Monday, December 29, 2014

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service acts to protect monarch butterfly

Service Initiates Status Review of Monarch Butterfly under the Endangered Species Act

December 29, 2014

Vanessa Kauffman

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today announced it will be conducting a status review of the monarch butterfly under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The Service has determined that a petition from the Center for Biological Diversity, the Center for Food Safety, the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation and Dr. Lincoln Brower to list a subspecies of monarch (Danaus plexippus plexippus) presents substantial information indicating that listing may be warranted. 
Monarch butterflies are found throughout the United States and some populations migrate vast distances across multiple generations each year. Many monarchs fly between the U.S., Mexico and Canada – a journey of over 3,000 miles. This journey has become more perilous for many monarchs because of threats along their migratory paths and on their breeding and wintering grounds. Threats include habitat loss – particularly the loss of milkweed, the monarch caterpillar’s sole food source – and mortality resulting from pesticide use. Monarch populations have declined significantly in recent years.

The Service will now conduct a status review to determine whether listing is warranted. To ensure this status review is comprehensive, the Service is requesting scientific and commercial data and other information through a 60-day public information period. Specifically, the Service seeks information including:
  • The subspecies’ biology, range and population trends, habitat requirements, genetics and taxonomy;
  • Historical and current range, including distribution patterns;
  • Historical and current population levels and current and projected trends;
  • The life history or behavior of the monarch butterfly that has not yet been documented;
  • Thermo-tolerance range and microclimate requirements of the monarch butterfly;
  • Past and ongoing conservation measures for the subspecies, its habitat or both;  and,
  • Factors that are the basis for making a listing determination under section 4(a) of the ESA;
The notice will publish in the Federal Register December 31, 2014, and it is requested that information be received by March 2, 2015. To view the notice and submit information, visit docket number FWS-R3-ES-2014-0056.
For more information on the ESA’s petition process, visit

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals, and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit
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Tuesday, September 2, 2014

World Peace Wetland Prairie and adjacent Pinnacle Foods Inc. seasonally wet prairie examples of land where water soaks in: Why counter to effort to protect the watershed by building a trail in the FLOW area of the Town Branch?

Trail only 18 inches higher than flow of Town Branch of the West Fork of the White River under S. School Avenue. Whose idea was this? Rain had slacked off but more could come. Video at 8:23 a.m. Tuesday, September 2, 2014. Ever drive South College when was was flowing over the bridge and bridge was temporarily closed? Now there is less room for water under the bridge.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

World Peace Wetland Prairie won't be affected by clearing of wetland between Hill Ave. and Govt. Ave. but homes on Town Branch will

Veterans Group Adds To Fayetteville National Cemetery

Posted: April 8, 2014 at 5 a.m.
STAFF PHOTO Michael Woods • @NWAMICHAELW The north boundary of the Fayetteville National Cemetery will be expanded after a two-acre land purchase on Monday by the Regional National Cemetery Improvement Corp. The purchase will allow more space for military veterans and their families to be buried.
 — Military veterans and their spouses will be buried in the Fayetteville National Cemetery for years to come thanks to the purchase of roughly 2 acres north of the cemetery's boundary.
The nonprofit Regional National Cemetery Improvement Corporation closed Monday on undeveloped land between Government and Hill avenues.
At A Glance
Regional National Cemetery
The Regional National Cemetery Improvement Corp. will continue to raise money for Monday’s purchase of about 2 acres north of the Fayetteville National Cemetery’s boundary. To donate to the nonprofit organization, go to or call Corporation President Ron Butler at 479-750-2598.
Source: Staff Report
The group, composed mostly of military veterans, raises money to buy land for the national cemetery, 700 Government Ave. The burial site, owned and maintained by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, is one of three national cemeteries in Arkansas. It is the final resting place for more than 7,000 veterans of the Civil War, World War I, World War II and the wars in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.
The group borrowed about $125,000 to pay for the $205,000 purchase from Capho Investments of Fayetteville. The rest of the money came from state money allotted by Northwest Arkansas legislators, private donations and proceeds from the group's annual 5K race.
"Without that money, none of this would have been possible," Wesley Stites, a member of the Cemetery Improvement board, said.
The land isn't directly adjacent to the 15-acre cemetery's northern boundary.
"We have captured that northern part that could otherwise have possibly been purchased for commercial or other use," Merle Williams, vice president of the group, said.
Ron Butler, corporation president, said the group didn't want to see more land swallowed up by apartment construction. The 632-bedroom Grove apartments opened east of the National Cemetery in 2012 after developers with a North Carolina company called Campus Crest purchased land where the Washington County Livestock Auction used to be.
"That ruined the natural expansion of the cemetery that most people had expected," Aubrey Shepherd, a member of the group's board, said.
The wooded land the corporation bought Monday will have to be cleared and leveled. Butler said it could be another five years before burials take place.
Shepherd said drainage improvements will have to be made, because the low-lying land captures stormwater runoff from surrounding properties.
About 300 burials take place each year at the National Cemetery. The federal government bought the original 5 acres for the cemetery in 1867 to inter the remains of Union soldiers who died in the battles of Pea Ridge, Prairie Grove and Fayetteville. The Cemetery Improvement group formed in 1984.
NW News on 04/08/2014

