Several years ago the Preble’s meadow jumping mouse, a threatened species that lives along the Rocky Mountain’s front range, skyrocketed to fame when a genetic study suggested that it may not actually qualify as a distinct subspecies and should therefore... Read More >
Groundhog's day for the Preble's meadow jumping mouse?
Several years ago the Preble’s meadow jumping mouse, a threatened species that lives along the Rocky Mountain’s front range, skyrocketed to fame when a genetic study suggested that it may not actually qualify as a distinct subspecies and should therefore be removed from the Endangered Species Act. To their credit, the US Fish and Wildlife Service commissioned a second study to confirm the results, but the second study came to the dramatically different conclusion that the Preble’s mouse was indeed distinct. Again, to the credit of the Service, they assembled a scientific panel to weigh the two studies and found that the second study was superior in the amount and type of data that it used. Furthermore, the first study suffered from serious flaws including the fact that the authors had contaminated some of their samples. The Preble’s mouse was found to be distinct and its endangered species protections were left in place. Case Closed.
Fast forward to a new genetic study published in the December issue of Molecular Ecology that claims once again that the Preble’s meadow jumping mouse is “indistinct.” While the previous studies examined the relationships between Preble’s mice and other nearby subspecies in places like South Dakota and Nebraska, this study suggests that Preble’s mice are “part of a single lineage” that extends much further north and west in Canada and Alaska. The study also asserts that the Preble’s mice in Colorado are “ecologically interchangeable” with the mice in Canada and Alaska based on climate modeling.
Here’s what the study does do: the authors extended the geographic sampling of jumping mice and found that Preble’s mice are more closely related to subspecies to the far north rather than those that are physically closer to them to the east. The study also makes a number of proclamations that the Preble’s mouse is “indistinct” and that their “management” should be re-evaluated.
Here’s what the study doesn’t do: tell us whether the Preble’s meadow jumping mouse is (or isn’t) a valid subspecies. The type of genetic data that they used for this study simply cannot adequately address that question. Similarly, the data that they used to test for ecological exchangeability should include biological information (diet, behavior, growth rates, age at maturity, etc.) from the mice themselves. Instead, the study relies only on nonbiological factors like climate. This simply is not sufficient to conclude that the Preble’s mice and the habitat that they occupy are not unique.
Although the authors do concede that "additional tests" are necessary before concluding that the Preble's subspecies is invalid, this study is still likely to start a whole ‘nother push for the Preble’s meadow jumping mouse to be removed from the Endangered Species Act. Given the rigmarole that happened last time, the Service would be wise to wait for data that actually addresses the issue before heading down that twisted road again.
Image credit: USFWS
If there is a photographer today that has earned the right to be compared to conservation photography icon Ansel Adams, it is Robert Glenn Ketchum. His 45-year career is filled with conservation activism and success and the charting of new... Read More >
Conservation and Art: The Work of Robert Glenn Ketchum
If there is a photographer today that has earned the right to be compared to conservation photography icon Ansel Adams, it is Robert Glenn Ketchum. His 45-year career is filled with conservation activism and success and the charting of new artistic territories. Now, more than 20 years after their initial exhibition together, two of his earliest environmental portfolios will be shown side-by-side once again in Shifting Landscape, Shifting Vision, an exhibit at The G2 Gallery benefitting NRDC.
This upcoming exhibition will showcase Winters (1970-1980) and Order From Chaos (1979-1984), two collections that, together with photographs from Ansel Adams and landscape photography giant Eliot Porter, display the breadth and diversity of conservation photography. All three artists used their art as a tool for political change. Ketchum, however, went beyond the artistic singularity of Winters and Order From Chaos and became a significant spokesman for the environmental movement, as seen in his conservation-centered books, lobbying initiatives to Congress and active participation in the passing of the 1990 Tongass Timber Reform Bill. He was the recipient of the Outstanding Environmental Achievement Award from the United Nations, Robert O. Easton Award for Environmental Stewardship, and many other awards for his conservation efforts.
Shifting Landscape, Shifting Vision will run at the G2 Gallery in Venice from January 14 – March 2, 2014, with an opening reception on Saturday January 18 from 6:30-9 PM. Admission to the reception is $10, and all proceeds will be donated to NRDC.
