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Category Archives: Resource Based Economy

The Fiji Times Party’s alternative budget – Fiji Times

Posted: January 24, 2022 at 9:46 am

The Unity Fiji partys alternative budget was not focused on cutting the governments total expenses, said party leader Savenaca Narube.

He said the alternative budget was directed towards easing peoples suffering, fighting the virus, and promoting a resource-based economy.

Mr Narube said this in response to what Mr Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said during a recent news conference.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said it would have been a disaster if the Unity Fiji partys alternative budget was implemented.

Ill tell you why, because he basically recommended a large budget cut, he said.

He said Mr Narube had recommended a huge salary reduction for civil servants and if it was done, the economy wouldve shrunk.

And when the economy shrinks you have less money in the economy, then, of course, there is no economic activity.

As it is, people are unemployed because of tourism, because of borders closing down, which had a spillover effect on all the other sectors of the economy.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said Mr Narube had proposed for the government to reduce its expenditure.

So no $360, no $90, no GP excess, no market stall fees payment, none of that to be done, civil servants to have their pay cut, all of he was proposing that we should do.

In response, Mr Narube said his partys alternative budget would have given three times more to the people than what the government was doing with its token $360.

We think that tourism will take five years to recover, the minister, as always, thinks that it will recover much faster.

Mr Narube said Mr Sayed-Khaiyums interpretation of the partys budget was absolutely wrong.

We did not cut total expenses but redirected them to ease the peoples suffering, fight the virus and promote the resource-based economy.

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Salt River Project, Navajo Nation partner on new solar power facility in Arizona – Farmington Daily Times

Posted: at 9:45 am

FARMINGTON A Phoenix-based public power utility and the Navajo Nation have extended thecontract for the utility to continue receivingelectric power from a solar power facility outside of Kayenta, Arizona through March 2038.

Officials from Salt River Project, Navajo Tribal Utility Authority and the Navajo Nation government signed the contracton Jan. 20 in Phoenix.

In addition, the parties signed an agreementto build a new solar facility in Cameron, Arizona in the Western Agency of the Navajo Nation.

This facility would produce 200 megawatts of energy and would go into operation by the end of next year.

More: Bill calling for helium development in Northern Agency moves to Navajo Nation Council

Officials touted the new site as supporting renewable energy development on the Navajo Nation.

In separate news releases, Salt River Project and the tribal president's office stated that the Cameron project will generate approximately $11 million for the land lease as well as $32 million in transmission operations over the next 25 years.

It will also bring approximately $15 million in tax revenue and provide between 300-400 jobs during construction with up to 90%going to tribal members.

"This collaboration with the Navajo Nation on the Kayenta Solar generation facility supports the Navajo community's transition from a coal-based economy and has provided a valuable resource to SRP's growing renewable energy portfolio," Salt River Project General Manager and CEO Mike Hummel said in the releases. "In addition, we are extremely honored to work alongside NTUA to continue to work together on future projects including Cameron Solar."

More: Horror film made by Navajo siblings finally arrives in theaters

NTUA is a tribal enterprise. It has been operating the solar energy facility near Kayenta known as Kayenta I since May 2017.

Together with its partnering site, Kayenta II, generates enough energy to power 36,000 homes on the tribal land, according to the news releases.

"The NTUA renewable energy development goal is multifaceted which includes helping to generate a new Navajo Nation economy, creating new jobs, keeping electric and utility rates stable and using excess proceeds to connect homes to the electric grid," NTUA General Manager Walter Haase said in the news releases.

More: Navajo Transitional Energy Company CEO to retire at end of January

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at nsmith@daily-times.com.

Support local journalism with a digital subscription to The Daily Times.

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The State of Green Business 2022 | Greenbiz – GreenBiz

Posted: at 9:45 am

Adapted from the 2022 State of Green Business, published today by GreenBiz Group. Download the report here.

We find ourselves in uncharted and unfamiliar territory. Again.

The worlds we collectively inhabit corporate sustainability, sustainable finance, the circular economy, climate tech are all reaching inflection points, growing and changing faster than many could have imagined. Along the way, theyre roiling industries, companies, jobs and career paths mostly for the better but also in a be-careful-what-you-wish-for kind of way.

The Age of COVID has coincided with the rise of nearly every aspect of sustainable business: companies commitments to achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions; the mind-blowing uptake of green bonds and sustainability-linked loans; the inexorable growth of renewable energy, alongside its declining price; the mainstreaming of electric vehicles; the rise of concern about biodiversity loss and its economic impact, and more.

The worlds we collectively inhabit are reaching inflection points, growing and changing faster than many could have imagined.

Indeed, the past two years of pandemic life seem to have left sustainable business relatively unscathed. With good reason: Despite our self-imposed isolation, the klieg lights focused on companies environmental and social commitments and performance have grown increasingly brighter and hotter, in lockstep with the rise of concern about the scale, scope and pace of change. With the signs of a changing climate becoming ever more apparent and costly the business world is finally recognizing that sustainability is not merely a nice-to-do activity.

Which is not to say that companies are solidly on the case. True, the pace of change has quickened, with more companies making bigger commitments, but its far from whats needed to address the challenges before us. Carbon emissions, which dropped in tandem with the tanking global economy during 2020, resumed their relentless climb in 2021, faster than many scientists predicted, according to the Global Carbon Project. And scientists expect emissions to rise even further in 2022 as the global economy continues to pick up steam.

Thats just one data point, albeit a significant one, casting a pall over the corporate sustainability landscape. Theres the continued loss of biodiversity spurred by land-use changes from economic growth coupled with the ravages of a changing climate. Theres the ongoing loss of fisheries and marine ecosystems upending the seafood industry. Theres the growth of water stress due largely to population and economic growth: Just over half 52 percent of the worlds projected 9.7 billion people will live in water-stressed regions by 2050, with most in developing economies, according to the MIT Integrated Global System Model Water Resource System.

Thats the duality in which the world of sustainable business exists: impressive progress, innovation and achievements, but nowhere near enough to stem the tide of the terrifying environmental and socioeconomic challenges ahead.

Still, theres no denying that the pace of change is quickening inside companies. The number of consortia, partnerships, initiatives and innovations can be overwhelming, even breathtaking at times. Whereas not long ago, the center of gravity could be found inside a handful of sectors consumer goods, information technology, retail and apparel come to mind today, theres no part of the economy untouched by sustainable innovation.

Witness the rise of climate tech, shorthand for a stunning array of technologies and solutions aimed at decarbonizing business and commerce. They represent the convergence of leading-edge thinking in artificial intelligence, blockchain, green chemistry, synthetic biology, advanced materials, remote sensing and other disciplines and technologies. Individually and in concert, these future-facing advances stand to reinvent large swaths of the economy.

