GOP Senator Seeks Major Overhaul of Endangered Species Act
Sen. John Barrasso, Republican of Wyoming, released draft legislation Monday to significantly overhaul the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
Under Barrasso's proposal, individual states would be given key authority over the federal program to conserve threatened and endangered species.
"When it comes to the Endangered Species Act, the status quo is not good enough," the Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman said in a press release. "We must do more than just keep listed species on life support—we need to see them recovered. This draft legislation will increase state and local input and improve transparency in the listing process."
The Endangered Species Act, passed by Congress four decades ago, is the nation's safety net for fish, plants and wildlife on the brink of extinction. More than 99 percent of species that have been designated for federal protection continue to exist in the wild today, including the bald eagle, grizzly bear, the leatherback sea turtle and the Florida manatee.
Many Republicans have long sought to weaken the landmark conservation law, as it can block energy production or other developments on critical habitat for endangered species. The current GOP-controlled 115th Congress has introduced dozens of bills that would strip federal protections for specific threatened species or undermine the ESA, according an analysis from the Center for Biological Diversity. That's one such bill every six days in 2017 alone.
Earthjustice anticipated Barrasso's legislative proposal more than a year ago. The environmental law nonprofit said that Barrasso has received substantial campaign contributions from extractive industries that wish to mine or drill land that overlaps with wildlife habitat. Citing campaign finance records, from 2011 until 2016, Barrasso received $458,466 in total campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry, plus $241,706 from the mining industry.
Conservation organization Defenders of Wildlife criticized Barrasso's plan, contending that states may lack the legal authority, the resources and sometimes the political resolve to implement the ESA.
"This partisan bill is all about politics, at the expense of sound science and the species that depend on it for survival," said Defenders president and CEO Jamie Rappaport Clark in a press release provided to EcoWatch. "It is a reckless power grab designed to wrest away authority from scientists and wildlife experts and give it to states that lack the resources—and sometimes the political will—needed to save wildlife from extinction."
Defenders of Wildlife has multiple objections to the provisions in Barrasso's draft bill. For instance, a team overseeing the recovery of a certain species would not be allowed to have more federal members than state and local officials, who would be nominated by state governors.
It also "relegates scientists, the heart of any science-based recovery effort, to an afterthought requiring majority approval by the State-dominated team," the group said.
The Sierra Club similarly criticized Barrasso's bill.
"Shifting from a basis in science to one blown by political whims leaves wildlife exposed, threatening to reverse decades of work to bring animals back from the brink of extinction," Jordan Giaconia, Sierra Club federal policy associate, said in a press release.
"You need to look no further than Sen. Barrasso's home state of Wyoming, where grizzly bears prematurely stripped of endangered species protections are about to be trophy hunted, to see the risks legislation like this poses," Giaconia added.
Wyoming Votes to Allow First Grizzly Bear Hunt in 40 Years https://t.co/49Bzq6sneM @ConservationOrg @WWF— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1527199510.0
Further, the Casper Star-Tribune reported that the proposal will "prohibit scientific data from being disclosed in a public records request—if it includes a business or private landowner's proprietary information. Otherwise, the scientific basis of decisions with a species is to be public information."
Barrasso's proposed legislation reflects recommendations from the Republican-dominated Western Governors' Association.
"The Western Governors' Association appreciates the Chairman's willingness to productively engage with Governors, and that the Chairman has approached this polarizing topic in an inclusive, thoughtful manner," a February letter from the WGA states. "The proposed bill reflects this fact and offers meaningful, bipartisan solutions to challenging species conservation issues."
As The Hill noted, the governors' process was bipartisan, with Hawaii Gov. David Ige (D) signing on to the recommendations. However, other Democratic governors, including California Gov. Jerry Brown and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee objected to its legislative proposals.
The National Wildlife Federation—which supports the Recovering America's Wildlife Act introduced in the House by Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.) and Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) in December—is pushing congressional leaders to prioritize a bipartisan effort.
"The truth is that we, as a nation, could save the vast majority of species through proactive and collaborative conservation efforts on-the-ground, just as we have recovered species like deer, bighorn sheep, bald eagles, ducks, and wild turkeys," said Collin O'Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation in a press release.
O'Mara continued, "Specifically, we urge the Senate to prioritize bipartisan recommendations which bolster science-based decision-making, foster collaboration among conservation partners, and accelerate on-the-ground habitat restoration projects—and to reject recommendations that erode the scientific integrity that is the bedrock of the Endangered Species Act."
Cathy Liss, president of the Animal Welfare Institute, said in a provided statement that the Endangered Species Act "does not need to be reformed, streamlined, or modernized—it simply needs to be fully funded and given the opportunity to help species achieve recovery."
