One of my favorite bird species is the spectacular bird-of-prey, the peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus). This bird can be found on six continents around the world, though it does not occur in large numbers in most areas.
This bird is amazing because not only has it recovered from the brink of extinction in North America, it is now thriving in many regions because it has adapted really well to urban settings. It naturally nests on ledges high up on cliffs, easily out of reach of most predators. With the increasing growth of cities with tall buildings and abundant prey in the modern era, peregrines have found new nesting opportunities on the roofs and ledges of skyscrapers and other tall structures like water towers, power pylons, and bridges.
At WHC’s main office in Silver Spring, we routinely see the resident pair of peregrine falcons soaring high above us and hunting the city’s numerous pigeons. Peregrines and other falcons are aerial hunters, meaning they catch their prey while in flight. Peregrines use a swift dive, or “stoop,” that is spectacular to watch. A peregrine’s stoop can reach over 200 mph (320 kmh), making it the fastest animal on earth!
These birds are known for using their speed and agility to prey upon a wide variety of birds, mostly medium-sized birds, including several species that can be a nuisance in urban settings like pigeons and starlings. Although falcons won’t eliminate the pigeon or starling population in a city, they can certainly help to keep it in check.
If you want to help peregrines at your corporate facility, one of the best ways is to work with your state wildlife agency to implement the appropriate measures for your site. These birds are still protected by law and can be very defensive of their nests, so before taking any actions it will be important to consult with the agency about things like safety precautions or requirements related to their protection. A common and often successful project is the installation and monitoring of a nest box for peregrines. This kind of structure provides a secure, ledge-like nesting location that provides some protection against the elements, and many facilities use a nest cam to monitor the nest with minimal disturbance to the birds. Discussions with your wildlife agency will also help determine if other projects such as artificial raptor perches, banding of peregrine chicks, or release of captive-reared peregrines would be appropriate for your facility.
Migratory species from sandhill cranes to polar bears travel thousands of miles each year as the seasons change. Without the aid of GPS technology they find their way with an instinct as old as each species itself. This instinct allows them to traverse both natural and man-made landscapes effortlessly without regard for state lines or international borders. Despite migratory species’ remarkable navigational skills, their journeys are not always safe, and their destinations may no longer exist in their natural forms upon their arrival.
When it comes to protecting migratory species, thinking within the boundaries of your own backyard is not enough. If the bald eagle enjoys safe refuge in Alaska during the summer months but finds their habitat devastated by human activities when it migrates to California for the winter, their life is still in grave danger.
International law has begun the expansive process of protecting migratory species. Globally, states that have ratified the Convention of the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) recognize that they are the protectors of migratory species that live within or pass through their national boundaries. Therefore, member states seek “to conserve the habitat of migratory species that would significantly benefit from international cooperation.” These conservation efforts are required to include trans-national coordinated conservation and management plans. North American countries are not a part of the CMS agreement, but they do work to conserve migratory birds through enforcement of the U.S. Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918. This treaty declares that killing, selling, and possessing migratory birds is a felony punishable by federal fines and imprisonment.
In addition to acting in accordance with conservation laws, corporate conservation teams can play an active role in protecting migratory species in other ways. For example, by using the free IPaC planning tool, it is possible to learn what species’ habitats are on your property and if those species are migratory. If any species are migratory, you can find out where they migrate to and contact corporations working in that region. The point of this contact should be to initiate a joint effort to protect and conserve your common migratory species. This communication could prove valuable to both corporate teams and wildlife, as the conservation effort could allow you collaborate with other corporations, while also ensuring the presence of both the summer and winter habitats needed by migratory species.
We cannot protect wildlife by thinking like a human. Instead, we must be willing to look at the world through the eyes of the migratory species we wish to protect, looking beyond their borders, and spotting new opportunities for connection.
SILVER SPRING, MD, JUNE 8, 2016 – The Wildlife Habitat Council (WHC), along with its members General Motors and Toyota Motor North America, have been jointly honored with the 23rd Annual Keystone Policy Center Leadership in Environment Award, recognizing their partnership to expand wildlife habitat, support pollinator health, and enhance biodiversity around the world.
Accepting the award will be Margaret O’Gorman, President, WHC; Kevin Butt, Regional Director, Toyota North American environmental division; and Greg Martin, Executive Director, Global Public Policy, General Motors Company.