Were already seeing the fruits of those innovations: plant-based proteins, textiles and chemicals; advanced, low-carbon steel, concrete and other materials; the electrification of buildings and vehicles; cleaner and more resilient energy systems; adaptive, climate-resilient infrastructure.

One challenge, and opportunity, is whether and how these innovations scale quickly enough to offset the growing global economy, and whether they will be accessible to those at every rung of the economic ladder in particular, communities, businesses and individuals in rapidly growing economies in Asia, Africa and South America.

It wont be easy. If the inequitable distribution of COVID vaccines is any indication, the worlds richest countries are ill-prepared to adequately care for those in need. To the extent that we can view the current pandemic as a peek into the kinds of global emergencies we may increasingly be confronting well, its a sobering reality check.

One bright spot in all this is the world of finance, which has finally recognized both the business risks and opportunities of a climate-changing world. The worlds largest banks, insurance companies, institutional investors and pension funds are increasingly moving funds out of polluting industries or, at least, companies within those industries deemed to be least prepared to meet the new environmental realities and into companies and funds that seem to be part of the solutions.

Its a highly imperfect process. The ability to accurately distinguish climate leaders from laggards continues to befuddle the worlds largest investors and financial markets. Many of the banks that profess to be shifting funding away from polluting companies and industries are still backing coal mines and oil wells. Investment funds purporting to focus on companies that score well on environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues still have polluting companies in their portfolios.

The ability to accurately distinguish climate leaders from laggards continues to befuddle the worlds largest investors and financial markets.

It will be a long, slow process to shift completely away from the bad to the good, assuming we can agree on what "good" even means. The sobering challenge: We dont have that kind of time.

One area of growing focus are companies lobbying efforts and political support of legislation and public policy that can accelerate the kinds of changes scientists say we need to make. For years, companies willing to stand up against the well-funded fossil-fuel lobby were relatively few and far between. Thats just beginning to change. The pressure of activist and advocacy groups pushing businesses to get off the sidelines and take a stand is rising.

If corporations do and thats a big "if" the private sector could further burnish its credentials as a positive force for change. However, if businesses opt for short-term profit over longer-term survival, it will be that much tougher to make progress. Either way, the story of corporate climate advocacy will be one of the more interesting to watch in the year ahead.

I invite you to follow me on Twitter, subscribe to my Monday morning newsletter, GreenBuzz, from which this was reprinted, and listen to GreenBiz 350, my weekly podcast, co-hosted with Heather Clancy.

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Alina Donets: Soil Must Find Its Place in the Balance Sheets – finews.asia

Posted: at 9:45 am

Economics is currently experiencing a change in how things are viewed. Soil is an important factor when it comes to production. Therefore, it should receive a place in the balance sheets of companies. It is a new investment theme with yield potential, Alina Donets writes in an essay on finews.first.

This article is published on finews.first, a forum for authors specialized in economic and financial topics.

I invest in environmentally friendly companies. When clients make this statement, the sustainability megatrend is taking a lead in the financial industry. Around twenty years ago, the still narrow but in many senses of the word sustainable victorious march of green investments began. The common strategy is based on a best-in-class selection process in which investors' money is channeled into companies that meet the highest environmental standards within their industry.

This focus inevitably leads to asset managers broadening their knowledge in this field and some go even one step further at this point and additionally invest in companies that also develop products and services that contribute to the achievement of sustainability goals. Investment managers are thus able to specialize in key fields, creating return advantages through their advantage in insight knowledge. Thus, thematic investing allows for more consistent and attractive alpha generation.

This is exactly what needs to change according to some scientists

The industry has since preferred to sell certain topics rather than financial products. It is more practical to be able to say to the client: By investing in this fund, you will benefit from technological progress. Or from the aging of the population. Or from electric mobility, etc. The list of potential themes is as long as modern life is complex. Thematic investing allows you to focus on the factors that the investor can identify with, with a consistent focus, attracting more capital.

Economics recognizes three factors of production. By combining those factors, goods are being created and the cycle of economic activity is being nurtured: Soil, labor, capital. Only two of these, labor and capital, have a price. Nature is considered a common good and is available for free but this is exactly what needs to change according to some scientists. One of them is Partha Dasgupta.

He has calculated that global physical capital doubled between 1992 and 2014 and human capital, i.e., the accumulated knowledge and skills of humankind, increased by 13 percent. Only natural capital fell by 40 percent. As a result, 1.6 Earths would be needed today to sustain humanity and its standard of living. Or to put it more bluntly: nature's assets will not last much longer. Unless the human species consumes less, grows more slowly, protects nature, uses it more efficiently and invests in its preservation. One way to achieve this is as always through a price tag.

The financial industry is asked to give its capital flows a new goal

The UNs Environment Programme UNEP agrees with this point of view. In the State of the World 2021 report, governments are called upon to include natural capital in their calculations of economic performance. Nature should no longer be available free of charge as a passive good, but its use or destruction should be included in a balance sheet. For example, through a certain price with regard to the emission of carbon dioxide. In addition, public subsidies should be withdrawn from fossil fuels and redirected to nature-friendly technologies. Banks should stop lending for the exploitation of coal, gas and oil, and companies should avoid waste by promoting the circular economy, etc.

As a result, the financial industry is asked to give its capital flows a new goal. More than 50 percent of global GDP depends on nature and with a Natural Capital strategy, it is possible to invest in solution providers that help preserve nature by transitioning to leaner industrial processes, as well as harnessing its infinite potential and regenerative powers by developing the circular bio-economy. I am convinced that a Natural Capital strategy contains an opportunity for above-average market returns for investors along the way.

A fund defines four dimensions of the natural capital theme

To achieve this, a fund defines four dimensions of the natural capital theme, in a first step: the bio-cycle economy, resource efficiency, results-oriented economy and waste prevention. After which, a best-practice approach is used to select those small and medium-sized enterprises that realize gains in efficiency and close loops along with the entire production, consumption, and disposal chain. In addition, we keep an eye out for innovators who develop solutions that help to preserve nature and use its regenerative powers.

If the topic of natural capital establishes itself within the realm of science, society, and the financial sector, it could indeed be that companies that today pride themselves on having a ranking in one of the many ESG indices and present their sustainability reports almost naturally, will in 2040 just as easily value the development of their natural capital as a success factor and report about it on their balance sheets in pennies and nickels.

