Important Work from West to East: Critical Community Initiatives in Costilla County and Blue Economy Advocacy at The World Ocean Summit

Costilla County, one of five counties in the San Luis Valley was the first area of the state of Colorado to be colonized with recorded history dating back to 1540, the year Coronado explored the Southwest. Home to the oldest town in Colorado, San Luis, it is mainly a farming and agriculture county, but also welcomes thousands of visitors year round from far and wide. Here, The Trinchera Blanca Foundation, an affiliate of Louis Bacon’s Moore Charitable Foundation, is proud to provide support to local organizations protecting and improving the land, habitat and quality of life for the people of region.

Costilla County Prevention Partners

Costilla County Prevention Partners

The Costilla County Economic Development Coalition

The Costilla County Economic Development Coalition

This week the MCF team visited two important partners to renew our support of their work: The Costilla County Economic Development Coalition, whose projects to create a tourism and community center will be a tremendous asset for the community and their economy; and Costilla County Prevention Partners, which has seen after school participation grow with students becoming more engaged in programming. A  big hats off to both organizations for their critical efforts in an area we consider to be our home.

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At the World Ocean Summit in Bali, partners have announced important initiatives including this one to restore critical mangrove habitats.

Moving far, far East: since February 22 through today we have been tuning into Bali, Indonesia, host to the fourth World Ocean Summit. The topic: how the transition from a conventional economy in the ocean to one that is sustainable (“blue”) is a major investment opportunity – one to be harnessed immediately if we collectively wish to safeguard marine resources and provide a future for the millions of people dependent upon it (and dare we say, the world at large). Readers can see my feed for important announcements or follow the #OceanSummit hashtag on Twitter and Instagram. We are indebted to the work of, among so many others, Conservation International, Nature Conservancy, the Walton Family Foundation and other ocean partners and champions for major initiatives – from saving coral and mangroves to building sustainable fisheries.

Restoring our Forests and Protecting our Water from East to West: Life though Controlled Burns

Today, The Nature Conservancy in North Carolina gave us notice they will light the first control burns on a newly acquired property in Brunswick county, North Carolina. These restoration efforts, supported by Louis Bacon’s Orton Foundation, are just the beginning of a long restoration process of the unique and rare Longleaf pine system – carnivorous plants, orchids, grasses, birds, bears, bobcats, and many other animals. We’re excited to hear this news and laud the Conservancy on their forest health management efforts here and across the country. 

These efforts are desperately needed: also this week, Colorado State Forest Service officials unveiled their 2016 Report on the Health of Colorado’s Forests, warning state lawmakers that unhealthy forests and wildfires increasingly will affect people and water supplies. Numbers are stark: one in 14 trees is dead in Colorado forests and the number of gray-brown standing-dead trees has increased 30 percent since 2010 to 834 million.

Fire module member Andrew Merriam (left) and Kevin MacBride of the Conservancy’s Colorado chapter “mop up” after a prescribed burn, which involves finding and extinguishing any still-smoldering spots and clearing away debris that could reignite. © Jason Houston

Fire module member Andrew Merriam (left) and Kevin MacBride of The Nature Conservancy’s Colorado chapter “mop up” after a prescribed burn, which involves finding and extinguishing any still-smoldering spots © Jason Houston – Nature Conservancy

So let’s really focus on our partner’s and other experts’ efforts to protect our forests, our water and our people – and achieve important ecological and economic goals – by restoring a less damaging and more natural role for fire in our forests. Enter The U.S. Fire Learning Network (FLN). Established in 2002 through a national partnership between The Nature Conservancy, the U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Department of the Interior, the FLN has engaged dozens of organizations across the nation, including The Rio Grande Water Fund in NM and The Pikes Peak Fire Learning Network in Colorado, in a process that accelerates the restoration of fire-dependent landscapes for the great benefit of people, water and wildlife.

