News from our member organizations

Who Can Stop the Rain?

News from American Rivers - Fri, 03/20/2015 - 6:00am
Rain barrels help connect us to water | Ipswich River Watershed Association

Did you know that capturing rainwater off your roof for gardening is still illegal in the state of Colorado? It sounds silly, but a few years ago a family in rural San Miguel County sought to collect rainwater from their roof for their garden, because they lacked access to other freshwater resources. The family applied for a right to the water with the state, who denied the family the option to collect rainwater because the water belonged to downstream water right holders. The state told the family that if they continued to collect rainwater from their roof that they would be subject to fines up to $500 per day.

If you live on the east coast, you may wonder why rain barrels are such a divisive issue in Colorado. Like other western states, Colorado water law follows the prior appropriation doctrine, of which the core principle is “first in time, first in right.” To help ensure water supply security, the first person to put water to beneficial use obtains a more senior right to that water. Other water users get in line behind them. In times of shortage the more senior rights holder gets their water before everyone else. As a result of this system, there has been resistance to rainwater capture because many downstream right holders see it as an infringement of their own right to use the water. In other words, every drop of rain in Colorado is spoken for.

Despite these concerns, Colorado remains the last western state (and the country) with a ban on residential rain water collection. Other prior appropriation states including Texas, Arizona, Utah, and Wyoming all allow residential rain water collection and even provide homeowners with significant financial incentives to install rainwater harvesting systems. These states support rain barrel use because they offer several benefits. Rain barrels save homeowners about 1,300 gallons of water during peak summer months, which can help homeowners save money. Diverting rainwater also decreases the impact of runoff to streams, which can improve water quality. Rain barrels also serve as an alternative source of supply (albeit on a small scale), which can reduce pressure on existing water sources such as rivers and groundwater. Finally, although rain barrels are a small step, they help generate a conservation ethic within urban water users who may not realize where there water comes from and help residents realize that water is actually a finite resource. That’s important in a region where drought, climate change, and growing urban demands for water are putting significant pressure on existing water supplies.  Thus, rain barrels can help connect the public to water and make them more engaged on water issues.

American Rivers is working with Western Resource Advocates and Conservation Colorado on a bill that would allow Colorado residents to install two 50-gallon rain barrels without obtaining a water right. Allowing for small residential systems would have a minimal impact on downstream users. According to research done by American Rivers, an 100 gallon system would only collect 600 gallons of water over the course of a growing season in Colorado; enough water for about a dozen tomato plants or a couple dozen flowers over the course of a growing season. Earlier this week, the bill passed out of the Colorado House Agriculture, Livestock and Natural Resources committee with bipartisan support and heads to a House vote where it is expected to pass. American Rivers is excited to be working with state stakeholders to support this measure and increase public engagement on water issues in the West.

NRDC Statement on New Rules for Fracking on Federal Lands

News from NRDC - Thu, 03/19/2015 - 10:00pm
WASHINGTON (March 20, 2015) – The U.S. Bureau of Land Management today released its final rules that will apply to fracking on federal and tribal lands.

New Report Highlights Crops with High Pesticide Residues and Benefits of Organic

News from Beyond Pesticides - Thu, 03/19/2015 - 9:01pm
(Beyond Pesticides, March 20, 2015) A new pesticide residue report just out requires context for those wishing to use their purchasing power to protect health, the environment, and those who grow and harvest our food. For consumers who care about the environment, farmworkers, and want to reduce pesticides in their diet, organic agriculture continues to be […]

Land Matters. So do promises: Protect Maryland Open Space Funding

News from American Farmland Trust - Thu, 03/19/2015 - 9:26am

In 1969, the Maryland legislature, led by Senator Bill James from Harford County and Senator Jim Clark from Howard County, created Program Open Space. A masterpiece of sensible yet visionary leadership, Program Open Space collects a fraction (1/2 of 1%) of the transfer tax paid when Maryland residents sell a home or piece of property. The money goes into a DEDICATED fund to protect farmland, high-value natural lands, and parks and recreation needs in every county in the state.

