Revitalizing Communities, Restoring the Environment, Inspiring Productive Lives and Building Civic Spirit: Rocky Mountain Youth Corps

A significant collaborator in combatting some of Taos’s most significant threats – fire, water quantity and quality, forest health – The Rocky Mountain Youth Corps (RMYC) uses conservation-based projects as the classroom for personal and professional development and training. Specifically, for the last 10 years, RMYC has had a significant impact on the forests of New Mexico, and in Taos County, by deploying crews to undergo thinning activities with the goals of restoring the diversity of flaura and fauna, reintroducing fire into the natural process, preventing catastrophic crown fire, educating the public about the role of fire, and providing fire wood for low income residents.

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The Rocky Mountain Youth Corps: inspiring youth to preserve the environmental and cultural and historical integrity of the NM region. Photo (c) Rocky Mountain Youth Corps

As a youth corps, RMYC was also created to address more than just conservation. Their process and outcomes are meant to revitalize communities, preserve and restore the environment, prepare young people for responsible, productive lives and build civic spirit through service. Specifically, their goals are:

  • to provide local youth ages 16-25 with meaningful employment opportunities;
  • to inspire young people of all backgrounds to engage in community service; and
  • to preserve the environmental, cultural and historical integrity of the NM region.

RMYC is clearly a stepping stone to new opportunities. It’s inspiring young adults to make a positive difference in themselves and their communities. Through training and team service, corpsmembers discover their potential for healthy, productive lives.

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Rocky Mountain Youth Corps deploys crews to undergo thinning activities to address forest health. Photo (c) Rocky Mountain Youth Corps

Furthermore, they are a major area player. They have been contributing to the Taos County Wildfire Protection Plan, collaborating with the Taos County Watershed Alliance, and are a signatory of the Rio Grande Water Fund.  Participation in these collaborative efforts are key to building comprehensive strategies to combat some of Taos’s most significant threats.  In addition, they partner with many area non-profits, including the Taos Land Trust to build cohesion and community wide support for land conservation.

Rocky Mountain Youth Corps

Rocky Mountain Youth Corps builds civic spirit through service. Photo (c) Rocky Mountain Youth Corps

Louis Bacon and The Taos Ski Valley Foundation, an affiliate of The Moore Charitable Foundation are proud to support RMYC this season. We hope you will too. Learn more about RMYC here.

P.S. – A call to eligible youth: We noticed on their website that RMYC is now hiring young adults to serve on their spring conservation crews in both Taos and Albuquerque starting in March. Crew members will earn First Aid and CPR certification, project-specific training such as Forest Worker Safety Certification or backcountry skills, as well as a number of other professional development topics. Benefits include a living stipend and an Education Award upon successful completion of the program. Learn more about the opportunity for graduating students, students who have recently obtained a GED, young adults interested in conservation work, students transitioning to the workforce, or anyone looking for a meaningful experience with a group of peers here.

 

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Beyond Coal to 100% Ready – Sierra Club’s moving us from dependency to a clean bright future

In the Season Finale of Season 2 of National Geographic’s The Years of Living Dangerously America Fererra goes inside Sierra Club‘s Beyond Coal campaign, talking to the people at the heart of the fight to move their city from coal to clean energy. At Louis Bacon‘s The Moore Charitable Foundation, we are proud to have partnered with Sierra Club on this stellar national campaign that is mobilizing grassroots activists in local communities to advocate for the retirement of old and outdated coal plants and to prevent new coal plants from being built. Essentially: replacing dirty coal with clean energy.

And beyond Beyond Coal, Sierra Club also has launched another global movement: Ready for 100. It’s a move towards no less that 100% Clean Energy, reflecting a transition that is underway around the world, away from an energy system powered by increasingly expensive and unsustainable fossil fuel resources toward one powered fully by abundant, local, and affordable renewable energy sources. In the years ahead, this transition is poised to improve the quality of life for millions, reduce harmful greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and help forge a world that is more just and equitable for both current and future generations.

Recently, in their year-end newsletter, Sierra Club talked about the role of cities in this big transition. Did you know that cities can deliver 40 percent of all the carbon savings needed to limit global warming to the safe climate threshold of 1.5℃? And that smart mayors are increasingly the agents of change towards sustainable energy futures for millions of people?  So no matter what happens in D.C., the Ready for 100 campaign’s work to foster the growing movement of cities that are pulling the plug on fossil fuels takes on a new importance.

2016 marked the beginning of an acceleration of the pace and scale of action for cities to lead the transition away from fossil fuels. Twenty cities in the U.S. are now committed to run on 100% clean, renewable energy within the next two decades. This month, Sierra Club had the opportunity to sit down with weather anchor Sam Champion to feature Ready for 100’s success and explain how from coast to coast, cities like Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, and St. Petersburg are making major strides toward a healthier environment and a more vibrant economy powered by renewable energy. Check out the five-minute segment that ran on The Weather Channel here:

As the Sierra Club says, “accelerating an equitable transition to 100% clean, renewable energy requires a shift in how people perceive its feasibility and how they experience the benefits. By making tangible local progress and securing strong commitments to 100% clean energy, Ready for 100 is showing that cities are ready to lead and that 100% renewable energy is achievable. As more and more cities commit, the movement for a healthier planet and a stronger economy will continue to flourish.”

Thank you to this great organization for moving us all from dependency on fossil fuels towards a bright, clean future. Get inspired and make a year end donation now so that Sierra Club can continue to accelerate change locally and build from the bottom-up in 2017.

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.

