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Sally Jewell Confirmed as Next Interior Secretary
The U.S. Senate yesterday confirmed Sally Jewell as the next secretary of the Interior Department. The REI chief executive, nominated by President Barack Obama to replace Ken Salazar, won confirmation by a vote of 87 to 11.
Among the agencies Jewell will oversee at Interior are the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM).
“Sally Jewell arrives at a critical moment for the Interior department. America’s public lands and endangered species need strong, visionary leadership that values protections over profits,” said Kierán Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity. “We’re hopeful that Sally Jewell shows brave leadership in finally addressing the climate crisis, reversing the tide of species extinctions and protecting wildlands that are vital to wildlife and people alike.”
“One of the biggest challenges will be standing up to protect the environment in the face of relentless pressure by industry to drill, mine, log and pave some of America’s most important and pristine lands, including the Arctic. If she can do that, she’ll preserve an important legacy for all Americans,” said Suckling.
“The Sierra Club is excited that a leader who understands the higher purpose that public lands hold for American families will now lead the agency charged with being our national steward for those very places," said Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club.
The BLM plays an enormous role in energy development on public lands. In February, a new Natural Resources Defense Council analysis showed that at the end of 2011, 70 of the largest oil and gas companies operating in the U.S. held leases covering at least 141 million net acres of American land—an area greater than California and Florida combined. These astounding numbers illustrate just how much of America’s land is already at risk from oil and gas development.
Last year the BLM issued a draft rule for well stimulation (including hydraulic fracturing) under federal leases. The original proposal included limited new rules for chemical disclosure, mechanical integrity and waste water handling.
Last October, former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar signed a record of decision establishing a brand new program for the BLM that will provide a comprehensive framework for managing the solar resources found on public lands in six southwestern states.
"Now her work begins. At the top of the list are critical issues such as safeguarding the Arctic Ocean from the dangers of offshore drilling; protecting America's public lands from destructive fossil fuel extraction practices; continuing to smartly develop renewable energy on public lands and protecting endangered species such as the gray wolf," said Frances Beinecke, president of Natural Resources Defense Council.
“Given her extraordinary background and devotion to conservation efforts, Sally Jewell will make an outstanding Secretary of the Interior. She’s smart, successful and visionary—all qualities which are needed to be the steward of America’s vast natural resources. I applaud the President for making this selection and congratulate the Senate for the thoughtful and bipartisan manner in which her confirmation was handled,” said Rhone Resch, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association.
“Many of America’s public landscapes, from the forests of the Pacific Northwest to the beaches along the Gulf Coast, are under increased threat from overdevelopment and pollution from mining, drilling and logging," said Mary Rafferty, conservation program coordinator for Environment America. "We look forward to working together with Secretary Jewell to keep these places protected using the Antiquities Act, conservation programs like the Land and Water Conservation fund and strengthening the proposed rules for fracking in our forests, near our parks and along our waterways."
Visit EcoWatch’s BIODIVERSITY and ENERGY pages for more related news on this topic.
Click here to sign a petition to tell the Bureau of Land Management to issue strong rules for federal fracking leases on public lands.
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Last week, the Peruvian Palm Oil Producers' Association (JUNPALMA) promised to enter into an agreement for sustainable and deforestation-free palm oil production. The promise was secured by the U.S. based National Wildlife Federation (NWF) in collaboration with the local government, growers and the independent conservation organization Sociedad Peruana de Ecodesarrollo.
The rallying cry to build it again and to build it better than before is inspiring after a natural disaster, but it may not be the best course of action, according to new research published in the journal Science.
"Faced with global warming, rising sea levels, and the climate-related extremes they intensify, the question is no longer whether some communities will retreat—moving people and assets out of harm's way—but why, where, when, and how they will retreat," the study begins.
The researchers suggest that it is time to rethink retreat, which is often seen as a last resort and a sign of weakness. Instead, it should be seen as the smart option and an opportunity to build new communities.
"We propose a reconceptualization of retreat as a suite of adaptation options that are both strategic and managed," the paper states. "Strategy integrates retreat into long-term development goals and identifies why retreat should occur and, in doing so, influences where and when."
The billions of dollars spent to rebuild the Jersey Shore and to create dunes to protect from future storms after Superstorm Sandy in 2012 may be a waste if sea level rise inundates the entire coastline.
"There's a definite rhetoric of, 'We're going to build it back better. We're going to win. We're going to beat this. Something technological is going to come and it's going to save us,'" said A.R. Siders, an assistant professor with the disaster research center at the University of Delaware and lead author of the paper, to the New York Times. "It's like, let's step back and think for a minute. You're in a fight with the ocean. You're fighting to hold the ocean in place. Maybe that's not the battle we want to pick."
Rethinking retreat could make it a strategic, efficient, and equitable way to adapt to the climate crisis, the study says.
Dr. Siders pointed out that it has happened before. She noted that in the 1970s, the small town of Soldiers Grove, Wisconsin moved itself out of the flood plain after one too many floods. The community found and reoriented the business district to take advantage of highway traffic and powered it entirely with solar energy, as the New York Times reported.
That's an important lesson now that rising sea levels pose a catastrophic risk around the world. Nearly 75 percent of the world's cities are along shorelines. In the U.S. alone coastline communities make up nearly 40 percent of the population— more than 123 million people, which is why Siders and her research team are so forthright about the urgency and the complexities of their findings, according to Harvard Magazine.
Some of those complexities include, coordinating moves across city, state or even international lines; cultural and social considerations like the importance of burial grounds or ancestral lands; reparations for losses or damage to historic practices; long-term social and psychological consequences; financial incentives that often contradict environmental imperatives; and the critical importance of managing retreat in a way that protects vulnerable and poor populations and that doesn't exacerbate past injustices, as Harvard Magazine reported.
If communities could practice strategic retreats, the study says, doing so would not only reduce the need for people to choose among bad options, but also improve their circumstances.
"It's a lot to think about," said Siders to Harvard Magazine. "And there are going to be hard choices. It will hurt—I mean, we have to get from here to some new future state, and that transition is going to be hard.…But the longer we put off making these decisions, the worse it will get, and the harder the decisions will become."
To help the transition, the paper recommends improved access to climate-hazard maps so communities can make informed choices about risk. And, the maps need to be improved and updated regularly, the paper said as the New York Times reported.
"It's not that everywhere should retreat," said Dr. Siders to the New York Times. "It's that retreat should be an option. It should be a real viable option on the table that some places will need to use."
Leaked documents show that Jair Bolsonaro's government intends to use the Brazilian president's hate speech to isolate minorities living in the Amazon region. The PowerPoint slides, which democraciaAbierta has seen, also reveal plans to implement predatory projects that could have a devastating environmental impact.
Last week we received positive news on the border wall's imminent construction in an Arizona wildlife refuge. The Trump administration delayed construction of the wall through about 60 miles of federal wildlife preserves.