The Environment

  Endangered Species 'Can't Afford To Wait'November 30, 2006 09:54 Animals such as woodland caribou are about to disappear from Ontario while the province stalls on endangered-species legislation, environmental groups said yesterday.

"We simply can't afford to wait," said Aaron Freeman, policy director for Environmental Defence. "The woodland caribou, wolverine and the spiny soft-shell turtle — these are species literally on the verge of being lost forever. These are species that can't afford to wait."

Natural Resources Minister David Ramsay said the government needed more time to study recommendations from a government advisory panel released this month.

The panel recommended the province overhaul legislation to strengthen habitat protection and increase the number of protected animals to include species-at-risk. It also recommended the list of protected species be drawn up by scientists rather than bureaucrats and that the revamped legislation be backed up by "adequate resourcing."
  High Court To Hear Greenhouse-Gas CaseNovember 29, 2006 10:59 Twelve states and a coalition of environmental groups sued the Bush administration in 2003 for refusing to issue regulations limiting carbon emissions from cars and power plants. On Wednesday, the case reaches the Supreme Court, where justices will hear the arguments on both sides.

Soon after President Bush took office, his EPA administrator, former New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman, traveled to Europe to meet with the top eight European industrial powers and came to an agreement to cap carbon emissions. But when she returned to the U.S., she says, the president -- under pressure from Republican senators from energy-producing states -- reversed a campaign pledge to cap carbon emissions. Whitman says the decision was driven by political considerations.

  U.S. Petitioned To List 12 Penguin Species As EndangeredNovember 28, 2006 10:58 The nonprofit Center for Biological Diversity filed a formal petition with the U.S. government today requesting that 12 species of penguins worldwide be added to the list of threatened and endangered species under the federal Endangered Species Act.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the agency charged with protection of species under the act, must respond to the petition within 90 days.

Each of the penguin species named in the petition faces threats that include global warming, introduced predators, disease, habitat destruction, disturbance at breeding colonies, oil spills, marine pollution, depletion of krill which feeds their prey species, and in some cases, direct harvest.

An oiled penguin along Argentina's Atlantic coast in October 2005. (Photo by Dee Boersma courtesy University of Washington)
"These penguin species will march right into extinction unless greenhouse gas pollution is controlled," said Kassie Siegel, director of the Center’s Climate, Air, and Energy Program. "It is not too late to save them, but we must seize the available solutions to global warming immediately. I hope that their tragic plight will motivate people to support stringent greenhouse gas reductions."
Under the Endangered Species Act, the Fish and Wildlife Service can decide to list a species living in a foreign country after taking into account efforts, if any, being made by that country to protect the species at issue, whether by predator control, protection of habitat and food supply, or other conservation practices, within any area under its jurisdiction, or on the high seas.

Foreign species can be listed under the Endangered Species Act if they are designated as requiring protection from unrestricted commerce by any foreign nation, or under any international agreement such as the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, CITES.
  Big Win For EnvirosNovember 22, 2006 14:27 There's no question that America's environmentalists won big in the midterm elections. "We picked up twenty new environmental votes in the House of Representatives and five in the Senate, plus four governorships," says Carl Pope, executive director of the Sierra Club, who called 2006 "the most successful midterm election in the environmental movement's history."

Whether the victory is big enough to change government policy during the last two years of the Bush presidency, especially on the overriding threat of global warming, is less clear. Much will depend on how worried Republicans get about running on Bush's environmental record in 2008. "Congressional Republicans will adopt an 'avoid embarrassing Bush' strategy," predicts Brent Blackwelder, president of Friends of the Earth. Now that Democrats enjoy majorities in both houses of Congress, Blackwelder adds, "they could get a decent global warming bill through the House and probably onto the Senate floor. If Republicans conclude they can't defeat the bill on a straight vote, they'll filibuster it to save Bush, and ultimately themselves, the embarrassment of vetoing it."
  Slow Talks Could Leave Climate Deal in TattersNovember 20, 2006 16:49 A new global agreement to tackle climate change may be scuppered by cumbersome international bodies and a lack of political will, David Miliband, the Environment Secretary, fears.

