Wild Bison Are Returning to England’s Forests For First Time in 6,000 Years

A relative of the iconic beast that roams the American Great Plains is going to be released in an ancient forest in Kent, England—where they haven’t resided for 6,000 years.

But the four animals won’t be arriving by way of South Dakota or Wyoming because Europe has their own subspecies—the European wood bison.

The project is slated to begin in Spring of 2022, when a single male Bison bonasus and three females arriving from Poland and the Netherlands will be allowed to roam and reproduce naturally in the remaining wilds of Britain—and it is hoped that their presence will ignite a chain reaction throughout the forest.

Bison have the power to change a forest in dramatic ways; ways that humans don’t have the time or manpower for, and they are being considered as a possible solution to species loss in Great Britain.

The project called Wilder Blean, named for the reintroduction site, West Blean Woods, was organized by the Kent Wildlife Trust (KWT). The experiment isn’t just about bringing the bison back for the sake of something to look at, it’s part of a controlled trial to see if the large herbivore can reinvigorate forest ecosystems more productively than conservationists.

“European bison are being used in this project because they are ecosystem engineers, meaning that they are able to change their environment through their natural behaviors,” explains the KWT on their website. “Bison can change woodlands in a way that no other animal can.”

WATCH: 800-Pound Bison Performs Adorable ‘Happy Dance’ in Celebration of the First Day of Spring

Once ranging across the continent since the last Ice Age, European bison were hunted to extinction in the wild, but have since been reintroduced from captivity into several countries—mostly the forests of Poland, with smaller populations spread out across eastern and southern Europe.

European bison in Germany – Michael Gäbler, CC license

Known as a keystone species, similar to krill in the ocean, tigers in India, or bees in a meadow, bison provide services that allow the ecosystems they live in to operate at a much higher capacity in terms of ecosystem activity. In conservation terms, a keystone species is one that plays a role in the preservation of other species, and the ecology as a whole.

Bison are the forestry experts

Bison kill weak or dead trees by eating their bark or rubbing against them to remove their thick winter fur. This turns the tree into food and habitat for insects, which in turn provide food for birds. The resulting pocket of sunlight allows new plants to grow, replenishing the woodland.

In an unexpected way, the attempted restoration of bison in the English ecosystem is more about halting England’s current species loss than it is about restoring some kind of Stone Age ecology to the island, and while the KWT anticipate a keystone species like Bison bringing additional eyes upon the value of conservation and the health benefits of interacting with great nature, the purpose of the project is to create healthier English forests that can support larger numbers of animals.

RELATED: 15 Giant Tortoises Finally Returned to Their Galapagos Island Home After Saving Their Species With 1,900 Babies

“Using missing keystone species like bison to restore natural processes to habitats is the key to creating bio-abundance in our landscape,” said Paul Hadaway from the KWT.

European bison with calves – Pryndak Vasyl, CC license

Funded by the People’s Postcode Lottery Dream Fund, which donated £1.1 million, Wilder Blean will cover 500 hectares (1,236 acres) of the largest area of ancient forest in the UK. Once the bison are established within a 150 hectare parcel, the KWT hopes to reintroduce “iron age pigs” and free-roaming longhorn cattle, in order to make West Blean Wood as near to the original product as possible.

Thousands of years ago, auroch—an enormous species of wild cattle, extinct as recently as the 1600s—would also have roamed the English countryside, and the longhorn cattle are ideal for attempting to replicate the unique effects that the aurochs no doubt had upon the landscape.

RELATED: Historic Deal to Protect Millions of Monarch Butterfly Habitat Acres is Unprecedented

In fact, European bison are likely hybrids of both the extinct subspecies called steppe bison and the auroch, because scientists have analyzed their DNA and found that the animals possess up to 10% of the genetic code of the auroch.

“The partners in the Kent project have long dreamed of restoring the true wild woodlands that have been missing from England for too long,” said Paul Whitfield, of Wildwood Trust, a conservation charity that will monitor the health and welfare of the bison.

“People will be able to experience nature in a way they haven’t before, connecting them back to the natural world around them in a deeper way.”

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EU Plans to Raise $22 Billion Annually to Protect 30% of Land and Oceans for Biodiversity

The European Commission (EC) has made a concrete pledge to enshrine 30% of the EU’s land and oceans as protected zones by 2030. To reach this end they plan to raise 20 billion euro ($22 billion) every year for the next 10 years from private and public sources—both the EU climate fund and national budgets.

The EC believes that recovery from COVID-19 with biodiversity in mind will be key to restoring the health of both the environment and the economy.

The proposed strategy focuses on establishing binding targets to restore damaged ecosystems and rivers and bringing back pollinators to agricultural land, while reducing pollution, greening its cities, enhancing organic and biodiverse farming.

In its effort to improve forest health, part of the plan is to implement stricter protections and restoration projects for the remaining primary and old growth forests of Europe as early as next year.

This is especially important when researchers suggest that 60% of species assessed on the continent are in decline.

Farming for the Future

Biodiversity will receive another boost as the EC proposes changes to the agricultural landscape of Europe in a way that supports wildlife and pollinators. Such changes would include creating “high-diversity landscapes” in 10% of Europe’s farming acreage by hosting features like ponds, hedgerows, buffer strips between fields, and fallow land.

SEE: Farming in the Forest – A Chance to Reverse 1,000 Years of Destructive Land-Use Practices

Some experts are skeptical, but hopeful, the changes are implemented.

“It’s a big if, but then you are starting to look at healthy agriculture that can provide habitats for farmland birds and butterflies but also agriculture that can actually provide food at the end of the century,” Ariel Brunner, senior head of policy at Brussel’s BirdLife International said to the Guardian.

