On March 17, 2015, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell addressed a packed house with a bold agenda for energy development on public lands for the next two years. This agenda focuses on locking in critical reforms that help protect wildlands, clean air, and clean water.
[ CAP, The Wilderness Society Call on Obama Administration to Account for Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Fossil Fuels Extracted from America’s Public Lands and Waters ]
Greenhouse gas, or GHG, emissions from the oil, gas, and coal extracted on federal lands and waters account for more than 20 percent of all U.S. GHG emissions and 24 percent of all U.S.
Since its approval by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1906, the Antiquities Act has been used on a bipartisan basis by 16 presidents, serving as an important contingency plan for when Congress is unable to act swiftly to protect public lands.
[ Statement from The Wilderness Society Opposing Cuts Proposed by House and Senate Budget Committees ]
At the same time these cuts would diminish access to these public lands for all Americans.
[ A blind spot in the plan to reduce emissions is slowing progress in the fight against climate change ]
A recent independent analysis uncovered a void in the nation’s efforts to address global climate change: currently no plan exists to account for and manage greenhouse gas emissions created by energy development on public lands.
When conservationist Willie Smits got married in North Sulawesi, Indonesia, in 1981, the dowry cost six sugar palm trees, a fact that intrigued him. The six trees equaled almost one month’s income for most locals. What made sugar palms so valuable?
That question ultimately led Smits on a quest to maximize the tree’s value for Indonesian communities while protecting their land. These communities already understood the dozens of benefits that the sugar palm brought: medicine, fiber, wood, fuel, sugar, drinks, and more. Eventually, Smits discovered additional value the sugar palms add. They stabilize the forest soil, prevent landslides, and resist fire.
In 2001, Smits founded the Masarang Foundation with a mission to conserve nature through collaboration with, and development of, the local population. The sugar palm, or Arenga pinnata, which produces a sap that can be refined into edible sugar or ethanol fuel, plays a critical role in helping to fulfill this mission.
To access the sap, tappers (who have purchased the right to do so) scale the trees twice daily, often using a bamboo pole carved out with an opening large enough only for the big toe. Once in the branches, they slice open the flower stem and collect sap. It’s a skill that takes practice—and, when well-cultivated, it can earn proficient tappers in North Sulawesi up to $2,500 per month, a sum 8.5 times Indonesia’s per capita GDP.
To produce sugar or biofuel from the sap, it is first brought to a mini factory called the village hub, a processing plant constructed with support from the Great Energy Challenge and run by the Masarang Foundation, where Smits oversees operations.
At the village hub, locals turn the sap into a thickened juice and then transport it to a palm sugar factory, strategically located next to a geothermal power plant. The power plant offers up steam, a vital commodity in the sugar-making process, in exchange for water, a by-product of the sugar and biofuel conversion process. This efficiency also saves thousands of trees per year, which are traditionally used as fuel in the sugar-making process.
The resulting sugar is in high demand and the Masarang Foundation has no trouble selling 20 tons per month. They are even beginning to ship palm sugar for sale at Whole Foods. According to Smits, they could sell 20 times more, but they are currently limited by the amount of steam available.
Not to be confused with oil palm, which has led to a rapid expansion of clear-cutting forests to make way for a monoculture environment, sugar palms thrive in a diverse forest ecosystem.
To many people, forests are static. To Smits, they are incredibly dynamic and represent a beautifully interactive system that constantly recycles nutrients from the forest floor back into the trees.
Smits’ journey began in 1980, when he moved to Indonesian Borneo to carry out graduate research. Within a few years, the Indonesian Forestry of Ministry invited him to develop his studies further. Smits left his home in the Netherlands and took up permanent residency in Indonesia.
Today, his work is bringing tangible results. The Masarang Foundation added at least a million trees to the forest in North Sulawesi, including sugar palm trees. According to Smits, this forest now yields more rainfall, generates greater agricultural productivity, and provides more jobs for North Sulawesi. It has also contributed to less flooding, more clean water, and stable water levels year-round.
Those benefits lend value far beyond the market price for sugar, and make Smits optimistic about the future: “There are still opportunities to clear up the mess man has created.”
Department of Interior Secretary Sally Jewell’s speech today at the Center for Strategic International Engagement laid out a strong agenda to strengthen our economy while maintaining a focus on conservation.
[ The Wilderness Society Welcomes Tennessee Wilderness Bill and Thanks Senators Alexander and Corker ]
The Wilderness Society thanks Senators Alexander and Corker for their continuing leadership with their introduction of the bill.
The Tennessee Wilderness Act, sponsored by Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Bob Corker (R-TN), would create the 9,000-acre Upper Bald River Wilderness Area and expand five existing wilderness areas.
Earth Month Roundup 2015
The first Earth Day on April 22, 1970 was the catalyst that helped jumpstart the modern environmental movement, inspiring citizens around the world to demonstrate their commitment to a healthy and sustainable world. Earth Day is just one day, but there are opportunities to get involved all month long, thanks to EarthShare member charities and affiliates.
Here’s our roundup of just some of the activities you can join this April. If you don’t see an opportunity in your area, enter your zip code into our volunteer widget to search for events, or visit Idealist.org.
Nationwide & Online Opportunities.
- From NYC to Texas, Student Conservation Association members, alumni, staff, friends and partners will be planting trees, building new hiking trails, and so much more. Check out their list of April Service Projects around the country and get your hands dirty!