He warned that politics was now lagging dangerously behind the science on global warming and feared that negotiations on a new deal might drag on so long that there would be a "gap" in 2012 when the Kyoto protocol's first stage runs out.

To ensure deeper cuts in carbon emissions from then, he said, agreement in principle would be needed by the end of next year. "If we have a gap in 2012, we would have a very serious problem. The whole system would be in tatters," he said.

Mr Miliband was speaking yesterday after returning from a United Nations conference in Kenya involving 189 countries, which ended without a major breakthrough but agreed to keep talking about a "son of Kyoto" treaty.

In an interview with The Independent, he said: "The political institutions and their speed are out of sync with the scientific needs of the issue. There was real progress on important issues in Nairobi but the gap between the science and the politics remains large, with industrialised and developing countries divided by priorities and divided among themselves."
  Evangelicals Press Bush, Congress On EnvironmentNovember 17, 2006 14:37 Evangelical leaders, including a new corps of young activists, called Thursday (Nov. 16) for President Bush and the new Democratic leaders of Congress to pay greater attention to concerns over climate change.
"Our allegiance to Jesus Christ demands that the threat of climate change no longer be ignored," states a letter to Bush, incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and incoming Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid that was read at a news conference at a Baptist church here.
"We implore you to collaboratively pass and sign strong laws to combat change -- soon. We challenge the Congress to draft such laws and President Bush to promise specific actions on climate change in the State of the Union address."
The letter, from the new Evangelical Youth Climate Initiative, is part of a growing movement to get evangelicals involved in environmental protection, though not all evangelicals agree on the scope of the problem.
Jim Ball, the national coordinator of the affiliated Evangelical Climate Initiative, issued a similar call Thursday to the nation's political leaders and urged individuals to take practical steps to address global warming, such as reducing their driving and purchasing electricity generated by wind or solar power.
  Pombo, Green Anger And The Endangered Species ActNovember 17, 2006 14:31 The Endangered Species Act is like a wolf, one of the species it strives to save. Wherever the Act goes, controversy follows. In fact, is there an environmental law on the books more controversial? I doubt it. Now, even before the January changing of the guard, the Blue Congress is sending out positive signs that the approach to the ESA will change -- and change for the good.
During the Red Congress recently sent home to lick its wounds, enviros barely fought back many attempts to “revise” or “modernize” the ESA. But no more. Now, Congress will concentrate on overseeing the law to make sure agencies implement it as intended by its authors.
Losing your main ball carrier always hurts a game plan, which is what happened to property rights groups pushing for a kinder and gentler ESA. Congressman Richard Pombo (R-CA), powerful chair of the House Resources Committee and main proponent of weakening the ESA, lost his bid for re-election.
Actually, the stunning defeat of Pombo, a deeply dug in incumbent running for his eighth term, by political newcomer Jerry McNerney, a wind energy advocate, gave us perhaps the best example of the depth of Green Anger among voters. Called an “eco-thug” by environmental groups targeting him for defeat, Pombo nonetheless seemed unbeatable--until the news came in and he’d lost by a substantial margin, 53-47 percent, to a democrat with minimal experience or name recognition.
  White House Sued For Not Doing Report On WarmingNovember 15, 2006 09:21 Environmental advocates sued the Bush administration Tuesday for ignoring a 2004 congressional deadline to report to lawmakers and the public on the latest research on global warming.

A 1990 federal law requires the government to produce a scientific report every four years on climate change and its effects on the environment, including land, water, air, plant and animal life and human health.

The Clinton administration issued the first report in October 2000, warning of severe effects on different regions. But the Bush administration has not filed a report and has indicated it will not do so, environmentalists said in the suit filed in federal court in San Francisco.

Instead, the administration's Climate Change Science Program says it will issue 21 mini-reports on various aspects of the overall topic. The first report, on temperature trends in the lower atmosphere, was released in May, and others will be issued periodically through 2008, a spokesman said.
  The Environment Should Be A Top Priority For New CongressNovember 09, 2006 20:28 When Congress returns to work, the environment should be high on the list of unfinished business.

Much of the work unfortunately requires stopping proposals that would harm national forests and other natural resources. Lawmakers should turn down legislation that would:

_Allow the timber industry to fell healthy trees remaining after forest fires.

_Exempt large Forest Service logging projects from the requirements for public comment and environmental impact analysis.

_Allow oil and gas pipelines to run through national parks and monuments and wildlife refuges.

_Dismantle wildlife protections under the Endangered Species Act.

_Sell thousands of acres of national forests, including in the Mark Twain in Missouri, to finance rural schools.

Educational funding is important, but getting rid of national treasures isn't the way to provide it.

Congress also should take steps to protect the Tongass National Forest in Alaska, the world's largest temperate rain forest, from logging. The forest - home to grizzlies, bald eagles and 800-year-old trees - is not protected by a federal rule that limits logging and road building in pristine areas of national forests.
  Chafee, Friend of the ESA, Goes DownNovember 08, 2006 20:22

There's a lot of celebrating going on by many enviros today with Richard Pombo out, but also missing from the 110th Congress will be Lincoln Chafee, the Republican who single-handedly stood in the way of Pombo's push to undermine the Endangered Species Act.

Radio reports I heard had something like a third of the voters saying Chafee thinks "too much like President Bush," apparently oblivious to his stalwart defense against numerous would-be incursions on environmental protections. (Not to mention that he was the only Republican senator to vote against the Iraq war -- more than a supposed liberal like Maria Cantwell can say.)

Lincoln Chafee's father, John, was an architect of the Endangered Species Act. Chafee the younger defended it from a pivotal position as chairman of the Fisheries, Wildlife and Water Subcommittee.

The loss of moderate Republicans like Chafee and my old congressman Clay Shaw of Florida is bound to push the GOP further right. It will be interesting to see where things go from here.

  Officials Propose California Endangered Species Act Exemption For KlamathNovember 06, 2006 10:01 In the Klamath River Basin these days environmental news is dominated by talk about dam removal and, occasionally, new restrictions on fishing. But now another issue is poised to compete for the headlines. The California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG) announced late last month that it plans to give a hundred or so farmers and alfalfa ranchers in Siskiyou County just south of the Oregon border an exemption from the California Endangered Species Act. Released without fanfare, the announcement caused barely a ripple in the regional media. But below the surface a virtual tsunami may be forming.

The Scott and Shasta Rivers are major Klamath tributaries. While salmon runs in these rivers have been depressed for many years, fisheries scientists and restorationists agree that the broad valleys and forested streams of the Scott and Shasta have the greatest potential among all Klamath tributaries to produce salmon. Furthermore, the Scott River in particular could be the key to recovery of Klamath River Coho salmon. While all Klamath Basin salmon stocks are “at risk of extinction” according to the American Fisheries Society, only Coho are listed as “threatened with extinction” under provision of the California Endangered Species Act (CESA).

Ever since Klamath River Coho were listed as “threatened”, Fish and Game officials have been meeting behind closed doors with Scott and Shasta River irrigation interests. The irrigators are concerned because their dams, diversions and irrigation pumps have regularly killed thousands of salmon and steelhead. They want to be protected from prosecution for killing Coho while continuing irrigation practices which virtually dry up Scott and Shasta rivers and streams in drought years. An example is 2001, a year in which the San Francisco Chronicle quoted the local CDFG warden: “ ‘Everything has died,’ said Fish and Game Captain Chuck Konvalin of the Scott River. ‘The system has been dried up’.”

Klamath River Basin Tribes, conservation and fishing groups have been nervous about the closed door meetings. As downstream interests, they asked to be included in the talks only to be rebuffed by CDFG and the irrigators. Now the reasons for the secret meetings are beginning to come to light. While the actual Endangered Species Act exemption – technical known as an “Take Permit” - has not been released pending review by irrigator and state lawyers, preliminary environmental documents indicate that, while ranchers and growers will exclude fish from irrigation ditches, they will be allowed to continue dewatering the Scott and Shasta Rivers. If fish need water, the environmental documents indicate, the irrigators will consider renting water to CDFG on an annual basis. In return the CDFG will continue to have access to river sections that pass through private ranches and alfalfa fields – something that some ranchers have denied to CDFG since the Coho were listed as threatened.
  First Lady Touts Pombo's Enviro Record?!?!?November 03, 2006 21:15 This is just too outrageous...

Republican Rep. Richard Pombo, who has faced of wave of attack ads from national conservation groups, is an "enthusiastic steward" of the environment and a friend of wildlife, first lady Laura Bush told GOP supporters Friday.

The first lady defended the environmental record of the seven-term congressman, seeking to give him a boost in his unexpectedly tight re-election campaign. Environmental groups have spent heavily to defeat Pombo, angered by what they say are anti-environmental policies he has championed as chairman of the House Resources Committee.

Appearing with Pombo at a campaign rally, Bush told supporters that the congressman has led efforts to promote alternative fuels and reform the Endangered Species Act. She said the act has created barriers to repairing the aging levees that crisscross Pombo's district, which stretches from the agricultural plains of the Central Valley to eastern San Francisco Bay area suburbs.

"U.S. Rep. Pombo is an enthusiastic steward of our country's natural resources," Bush said in Pleasanton, about 40 miles east of San Francisco. "Because of his leadership, wildlife, property and people will be protected from dangerous flooding."

Pombo, a rancher who has held the 11th Congressional District seat since 1992, faces a surprisingly competitive race against Democrat Jerry McNerney, a 53-year-old wind-energy engineer who holds a doctorate in mathematics.

"It's astounding that she would mention the environment and Richard Pombo in the same sentence because Richard Pombo has made his living beating up on environmentalists and environmental laws," said Rob Caughlan, a McNerney campaign spokesman. "That's why we have the support of every environmental group in the country."
  Georgia Adds 121 Species To Protection ListNovember 03, 2006 21:10 The rare Altamaha spiny mussel, known to exist only in southeast Georgia's Altamaha River and its tributaries, is one of 121 species being added to the state's new list of protected species.

Resembling a rock with catfish spines, the mussel has been has been detected in only 14 of 120 sites checked since 2002, said Brett Albanese, a state wildlife biologist who helped prepare the first comprehensive revision of Georgia's protected species list since 1992.

The state's Wildlife Resources Division has been working on the list for about a year, using the recommendations of its own biologists along with biologists from three state universities, the Nature Conservancy, the Georgia Botanical Gardens and at least two federal agencies. The list was approved last week by the Georgia Board of Natural Resources and now awaits only the formal release by Secretary of State Cathy Cox.

"The Wildlife Resources Division ... has done a thorough and outstanding job updating Georgia's endangered species list," said Thomas Farmer, director of government relations for the Nature Conservancy in Georgia. "The new list provides a roadmap of the continued protection of Georgia's imperiled plants and animals."

Besides adding the 121 species, the update removes 18 species, such as the Eastern cougar which is considered extinct in Georgia, if it ever existed here at all. It also changes the status of 43 species that were already protected, such as the Wilson's Plover, a bird that was moved from rare to threatened.

  Salt-Water Fish Extinction Seen By 2048, Study By Ecologists, Economists Predicts Collapse Of World Ocean EcologyNovember 03, 2006 21:07 The apocalypse has a new date: 2048.

That's when the world's oceans will be empty of fish, predicts an international team of ecologists and economists. The cause: the disappearance of species due to overfishing, pollution, habitat loss, and climate change.

The study by Boris Worm, PhD, of Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, -- with colleagues in the U.K., U.S., Sweden, and Panama -- was an effort to understand what this loss of ocean species might mean to the world.

The researchers analyzed several different kinds of data. Even to these ecology-minded scientists, the results were an unpleasant surprise.

"I was shocked and disturbed by how consistent these trends are -- beyond anything we suspected," Worm says in a news release.

"This isn't predicted to happen. This is happening now," study researcher Nicola Beaumont, PhD, of the Plymouth Marine Laboratory, U.K., says in a news release.

"If biodiversity continues to decline, the marine environment will not be able to sustain our way of life. Indeed, it may not be able to sustain our lives at all," Beaumont adds.

Already, 29% of edible fish and seafood species have declined by 90% -- a drop that means the collapse of these fisheries.
  Fish Group Sues Department Of Water Resources For Taking Endangered SalmonNovember 01, 2006 13:07 An alliance of sportfishing groups recently filed a lawsuit against the State Department of Water Resources (DWR) to compel them to comply with a state law requiring them to protect endangered Delta fish species, opening a new front in the battle to save the California Delta.