Wildlife in France, by Martina Misar-Tummeltshammer

The 2030 strategy would reinforce Europe’s natural resilience by dealing with agriculture and fisheries using the Farm to Fork strategy.

“The strategy sets concrete targets to transform the EUs food system, including a reduction by 50% of the use and risk of pesticides, a reduction by at least 20% of the use of fertilizers, a reduction by 50% in sales of antimicrobials used for farmed animals and aquaculture, and reaching 25% of agricultural land under organic farming,” reads the report.

The European Commission, which possesses authority to enforce European law, concludes finishes by calling on the European Parliament and Council to adopt the Farm to Fork and Biodiversity measures by 2021.

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Maasai Nature Conservancy Asks For Help To Fight Pandemic—And 100,000 People Answer

The rolling plains of the Maasai Mara in Kenya are home to the famous red-cloaked Maasai people as well as some of the most charismatic animals on earth.

When it became clear COVID-19 would destroy the tourism industry of the Maasai living in the breathtaking Nashulai Nature Conservancy, the tribe petitioned Avaaz, a website connecting local people-powered movements, to try and organize a response call for help.

As a result, 100,000 people raised money to help pay the rangers’ salaries, ensuring that the critical Nashulai elephant migration corridor remained safe from poachers. The money was also enough to secure sanitation and medical supplies and food for the Maasai community there, so they could survive the COVID-19 storm.

About 3,000 people live inside the boundaries of the 6,000-acre conservancy, with another 5,000 living in surrounding communities in traditional Maasai villages where they rely mostly on their cattle for food and money.

RELATED: Canadian Government Buys Hotels to House Homeless People—And Also Rehire Workers

In 2016, Nelson Ole Reiyia and Margaret Koshal Reiyia placed a project on Avaaz to turn their home into a Nature Conservancy. “Avaazers” around the world chipped in with hearts and wallets to launch the Nashulai Maasai Conservancy, an innovative way to help the Maasai maintain their traditional way of live in a harmonious way with the land.

The Conservancy created a way to bring outside capital into the community through offering safaris and camping, as well as cultural homestays and other events.

Nashulai Conservancy – nashulai.com

These community programs brought increasing opportunities for education, established greater food and market security, and needed sanitation facilities.

LOOK: People Are Installing Portable Hand-Washing Sinks for the Homeless in Cities Across the US

The Maasai are famous warriors, and the conservancy established a mighty force against poachers. Professional rangers and young warriors called “moran” who are trained in bush practices, now serves as “The Warriors for Wildlife Protection”, monitoring the animal populations and protecting against poaching.

The Modern Maasai Facing COVID-19

COVID-19 has put much of this in danger. The tourist infrastructure, which 90% of all the Nashulai Maasai depend on for income, has completely collapsed.

The community library has been repurposed as a storehouse for medical equipment—and rationing of food supplies like cornmeal and cooking oil has begun.

With help from Avaaz they’ve been able to pay the rangers’ salaries, and import much needed medical and sanitary supplies.

MORE: Thousands of Young Adults Are Volunteering to Catch COVID-19 to Save Others in the Future

“We’ve worked hard to create this unique conservancy, and we want it to be there for the people in their deepest moment of need,” writes Nelson Ole Reiyia on the Nashulai website.

Generous persons can still donate to their COVID-combating activities directly on the website, which are tax deductible contributions for the U.S. and Canada.

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Need more positive stories and updates coming out of the COVID-19 challenge? For more uplifting coverage, click here.

White Storks Have Hatched The First Wild Chicks Born in England in 600 Years

The babies brought by these storks weren’t delivered in blankets.

The White Stork Project was delighted to announce last week that wild storks in West Sussex have hatched their very own babies—and it is believed to be the first time in England since the 1400s.

On a private estate used for stork conservation called the Knepp site, five eggs appeared in a nest high up in an oak tree. After 33 days of incubation, and much tending by the pair of storks, the first chick hatched on May 6.

White Stork Project Officer Lucy Groves watched as eggshell was removed from the nest and the parents were seen regurgitating food for the new chicks to eat.

This is the same pair that attempted to breed at Knepp last year without success. The female is a ringed bird from the project, which came to Knepp in 2016 from Poland. The male, however, has no identifying ring, so this is likely to be one of the twenty or so vagrant storks which visit the UK each year.

RELATED: Humpback Whale Population Bounces Back From Near-Extinction—From Just 450, to Over 25,000

“The parents have been working hard and are doing a fantastic job, especially after their failed attempt last year,” said Groves excitedly. “It is incredible to have the first white stork chicks hatch in the wild for hundreds of years here at Knepp.”

There are two other breeding pairs on the property with six eggs having hatched in two of the nests.

“These are early days for the chicks, and we will be monitoring them closely, but we have great hopes for them.”

Photo Credit Brad Albrecht / White Stork Project

A total of three private estates have constructed 6-acre predator-proof pens where storks have been introduced.

166 rehabilitated wild-fledged white storks from Poland, as well as a small number of others from northern France, have been released into these pens over the course of the last three years, in order to establish local breeding populations, based on the successful approach used to restore white stork populations in Europe over the last 50 years.

WATCH: Videos Show Penguins Going On Adorable ‘Field Trip’ Around Their Aquarium During Shutdowns

The co-owner of the Knepp estate, Isabella Tree, said that when she hears the clattering sound coming from the tops of their oak trees “it feels like a sound from the Middle Ages has come back to life.”

By Lukáš Kadava

“We watch them walking through the long grass on their long legs, kicking up insects and deftly catching them in their long beaks as they go – there’s no other bird that does that in the UK.”