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Whitehouse garden now harbors milkweed to feed caterpillars of the Monarch butterfly

om: texasbutterflyranch
Sent: Sunday, April 6, 2014 4:43 PM
Subject: [New post] First Lady Michelle Obama Gets Milkweed as White House Adds First Pollinator Garden

New post on texasbutterflyranch

First Lady Michelle Obama Gets Milkweed as White House Adds First Pollinator Garden

by Monika Maeckle
Congratulations, pollinator advocates!   Last week, First Lady Michelle Obama added a "first-ever pollinator garden," including two types of milkweed and dozens of flowering nectar plants, to the White House Kitchen Garden.
First Lady Michelle Obama busy at the White House Kitchen Garden where she recently added pollinator plants, including two species of milkweed.  Photo via Obama Foodorama
First Lady Michelle Obama busy at the White House Kitchen Garden where she recently added pollinator plants, including two species of milkweed. Photo via Obama Foodorama Blog
On April 2, during its spring installation, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue added Swamp milkweed, Asclepias incarnata and Butterfly weed, Asclepias tuberosa to the 1500-square-foot garden.  The milkweed species will serve as Monarch host plant as well as a favored nectar source to bees and other butterfly species.
Swamp milkweed
Coming soon to the first ever pollinator garden at the White House: Asclepias incarnata, Swamp Milkweed. Photo by Monika Maeckle
In her remarks to the 25 school children assisting in the planting, Mrs. Obama explained she was adding flowering inedible plants to the vegetable garden because she wants to "help bees and butterflies."  Until now, herbs and vegetables have occupied all 34 of the garden's beds since it was first planted in 2009. 
"A pollinator garden helps to encourage the production of bees and Monarch butterflies.  They pollinate the plants, they help the plants grow," said the First Lady.  "They’re dying because of disease--we don’t even know why some beehives are just totally disappearing."
Ascelpias tuberosa
Asclepias tuberosa, or Butterfly Weed, will be growing soon at the White House Pollinator Garden. Photo courtesy Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center
The loss of the insects "could be a problem for the planet because if you don’t have insects and great pollinators to pollinate the plants, it could affect our food source, it could affect our ability to continue to grow things," Mrs. Obama explained.
"So this garden is going to help to contribute to improving that problem," she said.  "Pretty cool, huh?"
VERY cool.
The addition of milkweed to this symbolic presidential garden must be viewed as a small victory for pollinator advocacy.
Ever since the news broke in January that this year’s migrating Monarch butterfly population plunged to historically low numbers and scientists suggested that the migration may soon become extinct, Monarch and pollinator advocates have been energized, seeking solutions to the decline.
On February 19, the Presidents of the United States and Mexico, Barack Obama and Enrique Peńa Nieto, andr Prime Minister Stephen Harper of Canada, met in Toluca, Mexico to discuss weighty matters of state--border security, economic issues, energy issues, and  immigration.  By the end of the day, they had also agreed to work together to try and save the Monarch butterfly migration, which binds all three countries through the magnificent insects' North American migration.
Now here we are only seven weeks later--enough time for a Monarch butterfly egg to move through its five instars, form a chrysalis and hatch into a butterfly--and milkweed has been added to the White House garden.   
Coincidence?   We think not.
Michelle Obama, please plant milkweed at the White House
We did it!  First Lady Michelle Obama added milkweed to the White House kitchen garden, creating the first-ever pollinator garden at 1600 Pennsylvannia Avenue last week.
What happened in between is a testament to what is possible when individuals and citizen scientists take action.   As written here previously, the NAFTA gatheringgalvanized awareness of pollinator decline.  
Two groups, the Mexico-based Grupo de los Cien Internacional and Make Way for Monarchs here in the U.S., banded together to form the Milkweed-Butterfly Recovery Alliance  and wrote a letter to the three presidents beseeching them to work together for cross-continent solutions to restoring milkweed habitat. More than 160 scientists, conservationists, artists, naturalists and others signed the letter.
Facebook pages were created, petitions launched (including one by the Texas Butterfly Ranch--thanks to all 508 of you who signed!) and organizations as diverse as the NRDC, the Xerces Society, Pollinator Partnership, Monarch Watch, Monarch Larvae Monitoring Project --even Monsanto expressed commitments to help.
Awareness is the first step in addressing the problem and this small garden cultivates attention at the highest level.  This is progress, pollinator peeps.   Let's keep pushing.
Related posts:
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Monika Maeckle | April 6, 2014 at 4:43 pm | URL:

