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Zinke’s Interior Dept. Seeks to Undermine Protections for Endangered Species

Washington, DC —  In response to today’s release by the Sec. Ryan Zinke’s Department of Interior of draft regulations to weaken protections for America’s most at-risk fish, plants and wildlife, the Endangered Species Coalition released the following statement from Program Director Tara Thornton:

“Under the guise of “reform,” we are seeing a full-on assault on imperiled wildlife and the Endangered Species Act. From these Trump-Zinke administrative regulations, to a Rep. Rob Bishop-led barrage of bills in the House, to a draft bill to undermine the Act by Senator Barrasso in the Senate, this is all part and parcel of the Trump administration’s industry and polluter-friendly deregulatory agenda.

The Endangered Species Act is our nation’s most effective law for protecting wildlife in danger of extinction, and has prevented more than 99 percent of listed species from going extinct. The Endangered Species Act already allows for flexibility in protecting endangered wildlife and requires that federal agencies work together with state, tribal and local officials work to prevent extinction. We know that strong majorities, across the political spectrum, support the Endangered Species Act and want wildlife decisions to be made by biologists and wildlife professionals, not politicians in Congress. (2015 Tulchin poll)

Rather than making detrimental changes to a law that works, Congress and the Administration should improve the law’s implementation by fully funding recovery efforts for endangered species.”

More info: 

Although some members of Congress have been seeking to weaken the Act, public opinion research indicates that the law continues to maintain broad, bipartisan, public support. A 2015 poll conducted by Tulchin Research found that 90 percent of American voters across all political, regional and demographic lines support the Endangered Species Act.

The Endangered Species Act was a landmark conservation law that passed with overwhelming bipartisan support: 92-0 in the Senate, and 394-4 in the House. In 2017, more than 400 organizations signed a letter to members of Congress opposing efforts to weaken the Endangered Species Act, noting the law has a 99 percent success rate, including some of the country’s most exciting wildlife recoveries, like the bald eagles, humpback whales, American alligators, Channel Island foxes, Tennessee purple coneflowers, and more.

Scientific consensus indicates that we are in the sixth wave of extinction. The main tool in the United States to battle this human-caused crisis is the Endangered Species Act, which has been very effective in keeping species from sliding into extinction.

The heartbreaking story of Tahlequah (J35)

When humans experience grief, we often turn to music to express deep emotions of loss and sorrow. Many of us are feeling a profound sense of grief and loss with the recent death of the baby orca born by mother orca J35 (named Tahlequah by the Whale Museum).  Beyond the tragedy of the death of this critically endangered animal, we are collectively witnessing the power of the connection between mother and baby, as Tahlequah carries her baby’s body with her pod, journeying hundreds of miles through the Salish Sea. Today is the eighth day that the orca mother and her pod have traveled carrying the baby’s corpse.

Seattle musician Tai Shan gives voice to the profound relationship evidenced in the behavior of the orcas and the grief felt in response to the loss of the baby orca, by creating music for the mother and baby. Tai Shan contacted ESC to share her song, saying about the mother orca, ‘How tired she must be, how much grief and confusion. Her plight had me up at 1am last night writing her a lullaby.’

People around the globe are watching Tahlequah journey with the corpse of her baby and wondering how to offer action to prevent these heartbreaking events from happening again. We invite you to participate in supporting the recovery of the Southern Resident orca, turning grief into action. Please sign this petition to Governor Jay Inslee today. Our orcas need your voice now more than ever.

To learn more about Tai Shan’s music, go to https://taishanmusic.com/home.

To share your art, music, and ideas for creative actions in support of the Southern Resident orca, contact Jeanne Dodds Creative Engagement Director jdodds at endangered.org.

House Unleashes Barrage of Bills to Weaken Endangered Species Act

Washington, DC — In response to the release of 9 bills that would undermine the Endangered Species Act by House Republicans, the Endangered Species Coalition released the following statement from Program Director Tara Thornton:

“Rep. Bishop and other anti-wildlife Republicans in Congress are not content to try and sell our beloved public lands, but have been relentless in their efforts to undermine our most important safety net for fish and wildlife on the brink of extinction. The Endangered Species Act is one of our most successful conservation laws, having prevented the disappearance of hundreds of imperiled species. Thanks to Endangered Species Act, humpback whales still swim our coasts and bald eagles still soar our skies. It sad that some members of Congress and the special interests they take money from wish to deny future generations of Americans the opportunity to enjoy our amazing wildlife.”

