Bill Undermines Invasive Species Protections for Great Lakes
The National Wildlife Federation has opposed provisions in a federal bill that would be a devastating setback in the effort to stop aquatic invasive species from entering the Great Lakes and other U.S. waters through the ballast discharge of foreign ships.
“This bill is bad for the Great Lakes,” said Andy Buchsbaum, regional executive director of the National Wildlife Federation’s Great Lakes office. “It leaves the door open for invasive species to enter the lakes through the discharge of ships’ ballast water. Those invaders, like zebra mussels, have polluted our water, killed our fish and cost us jobs. You’d think after the devastation we’ve seen in the Great Lakes from that our leaders would learn. After years of inaction, the federal government needs to enact stronger—not weaker—protections.”
The Commercial Vessel Discharges Reform Act of 2011(HR 2838) would thwart efforts to stop the introduction of non-native species through ballast water by:
- Adopting a non-protective standard from the International Maritime Organization (IMO) that would continue to allow invasive species into U.S. waters
- Delaying even that standard by up to 10 years
- Preventing states and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from setting protective and effective standards
- Making it difficult, if not impossible, to add new protections, even if the EPA and other agencies determine that the IMO standard is not doing the job
- Stopping citizens from being able to enforce the law
There are more than 180 non-native aquatic species in the Great Lakes, with one being discovered on average every seven months. These invaders foul beaches, harm commercial and recreational fishing, clog power plants and municipal water infrastructure, and disrupt the Great Lakes food chain leading to the regional extinction of species, bird die-offs and dead zones where no fish and wildlife can survive.
More than 65 percent of aquatic invasive species entering the Great Lakes since the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway in 1959 have arrived in the ballast tanks of oceangoing cargo vessels.
Aquatic invasive species cost the region’s citizens, businesses, utilities and cities more than $200 million every year in damages and control costs.
Despite the staggering costs associated with invasive species, the federal government has failed to put in place adequate protections—leaving it up to the shipping industry to voluntarily clean up its act. After years of inaction by both the shipping industry and the federal government, states such as New York and Michigan enacted laws to protect its citizens and business owners from the influx of harmful non-native species by mandating foreign ships clean and filter their dirty ballast water before discharging into U.S. waters.
Shipping industry attempts to overturn those laws failed—as courts consistently ruled that states had the legal authority to protect their water quality from biological pollution. As state protections prepare to take effect (New York’s standard goes into effect Jan. 1, 2013), shipping interests are turning to the federal government to preserve the status quo.
“This bill is designed to keep the shipping industry off the hook and violates state’s right to protect their waters from invasive species,” said Marc Smith, senior policy manager for the National Wildlife Federation’s Great Lakes office. “This bill preserves the woefully inadequate status quo and continues to leave the Great Lakes vulnerable to future invasions. These provisions need to be stripped out of the bill so that we can protect our Great Lakes, drinking water, economy and way of life for people and wildlife now and for generations to come.”
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By Jessica Corbett
A leading environmental advocacy group marked Native American Heritage Month on Wednesday by urging President-elect Joe Biden, Vice President-elect Kamala Kamala Harris, and the entire incoming administration "to honor Indigenous sovereignty and immediately halt the Keystone XL, Dakota Access, and Line 3 pipelines."
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Returning the ‘Three Sisters’ – Corn, Beans and Squash – to Native American Farms Nourishes People, Land and Cultures
By Christina Gish Hill
Historians know that turkey and corn were part of the first Thanksgiving, when Wampanoag peoples shared a harvest meal with the pilgrims of Plymouth plantation in Massachusetts. And traditional Native American farming practices tell us that squash and beans likely were part of that 1621 dinner too.