2016 Victories for the Hudson and Your Drinking Water: Riverkeeper

When Riverkeeper promises to protect the environmental, recreational and commercial integrity of the Hudson River and its tributaries, and safeguard the drinking water of nine million New York City and Hudson Valley residents, they’re not kidding. Here’s what Riverkeeper spent its 50th Anniversary year doing:

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Photo (c) Riverkeeper

Fighting poisoned drinking water in Newburgh. Riverkeeper has voiced serious concerns about pollution in the reservoir serving 29,000 Newburgh residents. In 2016, they helped win state commitments to make free blood testing available to all residents, designate the base a Superfund site and create a new plan to protect Newburgh’s water supply for the future.

Expanding water quality monitoring. With new community partners, Riverkeeper expanded its water quality monitoring to more than 400 locations, yielding 4,750 samples, showing where and when the water is safe for swimming. For the first time, they went as far as the source of the Hudson River, where scientists sampled Lake Tear of the Clouds.

New scrutiny for an oil facility in Albany. Riverkeeper scored a big victory when the Department of Environmental Conservation demanded a full environmental review of the proposed expansion of Global Partners’ crude oil terminal in Albany and required Global to apply for new permits for the expansion. Additionally, the EPA backed a Riverkeeper challenge, agreeing that Global had misrepresented emissions associated with crude oil “bomb trains.”

Closer than ever to closing Indian Point. In November, Riverkeeper celebrated a NYS Court of Appeals ruling confirming the denial of a critical environmental certification required for re-licensing the aging nuclear plant. In a NY Times op-ed, Riverkeeper demonstrated that Indian Point is fundamentally unsafe and can be replaced with alternative power sources. It’s now no longer a question of whether Indian Point will close, but of when and how quickly it will be decommissioned.

Supporting the grassroots. Riverkeeper achieves results across the vast geography of the Hudson River Watershed by engaging with existing partners, and supporting the formation of new groups that share their values. From the SWIM Coalition’s work fighting for Clean Water Act compliance in New York City to the Wallkill River Watershed Alliance’s documentation of a persistent toxic algal bloom, new partners work collaboratively with our to fight for clean water — and win.

Removing a dam, restoring habitat. Riverkeeper patrols identified a prime opportunity to remove an obsolete dam and allow herring to return to their historic spawning ground on a tributary of the Hudson. In May, they brought state and local partners together and organized a precedent-setting dam removal project. Within days, underwater cameras spotted herring swimming up the Wynants Kill to spawn for the first time in 85 years.

Boosting water infrastructure investments. New York State heard the call from the Riverkeeper community and our partners, and doubled its commitment to water infrastructure grants to $400 million, leveraging hundreds of millions more in local investments to improve water quality in the Hudson River watershed. Riverkeeper’s water quality data gave 25 Hudson Valley communities a leg-up for state funding.

Fighting back against ‘parking lot’ for oil barges. When the maritime industry proposed to designate 2,400 acres on the river as new long-term anchorage grounds for oil barges, Riverkeeper fought back. This proposal could allow the oil industry to create new and cost-free storage facilities for crude oil on the Hudson River without going through any environmental review. Riverkeeper and their allies developed an unprecedented bipartisan coalition to win more time for public input and demand a full environmental impact statement.

Stopping pipeline expansion. Pushing back against pipeline expansion is paying off. Thanks to their advocacy, two fracked gas pipelines, the Northeast Energy Direct and the Constitution, planned for the Hudson River watershed were stopped dead in their tracks. In partnership with dozens of municipalities, they’ve forced a comprehensive environmental review of the proposed Pilgrim Pipelines—designated for crude oil and refined petroleum—running the length of the Hudson Valley.

New hope for flooded homeowners. Five years after homes in the New York City Drinking Watershed area of the Catskills were flooded by tropical storms Irene and Lee, Riverkeeper joined with Watershed stakeholders to sign a “Flood Buyout Agreement.” Now, for the first time, NYC may purchase and conserve land within hamlets that is prone to inundation and presents a hazard to human life and water quality. With this funding, the homeowners can move upland and out of harm’s way.

Gowanus cleanup underway. The long-awaited cleanup of the Gowanus Canal by the EPA began this fall. Riverkeeper fought to get the Gowanus designated as a Superfund site and continues to work with communities around the Gowanus to push government agencies toward the quickest, most thorough cleanup possible. The first parts of the canal should be dredged, capped, and cleaned up by summer, 2017, with the rest on deck for work over the next decade.

Expanding clean water enforcement. Riverkeeper has expanded its fight against illegal stormwater pollution in New York City. They systematically target industries operating without Clean Water Act permits or in violation of their permit terms with “notices of intent to sue.” Their goal is to require non-compliant businesses to obtain proper permits and adopt best management practices.

Biggest shoreline cleanup ever. Riverkeeper is stepping up to rid our waterways and shorelines of debris. During their annual Sweep in May, more than 2,200 volunteers netted 48 tons of trash, and planted hundreds of trees. They piloted a new data collection method to categorize marine debris, with the aim of preventing waste from even entering the waterways, and organized a coalition to remove derelict barges that were contaminating Flushing Bay with Styrofoam and other pollutants.

Bottom line: our shorelines are cleaner, fish are coming back to spawning grounds blocked to them for nearly a century, hundreds of millions of dollars are being spent on clean water infrastructure, Indian Point is closer than ever to closure — and that’s just for starters. Louis Bacon and The Moore Charitable Foundation are extremely proud partners. Thank you, Riverkeeper. To all – please give generously.

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!