Although some members of Congress have been seeking to weaken the Act, public opinion research indicates that the law continues to maintain broad, bipartisan, public support. A 2015 poll conducted by Tulchin Research found that 90 percent of American voters across all political, regional and demographic lines support the Endangered Species Act.

The Endangered Species Act was a landmark conservation law that passed with overwhelming bipartisan support: 92-0 in the Senate, and 394-4 in the House. In 2017, more than 400 organizations signed a letter to members of Congress opposing efforts to weaken the Endangered Species Act, noting the law has a 99 percent success rate, including some of the country’s most exciting wildlife recoveries, like the bald eagles, humpback whales, American alligators, Channel Island foxes, Tennessee purple coneflowers, and more.

Scientific consensus indicates that we are in the sixth wave of extinction. The main tool in the United States to battle this human-caused crisis is the Endangered Species Act, which has been very effective in keeping species from sliding into extinction.

Wyoming GOP Senator Introduces Discussion Draft to Weaken Endangered Species Act

Barrasso Discussion Draft Politicizes Science, Would Limit Protections for Imperiled Wildlife

Washington, DC – Today Senator John Barrasso (R-WY) introduced a discussion draft that would undermine one of America’s bedrock wildlife conservation laws, the Endangered Species Act. While the Act requires the best available science to be used in wildlife protection decisions, Senator Barrasso’s discussion draft would subject wildlife protection decisions to political interference.

“Senator Barrasso’s discussion draft proposes that we go back in time and reverse the incredible successes that we’ve had as a nation protecting animals and plants, and ultimately ourselves,” said Leda Huta, Executive Director of the Endangered Species Coalition. “Why on earth would we do that—especially now that we have an even better understanding of how healthy plant and animal populations give us clean water and clean air? Let’s do more to give our children and grandchildren a clean and healthy planet, not less.”

Although some members of Congress have been seeking to weaken the Act, public opinion research indicates that the law continues to maintain broad, bipartisan, public support. A 2015 poll conducted by Tulchin Research found that 90 percent of American voters across all political, regional and demographic lines support the Endangered Species Act.

The Endangered Species Act was a landmark conservation law that passed with overwhelming bipartisan support: 92-0 in the Senate, and 394-4 in the House. In 2017, more than 400 organizations signed a letter to members of Congress opposing efforts to weaken the Endangered Species Act, noting the law has a 99 percent success rate, including some of the country’s most exciting wildlife recoveries, like the bald eagles, humpback whales, American alligators, Channel Island foxes, Tennessee purple coneflowers, and more.

Scientific consensus indicates that we are in the sixth wave of extinction. The main tool in the United States to battle this human-caused crisis is the Endangered Species Act, which has been very effective in keeping species from sliding into extinction.

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Photo credit Flickr user Gage Skidmore.

Endangered Species Coalition and Native Plant Conservation Campaign Launch Voter Toolkit

Effort Aims to Inform, Mobilize Conservation Voters in 2018

Washington, D.C. – A national wildlife conservation organization, the Endangered Species Coalition, together with their member groups from across the country, unveiled a new voter education and mobilization toolkit today. The “Get Out the Wild Vote” toolkit is intended to educate and mobilize voters whose top concerns are environmental and wildlife conservation issues.

“We know from research that environmentally-conscious Americans are not voting nearly as much their neighbors,” said Leda Huta, executive director of the Endangered Species Coalition. “For the sake of our disappearing plants and wildlife, we simply must get involved, vote and ensure that the people we elect do more to protect our nation’s wildlife heritage for future generations.”

The toolkit will help people register to vote, check their voter registration, and help activists register other people to vote. The toolkit will also help people become informed voters, specifically, on candidates’ voting and campaign finance records. It will also allow users to locate public candidate forums, debates and find other opportunities to ask candidates questions related to imperiled wildlife issues. Come election time, the tool will even remind users that it is time to vote.