Alina Donets is a portfolio manager in LOIMs Global Equities division. She joined Lombard Odier Investment Managers (LOIM) in November 2020 and has been managing sustainability portfolios for seven years. Previously, she worked at Allianz Global Investors as a portfolio manager from 2017 until 2020. She was also a portfolio manager in Bank Audi. Prior to this, she worked at Pictet Asset Management as an investment manager, Pictet Water, from 2013 to 2016 and as a supporting investment manager, Pictet Global Environmental Opportunities, from 2014 to 2016. She began her career as a graduate trainee at Pictet in 2012. She holds a masters degree in International Business from HEC in Lausanne and a bachelors of science degree in Business Studies from Cass Business School in London. In addition to passing the CFA examinations, she has been awarded the ESG CFA certificate, the CFA Institute Investment Foundations TM certificate as well as the IMC certificate (Units I and II).

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New Vision for Economic Transformation; Rethinking Resource Allocation and Productive Structures – Global Village space

Posted: at 9:45 am

The Economic Advisory Group (EAG), an independent group comprising individuals from academia, policy, and the private sector, presents a vision for economic transformation that focuses on understanding key factors which have prevented this from happening in the case of Pakistan.

It draws from the experience of other emerging economies and leading economic research on how countries have successfully transformed their economies by letting their productive structures adapt and evolve over time.

The recommended policy actions laid out in EAGs recent publication, New Vision for Economic Transformation, are a significant departure from the traditional focus on achieving growth by reinforcing existing structures of the economy. While such traditional approaches did deliver many episodes of growth spurts, these always proved to be short-lived, often leading to the build-up of large imbalances and, ultimately, crises.

Read more: Regional Connectivity: Vital Element of Economic and National Security

A key requirement for transformation is that economic resources must be allowed to move from less productive to more productive activities. In a market economy, this critically depends on whether the incentive structure is allowed to evolve such that returns from investing in more productive activities are indeed higher than those from less productive activities.

Data shows that the structure of Pakistans economy has remained ossified over the past several decades. The data includes exports of goods and is taken from the Observatory of Economic Complexity. The lack of economic transformation which the country has experienced since 2000 stands out.

In 2019, Pakistans export basket continued to be dominated by similar low value-added manufactured goods and primary products, as in 2000. Going even further back in time presents a similar picture.

In contrast, similar data for Vietnam shows it has successfully transformed its economy towards producing high value-added manufacturing goods. Specifically, Vietnams production structure has moved away from low value-added products towards high and moderately sophisticated sectors such as electronics, chemicals, value-added textiles, and tourism. Such transformation is not limited to Vietnam alone but extends to other emerging economies, including Thailand, the Philippines, and China, amongst others.

Apart from failing to transform the sectoral makeup of its production structure, Pakistan has also fallen behind in gaining the capabilities necessary for producing high value-added products within existing sectors. For example, while Pakistan added 21 new products in its export basket since 2003, these only contributed $2 per capita to the value of its exports.

In contrast, Thailand and Vietnam added 34 and 48 new products, contributing $213 and $1,020 per capita to the value of their exports, respectively. Pakistans inability to produce high value-added products is reflected in its ranking on the Economic Complexity Index (ECI), which is based on countries relative sophistication levels; and reflects locally available capabilities at any point in time.

Read more: EAG welcomes focus on economy, cautions on overstretch of NSP

Countries exporting a large variety of products that few other countries can make are ranked higher on the ECI than those making a narrow range of products that many other countries also make. The graph above shows that not only is Pakistans ranking low at 99 out of 133 countries, but the economy has become relatively less sophisticated, declining five places in ranking over the last decade. In contrast, Thailands (22) and Vietnams (52) ECI ranking improved by 9 and 11 places, respectively.

Pakistans lack of sophistication is reflected in its export basket, which is made up of less complex products and has remained so for decades. This is worrisome as the level of complexity is a strong predictor of a countrys growth potential. Hausmann and Hidalgo (2010) show that the sophistication of products made by countries matters more for long-term prosperity than simply the value extracted from them.

In the long run, the economic growth of countries is driven by the complexity of their respective economies. The relative positioning of countries on the index also seems to explain much of the variation in income levels across countries. By the same token, where there is a deviation from the relationship between income and the corresponding level of complexity, it predicts the countrys future growth potential.

For example, Vietnam, which is ranked 41 positions higher than Kazakhstan, despite having less than a third of the latters per capita income, is expected to grow significantly faster than the mineral-rich exporter. Effectively, the complexity of economies not only infers the actual level of income but also their latent potential.

The economist Franklin Fishers statement that In dealing with actual economies, the barriers (for resources to move) may be more important than the frontier underpins much of EAG recommendations to enable much-needed transformation. The independent think tank recommends the need to eliminate rent-seeking behavior that has prevented economic resources from getting reallocated from less to more productive endeavors.

Businesses that are unable to compete internationally through lack of innovation or inability to gain sufficient economies of scale and only survive through state subsidies or protection should be allowed to discontinue. This would encourage economic resources to move towards more productive businesses that can compete globally.

Read more: On National Security Policy of Pakistan

Elimination of rent-dependent activities would provide the impetus for a transformation towards the production of more value-added goods and a sophisticated economy much like China, India, Thailand, and Vietnam have succeeded in creating. Without doing so, Pakistan cannot prosper.

EAG contends that economic resources in Pakistan have failed to move towards the production of more complex goods since policy interventions have worked towards ensuring that the returns from engaging in the production of less complex goods continue to remain high.

As a result, there is no incentive for resources to move towards more productive endeavors. EAG contends that the key reason why Pakistan has not undergone a similar transformation as, lets say, Vietnam is because excessive protection and lack of structural reforms have prevented economic resources from getting reallocated to more productive endeavors.

While the policy areas identified and suggestions put forward by EAG are diverse, they are all geared towards putting in place an incentive structure that transforms Pakistans economy into an economy with a high degree of economic complexity, and hence greater relevance and potency in the context of the 21st-century globalized world.

Read more: Is a bloated bureaucracy responsible for Pakistans fiscal deficit?

EAG argues that it is only through these policies that the economy can progress beyond its ossified structure. A change of mindset and putting in place an incentive structure that is aimed at building capabilities and continuously allocating resources from less productive to more productive activities is imperative for transformation.

Javed Hassan has worked in senior executive positions both in the profit and non-profit sector in Pakistan and internationally. He is an investment banker by training. He Tweets @ javedhassan

The views expressed by the writers do not necessarily represent Global Village Spaces editorial policy

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Here’s how to navigate ‘The Great Relearning’ revolution – World Economic Forum

Posted: at 9:45 am

When COVID-19 forced the brakes on the global economy, millions of people decided to step off the treadmill to refuel their aspirations. As many as 40-75% of the workforce is reported to be considering quitting their current job. This movement has precipitated a talent crisis, fuelling debate on whether this is the Great Resignation or the Great Reshuffle. While each analysis is insightful, I believe we are looking at something completely different; we are at the tipping point of the Great Relearning Revolution.

