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FOR THE 1.3 MILLION MEMBERS AND ONLINE ACTIVISTS OF THE NATURAL RESOURCES DEFENSE COUNCIL

Spirit Bear © Paul Burwell Photography

in this issue

• Battle for Polar Bears Heats Up • Few Good Rules in Sight for Fracking • NRDC Fights to Save Whales Worldwide • Pebble Mine Poses Big Risks, Says EPA

Fall 2012


in the news

FEW GOOD RULES IN SIGHT FOR FRACKING

Coral Reef Protected

BioGems Visionary Award In December, the first-ever BioGems Visionary Award will be presented by NRDC to National Geographic photographer Paul Nicklen. Nicklen’s renowned images of Arctic wildlife convey the stunning bio­diversity of imperiled polar ecosystems and have helped generate global awareness about their uncertain future. The award acknowledges the unique role Nicklen has played in inspiring our Members and activists to continue fighting for our planet’s last wild places and its threatened wildlife. Nicklen will receive the award at an event showcasing his work in New York City on December 4.

Wild Patagonia Safe for Now One of the two companies behind HidroAysén — the plan for five huge dams on Patagonia’s Baker and Pascua Rivers — has announced it is sus­ pending all work on the project indefinitely. For five years, NRDC Members have been asking the Chilean government to cancel the destructive hydroelectric scheme, which would flood thou­ sands of acres of habitat, destroy ancient forests and threaten endangered wildlife. Even though the announcement is good news for our campaign, there is no guarantee that work on HidroAysén will not resume at a later date. We continue to call on Chile’s president to cancel the project.

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Natural gas well, Wyoming.

ig oil and gas companies remain in the grip of fracking fever, scrambling to secure drilling rights on private and public land across the country, including hundreds of thousands of acres of national forest. NRDC is campaigning hard against the industry onslaught, pressing for strong federal regulations that would protect the public and our environment from the devastating impacts of this risky type of drilling, which is already suspected of contaminating the groundwater of communities in Pennsylvania and Wyoming. “Federal agencies are struggling to play catch-up while the energy companies charge full steam ahead,” says Briana Mordick, an NRDC geologist who once worked in the oil and gas industry. “Right now, much of the regulation out there is outdated and inadequate.” In fracking (short for “hydraulic fracturing”), massive amounts of water and industrial chemicals are pumped underground at extreme pressure to break apart rock and release oil and gas. Both the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which is charged with safeguarding the nation’s drinking water, and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which over-sees drilling on hundreds of millions of acres of federal land, recently proposed fracking standards. “It’s a start,” says Mordick. “In the case of EPA, it’s a more promising start; the BLM standards don’t go nearly far enough to address many of the risks posed by fracking.” Mordick notes, for example, that the BLM rules would still allow industry to use open pits to store toxic waste, a particularly hazardous practice. Meanwhile, BLM continues to lease our public lands to fracking companies at fire-sale prices, auctioning them off for an average of just $47 per acre in some parts of the country, according to a recent Washington Post investi­gation. Even national forests that have seen little drilling activity in the past — such as the George Washington National Forest in Virginia, home to the headwaters of the Potomac and James Rivers — are being targeted by oil and gas companies. “It’s a Wild West mentality out there now,” says Mordick. “We’re pressuring both BLM and EPA to step up and be sheriff.”

Paul Nicklen © Paul Nicklen; gas well © Linda F. Baker/Upper Green River Alliance

Mexican President Felipe Calderón has rejected plans for a massive resort complex called Cabo Cortés that could have devas­tated Baja’s Cabo Pulmo National Marine Park, home to the only living coral reef in Mexico’s Gulf of California. The announce­ ment followed a multiyear campaign by NRDC and other groups to block the mega-tourism scheme, which would have imperiled the reef’s abundant marine life and threatened nearby communities that depend on ecotourism for their livelihood. While the announcement is a victory for our campaign, Cabo Pulmo still lacks permanent protection from other unsustainable proposals. We are now calling on the Mexican government to work with local residents to safeguard the sanctuary for good.


