FOR THE 1.4 MILLION MEMBERS AND ONLINE ACTIVISTS OF THE NATURAL RESOURCES DEFENSE COUNCIL
Elephants © Shutterstock
in this issue • Keystone XL Grinds to a Halt • Redford Leads Charge Against Arctic Drilling • Elephant Populations Are Plummeting • Another Mining Giant Abandons Pebble Mine
in the news Free Ride Is Over As we go to press, the Environmental Protection Agency has announced the first national limits on carbon pollution from existing power plants — the largest U.S. source of the emissions that are driving climate chaos. The plan, which will slash that pollution by 30 percent below 2005 levels, will help drive power generation away from dirty coal and toward energy efficiency and renewables like solar and wind. Big polluters and their allies in Congress are already attacking the climate-friendly plan, and we will be mobilizing our Members to support tough limits on climate-wrecking carbon pollution in the weeks and months ahead.
Redford: Keep Shell Out of Arctic
ore than 100,000 of our Members and online activists joined NRDC Trustee Robert Redford in April in calling on President Obama to ban oil
drilling in Alaska’s Polar Bear Seas. The renewed push to protect America’s last pristine ocean from potential catastrophe coincided with the four-year anniversary of BP’s devastating oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the worst offshore spill in the
Public Land, Private Threat
Robert Redford’s new video at DemandCleanPower.org.
nation’s history, which unleashed more than 170 million gallons of oil. “If the oil industry was utterly unprepared for a blowout in the balmy Gulf of Mexico,” Redford says in a new online video, “how in the world can we trust them in a treacherous environment like the Arctic?” Indeed, with 20-foot seas, gale-force winds and subzero temperatures, the Arctic Ocean is arguably the most dangerous place on earth to drill for oil — a fact that oil giant Shell learned firsthand during its last attempt to drill there, in 2012, an endeavor marked by a string of alarming mistakes and
Whale (of a) Victory
near misses. Siding with NRDC and our allies, a federal court
Whales and whale lovers everywhere won an upset victory in March when the U.N. International Court of Justice ruled that Japan’s Antarctic whaling program is illegal. For years, Japan has flouted the global ban on commercial whaling by killing and selling the meat from thousands of whales under the pretext of scientific research. Japan has stated it will abide by the ruling, although it is persisting in a Pacific whaling program at reduced levels. The U.N. ruling is a huge step forward for wildlife conservation and sets a precedent for our ongoing campaign to end commercial whaling once and for all.
to issue oil leases off Alaska’s remote north coast, it wildly
recently ruled that when the Bush Administration decided underestimated the potential for spills and other hazards. The ruling has created a “golden opportunity,” Redford says, for President Obama to chart a new course by putting the Arctic completely off-limits to Big Oil once and for all. Unless the president imposes a ban, however, Shell is already planning a return to the Arctic next year — which means NRDC must keep fighting in court to stop them in their tracks.
Watch the video at: www.demandcleanpower.org
Panther © Tom and Pat Leeson
NRDC online activists have mobilized en masse to protest the exploitation of public lands for fracking by sending more than 50,000 messages to the Fish and Wildlife Service demanding that these lands be safe guarded for people and wildlife rather than ravaged by oil and gas companies. Private drilling rights present an imminent threat to public wildlands, including national wildlife refuges, across the United States. New restrictions on fracking are needed to protect Colorado’s Baca National Wildlife Refuge and the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge, among others. We’re counting on our Members and activists to continue rallying against the use of public lands for private profit.
Keystone XL Grinds to a Halt
n yet another blow to Big Oil’s plans to
time when the threats posed by global warming are
dramatically boost production of one of the
growing ever more dire and urgent, according to the
world’s dirtiest fossil fuels, the Obama Admini
world’s leading climate scientists. A comprehensive
stration has indefinitely delayed its decision on whether
assessment based on more than 12,000 peer-reviewed
to approve the
in March by the
XL tar sands pipe
line. The move
Panel on Climate
follows a Nebraska
that impacts from
that found Governor Dave Heineman had
10 Nobel laureates call on President Obama to reject Keystone XL.
global warming are already being felt
acted unlawfully in approving a route for the pipeline
across every continent and all the world’s oceans, and
across the state, a decision that has thrust the project
that aggressive action to rein in carbon pollution must
into legal limbo.
be taken now to curb the most catastrophic threats.
