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United States Capitol dome under restoration. Photo Architect of the Capitol

United States Capitol dome under restoration. Photo Architect of the Capitol

A monthly bit of headline news from ASLA’s national office.

It’s April, which at ASLA headquarters in Washington means that Advocacy Day is nigh—Thursday, April 23. Every year around this time, hundreds of ASLA members come to town ahead of the midyear meetings of the Society’s Board of Trustees and Chapter Presidents Council to spend a day on Capitol Hill visiting the offices of their senators and representatives to make the case for national issues that are important to landscape architects.

This year, the focus of advocacy efforts is on three issues: the reauthorization and full funding of the Transportation Alternatives Program and the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and the authorization and funding (at $100 million) of the National Park Service Centennial Challenge. Advocacy Day is about showing strength in numbers. But the individual work of telling Congress what landscape architects do and why it matters never stops—especially because design in the public realm helps create new jobs, stimulate consumer spending, increase property values, and, in turn, generate billions in new federal, state, and local tax revenues. Even design professionals not planning to take part in Advocacy Day activities should stay aware of how these issues are moving, or not, in Washington, and keep in touch with the members and staff of their congressional delegations.

Each day, Roxanne Blackwell, Mark Cason, and Leighton Yates of ASLA’s government affairs staff work with legislators on issues of importance to the profession, and you should follow them on Twitter at @ASLA_Advocacy. But members of Congress really sit up and listen to the concerns of individual constituents and business owners. To help acquaint you with ways to communicate with Congress, the government affairs staff will hold a webinar tomorrow, April 9, from 2:00 to 3:00 p.m. Eastern. You can register to join the webinar here. Questions? ASLA’s government affairs staff is happy to help. Contact the director of federal government affairs, Roxanne Blackwell, at rblackwell@asla.org.

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CAP TBD  Credit: New Orleans Redevelopment Authority.

A Mardi Gras parade passes by one of the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority’s pilot rain garden lots in Algiers, designed by Spackman Mossop and Michaels. Credit: New Orleans Redevelopment Authority.

This week, the Van Alen Institute announced Future Ground, a new, open, and international competition to develop ideas and policies for dealing with New Orleans’s nearly 30,000 vacant lots and abandoned buildings. Nearly 10 years post-Katrina, New Orleans has thousands of idle urban spaces that the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority, which owns more than 2,000 of them and is a cosponsor of the competition, wants to see turned into community resources.

The Future Ground RFQ stresses the need to develop workable policies for these vacant spaces as well as design solutions. It states that competitors should be multidisciplinary teams of “individuals and firms with expertise in architecture, landscape architecture, urban design, urban planning, graphic design, policy, engineering, finance, real estate, community development, and other fields.” Competing teams need to include local partners. Winning teams, the brief says, will receive $15,000 to work on small projects that can have broader applications and also generate policies that can sustain the program for the next several decades.

This is not Van Alen’s first foray into vacant land—it sponsored the Urban Voids competition back in 2005 for Philadelphia, and this competition is part of the multiyear, multiproject Elsewhere: Escape and the Urban Landscape initiative.

The timeline is short: The deadline for applications is September 29, 2014, and teams will kick off in New Orleans in October 2014 and wrap up by the spring of 2015. You can find the RFQ and more information, including a list  of advisers, local sponsors, and jury members, on the Van Alen Institute site.

Tell us in the comments if you decide to submit, and what intrigues you about this opportunity.

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Cool relief from dull summer reading is here! The mid-summer issue of LAM focuses on the surprising history and ongoing threat posed to the storied town of Zoar, Ohio, by a 1930s levee; the public spirit of Máximapark designed by West 8, near Utrecht in the Netherlands; and Cliff Garten’s artistic take on civic infrastructure. Elsewhere, we look at city policies on urban farming; the planting designs of Richard Shaw in the harsh, arid highlands of Colorado; the strange relationship between the western fence lizard and the pesky black-legged tick; and a design by James Corner Field Operations on the Seattle waterfront meant to aid in the protection of the Pacific salmon. Kim Sorvig takes on Owning the Earth: The Transforming History of Land Ownership, by Andro Linklater, in Books, and Rachel Sussman shares a portfolio of her work from the instant cult favorite, The Oldest Living Things on Earth, in the Back. And of course, there’s more in our regular Books, Species, and Goods columns. Best of all, the July issue is FREE and easy (see below) for you this season.

