Environment & Weather
Illinois Lt. Governor Sheila Simon and Louisiana Lt. Governor Jay Dardenne call for comprehensive strategy to save Mississippi River PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Environment & Weather
Written by Ken Lowe   
Friday, 13 June 2014 12:27
Washington D.C. – June 11, 2014. Lt. Governor Sheila Simon joined government, industry and environmental leaders in Washington today to call for a comprehensive and cooperative approach to Mississippi River governance and sustainability.
“Everyone has a stake in seeing the Mississippi River remains viable,” said Illinois Lt. Governor Sheila Simon, chair of the state’s Mississippi River Coordinating Council. “We believe the best way to accomplish that is to build on existing public-private partnerships and develop a multi-state governance structure that allows for the integration of the river’s diverse users.”
Simon spoke at the final The Big River Works forum dedicated to the future of the Mississippi River and convened by the America’s WETLAND Foundation. Chaired by Illinois Governor Pat Quinn and Louisiana Lt. Governor Jay Dardenne, The Big River Works Initiative brought together leaders from government, the environment, industry and communities at five regional forums since 2012 to create a cooperative path forward for Mississippi watershed sustainability.
More than 400 participants attended the leadership forums held along the river in cities from Minneapolis to New Orleans. The findings revealed a number of common concerns and beliefs among the river’s many users. Representatives from every level of government, business and industry agreed the Mississippi River system must be managed as a single ecosystem, or it will continue to deteriorate, jeopardizing the benefits it provides nationwide.
The Big River Works forums generated four overarching recommendations released today in the nation’s Capitol:
  • Develop a comprehensive approach to Mississippi River health and sustainability
  • Encourage cooperative action for Mississippi River system health and sustainability
  • Coordinate a national approach to Mississippi Watershed governance
  • Engage the public to build political will
“These aims represent consensus thinking developed through research, focus groups, interviews and months of conversations,” said R. King Milling, chairman of the AWF. “They are ambitious, but so is the scope of action necessary to maintain the long-term health and productivity of the Mississippi River and its delta. We are running out of time.”
For more information visit www.americaswetland.com or www.bigriverworks.org.

Lt. Governor Simon, America’s WETLAND Foundation to convene Mississippi River roundtable PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Environment & Weather
Written by Annie Thompson   
Wednesday, 11 June 2014 09:35

Officials representing government, conservation and academia outline Mississippi River sustainability plan 

WASHINGTON D.C. – Lt. Governor Sheila Simon will provide opening remarks at a roundtable meeting focused on developing a long-term plan to protect and preserve the Mississippi River. The meeting is being convened by the America’s WETLAND Foundation (AWF), which conducted a yearlong examination of the river.

The group of state and federal government leaders, and environmental experts will outline an agenda for Mississippi River sustainability based on findings from the AWF’s Big River Works initiative. The Big River Works recommendations were generated by more than 400 government and private sector leaders who participated in forums held over a 12-month period in Minneapolis, Chicago, St. Louis, Memphis and New Orleans. Attendees at the June 11 event will discuss the primary threats facing the river and work to ensure the health and productivity of the Mississippi River and its delta.

Lt. Governor Simon chairs three River Coordinating Councils charged with the mission of reviewing state and federal programs that impact the watersheds and working with local communities to raise awareness of and address watershed issues.

DATE: Wednesday, June 11

TIME: 8:30 a.m. EST

LOCATION: U.S. Capitol Visitors Center, Room SVC 203-02, Washington D.C

News Releases - Environment & Weather
Written by LAURIE R. GLENN   
Wednesday, 11 June 2014 09:09

Green Buddha Life Sustainability Center Only Dedicated Environmental Justice Center For Chicago Focused On Environmental Health & Justice In At-Risk Suburban Communities



AURORA -- Founder, scholar-activist Dr. Sylvia Hood Washington hosted a ribbon cutting ceremony on Thursday, June 5, 2014 for the grand opening of the Green Buddha Life Sustainability Center, Bookstore & Eco-Arts Gallery (The Center) in Aurora, the region's first dedicated sustainability center focusing on environmental health and justice for all suburban residents, particularly low-income, minority communities.

The Center will spur environmental justice and promote environmental health on multiple levels by serving as a:
  • Sustainability Center: Meeting and training space for local, regional and national environmental sustainability groups;
  • Green Buddha Life Books: Green business to expand recycling "loved books" while creating safe, green jobs through an online bookstore; and,
  • Eco-Arts Gallery: Community space featuring the work of artists produced by recycled books and other recycled material.

The grand opening featured speakers, sustainability workshops in the Eco-Arts Gallery, and eco/sustainability film screenings and discussions.

Green Buddha Life Sustainability Center, Bookstore and the Eco-Arts Gallery are the vision and brainchild of longtime environmental scientist, consultant, scholar and activist Dr. Sylvia Hood Washington. Located in downtown west suburban Aurora, Ill., the mission of Green Buddha Life is to spur environmental justice and promote environmental health. For more information please visit www.e3hra.com or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/EHRALLC.

