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SPRING 2017

’ NATURE SVOICE For the 2.4 million Members and online activists of the Natural Resources Defense Council

IN THIS ISSUE

Roadless areas of the White River National Forest in Colorado could be opened to drilling and fracking.

Trump Launches Fossil Fuel Attack Obama Bans Drilling in Arctic and Atlantic President, Congress Take Aim at Environmental Safeguards Trump Speeds Dakota Access, Keystone XL Pipelines

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


Victory

CHINA BANS IVORY TRADE China, the world’s largest consumer of elephant ivory, has announced it will shut down its legal ivory trade by the end of 2017. NRDC has been working with the Chinese government over the past two years to advance this breakthrough, which offers a bright glimmer of hope that we can pull elephants back from the brink of extinction. In recent years, elephant populations have plummeted as ivory demand has fueled a soaring increase in poaching. If more countries follow China’s lead, elephants will have a fighting chance.

Victory

IN DEFENSE OF WHALES In its final weeks in office, the Obama Administration came to the defense of marine mammals by denying all pending applications from oil and gas companies to conduct seismic testing in the Atlantic Ocean. Scientists have warned that sonically blasting the waters off the East Coast would cause long-lasting and widespread harm to endangered whales and fish. Tens of thousands of coastal businesses, communities and fishermen — as well as NRDC Members — strongly opposed the seismic operations.

Victory

SAFE WATER WIN FOR FLINT A federal judge in Michigan has ordered state and city officials to ensure that all Flint residents have access to safe drinking water, through bottled water delivery or filter installation and maintenance. Residents have lived without such access for two years. The court order is a victory in a lawsuit filed by NRDC and our partners, but the legal fight goes on as we seek further action from officials to address the lead contamination in Flint’s water supply.

C OV E R A RT I C L E

Trump Launches Fossil Fuel Attack I f there was any doubt that Donald Trump intended to fulfill his campaign pledge to ignite a frenzy of fossil fuel extraction across our public lands, it was quickly dispelled after the election. The president tapped an array of oil industry insiders and allies for top cabinet posts, from former Texas governor Rick Perry to head the U.S. Department of Energy to Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson as secretary of state. This unprecedented fossil fuel takeover of the cabinet is now poised to put countless acres of our natural heritage at risk from coast to coast. “We fully expect the Trump Administration to dust off the ‘Drill, baby, drill’ playbook and unleash Big Oil and Big Coal as quickly as possible,” says Sharon Buccino, director of NRDC’s Land & Wildlife program. “NRDC litigators are on high alert. We’ll be taking this fight to the TAKE ACTION

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federal courts, which are the last and best line of defense for our public lands.” The onslaught could include fracking in the million-plus-acre George Washington National Forest in the East to a dramatic expansion of coal mining near Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah. Oil and gas exploration threatens Florida’s Big Cypress National Preserve, home to the critically endangered Florida panther, as well as pristine roadless areas of Colorado’s magnificent White River National Forest. But the mother of all conservation battles could unfold in Congress, where the Republican majority may well launch a new attempt to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil development. America’s greatest sanctuary for an array of Alaskan wildlife — including polar bears, gray wolves and caribou — has long been coveted by the oil industry. “We’ve fought off these threats before and

won — remember our inspiring defense of the Arctic Refuge during the Bush administration,” says Buccino. “Those past victories will bolster our efforts in 2017. We know we’re facing our most daunting challenge yet, but NRDC has spent nearly a half-century preparing for this moment.”

Roadless areas of the White River National Forest in Colorado could be opened to drilling and fracking.

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

Obama Bans Drilling in Arctic, Atlantic Oceans 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.

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In a bold and historic late-term move, President Obama announced he was putting most U.S. Arctic waters and key areas of the Atlantic off-limits to the oil and gas industry forever. The far-reaching decision will protect sensitive coastal ecosystems, marine wildlife and millions of people from the risks of offshore drilling. It’s also a victory for the next generation of Americans who will bear the brunt of climate change impacts. NRDC led the charge urging President Obama to make this final act of ocean protection a priority, and tens of thousands of our Members called on the president to act before the

Trump Administration could take office and open the floodgates to more drilling. “These waters belong to all Americans, not private oil companies,” says NRDC Senior Attorney Niel Lawrence. “Protecting them heeds public calls for an end to offshore drilling and signals to the world that we must commit to clean energy.” President Trump and his fossil fuel cabinet may well try to reverse the new ban on coastal drilling, but it stands on solid legal ground. “We will be fully prepared to defend this decision in federal court,” says Lawrence.

