Standing Rock: Native American's Version of Gandhi's 1930 Salt March
Today was supposed to be the deadline for thousands of protesters encamped to prevent completion of the Dakota Access Pipeline across Lake Oahe on the Missouri River to evacuate their camp-sites. Instead it has become a moment of celebration, as the Army Corps of Engineers and the Obama Administration have concluded that a new Environmental Impact Statement is needed to determine the best route across the Missouri River. But the incoming Trump Administration is likely to reverse the decision, with uncertain legal results for the environmental assessment process.
This is what victory looks like for #NoDAPL activists. The U.S. Army Corps has denied the Dakota Access Pipeline r… https://t.co/0bqnCXBplt— AJ+ (@AJ+)1480943313.0
The resistance by the Standing Rock Sioux nation and its allies to the proposed Dakota Access Pipeline routing signaled a new stage in evolving community resistance to fossil fuel extraction and transportation—but also reveals some ugly fissures within America as we enter a four year, almost certainly traumatic presidency.
Standing Rock has been the largest and one of the longest, Native American resistance protests in modern America. It differs from earlier fossil fuel protests like those against Keystone XL or Shell's basing Arctic drilling vessels in the Port of Seattle because the protesters attempted to physically disrupt the construction, not just symbolically protest it.
They have succeeded, for the moment. Months ago construction slowed, Corps of Engineers permits were suspended and the President had already called for consideration of alternative routes. Native American vetoes of fossil fuel projects had become an acknowledged part of the regulatory and permitting landscape in Canada, but only recently have the tribes inserted themselves routinely into these processes in the U.S. They have some won victories already, as when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers denied the permit for a coal and oil export terminal at Cherry Point, Washington, saying the project would impair fishing grounds guaranteed to the Lummi Nation by treaty.
The backstory of the project is particularly outrageous; alternative routings that would have avoided the Standing Rock issues altogether appear to have been rejected by the Army Corps and the developer, Energy Transfer Partners, because they might threaten water supplies for Bismark, North Dakota—a conscious decision to put an Indian nation at risk to protect a non-Indian community. Energy Transfer Partners appears to have tried to cover up evidence that the construction was disrupting sacred sites and actually faces fines from North Dakota as a result. And both the state and Energy Transfer have persistently treated the Standing Rock Sioux as one among many stakeholders who should be expected to participate in the regulatory process designed by North Dakota, rather than as a sovereign nation whose rights were, at the very least, in dispute and needed to be negotiated.
Indian advocates point to Standing Rock as evidence of a broad consciousness among Native Americans of the need to see the fight against fossil fuel development as continental. By September, more than 300 tribes had gathered at the protest camp, at the confluence of the Cannonball and Missouri Rivers, along with numerous non-Indian supporters like a contingent of Catholic workers.
Standing Rock organizers cite the evolution in Canada of a multi-First Nation alliance to resist any and all projects that would increase production of oil from the Albert tar sands. The first version of this treaty was signed in 2013; the latest, signed last September, and has now grown to link 112 Canadian and Northern U.S. tribes in a united front to oppose all pipelines or other infrastructure which might facilitate increased tar sands production.
(Their opposition is critical because Canada's Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, last week approved two pipeline expansions serving the tar sands, expansions which would enable an additional 900,000 barrels of oil a date to reach U.S. and world markets, significantly increasing the likely price tar sands producers can get for their product, and the amount of it they can pump. But the First Nations will continue the fight).
Canada Approves Kinder Morgan, Enbridge Pipelines Despite Fierce Opposition https://t.co/A2IVEc0kcr @Greenpeace @350— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1480547109.0
In response to the Standing Rock ongoing protests, the New York Times intensified its coverage of the resistance, including the first of two full throated editorials calling for the pipeline to be rerouted. Then, on the night Nov. 20, police surrounding the protesters escalated their tactics and crossed the line into brutal crowd suppression. In the words of a second The Times editorial denouncing the actions, "They drenched protesters with water cannons on a frigid night, with temperatures in the 20s. According to protesters and news accounts, the officers also fired rubber bullets, pepper spray, concussion grenades and tear gas. More than 160 people were reportedly injured, with one protester's arm damaged so badly she might lose it."
