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Barn Owl © Karen A. Williams

in this issue

• Shell Is No Match for the Arctic • Keystone Threat Papered Over • Food: A Major Environmental Issue • Big Win Protects Alaska Wilderness


in the news

Keystone Threat Papered Over

Wilderness Under Siege

Big Win for Wild Bison Yellowstone’s buffalo, also called bison, will continue to roam free across 75,000 acres of their historic winter range north of Yellowstone National Park. Once subjected to cruel hazing, capture and even slaughter to keep them out of Montana’s Gardiner Basin, the animals have recently been permitted to return to their vital foraging grounds during the winter and much of the spring under a landmark agree­ment among federal, state and tribal agencies. The agreement was challenged in court by the Park County Stockgrowers Association and others, but the presiding state judge rejected their case. NRDC, Earthjustice and our allies in Montana defended the agreement in court.

Van Jones, NRDC Trustee and Founder of Green for All, speaking at the climate rally.


espite recent tough talk from President Obama about addressing climate change, the State Department has released yet another environ­

mental review of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline that shrugs off its climate-wrecking impacts. The pipeline would drive a dramatic increase in tar sands production, which generates three times as much global warming pollution as the production of conventional crude. “Building this pipeline would be the same as putting five million new cars on the road,” said NRDC President Frances Beinecke. “For the State Department to ignore the threat from this added pollution is like ignoring the increased odds of getting lung cancer from smoking more cigarettes.” In March, NRDC began mobilizing hundreds of thousands of Members to submit comments to the State Department protesting its recklessly inadequate review. The renewed battle over Keystone XL came just weeks after more than 40,000 Americans gathered in Washington, D.C., on President’s Day for the largest climate rally in history — organized by NRDC, the Sierra Club, and other groups. They called on the president to reject the pipeline and achieve the single biggest carbon reduction ever by holding dirty power plants accountable for what they dump into the air.

This Earth Day (April 22) honor your family and friends with a gift of Ocean Protection. Watch our beautiful new video, narrated by Sigourney Weaver to learn more.

In a rousing speech to a fired-up crowd, NRDC Trustee Van Jones, who served in the first Obama Administration, sent a strong message to the president: “History will judge you 20 years from now based on one decision alone . . . The decision to let this pipeline come through America . . . would be like lighting a fuse on a carbon bomb.”

Take action at 2

Bison © Pete Cairns/; turtle © Masa Ushioda/; Van Jones and rally © Melanie Blanding

The fight to save one of the West’s most remarkable — and unprotected — wildlands intensified after NRDC and our allies filed suit in federal court to block the oil and gas industry from drilling in Utah’s proposed Desolation Canyon wilderness. The plan calls for some 1,300 new wells on 200,000 acres of federal land, including more than 200 wells in the proposed wilderness area. The scheme was approved by the Obama Administration last year, despite receiving the Environmental Protection Agency’s worst possible environmental rating.

Shell Proves It’s No Match for the Arctic “Shell hasn’t even faced the worst weather conditions

of thwarted attempts to drill in Alaska’s Polar

the Arctic has to offer,” says Clusen, alluding to

Bear Seas, Royal Dutch Shell lost control of

gale-force winds, subzero tempera­tures, 20-foot

an enormous drill rig

surging seas and

being towed near

winter pack ice.

Kodiak Island on

“If one of the

New Year’s Eve.

richest companies

The rig, more than

in the world can’t

260 feet in diameter

buy its way to safety

and carrying some

in the Arctic, it

150,000 gallons of

proves what we’ve

diesel fuel and other

been saying all

petroleum products,

along: This is no

ran aground in rough

place to drill.”

seas after all four

The Obama

engines on its tow


vessel failed. “Shell’s

temporarily sus­

litany of mishaps and blunders is outrageous,

Shell lost control of its Kulluk drill rig, which ran aground.

pended Shell’s offshore Arctic drilling

each one worse than the last,” says Chuck Clusen,

operations in the wake of the latest accident, but it

director of NRDC’s Alaska Project.

