Thursday, July 2, 2009

Safeguarding Species in a Warming World

Two stories in Maine caught my eye this week that I think sum up why we're working hard to ensure that any global warming legislation coming out of Congress helps safeguard species at risk of extinction and all our natural resources.

Wednesday was the 10th anniversary of the removal of the Edwards Dam – a hydro dam on the Kennebec river north of Augusta. The removal of the dam opened up 17 miles of fish habitat and started helping restore the river and the towns that surround it. After that, the other benefits started to flow. According to the Kennebec Journal:
Then the birds, insects and other critters from the woods came back. So did oxygen, stirred up by the river flowing faster and over and around gravel bars, greatly improving water quality.

"This is the health of flowing, oxygenated water," Viles said. "The river smells great. The river attracts all sorts of life, including paddlers and fishermen and -women and those of us of all ages compelled to skip rocks.”

"The financial, natural and emotional value of the new river and the whole Kennebec watershed just goes up and up. I think this river, with friends like us, is going to be really healthy."
The other story comes from just the day before, when the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced that $6.1 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act would be used to help with dam removal on the Penobscot River, one of three rivers in Maine with populations of Atlantic salmon recently added to the Endangered Species List as endangered.

The investment will help local efforts to remove two dams and create a bypass at a third, which will add nearly 1,000 miles in fish habitat. Not only will it benefit imperiled salmon and other fish, but Village Soup also highlights these benefits:
Work to deconstruct the Great Works dam[the first dam], combined with predam removal scientific monitoring, will yield nearly $5 million in jobs for the region and is expected to employ nearly 155 people in restoration-related engineering and heavy construction jobs (the equivalent of 38 annualized jobs).

The work, over a 24-month project period, will create jobs for construction workers, technical experts including engineers and hydrologists, work for local businesses such as nurseries and contractors, as well as jobs related to scientific monitoring.

“In addition to the immediate jobs created by the projects, stronger and healthier coastal communities will boost our nation’s long-term economic health,” said Commerce under secretary of oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator Jane Lubchenco.
So what does all this have to do with global warming? These are two examples of the benefits we could see not only for endangered species but for our communities as we implement efforts to safeguard species and our wild places from the impacts that we are starting to experience from global warming. Other types of projects might include rebuilding wetlands and coastal marshes, nourishing coral reefs, strengthening headwater forests, restoring natural floodplains, and protecting and connecting grassland and mountain corridors to serve as migratory paths for wildlife.

When the House passed their global warming legislation last month, our Representatives included important policy framework for protecting natural resources from the impacts of global warming, but the funding levels fell far short of the need. Now, the Senate needs to take this strong framework and support it with an adequate funding level of at least five percent of the potential pollution credit revenues. Please help make this happen by contacting your Senators today.

We know our nation's wildlife, fish and plants on the brink of extinction are facing an even harder path to recovery due to global warming's impacts. But, as the two stories from Maine demonstrate, we can help safeguard species and improve our lives at the same time. Sound good to you?

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