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FALL 2016

’ NATURE SVOICE

For the 2.4 million Members and online activists of the Natural Resources Defense Council.

IN THIS ISSUE

Washington’s San Juan Islands, among the many coastal gems threatened by tar sands tankers

NRDC Fights to Stop Keystone 2.0 Wildlife Poaching Crisis Takes Center Stage Pebble Mine’s Owner May Seek Taxpayer Bailout Court to Hear Climate Case

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


Victory

TWO WINS FOR ELEPHANTS The Obama Administration has issued the last in a series of regulations that add up to a near-total ban on the commercial ivory trade in America. It is a huge victory for elephants — as well as for NRDC Members who have called for an end to our nation’s role in the ivory trafficking that fuels elephant poaching. The tough new rules do not cover sales within states, but NRDC has helped enact laws shutting down the nation’s three biggest state ivory markets: New York, California and, most recently, Hawaii.

Victory

BIG OIL’S BIG ABOUT-FACE Shell, ConocoPhillips and other oil majors have relinquished their leases in the Arctic’s Chukchi Sea, just eight years after spending $2.5 billion for the rights to drill there. Shell had already dropped its plans for more drilling in the land of the polar bear, but the abandonment of its leases marks the official and very welcome end to that company’s decade-long, accident-prone assault on the Chukchi. Shell’s Arctic dreams turned nightmarish in the face of volatile oil markets, harsh weather, relentless protest, dogged NRDC legal action and a new worldwide commitment to climate protection.

ENLIST DUO MUST GO NRDC has filed a petition charging that the EPA violated the law when it approved the use of Dow’s Enlist Duo, a powerful new weed killer that threatens not just the food supply of monarch butterflies but human health as well. Last year, the agency conceded in court that it was no longer sure whether Enlist Duo meets federal safety standards, but it refused to order the product off the market. In a separate action, NRDC has sued the EPA for failing to release documents related to its decision to approve the herbicide.

C OV E R A RT I C L E

NRDC Fights to Stop “Keystone 2.0” B ig Oil’s bid to build its massive Keystone XL tar sands pipeline may have met stunning defeat, but that hasn’t stopped the industry from seeking to double its production of tar sands oil, one of the most destructive fossil fuels on the planet. Its latest plan of attack would send an additional 1.5 million barrels a day of tar sands crude to the United States — twice as much as Keystone XL — but NRDC is launching a counteroffensive aimed at the plan’s Achilles’ heel. To move its dirty crude out of landlocked Alberta, the oil giants would rely on two massive pipelines to Canada’s east and west coasts plus a fleet of supertankers that would haul the piped crude to U.S. refineries. TAKE ACTION

nrdc.org/tankerban

“If we can stop those tankers, the pipelines will never get built,” says NRDC Trustee Robert Redford, who is spearheading the campaign to impose a ban on tar sands tanker traffic in U.S. waters. “We have the chance to stop the expansion of tar sands development in Canada, save our planet from more climatedestroying pollution and protect our coasts from catastrophic oil spills.” Indeed, a damning report by the National Academy of Sciences recently concluded that neither the oil industry nor any federal agency is capable of effectively cleaning up a major spill of heavy tar sands crude in water once the crude sinks. As for its devastating impact on our climate, the pipeline-to-tanker scheme would choke our skies with 350 million metric tons of carbon pollution per year — equivalent to the emissions of 91 coal-burning power plants.

NRDC Members are calling on President Obama to bar tar sands tankers from plying our coastal waters. “With scientists now warning that sea levels could rise more than six feet in this century, we must keep pushing the envelope with bold ideas,” says Redford. “This campaign is the single best means we have for saving our climate — and our coasts — from the next generation of heavily polluting tar sands oil.”

Washington’s San Juan Islands, among the many coastal gems threatened by tar sands tankers

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

Oil Exploration Approved in Panther Habitat 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/JOINGIVE

The National Park Service has given the green light for large-scale oil exploration in Big Cypress National Preserve, the “protected” home of the critically endangered Florida panther. The controversial decision to open 70,000 acres of the preserve was made despite widespread public opposition, including messages of protest from 50,000 NRDC Members and online activists. “Oil exploration and drilling have no place in this crown jewel of the Everglades,” says NRDC attorney Alison Kelly. “Industrial activity in panther habitat would threaten the survival of this highly endangered wildcat.” NRDC has filed suit against the National Park Service to

stop the exploration activity. The destructive project’s first phase would send 30-ton seismic “thumper” trucks rumbling through more than 100 square miles of prime panther habitat. The truck traffic would occur off-road in mostly wetland areas, and helicopters would buzz over cypress domes and important wildlife habitat on a daily basis. It is estimated that only 100 to 180 Florida panthers remain, making each individual critical to the survival of the species. Big Cypress also provides important habitat for several other endangered species, including the wood stork, the red-cockaded woodpecker and the Florida bonneted bat.

