Page 1

FALL 2019

’ NATURE SVOICE For the 3 million Members and online activists of the Natural Resources Defense Council

IN THIS ISSUE

The Bureau of Land Management has approved a strip mine near Bryce Canyon National Park (above).

NRDC Sues to Block Utah Coal Mine California Targeted for Trump Fracking Binge NRDC Responds to Deepening Worldwide Biodiversity Crisis Trump Issues Two More Pro-Pipeline Orders

NRDC works to safeguard the earth—its people, its plants and animals, and the natural systems on which all life depends.


Victory

CHACO CANYON GETS REPRIEVE

Siding with a coalition of local and tribal groups and NRDC, a federal appeals court has ruled that the U.S Bureau of Land Management acted illegally when it approved drilling and fracking for the Greater Chaco region of New Mexico. The court said the BLM had failed to consider the cumulative environmental impacts of fracking almost 4,000 wells, the number the agency itself estimated would be developed in the area. Known for its ancient ruins and other cultural sites, the Greater Chaco region remains sacred to indigenous tribes throughout the American Southwest.

Victory

PROTECTION FOR GULF WHALES

Thanks to an NRDC petition and subsequent lawsuits, the National Marine Fisheries Service has finally listed the imperiled Gulf of Mexico whale as endangered, following years of delay. The whale’s population—now estimated at a dire 33 individuals— has plummeted in recent decades from threats like offshore oil and gas development and disruptive seismic blasting. The BP oil spill alone killed off an estimated 22 percent of the population in 2010. But with the newly granted protections, the iconic species now has a fighting chance at survival.

Victory

GOVERNORS BLOCK PIPELINE

In a big win for climate change fighters everywhere, the governors of New York and New Jersey have denied water quality permits for the proposed Williams pipeline, which would have transported fracked gas through sensitive waterways like New York Harbor to its terminus in the Rockaways. The pipeline not only would have deepened our dependency on dirty fossil fuels, but also would have polluted the water and harmed endangered species. NRDC will continue to fight this and other dangerous pipelines that threaten public health and undermine our transition to clean energy.

C OV E R A RT I C L E

NRDC SUES TO BLOCK UTAH COAL MINE

S

eeking to defend an iconic American wilderness and strike a blow against President Trump’s assault on our climate, NRDC filed suit in federal court with a coalition of allies to block the approval of a sprawling open-pit coal mine on the doorstep of the magnificent Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah. The suit charges that the U.S. Bureau of Land Management violated the law by failing to assess all of the environmental and climate damage that would result from burning the two million tons of coal that the proposed Alton mine is expected to produce each year. “There are a host of reasons why allowing an enormous new strip mine near a national park is a terrible idea—and the vast amount of greenhouse gases and other air pollution that would result from burning the coal is certainly one of them,” says NRDC Senior Attorney Ann Alexander. “The law requires that BLM lay out for the public the very real costs

of that pollution, which they have disregarded.” In addition to virtually ignoring the climate risks posed by the mine, which would be gouged out of more than 2,000 acres located just off a popular twolane scenic byway, BLM has also glossed over many of the mine’s other major impacts. Those include direct damage to the experience of park visitors, ranging from inevitable increases in noise and air pollution to the degradation of the park’s beautifully clear night skies. The mine also risks wiping out the southernmost population of the endangered greater sage grouse by destroying its breeding ground. NRDC’s lawsuit marks the latest front in our running battle to save America’s natural heritage and our planet’s climate from Trump’s assault. Elsewhere in Utah, we continue to fight in court to beat back the administration’s attempts to strip protections from Bears Ears and Grand StaircaseEscalante National Monuments.

BRYCE CANYON: © JERRY AND PAT DONAHO VIA FLICKR; SEQUOIA NATIONAL PARK: © ALAMY

G O O D N EWS

S P E C I A L R E P O RT

The environmental campaigns and victories featured in Nature’s Voice are all made possible through your generous support. You can help NRDC defend the environment by making a special contribution. NRDC.ORG/GIVE

California Targeted for Trump Fracking Binge Spurred by NRDC’s urgent call to action, tens of thousands of Members and online activists have protested plans by the Trump administration to open more than one million acres of public and private land in California to dangerous fracking. The plans would allow fracking operations close to homes, schools, hospitals and other vital community facilities, as well as near such spectacular natural treasures as Yosemite, Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks, Los Padres National Forest and Carrizo Plain National Monument, which recently made headlines for its stunning “superbloom” of wildflowers.

A testament to President Trump’s reckless drill-andburn fossil fuel agenda, the administration’s frack attack on the Golden State would saddle Californians with more air pollution, more greenhouse gas emissions and a higher risk of water contamina­tion than fracking poses elsewhere, since wells in California are often shallower and in closer proximity to sources of fresh drinking water. The Trump administration’s aggressive push to unleash a fracking rampage comes as California has emerged as a leader among states fighting to beat back the president’s attacks on our environment, climate and clean air and water.


CA M PA I G N U P DAT E

NRDC RESPONDS TO DEEPENING WORLDWIDE BIODIVERSITY CRISIS

C

says. For ex­­ample, we led the push for a strong set of rules to drive the landmark Paris Agreement forward at last December’s U.N. climate summit in Poland, and we are playing a key role in advancing a new treaty to expand conservation of the high seas, less than 1 percent of which is fully protected. Similarly, NRDC’s advocacy at the Conference of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species has helped win important protections for imperiled species against poaching and illegal trade. With the conversion of wildlands to farms a

Clockwise from top left: A clearcut swath of the boreal forest in Canada; an endangered grizzly bear in Greater Yellowstone; a clouded leopard, an Asian species classified as vulnerable; an endangered Hawaiian green sea turtle

pre­dicted. “Both reports reflect overwhelming scientific consensus, telling us that if we want to have any hope of passing along a livable planet to our children and grandchildren, we have to do the hard work of making radical change—and doing it now.” In fact, the solutions exist, and many aren’t new, according to Casey-Lefkowitz. “What these reports can do is galvanize urgent action and push the envelope on new ideas. And there are few organizations better positioned to lead that charge than NRDC.” Indeed, NRDC has long been fighting for the adoption of proven solutions to what the U.N. biodiversity report cites as the four leading factors in species loss: changes in land and sea use, from clearing forests for

farmland to overfishing; direct exploitation of species, such as hunting them for food or for the illicit trade in body parts; climate change; and pollution. We continue to wage far-reaching cam­paigns to defend some of the world’s last remaining wild places from being ravaged by commercial interests, whether saving Canada’s vast boreal forest from logging and tar sands extraction or protecting America’s Arctic from Big Oil. And as we do, we’re rallying global support for the “30 by 30” initiative, a bold plan to protect 30 percent of the world’s lands and oceans by 2030. “NRDC has a long track record of successful advocacy at major international forums,” Casey-Lefkowitz

“As the U.N. report makes clear, we need to be strengthening our protections for vulnerable species, not dismantling them.” leading factor in the destruction of natural habitat, it’s imperative that the world also rethink how we grow our food. NRDC is working to transform the United States into a model of more biodiversity-friendly farming by disrupting the destructive grip of Big Ag on farm policy. For example, we are advocating for programs that reward farmers who use practices that support pollinators, microbial diversity and economic resiliency. These practices include diverse crop rotations and the use of cover crops, which provide additional habitat for pollinators, mammals, birds and other species during [Continued on next page.]

BOREAL FOREST: © RIVER JORDAN FOR NRDC; GRIZZLY: © ALAMY; TURTLE: © JOHN BURNS/NOAA; LEOPARD: © COLIN LANGFORD/GETTY IMAGES

all it a five-alarm wake-up call for humankind. Results from the most comprehensive scientific assessment to date of the state of biodiversity on the planet were released in May, and the report landed like a bombshell: More than one million animal and plant species—or one in every eight—are at risk of extinction because of human activity, more than at any other time in history. And much of that imperiled wild­life could disappear in mere decades, well within the average person’s lifetime. The accelerating loss of biodiversity—a global crisis—not only threatens to fundamentally upend the natural world as we know it, but risks disrupting natural systems that are essential to human survival. “The health of ecosystems on which we and all other species depend is deteriorating more rapidly than ever,” says Sir Robert Watson, chair of the United Nations’ intergovernmental scientific panel under whose auspices the sprawling report was produced. “We are eroding the very foundations of our economies, livelihoods, food security, health and quality of life worldwide.” The old-growth forests that cleanse the air we breathe, the vital wetlands that filter the fresh water we drink, the bees and other wildlife that pollinate the food we eat and what once seemed the inexhaus­tible abundance of our living oceans are all disappearing at an unprecedented and unsustainable rate, one that requires urgent and forceful action to stem the catastrophic loss. The report calls for systemic, “transformative” change at every level, from local to global, to meet the rapidly unfolding biodiversity emergency head on. If you think that sounds daunting, you’re not alone. It’s hard to read the U.N. assessment and “not just want to curl up in a ball,” admits Susan CaseyLefkowitz, NRDC’s chief program officer. “In a way, it’s like déjà vu all over again,” she says, recalling the release last year of the landmark report from the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that found many of the worst impacts of global warming are likely to arrive far sooner than previously


Giraffes May Finally Get Endangered Status

times of the year when fields would otherwise be bare. Meanwhile, we continue to battle against the wide­spread pesticide abuse that is killing off bees, monarch butterflies and other vital pollinators. When it comes to President Trump’s radical antienvironment agenda, “you don’t have to connect too many dots to read the U.N. biodiversity report as a scathing rebuke to the Trump admin­istration’s sweeping assault on wildlife,” says Casey-Lefkowitz. NRDC has been relentless in hauling the president and his administra­tion into court. For instance, we sued to disband Trump’s sham “International Wildlife Conservation Council” stacked with trophy hunters, and we challenged his administration’s plans to permit offshore seismic testing that could deafen, injure and even kill thousands of whales and other marine mammals, including such critically endangered species as North Atlantic right whales. Yet among the Trump administration’s myriad attacks, perhaps none epitomizes its war on wildlife more than the plan being hatched by Interior Secretary David Bernhardt to eviscerate the bedrock Endangered Species Act, which would strip threatened wildlife of vital protections and make it easier for corporate interests to destroy their habitat. “As the U.N. report makes clear, we need to be strengthening our protections for vulnerable species, not dismantling them,” says Casey-Lefkowitz. “It almost goes without saying, but the minute Trump and Bernhardt try to lay a finger on the Endangered Species Act, NRDC will sue.”

Trump’s new executive order threatens clean water.

Trump Issues Two More Pro-Pipeline Orders Launching more attacks on our climate and clean water, President Trump has issued two executive orders meant to fast-track approval for proposed oil and gas pipelines and boost fossil fuel development. The first weakens a key provision of the Clean Water Act that empowers states to thoroughly review and block pipeline projects that cross their borders. “This state role is essential to protecting water quality. In some cases, state laws prohibit pollution that might be allowed under federal law,” says Kimberly Ong, an NRDC senior attorney. Trump himself admitted the order was a direct response to New York’s recent decision to block multiple pipelines that threatened its waterways.

EPA Backs Industry on Risky Herbicide Despite evidence linking glyphosate to cancer, the Trump Environmental Protection Agency has maintained its deceitful position that the chemical is not a carcinogen. The main ingredient in Roundup, the world’s most widely used herbicide, glyphosate threatens the health of applicators and farm workers and winds up in our food and water supplies. The World Health Organization concluded back in 2015 that the chemical was a “likely carcinogen,” and a recent toxicology report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, part of the U.S. Health Department,

The second executive order robs the public and government agencies of their traditional roles in the approval process for cross-border infrastructure like the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. “Trump’s orders will leave communities in the dark about these projects and vulnerable to an industry that has repeatedly violated state water quality standards across the country,” says NRDC senior advocate Josh Axelrod. NRDC is continuing the fight against Keystone XL on multiple fronts, including a new lawsuit charging that permits for the pipeline were unlawfully rubber-stamped by the Trump administration without a full evaluation of the environmental impacts.

agreed. Monsanto, now owned by Bayer, has lost a string of multimillion-dollar lawsuits brought by users of glyphosate diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. A lot of money is on the line. Bayer sells about 300 million pounds of Roundup in the United States annually, much of it to be used on its own Roundup-resistant crops. “Bayer, Monsanto and co-opted agencies like the EPA are out on a limb crying that the chemical is safe, while health agencies link it to cancer,” says NRDC senior scientist Jennifer Sass, who has submitted expert opinion on glyphosate’s risks during EPA public comment periods. “NRDC will continue to fight for tough regulations that protect our health and environment.”

Better late than never. It took a lawsuit filed by NRDC and our allies, but the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has finally agreed to move forward in determining whether Africa’s imperiled giraffes qualify for protection under the Endangered Species Act. The agency announced its decision a full two years after NRDC and our partners filed a formal petition calling for the federal protections. Under the law, the FWS is supposed to respond to such petitions within 90 days. “Giraffes are in crisis, and the United States has long been complicit in the trade of giraffe parts like hunting trophies and skins,” says NRDC wildlife advocate Elly Pepper. “It’s time that the federal government stick its neck out for this species.” Indeed, Africa’s giraffe population has plunged nearly 40 percent in the past three decades, with fewer than 100,000 animals remaining today, even less than the number of African elephants. Yet on average, the United States imports more than one giraffe hunting trophy per day, and thousands of giraffe parts are sold domestically each year. “Unfortunately giraffes are a favorite target of trophy hunters, and the trophy hunting lobby has an outsize influence on the Trump administration,” Pepper says, pointing to the president’s phony “International Wildlife Conservation Council,” which is stacked with hunters, and NRDC’s ongoing legal fight to dismantle it. “We’re going to keep the pressure on until giraffes get the protection they desperately need.”

ROUNDUP: © ANDREI STANESCU/ALAMY; TRUMP: © EVAN VUCCI/AP; GIRAFFE: © DAVID CLODE

[Continued from previous page.]


Families with pets shouldn’t have to fear for their children’s health when they treat those pets for fleas. That’s why NRDC is taking the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency back to court for failing to protect kids from flea collars that contain the toxic pesticide tetrachlorvinphos (TCVP). The collars—as well as similar topicals, sprays and dusts—work by leaving chemical residue on animals’ fur. Children are exposed when they play with their pets, getting the chemical on their skin where it can be absorbed or ingested when they put their hands in their mouths. But TCVP is part

of a dangerous family of pesticides extremely toxic to the nervous system. Even at low levels, these pesticides harm the developing brain and put children at an increased risk of learning disabilities. Our fight against these products spans a decade. NRDC first filed a petition back in 2009, arguing that the EPA’s approval of flea collars and powders ignored scientific evidence of their health impacts. After years of delay and two NRDC lawsuits forcing action, the agency finally agreed to conduct a revised safety assessment. Sure enough, the EPA found in 2016 that flea

collars pose an unreasonable risk—exposing young kids to levels of the chemical up to 1,000 times the federal safety level. “It’s outrageous,” says NRDC Senior Scientist Miriam Rotkin-Ellman. “The agency agrees that the use of this poison puts kids at risk, yet it has done nothing to restrict its use. We intend to stay in court until these poison pet products are removed from store shelves.” In the meantime, pet owners can opt for safer alternatives. Groom pets and wash bedding in hot, soapy water frequently. Vacuum and wipe down surfaces where your pet spends time, and consider a professional steam cleaning of your carpets. And, if you must use a chemical, choose oral flea-prevention treatments, which don’t leave a residue and are less toxic than TCVP. “Just because the EPA refuses to act, that doesn’t mean we can’t take steps to keep our pets and families safe,” Rotkin-Ellman says.

To learn more about flea products and nontoxic alternatives, check out these NRDC resources: www.nrdc.org/fleaproducts and www.nrdc.org/nontoxic

Public Lands Can Help Fight Climate Change Alison Kelly, senior attorney, and Briana Mordick, senior scientist

The millions of acres of public lands that belong to all Americans should be part of the solution to the climate crisis, but mismanagement by the federal government is making them part of the problem. A recent study by the U.S. Geological Survey shows that federal lands are a big contributor to U.S. emissions of greenhouse gases. Coal, oil, and gas extracted from federal lands account for approximately 25 percent of the total fossil fuels produced annually in the United States, and emissions from combustion and extraction of those fossil fuels account for 23.7 percent, on average, of national carbon dioxide emissions. Instead of addressing this problem, the Trump administration is downplaying or

outright ignoring it to benefit the oil, gas and coal industries. Many of the fossil fuels managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management are in the American West, home to some of our most spectacular public lands, national monuments and wilderness. Thanks to the Trump administration’s energy dominance agenda, our iconic western landscapes and wildlife face serious threats from fossil fuel leasing and development. The BLM has offered millions of acres to the fossil fuel industry with minimal public input and little consideration for the climate and other ecological and cultural values. This is why NRDC and its allies on western conservation and climate have sought relief from the

T O P R AT E D B Y C H A R I T Y N AV I G AT O R . O R G N AT U R A L R E S O U R C E S D E F E N S E C O U N C I L 40 WEST 20TH STREET, NEW YORK, NY 10011 WWW.NRDC.ORG/NATURESVOICE NATURESVOICE@NRDC.ORG | 212.727.4500

EDITOR IN CHIEF STEPHEN MILLS, MANAGING EDITOR LIZ LINKE

HELP PROTECT FUTURE GENERATIONS

WRITERS JASON BEST, COURTNEY LINDWALL

Make a bequest to NRDC and help preserve our natural heritage for generations to come. NRDC.ORG/FUTURE

DIRECTOR OF MEMBERSHIP GINA TRUJILLO

courts—resulting in recent victories on climate change that protected public lands in Montana, Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico. Yet the BLM continues to conceal from the American people the true environmental impacts of its leasing decisions. Requiring the bureau to provide a full picture on how fossil fuel development on our public lands contributes to climate change will help us defend these iconic places from irreparable harm. We must ensure a transition to a secure and prosperous clean energy future that protects our treasured public lands and our climate. America’s natural heritage should be part of the climate solution—not a significant contributor to the problem.

DOG AND CAT: © SHUTTERSTOCK; LEAVES: © AP X 90; ALISON KELLY & BRIANA MORDICK: © REBECCA GREENFIELD FOR NRDC; LEMUR: © MATTHEW WILLIAMS-ELLIS/OFFSET

NRDC Sues EPA to Protect Children, Force Ban on Toxic Flea Collars

N R D C VO I C E S

Profile for NRDC

Nature's Voice Fall 2019  

Nature's Voice Fall 2019  

Profile for nrdc