Lucy says, especially now, the birth brings hope: “This stunning species has really captured people’s imagination during the period of lockdown and it’s been great hearing about the joy and hope they have brought to people.”

It is an exciting first step toward reestablishing 20 wild pairs of these majestic birds at each of the three locations—bringing them back into the south of England once again.

WATCH a new video from the project…

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Indigenous Group in Brazil Wins Decades-Long Battle Against Illegal Loggers in the Amazon

A victory in a decades-long court battle provided relief for a special part of the Amazon rainforest and for the Ashaninka indigenous people who live there, as their 1990s lawsuit against illegal logging interests finally ended with a public statement of apology and a $3 million award for compensation.

Forestry companies and their legal teams acknowledged the “enormous importance of the Ashaninka people as guardians of the forest, zealous in the preservation of the environment,” in their official apology which claimed regret “for all the ills caused.”

Francisco Piyãko, part of Ashaninka leadership said, “These resources come to enhance existing actions, to generate sustainability for our people, our land, so that it helps to strengthen us to continue the broader project of environmental protection and maintenance of our ways of life.”

Yale’s School of Forestry & Environmental Studies suggested that the Attorney General, Augusto Aras, believes this case could be a turning point in environmental and indigenous peoples lawsuits.

RELATED: Orange is the New Green For Thriving Costa Rican Forests, Thanks to Orange Peels

“What we did here was to comply with the Constitution, understanding that the indigenous people have sacred rights guaranteed by the Magna Carta,” Aras said in a statement. “You have the right to have a decent life, materially speaking, to choose your own destiny, to take part in political decisions, with respect to isolated communities.”

Beginning in 1980, forestry firms started harvesting mature cedar and mahogany trees for the European furniture trade in the Kampa do Rio Amônia Indigenous Reserve. The money awarded in the settlement will be paid over 5 years, and will be put mainly towards reforestation projects.

“The case will define hundreds of thousands of cases on massive environmental crimes in Brazil,” Antonio Rodrigo, the attorney for Ashaninka, said according to Latin Post.

(File photo by Nishaan ahmed)

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Harpoons Are Silenced: Iceland’s Whaling Boats Spend Second-Straight Season Tied Up in Port

For the second straight year, there will be no whale hunting season in Iceland, and conservation groups are celebrating.

After the international moratorium against whaling began in 1986, two Icelandic companies, Hvalur and IP-Utgerd, carried on hunting fin whales and minke whales.

This year, IP-Utgerd cited financial difficulties involving the increased number of no-fishing zones off Iceland’s coast, while Hvalur reported stiff competition from Japanese whaling companies which the Japanese government subsidizes.

Its CEO, Kristján Loftsson, said that Japan has created stricter measures for imported Icelandic whale meat, and the COVID-19 outbreak would make the close quarters work involved in whaling difficult and unsafe, with social distancing guidelines being hard to observe.

RELATED: Dozens of Blue Whales Spotted in Antarctica For the First Time Since 1980s Whaling Ban

“This is indeed terrific news that for a second straight year, vulnerable fin whales will get a reprieve from Hvalur hf.’s harpoons, the sole fin whaling company,” Fabienne McLellan, co-director of international relations at Ocean Care, told Mongabay.

According to Hard to Port, a German organization working to end whaling in Iceland, Loftsson will want to keep Hvalur—a family business—operational, despite pressure from conservation groups.

Whales, as GNN has reported, represent a keystone species in global oceanic ecosystems, as well as a significant ally in the fight against climate change.

ALSO: Whales Feces Represent One of the Greatest Allies Against Climate Change—Even More Than Trees

For conservationists in Europe who are concerned with whaling, Iceland’s industry, which has ignored the international moratorium for almost 40 years, could be ended by increasing financial pressure from Japan.

In 2018, Japan exited the International Whaling Commission, and still subsidizes the industry to the tune of $10 million a year, according to Whales US. But as reported by Science, it is a niche profession feeding an ever-shrinking niche market. Japan decided “to stop large-scale whaling” on the high seas in 2018, and will only hunt in Japanese coastal waters, given the declining demand.

Japanese whale meat consumption dropped from 203,000 tons in 1965 to just 4000 tons in 2015. Reduced demand has resulted in a 2019 catch during whaling season of 2000 tons.

POPULAR: Humpback Whale Population Bounces Back From Near-Extinction—From Just 450, to Over 25,000

With only 3% of Icelandic citizens saying they eat minke meat, there’s only so much time Hvalur and IP-Utgerd’s boats can remain stationary through the summer before market forces take their toll, and whaling is consigned to history.

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Pakistan Hires Thousands of Newly-Unemployed Laborers for Ambitious 10 Billion Tree-Planting Initiative

Although the novel coronavirus pandemic has driven thousands of workers into unemployment, the Pakistani government has found a way to provide jobs to their citizens while also reforesting the nation.

According to Reuters, Pakistan has created more than 63,000 jobs for unemployed day laborers by relaunching the nation’s ambitious 10 Billion Tree Tsunami campaign.

The 5-year initiative, which was started by Prime Minister Imran Khan back in 2018, was temporarily shut down in mid-March as a result of the country’s quarantine. With thousands of agricultural workers facing unemployment amidst the lockdowns, however, the program was relaunched earlier this month.

RELATED: Publix Supermarkets Are Buying Food From Struggling Farmers So They Can Use it to Feed Families in Need

The laborers, who are still required to wear face masks and respect social distancing guidelines, are now being given daily living wages as “jungle workers” planting saplings and protecting the trees from fires and illegal logging. The Pakistani government has reportedly been planting the majority of these trees in rural, low-income areas where locals can benefit from the work.

