Have you ever been to Bryce Canyon National Park? I still remember standing at Sunset Point on my first visit as a teenager, hoping to sneak away to climb the hoodoos in the valley below. It's one of the most beautiful, inspiring places in the country, which is why when the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced a public meeting for Dec. 7 in Salt Lake City to gather public comments on its proposal to approve a giant coal strip-mine next to Bryce Canyon National Park, it wasn't hard to find citizens ready to object. More than 200 showed up at the Salt Lake City Library to speak their minds.
What they found when they got there, though, was that this particular "hearing" would be like a silent film—only written comments allowed.
When asked why there would be no opportunity for public testimony, BLM officials said they were required to hold only one public meeting and it had already happened the week before in Cedar City, where testimony was gathered from mine employees and other mine boosters.
That answer didn't sit well with disgruntled participants who had come to voice their objections to the strip mine. What happened next was citizen democracy at its most inspired.
Borrowing a tactic from Occupy Salt Lake City (where some of the participants had come from) a group of protesters started a "human microphone" and began reading their testimony in short tight phrases that were then repeated by the crowd around the room. The stunned BLM officials watched nervously as the actual public took over their “public” meeting.
The message the public had for the BLM was that it should reject the strip-mine proposal, protect the park and wildlife, and promote clean-energy alternatives—not more dirty coal.
Eventually, former national BLM director Patrick Shea, who is now a private citizen, offered to serve as an informal hearing officer and take oral testimony from anyone in the room. He apologized to his former agency colleagues for usurping their meeting, but said he felt it was important that citizens be allowed to voice their concerns in a public space. He asked for volunteers to record the testimony in writing and to then submit it to the BLM.
If the BLM's plan was to quietly slip in and out of town and avoid a public confrontation, then it seriously miscalculated—and underestimated both the outrage and the ingenuity that a proposal to strip-mine next to one of our most treasured national parks could generate. When the people needed it, they found their voice.
How about you? You may have missed the human microphone, but you can still help stop the strip mine before it's too late.
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Naomi Larsson
For centuries, the delicate silver dove has been a symbol of love and fidelity.
Biodiversity and Habitat Loss<p>Their near extinction is a symbol of the <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/global-biodiversity-outlook-targets-extinction-summit-new-york-pledge/a-54932895" target="_blank">biodiversity crisis</a> in the UK, largely driven by habitat destruction. Britain is now one of the countries with the most <a href="https://www.wwf.org.uk/future-of-UK-nature#:~:text=The%20UK%20is%20one%20of,than%20half%20are%20in%20decline" target="_blank">depleted nature</a> in the world according to the World Wildlife Fund. Half its plant and animal species are in decline and more than <a href="https://www.rspb.org.uk/about-the-rspb/about-us/media-centre/press-releases/let-nature-sing-wales/#:~:text=a%20natural%20tragedy.-,Over%2040%20million%20birds%20have%20vanished%20from%20UK%20skies%20in,unaware%20of%20the%20impending%20danger" target="_blank">40 million birds</a> have vanished in just half a century.</p><p>"[Turtle doves] are the canary in the [coal] mine because there are all these other species before it and after it," said Tree. "It's an umbrella for all the other species that are heading that way."</p><p>Turtle doves migrate south through Europe to sub-Saharan Africa between July and September, ending up in dry woodland and farmland areas of countries like Mali and Senegal for winter. </p><p>Droughts in West Africa and the Sahel region are believed to have contributed to the fall in turtle dove species recorded in northern Europe, with low rainfall reducing supplies of the seeds and insects the birds rely on for energy for the long journey home.</p>
Conservation and Farming<p><a href="https://www.operationturtledove.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Operation Turtle Dove,</a> a partnership project of charities including the Essex Wildlife trust, works with landowners and farmers to actively build turtle dove habitat.</p><p>Outten works with <a href="https://www.ebws.org.uk/birdsites/blue-house-farm-ewt-north-fambridge" target="_blank">Blue House Farm</a>, a 660-acre nature reserve in the UK county of Essex, where they have replicated weedy fallow plots. </p><p>"We work on it every year to make sure it's in the condition it needs to be with plants such as clovers and black medic," Outten said. "These plants are native to the landscape and produce the seed the birds feed on." </p><p>The birds eat a wide range of seeds from various plants that would have been abundant 50 or 100 years ago, added Guy Anderson, program manager for species recovery with The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). </p><p>"But it's simply true that with the gradual process of <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/farming-without-pesticides-how-can-we-make-agriculture-greener/a-52216796" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">intensifying our agricultural production</a>, the availability of those seeds has dropped and dropped," said Anderson.</p><p>Part of the project includes supplementary feeding — providing sources of food in the form of seed or grain. Under the Countryside Stewardship Scheme in England, farmers can receive financial support to create a turtle dove habitat. </p><p>Though they haven't recorded an increase in doves across the sites in the four years of working on the project, Outten said they are seeing improvements in how landowners and farmers manage habitat for the birds. </p>
A Turtle Dove Haven<p>The 3,500-acre Knepp Estate in West Sussex is another project taking a different approach and one of the few places where turtle dove numbers are increasing.</p><p>Isabella Tree and her husband Charlie Burrell converted their intensively farmed land into a rewilding project almost 20 years ago. They have let the land return to nature.</p><p>Just one year after they'd finished <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/uks-most-talented-architects-are-not-human/a-35952128" target="_blank">rewilding</a> the southern part of their property, they heard turtle doves for the first time. It's now a breeding hotspot for the birds with an estimated 19 pairs. Knepp is also home to <a href="https://www.rewildingbritain.org.uk/rewilding/rewilding-projects/knepp-estate" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">2% of the UK's population</a> of nightingales. </p><p>Tree is critical of supplementary feeding schemes that, in her view, are short term. She questions the chances of turtle doves getting to feed on scattered seeds before other mammals eat them first.</p>
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By Jessica Corbett
Green groups applauded Sen. Jeff Merkley on Wednesday for introducing a pioneering pair of bills that aim to "protect the long-term health and well-being of the American people and their economy from the catastrophic effects of climate chaos" by preventing banks and international financial institutions from financing fossil fuels.