G2 has held exhibitions benefitting NRDC in the past, and Ketchum has partnered with NRDC on numerous occasions, including a joint effort in the battle to protect the gray whale breeding and calving lagoon at Laguna San Ignacio in Baja California and in the ongoing fight against the massive Pebble Mine in southwest Alaska, in the headwaters of the world’s greatest remaining wild salmon fishery.
Normal 0 false false false EN-US X-NONE X-NONE The Polar Bear range states this week in Moscow during the meeting on the 1973 Polar Bear Agreement in Moscow made some important steps towards enhancing polar bear conservation. But with... Read More >
Polar Bear Countries Make Some Strides, But More Must Be Done!
The Polar Bear range states this week in Moscow during the meeting on the 1973 Polar Bear Agreement in Moscow made some important steps towards enhancing polar bear conservation. But with scientists estimating that two-thirds of polar bears are expected to disappear over the next 45 years, these countries must do more, and soon, if we hope to outpace sea ice loss and save this species.
The good news is that the range states made some important commitments – perhaps most notably for our work, to undertake efforts to understand supply chain dynamics for polar bear hides and create a new database to improve the clarity of legal trade data. We know that the legal trade in polar bear parts is skyrocketing, with the number of hides offered at auction in Canada more than tripling in the past seven years. But we need more information to fully address this problem and hopefully these actions will help with that.
The range states also committed to ensuring that environmental regulations and standards are put in place to protect polar bears potentially affected by industrial development.
The bad news is that, while the range states had planned to finalize and adopt a Circumpolar Action Plan for polar bears to guide conservation efforts at this week’s meeting, they failed to do so – pushing its finalization date to the 2015 Range State meeting.
Also, despite the fact that the Polar Bear Agreement was signed in 1973 to address unsustainable hunting that, at the time, threatened the polar bear’s survival, discussion of sustainable harvest was extremely limited. With Canadian harvest quotas increasing, along with polar bear hide prices (which reached a record $22,000 this year) and demand, this is an issue the range states just can’t afford to ignore.
The climate is warming quickly. The trade in polar bear parts is increasing. Big Oil is targeting much of the polar bears’ home. In other words, the threats to polar bears become more serious by the day. Hopefully, this agreement, when implemented, will help address these challenges, but the range states must take many more additional steps if we’re going to protect the polar bear. We are dealing with the likely extinction of a species. We can’t do enough.
Today marks the 3rd Anniversary of the Save the Fraser Declaration, a declaration signed by more than 130 First Nations, which states: We will not allow the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipelines, or similar Tar Sands projects, to cross our... Read More >
First Nations Stand Strong Against Tar Sands Pipelines through BC on 3rd...
Today marks the 3rd Anniversary of the Save the Fraser Declaration, a declaration signed by more than 130 First Nations, which states:
We will not allow the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipelines, or similar Tar Sands projects, to cross our lands, territories and watersheds, or the ocean migration routes of Fraser River salmon.
The proposed 525,000 bpd Enbridge Northern Gateway tar sands pipeline would run 731 miles (1,177 km) from Alberta, traversing dangerous, hard to access mountains, and crossing sensitive river ecosystems that First Nations in the region rely on for the salmon that thrive there, on its way to the Spirit Bear Coast. The pipeline would terminate in Kitimat, British Columbia, where giant oil supertankers, aiming to take tar sands to Asia or elsewhere in the world, would put coastal areas at risk of tar sands spills, a significant threat given the narrow channels, and the large waves and strong winds often experienced in the region.
The Joint Review Panel, the joint Canadian Federal and British Columbia Provincial body that has been reviewing the Northern Gateway Pipeline, is expected to release its recommendation report about the impacts of the project and whether it should be built, by the end of the year, a significant step (though by no means the final step) in making a decision about this risky project.
Today, on the 3rd Anniversary, the Yinka Dene Alliance, a group of 6 First Nations strongly committed to stopping the Enbridge Northern Gateway tar sands pipeline, hosted a Save the Fraser Declaration press conference in Vancouver, BC which recommitted the existing 130 signatories and where the Stellat’en First Nation added its voice.