The nation’s environmental ministers go on to say they hope to hire three times as many workers as last year in order to meet their goal of planting 20 million saplings by the end of 2020, bringing the project’s total to 50 million trees.

This is not the first time that the nation has made headlines for planting trees; the 10 Billion Tree Tsunami is a continuation of another extensive tree-planting government effort which resulted in more than 300,000 new jobs and millions of saplings planted across the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province back in 2017.

LOOK: Himalayan Mountaintops Visible for the First Time in 30 Years as Air Pollution Continues to Plummet in India

Now Malik Amin Aslam, who is the climate change adviser for the prime minister, told Reuters that legislators hope to continue using the pandemic as a tool to ramp up their efforts against climate change.

“This tragic crisis provided an opportunity and we grabbed it,” Aslam told the news outlet in a phone interview. “Nurturing nature has come to the economic rescue of thousands of people.”

This is just one of many positive stories and updates that are coming out of the COVID-19 news coverage this week. For more uplifting coverage on the outbreaks, click here.

File photo by Junaid Ali, CC

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What Can One Person Do in 10 Years? This Man Planted 152 Million Mangrove Trees

“Here we have a burgeoning (mangrove) leaf. You take it and you plant the lower third in the mud, and then you take 2 steps—one, two, and then you plant another one,” said the retired politician, with a smile ear to ear, as he wades in the murky coastal waters of Senegal’s Casamance Delta.

Planting since 2009, Haidar el Ali’s efforts have produced one of the most stunning successes in the history of modern large-scale reforestation—the restoration of an entire Senegalese mangrove swamp.

Forests are one of the most resilient habitats on our planet while also being one of the most exploited. Ever since the scientific community began to encourage the planting of trees to ‘re-wild’ previously lost forest ecosystems to respond to climate change, some very determined members of the human race have rolled up their sleeves and produced remarkable results.

RELATED: Scientists Use Recycled Sewage Water to Grow 500-Acre Forest in the Middle of Egyptian Desert

As Senegal’s former Minister of Ecology (and later Fisheries), the 67-year-old was able to rally citizens from the local coastal population to help him plant 152 million mangrove buds by hand, and it created a truly beautiful coastal mangrove forest stretching hundreds of square miles—one of the largest of its kind in the world.

A Paradise for Crabs—and Environmental Ministers

Recently, Jean Francois Bastin et al. estimated that 2.4 billion acres of additional forest cover on the earth (1B hectares) would suck 25% of all the carbon currently being pumped into the atmosphere. Science like this was in large part responsible for the World Economic Forum’s launch of the Trillion Trees vision.

Because they store immense amounts of carbon in their submerged root systems, mangroves and other bodies of coastal vegetation are some of our planet’s most important ecosystems. They help filter river mud runoff from entering the sea, while absorbing the brunt of tidal waves and tsunamis. And they also provide some of the most valuable habitat for near-shore wildlife including birds, insects, invertebrates, crustaceans, reptiles, fish, and even monkeys.

MORE: First Drone Project of Its Kind in Canada is Aiming to Plant 1 Billion Trees by 2028

In a video interview with BBC, Haidar described how the original mangrove forest in Southern Senegal was disrupted in the 80s and 90s as the nation began to build roads which diverted or ended the flow of rivers. “At the time there were no environmental impact studies, of course.”

2008 photo of Haidar by Serigne Diagne, CC license

Next came the lumbermen who clear-cut the coastal mangroves. It wasn’t, as Haidar explains, until the salt from the sea water entering the delta poisoned the nearby rice fields that people began to think about replacing what had been lost.

WATCH: Man Succeeds Where Government Fails—He Planted a Forest in the Middle of a Cold Desert

Though nearing his seventh decade of life, Haidar swims butterfly stroke through the water-borne forest of his and his colleagues’ making, pointing out the presence of returning wildlife as a boon to the local economy.

“The mangrove is a fantastic ecosystem that attracts rain—and it is well known scientifically that this mud captures methane, and that these leaves capture CO2,” he explains.

“I take a lot of satisfaction from this. I’m ready to do it every day, all evening, all my life.”

(WATCH the heartwarming BBC video below… [NOTE: BBC only has video, no full article)

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100 Year-old Bachelorette Tortoise May Be the Last of Her Species – But She Has New Hope for a Boyfriend

Last year, in the recently expanded Galapagos Islands National Park, scientists made a “monumental” discovery when they found a solitary female tortoise on one of the islands where tortoises were thought to be extinct for over 100 years.

Because of its location, the animal was presumed to belong to the extinct species only found on that island, Chelonoidis phantasticus, the Fernandina giant tortoise, named for the Fernandina Island, one of the youngest and most volcanically-active in the famous Galapagos Archipelago.

The matriarchal tortoise is believed to be over 100 years-old, and it was immediately transferred to the giant tortoise breeding center on Santa Cruz Island and plans were made for a return to Fernandina to try and track down a mate.

In the meantime, blood samples were sent to Yale University to determine whether or not she is indeed a member of the extinct species.

Two months ago, in December 2019, a team of 10 scientists and park rangers ventured to the island and found evidence that confirmed the presence of at least one more turtle on the island.

“The trails suggest that there is still at least one tortoise on the island, but the dense vegetation, especially ferns, made it impossible to locate,” said Washington Tapia, Director of the Giant Tortoise Restoration Initiative.

RELATED: After Being Declared Extinct in the Wild, Turtle Species is Saved by Hindu Temple

A follow-up expedition on January 24th failed when Fernandina’s resident volcano, La Cumbre, began erupting, creating impossible weather conditions for tortoise hunting.

