Conservation Easement for Coldwater Farm

Introduction–Coldwater Farm

Coldwater Farm includes a small riparian forest in the river floodplain.

In 1997, my wife and I purchased a small farm beside the Agua Fria River. The farm includes a section of the river, three large ponds, and many trees, shrubs, grasses, and weeds. Since the property crosses the Agua Fria River, we decided to name the place Coldwater Farm.

Coldwater Farm is in a rural area where we get frequent glimpses of wildlife that urban dwellers never see. In early evenings when the moon is full, we often see raccoons, skunks, javelina, rabbits, and foxes foraging for the sunflower seeds we scatter for the birds. Under the last full moon, the Pink Moon of spring, a young skunk and a young raccoon searched for seeds side by side, the tips of their fur occasionally brushing seemingly unnoticed. In the spring and through the summer and fall, deer spend their days and sometimes their nights at one of our ponds and in our yard. They and the other animals we see brighten our lives. And they evoke our sympathy.

Permanent Protection with a Conservation Easement

The Central Arizona Land Trust (CALT) has accepted responsibility for establishing and monitoring a Conservation Easement for Coldwater Farm. The easement will protect wildlife habitat by preventing future development. Though we can’t add any buildings or damage the wildlife habitat, we can continue to live on the farm and we can leave it to our children. Neither our children nor any future owners of the farm can build on the land or damage the habitat. CALT has launched a fundraising campaign to cover the costs of surveys, appraisals, and a permanent trust fund to pay for annual monitoring.

After we moved to the farm, we began listing wildlife species that we saw. Our bird list has 129 species and includes the Yellow-billed Cuckoo and the Southwest Willow Flycatcher, both on the U. S. Endangered Species list. We have summarized our observations on the farm and its surroundings in four books:

If you’ve been watching the news, you know Earth is in the early stages of the Sixth Mass Extinction of wild plants and animals. Some scientists warn that the continued loss of species coupled with global warming, droughts, and large wildfires will remove much of the vegetation that protects the soil from wind and water erosion. Soil is our most fundamental biological resource. It anchors and feeds the roots of plants, and it absorbs and stores rain and snow melt. Without soil, even small rains cause floods. Without soil, Earth would be as barren as the Moon.

We know that our house, sheds, and pastures replaced habitat that wild animals could use. As we have learned the importance of wild plants and animals for healthy ecosystems, we have realized that the land was not ours to use without regard for the consequences for wildlife. Though we cannot replace the lost habitat, we can protect what remains.

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) reports that since 1970, the average size of all plant and animal populations on Earth has fallen by over 50%. WWF predicts that by 2100, the decline will reach 90%. As populations fall, soil becomes more vulnerable and extinctions climb. All those beautiful, innocent creatures that are ours to see by the wonder of millions of years of genetic trial and error, gone forever. Edward O. Wilson and other naturalists believe to stop the losses we must set aside one-half of Earth’s land and seas exclusively for wildlife. Could we do that?

We could, but we need a united global effort.

One of the ponds at Coldwater Farm

Conservation easements are important in the global effort to preserve wildlife. Twenty-seven percent of the United States is already federal protected land—forests, multiple-use lands, parks, monuments, and wilderness. If we make small landuse adjustments to restrict livestock grazing and recreation, we will be half way to the level of conservation needed for wildlife populations to halt their decline and begin to increase. Simple arithmetic shows that if the people of the United States and other countries redirected their taxes to conservation, we could buy back the land needed to reach 50% within a few years. If, during the same period, we incentivized renewable energy and phased out fossil fuels, we could assure that wildlife would survive as human civilization continued to advance. My wife and I want to do our part. Though tiny compared to the global need, our conservation easement is a symbol. It is a step in the right direction. We hope that many other landowners will be inspired to use conservation easements to help protect their land.

Action – Monuments for All

GR: The goal is to send Zinke 2 million comments by July 10.

“A NEW EXECUTIVE ORDER THREATENS AMERICA’S HERITAGE: OUR NATION’S HISTORY, OUR CULTURE, AND OUR NATURAL WONDERS. PUBLIC COMMENT IS ONLY OPEN UNTIL JULY 10TH – PLEASE MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD TO SAVE OUR NATIONAL MONUMENTS!

