Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Irreplaceable; Wildlife in a Warming World

Over the last year, the Endangered Species Coalition has been working with an exciting campaign by faith, science, art, and conservation groups working together to spread the word about animals and plants struggling in the face of climate change. Species as diverse as the polar bear, monarch butterfly, whooping crane, and bluefin tuna are already feeling the heat from global warming, and need our help.

This effort is centered around a traveling photography exhibit showcasing these imperiled species, and these breathtaking images are available online at www.irreplaceablewild.org.

Now, you can be part of the exhibit through a unique photo petition!

Our latest effort has been collecting photos of people all over the country who care about these species. We will be turning photos of YOU (Caring members of the public) into a collective mosaic of a polar bear, the iconic image of a species suffering in a warming world. Our goal is to collect 1,000 photos, and to present the final mosaic image to Congress as a public call for steps to help wildlife at-risk from climate change.

Do you have photos? We think you do! Be part of the Photo Petitoon Today!

Want to participate? Send us your photo here!

Guidelines: Your photo is more likely to be used if it is a high quality image (at least 640×400), is not over-exposed, and is a landscape orientation. Please only submit photos of yourself, or you and a few friends who have agreed to be part of the campaign. Please include your name, city, and state in your email as well.

By submitting your photo, you understand that it may be used in the Irreplaceable Photo Petition Project, and give permission for your image to be shown publicly for the purposes of the campaign

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Obama Administration Restores Endangered Species Act Protections!

Today, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Commerce Secretary Gary Locke announced the restoration of rules under the Endangered Species Act that help protect endangered species when government decisions or projects are implemented. The rules were weakened in the final days of the Bush administration.

The Department of Interior sent out this press release announcing the decision today.

Their decision requires federal agencies to once again consult with federal wildlife experts at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration before taking any action that may affect threatened or endangered species. The action will restore an important check-and-balance system that enables government projects to move forward and at the same time protect at-risk species. The restoration of these protections is amazing news for our country's wildlife, fish and plants on the brink of extinction.

Making this decision within the first 100 days of office is also an important symbol that America will once again respect science and environmental protections. The Endangered Species Coalition is incredibly grateful to President Obama, Secretary Locke and Secretary Salazar for their leadership on addressing the urgent environmental issues of species extinction and global warming.

For more information, check out the ESC statement.

Congress, scientists, conservationists call on President Obama to restore the Endangered Species Act

Today, Members of Congress, scientists, law professors, conservation organizations, scientific associations and citizens called on President Obama to restore endangered species protections.

The Endangered Species Coalition organized a press event today at the Capitol with Representative Raul Grijalva to urge the Obama Administration to use the authority that Congress gave them to to repeal two last-minute Bush administration rule changes that weaken the Endangered Species Act by diminishing scientific consultation requirements for federal agencies and restricting protections for the polar bear.

Support for restoring the endangered species protections has come from members of Congress, scores of organizations, hundreds of biologists and tens of thousands of citizens. In addition to Representative Grijalva, the speakers included Francesca Grifo, Director of the Scientific Integrity Program for Union of Concerned Scientists; Bill Snape, Senior Legal Counsel for the Center for Biological Diversity; Bob Irvin, Senior Vice President for Conservation Programs at Defenders of Wildlife; and John Kostyack, the Executive Director of Wildlife Conservation and Global Warming at the National Wildlife Federation.

Here are some excerpts of the statement by the Endangered Species Coalition's Executive Director, Leda Huta:

"Last August, the scientific and conservation community breathed a collective sigh of relief when a spokesperson for the Obama campaign was quoted in the media stating that, 'As president, Senator Obama will fight to maintain the strong protections of the Endangered Species Act and undo this proposal from President Bush.'

"In his first 100 days, President Obama has taken one step toward this campaign promise, temporarily halting part of one of the Bush midnight rules. And, today, we are both thanking President Obama and also urging him to complete his campaign promise to truly protect species. We’re not alone.

