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Newsbites – June 2013
“Dramatic Decline” Warning for Common Plants and Animals
A paper published last month in the journal Nature Climate Change says that more than half of common plant species and a third of animals could see a serious decline in their habitat range because of climate change. Scientists quoted in the paper say, however, that the losses can be reduced if rapid action is taken to curb greenhouse gas emissions.
A separate new study has found that frogs, toads, salamanders and other amphibians in the US are dying off so quickly that they could disappear from half their habitats in the next 20 years. Some of the more endangered populations may be gone in six years, including ancient species that have survived all kinds of changes. The nine-year survey by scientists from the US Geological Survey Amphibian Research and Monitoring Initiative examined population trends for 48 species at 34 ponds, streams and other sites across the country. Most were on public lands with some level of protection.
It has been known since the 1990s that the amphibian populations were declining, but this is the first time the decline has been measured. The causes of this global phenomenon may include a combination of disease, atmospheric changes, pollutants, non-native invasive species, habitat loss and climate change.
Amphibians control pests, feed other animals and help make ecosystems function. They also inspire new medicines.
Youth To Be Employed on Public Lands Conservation Projects
New Mexico and Arizona are among the states that will receive federal grants to hire young people to work on conservation project on public lands. $4.2 million in competitive grants will go toward hiring more than 600 people between the ages of 15 and 25 to work on 22 projects throughout the West. The grants reflect the Obama administration’s efforts to develop a 21st-century Conservation Service Corps.
In NM, over a 48-day period, low income and tribal youth from the Rocky Mountain Youth Corps will partner with the State Land Office, the NM Department of Game and Fish and the BLM to stimulate aspen regeneration and restore mule deer habitat in the Wind Mountain area. In a separate project, the BLM will work with the YouthWorks New Conservationists crew on restoration projects north and south of Santa Fe. This will include fire-hazard reduction, invasive-species removal, native-species planting, watershed restoration and protection of public lands threatened by illegal activities such as dumping and off-roading.
March Against Monsanto
On May 25, about 300 people marched from the Santa Fe Farmers’ Market to the state capitol in a “March Against Monsanto.” Similar marches took place in 52 countries and 436 cities to protest the giant chemical and seed corporation’s genetically engineered (GE) and genetically modified (GMO) crops.
Critics say that GMOs and their accompanying herbicides can lead to serious health conditions in humans and animals. Monsanto’s popular herbicide Roundup may be “the most biologically disruptive chemical in our environment,” according to a recent scientific peer-reviewed study published in the journal Entropy.
Monsanto generates about 90 percent of GMO seeds and has spent millions lobbying against GMO labeling in the US (a bill in the 2013 NM Legislature was quickly derailed). Labeling is required by the EU and in many other countries. At least 60 countries worldwide have a complete ban on biotech food products.
Critics also decry Monsanto’s business practices. Monsanto is the largest among 10 corporations that have collectively cornered the global market on seeds. Monsanto uses patent rights to sue small farmers when their fields have been contaminated with pollen from nearby GMO farms. There are also issues of “bio-piracy” of indigenous knowledge and genetic resources.
A revolving door allegedly exists between Monsanto and US regulatory and judicial bodies. The Senate recently rejected a bill that would have allowed states to require labeling of GMO foods. In March, the Farmer Assurance Provision (the “Monsanto Protection Act”) was quietly slipped into a stopgap federal spending bill designed to avert a government shutdown. The rider prohibits federal courts from halting the sale of GE/GMO seeds and shelters the agribusiness from litigation.
NM Acequias: Tradition & Adaptation Conference – June 26
The New Mexico Acequia Association is hosting a statewide acequia conference, New Mexico Acequias: Tradition & Adaptation, at Santa Fe Community College on June 26. The daylong event will include the premiere of The Art of Mayordomia, a short film produced by the NMAA’s Mayordomo Project, a community-based collaboration intended to foster the transmission of knowledge from one generation of mayordomos to the next. The film intertwines excerpts of wisdom from mayordomos in different acequia communities throughout northern NM with a Jémez Springs mayordoma-in-training who shadows her father in his role as mayordomo, following a seasonal calendar of activities and duties.
The conference will also provide information about various acequia governance topics such as Water Rights from the Acequia Perspective, Acequia Easements, and a commissioner training. For more info, visit www.lasacequias.org
Rights of Nature Workshop – July 26-28
Explore the foundational principles of the rising global Rights of Nature movement and examine case studies in a workshop in Santa Fe led by noted authors Osprey Orielle Lake and Shannon Biggs. From Mora County, New Mexico, to the nations of Ecuador and Bolivia, communities are restoring the ancient cross-cultural narrative that trees, rivers, animals and mountains have a right to exist, persist, maintain and regenerate their vital cycles–just as humans do.
The movement is creating a legal basis to gain recognition for damages done and to protect local ecosystems by elevating the rights of nature above corporate rights. In 2008 Ecuador became the first country in the world to include Rights of Nature in its national constitution. The workshop will include a facilitated community conversation about how to support and advance these initiatives in NM.
Lake is the founder and president of the Women’s Earth and Climate Caucus, co-chair of International Advocacy for the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature, and author of Uprisings for the Earth: Reconnecting Culture with Nature. Biggs is director of the Community Rights program at Global Exchange and co-author of the award-winning book, Building the Green Economy: Success Stories from the Grass Roots.
The July 26-28 workshop will take place from 7-9 pm on Friday, 10-5 on Saturday and 10-12:30 on Sunday. It is being offered on a sliding scale from $50-$300 to facilitate scholarships for community members. For more information or to register, call 505.986.9232 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Grants Support Local Producers, Bio-Based Initiatives
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced the selection of 110 grants to agricultural producers and rural businesses to help create jobs and develop new products. “These awards will advance USDA’s goals to develop a bio-based economy and support local and regional food systems,” Vilsack said.
Three of the projects selected for the USDA Rural Development Value-Added Producer Grants are from New Mexico:
· Old Wood LLC in Las Vegas will use a $300,000 working-capital award to expand sales of its unique, engineered-panel and wood-block flooring made from small-diameter trees.
· Mt. Taylor Machine, LLC in Milan will use $200,000 in working capital to manufacture boards and beams from lumber made from trees harvested under National Forest access rights derived through the Wild Turkey Federation.
· Comida De Campos, Inc., of Embudo received $49,927 to add value to its vegetable- and fruit/berry operation by creating fresh-packaged, ready-to-eat salad, vegetable and fruit entrees to be sold at refrigerated vending machines located at health conscious locations such as hospitals, clinics and other locations.
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