Chief Archie Patrick of the Stellat'en First Nation, signing on to the Save the Fraser Declaration, with the Yinka Dene Alliance chiefs behind him. The Stellat'en First Nation is along the proposed Northern Gateway tar sands pipeline route, and will help to make the wall of opposition stronger.
The event also served to launch a Solidarity Accord for non-First Nations citizens to support the unbroken wall of opposition by First Nations to stop tar sands pipelines through British Columbia. NRDC is standing in solidarity with and prepared to continue fighting beside our First Nation colleagues in this unbroken wall of opposition, as the ramifications of the tar sands extraction that the pipeline would cause and the potential for catastrophic pipeline and tanker spills are too grave to sit idle.
The event featured major speakers including Gavin McGarrigle, the B.C. Area Director of Unifor Canada’s largest private sector union, which represents tar sands workers; Jim DeHart, the President of the B.C. Wilderness Tourism Association; and Peter Robinson, the CEO of the David Suzuki Foundation, along with other speakers, videos and letters of support from prominent individuals and organizations.
The Solidarity accord reads:
WHEREAS: Representatives of more than 130 First Nations have signed the Save the Fraser Declaration.
AND WHEREAS: The future of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people is bound together by our shared reliance on the lands and waters that sustain us.
AND WHEREAS: Mutual respect and cooperation is essential to ensuring that our collective future is a just and healthy one.
AND WHEREAS: Enbridge’s Northern Gateway proposal would threaten thousands of existing jobs and expose communities to unacceptable risks.
NOW THEREFORE, IN RECOGNITION AND SUPPORT OF THE SAVE THE FRASER DECLARATION: We, the undersigned, say to our First Nations brothers and sisters, and to the world, that we are prepared to stand with you to protect the land, the water and our communities from the Enbridge pipelines and tankers project and similar projects to transport tar sands oil.
Some U.S. officials and media have tried to disingenuously argue that the climate impacts of Keystone XL are negligible because if the U.S. doesn’t take the tar sands, it will be extracted anyways and sent through other pipelines like the Northern Gateway. Given the tremendous and growing wall of opposition, these arguments could not be more false; the Northern Gateway pipeline is far from a done deal.
As the deadline for the recommendation from the Northern Gateway Joint Review Panel draws close, First Nations' opposition to Enbridge is strong and growing and those Nations enjoy broad-based support from across the spectrum of Canadian and U.S. society, but we have reached a critical moment when the chorus must grow louder. You can add your voice by signing Solidarity Accord and by telling B.C. Premier Christy Clark to stand strong in defending the Spirit Bear Coast.
Chief Stanley Thomas of the Yinka Dene Alliance Speaks to Media at the Save the Fraser Declaration Anniversary Press Conference
Responding to Congressional requests and well over a hundred thousand letters from the public, the Department of Agriculture’s Inspector General confirmed today that it plans to conduct an audit of the USDA’s controversial Wildlife Services predator control program. Every year,... Read More >
BREAKING: USDA Inspector General to Audit Wildlife Services
Responding to Congressional requests and well over a hundred thousand letters from the public, the Department of Agriculture’s Inspector General confirmed today that it plans to conduct an audit of the USDA’s controversial Wildlife Services predator control program. Every year, at a cost of tens of millions of taxpayer dollars, Wildlife Services uses traps, poisons and guns to kill over 100,000 native carnivores such as bears, wolves, coyotes, and mountain lions. The audit, which is planned for 2014, will examine the following topics:
- determine whether wildlife damage management activities were justified and effective;
- assess the controls over cooperative agreements;
- assess Wildlife Services’ information system for reliability and integrity; and
- follow-up on the implementation of prior audit recommendations, such as the accountability over hazardous materials and equipment.
This audit is a much-needed development, one that will hopefully shed light on the long-documented problems with Wildlife Services’ behavior. The first two items listed above are particularly noteworthy.
First, as NRDC documented in our report, Fuzzy Math, much of Wildlife Services’ activities are justified by flawed cost-benefit reports that are inconsistent with economic analysis guidelines used by most federal agencies and omit the economic values to society of native wildlife. Having the USDA’s Inspector General take a careful and independent look at the program’s self-justifications is therefore crucial to making smart decisions about how the federal government spends its limited resources.