"The public is so in favor of strong protections for endangered species that when recently Congress gave the authority to the administration to immediately undo Bush’s midnight rules, citizens across the country began speaking out. To date, approximately 150,000 individuals have signed petitions and letters collected by the Center for Biological Diversity, Greenpeace, EarthJustice, the Endangered Species Coalition, Conservation NW, Biodiversity Conservation Alliance, WildEarth Guardians, National Wildlife Federation, Natural Resources Defense Council, and Defenders of Wildlife. These petitions request that the new administration redo both midnight rules. The petition signatures are still pouring in, and we anticipate that they will reach well over a quarter of a million.

In addition to individual citizens, more than 130 conservation, scientific, religious, community and grassroots organizations have sent a letter to the new administration asking them to use the authority granted them to undo both rules. There is very broad consensus within the conservation community that the disastrous wildlife policies of the Bush administration need to be immediately overturned.

"This opposition is not new. When the Bush administration released the rules, newspapers in more than 30 states editorialized against them. The Bush administration received in excess of 200,000 comments opposing the changes. The comments included substantive feedback from the scientific, legal and conservation community. We’re calling on the new administration to not just dismiss the public comments, but to instead take into consideration the public sentiment and to restore the original rules. (They were Reagan era rules, by the way.) The Bush administration removing those protections was like taking the tires off an ambulance. It is still an ambulance, but it offers a lot less protection.

"As President Obama’s spokesperson had said on the campaign trail, 'After over 30 years of successfully protecting our nation's most endangered wildlife like the bald eagle, we should be looking for ways to improve it, not weaken it.' We couldn’t agree more and for that reason we’re here strongly urging: 1) that both rules be overturned, 2) that species be protected from climate change and 3) that polar bears aren’t forced to just sweat it out. And, the new administration must listen to American citizens and expert scientists."

For more information, visit www.stopextinction.org

Friday, April 24, 2009

Obama Administration close to decision on ESA regs

According to the New York Times and Greenwire, the Obama Administration is preparing their decision on whether to overturn the Bush Endangered Species Act regulations.

Greenwire writes, "the Interior Department is proceeding with a final rule revamping changes that the Bush administration made to Endangered Species Act regulations in its final months."

To see the article, visit http://tinyurl.com/interiorarticle

The Department of Interior has sent a revised rule to the Office of Management and Budget. The rule could be released as early as Monday or in a few weeks. No news about the Bush Administration's polar bear rule and whether they will overturn that.

President Obama will decide whether to overturn ESA regulations very soon! Only a few more days to sign Polar Bear petition!

Our goal is to have 10,000 signatures by next week. We are at 3,922 signatures right now. Please help us reach our goal!

Sign the Polar Bear petition today! http://tinyurl.com/polarbearpetition

If you have signed already, please invite your friends to join you.

Thanks for your help to save endangered species.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Stopping Extinction is in Vogue!

The Endangered Species Coalition in Vogue!

The amazing artist Tom Sachs is throwing a fabulous party for the Endangered Species Coalition at his New York City studio next week. For the occasion, he has created a limited edition piece of art – a “necklace” of polar bear cub figurines. Tom will donate 100% of the proceeds from the sale of the art to the Endangered Species Coalition.

The Vogue Style section took notice of the sculptures and the event.
“It’s rare for artist Tom Sachs to agree to host an event at his Centre Street studio, even rarer for him to agree to make a limited-edition piece of art to benefit charity. For Sachs, the Endangered Species Coalition represents a worthy cause, not only for its mission, but also for its methodology. ‘I wanted to make a sculpture that would be a gift for the people who support this organization. This is a charity I believe in, especially because of how small and nimble they are—and they give all their profits to awareness.’.”

To see a photo of the sculpture, check our the Vogue article: Need It Now: Cause to Celebrate

Check out Tom Sach’s art and exhibitions at http://tomsachs.org/

At the event, Casey and Van Neistat will premiere a video that they created on behalf of the Endangered Species Coalition. The Neistat Brothers have a show coming out on HBO.

Check out their movies at http://neistatbrothers.com/

The Endangered Species Coalition is incredibly grateful to Tom Sachs and Casey and Van Neistat for their support of our work to protect wildlife on the brink of extinction.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Happy Earth Day!

Happy Earth Day!

