National Parks Try To Progress On Long-Deferred Maintenance

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Simone Garza | February 12,2022

Funding from the Great American Outdoors Act is beginning to reduce the backlog of deferred maintenance projects in national parks.

Deferred maintenance postpones the conservation of these parks related to  repairs on the property. On Wednesday, Feb. 9, an official from the Department of the Interior told senators at a hearing that 56 out of 420 parks  accounts for 80 percent of the currently deferred maintenance projects.

In 2020, the Great American Outdoors Act set aside $9.5 billion dollars over five years to manage deferred maintenance projects at national parks. The Great American Outdoors Act also guarantees $900 million per year for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, to protect rivers, lakes, and national parks from commercial development. The fund was established in 1964.

More than 150,000 miles of streams and rivers flow through national parks in the U.S., while more than four million acres of water, including reservoirs or lakes, are also found in national parks. Visiting national parks can be beneficial to human health by improving heart health and circulation, and lowering cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood glucose. In 2020, the U.S. Forest Service had 168 million visitors, an increase of 18 million from the prior year. Deferred maintenance can impact visitors’ ability to experience all aspects of a given national park. 

Delayed land acquisition was also mentioned by Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-New Mexico, as the process can take anywhere between six months to three years to complete backlogged projects. National parks are also beneficial for the ecosystem, with carbon-reducing and sustainable landscapes. The parks help create clean air and water with less pollution and minimizing storm water runoff.

Alarming Levels of Mercury are Found in Old Growth Amazon Forest

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Simone Garza | January 28, 2022

Currently, there are extreme levels of mercury that have been found in Madre de Rio regions of Peru. The canopy located in this region is known to uphold abundant biodiversity. The process of mercury being released into the air, is by burning coal that contains a threatening neurotoxin for both humans and animals. The mercury has been released in the air from miners looking for gold near riverbanks.

Once it is released into the air, the particles can lay on leaves such as dust and washed into the forest floor by rain. The absorbed mercury in the leaves is then transferred up to the song bird’s food cycle, revealing levels that are two to 12 times higher in proportionate sectors that are distant from mining activity. Mercury consumption for birds can impact their ability to sing, navigate, and even lay fewer eggs. This research has been published in the journal called Nature Communications. 

Remaining mercury particles can be absorbed in the leaves tissue. Mercury can also be threatening for aquatic systems. Mercury can transform into methylmercury, a very hazardous form of poison. This results from bigger fish eating on smaller ones, as the mercury builds up to the food web.

This is the cause of doctors strongly recommending pregnant women to prevent consuming predaceous fish like shark, known as swordfish and king mackerel. In the Madre de Rios Region, illegal acts of gold mining have increased. Illegal miners tend to swath areas of the jungle, straining massive amounts of topsoil to find any size of gold. Without adequate help, it could take 500 years to repair. In 2016, the government had declared a health emergency following the report of 40 percent of people in 97 villages that had alarming levels of mercury in their systems.

This specific type of gold mining done in Peru is called small-scale gold mining. This happens in approximately 70 other countries, also resulting in close to 20 percent of global gold production. 

The Power of Food: Create a Thriving Ecosystem in Your Backyard

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Mackinzee Macho | February 26, 2021

Mackinzee Macho is an undergraduate student and Senior Program Manager in Human and Ecological Systems Transformations for the Foresight Lab. The Foresight Lab is a think-tank that shifts culture toward social, economic, and ecological well-being through consulting. This series, “The Power of Food,” will explore topics like carbon sequestration and regenerative farming.

In just under two months, spring seedlings can be planted outdoors. Now is the time to begin planning what you want to plant in your garden. Vegetables, herbs, flowers, and fruits can be used to create a thriving garden, but the real opportunity is to use regenerative gardening practices to promote healthy soil and nutritious plants. 

Carbon gardening maximizes your soil’s sequestration and carbon storage potential through regenerative and sustainable agricultural management practices. These practices include using natural fertilizer and integrated pest management. Carbon gardening is better for plants, soil, and surrounding ecosystems since it promotes a healthier soil environment. In contrast, synthetic chemicals from inorganic fertilizers and pesticides can leach into nearby waterways, burn your plants, and damage the soil ecosystems that are crucial to plant health. The choices are between positive methods that build health and vibrancy, or degenerative practices that cause harm.

The relationship between soil, microbes, and plants – all under ideal conditions – sequester carbon. When soil is healthy and soil organic carbon levels are high, it has the structure to capture carbon, enhance water retention capacity, and build higher fertility rates. Soil organic carbon is determined by the growth and death of plant roots along with the transfer of carbon-rich nutrients from plant roots to soil microbes. The plants supply fungi with carbon-rich sugars which allows the fungi to produce integral nutrients for plant health and growth. As organic matter increases – which includes microbes, plant roots, and stocks – carbon is stored within them. You can reverse the effects of climate change, harvest delicious food, and feel good about boosting the health of your soil, and your family.

Using compost and native weeds to attract pest-consuming insects maintain soil health. These practices restore and regenerate soil, sequester carbon, and increase your yield. Soil that is full of microbes and soil organic matter improves its wellbeing and the food it produces. Healthy soil creates healthy people and a healthy environment. When we nourish our soil, we nourish ourselves and the environment.