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October 2011 Newsletter

My recent High Country News OpEd about sharp cuts in conservation spending at both the state and federal levels triggered some strong reactions – such as one comment that "You are wrong about privately owned western ranches hosting the bulk of riparian areas . . . Virtually all cities and towns in the West . . . count on public lands as their water source." That's a prime example of why the urban public needs to learn about the tremendous environmental value created by private landowners at their own expense – what's now called "ecosystem services." It's also why as public funding is slashed, it has become increasingly vital to recognize and support private-sector initiatives such as Norfolk Southern's $5.6 million contribution to reforesting 10,000 acres over the next five years along the Mississippi River. (For full details, read this blog post.)

Fortunately, my "Save the Land by Saving the Rancher" OpEd has been widely reprinted, helping spread the word that the West's population centers would shrivel and die without the farmers and ranchers whose privately owned lands protect and transport whatever water is sourced on public lands.

Conservation Grants Support Innovation
USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) continues to pump out matching federal dollars under its Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). Recent grants include $150,000 to help Fiscalini Farms develop an advanced drying system for dairy manure to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and $1 million to help Western United Dairymen install a groundwater monitoring network. For details on applying for
NRCS grants, click here

GAO Reports on Climate Engineering Risks
In contrast to more traditional approaches to addressing climate change, some experts are pushing for high-tech solutions. The Government Accountability Office (GAO), however, sees potential risks in pursuing "climate engineering" which includes carbon dioxide removal (CDR) and solar radiation management (SRM).

CDR would reduce the atmospheric concentration of CO2, allowing more heat to escape and thus cooling the Earth by increased CO2 sequestration in oceans and forests and capturing CO2 from air chemically for storage underground. SRM technologies would place reflective material in space or in Earth’s atmosphere to scatter or reflect sunlight by, for example, injecting sulfate aerosols into the stratosphere to scatter incoming solar radiation or brightening clouds. Another approach would increase the planet’s reflectivity by, for example, painting roofs and pavements in light colors.

The GAO's 135-page Climate Engineering report warns that "a delay in starting significant climate engineering research could mean falling behind in our capacity to address a potentially damaging climate trend." But the report also warns that climate engineering itself poses risks, including "the possibility of international conflict arising from one nation’s unilaterally deploying climate engineering technologies that adversely affect other nations."

GAO on Chesapeake Bay Plans
According to the GAO’s Sept. 15 “Chesapeake Bay Restoration” report, conflicting state and federal plans for the bay are murkier than the bay itself. Among the recommendations: instead of continuing chaos, “EPA should work collaboratively with federal and state bay restoration stakeholders to develop common bay restoration goals to help ensure that federal and state restoration stakeholders are working toward the same goals.”

One measure of the challenge: EPA needs to coordinate with six states (DE, MD, NY, PA, VA, WV) and with DC – and with eight federal agencies (Fish & Wildlife, USGS, National Park Service, NOAA, NRCS, Forest Service, Army Corp of Engineers, & DOT).

Growing California
We're currently expanding our California coverage with the addition of 11 more counties, offering landowners direct access to Google-mapped listings of organizations and individual experts ranging from land trusts and green building professionals to foresters, estate planners, water management experts, wildlife biologists and much more. Email us if you’ve got new material for any of our sites – or if there’s a state you’d like added.

Growing Pennsylvania, Texas . . . and More
More states are partnering with us both because public funding is tight and because they're seeing the benefits generated in other areas already part of the Resources First Foundation portfolio – Arkansas, California, Houston, Maine and Mississippi.

Along with other endorsements, Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary John Quigley says creating "a comprehensive, on-line resource website designed for the use of Pennsylvania's private forest landowners, conservation groups, land trusts, planners and communities" will "help private landowners identify the significant values that come from resource conservation."

Welcoming plans to add Texas to the RFF list, Texas Parks and Wildlife Executive Director Carter Smith says "the vitality of our lands, waters, fish, and wildlife are almost entirely dependent upon the interests and actions of our private landowners who steward approximately 95% of the state. Anything we can do to simplify and streamline conservation related information for our private landowner partners will be enormously beneficial."

Brown is Green
In another sign of the private sector stepping up where the government is stepping back, the UPS Foundation recently awarded over $1 million to support "Environmental Sustainability" and environmentally responsible business practices. The latest UPS grants include $200,000 to the World Resources Institute for its "Green House Gas Protocol" initiative which promotes public reporting of companies' greenhouse gas emissions, and for improving China's supply chain environmental performance.

Your PLN Survey Invitation
Let's Make a Trade: A moment of your time in return for a constant source of useful information for private land stewards!

To be the best, we need your help and input. That's why we've set up our first ever Survey Monkey online poll at Our survey is just six questions which will take you 2 to 3 minutes (we promise - we TIMED it!). Please TAKE THE SURVEY and give us the benefit of your thoughts and opinions.

In this time of a struggling economy, vanishing public budgets, climate stress and other problems, we are proud that we can offer a free service to farmers, ranchers, forest land owners, and others who work every day to “keep working lands working.” We appreciate what you do and we deeply appreciate your feedback.

Visit our PLN recommended reading list, with titles including:
Home Land - Ranching and a West That WorksEdited by Laura Pritchett, Richard L. Knight, and Jeff LeeThe best of Western academia on the benefits of working ranches and their contribution to society and ecology.
Saving The Ranch - Conservation Easement Design in the American WestBy Anthony Anella and John B. Wright. The tools and mechanics for protecting ranchland through conservation initiatives.
This Sovereign LandBy Daniel Kemmis. One of the best writers on the American West, part of the radical middle ground being plowed between the West's traditional urban vs. rural antagonists.
Conservation for a New Generation - Redefining Natural Resources ManagementEdited by Richard Knight and Courtney White. Brings a positive business dimension into the traditional natural resources world, with short papers, easy to digest.

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PLN Blog
Southern forest lands represent the most productive timber basket in the world, but catastrophic storms can damage trees and landowner income. Increasingly, the pine species that historically dominated the Deep South is seen as an answer to problems caused by storm damage and many other pressing issues. Our series of blog posts on Longleaf Pine provides an insight into these issues.

Restoring an Ecosystem, the Case for Longleaf Pine
The Rangewide Conservation Plan for Longleaf Pine, created by a public-private partnership, aims to restore long leaf pine on a landscape scale.

The Benefits of Longleaf Pine Restoration to Landowners
Direct from the National Outstanding Tree Farmer of the Year: the advantages and aesthetics of long leaf pine.

Longleaf, Hope for Landowners Who Grow Pine in the South
Restoration of longleaf pine ecosystems is the “secret ingredient” for success in managing wildlife, wildfire, habitat, and plants in the Deep South.

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