And the Rocky Mountain Youth Corps – New Mexico. Through training and service, Corpsmembers discover their potential for healthy, productive lives AND make a real difference for their environment and community. Recent numbers makes the case: 154.56 acres of forest restored; 31 miles of trails built or restored; 44 homes received full weatherization services; 66 homes had additional energy efficiency measures installed. As for the Corpsmembers? 106 certified in First Aid/CPR; 28 trained in Mental Health First Aid; 55% returned to post-secondary options after service term; 17% found employment post service term; and 15% returned for another community service opportunity. Way to go, RMYCNM – read more: http://bit.ly/2lyaLcY

Further north in Colorado’s White River National Forest, Wilderness Workshop supports bringing fire back to the landscape on public lands at the discretion of the Forest Service, helping officials by educating the public and communicating with the press about upcoming burns and what the public can expect in each instance.

As 2017 heats up, MCF “West” affiliates The Trinchera Blanca Foundation and The Taos Ski Valley Foundation, we’ll look forward to supporting the advancement of forest health management best practices in the form of controlled burning. Stay tuned to our channels for more news on this front

Renewing commitments to Western organizations advancing critical conservation and community priorities

This week Louis Bacon‘s Moore Charitable Foundation renewed our long-standing support of three stellar Western organizations advancing important conservation and community priorities: protecting open spaces and cultural integrity, keeping families and land together, preserving wildlife habitat, and arming new generations of stewards with the tools they need to shape the future of conservation and the places they live.

The mission of the Colorado Coalition of Land Trusts is to promote and support land conservation excellence in Colorado.

The mission of the Colorado Coalition of Land Trusts is to promote and support land conservation excellence in Colorado.

Colorado Coalition of Land Trusts (CCLT) is Colorado’s statewide membership organization for the land conservation community that works to secure support for increasing open space and preserving agricultural land and water ways. Members of CCLT have preserved more than 2 million acres of Colorado’s most cherished lands, including family farms and ranches, wildlife habitat, popular trails, recreational areas and iconic vistas. This year we are excited to support CCLT’s efforts to convene experts and advance best practices in land conservation through a contribution to their Annual Conservation Excellence Conference to be held in March. This is really the place for the land conservation community across the Rocky Mountain region to share knowledge, network and define the future of land conservation in the Intermountain West.

CCALT helped to preserve the 19,000 acre Patterson Ranch near Kim, Colorado, which represents three generations of a family keeping their agricultural heritage and traditions alive in a remote and rugged portion of Southeastern Colorado.

CCALT helped to preserve the 19,000 acre Patterson Ranch near Kim, Colorado, which represents three generations of a family keeping their agricultural heritage and traditions alive in a remote and rugged portion of Southeastern Colorado.

Colorado Cattleman’s Agricultural Land Trust (CCALT) was formed in 1995 to help Colorado’s ranchers and farmers protect their agricultural lands and encourage the intergenerational transfer of ranches and farms – a best practice in land conservation. Since then, CCALT has partnered with landowners across Colorado to protect productive agricultural land and help agricultural families to achieve estate planning goals, pay down debt, save for retirement, pay for long-term health care and college education, diversify and expand operations, and preserve their agricultural heritage. It has also helped to preserve the natural resources that make Colorado such a special place to live and visit.

Finally, we are delighted to support the important work of The Costilla County Economic Development Council (CCEDC). This dedicate org is committed to improving Costilla County’s standard of living by pairing economic development with the preservation of the county’s cultural and agricultural resources. In short, they support small, clean businesses and protect the area’s culture and environment. This year, our funds will help repair and preserve an historic theater in the significant Sangre de Cristo Heritage Center, a special place that features works of art from its own collection and on loan from various artists and collectors, many of whom are local residents.

Stay tuned for more news from the West next week – and if you don’t already, follow us on Instagram for scenes from the glorious West – thanks to the results-driven preservation work of our fabulous partners.