While attrition numbers have been widely reported, the number of people choosing to learn has not. Enrollment on popular MOOC (massive open online course) platforms has skyrocketed. At Coursera, it was 640% higher from mid-March to mid-April 2020 than during the same period in 2019, growing from 1.6 to 10.3 million. At Udemy, enrolment was up over 400% between February and March 2020. The e-learning market, growing at a compound annual rate of 20%, is on course to reach a trillion dollars by 2027. Among the courses in high demand are data science, artificial intelligence and machine learning. For those struggling to find talent in these areas, thats promising news.

This hunger to relearn within the workforce also reflected some interesting dimensions in other recent surveys. A Gallup-Amazon study revealed that 48% of workers in the US are willing to switch to a new job if offered skills training opportunities and 65% of them believe employer-provided upskilling is very important when evaluating a potential new job. A MetLife survey highlighted an even more interesting insight: two in three (63%) women who left the workforce during the pandemic said they are ready to return and eight in 10 of those are considering careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

We seem to be witnessing a redefining of literacy, akin to Alvin Tofflers prophecy, The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.

What should companies do in the eye of this storm? Every sailor knows there are only two ways to weather a storm find the nearest port and anchor till it blows over, or adjust its sail, change course and ride the waves. Whats needed in the corporate environment is an adjustment of the sails. Denying this trend, playing it passively, or even reacting too aggressively (think inflated compensation tactics) is perhaps not the best solution, what is needed are three simple but foundational shifts in organizational human resource strategy:

Its time to broaden the employment perspective away from CTCs (cost to company). According to a BCG survey, 68% of workers around the world blue and white-collar alike are willing to retrain and learn new skills. We knew this about Gen Z and the Millennials. Not so well known was that fact that nearly two-thirds of people over 45 are prepared to spend a significant amount of time learning new skills. Interestingly, the perceived value of training and development is reported to have almost doubled in the last five years. Rewarding and actively encouraging this effort could be an effective new lever for reframing the organizational view of talent retention.

Historically, hiring has been anchored in conventional educational qualifications. We are now witnessing the stirrings of a promising new trend in the transition from an employers market to an employees market skill-based hiring. In the US, LinkedIn reports a 21% increase in job postings advertising skills and responsibilities instead of qualifications. But there is still an overriding bias towards qualifications in hiring we need to correct this urgently. Not only is finding a job the ultimate reward for an individuals investment in learning new skills, the right skill-fit results in better performance and a win-win.

Were all aware of the fact that an organizations success is enabled by its people. Its time to turn this philosophy upside down recognizing the fact that organizational success emerges when we become an enabler, when we create pathways to success for our people. A curious headline caught my attention the other day: Why a jungle gym is better than a corporate ladder. The article quoted talent experts advocating lateral moves, as well as dedicated time and money for learning in every company's reskilling plan. Be it offering reskilling opportunities, or providing time-off and budgets for self-directed learning, companies that respond to the growing hunger for learning will find themselves propelled forward by the momentum.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution calls for a new mindset of continual learning. Yet, its very basis internet of things, data analytics, cybersecurity, artificial intelligence and machine learning are all areas of talent scarcity today. Industry 4.0 needs an equally powerful revolution to build a strong foundation and fuel its growth: the Great Relearning Revolution. The key to hope and the lever to success. Ignoring it today would be our loss.

Written by

C. Vijayakumar, Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director, HCL Technologies

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

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Opening Statement of Thomas J. Vilsack Before the House Committee on Agriculture Remarks as Delivered – USDA.gov

Posted: at 9:45 am

WASHINGTON, January 20, 2022:

Mr. Chairman, thank you very, very much. I appreciate the opportunity to be here today. And also, to Representative Thompson, thank you for the opportunity to appear before the Committee. Thank you to the members for this opportunity.

I suppose I could focus on the fact that our farm income is as good as it's been in the last eight years and that we've had record exports, but I'd really like to focus on one phrase of my testimony on page four. I think it explains the heart of the challenge that farmers and rural America face and have faced for considerable period of time. I want to focus on the phrase an extractive economy. Extraction economy. I make this reference on page four of my testimony in order to set the stage for discussion, hopefully over the long haul, as you begin your process of the Farm Bill reauthorization.

An extraction economy is an economy that, essentially, takes things from the land and off the land. Unfortunately, rather than converting them into value and adding them in close to the rural areas where that natural resource is, they are transported long distances, where they are value added in some other location, where opportunities and jobs are created elsewhere. I think it's going to be important for us as we look forward to try to develop what is called a circular economy, in which the wealth is created and stays in rural areas.

Let me give you a couple of examples of how that could happen: There has been a focus on local and regional food systems. We learned during the pandemic that our system, our food system, was not as resilient as we hoped it would be. One of the ways of making it more resilient is to create local and regional opportunities. That's one of the reasons why we are focused on expanding processing capacity. Something that I hear all the time when I travel around the country is about the need for our cattle producers, our livestock producers, our hog producers to have choice and opportunity for a local processing facility that creates local jobs, that allows that revenue and wealth that's created from processing to stay in the community.

Another example is obviously the bio-based manufacturing. Biofuels are one example, but there are a multitude of ways in which we can convert agricultural waste product, a wide variety of things beyond renewable energy and fuel, to include chemicals, materials, fabrics and fibers. Again, creating opportunity for farmers and additional income sources as well as rural jobs.

Climate change creates an opportunity for us as we look at ways in which rural lands can be used to sequester carbon. As we embrace climate-smart agricultural practices, we open up a whole new vista of opportunity for farmers to be paid for the carbon sequestration that they are currently doing and will do in the future.

These are all examples of a circular economy where the wealth stays, the opportunity is created, the jobs are created in rural areas. We at USDA are focused on trying to incent and encourage that type of circular economy to be more prevalent in rural areas across the United States.

Mr. Chairman, I know that there are a variety of questions that will be posed today. I hope as this Committee begins its serious work on the Farm Bill that you'll take some time to work with us to on how we might be able to do a better job of maintaining and creating wealth in rural communities and making sure that historically underserved populations and communities also get a fair amount of attention.

We at USDA are committed to working with you in partnership to use the resources that are available from Congress in a way that helps to create those kinds of opportunities. With that, I'll yield back the balance of my time and look forward to the questions that you all have.

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Opening Statement of Thomas J. Vilsack Before the House Committee on Agriculture Remarks as Delivered - USDA.gov

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California redistricting is done: Here’s what it means for representation in the Sacramento region – Capital Public Radio News

Posted: at 9:45 am

While California lost a congressional seat after the 2020 Census, residents in the Sacramento region will see slight gains in representation for its growing suburbs particularly in the state Legislature under new redistricting maps approved last month.

