Good News for Yellowstone Grizzlies? U.S. to Review 'Flawed' Ruling That Removed Protections
Over the summer, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) decided to strip Yellowstone grizzly bears of Endangered Species Act protections, sparking condemnation from conservationists over the agency's “flawed" ruling.
But now, USFWS is reviewing this decision thanks to an appeals court ruling that restored protections for a completely different animal that was taken off the endangered species list: the Great Lakes gray wolf.
In August, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington, DC, ruled unanimously that USFWS was wrong in its 2011 decision to de-list the Great Lakes gray wolf and should remain under federal protection. The three-judge panel wrote then, "The Endangered Species Act's text requires the Service, when reviewing and redetermining the status of a species, to look at the whole picture of the listed species, not just a segment of it."
As it happens, the Fish and Wildlife Service used a similar method to de-list Yellowstone-area bears. Kelly Nokes, large carnivore advocate for WildEarth Guardians, explained to Reuters, U.S. wildlife managers removed the bears from federal protections without assessing impacts on other grizzly populations in the lower 48 states.
The Yellowstone grizzly bear has long been considered endangered, with as few as 136 bears in 1975. But in June, Interior Sec. Ryan Zinke announced that the population had been recovered to the point where federal protections can be removed and overall management can be returned to the states and tribes.
There are an estimated 700 today, which “meets all the criteria for delisting," the Department of Interior, which oversees USFWS, said.
The Associated Press reported that USFWS has now opened up a public comment session on the implications of leaving the bears unprotected. While the review is pending, the animals will stay under state jurisdiction and off the threatened species list, agency spokesman Steve Segin said. The agency plans to release its conclusions by March 31.
Conservation groups responded with fierce outcry over the government's decision to de-list the grizzlies this summer.
“Without continued Endangered Species Act protections, the recovery of grizzly bears in Greater Yellowstone is in serious jeopardy," said Bonnie Rice, Greater Yellowstone senior representative with Sierra Club's Our Wild America campaign. "Inadequate requirements to protect and connect Yellowstone grizzlies to other populations and hostile state management policies will mean fewer bears restricted to an even smaller area. Grizzly bears will be killed through trophy hunts on the doorstep of Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks instead of inspiring millions who come to the region just for a chance to see a live grizzly bear in the wild."
“These iconic bears need to be protected, not gunned down so their heads can go on some trophy hunter's wall," said Andrea Santarsiere, a senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Facing ongoing threats and occupying less than five percent of their historic range, grizzly bears are nowhere near recovery and continue to need the strong protections of the Endangered Species Act."
“National Parks Conservation Association refutes the Department of the Interior's short-sighted decision, which threatens Yellowstone grizzlies and ignores concerns, including those raised by many in the National Park Service. Despite Interior's claim, the long-term health of Yellowstone and Grand Teton grizzlies is far from certain," added Stephanie Adams, Yellowstone program manager for the National Parks Conservation Association. “We must ensure Yellowstone grizzlies have necessary protections in place for the population to thrive."
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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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