“PERSONALIZED COMMENTS ARE CRITICAL IN THIS PROCESS.PLEASE TAKE A LOOK AT THE LIST OF MONUMENTS BELOW AND SHARE WHY WE MUST CONTINUE TO PROTECT THE PLACES OF IMPORTANCE TO YOU.FIRST NAME.” Action – Monuments for All

 

Ecological Special Forces

GR.–No guns and bombs.  We need commando units specializing in background investigations and exposure of perpetrators of ecological harm.  Let’s have more hacker gumshoes working for nature.  We need more ecological whistleblowers and we need more support for whistleblowers.  And we need more organized legal representation for nature (the link takes you to a list of organizations and resources for nature protection).

Deep Green Resistance.–

“The planet needs commandos”

“It wasn’t until the 1940’s that what we think of as the “commando” or special forces units were standardized by the British Army. With the goal of disrupting German forces in western France and later in the Mediterranean and North Africa, the first commando units were modeled on small groups of Arab fighters who had great success pinning down much larger British Army units during the uprisings in Palestine in the 1930’s.

“These units proved to be very effective during World War II and have since become a staple of modern warfare. Today, the U.S. empire largely projects military force through targeted special forces operations and bombing campaigns, rather than outright warfare and traditional military maneuvers.

The Case for Ecological Commandos

“Our planet is on the verge of total ecological collapse. Nothing is getting better. Governments and corporations continue business as usual while every day, carbon dioxide levels rise, forests are cut down, and 200 species are driven extinct. Forty percent of all human deaths can be attributed to pollution. Ocean fish may not exist by 2050.

“Even in ecological preserves, life is suffering; there has been an 85% decline in mammals in West Africa’s parks. Major dams continue to be built. Environmentalists are being murdered around the world. African lions are in precipitous decline, as are tigers, leopards, elephants, polar bears, rhino, and countless other species. Most of the species who are driven extinct haven’t even ever been described by western science; they slip into extinction with barely a ripple.” –Deep Green Resistance.  Ecological Special Forces: A Proposal | Deep Green Resistance Blog

Saving Life on Earth–Saving Biodiversity

Human Impact on Biodiversity

GarryRogersUnaware of the consequences of its behavior, the growing human population is erasing sixty-five million of years of biodiversity recovery since the massive extinction that eliminated dinosaurs and most other species.  This is without doubt the greatest issue of our time, perhaps of all time.  In the article below, points out that biodiversity is not even being mentioned by our current presidential candidates.

Saguaro cactus blooming in 2016 two months earlier than usual.

Saguaro, the iconic species of the Sonoran Desert, blooming in April, two months earlier than usual (Rogers, 2016).

Global warming, deforestation, desertification, environmental pollution, and ocean acidification are familiar labels for human-caused destruction of biodiversity and stability of Earth ecosystems.  They are all connected to the attempt by our billions of people to satisfy their desires for food, reproduction, safety, and convenience.  Allowed uncontrolled expansion, any one of them can achieve planet-wide destruction of biodiversity.  Consider that even if this year’s great climate-change treaty achieves a sudden shift to safe energy and stops global warming, it will not save life on Earth.  No single-issue approach can.

(The following article by Quentin Wheeler is reproduced with permission from the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry.  I would like to add that our ‘moon-shot’ inventory should include ecosystems as well as species.)

 

Why We Need a ‘Moon Shot’ to catalogue the Earth’s Biodiversity

“It’s unlikely that presidential candidates will ever utter the word “biodiversity” while campaigning this year.

“Yet among emerging environmental challenges, none has fewer facts or more enduring threats than the large-scale loss of biodiversity. That’s why we need a visionary investment in fundamental exploration to create knowledge and options.

“And our elected representatives should lead vigorous discussions about what we can and should do about it. From Jefferson to Kennedy, from the Northwest Territory to the depths of space, presidents of vision have opened new frontiers to exploration.

“Serious environmental problems are a bipartisan challenge that deserves to be in every presidential platform. While scientific questions should be firewalled from politics, what we do with scientific knowledge should not. The best solutions should emerge from the rough and tumble of public debate.

“Biodiversity belongs in our public discussion because we have so much to learn from the Earth’s species – both what it means to be human and the knowledge encapsulated in nature – as we plot our future in a time of great change.”

