How to Support WSE's New Montana Grasslands Carbon Initiative by Executive Director Lill Erickson

Montana.

What comes to mind when you think of Montana?

Magnificent mountain ranges and river valleys? An elk bugling at dawn on a brisk fall morning? Trout rising in a secret fishing hole? The wide-open spaces that give us room to breathe, inspiration, and peace of mind?

What comes to your mind?

How lucky are we to be here—in this spectacular place—this special place—this rare place?

This region is the last intact temperate-zone ecosystem remaining on the planet. The last one that is virtually whole, essentially complete. Conservation biologists consider Montana’s iconic wildlife resource second only to that of the African plain, the Serengeti.

Montana is special, indeed! But, will it remain so? There is a juggernaut headed our way.

Bozeman has the dubious honor of being the fastest growing area of its size in the nation, projected to grow to the size of Salt Lake City by 2041. That’s only 23 years from now! Kalispell is close behind.

That’s going to put a lot of pressure on this exceptional place.

WSE strongly believes we must help our agricultural neighbors to stay on the land. They are the first line of defense if we are to protect the wide open spaces, environmental integrity, and cultural character of Montana. The choices they make about land stewardship and development will determine the future of the region.

Ranchers are our firewall.

Fortunately, WSE’s two decades of experience has proved that outstanding stewardship and profitable operations go hand-in-hand. However, farmers and ranchers need information on the techniques that improve land health and reduce operating costs without compromising habitat or water quality. They also need lucrative markets offering reasonable prices for their products as a reward for their stewardship.

WSE provides landowners with information about the latest “best practices” for land management and connects them to technical specialists who have pioneered, and most importantly, proven that these techniques can heal the land and boost the bottom line. We share this information one-on-one and through workshops and ranch tours so landowners can witness the benefits of the practices on the ground and meet the people who are making it work.

We certify operations successfully using regenerative practices, then connect our certified producers to chefs, restaurants, institutions, and consumers interested in their quality products.

Lastly, we foster positive connections by operating the Livingston Farmers Market as a way to connect farmers and ranchers directly to consumers and by introducing producers to markets through our Local Food Program.

And now, WSE is facilitating something truly unique: rewarding ranchers for sequestering carbon. Our goal is to conserve another 150,000 acres within three years and 1 million within a decade.

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I’m delighted to tell you about WSE’s new groundbreaking program, our Montana Grasslands Carbon Initiative!

WSE is partnering with an international carbon program developer, NativeEnergy, and our long-time collaborator, Xanterra Parks and Resorts, Yellowstone and Glacier National Park’s primary concessionaire, to launch this program.

Because grasslands cover over 40 percent of the earth’s surface, scientists now believe they are even more important than rainforests for pulling dangerous carbon dioxide (CO2 ) from the atmosphere through photosynthesis and “sequestering” the carbon deep underground. The healthier the grasslands, the more CO2 is eliminated from our sky. Unfortunately, over 80 percent of the world’s grasslands are in poor to marginal condition.

What if they were brought back to health? A growing number of scientists believe improving the health of half of the world’s grasslands could begin mitigating the impacts of climate change.

Our partnership is leveraging the resources many ranchers need to ensure healthy grasslands in Montana. We are providing information, technical assistance, and upfront monies to make critical changes in the way grasslands are grazed. We will then compensate landowners for their stewardship with carbon offset payments based on the amount of carbon they sequester each year. We will facilitate these payments through the sale of carbon offset credits to companies dedicated to reducing their carbon footprint, such as Xanterra.

This is the first program of its kind and scale in the United States, second in the world only to one in Kenya.

Taken together, the impact of our work includes over 1.45 million acres being managed with regenerative practices by over a thousand producers who have participated in our workshops, certification program, or other educational activities. These producers are supported by WSE’s network of 50 restaurants serving sustainably produced local cuisine, including restaurants in Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks. Our efforts are generating nearly $2 million in annual sales for producers in our programs, including almost a quarter-million local dollars moving through our Livingston Farmers Market in sales to vendors.

Please take a moment to consider the magnitude of the impact you’ve helped us achieve. Think of how much more we can do together.

WSE is poised to conserve millions of acres of open space and critical habitat by facilitating outstanding stewardship, but we need your support. Together we will ensure our wide open spaces, iconic wildlife, and agricultural heritage are preserved for future generations!