America is blessed with amazing wildlife and wild places: bald eagles and peregrine falcons flying in our skies, gray wolves and grizzly bears roaming the wilderness, Canada lynx and spotted owls in ancient forests, salmon and steelhead spawning in wild rivers, and whales and sea turtles in our coastal waters.

While you celebrate Earth Day today, here are some easy things you can do every day to protect our environment.

10 Things You Can Do at Home to Protect Endangered Species.

1) Learn about endangered species in your area
Teach your friends and family about the wonderful wildlife, birds, fish and plants that live near you.

2) Visit a national wildlife refuge, park or other open space
These protected lands provide habitat to many native wildlife, birds, fish and plants.

3) Make your home wildlife friendly
Secure garbage in shelters or cans with locking lids, feed pets indoors and lock pet doors at night to avoid attracting wild animals into your home.

4) Provide habitat for wildlife by planting native vegetation in your yard
Native plants provide food and shelter for native wildlife. Attracting native insects like bees and butterflies can help pollinate your plants.

5) Minimize use of herbicides and pesticides
Herbicides and pesticides may keep yards looking nice but they are in fact hazardous pollutants that affect wildlife at many levels.

6) Slow down when driving
Many animals live in developed areas and this means they must navigate a landscape full of human hazards.

7) Recycle and buy sustainable products
Buy recycled paper, sustainable products like bamboo and Forest Stewardship Council wood products to protect forest species.

8) Never purchase products made from threatened or endangered species
Overseas trips can be exciting and fun, and everyone wants a souvenir. But sometimes the souvenirs are made from species nearing extinction.

9) Report any harassment or shooting of threatened and endangered species
Harassing wildlife is cruel and illegal. Shooting, trapping, or forcing a threatened or endangered animal into captivity is also illegal and can lead to their extinction.

10) Protect wildlife habitat
Perhaps the greatest threat that faces many species is the widespread destruction of habitat. Scientists tell us the best way to protect endangered species is to protect the special places where they live.

For more information, visit our 10 Easy Things You Can Do at Home to Protect Endangered Species at www.stopextinction.org

Thanks for caring about our nation's wildlife and wild places!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Interior Secretary Salazar hears from Congress, scientists and conservationists

Yesterday, I went to the last Department of Interior hearing in San Francisco on off-shore oil drilling. It was so inspiring to see hundreds of people supporting strong environmental protections and opposing drilling off our coasts! Several speakers asked Secretary Salazar to overturn the Bush Administration’s regulations that weakened the Endangered Species Act.

Representative Lynn Woolsey said it best when she asked “Mr. Secretary, isn’t it time to rollback the Bush Administration’s revisions of the Endangered Species Act policy?” For that, she received a standing ovation, long applause and cheers from the crowd.

You can see a webcast of the event at http://www.visualwebcaster.com/event.asp?id=57278

Members of Congress, scientists and conservation organizations urged U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to act quickly to rescind two rules passed in the final days of the Bush administration that weaken the Endangered Species Act. One of these rules exempts thousands of federal activities, including those that generate greenhouse gases, from review under the Endangered Species Act, and the other sharply limits protections for the threatened polar bear. Under the Bush administration rules, the impacts of such drilling on climate and the polar bear would be exempt from consideration under the Endangered Species Act.

On behalf of our millions of individual members, I urged Secretary Salazar to act immediately to protect our nation’s wildlife, fish and plants on the brink of extinction. If the rules are allowed to remain in place, the Fish and Wildlife Service will not be able to consider and mitigate such impacts. Many wildlife species are threatened by oil and gas development along the outer continental shelf -- including polar bears, stellar sea lions, Guadalupe fur seals, Pacific walruses, southern sea otters, blue whales and sea turtles. Greenhouse gas emissions are currently predicted to result in loss of two-thirds of the world’s polar bear population by 2050. Saving these species from offshore oil development and climate change will require the full protections of the Endangered Species Act.

With President Obama and Secretary Salazar’s leadership, the Department of the Interior now has the opportunity to not only repair all of the damage done to environmental protections, but to also take environmental programs a step further in protecting America’s wildlife and wild places. The Obama administration has an opportunity to root out corruption, ethical failures and the shocking abuse of science that we have seen in the previous administration and to restore scientific.