How little we know

“At the estimated current rate of species extinction, it is projected that 70 percent of all the kinds of animals and plants will disappear in about 300 years.

“This is not the first time that earth has weathered such a mass extinction event. There have been five previously, the most recent occurring 65 million years ago, marked by the disappearance of the great dinosaurs.

“In each case, evolutionary processes have restored high levels of species diversity, but this should give us little comfort. Biodiversity recovery takes place over tens of millions of years. And in the meanwhile, there can be enormously chaotic consequences for ecosystems.

“It’s estimated that 10 million more species could be described or redescribed in greater detail. andreaskay/flickr, CC BY-NC-SA”

“Our knowledge of the species with which we share planet Earth is dangerously limited, meaning that we make decisions and policies in near complete ignorance of basic facts. Our best guess is that there are 10 million living species, more or less, excluding the single-celled bacteria and Archaea.

“Of these, fewer than two million are known to science. And of documented species, most are known by little more than a few diagnostic features and a name. While the rate of species extinction has greatly increased, the pace at which we are exploring species has not.

“In one of the original “big science” ideas, the Swedish naturalist Linnaeus set out in the mid-18th century to complete a global inventory of all the kinds of animals and plants. That inventory continues today, but at an unacceptably slow pace. We discover about 18,000 species each year, a rate unchanged since the 1940s in spite of technological advances.

“This need not be so. Given appropriate technical support and coordinated teamwork, it has been estimated that 10 million species could be described or redescribed in greater detail in no more than 50 years.

“As global environments are stressed, we need reliable knowledge of species diversity upon which to detect and measure changes. Ironically, we have mapped the rocky surface of Mars in greater detail than the living biosphere of our own planet.

“Unless we know what species exist and where, how are we to recognize invasive species, measure rates of extinction or even know whether our conservation strategies are working or not? How are we to understand or restore complex ecosystems when we are ignorant of the majority of their functioning parts? And how much are we willing to risk losing by not undertaking a comprehensive biodiversity moon shot?”

Half the Earth?

“Three major benefits would accrue from a NASA-scale mission to explore the biosphere.

“First would be baseline documentation of the species that exist early in the 21st century, including how they assemble into complex networks in ecosystems. Such baseline data would be transformative for ecology, conservation biology, and resource management, and establish a detailed point of comparison for whatever changes come in the future.

“Second is unleashing the full potential of biomimicry. For 3.8 billion years natural selection has maintained favorable adaptations and weeded out unworkable ones. Among the millions of such adaptations, engineers and innovators can find inspiration for entirely new designs, materials, products and processes.

“The extent to which we succeed creating a truly sustainable future – from renewable energy to degradable materials to cities that function like efficient ecosystems – may well depend on how much knowledge we gather from other species, including those about to go extinct.

“Last, but not least, is knowledge of our origins. Anthropologists continue to fill gaps in our knowledge of the emergence of modern humans, but that is only the most recent chapter in our story. Every attribute that we think of as uniquely human was modified from characteristics of earlier mammals. And features supposedly unique to mammals were similarly modified from even earlier ancestors and so forth, all the way back to the first single-celled species from which the diversity of life around us evolved.

“We can no more understand what it is to be human without exploring this whole history than we could account for why Earth is as it is in the absence of knowledge of the universe.

A bold idea espoused by famed biologist E. O. Wilson. W. W. Norton and company

“We stand a much better chance of slowing the rate of extinction and reducing the percentage of species ultimately lost if we complete a planetary species inventory. And by preserving evidence and knowledge of those species that are lost, we can continue to learn from them.

“New tools, such as those from information science and molecular genetics, can help speed species exploration, but are most powerful when used in combination with detailed descriptive studies of species that reveal their evolutionary novelties.

“E.O. Wilson’s new book, “Half Earth,” proposes that half our planet be reserved for all the other species. His suggestion has unassailable common sense and is perhaps the most workable solution holding promise for millions of other species.

“If we accelerate species exploration, we can add value to “their” half of the world by better understanding and appreciating its residents while finding nature-inspired solutions to sustainably meet our needs in the confines of our half.

“The sooner we act, the greater our chances to avoid a sixth extinction event and preserve nature’s vast library of clues to better ways to meet human needs in an era of rapid global environmental change.”

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