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99% of Public Comments Oppose Trump's National Parks Review

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Bears Ears National Monument in Utah. Mason Cummings

A new analysis found that 99.2 percent of the millions of public comments submitted about Bears Ears National Monument and other parks opposed the executive order that placed them under scrutiny.

In April 2017, President Trump signed an executive order to review 27 parks designated since the beginning of 1996, with an eye toward shrinking boundaries and reducing protection for many of them. Shortly after, Interior Sec. Ryan Zinke opened a comment period to solicit input from the public, ostensibly to inform his recommendations about what to do with each of them.


Since then, some of the parks on the list have been granted stays of execution, while others, like Utah's Bears Ears National Monument, received word that the Trump administration intends to cut them to pieces. Throughout the summer, Trump and Zinke's review played out as a reality show-like spectacle, lacking either transparency or a sense of why it was necessary in the first place.

Now, days before Zinke is scheduled to deliver his final recommendations on Aug. 24, one thing—and only one thing—is clear: the American people decisively reject the parks review and favor the continued protection of natural and cultural landmarks.

More than 2.8 million comments were submitted to Interior during the public comment period and an analysis of 1.3 million comments publicly available on regulations.gov found that 99.2 percent opposed Trump's executive order, with respondents mentioning a wide variety of concerns.

Key takeaways from the analysis:

  • 99.2 percent of all comments received opposed Trump's executive order reviewing the 27 parks.
  • Percent of comments that opposed review of key parks: 95.6 percent for Bears Ears National Monument (Utah), 92.1 percent for Gold Butte National Monument (Nevada), 95.3 percent for Grand-Stairacse Escalante National Monument (Utah), 92.6 percent for Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument (New Mexico), 89.4 percent for Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument (Maine)
  • 80 percent of commenters who specified their location resided in a state containing a park under review; 90.9 percent of Utahns, whose home state has been ground zero for many attacks on public lands, opposed the review.
  • Commenters who mentioned concerns about the preservation of cultural artifacts, which has been an ongoing concern in the areas now designated Bears Ears National Monument and Nevada's Gold Butte National Monument, were 98.5 percent opposed to the review

Key-Log Economics, a consulting firm, analyzed and reviewed comments using a "machine learning algorithm." This algorithm was trained based on the efforts of human volunteers who evaluated thousands of comments.

As we await the Trump administration's recommendations on the 27 parks, the new numbers serve as another reminder that Americans will likely oppose any anti-public lands policies that arise from them, whether through legislative or administrative action. This review, as well as the larger campaign to hand protected places over to fossil fuel interests, mining companies and more, is as deeply unpopular as ever.

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Farms with just one or a handful of different crops encourage fewer species of pollinating and pest-controlling insects to linger, ultimately winnowing away crop yields, according to a new study.

Up to half of the detrimental impacts of the "landscape simplification" that monocropping entails come as a result of a diminished mix of ecosystem service-providing insects, a team of scientists reported Oct. 16 in the journal Science Advances.

Monocrop palm oil plantation Honduras.

SHARE Foundation / Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0​

"Our study shows that biodiversity is essential to ensure the provision of ecosystem services and to maintain a high and stable agricultural production," Matteo Dainese, the study's lead author and a biologist at Eurac Research in Bolzano, Italy, said in a statement.

It stands to reason that, with declines in the sheer numbers of insects that ferry pollen from plant to plant and keep crop-eating pests under control, these services will wane as well. But until now, it hasn't been clear how monocultures affect the number and mix of these species or how crop yields might change as a result.

Aiming to solve these questions, Dainese and his colleagues pulled together data from 89 studies cutting across a variety of landscapes, from the tropics of Asia and Africa to the higher latitudes of northern Europe. They tabulated the number of pollinating and pest-controlling insects at these sites — both the absolute number of individuals and the number of species — along with an assessment of the ecosystem services the insects provided.

In almost all of the studies they looked at, the team found that a more diverse pool of these species translated into more pollination and greater pest control. They also showed that simplified landscapes supported fewer species of service-providing insects, which ultimately led to lower crop yields.

The researchers also looked at a third measure of the makeup of insect populations — what they called "evenness." In natural ecosystems, a handful of dominant species with many more individuals typically live alongside a higher number of rarer species. The team found as landscapes became less diverse, dominant species numbers dwindled and rare species gained ground. This resulting, more equitable mix led to less pollination (though it didn't end up affecting pest control).

"Our study provides strong empirical support for the potential benefits of new pathways to sustainable agriculture that aim to reconcile the protection of biodiversity and the production of food for increasing human populations," Ingolf Steffan-Dewenter, one of the study's authors and an animal ecologist at the University of Würzburg in Germany, said in the statement.

The scientists figure that the richness of pollinator species explains around a third of the harmful impacts of less diverse landscapes, while the richness of pest-controlling species accounts for about half of the same measure. In their view, the results of their research point to the need to protect biodiversity on and around crops in an uncertain future.

"Under future conditions with ongoing global change and more frequent extreme climate events, the value of farmland biodiversity ensuring resilience against environmental disturbances will become even more important," Steffan-Dewenter said.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Mongabay.

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