has not ended oil explor­ation there. Oil giant

The company’s efforts to drill in the Chukchi and

ConocoPhillips has proposed sinking its own wells

Beaufort Seas — home to more than half our nation’s

in the Arctic Ocean. For its part, Shell is intent on

polar bears and critical habitat for endangered whales

returning to the Polar Bear Seas, with plans to drill

and other marine mammals — have been plagued

off the coast of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

from the outset. Last July one of Shell’s drill ships

and in other sensitive waters.

slipped anchor and nearly ran aground; in August the Coast Guard refused to certify as seaworthy the linchpin of Shell’s emergency plan: a spill-response barge that suffered 400 separate safety-related problems. A month later, a 30-mile-long iceberg forced Shell’s drill rig to flee one day after it started operations. Meanwhile, the containment dome Shell planned to use in the event of a blowout to capture spewing oil was, according to media sources, “crushed like a beer can” during pre-deployment testing in placid Puget Sound.

As NRDC and Earthjustice press ahead with courtroom action to stop Shell from drilling, more than 50,000 NRDC Members and online activists recently petitioned President Obama to call off the rigs and undertake a critical review of all offshore drilling in the Arctic, taking into full account Shell’s failures. “What have we learned from Shell’s bumbling misadventure?” asks Clusen. “Only that it’s an environmental disaster waiting to happen.” Take action at:

Drill rig © Jonathan Klingenberg/U.S. Coast Guard


apping a string of dismal failures in a year


Campaign Update

NRDC Broadens Fight to Make U.S. Food Supply Safer,

“Farm to Table” Campaign Takes On Bad Farming, Toxic Chemicals, Massive Food Waste — and More


Farm © Ed Callaert; school lunch © Emily Hart; farmer’s market © Barrie Fanton/Omni-Photo Communications; poultry farm © Edwin Remsberg;

ood: Not a day goes by that we don’t think about it. But how many of us think about it as a major environmental issue? “Few things impact our health and our planet more than food,” says Jonathan Kaplan, director of NRDC’s fast-growing Food and Agriculture Program. “Hundreds of millions of acres in the U.S. alone are devoted to agriculture, and chemicalintensive farming has been a disaster for the environment. NRDC is now working at every stage along the supply chain — literally from farm to table — to help those farmers who are making sustainable choices and to challenge agricultural practices that pose the greatest risk.”


Today, the organic agriculture business is booming. Sales of organic food and beverages reached $26.7 billion in 2010, an increase of almost 8 percent over the year before. The word locavore has entered the popular lexicon, and farmer’s markets have sprouted up across the country. Yet as Kaplan points out, even as consumer interest in sustainably produced food has surged, just a scant fraction of farmland in the United States — less than 1 percent — is devoted to organic farming. While many farmers have made important gains in adopting environmentally friendly practices, the vast majority of farmed acres remain dependent on pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, fossil fuels and ever-scarcer water supplies. Approximately 880 million pounds of pesticides are sprayed on crops each year, and the agricultural sector is responsible for 7 percent of America’s total global warming pollution, having increased 13 percent since 1990.

Massive amounts of fertilizer runoff have contaminated precious water resources from coast to coast and created a fish-killing “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico that can swell seasonally to more than 6,000 square miles. Sustainable farming practices — such as greater irrigation efficiency, conser­ vation of biodiversity and a reduction in the use of chemicals — can signifi­ cantly ease these environmental impacts. But making such changes can be financially risky for farmers, which is why NRDC is working to grow the market for sustainably produced foods by tapping into the purchasing power of large food buyers. Almost half of all the food consumed in the U.S. flows through a relatively small number of large retailers and food service providers. “If you can convince these big middle­

took a decisive step in this direction by adopting the Good Food Purchasing Policy, which encourages food providers to purchase from local farms and from farms that use environ­mentally sustainable practices. NRDC played a key role in the broad coalition of groups that developed the policy. Likewise, we are working to improve the sustain­ ability of New York City’s food supply by supporting sustainable farms, creating new wholesale distribution hubs for local farmers, increasing access to healthy food and leveraging the enormous purchasing power of city and state institutions. By reforming the food system of the nation’s largest metro­ politan area, we are creating a model for more sustainable food systems in other regions of the country.

