Sustainable management of water on land and in rivers, lakes and the sea is crucial. Although it covers 70% our planet, only 3% of it is fresh water and most of that is in glaciers or otherwise unreachable. Freshwater is vital for drinking, bathing and irrigating crops.
There is stress on many of the systems that help maintain the balance of ecosystems. Aquifers, lakes and rivers are becoming polluted or drying up and more then half of the world’s wetlands have been destroyed.
Climate change is also having a profound effect on the availability of freshwater in some areas. Changing weather patterns have redistributed water causing droughts in some parts of the world and floods in others.
We can’t police the world’s use of water, but we can make sure our own is sustainable and lead the way. Due to sensible legislation and intelligent use of technology, our members are using less water, working to clean and reuse it and prevent run-off and flooding by good soil management.
Soil health is vital for crop growth, carbon capture, water filtration, wildlife conservation and grassland preservation.
In the 1930s, the U.S. suffered a period of extreme dust storms known as the Dust Bowl. This resulted from a combination of severe drought and degradation of topsoil caused by poor crop management practices.
The Dust Bowl triggered a swift government reaction. In 1933 Franklin D Roosevelt initiated programs to conserve soil and established the Soil Erosion Service which survives to this day as the Natural Resources Conservation Service. The Soil Conservation and Domestic Allotment Act was brought in as part of the New Deal program. The Dust Bowl had a profound effect on U.S. attitudes to (and knowledge about) soil which still has great benefits now.
Good soil quality promotes carbon capture and helps water purification. It supports vegetation that attracts animals with shelter and nourishment and prevents erosion. And it produces good crop yields with less need for manmade fertilisers.
Our members’ soil management methods include regenerative farming, no-till farming, conservation tillage and cropping, crop rotation and cover cropping—all sustainable ways of maintaining the best possible quality of soil. They work hard to share knowledge on the role soil plays in carbon capture and storage and the conditions needed to encourage this.
The emission of carbon into the atmosphere, in the form of greenhouse gases including carbon dioxide and methane, is the major cause of climate change. Human activities have raised the atmosphere’s carbon dioxide content by 50% in less than 200 years
Trees are some of the best carbon capturers in nature. They naturally absorb CO2 through photosynthesis and store it as carbon in their trunks, roots and leaves. It is also deposited in surrounding soil for long periods of time. U.S. forests cover about a third of the country and play a critical role in reducing the impact of climate change capturing 10% of our CO2 emissions. The responsible management of our forests has resulted in a doubling of U.S. hardwood stocks since 1953.
Our farmers and fishers also work hard to reduce carbon emissions and to prevent it from entering the atmosphere by capturing it. Initiatives include regenerative farming, biofuel manufacture and use and methane capture.
As stewards of the land and water, our members are experts in the conservation of plant and animal ecosystems for the benefit of future generations. Huge areas of the U.S. are devoted to national parks and wilderness, safeguarding their biodiversity with sensitive, sustainable care.
According to the U.S. Geological Survey, about 13% of the U.S. is permanently protected and managed for biodiversity. The Biden administration has set a goal to conserve and restore 30% of U.S. lands and waters by 2030.
By working to reduce the need for manmade fertilisers and with sensitive use of planting, our members are avoiding the environmental damage caused by pollution and water run-off and strip cropping is used to create maintain natural habitats for wildlife.
Our fishers harvest sustainable hauls to ensure natural fish stocks remain healthy and they work to avoid polluting the sea or damaging the seabed with trawling.