“This delay is definitely a setback for the tar sands
Hundreds of thousands of NRDC Members and online
industry,” says Susan Casey-Lefkowitz, director
activists have already signed on to our campaign to
of NRDC’s international program, “but the effects
stop the pipeline; recently they were joined by 10
of climate change are not waiting, and they will grow
Nobel Peace Prize laureates, including Archbishop
worse in the months ahead. We’ll use this welcome
Desmond Tutu, former President Jimmy Carter and
reprieve to build on the widespread, growing public
land mine activist Jody Williams. This remarkable
opposition to the project and keep spreading the truth
group was featured in a full-page print ad sponsored
about Keystone XL, which is that it would drive more
by NRDC calling on President Obama to demonstrate
climate chaos around the world.”
“bold leadership that will inspire millions” by rejecting
The 2,000-mile-long pipeline would snake from the
the Keystone XL pipeline. “These Nobel laureates are
tar sands fields of Alberta to refineries on the Gulf
people who, through the courage of their convictions,
Coast, carrying some 830,000 barrels of heavy tar sands
have made the world a better place,” says Casey-
crude every day. Production of tar sands oil requires
Lefkowitz. “They’re living proof of the kind of odds
more energy than the production of any other fossil
that we can overcome with perseverance. And in our
fuel on earth — generating three times the carbon
fight against this climate-wrecking pipeline, that’s
pollution of conventional crude, for example — at a
exactly what we’re determined to do.”
As Poachers Ravage Elephant Populations, NRDC Fights for Ban on U.S. Ivory 30,000 African elephants are killed every year for their tusks; United States is one of the largest markets
Elephants walking © Canstock; rhino © Shutterstock; polar bears © Steven Kazlowski/LeftEyePro.com; two elephants © Shutterstock; ivory crush © The Denver Post/Getty Images; tusks © Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
he more we learn about African elephants, the more we discover how truly remarkable they are. Long regarded as majestic for their sheer size and physical presence, the world’s largest land animals also possess a keen intelligence, living in highly complex matriarchal family groups that, as wildlife researchers have observed, often exhibit their own particular cultures and traditions. Recent studies have determined that merely from listening to a person’s voice, elephants are capable of discerning
African elephants have strong familial bonds.
identifying characteristics like gender, age and ethnicity. Yet even as those of us who cherish our planet’s bio diversity marvel at these exceptional creatures, for far too many others the African elephant represents only one thing: money.
An alarming spike in international demand for ivory has sent the population of African elephants plummeting. Last year alone, poachers slaughtered 30,000 elephants for their tusks — that’s an average of one elephant killed less than every 20 minutes. Heartbreaking reports out of countries such as Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of Congo indicate that dozens — sometimes hundreds — of elephants have been gunned down in a single massacre, often within the boundaries of national parks. Some parks have lost upwards of 90 percent of their herds. “It’s devastating,” says Elly Pepper, a wildlife advocate for NRDC who is working on our campaign to shut down the ivory trade. “Millions of elephants once roamed across Africa; today there are less than half a million left on the entire continent.” NRDC has long been active in the fight against wildlife trafficking, in particular the international commercial trade that is driving imperiled species closer to extinction. We’ve lobbied for sanctions against countries hunting whales for profit, and we’ve fought for protections to end the commercial trade in polar bear skins and other body parts. We’re also making sure the trade ban on rhino horn is not lifted at a time when the number of rhinoceros poached in South Africa is skyrocketing, having risen more than 7,000 percent in just the past
three years. “Whether it’s elephant ivory, rhino horn or polar bear skins, we’re seeing increased pressure to hunt these imperiled animals simply for the sake of profit and luxury,” says Andrew Wetzler, director of NRDC’s land and wildlife program. “It’s uncon scionable that these magnificent species are being killed just to satisfy a human appetite for conspicuous consumption.” Indeed, burgeoning economic growth and rising prosperity in China have made that country one of the leading consumers of ivory, but it’s the United States that ranks as the second-largest ivory market in the world — this despite the fact that the ivory trade has been legally restricted since the late 1970s. “The problem is there are gaping loop holes in the law that allow for the sale of things like antique ivory or ivory that comes from other sources, like mammoths or walruses,” says Pepper. “But testing ivory to determine its age or what species it comes from is expensive, and the testing methods themselves aren’t widely available. So what do traffickers do? They pass off ivory from freshly killed elephants as ‘legal,’ which under current regulations isn’t hard to do.”