Battle for Polar Bears Heats Up

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ill the skins and other body parts of

that would ban the inter­national commercial trade in

endangered polar bears continue to

polar bear parts and to work vigorously to build the

be sold legally on the world market?

coalition necessary to pass it. While the administration

NRDC is waging an all-out campaign to persuade the

brought just such a resolution to the CITES convention

Obama Administration — and, indeed, the president

in 2010, today it is wavering, with the U.S. Fish and

himself — to take a stand for

Wildlife Service (FWS) officially

the world’s imperiled polar

“undecided” on the issue.

bears by leading the inter­

A massive public outreach

national community in finally

campaign by NRDC generated

putting an end to this

some 150,000 comments

gruesome commercial trade.

by our Members and online activists, urging FWS to get off

“The plight of the polar bear

the fence. Then we ramped up

is desperate,” says Andrew

the pressure even more with

Wetzler, director of NRDC’s

ads in Politico and other

Land and Wildlife Program.

influential Washington, D.C.–

“Global warming is

based publications, underscoring

decimating many of their

the perversity of putting a

populations; scientists predict we could lose more than two-

Our print ad helped ramp up the pressure for stronger polar bear protections.

thirds of the bears by 2050.

price tag on the body parts of endangered polar bears.

Meanwhile, the price for polar bear skins has skyrocketed,

Precious little time is left to sway the admini­stration;

putting even more stress on them.” According to the

October is the deadline for countries to submit resolutions

Los Angeles Times, two polar bear pelts recently fetched

to CITES. “We’re not leaving anything to chance,”

a record $16,500 each at auction in Canada, the only

says Wetzler. “We’re calling on President Obama to

country that still allows hunters to kill polar bears

step in and announce his support of a ban. The science

legally for trophies.

is clear: Polar bears are in jeopardy, and count­enancing

Next March, the 170 member nations of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES),

the commercial trade in their body parts only exacerbates the crisis.”

the treaty that governs the global trafficking of

Join our fight for a ban on the international commercial

endangered species, will convene in Thailand. NRDC

trade in polar bear parts by sending a message to the

is calling on the administration to propose a resolution

White House. Go to www.polarbearsos.org

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Campaign Update

“Twenty-six years after th

As Whales Struggle Worldwide, NRDC Fights on Num Global Campaign Targets Military Sonar, Oil and Gas Exploration, and Illegal Hunting

Humpback with killer whales © Hiroya Minakuchi/Minden Pictures; airgun blast © Warner Bros./Getty Images; airgun array © British Antarctic Survey/Science Photo Library; belugas © Doug Allan/Nature Picture Library; beaked whales © Vidal Martin Martel; humpback and calf © James D. Watt/SeaPics.com; fin whale © Ragnar Axelsson/Greenpeace; garibaldi © Mark Conlin/SeaPics.com

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round the world, whales are once again in peril. The advent of steam-powered ships and other invasive technologies during the 19th and 20th centuries meant cata­ strophic declines in whale populations as many species were hunted to the brink of extinction. Fortunately, an international ban on commercial whaling in 1986 began reversing those declines. But today, even as many of the earth’s whale species struggle to recover from a grim legacy of overhunting, they face a host of latter-day threats to their survival, and for NRDC that has meant engaging in a sustained, multi­faceted campaign to protect them.

The U.S. Navy estimates that its plan for using explosives and high-powered sonar during training and testing in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans over the course of five years will harm marine mammals more than 30 million times, causing more than 15,000 cases of permanent hearing loss, almost 9,000 lung injuries and more than 1,800 deaths. “There is simply no other word for this than carnage,” says

of comments to the Obama Administration opposing the Navy’s latest and most dangerous plan. Yet the military isn’t alone in bombarding the oceans with deadly levels of noise pollution. Energy companies often use seismic surveys to hunt for oil and gas deposits, their ships trailing airguns that emit deafening blasts. “If you can imagine dynamite going off right outside your house for 10 to 12 hours a day, sometimes every 10 seconds — that’s the kind of excruciating noise we’re talking about,” says Taryn Kiekow, also an attorney with NRDC’s marine mammal program.