“It’s imperative that those of us who care about plants, wildlife, and conservation issues get engaged every election cycle to ensure that politicians of all parties and jurisdictions do what it takes to protect and recover fish, plants and wildlife on the brink of extinction,” said Emily Roberson, Executive Director of the Native Plants Conservation Campaign.

The toolkit is free to use, and anyone interested can access it online at www.ESAVoter.org.

Help #BeatPlasticPollution for World Environment Day

The United Nation’s World Environment Day is June 5th, 2018. This day is the UN’s most important day for encouraging worldwide awareness and action for the protection of our environment.  

This year’s theme is the effort to beat plastic pollution. Plastic is strangling our oceans and the species that live in them. A recent report found that 70% of marine litter is non-degradable plastic which is projected to increase threefold over the next ten years.

You can be a part of the solution by committing to make choices to reduce the amount of plastic that ends up in the waste stream. Take our Plastics Pledge for Endangered Species to make that commitment and to receive materials you can use to help spread the word. 

Sea turtles, whales, seabirds, and seals are just a few of the species affected by plastic pollution. Pledging to do your part and supporting larger, government initiatives such as plastic bag bans are vitally important ways that you as an individual can help address this global problem. 

Learn more about World Environment Day and how you can get involved at worldenvironmentday.global or @UNEnvironment on twitter.

A Conversation on Endangered Species and Social Justice

This is a guest post from Charise Johnson, a research associate in the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists. The post originally appeared on their website.

Endangered Species Day was introduced as a resolution by Congress in 2006 to encourage “the people of the United States to become educated about, and aware of, threats to species, success stories in species recovery, and the opportunity to promote species conservation worldwide.” This year, Endangered Species Day (May 18) began with a devastating school shooting. It really had me questioning how appropriate it would be to emphasize the importance of wildlife conservation while so many in the world and our nation seem to place little value on human lives. In a time where human rights are being enthusiastically attacked by the Trump administration, however, it has become necessary to think critically about how our nation promotes policies that undermine public protections and the way this affects vulnerable communities. Basically, I realized that there are connections between our wildlife conservation policies…and the social disparities built therein.

Hear me out. The connection is not necessarily obvious at surface level, I understand. Social justice is at the core of environmentalism. Conservation works to ensure the preservation of cultures, heritage, and livelihoods. The spaces we often deign as devoid of “nature” or “environment” are not as readily included in conservation conversations, often at the risk of alienating entire communities and ecosystems. From pristine lands to over-burdened industrial areas, environment is all around us.

I had a conversation with Lia Cheek, fellow woman of color and colleague at the Endangered Species Coalition, to further explore the relationship between endangered species protections and social justice.

Defining environment

Charise: Why do you think the way we view the environment is important for conservation and how is this tied to social justice?

Lia: We look at nature as something to use up. Something that exists to serve our needs.  We look at it without emotion, without acknowledgment of the life it holds and its right to existence. Even the words we use to describe it, Nature, natural worlds are inanimate.

Charise:  I like how you emphasized the idea of Nature with a big N. When we view it that way, it tends to be exclusionary of underrepresented groups – and that spills over into environmental regulations and even the research questions that are asked. We see this especially with policies and processes that are based solely on economic considerations, with very little regard for both science and community input.

There is also a tendency to forget that “environment” includes built environments, urban areas. Loss of biodiversity affects us all. And we’ve seen the benefits of conservation in urban areasgreater accessibility to green spaces improves mental health and well-being, marked increases in perceived safety, cleaner air to breathe, protection and restoration of terrestrial and aquatic species. The assumption that city-dwellers (especially those who aren’t as socially privileged) do not care about or benefit from species biodiversity in their communities, that they do not notice when the trees are cut down and the birds stop singing, is unfounded. Social justice is the fair treatment of others. We should not put the needs of wildlife above those of humans, rather, we should treat both fairly, and consider more than just our wallets and convenience. It is unjust to distribute resources unfairly, and it is unfair to expect those being treated unjustly to consider conservation their top priority.

Lia: Sure! This is part of the same thread.  The way we currently manage wildlife and natural areas feels a lot like colonialism.  It’s all about control isn’t it? Controlling the populations of animals that we find inconvenient, like predators, boosting the populations of species that we gain an economic benefit from.  That same mindset is built into our other government institutions, which are built around increasing profit and subduing inconveniences, and these goals can often mean stepping all over people’s rights, case and point, the battle at Standing Rock and the keystone pipeline.  It’s a very ego and self-driven model that is in the fabric of the way our country is run.  The question then becomes, who is this system of benefits really for, and how do we make our institutions expand the circle of who is benefiting from this policy of profit to include folks who have been marginalized.

Wildlife and social justice

Charise: How is wildlife conservation, specifically, a social justice issue?

Lia: The underlying decision to use differences to other a community or another life, rather than a recognition of the similarities is the same. When you “take” an animal without awareness of or respect for its right to existence, without acknowledgment that it has a purpose, a desire, a meaningful existence besides fulfilling your intended use for it.  Or without understanding that it experiences moments of joy, the understanding of what family is just like you do.   This is the same act of “othering” that creates space for injustice and the violation of human rights when they become inconvenient.  The refusal to recognize another life as similar to one’s own is the choice that is at the heart of both colonialism and extinction.

When we think about what it means for a species to go extinct, to cease to exist in any form or feather, memory or song, forever, this knowledge can manifest such a deep sadness in us that we can try to turn away from it to protect ourselves. We push away the instinctual pain we feel that comes with the knowledge that we’ve lost a species to extinction, or the pain and fear we feel when we have to hear about the injustices committed against African Americans by the institutions we are a part of, or the empathy we might feel with immigrant families being torn apart while we stand by and watch. We can choose to close our eyes to the painful and frightening, but when we do this, we are also closing our eyes to the humanity of others, and the connection we have to life on earth. And this is important because we make this choice every day. With when we choose to stand up and speak out about an injustice or sit quietly and watch it play out. When we choose to open that email asking for your help or delete.  It’s something about ourselves that we all need to be aware of and watch carefully.

Charise: Yes, beautifully put. I would add that the right to existence is what makes this a justice issue, not just for wildlife, but for people. Through diversity of life, we can exercise our human rights to food, health, and culture. If certain people are not given access to this right, that is unjust. On the flipside, if certain groups are not provided with the basic freedoms afforded others based on race, income, religion, or otherwise, we cannot expect conservation efforts to succeed. We can’t say we’re dedicated to conservation when there are still people being eradicated through the country’s prison pipeline, gun violence, and toxic pollution, with little input on solutions.

Conservation requires conversations

Species conservation is necessary for the protection of wildlife, a valuable natural resource. With so many attempts to dismantle science-based environmental regulations, we are putting more than our natural resources at risk. But we can change the narrative of who gets to benefit from “nature.” We can push for more consideration of traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) in scientific research and policy decisions. Instead of stifling community members or excluding them from discussions outright, we have to listen to and incorporate the problems and solutions they have already identified. Addressing the inherent biases in our institutions from an intersectional perspective is the first step in serving vulnerable communities justly. You can start by joining the conversation. If you’d like to learn more about how our Science Network members engage in their communities around justice-based issues, check out our Science for Justice blog series.

 

Photos credit USFWS

More Room to Roam on the American Prairie

By Kyran Kunkel, Director of Wildlife Restoration and Science at the American Prairie Reserve

The American Prairie Reserve (APR) is working hard to build the largest nature reserve in the continental United States.  With that goal in mind, wildlife enthusiasts currently have a golden opportunity to restore the national mammal on 250,000 acres of public lands in Northcentral Montana.

No matter how you slice it, the public benefits of bison restoration are compelling. Learn more with our Top 5 list below.  Then consider helping us make the case to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) by submitting a public comment before June 11th.

Top 5 Reasons Bison need more Room to Roam on the American Prairie

Reason #1:  Restores wildlife and habitat

The science is sound.  Bringing back bison on the mixed-grass prairie offers an evolutionarily tested strategy to help restore and maintain the health of the land and improve habitat diversity for native plants and wildlife.  What else would we expect from the animal that co-evolved and was a keystone species on the American prairie for thousands of years?   Our proposal seeks to reestablish a semblance of bison’s natural grazing regimes by replacing rotational grazing used for cattle with year-round continual grazing of bison for the benefit of public lands.

There is nothing wrong with rotational grazing, it’s a strategy that cattle managers have used to create healthy grazing patterns.  However, bison don’t require this particular grazing strategy to maintain land health because they cover much more ground and forage at far greater distances from water than cattle do. Other land managers across the country have put this science into practice and here at APR our early results demonstrate it’s working but can work better with more room to roam.

Reason #2:  Restores our National Mammal

Beyond Yellowstone Park, large populations of bison are largely missing across the US.  Lands where bison roam are too small and ecologically incomplete for bison to play their full evolutionary role.  That fragmentation and incompleteness is why scientists have called the plains bison, ‘ecologically extinct.’

To change that, the American Prairie Reserve has been working to build a robust and resilient herd of exceptional conservation contribution.   We are solidly on our way to success but need more space to make it happen.  

Our herd, has grown to a point where it can be used to establish and enhance the ecological and genetic health of other federal, state, and tribal herds around the country.  There are few similar source herds for others to draw from.

To date, we have already contributed to bison restoration by donating animals to federal and state agencies in Nebraska, Colorado, and Arizona.  We have also worked with the InterTribal Buffalo Council (ITBC) toward bison restoration efforts on Tribal lands in the West.   Last January, we donated 30 bison each to Fort Belknap, Fort Peck, and the Blackfeet Indian Reservations in Montana and 25 bison to Pe’Sla in South Dakota.

The more we are able to grow our bison herd, the closer we will be able to work with managers of other conservation herds in North American and contribute toward the restoration of our national mammal.

#3: Enhances Public Lands

Public lands are for the public and we think our proposal will increase the multiple use of these lands and enhance them for more Americans.  The public is clearly fascinated by bison. Almost half of all visitors to Yellowstone National Parks say bison viewing is one of their primary reasons they visit. We think a strong conservation herd of bison can be a significant draw for tourists, hunters, educators, students, artists and others on the American Prairie too.

It’s why American Prairie Reserve is busy building a more robust outdoor recreation infrastructure to support and encourage more year-round visitation and help connect the public to their public lands.  That includes a new National Discovery Center in Lewistown, public campgrounds, welcome centers, and a new affordable hut system to allow visitors to traverse 200 miles of the project area on foot, bicycle, canoe, and horseback.  

#4: Diversifies the economy

Agriculture is the dominant industry in Northcentral Montana where the American Prairie Reserve project area resides.  Even with and in some ways because of APR’s growing success and impact, agriculture will continue to remain that way for a very long time.

However, in other parts of the West the rise of the outdoor recreation and conservation economies are helping diversify traditional economies and creating more economic opportunities for more people. We think the American Prairie Reserve can fuel the rise of more outdoor recreation in our neighborhood too.  More visitation and outdoor recreation in the area will result in an influx of revenue for motels, restaurants, caterers, sporting good stores, gas stations, and outfitters.   In addition, the direct economic footprint of the Reserve is substantial and continues to grow. To date, we have contributed over $36 million to the local area economy.

#5: Enhances migration corridors

Scientists have been talking about the importance of migration corridors and ecologically connecting landscape for decades. That’s why it was valuable to see the U.S. Department of Interior recently prioritize their importance by issuing Secretary Order #3362, ‘Improving Habitat Quality in Western Big-Game Winter Range and Migration Corridors.’

This matches what American Prairie Reserve is already working to do.  Our proposal would remove over 250 miles of interior fences on public lands and upgrade an additional 250 miles of perimeter fences to meet wildlife-friendly standards.  All that work is a net-benefit for pronghorn, bighorn sheep, mule deer and elk. No matter how you slice it, American Prairie Reserve is a great opportunity for the Department of Interior to partner with a landowner to enhance wildlife migration and habitat on Federal lands.