WHITE RIVER © ALISTAIR NICO/FLICKR; POLAR BEAR © RALPH LEE HOPKINS/NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC/OFFSET

G O O D N EWS


CA M PA I G N U P DAT E

President, Congress Take Aim at Environmental Safeguards W They want to turn back the clock on a half-century or more of hard-won environmental protections.

Alaska’s Bristol Bay wilderness could come under new threat from the proposed Pebble Mine.

What we’re facing is an all-out assault on our bedrock environmental laws by a party in the grips of a radical ideology. the progress made during the eight years of the Obama presidency; they want to turn back the clock on a half-century or more of hard-won environmental protections.” Clear majorities of Americans want action on climate change, believe all citizens have a fundamental right to clean air and drinking water and think our public wildlands should be protected. But all signs point to the Trump Administration and its newly emboldened allies

on Capitol Hill advancing an agenda built on climate-change denial, corporate self-interest and a seething contempt for environmental regulation in almost any form. In response, hundreds of NRDC’s lawyers, scientists and policy and legislative experts are focused on countering the most immediate threats while plotting a long-term course of action to keep environmental progress moving forward, both internationally and at the state and local levels. “We’re leveraging 50 years of successful advocacy — in the courts, in Washington, in statehouses across the country and around the world,” says Susan Casey-Lefkowitz, NRDC’s chief program officer. “We know the stakes couldn’t be higher.” NRDC’s all-hands-on-deck strategy is epitomized by the Stand Strong for Climate campaign. As public outreach teams galvanize

Clean Power Plan in federal court. That plan would slash carbon pollution from coal-fired power plants and is key to reining in U.S. global warming emissions. Our litigators are also preparing to challenge, if necessary, any attempt by the Trump Administration to green-light the Keystone XL pipeline, which would send more than 800,000 barrels a day of climate-wrecking tar sands crude from Canada to refineries in the United States. All the while, we’ll be on the ground in states and cities across the country and around the world — in China, India, Europe and Latin America — building on the momentum that has seen more than 7,000 mayors — representing 600 million people worldwide — commit to cutting climate pollution. Countering the Trump Administration’s dangerous fossil fuel agenda would be challenging enough, yet as Casey-Lefkowitz explains, “We’ve got to do that and so much more.” On Capitol Hill, NRDC is working to shore up a coalition of lawmakers to repel an anticipated fusillade of assaults on federal environmental protections. The Republicancontrolled House wasted no time in firing the first salvo. On January 4, it passed the Midnight Rules Relief Act, which would let Congress

repeal, in one single package, dozens of public safeguards put in place over the past 12 months. Other proposed legislation would make it virtually impossible to put new safeguards in place. There will almost certainly be a move to weaken or rescind the Antiquities Act, the century-old law that has allowed presidents from both parties to preserve millions of acres of ocean wilderness and public wildlands, such as the 1.3-million-acre Bears Ears National Monument in southern Utah, which President Obama recently designated under the act. More ominously, there is a concerted effort afoot — known as “devolution” — to gut the very concept of public lands ownership. Anti-environmental radicals are likewise expected to intensify their war on the Endangered Species Act, which would include rolling back protections for America’s most vulnerable wildlife, like gray wolves, sage grouse and salmon. Lawmakers allied with the oil

Gray wolves and other vulnerable wildlife will suffer if Congress undermines the Endangered Species Act.

and gas industry want to scrap key safeguards that shield imperiled whales and other marine mammals from the dangers of offshore drilling and other industrial activity. “We’re facing countless other major battles in federal agencies now headed by polluter-friendly Trump appointees,” says Casey-Lefkowitz. Those battles are likely to include attempts to [Continued on next page.]