Second, Wildlife Services’ “cooperator” agreements (arrangements through which local governments and private associations cover about half of the agency’s expenses) can’t help but distort Wildlife Services’ behavior. Indeed, it creates a vicious circle all around: local governments and private ranchers have little incentive to try nonlethal methods of predator control when they can buy federal lethal control at a fifty-percent discount; as for Wildlife Services’, its budget and staffing quickly becomes captive to securing cooperator agreements. Thus, an agency which should be serving the public interest gets transformed into a private pest control business, operating on the public dole and often unnecessarily killing native, ecologically valuable, wildlife. An audit that takes a fresh look at these arrangements could provide an important check on the distorting effects of cooperator agreements.
As the Inspector General’s audit moves forward, NRDC and our allies – including the Humane Society of the United States, which has led the call for an audit by the Inspector General’s office – looks forward to providing all the information we can to the USDA.
Monarch butterflies are one of the great wonders of the natural world. Tiny and seemingly fragile, these beautiful insects make an incredible journey each year from the forests of Mexico across the US to Canada and back again over the... Read More >
Give a gift of beauty -- plant milkweed this holiday season
Monarch butterflies are one of the great wonders of the natural world. Tiny and seemingly fragile, these beautiful insects make an incredible journey each year from the forests of Mexico across the US to Canada and back again over the span of several generations – displaying their beauty and inspiring awe and wonder along their way.
How the last generation finds its way back across hundreds or thousands of miles, to the same small part of Mexico where its great-great-grandparents originated in the spring, remains a profound mystery. Monarchs are wondrous in another way, too. While they may look fragile, they actually pack a mean self-defense. They are poisonous to predators such as birds that might try to eat them. Rather than hiding from foes, their orange wings send a bold warning: “if you mess with me, you will regret it.” So effective is this dangerous appearance that other, more edible butterflies, have evolved to mimic it. Kind of makes you look at them differently, doesn’t it?
Monarchs get this poisonous defense from the milkweed plants they feed on as caterpillars. In fact, they depend exclusively on milkweed for their reproduction. But now monarchs and their unique annual migration are at risk of disappearing in large part because milkweed is disappearing. Reason: the growing use of Monsanto’s popular weed killer, Round Up (also known as glyphosate), and the wide-scale adoption of genetically modified crops that are resistant to Round Up. Over the span of just 10 years, as the use of so-called Round Up-ready corn and soybeans has increased across the Midwest, the number of monarch eggs in agricultural fields has dropped by 80%. And just in the last year, the number of hectares occupied by monarchs back in Mexico dropped by almost 60% to its lowest level in almost two decades. This year there are already reports that the returning numbers have dropped again.
Experts say one of the best things we can do to help the monarchs is to plant milkweed anywhere we can – in our gardens, on our school grounds and our roadsides. That’s why NRDC has partnered this year with MonarchWatch.org to offer the gift of milkweed planting. MonarchWatch works with a nursery to grow milkweed plugs of different varieties from across the country and then makes these available to schools, small businesses and private citizens to plant on their grounds. This year, when you give NRDC’s Green Gift of Milkweed, you will help MonarchWatch plant milkweed plants all throughout the range of the monarch’s migration.
It’s up to us to help ensure that future generations of Americans can witness the migratory marvel of the annual generations of the Monarchs.
Click Here for NRDC's Green Gift of Milkweed.
As the 100 percent owner of the proposed Pebble Mine in the Bristol Bay region of southwest Alaska – after British mining giant Anglo American walked away from the project in September – the Canadian corporation Northern Dynasty Minerals is beating... Read More >
Mark Twain and the Pebble Mine
As the 100 percent owner of the proposed Pebble Mine in the Bristol Bay region of southwest Alaska – after British mining giant Anglo American walked away from the project in September – the Canadian corporation Northern Dynasty Minerals is beating the bushes for a new “money partner.” On Thanksgiving, its CEO Ron Thiessen published an op ed in the Anchorage Daily News, promising remarkable things if Pebble is built, like thousands of jobs, 100,000 dollar a year salaries for mine workers, and vast sums added to the state economy.
