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OFRF is excited to announce a new series of educational guides designed to help organic farmers and ranchers enhance the soil health and overall resilience of their operations. “These guides to practical organic soil health management will assist farmers in selecting the best practices for their particular circumstances, while leading the way toward more sustainable agricultural systems,” said Diana Jerkins, Research Program Director at OFRF.
Each guide begins with tools and practices set in the context of the challenges and opportunities identified by organic producers in OFRF’s 2016 National Organic Research Agenda. For those interested in taking a deeper dive, the guides also include reviews of USDA funded organic research, future research priorities, and scientific literature references.
The first three guides in the series are now available to download free of charge at ofrf.org. The remaining four guides will be released over the coming weeks. This summer, a limited number of printed copies will be available upon request.


Monterey Bay Salmon And Trout Project In Action

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On Wednesday, April 19, 2017, volunteers from the Monterey Bay Salmon and Trout project worked together to release Salmon smolts. First they carried nets of fish from the Kingfisher Hatchery to the tank truck, then to the banks of Scott Creek where they planted 5” Salmon smolts into the stream so they can swim out to open ocean. The Salmon were trucked from the hatchery on Big Creek about two miles to an open pool on Scott Creek where they were carried by buckets from the truck to the creek and released.
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Lea Bond, biologist and technician with the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), was the last one to pass the fish to Scott creek. The fish quickly swam downstream and out to sea for a year or two of ocean travel, before returning to Scott Creek to spawn.

S.B. 424 will fund environmental education for California’s 6.2 million public school students.  

California’s environmental leadership is more important now than ever. As the Trump administration wages a war on science and several states are considering laws to encourage classroom climate denial, California must continue to invest in our future.

Senate Bill (S.B.) 424 would fund environmental literacy for California’s 6.2 million public school students. By providing access to quality environmental education, the bill would help ensure that the next generation of Californians can pursue careers in science and green technology and work to solve pressing environmental challenges like the fight to slow climate change.


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    Ruby Rorty is bubbling over with enthusiasm for environmentalism. Like a busy sea otter, this Pacific Collegiate School junior is a gal-on-the-go contributing to many local and international ocean conservation organizations in the footsteps of her oceanographer hero, Sylvia Earle, ambassador for the world’s oceans.

    Ruby is clearly going places, and at the top of her list of favorite destinations is her very own Santa Cruz Environmental Alliance which she started with her friend and artist Kaiya McMurdo. These two change-makers created an art and environmentalism curriculum for grades 3-5 cleverly called Trashtastic that addresses plastic manufacturing, disposal, and pollution. The Santa Cruz Environmental Alliance is currently running a social media campaign, #nomoremermaidtears, which is promoting plastic pollution awareness through photos of young people dressed as mermaids holding signs with ocean conservation messages. The pictures can be found on the SCEA Instagram page, @sc_environmental.

    Ruby’s quest for protecting the oceans was sparked in second grade when she set off to write a report on orcas. At home her family encouraged her to cultivate a passion that could be used to help others. They told her to “Change the world, do what you love, and figure out how other people benefit as well.” She credits her teacher Hillary Daniels for guiding her to take a leadership role in the EarthEcho International 3T3 beach clean up campaign.  Ruby takes a bold stance for what she believes in, even while wearing a mermaid tail. Go Ruby, go!


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March 8, 2107 –  Climate Adaptation and Resilience Based on Nature, AB1433 – The CARBON Act

Assemblymember Jim Wood has introduced the Climate Adaptation and Resilience Based on Nature, or CARBON, Act to leverage the ability of natural lands to reduce carbon emissions, enhance California’s resilience, and promote adaptation. The CARBON Act would direct 20% of the proceeds from the auction of CO2 pollution allowances into land management and conservation actions that increase net carbon sequestration and keep carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere for the long term.   

“Our natural and working lands play a vital role in stabilizing our climate,” said Wood. “Investing in restoring and protecting these natural systems, we increase our ability to fight climate change and also promote sustainable rural economies. These are among the most cost-effective investments we can make to meet our climate goals.”   

“This bill addresses a direct and significant cause of CO2 emissions statewide, and reverses it. The loss of forest, farm, and wetlands has caused literally billions of tons of CO2 emissions – but, unlike other emissions sectors, these invaluable natural lands can reabsorb those emissions,” said Laurie Wayburn, President of the Pacific Forest Trust, which sponsored the bill. “Further, in addition to being California’s largest, most expandable, safe carbon sink, forests, farms, and other working lands are vital for our water, food, wildlife, rural communities, and economy”.


Pasatiempo Golf Course Will Soon Use Recycled Water

Pasatiempo Golf Club has committed to using recycled water to irrigate the golf course.  To convert to recycled water, the club has had to build a 500,000 gallon storage tank.  Here is a photo of  the tank, which has been constructed and tested.  Backfilling the tank has begun and will be completed by the end of March.  Water will begin flowing from the Scotts Valley Waste Water treatment plant this summer, where it will be blended with well water and potable water to irrigate the golf course.  Pasatiempo has paid for 100% of the tank and mixing project.  In addition, Pasatiempo  will pay Scotts Valley for the recycled water used to irrigate the golf course.