“We’re honored to share this award with General Motors and Toyota,” said O’Gorman. “Only 10 percent of Fortune Global 500 companies have adopted biodiversity goals, including GM and Toyota, and as such, their efforts towards conservation and biodiversity across the globe are exemplary models for other corporations to follow.”
The Keystone Policy Center, a Colorado-based nonprofit organization founded in 1975, also presented the following awards at a dinner ceremony at The Newseum in Washington, D.C. on June 8, 2016:
About Wildlife Habitat Council
Wildlife Habitat Council promotes and certifies habitat conservation and management on corporate lands through partnerships and education. WHC’s programs take corporate sustainability goals and objectives and translate them into tangible and measurable on-the-ground actions. WHC membership includes 85 corporations, many of which are Fortune 500 companies, including Bridgestone, Chevron, DuPont, Exelon, Freeport-McMoRan, General Motors, Pacific Gas & Electric and Waste Management. WHC-assisted wildlife habitat and conservation education programs are found in 45 states and 13 countries. www.wildlifehc.org
About Keystone Policy Center
The Keystone Policy Center has worked at the forefront of public policy and dispute resolution for more than 40 years. From energy to education and health to sustainability, Keystone’s work has shaped public policy debates at local, state, and national levels. Keystone’s exceptional combination of experience and expertise have led to groundbreaking progress and lasting solutions when all other efforts have failed. www.keystone.org
About General Motors
General Motors Co. (NYSE:GM, TSX: GMM) and its partners produce vehicles in 30 countries, and the company has leadership positions in the world’s largest and fastest-growing automotive markets. GM, its subsidiaries and joint venture entities sell vehicles under the Chevrolet, Cadillac, Baojun, Buick, GMC, Holden, Jiefang, Opel, Vauxhall and Wuling brands. More information on the company and its subsidiaries, including OnStar, a global leader in vehicle safety, security and information services, can be found at http://www.gm.com.
Toyota (NYSE:TM), the world’s top automaker and creator of the Prius and the Mirai fuel cell vehicle, is committed to building vehicles for the way people live through their Toyota, Lexus and Scion brands. Toyota partners with philanthropic organizations across the country, with a focus on education, safety and the environment. As part of this commitment, we share the company’s extensive know-how garnered from building great cars and trucks to help community organizations and other nonprofits expand their ability to do good. For more information about Toyota, visit www.toyotanewsroom.com.
By now you’ve almost certainly heard about the massive wildfire that has devastated Fort McMurray, Alberta, nicknamed “the beast” by local firefighters. This wildfire has so far destroyed about 10% of the city of Fort McMurray, as well as hundreds of thousands of acres of native boreal forest in the surrounding area. As of this writing the fire is still not under control and additional evacuations have been ordered. The cause of the fire has not yet been determined.
Fires in nature act as a clearing mechanism for accumulated organic debris, and in some ecosystems fire is actually required to release seeds from pinecones or to stimulate seed germination. In North America, naturally-occurring fire regimes historically ranged from frequent, low-intensity fires that cleared the understory every few years, to infrequent, stand-replacing fires every few hundred years. However, the former is much more common, with many species in fire-adapted ecosystems able to withstand these low-intensity fires.
However, policies that result in the total suppression of wildfires in many areas has led to the accumulation of fuel on the forest floor – dried leaves and pine needles, branches, etc. If a fire burns through areas with this kind of accumulated fuel, the fire burns hotter, taller, and faster than the forest can withstand, leaving little unburned. You can see in this video from the Guardian the flames in the Fort McMurray wildfires were sometimes so tall and hot they engulfed entire mature trees.
Dry conditions like Alberta experienced this winter and spring increase the likelihood that fires will start from lightning strikes or other ignition sources. A dry fuel load and low humidity exacerbate the intensity of fires that do ignite.
One effective compromise between the need for fire to maintain fire-adapted ecosystems and the desire to protect homes, businesses, and wildlife from uncontrolled wildfires is to use controlled burns, in which land managers intentionally set, contain, and manage a controlled, low-intensity fire.
For more information about the Fort McMurray wildfire and the role of wildfires in ecosystems, I encourage you to read this article by Leyland Cecco, which uses the Fort McMurray wildfire to provide an in-depth analysis of the conditions that lead to the destructive power of these kinds of wildfires.