Youre going to end up with more members of the state Senate and Assembly that are actually from Sacramento or nearby communities, said Matt Rexroad, a redistricting consultant and Republican.

Rexroad points to several large, rural districts which reached into the Sacramento area under the previous state Senate lines, including seats represented by senators Andreas Borgeas (R-Fresno), Jim Nielsen (R-Red Bluff) and Brian Dahle (R-Bieber).

A new Senate district covers the meeting place of all three of those boundaries, breaking off the regions growing suburbs from the larger rural-centric districts and creating an opening for a state senator to represent the area.

The shifts are due in part to the regions above-average population growth compared to the rest of the state, particularly in Placer and Sacramento counties, which grew by 16.2% and 11.7% respectively over the past decade. The two added a combined 222,574 residents between 2010 and 2020.

Still, California lost a congressional seat due to slower population growth compared to the rest of the country. Under the new maps that loss will end up being felt by residents in Los Angeles. The maps also strengthen opportunities for the states growing number of Latino residents to elect candidates of their choice, particularly in the Central Valley.

The California Citizen Redistricting Commission followed a set of criteria in drawing the new maps and accepted more than 36,000 public comments during the line-drawing process.

Commissioners were barred from considering how the maps would affect political parties and incumbent politicians.

In some cases, incumbent state lawmakers were drawn into the same district, setting up intra-party fights. In other cases, lawmakers decide to move to a different district in order to avoid such fights.

But lawmakers in the Sacramento region largely avoided these tough decisions and overall were able to stay in the districts and communities they already represent.

Some Northern California district lines barely shifted, but in other cases, the new lines mean communities will be grouped with new cities and towns which may share different values, concerns and politics.

Here is an overview of new congressional, Senate and Assembly districts that represent counties in the Sacramento region.

Californias 1st Congressional district still covers a broad swath of the states northeast corner but has shifted south with its new boundaries. Plumas, Sierra, Nevada and a portion of Yuba counties were moved to another district.

Still, the district remains chock-full of Republican voters and will likely stay a red stronghold for years to come.

Members of Californias Citizen Redistricting Commission wrote in their final report that residents of the 1st district are united by a rural lifestyle and an agriculture- and ranching-based economy as well as wildfire concerns.

The district is currently represented by Rep. Doug LaMalfa, a Republican who has not yet said whether he will seek re-election this year.

A contender for the longest district in the state, the new 3rd Congressional District runs from Plumas Countys Lake Almanor in the north to south of Death Valley National Park, spanning seven counties along the Nevada border. It also includes the more densely populated suburban cities of Rocklin, Roseville, Folsom and Granite Bay.

The redistricting commission wrote that the district keeps mountainous Sierra communities together, including the entire Tahoe Basin.

Communities in this region share a more rural lifestyle and have common interests in protecting their undeveloped lands and natural landmarks, the commission wrote.

While Republicans outnumber Democratic voters in the new 3rd District, former President Donald Trump won among its voters by only one percentage point in 2020.

Republican state Assembly member Kevin Kiley has announced he will campaign for the seat.

The 4th Congressional District stretches from western Yolo County minus the city of West Sacramento to Santa Rosa in Sonoma County and into the southern edge of Mendocino National Forest. It also includes part of the city of Vacaville and the Sacramento River Delta community of Rio Vista.

The redistricting commission members say they consciously decided to split mid-sized cities of Vacaville and Santa Rosa to include more farming communities. Agriculture and the wine economy are major influences on the district, along with essential workers living in the region.

Voters in this district supported President Joe Biden and other Democratic candidates by a 2-to-1 margin in 2020. Incumbent Rep. Mike Thompson, a Democrat, has said he will seek re-election.

The Sierra Nevada makes up the bulk of the new 5th Congressional District, beginning at Placerville in the north and ending in the mountains east of Fresno. It sweeps into the San Joaquin Valley to pick up voters from Modesto and Turlock, splitting those cities in half.

The district resembles the previous 4th district, which included Lake Tahoe and Roseville. Those areas have been dropped as the new boundaries dip further south.

The redistricting commission writes that communities in the 5th congressional district have tourism-and agriculture-based economies nestled in large swaths of federal public lands. Shared interests include recreation, natural resource management, access to broadband, access to healthcare, wildfires, and forest conservation.

Rep. Tom McClintock, a Republican, has announced a bid for this district, which includes many of the voters he represented under the previous lines.

The majority of Sacramento County was split into two congressional districts for the next 10 years, a big shift that consolidates representation within the countys borders.

The 6th district includes the north portion of the county, including Antelope, Citrus Heights, Carmichael, Rosemont and Rancho Cordova. It also includes the section of the city of Sacramento north of the American River, including the communities of Natomas and Arden-Arcade.

The redistricting commission says these communities have similar socio-economic characteristics and shared community resources, along with shared concerns about transportation and homelessness.

Democratic Rep. Ami Bera, who lives in Elk Grove but has represented portions of the new district, has said he will seek re-election in the 6th this year.He is being challenged by Republicans, including Tamika Hamilton and Chris Bish.

The 7th district includes the bulk of the city of Sacramento including its downtown along with West Sacramento, Elk Grove, Isleton and Galt.

It also is home to four incumbent members of congress: Doris Matsui, John Garamendi, Tom McClintock and Ami Bera.

Longtime Rep. Doris Matsui has said she will seek re-election in the district, which includes the bulk of her constituents from her previous district.

Redistricting commissioners noted that rural and suburban residents in the district have shared interest in flood control and protecting green space. Bringing these communities together into a district enables them to take a more regional approach to issues related to transportation, infrastructure, housing, and economic development, the commission wrote.

Democrats hold a heavy registration advantage in this blue district. Its also the most diverse congressional district in the region according to an analysis of data compiled by the firm Redistricting Partners; 60% of residents are Latino, Asian American or Black.

Before redistricting, the 9th congressional district was centered around Stockton and San Joaquin County, and thats still true even the number stayed the same.

District boundaries have shifted southeast though, dropping most of its eastern Contra Costa County area and picking up the cities of Tracy and Manteca.

San Joaquin community and business leaders pushed hard to have the entire county make up one full congressional district, citing its agriculture-heavy economy, population growth and concerns about decreasing affordability.

Betty Wilson, executive director of the San Joaquin Business Council, said she is happy with the new maps. The commissioners listened to the citizens of San Joaquin County and the voices of the people were heard, she said.

Longtime Rep. Jerry McNerney recently announced he would retire after representing the area for 16 years. Fellow Democratic Rep. Josh Harder announced he would run for the seat, opening up the Modesto-area district he previously represented.