When completed, the recycled water project is expected to save Santa Cruz City Water Department 40 million gallons of potable water per year!


Seed of Flame: Mt Madonna Middle School Project Wins $10,000 in National Environmental Challenge

The Seed of Flame, an environmental STEM project undertaken by a team of seventh grade students at Mount Madonna School (MMS), is one of 16 finalists nationwide to receive a $10,000 prize through the 2016-17 air and climate Lexis Eco Challenge. 

“Mount Madonna’s seventh grade has taken on this project in response to our changing climate,” said MMS science teacher Katrina Leni-Konig. “As part of the final challenge, we are engaging social media and art activism to raise awareness about local impacts, and to catalyze global action.” 

The students have launched a social media challenge on Instagram, @seed_of_flame. The public is invited to post pictures of themselves or others hugging a tree, with the hashtag “#hugatree”. Select photographs will be compiled into a public art exhibit. The challenge will be used to raise money for the organization, Trees for the Future, through the student’s online fundraising campaign at https://donate.trees.org/seedOFflame. The goal is to raise $640 which is enough to help a family in Africa grow and maintain a forest garden, providing food security and enhancing environmental resources for generations.  In addition to #hugatree, students are creating a film collection of people around the world planting trees, and are reaching out to communities across the globe to participate. They have also created a YouTube video, “Seed of Flame Claymation,” and are in the process of creating a video game.

 Last fall, this 10-student MMS team participated in the initial air and climate challenge. Inspired by the Loma Fire, a nearby wildfire that occurred in fall 2016, they developed an action plan that can benefit their local community by transforming a school greenhouse into a forest nursery to restore forests after wildfire, disease, and other human impacts. “We need to understand that wildfires are a necessary part of our forest ecosystem, but climate change is making it more difficult for forests to regenerate on their own,” commented MMS science teacher Katrina Leni-Konig. “Wildfires in California are larger, burn hotter, last longer, and are more frequent than usual. The forests need our help!”  Students began a small seed bank in their science classroom, with seeds gathered from the forest property surrounding the MMS campus. Once established, the forest nursery and seed bank will serve as an ongoing educational resource for the school and broader community. At present, the students estimated that the forest seed bank contains thousands of seeds including acorn, redwood, manzanita, madrone, and coyote bush.


 John Morley volunteers with Save The Waves

When in college, John Morley thought about majoring in marine biology but ended up getting a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics and pursuing a career in international trade. He chose to be an Encore Fellow with the non-profit Save The Waves in July of 2016 after retiring as the Director of Corporate Customs at Intel Corporation. Encore.org brings new sources of talent to organizations solving critical problems.

John first became familiar with Save The Waves when he participated in a surf fundraising trip they held in Baja. He’s passionate about the ocean and surfing and feels fortunate to be able to contribute to Save The Waves’ efforts to protect and improve the environment and drive positive environmental changes along our cherished coast.

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Interview by Dale Zevin 2/3/17


Mount Madonna Honored with Governor’s  Environmental and Economic Leadership Award

Congratulations to teacher Jessica Cambell and Mount Madonna School (MMS) on receiving the Governor’s Environmental and Economic Leadership Award (GEELA), which celebrates the environmental education work of MMS fifth grade students for the last nine years! MMS is one of twelve California organizations – and the only school – recognized with a 2016 GEELA, the state’s highest environmental honor, in a ceremony held January 19 in Sacramento.

 “I am extremely honored to be a part of Mount Madonna School,” commented Cambell, “and to have worked with amazing teachers like Nate Rockhold and [the late] Sri Gyan James McCaughan, to create an award-winning program that allows students to find passion in using their voice to create positive change within the world!” 

 The annual program is administered by the California Environmental Protection Agency, in partnership with the Natural Resources Agency, the Department of Food and Agriculture, the State Transportation Agency, the Business, Consumer Services, and Housing Agency, the Government Operations Agency, the Labor and Workforce Development Agency, and the Health and Human Services Agency.

 The GEELA program recognizes individuals, organizations, and businesses that have demonstrated exceptional leadership and made notable, voluntary contributions in conserving California’s precious resources, protecting and enhancing its environment, building public-private partnerships and strengthening the state’s economy.

 “This year’s GEELA recipients are demonstrating the creativity and collaboration that make California a leader in protecting our environment,” said CalEPA Secretary Matthew Rodriquez. “They stand out as examples for how sustainable practices go hand in hand with economic and organizational success.”

 Following the ceremony Cambell was also presented with a certificate from the California State Assembly, recognizing MMS’ GEELA achievement, presented by Assemblyman Mark Stone, representative of the 29th Assembly District. 