In a call yesterday to the Galapagos Conservancy, GNN learned that the blood test results from Yale have not yet been completed. The Virginia-based Conservancy, one of the primary organizations involved in the Fernandina tortoise project, is still hoping to find a second tortoise to help confirm the exact species of the female found in 2019.

Fernandina female – Courtesy of Galapagos National Park Directorate

“Right now there is only one extant sample in the world and that’s a taxidermy male tortoise collected in 1906,” Johannah Barry, President of the Galapagos Conservancy told GNN.

Barry says it’s prudent to point out that just because the old gal was found on an island where the resident tortoise species is the Fernandina, doesn’t automatically make her one—because, as Barry points out, sailors from the 1950s, and even the 1960s, were often moving tortoises around.

“I can understand why people are excited. It’s either going to be, ‘wow, it’s a Fernandina tortoise,’ or ‘wow, it’s not.’”

MORE: Humpback Whales Bounce Back From Near-Extinction—From Just 450, to Over 25,000

The last time one of these tortoises had been seen in the Galapagos was 112 years ago, a male—and there is no record of ever seeing a female. So, a positive identification from Yale biologists would turn out to be a very big ‘wow’ indeed.

ALSOBaby Tortoises Survive on Galapagos Island for First Time in 100 Years

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Scottish Government Scores Hole in One for Wildlife, Blocking Golf Course on Protected Coastline

On every continent, wildlife habitats of all kinds are threatened with development and construction, but perhaps none stand at greater risk than coastline ecosystems like estuaries, salt marshes, and coastal wetlands.

In Scotland one of the last remaining dune ecosystems of its kind in the entire country was just saved from an attempt to turn the unique sandy shore into a golf course.

The wetlands area known as Coul Links is a Ramsar site recognized by UNESCO, and part of the Dornoch Firth and Loch Fleet Special Protection Area.

After four years of campaigning by citizens and wildlife groups to preserve the coastline, home to over 1,200 species of plants and animals, some unique to Europe, Scottish ministers made their decision this week, refusing to allow the development to proceed.

RELATED: Prince Charles Opens 10-Room Bed And Breakfast On The Grounds Of His Scottish Castle

The Scottish Wildlife Trust, The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, the IUCN, and Scottish Natural Heritage cheered the news after the application was declined on the 21st of February. The groups had been arguing that there were golf courses already serving the area—one that was controversial for the same reasons (and in the news media because of its celebrity owner).

“Today’s decision demonstrates that individuals can make a real difference by taking the time to stand up for nature,” commented the Wildlife Trust’s Chief Executive Jo Pike.

By Julian Paren / Geograph.org project, CC license

“Saving Coul Links from development is a strong sign that the Scottish Government is committed to protecting Scotland’s fantastic natural environment, and that it is prepared to make difficult decisions,” she added.

MOREScotland Added 22 Million New Trees Last Year, Carrying the UK Goal on its Green Shoulders

The East Sutherland site is an important stopover refuge for migratory waterfowl and other rare aquatic bird species—and after the golf course at Aberdeenshire was built over a coastal ecosystem, it looked like development of Coul Links was to be par for the course of modern development. Luckily for the wild places of Scotland and their admirers, a government is willing to stand up for them.

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Brazilians Get Juicy Tax Breaks When They Adopt Animals, Plant Trees, or Hail Historic Roots

A slew of Brazilian cities are passing laws that offer tax deductions or exemptions for citizens who want to pitch in to restore the health and beauty of their communities.

Whether by increasing tourism, restoring historic city centers, or boosting beautification by planting trees and maintaining their lawns, there are several ways residents of Goiânia, Belo Horizonte, Quinta do Sol, or Saraba can reduce their Brazilian property tax (IPTU), by anywhere between 30–100%.

Shopkeepers in Goiânia can receive a 2-year exemption from the IPTU if they help restore the original Art Deco-style of the city’s historic center by remaking their facades and storefronts to conform to the original 1950’s Parisian-inspired character.

For anyone who’s traveled to South or Central America, the site of a stray dog is nothing unusual. In the city of Quinta de Sol, the Rescue Program for Abandoned Dogs is a measure to encourage citizens to adopt stray dogs in exchange for a tax break.

Dog lovers can get 50% off their tax bill for big dogs, 40% for medium-sized dogs, and 30% for miniatures.

LOOK: Stray Cat With No Ears Finally Adopted After Shelter Worker Crochets Her a Pair of Purple Ones

Known for its jabuticaba trees, Sabara is offering anyone looking to save some money on their IPTU a 5% deduction for every jabuticaba tree they plant in their front or back gardens.

Photo of jabuticaba fruit trees by Vania Wolf, CC license

In the cities of Belo Horizonte and Minas Gerais, a homeowner can get an IPTU exemption if they maintain a wild garden on their property. Described in the law as ‘private ecological reserves’ the specifics of the legislation reads that the reserve of anyone seeking an exemption must contain “primitive or semi-primitive natural conditions” that aid in the “preservation of the biological cycle of species of fauna or flora native to Brazil”.

MORE: Hotel Helps Dogs Get Adopted By Allowing Long-Term Guests to Foster Shelter Pups During Their Stay

As a way to ease the burden for those who have served, Fortaleza is offering exemptions for WWII veterans. The city of Acros is following suit for citizens with debilitating or chronic diseases like certain cancers, Alzheimer’s, and MS. Acros has issued 20 tax exemptions since 2017 for people with catalogued chronic diseases.

With a score from the World Bank of 1.68 out of 7 ranking the “burden of government regulation,” with 1 being the most burdensome, any break from the taxman will likely be a welcome relief for the citizens of Brazil.

And with more trees, primitive reserves, happy doggos, and art deco restaurants to show for it, visitors to the South American country will likely be just as happy.