Congress has given the Secretary of the Interior the opportunity to overturn both the section 7 and section 4d endangered species regulations put in place by the Bush administration, but he needs to act by May 9th to use these special provisions.

Sign our petition to Secretary Salazar at
http://www.change.org/esc/actions/view/petition_to_save_the_polar_bear

For more than three decades, the Endangered Species Act has faithfully and successfully served as one of our nation’s landmark wildlife protection laws, providing a safety net for the wildlife, fish and plants on the brink of extinction. More than 85 percent of American voters support a strong Endangered Species Act. Secretary Salazar must begin to undo years of damage to endangered species protections by the Bush administration. The enforcement and implementation of the Endangered Species Act have suffered tremendously as the Bush administration advanced policies and regulations that stripped wildlife of protections. The Obama administration must overturn policies and regulations that greatly undermine the protection and recovery of threatened and endangered species.

Friday, April 10, 2009

(Re)protecting flying squirrels

This is a guest post from ESC member group The Wilderness Society. It has also appeared on their blog.
Can we save my flying squirrel?
By M’Shae Alderman, The Wilderness Society

flying squirrelI can still remember the smell of dog food and peanut butter mixing and melting beneath Kentucky’s July sun. My vertebrate zoology class was preparing to trap the Southern flying squirrel and my group received a special assignment: “make raccoon bait.” So, while my other classmates assembled cages and rolled up squirrel-sized peanut butter and oat balls, I tucked my nose under my shirt and stirred our thick concoction with a broken branch.

Once finished, we scattered the raccoon bait away from the squirrel traps so that eager raccoons would not attack the trap cages. We were taught that raccoons would not only eat the squirrel bait inside but, driven by the promise of peanut butter, would kill or injure the trapped squirrels. After pieces of sugar-coated dog food expand in the raccoons’ bellies, however, the fat and lazy scavengers are much less motivated to thieve.

I recently read that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removed the West Virginia northern flying squirrel (WVNFS), a relative to my furry friends in Kentucky, from protection under the Endangered Species Act. Reminiscing on my experience from summers ago -- especially witnessing that first glide, when the animal appeared to be suspended in air, exposing his cream-colored underbelly before diving down with impressive agility -- I began to research the plight and recovery of the species. The West Virginia northern flying squirrel (pdf), isolated from the Northern flying squirrel thousands of years ago when ice sheets began to recede, now lives in secluded clusters atop Appalachian Mountains of West Virginia in spruce-northern hardwood forests.

Scientists have actually found that the presence of West Virginia northern flying squirrels is beneficial, if not necessary, to the health of such forests. The squirrels often forage on fungi, dispersing fungal spores and nitrogen-fixing bacteria which form a symbiotic mycorrhizal association critical to the growth of many forest trees.
In my research, I found the most paramount factor affecting the decline and resurgence of the West Virginia northern flying squirrel is its amount of appropriate habitat. Fortunately, conservation efforts have aided in regeneration of the forest ecosystem of the Allegheny Highlands and, as a result, the squirrels have seemingly been increasing in number. According to previous Secretary of the Interior, Dirk Kempthorne, the population is stable enough that it no longer requires federal protection.

Certain environmental groups disagree, however.

The concerned organizations claim that the Service’s information on the squirrel’s population is not credible and that climate change is going to have serious and adverse effects on the species’ habitat. Climate models illustrate a decline in the northern hardwood forests so critical to the squirrel’s survival. In concluding that the West Virginia northern flying squirrel should be de-listed, the Service also failed to provide an adequate examination of land development impacts on the species -- even though science shows specific habitat fragmentation due to road construction and other development isolates populations from food sources and mates.

The controversy over West Virginia northern flying squirrel management illustrates the necessity of continuing efforts to defend its habitat. Thinking back on those days my fellow students and I stood in awe, watching the squirrels parachute, I worry about the future of the flying squirrel. As important habitat is given away to special interests, so goes the opportunity for our children to experience one day the “flight” of this rare creature.
Photo: Flying squirrel by Steve Shaluta.

The West Virginia northern flying squirrel is one of many species decisions where politics may have overruled science in recent years. For more information of efforts to repair the damage done by past political interference and other species impacted, check out our Mending the Net campaign.