National Public Lands Day Sept. 29
More than 170,000 volunteers are expected at more than 2,100 sites across the country on Saturday, Sept. 29 to take part in the largest single-day volunteer effort for public lands in the U.S.—National Public Lands Day (NPLD).
Volunteers in every state will visit parks, public and community gardens, beaches, wildlife preserves or forests and chip in to help these treasured places that belong to all Americans. They will improve and restore the lands and facilities the public uses for recreation, education, exercise and connecting with nature.
“With one-third of America's land in public hands, NPLD provides an opportunity for volunteers of all ages to help sustain these lands,” said Robb Hampton, director of the public lands program of the National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF), which coordinates NPLD. “Volunteers can also spend time after their tasks to enjoy the lands, whether at a local green space or national park. Many sites offer nature hikes, bike rides, picnics or other outdoor activities.”
JL Armstrong, NEEF board member and national manager, corporate affairs at Toyota Motor Sales, USA, Inc., said, “NPLD involves thousands of volunteers making a difference in cities and towns across the nation while participating in outdoor activities. We encourage everyone, particularly families and service groups, to join their neighbors on NPLD to make their communities the best they can be.”
With a long-standing commitment to sustainability and environmental stewardship, Toyota Motor Sales, USA, Inc. is the event’s national sponsor for the 14th consecutive year. Northrop Grumman has joined as a contributing sponsor for the fourth consecutive year. Sept. 29 marks the event’s 19th year.
The event last year contributed an estimated $17 million in volunteer services to public lands, which included planting about 100,000 trees, shrubs and other native plants, as well as building and maintaining approximately 1,500 miles of trails.
Volunteers have unique opportunities to choose from, including:
- Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site, Atlanta, Ga.–As part of Georgia’s “Your State Parks Day,” volunteers will restore historic houses, clear debris and help mulch. Atlanta’s nonprofit Greening Youth Foundation will also hold a youth campout barbecue the evening before NPLD.
- Globe Building Discovery Center, Detroit, Mich.–The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is hosting the groundbreaking of the Globe Building, a 50,000 sq. ft. indoor exploration center for outdoor recreation along the Detroit Riverfront. The groundbreaking is part of Michigan Trails Week with statewide volunteer opportunities.
- Elgin Community Gardens, Elgin, Ill.–Twenty-one community gardens throughout the city will be participating in NPLD. The gardens will harvest food and donate it to crisis centers, soup kettles, homeless shelters and food pantries.
- The Emerson Brook Forest Center, Gilsum, N.H.–The Sustainability Project, a local nonprofit, is inviting volunteers to create wheelchair-accessible gardens and trails surrounding a vernal pool. Keene State College Ecology Club and student organizations are expected to participate.
- Deschutes National Forest, Whychus Creek, near Sisters, Ore.–The U.S. Forest Service, National Forest Foundation, and REI Bend store will host a variety of family-friendly conservation projects along the creek. Half-day projects include planting, scattering native seeds and more. All volunteer projects finish by 2 p.m., leaving time to explore, fish and enjoy other activities.
Events in every state, the District of Columbia and many U.S. territories can be found online, searchable by state or zip code. Eight federal agencies will participate—along with more than 250 state, county and city partners, and a host of nonprofit organizations around the nation.
NPLD is also a designated fee-free entrance day at many federal public lands including national parks.
Visit EcoWatch’s BIODIVERSITY page for more related news on this topic.
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By D. André Green II
One of nature's epic events is underway: Monarch butterflies' fall migration. Departing from all across the United States and Canada, the butterflies travel up to 2,500 miles to cluster at the same locations in Mexico or along the Pacific Coast where their great-grandparents spent the previous winter.