It’s an exciting time—an important time—for WSE and the place we all love. Please give as generously as you are able.

Please help us expand our impact by making your most generous contribution today. Your year-end gift will help WSE create a model that can be replicated throughout the West, and perhaps even the world! Just click here to donate.

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Risk-free Options for Reducing Glyphosate by Nicole Masters of Integrity Soils**

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With growing human health concerns and consumer demands for food produced without glyphosate, some countries in Europe are considering banning its use. What would be the consequence on your farm if it was banned? A major concern from a knee-jerk reaction like banning glyphosate is that farmers will reach for nastier residual herbicides like Paraquat, Dicamba, and 2-4,D.

Research into all of these herbicides will reveal negative impacts on the soil biome, ecosystem, and human health. Glyphosate was a tool that farmers and chemical producers exploited and heavily abused. Looking out an aircraft window in spring and autumn is a sobering experience, revealing farming landscapes checkerboarded yellow with glyphosate right across the planet.

Glyphosate is being delivered into the food chain from “Round-up Ready” crops (which enable liberal dousing onto crops), crop desiccation before harvest, and the practice of feeding animals on sprayed fields/crops. Glyphosate is now in the rainfall, rivers, and, in the US, over 90% of the human population its in their blood. New research has found a strong link between Glyphosate and algal blooms. With links to autism, birth defects, and cancers, there is increasing scrutiny. Eventually this abuse was going to catch up and be revealed to the public.

Glyphosate over-use has been detrimental to farmer bottom lines beyond the increasing impact from herbicide resistant weeds. Glyphosate acts as an antibiotic and binds to minerals, reducing soil biodiversity essential for soil physical health and plant and human nutrition. For producers interested in resilient farming systems and reducing inputs, there are a number of options that don’t involve reaching for bigger hammers...

To read about practical solutions, please click here.

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**Nicole Masters is a world-renowned soil expert with Integrity Soils in New Zealand.

Brianna's YES Story by Brianna Pittman

My first interaction with WSE was through the weekly farmers market. Every Wednesday, I would go to the WSE booth to answer a series of questions to receive tickets in hope of a prize. One of these questions was “Who sponsors the farmers market?” After several weeks of the workers at the booth pointing to the sign in the booth that had WSE printed on it, I finally memorized the name. One summer I heard that WSE was holding a Young Entrepreneurial Stewards camp where you would learn about business and running your own booth at the farmers market. I attended this camp, and it taught me how to handle money for a business, how to make a business sustainable, how to price items, and how to appropriately interact with customers. At the end of this camp, each attendee received a “Biz in a Boxx” that included tips for starting a business and a portfolio. I practiced the tips we learned at camp, such as being able to answer questions about your product and making your booth look presentable, before my first week at the market. Using all the new resources and skills I had learned and practiced, I started my own booth at the farmers market. I brought a small card table covered with a tablecloth and displayed my products on it each week. My business name was intended to directly tell people what I sold: Cards and Recycled Dog Toys.

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One big point that I learned at camp was the idea of helping the local economy with your products. I remembered once seeing instructions for t-shirt dog toys in a book, and I modified it to my liking and made many different colors and priced them at one dollar each for the first week of the market. These dog toys were made by using old t-shirts that had stains, tears or other problems that made them unusable or unwanted. I cut strips out of the still usable parts of the material, and I braided them until I had a dog chew toy. I would get these t-shirts from family members or from the Community Closet free bin. The first year of the market, I made over $200.00 and I was thrilled. I attended several other YES camps the following summers, and I understood it was time to add new products. Through several summers, I began to add homemade hair bows and wooden décor and a yard dice game. One encouraging experience I gained was when an owner of a fairly large Livingston restaurant bought my handmade wooden dice from me. This individual encouraged me to continue with creative ventures and said that I was doing a great job as a business woman.

At one camp, I remember talking about how a catchy name was important for the business. I eventually changed my business name to Brianna’s Shop-A-Lot-Spot. The year that I changed my business name, I not only had people giving me compliments, but I would also have others come up to me saying they had been told by others that they got their products at Brianna’s Shop-A-Lot-Spot. My name allowed people to remember me and even for some to recommend the things I sold. Every week I recorded my expenses and sales in my portfolio that I had gotten at the first camp I attended. Each week, a YES booth cost $2.50 to teach us how to manage expenses. WSE did a great job teaching how to give back, not only to the local economy, but also to the community by using all the kids’ booth fees to donate to a local non-profit at the end of the season. It made all of us feel great knowing that our booths were helping others beyond ourselves in that way. One summer, I was able to use a percentage of my sales for a period of time to buy bed sheets for an African orphanage. The YES program always encouraged the participants to give back and to use their small business and money to make a difference.

