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WINTER 2017

’ NATURE SVOICE

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

IN THIS ISSUE

Bears Ears Buttes, Utah

A Message About the Election Nations Act to Rein In Wildlife Trafficking Aiming for a Strong Finish as Obama Era Closes Ten Environmental Victories, Thanks to You!

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


G O O D N EWS

C OV E R A RT I C L E

Victory

The following message from NRDC President Rhea Suh was emailed to our Members the morning after the election.

CALIFORNIA LEADS ON CLIMATE Governor Jerry Brown has signed historic legislation requiring California — the world’s fifth-largest economy — to cut carbon pollution to at least 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. This is the most aggressive carboncutting target in North America and puts California ahead of the pack once again on climate change. NRDC and our allies pushed hard for the new legislation, which passed despite strong opposition from Big Oil. It will help address climate impacts such as drought, dirty air and raging wildfires while ensuring that California communities reap the benefits of clean energy.

Victory

ATLANTIC MARINE MONUMENT In a bold move to protect one of our greatest seascapes, President Obama has established America’s first marine monument in the Atlantic Ocean. With its Grand Canyon– like depths and soaring peaks, the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument, about 150 miles off the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, is a treasure of ocean biodiversity. Some 300,000 citizens, including NRDC Members, voiced support for creation of the monument, which will safeguard habitat for sperm whales, dolphins, seabirds and centuries-old corals by putting the area off-limits forever to commercial exploitation, including oil drilling and fishing.

Victory

SAVED FROM OIL TRAINS After a years-long fight, NRDC and our local partners won a major victory over Big Oil when the city council of Benicia, California, unanimously rejected a massive crude-by-rail terminal that would have allowed Valero — the nation’s largest refiner and the town’s biggest employer — to import explosive Bakken crude and dirty tar sands into the San Francisco Bay Area on 50-car “bomb trains.” The landmark win sends a message to communities nationwide that they have the power to say no to dangerous oil train projects.

A MESSAGE ABOUT THE ELECTION

S

hock and profound disappointment. Like you, that’s how all of us here at NRDC are feeling after witnessing last night’s election results. Hillary Clinton, a climate champion, lost. Donald Trump, who has embraced fossil fuels, vowed to roll back the Paris accord and called climate change a hoax, has won. Feeling shell-shocked is an appropriate response. But we will not let that shock linger or, worse yet, turn to despair. We are going to transform it into concrete, planet-affirming action. Know this: NRDC will come out fighting for our environment — harder than we have ever fought before. Donald Trump ran on one of the most stridently anti-environment platforms of any recent major-party nominee, but now he is the President-elect. Analysts will sort out why people pulled the lever for him. But this much is clear: whatever Americans voted for, it was not to turn back the clock on the progress we’ve achieved under President Barack Obama.

It was not to continue allowing big polluters and their climate-denying allies in Congress to pillage our natural heritage and our planet for profit. And it certainly was not to deny our fellow Americans their basic right to safe drinking water, clean air and healthy communities simply because of their income or skin color. It’s time for every American — Republican, Democrat and Independent alike — to stand united in defending our environment. Yes, for today, shock will prevail. But prepare yourself, because tomorrow the battle for all the values we hold dear will begin. And we must be ready. You can take heart from this: over the past 45 years, thanks to support from Members like you, NRDC has fought — and won ­— uphill battles before. We succeeded in stalling, blocking or sinking the worst attempts by past presidents like George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan, senators like Mitch McConnell and congressmen like Newt Gingrich to dismantle some of our nation’s most cherished environmental laws … to privatize our public

lands … and to open our treasured wild places to destruction at the hands of the oil, mining and logging industries. And let me tell you, the Trump Administration will have to contend with an NRDC that wields a far more potent combination of grassroots activism, courtroom power, lobbying expertise and media outreach than we ever have had before. We will not tolerate selling out our environment and our children’s future for profit and extreme ideology. In the weeks ahead, I will report back to you in more detail on NRDC’s action plan for defending our environment during the first 100 days of Donald Trump’s presidency — and beyond. But I can share one key element of that plan right now: You. We’re counting on you to stay the course with NRDC. We need your outrage. We need your passion. We need your support. Can I count on you? — Rhea Suh, President NRDC is already drawing up plans to hold the Trump Administration accountable to our laws and aggressively defend our environment on all fronts. Please consider donating today so that we’re ready come January to fend off the coming attacks. Go to www.nrdc.org/defense to make a tax-deductible contribution. Thank you.

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/JOINGIVE

Nations Act in Concert to Rein In Wildlife Trafficking NRDC’s global campaign to defend imperiled wildlife from rampant poaching won several milestone victories this fall, as we fought to secure muchneeded international protections for some of the world’s most threatened animals. The stakes were high in Johannesburg, where the 183 countries that are parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) convened for their summit, typically held only once every three years. NRDC advocates were on the ground to help win a strong resolution calling on countries to shut down their domestic ivory markets, which are fueling the slaughter of Africa’s elephants. We also helped defeat

a potentially disastrous proposal to open up trade in rhino horn. World leaders approved more stringent, NRDC-backed protections for silky sharks, thresher sharks and mobula rays, as well as new safeguards for the endangered totoaba fish, the decline of which has led to a simultaneous plunge in rare vaquita dolphins in Mexico’s Gulf of California. And in a dramatic move, CITES nations banned the trade in all eight species of pangolin, a scaly anteater native to Asia and Africa whose scales are considered medicinal in some Asian countries. “This ban gives the world’s most-trafficked mammal a fighting chance at survival,” says Elly Pepper, deputy director of NRDC’s wildlife trade initiative.


CA M PA I G N U P DAT E

AS END OF OBAMA ERA NEARS, NRDC CAMPAIGNS FOR A STRONG FINISH industry and climate deniers at home elevated President Obama to a position of credible environmental leadership on the world stage, allowing him to negotiate with nations like China and India on carbonreduction targets and then achieve a strong international climate accord in Paris late last year. “NRDC has been a powerful advocate for ambitious action on the climate and clean energy fronts, paving the way for the president’s breakthrough policies,” Suh says. “Meanwhile, our Members kept the pressure on the White House when it came to Keystone XL and other flashpoint battles over fossil fuels. Now we have an extraordinary opportunity to call on this president — who has demonstrated that he shares our concerns — to expand his environmental legacy before he leaves office.” That includes prevailing on President Obama to permanently protect America’s Atlantic and Arctic coasts from future oil and gas leasing. “It would absolutely run counter to the president’s stated goals on climate to open these essentially untouched ocean environments to fossil fuel extraction,” says Susan Casey-Lefkowitz, NRDC’s chief Top: Harp seal in the Arctic. Bottom: Bears Ears Buttes, Utah program officer. In a similar fuel efficiency standards for cars in 2012, vein, NRDC is pressing the White House to put forth a sweeping plan to slash carbon extend the landmark moratorium the president emissions from power plants — America’s imposed earlier this year on new leases for coal largest source of climate pollution — in 2014, mining on our public lands to cover new leases and vetoed the climate-wrecking Keystone for oil and gas development as well. No less XL tar sands pipeline in 2015. There’s little imperative is blocking Big Oil’s plan to send a doubt that standing up to the fossil fuel fleet of supertankers hauling tar sands crude

from new Canadian pipelines to refineries up and down America’s coasts, a blatant attempt to circumvent the president’s veto of Keystone XL and double down on one of the dirtiest fossil fuels on the planet. When it comes to protecting our last remaining wildlands and ocean wilderness, President Obama has designated more national monuments than any other president in history. They span important ecosystems from the Great North Woods of Maine and the waters off the New England coast to the San Gabriel Mountains outside Los Angeles and the wildlife-filled waters of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. But among the spectacular areas still in need of permanent protection, the 1.9 million acres surrounding the Bears Ears Buttes in southern Utah stand out. “Designating these lands a national monument not only

We have an extraordinary opportunity to call on this president to expand his environmental legacy before he leaves office. would preserve an extraordinary expanse of redrock wilderness,” says Sharon Buccino, director of NRDC’s Land and Wildlife program, “but would also safeguard cliff dwellings, rock art and sacred tribal lands that go back 10,000 years.” One area where the Obama Administration has fallen short is protecting America’s vital pollinators from disastrous decline. Both bees and monarch butterflies have suffered [Continued on next page.]

SEAL © AGEFOTOSTOCK; BEARS EARS © TIM PETERSON

E

ight years later, it’s easy to forget that when a freshman senator from Illinois captured the White House following a groundbreaking and historic campaign, there was little to suggest that Barack Obama might go down as one of the most important environmental presidents in history. “Climate change, clean energy, preserving our wilderness heritage for future generations — these are issues that candidate Obama certainly talked about on the campaign trail in 2008,” says NRDC President Rhea Suh. “But they often took a backseat to other concerns. It has been an extraordinary transformation. We’ve watched this president emerge as a true environmental leader, one who has put the future of our planet front and center.” While NRDC and other environmental advocates were pushing hard to change course after the polluter-friendly agenda that had marked the Bush Administration, a rapidly escalating financial crisis followed by a bruising political fight over health care would largely consume the new president’s first term. Environmental protection was often sacrificed to other priorities, as when the Obama Administration opened up millions of acres of public lands to oil and gas drilling as part of its “all of the above” energy policy. Meanwhile, comprehensive climate and energy legislation died in the Senate after passing in the House, in part because the White House appeared unwilling to throw its full weight behind the cause. Yet President Obama was steadily coming to see environmental action as central to his legacy, fueled by a growing concern — now shared by a substantial majority of Americans — about the dire threat of climate change and the scientific consensus that time is running out to fend off the worst of its impacts. To address that threat, the Obama Administration raised the federal


Your Membership Support of NRDC Made a World of Difference in 2016 Here are a few of the landmark environmental victories your donations made possible over the past year:

SAVING YELLOWSTONE’S BISON

PUTTING COAL ON HOLD

POWERING UP NEW YORK

We put pressure on Montana to give Yellowstone’s wild bison more room to roam — and won. This year, Montana expanded year-round habitat for bison.

Following years of NRDC advocacy, President Obama put a hold on new coal leasing on public lands, protecting our wild places and our climate.

A bold new mandate from Governor Andrew Cuomo, backed by NRDC, calls for 50 percent renewable electricity in New York State by 2030.

WINNING BIG FOR ELEPHANTS

PROTECTING POLLINATORS

FORGING CLIMATE CONSENSUS

Our push for a crackdown on the U.S. ivory trade resulted in tough new federal rules and state laws that will help stop elephant poaching.

We went to court for the rusty patched bumblebee, prompting a proposal from the Obama Administration to list this vanishing pollinator as endangered.

America, China and 73 other nations have signed on to the breakthrough Paris Agreement, a big step forward in addressing climate change.

REPELLING SHELL IN ARCTIC

HALTING ATLANTIC DRILLING

SAVING THE WILD FROM BIG OIL

DEFENDING SALMON AND ORCAS

Vexed by protests, our dogged legal action and volatile markets, Shell and other oil majors gave up drilling leases in the Arctic’s Chukchi Sea.

NRDC helped spur a wave of protest that pushed the Obama Administration to shelve plans for new oil and gas drilling in the Atlantic.

We went to court and stopped an oil and gas development project in Utah’s Upper Desolation Canyon, one of the West’s largest unspoiled areas.

TAKE ACTION

nrdc.org/obamalegacy

NRDC and our partners won a major court victory that could finally restore endangered salmon in Oregon’s Columbia Basin — and save orcas.

Please help us win even more victories in 2017 by using the enclosed envelope to make a special tax-deductible contribution. NRDC.ORG/VICTORIES

BISON © SHANNON FOREHAND/ISTOCK; MOUNTAIN © TED ZUKOSKI/EARTHJUSTICE; SOLAR PANELS © RAYMOND FORBES LLC/STOCKSY; ELEPHANTS © CHRIS WERNER/STOCKSY; BEE © DAN MULLEN/FLICKR; PRESIDENTS © MA ZHANCHENG/XINHUA NEWS AGENCY; WALRUS © JONATAN HEDBERG/STOCKSY; BEACH © SHERRY SMITH/ISTOCK; DESOLATION CANYON © DREW RUSH/NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC CREATIVE

[Continued from previous page.] devastating losses during the past several years, and mounting scientific evidence points to a deluge of agrichemicals as a primary culprit. The president and first lady have brought attention to the issue, but despite an urgent warning issued last year by the White House Pollinator Health Task Force, the Environmental Protection Agency has largely failed to stem the onslaught of these toxic chemicals. “With the populations of bees and monarchs in free fall, we really can’t wait for the next administration to take action,” says Sylvia Fallon, director of NRDC’s Wildlife Conservation Project. “The president should step in now and direct the EPA to crack down on beetoxic neonics and rein in the industrial herbicides that are wiping out the milkweed that monarchs need to survive.” Half a world away and on the other end of the wildlife spectrum, Africa’s elephants are suffering their own population crisis as poachers slaughter them for their tusks. “President Obama has taken major steps toward ending the ivory trade in America,” says NRDC Wildlife Advocate Elly Pepper. “Now we’re calling on him to finish the job and designate Africa’s elephants as endangered, which would trigger the most stringent possible restrictions on the import of elephant trophies under federal law.”


World Unites Against Pebble Mine greatest wild salmon fishery,” says NRDC senior attorney Joel Reynolds. “The people of Bristol Bay oppose it, the people of Alaska oppose it, and now the world’s leading conservation experts oppose it, too.” The vote was overwhelming, with 100 percent of the countries voting supporting the motion. The proposed mine would be the largest open pit mine in North America and possibly the world. The gaping hole would cover an area the size of Manhattan, plunge as deep as the Grand Canyon and generate 10 billion tons of waste laced with toxic chemicals. All this tainted rubble and sludge — enough to fill 3,900 football stadiums — would be stored Our ad ran in Washington, D.C. behind giant dams at the headwaters of Bristol Bay stunning Bristol Bay. NRDC has in an active earthquake zone, been fighting the disastrous supposedly forever. Pebble Mine proposal for more In its reckless pursuit of lowthan six years and sponsored grade copper and gold, Northern the resolution. “Pebble Mine Dynasty Minerals plans to rip is a recipe for catastrophic apart an invaluable ecosystem contamination of the world’s In a landslide vote, the World Conservation Congress, a gathering of 10,000 leading scientists and environmental professionals from 192 nations, adopted a motion opposing the Pebble Mine and other large-scale mining projects that could endanger Alaska’s

THE WHOLE WORLD RARELY AGREES ON ANYTHING. IT AGREES ON THIS. SAVE BRISTOL BAY. STOP PEBBLE MINE.

that produces half the world’s sockeye salmon, which plunge through the bay’s pristine waters in astonishing runs of up to 50 million fish a year. This sustainable fishery, worth $1.5 billion annually, is also the spiritual and social bedrock of tribal communities around Bristol Bay. The vote marks the first time an international body has formally joined the opposition to the Pebble Mine. Native tribes, local fishermen, NRDC and others have waged a relentless campaign against the mine for years. In the face of this fierce defense, the international conglomerate behind the mine has come unglued, leaving Northern Dynasty Minerals to act alone. The EPA has already proposed restrictions that would effectively block the mine, but Northern Dynasty Minerals has filed three lawsuits in an attempt to stall the process. “The momentum against this mine just keeps building,” says Reynolds, “and the World Conservation Congress vote is a major milestone. We’re going to keep the pressure on Northern Dynasty until the EPA is able to finish the job and stop this mine.”

Solidarity with Standing Rock

By Rhea Suh, President

In September, the Obama Administration called a temporary halt to construction on the Dakota Access Pipeline, Big Oil’s latest

disaster-in-the-making. It’s a remarkable victory for the Standing Rock Sioux, who have stood strong for months against the pipeline. But the respite is only temporary. If completed, the project would carry 450,000 gallons of oil a day across four states and 1,100 miles — cutting through the heart of the tribe’s sacred ancestral lands, bulldozing through countless sensitive natural areas and threatening our climate and the sole source of drinking water for the tribe. That’s probably why the

Standing Rock Sioux protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline

Adélie penguin, Antarctica

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

CREATE YOUR OWN LASTING LEGACY

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

companies behind the pipeline took advantage of regulatory loopholes to bypass a proper public review process. And it’s why tribal organizers have refused to give in, even when their demonstrations were met by security forces using pepper spray and guard dogs. These companies have pledged to spend upwards of $3.8 billion to get this pipeline built. They’re also willing, it would seem, to desecrate or outright destroy any number of sites held sacred by the Standing Rock Sioux tribe. The permitting system that allowed Dakota Access to be fasttracked is broken  and  riddled with loopholes. This isn’t the first time the oil and gas industry has abused these regulatory loopholes, but it needs to be the last. President Obama should revoke this pipeline’s permits and conduct a full environmental review that includes proper consultation with the Standing Rock Sioux.

PROTESTERS © JOE CATRON/FLICKR; PINE TREE © ISTOCK; PENGUIN © MARK POLLARD/STOCKSY; BRISTOL BAY © ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM

N R D C VO I C E S

WRITERS JASON BEST, SHANTI MENON DIRECTOR OF MEMBERSHIP GINA TRUJILLO

Nature's Voice Winter 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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