Share The Innovative Ideas With Your Friends On Social Media – File photo by Andrey, CC

Cherokee Nation First U.S. Tribe to be Invited to Preserve Their Heirloom Species in Global Seed Vault

With close to 1 million samples from nearly every country on earth, the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in the remote Svalbard Island, between Norway and the Arctic, contains the largest collection of seeds and other plant specimens in the world.

Last week, the Cherokee Nation became the first Native-American tribe to receive an invitation to contribute seeds of their own heirloom crops and join the effort to ensure biodiversity and food security in the uncertain centuries ahead.

“This is history in the making,” said a Cherokee Nation press release. “It is such an honor to have a piece of our culture preserved forever. Generations from now, these seeds will still hold our history and there will always be a part of the Cherokee Nation in the world.”

The tribal office of the Secretary of Natural Resources collected nine samples of Cherokee heirloom crops to send to the Global Crop Diversity Trust, including Cherokee White Eagle Corn, the tribe’s most sacred corn, which is typically used during cultural activities, and three other varieties of corn grown for consumption in distinct locations to keep the strains pure.

RELATEDAt Long Last, Native Californian Tribe Gets Land Back To Call Its Own

Other seeds sent to the Svalbard seed bank include Cherokee Long Greasy Beans, Cherokee Trail of Tears Beans, Cherokee Turkey Gizzard black and brown beans, and Cherokee Candy Roaster Squash.

These heirloom species predate the arrival of Europeans on the American continents, and their preservation offers a chance to secure critical biodiversity for the central North American region in case of crop shortages or other disasters that could result in flora extinction events.

Svalbard Global Seed Vault, Tiq, CC license

It also ensure that the proud history of the Cherokee will live on through the ages.

In 2019, after being interviewed by National Public Radio about the Cherokee Nation’s own heirloom seed bank program, their Senior Director of Environmental Resources, Pat Gwin was contacted by the Global Crop Diversity Trust.

“He sent me an email and said they would be honored to have the tribe’s seeds in the seed vault,” said Gwin. “…Knowing the Cherokee Nation’s seeds will be forever protected and available to us … is a quite valuable thing indeed.”

CHECK OUT: First-of-its-Kind Village for Homeless Native Americans Now Houses Dozens in Seattle

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CO2 Emissions Stopped Rising Last Year Says IEA, Thanks to Growth in Renewables, Shunning of Coal

An exciting new study calculated that, contrary to expectations, global carbon dioxide emissions did not continue their increase in 2019, but actually flatlined as renewable energy sources, efficiency, and other factors, chipped away at worldwide CO2 levels.

The research, conducted by the International Energy Agency (IEA) and published earlier this week, found that global emissions were unchanged at 33 gigatons in 2019 even as the world economy expanded by 2.9% over 2018.

This was primarily due to declining emissions from electricity generation in advanced economies, thanks to the expanding role of renewable sources (mainly wind and solar), shutting down coal plants, and higher nuclear power generation. Other factors included milder weather in several countries (to require less cooling or heating), and slower economic growth in some emerging markets.

“We now need to work hard to make sure that 2019 is remembered as a definitive peak in global emissions, not just another pause in growth,” said Dr. Fatih Birol, the IEA’s Executive Director. “We have the energy technologies to do this, and we have to make use of them all. The IEA is building a grand coalition focused on reducing emissions—encompassing governments, companies, investors and everyone with a genuine commitment to tackling our climate challenge.”

RELATED: For First Time Ever, Scientists Identify How Many Trees to Plant and Where to Plant Them to Stop Climate Crisis

A significant decrease in emissions in advanced economies in 2019 offset continued growth elsewhere. The United States recorded the largest emissions decline on a country basis, with a fall of 140 million tons, or 2.9%. US emissions are now down by almost 1 gigaton from their peak in 2000.

Emissions in the European Union fell by 160 million tons, or 5%, in 2019 driven by reductions in the power sector. Natural gas produced more electricity than coal for the first time ever, meanwhile wind-powered electricity nearly caught up with coal-fired electricity.

Japan’s emissions fell by 45 million tons, or around 4%—the fastest pace of decline since 2009, as output from recently restarted nuclear reactors increased.

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Emissions in the rest of the world grew by close to 400 million tons in 2019, with almost 80% of the increase coming from countries in Asia where coal-fired power generation continued to rise.

Across advanced economies, emissions from the power sector declined to levels last seen in the late 1980s, when electricity demand was one-third lower than today. Coal-fired power generation in advanced economies declined by nearly 15% as a result of growth in renewables, coal-to-gas switching, a rise in nuclear power and weaker electricity demand.

“This welcome halt in emissions growth is grounds for optimism that we can tackle the climate challenge this decade,” said Dr. Birol. “It is evidence that clean energy transitions are underway—and it’s also a signal that we have the opportunity to meaningfully move the needle on emissions through more ambitious policies and investments.”

MORE: Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour Auctions Off 126 Guitars and Raises $21 Million for Climate Change Battle

The Agency will also hold an IEA Clean Energy Transitions Summit in Paris on July 9th, bringing together key government ministers, CEOs, investors and other major stakeholders from around the world to promote and support more real-world solutions.

Reprinted from the International Energy Agency – File photo by TVA Cumberland Power Plant, CC

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5 Years After Turning Disused Military Bases into Nature Reserves, Wolves Return and Use Bases as Havens

In a remarkable legislative move that increased the amount of protected areas for wildlife in Germany by 25%, the German government moved in 2015 to convert 62 disused Cold War-era military bases into wildlife refuges.

This added up to about 76,600 acres of additional protected land in the country, according to The Independent.

Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks said at the time: “We are seizing a historic opportunity with this conversion — many areas that were once no-go zones are no longer needed for military purposes.”

“We are fortunate that we can now give these places back to nature,” Hendricks said.

During the 50-year-long dreary standoff at the Iron Curtain between East and West Germany, minimal human activity along the old Soviet/NATO border allowed the wildlife that had been chased out of other parts of Europe to recover in relative peace. After the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, scientists and voices for nature of all kinds realized that the lack of human activity had created natural sanctuaries for endangered European wildlife all along the international and ideological border.

LOOK: Reintroduction of Wolves Into Yellowstone Brings Wildlife Back Into Balance

The 62 decommissioned German military bases were located on the West German side of the Iron Curtain, where they became a habitat for the middle-spotted woodpecker and lesser spotted eagle, as well as a top tier species that, like the last remains of the Old World shattered by World War II, was gone from Europe by the time the Iron Curtain descended across the continent—wolves.

Wolves at the Gate

Sport hunting competitions and the desire to protect livestock herds led to the regional  extermination of the wolf. Writing for Science Magazine, Erik Stokstad reported that the wolf has returned to parts of Germany, in large part due to the reformed military bases which proved to be perfect havens.

“In the late 1990s, wolves began to dart into Germany from the forests of Poland,” he wrote. “The first litter of pups in Germany was reported in 2001 in Saxony-Brandenburg. They’ve since spread westward into six more of Germany’s 16 federal states, and monitoring data show their numbers are rising.”

MORE: Humpback Whale Population Bounces Back From Near-Extinction—From Just 450, to Over 25,000

Due to poaching, it was found that almost all wolf packs across Germany favored military bases over wildlife refuges, even though the refuges possessed fewer roads, and larger, denser sections of forest.

Guillaume Chapron, a wildlife ecologist at Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences in Uppsala, suggested that since deer populations on military bases aren’t managed by hunting, it means fewer poachers or hunters are coming in contact with wolves there.

Coupled with the lack of soldiers and wars, Chapron suggests that, like the 62 decommissioned sites in 2015, all military bases slated to be closed should be turned into nature reserves for this reason.

LOOK: This Woman and Her Pet Otters Have Spent the Last 40 Years Protecting the Species From Extinction in England

Bases and military installations in other countries along the Iron Curtain were closed down and turned into wildlife refuges, thanks, in part, to the European Green Belt initiative led by former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and his grassroots nonprofit International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

Today the backbone of green runs from the very northern tip of Finland down into Greece and eastward across the Carpathians before halting at the border with Turkey.

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If You Buy a Sapling For This Rainforest, Money Goes to Turn Illegal Loggers Into Forest Guardians

We can take shorter showers. We can try to recycle our plastic. We can make sure to turn the lights off in our homes at night. But the sense of urgency in the face of our climate crisis leaves some people discouraged because there isn’t more they can do.

For 13 years, however, Health in Harmony has been offering caring citizens of the world a way to reduce their impact on the environment—a chance to minimize, or even neutralize, their carbon footprint in ways that benefit so much more than just the CO2 equation.

The intrepid nonprofit is allowing people to buy personal carbon-offsets and using the money to benefit rural communities in Borneo and Madagascar. The brilliance behind their program is the way it addresses the locals in and around these tropical rainforests who are both impoverished, and living nearby some of the most important and vulnerable ecosystems on earth—ecosystems that if lost could place the goal of overcoming our impact on climate forever beyond our reach.

Tropical rainforests are the Fort Knox of carbon storage, as well as bastions of biodiversity. Many tracts, like Gunung Palung National Park on the island of Borneo have been hit hard by slash-and-burn agriculture and illegal logging, because struggling locals look for ways to make money and feed their families.

Based in Portland, Oregon, Health In Harmony offers people worldwide the opportunity to buy tropical tree seedlings that, when matured, will sequester a certain amount of carbon per year. But the impact here is profound.

According to an article in Fast Company, during its first ten years the program achieved 90% reduction in logging activities within households where the nonprofit was operating. This resulted in an astonishing regrowth of 52,000 acres of rainforest.

Photo courtesy of Health In Harmony

Kinari Webb, founder of Health In Harmony explained that 95 trees will offset the carbon emitted by an average American—while planting them ensures the survival of one of the most biodiverse places on earth.

WATCH: First Drone Project of Its Kind in Canada is Aiming to Plant 1 Billion Trees by 2028

With the group’s carbon-offset calculator, you can enter in key contributors in your own personal carbon footprint such as how much gasoline you use, or how many miles you’ve flown on airlines, and the calculator will come up with the cost of that carbon footprint as it relates to buying seedlings to be planted in Borneo and Madagascar.

According to Webb a monthly donation of $31.00 is likely enough to make you a carbon-neutral citizen.

And, to assuage your skepticism about reforestation efforts that don’t ensure saplings’ survival, Webb says that during the first 3 years, watering, weeding, fertilizing, and fire prevention are regularly provided for the trees. Over their first 10 sites they’ve seen a survival rate of 80%.

They diversify, using over 100 native tree species and indigenous fruit trees, while also compensating for failure by planting more than is needed to account for tree death during infancy and adolescence. These steps ensure that the full biodiversity compliment of the jungle can return even in the plantations. But, that is just the beginning.

CHECK OUT: For First Time Ever, Scientists Identify How Many Trees to Plant and Where to Plant Them to Stop Climate Crisis

Not Just Planting Trees, Transforming Villages

Photo by ASRI Kids / Nina Finley

Part of the money from your carbon offset purchases also provides healthcare, sustainable agriculture training, and economic empowerment for the villages near Gunung Palung National Park.