“Ivory is beautiful, but the only place it belongs is on elephants.”
Above: Elephant family in Amboseli, Kenya. Increasing demand for elephant ivory, rhino horn and polar bear skins is driving the slaughter of imperiled animals for the sake of profit.
NRDC is on the front lines of the battle to change that. Recently, the Obama Administration proposed new rules that would effectively close the loopholes in the current law and impose a full ban on all imports of commercial ivory, no matter what the ivory’s purported age. The potential of these tough new safeguards to eliminate the ivory trade in the United States has aroused stringent opposition among a disparate but well-connected coalition, including high-end auction houses, art dealers and even the National Rifle Association (ivory is often used as a decorative inlay on expensive firearms). “These are businesses that profit from the status quo,” says
Pepper. “Of course they don’t want the law to change. But until the U.S. takes meaningful action to stop the ivory trade here at home, we lack the moral authority to press for change around the world. In the meantime, we’re fast nearing the point where there’s no turning back — the elephants could be gone.”
Left: Tons of seized ivory were crushed last year in Colorado, part of a new federal effort to crack down on illegal wildlife trafficking. Above: Sample of the six tons of ivory confiscated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service since the late 1980s.
To counter the few narrow special interests that would keep the ivory trade alive, NRDC is raising public awareness about the disastrous toll poaching is taking on African elephants and channeling that concern into
an outpouring of support for new federal protections. At the same time, we’re urging the Obama Admini stration to stand strong for elephants in the face of political opposition. In New York, California and Hawaii, the three states that account for 70 percent of ivory trafficking in this country, we’re working to advance state legislation or other safeguards that would strengthen the enforcement of an ivory trade ban by stopping intrastate sales. In Europe we’re helping to tighten wildlife trade laws that contain loopholes for traffickers, and in China our U.S. legal experts are sharing their firsthand experience with counterparts in NRDC’s Beijing office as they map a strategy for strengthening that country’s wildlife conservation laws as well. “Every trinket, every ring or necklace, every inlaid box or picture frame — every piece of ivory comes from a dead animal,” says Pepper. “Ivory is beautiful, but the only place it belongs is on elephants.” Take action at: www.nrdc.org/ivory 5
James Taylor DemandS Clean Power
il and gas companies spend millions of dollars every year to pollute not only our atmosphere but also the dialogue surrounding environmental issues. That’s why, last year, we launched the Demand Clean Power campaign so that cultural luminaries like Robert Redford, Carole King and Van Jones could help us push back against this rising tide of misinformation. Now, Grammy Award–winning musician and NRDC Trustee James Taylor has added his voice to the campaign, declaring in a new online video that we need to “turn up the hope, not the heat” in order to move beyond fossil fuels and slow global warming. Thanks to his and others’ promi nent voices, we are creating a
populist movement that is charting a cleaner energy future while countering Big Oil’s corrosive influence on politics. Taylor is a North Carolina native, and for him that makes reckless fracking — one of Demand Clean Power’s core issues — hit especially close to home. Despite having passed a moratorium on this controversial form of fuel extrac tion, members of the Republicancontrolled North Carolina legislature are now virtually tripping over themselves in an effort to open the state to fracking before fully assessing the risks to drinking water supplies, public health and the environment. That would place North Carolinians in harm’s way
NRDC Trustee James Taylor.
while allowing oil and gas giants to rake in the profit. Taylor and NRDC have responded with a series of hard-hitting TV ads and other efforts to help mobilize North Carolinians, among them thousands of NRDC Members. Watch the video at: www.demandcleanpower.org/ james-taylor
Another Mining Giant Abandons Pebble Mine; Fight Goes On
t’s a serious blow to the Pebble Mine
director of NRDC. “This is a landmark
and a stunning victory for Alaskan
moment in our fight, but it’s not over yet.”
communities and NRDC Members
Northern Dynasty Minerals, the last
who have long campaigned against the
company standing behind the proposed
potentially disastrous project: British giant
Pebble Mine, remains defiant. Even in
Rio Tinto, one of the principal corporate
the face of growing national opposition
backers of the mine, announced in April
and a damning EPA study that concluded
that it was walking away from the project.
the mine would pose potentially
Instead of selling its stake, the company
“catastrophic” risks to the magnificent
donated all its shares to two Alaskan charitable foundations. Two other global giants, Mitsubishi and Anglo American,
Bristol Bay watershed, Northern Dynasty Our ad ran in the Financial Times of London.
have already abandoned the mega-mine after feeling intense public pressure generated by NRDC and our partners.
executives say they are actively seeking a new global partner. Meanwhile, pro-
mining forces in Congress are pushing legislation that would cripple the EPA’s ability to effectively block the mine. “NRDC
“We’re very pleased that we were able to persuade Rio
has already proved we’re in this battle for the long haul,”
Tinto to reconsider its participation in a project that would
says Reynolds. “We’ll continue to put the same pressure
gouge one of the largest copper and gold mines in North
on Northern Dynasty that we put on Rio Tinto, and to fight
America out of the headwaters of the world’s most
in Washington to make sure the EPA will finish what it has
productive salmon fishery,” says Joel Reynolds, western
started and stop this mine.”
NRDC Pressures EPA to Protect Bees from Toxic Pesticides
s bee colonies continue to collapse nationwide
in May from the Harvard School of Public Health confirmed
at an alarming rate, NRDC is calling on the
the results of previous studies, finding that even at
Environmental Protection Agency to take swift
sublethal doses, exposure to certain neonics appears
action concerning the use of pesticides that scientists
to cause bee colonies to collapse over the winter. In the
increasingly say are among
study, half of the colonies
the prime culprits behind
that were fed neonics
the devastating loss of
in October died by spring,
bees. In an emergency
compared with just one
petition filed with the
control colony out of six.
agency, we’re pressuring the EPA to stop delaying
“Researchers are still trying
and to start taking a hard
to understand what it is
look at neonicotinoids, or
about these chemicals that
“neonics” — a class of
is harming bees,” says Jennifer Sass, a senior
pesticide that remains in widespread use despite
Bees pollinate 71 of the 100 major crops we depend on.
mounting scientific evidence that these toxic chemicals
be that neonics suppress the bees’ immune systems,
are a significant factor behind the decimation of bee
disrupt brood cycles or interfere with their ability to forage
populations across the country.
or find their way back to their colonies. But the evidence
It is difficult to overstate the importance of bees, both in the natural environment and in maintaining our diverse food supply. Not only do bees pollinate countless wild
Bee © Paul and Joyce Berquist/Animals Animals/Earth Scenes
scientist at NRDC. “It could
is overwhelming that neonics are having a devastating impact on bees in some way, and that should be more than enough to trigger the EPA to take action.”
plants that produce food for animals ranging from song
The European Union recently adopted a two-year ban on
birds to grizzly bears, but they pollinate 71 of the 100
neonics, but the EPA has stubbornly dragged its feet on
crops that make up 90 percent of what we eat, such
the issue, by all appearances failing to take into account
as apples, strawberries, carrots and broccoli. One out of every three bites of food we take depends on bees.
the scientific evidence we already have regarding the harmful impact of neonics on bees and instead saying
Yet bees are in crisis. As scientists struggle to solve the
it wants until 2019 to complete a review of neonic use.
mystery of what’s causing bees to die off in massive
“We don’t have five years to wait — bees are dying today,”
numbers across the country, they’ve focused on neonics,
says Sass. “It’s long past time for the EPA to protect our
which over the past decade have surged to become the
pollinators and to impose a moratorium on the pervasive
most widely used insecticides in the world. A study released
use of these pesticides.”
