30+ Maps Of America That Will Make You Question Everything You Know About The USA

www.visualchase.com

Lily Tredwell

1. Think The Drive Through Is Open?

After any big night out on the town, it is imperative to grab some grub on the way home. But which are the most frequented establishments to go to late at night in order to quench this craving?

This all depends on where we find ourselves. As great as some late-night hashbrowns and fries could be, few things are better than a nice greasy spoon breakfast, like the one we would find down in the South.

2. Shakin’ All Over

From icy Alaska down to sunny California, one reason for not living on the West Coast of the States could be the very healthy fear of being caught in an earthquake. In reality, no matter where in America you live you run the risk of getting caught in an earthquake.

That being said, there is a dramatic difference between a massive 9.2 magnitude quake and a smaller 4.7 one. Frequency also plays a role, so keep that in mind when picking where to live!

3. With or Without Pulp?

A nice glass of freshly-squeezed OJ is always nice with breakfast. It might be surprising to learn which is the only state increasing its annual orange production.

Even the orange production is bigger in Texas. Out of the three main states that produce oranges each year only Texas has shown an increase in production.

4. Life’s Tough

Depression is a real problem amongst people of all ages and from all walks of life. Let’s have a look at which parts of America are affected the most.

It may be the lack of a winning sports team or maybe it’s the weather, but for some reason, the North-West and the Mid-West seem to have the largest issues with depression.

5. Barking Up The Wrong Tree

It’s not just the diversity of its people that makes America so unique. Whether it’s for building a tree fort or for getting maple syrup there is a tree for everyone.

With over a hundred different species of trees in some parts, the eastern coast of the States sports the most diverse tree population. However, with more than one thousand species of trees scattered across the country there is something for tree enthusiasts everywhere.

6. If A Tree Falls And No One Is Around To Hear It…

To answer the age-old question…yes it still makes a noise. All because no one is around to hear the tree fall that doesn’t mean no one is listening. If Orwell taught us anything, someone is always listening.

Natural loudness is measured in decibels by the noises of the wild. This could be the sound of the wind, the water, the birds, and yes, even the sound of a tree falling in the forest with no one around.

7. Big City Folk

We have just seen that mother nature on the east coast has caused more natural noise pollution than elsewhere in the country. It is now time to see where the majority of all noise pollution in America comes from (not just the natural kind).

It does not come as any surprise that the Los Angeles and San Francisco areas produce a lot of noise, however, they don’t call New York ‘The City That Never Sleeps’ for nothing.

8. Higher Education

Graduating from college is meant to be a celebratory occasion for a new graduate. After all, even though ‘the future is now’ it often starts with crippling debt.

Upon graduating, most graduates owe more in college debts than the average American earns in one year.

9. Moving To The Midwest Then Huh?

It is crazy to think that the average annual salary needed to buy a house in New York City is almost double that of being a homeowner in sunny Tampa Bay. But that’s nothing compared to the prices out west.

For all those who are eventually looking at retiring out west think again. An average annual salary of over $100K is needed in almost every major western city. And don’t even think about the move to San Jose unless the family is bringing in at least a quarter of million dollars annually.
 

10. Two Creams And One Sugar Please

Over the past few decades, coffee culture is something that has taken the world by storm. For any Canucks heading down the east coast on a road trip, feel free to dunk those donuts but don’t expect to find too many Tim Horton’s around.

Starbucks has not only put itself at almost every major street corner and petrol station across the United States, it has also created its own coffee language. According to the map the majority of Americans do prefer their tall, non-fat, extra hot, no foam, one pump vanilla lattes.

11. Left Out In The Cold

It is a privilege to be able to go home at the end of a long hard day but not everyone is so lucky. This is one of those maps that helps to remind us just how fortunate we all are.

Over 150,000 homeless people live in California and almost 100,000 in New York alone. That is almost a quarter of a million homeless individuals in just two states.

12. Expansion

Presidents are constantly attempting to leave their marks and cement their legacies. Some of them are just better at the ‘Art of the Deal’ than others.

Andrew Johnson purchased Alaska for only 7.2 million dollars in the year the first Canada Day was celebrated in 1867, and the Louisiana Purchase cost Thomas Jefferson a whopping 15 million dollars in 1803.

13. That Sure Is Quite The Load

The great American railroad system has been moving supplies across the country for almost two hundred years, but these days it does not deliver the goods quite like it used to.

Out east, the waterways and highways take the majority of the loads down the coast. Out west one can always see a large number of cargo trucks hauling supplies along the national highway. It simply reaches more places these days than the railway does.

14. Mind The Bears

The American landscape is vast and beautiful. No matter where one goes in the country there are spectacular sites to be seen.

Planning an Appalachian trail walk or cross country skiing through the Rockies? Fear not, this map has it all. Just steer clear of Yetis and keep away from those picnic baskets.

15. ‘Isn’t The Speed Limit 55?’

Driving along an empty highway road with music blaring and the wind blowing through our hair can be quite a freeing experience, as long as it is done within the confines of the laws of course.

Most states do have a similar maximum speed limit but it is always better to check first before going on a road trip. Being pulled over by a state trooper is a great way to ruin a vacation.

16. Route 66 Anyone?

Now that we know where the national parks are and how fast we can go, let us have a look how to get to them.

Connecting Americans with each other far and wide, the National Highway Services helps to unite all parts of America, with over 164,000 miles of roads that stretch all across the country.

17. Soy Latte Please

Over the past few decades, we have seen an increase in alternative eating habits and soybeans have been the base of a lot of these products.

Thanks to the American prairies’ production of soybeans for her soy latte, ‘Starbucks Karen’ will have one less thing to complain about.

18. Healthy Eating

Continuing along the lines of healthy eating, a lot of people seem to have grown tired of eating foods covered in pesticides and other chemicals for some reason.

Organic foods could cost an arm and a leg but it sure is nice to know that there’s nothing toxic being sprayed onto our food.

19. Everyone’s Guilty Of Something

We all have that one vice that is just so hard to ignore sometimes. Let’s take a look at which states are the most angelic as well as the most sinful.

If the movie ‘Seven’ taught us anything, it’s that giving in to temptation could get us into a lot of trouble. The bottom corners of the country sure do look like a lot of fun though.

20. Did You Want Fries With That?

We have already seen that McDonald’s is the most popular place for people to go for some late-night drunk food, but we all have our own favorite burger place to go to if given the opportunity.

Here we see that McDonald’s may be everywhere but it is not the only option. Burger King and the Queen of Dairy remain towards the top of the charts and Texans have made Sonic burger their choice.

21. And He’s In For The Touchdown

It is absolutely no surprise that the highest-paid public employees in America are connected to sports. The success of a college or high school sports team is paramount to a town’s happiness and it shows in how much they are willing to pay their coaches.

A high school football coach makes an average of around $45K a year which is not too bad at all, but it’s no wonder the end game is to coach college. The average salary for a college football coach is 2.7 million dollars a year. Talk about scoring.

22. A Different View Point

The map that is used in Alaskan schools has Alaska in the center and North America to the East. This is just a fun one for a bit of a different perspective.

With how secluded it is from the rest of the country it’s no wonder Alaska sees the rest of America as ‘that place down there’.

23. Poached Or Fried?

As long as people are eating breakfast there will be a demand for eggs. More than fifty billion eggs are laid in America each year and Iowa unexpectedly leads the way in production.

Fun uneggspected fact: brown eggs come from hens with red feathers and red ear lobes while white eggs come from hens with white feathers and white ear lobes.

24. Tis The Season

It is Christmas tradition for many families to pack themselves into the family car and head out looking for the perfect tree. Even the desert states have at least a couple of Christmas tree farms

Considering the enormous fines one would get for cutting a tree down off the side of the highway for Christmas, it’s probably for the best to know where the local farm is for the holidays.

25. ‘I’ll Get A Litre O’ Cola’

Some people call them chips and others call them crisps. Some call them cookies while others call them biscuits. But what happens when the chips and biscuits make us thirsty. What do we ask for?

Depending on where we find ourselves on this cross country road trip of ours, the answer may vary. Just don’t walk into a place on either coast and ask for some pop or the locals will be able to spot the tourists.

26. Need A Roommate?

New York and California maybe two of the more desirable places to live in America but that may change once learning the cost of any apartment bigger than a shoebox.

Better start looking for a roommate. With an hourly wage of under $25 an hour don’t even bother looking for a place with more than one room.

27. A Job’s Job

When immigrating to a new country an individual knows that they may need to work a job that they are not too fond of. It is a sacrifice that is made with the ‘American Dream’ in mind.

It is no big surprise to see here that most immigrants start off in a more subservient occupation, as these are the less desired jobs. A job is a job though.

28. Locked And Loaded

It is amazing to see the percentage of Americans who have decided to exercise their Second Amendment rights.

For all those who are against guns, maybe just steer clear of the entire center of the country.

29. ‘Wanna Play A Game?’

Here’s a fun one for the horror buffs out there. From the Texas Chainsaw Masacre’ to ’30 Days of Night’, horror films have taken place in every state right across the country.

It’s time to use that map of the interstate highways to get us the heck away from the midwest. And no summer camps either!

30. Cold War Era

Because of the fears that they would defect, it was very difficult in the times of the Soviet Union for Russians to gain permission to leave their own country. Even when they were able to leave there were limits on where they would be allowed to go once in the other countries.

From the late 50s until the end of the cold war the places in red on this map were actually the places where Soviets were not allowed to go. Kind of takes the fun out of an American vacation doesn’t it.

31. Don’t Forget The Stuffing

About a month before Christmas every year Americans all over the country tell their loved ones about all the things they are thankful for. Without these next farms a lot of people would be a lot less thankful every November.

Turkey farmers right across the middle eastern part of the United States work hard every year to ensure that every little pilgrim out there has the thanksgiving they deserve.

32. Locked Up

Almost every state in the country has at least one federal prison. Whatever happened to those maximum security prisons in the middle of the mountains that we see in the movies?

After seeing how many federal prisons there are in America just imagine if the funding for even a third of those prisons would go into rehabilitation instead of imprisonment.

33. Self-Haters

Sometimes where we come from defines who we are, alternatively, it sometimes defines who we don’t want to be. One either has pride for their own state or they do not.

That pride runs in their veins otherwise they usually have an escape plan. Maybe it’s because of all the noise pollution out East that’s causing the lack of state pride and desire to pack up.

34. Origins

As we know, hundreds of years ago the United States of America was built by the hard work of immigrants from all over the world who were trying to find a better life for themselves and their families.

In the hundred years between 1820 and 1930 more than 6 million germans and 4.5 million Irish made the long journey by boat from Europe to the New World. That makes up almost 10% of the entire population of America in 1930.

35. Where’s That Name From?

Now that we know where the majority of Americans’ ancestry lies let’s have a look at where the individual states’ names originated.

It is no big shock to see that the majority of the States’ names are derived from Native words. What is a little amazing to learn however, is that the number of states with names of English origin is less than a dozen.

36. 3D Map of Population Density

This map is another of those which gives a bit of a different perspective on the country.

Much like the numerous tall buildings that reside there, New York’s population density also towers over that of the other states.

37. Time To Head To The Coast

We are very lucky to be living in such a scientific age. As science and medicine progress, life expectancy has been on the rise.

With all the nice weather and oranges around for vitamins, it is no wonder why California and Florida are sporting two of the higher life expectancies in America.

38. Land Distribution

We’ve now seen where in the States the soybeans are grown and even where the majority of eggs and turkeys come from, but ever wonder how much of America is protected federal wilderness or used to make maple syrup? Well, it’s definitely not as much there should be.

Believe it or not, there is more land dedicated to cow farming and their pastures than any other industry in the United States.

39. Final Resting Places

Some presidents have been put to rest in the Arlington National Cemetary while others have been laid to rest in their own hometowns. Let’s take a brief look at the distribution of the burial plots for the Commander in Chiefs who are no longer with us.

Scattered across eighteen different states in addition to the District of Columbia, the deceased former presidents of the United States may be gone but they are surely not forgotten.

40. Family Matters

We have now seen where all the highways and national parks are across the country and we know how fast we are allowed to drive in each state. We even know where most people go for food after a big night out. Now let’s have a look at whose family road trip will have the most cramped car.

As we can see by this map even the family sizes are bigger in Texas. Families right across the southern part of America will have to jam pack themselves into the family car with not much leg room to spare.

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“Ex-oil exec: How Keystone, other pipelines can rescue US energy”

Custer Gallatin National Forest Plan A Disappointment

www.thewildlifenews.com

George Wuerthner

Hike on the crest of the Gallatin Range looking down on the Porcupine drainage. Photo George Wuerthner 

Many conservation groups are heralding the recently released Final Custer Gallatin National Forest Plan as a “win” for the environment. At least in my initial review, I am less sanguine and enthusiastic about the outcome.

The CGNF proposes 140,000 acres of new wilderness across the entire forest (keep in mind that only Congress can designate wilderness). But recent mapping by the Gallatin Yellowstone Wilderness Alliance has determined there are more than 1.1 million roadless acres on the forest that could, in theory, qualify for designation as wilderness under the 1964 Wilderness Act.