District boundaries stayed largely the same for the 3rd Senate District, which covers Yolo, Solano and Napa counties, along with portions of Sacramento, Contra Costa and Sonoma. The new lines dropped Petaluma and picked up West Sacramento.

It remains a strong Democratic district centered around agriculture, winemaking, the Sacramento River Delta and working-class cities in the north Bay Area.

The district is currently represented by Democratic Sen. Bill Dodd, who terms out in 2024.

The gargantuan 4th Senate District closely resembles the 3rd congressional district, stretching from north of Lake Tahoe to the southern end of Death Valley. Made up of mostly rural communities, at one point the district reaches into the Central Valley to grab residents from Stanislaus County.

Those voters could help turn the district into a place where Republican voters outnumber Democrats, but liberal-leaning voters in the Modesto metro area make partisan races more competitive.

The redistricting commission noted that obligations to keep Latino populations in the Central Valley together led to the shape of this district. But commissioners argue residents of the 4th district share concerns about land and water management, tourism, and access to broadband, medical and emergency services.

So far, no candidates have announced a run for this seat under the new lines.

The 5th Senate District makes up the bulk of San Joaquin County and eastern Alameda County. Under the previous lines, the district included the city of Galt and the northern part of Modesto. Those areas now belong to other districts as the 5th moved west to pick up Livermore and Dublin in the eastern Bay Area.

The commission wrote that suburban lifestyle, job centers and commuting routes connect these communities, along with agriculture, water, and concerns about affordable housing.

Democratic Sen. Susan Eggman of Stockton currently represents the 5th district and hits her term limits in 2024.

Until now, the residents in the 6th District were split between three much larger districts and represented by state senators living in Fresno, Tehama and Lassen counties. The new district groups the suburban areas in eastern Sacramento and western Placer counties together and includes the cities of Lincoln, Roseville, Rancho Cordova and Galt.

The new district has even numbers of registered Republican and Democratic voters but tends to lean red in statewide elections. In 2018, Gov. Gavin Newsom lost by 10 percentage points among District 6 voters, but in 2020, Joe Biden narrowly defeated Donald Trump, 50%-49%.

There is no incumbent state senator living in the district, making it an open seat for the 2022 election. San Juan Unified School Board member Paula Villescaz announced she would run for the seat.

The new 8th Senate District includes the whole cities of Sacramento and Elk Grove. It makes up most of what used to be the 6th district, represented by Sen. Richard Pan, who is terming out later this year. West Sacramento and the Arden-Arcade area are in separate, neighboring districts.

The redistricting commission said the 8th district is united by shared transportation systems as well as shared interest in flood control and supporting local businesses.

This district also honors various communities of interest including an LGBTQ+ community, a growing immigrant community, and California State University, Sacramento, the commission wrote in its final report.

While Pan is not running for re-election, a host of candidates have lined up to replace him, including Sacramento Vice Mayor Angelique Ashby, former insurance commissioner Dave Jones, law enforcement officer Matt Burgess and attorney Rafa Garcia. Two candidates Sacramento City Councilmember Eric Guerra and Re. Tecoy Porter initially announced bids for the seat but have since said they will run for the state assembly.

Democrats are favored to do well in the deep blue district, where Democratic voters outnumber Republicans more than two-to-one.

The 1st Assembly District remains in the northeast corner of the state, but the new lines have swapped portions of Butte County and picked up portions of El Dorado, Amador and all of Alpine County on its southern end.

It also remains a strong conservative area. Assembly member Megan Dahle lives in the district boundaries and is term-limited in 2030.

Like the congressional and state senate districts in this farming-heavy region, redistricting resulted in only minor boundary changes. The 4th Assembly District still covers Yolo, Napa, Lake, Colusa and parts of Sonoma counties. West Sacramento is now included in the boundary lines, while portions of Sonoma County have shifted in and out.

Democratic Assembly member Cecilia Aguiar-Curry of Winters represents the district and is term-limited in 2028.

The new 5th Assembly District includes much of what anchored the former 6th district: the suburban cities of Roseville, Rocklin and El Dorado Hills. But the new boundaries have shifted further south and east, losing Folsom and picking up the cities of Auburn and Placerville.

The redistricting commission said the suburban communities in this new district a distinct economic area and share school districts, a community college district, and their own independent water agency.

Republican voters outnumber Democrats by nearly 10 percentage points in this suburban-rural district.

The area is currently represented by GOP Assembly member Kevin Kiley, though he has said he will likely run for congress.Rocklin City Council member Joe Patterson has said he will run for the Assembly seat.

The 6th Assembly District makes up much of what used to be the 7th district, represented by Democratic Assembly member Kevin McCarty of Sacramento. It still includes most of the city of Sacramento, including downtown. The Arden-Arcade area and some of Carmichael are now included in the district. It no longer includes West Sacramento.

It also remains a reliably Democratic district. Newsom won among 6th district voters in 2018 with 66% and Biden won with 70%.

The 7th district includes much of northeast Sacramento County, including Folsom, Rancho Cordova and Citrus Heights communities that run along the American River from Folsom Lake to the William B. Pond Recreation Area. The commission noted the residents in this area share school districts and shopping centers

This new district received one of the most dramatic partisan makeovers in the region. Incumbent Assembly member Ken Cooley saw the lines shift eastward to pick up more GOP-leaning voters in suburban areas while dropping Democratic voters in some of unincorporated Sacramento Countys working-class neighborhoods.

Cooley told CapRadio he will seek re-election in the seat, despite the tougher path forward. Republican Josh Hoover, a Folsom Cordova school board member and chief of staff to Assembly member Kevin Kiley, has also announced he will run for the seat.

The 9th Assembly district includes less-densely populated portions of Sacramento County, along with portions of San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties. It includes the cities of Lodi, Manteca and Isleton.

The redistricting commission wrote that the hodgepodge of county splits serve to balance population while considering communities of interest in order to keep rural communities in other districts together.

Republican voters outnumber Democratic voters in the district. GOP Assembly member Heath Flora of Ripon lives within the new districts boundaries and has said he plans to stay in the Assembly.

The 10th Assembly District is anchored in what used to be the 9th District, including Elk Grove and the southern part of Sacramento. But the boundaries have shifted north, dropping Lodi and picking up the Fruitridge and Vineyard areas in Sacramento County.

It remains a heavily diverse district where half of its residents are Asian or Latino. Its also a place where Democratic candidates hold a strong numbers advantage.

The area is currently represented by Democratic Assembly member Jim Cooper, who is weighing a run for sheriff and has not announced his plans for 2022. Sacramento City Councilmember Eric Guerra has announced a bid for the seat.

Like the congressional and state Senate districts in the San Joaquin County area, the 13th Assembly district closely resembles the previous boundaries. It still contains the larger cities of Stockton and Tracy but has dropped some suburban areas on the outskirts of Stockton and rural land near the delta.