Notably, Mr. Thiessen begins his plea for investors with the famous quotation from Mark Twain about his death being “an exaggeration.” In the case of Pebble Mine, perhaps a more apt Mark Twain quote would have been his definition of a mine – that is, “a hole in the ground owned by liars.”
As Anglo American figured out (along with Mitsubishi Corporation when it withdrew in 2010), the Pebble Mine is unlikely to be built any time soon. That’s because opposition to this uniquely reckless project is deep and wide-ranging, consistently polling at over 80 percent opposition in the Bristol Bay region and 60 percent opposition state wide. One of the reasons is that, according to EPA’s comprehensive Watershed Assessment, Pebble will have devastating (even catastrophic) impacts on the region and the Bristol Bay wild salmon fishery, the greatest of its kind in the world.
The truth is that the Pebble Mine would cost jobs and impoverish the State of Alaska, its communities, and its people. But don’t expect to hear about that from Northern Dynasty.
Take action now to stop the Pebble Mine.
Today in an ad running in the New York Times and six other major news outlets, NRDC is joining with a coalition of partners to call on the EPA to impose a moratorium on harmful pesticides that are contributing to... Read More >
NRDC calls on EPA to join the EU ban on bee harming pesticides
Today in an ad running in the New York Times and six other major news outlets, NRDC is joining with a coalition of partners to call on the EPA to impose a moratorium on harmful pesticides that are contributing to the severe decline of bees in our country. This week the European Union is adopting such a ban, based on the overwhelming evidence that several neonicitinoid pesticides are either directly or indirectly harming bees. The EPA has said that it will review these pesticides as part of its regular review process – a process that will take up to 5 years or more – but we know that these pesticides are affecting bees now.
The EU ban follows our Thanksgiving weekend. We should have been giving thanks to bees for the bounty on our tables--a third of our food supply depends on bees. It’s time for the US to realize that the bees can’t wait, and if we want to keep being thankful for our food, neither can we.
This month, Congress was very busy, apparently trying to get things done before the holidays, following which the budget battle will consume Hill activity for who knows how long. In the crazy bill introduction category, Sens. Paul (R-KY), Lee (R-UT)... Read More >
November 2013 Legislative Threats to the Endangered Species Act
This month, Congress was very busy, apparently trying to get things done before the holidays, following which the budget battle will consume Hill activity for who knows how long.
In the crazy bill introduction category, Sens. Paul (R-KY), Lee (R-UT) and Heller (R-NV) and Rep. Amodei (R-NV) introduced companion bills entitled the “Endangered Species Management Self-Determination Act” (H.R. 3533; S. 1731), which give complete control over endangered species management to states – regardless of whether such states actually want to do what’s best for imperiled species or are equipped to do so. Additionally, it would require the consent of governors and passage of a joint resolution by Congress to list new species, leaving protections to politics—not science. And it would delist species after five years, regardless of whether they have recovered.
(C) Fish and Wildlife Service
What’s funny is that the bill’s sponsors actually pretend it will enhance endangered species protections, with Sen. Paul stating that the “bill will better protect endangered species by allowing a more tailored response as implemented by the states." This just shows that these representatives know the public supports the ESA and are thus trying to cover up the destruction their bill would do to the Act and the critters it protects.
The Senate Energy and Commerce Committee also marked up a bunch of bills including a truly terrible grazing bill (S. 258), which, among other things, exempts “trailing” of domestic livestock from environmental review, even though this practice – which involves ranchers grazing sheep or cattle on a broad area going from one point to another as opposed to on a discrete piece of land or allotment for a fixed time – leads domestic sheep to interact with bighorn sheep and transmit diseases to these iconic species. In one incident in 2009, bighorn contact with domestic sheep in the mountains of Nevada resulted in the deaths of 88 bighorns and one mountain goat—one-third of the entire population in that particular region.