Please consider asking the BLM to analyze the public benefits of providing bison more room to room on the American Prairie before June 11th.  For more information, be sure to check out these Frequently Asked Questions.

 

U.S. Celebrating Endangered Species Day on Friday

Over 130 Events Planned at Zoos, Nature Centers and other Venues

Washington, DC – On Friday, May 18, thousands of Americans are gathering to participate in Endangered Species Day events across the country, in recognition of our nation’s commitment to protecting and restoring our disappearing wildlife. This is the 13th annual international Endangered Species Day, which occurs on the third Friday of May, celebrating our wildlife and wild places.

“Endangered Species Day celebrates America’s vision,” stated Leda Huta, Executive Director of the Endangered Species Coalition, primary sponsor of Endangered Species Day. “When we passed the Endangered Species Act, we affirmed America’s commitment to protecting our natural heritage for future generations.”

On May 18 (and throughout the month) wildlife refuges, zoos, aquariums, parks, botanic gardens, schools, libraries, museums, and community groups will hold tours, exhibits, classroom discussions, habitat restoration projects, children’s programs, field trips and other activities. This year’s events range from California to Maine, from Florida to Oregon, Montana and Washington, D.C. and elsewhere throughout United States, as well as in Peru, Costa Rica, Indonesia, Mexico, Canada and the U.K. Highlights include:

Special presentations at Rocky Mountain, Yosemite and other National Parks and Wildlife Refuges.
Demonstrations, curator talks, tours and other activities at numerous zoos and aquariums, including the Los Angeles Zoo’s “Wild for the Planet,” Kansas City Zoo’s “Zootastic Learning Fest,” “Celebrate Endangered Species Day at Smithsonian’s National Zoo,” and Franklin Park Zoo’s “Be a Hero for Endangered Species.”
Milkweed and pollinator garden plantings to expand monarch/native pollinator habitat in Maine, Montana, Washington, Idaho, California, Indiana, Wisconsin, Maryland, Idaho, Alabama and New Jersey.

Interactive activities for individuals and families, such as Horseshoe Crab Tagging (Middle Township, NJ), the Pollinator Parade and Festival (Falmouth, ME), and the 5K Race Against Extinction (Huntington Beach, CA).
Nationwide “No Straw” campaign, which encourages people to sign a pledge to give up plastics and other single use plastics for the month of May.

Endangered Species Day was first created by U.S. Senate in 2006, when it unanimously designated May 11, 2006 as the first ever “Endangered Species Day,” to encourage “the people of the United States to become educated about, and aware of, threats to species, success stories in species recovery, and the opportunity to promote species conservation worldwide.”

In 2009 the Coalition began incorporating a national youth art contest into the Endangered Species Day event. Each year, nearly two thousand students of all ages submit illustrations of their favorite endangered species to contest judges. The top winners in each age group are selected for the publication in the annual Endangered Species Art calendar, and the grand prizewinner travels to Washington, D.C. on Endangered Species Day to receive an award. This year’s grand prize winner is 9 year old, Brandon Xie, who will receive his award at a ceremony on May 16.

“We have a responsibility to our children and grandchildren to be good stewards of nature,” said Huta. “The Endangered Species Act is a declaration to the world that we will not rob our children of the opportunity to watch a humpback whale break through the surface of the ocean or to hear the cry of the bald eagle.”

More than 1,300 imperiled species of plants, fish and wildlife in the United States have been protected by the Endangered Species Act, and only ten have gone extinct, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Additionally, a 2012 study found that 90 percent of protected species are recovering at the pace expected in their scientific recovery plans.

In addition to the Endangered Species Coalition, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), numerous conservation, education, community and youth organizations have also supported and participated in Endangered Species Day, including the Girl Scouts USA, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the North American Association for Environmental Education, Native Plant Conservation Campaign, Garden Clubs of America, Sierra Club, the National Association of Biology Teachers, the National Science Teachers Association, Earth Day Network, National Wildlife Federation, National Audubon Society and Defenders of Wildlife.

For more information on Endangered Species Day, including event locations and a variety of educational resource materials, visit www.endangeredspeciesday.org.