A “green credit” system allows the residents who work to reduce illegal logging to receive discounts of up to 70% on medical services at the medical facilities of Health In Harmony’s partner on the group  ASRI.  They can even pay for medical care with things like tree seedlings, artisan goods, and manure.

MORE: People Have Passively Planted Over 30 Million Trees Simply by Surfing the Web

ASRI also works with village chiefs to nominate a Forest Guardian. Respected members of their community, the Forest Guardians are trained by ASRI to work with illegal loggers to try and convince them to put down their chainsaws. They spread awareness of alternative ways of generating income while earning discounts on medical services for themselves and their neighbors.

Sustainable modern agriculture techniques are replacing slash and burn methods which have been destroying the rainforest while yielding fewer crops. In 2018, locals were producing more crops for their families and selling the remainder for additional income. In July 2018, Health In Harmony’s Kitchen Gardens, and Goats for Widows projects allowed women at home to generate their own income from farming small plots of land or keeping goats whose manure and milk helped wives who had lost their husbands to stay afloat financially.

Next Up: Madagascar and Her Lemurs

Beyond a second, even larger, Indonesia site called Bukit Baka Bukit Raya National Park, which is a critical sanctuary for orangutans, Health In Harmony has expanded its operations to another biodiversity mecca: Madagascar.

RELATED: Scientists Use Recycled Sewage Water to Grow 500-Acre Forest in the Middle of Egyptian Desert

Madagascar’s forests are massively at risk from logging and agriculture, and with them almost 100 species of lemur, the charismatic primate found nowhere else on earth.

In the autumn of 2019, Health In Harmony began setting up reforestation, healthcare, agricultural training, and more in Manombo Special Reserve, a 14,300-acre protected area in southeast Madagascar, home to nine species of lemur—all of which are threatened with extinction.

Health In Harmony is proving that any concerned citizen can do far more than recycle to prevent climate change, and that the power of their dollar can help a lot more lifeforms than humans and trees.

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World’s Last Known ‘Dinosaur Trees’ Saved From Australian Bushfires Thanks to Determined Firefighters

Conservationists are celebrating the success of a mission to save the world’s last remaining “dinosaur trees” from the Australian bushfires.

The ancient Wollemi Pine was thought to be extinct until a small grouping of the prehistoric trees was discovered in the mountains roughly 124 miles northwest (200 kilometers) of Sydney back in 1996.

Fossil records show that the pines existed as far back as 200 million years ago—and since these 200 trees are the only known Wollemi Pines left in the wild, their location has remained a closely-kept secret in order to ensure their protection.

MORE: More Than 200 Volunteer Firefighters From US and Canada Have Deployed to Help With Australian Bushfires

When Australian legislators heard that the bushfires—which have been raging across New South Wales since September—were edging closer to the Wollemi grove, a team of specialized firefighters was airlifted onto the scene.

“These pines outlived the dinosaurs, so when we saw the fire approaching we realized we had to do everything we could to save them,” said New South Wales state Environment Minister Matt Kean.

Just one week before the fires hit the surrounding forests, the firefighters sprayed the trees with fire retardant and installed an irrigation system to keep the area moist. As the fire drew closer, air tankers dumped water around the perimeter of the grove and kept the flames at bay.

LOOK: Thousands of Aussies Are Heartened by Photos of Charred Landscapes Already Recovering From Bushfires

Although a few of the dinosaur trees were lightly singed by the blaze, the safety measures successfully protected the grove—and the surrounding fires were reportedly contained earlier this week.

Richard Kingsford, director of the Center for Ecosystem Science at the University of NSW, hailed the firefighting success to The Sydney Morning Herald: “This is such a remarkable species in terms of ecology and evolution … and only found in Australia.”

“It’s something like the Opera House of the natural world,” he added. “Losing it would have added to the catastrophe we have seen elsewhere.”

(WATCH the AFP news coverage below) – Photo by AFP News Agency

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More Than 200 Volunteer Firefighters From US and Canada Have Deployed to Help With Australian Bushfires

Back in 2018 when wildfires were raging through California, 138 firefighters from Australia and New Zealand flew into the United States so they could help combat the blazes.

According to the National Park Service, “the Australian and New Zealand personnel filled critical needs during the peak of the western fire season for mid-level fireline management, heavy equipment, helicopter operations, and structure protection”—and now, the US is repaying the favor.

For the first time since 2010, the US federal government has deployed a team of 100 American firefighters to help with the emergency response crews in Australia—and they are deploying several dozen more volunteer firefighters this week, according to The Los Angeles Times.

Due to extended drought combined with hot and dry weather conditions, Australia has been experiencing devastating bushfires—particularly in the states of New South Wales, Queensland, and Victoria—since August.

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The US firefighters—many of whom were part of the firefighting teams in California— have been deployed in several separate teams over the course of the last 30 days. The international relief mission is part of the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC), the nation’s support center for wildland firefighting. Based out of Boise, the coalition is made up of eight different agencies and organizations including, the Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Indian Affairs, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, National Weather Service, U.S. Fire Administration, and the National Association of State Foresters.

“We’re sending a contingent from several federal agencies that reflects decades of fire management experience,” said U.S. Forest Service Fire Director Shawna Legarza. “We face many of the same firefighting challenges in each country. We’ve utilized their expertise in the past and welcome the opportunity to reciprocate.”

The US is not the only country sending aid to Australia, either—Canada has also sent several teams of wildfire specialists as well, bringing their total amount of volunteers to 87.

According to CBC, this is the first time that Canada has deployed firefighting assistance to Australia, although Canada also benefitted from the firefighting teams of Down Under during the devastating British Columbian wildfires in 2017 and 2018.

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