California State Parks Need Our Help

California Department of Parks and Recreation
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California State Parks narrowly escaped major closures during last year’s state budget crisis, and supporters are going to the voters for help to ensure the worst doesn’t happen in 2010.

The California State Parks Foundation and other organizations have created the State Parks and Wildlife Conservation Trust Fund Act of 2010, needing more than 430,000 signatures to get it in the November 2010 ballot.

If successful, the act would add $18 to California’s annual vehicle licensing fees, said Pam Armas, California State Park Ranger Association President, raising about $500 million each year for state parks, wildlife, land conservation and ocean conservation projects.

“That may seem like a lot, but we’ve been so horribly under-funded; this will get us to where we need to be,” Armas said, adding that state parks have an approximately $1 billion backlog in un-funded work.

The $500 million would be split 85 percent to state parks and 15 percent to the other conservation efforts, Armas said, likely finding its way to groups like the Sierra Nevada Conservancy and California Tahoe Conservancy, among others.

In return, California residents who paid licensing fees would get free day admission to all state parks, year-round, Armas said.

“If you go two or three times it pays for itself — state park day use now ranges from $8 to $15,” Armas said.

The effort comes in response to the threat in 2009 to pull $70 million from state parks to help balance California’s eroding budget, which would have closed up to 220 of the state’s 279 parks.

That cut was later reduced to $14.2 million, meaning no full-time closures, but reductions of services and partial closures.

A similar addition to vehicle licensing fees was discussed by lawmakers over the summer, but never gained traction in the capital, so groups like the California State Parks Foundation, Audubon Society of California and the Sierra Club are taking it to the voters, Armas said.

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Healthy Homes

U.S.

RISMEDIA, November 30, 2009—Consumers are more conscientious about healthy living than ever before and this awareness is making its way to the homebuilding industry, particularly in the custom home market, says Michael Lenahen who owns Ponte Vedra, Fla.-based Aurora Custom Homes.

“As more consumers begin to realize how much their home affects every aspect of their health, they are beginning to see the importance of improving its environmental quality with products to benefit their health and that of their family,” Lenahen said. “The new emphasis toward healthy living focuses around four main categories – air, water, odor/fumes and lighting.”

According to the U.S. Green Building Council, pollutants are often two to five times higher indoors than outdoors and this can significantly affect air in the home causing breathing problems and respiratory diseases. When it comes to the quality of the air, Lenahen said several products are available on the market that homeowners should incorporate into their home such as:

-Advanced allergy filters to control dust particles and pollutants
-Dehumidification devices to manage the humidity in the home
-Variable speed air handlers to maintain the circulation of air throughout the home and ventilation fans to introduce fresh air into the home while removing stale, humid air

Improving the water quality in a home is just as important as the air quality, Lenahen said. Several products are available to improve the quality and efficiency of a home’s water flow and usage, including:

-Carbon filter and reverse osmosis units to purify drinking water by removing particulate matter and harmful minerals
-Whole-house water softeners to remove calcium and other harmful minerals while providing added benefit to the home’s appliances and pluming fixtures. Water softeners also improve skin tone and texture by removing calcium, magnesium and iron from the water.
-Underground cisterns to collect rainwater from the gutter and downspouts to use for irrigating the lawn and landscapeHealthy home living is also improved by the use of low Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) materials, which emit lower levels of gasses into the home from everyday materials such as paints, sealants, cabinets and flooring materials. Lenahen said homeowners should use the lowest emitting VOC products for custom homebuilding and remodeling projects, thereby reducing the negative health impact the products may have on the occupants. Low VOC products will have labeling to help homeowners find the healthiest option.

Better lighting solutions can also foster healthier living. Traditional light fixtures typically include high wattage bulbs, which waste electricity while adding excessive heat into the home. Suggested improvements include:

-Decorative light fixtures with less wattage requirements and soft-light emitting globes
-Compact florescent light (CFL) bulbs or L.E.D. fixtures and bulbs for longer life usage
-Next generation skylights, such as Velux Sun Tunnel or Solatube, that bring natural light into the home, reducing the need for artificial light and energy consumption

“These are just some of the many changes that can be made to current homes or built into new homes that will greatly improve the quality of life and health of its occupants,” Lenahen said. “The more consumers become aware of the positive affects of healthy living within the home, the more products will enter the mainstream of standard building practices.”

 

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