In the now classic movie, Dirty Dancing, the final scene starts with everybody’s favorite movie line, “Nobody puts Baby in the corner!” This iconic line comes to mind every time I see an infographic explaining the circular economy, but the “Baby” in this case happens to be nature, expelled from the closed loop although materially impacted by it.
Circular economy or closed loop systems are, depending on who you ask, merely grandiloquent terms for recycling or the next best thing to address the impact of industrial processes on the planet. The Ellen Macarthur Foundation, one of the leading voices on circularity, presents the various schools of thought on the concept with a diversity of approaches to circularity, some of which are more transactional than others.
William McDonough’s Cradle to Cradle manifesto is one of the few to address nature and its needs as an integral part of the system, beyond being just an ingredient within the system. His circular model calls for respecting biodiversity as a value rather than an input. This respect for biodiversity is contained within McDonough’s ethos of a respect for diversity in all of its forms. In contrast, the concept of biomimicry views nature as a commodity, providing its biology, chemistry and engineering to solve human problems.
Circular economy approaches are very valuable at driving innovation in manufacturing processes, waste management and consumption patterns. Removing waste from industrial and consumption cycles, reducing materials used to make goods, and encouraging cascading benefits of by-products are all positive steps toward decreasing our collective weight on the planet and increasing the life of our natural resources.
But this approach shares many of the same weaknesses with respect to nature that natural capital accounting, ecosystem service valuation, and other economy-first initiatives share ― they all put biodiversity in the corner to the detriment of all life on the planet.
As McDonough says in Cradle to Cradle, “When diversity is nature’s design framework, human design solutions that do not respect it degrade the ecological and cultural fabric of our lives.” It doesn’t have to be this way. It’s just the easier to extract a process and close it than attempt to interweave processes the way nature does in the ultimate closed loop that is planet Earth.
One environmental thought leader who expressed the need to integrate biodiversity loss into environmental impact assessments and to think about species beyond their use as resources is Pope Francis, writing in Laudato Si, a document released by the Vatican in June 2015. Although this papal encyclical has been politically reduced to a plea for action on climate change, the Pope covers a broad variety of environmental issues and says that “a sober look at our world shows that the degree of human intervention, often in the service of business interests and consumerism, is actually making our earth less rich and beautiful, ever more limited and grey, even as technological advances and consumer goods continue to abound limitlessly. We seem to think that we can substitute an irreplaceable and irretrievable beauty with something which we have created ourselves.” He’s not just talking circular economy in this passage, but he certainly highlights the shortcomings of a closed loop process that ignores the thing on which it sits.
There are many things that industry can do to address its impact on nature and embrace the restorative imperatives contained within circular economy models. Where impacts are direct ― like on lands used for extraction ― approaches to land management during operations and design of reclamation and restoration can focus on exceeding regulatory requirements to provide maximum benefit for biodiversity. At its Marblehead Quarry in Ohio, LafargeHolcim is actively managing for the recovery of the rare and endangered lakeside daisy by using crushed limestone screenings to create the alkaline conditions required by the plant, whose only known occurrence in the state is in Ottawa County where the quarry is located.
Across all industrial sectors, non-operational lands can be managed to respect biodiversity and restore nature, rather than managed in ways that limit its exuberance such as through frequent mowing or landscaping with non-native species. By including the entire industrial footprint in the closed loop, a circular process can have a significant restorative impact on biodiversity. WHC’s recent white paper, Prioritizing Pollinators in Corporate America, shows how easily an entire footprint can be utilized for positive outcomes that meet a national need.
No loop is fully closed or sealed off. Every process contains manufactured goods and the ingredients that make them – all must be moved across the globe, and these movements create pathways for the spread of invasive species and wildlife diseases. By including product movement in the closed loop, operations along the manufacturing process, from extraction all the way to retail, can have an impact on two of the greatest threats to biodiversity worldwide.
Finally, the needs of biodiversity can be considered in the cascades, or by-products of a closed system. General Motors set – and already surpassed – a global goal to achieve 100 landfill-free facilities by 2020. They are creating circularity in their manufacturing processes in many ways. The company also has a biodiversity goal that all of its manufacturing facilities worldwide secure WHC Conservation Certification by 2020. These goals became intertwined when GM started to convert scrap Chevy Volt battery covers into nesting boxes for wildlife, cascading a product to benefit biodiversity.
