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.

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. Photo (C) Colorado Coalition of Land Trusts website.

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. Photo (c) CCALT website.

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.

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!

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.

Food Pantries, Soup Kitchens, Local Missions and Coalitions – Food for Thought for Giving and Action

The holiday season sees many of us indulging in the sport of eating and drinking. But in every county and congressional district in the country, Americans are going hungry – or are one job loss or medical crisis away from food insecurity.

The Moore Charitable Foundation (MCF) partners with several groups who address this national crisis on a local level – and some on a national platform. From food pantries and soup kitchens to local missions and coalitions, here are a few groups who are either helping the neediest of their communities or keeping the issues of access to good food and policy on the front burners of the nation. Some websites may not be fancy, or even exist at all. No matter – these people are getting the job done. MCF and Founder Louis Bacon tip our hats to all, and hope readers will be inspired to give of their time or money to the below – or wherever it moves you. Happy holidays!

Oak Island Inter Church Food Pantry
Boiling Spring Lakes, NC — (910) 845-2320

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MCF team members talk with Bill Hogue, who runs the Southport Oak Island Inter Church Fellowship Food Pantry.

We recently visited Bill Hogue, the manager of the Southport Oak Island Inter Church Fellowship Food Pantry in Boiling Spring Lakes, and were humbled by his operation. To qualify to receive goods monthly, recipients must show proof that they live in Southport, Oak Island, Boiling Spring Lakes or Sunset Harbor. Once qualified they can shop once a month.

Towncreek Vision Weekly Food Pantry
Leland, NC — (910) 443-7111

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The MCF team tours Towncreek Vision. The food pantry provided Christmas boxes of food to community members – funded by MCF affiliate The Orton Foundation

We also had the chance to visit the great folks at Towncreek Vision. Here, each and every week on Wednesday, the doors are open to help feed those who otherwise may not have any food to eat for the week. Since starting the food pantry, Towncreek Vision’s pantry has grown to feeding over 400 people every month. Over the holidays, MCF affiliate The Orton Foundation was happy to fund Christmas food boxes for those in need.

Food Bank Network of the San Luis Valley
Alamosa, CO — (719) 589-4567
The Food Bank Network meets immediate needs and empowers people to live independently with dignity by providing emergency food packages to families and individuals throughout the San Luis Valley.

Fishers Peak Soup Kitchen
Trinidad, Colorado — (719) 680-0427
The Fisher’s Peak Soup Kitchen provides more than 800 free meals per month to Trinidad-area people who lack the resources to access good nutrition.

The Bowery Mission
New York, NY — (212) 674-3456
Since 1879, The Bowery Mission has served homeless, hungry and poor New Yorkers. Meals, shelter, and medical care lead to residential programs that offer men and women the opportunity to transform their lives. Children get a positive first chance through summer camp, mentoring and family support. A vital part of the Lower East Side, The Bowery Mission now offers new hope to neighborhoods like Harlem and the South Bronx.

Food Policy Action (FPA)
This is a mouthful (no pun intended), but it’s all true: FPA’s mission is to highlight the importance of food policy and to promote policies that support healthy diets, reduce hunger at home and abroad, improve food access and affordability, uphold the rights and dignity of food and farm workers, increase transparency, improve public health, reduce the risk of food-borne illness, support local and regional food systems, protect and maintain sustainable fisheries, treat farm animals humanely and reduce the environmental impact of farming and food production. Food Policy Action promotes positive policies through education and publication of the National Food Policy Scorecard.

Just Food NYC
Just Food empowers and supports community leaders to advocate for and increase access to healthy, locally-grown food, especially in underserved NYC neighborhoods.