Yet, the Greater Yellowstone Coalition (GYC) breathlessly reported they had “exciting news” to share. They celebrated the CGNF recommendation for 140,000 acres of new wilderness spread across the three million-acre forest due to their “hard work” as the Gallatin Forest Partnership (GFP) members. The GFP successfully fought to keep a portion of the Gallatin Range in the Buffalo Horn and Porcupine drainages and the West Pine Creek areas from being recommended for wilderness. Way to go, GYC.

Likewise,  Wild Montana (aka Montana Wilderness Association) declared they were “thrilled” by the Forest Plan recommendations.

 Gallatin Range. Photo George Wuerthner 

The CGNF plan recommends 92,000 plus acres out of a possible 270,000 plus roadless areas in the Gallatin Range, stretching south from Bozeman to Yellowstone Park.

The Gallatin Range has been targeted for protection for more than a century as one of the most critical wildlife areas in the entire Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.

Buffalo Horn drainage, Gallatin Range, recommended as “Backcountry” instead of Wilderness. Photo George Wuerthner 

With the support of GYC, Montana Wild, The Wilderness Society, Winter Wildlands, and other so-called “wilderness advocacy” groups, the CGNF establishes a 26,496-acre backcountry area in the southwestern Buffalo Horn Porcupine Hyalite WSA and 22,632 acres of a similar backcountry area in West Pine drainage of the Gallatin Range.

Both areas were part of the 151,000 acres protected in 1977 by Senate 393 Buffalo Horn Porcupine Hyalite Wilderness Study Area legislation. They are critical low elevation lands that are poorly represented in most protected wilderness areas. The CGNF plan, with the approval of these “green” groups, only recommends 78,000 acres out of the 151,000 acres Buffalo Horn-Porcupine-Hyalite WSA for the wilderness. This is a “win”?

South Cottonwood drainage, Gallatin Range. Photo George Wuerthner 

Another 13,763 acres in the South Cottonwood drainages are also recommended for Backcountry designation. The South Cottonwood area was the center of a significant conservation fight in the 1990s. The site was proposed for logging, but local conservationists successfully fought for protection with the understanding that someday, it too would be designated wilderness.

Unlike wilderness designation, which has Congressional protection, Backcountry Areas are purely an administrative designation. In other words, the Forest Service can change the status on a whim.

For example, the Record of Decision for the Final CGNF plan says Backcountry Area designation in the Gallatin Range will permit logging for “restoration” and fuels Treatment as well as existing mechanical recreation access by snowmobiles, mountain bikes, and dirt bikes.

Mountain biker in Buffalo Horn drainage. According to S.393, the FS is supposed to manage the Buffalo Horn Porcupine Hyalite WSA to protect wilderness values. And only activities that existed in 1977 (there were no mountain bikes) are permitted. Photo George Wuerthner 

The S. 393 legislation says, “the wilderness study areas designated by this Act shall, until Congress determines otherwise, be administered by the Secretary of Agriculture to maintain their presently existing wilderness character and potential for inclusion in the National Wilderness Preservation System.

Dirt bikes in the Buffalo Horn drainage of the Gallatin Range. Typically motorized use is not permitted in wilderness or proposed wilderness. Photo George Wuerthner 

The wording “shall” is essential. It means the Forest Service must preserve the wilderness character and potential for future wilderness designation. But unfortunately, the Forest Service has not abided by the law. Instead, it has encouraged uses like mountain biking, snowmobiling, dirt biking, etc.—all of which are not permitted in the designated wilderness–to occur in the WSA.

I am more forgiving of the CGNF itself since it is under extensive political pressure to minimize additional wilderness on the Forest. However, instead of holding the Forest Service feet to the fire,  GYC,  Wild Montana, The Wilderness Society, Winter Wildlands, and others all fought against wilderness protection for some of these areas.

One of the problems with the CGNF final plan is the creation of “backcountry areas” on lands that clearly should be recommended for wilderness. For example, the ecologically critical Buffalo Horn Porcupine drainages are among essential lands for west slope cutthroat trout, grizzly, elk, wolf, moose, and bighorn sheep in the entire northern region of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.

Numerous scientific studies have documented the ecological value of the Gallatin Range. Photo George Wuerthner 

Indeed, a 2002 study (Noss et al.  2002 Multicriteria Assessment of the Irreplaceability and Vulnerability of Sites in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem) that colleagues and I did on biological hot spots of the ecosystem identified the Upper Gallatin drainage as one of the most ecologically significant areas in Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Similarly, biologist Lance Craighead completed a biological assessment of the Gallatin Range and repeatedly noted the ecological importance of the Buffalo Horn Porcupine drainages.

Hyalite Canyon is one of five recreation areas promoted by the final CGNF plan. Photo George Wuerthner 

The Final Plan also designates five recreation areas in the Gallatin Range and around West Yellowstone. The 36,000 plus acre Hyalite Canyon, 36,500 plus Storm Castle, 16,500 area Gallatin River, 71,000 Hebgen Winter, and 13,000 Hebgen Lake Shore. In other words, approximately 156,500 acres are recommended for recreation in the Gallatin Range and nearby areas, far more than the total acres of new wilderness on the entire forest.

A small amount of wilderness is recommended in the Madison Range, including 13,000 plus areas in Cowboy’s Heaven adjacent to the Spanish Peaks of the Lee Metcalf Wilderness and another 4,000 or so acres on the southern end of the Lee Metcalf Wilderness.

The rugged Crazy Mountains have more than 130,000 acres that could be designated as wilderness, but the FS only recommends less than 10,000 acres. Photo George Wuerthner 

The plan recommends a small 9,619 acres of wilderness in the southern Crazy Mountains and a 30,642-acre Backcountry Area out of a potential 130,000 acre or so roadless acres, which could be designated as wilderness.

The Punchbowl area of the Pryor Mountains. Photo George Wuerthner 

Likewise, the plan skimps on wilderness for the Pryor Mountains, one of Montana’s most unique mountain ranges, rising from desert to alpine and home to 40% of the plant species found in Montana. The Final CGNF plan recommends 10,662 acres of new wilderness in Bear Canyon 8,168 acres of recommended wilderness for Lost Water Canyon. The Punchbowl and Big Prior Plateau WSAs were not recommended for wilderness. A problematic feature is the construction of a new mountain bike trail that will bisect the Pryor Mountain proposed wilderness, making future wilderness designation problematic.

The Lionhead area is an important connection between Yellowstone and the Centennial Range to the west. Photo George Wuerthner

The Lionhead area, recommended initially as wilderness in the earlier 1987 Forest Plan, was downgraded to Backcountry. And a tiny backcountry area for the Blacktail area in the Bridger Range is part of the Forest Plan.

Deer Creek roadless area southeast of Big Timber, Montana, one of many larger roadless areas that did not get FS wilderness recommendation. Photo George Wuerthner 

Important and significant other proposed wilderness were left out of the plan including the biologically important low elevation Deer Creek area near Big Timber, and the Poker Jim roadless areas on the Ashland Ranger District.

Clearcuts in the Gallatin Range. Photo George Wuerthner

Under the plan, about 560,000 acres or 18 percent of the forest is considered “suitable” for timber production, with another 603,000 acres or an additional 20 percent suitable for timber cutting for “fuel reduction” or “wildlife purposes.”

So while these groups crow about how wonderful the final Forest Plan is, they ignore how much of the forest can still be logged. The CGNF is not the nation’s woodbox. Logging here has numerous ecological impacts, including loss of carbon storage, the spread of weeds, disturbance of wildlife, sedimentation from logging roads, loss of biomass, and so forth, none of which any green groups ever acknowledge.

The FWS says the final CGNF plan may affect and is likely to affect grizzly bears. Photo George Wuerthner 

The Fish and Wildlife Service’s biological opinion on the Final Forest Plan found that the proposed management may affect and are likely to adversely affect the grizzly bear and lynx, both species listed under the Endangered Species Act. Not a word about this opinion in the glowing approval of the plan by the Big Greens.

I’m typically an optimistic person and even somewhat pragmatic (though some of my critics might suggest otherwise). So I tend to see the glass as half full rather than in the negative as half empty. But this forest plan doesn’t even pretend to half fill a glass. Instead, there are just a few sips of water at the bottom.

In my view, overall, the forest plan fails to recognize and adequately protect the fundamental values of the forest.

The crest of the Gallatin Range. Photo George Wuerthner 

The CGNF is part of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, one of the few functioning temperate ecosystems in the world. It is the headwaters for major river systems of the West, including the Mississippi-Missouri, Snake-Columbia, and Green-Colorado. And lest we forget, it is home to numerous wildlife species that are rare or endangered elsewhere, from genetically pure bison to various subspecies of cutthroat trout to an isolated grizzly bear population. And the CGNF and other public lands surrounding Yellowstone National Park are part of the best wildlands south of Canada and Alaska.

The Three W’s include wildlife, watershed and wildlands. Photo George Wuerthner 

In other words, the CGNF’s central values are the three W’s: watershed, wildlife, and wildlands, and these values were given short shrift in the forest plan.

Sourdough Creek, Gallatin Range, part of Bozeman’s water supply. Water is one of the three W’s that represent the most valuable aspects of the CGNF. Photo George Wuerthner

That is why it is baffling, even discouraging to me, for groups like GYC or Wild Montana to declare the plan a success.

For organizations like GYC etc., to declare their support for the CGNF plan as a “success” is like hiring a realtor to sell your home estimated to be worth $200,000, and the realtor declares how lucky you were because they managed to get you $20,000 for it. You would fire that realtor in a flash.

Crazy Mountains near Livingston, Montana. Photo George Wuerthner 

When you consider that another 1.1 million acres could, in theory, be designated as wilderness on the CGNF, and would genuinely protect its international value, the CGNF final plan fails to live up to its obligation to protect the forest’s unique attributes.

The value of wilderness designation is that it legally recognizes restraint and humility. It is the best way in our legal system to protect lands from human arrogance—i.e., active resource management. Wilderness means “self-willed” lands or places where natural processes operate with minimum human interference.

Although the Forest recommendations are just that—recommendations since Congress has final authority to designate wilderness, it is still disappointing to see wilderness advocacy groups willing to declare the CGNF a “success.” I want to think the plan rises to Half Full status, but it leaves me thirsty.

The Continental Divide Trail in the Lionhead area. Photo George Wuerthner 

Passage of the Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act could correct the deficiency of the CGNF plan, and we can hope that someday Congress and the American people will have the wisdom to enact this visionary legislation.

http://www.thewildlifenews.com/2022/02/04/custer-gallatin-national-forest-plan-a-disappointment/#comments

Tribal Triumph

you can watch video here 👇

 

fullmeasure.news

A U.S. Supreme Court decision you may not have heard about has upended the criminal justice system in Oklahoma. It effectively said a historical glitch in procedures means millions of acres of Oklahoma is under control of the Indian population. Lisa Fletcher reports the implications stretch far and wide.

Tahlequah, Oklahoma: a small city with a big influence. This is the capital of two Indian tribes, including the Cherokee.

It seems idyllic. But for the head of the Cherokee tribal police, Shannon Buhl, things have never been busier.

Shannon Buhl: It’s horrific. We would average in tribal court between 30 and 50 cases a year. Our attorney general’s office here has processed a thousand cases in a month and a half.

The rapidly rising caseload is thanks to a startling Supreme Court decision that gave the tribes what they’d long wanted: recognition their original reservations still exist and giving them much more control over what happens in them.

Lisa: What is it now?

Buhl: It’s everything. It’s everything within our historical boundaries. So north out of Tulsa to Kansas, that whole chunk of eastern Oklahoma is now Indian country.

Historically, most of the eastern portion of the state — about 43 percent of what’s now Oklahoma — belonged to five Indian tribes: the Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek, and Seminole, who were forced there in the 1830s from their ancestral lands in the southeast. A forced migration that became known as the Trail of Tears.

In 1907, Congress dissolved the reservations when it created the state of Oklahoma, at least that’s what everyone thought.

In 2020, a Seminole Indian, Jimmy McGirt, brings a case to the Supreme Court arguing he should never have been prosecuted in state court because his crime occurred on Indian land. The crime he was convicted of was rape. The Supreme Court agreed, saying Congress never properly dissolved the reservation’s boundaries, meaning his conviction and hundreds of others were invalid.

So, as state criminal convictions are thrown out, federal and tribal courts like this one are taking cases at a break-neck pace.

The state’s Republican governor Kevin Stitt opposes the decision, saying it’ll impact much more than criminal cases

Governor Stitt: McGirt is the biggest issue that’s ever hit a state since the Civil War okay? That’s how big of an issue this is for the state of Oklahoma.

The governor believes the ruling will ultimately affect taxation, land rights, and even the oil riches that support much of the state’s economy.

Stitt: The tribes are starting to say, and even the Biden administration has said that “no, no, no, no. This is also a reservation now for zoning, or taxation,” or in their case, they said, “mining.” They told me, the Department of Interior said, “The State of Oklahoma no longer has the right to exercise its department of mining and its regulation of mines in eastern Oklahoma.

Though mining of coal and other minerals are relatively small scale, oil is big business, worth more than a billion dollars to the state treasury in 2019 in taxes alone.

Stitt: There are some people that think that if the reservation still exists and we’re never disestablished, then they would still exist for all purposes.

Based in Tahlequah, Chuck Hoskin is the principal chief of the nearly 400 hundred thousand strong Cherokee Nation.

Chuck Hoskin: This land that we’re on now, that covers now 14 counties of what is now Oklahoma was promised to the Cherokee nation in terms of our legal authority and that that legal authority never went away.

Lisa: How do you work with a state that has a governor that says, it is an unprecedented assault on the sovereignty of Oklahoma.

Hoskin: Well, first of all, I would point out to the governor actual assaults on sovereignty, such as the suppression of the Cherokee Nation for most of the 20th century, our forced removal on the Trail of Tears. Those are real assaults on sovereignty.

Lisa: Could you assert rights at this point though over the oil that is now on your land?

Hoskin: I don’t think McGirt changes our ability to do that. I would say, at this moment, we don’t have the interest or ability to wholesale displace the state of Oklahoma from its more than a century of regulatory law over the oil and gas industry.

The governor’s office is promising to challenge the Supreme Court’s decision, and efforts by tribes or the federal government to use it to chip away at the state’s authority to collect taxes or regulate industries.

Stitt: The Supreme Court divided a modern-day state in half, and basically said the state of Oklahoma no longer exists like we thought it did, since statehood in 1907.

But the tribes are embracing the ruling and what it means for tribal power.

Hoskin: We have to find solutions on McGirt because McGirt has so many direct implications for every single person who lives, works, passes through reservation lands, and in Oklahoma, that’s substantially half of the state of Oklahoma. So I think we can do it. But I’m an optimist.

The chief may be optimistic, but while the Supreme Court ruling settled one issue, it also left big questions about legal authority unresolved.

For Full Measure, I’m Lisa Fletcher in Oklahoma.

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Search Efforts Resume For 118 Missing Residents After Crews Demolish Collapsed Miami High Rise

www.dailywire.com

Emily Zanotti

Search crews have resumed combing through the rubble of the Champlain Towers South in Surfside, Florida, on Monday, looking for the tower’s 118 missing residents, following a decision to implode the building’s remains.

Around 10:30 p.m. Sunday night, crews set off explosives designed to bring down what was left of the Champlain Towers following an unexpected partial collapse in late June that left much of the condominium building in a pile of rubble on top of what was once the tower’s pool deck.

Miami-Dade officials announced the demolition Sunday morning, concerned that an incoming tropical storm could further damage the already crumbling structure, putting search and rescue crews in danger. Demolition crews from a Seattle-based company, which has experience in large-scale building demolitions, were dispatched Sunday afternoon.

CBS News captured the dramatic explosion and posted the footage to social media.

By the time search efforts halted earlier this weekend, rescuers had found the remains of 24 residents, but it has been days since anyone has been recovered from the rubble alive. Following the demolition, crews found the remains of an additional 3 residents.

NBC News reported Monday that search efforts resumed following the demolition, but could be put on hold again as Tropical Storm Elsa moves up the Florida coast.

“Search and rescue efforts for 118 unaccounted for residents continued Monday now that the unstable remnants of a Miami-area condo tower that collapsed nearly two weeks ago has been brought down,” the outlet said. “The destruction of the remaining structure has allowed search and rescue teams to explore more of the debris without concerns that the unstable building will collapse on the crews, Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said on NBC News’ ‘TODAY’ show.”

“We owe it to all of those waiting to get this pile and open it up for search and that’s exactly what happened last night before midnight,” Cava said. “They were out there again, searching in the rubble. And we understand that families realize the fact that time has gone by, they realize that the chances are going dimmer and dimmer.”

Surfside, Florida, mayor Charles Burkett said Monday that the demolition has allowed crews to work faster, and that the search teams are now exhuming the collapsed apartments at a much faster rate because they are now able to use heavy equipment, which was, before the demolition, prohibited, lest the machines destablize the remaining structure.

Officials, the New York Times added over the weekend, are now struggling with how long to call the operation a “search and rescue” operation, given that the chances of finding a survivor in the wreckage are “dimming.” Declaring the effort a “recovery” process “could unlock new, potentially faster ways of tunneling through the layers of concrete to find remains” and it “could also allow the families of the missing to move forward in the grieving process.”

But the drawback, of course, is that it would involve admitting that its likely the 118 missing residents of the Champlain Towers South are dead.

Burkett told media that the search’s official designation was immaterial.

“Efforts will continue 24/7 until every unaccounted for person will is found, with the exception of bad weather, Burkett said,” per NBC.

The Daily Wire is one of America’s fastest-growing conservative media companies and counter-cultural outlets for news, opinion, and entertainment. Get inside access to The Daily Wire by becoming a member

https://www.dailywire.com/news/search-efforts-resume-for-118-missing-residents-after-crews-demolish-collapsed-miami-high-rise?%3Futm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=dwtwitter

Support trap-free public lands across the United States

secure.wildearthguardians.org

Trapping is a cruel and dangerous activity threatening native wildlife, biodiversity, humans, and companion animals.

Traps are also indiscriminate, which means nearly any animal whose feet touch the ground can trigger them—whether it’s an endangered species like the Mexican gray wolf, a bald eagle, or even a family dog.

WildEarth Guardians is campaigning against the vicious practice of trapping on public lands—both on our own and in coalition with partners. By ending trapping on public lands, we will make public lands safe and enjoyable for recreationists and wildlife, so please raise your voice today and sign our petition.

https://secure.wildearthguardians.org/site/Advocacy?cmd=display&page=UserAction&id=1135

Leading Wild Horse Group Challenges Bureau of Land Management’s Mojave Desert Wild Burro Eradication Plan

americanwildhorsecampaign.org

Legal appeal cites failure to consider new research documenting key role that wild burros play in desert ecosystems

Riverside, CA (June 23, 2021) — This week, the American Wild Horse Campaign, the nation’s leading wild horse protection organization, filed a legal challenge to the  Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) plan to eradicate federally protected wild burros from three Herd Areas in the Mojave Desert in California. In an appeal to the Interior Board of Land Appeals (IBLA), AWHC challenged the legal basis for the eradication plan and said that the agency violated federal law by failing to consider new science documenting the critical role that wild burros play in the desert ecosystems where they live. 

“Wild burros are icons of the West and protected under federal law. They are also important ecosystem engineers whose removal from other desert areas has led to species extinction,” said Brieanah Schwartz, AWHC’s Director of Policy and Litigation. “We are appealing to the Interior Department Board of Land Appeals to overturn the decision to exterminate wild burros from the Centennial, Slate, and Panamint Herd Areas because it is inhumane, unscientific, and violates several federal laws.” 

The BLM’s decision to set the Appropriate Management Levels (AMLs) to zero wild burros in the Centennial, Slate, and Panamint Herd Areas was implemented in the 1980s and has not been re-evaluated in the decades since. Now new research on the benefits of wild burros to the desert ecosystem, published in Science, illuminates the need for re-evaluation, the AWHC’s appeal alleges. The research shows how wild burros are boosting the availability of water in desert landscapes across the American West and how the removal of burros from similar ecosystems has caused the extinction of rare fish species.

AWHC’s appeal alleges that by not considering the new research, the BLM is violating the agency’s obligations, under federal law, to periodically review land use planning documents and meaningfully analyze all new information instead of using the environmental review process to support a foregone conclusion to eradicate the burros.

The BLM plan calls for removing all of the approximately 1,000 wild burros living in this one million+ acre public lands area over ten years. The first in a series of helicopter roundups aimed at removing the burros was conducted earlier this month, with 290  burros, including 39 foals, captured so far. The captured burros were sent to the BLM’s Ridgecrest holding pens where they will be sold or adopted through the BLM’s Adoption Incentive Program, which the New York Times exposed as a pipeline to slaughter for hundreds of wild horses and burros. 

AWHC is asking the IBLA to vacate the BLM’s decision record and direct the agency to instead meaningfully analyze the Herd Areas for redesignation as actively managed habitat for a permanent population of wild burros. 

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The American Wild Horse Campaign (AWHC) is the nation’s leading wild horse protection organization, with more than 700,000 supporters and followers nationwide. AWHC is dedicated to preserving the American wild horse and burros in viable, free-roaming herds for generations to come, as part of our national heritage. In addition to advocating for the protection and preservation of America’s wild herds, AWHC implements the largest wild horse fertility control program in the world through a partnership with the State of Nevada for wild horses that live in the Virginia Range near Reno.

https://americanwildhorsecampaign.org/media/leading-wild-horse-group-challenges-bureau-land-managements-mojave-desert-wild-burro

Petition · Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge: Wildlife should not be terrorized by hunting hounds on Vermont’s National Wildlife Refuge! · Change.org

Protect Our Wildlife, Vermont started this petition to Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge

The Silvio O. Conte National Wildlife Refuge is seeking public comment on its recreational hunting and fishing plan found here. This plan impacts the Nulhegan Basin Division in Bloomfield, Brunswick, Ferdinand and Lewis, and the Putney Mountain Unit in Putney. Please sign this petition and let the Refuge know that you oppose hounding on the Refuge—this activity is not compatible due to its indiscriminate and disruptive nature. We are also asking that the Refuge ban all lead ammunition due to the secondary effects it has on wildlife, including bald eagles that scavenge on animal remnants left in the field by the hunters.

Hounders unleash packs of powerful, radio-collared hounds on a lone bobcat, bear, coyote and other wildlife. This occurs not only during the legal hunting seasons, but throughout the year during hound “training” season. The hounds often chase the animals for miles until the exhausted wild animal either collapses, climbs a tree (where they’re often shot), or decides to stand its ground and fight back. This places both wildlife and the hounds in danger since the hunters are often miles away with only their handheld GPS tracking device. We consider this activity akin to animal fighting, which is illegal in Vermont. 

Hounding is not a compatible use on wildlife refuges, since the activity places non-targeted animals and visitors at risk. A retired couple and their leashed puppy were attacked by bear hounds in Ripton, VT in Oct 2019 on public land. You can read about it here. Between hound training season and hunting season, the activity may take place all year, placing nursing mothers like bobcats and their kits in danger. The Refuge Plan lists Canada lynx as a threatened species, but lynx may be mistaken for bobcat, which would be an illegal method of “take.” A Refuge manager shared her concern about lynx being disturbed by hunting hounds in a Feb 2014 email to VT Fish & Wildlife, but they disregarded her concern. You can read our letter to Fish & Wildlife on that here. Other non-target animals include ground nesting birds, deer fawn, moose calves, and other wildlife.

The unsupervised hounds also place Refuge visitors at risk. The general public should be able to birdwatch, hike, and partake in other activities without the fear of running into a pack of frenzied hounds.

https://www.change.org/p/silvio-o-conte-national-fish-and-wildlife-refuge-wildlife-should-not-be-terrorized-by-hunting-hounds-on-vermont-s-national-wildlife-refuge?source_location=petition_footer&algorithm=promoted&original_footer_petition_id=29409338&grid_position=6&pt=AVBldGl0aW9uAES%2FugEAAAAAYM%2BFLfgL%2BU9lYjRkM2RmNA%3D%3D

Petition: An Australian coal mine is clearing land without any environmental consequence!

  • by: Care2 Team
  • recipient: Environmental Minister Sussan Ley

The Carmichael Coal Mine formally know as Adani, located in central Queensland, Australia, has been found to be clearing potential Koala and endangered animal habitat without the required wildlife spotter as promised by the company. Large mining companies in Australia have been getting away with too much for too long, and the power they have in Australia makes this type of lawless behaviour possible. The Adani Mine has admitted to clearing land without the promised wildlife safeguard and has potentially decimated important Koala habitat as well as that of many other endangered species. 

Act now and demand Environmental Minister Sussan Ley follow up on this environmental injustice and hold large mining corporations accountable for the mistakes they make!

The Adani Mining Corporation has breeched environmental codes on many occasions, including clearing around a separate mining pit, which was cleared in a manner that was inconsistent with clearing procedures. Another incident was documented in January 2021, when an additional environmental officer should have been present for flora and fauna spotting. 

The mining company admitted to these faults, although this was only after the clearing and damage had already been done. This is the fifth documented instance with non-compliance to environmental conditions and the governments slap on the wrist style of punishment is highlighting the failure within the Australian judicial system to stop this from happening. The Carmichael Coal Mine is not complying with the legal codes surrounding the environment and its animals and seems to believe they are somewhat untouchable when it comes to Australian law.

Sign the petition now and tell Sussan Ley to take action in following up environmental breaches by large mining companies in Australia!EMBED

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https://www.thepetitionsite.com/takeaction/620/014/226/?z00m=32757938&redirectID=3118488768

What is Forest Health?

www.thewildlifenews.com

George Wuerthner 4 – 5 minutes

The North Bridger Range is a proposed wilderness. Photo George Wuerthner 

In an article in the Bozeman Chronicle about the North Bridger Timber sale, the Forest Service justifies logging the forests based on what it calls “forest health”. The agency claims logging will “restore” resiliency.  But few ask what exactly constitutes a healthy forest ecosystem?

The North Bridger Timber Sale area. Photo George Wuerthner

The agency defines forest health as a lack of tree mortality, mainly from wildfire, bark beetles, root rot, mistletoe, drought, and a host of other natural agents. To the Forest Service, such biological agents are “destructive,” but this demonstrates a complete failure to understand how forest ecosystems work.

This Industrial Forestry Paradigm espoused by the Forest Service views any mortality other than that resulting from a chainsaw as unacceptable.