She added, "Congress must stop meddling with this critically important law and focus instead on ensuring it is fully implemented and enforced."
The Environmental Consequences of Justice Kennedy’s Retirement https://t.co/rJ5qBr0ttz @ClimateReality @SierraClub @NRDC @UCSUSA— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1530196624.0
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Jean-Marc Neveu and Olivier Civil never expected to find themselves battling against disposable mask pollution.
When they founded their recycling start-up Plaxtil in 2017, it was textile waste they set their sights on. The project developed a process that turned fabrics into a new recyclable material they describe as "ecological plastic."
Mounting Piles of Waste<p>It is not only the streets of Chatellerault where pandemic pollution is piling-up, but also the world's beaches and oceans. Once there, they can take up to 450 years to degrade and disappear.</p><p>Esther Röling, co-organizer of the annual Adventure Clean Up Challenge held on Hong Kong Island, has seen this waste firsthand. In October the sports challenge pitted teams against one another in a competition to remove trash from 13 hard-to-reach coastal areas around the city.</p><p>They find tons of both disposable and reusable masks, said Röling. "You wonder how it ended up there. Was it just thrown on the ground? Or was it in a garbage bag that broke open?"</p><p>Almost 10,000 kilometers away in Antibes on the sunny French Riviera, it's a similar picture. For the past few months, divers and clean-up volunteers working with an ocean clean-up non-profit called Operation Mer Propre have been collecting an increasing number of masks found on land and in the sea.</p><p>"Since the beginning of the lockdown when we started to count, we've reached 800, 900, [and now in total] 1000 masks," said co-founder Joko Peltier. </p><p>According to <a href="https://unctad.org/news/growing-plastic-pollution-wake-covid-19-how-trade-policy-can-help" target="_blank">UN estimates</a>, up to 75% of all coronavirus-related plastic could end up as waste in oceans and landfills.</p>
The Limits of Recycling<p>Yet not all are convinced the recycling of this waste is possible on a global scale. </p><p>"What those citizen groups are doing is really beneficial but once they collect it, it should just go to a landfill or an incinerator. They shouldn't necessarily expect it to get recycled," said Jonathan Krones, an industrial ecologist and visiting assistant professor of environmental studies at Boston College.</p><p>That's because mask recycling programs like Plaxtil are few and far between and most don't have the benefit of a readily adaptable production process. </p><p>Even in countries with solid recycling infrastructure, he says, the system is designed to separate out specific types of waste like bottles or cardboard.</p><p>"I imagine that it would be technically feasible to develop a separation process to filter out masks, but there simply aren't enough of them to make that economical," he said.</p><p>Collection is a big hurdle, he adds. Since each mask only weighs a fraction of a gram and they're scattered on roads or mixed with other trash, it is difficult and costly. </p><p>"You need a lot of raw material of the right quality to make investing in the recycling technology and the recycling system worthwhile," he said.<span></span><br></p>
Hemp, Sugar Cane and Sustainable Alternatives<p>Some projects are instead addressing the material used to make masks.</p><p>French company Geochanvre have created a mask made primarily from hemp, while in Australia, researchers at the Queensland University of Technology are experimenting with a disposable product made from agricultural waste. </p><p>Biodegradable options are exciting alternatives to reduce the fossil fuels needed for the creation of plastic-based masks, said Krones, but they don't absolve the wearer from the responsibility of what happens afterwards. </p><p>Bio-based masks often need their own composing solutions, he explains, because in landfill they can produce high amounts of the greenhouse gas methane when anaerobic bacteria feeds on the organic material. Methane is known to be significantly more potent than carbon dioxide.</p><p>"I think as long as we have in our mind that we want to have disposability, we're going to have to wrestle with a variety of different sorts of environmental tradeoffs," he said, adding that reusable, fabric masks are the best option available to most people.</p><p>Precimask is developing a clear face covering with an optional visor made from hard plastic, designed to be long-lasting.<br></p><p>Air enters either side of the cheeks through a technology normally found in pool filters and car exhaust systems, said company spokeswoman Juliette Chambet.</p><p>"We wanted to make ceramic-based filters that would be washable and cleanable, which would allow them to be reused as many times as desired without having to buy a new consumable or produce waste," she said. </p><p>Ultimately, encouraging mask wearers to think about the entire lifecycle of a mask is key, explains Neveu. </p><p>"We want people who put on the masks to realize that they are also responsible for the waste, he said. "It's not inevitable that this [pandemic] will become an environmental catastrophe.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/covid-19-recycling-pollution-trash-pandemic/a-55707817" target="_blank">Deutsche Welle</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649032193#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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