#DAPL Protester Might Lose Arm After 'Shot With a Concussion Grenade' During Police Standoff https://t.co/MtSa63yRxK @KXLBlockade @stopKXL— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1479863108.0
By the standards of historic violence against Native Americans, this is small bore stuff—nothing like Wounded Knee for example. But it has been some time since peaceful protesters in the U.S. were met with such violence. A recently established norm—that Americans may disruptively protest as long as they are peaceful without fearing police violence—broke down.
After the brutal events of Nov. 20, the first instinct of the Corps and the State were to intensify the crack-down. The Corps declared that it would shut down the camp-site where most of the protesters have been housed and that any who remained would be subject to arrest for trespass. (This was stunningly tone deaf after the events in Eastern Oregon where right-wing ranchers armed with guns and openly threatening violence were permitted to occupy a federal wildlife refuge which also was the home to important sacred sites without being arrested for months). The state of North Dakota followed up by ordering the protesters evicted because their dwellings were not adequately winter-proofed.
Both the Army Corps and North Dakota backed off slightly in the days following, the Corps making clear it would not forcibly evict protesters even if they were trespassing, and the state clarifying that it's "blockade" of food and other supplies would be enforced with a threat of fines, not by actually physically obstructing access. Two thousand U.S. veterans organized as Veterans Stand for Standing Rock, agreed to serve as human shields for the protesters to avoid the kind of violence that flared up on Nov. 20. Then came Sunday's stunning announcement.
Veterans Arrive at Standing Rock to Act as 'Human Shields' for Water Protectors https://t.co/CEQrZMuhTG @GreenpeaceAustP @Green_Europe— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1480941046.0
In some ways Standing Rock is a Native American version of Gandhi's 1930 Salt March—and while the Trump Administration is likely to try to ram through the permits needed to complete Dakota Access, it's similar efforts to revive Keystone XL are triggering vociferous opposition from Nebraska ranchers, unlikely partners with the Sioux, but symbolic of a new and emerging coalition. And Gandhi did not succeed in undoing the Salt Taxes—his game was much bigger, intensifying Indian resistance to British rule. Standing Rock, even if the pipeline gets built, seems likely to have had that impact across a wide swathe of Indian Country in the U.S.
Yet another former Trump administration staffer has come out with an endorsement for former Vice President Joe Biden, this time in response to President Donald Trump's handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
- Trump Denies CDC Director's 2021 Timeline for Coronavirus Vaccine ›
- Trump Orders Hospitals to Stop Sending COVID-19 Data to CDC ... ›
- Two White House Staffers Test Positive for Coronavirus - EcoWatch ›
- Trump Admin to Disband Coronavirus Task Force - EcoWatch ›
- Pence Offers 'Prayers' as Hurricane Laura Hits Gulf Coast While ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Every September for the past 11 years, non-profit the Climate Group has hosted Climate Week NYC, a chance for business, government, activist and community leaders to come together and discuss solutions to the climate crisis.
- Covering the 2020 Elections as a Climate Story - EcoWatch ›
- Coronavirus Delays 2020 Earth Overshoot Day by Three Weeks ... ›
By Elliot Douglas
The coronavirus pandemic has altered economic priorities for governments around the world. But as wildfires tear up the west coast of the United States and Europe reels after one of its hottest summers on record, tackling climate change remains at the forefront of economic policy.
- German Business Leaders Call for Climate Action With COVID-19 ... ›
- Climate Activists Protest Germany's New Datteln 4 Coal Power Plant ... ›
By D. André Green II
One of nature's epic events is underway: Monarch butterflies' fall migration. Departing from all across the United States and Canada, the butterflies travel up to 2,500 miles to cluster at the same locations in Mexico or along the Pacific Coast where their great-grandparents spent the previous winter.