- Whether you need help organizing your own event or want to join an existing opportunity, Earth Day Network offers tools and resources for you to get involved with Earth Day in your community – or get your community involved in Earth Day. Find out how you can participate.
- Why not celebrate Earth Day on a Rail-Trail? Visit Rails-to-Trails Conservancy and their Trail-Link tool to find the closest trail to you, then jump on your bike or pull on those hiking boots.
- Visit the Nature Conservancy's Volunteer Calendar for a list of Earth Month activites by state.
- Show your love for America’s national park system throughout April with National Parks Conservation Association. From the Everglades to our nation’s capital, there’s a way for people everywhere to celebrate these special places. And don’t forget National Park Opening Weekend – admission to our country’s 401 national parks is free from April 18-19.
- The Environmental Protection Agency offers a map of Earth Month activities across the country. EPA even offers an Earth Day "Take Home Kit" to help you to talk to your family, your co-workers and neighbors about ways they can join you in celebrating Earth Day.
On April 18, thousands will converge on the Mission to celebrate Earth Day San Francisco 2015. The event will feature entertainment, speakers, workshops, green businesses, and more.
Our City Forest will be discussing the importance of urban forestry and recruiting volunteers at San José State University’s Earth Day event on April 22.
Join California Native Plant Society in celebrating California's natural beauty during California Native Plant Week, April 11-19. Hundreds of events are happening across California including plant sales, garden tours, field trips and more
Cheap Trick, Dave Mason and Kicking Daisies will perform at the annual Earth Day concert on the National Mall from April 20-22. Speakers include Bill McKibben of 350.org, Gene Karpinski of the League of Conservation Voters, Leilani Munter, many more.
Join Sarasota's Earth Day Celebration on April 19. Event includes a plant sale, music, food, guided walks, and more
Central Florida Earth Day is an exciting day of colorful and educational exhibits and activities! It will take place at beautiful Lake Eola Park in downtown Orlando on April 25. Admission is free.
Join Friends of the Parks county-wide effort 26th annual earth day parks & preserves clean-up in Chicago on April 18. Volunteers are encouraged to get out and clean and green their neighborhood parks and preserves.
Celebrate the importance of kids spending time in nature at “The Play Out” at Mellody Farm Nature Preserve on April 26. This event encourages families to get outside and enjoy a variety of activities promoting creativity and exploration in nature.
EarthShare Georgia has engaging opportunities for businesses, individuals and communities in the Metro Atlanta area – there’s something here for everybody! Events range from a Leadership Breakfast on April 17 to an Earth Day Party on April 22.
The 11th Annual Baltimore Green Week will take place from April 18-25. The public will have access to a variety of educational workshops, lectures, films, tours, and hands-on projects on issues such as climate change, sustainable agriculture, water conservation, and energy efficiency.
Join the Rose F. Kennedy Greenway in Boston on April 22 for a Group Volunteer Horticulture Project.
The West Michigan Environmental Action Council invites you to West Michigan’s signature Earth Day event, the Blue Tie Ball in Grand Rapids on April 21. This formal event will feature cocktails, dinner and a “Live Experience Auction”.
On April 25, a flotilla of small boats will ferry eager volunteers out to various islands to clean up the Lower Detroit River with Friends of the Detroit River.
St. Louis Earth Day organizes one of the largest Earth Day celebrations in the nation on April 26.
The Green Homes Festival on June 20 at the Missouri Botanical Garden presented by the EarthWays Center will be a fun, hands-on, day-long festival of learning, playing, and engaging in sustainability.
Join the Ocean County Soil Conservation District for a free workshop on composting on April 18 in Beachwood, NJ.
For a full list of Earth Month events happening in New Jersey, visit the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection website.
Don’t miss Earth Day New York’s events at Union Square on April 19 – event includes a special sharing economy exhibit. There's also an Earth Day 5k Walk and Green Tour on April 22.
Go Green at Durham’s Earth Day Festival on April 29. Participants will enjoy activities and demos; learn about many green practices and products at the Sustainability Expo and Earth Art Market; and enjoy great music, food and much more!
During the week of April 18-25 at projects across central Ohio, thousands of neighbors will pick-up shovels and hoes, grab garbage pickers and honeysuckle poppers, and put in the hard work needed to keep our communities clean and green.
Earth Day Oregon will take place on Saturday, April 18 at EWEB's Rivers Edge Plaza in Eugene. The Eugene Water & Electric Board will be awarding grants of $50,000 each to local renewable energy and education projects, as chosen by EWEB customers who are signed up for the Greenpower program.
Each year Bicycle Transportation Alliance teaches thousands of Portland 4th and 5th graders to bike safely on the street. Their bikes need routine maintenance every month to keep the parts working smoothly. So if you’ve got mechanic skills, join them for some greasy fun on April 19.
Over the past 34 years, the Clean Air Council’s 5K Run for Clean Air has grown into Philadelphia’s largest Earth Day Celebration. Located on the beautiful banks of the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia, the Run is a celebration of sustainability, clean air, and improvements in the region’s environmental health. The run happens on April 18.
Earth Day Texas is an annual, outdoor festival in Dallas seeking to elevate environmental awareness and influence the way North Texans think, live and work. This year, it’s happening from April 24-26.