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Washington gasoline prices fall 4.6 cents

Washington gas prices have fallen 4.6 cents per gallon in the past week, averaging $3.80/g as of Dec. 27, according to GasBuddy’s daily survey of 2,666 stations in Washington.

Gas prices in Washington are 6.7 cents per gallon lower than a month ago and stand $1.15/g higher than a year ago.

According to GasBuddy price reports, the cheapest station in Washington is priced at $3.19/g, while the most expensive is $4.39/g, a difference of $1.20/g.

The national average price of gasoline has fallen 4.3 cents per gallon in the last week, averaging $3.25/g.

The national average is down 14.1 cents per gallon from a month ago and stands $1.00/g higher than a year ago.

Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis for GasBuddy, said that nearly all states saw average gasoline prices decline last week “as millions of Americans took to the road for holiday travel,” with the national average now nearly 20 cents per gallon lower than in early November.

“While the fall in prices is welcomed, we set an ugly new record for the holiday- it was the most expensive Christmas Day we’ve ever seen by two tenths of a penny,” De Haan said. “The average on Christmas was $3.264 per gallon, just a fraction of a penny higher than Christmas Day 2013 which saw the national average at $3.262 per gallon. Motorists shouldn’t get too worked up about it - the downward direction in gas prices should persist into this week in most areas. However, gas prices are likely to jump in the Great Lakes due to a behavior called price cycling, caused by a rise in the wholesale price of gasoline against a backdrop of prices in the region that have now fallen under replacement cost. This will trigger a likely jump in gas prices in Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Illinois and Kentucky very soon.”

GasBuddy data is accessible at prices.GasBuddy.com.

More children struggling with emotional stressors

New data from the Washington State Department of Health’s (DOH) behavioral health group indicates that more young people are seeking medical help in instances of emotional distress.

State health officials are asking families, educators, mentors, and youth advocates to know the warning signs that signal when a child or teen is in crisis, and to talk with a healthcare or primary care provider for behavioral health support resources.

This guidance comes at the heels of a public advisory and 53-page report from the U.S. surgeon general on the importance of protecting youth mental health, and the “devastating” mental health impacts as a result of the pandemic.

Based on early data gathered by DOH, the number of youths ranging in age from 5–17 seeking emergency medical assistance for suicidal ideation, suspected suicide attempts, psychological distress, and suspected overdoses has increased over the last several months.

Syndromic surveillance data like this may not reflect the true magnitude and direction of behavioral health trends. However, it provides key insight toward current and future mental health trends for specific population groups in the state.

Emergency Departments (ED) across the state are also reporting that significant percentages of their ED capacity are for youth who are there for behavioral health crises.

This includes youth in acute beds, creating flow and capacity issues for hospital systems. Further, because the delta variant triggered a repeat of the many impacts initially experienced at the start of the pandemic, we may be experiencing a secondary disillusionment phase over the next few months.

For many children and youth specifically, the secondary disillusionment phase is occurring alongside significant school, family, and social stressors.

Visit coronavirus.wa.gov/wellbeing for crisis support and self-care resources for you and the people you care about. It includes links to help lines such as Teen Link, WA Listens, Crisis Text Line, and the Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

Visit A Mindful State for additional resources, tips, and personal stories from leading mental health experts in the state and community members working through the emotional health consequences of the pandemic.

Winter Ride program at Lynden Schools

Lynden School District’s Winter Ride program is starting back up with sign-ups starting in early January. The Winter Ride program is a multi-week chaperoned ski and snowboard program for all ability levels, especially beginners.

The program is open to all sixth through 12th grader students who live in the Lynden School District boundaries, not just Lynden public students.

A school bus leaves Lynden High School on Saturday mornings, drives up to the Mt. Baker Ski Area for the day, then brings the students back in the late afternoon.

The dates of the trips are March 5, 12, 19 and 26.

More details and contact information is available at lyndenwinterride.org.

Retreat center reservations reopen Jan. 3

The Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission will reopen park retreat centers beginning in spring 2022.

On Jan. 3 at 7 a.m., parks will begin accepting retreat center reservations for the 2022 Memorial Day weekend and beyond. 

The retreat centers have been closed since March 2020 because of COVID-19. Facilities officially reopen on May 27, 2022. All 2022 reservations are on a first-come, first-served basis.

Reservation requests will be accepted by email only using the Reservation Request Form at parks.state.wa.us. Requests will not be accepted before 7 a.m. Jan. 3.

Retreat centers were established as youth camps in the 1950s for student outdoor educational activities.

Today, youth groups, schools, families, businesses and other groups find these accommodations in a natural environment a great way to gather. 

Retreat Center facilities vary in size and layout, and typically include one or more meeting rooms, kitchen with equipment for preparing and serving meals, overnight lodging, exclusive use, restroom and showers, modest rental rates, and access to outdoor recreational activities.

Visit parks.state.wa.us for more information and/or to book a retreat center.

USDA to provide economic relief to biofuel producers

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will make up to $800 million available to support biofuel producers and infrastructure.

This announcement includes $700 million to provide economic relief to biofuel producers and restore renewable fuel markets affected by the pandemic.

The Department will make the funds available through the new Biofuel Producer Program authorized by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act).

Additionally, in the coming months, the Department will make $100 million available to significantly increase the sales and use of higher blends of bioethanol and biodiesel by expanding the infrastructure for renewable fuels derived from U.S. agricultural products. The Biden-Harris Administration is committed to further growth of the biofuels industry, and the House-passed Build Back Better Act commits additional funding that will provide better market access for farmers and more affordable and cleaner fuels for consumers.

Through the Biofuel Producer Program, USDA will make up to $700 million in direct payments available for biofuel producers who faced unexpected market losses due to the pandemic. USDA will announce the official application window for this program within the coming week.

USDA intends to make up to $100 million available in new funds for grants for biofuels infrastructure, such as blender pumps which ensure biofuels have greater availability in the retail market.

The funding will provide grants to refueling and distribution facilities for cost of installation, retrofitting or otherwise upgrading of infrastructure required at a location to ensure the environmentally safe availability of fuel containing bioethanol blends of E-15 and greater or fuel containing biodiesel blends B-20 and greater.

To learn more, visit usda.gov.

61 million acres voluntarily conserved in America, report shows

The Land Trust Alliance has released a new report finding that 61 million acres were conserved by land trusts as of year-end 2020 — an increase of more than 15 million acres since 2010.

This gain comes as the nation embraces a proposal from the scientific community to conserve 30% of the nation’s lands and waters by 2030, a goal commonly shorthanded as 30x30.

As the longest running and most comprehensive survey of private land protected by nonprofit organizations, the 2020 National Land Trust Census Report is both a benchmark and a snapshot of the land trust community and its collective impact across the country.

This year’s data is particularly compelling as it reflects the unique role land trusts played providing solace for many Americans during the COVID-19 pandemic.

More than 16.7 million people visited land trust properties in 2020, representing a substantial increase from 6.25 million in 2015.

While the acres protected show the breadth of land conservation efforts, it is important to emphasize that land trusts are improving life across the country. Protecting lands close to home improves our quality of life and the health of our local communities, while also addressing some of the greatest challenges facing our nation.

The Alliance collected data from January to April 2021 for the 2020 Census, beginning with a survey emailed to approximately 1,300 land conservation organizations active across the United States.

All respondents were asked to report on their land conservation and organizational activities as of Dec. 31, 2020. More than 550 organizations responded to the 2020 survey.

The National Land Trust Census was developed in cooperation with the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy.