As we all know, California is experiencing its fourth year of extreme and exceptional drought. Scientists have confirmed it's the worst drought in the region in the last 1,200 years. Thankfully, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell announced on Feb. 6 that the Bureau of Reclamation is "making $50 million in funds available for drought relief projects throughout the West—including nearly $20 million for California’s Central Valley Project."
"California’s ongoing drought is wreaking havoc on farmers, ranchers, municipalities, tribes and the environment," said Secretary Jewell. "With climate change, droughts are projected to become more intense and frequent in many parts of the West, so we need to pursue every measure to provide relief and support to communities who are feeling the impacts."
Secretary Jewell made the announcement after a meeting with California's Governor Brown to discuss the Obama Administration’s "all-in" approach to the drought in California.
Outdoor recreation enthusiasts hope these measures help alleviate the crisis because winter sports especially have taken a hard hit from the drought. Ski areas and resorts in Southern California haven't been able to open or have struggled to stay open for the past several years. But it's not just Southern California where the skiing is getting dicey. Central and northern parts of the state, including the famed Tahoe ski resorts, are floundering this season, too.
Many parts of Central and Northern California had their driest January (usually California's wettest month) on record, according to the latest summary from the U.S. Drought Monitor. The California Department of Water Resources (CDWR) reported that at the end of January, the snowpack was "dismally meager" at 25 percent of the historical average statewide and as low as 11 and 12 percent in some areas. Washington and Oregon remained dry as well.
The little precipitation that these states have seen falls as rain even in higher elevations due to warmer than average temperatures, said the U.S. Drought Monitor. The snowpack is so crucial because, "in normal years, it supplies about 30 percent of California's water needs as it melts in the spring and early summer," according to CDWR. Unfortunately, CDWR's snow survey shows that California’s drought will likely continue for a fourth consecutive year.
In California, the Tahoe Donner Cross Country trail, Dodge Ridge in Pinecrest, Badger Pass in Yosemite National Park and Mt. Shasta Ski Park have shut down indefinitely, citing a lack of snow. Willamette Pass Resort and Hoodoo Ski Area in Oregon suspended operations as well.
Even ski areas and resorts in northern climes, such as Mt. Washington Ski Resort on Vancouver Island, are closing due to lack of snow. That's the second year in a row that Mt. Washington was forced to close early. Hemlock Ski Resort near Vancouver won't even open this season. Eaglecrest Ski Area near Juneau, Alaska halted lift operations until they receive enough snow to open at least part of the upper mountain. That's right, a ski area in Alaska is closed due to insufficient snow.
Other resorts are barely hanging on. Homewood Ski Resort in Lake Tahoe has shut down all but two bunny hill rope tows. Mt. Ashland Ski Area in Oregon reopened Saturday after closing in mid-January. It reopened because the area finally received its first significant snow storm of the season, according to NPR's Here and Now. Unfortunately, "even if a record-breaking snowstorm were to hit, experts say there would still be good chance of severe drought" for much of Oregon, according to David Nogueras of Here and Now.
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By Gwen Ranniger
Fertility issues are on the rise, and new literature points to ways that your environment may be part of the problem. We've rounded up some changes you can make in your life to promote a healthy reproductive system.
