Ann M. Simmons, LOS ANGELES TIMES
They cover a third of the world’s landmass, help to regulate the atmosphere, and offer shelter, sustenance and survival to millions of people, plants and animals.
But despite some progress, the planet’s woodlands continue to disappear on a dramatic scale.
Since 1990 the world has lost the equivalent of 1,000 football fields of forests every hour, according to World Bank development indicators from last year. That’s 1.3 million square kilometers of forest, an area larger than South Africa, according to the international financial institution.
With the observance of Earth Day on Saturday, conservationists seek to drive home the message that protection of forests is more critical than ever.
“The situation is dire,” said Orion Cruz, deputy director of forest and climate policy for Earth Day Network, an organization that grew out of the first Earth Day in 1970. “Forests are being eliminated at a very rapid rate and collectively we need to address this problem as quickly as possible. There’s still time to do this, but that time is quickly running out.”
Tropical regions are seeing the fastest loss of forests.
Indonesia, with its thriving paper and palm oil industries, is losing more forest than any other country. Despite a forest development moratorium, the Southeast Asian nation has lost at least 39 million acres since the last century, according to research from the University of Maryland and the World Resources Institute.
Brazil, Thailand, Congo and parts of Eastern Europe also have significant deforestation, according to United Nations data.
Read more at: Status of forests is ‘dire’ as world marks 2017 Earth Day – LA Times
Meg McConahey, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
“When the plants go extinct, the animals that depend on them go extinct. And it’s completely ignored,” [McNamara] said. “Most biologists who are aware of this are convinced that by the end of the century, if current trends continue, we will lose half of all animals and half of all plants will be gone.”
For a onetime landscaper from California, it was a Cinderella moment — standing beneath the glass vaulted ceiling of the Edwardian Lindley Hall in London, accepting one of the world’s highest honors in horticulture.
The crowd that applauded American Bill McNamara as he accepted the prestigious Veitch Medal from the Royal Horticultural Society on Feb. 22, included finely dressed members of England’s titled gentry and some of the biggest names in the botanical realm over which Great Britain still rules.
“It was such a big honor, it was a shock,” said McNamara, now comfortably back in his bluejeans at Quarryhill Botanical Garden, a refuge for rare and endangered Asian plants that he gathered himself from seed in wild and remote corners of China. In just 30 years, a mere baby in the world of botanical gardens, Quarryhill has come to be considered one of the most significant collections of its kind in the world, numbering close to 2,000 species plants in their natural form, unchanged by man through hybridization.
Read more at: Bill McNamara is Glen Ellen’s ‘Indiana Jones’ of rare plants | The Press Democrat
Guy Kovner, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Sonoma County is putting out a welcome mat for the medical marijuana industry, but it may not be as big as the industry would like as it emerges from the legal shadows.
Under California’s new medical marijuana law, cities and counties are allowed to regulate the location of pot-growing sites and other cannabis-related businesses, which may not obtain a state license until they have secured a local land use permit.
“We’re all here this morning because we believe there’s a bright future for cannabis in our community,” county Supervisor Efren Carrillo told a crowd of about 300 cannabis industry members at a conference Friday at the Hyatt Vineyard Creek in Santa Rosa.
The county’s first draft of its Medical Cannabis Land Use Ordinance, scheduled for public review next week, would focus cultivation and other pot businesses into the county’s agricultural and commercial/industrial areas, Carrillo said.
But Tawnie Logan, executive director of the Sonoma County Growers Alliance, said the proposal was too narrow. Rural residential lands and the county’s Resources and Rural Development District, which covers 30 percent of the county, should be considered for cultivation, she said.
“I think it’s an appropriate place,” she said in an interview, referring to the vast RRD district that covers mostly hilly, sparsely populated parts of the county.
Carrillo said he has heard conflicting messages from rural residents: They don’t want marijuana grown near them, but there already are numerous gardens in the county’s unincorporated area.
“That is going to be one of the areas where we are challenged the most,” said Carrillo, who sits on the county’s ad hoc medical cannabis committee with Supervisor Susan Gorin.
Read more at: Fight looms over location of medical marijuana farms in Sonoma County | The Press Democrat
New legislation comes despite science showing timber salvage harms essential wildlife habitat
Jodi Peterson, HIGH COUNTRY NEWS
The third-largest wildfire in California history, 2013’s Rim Fire, burned more than 400 square miles, including parts of Yosemite National Park and the Stanislaus National Forest. A year later, the Forest Service proposed cutting down the dead and damaged trees across about 50 square miles, but environmental groups sued to stop the salvage logging, saying it would harm wildlife and impede forest regeneration.