 

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At the holiday market in 2014, I was awarded the Sustainable Business Kid of the Year. I earned the prize of a season vendor pass along with some gift cards to buy supplies for the next year’s market. I was so excited to be given this honor. When high school years approached, my schedule began to shift, not allowing me to actively participate in selling at the market. Since entering high school, I have been able to speak at several YES clubs and camps under my mom who became the coordinator for this program. I spoke as an example of my business and taught the kids the things I learned through the program and through my experiences. I will never forget how this experience and program positively impacted me as not only a business woman, but also as a person.

Holiday Gift Guide: Ideas For The Creative Soul by guest blogger Christy Erickson

  Photo via Pixabay by    Giuseppepotenza

Photo via Pixabay by Giuseppepotenza

Gift-giving is a complicated process for most people, even for friends and family they know well. It can be hard to find the right present for a teenager who has ever-changing interests, or for a grandfather who has health issues and limited mobility. This makes the holiday shopping season stressful for many, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

Rather than think about what material items your loved ones might like, consider what sort of creativity they’re fostering. They don’t have to be painters or writers to be creative; art can happen anywhere, from the kitchen to the garden. Think about what type of gift would be perfect for the person who loves music but has never learned to play an instrument, or the one who loves cooking and baking but may not have the right tools. Digging a little deeper into these creative pursuits might just lead you to the perfect gift, and that in turn will help you battle holiday stress.

Here are a few of the best ways you can make your loved ones happy over the holidays:

●      Cooking lessons—For the creative soul who loves being in the kitchen, consider paying for a culinary class that will help them learn the correct way to use knives and other utensils, how to bake the perfect cupcake, and a few tricks of the trade. Or, you might put together a basket that holds several kitchen gadgets; for cake lovers, think icing tips and bags, fun-shaped pans, and fondant-sculpting tools.

●      Gardening fun—For the person who loves working outdoors and getting their hands dirty, there are several gift options. You might go with a gift certificate to a home and garden store so the recipient can choose their own items or fill a steel pail with different types of seeds, gardening gloves, a trowel and spade, and a watering can for a present with rustic appeal. Tie a bow on top and present it unwrapped.

●      Online guitar lessons—Music is the gift that keeps on giving, and for those who have a connection to it but have never gotten around to learning an instrument, lessons are the perfect way to show how much you care. There are different lessons according to experience level and type of instrument; to get an idea of which one to choose for your loved one, read on here.

●      For the eco-friendly family member—For those who are Earth-conscious and want to reduce their carbon footprint, think eco-friendly, such as a bag full of natural beeswax products for the body or some upcycled containers to use in the home. Check out Etsy for unique, handmade, eco-friendly products that will make great gifts.

●      For the artist—What do you get for the artist who has everything? Gifts from the Museum of Contemporary Art, of course! There are tons of cool things to choose from, including travel mugs, journals, home decor, and t-shirts emblazoned with the faces, works, and words of famous artists.

●      Get high-tech—Creative people usually love trying new things, and that includes new mediums with which to make art. Technology has made this even easier by integrating with artist tools, like a pen that draws 3-D creations in the air and one that can be connected wirelessly to a regular piece of paper but displays the drawing on a computer screen.

The holidays are a fun time to be spent with friends and family, and although finding the perfect gift can be stressful, it helps if you look at shopping as a way to discover new things and connect with your loved ones on a new level. Take the stress out of shopping by getting creative and thinking outside the box.

 

**Western Sustainability Exchange is not an affiliate of any of the companies linked in this blog and doesn't make any money if you use any of the links.

Holiday Wish List Ideas for the Dog Owner Who Really Cares (a Lot) by guest blogger Cindy Aldridge

Are you obsessed with your dog? Do you worry about their safety, happiness, contentment, and any other describable emotional state on a constant basis? Are you a fan of adorning your walls with their cute little visage? If you’re a dog lover who really, truly cares then your dog is everything to you. That’s why you’re going to tailor your holiday wish list around them. Here are some things you shouldn’t miss.

