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Biggest Public Lands Bill in 10+ Years Clears Congress, Protecting More Than 1.3 Million Acres of Wilderness
The U.S. House of Representatives voted 363-62 to pass the Natural Resources Management Act Tuesday, which means the biggest public lands bill in more than a decade has now passed both houses of Congress with bipartisan support.
"This bill represents Congress at its best and truly gives the American people something to be excited about," House Natural Resources Committee Chair and Arizona Democrat Raúl M. Grijalva in a press release. "It's a massive win for the present and future of American conservation. Everyone from inner cities to suburbs to rural communities wins when we work together to preserve the outdoors."
The bill designates more than 1.3 million acres as wilderness, permanently authorizes the Land and Water Conservation Fund to pay for conservation measures using money from offshore oil and gas drilling and demonstrates a renewed commitment on the part of both parties to protect the public lands widely loved by their constituents, National Geographic reported.
"It's rare to see Congress act in an overwhelmingly bipartisan manner, but today reminds everyone that the protection of our public lands isn't a red or blue issue, it's an American one," Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune said in a press release.
Here are some of the other key achievements of the bill, according to the Associated Press and the House Natural Resources Committee:
1. Protects more than 350 miles of "wild and scenic" river.
2. Creates almost 700,000 acres of new recreation and conservation areas.
3. Protects 370,000 acres around Yellowstone National Park in Montana and North Cascades National Park in Washington from mining.
4. Creates five new national monuments including the Mississippi home of civil rights activists Medgar and Myrlie Evers.
5. Expands Joshua Tree and Death Valley National Parks.
6. Authorizes the Every Kid Outdoors Act, which will give every fourth grader in the country free access to public lands for another seven years.
The bill is a victory after a variety of conservation projects like the protection of the Evers' home had stalled in Congress in recent years as other issues took priority, National Geographic reported.
The Land and Water Conservation fund ran out of its previous authorization in September of 2018 and Congress could not agree on language to extend it at that time. The full act delayed from passing late in 2018 because Republican Utah Senator Mike Lee argued his state should be exempt from a provision allowing the president to turn federal lands into national monuments to protect them from development, according to The Associated Press.
However, the final bill was championed by both Republicans and Democrats.
"I think the reality is, even when the politicians are getting in each other's way, communities across the country have never stopped caring about public lands," Wilderness Society Director Drew McConville told National Geographic.
Utah Representative and top Republican on the Natural Resources Committee Rob Bishop praised its "wins for America's sportsmen, hunters and fishermen."
The bill opens all federal lands to hunting and fishing unless the management plan for the area prevents it. As National Geographic explained, this does not mean every public land will be opened to sportspeople, but rather that the process of gaining access will be easier.
The package now heads to the White House for a signature.
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Global Banks, Led by JPMorgan Chase, Invested $1.9 Trillion in Fossil Fuels Since Paris Climate Pact
By Sharon Kelly
A report published Wednesday names the banks that have played the biggest recent role in funding fossil fuel projects, finding that since 2016, immediately following the Paris agreement's adoption, 33 global banks have poured $1.9 trillion into financing climate-changing projects worldwide.
By Patti Lynn
2018 was a groundbreaking year in the public conversation about climate change. Last February, The New York Times reported that a record percentage of Americans now believe that climate change is caused by humans, and there was a 20 percentage point rise in "the number of Americans who say they worry 'a great deal' about climate change."
England faces an "existential threat" if it does not change how it manages its water, the head of the country's Environment Agency warned Tuesday.
By Jessica Corbett
A new analysis revealed Tuesday that over the past two decades heat records across the U.S. have been broken twice as often as cold ones—underscoring experts' warnings about the increasingly dangerous consequences of failing to dramatically curb planet-warming emissions.
By Madison Dapcevich
Ask any resident of San Francisco about the waterfront parrots, and they will surely tell you a story of red-faced conures squawking or dive-bombing between building peaks. Ask a team of researchers from the University of Georgia, however, and they will tell you of a mysterious string of neurological poisonings impacting the naturalized flock for decades.
The initial cause of the fire was not yet known, but it has been driven by the strong wind and jumped the North Santiam River, The Salem Statesman Journal reported. As of Tuesday night, it threatened around 35 homes and 30 buildings, and was 20 percent contained.
The unanimous verdict was announced Tuesday in San Francisco in the first federal case to be brought against Monsanto, now owned by Bayer, alleging that repeated use of the company's glyphosate-containing weedkiller caused the plaintiff's cancer. Seventy-year-old Edwin Hardeman of Santa Rosa, California said he used Roundup for almost 30 years on his properties before developing non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
"Today's verdict reinforces what another jury found last year, and what scientists with the state of California and the World Health Organization have concluded: Glyphosate causes cancer in people," Environmental Working Group President Ken Cook said in a statement. "As similar lawsuits mount, the evidence will grow that Roundup is not safe, and that the company has tried to cover it up."
Judge Vince Chhabria has split Hardeman's trial into two phases. The first, decided Tuesday, focused exclusively on whether or not Roundup use caused the plaintiff's cancer. The second, to begin Wednesday, will assess if Bayer is liable for damages.
"We are disappointed with the jury's initial decision, but we continue to believe firmly that the science confirms glyphosate-based herbicides do not cause cancer," Bayer spokesman Dan Childs said in a statement reported by The Guardian. "We are confident the evidence in phase two will show that Monsanto's conduct has been appropriate and the company should not be liable for Mr. Hardeman's cancer."
Some legal experts said that Chhabria's decision to split the trial was beneficial to Bayer, Reuters reported. The company had complained that the jury in Johnson's case had been distracted by the lawyers' claims that Monsanto had sought to mislead scientists and the public about Roundup's safety.
However, a remark made by Chhabria during the trial and reported by The Guardian was blatantly critical of the company.
"Although the evidence that Roundup causes cancer is quite equivocal, there is strong evidence from which a jury could conclude that Monsanto does not particularly care whether its product is in fact giving people cancer, focusing instead on manipulating public opinion and undermining anyone who raises genuine and legitimate concerns about the issue," he said.
Many regulatory bodies, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, have ruled that glyphosate is safe for humans, but the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer found it was "probably carcinogenic to humans" in 2015. A university study earlier this year found that glyphosate use increased cancer risk by as much as 41 percent.
Hardeman's lawyers Jennifer Moore and Aimee Wagstaff said they would now reveal Monsanto's efforts to mislead the public about the safety of its product.
"Now we can focus on the evidence that Monsanto has not taken a responsible, objective approach to the safety of Roundup," they wrote in a statement reported by The Guardian.
Hardeman's case is considered a "bellwether" trial for the more than 760 glyphosate cases Chhabria is hearing. In total, there are around 11,200 such lawsuits pending in the U.S., according to Reuters.
University of Richmond law professor Carl Tobias told Reuters that Tuesday's decision showed that the verdict in Johnson's case was not "an aberration," and could possibly predict how future juries in the thousands of pending cases would respond.