SAN JUAN ISLANDS © ISTOCK.COM; POLAR BEAR © SHUTTERSTOCK.COM; PANTHER © JO CREBBIN/SHUTTERSTOCK.COM

G O O D N EWS


CA M PA I G N U P DAT E

Wildlife Poaching Takes Center Stage at Two Summits I n a rare coincidence that couldn’t come soon enough for struggling wildlife, two of the foremost international bodies focused on preserving imperiled species are gearing up for their respective summits. As we go to press, a delegation of NRDC experts dedicated to combating the dire threats of wildlife poaching and trafficking are preparing for both historic meetings, half a world apart. The first is the World Conservation Congress, the meeting of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) that takes place once every four years. It convenes in Honolulu at the beginning of September. Two weeks later, in Johannesburg, representatives from the 182 countries that are parties to the Convention on International

What we’re talking about isn’t subsistence hunting, and it’s not sustainable. It’s runaway poaching driven by greed. Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) will convene for a summit that is typically held every three years. With more than 1,300 members spanning both government and nongovernmental organizations, the IUCN is the world’s leading authority in determining which of the planet’s species are most at risk, and its deliberations exert tremendous influence at CITES, which sets international rules governing the trade of endangered animals and plants.

survive in the face of outsize threats posed by climate change, habitat loss and poaching, it has become imperative to fundamentally change the ways in which the world’s people consume wild species. At the top of the priority list: stamping out the global trade in animal parts, like elephant ivory and rhino horn, which is driving the devastating decline of so many species. “What we’re talking about isn’t subsistence hunting, and it’s not sustainable,” says Smith. “It’s runaway poaching driven Clockwise from top left: African elephant, pangolin, white rhinoceros, silky sharks by greed.” With the rise of prosperity among the burgeoning NRDC specialists will be on the ground at both middle classes of East Asia, demand for ivory summits, advocating on behalf of wild species has soared, for example. Tens of thousands of currently in crisis. elephants have been slaughtered by poachers “To have both the IUCN and CITES convening over the past few years to satisfy a growing in the same month is extraordinary,” says global appetite for ivory figurines, jewelry and Zak Smith, director of NRDC’s Wildlife Trade other status symbols. A similar dynamic is Initiative. “It underscores the urgent challenge fueling the killing of African rhinos for their we face: at no other time in recorded history has horns, which can fetch more than the price of so much of the earth’s wildlife been under such gold on the international black market. extraordinary stress.” For centuries, humans Combating this grim trade requires sustained have relied on the abundance of the natural effort on multiple fronts. NRDC has waged a world to provide food, clothing and traditional vigorous campaign to curb demand for both medicines, but as many species struggle to

ivory and rhino horn in the United States, scoring key victories at the state and federal levels along the way (see front-page story). But turning the tide on international trafficking will require a strong advocacy campaign on the ground at the World Conservation Congress and CITES. NRDC experts will be there responding to developments in real time, often playing both offense and defense: fighting to win increased protections for imperiled species while at the same time staving off proposals that would actually put those species at even greater risk. Case in point: the battle to save Africa’s elephants. Even as a number of African nations seek to prohibit any and all commercial trade in ivory under CITES, Namibia and Zimbabwe are lobbying to lift restrictions on their ability to sell ivory on the global market. “That would be a disaster,” says NRDC Wildlife Advocate

The actions taken over the next few weeks will determine the fate of some of these incredible creatures. Elly Pepper. “We know from past experience that allowing significant ivory sales leads to a dramatic surge in illegal ivory trafficking.” NRDC is also working to pass a resolution at the World Conservation Congress that would encourage countries to close their domestic ivory markets — a goal we’re already working toward in China in addition to the United States. [Continued on next page.]

ELEPHANT © SHUTTERSTOCK.COM; PANGOLIN © GEORGE STEINMETZ/GETTY; SHARKS © ALAMY; RHINOS © DARRELL GULIN/GETTY

SAVING ENDANGERED SPECIES


TAKE ACTION

nrdc.org/end-poaching

Yellowstone Grizzlies to Lose Protection In 1975 the iconic grizzly bear was on the verge of disappearing from the continental United States. A decades-long killing campaign had reduced the population of these majestic animals from as many as 100,000 to just 150 bears in the western United States. Since then, thanks to their

Grizzly bear and cubs, Yellowstone National Park

Pebble Mine’s Owner May Seek Taxpayer Bailout

Bristol Bay, Alaska

The increasingly desperate bid by Northern Dynasty Minerals to dig an enormous open-pit copper and gold mine at the headwaters of Alaska’s stunning Bristol Bay, home to the world’s largest wild salmon fishery, took an outrageous turn recently when the Canadian mining company threatened to seek damages from U.S. taxpayers under the North American Free Trade Agreement. Hemorrhaging cash and abandoned by its original corporate partners, Northern Dynasty has nevertheless continued to fight

Court to Hear Climate Case in September protection under the Endangered Species Act, grizzlies have made a comeback from the brink of extinction. Some 700 grizzly bears now roam the Greater Yellowstone area. But a misguided proposal from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service threatens to roll back this conservation success story. Under pressure from state governments and anti-wildlife members of Congress, the service recently moved to kick grizzlies off the endangered species list. That would give states the green light for grizzly hunts outside the park’s boundaries. Meanwhile, the bears are confronting an array of other threats. One of their key food sources, seeds from whitebark pine trees, is dwindling as the climate warms. And their habitat is becoming increasingly fragmented, leading to more encounters with humans — which usually end badly for the bears. “This proposal virtually guarantees that Yellowstone’s grizzly population will never increase again,” says NRDC senior scientist Sylvia Fallon. “They should stay protected until science, not politics, decides that they have truly recovered.” NRDC fought off the government’s last attempt to kick grizzlies off the list in 2007. We will go to court again if needed to defend the bears.

tooth and nail for its proposed Pebble Mine, which at 2,000 feet deep would generate an estimated 10 billion tons of contaminated mining waste, posing a risk that the Environmental Protection Agency has deemed “potentially catastrophic.” With the EPA seemingly on the verge of effectively blocking the mine, Northern Dynasty has already sought to bog the agency down in court, filing three separate lawsuits. Says NRDC Western Director and Senior Attorney Joel Reynolds, who has led our sixyear fight against the mine, “For Northern Dynasty to try to stick American taxpayers with the bill for its reckless pursuit of a colossally destructive megamine is beyond absurd; it’s immoral.”

President Obama’s Clean Power Plan will have its day in court in September in a hearing before nine judges of the powerful D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. NRDC has intervened in the case to ensure that climate protection and clean energy carry the day. The Clean Power Plan sets the first national limits on carbon pollution from power plants and is the centerpiece of President Obama’s historic efforts to address climate change. Peabody Coal and other big polluters are desperate to kill the plan. They won a delay from the Supreme Court last February, just before Justice Antonin Scalia’s death. But they are fighting a losing battle because the plan stands on firm legal ground. “We are confident that the courts will uphold the Clean Power Plan,” says David Doniger, director of NRDC’s Climate and Clean Air program. “Smart states and power companies are already moving forward, because they know that climate change is real and that clean energy makes good business sense.” Once the appeals court issues a ruling, the case may return to the U.S. Supreme Court, which hopefully will be back to full strength. NRDC will be there all the way.

BRISTOL BAY © ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM; WIND TURBINES © SHUTTERSTOCK.COM; GRIZZLIES © ANP PHOTO/AGE

[Continued from previous page.] No less urgent is NRDC’s fight to block an attempt by Swaziland to overturn the 40-yearold ban on the rhino horn trade. Neighboring South Africa abandoned a similar proposal earlier this year following an international outcry, including a landmark study commissioned by NRDC that showed legalizing the trade would likely exacerbate the rhino poaching crisis. Tens of thousands of petitions sent by our Members to South African President Jacob Zuma protested the legalization scheme. NRDC will be campaigning hard at both summits to better protect other imperiled animals as well, including vulnerable species of sharks, which are often killed for their fins, and pangolins, scaly anteaters native to Asia and Africa that are little known in the West but considered a delicacy in certain Asian countries. Rampant poaching combined with the pangolin’s low birthrate have made the animal the most endangered wild mammal in the world. “The stakes are extremely high at these summits,” says Pepper. “The actions taken over the next few weeks in Honolulu and Johannesburg will determine the fate of some of these incredible creatures that simply will not survive if current rates of poaching continue.”