The lawsuit charges DWR for violating the California Endangered Species Act (CESA) by capturing and killing threatened spring-run chinook salmon, endangered winter-run chinook salmon and threatened Delta smelt at its South Delta pumping facilities without securing the required permit from the California Department of Fish and Game.

Watershed Enforcers, a project of the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance (CSPA), filed the lawsuit as part of an aggressive offensive by a broad coalition of fishing groups, environmental organizations and the Winnemem Wintu Tribe to save the Delta ecosystem from imminent collapse. At an initial hearing on the lawsuit held on October 6 in Alameda Superior Court, the Judge set a November 17 hearing date for the lawsuit.

The action asks the court to order the defendant either “immediately cease” operation of its South Delta pumping plant in a manner that kills fish, procure authorization from the DFG pursuant to CESA or show cause why such cessation or authorization is not mandated by CESA, according to Bill Jennings, Executive Director of the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance (CSPA).

“One only has to look at DWR's refusal to comply with the most basic requirements of California law protecting endangered species to understand why the Delta's ecosystem is experiencing catastrophic collapse,” said Jennings.

“At a time when state and federal agencies are spending millions of dollars on emergency studies to identify the cause of the crash of Delta fisheries, DFG and DWR have conspired, with a wink and a nod, to exempt the State Water Project pumps - the largest killer of endangered species in the estuary - from having to comply with the fundamental requirements of CESA,” he emphasized.

The lawsuit occurs at a time when the California Delta, the most significant estuary on the West Coast, is encountering its greatest environmental crisis in history. Four pelagic species - Delta smelt, longfin smelt, juvenile striped bass, and threadfin shad - have collapsed to record low levels over the past four years. Last fall's tow net survey by the DFG produced the lowest numbers of Delta smelt ever, while this summer's survey yielded the lowest ever juvenile striper index.
  Activists Say Rulings Imperil SpeciesNovember 01, 2006 13:02 An Interior Department official has come under fire from environmental groups for disregarding a series of recommendations from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect as many as eight threatened animal, fish and plant species - including several in Utah - under the Endangered Species Act.
Julie MacDonald, a deputy assistant secretary, has rejected the findings of Fish and Wildlife biologists and reversed or altered agency findings on the Gunnison sage-grouse, the white-tailed prairie dog and Gunnison's prairie dog, among others, according to documents obtained by conservation groups under the Freedom of Information Act.
Gunnison's prairie dog is found on the Colorado Plateau in southern Utah, the white-tailed prairie dog ranges across the eastern part of the state and the Gunnison sage grouse is found in southeastern Utah.
"It takes years and lawsuits just to force the Fish and Wildlife Service to make these decisions. Then [MacDonald] comes along and changes them," said Erin Robertson of the Denver-based Center for Native Ecosystems. "Now we have a whole series of tainted decisions. Interior needs to throw them out so the agency can do the reviews they already determined they needed to do."
  Saving Endangered SpeciesNovember 01, 2006 13:00 This is a great article about WildAid.

According to the State Department of China, the United States is the second largest importer of illegal wildlife in the world. Knights attributes this to the countries' wealth and ethnic diversity: "A lot of these trades are derived from specific areas and peoples of the world," says Knights, "So while smuggled Russian caviar may be a rich Caucasian delicacy, shark fin soup is largely an East Asian dish. Rhino horn, tiger bone, bear bladder and sea horses are imported for Chinese health remedies, while sea turtle eggs is served in some Hispanic bars, and bush meat is served in some African restaurants."

Sea horses are more appealing swimming in the ocean than in a pot. Rhino carcasses are left to rot for a horn that has not been proven to cure any illness. Massive flocks of colorful parrots are netted in the wild and only a few survive the trip out of the country hidden in tires and pipes. Protecting a habitat means nothing without protecting its wildlife. State parks exist all over the world, but they are meaningless if they are empty. The illegal wildlife trade needs to be stopped, and this is where WildAid comes in. As the only group that focuses on stopping the role of demand, they are protecting the parks and the animals that reside within them, too. Their slogan says it best: "when the buying stops, the killing can too."