Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Bison coming ‘home’ to Montana Indian reservation

BILLINGS, Mont. — Descendants of a bison herd captured and sent to Canada more than a century ago will be relocated to a Montana American Indian reservation next month, in what tribal leaders bill as a homecoming for a species emblematic of their traditions.

A genetically pure plains bison and its calf roam in Alberta’s Elk Island National Park. 

The shipment of animals from Alberta’s Elk Island National Park to the Blackfeet Indian Reservation follows a 2014 treaty among tribes in the U.S. and Canada. That agreement aims to restore bison to areas of the Rocky Mountains and Great Plains where millions once roamed.

Monday, March 28, 2016

This is why cities can't grow all their own food

If every homeowner in Seattle ripped up their lawn and replaced it with edible plants, the resulting crop production would be enough to feed just one percent of the city’s residents, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Washington.

Previous studies in various cities have surveyed land currently in use for urban agriculture, identified vacant parcels that could grow food, and estimated the percentage of specific categories of food such as eggs or vegetables that might be produced within city limits.

Washington's Olympic Peninsula loses 2 dams and gains a wild river

The United States is expanding.

That was not among the goals when the Elwha River was set free. With the removal of two concrete dams that blocked the river for a century, the Elwha has released a wave of sand that has pushed the shoreline here north toward Canada.

Acres of new land stand between surfers and the chilly shore break. Eagles feed in a growing estuary at the mouth of the river. Families and their dogs stroll where not long ago they would have been submerged in the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Across the water, Vancouver Island is not quite as far away as it used to be.

Sediment trapped by dams has been making its way down the Elwha River, pictured in June 2014, to the Strait of Juan de Fuca. (Elaine Thompson / Associated Press)


Thursday, March 24, 2016

Wild Bison Reintroduced to Netherlands

European bison went extinct in the wild in 1919, but now a few thousand are back, grazing in forests and on plains in a handful of countries. The first four of a group of 11 animals—Europe’s largest living land animal—were reintroduced into state forest land in the Netherlands earlier this month.

The Dutch government hopes the carefully bred and selected animals—three bulls and eight cows—will multiply.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Why prairies matter and lawns don’t

Prairies – those critically endangered and complex ecosystems understood by few and misunderstood and destroyed by millions of people.

Lawns – those myopically obsessive (and evil) urban, suburban, and increasingly rural monoculture eyesores that displace native ecosystems at a rate between 5,000 and 385,000 acres per day* in favor of sterile, chemically-filled, artificial environments bloated with a tremendous European influence that provide no benefits over the long term; no food, no clean water, no wildlife habitat, and no foundation for preserving our once rich natural heritage. And there’s the unbearable ubiquitousness of mowing associated with such a useless cultural practice, which creates a ridiculous amount of noise pollution, air and water pollution, and a bustling busyness that destroys many peaceful Saturday mornings. The American lawn is the epitome of unsustainability.
*The discrepancy is due to expenses. It would be extremely expensive to taxpayers and institutions to obtain the satellite imagery needed to perform a detailed analysis as to how much lawn there really is. Also keep in mind that a lot of lawns are “hidden” under the canopies of trees and urban forests, so those numbers I’ve quoted are conservative at best. Click here for a more thorough explanation. I would also guess those numbers are taken from urban sprawl rates, which varies year to year, decade to decade, etc.

As one internet commenter named Carrie eloquently said, “as a nation, we have far too much lawn doing far too little for us.”

How much lawn is too much? 41 million acres. That figure makes lawn the most widespread plant under irrigation in the contiguous US. Three times more acreage is covered in irrigated lawn than in irrigated corn, and that’s a conservative estimate. All of that once precious water used on those 41 million acres of ridiculous, non-native turfgrass to keep it unnaturally green – how can people be so blind?

Lawns, along with row-crop farms, “improved” grazing pastures, and urbanization, are some of the biggest negative land conversions of native landscapes, and are direct contributors to the destruction of wildlife and native plant habitats throughout the world. As native landscapes disappear, wildlife disappear, and important ecological processes that insure outcomes such as clean drinking water, climate change buffers, and flood control also disappear. The future of mankind depends heavily upon the health of native landscapes.

Prairies matter because of their immense root systems; dense, sprawling, complex biological systems that store one third of the world’s carbon and subsequently clean our future water as it precipitates from moisture-laden clouds onto diverse plant communities, and filters down through the mass of litter, roots, soil organisms, and soil horizons. Water quality always follows soil carbon levels, and prairies are the best soil carbon factories in the world. Lawns do not compare and never will.

Illustration by Heidi Natura, 1995, of Living Habitats.  Click on image to see larger version.  80% of a prairie’s biomass is below ground, which is a part of the reason why prairies are the greatest soil carbon factories in the world.  Those roots break up compacted soil, and as a portion of those roots die each year, they add organic matter and decompose into carbon, further enriching the soil; all of this is done without deadly pesticides or equally deadly petrochemical fertilizers.
Photo above: On the far left is a common lawn grass, Kentucky Bluegrass (Poa pratensis), a native of Europe. The rest of the plants are native prairie species.