Above: Each year, 880 million pounds of pesticides are sprayed on crops in the U.S. Right: A poultry factory farm.

men to consider the environmental impacts of the food they’re supplying, then you start to shift the market,” Kaplan says.“Farmers will know they have a large buyer to sell to.” With NRDC’s help, the City of Los Angeles and the Los Angeles Unified School District (which serves 650,000 meals to students each day) recently

We’re also collaborating with stake­ holders from across the food industry to develop a Stewardship Index for fruits, vegetables and specialty crops. This will allow farmers and food retailers to better assess the overall environmental footprint of the produce they’re growing and selling, taking into consideration such factors as soil conservation, energy use and the

More Sustainable


farming has been “Chemical-intensive a disaster for the environment. ”

Above: Star Route organic farm, Bolinas, California. Far right: A farmer’s market in Boston. Inset, left: With NRDC’s help, Los Angeles schools are buying more food from local and sustainable farms.

greenhouse gas emissions associated with a given product. Long before the current popularity of organic foods, NRDC was campaigning to make the American food supply safe from highly toxic pesticides. We were instrumental in the battle to pass the Food Quality Protection Act of 1996, which, thanks to the legal pressure we put on the EPA, has resulted in drastic reductions in the use of some of the most dangerous pesticides, including organophosphates, a class of chemicals known to cause neurological damage. Even as our campaign against such pesticide use continues, we’ve taken on new challenges, such as mounting a strong offensive against the Food and Drug Adminis­tration for its failure to ban bisphenol A (BPA), a hormonedisrupting chemical often used in food packaging, from the nation’s food supply. “We’re building on our legacy of countering the influence of industry lobbyists and pressuring federal agencies to do what they’re supposed to do, which is to protect the health of the American public,” says NRDC senior scientist Sarah Janssen, who

helped advocate successfully for a ban on BPA in baby bottles in California and 11 other states. NRDC has been slugging it out in court with the FDA over another critical food-safety issue as well: the livestock industry’s profligate use of antibiotics in animal feed, a

Sustainable rancher Gabe Brown (above) and "Young Food Leader" Andrea Northup (above right) were two winners of NRDC's Growing Green Awards in 2012.

practice that has been linked to the rise of drug-resistant bacteria that threaten human health. A federal judge recently sided with us, ordering the FDA to stop dragging its feet and

start tackling the problem head-on in a ruling that brought widespread attention to this public health threat. NRDC’s Food and Agriculture Program recently made other big news by sparking a national conver­sation over just how much food in America goes to waste: a startling 40 percent, according to a ground­breaking report by NRDC project scientist Dana Gunders. “Half of all the land in the U.S. and 80 percent of the freshwater we consume goes to food prod­uction, yet retailers, restaurants and con­sumers end up throwing away $165 billion in food each year,” Gunders says. “There are enormous opportunities when it comes to addressing the problem of waste, and even more when we work to improve the entire system for how we grow and sell food.” 5

Big Win Protects Vast Swath of Alaska Wilderness


laska’s Western Arctic Reserve is one of the largest

campsite). “Polar bears, grizzlies, caribou, walrus, bowhead

expanses of wilderness left in North America, and

whales, beluga whales, seals,” he says, ticking off some of

now a staggering 11 million acres of it — an area

the variety of wild species he’s seen there. “And there are

bigger than Connecticut and Massachusetts combined —

millions of waterfowl and shore birds, some of which migrate

have been put off-limits to oil and gas development.

from as far as Africa and Antarctica.”