The Senate Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Public Lands, Forests, and Mining also held a hearing on a slew of bills, including an anti-ESA one: S. 1479. Not only would S. 1479 wreak havoc on threatened and endangered species through a gross expansion of logging and grazing, but it also fundamentally undermines the ESA through major changes to the implementation of listing decisions, recovery plans, and critical habitat designations. For example, the bill seems to encourage listing decisions made on factors outside of the best available science and the needs of species.
Lastly, conference negotiations continued on the Farm bill and Water Resources Development Act, which I wrote about here last month. The conference committees will attempt to wrap these up when they return after Thanksgiving.
With coal often as the elephant in the room at the international climate talks, the Canadian province of Ontario has a good news story that shows important leadership in tackling climate change. Ontario is about to become the first jurisdiction... Read More >
Ontario's move to zero coal shows leadership in tackling climate change
With coal often as the elephant in the room at the international climate talks, the Canadian province of Ontario has a good news story that shows important leadership in tackling climate change. Ontario is about to become the first jurisdiction in North America to move to zero coal. The province is shutting down its remaining coal-fired power plant and introducing a new law to keep it that way. Coal remains the dominant source of climate destroying carbon emissions world-wide. We can’t keep that up and tackle climate change. Countries from the United States to India and China are tackling how to deal with coal’s air and climate pollution. Ontario’s move shows that we can have a healthy, growing economy with good access to energy through alternatives as energy efficiency and renewable energy.
Let’s take a closer look at Ontario and what exactly it is they are doing. Ontario has a strong economy with a GDP of $597 billion and in the past has been coal-dependent. In 2003, coal supplied 25 percent of the province’s electricity from 6 plants that produced more than 7,500 megawatts.
The reality for Ontario in the heyday of coal-fired power? Smog and health problems.
Since 2005, Ontario has been closing down coal-fired power plants. In just the past four years, Ontario has built or contracted more than 7GW of new renewable energy projects projects. The coal phase out will reduce climate pollution by 30 MT – the equivalent to taking 7 million cars off the road. And whereas in 2005 Ontario has 53 smog days, so far in 2013, they’ve only had two.
Ontario’s story is an important one as we struggle with the need to reduce carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants around the world.
In the United States, coal consumption is falling. Utilities are deciding that coal-fired power plants are too costly and that there are cheaper and cleaner alternatives. America is tackling its climate emissions from new and existing coal fired power plants moving ahead with new regulations under existing Clean Air Act authority. Regulating existing coal-fired power plants is a critical step that is cost-effective and is better for our health.
The real elephant in the room is the potential rise in coal-driven air and climate pollution in rapidly growing economies such as China and India and in the developing world. From 2010 to 2040, non-OECD consumption could rise as much as 75 percent if today’s trend continues.
Recently, there has been a move to stop public funding of overseas investments in coal facilities, including by the World Bank. And investors are also raising concerns about the climate impacts of coal with some recent pull-outs from coal investments reported under headlines such as “Coal seen as new tobacco, sparking investor backlash.” But what of in-country investments in coal?
China is experiencing air pollution that is making international headlines and at its worst has been compared to living in an airport smoking lounge. To tackle the overwhelming economic and health imperative of the growing air pollution problem, China is implementing a cap on coal consumption in key air pollution regions around Beijing, Shanghai and Guangdong and is seeking to reduce the share of coal in total energy consumption to 65 percent by 2017. The challenge: China already consumes more coal than the rest of the world combined. However, China has made great efforts to expand its renewable energy and energy efficiency resources in recent years and is looking to strengthen these efforts in order to address the environmental and health impacts of its heavy reliance on coal.
India is also witnessing what expansion of coal can mean for air pollution and for water – especially in dry regions. India is very much on the frontline of the impacts of climate change including extreme heat and flooding. With so many people in India not yet having access to reliable sources of electricity, energy access for poor and rural communities is a very real need. The question is whether expanded dependence on coal is really the answer or whether both the energy access and development growth energy needs in India are better met through clean energy and energy efficiency.
In the international climate talks and at home, coal should not be the elephant in the room. We need to bring coal’s pollution and health impacts under strong public scrutiny make sure that our choices are based on the true costs of coal and the true potential of its clean energy alternatives. Ontario is showing us that there is a future that does not include coal pollution and that future can start right away.