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.

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!

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.

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:

screen-shot-2016-12-13-at-7-04-22-amFighting 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.