Millions of People Care About Monarchs<p>I will never forget the sights and sounds the first time I visited monarchs' overwintering sites in Mexico. Our guide pointed in the distance to what looked like hanging branches covered with dead leaves. But then I saw the leaves flash orange every so often, revealing what were actually thousands of tightly packed butterflies. The monarchs made their most striking sounds in the Sun, when they burst from the trees in massive fluttering plumes or landed on the ground in the tussle of mating.</p><p>Decades of educational outreach by teachers, researchers and hobbyists has cultivated a generation of monarch admirers who want to help preserve this phenomenon. This global network has helped restore not only monarchs' summer breeding habitat by planting milkweed, but also general pollinator habitat by planting nectaring flowers across North America.</p><p>Scientists have calculated that restoring the monarch population to a stable level of about 120 million butterflies will require <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/icad.12198" target="_blank">planting 1.6 billion new milkweed stems</a>. And they need them fast. This is too large a target to achieve through grassroots efforts alone. A <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/CCAA.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">new plan</a>, announced in the spring of 2020, is designed to help fill the gap.</p>
Pros and Cons of Regulation<p>The top-down strategy for saving monarchs gained energy in 2014, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service <a href="https://www.fws.gov/southeast/pdf/petition/monarch.pdf" target="_blank">proposed</a> listing them as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. A decision is expected in December 2020.</p><p>Listing a species as endangered or threatened <a href="https://www.fws.gov/endangered/esa-library/pdf/listing.pdf" target="_blank">triggers restrictions</a> on "taking" (hunting, collecting or killing), transporting or selling it, and on activities that negatively affect its habitat. Listing monarchs would impose restrictions on landowners in areas where monarchs are found, over vast swaths of land in the U.S.</p><p>In my opinion, this is not a reason to avoid a listing. However, a "threatened" listing might inadvertently threaten one of the best conservation tools that we have: public education.</p><p>It would severely restrict common practices, such as rearing monarchs in classrooms and back yards, as well as scientific research. Anyone who wants to take monarchs and milkweed for these purposes would have to apply for special permits. But these efforts have had a multigenerational educational impact, and they should be protected. Few public campaigns have been more successful at raising awareness of conservation issues.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="91165203d4ec0efc30e4632a00fdf57d"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/KilPRvjbMrA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
The Rescue Attempt<p>To preempt the need for this kind of regulation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved a <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/pdfs/Monarch%20CCAA-CCA%20Public%20Comment%20Documents/Monarch-Nationwide_CCAA-CCA_Draft.pdf" target="_blank">Nationwide Candidate Conservation Agreement for Monarch Butterflies</a>. Under this plan, "rights-of-way" landowners – energy and transportation companies and private owners – commit to restoring and creating millions of acres of pollinator habitat that have been decimated by land development and herbicide use in the past half-century.</p><p>The agreement was spearheaded by the <a href="http://rightofway.erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank">Rights-of-Way Habitat Working Group</a>, a collaboration between the University of Illinois Chicago's <a href="https://erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Energy Resources Center</a>, the Fish and Wildlife Service and over 40 organizations from the energy and transportation sectors. These sectors control "rights-of-way" corridors such as lands near power lines, oil pipelines, railroad tracks and interstates, all valuable to monarch habitat restoration.</p><p>Under the plan, partners voluntarily agree to commit a percentage of their land to host protected monarch habitat. In exchange, general operations on their land that might directly harm monarchs or destroy milkweed will not be subject to the enhanced regulation of the Endangered Species Act – protection that would last for 25 years if monarchs are listed as threatened. The agreement is expected to create up to 2.3 million acres of new protected habitat, which ideally would avoid the need for a "threatened" listing.</p>
A Model for Collaboration<p>This agreement could be one of the few specific interventions that is big enough to allow researchers to quantify its impact on the size of the monarch population. Even if the agreement produces only 20% of its 2.3 million acre goal, this would still yield nearly half a million acres of new protected habitat. This would provide a powerful test of the role of declining breeding and nectaring habitat compared to other challenges to monarchs, such as climate change or pollution.</p><p>Scientists hope that data from this agreement will be made publicly available, like projects in the <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/MCD.html" target="_blank">Monarch Conservation Database</a>, which has tracked smaller on-the-ground conservation efforts since 2014. With this information we can continue to develop powerful new models with better accuracy for determining how different habitat factors, such as the number of milkweed stems or nectaring flowers on a landscape scale, affect the monarch population.</p><p>North America's monarch butterfly migration is one of the most awe-inspiring feats in the natural world. If this rescue plan succeeds, it could become a model for bridging different interests to achieve a common conservation goal.</p>
The annual Ig Nobel prizes were awarded Thursday by the science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research for scientific experiments that seem somewhat absurd, but are also thought-provoking. This was the 30th year the awards have been presented, but the first time they were not presented at Harvard University. Instead, they were delivered in a 75-minute pre-recorded ceremony.