The snag forest resulting from wildfire supports some of the highest biodiversity of all forest ecosystem types. Photo George Wuerthner

This perspective is analogous to how Fish and Game agencies used to view the influence of natural predators like wolves and cougars on elk and deer. Over time biologists learned that culling of the less fit animals by predators enhanced the survival of the prey species.

Similarly, wildfire, bark beetles, and other natural sources of mortality enhance the long-term resilience of the forest ecosystem.

For example, the snag forests resulting from a high severity fire have the second-highest biodiversity found in forested landscapes. Large, high severity fires promote more birds, bees, butterflies, wildflowers, bats, fungi, small rodents, trout, grizzly bears, deer, elk, and moose.

Many species of wildlife and plants are so dependent on snags and down wood that they live in mortal “fear” of green forests. Some estimates suggest that as much as 2/3 of all wildlife species utilize dead trees at some point in their lifecycle.

Even worse for forest ecosystems, the Forest Service emphasizes chainsaw medicine to “fix” what they define incorrectly as a “health” problem. Chainsaw medicine ignores the long-lasting effects of logging on forest genetics.

The tiny light spots on this lodgepole pine are areas where the tree used sap to shed bark beetles that were attacking the tree. Some trees are able to repel beetles due to genetic adaptations. Photo George Wuerthner

Research has demonstrated that all trees vary in their genetic ability to adapt to various stress agents. Some lodgepole pine and ponderosa pine have a genetic resistance to bark beetles. Others are better adapted to deal with drought and so forth. Yet, a forester with a paint gun marking trees for logging has no idea which trees have such adaptive genetics.

Research has shown that thinning even 50% of a forest stand can remove half of the genetic diversity because it is the rare alleles that are important in the time of environmental stress. Perhaps one in a hundred trees may have a genetic ability to survive drought or slightly thicker bark that enables it to survive a fire.

Weeds are spread widely along logging roads, and is one of the unaccounted costs of logging projects for “forest health.” Photo George Wuerthner

There are numerous other known ecological impacts associated with logging that are minimized, overlooked, or ignored by the Forest Service. For instance, one of the primary vectors for the spread of weeds into the forest ecosystem is logging roads. Logging roads are also a primary chronic source of sedimentation that degrades aquatic ecosystems. Logging removes carbon that would otherwise be stored on the site. Even burnt forests store far more carbon than a logged/thinned forest.

So when the Forest Service asserts it is logging the forest to enhance “forest health,” one must ask whose definition of forest health are they using? The timber industry? Or an ecological perspective? So far, the agency is more a handmaiden of the industry than a custodian of the public trust.

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About The Author

George Wuerthner

George Wuerthner is an ecologist and former hunting guide with a degree in wildlife biology

http://www.thewildlifenews.com/2021/06/04/what-is-forest-health/

Activist heads explode as USFWS says oil activities pose minimal risk to polar bears in AK

polarbearscience

Apparently, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) under Joe Biden agrees with my conclusion that oil company activities in Alaska pose minimal risk to polar bears (Crockford 2019, 2020, 2021). Although this ruling is not yet final, they have proposed that oil exploration and extraction activities on the North Slope of Alaska can proceed over the next five years.

After noting that no major offshore oil spills have ever taken place in the Alaskan portion of the Beaufort Sea (see map below) and that all spills to date have been on land with no impact on polar bears, the proposed rule in the 200+ page assessment states:

View original post 1,052 more words

Attorneys argue Flathead forest plan doesn’t project grizzlies, lynx, bull trout ~ Missoula Current

missoulacurrent.com

Canada lynx are one of the endangered species of concern in the Flathead National Forest plan.

A Missoula federal district judge will decide if the new Flathead National Forest plan must be changed to better protect endangered species, including grizzly bears, Canada lynx and bull trout.

On Thursday afternoon, Judge Donald Molloy heard limited arguments on whether the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service properly considered the effect of the new Flathead National Forest plan on the three threatened species and, if not, whether the Flathead National Forest needed to put its forest plan on hold while the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service returned to the drawing board.

Earthjustice attorney Tim Preso, representing the Swan View Coalition and Friends of the Wild Swan, argued that the new Flathead forest plan, published in 2018, changed how the forest would manage its roads and road culverts.

The result could make things worse for threatened species. And yet, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had failed to flag anything as wrong in its Biological Opinion of the plan. Wildlife advocates sued in 2019.

“If all you have to do to make a road not count against limits is pile debris over the first 50 feet, it’s a lot easier and cheaper to build roads than it is if you have to rehabilitate an entire roadway under Amendment 19,” Preso told Molloy. “(The Flathead National Forest has) about 70 miles of road construction and reconstruction planned for the first two years of this plan. Under the past 15 years of Amendment 19, they accomplished a little over 2 miles of road construction. So they’re at a pace of 20 times the amount of road building under Amendment 19.”

Under the previous forest plan with a 1995 amendment – Amendment 19 – a policy of 19% -19% -68% required the agency to ensure that 68% of each grizzly bear management unit was secure habitat, that is free of roads.

Research has shown that adding more roads increases the chance of human-bear conflict, which often results in dead bears. Plus bears avoid roads so they can’t use roaded habitat.

The roads in the remainder of each grizzly management unit can’t exist above certain densities, even if they were closed, because bears, especially females, avoid roads. To meet those standards, the agency had not just closed but reclaimed 730 miles of roads.

However, the new Flathead policy allows the agency to build more miles of roads while doing less with closed roads, because it’s done away with Amendment 19 restrictions so the agency doesn’t have to reclaim roads. A grizzly bear with a cub.

Preso said the Flathead Forest plan allows the agency to block off just the first 50 to 100 feet of a road to count it as “closed” and then remove it from the road-density statistics. However, surveys carried out by nonprofit groups have documented that vehicles still illegally use a percentage of the closed roads. Roads that aren’t fully reclaimed still have an effect on wildlife, so the agency should have to count them.

Finally, under Amendment 19, the agency was supposed to remove all culverts from beneath closed roads, because blocked or damaged culverts increase road erosion. The resulting sediment spilling into forest streams can damage bull trout spawning grounds and habitat.

U.S. Department of Justice attorney Frederick Turner argued that the new plan provides “as much if not more protection” for endangered species, even though the 19-19-68 standard is gone. The Flathead Forest would use a standard of “no net increase” in roads past what existed in 2011.

The Flathead National Forest chose the year 2011 because the grizzly bear population in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem had grown at that point, so the agency argued that the roads that existed at that time must have been okay.

Preso argued that the bears had done okay because Amendment 19 was in effect so the agency was meeting higher standards to help the bear.

Turner also argued that the Amendment 19 requirement for culverts wasn’t needed because the new forest plan has a culvert-monitoring plan, which requires Forest Service employees to ensure all culverts on all roads are operating during a six-year cycle.

Turner said the US Fish and Wildlife Service Biological Opinion was sufficient because the Endangered Species Act doesn’t require the service to do side-by-side comparisons of the protections in each plan. It just requires a determination of whether species are in jeopardy and the Service decided the new plan didn’t put species in jeopardy.

However, WildEarth Guardians attorney Marla Fox said the Biological Opinion failed to consider three issues.

Similar to the attempted delisting of the Yellowstone subpopulation, the agency failed to consider what the ramifications would be for bear populations outside the NCDE. Other populations have very low numbers and won’t survive without NCDE bears having the ability to migrate to other populations. The road building planned for some logging projects could limit or stop dispersal into the Cabinet-Yaak and down into the Bitterroot.

Second, Fox said, the 2011 road conditions are based on an assumption that the population was growing and didn’t consider the best science, even though they’re included in the NCDE grizzly bear conservation strategy.

Finally, the US Fish and Wildlife Service approved a certain level of grizzly bear deaths under the new plan but didn’t set a point where the decision needed to be reconsidered if the number of dead bears started increasing.

Molloy kept the attorneys on a tight schedule, limiting each side to 30 minutes, and often interrupted to ask questions. Notably, he asked both sides what they thought the remedy should be, but with the federal attorneys, he prefaced his question with “If the plaintiffs are right…” Bull Trout

The federal attorneys want Molloy to decide that the Flathead National Forest can keep its plan the way it is. But “if the plaintiffs are right,” Turner asked that Molloy send the Biological Opinion and Forest Plan back to the agencies for reconsideration but keep the new Forest Plan in effect.

The Flathead National Forest has six projects already approved with four under analysis so they want those to go ahead. Federal attorney John Tustin said some projects might not even include road building so they wouldn’t be affected either way.

Preso argued that two projects – the Mid-Swan and Frozen Moose projects – together plan to build 70 miles of road. So the wildlife groups want Molloy keep most of the new forest plan in place but put the road and culvert parts of the new forest plan on hold while the agencies reconsider the biological opinion.

Outside the courthouse, Preso said the Flathead National Forest has been moving forward as rapidly as possible with road building since the plan was published.

“They’ve never wrestled with the impact of that,” Preso said. “They pretended it wasn’t going to happen and told everyone that the conditions that existed during the last 20 years are going to continue. Well, we can see already they’re not going to continue.”

The federal attorneys argued it has to be all or nothing – rewrite the entire plan or keep the entire plan. Preso said previous court rulings have allowed for the invalidation of parts of policies and procedures. Molloy asked Preso why his ruling should limit only the parts of the Forest Plan the wildlife groups don’t like.

“I would say the part that’s lawful and poses no threat should stay and the part that’s unlawful and poses a clear threat should go,” Preso said.

Molloy said he would rule as quickly as he could.

Contact reporter Laura Lundquist at lundquist@missoulacurrent.com.

https://missoulacurrent.com/outdoors/2021/05/flathead-grizzlies-bull-trout/

Climate lawsuit challenges fracking threatening Colorado’s forests | WildEarth Guardians

wildearthguardians.org

Fracking threatens Colorado’s North Fork Valley

Unchecked oil and gas extraction threatens climate, Colorado’s North Fork Valley

WASHINGTON—Conservation groups filed a lawsuit today challenging the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service’s 2020 approval of a plan that allows fracking across 35,000 acres of Colorado’s Western Slope. The North Fork Mancos Master Development Plan allows 35 new fracking wells in the North Fork Valley and Thompson Divide areas of the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forest.

Today’s lawsuit says federal agencies violated the National Environmental Policy Act and other laws by failing to fully assess the potential for water pollution and harm to the climate, and by refusing to analyze alternatives that would minimize or eliminate harm to the environment. The plan would result in about 52 million tons of greenhouse gas pollution, equivalent to the annual pollution from a dozen coal-fired power plants.

“This case is about confronting the Trump administration’s complete disregard of law, science, and public lands,” said Jeremy Nichols, Climate and Energy program director for WildEarth Guardians. “We can’t frack our way to a safe climate and we certainly can’t afford to keep letting the oil and gas industry run roughshod over Colorado’s irreplaceable and vital public lands.”

“The Trump administration charted a course to destroy public lands and our shared climate,” said Peter Hart, staff attorney at Wilderness Workshop. “This master development plan is a 30-year commitment to the disastrous ‘energy dominance’ agenda which ignored significant impacts on the communities and spectacular values of the North Fork. We are determined to hold our federal government accountable to a more sustainable future for Colorado’s public lands, wildlife, people, and climate.”

“Fossil fuel development and sustainable public lands don’t mix, especially in the roadless headwaters of the Upper North Fork Valley,” said Brett Henderson, executive director of Gunnison County-based High Country Conservation Advocates. “This project is incompatible with necessary climate change action, healthy wildlife habitat, and watershed health, and is at odds with the future of our communities.”

“We are in a megadrought in the North Fork Valley and the Western Slope. The water used to frack in the watershed risks precious water resources and only exacerbates the climate and the water crisis,” said Natasha Léger, executive director of Citizens for a Healthy Community. “This 35-well project is the beginning of much larger plans to extract a resource that should be left in the ground and for which the market is drying up.”

“This dangerous plan promises more runaway climate pollution in one of the fastest-warming regions in the United States,” said Taylor McKinnon of the Center for Biological Diversity. “We’re suing to force federal agencies to stop ignoring the climate emergency. Like the planet, the Colorado River Basin can’t survive a future of ever-expanding fossil fuel development.”

“It is past time for the federal government to meaningfully consider climate change in its oil and gas permitting decisions,” said Melissa Hornbein, attorney at the Western Environmental Law Center. “Gunnison and Delta Counties have already exceeded 1.5°C of warming; the project failed to meaningfully analyze impacts to climate, roadless areas, and the agriculture and eco-tourism centered economies of the North Fork Valley. More drilling is projected to harm Delta County’s tax revenue, not help it. These communities need land management that serves the public interest.”

Colorado’s Western Slope is already suffering from severe warming. The Washington Post recently featured the area as the largest “climate hot spot” in the lower 48 states, where temperatures have already risen more than 2 degrees Celsius, reducing snowpack and drying Colorado River flows that support endangered fish, agriculture and 40 million downstream water users. 

In January 574 conservation, Native American, religious and business groups sent the then president-elect a proposed executive order to ban new fossil fuel leasing and permitting on federal public lands and waters. In February the Biden administration issued an executive order pausing oil and gas leasing onshore and offshore pending a climate review of federal fossil fuel programs. In June the Interior Department will issue an interim report describing findings from a March online forum and public comments. 