Infertility and Environmental Health: The Facts<ul> <li>Sperm count is declining steeply, significantly, and continuously in Western countries, with no signs of tapering off. Erectile dysfunction is on the rise, and women are facing increasing rates of miscarriage and difficulty conceiving.</li><li>Why? A huge factor is our environmental health. Hormones (particularly testosterone and estrogen) are what make reproductive function possible, and our hormones are increasingly being negatively affected by harmful, endocrine-disrupting chemicals commonplace in the modern world—in our homes, foods, and lifestyles.</li></ul>
What You Can Do About It<p>It should be noted that infertility can be caused by any number of factors, including medical conditions that cannot be solved with a simple change at home.</p><p><em>If you or a loved one are struggling with infertility, our hearts and sympathies are with you. Your pain is validated and we hope you receive answers to your struggles.</em></p><p>Read on to discover our tips to restore or improve reproductive health by removing harmful habits and chemicals from your environment.</p>
Edit Your Health<ul><li>If you smoke, quit! Smoking is toxic, period. If someone in your household smokes, urge them to quit or institute a no-smoking ban in the house. It is just as important to avoid secondhand smoke.</li><li>Maintain a healthy weight. Make sure your caloric intake is right for your body and strive for moderate exercise.</li><li>Eat cleanly! Focus on whole foods and less processed meals and snacks. Studies have found that eating a Mediterranean-style diet is linked to increased fertility.</li><li>Minimize negative/constant stress—or find ways to manage it. Hobbies such as meditation or yoga that encourage practiced breathing are great options to reduce the physical toll of stress.</li></ul>
Edit Your Home<p>We spend a lot of time in our homes—and care that what we bring into them will not harm us. You may not be aware that many commonly found household items are sources of harmful, endocrine-disrupting compounds. Read on to find steps you can take—and replacements you should make—in your home.</p><p><strong>In the Kitchen</strong></p><ul> <li>Buy organic, fresh, unprocessed foods whenever possible. <a href="https://www.ehn.org/clean-grocery-shopping-guide-2648563801.html" target="_blank">Read our grocery shopping guide for more tips about food.</a></li><li>Switch to glass, ceramics, or stainless steel for food storage: plastics often contain endocrine-disrupting chemicals that affect fertility. <a href="https://www.ehn.org/bpa-pollution-2645493129.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Learn more about the dangers of plastic here.</a></li><li>Ban plastic from the microwave. If you have a plastic splatter cover, use paper towel, parchment paper, or an upside-down plate instead.</li><li>Upgrade your cookware: non-stick may make life easier, but it is made with unsafe chemical compounds that seep into your food. Cast-iron and stainless steel are great alternatives.</li><li>Filter tap water. Glass filter pitchers are an inexpensive solution; if you want to invest you may opt for an under-the-sink filter.</li><li>Check your cleaning products—many mainstream products are full of unsafe chemicals. <a href="https://www.ehn.org/how-to-shop-for-cleaning-products-while-avoiding-toxics-2648130273.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Check out our guide to safe cleaning products for more info</a>.</li></ul><p><strong>In the Bathroom </strong></p><ul> <li>Check the labels on your bathroom products: <em>fragrance-free, paraben-free, phthalate-free</em> and organic labels are all great signs. You can also scan the ingredients lists for red-flag chemicals such as: triclosan, parabens, and dibutyl phthalate. Use the <a href="https://www.ewg.org/skindeep/" target="_blank">EWG Skin Deep database</a> to vet your personal products.</li><li>Ditch the vinyl shower curtain—that new shower curtain smell is chemical-off gassing. Choose a cotton or linen based curtain instead.</li><li>Banish air fresheners—use natural fresheners (an open window, baking soda, essential oils) instead.</li></ul><p><strong>Everywhere Else</strong></p><ul><li>Remove wall-to-wall carpet. If you've been considering wood or tile, here's your sign: many synthetic carpets can emit harmful chemicals for years. If you want a rug, choose wool or plant materials such as jute or sisal.</li><li>Prevent dust build-up. Dust can absorb chemicals in the air and keep them lingering in your home. Vacuum rugs and wipe furniture, trim, windowsills, fans, TVs, etc. Make sure to have a window open while you're cleaning!</li><li>Leave shoes at the door! When you wear your shoes throughout the house, you're tracking in all kinds of chemicals. If you like wearing shoes inside, consider a dedicated pair of "indoor shoes" or slippers.</li><li>Clean out your closet—use cedar chips or lavender sachets instead of mothballs, and use "green" dry-cleaning services over traditional methods. If that isn't possible, let the clothes air out outside or in your garage for a day before putting them back in your closet.</li><li>Say no to plastic bags!</li><li>We asked 22 endocrinologists what products they use - and steer clear of—in their homes. <a href="https://www.ehn.org/nontoxic-products-2648564261.html" target="_blank">Check out their responses here</a>.</li></ul>
Learn More<ul><li>For more information and action steps, be sure to check out <em>Count Down: How Our Modern World Is Threatening Sperm Counts, Altering Male and Female Reproductive Development, and Imperiling the Future of the Human Race</em> by EHS adjunct scientist Shanna Swan, PhD: <a href="https://www.shannaswan.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">available for purchase here.</a></li><li><a href="https://www.ehn.org/st/Subscribe_to_Above_The_Fold" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Sign up for our Above the Fold Newsletter </a>to stay up to date about impacts on the environment and your health.</li></ul>
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