Whether it’s called circular economy, regenerative design, cradle to cradle manufacturing or any other fancy word for recycling, it’s not necessary that these waste elimination and resource-use reduction processes and approaches be laminated onto nature. They in fact can include nature in many ways and fully embrace the restorative imperative. We just need to open the closed loop and take biodiversity out of the corner.
Many corporate facilities are located in urban and industrial areas, where wildlife habitat tends to occur in small, isolated patches. In areas such as these, projects like native gardens are all the more important for the conservation of pollinators, birds, and other native animals.
Urban gardening with native species is suitable to a variety of settings, from urban corporate landscapes to home gardens. Like urban tree planting initiatives, native gardening projects provide multiple benefits for urban neighborhoods. They can help to revitalize urban neighborhoods by improving visual aesthetics and providing a place for people to reconnect with nature and with their neighbors. Urban gardens also contribute to cooler urban temperatures, produce oxygen, filter rainfall, and improve infiltration. In addition, urban gardens that include native plants can provide habitat for pollinators, songbirds, and other urban wildlife.
Not sure where to begin? Whether you’re starting from scratch with a new garden or revamping an existing garden at your facility, it will be easiest to first decide what your goals are for the garden. Do you want lots of colorful, delicate butterflies, or maybe zippy little hummingbirds? Try planting some colorful nectar-bearing flowering forbs, vines, and shrubs. Or maybe you’d rather attract birds that will fill your garden with their songs? You’ll want to plant shrubs that produce lots of berries and forbs that produce seeds, as well as trees for nesting if you have the room. Or perhaps you’d prefer to manage stormwater runoff with your garden—you could plant native vegetation that can tolerate occasional flooding to create a rain garden.
We’ve got a number of articles and other resources in our Knowledge Center to help you learn about native gardening – check out some of these to get you started:
If you’d like specific recommendations on how to design your urban garden for wildlife, don’t hesitate to contact us at WHC@wildlifehc.org.
Hate mosquitos? You’re not alone! Although they are an important part of the ecosystem, too many mosquitos can create quite a nuisance. They buzz in your ear and leave red, itchy welts when they bite, and some even transmit diseases like West Nile Virus and malaria.
Luckily, nature has provided us with many natural mosquito predators to help keep them under control.
Bats in temperate areas of the world tend to be insectivorous, with voracious appetites for mosquitos and other flying insect pests. A single bat can eat about 1,200 insects an hour, and about 6,000-8,000 insects a night. Female bats that are nursing young may even eat up to their weight in insects nightly.
Insectivorous birds like purple martins, swallows, eastern kingbirds, and yellow warblers are also known for eating flying insects, including mosquitos, though to a lesser extent.
So if you have a problem with mosquitos and other flying pest insects, try enhancing your site’s habitat to attract these natural insect predators. You could install artificial structures that provide nesting and roosting habitat, such as nest boxes for birds and bat houses or other artificial roosts for bats. You should also make sure the surrounding habitat provides the resources and complexity needed by the species you want to attract, including plenty of native vegetation that will provide additional food sources and cover habitat. Not only will you contribute to conservation of these species, you’ll also be helping yourself!
It’s important to remember that none of these species will provide a singular solution to controlling mosquitos in all locations. Rather, attracting natural predators is an important step in long-term planning for reducing mosquito numbers in your area.
SILVER SPRING, MD, APRIL 4, 2016 – Today, Wildlife Habitat Council (WHC) made available its new certification website and online application for WHC Conservation Certification.
Users are able to go online and register, add projects, upload documentation, submit applications and make payments. This new, entirely virtual application experience allows for greater productivity and organization of conservation projects, and allows users to focus on biodiversity activities instead of paperwork.
Over three years in development, WHC Conservation Certification recognizes meaningful and committed conservation programs on corporate lands, and replaces WHC’s previous certification programs, Wildlife at Work and Corporate Lands for Learning.