California Poised to Retire Its Last Nuclear Plant to coal or other dirty, climatedestroying fossil fuels to make up for the lost electricity, the utility will count on renewables and boosting energy efficiency instead. By 2031, PG&E says, 55 percent of its total energy will come from wind, solar and other sources that don’t produce an ounce of greenhouse gas pollution. The company will also substantially increase its investment in energy efficiency initiatives and smart grid technologies. “For years, the nuclear industry has Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant argued that we can’t fight climate change proposal with Pacific Gas & without nuclear power, because Electric, which serves more shutting down nuclear plants than five million electric would only mean burning customers in northern and more fossil fuels,” says NRDC central California. Under the President Rhea Suh. “We’ve historic agreement, now being always known that was a false reviewed by regulators, PG&E choice, and now we have will allow its current licenses proof.” Closing Diablo Canyon to expire for the Diablo will finally put an end to one of Canyon nuclear plant, located the most contentious chapters about 250 miles south of San in California’s environmental Francisco. But rather than turn In a landmark move likely to reverberate nationally, California’s largest utility has agreed to shutter the state’s last remaining nuclear power plant and replace its output with zero-emissions energy. NRDC and Friends of the Earth negotiated the groundbreaking

history, laying to rest longsimmering concerns that have centered on the plant’s location in an active seismic zone and immediately adjacent to the Pacific Ocean. The plant’s intake pipes draw in more than 2.5 billion gallons of water per day, killing some 1.5 billion larval fish each year. Its closure will end that impact and be a boon to marine life in decades to come. Not only that, but PG&E’s decision to ramp up its use of clean energy resources is expected to ultimately save customers more than $1 billion. It’s a win-win situation that NRDC energy experts say could well be repeated across the country. “The United States has close to a hundred other aging nuclear plants,” says Ralph Cavanagh, codirector of NRDC’s Energy program. “For the utility customers of those plants, the replacement of Diablo Canyon with clean power is showing the way to a more affordable, reliable and environmentfriendly future.”

Let’s Not Sacrifice Whales for Oil By Giulia C.S. Good Stefani

The hunt for oil under the Atlantic could cost us one of our great whale species. That was the grim warning sent by NRDC, along with 30 allies, in a recent letter to federal agencies in charge of guarding our gentlest giants. In March, President Obama spared the Atlantic Ocean from the oil and gas auction block. But industry continues its push to conduct seismic surveys from

Delaware to Florida in a sweep for possible deepwater reserves. Months of deafening underwater air-gun explosions would wreak pointless havoc and could tip the North Atlantic right whale into the unending darkness of extinction. Large and slow, with thick blubber, the right whale was long a favorite target of whalers. Today North Atlantic right whales number fewer than 450, and despite decades of protection, new data

Leopard, Kruger National Park, South Africa

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indicate that their population is shrinking. Right whale moms are having calves at an alarmingly slow rate, and entanglement in fishing gear is a serious threat. Leading right whale experts have concluded that the seismic surveys proposed for the Atlantic would jeopardize the whale’s survival. Whalers once killed these animals for the oils inside them. Now we risk making the same mistake for the oil beneath them. Are we ready to trade away our great whales so oil and gas companies can make maps of the seafloor? The administration should follow through on its promise to protect the Atlantic Ocean by stopping the Fewer than 450 North Atlantic right whales remain. seismic assault.

WHALES © STEPHEN MEESE/ALAMY; LEAF © POND5; LEOPARD © DAVID NOTON PHOTOGRAPHY/ALAMY; DIABLO © MARYA FIGUEROA/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

N R D C VO I C E S

WRITERS JASON BEST, SHANTI MENON DIRECTOR OF MEMBERSHIP GINA TRUJILLO

Nature's Voice Fall 2016  

All of the environmental projects and victories described in Nature’s Voice are made possible through the generous support of Members like y...

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