Following more than a decade

The Western Arctic Reserve was

of campaigning and litigation

set aside in the 1920s as an oil

by NRDC, Interior Secretary

reserve (later known as the

Ken Salazar has announced the

National Petroleum Reserve–

Obama Administration’s plan

Alaska), but it has remained

to safeguard some of the most

largely untouched by Big Oil. In

critical wildlife habitat within the

recent years the oil industry has

reserve, including vital calving

clamored for leases in the reserve,

grounds for America’s largest

targeting some of its most

caribou herd and summer habitat

sensitive habitats. Although the

Snowy owl © Michio Hoshino/

for threatened polar bears. Snowy owl.

decision by Salazar is a milestone in wilderness conservation, it

“The Western Arctic Reserve is less well-known than the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge,

will be up to Congress to make the protections permanent,

but its wildlife populations are every bit as important and

and a number of smaller yet still important areas within the

endangered,” says Chuck Clusen, director of NRDC’s Alaska

23-million-acre reserve remain vulnerable. “We ultimately

Project. Clusen has visited the remote wilderness numerous

want to see all critical habitat within the Western Arctic

times (once, a dozen musk oxen walked right into his

Reserve protected for future generations,” Clusen says.

Agency Set to Approve Navy’s Threat to Whales


Dolphins © Michael S. Nolan/

he federal agency charged with protecting marine mammals wants to green-light a U.S. Navy training plan that will harass or injure whales and other marine mammals more than 31 million times. The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) is preparing to approve the Navy’s five-year plan to use high explosives and deafening mid-frequency sonar in its training and testing exercises throughout enormous swaths of ocean off America’s coasts. Bombardment with extreme noise — up to 236 decibels in the case of mid-frequency sonar — can cause fatal hemorrhages in the lungs and other vital organs of marine mammals. The Navy’s own environ­mental review concedes the jaw-dropping harm it could inflict with sonar and explosives: more than 1,000 deaths, 5,000 serious injuries and millions of cases of temporary hearing loss. This unprecedented toll is three times higher than the impacts of any previous Navy plan. Apart from killing and injuring whales, sonar and explosives can force the animals to abandon vital feeding areas, interfere with their ability 6

to find mates and cause calves to separate from their mothers. “There are simple, common-sense steps the Navy Spinner dolphins. could take to drastically reduce these staggering numbers without sacrificing military readiness, but it’s failed to seriously consider any of them, and the Fisheries Service has just rolled over,” says Zak Smith, attorney with NRDC’s Marine Mammal Protection Project. “We’ll see them in court if that’s what it takes to block this senseless assault on whales.” Tens of thousands of NRDC Members and online activists have already filed comments protesting the agency’s controversial decision, and you can join the fight. Take action at:

No Snow Job: Climate Change Is Melting Winter Sports Revenue


ith increasing temperatures making snowfall scarcer on mountains and winter seasons shorter across the United States, popular winter tourism industries may be headed downhill, with more than 200,000 jobs at risk. That’s the sobering prognosis of a new study from NRDC and Protect Our Winters (POW) that charts the economic impact of climate change and diminished snowfall on winter tourism in 38 states.

began in 1966. In the past decade, ski resorts lost an estimated $1 billion in revenue resulting from low snowfall as compared with higher-snowfall years. And shrinking numbers of wintersport tourists have hurt not only ski areas but restaurants, lodges, gas stations, grocery stores and bars.

A failure to address climate change will put winter sports in even more hot water, with temperatures projected to warm an additional 4 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of The winter sports industry’s dependence the century. As a result, the length of the on consistent snow is serious business, snow season will be cut in half in the East, with more than $12.2 billion in estimated and snow depths in the West will decline Ski runs at Vail, Colorado. revenue in the 2009–2010 season. The 25 to 100 percent. In order to protect winter impact of less snow is already apparent on the slopes. The — and the hundreds of thousands whose livelihoods depend winter of 2011–12 was the fourth-warmest on record since on a snow-filled season — we must act now to support policies 1896, with the third-lowest snow cover extent since tracking that protect our climate and, in turn, our slopes.

