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Yurok Tribe in California becomes first indigenous tribe to co-manage National Parks land

The Yurok had 90% of their homelands taken during the Gold Rush. Now they're getting some of it back.

The Yurok Tribe has lived among the redwoods for thousands of years.

The history of colonialism and the stealing of lands from indigenous peoples in the Americas is fraught with pain and suffering that has gone unseen by many. A growing Land Back movement has been fighting, in part, for indigenous people's reclamation of their ancestral homelands and the restoration of land management based on Native knowledge and practices.

One small but significant move in that direction has taken place in the redwood forests of northern California. The Yurok Tribe, who had 90% of their homelands stolen during the Gold Rush, has joined the Redwood National and State Parks and the nonprofit Save the Redwoods League in an agreement that will give ownership in 2026 of 125 acres (50 hectares) of land near Orick, California to the tribe.

According to the AP, the land is named 'O Rew in the Yurok language, and the tribe's cultural resources director Rosie Clayburn said the return of the land is proof of the “sheer will and perseverance of the Yurok people."

"We kind of don't give up," Clayburn said. The Yurok Tribe has been living along the Klamath River for thousands of years and is currently the largest indigenous tribe in California, with over 6,300 members. It is one of the few tribes in the state that lives on a portion of its ancestral lands.


The site being returned to the Yurok is about a mile from the Pacific coast and sits adjacent to the Redwood National and State Parks, home of the world's tallest trees. The Yurok people have always utilized the redwoods for building plankhouses, sweat lodges and canoes, though they traditionally only use trees that have fallen naturally.

Clayburn explained what the memorandum of understanding between the tribe and the parks service means.

“As the original stewards of this land, we look forward to working together with the Redwood National and State Parks to manage it,” she said. “This is work that we’ve always done, and continued to fight for, but I feel like the rest of world is catching up right now and starting to see that Native people know how to manage this land the best.”

Reconstructed plankhouse, the traditional dwelling of the Yurok Tribe in Redwood National Park

NPS/Public Domain

The tribe plans to build a traditional Yurok village on the site, as well as a new visitor and cultural center displaying sacred artifacts, sharing information on redwoods and forest restoration and serving as a hub for the tribe to carry out Yurok traditions, Clayburn said.

The site will also serve as a new gateway to the Redwood National and State Parks, with more than a mile of new trails that will connect to existing trails inside the parks. The trails will include a new segment of the popular California Coastal Trail with interpretive exhibits.

The agreement also sees the restoration of a salmon habitat in Prairie Creek that had been buried by a lumber operation. The Yurok have been working on restoring it for the past three years, bringing thousands of juvenile coho and chinook salmon and steelhead back to the stream where salmon traditionally swam upstream to spawn.

In this historic collaboration, the Yurok will be the first indigenous people to co-manage National Parks land. But there are many more examples of Native American and First Nations people working with government institutions and municipalities to return land and pass management back to the people with centuries of proven sustainable relationship to the land.

For instance, in 2018, the city of Vancouver returned a piece of land belonging to the Musqueam people, who had used the land as a sacred burial site. In 2012, the Land Buy-Back Program began in the U.S., consolidating and restoring nearly 3 million acres in 15 states to Tribal trust ownership and paying $1.69 billion to more than 123,000 interested individuals.

Another significant move toward the legal recognition of Native lands was the Supreme Court's 2020 ruling that the eastern half of Oklahoma, including much of Tulsa, is on tribal land. The ruling was deemed a huge win for tribal sovereignty and territorial boundaries, but the fact that the battle made its way to America's highest court (and had limitations placed on it in 2022 by the same court) is indicative of the struggle indigenous people face in reclaiming their ancestral lands.

The logistics of land rights, restoration and reclamation are complex from a legal standpoint, so it's heartening when an agreement can be made without protracted legal battles. Such agreements depend on the people engaged in them acting in good faith, which appears to have made this Yurok Tribe agreement successful.

As Redwoods National Park Superintendent Steve Mietz said, the restoration effort and partnership with the Yurok Tribe, it is “healing the land while healing the relationships among all the people who inhabit this magnificent forest."

Science

Reusable cloth Christmas bags are all the rage, saving wrapping time, money and the planet

They're also way cozier than the 2 million pounds of wrapping paper that ends up in landfills every year.

People are moving to cloth gift bags as a lot of wrapping paper can't be recycled.

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Wrapping paper is a delightful invention, with all of its fun patterns and colors and wrapping methods, all in service of keeping gifts a surprise.

It's also a total environmental blight, unfortunately. Most wrapping paper is one-time use only, as what makes it pretty and shiny and durable are usually plastics that can't be separated from the paper for recycling. So into the landfill it goes, to the tune of 2.3 million pounds a year, according to Popular Science.