The post Land Matters. So do promises: Protect Maryland Open Space Funding appeared first on The Farmland Report.

Cyclone Pam Signals Slow-motion Disaster in Kiribati

News from Conservation International - Thu, 03/19/2015 - 7:00am
CI's Greg Stone gives a firsthand account of storm damage in the island nation — and explains why it's a harbinger of things to come.

Obama Takes New Actions to Curb Carbon Pollution

News from NRDC - Wed, 03/18/2015 - 10:00pm
WASHINGTON (March 19, 2015) -- President Obama today signed an executive order that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions produced by the federal government by 40 percent from 2008 levels over the next 10 years.

Final Suit Routing Genetically Engineered Crops and Related Practices from Refuges

News from Beyond Pesticides - Wed, 03/18/2015 - 9:01pm
(Beyond Pesticides, March 19, 2015) A federal court ruled Monday against the use of neonicotinoid insecticides linked with destruction of bee colonies and other beneficial insects in national wildlife refuges in the Midwest region. The ruling caps a legal campaign to end the planting of genetically engineered (GE) crops and other industrial agricultural practices on national […]

Members of Congress Call for Listing Monarch Butterfly as Threatened

News from Beyond Pesticides - Tue, 03/17/2015 - 9:01pm
(Beyond Pesticides March 18, 2015) Fifty-two members of Congress penned a letter to the White House, calling for the protection of the Monarch butterfly, which has declined by 90 percent in the last 20 years, and for listing as a ‘threatened’ species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). This comes on the heels of a […]

Time is Now to Link President’s Energy Strategy with Strong Protections for National Parks

News from National Parks Conservation - Tue, 03/17/2015 - 11:56am
Administration’s Proposals on Right Track, But Need to Finalize Necessary Protections

Portland Monthly: Drink “green” this St. Patrick’s Day with eco-friendly beers

News from NW Energy Coalition - Tue, 03/17/2015 - 11:49am
This Portland Monthly article showcases how eight Oregon breweries have made strides to lower their carbon footprint by switching to renewable energy, recycling steam, sourcing local ingredients, installing efficient lighting, capturing methane, saving water, cutting transportation emissions and reusing spent grain. Raise a glass to these innovative breweries this St. Paddy's Day!

License Plates for Pollinators: Illinois General Assembly Mulls New License Plate to Fund Monarch “Butterfly Highways” Habitat Restoration

News from NRDC - Mon, 03/16/2015 - 10:00pm
CHICAGO (March 17, 2015) - Dwindling populations of monarch butterflies would get a boost from new legislation for a special Illinois state license plate featuring the state insect. Revenue from the sale of the monarch butterfly license plates would be used to expand acreage planted with milkweed, the plant monarchs need to survive. Senate Bill 1742 and House Bill 3465 will create a “Roadside Monarch Habitat Fund” for roadside monarch and other pollinator habitat development, enhancement, and restoration projects in Illinois.

NRDC: Boxer Chemical Safety Bill a “Significant Improvement” Over Current Law

News from NRDC - Mon, 03/16/2015 - 10:00pm
WASHINGTON (March 17, 2015) – Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) is holding a press conference today to discuss a bill she has introduced with Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) to reform the nation’s chemical safety law, the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) of 1976.  The Boxer-Markey bill is a counter to a bill released earlier by Sens. David Vitter (R-LA) and Tom Udall (D-NM).

Study Shows the Benefits of Pesticide-free Pollinator Habitat

News from Beyond Pesticides - Mon, 03/16/2015 - 9:01pm
(Beyond Pesticides, March 17, 2015) Foraging bumblebees would prefer to dodge traffic rather than pesticides and other agricultural chemicals, according to the results of a new study published in the Journal of Insect Conservation. Researchers from Plymouth University in England discovered that the number of bumblebees observed foraging plants along roadsides was over twice the […]