The district has a large Latino population and 50% of its voters are registered Democrats, according to the firm Redistricting Partners.

Assembly member Carlos Villapudua was elected to represent the area in 2020 and is seeking re-election this year.

CapRadio provides a trusted source of news because of you. As a nonprofit organization, donations from people like you sustain the journalism that allows us to discover stories that are important to our audience. If you believe in what we do and support our mission, please donate today.

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After Years Of Work, Forest Plan Released | News – The Transylvania Times

Posted: at 9:44 am

After nearly a decade-long revision process, National Forests in North Carolina released the Nantahala Pisgah National Forest plan Friday, a 360 page document with several appendices and maps that will guide the vision for how the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests will be managed for the next 20 years.

The plans draft was released in February 2020 after years of planning, and with the release of the final plan, the Forest Service has entered into the final 60-day objection period for parties who submitted substantive comments during the plans development, according to a press release.

The plan includes desired outcomes, goals and objectives the Forest Service hopes to achieve in the coming decades as forest visitation numbers and the threats of climate change increase, while Forest Service budgetary and personal resources are expected to remain stagnant.

Nearly half of Transylvania County is occupied by Pisgah National Forest, and the sections of Pisgah National Forest within Transylvania County are the most visited areas of Forest Service land in North Carolina.

The original Nantahala and Pisgah National Forest plan was created in 1987 and received a significant amendment in 1994. In the past 35 years, however, Nantahala and Pisgah have undergone rapid change with outdoor recreation booming in the past decade while the impacts of climate change, invasive species and disease, and overuse have drastically changed the management needs throughout the forests.

The forest plan creates the framework for us to work with partners into the future to successfully address major challenges like climate resilience and sustainable recreation, said James Melonas, forest supervisor of the National Forests in North Carolina. Ultimately we are focused on the opportunities. We have to keep these national forests healthy, so they can continue to supply clean water to communities, contribute to the regions economy, and be a place of respite and recreation.

According to a Forest Service press release, the revised plan reflects changes in economic, social and ecological conditions, as well as changes in resource demands that have occurred since the previous forest plan was signed and amended.

Part of the reason why the revision process was several years in the making is due to the unprecedented level of collaboration the Forest Service invited from stakeholders from the beginning.

For years, representatives from groups interested in forest resources and management have provided input in the planning process to inform the Forest Service about what was most important to preserve and improve, according to users.

Forest resource specialists worked with representatives from state and local governments, Tribes, interest groups and the public to consider alternative approaches to managing the forest, the press release said.

The Forest Service said the final plan balances tradeoffs among the multiple uses of national forests, including recreation, timber, water, wilderness and wildlife habitat.

David Whitmire, a local stakeholder and representative with the North Carolina Wildlife Resource Commission, said he was excited to see the final plan after a massive effort to gather input from a wide variety of user groups.

Just having the product out there is an accomplishment, Whitmire said. I think a lot of the work and a lot of the benefits of that plan are going to be in the sausage making it went to get it there the eight years of work that it took. I think the building of relationships and getting peoples values are going to be as valuable probably as the plan itself.

The Forest Service crafted the plan with four main themes in mind: connecting people to the land,; sustaining healthy ecosystems, providing clean and abundant water; and partnering with others.

The Forest Service has also implemented a tiered objective system, with Tier 1, for example, as objectives the Forest Service can achieve by itself and Tier 2 as loftier objectives the Forest Service hopes to achieve with the help of others.

The plan does not outline what projects exactly the Forest Service is planning to take on within the next 20 years, but is more of the forestry equivalent of an urban plan.

It outlines management zones, where certain types of activities are allowed to happen, such as timber harvest, trail building and concentrated recreation, and identifies the highly important areas, species, watersheds and cultural resources that need to be preserved.

Key Takeaways

The Forest Service has gone to lengths to document the plans impacts on every species and important community in the forests.

The Forest Service has also prioritized involvement from tribal members in managing forest resources and maintaining tribal access to culturally important areas and plants. Additionally, the Forest Service has acknowledged the importance of tribal ecological knowledge and forest management, and has committed to making sure traditionally used tribal resources are not depleted and are available for future generations. When it comes to recreation, sustainability is number one, both ecologically and financially.

The plan says the development of new infrastructure is unlikely and that unsustainable sites may be closed in the future.

To help achieve sustainability, the plan prioritizes reducing the deferred maintenance backlog and modifying existing facilities and services.

One strategy to help achieve this is creating new loop trails, which would connect existing trails or graded roads to each other and allow for new routes to be created in the trail networks, while minimizing new trail construction.

Another strategy is relying on volunteer and partner organizations to help provide trail maintenance for any new trail construction and requiring any new trail construction be built with modern sustainability practices.

The plan also outlines the need for a climbing management plan, created with collaboration from the climbing community, to identify opportunities to educate climbers, add climbing routes to the system, improve the climbing experience and identify protection measures for important ecological communities near climbing sites.

Sustaining healthy ecosystems and wildlife populations is another key component. The plan doubles the annual young forest creation practices from 650 to 1,200 acres (up to 3,200 acres annually with the help of partners), emphasizes using fire and timber harvest to restore open forest conditions, increases the designated old growth network by more than 50,000 acres and increases prescribed fire significantly to 20,0000 acres annual under Tier 1, and 50,000 acres annually with Tier 2.

Rare habitats, including Southern Appalachian bogs, wetlands, Carolina Hemlock bluffs, grassy balds and spruce fir populations, are also protected under the plan. In Transylvania County, several rivers are recommended for Wild and Scenic River eligibility, including portions of the Davidson, French Broad, Thompson and Whitewater rivers, which would protects a river sections free flowing status. Until designation decisions are made, which have to occur at the congressional level, management projects and activities under the plan will not reduce characteristics of the rivers or adjacent lands, meaning these rivers will have a higher level of protection from human interference for the time being.

The plan will also have a focus on sustaining oak species across a range of age classes, reducing the abundance of white pine in the Davidson River watershed while enhancing oak regeneration and hunting opportunities, continue supporting conservation and protection of peregrine falcons and providing more young forest habitat for ruffed grouse, deer and turkey in the Transylvania County sections of Pisgah.

With these goals and objectives, the Forest Service hopes to take a whole ecosystem focus using a science-based approach to address shortages in the forest, old growth forest and open forest conditions, and to control nonnative invasive species, the press release said. Additionally, the Forest Service said for every ecological community, the plan has an identified set of desired conditions, a vision for what it will become once the goals are fully achieved.

By using ecological communities, we will consider the work that needs to be done across a broader landscape, improving restoration efforts for ecosystems and the wildlife that depend on them, said Michelle Aldridge, planning team lead.