You can try to reuse wrapping paper, of course, but have you ever seen a kid tear into a Christmas present? You can try wrapping with simple brown paper, which is recyclable, but doesn't feel particularly festive. You could buy eco-friendly wrapping paper, shelling out a pretty penny for something that's still going to have to be purchased again and again.

OR you can go a whole new route by ditching the paper altogether and going for the truly old-fashioned, easy peasy solution of cloth gift bags that you either purchase or make yourself. If you think that sounds like a bit of a stretch, hold the judgment until you see how utterly adorable these bags are.


Cloth bags save so much time and headache compared to paper wrapping. Weirdly shaped gifts no longer matter as long as they fit in the bag. They also save you money over time if you use them for your household's gifts and store them away with your holiday decorations each year. If you make them yourself, you can choose any color or pattern theme you want, but there are plenty of readymade coordinated options out there now to go with any decor.

And no, kids don't care—in fact, they will probably appreciate the fact that their gift wrap is eco-friendly and they may even get nostalgic about seeing the familiar wrappings each year. (Our family has used cloth to wrap for presents for years, and our kids have actually developed favorites.)

Here's a simple example—a mix of classic red-and-white patterns in assorted sizes for a bright, classic look. How lovely would a stash of these look all gathered under the tree?

red and white cloth gift bags

Red and white always works for Christmas.

Amazon

What if you went with a classy gold theme for this year's decor and want the presents under the tree to match for a perfectly Instagrammable Christmas morning? Here's a similar set in a gold-and-white pattern.

gold and white gift bags

Go for the gold with this set of Christmas gift bags.

Amazon

Maybe you're going for more of a cozy, casual, log cabin-y feel for your holiday. Plenty of plaid in Christmas colors right here.

plaid christmas gift bags

Cozy, cozy flannel bags with Christmas sayings on them

Amazon

If you're more drawn to the classic, Norman Rockwell, Christmases-of-yore vibe, check out these nostalgic Christmas prints:

vintage christmas cloth bags

These gift bags look like a throwback to "It's a Wonderful Life."

Amazon

Maybe you're a modern maven with monochromatic merry-making methodologies. Or perhaps you'd like to be able to reuse your bags at other times of the year, too. These black-and-white babies might just do the trick.

black and white gift bags

These black-and-white bags could be used for any occasion.

Amazon

How about a standard-Christmas-wrapping-paper look, only as cloth Christmas gift bags instead?

mix of colorful Christmas bags

Get your colorful Christmas on.

Amazon

Or maybe you don't want a distinctively Christmas feel at all, but rather a mix of pretty, festive bags that could be used for the holidays or any time of year. There's a whole assortment to choose from here to go with whatever your particular color theme might be.

mix of cloth bag patterns

Christmas bags don't have to be Christmas-themed..

Amazon

Or maybe you want the opposite—just blatantly Christmas-y images in bright, bold colors plastered all over everything. Here ya go:

assortment of colorful christmas gift bags

So many Christmas gift bag options

Amazon

There's just no shortage of options for cloth gift bags that are worth investing in to save time, money and the environment. Just be sure to check sizes so there are no surprises, grab a wide assortment and then revel in the fact that you'll never get a paper cut or have to search for another roll of tape while wrapping presents for your family again.

Planet

Easy (and free!) ways to save the ocean

The ocean is the heart of our planet. It needs our help to be healthy.

Ocean Wise

Volunteers at a local shoreline cleanup

True

The ocean covers over 71% of the Earth’s surface and serves as our planet’s heart. Ocean currents circulate vital heat, moisture, and nutrients around the globe to influence and regulate our climate, similar to the human circulatory system. Cool, right?

Our ocean systems provide us with everything from fresh oxygen to fresh food. We need it to survive and thrive—and when the ocean struggles to function healthfully, the whole world is affected.

Pollution, overfishing, and climate change are the three biggest challenges preventing the ocean from doing its job, and it needs our help now more than ever. Humans created the problem; now humans are responsible for solving it.

#BeOceanWise is a global rallying cry to do what you can for the ocean, because we need the ocean and the ocean needs us. If you’re wondering how—or if—you can make a difference, the answer is a resounding YES. There are a myriad of ways you can help, even if you don’t live near a body of water. For example, you can focus on reducing the amount of plastic you purchase for yourself or your family.

Another easy way to help clean up our oceans is to be aware of what’s known as the “dirty dozen.” Every year, scientists release an updated list of the most-found litter scattered along shorelines. The biggest culprit? Single-use beverage and food items such as foam cups, straws, bottle caps, and cigarette butts. If you can’t cut single-use plastic out of your life completely, we understand. Just make sure to correctly recycle plastic when you are finished using it. A staggering 3 million tons of plastic ends up in our oceans annually. Imagine the difference we could make if everyone recycled!