Mount Madonna School fifth and ninth graders scour the beach on the Santa Cruz County side of the Pajaro River mouth for trash Wednesday morning as they work with Save Our Shores to survey micro-plastic levels of Monterey bay beaches. (Shmuel Thaler -- Santa Cruz Sentinel)


Book Review: The Carbon Farming Solution

Jan 15, 2017

The Carbon Farming Solution: A Global Toolkit of Perennial Crops and Regenerative Agriculture Practices for Climate Change Mitigation and Food Security

Written by Eric Toensmeier
Published by Chelsea Green Publishing, 2016

Reviewed by M.L. Altobelli

First things first – Eric Toensmeier ’s new book was fun to poke around in. I do realize that sounds almost blasphemous since the subject of climate change is so serious and essential for current eco-landscapers to get a handle on, but I think it helps that the information in The Carbon Farming Solution is so easy to access. Eric is a permaculture specialist with a deep understanding of applied ecology and that shines through the entire book. He’s also hopeful that we humans can make changes to clean up our world and stabilize its ecology and climate and that optimistic message can also be a tonic of its own kind in these current times. For more: Ecolandscaping.org


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Under growing international pressure, Trump International Golf Links (TIGL) has rescinded their proposal for the 3km seawall at Doughmore Beach, Ireland.

The Trump Organization’s decision represents a remarkable victory for the Save The Waves and the local Irish groups’ #NatureTrumpsWalls campaign. Save The Waves has actively opposed “Trump’s Irish Wall” through our #NatureTrumpsWalls campaign since October alongside a coalition of partners. Although the seawall proposal had widespread support from the local community, the #NatureTrumpsWalls campaign was successful in gathering over 100,000 petition signatures, sending a strong message to TIGL and the local decision-makers that there was vast global opposition to the project. Apparently, they were listening.


Aggie Morrow volunteers at the Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History

 Chris Sulots, Volunteer Coordinator at the Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History introduced me to Volunteer Aggie Morrow. Aggie is in her third year of volunteering at the Museum and she said she naturally gravitated to volunteering at the Museum since she is a trained Biologist. Aggie finds her volunteer work with students rewarding, fun, and varied. She leads Ohlone Program tours for K-4 students, Neary Lagoon Watershed  tours for 5th graders and Neary Lagoon Wetland walks for 3rd graders.  Aggie also volunteers at the Museum’s special events, such as the Migration Festival and at Natural Bridges events.

Aggie is inspired by what the children take away from their Museum experiences and what they will remember. She also values the opportunities she receives for her own personal enrichment as a Museum Volunteer, such as participating in a tour of the Santa Cruz City Wastewater Treatment Plant.

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Amah Mutsun Land Trust (AMLT) is proud to announce that it has reached a new milestone by hiring its first executive director and full-time employee, EkOngKar Singh Khalsa.

Khalsa began work with AMLT on October 1, 2016. He was previously the executive director of the Mystic River Watershed Association, an environmental nonprofit based near Boston. He has relocated to the San Francisco Bay Area to assume his role with AMLT.

Sempervirens Fund has provided fundraising, accounting, and project management assistance and served as the fiscal sponsor to AMLT since 2013, and we look forward to continuing to work with them as partners in land conservation and stewardship.


Sawyer Claussen volunteers with Save Our Shores

Fourteen year old Sawyer Claussen can’t not pick up trash. Even during lunch at middle school he doesn’t refrain from saying, “Remember to pick up your trash. There’s a recycling bin right there.” His friends know him as a tireless environmental enforcer who can’t stand litter or plastic water bottles and picks up trash when he’s surfing. These friends also join him on beach clean up days.

Sawyer has been volunteering for the Save our Shores beach clean up days for half his life, literally. He was seven years old when he started picking up trash and 13 years old when he took the SOS steward course. He is currently earning his hours of service until he is old enough to be eligible to lead groups on his own. Learning the SOS curriculum about single use plastics is important to Sawyer. He says, “It’s fun, I like the beach, I like a clean beach, and it feels good when I look at all the trash we pick up.”

We are lucky Sawyer lives in our county and has many years ahead of him cleaning up the beaches we all enjoy. Thanks for your service Sawyer!

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Eva Claussen volunteers with Save Our Shores

Twelve year old middle schooler Eva Claussen remembers a picture of herself when she was just five years old holding a display board with a cigarette butt, a plastic straw, a water bottle cap and a plastic bag glued to it. She was participating in a Save Our Shores presentation on ocean pollution to an O’Neill Sea Odyssey group before the fourth and fifth graders set sail.

Since that early start in environmental volunteering, Eva has also participated in many beach clean ups. She says that even though she is currently too busy with organized sports practices and games to join SOS group events, she remembers what she learned at that impressionable age. Everyday at school she picks up snack wrappers from chips, Pop Tarts, hot chocolate and ice cream bars that don’t quite make it through the push lids of trash cans.

She will never forget the time she was surfing at 38th Street and a plastic bag got caught on the fin of her surfboard that caused her to fall when it acted like a parachute and suddenly slowed her down. It’s times like this that leave lasting impressions and call us to act just as young Eva’s environmental deeds leave lasting impressions on those who are lucky enough to see her in action.

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