“WHC Conservation Certification provides a clear and consistent path towards high quality projects that bring value to the environment and business,” said Margaret O’Gorman, President, Wildlife Habitat Council. “Recognition of corporate conservation practices can help companies meet global biodiversity goals while demonstrating long-term commitment to managing habitat for wildlife, education and community engagement.”
“We’re excited to participate in Conservation Certification,” said WHC Board Chair Kevin Butt, Director, North American Environmental Division, Toyota Motor North America, Inc. “Not only will the new website help better organize our conservation activities, but Conservation Certification provides an important suite of metrics that can assist in our reporting of sustainability goals.”
Built around 26 possible habitat, species and education projects encompassed in the newly published Project Guidances, Conservation Certification is designed to be accessible, flexible, credible, and ultimately drive change on corporate lands of all types. Project Guidances define the components of an outstanding conservation effort, and were developed with the collective knowledge of experts from academia, government, corporations, consulting firms and NGOs.
To make the transition from paper to web an easy one, WHC is offering free training webinars to walk users through the functions of the website. Registration for these free training webinars is available here.
About Wildlife Habitat Council
Wildlife Habitat Council promotes and certifies habitat conservation and management on corporate lands through partnerships and education. WHC’s programs take corporate sustainability goals and objectives and translate them into tangible and measurable on-the-ground actions. WHC membership includes 85 corporations, many of which are Fortune 500 companies, including Bridgestone, Chevron, DuPont, Exelon, Freeport-McMoRan, General Motors, Pacific Gas & Electric and Waste Management. WHC-assisted wildlife habitat and conservation education programs are found in 45 states and 13 countries.
On Thursday, January 21, about 15 volunteers from a diverse group of companies and conservation organizations, including WHC and members of the Indiana Coastal Cooperative Weed Management Group as well as the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, ExxonMobil, ArcelorMittal, PRAXAIR, the Coffee Creek Watershed Conservancy, and the Shirley Heinze Land Trust, joined up to tackle the removal of invasive species from upland areas at ExxonMobil’s Hammond Terminal.
It can be difficult to find larger tracts of dune and swale habitat in natural or even semi-natural conditions in Indiana’s coastal region because of heavy urban and industrial development. The 77-acre Hammond Terminal property includes a large amount of this critical Lake Michigan coastal habitat, so although former industrial uses left their mark on the site more than 50 years ago, it remains one of the most important tracts of shorebird habitat in the region and is key piece of the conservation and landscape connectivity puzzle.
The focus of invasive removal at last week’s workday was buckthorn, a non-native, invasive shrub that is a common invader in Midwestern forests, prairies, and oak savannas. The volunteers used a technique known as the “cut-stump method” in which the shrubs are cut down and herbicide applied to the stump to prevent regrowth. Also on the agenda was laying the ground for a new trail that will be used by East Chicago students and bird watching visitors.
During the workday, the group shared their common knowledge and experience of working on site and along the Indiana Harbor and Ship Canal, and learned that slag had been deposited on-site as far back as the 1940s and since then, a succession of native habitats developed throughout the site. The spread of invasive plants such as buckthorn, phragmites, purple loosestrife, and many others have impacted the ecological quality of this site over the past 10 years. Efforts to develop an ecological restoration partnership between the Indiana DNR, ExxonMobil, and BP have provided a unique regional example of how companies and natural resource agencies can work together to increase conservation in urban-industrial areas.
This cooperative workday at the Hammond Terminal is part of a larger ongoing collaborative effort, funded by Sustain Our Great Lakes Program and the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative to the Indiana DNR, to control invasive species and restore native habitats on public and private properties areas along the Indiana Harbor and Ship Canal. Other companies involved in this invasive species control partnership include BP and Valero. WHC is also working with ExxonMobil, ArcelorMittal, PRAXAIR, and Kinder Morgan on developing invasive species control programs on their working facilities under a grant from the Indiana DNR Coastal Program and the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA). Working collaboratively like this helps companies enhance the conservation value of their projects by aligning them with broader goals for the region. It also helps teams learn from one another by providing opportunities to share information about what worked and what didn’t.
For more details on how your company can contribute to conservation efforts in your area, contact WHC for tailored help or check out our Project Guidances for guidelines on designing and implementing conservation and education projects.