You can read the full table of contents for July 2014 or pick up a free digital issue of the July LAM here and share it with your clients, colleagues, and friends. As always, you can buy this issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine at more than 200 bookstores, including many university stores and independents, as well as at Barnes & Noble. You can also buy single digital issues for only $5.25 at Zinio or order single copies of the print issue from ASLA. Annual subscriptions for LAM are a thrifty $59 for print and $44.25 for digital. Our subscription page has more information on subscription options.

Keep an eye out here on the blog, on the LAM Facebook page, and on our Twitter feed (@landarchmag), as we’ll be ungating some July pieces as the month rolls out.

Credits: Redesign of Santo Domingo Riverside Neighborhood: INCONSERCA and Ana Báez Sarita; Planting Palette: D. A. Horchner; Ribbons: Jeremy Green; Seattle Seawall Detail: James Corner Field Operations; Zoar Levee: Ed Massery; Research Map: Jong Lee, Student ASLA; Bicyclists in Máximapark: Courtesy Johan De Boer—Vrienden Van Máximapark; Western Fence Lizard: Cary Bass/Wikimedia Commons.

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A monthly roundup of the news, dispatches, and marginalia that caught our eye.

This month’s issue of the Queue delights in OLIN Studio’s new digital magazine, absorbs the inevitable wave of backflow on Rebuild by Design, and ponders the goat invasion of Long Island.

 

CATCHING UP WITH…

 

OUR WOBBLY WORLD

FIELD STUDIES

 

DISTRACT ME FROM MY DEADLINE DEPT.

 

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By Arthur Allen

"Get your Farm in the Fight", 1941 - 1945." Courtesy U.S. National Archives.

“Get your Farm in the Fight”, 1941 – 1945.” Courtesy U.S. National Archives.

Environmental issues don’t always focus the minds of the people who write the nation’s farm bills. A 2012 report showing that corn and soy plantings had chewed up 1.3 million acres of grassland in the upper Midwest raised hardly an eyebrow in Congress. Perhaps unsurprising, it took people with guns to draw the legislators’ attention to conservation.

The warnings came from pheasant hunters, who spend $175 million a year in eastern South Dakota (“It’s fun—like shooting free-range chickens,” says one) and have grown increasingly disheartened at seeing their best hunting spots turned into rows of corn. According to a 2012 study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), the loss in grassland—two Rhode Islands’ worth over five northern states—occurred during five years starting in 2006.

(more…)

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Ethanols Environmental Damage

Erosion on land recently converted from pasture to cornfield near Lineville, Iowa. July 26, 2013. AP Photo/Charlie Riedel

By Bradford McKee

What has been sold as a great fix to the nation’s fossil fuel problems is rapidly creating a disaster in the American landscape. Ethanol made from corn is supposed to work all kinds of magic for the United States by making us less reliant on foreign oil and, by supplanting petroleum products, cutting the carbon released into the atmosphere. Support for the ethanol industry is now enmeshed in federal policy. In 2007, Congress and the Bush administration passed a law, the Energy Independence and Security Act, that dramatically steps up the amounts of ethanol and other biofuels required to be added to gasoline each year through 2022. The Obama administration promotes ethanol production as a major part of its green-energy strategy to slow climate change.

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Northern_Oregon_Coast_Range_logging_road_-_Washington_and_Yamhill_counties,_OregonLast week, the Supreme Court released its decision in Decker v. Northwest Environmental Defense Center, a case that considered the ability to regulate stormwater runoff and sediment from logging roads under the Clean Water Act. Some news reports played it as an unequivocal win for the timber industry, but a close look at the decision shows that it’s a little bit more complicated—environmental advocates may even find some comfort in it.

The case (see “On Forest Roads, Loggerheads” in the December 2012 issue of LAM) involved the application of the Clean Water Act’s “point source” permitting requirements to runoff from roads built to transport harvested timber from forested land.

The NEDC, based in Portland, Oregon, argued that building and using these roads, known as logging or forest roads, is “industrial activity” as the Clean Water Act defines it. A lot of logging roads are unpaved, and the group said that sediment from them, carried into rivers and streams by stormwater runoff, is harming aquatic life and impairing water quality.

When it rains hard, these roads do not simply produce “discharges composed entirely of stormwater,” which don’t require permits—the runoff events are more like a byproduct of gathering raw materials for a manufacturing process, the group said. So the owners of these roads should be required to get permits from the EPA or authorized state governments to cover these discharges, just as owners of a factory or mine would have to do. (more…)

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