Background: Fossil fuel production on public lands causes about a quarter of U.S. greenhouse gas pollution. Peer-reviewed science estimates that a nationwide fossil fuel leasing ban on federal lands and oceans would reduce carbon emissions by 280 million tons per year, ranking it among the most ambitious federal climate-policy proposals.

Oil, gas and coal extraction uses mines, well pads, gas lines, roads and other infrastructure that destroy habitat for wildlife, including threatened and endangered species. Oil spills and other harms from offshore drilling have inflicted immense damage to ocean wildlife and coastal communities. Fracking and mining also pollute watersheds and waterways that provide drinking water to millions of people.

Federal fossil fuels that have not been leased to industry contain up to 450 billion tons of potential climate pollution; those already leased to industry contain up to 43 billion tons. Pollution from the world’s already producing oil and gas fields, if fully developed, would push global warming well past 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Other Contact

Melissa Hornbein, Western Environmental Law Center, (406) 471-3173, hornbein@westernlaw.org, Taylor McKinnon, Center for Biological Diversity, (801) 300-2414, tmckinnon@biologicaldiversity.org, Grant Stevens, Wilderness Workshop, (319) 427-0260, grant@wildernessworkshop.org , Brett Henderson, High Country Conservation Advocates, (866) 349-7104, brett@hccacb.org, Natasha Léger, Citizens for a Healthy Community, (970) 399-9700, natasha@chc4you.org

https://wildearthguardians.org/press-releases/climate-lawsuit-challenges-fracking-threatening-colorados-forests/

Petition: Ask President Biden to act quickly to restore Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante – WildEarth Guardians

Photo Credit: Bureau of Land Management

A Force for Nature

Public lands that were formerly protected inside Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments in Utah are under threat from energy extraction, archeological theft, off-road vehicle abuse, and other impacts. These treasured places need to be protected once again. Please ask President Biden to act quickly to reinstate the boundaries of these two cherished places.

Recipients

  • President Joseph ‘Joe’ R. Biden

Subject

Dear President Biden, Personalize your message Thank you for reaffirming our nation’s commitment to conserving our national treasures and monuments. Your executive order on January 20, 2021 directing a review of the boundaries and conditions for Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments was a much-needed call to reconsider the proclamations of President Trump in December 2017 that dismantled these two fragile landscapes. Please work with Interior Secretary Deb Haaland to move quickly to issue proclamations under the Antiquities Act that reinstate the prior Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante boundaries. Time is of the essence, as sites sacred to the Bears Ears Tribes, which were protected in 2016, are once again potential targets for looters and even grave robbers. The United States made a promise to the Bears Ears Tribes to protect this place when the monument was designated in 2016. We must keep that promise. Former monument lands face other threats, too, including oil and gas development, uranium mining, and inappropriate off-road motorized travel. Public lands previously protected inside the boundary of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument are similarly at risk. Energy extraction, increased livestock grazing, fossil collection, and off-road vehicle travel all threaten the incredible beauty and biodiversity of public lands, which had been protected inside the Grand Staircase-Escalante boundary for more than 20 years. Proclamations restoring the boundaries of these two monuments would promote other important parts of your agenda. Re-establishing the earlier boundaries will protect more than two million acres of public land, significantly advancing your goal of protecting 30 percent of U.S. land and waters by 2030. Boundary restoration will also boost efforts to address the climate crisis by ensuring that fossil fuels are kept in the ground inside the monuments. The case for restoring Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante is clear. Please act quickly to protect these important places. Thank you.

WildEarth Guardians protects and restores the wildlife, wild places, wild rivers, and health of the American West.

https://secure.wildearthguardians.org/site/Advocacy?cmd=display&page=UserAction&id=1152

Ask Congress to fund the Legacy Roads and Trails Program

secure.wildearthguardians.org

National forests and grasslands spread across ten percent of the U.S. Also reaching across those public lands are over 370,000 miles of roads, built mainly for the industrial logging boom of the past, but not adapted to the climate crisis of today.

With enough road miles to circle the earth 15 times, the cost to fix them all runs in the tens of billions. We can be strategic on how we address this problem. By focusing repairs on the roads where the 149 million forest visitors go, we can focus road removal along streams that supply 69 million Americans with drinking water and where wildlife are most vulnerable. We simply must eliminate what we don’t need and fix what we do need for a resilient future.

Email your members of Congress today and ask them to reinstate and fund the Forest Service’s Legacy Roads and Trails Program. It’s a proven solution to an outsized problem.

Photo Credit: WildEarth Guardians

https://secure.wildearthguardians.org/site/Advocacy?cmd=display&page=UserAction&id=1142

Every state should be doing this!

Petition: Don’t Dredge Up Marine Habitats With Destructive Sand Mining

forcechange.com

Target: Xi Jinping, President of the People’s Republic of China

Goal: Halt sand dredging that threatens marine ecosystems and habitats of Taiwan.

China has begun a fresh round of obliterating the sand banks that separate it from Taiwan. This maneuver is believed to be a tactic for intimidating the smaller region and attempting to wipe away its natural defenses. The strong-arm method is also taking a hidden but no less devastating environmental toll.

The operations involve mining sand by essentially displacing and pumping it up with large dredging ships. Hundreds of these vessels often conduct illegal dredging around Taiwan’s waters, but as tensions have risen between the regions the activity has become more frequent and more overt. The estimated 100,000 tons of sand dredged on a daily basis are already likely devastating the delicate marine ecosystems that call these waters home.

The centerpieces of these systems, small seabed-dwelling organisms, lose their lives directly as their habitats are destroyed and their bodies sucked up and spit back out as carcasses. A devastating domino effect could collapse the entire food chain. Worse yet, the loss of sand creates shoreline erosion that could even adversely impact life on land.

Sign the petition below to urge an immediate cease and desist to this wholesale environmental degradation.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear President Xi,

China wants to position itself as a leader on clean technology and environmental sustainability. Yet this country continues to conduct arguably the most devastating and least-regulated form of mineral extraction on a wide scale. So-called sand mafias have made blood money from the destructive practice of sand mining. The world’s most populous country has created an empire out of this environmentally unsound practice.

The continued dredging of the Taiwan Strait is the most egregious example. You may see these exercises as a short-term power play, but the decades’ worth of damage you are inflicting on vibrant marine ecosystems will last several lifetimes. Nearly 100,000 tons of sand are likely lost in one day alone. With this loss comes habitat erosion, a seabed strewn with carcasses, and a food chain without its most critical links.

Please stop these dangerous dredging exercises before they fuel a catastrophe beyond your control.

Sincerely,

Photo Credit: Vince Beiser

https://forcechange.com/580104/dont-dredge-up-marine-habitats-with-destructive-sand-mining/

Petition: Protect Sacred Native Land From Massive Copper Mine

Target: Chief of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Vicki Christiansen

Goal: Terminate plans to develop a copper mine on Oak Flat.

Oak Flat in Tonto National Forest, a sacred land to the Apache people, was sold to a London based company to build a massive copper mine. This will not only cause grave destruction to this ancestral land and burial site, but it will also seriously damage the environment. Oak Flat is an important habitat for endangered wildlife and migratory birds.

The project is sure to deplete water supply and quality in the region. It is predicted that the mine would eventually cause the land to cave into a crater a mile wide and a thousand feet deep. The decision to sell this land to a multinational corporation was a disturbing betrayal to the local Indigenous communities and it must be stopped. Sign the petition below to demand cancelation of the copper mine on Oak Flat.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Mrs. Christiansen,

The sale of Oak Flat to a London based copper mining company is a violation of local Indigenous communities and will be detrimental to the region’s wildlife and water supply. Oak Flat is sacred ancestral land and must be protected and regarded with respect. 

President Joe Biden has spoken extensively of his desire to address the climate and ecological crisis. That being said, this environmentally harmful project is not in alignment with the current administration. Plans to place a copper mine in the Tonto National Forest must be terminated immediately. An apology also needs to be issued to the surrounding tribes for this vial disregard of their land and culture. 

Sincerely,

Photo by: David Pinter

https://forcechange.com/579748/protect-sacred-native-land-from-massive-copper-mine/

No traps on public lands

Petition · Protect Conglomerate Mesa From Destructive Gold Mining! · Change.org

Conglomerate Mesa Coalition started this petition to Inyo County Supervisors and 3 others

Help stop the destruction of the California desert! Sign our petition to protect Conglomerate Mesa from gold mining.

Conglomerate Mesa: A Gem of the California Desert

Conglomerate Mesa lies on the doorstep of Death Valley National Park and is OUR public lands. This land is part of the traditional homeland of the Timbisha-Shoshone and the Paiute-Shoshone Native Americans and the area possesses immense significance to the local tribal nations today. Conglomerate Mesa is a roadless, pristine area ranging from 3,800 to 7,700 feet in elevation. This unique environment provides a rare transitional habitat for plants and wildlife as the ground begins to rise from the badlands of Death Valley into the Inyo Mountains. Managed by the Bureau of Land Management and designated as National Conservation Lands, Conglomerate Mesa was intended to be protected for conservation and recreation. It is isolated, undisturbed, roadless, and of historic importance.

Mining Threatens Conglomerate Mesa’s Future

Conglomerate Mesa is currently threatened by an industrial open-pit gold mine. Recently, Canadian exploration company K2 Gold, and their subsidiary, Mojave Precious Metals, proposed to the Bureau of Land Management a plan that would execute 120 exploratory drills on Conglomerate Mesa and build a road into the areas. This would not only destroy valuable habitat for native plants and wildlife, but it would permanently scar a roadless desert landscape.

Sign our petition below to help protect Conglomerate Mesa.

With Malpais Mesa Wilderness to the south, Inyo Mountains Wilderness to the north, Death Valley National Park to the east and Keeler and Lone Pine to the west, Conglomerate Mesa is a vulnerable piece in a larger landscape of contiguous protected lands in the California Desert. We need you with us! Sign the petition to support the permanent protection of Conglomerate Mesa.

Updates

  1. 16 hours ago1,000 supporters
  2. 2 weeks agoConglomerate Mesa Coalition started this petition

Reasons for signing

Paul Fretheim·1 week agoWhy should a Canadian Corporation be able to destroy our scenic landscape to extract gold? Inyo would gain nothing!

https://www.change.org/p/protect-conglomerate-mesa-from-destructive-gold-mining?utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=custom_url&recruited_by_id=52767c80-04e9-11eb-b30f-0d464f1aaeb7&eType=EmailBlastContent&eId=e76783f4-31c5-4339-8c6c-2e839c0b9d20

Taxpayers shell out huge subsidies to wolf-killer’s ranching enterprise

www.thewildlifenews.com

It’s been a while since there’s been news about public lands rancher/wolf killer Craig Thiessen from New Mexico. He’s the guy who pleaded guilty to killing a trapped Mexican gray wolf pup (named “Mia Tuk” by an Albuquerque schoolkid) with a shovel in 2015. He got off relatively easy for violating the Endangered Species Act and was mysteriously never prosecuted for animal cruelty by New Mexico, but the U.S. Forest Service took his violation of the grazing regulations very seriously and they yanked his grazing permit in November 2018.

Trespassing bull on the Canyon del Buey allotment, June 12, 2020. Photo: G. Anderson/WWP

Thiessen appealed the loss of his permit all the way up to the regional director, who affirmed the District Ranger’s decision and ordered the cows off Canyon del Buey allotment by the end of August 2019. As you can probably guess, Thiessen defied this direction and his cows are still in trespass on the Gila National Forest. There’s been some legal back and forth between Theissen and the feds and that process is ongoing (more on that here soon), but there’s something else for the taxpaying public to be enraged about:

Canyon del Buey LLC was the largest recipient of Farm Bill livestock subsidies in Catron County in 2019, raking in $135,683 dollars of federal funding. Of that, $119,029 came under the “Livestock Indemnity Program” which is designated for livestock losses in excess than usual due to extreme weather or due to animals reintroduced by the federal government, i.e. wolves. It’s impossible (so far) to determine whether the Thiessens got money for extreme weather or livestock depredations, but at about $1,000K per head (see page 6 at link), that’s a whole lot of dead cows we taxpayers are paying for. (And it’s not the first time: Craig Thiessen has also received almost $400,000 since he whacked Mia Tuk.)

This was in addition to the $9,550.50 Craig Thiessen got for claimed wolf depredations in 2019. Not clear which livestock were his, but as we’ve shown, many of the Catron County wolf depredation reports are a little more than fishy. At least that $9,550.50 came out of a privately-established compensation fund (the “Groves Estate”) and not taxpayer pockets, but it’s kind of offensive that someone who admitted to bludgeoning a wolf pup to death with a shovel can turn around and get money for his dead cows. It’s almost as if the game is rigged to benefit wolf-hating ranchers.

http://www.thewildlifenews.com/2020/10/16/taxpayers-shell-out-huge-subsidies-to-wolf-killers-ranching-enterprise/

Cattlemen Tell EnviroNews Ranchers Want Mexican Wolves Killed, Despite Being Paid for Livestock Losses

www.environews.tv

Cattlemen Tell EnviroNews Ranchers Want Mexican Wolves Killed, Despite Being Paid for Livestock Losses

14 – 17 minutes


(EnviroNews Arizona) — Parts of eastern Arizona are a conflict zone, as a 100-year war between ranchers, conservation groups, government agencies, and the endangered Mexican gray wolf (Canis lupus baileyi) rages on. The rarest subspecies of gray wolf, also known as “el lobo,” is doing what wolves have always done in their native territories: they hunt and eat animals weakened by misfortune, time and nature itself. But ranchers who sell their cows, sometimes for $1200-$1500 per animal, aren’t happy when someone’s future hamburger becomes a wolf’s dinner.