Of vital concern is the fate of one of the most endangered whale species on earth: Alaska’s Cook Inlet beluga. Only 284 of these snowy-white whales “Twenty-six years after the cling to survival. Even so, NMFS whaling ban, many species recently gave the go-ahead to the Fourteen beaked whales died in the Canary remain at a scant fraction of Islands after a sonar exercise in 2002. Apache Alaska Corporation to ply the what they once were,” says Joel Reynolds, director of NRDC’s Zak Smith, an attorney with NRDC’s waters of Cook Inlet with airguns and other seismic devices for the next Marine Mammal Protection Project. Marine Mammal Protection Project. three to five years. The agency’s own For nearly two decades the project “The Navy concedes the staggering scientists estimate such an assault will has been fighting threats to fragile risks but is not putting appropriate whale populations around the world: safeguards in place, such as placing the harm no fewer than 30 whales in the stopping industrial exploitation of the most critical whale habitats off-limits.” first year alone. “The agency should be protecting this imperiled species, last untouched gray whale nursery, While the National Marine Fisheries not placing it in harm’s way,” says reining in deafening sonar and other Service (NMFS) is supposed to ensure Kiekow, noting that it was only four noise pollution, and pressing for tough that the Navy’s plan does not violate years ago that sanctions against countries that violate environmental law and harm marine NMFS listed the com­mercial whaling ban. mammals, it has often fallen upon the Cook Of all the extraordinary adaptations NRDC to step in when the agency Inlet beluga as whales possess, perhaps few are as has simply rubber-stamped the Navy’s endangered, impressive as their ability to navigate proposals. Indeed, we their ocean environment using sound. have successfully sued Because sound travels far better than to limit deployment of light under water, whales have evolved some dangerous types to “see” with their sense of hearing. of sonar and forced the They use sound for just about every Navy to adopt commonvital activity, such as finding food and sense precautionary Iceland has killed mates, which is why today’s unprece­ measures. This past hundreds of endangered dented assault on the whales’ acoustic summer, our Members fin whales in defiance of Humpback mother and calf. environment is so alarming. sent tens of thousands an international ban.


he whaling ban, many species remain at a scant fraction of what they once were.

merous Fronts to Save Them

From far left: Humpback whale with pod of pygmy killer whales; An airgun blast, which can occur every 10 to 12 seconds during oil exploration using seismic surveys; Beluga whales. The belugas of Alaska’s Cook Inlet are threatened by airgun operations; An airgun array above water before deployment.

following an intense campaign waged by NRDC and other conser­vation groups. Now we have gone to federal court to challenge the govern­ment’s approval of Apache’s plan.

by international law, killing hundreds of whales per year. When NRDC learned that the Internet giant Yahoo! was profiting from the sale of whale products through its stake in Yahoo! Japan, we immediately alerted our Members, who sent thousands of letters of protest to the company. Meanwhile, Iceland, citing a drop

in global demand for whale meat, announced that it has suspended its hunt for endangered fin whales this season. Last year, NRDC and our Members were successful in pressuring President Obama to impose diplomatic sanctions on Iceland for its renegade whaling, and we continue to fight for strong trade sanctions as well.

Meanwhile, the Obama Administration has announced plans to open a majority of the Atlantic Seaboard to energy companies for seismic exploration, a move that California Creates Chain of Underwater Parks would injure as many as n a historic June vote, California wildlife officials the conservation process in motion. For the next 130,000 marine mammals, put the finishing touches on a pioneering 12 years, NRDC and local conservation groups including endangered fin, network of more than 100 marine protected worked tirelessly with small-business owners, humpback and North areas that will stretch the full length of the state’s scientists, the fishing community, Native American Atlantic right whales, coast. NRDC played a pivotal role in this landmark groups, divers and other stakeholders to develop according to the admini­ achievement — one of the most ambitious ocean a series of safe havens for marine wildlife that stration’s own estimates. protection efforts in history — creating would help invigorate California’s fisheries “The Atlantic has been what is essentially America’s first and preserve the riches of the Pacific underwater state park system. off-limits to this kind of Coast for future generations. destructive oil and gas California has an impressive Now complete, the chain of protected exploration for 30 years,” network of state parks on land gems covers 16 percent of state says Smith. “We’re fighting that preserve some of the most waters stretching from Mexico to to keep it that way.” beloved land­scapes on the Oregon, including more than 400

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Beyond the threats posed by Navy exercises and commercial exploration, there is still the problem of commercial whaling, which persists despite the global ban on this ageold practice. Japan and Iceland have been stubborn in their refusal to abide

West Coast. But just 15 years square miles of ocean where habitats ago, the state had few effective and marine animals receive the Orange Garibaldi fish protections in place for its equally highest level of protection. Research in a kelp forest. spectacular — and valuable — shows that marine protected areas seascapes. The abundant coastal harbor more and bigger fish, more resilient ecosystems that support thriving fisheries, habitat and a greater diversity of life than do gray whales, elephant seals, sharks, fantastical unprotected areas. Larger fish also lay more eggs, kelp forests and delicate tide pools filled with sea helping to boost populations and even encouraging stars and urchins were all at risk from overfishing growth outside the boundaries of the reserve. and other threats. “Oceans are the planet’s life-support system,” says Garrison. “California’s commitment to preserving In 1999, aided by Karen Garrison, NRDC’s oceans them sets an example for the nation and creates a program co-director, the California legislature model for revitalizing oceans around the world.” enacted the Marine Life Protection Act, which set

