Red Kites Are Thriving in UK Thanks to Conservation Effort
In July 1990, a British Airways plane flew from Spain to the UK carrying some very unique cargo: 13 red kites.
The birds launched a landmark effort to reintroduce the iconic raptor to England. When they landed, the only red kites in all of the UK were a few breeding pairs in Wales. Now, there are around 1,800 breeding pairs across the whole country, and you can see them in almost every English county, according to a government press release. This July, wildlife advocates are celebrating the 30th anniversary of that fateful flight.
"In a few short decades we have taken a species from the brink of extinction, to the UK being home to almost 10% of the entire world population," Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) operations director for Central and Eastern England Jeff Knott said in the press release. "It might be the biggest species success story in UK conservation history."
In July 30 years ago, we reintroduced 13 young red kites to the Chilterns, alongside partners. Once practically ext… https://t.co/RA0xZSJAeo— Natural England (@Natural England)1595237684.0
RSPB worked with government agency Nature Conservancy Council (now Natural England), Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC), Zoological Society London and British Airways to release the birds in the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, a hilly part of England chosen for its suitability, according to International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) criteria. Red kites were later reintroduced in other locations, and, by 1996, at least 37 pairs had bred in Southern England. Today they are still thriving in the Chilterns, as well as in South East England, Yorkshire, the East Midlands, Wales and Scotland.
Red kites are notable for their reddish-brown color, forked tail and distinctive cry. They were once so common in England that William Shakespeare described London as a "city of kites and crows," the RSPB tweeted.
The UK is home to 10% of the world’s red kite population, but did you know that even just 30 years ago they were ne… https://t.co/rYOj159fgU— RSPB (@RSPB)1595241590.0
However, by the 20th century they had been driven to extinction in England and Scotland, The Independent reported. They were killed because of their reputation as pests and their attractiveness to taxidermists. Their eggs were also preyed on by collectors. While a few remained in Wales, genetic testing linked them to only one female, according to RSPB.
Sadly, attitudes towards birds of prey changed and red kites were driven to near extinction in England by the 1900'… https://t.co/XXwkKOQ8l3— RSPB (@RSPB)1595241591.0
The species's comeback has paved the way for other reintroduction efforts in England. In 2019, for example, Natural England issued licenses for five white-tailed eagles to be reintroduced to the Isle of Wight, The Guardian reported.
"People are looking at many other species, not only birds, but also mammals and invertebrates, to put back some of the living fabric of our islands that's been depleted over many years from habitat destruction, persecution and chemical pollution," Natural England chair Tony Juniper told The Guardian. "As we face the global nature crisis, this is extremely important for people to know – that it is not a one-way street and we can reverse the flow of these historic trends if we put our minds to it."
The UK's 25-year Environment Plan includes provisions for reintroducing species when it will help the environment. Beavers were successfully reintroduced to Scotland and the government is considering reintroducing them in England. And white storks gave birth in the wild in Britain this summer for the first time since 1416.
"Some of these big animals like white storks and white-tailed eagles become ambassadors for a far bigger discussion around nature recovery. If those animals are thriving, then we know we have a healthy natural environment," Juniper said.
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By Simon Montlake
For more than a decade, Susan Jane Brown has been battling to stop a natural gas pipeline and export terminal from being built in the backcountry of Oregon. As an attorney at the nonprofit Western Environmental Law Center, she has repeatedly argued that the project's environmental, social, and health costs are too high.
All that was before this month's deadly wildfires in Oregon shrouded the skies above her home office in Portland. "It puts a fine point on it. These fossil fuel projects are contributing to global climate change," she says.
Moderates Feeling the Heat<p>If elected, Mr. Biden has vowed to stop new drilling for oil and gas on federal land and in federal waters and to rejoin the 2015 Paris climate accord that President Donald Trump gave notice of quitting. He would reinstate Obama-era regulations of greenhouse gas emissions, including methane, the largest component of natural gas.</p><p>The Biden climate platform also states that all federal infrastructure investments and federal permits would need to be assessed for their climate impacts. Analysts say such a test could impede future LNG plants and pipelines, though not those that already have federal approval. </p><p>Climate change activists who pushed for that language say much depends on who would have oversight of federal agencies that regulate the industry. Some are wary of Biden's reliance on advice from Obama-era officials, including former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, who is now on the board of Southern Company, a utility, and a former Obama environmental aide, Heather Zichal, who has served on the board of Cheniere Energy, an LNG exporter. </p>
The Push for U.S. Fuel Exports<p>As vice president, Biden was part of an administration that pushed hard for global climate action while also promoting U.S. oil and gas exports to its allies and trading partners. As fracking boomed, Obama ended a 40-year ban on crude oil exports. In Europe, LNG was touted both as an alternative to coal and as strategic competition with Russian pipelines.</p><p>That much, at least, continued with President Trump. Under Energy Secretary Rick Perry, the agency referred to liquified U.S. hydrocarbons as "<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/29/us/freedom-gas-energy-department.html" target="_blank">freedom gas</a>."</p><p>Mr. Trump has also championed the interests of coal, oil, and gas while denigrating the findings of government climate scientists. He rejected the Paris accord as unfair to the U.S. and detrimental to its economy, but has offered no alternative path to emissions cuts. </p><p>Still, Trump's foreign policy has not always served the LNG industry: Tariffs on foreign steel drove up pipeline costs, and a trade war with China stayed the hand of Chinese LNG importers wary of reliance on U.S. suppliers. </p><p>Even his regulatory rollbacks could be a double-edged sword. By relaxing curbs last month on methane leaks, the U.S. has ceded ground to European regulators who are drafting emissions standards that LNG producers are watching closely. "That's a precursor of fights that will be fought in all the rest of the developed world," says Mr. Hutchison. </p><p>Indeed, some oil-and-gas exporters had urged the Trump administration not to abandon the tougher rules, since they undercut their claim to offer a cleaner-burning way of producing heat and electricity. "U.S. LNG is not going to be able to compete in a world that's focused on methane emissions and intensity," says Erin Blanton, a senior research scholar at the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University. </p>
Stepping on the Gas<p>In July, the Department of Energy issued an export license to Jordan Cove's developer, Canada's Pembina Pipeline Corp. In a statement, Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette said the project would provide "reliable, affordable, and cleaner-burning natural gas to our allies around the world."</p><p>As a West Coast terminal, Jordan Cove offers a faster route to Asia where its capacity of 7.8 million tons of LNG a year could serve to heat more than 15 million homes. At its peak, its construction would also create 6,000 jobs, the company says, in a stagnant corner of Oregon.</p><p>But the project still lacks multiple local and state permits, and its biggest asset – a Pacific port – has become its biggest handicap, says Ms. Blanton. "They are putting infrastructure in a state where there's no political support for the pipeline or the terminal, unlike in Louisiana or Texas," she says. </p><p>Ms. Brown, the environmental lawyer, says she wants to see Jordan Cove buried, not just mothballed until natural gas prices recover. But she knows that it's only one among many LNG projects and that others will likely get built, even if Biden is elected in November, despite growing evidence of the harm caused by methane emissions. </p>
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