without help reforesting their habitat, the Monarch will soon go the way of the passenger pigeon & that would be just too sad.  So we brainstormed about developing a Vermont-Mexico partnership to help save the butterfly.

“Besides being a forester, Jose Luis is an internationally renowned speaker. He’s been featured in numerous documentary films by the BBC, National Geographic, the Canadian Broadcasting Channel and others. He’s been an advisor and guide to researchers, scientists, photographers & videographers from all over the world as they seek to save the Monarch. His work has been written about in newspapers including the Wall Street Journal & The New York Times.

“So we thought we should bring Jose Luis up to Vermont and New England for a speaking tour to raise awareness about the Monarch’s plight. I guess I got a little carried away and volunteered to help Jose Luis Alvarez plant a million trees in the Monarch’s over-wintering area of Mexico.” More here.

The Vermont Studios post was written originally in 2016 and updated last August.

Photo: Fernando Laposse/BBC
Jose Luis Alvarez is protecting Monarch butterflies by planting deforested areas with the trees they need when they winter-over in Mexico.

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https://butterflywebsite.com/foundats/lacruz/project.cfm

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Jeremy Hance has an article at the Guardian on the quest to save from human encroachment a huge — and largely unknown — raptor: Blakiston’s fish owl.

“It’s not easy studying an endangered species few people have ever heard of,” says Hance. “It’s difficult to raise money, build awareness, or quite simply get people to care. But still, Jonathan Slaght – one of the world’s only experts on the massive, salmon-eating, frog-devouring Blakiston’s fish owl – insisted there are upsides. …

“Blakiston’s fish owl is the world’s largest [owl], and in the Russian forests, where Slaght conducts his research, it cohabits with a lot of big names: the Ussuri brown bear, the Amur leopard, the Asiatic black bear and, of course, the grand-daddy of them all, the ever-popular Amur Tiger. …

“Slaght is a project manager with the Wildlife Conservation Society and a co-founder of the Blakiston’s Fish Owl Project along with Russian ornithologist, Sergei Surmach. But his first run-in with a Blakiston’s came in 2001 when he was a Peace Corps volunteer in Russia. At the time, all he knew about the species was from a tattered bird book more than 40 years old, including an ‘inaccurate, terrible illustration of Blakiston’s fish owl. …

“Although an avid birder, Slaght never expected to actually see one of these things. He was told the owl was so rare that even seasoned ornithologists rarely saw it. Yet one day, hiking in the forest with a friend, he had an encounter that changed the course of his life.

“ ‘Something enormous flies away from us and lands close by and it’s just this big owl.’

“He assumed it was a Eurasian eagle owl – which can be found across the entirety of Eurasia, from the coast of Spain to that of Primorye – but took a few photos just in case.

“ ‘My brain wouldn’t believe it was this mythical thing.’ …

“A few weeks later, though, Slaght gets his pictures developed and takes them to a local ornithologist.

“ ‘He says: “don’t show anyone this picture; this is a Blakiston’s fish owl.” ‘

“Slaght … has become one of the foremost experts on the great owls and continues to find them where people thought them vanished.”

Read about other places this rare bird is found (including Hokkaido, where it was once considered a god), here.

Photo: Jonathan C. Slaght/WCS Russia  
Jonathan Slaght holds a Blakiston’s fish owl in his arms. He is one of a handful of researchers studying this massive raptor, which is threatened by human activity.

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An old, falling-apart film of a heath hen has been unearthed.

Why is that thrilling? The heath hen is extinct.

Writes Carolyn Y. Johnson in the Boston Globe, “The bird stamps its feet on the ground, taking mincing dance steps through the corn stubble. Neck feathers flare like a headdress, and the male puffs out his neck, making a hollow, hooting call that has been lost to history.

“These courtship antics are captured on a silent, black-and-white film that is believed to be the only footage of something not seen for nearly a century: the extinct heath hen.

“The film, circa 1918, is the birding equivalent of an Elvis sighting, said Wayne Petersen of Mass Audubon — mind-blowing and transfixing to people who care. It will premier Saturday [March 8] at a birding conference in Waltham.

“Massachusetts officials commissioned the film nearly a century ago as part of an effort to preserve and study the game bird, once abundant from Southern New Hampshire to Northern Virginia. Then, like the heath hen, the film was largely forgotten.

“Martha’s Vineyard is where the last known heath hens lived, protected in a state preserve. But the last one vanished by 1932. …

“Jim Cardoza, a retired wildlife biologist who worked for the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, said that for him, the film holds lessons about how conservation efforts have evolved.

“ ‘The thing that is striking to me is the habitat of the animal — it looks like they’re out in corn fields and open areas and things like that,’ Cardoza said. ‘That isn’t what the birds really inhabited — they were a scrub-land species.’ Conservationists at the time, he said, ‘didn’t know what the habitat requirements of the species even was.’  ”

Read the rest of the article and watch the film here.

I love the idea of a long-rumored, valuable film finally being found. It’s a great story. It’s also an argument for better filing systems.

State of Massachusetts woodcut, 1912. The fancier heath hens are males.

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Have you been reading about Elizabeth Warren, the temporary head of the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau? People say she is too controversial to be approved by the Senate and that maybe her employee, Raj Date, a former banker, would be a good compromise candidate. Maybe so, but I just want to tell you about the extraordinary consumer advocate that I know Elizabeth Warren to be.

As a professor at Harvard Law School and an expert on bankruptcy, she has worked tirelessly to reverse the erosion of the of the middle class and lower-income families that has occurred over the last few decades. The CFPB was really based on her work, and she is the right person for the job. Growing up among a lot of older brothers, she learned to argue for herself and be persuasive. I have sat in meetings and heard her talk about her research and outreach, and my jaw just dropped. She is so passionate, and her arguments are so clear and incisive. She is capable of persuading many others who think they have different positions, because she always can find the common interest. But I think the country needs a consumer advocate who doesn’t back down.

Elizabeth Warren has a powerful effect on people. One day several years ago, I was standing in a grocery checkout line and by chance I overheard the cashier telling a customer that when she was thinking of filing for bankruptcy, she contacted Elizabeth Warren and received energetic help — for free. Later she would e-mail Warren anytime and get a response and advice. Probably Warren can’t answer such e-mails now, but I will check with that cashier next time I see her.

If Elizabeth Warren hired Raj Date, then he is a good guy. But if he is a real consumer advocate, I don’t see that his chances of being approved by the Senate are any greater than hers.

Comments may be sent to suzannesmom@lunaandstella.com. Luna & Stella is apolitical, but Suzanne said I could write about anything that interests me, and that is what I have been doing.

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