Whitmire said he is confident the plan will help with future projects on the forests by providing a clear outline for forest management and habitat restoration. On Friday morning, he said he sat in on a phone call with Melonas and stakeholders when the plan was finally released to the public.

I liked the enthusiasm that the Forest Service had, Whitmire said. They felt they had done a great job. I feel like theyve done a great job. Im just excited that folks maybe can see things appear on paper, so they dont have fears that people will be working in sensitive areas and things like that. Those were addressed, and I think thats a positive thing.

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After Years Of Work, Forest Plan Released | News - The Transylvania Times

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Will Forest Rights Become a Swing Issue in the Uttarakhand Polls? – The Wire Science

Posted: at 9:44 am

A view of a forested landscape from Pilkholi, Uttarakhand. Photo: Sanjay Koranga/Unsplash

It has been 15 years since India enacted the Forest Rights Act (FRA) a transformative law that promised to undo the injustices meted out to Adivasis and forest-dwellers by colonial and post-colonial forest policies.

The government is implementing the law at scale in states like Maharashtra, Odisha and Chhattisgarh but in others, like Uttarakhand, which has a ratio of forest land to forest-dweller population, it isnt being implemented at all. The issue of forest rights also appears to be missing from the campaigns of political parties for the upcoming assembly elections.

This is surprising given that over 70% of Uttarakhand is classified as forest land and almost half of the states population consists of forest dwellers, at least as under the FRA, who depend to a great degree on forests for their economic and subsistence needs.

Uttarakhand has had a long tradition of mobilisation on forest rights, as illustrated by famous forest uprisings in the early 20th century and the Chipko movement. The people forced the British to give in to their demands in the early 1920s and create the institution of vana panchayat a forest governance model that turned out to be very successful and inspired the FRA. However, today, these panchayats have been diluted and diminished through bureaucratic control.

Some of the best forests in Uttarakhand can still be found in vana panchayats protected by forest-dwelling communities. And properly implementing the FRA, particularly its Community Rights and Community Forest Resource (CFR) rights, will help revitalise this model of forest governance by shifting responsibilities to the gram sabhas.

One reason for the lack of political interest in implementing the FRA is a lack of understanding among Uttarakhands political class about the Acts potentially transformative impact on the development and well-being of Uttarakhands rural communities. The states political leadership has also been unaware of the large number of people who could benefit from a properly implemented FRA.

We seek to highlight the potential of forest rights to impact Uttarakhands electoral politics and to help develop it. Our analysis, based on Census data and geo-spatial data of forests and villages, and informed by the FRA itself, found that close to 10,000 villages (66%) are eligible for recognition of rights, particularly CFR rights, under the FRA.

The distribution and location of these villages is visible in the map below: all villages in orange are eligible.

In fact, we estimate that nearly half the population of Uttarakhand should be classified forest dwellers to get benefits under the FRA.

The CFR rights provision recognizes the collective rights of the gram sabhas over forests and empowers them to govern these forests. We estimate that if the FRA is implemented completely, the control and management of nearly half of Uttarakhands forest land will become governable by the gram sabhas, allowing the latter them to reap the environmental and economic benefits.

This has significant development, conservation and political implications. If the experience from Uttarakhands vana panchayats, as well as from other states where CFR rights have been recognised, is any indication, rural communities are better stewards and managers of forests, and recognising their CFR rights will lead to better income and development in villages.

In Uttarakhand, recognising collective forest rights under the Acts CFR provision can have large multiplier effects on incomes, poverty alleviation and development in rural areas.

Development implications

Uttarakhand is rich in natural resources, particularly forests. These forests in turn have great potential to support the development of rural communities through incomes from the forest-produce value chain and by providing ecosystem services (carbon sequestration, eco-tourism, etc.). Currently, the rural population and forest-dwellers get few income benefits from the forests.

Again, we believe that if the government fully implements the FRA, the minimum flow of annual income from the sale of forest produce, based on a low estimate of Rs 3,000 per hectare per year, to the communities will be at least Rs 500 crore or Rs 5 lakh per village on average.

Proper forest management, development of the value chain and better marketing can increase these figures manifold. In addition, potential incomes from payment for ecosystem services and carbon sequestered in forests can generate at least another Rs 500-1,000 crores per annum for gram sabhas.

The Government of India also transfers hundreds of crores to Uttarakhand for afforestation and forest management at least half of which will go to gram sabhas governing the CFRs. One can add to this the potential revenue generated through ecotourism and wildlife tourism in the CFRs as well.

Overall, we estimate that the effective support for, recognition of and proper governance of CFRs can contribute at least Rs 2,000-3,000 crore in income per year to the states rural communities. This infusion of wealth can lead to more sustainable development as well as more employment in the states remote forest and hill regions, and will also help empower the women, who share the closest relationships with the forests. A sense of ownership by local communities will in turn lead to better protection and conservation.

Note here that the Governments of Maharashtra and Rajasthan have allocated budgets directly to gram sabhas, under the FRA. Such initiatives are part of a larger effort to ensure that post-COVID economic recovery and the restoration of ecological infrastructure are aligned. They can be easily replicated in Uttarakhand to support a forest economy-based post-COVID recovery.

Can FRA swing the elections?

On the political implication of the FRA: we estimate that the number of eligible voters who can benefit by having forest rights recognised in Uttarakhand is at least 24 lakh, which is 32% of the total registered voters and 48% of actual votes cast in the 2017 elections.

We have found that in 54 assembly constituencies, more than 10,000 voters can benefit, and more than 50,000 voters in 19 constituencies. Significantly, the total number of FRA voters today is higher than the margins of victory in almost all 54 constituencies in 2017.

The map below shows the importance of the FRA for the elections, shaded by the percentage of villages within each constituency that is eligible to have its CFR rights recognised under the FRA.

For these reasons, the FRA could be a key political issue, and the government should ensure its proper implementation. Successive Uttarakhand governments have made no efforts to implement this crucial law and continue to ignore the legal rights of forest-dwellers. This has led to a groundswell of resentment and despair around the issue of forest rights in the state.

As Heera Janpangi, a member of Mahila Kisan Adhikar Manch, or MAKAAM, Uttarakhand, said:

The government in Uttarakhand neither entirely implements FRA nor does it take steps to stop harassment of community members and women when they venture into the forests to collect forest produce for their sustenance. The COVID 19 pandemic has made sustenance very difficult, we need a solution soon.

So, will political parties pick up on this swing issue and make it part of their electoral campaigns?

Kundan Kumar is an international expert in land rights, conservation and climate change based in Canada. Vandana Dhoop is an independent research consultant based in Kolkata.

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