From shark and community funding out West, to clean water and cancer prevention collaboration: a week in review from Louis Bacon’s Moore Charitable Foundation

The Moore Charitable Foundation (MCF) and founder Louis Bacon are focused on driving conservation impact more than ever this year in our priority areas and regions. During the month of February, on our social channels and through MCF’s website we will focus on grantees in Colorado, New Mexico and Wyoming, sharing news of their initiatives and conservation concerns/opportunities, and will publish “white papers” about land, water and wildlife habitat restoration in the West. As well, as always, we will continue to follow the progress of all our partners from across the country and in The Bahamas and Panama.

MCF is proud to support conservation efforts that protect the most beautiful parts of our country including the iconic wild spaces of the American West.

MCF is proud to support conservation efforts that protect the most beautiful parts of our country including the iconic wild spaces of the American West.

Here are just a few of the highlights of the past ten days:

Conejos Clean Water (Trinchera Blanca Foundation grantee) 2016 rafting trip on the Rio Grande.

Conejos Clean Water (Trinchera Blanca Foundation grantee) 2016 rafting trip on the Rio Grande.

1. Two pieces of news from Colorado demonstrated how, in 2016, MCF supported local conservation and communities efforts to provide critical services, enact meaningful conservation projects and protect important natural resources. Trinidad’s Chronicle-News published that MCF local affiliate Tercio Foundation contributed almost $90,000 to non-profit organizations in the greater Stonewall and Trinidad communities; and from Fort Garland came news that affiliate The Trinchera Blanca Foundation provided more than $300,000 to local conservation and community groups, the majority of which was allocated to groups in the San Luis Valley.

The giving strategy was critically informed by staff and leadership at Tercio Ranch and Trinchera Blanca Ranch respectively. We thank our trusted leadership there for their thoughtful insights.

2. Florida International University released news that scientists have discovered what is probably a new species of hammerhead shark, prompting concerns about the species’ vulnerability and whether conservation practices in place today are widespread enough to protect them. The data that led to this definitive finding was obtained in part during a 2016 shark tagging expedition, funded by a grant from Louis Bacon’s Moore Bahamas Foundation.

Demian Chapman examines a specimen of what is believed to be an unidentified species of hammerhead shark. Credit: Florida International University

Demian Chapman examines a specimen of what is believed to be an unidentified species of hammerhead shark. Credit: Florida International University

We commend the entire research team from Stony Brook University, Florida International University, University of North Florida and the Field Museum of Chicago, and especially FIU lead marine research scientist Damien Chapman on their important work that is forwarding shark conservation globally.

3. We traveled to Washington D.C. for National Cancer Prevention Day on February 2nd, and participated in discussions, lectures and a town hall meeting in support of our partner Less Cancer. We were thrilled that Mae Wu, JD, Senior Attorney, Health Program of Natural Resources Defense Council was able to speak. National Cancer Prevention Day is a resolution introduced by Representative Steve Israel that highlights Less Cancer’s efforts to bring attention to cancer prevention, educating citizens about behavioral and environmental risks linked to cancer.

4. We attended this year’s first in-person meeting of the Long Island Sound Funders Collaborative in support of advancing the critical clean water mandate on the East End. Clean water, both to drink and in ponds and bays, is high on the 2017 agenda for local and state lawmakers, and we’ll look forward to exciting initiatives coming soon.

5. The Taos Ski Valley has its Grand Opening of the Blake Hotel. A major congratulations to the entire Ski Taos team on their fabulous and Herculean effort. As the Taos News eloquently published this week, the hotel is “truly a celebration of the Taos melting pot and adheres to our common environmentally friendly mindset and that of conservationist owner Louis Bacon, who bought the resort in 2013.” Bravo!

EPA Expresses “Deep Concern” Over Discriminatory Impacts of Industrial Hog Operations in North Carolina

Published first by Waterkeeper Alliance.