The 2022 "Dirty Dozen" ListOcean Wise

If you live near a shoreline, help clean it up! Organize or join an effort to take action and make a positive impact in your community alongside your friends, family, or colleagues. You can also tag @oceanwise on social if you spot a beach that needs some love. The location will be added to Ocean Wise’s system so you can submit data on the litter found during future Shoreline Cleanups. This data helps Ocean Wise work with businesses and governments to stop plastic pollution at its source. In Canada, Ocean Wise data helped inform a federal ban on unnecessary single-use plastics. Small but important actions like these greatly help reduce the litter that ends up in our ocean.

Ocean Wise, a conservation organization on a mission to restore and protect our oceans, is focused on empowering and educating everyone from individuals to governments on how to protect our waters. They are making conservation happen through five big initiatives: monitoring and protecting whales, fighting climate change and restoring biodiversity, innovating for a plastic-free ocean, protecting and restoring fish stocks, and finally, educating and empowering youth. The non-profit believes that in order to rebuild a resilient and vibrant ocean within the next ten years, everyone needs to take action.

Become an Ocean Wise ally and share your knowledge with others. The more people who know how badly the ocean needs our help, the better! Now is a great time to commit to being a part of something bigger and get our oceans healthy again.

Science

The world's monster plastic problem could be thwarted by mutant bacteria

It sounds like something straight out of a comic book, but the prospects are very real.

CockrellSchool/Youtube

The world could be saved by bacteria

Plastic has been taking over our world for a while now.

You may not think too much about it, but plastic is a global crisis. A recent rundown in The National Review reveals that more than 8 million tons of plastic is regularly deposited in the ocean. It's killing sea life, endangering coral reefs, and affecting the fish we eat because of the toxins they ingest.

So much for a happy, carefree day, right?


But there's some good news on the horizon: Scientists have found a mutant bacteria that eats plastic.

Of course, this mutant bacteria isn't exactly like the kind of mutants you see in movies and comic books. Although, I'll admit I initially thought, "Good! Someone's finally getting Storm to handle this whole climate change business." How cool would that be?

So maybe Professor X isn't coming out of hiding to help us with our global problems, but the reality of this news is just as exciting. According to The Guardian, an international team of scientists have mutated a bacteria's enzyme to fully break down plastic bottles.

The plastic-eating bacteria was first discovered in 2016 in Japan. Researchers studying plastic pollution — specifically polyethylene terephthalate or PET — discovered a colony of bacteria that fed on the plastic, breaking down strong chemical bonds as a means of survival. The bacteria back then, though, was eating through highly crystallized PET — the material plastic bottles are made of — at a slow rate. Researchers knew it would take a while for the bacteria to evolve into the environmental savior we need.

Scientists started studying the bacteria's evolution and discovered they'd unintentionally made it stronger.

"It's alive! It's alive!" they screamed. That's how I imagine the discovery of this mutated bacteria enzyme went, with all the blinking lights and klaxons of a superhero movie. That's what happens in labs, right?

Well, that's how it should have gone. Because this is exciting! After viewing a 3D model of the bacteria, scientists discovered that small modifications could make its enzymes much more effective. The BBC reports that PET takes "hundreds of years" to break down on its own, but with the modified enzyme, called PETase, the same process begins within a matter of days. The enzyme breaks down PET to its original building blocks, meaning that the plastic can be reused again without losing quality.

recycling, reusable, plastic bottles, PET, enzymes

A large blocked cube made up of plastic bottles.

Image via Pixabay.

Here's why this is important: You may think plastic bottles are recycled into new plastic bottles and that every bottle you drink from had a rich and beautiful life before it came to you, but that's not true. In 2017, BuzzFeed reported that Coca-Cola sourced only 7% of its plastic from recycled material and only 6% of Nestle's bottles were made from recycled plastic. The rest of all that single-use plastic being dumped is turned into other fibers like carpet and clothing.

This is because plastics degrade as they're recycled. "Bottles become fleeces, then carpets, after which they often end up in landfill," the BBC notes.

But PETase makes it possible to use PET in its original form over and over again.

We're only at the beginning of this development.

On one hand, PETase could bring us closer to true recycling (producing much less plastic and using much less fossil fuel) than ever before. But the research has only started. The breaking down process still needs to be made faster, so it could be years before PETase or anything like it is used on an industrial scale.

While scientists keep working to make PETase a worldwide plastic problem-solver, we can all do our part by reducing our reliance on plastic. Little things — like a reusable bottle for the gym, keeping metal utensils at work, and reusable bags and totes for trips to the store — can help keep the Earth clean, save animals, and make us a little less reliant on mutants (er, mutant enzymes) to save the day.

Curious to learn more? Watch the video below: