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SPRING 2016

’ NATURE SVOICE

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

IN THIS ISSUE

Red Wolf

Public Lands Get a Break from Coal Loggers Imperil the Great Northern Forest Landmark Deal Saves Home of the Spirit Bear Bee Campaign Takes Aim at Major Retailers

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


Victory

WHERE THE BISON WILL ROAM The sad tale of Yellowstone’s wild bison may have a happy ending yet. After years of campaigning by NRDC and our allies, Montana Governor Steve Bullock has agreed to expand year-round habitat outside Yellowstone National Park for America’s most famous bison. Historically, thousands of wild bison have been hazed or slaughtered in the spring as they migrated out from Yellowstone into Montana in search of food for survival. While there is still work to do to win stronger protections, expanding the bison’s range is a major advance in the fight to save this icon of our natural heritage.

Victory

NEW YORK POWERS UP New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has issued a bold new mandate to ensure that the state gets 50 percent of its electricity from renewable sources like solar and wind by 2030. That is a huge step forward, representing a doubling of New York’s current proportion of renewable energy sources. Details of the ambitious plan are still being formulated by the state’s Public Service Commission, but if it lives up to its billing, New York will become a national leader in the switch to clean energy.

BEGINNING OF THE END FOR PIPELINE? There’s good news in our Stop the Tar Sands Invasion campaign: TransCanada has announced it will not build a port in Quebec for its proposed Energy East pipeline. The pipeline would feed millions of barrels of tar sands oil to oceangoing tankers that would ply the eastern coast of the United States. The company already canceled plans for a port on the St. Lawrence River. We’ll now focus on blocking its last proposed port on the Bay of Fundy, home to the world’s remaining North Atlantic right whales.

C OV E R A RT I C L E

Public Lands Get A Break from Coal I n a bold move to protect our last wild places and fight climate change, the Obama Administration has announced a moratorium on all new leasing of coal on our public lands. Wild places that belong to all Americans will now get a reprieve from polluting coal projects while the department undertakes a sweeping review of its destructive, decades-old leasing program. For too long, coal companies have ravaged public lands with massive strip mines, slag heaps and toxic wastewater pits. What’s worse, the government has subsidized these operations, costing taxpayers more than $30 billion over three decades. But that’s not the only price we pay. Burning coal is one of the biggest contributors to climate

change and the extreme drought, wildfires and flooding it unleashes. “It’s time to overhaul this outdated program and end the public handouts to coal companies,” says NRDC President Rhea Suh. “We have an obligation to protect our natural heritage and our climate for future generations.” The timeout also brings immediate relief to iconic places under threat from Big Coal, including the Book Cliffs in eastern Utah, where redrock canyons, meadows of golden grass and ancient rock art offer a tranquil refuge to wildlife and travelers alike. Yet Murray Energy has proposed a massive mine that would lay waste to this cherished landscape. Hundreds of thousands of NRDC Members have called on President Obama to end the development of fossil fuels on our public lands — and our work isn’t over. The coal moratorium is temporary, and it doesn’t apply to oil and gas. As a result, energy companies are still poised

to plunder natural treasures like New Mexico’s Chaco Canyon and Utah’s Desolation Canyon. The Interior Department has rubber-stamped more than 1,500 fracking and drilling operations in these two wild places alone. NRDC will continue fighting in court to save them, even as we build public pressure on President Obama to keep leading on climate by ending all new leasing of our public lands and offshore waters for fossil fuels.

The coal moratorium will bring temporary relief to Book Cliffs, Utah.

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

The People Are Heard on Atlantic Drilling 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

In the face of massive public opposition, the Obama Administration has announced it is excluding waters off the Atlantic coast from its next five-year plan for oil and gas leasing. One month earlier, a coalition of groups — including NRDC — delivered more than two million petitions of protest, calling on President Obama to move beyond dirty fossil fuels and not open any more of our federally owned offshore areas. Over the past year, opposition to drilling has built quickly along the southeastern coast, from Virginia to Georgia, where the local economies are heavily dependent on tourism and fishing and can ill afford a BP-type disaster. “The administration has stepped back from the brink by taking the Atlantic off the table, said NRDC President Rhea Suh. “Now it needs to finish

the job by making sure that the Atlantic and Arctic Oceans are protected for all time from drilling as well as from seismic exploration.” Any move to put the Arctic Ocean back on the auction block would not only endanger the home of polar bears and bowhead whales, but would also deepen our reliance on the fossil fuels driving climate chaos.

BISON © ISTOCKPHOTO.COM; BOOK CLIFFS © STEPHEN TRIMBLE/ STEPHENTRIMBLE.NET; PETITIONERS © ROBERT MEYERS/GREENPEACE

G O O D N EWS


CA M PA I G N U P DAT E

SAVING CANADA’S BOREAL

or countless generations of Waswanipi Cree, the old-growth forests, verdant wetlands and clear waters of the Broadback River in central Quebec have been the heart of Eeyou Istchee, “the land of the people.” The sacred responsibility of protecting these forests and the abundant wildlife they sustain is central to the cultural identity of the Waswanipi people. It is an obligation that has been passed down from parents to their children, a time-honored tradition of stewardship that has held off logging and industrial development from the last five million acres of pristine wilderness surrounding the Broadback River. “As occupants

the Waswanipi’s battle to save their wilderness heritage — and galvanizing opposition in the United States to the road-building plans.

As occupants of the land, we have a responsibility … to ensure a sustainable environment for our children and generations to come.

These roads would, quite literally, pave the way for the destruction of the Broadback Valley. of the land, whether visitors or caretakers, we have a responsibility to take a leadership stand and protect the Cree way of life and ensure a sustainable environment for our children and generations to come,” says Marcel Happyjack, chief of the Waswanipi. Yet today, even as the Broadback Valley has begun to attract wider recognition as an irreplaceable wilderness gem — one of the largest, and last remaining, intact stretches of Canada’s vast boreal forest — this ancestral heartland of the Waswanipi Cree Nation is facing a dire threat: The logging industry appears to be setting its sights on the old-growth trees within the valley’s pristine wilderness. The industry’s first order of business? To clearcut several 100-foot-wide swaths totaling

Intact boreal forest in the traditional territory of the Waswanipi Cree Nation

some 45 miles in length through the forest in order to build a network of access roads capable of bringing logging trucks and other heavy equipment directly to the borders of the untouched wilderness that the Waswanipi are fighting to protect. “These roads would, quite literally, pave the way for the destruction of the Broadback Valley,” says Anthony Swift, director of NRDC’s Canada Project. “That’s why it’s critical they never get built.” NRDC is alerting the broader public to

The logging industry has already exacted an extraordinary toll on Canada’s forests. Clearcuts can reach more than 10,000 hectares in size — equivalent to 18,000 football fields — and account for the loss of 1.4 million to 2 million acres of forest each year, or more than 5,000 acres per day. What forest remains is fragmented, vulnerable to insect infestations and forest fires, which fuel further loss. Protecting the last great unbroken stands of old-growth forest in Canada, such as the Broadback Valley, is crucial not only to preserving the cultural heritage of the indigenous First Nations but to ensuring the long-term survival of the Canadian boreal forest, the emerald crown of northern wilderness that accounts for nearly a quarter of the world’s remaining intact forestland. “You cannot overstate the ecological — and global — significance of Canada’s boreal,” says Swift. Home to dozens of iconic species, including the endangered woodland caribou, the boreal also serves as a sanctuary for an estimated three to five billion birds, some of which migrate from as far away as Argentina. In central Quebec, the woodland caribou is clinging to survival, with only a few hundred animals left in herds that once

numbered in the thousands. Indeed, things have gotten so bad that the Cree, who have hunted the woodland caribou for centuries, have voluntarily stopped doing so in a last-ditch effort to save the species from extinction. But the boreal does far more for Canada and the rest of the world than provide refuge for endangered species. The forest contains some of the world’s largest supplies of freshwater, while its rich peat soils and intricate web of root systems provide one of the world’s largest storehouses of carbon, keeping more than 200 billion tons of climate-destroying gas out of the earth’s atmosphere. Many of these benefits are lost when the logging giants roll in, disturbing carbon-rich soils and cutting down trees that can take more than a century to regrow.

Woodland caribou in Quebec’s boreal forest

A number of Canada’s largest logging companies have dusted off plans for a road project that threatens the Broadback River. “These companies previously said they would adhere to a moratorium on logging in this part of the Broadback Valley until the dispute over its conservation status is resolved,” says Swift. “This push to build roads flies in the face of that commitment. The traditional territory of the [Continued on next page.]

BOREAL FOREST © GREENPEACE; CARIBOU © SHUTTERSTOCK.COM

Loggers Imperil the Great Northern Forest F


TAKE ACTION

nrdc.org/savetheboreal

Why Are We Turning Forests into Fuel for Power Plants?