Other common lawn grasses are Bermudagrass (Cynodon dactylon), Zoysiagrass (Zoysia spp.), and Bahiagrass (Paspalum notatum), to name a few. None of those are native either, originating from Africa, Japan, and Brazil, respectively.

Kentucky Bluegrass did not originate in North America (a handful of sources say otherwise), so why are we planting it and other weedy non-native grasses? Is it out of fear of nature? Is it out of ignorance of the true beauty of natural ecosystems? (Homeowner associations and neighborhood zoning laws are famous for that). What is so wrong with native plants that we bring in non-native junk from other continents? It’s because most people are impatient when it comes to plants, and they want something that grows fast, is green, stays green, and can be kept as flat as a table top – something the Scotts Company has successfully brainwashed millions of people into believing they can achieve via weekly and noisy toil, though not without taking a chunk out of their paychecks and making them do a whole lot of work with nothing to show for it. How vain, futile, and suicidal.
“The American lawn now represents a serious civic problem. That the space devoted to it continues to grow—and that more and more water and chemicals and fertilizer are devoted to its upkeep—doesn’t prove that we care so much as that we are careless.”
– Elizabeth Kolbert
The carelessness of the American people’s obsessive compulsion for such silly and lowly turfgrass goals extends far beyond the failure they are set up for in regards to their quest for the unsustainable and unattainable “perfect lawn”. As noted before, lawns are suicidal – we are poisoning ourselves, our children, and our water for something that is wholly obtuse and unneeded. Why not be productive and grow a garden instead? A garden, prairie, woodland, forest or xeriscape are far better than the high-maintenance and pervasive European-style lawns.

To sum up the nearsightedness of lawn lovers, here’s a quote attributed to Mark Twain: “You can’t depend on your judgement when your imagination is out of focus.”
§ § §

  • Every day more than 5,000 acres of land are converted to lawns in the U.S. By some estimates, this figure exceeds 385,000 acres.
  • Lawns currently cover more than 41 million acres, the most irrigated graminoid plant in the U.S.
  • Americans apply over 30,000 tons of pesticides to their yards every year.
  • Of the 30 most used lawn pesticides, 17 are routinely detected in groundwater.
  • The National Cancer Institute finds that children in households that have lawn treated with pesticides have a 6.5 times greater risk of developing leukemia.
  • American lawns require 200 gallons of fresh water per person per day to maintain and keep green. People in Developing Countries would kill for that amount of water, and here we are carelessly using it on silly turfgrass.
  • Of 30 commonly used lawn pesticides, 19 are linked with cancer or carcinogenicity, 13 are linked with birth defects, 21 with reproductive effects, 26 with liver or kidney damage, 15 with neurotoxicity, and 11 with disruption of the endocrine (hormonal) system.
  • Of those same pesticides, 17 are detected in groundwater, 23 have the ability to leach into drinking water sources, 24 are toxic to fish and other aquatic organisms vital to our ecosystems, 11 are toxic to bees, and 16 are toxic to birds.
  • If present consumption patterns continue, two out of every three people on Earth will live in water-stressed conditions by the year 2025.

For more on why prairies matter and lawns don’t, read Paul Gruchow’s wonderful essay, “What the Prairie Teaches Us.

Source: www.healthylandethic.com

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Born to Rewild opening

Born to Rewild, the film

In 2013, wilderness ultratrekker John Davis traveled 5,000 human-powered miles from Sonora, Mexico to British Columbia through the Western Wildway, a mega wildlife corridor along the western spine of North America, during an epic conservation journey called TrekWest.

Award-winning adventure cinematographer Ed George filmed John’s story of ground-truthing wildlife corridors and the concepts of his mentors—while weaving together the citizen and science-based groups on the front lines of reconnecting and protecting wildlife corridors and animals on the move.

With the rough cut of the hour-long film weeks from completion, Ed shares a look at the opening with music riffs from Raillery (Flagstaff, Arizona duo John Tveten and Tom O’Hara) and Kenyon Fields.

What it is to be Born to Rewild:

Monday, March 21, 2016

The Flathead River Valley

By: Austin Perez

The Flathead River Valley is a vast area of magnificently beautiful wilderness that spans across the United States/Canada border from British Columbia to Montana. Conservation groups have just announced that more than $10 million in private and public funds have been acquired to protect the Flathead River Valley from mining and oil and gas development. In doing so, a major step has been taken towards ensuring the conservation of this remarkable area of wild nature.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Refuting the apartheid alternative

Abstract—Recently a proposed alternative to the traditional conservationist approach has popped onto the scene. It calls itself “eco-modernism,” and rather than advocating decreased economic growth, it calls for the acceleration of technical and economic innovation, saying that this will leave more land for wildlife. The eco-modernists have also borrowed concepts like “rewilding” from the wildness-centered conservationists, which has led to charges of revisionism. This paper argues against the civilization/nature apartheid scheme that the eco-modernists advocate, and it outlines the moral differences between their humanist approach and the wildist approach to conservation.