Their appeal was denied and logging began, but the groups’ concerns are increasingly borne out by science: Recently-released studies point to the crucial importance of burned-over habitat for many species, including the Pacific fisher and black-backed woodpecker. Despite this, Congressional Republicans are pushing two bills, supported by the timber industry, that would speed up logging in national forests after wildfires and reduce environmental review.
Read more at: Congress tries to speed up contentious post-fire logging — High Country News
Derek Moore & Angela Hart, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
The draft closure plan did earn wide praise, however, for its recommendation that Sonoma Developmental property not be sold off as surplus, as has happened in similar situations.
The state’s draft plan for closing the Sonoma Developmental Center by 2018 is drawing sharp condemnation from family members and advocates for the disabled over the plan’s perceived failure to adequately address the long-term needs of 400 center residents, who would be moved into community-based settings.
During a highly charged hearing in Sonoma on Monday, dozens of people railed against the closure plan, saying it will result in developmental center residents receiving a substandard level of care that poses risks to their health and possibly their survival.
“This is a cookie-cutter plan that does nothing but fast-track the closure of the Sonoma Developmental Center,” said Brien Farrell of Santa Rosa, whose sister has lived at the facility since 1958.
The state for months has signaled its intent to shutter the Sonoma Developmental Center for budgetary reasons and because institutionalized care for the severely disabled continues to fall out of public favor. But many advocates for the facility have pushed for the state to maintain some level of services at the Eldridge site, including a crisis center and specialized offerings such as dental care.
Read more at: State’s plan to close Sonoma Developmental Center blasted | The Press Democrat
Cynthia Sweeney, NORTH BAY BUSINESS JOURNAL
After a decade and a half of delays procedural and economic, a 167-townhome development in west Santa Rosa is set to come out of the ground in coming months, in quite a different market than when initially conceived and with cutting-edge rooms-as-modules construction.
Groundbreaking for three model dwellings in the Paseo Vista Homes project, located off Hearn and Dutton avenues, is set for May 15. Santa Rosa-based HybridCore Homes expects to complete them by Aug. 1.
The remainder of the units would start to come out of the ground in early July. The entire project is expected to be completed in about two years.The 12-acre project includes 122 single-family homes and 45 low-income rental units, built as 15 triplexes. Prices for the homes are anticipated to be in the low-$300,000 range.
Started by a homebuilder and an architect in 2009, HybridCore Homes has designed room units, called “cores,” outfitted with appliances, cabinetry, electrical wiring and plumbing that can be trucked from the factory to the job site. One or more cores are moved into place on the foundation, and the rest of the structure is completed around them.
“This new construction technology helps to keep costs low and cuts construction time in half,” said Otis Orsburn, partner and vice president of construction.
The company has a “ton” of projects on the horizon, he said.
Read more at: 167-home Santa Rosa townhome project to start construction | North Bay Business Journal
Tom Gogola, NORTH BAY BOHEMIAN
The California salmon fishing season that ended last week was OK this year, says John McManus, executive director of the Golden Gate Salmon Association, “but not as good as last year.”
In February, the National Marine Fisheries Service said an estimated 650,000 Chinook salmon would leave the Sacramento River for the Pacific Ocean this season—an estimate offered as a portent of good things to come, despite the drought.
But salmon fishing in California, McManus fears, is going to get worse before it gets better—and that’s if it ever does improve. This year, he says, salmon anglers working the colder waters to the north tended to fare better. “Southern Oregon was quite good,” he says, “the Eureka area, the sport fishery was quite good. Sonoma was OK.”
The Marin County coast, he says, “got OK in late September and remained surprisingly strong in October.”
The problem for the salmon, however, is the ceaseless drought with its various fallouts. Looking ahead, says McManus, the prospects for a healthy and sustainable salmon fishery are decidedly grim.
McManus describes a “desperate situation for spawning fall run king salmon in the Sacramento Valley this year,” because of high water temperature in the Sacramento River and surrounding tributaries.
via Lox and Stocks | News | North Bay Bohemian.
Seth Borenstein, ASSOCIATED PRESS
Species of plants and animals are becoming extinct at least 1,000 times faster than they did before humans arrived on the scene, and the world is on the brink of a sixth great extinction, a new study says.
The study looks at past and present rates of extinction and finds a lower rate in the past than scientists had thought. Species are now disappearing from Earth about 10 times faster than biologists had believed, said study lead author noted biologist Stuart Pimm of Duke University.
"We are on the verge of the sixth extinction," Pimm said from research at the Dry Tortugas. "Whether we avoid it or not will depend on our actions."
The work, published Thursday by the journal Science, was hailed as a landmark study by outside experts.
Pimm’s study focused on the rate, not the number, of species disappearing from Earth. It calculated a "death rate" of how many species become extinct each year out of 1 million species.
via Study: Species disappearing far faster than before – SFGate.