By Roger Bales and Martha Conklin

Many of California’s 33 million acres of forests face widespread threats stemming from past management choices. Today the U.S. Forest Service estimates that of the 20 million acres it manages in California, 6-9 million acres need to be restored.

Forest restoration basically means removing the less fire-resistant smaller trees and returning to a forest with larger trees that are widely spaced. These stewardship projects require partnerships across the many interests who benefit from healthy forests, to help bring innovative financing to this huge challenge.

The California Wildfires in Photos

california wildfires

We are engineers who work on many natural resource challenges, including forest management. We’re encouraged to see California and other western states striving to use forest management to reduce the risk of high-severity wildfire.

But there are major bottlenecks. They include scarce resources and limited engagement between forest managers and many local, regional and state agencies and organizations that have roles to play in managing forests.

However, some of these groups are forming local partnerships to work with land managers and develop innovative financing strategies. We see these partnerships as key to increasing the pace and scale of forest restoration.

Under contemporary conditions, trees in California’s forests experience increased competition for water. The exceptionally warm 2011-2015 California drought contributed to the death of over 100 million trees. As the forest’s water demand exceeded the amount available during the drought, water-stressed trees succumbed to insect attacks.

Funding is a significant barrier to scaling up treatments. Nearly half of the Forest Service’s annual budget is spent on fighting wildfires, which is important for protecting communities and other built infrastructure. But this means the agency can restore only a fraction of the acres that need treatment each year.

The Benefits of Restoration

Forest restoration provides many benefits in

Twitter will pay $100,000 to Washington after the social media platform failed to maintain public inspection records of nearly $200,000 paid to it for political ads in violation of state law, state Attorney General Bob Ferguson (D) says.



a close up of a computer: Twitter to pay $100,000 to Washington for violating state's campaign finance laws


© Getty
Twitter to pay $100,000 to Washington for violating state’s campaign finance laws

The judgement filed Tuesday in King County Superior Court asserts that since 2012, Twitter has failed to maintain records from at least 38 Washington candidates and committees that bought ads.

Washington’s campaign finance law requires political advertisers to retain records related to political ads.

“Transparency in political advertising is critical to a free and informed electorate,” Ferguson said in a statement. “Whether you’re a local newspaper or a multinational social media platform, you must follow our campaign finance laws.”

A Twitter spokesperson said the resolution with Washington is “reflective of our commitment to transparency and accountability,” noting the company’s decision to ban all political advertising starting in November 2019.

“We’ll continue working to uphold our commitment to transparency and to protect the health of the online public conversation, especially ahead of the 2020 U.S. Election,” the spokesperson added.

Video: Court Battle Erupts Over Voters’ Signatures On Mail Ballots (CBS Philadelphia)

Court Battle Erupts Over Voters’ Signatures On Mail Ballots

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The state’s suit against Twitter is one of several Ferguson has sought against tech giants over political advertising.

The attorney general in December of 2018 said Google and Facebook would each pay more than $200,000 to resolve lawsuits over their failure to maintain information about political ads on their platforms since 2013.

Ferguson said in April he launched a second lawsuit against Facebook for allegedly selling Washington state political ads without maintaining legally required information, alleging that its violations were intentional.

Social media

By Manoj Kumar and Aftab Ahmed

NEW DELHI, Oct 12 (Reuters)Spending to help India’s pandemic-hit economy is likely to face delays after the federal government and some states on Monday failed to agree who should borrow to cover revenue shortfalls.

India’s Goods and Services Tax Council, comprising federal and state finance ministers, last week extended a surcharge on luxury goods including cars and tobacco products beyond 2022 to help states repay loans raised to fill revenue gaps in the current fiscal year.

While 21 states, mainly ruled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party and its allies have agreed to borrow from the market, around 10 which are run by opposition parties insist that the federal government should borrow and compensate them.

Under the 2017 national goods and services tax (GST), the federal government was mandated to compensate states until 2022 if their revenue growth fell below 14% a year.

But states now facing a tax shortfall of about 3 trillion rupees ($41 billion) in the financial year ending in March as a result of the coronavirus crisis, are only likely to get about 650 billion rupees from the federal government.

“There was no unanimity among the members of the GST council on borrowing,” Nirmala Sitharaman told a news briefing.

Some states said they will take the dispute to the Supreme Court, blaming the federal government for violating the accord.

Sitharaman said the government will proceed with the states who have agreed to borrow, but declined to comment on how the dispute with the others would be resolved.

Rajat Bose, a partner at Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas, a law firm specialising in tax matters, said the stalemate was likely to continue.

“The only certainty is that the levy of cess (surcharge) will continue beyond 2022 which means that eventually

Despite the warnings, the federal government largely left it to states to detect which applications are fake. But state workforce agencies, stymied by decades-old IT systems and flooded with applications, have been ill-equipped to find and prevent the fraud, which appears to be far more extensive than the usual attempts to bilk government programs. Now states are asking for help.

“We’re fighting this fight with ’70s era technology with some modern Band-Aids put on top of it,” Ryan Wright, Kansas’ acting secretary of Labor, said in an interview. “I would like to have seen a more aggressive response from the federal government.”

Last year, Wright said, his agency had no cases of impostors using fake employers to apply for benefits; in recent months, it has stopped 55,000 such claims. The fraud “now is reaching a scope that is difficult for states to weed through,” he said.

Labor Department Communications Director Megan Sweeney told POLITICO in a statement that the agency “is actively working with all states to combat fraud in UI programs,” especially in Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, which expanded jobless benefits to the self-employed. “The Department requires states to work with the Department’s Office of the Inspector General and to work collaboratively with other federal, state, and local law enforcement to investigate and prosecute fraud and to work closely with financial institutions to recover fraudulent payments,” Sweeney added.

State officials are seeing big surges in unemployment applications indicating that criminals are trying to game the system. And while they have been successful at blocking some of the theft attempts, the sheer scale is making it difficult to stop entirely.

Colorado officials estimated that three-quarters of unemployment applications they received over the summer were fraudulent, and they reported averting as much as $1 billion in attempted thefts. But criminals still may

Oct. 6 (UPI) — Peak grain has already passed for several High Plains states, according to a new survey of groundwater depletion across the region.

To more accurately predict future grain yields, researchers looked at the relationship between levels of water extraction from the Ogallala aquifer and the amounts of grain harvested in each state over the last 50 years.

Researchers adapted analysis techniques previously used to study the relationship between peak oil production and peak grain production. The research team detailed the results of their analysis in a new paper, published Tuesday in the journal PNAS.

“We were inspired by insightful analyses of U.S. crude oil production,” lead study author Assaad Mrad, doctoral candidate at Duke University, said in a news release. “They predicted a peak in crude oil production a decade in advance.”

The new analysis showed Texas and Kansas reached peak grain in 2016. Grain yields in the two High Plains states have been declining over the last four years. Without new yield-boosting technologies, grain production in Texas could decline as much as 40 percent by 2050.

Water demand has outstripped supply in recent years, researchers said, as a result of excessive aquifer extraction and delays in irrigation regulations designed to sustainably manage water usage.

“This shows quite clearly that the aquifers are not being used in a sustainable way and it’s essential to find new technologies that can irrigate crops in a sustainable way,” said study co-author David Hannah, professor at the University of Birmingham.

Unlike Texas and Kansas, Nebraska enjoys a wetter climate. Rainfall in Nebraska has allowed farmers to expand grain production without increasing groundwater pumping.

Overall, the latest findings suggest depleted groundwater levels will continue to pose a serious threat to grain production across the High Plains. Many farmers in the region rely