Monday, February 17, 2014

Healthy, pesticide- and herbicide-free soil may be the key to good health: Grow your food in it, work it yourself or buy only from people who do

The Surprising Healing Qualities ... of Dirt

A doctor discovers exposure to healthy farm soil holds keys to healthy bodies.
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Potatoes Photo by Paul Dunn
YES! Photos by Paul Dunn
Recently I’ve been enjoying dirty thoughts.
I spend my days in a sterile 8x10 room practicing family medicine and yet my mind is in the soil. This is because I’m discovering just how much this rich, dark substance influences the day-to-day health of my patients. I’m even beginning to wonder whether Hippocrates was wrong, or at least somewhat misguided, when he proclaimed, “Let food be thy medicine.” Don’t get me wrong—food is important to our health. But it might be the soil where our food is grown, rather than the food itself, that offers us the real medicine.
You would find little to support these assertions within the medical literature. Enter the terms “soil” and “health” into a PubMed database and the top search results portray soil as a risky substance, filled with pathogenic yeast, antibiotic-resistant bacteria, radon, heavy metals, and pesticides. But move past these grim reports, and you will uncover a small, but growing, collection of research that paints soil in a very different light. These studies suggest that soil, or at least some types of soil, can be beneficial to our health.
68 Cover
The scientists investigating this soil-health connection are a varied bunch—botanists, agronomists, ecologists, geneticists, immunologists, microbiologists—and collectively they are giving us new reasons to care about the places where our food is grown.

Lively soil, better food

For example, using DNA sequencing technology, agronomists at Washington State University have recently established that soil teeming with a wide diversity of life (especially bacteria, fungi, and nematodes) is more likely to produce nutrient-dense food. Of course, this makes sense when you understand that it is the cooperation between bacteria, fungi, and plants’ roots (collectively referred to as the rhizosphere) that is responsible for transferring carbon and nutrients from the soil to the plant—and eventually to our plates.
Given this nutrient flow from soil microbes to us, how can we boost and diversify life in the soil? Studies consistently show that ecological farming consistently produces a greater microbial biomass and diversity than conventional farming. Ecological farming (or eco-farming, as my farmer friends call it) includes many systems (biodynamic, regenerative, permaculture, full-cycle, etc.) that share core holistic tenets: protecting topsoil with cover crops and minimal plowing, rotating crops, conserving water, limiting the use of chemicals (synthetic or natural), and recycling all animal and vegetable waste back into the land. Much of this research supports what traditional farmers around the world have long known to be true: the more ecologically we farm, the more nutrients we harvest.

Allergy-fighting microbes

While soil scientists are busy documenting these soil-to-food links, immunologists and allergists in Europe are working above ground to uncover another intriguing soil-health connection, the so-called “farm effect.” Why is it that children raised on ecologically managed farms in Central Europe have much lower rates of allergy and asthma than urban children or those raised on industrialized farms? Once again, almost everything points to microbes—in manure, in unpasteurized milk, in stable dust, on unwashed food and, yes, in the soil. In one study, researchers cultured farm children’s mattresses and found a potpourri of bacteria—most of which are typically found in soil.
How soil microbes and other farm microbes protect against allergic diseases is still a matter of debate, but research is increasingly pointing to a new idea which, for lack of a better term, I will call the “microbiome exchange hypothesis.”
The standard explanation for the “farm effect” is the hygiene hypothesis, which contends that early life (including in utero) exposure to a variety of microbes dampens the allergic response of our adaptive immune system. The problem with this theory is that our immune system is surprisingly simplistic and seems to react similarly whether it is encountering the diverse portfolio of microbes on an ecological farm or the relatively homogeneous collection of microbes typically found in an urban apartment or a conventional farm. But what if our own immune cells are simply a backup mechanism to a more sophisticated first line of defense—our resident microbes?
And what if a healthy and diverse soil microbiome can foster a more diverse and protective human microbiome? In fact, newer research suggests that this is the case and that an ongoing soil-to-gut microbial exchange might offer the real “farm effect.”