Don’t Frack with Free Speech Posted by: Kate Sinding, attorney, NRDC Community Fracking Defense Project

On February 12, NRDC and the Catskill Citizens for Safe Energy (CCSE) filed a lawsuit to protect a community’s right to free speech. What does that have to do with fracking? Speaking out about fracking is exactly what’s being restricted by the town board of Sanford, a small community in Broome County, New York. Last September, after taking a series of pro-fracking actions over a four-year period, the board abruptly imposed a gag order, silencing its citizens from discussing the red-hot issue of proposed new fracking in the state and the town. Sanford’s town board has called on the state three times to begin fracking — and to frack Sanford. First the board urged the state to “stand aside” and allow drilling, and then called on the 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

state to hurry up and drill in May 2012. Finally, on September 5, 2012, Sanford Supervisor Dewey Decker signed a letter to Governor Andrew Cuomo asking “on behalf of [his] constituents” that the governor allow fracking. The board has also taken concrete steps to bring fracking to Sanford — leasing town land, repeatedly making agreements with gas companies and supporting natural gas pipelines through town.

NRDC Member Melissa Bishop, Sanford, NY.

Understandably, residents reacted to the gag order with shock, anger and dismay.

After all, if people are silenced by their own elected representatives, how can they trust them to act in their best interests? NRDC’s Community Fracking Defense Project and CCSE are suing to overturn the gag order and defend the right to free speech. As Sanford resident Mike Musante says, “When the board chose to cut off discussion, they ended any chance that I might have to affect the future value of my home or the quality of the air I breathe or the water I drink. Without debate there is no democracy, only rule by autocrats.”

Editor: Stephen Mills Writers: Jason Best, Michael Mahoney, Claire Morgenstern Managing Editor: Liz Linke Designer: Dalton Design Director of Membership: Linda Lopez

Natural Resources Defense Council 40 W. 20th St., New York, NY 10011 • 212-727-4500 email:

When residents turned out in droves to open town board meetings in response to these pro-fracking actions, the board decided to shut down the debate. Although it had set aside a portion of its meetings specifically to hear from the public, in September 2012 it unanimously forbade the public from discussing the one most pressing issue that had brought the town out in force: natural gas development.

Melissa Bishop photo © Rocky Kistner/NRDC


The following entry first appeared online at:


Redford Calls on President to Stop Mega-Mine


ur campaign against the Pebble Mine moved to Washington in February as NRDC attorneys hand-delivered 100,000 “Stop Pebble” petitions from our Members to the White House and a full-page ad in The Washington Post carried the same strong message from Robert Redford. The longtime conserva­ tionist and NRDC Trustee called on President Obama to prevent the economic and environmental destruction of Alaska’s Bristol Bay by ensuring that the Environmental Protection Agency use its authority to kill the mine. A comprehensive study by the EPA has found that the colossal open-pit mine and other large-scale operations like it would spell disaster for the greatest wild salmon fishery on the planet — along with Bristol Bay’s economy, Native communities and wildlife populations. In April we’ll take our campaign to London, where two of the mining giants behind the scheme — Anglo American and Rio Tinto — will be holding their annual shareholder meetings. Above: Our ad in The Washington Post.



It would be North America’s largest open-pit gold and copper mine.

THE MINE WILL create 3,000 pounds of waste for Every PErson on Earth.

Giant dams MUST hold back 10 billion tons of mining waste mixed with toxic chemicals.

IT threatens to destroy the world’s largest wild salmon fishery.

This mountain of contaminated waste has to be contained forever — in an active earthquake zone.



It COULD WIPE OUT the last 312 beluga whales of Cook Inlet.

81% of Bristol Bay native shareholders 85% Of commercial fishermen 68% OF ALASKAN RESIDENTS 80% of bristol bay residents Tiffany & Co. and OVER 60 other jewelers


the project would include 86 miles of new roads.


Create Your Own Lasting Legacy

Photo: Š Tim Fitzharris/Minden Pictures

You can create a lasting environmental legacy by including NRDC in your estate plans. A gift through your will, trust, retirement plan or life insurance plan will help preserve our magnificent natural heritage for generations to come.

For information on how to include NRDC in your estate plans or to let us know you’ve already done so, please contact Michelle Quinones, Lead Specialist, Gift Planning, at 212-727-4552 or email her at

Nature's Voice Spring 2013  
Nature's Voice Spring 2013  

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