BRISTOL BAY © ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM; WOLVES © JIM KRUGER/ISTOCK

a massive outcry against President Trump’s threat to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate accord — the landmark agreement reached by more than 190 nations in late 2015 — NRDC attorneys are defending President Obama’s

ith the inauguration of Donald Trump and control of both the House and Senate in the hands of antienvironmental extremists, headlines that just a year ago seemed wildly improbable now loom as all-too-frightening possibilities: “U.S. Abandons Paris Climate Agreement” . . . “Clean Air and Water Protections Repealed” . . . “Trump Administration Approves Keystone XL Pipeline” . . . “Congress Moves to Privatize Public Lands.” “The next four years are likely to bring a more sustained barrage of attacks on our environment than we have ever seen,” says David Goldston, NRDC’s director of government affairs. “We’re not talking about fending off a handful of polluterfriendly bills in Congress or going to court to block drilling or mining on a few public wildlands. What we’re facing is an all-out assault on our bedrock environmental laws by a party in the grips of a radical ideology. Not only do they want to undo


TAKE ACTION

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NRDC Ramps Up Pressure on Boreal Logger

Obama Names Two New National Monuments

NRDC is urging more than 100 U.S. companies to demand that Resolute Forest Products, one of the largest logging companies in Canada, embrace more sustainable practices in the threatened boreal forest. In a letter sent to Resolute customers, including Lowe’s, Home Depot, Simon & Schuster and the Los Angeles Times, NRDC called out Resolute’s move away from sustainable forestry practices and its attempts to silence critics through aggressive lawsuits. Resolute has taken to attacking the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), the only independent sustainable forestry certification organization, and its FSC-certified acreage has fallen by nearly half since 2012. During this period, public interest groups that have spoken out against Resolute’s practices have been hit with lawsuits. “Resolute needs to stop suing its critics and start paying more attention to conserving the Canadian boreal,” says Anthony Swift, director of NRDC’s Canada Project. Resolute’s renegade actions are the ugly tip of a much larger iceberg — the toll of logging, mining and fossil fuel extraction on the magnificent boreal and its endangered wildlife, like the woodland caribou. NRDC has been working for decades to conserve the boreal, one of the world’s last

It was a stunning double victory for both Native American tribes and wildland conservationists. Less than a month before leaving office, President Obama designated two new national monuments in the West, protecting sweeping natural vistas, fragile landscapes and ancient sacred sites from the looming threat of future oil and gas leasing and other destructive activities. At more than 1.3 million acres, Bears Ears National Monument near Canyonlands National Park in southern Utah is the larger of the two. It encompasses a breathtaking range of land forms, from iconic red rock formations to mesas topped with juniper and cedar, as well as an unparalleled concentration of cliff dwellings and other Native cultural sites. Nevada’s new 300,000-acre Gold Butte National Monument features rare petroglyphs and vital habitat for desert bighorn sheep, Gila monsters, great horned owls and other wildlife. Tens of thousands of NRDC Members joined last year with local and Native activists in calling on President Obama to protect both areas forever. And in a first for a national monument, Bears Ears will be managed by a tribal commission providing input to federal land managers.

Trump Speeds Dakota Access, Keystone XL President Trump has signed two executive memoranda that could revive and fast-track the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline and ease remaining roadblocks for the Dakota Access pipeline, two dirty energy projects stopped and slowed, respectively, by President Obama. “It’s appalling that Trump wants to throw open our borders and our heartland to fossil fuel polluters,” said NRDC President Rhea Suh. Both projects would keep America shackled to climatewrecking fuels and threaten drinking water supplies for millions of people. Last year the Standing Rock

Boreal forest, Canada

stretches of unbroken virgin forest, and protect the rights of its indigenous people. “The primary market for boreal products is the United States,” says Swift. “That gives American customers an opportunity — and a responsibility — to demand better protection for this global treasure.”

Sioux tribe waged a months-long protest over the Dakota Access pipeline, which would transport fracked oil through sacred lands. For years, NRDC helped lead the fight against Keystone XL, which was rejected in 2015 as “not in the national interest.” President Trump wants to expedite the pipeline by inviting a foreign company with a troubling safety record to get the massive project permitted within 60 days — without a public review process. Major obstacles remain, including the fact that there is no approved route through Nebraska, where the pipeline faces intense opposition. NRDC will be fighting the pipeline at every turn and is prepared to go to court if necessary to stop it.

