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A group of 21 young people challenging the government on climate change have a Feb. 5 trial date. Robin Loznak Photography, LLC

2017 was an exceptional year for ordinary citizens who stepped up to come to their communities' needs and in the process, sent a clear message that anyone can make a difference. As we turn the calendar to 2018, we look to this list as inspiration for others to act as boldly.

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2017 Year in Review

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NOAA

As we look back on the most noteworthy environmental stories of 2017, one cannot help but start with the extreme weather that has caused so much destruction to so many around the globe. And with that, the year brought heightened concern for protecting our planet with focused attention on issues like renewable energy, electric vehicles and plastic pollution. And while 2017 was also marked by challenges with the U.S. pulling out of the Paris agreement and making other questionable environmental policy changes, we all enter a new year with the ability to make positive change.

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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

The Times Square New Year's Eve ball test on Dec. 30, 2016. Times Square Ball / YouTube

Protecting the natural environment may seem overwhelming with increased natural disasters, melting sea ice, and threatened wildlife. But your choices can truly go a long way for your community and your health. Here are ten ways to be a better steward in 2018 and help others do the same!

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This was a year of tug-of-war for the environment. With Donald Trump becoming president of the U.S. at a time when wildfires, hurricanes, and floods were devastating the country, it was challenging for scientists, activists and concerned citizens to get their voices heard. But several stood out as global leaders on climate and helped give rise to those who were silenced. Below are 14 of the most notable influencers of 2017 and how they fought for a cleaner, safer environment for all.

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Grand Canyon North Rim. Jerry and Pat Donaho / CC

A draft letter backed by officials in Arizona and Utah is urging the Trump administration to review the uranium mining ban near the Grand Canyon. The letter, which is expected to be sent to Interior Sec. Ryan Zinke on Monday, asks the department to completely overturn the Obama-era environmental protections.

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Green Sea Turtles in Australia's Great Barrier Reef are some of the world's most majestic creatures. They have a lifespan of up to 50 years, but after recent results from blood tests on the marine animals, their health might be in jeopardy.

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Tarmo Virtanen, University of Helsinki

Nitrous oxide, the main ingredient in laughing gas, does more than just act as a nerve agent; it is a powerful greenhouse gas. It is 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide and scientists believe could be leaking from ancient reservoirs beneath Arctic permafrost.

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Rink Glacier in western Greenland, with a meltwater lake visible center. NASA/OIB

Scientists have had their eyes on Greenland as its iconic glaciers have begun disappearing due to a warming climate. But, what they didn't expect to see was a whole new type of melting.

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Bill Maher is sick of billionaires' obsession with Mars, more like "Mars-a-Lago," he said.

In a new animation produced by ATTN:, the popular talk show host of Real Time, discusses the perils of our planet, including how "climate change is killing us."

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California's plethora of salmon and trout species are dwindling at a rapid rate. A new study found that of the 31 genetically distinct kinds of salmon and trout on the West Coast, 23 will likely go extinct within a hundred years.

The study is a follow up to a 2008 report that drew the same conclusions, however, the outlook wasn't as grim almost 10 years ago. The old assessment gave a time period of 50 years for five of the species, the new one says now 14 species are likely to be lost within that timeframe.

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National Inventory of Dams

There are an estimated 84,000 dams in the U.S., blocking more than 17 percent of rivers in the nation. Dams are interrupting wildlife habitats, damaging the ecosystem and impacting the global climate cycle, according to a new study in Nature Communications.

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