Gut-level gene swapping

Of course this is all very new—and for me, as a physician, somewhat disorienting. In medical school I was taught that our internal bacteria belong to a private club and that they have nothing to do with the microbes in our external environment. Pathogens such as salmonella or E. coli might pass through, as happens when we suffer from food poisoning or other infections, but their influence was considered to be transient—albeit occasionally devastating. But now that we can sequence the DNA of an entire microbiome, using a technique called metagenomics, we’re beginning to connect the dots and we’re discovering that genetic swaps can take place between our microbiome and the outside world—particularly the places where our food is grown.
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A group of French microbiologists were among the first to document this game of pass-the-gene when they identified the exact same sequence of DNA in two different Bacteroidetes bacteria species, one living on seaweed and the other in the intestines of Japanese people. They concluded that the marine bacteria had hitchhiked their way into the human gut via sushi and other seaweed dishes and passed their seaweed-digesting DNA on to resident microbes of the human host. The end result of this exchange is that many Japanese—and possibly people from other seaweed-eating cultures—have acquired a greater ability than the rest of us to extract valuable nutrients from their nori.
Justin Sonnenburg, a microbiologist at Stanford who studies how our environment influences our microbiome, told me that the findings from this nori study are, most likely, just the tip of the iceberg. He believes that we’ll continue to discover ways that the microbes in soil and oceans are interacting with our microbiome and playing a huge role in our health.

Rx: dirt

Impressed by the growing evidence that our health depends on healthy soil, my “dirty thoughts” have turned to action. I now tell my patients that food grown in well-treated soil might offer distinct advantages when it comes to scoring the best nutrients and building a healthy immune system. Of course, identifying this food can be tricky since USDA Organic certification, while certainly a helpful guide, does not always lead us to the healthiest farms. Many certified organic farms do qualify as ecological, but some large-scale farms with this certification still till deeply and use approved pesticides—both practices that damage soil and the microbes in it. On the other hand, there are farmers who can’t afford organic certification who are implementing the practices of eco-farming, practices that have been shown to produce a rich soil and a thriving microbial population. Since there is no “healthy soil/healthy microbe” label that can steer us toward these farms, my suggestion is to ask this simple question:
“Does the farmer live on the farm?”
Farmers who live on their land and feed their family from it tend to care for their soil as if it were another family member. Going to farmers markets and joining a CSA (community-supported agriculture) are reliable ways to get this type of produce, and supermarkets are also beginning to support local farmers. Remember, the more we demand it, the more they will carry it.
Carrots photo by Paul Dunn
Photo by Paul Dunn
Of course, another option is to grow our own food. Eating fresh-grown food from healthy soil is not an all-or-nothing proposition, and even a daily handful of herbs from a container garden can have a positive impact on our health. Whether it is homegrown or from a local farm, I do mention to my patients that they should think twice before peeling or scrubbing their farm bounty. After all, who knows what beneficial bacteria might be coming along for the ride? By the way, eating fermented farm-fresh vegetables is a great way to get a mega-dose of soil bacteria.
I also tell patients about other (non-edible) health advantages to connecting with healthy farms. For example, although the data is far from conclusive, spending time on a local farm might offer a relatively safe, low-tech prevention strategy for families predisposed to allergies. “Farm time” looks especially attractive if it obviates the need for allergy shots or rounds of antihistamine. Emerging research says time spent working the soil is a means to build community, improve strength and fitness, slow dementia in seniors, and improve school performance in teens. It would be simplistic to promote a connection to healthy farms as a panacea for all that ails us, but it has become an important part of my medical toolkit.

Caring for our dirt

Finally, I have come to see my patients as an integral part of a farm eco-cycle where the flow of health is bidirectional. In other words, our choices directly influence the farm’s health, which, in turn, impacts our health. For this reason, composting is a way to nourish local farms and ultimately fortify ourselves. I encourage patients to protect the soil like they protect their bodies. While many of us are aware that chemicals used in the soil might be harmful to us, we rarely consider how products that we use on ourselves or in our homes—such as triclosans, VOCs, parabens, PBAs, PVCs, and lye—might affect the health of the soil and its microbes. (By the way, rosemary or basil extracts make excellent antiseptics, vinegar is the best cleaner, shea or cocoa butter are perfect moisturizers, and diluted baking soda is an excellent shampoo.)
Similarly, while I’ve long recognized how antibiotics, steroids, and other bactericidal drugs might cause unintended side effects in my patients, I now understand how these drugs can impact the microbial life underfoot and ultimately our own cells.
Certainly, any chemical that decreases microbial diversity will, in turn, decrease the nutritional value of our food. But there is another concern: microbiologists at Washington University in St. Louis have recently noted that soil bacteria exposed to antibiotics and other chemicals can develop antibiotic resistant genes which, similar to the nori-digesting enzyme, can be transferred to our microbiome, turning otherwise benign resident bacteria into “superbugs.”
Thinking of a healthy body as an extension of a healthy farm, and vice versa, is a paradigm shift for many of us. But when we consider that all of our cells get their building blocks from plants and soil then, suddenly, it all makes sense. In fact, it is not too much of a stretch to say: We are soil.

Daphne Miller portraitDaphne Miller, M.D., wrote this article for How to Eat Like Our Lives Depend on It, the Winter 2014 issue of YES! Magazine. She is a family physician, writer, and associate professor at U.C. San Francisco. Her latest book is Farmacology: What Innovative Family Farming Can Teach Us About Health and Healing (William Morrow, 2013).
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