Even though the government will compensate ranchers for cows killed by wolves, a new survey reveals most cattle farmers feel el lobo’s reintroduction into the area is a threat to ranching – and their livelihoods.

“[Ranchers] realize that [wolves are] there and they’re there to stay now,” Jerome Rosa, Executive Director of the Arizona Cattle Growers’ Association, which funded the survey, told EnviroNews in a phone interview. “They just have to do the best they can to try and manage the situation and try to do what they can to be able to live, you know, cohesively. But if they had a preference, [absolutely they] would like to not have that apex predator out there.”

Back From the Brink of Extinction

When Rosa said, “out there,” he is referring to the southwestern United States – part of the Mexican wolf’s indigenous turf. Early in the 1900s when the livestock industry began booming, the federal government hired trappers to eradicate all wolves – and they were nearly successful in that task with el lobo.

“This genetically [and] morphologically unique animal came about as close to extinction as any creature can get without actually going over the brink,” Michael Robinson, a senior conservation advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity, told EnviroNews.

And how close is “close?” U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) official Stephen Guertin told a congressional subcommittee “the Mexican wolf was all but eliminated from the wild by the 1970s due to extensive predator control initiatives.” According to the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s (AGFD) website, Mexican wolves had once disappeared completely from Arizona and New Mexico.

But when the Endangered Species Act (ESA/the Act) passed in 1973, these critters finally received some appreciation. USFWS hired trappers again — this time to capture live wolves that could still be found in Mexico, in an effort to save the species from total annihilation. The agency was only able to find and capture five wild wolves; four males and one female. With time running out, USFWS took those specimens and launched a captive breeding program.

In 1998 el lobo caught a break and received an invitation to return home to the Southwest and 11 were released into the Blue Range Mexican Wolf Reintroduction Area in Arizona.

“They’re part of the natural ecosystem,” Robinson said. “They’re a beautiful, intelligent social animal that helps maintain balance, and they deserve to be there.”

Mexican Gray Wolf (Canis lupus baileyi)

The USFWS’ website hails the breeding program as a victory: “Missing from the landscape for more than 30 years, the howl of the Mexican wolf can once again be heard in the mountains of the southwestern United States.” Despite the agency’s victory dance, ranchers certainly were not out holding “welcome home” signs. The conflict zone reemerged — as did the wolf killings.

Money Can’t Buy Wolves Love

To help ease concerns, ranchers have been compensated for depredations since the wolves were first reintroduced in 1998 and in 2015 the State of Arizona Livestock Loss Board was formed. Ranchers can submit claims to the board for depredations when they can prove Mexican wolves most likely killed their animals. According to the agency’s most recent annual report ranchers have been paid more than $143,000 over the last few years.

But Rosa told EnviroNews these reimbursements still can’t buy the wolves love. He said the number of cattle they kill exceeds what ranchers claim as a loss:

Some [ranchers] just don’t want to deal with the red tape. They don’t want to deal with the paperwork. Or, when they find these carcasses, they’re too far gone. And remember: these cattle are out there in these vast, vast landscapes in really, really rugged terrain, and so often, when they do find a depredation, there’s nothing there to investigate. You know, there’s not enough to be able to prove it was a depredation. So, [ranchers] just don’t say anything. It’s like, “Well, you know, we took a hit on that.”

Rosa added that there’s no way for cattlemen to calculate losses for livestock that die from exhaustion and dehydration after being chased by wolves, or cows that get stressed out, thin, and don’t reproduce.

David Parsons, the wildlife biologist who led USFWS’ effort to reintroduce the Mexican wolf into the Southwest, told EnviroNews he’s heard those claims, but not the veracity of them. “Open range cattle die for many reasons other than predation or harassment by predators, such as weather extremes, disease, toxic plants, and even lightning strikes,” he refuted.

Hawk’s Nest Pack Released into Pre-Release Pen in 1998 — Photo: Dave Parsons

Parsons is now a science advisor for the conservation group Project Coyote. He said figuring out an exact cause of a cow’s death is arduous. “It would be very difficult to tease out the significance of mortality caused by predator harassment compared to all other causes of mortality.”

Natural Born Killers?

No one disputes that wolves are natural born killers. But Rosa claimed there are far more wolves out there than official counts reflect. “As the wolf populations increase, the cattle populations will decrease. I think that’s tragic,” he said.

Rosa added the more the packs grow, the more food they will need. “And unfortunately, the realism of wolves is they don’t just kill when they’re hungry. They kill for sport,” he said. “That’s what they do. You know, they are… that’s what they do. I mean, they’re killers.” But many experts dispute that and say wolves do not kill for the fun of it.

Greta Anderson — Deputy Director, Western Watersheds Project

“They kill to eat,” Greta Anderson, Deputy Director of the Western Watersheds Project told EnviroNews. “When humans find animals that have been killed by wolves but are uneaten, they should assume the carcasses haven’t been consumed yet, as animals will routinely return to kill sites and continue to feed off a carcass as long as they can.”

Regarding the numbers of wolves, federal and state officials have boots on the ground, the AGFD even pays five full-time biologists to help manage and tabulate the numbers. Currently, there’s a minimum of 76 Mexican gray wolves in the state and about 163 total in the Southwest. So, even after over two decades of “recovery” in the wild, the current number of lobos is far from the estimated 3000-4000 that roamed the U.S. in the early 1900s.

Currently, wolf tracking is done in many ways: about half the estimated population wears radio collars, others are counted on the ground, in the air, and even by conducting howl surveys where biologists listen for wolves return howls.

“I don’t think the cattle growers have a basis for contending that the numbers are substantially higher than announced,” Robinson said. “If there were significantly more wolves on the landscape than the interagency field team now contends, wouldn’t those wolves be breeding with each other, and wouldn’t their numbers grow to the point that their presences couldn’t be denied by anyone?”

Wolf Depredation Prevention

What about just deploying measures to keep wolves away from cows, so fewer end up getting eaten? According to the cattle association’s survey, some feel “spending on preventative practices can be large relative to returns.” And ranchers’ willingness to pay to avoid depredations may be an area they’ll study in the future.

Jerome Rosa — Executive Director, Arizona Cattle Growers’ Association

Rosa said prevention can be challenging, expensive and more assistance is welcome, adding, “I think the ranchers would like to have all the available tools in their toolbox to be able to manage the situation.”

But in addition to reimbursements for depredations, there’s also money out there to help ranchers pay for prevention. One example: the State of Arizona Livestock Loss Board slated $110,000 to develop effective methods of preventing wolf and cattle interactions.

At present, preventative tools like tracking collars, that help to alert ranchers when wolves are in the area, are being used along with blinking lights, electric fences, and range riders. The downside, Rosa said, is that batteries burn out, and some prevention is burdensome.

All of these non-lethal measures just work for a short period of time,” he contended. “These wolves are extremely, extremely intelligent, and they get immune to those systems, and so then you constantly have to be changing.”

Mexican Wolf With Radio Collar — Photo: Mexican Wolf Interagency Field Team

One solution Rosa offered is to limit the wolf population to a “manageable number” and kill problem wolves. “In areas where we’re having problems, then we need to go to lethal take on those packs,” Rosa told EnviroNews.

“You mean kill the wolves?” EnviroNews reiterated for clarity. “Yes. Yes,” Rosa asserted. And sometimes ranchers ask for just that and the federal government obliges.

Mexican Gray Wolf — Photo: KTAR Pheonix

Experts tallied reports for EnviroNews and found that since Mexican wolves were reintroduced to the Southwest the feds have killed about 21 lobos. The most common reason was for livestock depredations.

Dave Parsons Conducts Health Check on Captive-Born Mexican Wolf Pup

Conservationists insist killing this already beleaguered species is not the answer. Instead, they say regulators should require ranchers to use more preventative measures and remove the remains of dead cattle immediately, so the scent doesn’t attract predators. Furthermore, they insist there’s plenty of money out there to help ranchers outsmart even the craftiest of wolves.

“The government has asked nothing of the ranchers — at least required nothing,” Robinson continued. “They have asked nicely at times, you know, ‘Would you mind doing this?’ And sometimes the answer is ‘yes’ and sometimes the answer is ‘no.’”

Parsons claimed some wolves are being killed in “cryptic poaching” — meaning poaching that goes undetected. “Uncollared wolves killed in remote areas are rarely discovered by agency biologists, and the same is true for collared wolves when the poacher immediately disables the collar,” he added.

What’s at Stake?

Rosa told EnviroNews that if something isn’t done to curb Mexican wolf numbers, more ranchers will hang up their hats. Fewer cattle, he said, means less meat at the grocery store and more wildfires because ungrazed pastures provide fuel for flames to spread. “Killing wolves will allow [for] cattle, [and for] more people to be able to continue having cattle, out there to graze these spots,” he asserted.

Mexican Wolf — Photo: Columbus Zoo

But in addition to the many tangible issues, palpable on the ground between ranchers and conservationists, the more esoteric factor of global warming looms. Scientists say the rising trend of massive wildfires in the West is fueled in part by methane emissions from livestock and the agricultural sector at large.

Robinson told EnviroNews responsible, proactive ranchers should tap into the resources available to help keep afloat, but pulled no punches when emphasizing the free marketplace should determine the better mousetrap:

As for whether ranchers will go out of business due to depredations in the absence of wolf killing, that very much depends. Not all business ventures in the United States are destined to succeed, even when subsidized. The fact that some ranchers refuse to take measures to protect their stock would seem to make them less likely to stay in business.

Parsons agreed. “If a heavily subsidized livestock production business cannot afford to protect its primary asset (cows) by methods such as confining cows to pens for calving and hiring range riders to monitor and control their whereabouts on the landscape, then perhaps it is not a viable or appropriate business enterprise,” he said.

This Land is Not Your Land

Finally, EnviroNews asked Rosa, “Do you see the Mexican wolf as a vital part of the ecosystem? Should the species be there [at all]?” His answer: Nope. He concluded:

I don’t see it as a vital part. It wasn’t here for many, many years after they had been hunted down in the past. Now, some will say, “OK, they take care of, you know, sick animals, they’ll put them down.” They’re non-discriminatory. So, they’re not just taking [out] the weakness of a species. They take these animals down just for sport. I mean, it’s just what they do. And so, I understand, you know, the wolf advocates reasoning that they use — that they try to use. But, [it’s] not logical, and it’s not realistic. But, you know, I understand that that’s their position.

That’s something that enrages conservationists who say the wolves aren’t into sport killing and were there first. “The livestock industry has sought to transform the entire ecosystem of the Southwest… they see the wolves as the worst part of the ecosystem that they want to eliminate,” Robinson said.

Mexican Gray Wolf (Canis lupus baileyi)

So, the 100-year war between ranchers, cattle, wolves, conservationists and government agencies continues. Many battles ensue, no side declares any winners, but all have the instinct to keep fighting.

OTHER GREAT REPORTS ABOUT MEXICAN WOLVES FROM ENVIRONEWS

RECENT AND RELATED

OTHER ENVIRONEWS REPORTS ON WOLVES

https://www.environews.tv/092520-cattle-assoc-tells-environews-ranchers-want-mexican-wolves-killed-despite-being-paid-for-livestock-losses/

Controlled Burns Work!!

A Biden-Harris presidency would largely end oil and gas production

thehill.com

By Jason Hayes, opinion contributor

Joe Biden’s selection of Kamala Harris as his vice presidential running mate could mean the end to the affordable energy that makes modern American life possible.

In comparison to the Trump administration, which has prioritized deregulation and energy dominance, the former vice president and California senator have both committed themselves to heavily restrict fracking as they focus on climate change and renewable energy. If enacted, the Biden-Harris plan would reduce energy choices, increase prices and drive Americans back to international markets for essential energy supplies.

On issues of energy supply, Biden has been clear. For example, moderators at the Democratic Party debates asked him about his position on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, the means by which American natural gas producers have helped to free us from many of the vagaries of international energy markets. He boldly replied, “No more drilling on federal lands. No more drilling, including offshore. No ability for the oil industry to continue to drill, period. Ends!” Later, in the same debate, he added, “No new fracking.”

That broad and somewhat vague pronouncement likely raised blood pressure readings among supporters in Biden’s campaign. Promising to put as many as 1.7 million American workers out of a job by banning fracking would be a hard sell for any campaign, especially in gas-producing states such as Texas or Pennsylvania. So no one was surprised to see Biden staffers walk back the former VP’s ambiguous promises immediately after the debate. They quickly limited his anti-fracking rhetoric to targeting energy development on federal lands.

And Biden staffers aren’t the only ones openly correcting policy stances for the former vice president. Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), who co-chairs the Sanders side of the Biden-Sanders Unity Task Force, is getting in on the action, too. Jayapal has publicly bragged about her ability to “significantly push Joe Biden to do things that he hadn’t signed on to before.” Biden is, in her estimation, “movable.”

