Sunday, May 4, 2014

Land donation to a land trust by John Ross Rule along the headwaters of Frog Bayou an example of how to protect Arkansas' green valleys

Aubrey James Shepherd's short-take running May 4 to 9, 2014, on Cox Cable 218 in Bentonville, Rogers, Springdale, Fayetteville and Fort Smith area at 11 a.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday plus 5 a.m. and 5 p.m. Sunday, Wednesday and Friday. Also at same times on AT&T U-verse 99 plus on station's Internet site.
Also view more than 1,300 photos from John Rule's Road to Frog Bayou on Flickr.

John Rule reads selections of his poetry and prose on several videos on You Tube on my channel

Friday, February 7, 2014

Kessler Mountain protection plan outlined in NW Arkansas Times story Feb. 7, 2014


Fayetteville Cuts Deal To Buy Mount Kessler Land

Preservation Promoted On Former SouthPass Site

Posted: February 7, 2014 at 5 a.m.
Phil Penny, director of the Ozark Offroad Cyclists group, left, and Frank Sharp describe a historic trail through 'Rock City' on Kessler Mountain Friday, April 27, 2012, to a group of city of Fayetteville officials and Parks and Recreation Advisory Board members during a tour of the area that property owners and local conservation leaders are working to preserve.
FAYETTEVILLE — City officials have negotiated a $3 million deal to buy more than 300 acres of woodland on Mount Kessler next to a planned regional park.
If aldermen approve the purchase Feb. 18, it would cap a decade-long effort to preserve the land, which features about 6 miles of hiking and mountain bike trails, groves of more than 200-year-old oak trees and views of southwest Fayetteville.
Mayor Lioneld Jordan’s administration intends to spend $1.5 million in general fund reserve that will be matched by $1.5 million from the Walton Family Foundation.
A group of Mount Kessler advocates, led by Frank Sharp, have said buying the land will promote outdoor recreation, environmental protection, educational opportunities and draw economic development.
At A Glance
The SouthPass project was part of a public-private partnership brokered by former Mayor Dan Coody in 2004.
SouthPass developers John Nock, Richard Alexander, Hank Broyles and Steve Aust agreed to donate 200 acres to the city for a regional park and give $1 million in exchange for the city annexing the property, resolving environmental issues associated with a former landfill and sharing in the cost of extending utilities to the development.
City Council members approved plans for 750 houses, 2,900 apartments, 630 condominiums and 360,000-square-feet of commercial space in 2008. Development never occurred, and Chambers Bank acquired the property in lieu of foreclosure in 2010.
Source: Staff Report
According to a trail log kept by Sharp, whose homestead lies next to the land, about 20 percent of the 3,800 people who visited Mount Kessler the past year came from outside the city. Thirty percent had a University of Arkansas affiliation, Sharp said.
Jordan sees the purchase as a way of expanding the regional park, where construction is expected to begin later this year. The park won’t just be a place for ballgames and barbecues anymore, Jordan said. Residents will be able to go on wilderness walks and bird-watching trips, too. And buying land next to the regional park will allow for several street and trail connections.
“Now we’ll have a complete park — the sports end of it on one end and what I call passive recreation, where you can hike and bike, on the other,” Jordan said. “We didn’t seem to have the funding to do that before, but it was something I always wanted to do.”
“This is something that will be this city’s legacy,” he said. “It’s something that will be preserved forever.”
Chambers Bank, based in Danville, owns the land. The city’s reserve has grown to $12.7 million, said Paul Becker, city finance director. About $5.7 million must be kept on hand as 60 days of operating expenses.
Aldermen must decide to accept the contribution from the philanthropic organization run by the family of Sam and Helen Walton. The Walton Family Foundation has assets totaling about $2 billion.
As a condition for the grant, the city will be required to spend an additional $100,000 to build a publicly accessible trailhead on the property. City officials will have to close on the land by mid-April, and they must agree to maintain and operate all current and future trails.
Kevin Thornton, senior communication officer for the foundation, said the grant fits with one the foundation’s goals: providing access to high-quality education, the arts and natural amenities.
Parks and trails help companies recruit top talent to the region, Thornton said. He envisioned Mount Kessler as a southern anchor of the Razorback Regional Greenway, which the foundation also helped fund. The north end of the 36-mile trail system will be anchored by the Slaughter Pen trails in Bentonville, Thornton said.
City officials plan to cover a $300,000 pledge from the Fayetteville Natural Heritage Association with their $1.6 million commitment. Bob Caulk, chairman of the Natural Heritage Association’s board, said the group plans to raise the money over three years. The association is the same group that gave nearly $500,000 to the city to help buy Mount Sequoyah Woods property and Brooks-Hummel Nature Preserve behind Evelyn Hills Shopping Center.
Steve Schneider, vice president of Ozark Off Road Cyclists, said members of the nonprofit organization may be involved with maintaining and extending trails they built on Mount Kessler.
“We’re excited,” Schneider said. “There’s going to be some really good partnerships down the road.”
The 376 acres are part of a failed development called SouthPass dating to 2004.
Chambers made good on developers’ promise to deed the city 200 acres for a regional park in 2010. The bank also agreed to honor a $1 million commitment to the city as development occurs. Don Marr, Jordan’s chief of staff, said Thursday that $1 million commitment could go away if property that remains bank-owned is rezoned.
Hunter Haynes, who has served as a consultant on the SouthPass property for Chambers Bank for several years, said Thursday the deal with the city could help Chambers find a buyer for the 200 acres the bank still owns.
Haynes said commercial buildings would still be ideal along Cato Springs Road with residential dwellings in the interior of the site.
“We’re excited about the future,” he said. “That’s why (Chambers) agreed to this sale. They believe that in the future it benefits not just the remaining property, but that whole area.”
About 328 acres would be part of the sale agreement. Another 48 would be donated to the city and count as parkland dedication for future development.
The $3 million purchase is about $9,100 per acre. By comparison, members of the University of Arkansas board last month agreed to pay about $2.6 million for 51 acres south of Cato Springs Road and east of Interstate 540 where intramural fields are planned. That works out to about $51,000 per acre.
“This is going to be a bargain for the city,” Sharp said.
Fayetteville aldermen must approve spending reserve money before the transaction is complete.
Both Ward 1 City Council members, who represent south Fayetteville, said Thursday they’re on board.
“I feel like it’s alright to use reserves for something like this, because it’s a one-time expenditure,” Alderwoman Adella Gray said. “If the property’s gone, we can never get it back.”
Alderwoman Sarah Marsh called the proposal “the chance of a lifetime.”
“To have such an amazing asset put in the public trust — we can’t pass up this opportunity,” Marsh said. “I’m so proud of our mayor and staff for putting this together.”