All of the environmental projects and victories described in Nature’s Voice are made possible through the generous support of Members like you. If you like what you read, you are invited to make a special contribution at www.nrdc.org/joingive
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After a Decade, NRDC Continues Fight for Penobscot River
n 2002 NRDC and the Maine People’s Alliance won a landmark case against medical supply giant Covidien and its subsidiary Mallinckrodt when a federal court ruled that the companies were responsible for releasing dangerous levels of mercury into the Penobscot River, the largest estuary in New England. We returned to court last month — more than a decade later — to ensure that the companies are held fully accountable for their actions and required to clean up some of the worst mercury pollution in the nation. Between 1967 and 2000, a Mallinckrodt chemical plant situated next to a small cove in the Penobscot River discharged up to 12 metric tons of toxic mercury into the river, which runs into Penobscot Bay, a major source of fish and shellfish for millions of people. After the ruling in 2002, the court appointed three independent scientists to assess the environmental damage and recommend a cleanup plan. Last year they finally released their troubling report. Nine metric tons of mercury remain in the estuary, concentrated at extreme levels in sediment and animals up and down the food chain. Human consumers of local
SWiTCHBOARD Managing our highways for butterflies, not pesticides Posted by: Sylvia Fallon, Senior Scientist
Penobscot River © Susan Cole Kelly; monarch butterflies © Medford Taylor/NGS Images
The number of monarch butterflies is plummeting — migrating numbers are down from 1 billion to a mere 33 million — due to the rampant use of herbicides in agriculture. What’s needed are more habitats to restore milkweed, the only plant where monarchs lay their eggs and on which their larva can feed. NRDC has partnered with Monarch Watch to help plant milkweed at schools and other nonprofit properties all over the country. But given the vast loss of milkweed that has occurred, what’s urgently needed is an ambitious effort to restore it across hundreds of thousands of acres. That’s why NRDC is now envisioning the nationwide planting of milkweed along roadsides, creating a veritable “butterfly highway” for the monarchs to follow as they migrate from Mexico across the United States to Canada and then back again. 8
Penobscot River, Maine.
seafood may be at risk of serious harm from the potent neurotoxin. The scientists also determined that, without intervention, it would take more than a century for the river to purge itself completely. In January the state of Maine, acting on data generated by the court-ordered study, moved to protect the public by closing a portion of the Penobscot to fishing for lobster and crabs. The new trial will decide whether the polluters must pony up the funds necessary to clean up their mess. Rough estimates of the cost of an adequate remedy run to more than $100 million. Covidien will do its best to shirk responsibility, but with the support of our Members, NRDC is determined to stay in court until justice is done and the Penobscot is restored. Stay tuned.
The following entry first appeared online at: www.switchboard.nrdc.org
The only problem is that roadsides are now heavily managed by state and local governments with herbicides as well as mowing — both of which interfere with milkweed growth. In the spring, NRDC filed an emergency petition with the EPA asking the agency to impose restrictions on the use of glyphosate, marketed by Monsanto as Roundup, to create herbicide-free zones around farms and along roads where milkweed will be free to grow. But while we know that counties and cities regularly spray glyphosate and other herbicides to manage vegetation along highways, their actual state-bystate use is not well tracked. If we are going to transform our roadsides into way stations for monarchs and other pollinators, we will need to prompt a radical change from the status quo for roadside management. Fortunately, state and local authorities are sensitive to public opinion. We encourage NRDC Members to find out whether their
The monarchs’ migration ends at their wintering grounds in Michoacán, Mexico.
local roadsides are being sprayed with herbicides and to urge better practices that will promote milkweed growth. In the meantime, we have filed Freedom of Information Act requests with various states along the migratory path of the monarch butterfly asking for an accounting of their roadside manage ment practices, including the use of herbicides and mowing. We plan to share and use this information to devise a strategy for converting roadsides that are currently mowed and doused with herbicides into butterfly highways that will feed monarchs on their epic journey.
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