That malleability is not terribly surprising given that, for some time now, Biden has been seen as increasingly confused and frail. Keying in on those concerns, a recent Rasmussen poll indicated that 59 percent of Americans believe that he will not finish a first term, were he to win the upcoming election. For that reason, American voters must recognize that, come November, they may well be considering Harris as the actual Democratic presidential candidate. So, her take on energy policy should be understood as well.

While The New York Times recently tried to sell Harris as a “pragmatic moderate,” on issues of energy, her policies align far more closely with the progressive wing of the party. For example, Harris recently introduced the Climate Equity Act with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.). In the Democratic presidential debate, Harris bluntly stated that she “support[s] a Green New Deal,” the nearly $100 trillion climate change policy authored by Ocasio-Cortez. In that same appearance, Harris promised that, “on day one as president,” she would “reenter us into the Paris Agreement.”

In last year’s CNN climate town hall, Harris was asked about her views on fracking by a climate activist with the environmental group 350.org. Without pause, Harris confirmed, “There is no question I’m in favor of banning fracking.” She then gave a simple, one-word answer, “Yes!” to CNN host Erin Burnett’s follow-up question, “So, would you ban offshore drilling?”

The Biden-Harris position on fracking and natural gas production is abundantly clear, as reported by a recent string of tweets from Alex Epstein, author of “The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels.” Epstein contends that fracking is the means by which the U.S. produces 60 percent of our oil and 75 percent of our natural gas. Banning it would put millions out of American workers back in unemployment lines already swollen by policy responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Stifling the development of the fuels and technologies that power our economy with clean, affordable and reliable energy would be like killing the goose and then tossing the golden egg out the window. That’s an extremely bad way for the freshly minted progressive duo to start their campaign.

Jason Hayes is director of environmental policy at the Mackinac Center in Midland, Mich. Follow him on Twitter @jasonthayes.

https://thehill.com/opinion/energy-environment/512601-a-biden-harris-presidency-would-largely-end-oil-and-gas-production?amp&__twitter_impression=true

Engineering Coastal Communities as Nature Intended

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D. Rex Miller All PostsHear From Our ExpertsDefenders in ActionWild FeaturesPresident’s Corner May 17, 2020 Andrew Carter

People love to live by the water. For centuries, cities like New York, Miami, Honolulu and San Francisco have attracted residents and tourists from around the world. In fact, almost half of the U.S. population lives in counties on the coast, and that percentage is growing in footprint, density, number and population, reshaping and hardening coastlines in the process. 

Coasts also provide habitat for great numbers of plants and animals and are typically biodiversity hotspots. But all this coastal development is reducing the amazing biodiversity along our shorelines. 

Oregon coast as seen from Ecola State Park

Sristi Kamal

Coastal Defenses

Development has also reduced our coasts’ natural ability to resist and recover from natural disasters and has removed habitat that provides shelter for wildlife and ecosystem services for humans. Traditional coastal defenses like sea walls and levees are widely used to protect communities, but these artificial coastal barriers can lead to significant erosion or unwanted sediment deposition and negatively impact water quality. They are also time-consuming to build and cost billions to construct, maintain and repair.

Increasingly, engineers and planners are starting to pay more attention to the potential of “Nature and Nature-Based Features” (NNBFs) as environmentally friendly solutions—like mangrove forests, beach dunes, coral reefs and wetlands—that fulfill the same roles as an important weapon in the fight against coastal storms and flooding. 

Pea Island NWR dunes Cape Hatteras

D. Rex Miller

NNBFs include natural defenses and human-built features that mimic them. Using NNBFs in coastal development decisions can therefore mean constructing new ones or protecting existing natural ones. NNBFs are often cheaper and require less maintenance and management. They can also make communities more resilient to climate change by adapting to changes in the environment. They are part of the larger concept of “green infrastructure,” or attempting to harness nature’s resilience to solve human problems. And its not all-or-nothing – NNBFs can complement artificial coastal infrastructure. 

NNBFs like wetlands are essential to protect coasts from storm surges because they can store and slow the release of floodwaters, reducing erosion and damage to buildings. One study found that salt marshes can reduce wave height by an average of 72%. Coral reefs can serve as a barrier and reduce wave height by an average of 70%. These reefs protect coastal cities near them such as Honolulu and Miami, saving lives and preventing monetary damage.

Downtown Honolulu and Waikiki from Diamond Head

Megan Joyce/Defenders of Wildlife

 
When Superstorm Sandy slammed the Northeast in 2012, homes on beaches fairly near to sand dunes were protected by these natural buffers, which can blunt the force of waves and wind. In many cases, homes on beach areas where dunes had been removed (often to improve ocean views) were completely destroyed by Sandy. Removing many of the mangroves that lined Biscayne Bay in South Florida may have helped spur economic development. However, it also removed another natural barrier against storm surge. This increased vulnerability of homes and businesses to the hurricanes that frequently hit Miami. Coastal communities in Indonesia hit by the devastating 2004 tsunami that had removed their mangrove forests suffered more damage and more lost lives than areas where mangroves had been allowed to remain. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is currently working on a number of projects that look at features like mangroves and their ability to protect coasts.

Hurricane Sandy damaged Cape May National Wildlife Refuge

Image Image Credit David Bocanegra/USFWS

Breach at Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge (DE) after Hurricane Sandy

Image Image Credit Lia McLaughlin/USFWS

Aerial photo of damaged homes along New Jersey shore after Hurricane Sandy

Image Image Credit Greg Thompson/USFWS Damage from Hurricane Sandy at Cape May National Wildlife Refuge, Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge, homes on the Jersey Shore

Bringing Wildlife Back 

People are not the only ones who can benefit from NNBF. Restoring or protecting habitat can bring back habitat for wildlife and provide space for wildlife to live alongside coastal human communities. This includes imperiled species.

For example, coastal dunes restoration can improve habitat for threatened species like the piping plover, red knot and seabeach amaranth. Restoring mangroves can help protect species like the wood stork and American alligator, and the endangered hawksbill turtle. Protecting coral reefs can help threatened elkhorn and boulder star corals, and ensure habitat remains for the hawksbill sea turtle. People and wildlife can both have space.

Red knots and horseshoe crabs

Image Image Credit FWS

Alligator Okefenokee NWR

Image Image Credit Steve Brooks

Hawksbill sea turtle

Image Image Credit Michele Hoffman

NNBFs can also improve water quality. Much of the rainwater and flood water that goes on vegetation or sand will sink into the ground where it is cleaned. Healthy coral reefs and healthy mangroves help improve marine waters. And by avoiding artificial coastal defenses, polluted runoff can be avoided. Improving water quality can help marine imperiled species. For example, manatees in Florida have been devastated by red tide in recent years. Similarly, water quality issues can stress or kill threatened corals that need clear water for photosynthesis. Even species far offshore, like orca, can be hurt by contaminated runoff from development. Creating habitat for wildlife can even have additional economic benefits beyond coastal protection. It can offer opportunities for economic activity like kayaking, fishing and birding.

Corals at Barren Island, Palmyra Atoll

Image Image Credit Andrew S. Wright/USFWS

Scenic Mangroves on the Bear Lake Canoe Trail Everglades National Park

Image Image Credit NPS

The Future of NNBF

In recent years, the U.S. Congress has become interested in the potential of NNBFs, instructing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to incorporate NNBFs into coastal defense projects where appropriate. The Corps’ research and development center has taken a leading role in researching NNBFs. Through its engineering with nature initiative, it has developed numerous projects exploring NNBFs’ potential. However, the regional offices have made less progress in taking advantage of NNBFs in their coastal defense projects. NNBFs should be a priority for the Corps and coastal communities around the country – and the world. 

Advocating for NNBFs is part of Defenders of Wildlife’s mission to protect habitat and we believe they are a strong tool for addressing the overall biodiversity crisis faced by the planet. 


More information:

To learn more about NNBFs generally, check out the Army Corps’ Engineering with Nature website. If you’re interested in learning more, Defenders of Wildlife’s Center for Conservation Innovation will be hosting a talk on NNBFs given by an Army Corp’ expert. Click here to sign up to watch it. To learn more about green infrastructure generally, check out ESRI’s Green Infrastructure story map. There are a lot of green infrastructure projects that you can help with at home, such as Defender’s Orcas Love Raingardens project in the Pacific Northwest. 

Author(s)

Andrew Carter

Andrew Carter

Senior Conservation Policy Analyst Andrew works on wildlife conservation policy at the Center for Conservation Innovation, where he researches and analyzes conservation governance strategies and emerging policy issues, and works with other CCI members to develop innovative approaches to habitat and species protection.

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https://defenders.org/blog/2020/05/engineering-coastal-communities-nature-intended?utm_source=stories&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=blog-engineeringcoastalmangroves-072420

The Towers of Ladakh – Overheard at National Geographic | Podcast on Spotify

The Towers of Ladakh

Overheard at National Geographic

June 15, 2020 19 MINS

A mechanical engineer teams up with an unlikely band of students who use middle school math and science to create artificial glaciers that irrigate Ladakh, a region in India hit hard by climate change. For more information on this episode, visit nationalgeographic.com/podcasts/overheard.June 15, 202019 MINS

Podcast Episode

Hoping for Habitat Restoration in Tennessee Coal Country

defenders.org

The wind whipped icy rain in every direction and gave a gray cast to the steep hilly landscape surrounding us. We were all pretty well soaked through, but we were on an important errand; investigating a former mine site for evidence of toxic pollutants and other environmental harm.

2020.01.27 Straight Creek Bond inspection KopperGlo Coal Mine Tennessee

Kat Diersen/Defenders of Wildlife

The Straight Creek mine site is owned by the KopperGlo Mining Company, a company with a history of permit violations and environmental harm on the coal-rich Cumberland Plateau of northeast Tennessee. Just a few years ago, Defenders took legal action that resulted in a major mitigation settlement against one of the company’s other mines in the region. This day’s damp and chilly visit had been requested by a coalition of groups that often works together to watch-dog mining activities in TN. Our goal for the day was to assess the quality of KopperGlo’s post-mining site cleanup activities, known as “reclamation,” and ensure that the site would support basic ecological functions and do no further environmental damage to this once biologically rich watershed after the Straight Creek mine was formally closed. 

Straight Creek is what is known as a re-mining site. It had been mined in the past, prior to Congress passing the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 (SMCRA). This means there was no law in place to require reclamation and the land was left barren and scarred. Vertical cliffs stripped of vegetation existed higher up the mountainside along the entire mine site where the previous mine had sliced away a side of the mountain like a piece of birthday cake. These “high walls,” as they are called, are unstable and dangerous, prone to erosion and landslides, and likely to allow any toxins that reside within the remaining coal seam to leach into the surrounding hillside.

Kat Diersen/Defenders of Wildlife

SMCRA is the primary legal tool that we use to conduct citizen oversight of mines in Tennessee. Under SMCRA, mining companies are required to post a bond sufficient to cover the cost of reclaiming a site before they can get a permit to operate. This is to ensure that should the mine be abandoned before it can be fully reclaimed, the responsible government agency has sufficient funds to complete the reclamation. Once a site is adequately reclaimed by the mining company, as determined by Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE), the company may request that the bond be released to them. SMCRA provides mechanisms for public engagement in the mine permitting and reclamation process. Any time a company requests a permit for a new operation or the release of bond for a reclaimed operation, OSMRE must provide notice to the public. Stakeholders can request hearings and even site visits to review, discuss or challenge these requests.

For over five hours we walked nearly the entire length of the old mine site, which was long and narrow as it had been carved into the side of a long ridge line. Along the way we stopped to take water samples at several ponds and other places where water emerged from the hillside. The ponds were former runoff catchment ponds that had been restored to become small wetland structures. Pollutants we sampled for included iron, manganese, selenium and aluminum—all well-documented, common pollutants that result from strip mining. When stakeholders had visited the site several years ago at the beginning of reclamation, several samples came back highly positive for these metals. This day’s samples later revealed that pollutant rates came down considerably, but most of our partners thought the samples were diluted because we were sampling during a time of extremely high water flow due to ongoing winter rain, while previous samples had been taken during a hot, dry summer.

2020.01.27 Mine inspection in Tennessee

Kat Diersen/Defenders of Wildlife

At one spot at the base of a small cliff, there was a fissure with gushing water where a former catchment pond had been lost during a landslide. This pool had been the one where the most concerning water samples had been taken in previous years. Now there was a large piece of pvc-like plastic, running from the outflow at the small cliff base, across the adjacent field and right off the side of the mountain. The KopperGlo representative explained that this was to ensure the water would run across the field and not sink back into the ground, further destabilizing the loose soil below and causing another land slide. Unfortunately, this probably means that any heavy metals still coming out of the ground are being dumped off the site and onto the hillside below.

kopperglo mine TN land features

Kat Diersen/Defenders of Wildlife

The intended post-mining use of this site in KopperGlo’s permit was commercial forestry and wildlife habitat, and we did see evidence of efforts on that front. The land had been sloped and graded to approximate the pre-mining topography of the site and there appeared to be a decent diversity of planted native grass, shrub and tree species on the newly-shaped mountainside. At several of the old containment ponds-cum-wetlands, I noted wetland plant species such as cattails, and in one I even spotted several eastern newts. I also saw scat from elk, deer, coyote, and a couple of other mammals, indicating that at least less sensitive wildlife is beginning to re-inhabit the area.

After the test results from our water samples came back, we concluded that overall there was not much to challenge on this site. Site restoration efforts and water quality were imperfect but within legal limits. We prepared a comment letter for OSMRE, in which we asked that KopperGlo be required to continue monitoring water quality at the site for another year and come up with a solution to the one major outflow that didn’t involve using a plastic liner to transport potentially contaminated water off of the site, and reaffirmed our commitment to continued participation as stakeholders on other mining actions throughout the region.

Kopperglo mine site

Kat Diersen/Defenders of Wildlife

Straight Creek is just one of hundreds of mines that have scarred and polluted this landscape and degraded its waterways over the last century. The rivers of the Cumberland Plateau are historically among the most biodiverse in the country and are currently home to a number of imperiled species, including the federally threatened blackside dace, which has designated critical habitat in the same watershed as Straight Creek. Today these systems are so degraded that the impacts of a single mine can seem like a drop in the bucket. But if we are to have any hope of repairing and restoring them, then we must keep pushing to minimize as much new mining activity as we can and ensure that existing mines reduce their harm as much as possible.

 

It’s a little frustrating that this site, with its visible high walls and polluted water, constitutes a “good” reclamation. There is no such thing as a good strip mine, and even the best reclamation effort is a poor option compared leaving these beautiful mountains whole and healthy. Nevertheless, I believe that our past efforts to hold KopperGlo and other mining operations in the region accountable have resulted in these companies taking more stringent efforts to comply with the letter of the law, and the Straight Creek reclamation site is evidence of that. Defenders and our allies will continue to keep an eye out in Tennessee coal country, challenging each and every new mine operation and pushing for better clean-up of this ravaged, but still rich and beautiful landscape.

https://defenders.org/blog/2020/06/hoping-habitat-restoration-tennessee-coal-country#utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=blogs&utm_campaign=blogs-HabitatCoalMiningTN-060420#utm_source

Petition: Protect National Monuments and Sacred Native Land From Drilling and Mining – One Green PlanetOne Green Planet

onegreenplanet.org

By Sharon Vega 3-4 minutes

The Trump administration has made it very clear that they have no desire to protect wildlife and the environment. They care about making money. They’ve been rolling back environmental protections even in the midst of a pandemic. Among the many terrible things they want to do is opening up the Arctic to drilling, allow trophy hunting on national preserves and refuges, and weakening the Endangered Species Act. Their latest attack is on sacred native land and national monuments: Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante.

In February, the administration finalized plans to drill and mine in these areas which until recently were protected under National Monument status. Their plan “puts tens of thousands of archeological sites, Native American sacred sites, and recreational public lands in the hands of private industry to mine, drill, and develop for their own benefit.”

The National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) describes Bears Ears as “a stunningly beautiful, ecologically fragile landscape that has played a crucial role in Native American culture in the Southwest for thousands of years” and Grand Staircase-Escalante as “one of the richest and most important paleontological sites in North America.”

The plan to drill and mine in these areas is no surprise given that in 2017, “Trump reduced the size of Bears Ears by roughly 85 percent, and Grand Staircase-Escalante by half.”

We cannot allow this recklessness to damage lands that Americans love and that are sacred to Native Americans. Sign this petition telling Congress that you want to protect all of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase now!

Sign these other relevant petitions to stand up against more environmentally damaging plans and proposals made by the Trump administration:

For more Animal, Earth, Life, Vegan Food, Health, and Recipe content published daily, subscribe to the One Green Planet Newsletter! Also, don’t forget to download the Food Monster App on iTunes — with over 15,000 delicious recipes it is the largest meatless, vegan and allergy-friendly recipe resource to help reduce your environmental footprint, save animals and get healthy!

Lastly, being publicly-funded gives us a greater chance to continue providing you with high quality content. Please consider supporting us by donating!

https://www.onegreenplanet.org/environment/petition-protect-national-monuments-sacred-native-land-drilling-mining/

EPA opts not to delay controversial Alaska mine for now

wp-1591413516299601624557.jpg

washingtonpost.com

Juliet Eilperin 3-4 minutes

A top official at the Environmental Protection Agency informed the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Alaska late Thursday that the EPA would not formally object at this point to the proposed Pebble Mine, a massive gold and copper deposit where mining could damage the world’s largest sockeye salmon fishery.

Christopher Hladick, the EPA’s regional administrator for Alaska and the Pacific Northwest, wrote to the Alaska district engineer, Col. David Hibner, that the agency still has serious concerns about the plan, including that dredging for the open-pit mine “may well contribute to the permanent loss of 2,292 acres of wetlands and … 105.4 miles of streams.”

But Hladick said the EPA would not elevate the matter to the leadership of the two agencies, which could delay necessary approvals for the project to advance. The EPA “appreciates the Corps’ recent commitment to continue this coordination into the future,” he wrote.

The move marks the latest chapter in a years-long battle that has pitted a Canadian-owned mining company against commercial fishing operators, native Alaskans and conservationists determined to protect the unique and economically critical sockeye salmon fishery in Bristol Bay.

The Corps is set to decide this summer whether to grant a federal permit to the Pebble Partnership to move forward with the project. The EPA could still veto such a permit. Last year, it sent the Corps a letter saying the project slated for southwestern Alaska “may” harm “aquatic resources of national importance.”

But the EPA had to determine by Thursday whether the mine “will” cause such harm, and it opted not to do so — an indication that the environmental agency does not appear likely to block the mine.

Pebble Partnership chief executive Tom Collier, whose company has proposed a 20-year plan to extract copper, gold and molybdenum from a deposit worth hundreds of billions of dollars, hailed the decision in a statement as “another indication of positive progress for the project.”

Rich Nolan, president and chief executive of the National Mining Association, also welcomed the EPA’s determination. “It is encouraging to see the permitting process proceeding as intended on this important project, especially after so many years of delay and inappropriate overreach,” he said in an email.

But opponents of the proposed mining operation — located in a watershed that supports a long-standing Alaska Native subsistence tradition, as well as a lucrative commercial and recreational fishery — noted that the EPA and other key agencies have raised concerns the Corps has yet to address.

“There are still many substantive issues with the project proposal that have yet to be resolved,” said the vice president of Bristol Bay Native Corp., Daniel Cheyette, whose Alasksa Native corporation opposes the mine, which would be the largest in North America.

Mark Ryan, a lawyer in private practice who served as regional counsel in EPA Region 10 between 1990 and 2014, said in a phone interview that the EPA’s letter appears contradictory.

“It’s a very odd letter,” Ryan said. “It points out the mine’s very serious environmental damage but then does not invoke EPA’s powers to elevate the issue for further discussion.”

  •  

https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate-environment/2020/05/29/epa-opts-not-delay-controversial-alaska-mine-now/#click=https://t.co/AtL9EULdAB#click

Engineering Coastal Communities as Nature Intended

defenders.org

9-11 minutes


People love to live by the water. For centuries, cities like New York, Miami, Honolulu and San Francisco have attracted residents and tourists from around the world. In fact, almost half of the U.S. population lives in counties on the coast, and that percentage is growing in footprint, density, number and population, reshaping and hardening coastlines in the process. 

Coasts also provide habitat for great numbers of plants and animals and are typically biodiversity hotspots. But all this coastal development is reducing the amazing biodiversity along our shorelines. 

Oregon coast as seen from Ecola State Park

Sristi Kamal

Coastal Defenses

Development has also reduced our coasts’ natural ability to resist and recover from natural disasters and has removed habitat that provides shelter for wildlife and ecosystem services for humans. Traditional coastal defenses like sea walls and levees are widely used to protect communities, but these artificial coastal barriers can lead to significant erosion or unwanted sediment deposition and negatively impact water quality. They are also time-consuming to build and cost billions to construct, maintain and repair.

Increasingly, engineers and planners are starting to pay more attention to the potential of “Nature and Nature-Based Features” (NNBFs) as environmentally friendly solutions—like mangrove forests, beach dunes, coral reefs and wetlands—that fulfill the same roles as an important weapon in the fight against coastal storms and flooding. 

Pea Island NWR dunes Cape Hatteras

D. Rex Miller

NNBFs include natural defenses and human-built features that mimic them. Using NNBFs in coastal development decisions can therefore mean constructing new ones or protecting existing natural ones. NNBFs are often cheaper and require less maintenance and management. They can also make communities more resilient to climate change by adapting to changes in the environment. They are part of the larger concept of “green infrastructure,” or attempting to harness nature’s resilience to solve human problems. And its not all-or-nothing – NNBFs can complement artificial coastal infrastructure. 

NNBFs like wetlands are essential to protect coasts from storm surges because they can store and slow the release of floodwaters, reducing erosion and damage to buildings. One study found that salt marshes can reduce wave height by an average of 72%. Coral reefs can serve as a barrier and reduce wave height by an average of 70%. These reefs protect coastal cities near them such as Honolulu and Miami, saving lives and preventing monetary damage.

Downtown Honolulu and Waikiki from Diamond Head

Megan Joyce/Defenders of Wildlife

 
When Superstorm Sandy slammed the Northeast in 2012, homes on beaches fairly near to sand dunes were protected by these natural buffers, which can blunt the force of waves and wind. In many cases, homes on beach areas where dunes had been removed (often to improve ocean views) were completely destroyed by Sandy. Removing many of the mangroves that lined Biscayne Bay in South Florida may have helped spur economic development. However, it also removed another natural barrier against storm surge. This increased vulnerability of homes and businesses to the hurricanes that frequently hit Miami. Coastal communities in Indonesia hit by the devastating 2004 tsunami that had removed their mangrove forests suffered more damage and more lost lives than areas where mangroves had been allowed to remain. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is currently working on a number of projects that look at features like mangroves and their ability to protect coasts.

Hurricane Sandy damaged Cape May National Wildlife Refuge

Image

Image Credit

David Bocanegra/USFWS

Breach at Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge (DE) after Hurricane Sandy

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Image Credit

Lia McLaughlin/USFWS

Aerial photo of damaged homes along New Jersey shore after Hurricane Sandy

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Image Credit

Greg Thompson/USFWS

Damage from Hurricane Sandy at Cape May National Wildlife Refuge, Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge, homes on the Jersey Shore

Bringing Wildlife Back 

People are not the only ones who can benefit from NNBF. Restoring or protecting habitat can bring back habitat for wildlife and provide space for wildlife to live alongside coastal human communities. This includes imperiled species.

For example, coastal dunes restoration can improve habitat for threatened species like the piping plover, red knot and seabeach amaranth. Restoring mangroves can help protect species like the wood stork and American alligator, and the endangered hawksbill turtle. Protecting coral reefs can help threatened elkhorn and boulder star corals, and ensure habitat remains for the hawksbill sea turtle. People and wildlife can both have space.

Red knots and horseshoe crabs

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Alligator Okefenokee NWR

Image

Image Credit

Steve Brooks

Hawksbill sea turtle

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Image Credit

Michele Hoffman

NNBFs can also improve water quality. Much of the rainwater and flood water that goes on vegetation or sand will sink into the ground where it is cleaned. Healthy coral reefs and healthy mangroves help improve marine waters. And by avoiding artificial coastal defenses, polluted runoff can be avoided. Improving water quality can help marine imperiled species. For example, manatees in Florida have been devastated by red tide in recent years. Similarly, water quality issues can stress or kill threatened corals that need clear water for photosynthesis. Even species far offshore, like orca, can be hurt by contaminated runoff from development. Creating habitat for wildlife can even have additional economic benefits beyond coastal protection. It can offer opportunities for economic activity like kayaking, fishing and birding.

Corals at Barren Island, Palmyra Atoll

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Image Credit

Andrew S. Wright/USFWS

Scenic Mangroves on the Bear Lake Canoe Trail Everglades National Park

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The Future of NNBF

In recent years, the U.S. Congress has become interested in the potential of NNBFs, instructing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to incorporate NNBFs into coastal defense projects where appropriate. The Corps’ research and development center has taken a leading role in researching NNBFs. Through its engineering with nature initiative, it has developed numerous projects exploring NNBFs’ potential. However, the regional offices have made less progress in taking advantage of NNBFs in their coastal defense projects. NNBFs should be a priority for the Corps and coastal communities around the country – and the world. 

Advocating for NNBFs is part of Defenders of Wildlife’s mission to protect habitat and we believe they are a strong tool for addressing the overall biodiversity crisis faced by the planet. 


More information:

To learn more about NNBFs generally, check out the Army Corps’ Engineering with Nature website. If you’re interested in learning more, Defenders of Wildlife’s Center for Conservation Innovation will be hosting a talk on NNBFs given by an Army Corp’ expert. Click here to sign up to watch it. To learn more about green infrastructure generally, check out ESRI’s Green Infrastructure story map. There are a lot of green infrastructure projects that you can help with at home, such as Defender’s Orcas Love Raingardens project in the Pacific Northwest. 

Author(s)

Andrew Carter

Andrew Carter

Senior Conservation Policy Analyst

Andrew works on wildlife conservation policy at the Center for Conservation Innovation, where he researches and analyzes conservation governance strategies and emerging policy issues, and works with other CCI members to develop innovative approaches to habitat and species protection.

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