Bears Ears National Monument

BEARS EARS © TIM PETERSON; SIGN © JOE BRUSKY/FLICKR; BOREAL © SHUTTERSTOCK

[Continued from previous page.] reverse tough fuel- and energy-efficiency standards issued by the Obama Administration as well as vital clean water and clean air protections, such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to safeguard sources of drinking water and set health standards for ozone smog pollution. Also at stake is the EPA’s proposal to save Alaska’s Bristol Bay wilderness and its thriving wild salmon runs by effectively banning the Pebble Mine and other large-scale mining projects. The list goes on, from battling to preserve the recently issued restrictions on ivory trafficking in order to save Africa’s plummeting elephant populations, to fighting to sustain the EPA’s ban on chlorpyrifos, an insecticide that big agrochemical companies like Dow want to keep selling, even though, like lead, it has been shown to harm the developing brains of children. “Through it all, we’re going to be counting on our Members to stand with us and make their voices heard loud and clear,” says Goldston. “Historically, every time elected officials have claimed a mandate to roll back environmental protections, they’ve failed. Why? Because they’ve inevitably faced a firestorm of public opposition. We have to show them that millions of Americans won’t back down in the face of this latest assault.”


Bayer-Monsanto Merger Could Be Disastrous for Bees, People A proposed mega-merger between two of the world’s biggest agrochemical and biotech companies would be a disaster for farmers and consumers — and would likely escalate the already dangerous die-off of bees, monarch butterflies and other vital pollinators that threatens the future of our food supply.

Those are among the urgent reasons why NRDC is calling on the Justice Department to reject the takeover of U.S.based Monsanto by German conglomerate Bayer AG. The blockbuster joining of these onetime rivals would be a “lose-lose situation for farmers, consumers and pollinators,” says NRDC Senior Attorney Rebecca Riley.“For

everyone, that is, except Monsanto and Bayer.” The combined behemoth would further shackle farmers to the companies’ patented lines of genetically modified crops and the deluge of agrochemicals designed to go with them. These include glyphosate, the herbicide that is wiping out milkweed,

the primary food source of monarch butterflies, and a class of insecticides called neonics, a prime culprit in the alarming decline of bee populations. Already among the most consolidated and least competitive industries, big agribusiness — led by Monsanto and Bayer — has put the squeeze on farmers by dramatically raising the price

of seeds and chemicals, even as the prices farmers receive for many crops have stagnated or declined. Meanwhile, the rising torrent of toxic agrochemicals has produced an environmental nightmare for bees, monarchs and other pollinators. Yearover-year double-digit losses of U.S. honeybee colonies have continued for a decade, while monarch populations have plummeted by more than 90 percent since the mid-1990s. Scientific studies have repeatedly linked the devastating losses of bees and monarchs to the skyrocketing use of neonics and glyphosate, yet Bayer and Monsanto appear all too eager to double down on an even more chemical-soaked agricultural future, engineering a new generation of genetically modified crops designed to withstand increasingly potent pesticide cocktails. Monsanto has predicted that the corn seed of 2025, for example, will have 14 separate genetic modifications to allow farmers to drench it with five different kinds of herbicide. “Monsanto and Bayer have already wreaked ecological havoc on America’s pollinators,” says Riley. “Combined, they would be poised to unleash a whole new era of pesticideintensive farming.”

It's Time for Us to Stand Up and Fight

By Rhea Suh, President

Over the past five decades, presidents from both parties have furthered environmental protections for the American people, creating a quality of life

and a standard of living that are beyond reproach. And we have done all of this while continuing to grow economically. We’re all better off for these vital gains, and so are our children. We’ve seen what environmental leadership can do. We’ve seen the difference it can make for our country. President Trump and his Republican allies in Congress have a golden opportunity to build on this record. Instead, they’ve vowed to roll back this progress and dismantle our nation’s very ability to have and enforce environmental regulations. Suddenly we would move from being the first among nations for our environmental protections to being behind some of the worstpolluting nations in the world. Whatever people voted for in November, whatever vision they had for what makes America

great, it certainly wasn’t going back to the days when the air was thick with smog or the rivers so polluted they spontaneously combusted. Still, with the help of the billionaires and fossil fuel backers he’s named to his cabinet, Trump and congressional Republicans are poised to launch what’s already shaping up to be the worst executive and legislative assault on our environment in history. If we care about the fate of our lands and waterways and the life they support, if we care about American values of equity and justice for all people, if we care about leaving our children a livable world, it’s time for citizens to stand up and fight this extremist agenda. And that’s exactly what NRDC is going to do.

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Black bear, Alaska

LEAVES © MASTERFILE; BLACK BEAR © SARKOPHOTO/ISTOCK; CROP SPRAYER © GAVIN BAKER PHOTOGRAPHY/SHUTTERSTOCK

N R D C VO I C E S

Nature's Voice Spring 2017  

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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