 Photo Credit:  Pixabay.com

Photo Credit: Pixabay.com

Ways to keep track of your dog

There are some legitimate reasons why you would want to have eyes on your dog when you’re not home or that you would want to be able to know exactly where they are at any given time. Dogs get loose. Dogs are home alone for hours and hours. Dogs can get themselves into some pretty precarious situations. For somewhere between $100 and $200, you can get a nice dog-monitoring camera for your home (or anywhere else your dog resides). Check here for some of the best options.

And for even less, you can get your dog their own GPS tracker that can attach to their collar and provide details on their exact whereabouts via a smartphone app. Here are some of the best options.

A great place for them to sleep

If you want your dog to be truly comfortable, you will make the place they spend most of their time extra cozy. We’re talking about their bed, of course. You wouldn’t want to sleep on a lumpy mess inside a subpar crate, so don’t put your dog through that. First, check this list for great crate options. Next, think about the padding. This list has some good options for dogs of any size, like a high-rise extra-padded bed for large dogs and a smaller “cuddlier” style bed for smaller breeds.

A way to transport them in any weather

If you and your dog are true BFFs, there’s a good chance that you like to take them everywhere and do lots of fun outdoors activities. If this is the case, you probably have to deal with a wet, dirty dog at times. Fret no more. Add a car seat cover to your holiday wish list and protect your car’s upholstery while giving you the ability to take your dog anywhere, despite the weather or terrain. Here are some good options.

A custom dog portrait

You said you really love your dog, right? Well, if you would like to have some great art of your beloved pooch hanging on your walls, your wish list should include some original artwork. You can request that your gift givers contact a local artist, or you can seek out the many options for dog-centric original artwork available on sites like Etsy.

A way to find out what they truly are

You know your lovable mutt is a mix of at least a few dogs. Don’t you want to know exactly what breeds make up your favorite animal? A dog DNA kit is a gift that you may not give yourself, but is perfect for a holiday wish list. Here’s a good breakdown of your options.

A selfie ball

Ending on a silly gift idea (but one guaranteed to make you and your dog smile), check out this doggie selfie ball attachment for your phone. It sits atop your phone and commands your dog’s attention so that you can take the perfect selfie with them. Then, once you’ve Snapchatted your selfie, you can actually throw the ball and play some fetch. It’s only silly if it doesn’t achieve its intended purpose, right?

Your holiday wish list should include things that make you happy and improve your life. If you love your dog, gifts that benefit them or give you a greater piece of mind about their happiness and security are certainly good for you too, right?

 

**Western Sustainability Exchange is not an affiliate of any of the companies linked in this blog and doesn't make any money if you use any of the links.

Preparing Your Yard & Gardens for Fall by guest blogger Christy Erickson

Now that the leaves are starting to turn beautiful colors and the air is getting cooler, you know that fall is finally here. Whether it was a hot summer in your region or a mild one, you’re still looking forward to everything that autumn brings: football, Halloween, apple picking, and much more.

However, your yard and gardens are not looking forward to the season. Both can suffer in the cooler weather, and winter will soon be here with frosts and snowfall. That’s why you need to prepare the outside of your property for fall. Not only will this help your plants survive, it will keep up the curb appeal (and thereby the value) of your home.

 

 Image Source:  Pixabay

Image Source: Pixabay

Keep Your Lawn Looking Great

A huge part of curb appeal is your lawn. A wide stretch of deep green grass in the front and back of your home shows everyone that you take good care of your home. To do that for fall, Popular Mechanics lists several lawn care tips, such as

●      Drop your mower’s blade to its lowest setting and keep mowing. Shorter blades of grass allow more sunlight to reach the lawn. It also means the lawn has an easier time getting nutrients and water to shorter blades, helping it stay green.

●      Aerate your lawn. This allows more water and oxygen to get deep into your soil (you can typically rent aerators at your home improvement store).

●      Keep raking up those leaves. Even though it’s a pain, a cover of leaves will soon suffocate your lawn.

Even when you’ve raked up all of your leaves or have a patch that doesn’t get many, HGTV says you still need to rake your lawn. This tears out the dead grass and bits of debris that can sicken a lawn. You’ll also want to use an autumn lawn fertilizer and sow grass seeds. If your region is dry, water the lawn so the nutrients and seeds get into the soil.

Protect Your Gardens

If your landscaping has a garden or two in it, you can’t simply treat it exactly the same way as your lawn. Raking a garden full of vegetables or flowers is just a bad idea. Thankfully, Redfin has an excellent page outlining some fall gardening tips:

  1. Clean up any dead plants (including those pesky leaves) and compost them. It makes your garden look better, and the compost can also help your garden stay healthy in fall and winter.
  2. If you are thinking about making any changes to your gardens or landscaping, now is the time to plan them out. Things grow fast in spring, so start digging now to take advantage of the slower growth in fall.
  3. Examine your garden and look for ways to conserve water. Xeriscaping is when you design gardens and landscapes to look great but use less water.
  4. Put mulch down around your garden plants. This insulates the ground and helps reduce the freeze-thaw-freeze cycle that hits during winter.

What To Plant During Fall

As you prepare your lawn and gardens for the cooler weather, you might want to consider planting something new. There are a lot of plants that are perfect for fall planting, especially because many will bloom beautifully come spring.

You want to focus on plants that are hardy and long-lived like perennials. Pick some early bloomers such as hellebores that can blossom in winter or astilbes that flower early in the spring. Pansies also make great fall plants. Getting them into the soil in fall allows them to grow roots deep enough to survive winter and look great in the spring.

Get Outside Already

Before you kick back to watch some football or get ready for Halloween, you’ll want to prepare your lawn and gardens for fall. Getting rid of fallen leaves, adding some fertilizer, and planting some hardy perennials can make sure your landscaping looks amazing for many seasons to come.

This Is Why Bees Are Vital To Your Family by guest blogger Christy Erickson

The disappearance of bees has been in the news the past few years. That’s because it is big news. Roughly a third of the entire bee population in the world has died off, and in the US, bees are now an endangered species.

So what? Why should you and your family worry about some missing bees? Believe it or not, bees are vital to your family. They help create the food your family eats, and not just honey. Here’s why you need to worry about bees — and how your family can help.

 Image Source:  Pixabay

Image Source: Pixabay

What Bees Do For Your Dinner And Budget

Why are these stinging insects important for your family? Believe it or not, it’s because bees give us cheaper food.

In order for crops to keep growing a new generation, they need to be pollinated. Bees are one of nature’s most prolific and efficient pollinators. That’s why bees are responsible for $19 billion of crops in the US alone. This includes many foods your family loves: apples, almonds, cucumbers, blueberries, strawberries, and more.

So when there are fewer bees pollinating, there are fewer foods in your grocery store. This drives up the price of staples like apples and strawberries since they are scarce. But if the bees disappear completely, so will those crops.

A Simple Way To Help: Start Gardening

Starting a garden is a great thing to do as a family. Your kids will love getting dirty while growing plants. And if you focus on flowering plants, you can also create something that helps bees.

A bee-friendly garden offers plenty of nectar for bees, helping them grow, stay healthy, and reproduce. Buzz About Bees offers some great suggestions on how you and your kids can start such a garden.

●      Pick plants that offer a lot of nectar and pollen. Talk to your local garden supply store for ones that grow best in your local climate.

●      Plant in groups. It makes it easier for bees to find the flowers that way.

●      Pick flowers that bloom at different times of the year to provide year-round food for bees.

Here are a few vegetable and fruit plants that will also be great in a bee garden (plus, your kids will love the food):

●      Blackberries

●      Strawberries

●      Watermelons

●      Pumpkins

If you don’t have room in the yard for a big garden, you can always use some pots or window boxes for flowers bees love.

Other Ways You Can Help Save The Bees

If your kids aren’t enthused about starting a garden, there are other ways your family can help protect bees. Mental Floss recommends buying local honey and beeswax, but you should also leave out water near any flowering plants. Bees need to drink and bathe like any animal.

Lastly, consider buying more organic products. One of the big reasons bees are disappearing is the overuse of pesticides. Organic farming does not include pesticides, so buying organic produce makes it financially smart for other farmers to avoid pesticides.

Protect The Bees For Your Family

Without enough bees, many foods on your dinner table can disappear. There are other animals that pollinate, but none do anywhere near the job done by bees. That’s why you need to build a bee-friendly garden and buy some local, organic foods. Besides, doing both can be a fun and healthy thing for your whole family.