CHAPEL HILL, NC – In a January 12th letter to the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (NCDEQ), the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) External Civil Rights Compliance Office expressed “deep concern” that the State’s failure to adequately regulate more than 2,200 industrial hog operations has a disparate, discriminatory impact on African American, Latino, and Native American communities in eastern North Carolina. The letter was sent to NCDEQ in connection with EPA’s ongoing investigation into a federal civil rights complaint filed in September 2014 by the North Carolina Environmental Justice Network (NCEJN), the Rural Empowerment Association for Community Help (REACH), and Waterkeeper Alliance. The groups are represented in this matter by Earthjustice and the UNC Center For Civil Rights.

EPA’s “Letter of Concern” urges NCDEQ to take immediate steps to address the discriminatory impacts of the State’s swine waste management system. For decades, state law has allowed industrial swine operations to dispose of hog waste using lagoon and sprayfield systems, which store hog feces and urine in open-air, unlined pits before spraying this waste onto fields. As part of their investigation, EPA officials have evaluated scientific research and reports showing that North Carolina’s African American, Latino, and Native American residents are disproportionately likely to live near industrial hog operations and suffer the effects of these outdated waste management systems.

EPA’s documented concerns come three months after community members from eastern North Carolina traveled to Washington, D.C. and urged agency officials to visit the region to better understand the health and environmental impacts that industrial hog operations have on communities of color. EPA officials made the trip to North Carolina last November as part of a fact-finding effort that yielded testimony from 85 residents who live in close proximity to these facilities.

In light of this testimony, EPA’s letter recognizes that many communities of color in eastern North Carolina are left to contend with the cumulative impacts of living and working near numerous sources of pollution. “This is part of a broader environmental justice issue in North Carolina,” says NCEJN co-director, Naeema Muhammad. “The same African American, Latino, and Native American communities living near these swine operations also live near a growing number of poultry facilities, landfills, and other land uses that other people are able to refuse.”

EPA’s letter stands in stark contrast to the responses that community members have historically received from NCDEQ. “We have tried to work with NCDEQ for fifteen years, in hopes of getting better regulation and oversight of industrial hog operations, but those efforts have been futile,” says REACH Executive Director, Devon Hall. “After years of telling state officials about the horrendous impacts these facilities have on our daily lives, it is clear that the federal government shares our concern that the State is failing to comply with civil rights laws.”

NCDEQ’s treatment of concerned community members and the state regulator’s friendly relationship with representatives of the pork industry are also scrutinized in the letter from EPA. EPA officials expressed “grave concerns” regarding the longstanding intimidation and hostility that community members have faced from industry representatives when they voice their concerns to the state agency.

“For far too long, NCDEQ has prioritized customer service for the benefit of polluters instead of environmental protection for the benefit of all North Carolinians,” says Will Hendrick, Waterkeeper Alliance Staff Attorney. “We are glad EPA shared our concerns and are hopeful that the new NCDEQ administration will view this as an opportunity to take long overdue action.”

NCEJN, REACH, and Waterkeeper Alliance filed an additional complaint with EPA after members of the National Pork Producers Council arrived at what was supposed to have been a confidential mediation session between the community groups and NCDEQ in January 2016.

EPA’s letter to NCDEQ concludes with key recommendations that the state agency should take immediate steps to implement. EPA recognizes that available, alternative waste management technologies would decrease pollution and odor caused by the use of lagoon and sprayfield systems. EPA also calls on NCDEQ to institute a “functioning nondiscrimination program,” including the introduction of staff and procedures to handle complaints from the public.

NCEJN, REACH, and Waterkeeper Alliance hope that NCDEQ will adopt these recommendations, and look forward to working with state leadership to bring long-awaited changes to North Carolina’s regulation of swine facilities.

Louis Bacon and The Moore Charitable Foundation affiliate The Orton Foundation are proud partners of North Carolina Environmental Justice Network (NCEJN), the Rural Empowerment Association for Community Help (REACH), Waterkeeper Alliance and UNC Center For Civil Rights.