Abundant Harvests<p>Historically, Native people throughout the Americas bred indigenous plant varieties specific to the growing conditions of their homelands. They selected seeds for many different traits, such as <a href="https://emergencemagazine.org/story/corn-tastes-better/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">flavor, texture and color</a>.</p><p>Native growers knew that planting corn, beans, squash and sunflowers together produced mutual benefits. Corn stalks created a trellis for beans to climb, and beans' twining vines secured the corn in high winds. They also certainly observed that corn and bean plants growing together tended to be healthier than when raised separately. Today we know the reason: Bacteria living on bean plant roots pull nitrogen – an essential plant nutrient – from the air and <a href="http://www.tilthalliance.org/learn/resources-1/almanac/october/octobermngg" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">convert it to a form that both beans and corn can use</a>.</p><p>Squash plants contributed by shading the ground with their broad leaves, preventing weeds from growing and retaining water in the soil. Heritage squash varieties also had spines that discouraged deer and raccoons from visiting the garden for a snack. And sunflowers planted around the edges of the garden created a natural fence, protecting other plants from wind and animals and attracting pollinators.</p><p>Interplanting these agricultural sisters produced bountiful harvests that sustained large Native communities and <a href="http://dx.doi.org/10.1353/eam.2015.0016" target="_blank">spurred fruitful trade economies</a>. The first Europeans who reached the Americas were shocked at the abundant food crops they found. My research is exploring how, 200 years ago, Native American agriculturalists around the Great Lakes and along the Missouri and Red rivers fed fur traders with their diverse vegetable products.</p>
Displaced From the Land<p>As Euro-Americans settled permanently on the most fertile North American lands and acquired seeds that Native growers had carefully bred, they imposed policies that <a href="https://doi.org/10.1086/ahr/87.2.550" target="_blank">made Native farming practices impossible</a>. In 1830 President Andrew Jackson signed the <a href="https://guides.loc.gov/indian-removal-act" target="_blank">Indian Removal Act</a>, which made it official U.S. policy to force Native peoples from their home locations, pushing them onto subpar lands.</p><p>On reservations, U.S. government officials discouraged Native women from cultivating anything larger than small garden plots and pressured Native men to practice Euro-American style monoculture. Allotment policies assigned small plots to nuclear families, further limiting Native Americans' access to land and preventing them from using communal farming practices.</p><p>Native children were forced to attend boarding schools, where they had no opportunity to <a href="https://doi.org/10.5749/jamerindieduc.57.1.0145" target="_blank">learn Native agriculture techniques or preservation and preparation of Indigenous foods</a>. Instead they were forced to eat Western foods, turning their palates away from their traditional preferences. Taken together, these policies <a href="https://kansaspress.ku.edu/978-0-7006-0802-7.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">almost entirely eradicated three sisters agriculture</a> from Native communities in the Midwest by the 1930s.</p>
Reviving Native Agriculture<p>Today Native people all over the U.S. are working diligently to <a href="https://www.oupress.com/books/15107980/indigenous-food-sovereignty-in-the-united-sta" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">reclaim Indigenous varieties of corn, beans, squash, sunflowers and other crops</a>. This effort is important for many reasons.</p><p>Improving Native people's access to healthy, culturally appropriate foods will help lower rates of <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/aian-diabetes/index.html" target="_blank">diabetes</a> and <a href="https://www.apa.org/pi/oema/resources/ethnicity-health/native-american/obesity" target="_blank">obesity</a>, which affect Native Americans at disproportionately high rates. Sharing traditional knowledge about agriculture is a way for elders to pass cultural information along to younger generations. Indigenous growing techniques also protect the lands that Native nations now inhabit, and can potentially benefit the wider ecosystems around them.</p>
By Jake Johnson
Amid reports that oil industry-friendly former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz remains under consideration to return to his old post in the incoming Biden administration, a diverse coalition of environmental groups is mobilizing for an "all-out push" to keep Moniz away from the White House and demand a cabinet willing to boldly confront the corporations responsible for the climate emergency.
Anger, anxiety, overwhelm … climate change can evoke intense feelings.
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