Landmark Deal Saves Home of the Spirit Bear

Millions of acres of biologically critical forests in the southeastern United States are at risk of being razed to fuel European power plants. According to a new report by NRDC, the growing European demand for “biomass energy” is driving a burgeoning wood pellet industry that threatens

British Columbia has finalized a far-reaching conservation agreement that grants permanent protection to 7.6 million acres of the vast Great Bear Rainforest blanketing Canada’s rugged Pacific coastline. Just 15 percent of the forest will be open to logging in order to sustain local economies, and only under the most stringent standards and oversight by Canadian First Nations. The permanent protection of the rainforest, home to the world’s last Spirit Bears — rare, white-colored black bears — caps a hard-fought campaign against rampant clearcutting begun by NRDC in the 1990s at the request of First Nation communities whose ancestral lands were imperiled. Joining forces with Canadian allies, we generated hundreds of thousands of protest messages to logging companies and their U.S. corporate customers. That consumer-driven campaign helped bring six timber companies to the negotiating table and compelled pledges from Home Depot, Lowe’s and hundreds of other leading retailers to stop selling wood and paper products made from endangered forests.

Red wolf

Bee Campaign Takes Aim at Major Retailers The fight to save America’s imperiled bees is intensifying, with NRDC and our allies turning up the heat on leading retailers to stop selling the pesticides that have sent bee populations plummeting nationwide. There is mounting scientific evidence that the world’s most-used class of insecticides, called neonicotinoids, or “neonics,” is a key culprit behind the devastating die-off of bees. Still, big garden-supply retailers Walmart, True Value and Ace Hardware have so far resisted growing public demand

to destroy some of America’s last bottomland hardwood forests. The practice results from a new drive in Europe to find alternatives to burning coal. But burning wood pellets made even in part from whole trees actually increases carbon emissions for decades compared with fossil fuels. “Europe’s biomass policies are bad for forests, wildlife and our climate,” says Debbie Hammel, director of NRDC’s Land Markets Initiative. “Fueling power plants with wood pellets is dirty, destructive and not a 21st-century energy solution.” America’s unprotected southern forests are paying the highest price. NRDC’s report highlights four hot spots in the crosshairs of the wood pellet industry: the Virginia–North Carolina border, southeastern Georgia, the Alabama-Mississippi border and the Louisiana-Mississippi border. These unique wetland forests are home to more than 600 imperiled, threatened or endangered species, including the red wolf, the Louisiana black bear, and the West Indian manatee. Fortunately, NRDC advocacy is beginning to have an impact. The United Kingdom recently announced it will eliminate a key subsidy for burning biomass in large power plants, and the European Commission has called for “an improved biomass policy” that delivers true greenhouse gas savings and protects forests. Adopting clean technologies like wind and solar will save our southern forests for generations to come.

to remove products containing neonics from their shelves, including nursery plants pretreated with the toxic chemicals. In advance of the spring planting season, NRDC has joined with other bee advocates in renewing calls on the CEOs of all three retailers to follow the lead of Lowe’s and Home Depot and commit to a complete phase-out of neonic sales. Meanwhile, NRDC continues to ratchet up pressure on Bayer, the world’s biggest manufacturer of neonics. Our full-page ad in The New York Times and a related online campaign targeting the chemical giant generated more than 200,000 petitions to Bayer demanding that the company stop selling its bee-killing pesticides in the United States.

WOLF © ISTOCKPHOTO.COM; BEE © TETRA IMAGES/AGEFOTOSTOCK.COM; SPIRIT BEAR © 167/PAUL NICKLEN/OCEAN/CORBIS

[Continued from previous page.] Waswanipi needs permanent protection, not new roads that threaten its final destruction.” The financial might and outsize political influence of the logging industry in Canada present a formidable challenge to preserving intact forests like the Broadback. Still, in our decades-long fight to help First Nations save imperiled wild forests in Canada, NRDC has racked up some impressive victories. NRDC was critical in laying the groundwork for the recently announced protection of more than seven million acres of the Great Bear Rainforest in British Columbia (see article at far right) and the permanent protection of two million acres of boreal forest in Manitoba. Our partnership with the Cree First Nation in Quebec goes back decades, to a successful campaign in the 1990s that blocked plans for a huge hydroelectric dam. The dam would have flooded more than a million acres of the James Bay Wilderness. “We’ve stood shoulder to shoulder with First Nations in Canada for years, and we intend to do everything in our power to help them secure permanent protection of intact forests across the boreal, starting with the Broadback Valley,” says Swift. “We cannot stand by and allow these forests to be destroyed just so we can create throwaway products like tissue paper, newsprint and advertising inserts.”


Court Ruling Won’t Stop Climate Action When leaders from 187 nations gathered outside Paris in December to approve a sweeping climate agreement, NRDC’s International Program Director Jake Schmidt was in the room. “The feeling was electric. We knew we were making history,” says Schmidt. “Just a few weeks before, it wasn’t clear we’d get such

the Supreme Court put President Obama’s Clean Power Plan on hold, delaying implementation of our nation’s most ambitious strategy for reducing global warming pollution. “It was a setback,” says Schmidt, “but really all the court did was press the pause button. We always knew that polluters would drag the president’s plan to court and that the legal battle would take time. We’re confident the courts will ultimately uphold the plan.” The U.S. Court of Appeals will hear the case in June, and NRDC attorneys will be intervening

Eiffel Tower lights up for U.N. climate change conference, Paris.

an ambitious plan.” That roller coaster would continue after the NRDC delegation returned home. In February,

in defense of the plan and our planet’s climate. In the meantime, climate action in key countries is

continuing, and the Paris agreement is moving ahead. “World leaders realize that cutting carbon pollution is in their countries’ own selfinterest,” Schmidt says. Reining in coal consumption and shifting to renewable energy in China, for example, will not only curb global warming emissions but will greatly reduce the amount of pollution currently choking the country’s air. India’s commitment to increase its production of renewable energy sixfold by 2020 stands to create more than a million new jobs while setting the country’s growing economy on the path to a cleaner energy future. Likewise in the United States, a game-changing shift in the energy sector away from dirty fossil fuels and toward renewable sources like wind and solar is already well underway, with power-related emissions down by nearly 18 percent compared with emissions a decade ago. “Add to that the extension of renewable-energy tax credits and new federal energy-efficiency standards,” Schmidt says, “and you can see that here at home, like overseas, the real momentum after Paris is on the side of combating climate change.”

Making It Right in Flint By Rhea Suh, President

Imagine for a moment that water was flowing from your kitchen spigot with a sickening brownish tinge and a vile odor that made you doubt it was fit for drinking. You complained to local and state officials to no avail, only to learn, more than a year later, that the water you and your family were drinking, cooking with and bathing in was contaminated with lead, potentially impairing your children’s ability to think and to learn  —  for life. That’s the situation for the 100,000 residents of Flint,

Michigan, who were first betrayed, then dismissed and finally lied to by the public officials they depended on to provide them with access to safe drinking water. That’s why NRDC joined with local partners to file suit in January in federal court, asking that the City of Flint and Michigan state officials be compelled to address this public health disaster now. That means testing this water and treating it to keep out the lead, making the results publicly available so people at last know the truth and replacing the system that’s causing the problem so residents will have safe water to drink. Flint Mayor Karen Weaver has said the lead contamination wouldn’t have happened had Flint been a wealthy suburb instead of a largely low-income city. Nearly 40 percent of its residents live in poverty, and most are

Mother elephant with calf, Kruger National Park, South Africa

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CREATE A LEGACY THAT LASTS FOR GENERATIONS

EDITOR STEPHEN MILLS, MANAGING EDITOR LIZ LINKE

Protect the environment for generations to come through a bequest to NRDC. LEARN MORE AT NRDC.ORG/FUTURE

African-American. And that’s the crux of the matter: When it comes to safe drinking water, some Americans have greater rights than others. We’ve seen this kind of environmental injustice all too often before, where low-income communities and people of color live hard by refineries, factories, power plants or contaminated lands. People in West Virginia must live with the environmental devastation of mountaintop removal of coal. Families in southeastern Chicago suffer in the shadow of toxic mountains of petroleum coke. Others all across this country are threatened by exploding oil trains. It’s time we recognize that environmental protection is a civil right. It’s time to make things right  in Flint — and make sure what happened there never happens again.

EIFFEL TOWER © AP PHOTO/MICHEL EULER; FERNS © SHUTTERSTOCK.COM; ELEPHANTS © GALLO IMAGES/ALAMY STOCK PHOTO

N R D C VO I C E S

WRITERS JASON BEST, SUSAN COSIER , EMILY COUSINS, EMMET WOLFE DIRECTOR OF MEMBERSHIP GINA TRUJILLO

Nature's Voice Spring 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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