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. Photo: Rainforest Foundation site.

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.

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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.

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. Photo (c) Conejos Clean Water

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. Photo (c) FIU

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!

In Pursuit of Better Conservation for the Empire State: NYLCVEF year in review

Each Monday morning at The Moore Charitable Foundation, we sip a coffee and read the news round up from the New York League of Conservation Voters (NYLCV) to learn what’s really going on in the Empire State. NYLCV is the only statewide environmental organization in New York that fights for clean water, clean air, renewable energy and open space through political action.

In 1993, this non-partisan, pragmatic and effective group realized the public-at-large needed a greater understanding of environmental issues and founded the New York League of Conservation Voters Education Fund (NYCLVEF). And as a result, they’ve been educating, engaging and empowering New Yorkers – including us – to be effective advocates on behalf of the environment, from clean energy and funding for parks, to solid waste and green buildings.

2016 has been a big year for the NYLCV Education Fund. They held two policy forums, three candidate forums, and two massive civic engagement campaigns. Here a few highlights that encapsulate their year:

Passing the Plastic Bag Bill. For two years NYLCVEF has written petitions, held rallies, and raised the volume about the issue of plastic bags polluting our streets, waterways, and landfills. In May, City Council finally passed the plastic bag bill, a huge win for the environmental community. Their work to empower New Yorkers with the tools to be civically engaged for the environment is more important than ever.

Taking Green Preservation to Affordable Housing. In February, NYLCVEF partnered with Enterprise Community Partners, Inc and NYU’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service for a forum on Green Preservation of Multi-Family Affordable Housing. Panelists from state and city agencies for housing and environmental protection, as well as local advocates and utilities, discussed challenges, opportunities, and solutions to take green preservation to scale in New York City with an engaged audience.

Educating Buffalo about Green Infrastructure. Later in the year, they went up to the Buffalo History Museum to continue a successful policy forum series on green infrastructure. Top policymakers and advocates from the Buffalo Sewer Authority, Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper, and other local organizations explored the benefits of green infrastructure and worked to answer important questions about sustainable economic growth and the future of green infrastructure in the Buffalo Niagara Region.

Informing the Public About Their Political Choices. NYLCV they held three nonpartisan Environmental Candidate Forums in 2016. In April, NYLCVEF joined with West Harlem Environmental Action (WE ACT) for Environmental Justice for a 13th Congressional District Candidate Forum in West Harlem.

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WE ACT is a Northern Manhattan community-based organization whose mission is to build healthy communities by ensuring that people of color and/or low income participate meaningfully in the creation of sound and fair environmental health and protection policies and practices.

Before the primaries for the state legislature, they held a Democratic candidate forum in Assembly District 65. All 6 candidates attended, and the room was packed. Our partners from the Lower East Side Ecology Center, New Yorkers for Parks, Transportation Alternatives and Waterfront Alliance, as well as audience members, asked candidates about issues ranging from resiliency to air quality.

Finally, in October, they went out to New York’s Congressional District 1 on Long Island and partnered with Citizens’ Campaign for the Environment, Defend H2O, and Save the Sound to hear from Lee Zeldin and Anna Throne-Holst. Both candidates presented their ideas for preserving the environment on Long Island and working with congressional leaders to protect clean water and open space and promote renewable energy.

What’s up for 2017? So far, NYLCV Education Fund will hold forums on green infrastructure in the capital region and in Central New York. And local elections in Westchester County, New York City, and Nassau County will be the key to elevating environmental politics in 2017.

Along with Louis Bacon and The Moore Charitable Foundation, I want to thank the NYLCV Education Fund for all they do to protect the natural resources and places of New York State for all people, and for advancing understanding and policies about green infrastructure across the state. I would encourage all New York readers to sign up for their newsletter, plan to attend an event, sign a petition, or consider a year end donation to ensure and amplify the success of this important group. NYCLV – we look forward to standing with you in 2017.

Support Your Conservation Hero: Colorado Gives Day 2016

Stand up for your conservation hero: On Tuesday, December 6th, for the seventh year in a row, ColoradoGives.org will celebrate the annual Colorado Gives Day to encourage an increase in philanthropy throughout the state of Colorado.  The movement is a forum for giving to nonprofits & fundraising organizations, backed by a $1 Million Incentive Fund and created by the partners Community First Foundation and First Bank. It’s one of the largest Gives Day incentive funds in the country, and the database of charities allows users to log in, search, find information and donate to Colorado charitable organizations, all year round.

screen-shot-2016-12-01-at-10-14-51-amLouis Bacon and The Trinchera Blanca and Tercio Foundations are proud to partner with many great organizations in Colorado who are addressing a broad spectrum of conservation needs, from preserving open spaces and advancing prescribed burning best practices, to networking ranchers and landowners, and inspiring the next generation of conservation leaders. Here are a few that we would encourage you to check out – and support this Colorado Gives Day:

  • The Colorado Open Lands preserves the significant open lands and natural heritage of Colorado. They work with private and public landowners to place voluntary agreements called ‘conservation easements,’ which means that the landowner is responsible for the space, water, wildlife and preservation on their own land, ranch or farm.
  • The Colorado Coalition of Land Trusts is a voice for the community who work in conjunction with the public to help preserve Colorado’s productive farms, ranches and natural resources. To date, the organization has preserved almost 2 million acres of land.
  • Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust works specifically with individual ranchers and farmers in an effort to protect their valuable agricultural lands and help the adjustment of their ranches of farms as they are passed through family generations.  By doing so, they are working towards the support of Colorado’s productive ranching heritage in these rural communities. Their goal is to raise $5 million to help preserve Colorado’s renowned farming heritage.
  • Western Landowner’s Alliance ensures that businesses owned by both private and public landowners continue to  prosper from their native lands. The organization protects the deconstruction of natural habitats which inhibits the health and growth of wildlife species, and overall ecological health of the agricultural lands. They do this by providing educational resources, they work with state and federal land management agencies to develop practices that incentivize conservation action on their lands.

To find out more about Colorado Gives Day on December 6th and how you can get involved, visit www.coloradogives.org/givesday. And here’s to our conservation champions!

The Case for Private Land, as Critical For Conservation

As we celebrate Public Lands Day this weekend, The Western Landowner Alliance’s Executive Director Lesli Allison highlights the need to consider the landscape as a whole and the critical role private lands play in sustaining the wildlife populations, water resources and ecosystems that that transcend ownership boundaries. Her op-ed in the Albuquerque Journal is published in full here:

For many of us, maintaining access to public lands, water and wildlife is a paramount concern. We not only desire to ensure these things are available to us today, but to guarantee they will be available to our children and all future generations.

These are not “soft” benefits. They are important to our quality of life and also to local, regional and national economies.

Over 47 million people a year in America head into the outdoors to hunt and fish. Hunting and angling are often the cornerstones of many small rural businesses. Hunters and anglers spend tens of billions of dollars annually, supporting our economy at many levels – from coffee shops and gas stations to major companies that manufacture firearms, outdoor clothing and fishing tackle.

These expenditures directly support jobs and ripple through the economy to the tune of $200 billion per year.

In New Mexico alone, approximately $665 million is gained.

At the same time, those of us who care about the opportunity to hunt, fish and enjoy wildlife into the future must first care about the welfare of the fish and wildlife themselves. While we take pride that in New Mexico more than 160,000 anglers spend $268 million a year, this high level of recreation and the resources that sustain it must be managed carefully.

A critical component of this economic juggernaut is the streams that occur on private lands.

According to the Natural Resources Conservation Service, “Nearly 70 percent of the nation’s fish and wildlife habitat is found on private lands, making conservation efforts on farms, ranches and forests crucial to many species.”

These conservation actions by landowners deliver benefits far beyond their boundaries. In addition, fish and wildlife need refugia, which in many cases is provided by private lands where public recreational pressures are often lower. These “sanctuary habitats” are places where fish can rest and lay eggs in peace and quiet, where birds can nest and deer and elk can drink water and deliver their young.

In New Mexico, streams on private land harbor some of the last populations of imperiled species, including native fish such as the Rio Grande cutthroat trout.

We need to take a “fish eye view.” At what point is recreational access more important than the species itself? Shouldn’t we seek a balance between human-facing habitat and wildlife-facing habitat? In New Mexico’s fragile stream systems, private lands play a crucial role in providing this balance.

There are ways we can solve the stream recreation challenge without undermining landowners’ good faith stewardship of streams and fisheries.

Public/private access agreements already exist in many places. Local guides earn their livelihoods leasing access from landowners and as a result bring in recreational tourists who boost New Mexico’s economy, creating jobs in our rural communities. Many landowners provide special hunting and fishing opportunities for youth, the disabled and for veterans in search of healing.

Public/private partnerships to restore streams and fisheries across public and private boundaries benefit us all equally as well as important aquatic and terrestrial species

If we are to conserve fish and wildlife populations for current and future generations, we need to consider the challenge from all perspectives and to insist that the quality of our engagement with one another remain worthy of the resources and opportunities we all want to protect. Our ability to do so will determine in large measure the world we leave our children.

Lesli Allison, is a founding member and Executive Director of the Western Landowners Alliance. She is also a founding member and most recently executive director of the Chama Peak Land Alliance. Through both organizations, Lesli has worked extensively with private landowners and multiple stakeholders to advance conservation, sustain working lands and support rural communities.