Helping Indigenous Communities in Panama Use Technology to Save the Rainforest

Panama does not officially have a share of the Amazon, but a share of rainforest if definitely has. The Darien jungle remains one of the most remote and inaccessible places on the planet: Panama’s “Darién Gap” is the only missing link in the Pan-American Highway, due to wild swampland and forest too costly – both financial and environmentally – through which to officially build.

Yet illegal logging and development threatens this land, and indigenous communities such as the Embera–Wounaa in Darien Province are fighting back. Supported by partners such as The Rainforest Foundation, these groups are using modern tools to protect the forest and its inhabitants.

With help from The Rainforest Foundation, drones are changing how indigenous communities in Panama take control of their lands and forests.

With help from The Rainforest Foundation, drones are changing how indigenous communities in Panama take control of their lands and forests.

Guns? No – drones. In an initiative kicked off in 2015, with a second phases launched last summer, Rainforest Foundation and a national federation of indigenous peoples have been training local mapping teams how to fly fixed-wing and helicopter drones and manipulate sophisticated software that creates highly accurate maps to document incursions into their territories. This action not only gives a comprehensive, bird’s eye view of the illegal activities, cleared land, and other deforestation attempts: it allows indigenous communities to identify areas at risk, and areas already under attack, and alert/work with authorities without direct and dangerous confrontation – an act that has proven to be fatal one too many times.

This high-tech mapping initiative is great example of the Rainforest Foundation’s mission at work: helping indigenous people – those intimately connected to their ancestral lands – secure and exercise their legal right to protect the forests that we all depend on. Its a great investment and documented return: rainforests protected by Indigenous communities have the lower rates of deforestation than any other forests in the world including national parks, nature preserves, government land, and private sanctuaries. Louis Bacon‘s Moore Charitable Foundation is proud to be part of this bold and successful conservation effort. In the words of the Rainforest Foundation: “Indigenous communities right to their ancestral lands isn’t just the right thing to do, it is the most effective way to protect our rainforests.”

Read more about The Rainforest Foundation’s work to help combat illegal deforestation in an excellent and recent article by VICE magazine.

Industrial Hog Operation Murphy-Brown Refuses to Clean up Its Pollution in Three Eastern North Carolina River Basins

First published on Waterkeeper Alliance.

Conservation groups today filed a motion in federal court seeking to require an industrial hog operation, Murphy-Brown, to comply with a 2006 agreement to clean up its groundwater contamination at several hog facilities in eastern North Carolina. Under the agreement, an independent groundwater expert identified 11 facilities in the Neuse, Lumber, and Cape Fear River basins with demonstrated threats to groundwater or confirmed groundwater pollution.

Murphy-Brown has allegedly failed to remedy demonstrated groundwater hazards at its hog facilities in eastern North Carolina.

Murphy-Brown has allegedly failed to remedy demonstrated groundwater hazards at its hog facilities in eastern North Carolina.

Murphy-Brown, a subsidiary of Smithfield Foods, Inc, the largest pork factory operation in the world, faced four different legal challenges relating to Clean Water Act violations from its massive industrial hog facilities before a 2006 agreement with Waterkeeper Alliance and the Neuse Riverkeeper Foundation (now Sound Rivers, Inc.) was reached. But the motion filed today by the Southern Environmental Law Center on behalf of Waterkeeper Alliance and Sound Rivers alleges that Murphy-Brown has failed to comply with a central component of the agreement — remedying demonstrated groundwater hazards at its hog facilities in eastern North Carolina.

“Based on the company’s own records, an independent expert has determined that 11 of Murphy Brown’s facilities are endangering our groundwater in three of North Carolina’s river basins,” said Geoff Gisler, senior attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center. “We’re asking the court to require the corporation to make good on its promises and to clean up its facilities.”

Under the terms of the agreement, an independent groundwater expert chosen by the parties evaluated Murphy-Brown owned and operated swine facilities in eastern North Carolina for potential contamination of groundwater by swine waste. That review identified the 11 facilities with demonstrated groundwater contamination or waste lagoon problems in Bladen, Columbus, Duplin, Pitt, Sampson and Scotland counties. As part of the review, the expert identified additional groundwater sampling needed to ensure that groundwater contamination at each site is cleaned up.

“We hope the court promptly orders the necessary information collection,” said Will Hendrick, Chapel Hill-based staff attorney for Waterkeeper Alliance. “The parties selected a neutral expert and we should rely on his expertise regarding the nature and extent of investigation needed to fully evaluate, and respond to, the problems with lagoons and groundwater pollution identified at these facilities.”

Murphy-Brown refuses to allow the consultant to take necessary groundwater samples. The motion follows failed attempts to resolve Murphy Brown’s objections through settlement. In today’s motion, SELC asks the court to require the company to adhere to the requirements of the agreement between the parties and allow the consultant to gather necessary data to develop corrective action plans for each of the 11 identified sites that pose a threat to groundwater.

“We are disappointed that Murphy Brown is not willing to move forward with the next phase of the settlement agreement, which would establish what needs to be done to clean up groundwater pollution at these facilities,” said Harrison Marks, executive director of Sound Rivers. “We will continue to seek enforcement of this agreement.”

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.