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EPA Finds Pebble Mine Poses Big Risks to Salmon

n a significant blow to the corporate backers of the

dramatic impact on the environment.” Indeed, EPA finds that

proposed Pebble Mine, the Environmental Protection

even at its minimum size, the proposed Pebble Mine would

Agency (EPA) has released the results of a 15-month

destroy thousands of acres of wetlands and more than 50

scientific assessment of Alaska’s Bristol

miles of streams that are crucial habitat

Bay watershed, concluding that large-

for salmon, the linchpin of the Bristol

scale mining there would jeopardize

Bay ecosystem.

the area’s legendary salmon runs. The

A public meeting in Seattle on EPA’s

draft findings, issued in May for public

findings drew a standing-room-only

review and comment, were cheered by

crowd of hundreds of Pebble Mine

NRDC and a coalition of other groups

opponents, including Reynolds and

that are fighting a plan by global

a number of NRDC Members, as well

mining companies to gouge one of the world’s largest gold and copper mines Grizzly © 2012 Scott Dickerson/AlaskaStock.com

out of the headwaters of Bristol Bay.

as hundreds of commercial fishermen. A grizzly sits on a riverbank waiting for salmon near Bristol Bay, Alaska.

The mood among the mining executives was grim, according to Reynolds. “They’ll

“This study is grounded in sound science that hasn’t been

do every­thing they can to discredit the EPA study,” he says.

bought and paid for by the mining industry,” says Senior

“But the science is clear and the risks have been confirmed.

Attorney Joel Reynolds, who directs NRDC’s Stop Pebble

Now EPA needs to act on its own findings. We’re pressing for

Mine campaign. “It confirms what we’ve been saying all

the agency to assert its authority under the Clean Water Act

along: You can’t dig a mine 2,000 feet deep and generate

and protect the Bristol Bay watershed by prohibiting large-

billions of tons of contaminated waste and not have a

scale mining — including the Pebble Mine.”

Talking With . . . Jean Schauffler Jean Schauffler has been a Member of NRDC since 1984. She was a teacher for 34 years, mostly in elementary schools. A longtime resident of upstate New York, she enjoyed gardening and bird-watching in her youth. Now 77, she still looks for ways to remain environmentally active. Q. What made you become a Legacy Leader and include NRDC in your will? A. I have always wanted to do more. In the beginning I was outraged by the coal industry’s practices of clearcut logging and mountaintop removal. Then I was devastated by how fast open space was disappearing. Then when fracking came to my region, I knew I had to increase my involvement.

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to be one step in front of everyone else. I look forward to receiving Nature’s Voice. It makes me feel proud to be an active part of some­thing so much bigger than myself.

Q. Was it difficult to become a Legacy Leader? A. To the contrary! I was amazed at how simple it was. My financial adviser created a charity fund naming NRDC as a beneficiary, both while I am alive and after I am gone. I notified NRDC of my estate plans and there hasn’t been a single hiccup since.

Legacy Challenge! Let us know you’re including NRDC in your estate plans and a member of our Board of Trustees will contribute up to $10,000 to

Q. I assume you also support other groups. What do you find special about NRDC?

help save wildlife and wildlands. You’ll be protecting our natural

A. I do support nearly a dozen other groups, but what continually impresses me about NRDC is their foresight, the fact that they always are planning ahead and seem

Challenge or learn more about it, contact Michelle Mulia-Howell,

heritage right now and for generations to come. To take the gift planning director, at 212-727-4421 or legacygifts@nrdc.org


NRDC’s Green Sports Program Celebrates Win After Win

“The results have been transformative,” says NRDC Senior Scientist Allen Hershkowitz. “These teams have greatly reduced their environ­ mental impact while saving millions of dollars and educating tens of millions of fans every year about sustainability.” Today NRDC serves as the principal environmental adviser to Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association, the National Hockey League, Major League Soccer, the Ivy League and the United States Tennis Association; it also advises the National Football League and the NCAA Final Four. Last year we co-founded the Green Sports Alliance, a growing coalition that now includes 13 professional leagues and 90 sports venues. For every team in the alliance, NRDC has created a customized, web-based resource guide — the NRDC Greening Advisor — to help the team identify what it can do to scale back the environmental footprint of its stadium or arena. “These stadiums and arenas accommodate tens of millions of people every year, serving them food and beverages and consuming vast

Record Number of Americans Demand Cuts in Carbon Pollution Posted by: Frances Beinecke, president, NRDC

When I was at the United Nations Earth Summit in June, I felt profoundly frustrated with world leaders’ paralysis on climate change. But when I returned home and learned that Americans had filed more than 2.25 million comments in support of standards limiting the dangerous carbon pollution that drives global warming, my sense of hope was renewed. Heads of state may be lagging, but ordinary citizens are speaking out in record numbers: These are the most responses EPA has received on any issue ever. 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

Solar panels at Busch Stadium, St. Louis.