Loebsack’s Measures to Protect Cedar Rapids from Future Flooding Signed into Law PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Environment & Weather
Written by Joe Hand   
Wednesday, 11 June 2014 09:06

Water Resources Reform and Development Act will create jobs, invest in our economy

Washington, D.C. – Congressman Dave Loebsack released the following statement today after the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA) was signed into law by President Obama.

“It has taken a long time to get this bill signed into law, but I am pleased Congress could finally come together and get it done. I have been fighting since the Floods of 2008 to get these flood protection measures passed and I am hopeful that after completion, the people of Cedar Rapids will be protected from future devastation,” said Loebsack. “This bill is an investment in our economy and will create jobs right here in our state. It is also very important to Iowa because it addresses our outdated, crumbling infrastructure including locks and dams, flood protection and Army Corps projects that are needed to keep our communities safe.”

Loebsack initiatives contained in the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA) include:

·         Flood protection measures for downtown Cedar Rapids that Loebsack fought to expand after the Floods of 2008;

·         Addressing critical flood protection and transportation concerns on the Mississippi River;

·         Legislation Loebsack cosponsored to explore the creation of public-private partnerships between the Army Corps of Engineers and private entities as financing alternatives for lock and dam capital projects.


USDA Releases State by State Impacts of Limited Wildfire Suppression In Recent Years PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Environment & Weather
Written by USDA Office of Communications   
Tuesday, 10 June 2014 15:29
List Highlights How Forest Restoration, Fire Preparedness and other Activities were Postponed or Canceled Due to Lack of Adequate Fire Suppression Budget

WASHINGTON, June 9, 2014 -- The U.S. Department of Agriculture today released information showing how limited federal firefighting budgets have impacted states over the last two fiscal years (FYs 2012 and 2013).  The state-by-state report provides examples of how funding for local wildfire preparedness, forest restoration, and other activities in nearly every state across the country has been used to instead fight fires when wildfire suppression budgets did not fully cover firefighting costs.

The President's FY15 Budget proposed a new approach to addressing wildfire suppression costs, modeled after bipartisan legislation introduced in both houses of Congress.  The new proposal would set aside an emergency fund, similar to emergency funds already available for other natural disasters, to cover costs for the most catastrophic of wildfires, avoiding the pattern in recent years of raiding other critical programs.  This new approach provides certainty in addressing growing fire suppression needs while better safeguarding preparedness, maintenance and forest health programs from fund transfers that have diminished their effectiveness.

"With  longer and more severe wildfire seasons, the current way that the U.S. Forest Service and the Department of Interior budget for wildland fire is unsustainable," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.  "Until firefighting is treated like other natural disasters that can draw on emergency funding, firefighting expenditures will continue to disrupt forest restoration and management, research, and other activities that help manage our forests and reduce future catastrophic wildfire."

The wildfire season is 60-80 days longer and burning twice as many acres as compared to three decades ago. In the early 1990s, the Forest Service spent less than 15 percent of its budget on fire suppression. Today the agency spends 40 percent or more for fire suppression. Over the long term, this has meant the agency has shifted resources away from forest restoration and management, research, state and private forest assistance and other activities that help maintain our forests and reduce future catastrophic wildfire.

The Obama Administration's 2015 budget proposal creates a special disaster relief cap adjustment for use when costs of fighting the most extreme fires exceed Forest Service and Department of the Interior budgets, as is expected to happen again this year. A May report showed that the median projected cost of fighting fires is nearly $1.8 billion this year, more than $470 million over the Forest Service's and Interior's firefighting budgets. In fact, these costs could reach as high as $1 billion more than the agencies currently have budgeted.

When actual firefighting costs exceed firefighting budgets, the Forest Service has to engage in what's known as "fire transfer," where funding for fire suppression is transferred from non-fire programs, including forest management activities that treat areas impacted by insects and disease and reduce the incidence and severity of future wildfires.

The table below provides examples of impacts that limited funding had on forest management activities in nearly every state across the country in FY 2012 and FY2013. During those two years, the Forest Service had to transfer $440 million and $505 million respectively from other accounts to pay for fire suppression. Over the last 12 years, a total of $3.2 billion was shifted from other programs that accomplish important forest management objectives.

The information provides examples from each state and do not include all state impacts or region-wide or national level impacts of fire transfer.  In addition, the table lists many activities that were "cancelled."  These activities may have been funded in subsequent years, but the delay still has a considerable impact on Forest Service operations.

In a small number of states, Forest Service operations were not directly impacted by forest borrowing in 2012 or 2013, but there are still long term impacts of the Forest Service's fire budget challenge.  Over the last several decades the Forest Service has had to frequently shift resources towards firefighting and away from other programs, impacting State forestry programs and outreach to private landowners.

View full report


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