PHOENIX, JANUARY 13, 2016 – Margaret O’Gorman, President, Wildlife Habitat Council has been selected as a featured speaker at the GreenBiz 16, to be held February 23-25, 2016. O’Gorman, along with Hillary A. Johnson, Community Relations Director, Oldcastle, Inc., and William E. Cobb, Vice President, Environmental Services, Freeport-McMoRan Inc., will present on how to effectively incorporate conservation programs into corporate strategies.
For the third year, the Forum will bring together GreenBiz Group, The Sustainability Consortium, and the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability at ASU to give attendees an unparalleled in-depth look at the key challenges and opportunities facing sustainable business today. The ninth annual edition of the State of Green Business report, combined with high-wattage stage presentations, workshops and networking opportunities will make the 2016 GreenBiz Forum an unforgettable event.
O’Gorman, Johnson and Cobb will be a part of the session, “The New Standard in Corporate Conservation: Embracing Accessibility, Enhancing Credibility and Driving Change.” The workshop will address on-the-ground conservation programs that enhance biodiversity and promote corporate goals, including those related to social responsibility, sustainability, employee engagement, community relations and STEM education. Attendees will benefit from the panel’s experience in aligning voluntary sustainability standards with contemporary conservation priorities and actions, and how to use data and results allow for evaluation of impact.
What: The New Standard in Corporate Conservation: Embracing Accessibility, Enhancing Credibility and Driving Change
When: Wednesday, February 24, 2016, 4:30pm
Where: The JW Marriott Camelback Inn, 5402 East Lincoln Drive, Scottsdale, AZ 85253
Produced by media company GreenBiz Group, the GreenBiz Forum will also feature The Sustainability Consortium CEO, Sheila Bonini; Ellen MacArthur Foundation Founder, Ellen MacArthur; Project Drawdown Founder, Paul Hawken; Biomimicry Institute Founder, Janine Benyus; Conservation International Executive VP & Senior Scientist, Dr. M Sanjayan; Disney SVP Environmental Affairs, Beth Stevens; Steelcase CEO, Jim Keane; PwC Chief Purpose Officer, Shannon Schuyler; JLL President & CEO, Colin Dyer, and many more speakers from a wide range of corporations, startups, think tanks, policy groups, and others.
For more information on the the GreenBiz Forum and conference agenda, visit the GreenBiz website
About Wildlife Habitat Council
Wildlife Habitat Council promotes and certifies habitat conservation and management on corporate lands through partnerships and education. WHC’s programs take corporate sustainability goals and objectives and translate them into tangible and measurable on-the-ground actions. Through a focus on building collaboration for conservation with corporate employees, other conservation organizations, government agencies and community members, WHC programs focus on healthy ecosystems and connected communities. WHC-assisted wildlife habitat and conservation education programs are found in 45 states, the District of Columbia and 13 countries. www.wildlifehc.org
About Freeport-McMoRan, Inc. (FCX)
Freeport-McMoRan Inc. (NYSE: FCX) is a premier U.S.-based natural resources company with an industry-leading global portfolio of mineral assets, significant oil and gas resources and a growing production profile. FCX is the world’s largest publicly traded copper producer.
FCX’s portfolio of assets includes the Grasberg minerals district in Indonesia, one of the world’s largest copper and gold deposits; significant mining operations in the Americas, including the large-scale Morenci minerals district in North America and the Cerro Verde operation in South America; the Tenke Fungurume minerals district in the DRC; and significant U.S. oil and natural gas assets in the Deepwater GOM, onshore and offshore California and in the Haynesville natural gas shale, and a position in the Inboard Lower Tertiary/Cretaceous natural gas trend onshore in South Louisiana. www.fcx.com
About Oldcastle Materials Inc.
Oldcastle Materials, based in Atlanta, Ga., is the leading vertically integrated supplier of aggregates, asphalt, ready-mixed concrete and construction services in the United States. The company employs nearly 18,000 people at more than 1,200 locations in 44 states and has a strong commitment to providing exceptional quality, service and value to customers. Oldcastle Materials combines the flexibility, speed and in-depth market knowledge of local businesses with the buying power, shared expertise and operational excellence of a national network. The company is focused on the safety of its employees and works to be an engaged partner in the communities where it operates. Oldcastle Materials operates under Oldcastle Inc. a division of CRH plc, the international building materials group based in Dublin, Ireland. www.oldcastlematerials.com.