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Small-scale organic farming only way to feed the world

UN Report Says Small-Scale Organic Farming Only Way to Feed the World


Nick Meyer | AltHealthWORKS

Even as the United States government continues to push for the use of more chemically-intensive and corporate-dominated farming methods such as GMOs and monoculture-based crops, the United Nations is once against sounding the alarm about the urgent need to return to (and develop) a more sustainable, natural and organic system.

That was the key point of a new publication from the UN Commission on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) titled“Trade and Environment Review 2013: Wake Up Before It’s Too Late,” which included contributions from more than 60 experts around the world.

The cover of the report looks like that of a blockbuster documentary or Hollywood movie, and the dramatic nature of the title cannot be understated: The time is now to switch back to our natural farming roots.

The New UN Farming Report "Wake Up Before It's Too Late."
The New UN Farming Report “Wake Up Before It’s Too Late.” Click here to read it.
The findings on the report seem to echo those of a December 2010 UN Report in many ways, one that essentially said organic and small-scale farming is the answer for “feeding the world,” not GMOs and monocultures.

According to the new UN report, major changes are needed in our food, agriculture and trade systems, with a shift toward local small-scale farmers and food systems recommended.

Diversity of farms, reducing the use of fertilizer and other changes are desperately needed according to the report, which was highlighted in this article from the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy.

It also said that global trade rules should be reformed in order to work toward these ends, which is unfortunately the opposite of what mega-trade deals like the proposed Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the U.S.-EU Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) are seeking to accomplish.

The Institute noted that these pending deals are “primarily designed to strengthen the hold of multinational corporate and financial firms on the global economy…” rather than the reflect the urgent need for a shift in agriculture described in the new report.

Even global security may be at stake according to the report, as food prices (and food price speculating) continue to rise.

“This implies a rapid and significant shift from conventional, monoculture-based and high-external-input-dependent industrial production toward mosaics of sustainable, regenerative production systems that also considerably improve the productivity of small-scale farmers,” the report concludes.

You can read more about the report from the Institute by visiting their website here.



Sunday, September 29, 2013

State discharge-permit law draws EPA scrutiny, newspaper reports


Discharge-permit law draws EPA scrutiny

Rules violate water act, state panel told

The state Pollution Control and Ecology Commission on Friday asked the Department of Environmental Quality to share with state legislators correspondence from federal regulators over mineral-discharge permits.
The request was made after the department warned that the Environmental Protection Agency might “federalize” 14 mineral-discharge permits issued by the state. Federal officials say a new Arkansas environmental law conflicts with the CleanWater Act.
Department Director Teresa Marks said federal officials are prepared to intervene in February if Arkansas officials do nothing. The permits are required before businesses and municipalities can discharge pollutants into the state’s waterways.
“It’s very much a conundrum for us, too, because even if we wanted to issue these permits the way they would be acceptable under federal law, we can’t because we’re prohibited under state law,” Marks said.
Act 954, which was approved by the Legislature earlier this year, removes the default drinking-water designation for Arkansas waterways and alters how the department monitors mineral discharges. Those changes, the department and EPA have said, put the state’s monitoring out of compliance with the federal Clean Water Act.
Critics of the new law have said it could endanger drinking-water sources by allowing an increase in minerals, including chlorides and sulfates, in state waterways.
Marks said the department has no discretion on whether to follow the law without action by the Legislature.
Charles Moulton, the pollution commission’s administrative law judge, reminded the commission that no action could be taken by the Legislature when it is not in session. The Legislature could take up the issue during a special session or the forthcoming fiscal session, but Moulton said that was unlikely.
If the EPA decides to “federalize” the mineral-discharge permits, federal regulators could do the same with 10-15 permits a year as they come up for renewal. But if the EPA changes stream designations, it could require all permits to be reviewed, said Ryan Benefield, the department’s deputy director.
Commissioner Bill Thompson of Cabot said he wanted to be sure that legislators were aware of the EPA’s findings and “the position the commission is in.” He said he felt litigation was inevitable.
“I don’t want to offend anyone; I don’t want to make them mad. I just want them to be aware of [the findings],” Thompson said.
Several commission members said representatives in the industry would prefer continued state control of the permits instead of having the process turned over to federal regulators.
“I’m sure when it finally hits these permittees that they’re going under federal, instead of state [regulation] … then they’re going to be unhappy,” Thompson said.
Northwest Arkansas, Pages 9 on 09/28/2013

Construction runoff cited during Beaver Lake watershed-protection meeting in Huntsville, Arkansas


Tame runoff, say watershed experts

HUNTSVILLE - As the population within the Beaver Lake Watershed continues to grow, residents will need to take increasing measures to mitigate the side effects of paving and construction, experts said Friday.
The importance of controlling storm-water runoff - a term for rainwater that can’t be absorbed into the soil because the land is covered with impermeable surfaces such as asphalt - was emphasized throughout several presentations during the Beaver Lake Watershed Symposium Friday at theCarroll Electric Building in Huntsville.
More than a dozen experts in hydrology, aquaculture and other biological sciences spoke before a crowd of about 60. While the topics of individual presentations ranged from the development and implementation of the Beaver Lake Watershed protection strategy to methods of stream restoration and water-quality testing, many of the speakers reiterated that one of the best ways to protect the region’s drinking water is to find ways of redirecting storm water into absorbent soils, rather thanlet it flow freely into open surface waters.
Katie Teague, an agent with the Benton County Extension Office, touched on several factors addressing water-quality protection while asking the audience to participate in a trivia game focused on water-pollution issues.
According to data provided by Teague and others, about 20 percent of rainfall in rural areas remains on the surface of the land as runoff when construction has made at least10 percent of the area impermeable. Teague said that a 1,000-square-foot house will displace 623 gallons of water from 1 inch of rainfall.
“From the homeowner side, it’s just the sheer volume of storm water that’s generated ontheir property, and pollutants that they can introduce that can be carried off their site, into a storm drain, untreated, into the nearest creek or stream,” Teague said. “We encourage ways to break up that path and slow down that water so it cansoak in.”
When water is allowed to permeate vegetation and existing soil, a natural filtration process can remove or reduce excess nutrients and other pollutants from the water as it makes its way into aquifers, and eventually into an area’s drinking water.
John Pennington, executive director of the Beaver Lake Watershed Alliance, has said he hopes the symposium will become an annual event. The alliance, a nonprofit organization founded in 2010, aims to promote awareness of factors that affect the quality of the drinking water in Beaver Lake,which is provided approximately to 420,000 people and sources its water from a watershed covering more than 1,200 square miles.
Brad Hufhines, an environmental technician with the Beaver Water District Treatment Plant, discussed how the use of “rain gardens” can help homes and businesses offset their impermeable footprint by creating areas of vegetation where storm-water runoff will pool and percolate into soil.
“We’re gaining 30 residents every day in Northwest Arkansas, so we’re becoming much more populated, much more built-out,” Hufhines said.“We’re covering up the natural land with impervious surfaces, and that’s causing a lot more water to flow into our streams rapidly. We’re getting more intense flooding and sediment from erosion that’s occurring at an increased level.”
Hufhines said the gardens, which are constructed in depressions to allow runoff to flow toward them, are effective and low-cost ways of trapping and filtering sediment and pollutants.
“I think that’s not the answer for everybody, but it’s one of several best management practices that can be used throughout the watershed.”
Northwest Arkansas, Pages 9 on 09/28/2013

Monday, April 15, 2013

Two great events celebrating Earth Day on Saturday and Sunday April 20-21, 2013, in Fayetteville

Please click on images to ENLARGE for easy reading.
John Rule looking across Frog Bayou where it runs through his property in Crawford County

Earth Day poster with Western Wall Flower on WPWP