NRDC’s campaign to green professional and collegiate sports is a decisively win-win proposition. For example, over the course of three years the Seattle Mariners reduced natural gas use at their ballpark by 60 percent and electricity consumption by 30 percent, saving more than $1 million. Replacing the team’s old, inefficient incandescentbulb scoreboard with a new, LED version has saved $50,000 per year alone by lowering the board’s electricity consumption 90 percent. The results are just as impressive elsewhere around the leagues, with facilities for no fewer than 15 teams, such as the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks and baseball’s Washington Nationals, achieving some form of LEED certification — the gold standard when it comes to rating green buildings. At least eight MLB ballparks, including Boston’s 100-yearold Fenway Park and St. Louis’s Busch Stadium, and five NBA arenas are now outfitted with high-tech solar-electric systems. Not to be outdone, the Philadelphia Eagles, the trailblazing team that first partnered with NRDC, is on track to generate 100 percent of the electricity it consumes at its stadium by the end of the year through a combination of 11,000 solar panels and 14 wind turbines.

The following entry first appeared online at: www.switchboard.nrdc.org

Americans are mobilizing because we know carbon pollution threatens the health and well-being of our families. You have only to look at the weather report to see why. The first half of 2012 shattered 1,175 records for heat in America. Warmer days mean more smog in the air. More smog means more people will suffer asthma symptoms, respiratory problems, heart attacks and even cancer. If we don’t act now to reduce carbon pollution, this rising heat will exact a heavy toll. NRDC recently released a report concluding that an additional 33,000 heat-related deaths could occur by 2050 as a result of climate change. There’s no time to lose. And in June, the federal courts confirmed yet again that EPA has the legal authority to reduce the carbon pollution that fuels

this extreme weather. This resounding appeals court victory — one NRDC helped secure — rejected each and every attack from the coal companies, power companies, trade associations, Koch-funded science-denying rightwing groups and ultra­conservative elected officials who have sought to stop EPA from doing its job under the Clean Air Act to protect the American people from the dangers of global warming. The court’s ruling clears the way for EPA to keep moving forward under the Clean Air Act to limit carbon pollution from motor vehicles, new power plants and other big industrial sources. With millions of Americans having already stood up for cutting carbon, EPA will have plenty of support. And as ordinary citizens continue to raise their voices, maybe world leaders will start to follow.

Editor: Stephen Mills Writers: Jason Best, Claire Morgenstern, Shanti Menon, Joyce Yeung, Ken Coplon Managing Editor: Liz Linke Designer: Dalton Design Director of Membership: Linda Lopez

Natural Resources Defense Council 40 W. 20th St., New York, NY 10011 www.nrdc.org/naturesvoice • 212-727-4500 email: naturesvoice@nrdc.org

Frances Beinecke © Matt Greenslade

SWiTCHBOARD

quantities of energy and water,” says Hershkowitz. “But that also means the potential benefits, both ecological and financial, can be enormous as well.”

Stadium photo courtesy of Microgrid Solar

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t’s a winning streak that would be the envy of any professional sports team. In 2004, NRDC joined with the Philadelphia Eagles to help launch the football team’s Go Green program, a comprehensive plan to reduce its environmental impact. Eight years later, NRDC has emerged as the leader in collaborating with pro sports leagues, teams and venues across the country to green their operations and supply chains. The score thus far? More than 100 teams have adopted environmental initiatives at their stadiums and arenas.

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Announcing the NRDC Legacy Challenge

Photo: © Tim Fitzharris

Let us know you’re including NRDC in your estate plans and a member of our Board of Trustees will contribute up to $10,000 to help save wildlife and wildlands! You’ll be protecting our natural heritage right now and for generations to come. If NRDC already has a place in your plans, please let us know so that we can take advantage of this wonderful opportunity.

www.nrdc.org/legacygift

To take the Legacy Challenge or learn more about it, please contact: Michelle Mulia-Howell, Director of Gift Planning at 212-727-4421 or legacygifts@nrdc.org


Nature's Voice Fall 2012