Millions of People Care About Monarchs<p>I will never forget the sights and sounds the first time I visited monarchs' overwintering sites in Mexico. Our guide pointed in the distance to what looked like hanging branches covered with dead leaves. But then I saw the leaves flash orange every so often, revealing what were actually thousands of tightly packed butterflies. The monarchs made their most striking sounds in the Sun, when they burst from the trees in massive fluttering plumes or landed on the ground in the tussle of mating.</p><p>Decades of educational outreach by teachers, researchers and hobbyists has cultivated a generation of monarch admirers who want to help preserve this phenomenon. This global network has helped restore not only monarchs' summer breeding habitat by planting milkweed, but also general pollinator habitat by planting nectaring flowers across North America.</p><p>Scientists have calculated that restoring the monarch population to a stable level of about 120 million butterflies will require <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/icad.12198" target="_blank">planting 1.6 billion new milkweed stems</a>. And they need them fast. This is too large a target to achieve through grassroots efforts alone. A <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/CCAA.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">new plan</a>, announced in the spring of 2020, is designed to help fill the gap.</p>
Pros and Cons of Regulation<p>The top-down strategy for saving monarchs gained energy in 2014, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service <a href="https://www.fws.gov/southeast/pdf/petition/monarch.pdf" target="_blank">proposed</a> listing them as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. A decision is expected in December 2020.</p><p>Listing a species as endangered or threatened <a href="https://www.fws.gov/endangered/esa-library/pdf/listing.pdf" target="_blank">triggers restrictions</a> on "taking" (hunting, collecting or killing), transporting or selling it, and on activities that negatively affect its habitat. Listing monarchs would impose restrictions on landowners in areas where monarchs are found, over vast swaths of land in the U.S.</p><p>In my opinion, this is not a reason to avoid a listing. However, a "threatened" listing might inadvertently threaten one of the best conservation tools that we have: public education.</p><p>It would severely restrict common practices, such as rearing monarchs in classrooms and back yards, as well as scientific research. Anyone who wants to take monarchs and milkweed for these purposes would have to apply for special permits. But these efforts have had a multigenerational educational impact, and they should be protected. Few public campaigns have been more successful at raising awareness of conservation issues.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="91165203d4ec0efc30e4632a00fdf57d"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/KilPRvjbMrA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
The Rescue Attempt<p>To preempt the need for this kind of regulation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved a <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/pdfs/Monarch%20CCAA-CCA%20Public%20Comment%20Documents/Monarch-Nationwide_CCAA-CCA_Draft.pdf" target="_blank">Nationwide Candidate Conservation Agreement for Monarch Butterflies</a>. Under this plan, "rights-of-way" landowners – energy and transportation companies and private owners – commit to restoring and creating millions of acres of pollinator habitat that have been decimated by land development and herbicide use in the past half-century.</p><p>The agreement was spearheaded by the <a href="http://rightofway.erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank">Rights-of-Way Habitat Working Group</a>, a collaboration between the University of Illinois Chicago's <a href="https://erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Energy Resources Center</a>, the Fish and Wildlife Service and over 40 organizations from the energy and transportation sectors. These sectors control "rights-of-way" corridors such as lands near power lines, oil pipelines, railroad tracks and interstates, all valuable to monarch habitat restoration.</p><p>Under the plan, partners voluntarily agree to commit a percentage of their land to host protected monarch habitat. In exchange, general operations on their land that might directly harm monarchs or destroy milkweed will not be subject to the enhanced regulation of the Endangered Species Act – protection that would last for 25 years if monarchs are listed as threatened. The agreement is expected to create up to 2.3 million acres of new protected habitat, which ideally would avoid the need for a "threatened" listing.</p>
A Model for Collaboration<p>This agreement could be one of the few specific interventions that is big enough to allow researchers to quantify its impact on the size of the monarch population. Even if the agreement produces only 20% of its 2.3 million acre goal, this would still yield nearly half a million acres of new protected habitat. This would provide a powerful test of the role of declining breeding and nectaring habitat compared to other challenges to monarchs, such as climate change or pollution.</p><p>Scientists hope that data from this agreement will be made publicly available, like projects in the <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/MCD.html" target="_blank">Monarch Conservation Database</a>, which has tracked smaller on-the-ground conservation efforts since 2014. With this information we can continue to develop powerful new models with better accuracy for determining how different habitat factors, such as the number of milkweed stems or nectaring flowers on a landscape scale, affect the monarch population.</p><p>North America's monarch butterfly migration is one of the most awe-inspiring feats in the natural world. If this rescue plan succeeds, it could become a model for bridging different interests to achieve a common conservation goal.</p>
The annual Ig Nobel prizes were awarded Thursday by the science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research for scientific experiments that seem somewhat absurd, but are also thought-provoking. This was the 30th year the awards have been presented, but the first time they were not presented at Harvard University. Instead, they were delivered in a 75-minute pre-recorded ceremony.