Trump Administration Proposes Allowing GE Crops on Thousands of Acres of National Wildlife Refuges

Trump Administration Proposes Allowing GE Crops on Thousands of Acres of National Wildlife Refuges

SOURCE: Center for Biological Diversity DATE: March 20, 2020 SNIP: The Trump administration has proposed to approve genetically engineered crops on national wildlife refuges throughout the southeastern United States, a step likely to increase use of glyphosate and other pesticides known to harm wildlife. The Obama administration acted in 2014 to phase out GE crops on all national wildlife refuges following a successful decade-long campaign by the Center for Food Safety and others. The Trump administration reversed that decision in 2018, prompting a lawsuit from the Center for Biological Diversity and Center for Food Safety challenging the action in September 2019. The proposal released this week opens the door to escalating uses of GE crops and harmful pesticides across the Southeastern Region of the refuge system, which includes 131 refuges in 10 states, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. “Only the Trump administration would aggressively promote the use of crops genetically engineered for pesticide tolerance on wildlife refuges,” said Hannah Connor, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “It’s a no-brainer that this kind of pesticide-intensive agriculture shouldn’t be allowed on public lands that are critical to wildlife conservation and preservation of the unique ecosystems of the southeastern U.S.” National wildlife refuges are federal public lands specifically designated to protect fish and wildlife. The Southeastern Region is comprised of almost 4 million acres of refuge lands and waters that provide vital habitat for dozens of endangered species known to be imperiled by pesticide use — including bats, birds, freshwater mussels, and fish like the pallid sturgeon and Alabama cavefish. Genetically engineered corn and soy are typically designed...
Conservationists Say Salmon Fishing Plan Imperils Whales

Conservationists Say Salmon Fishing Plan Imperils Whales

SOURCE: Courthouse News Service DATE: March 18, 2020 SNIP: The government allowed salmon fishing in Alaska at rates its own reports said will push endangered Southern Resident killer whales closer to extinction, environmental groups claim in a lawsuit filed Wednesday. Salmon born in the rivers and streams of Oregon, Washington state and British Columbia migrate to the Pacific Ocean and through the Gulf of Alaska, home to a major troll fishing fleet. In southeast Alaska, 97% of the Chinook salmon fishermen harvest were born elsewhere. The fish they take never make it back to their home waters, where they could have been dinner for the 72 remaining Southern Resident killer whales – a genetically distinct group of orca that are starving due to a lack of their main prey. “It is reckless and irresponsible for NOAA to approve this harvest, these salmon don’t belong to Alaska, they belong to Southern Resident killer whales, indigenous peoples, and fishing communities down the coast,” Kurt Beardslee, Wild Fish Conservancy’s executive director, said Wednesday in a press release. The whales live in three extended, matrilineal families called pods. Their numbers never fully rebounded since aquariums that later became SeaWorld captured a third of them in the late 1960s. After that, they climbed to a high of 98 in 1995 before plunging again. In 2018, a mother whale from J pod refused to let the body of her dead calf sink to the sea floor, instead carrying it on her nose for 17 days. Three more died last year, and a fourth disappeared this spring. Their decline is due to three main factors: water...
Joshua Tree issues plea after vandals strike again

Joshua Tree issues plea after vandals strike again

SOURCE: USA Today DATE: February 26, 2020 SNIP: Joshua Tree National Park is requesting the public’s help in finding the person or persons responsible for recent acts of vandalism. Since January, spray-painted graffiti has appeared on rock features in several areas within the vast Southern California park. They include Rattlesnake Canyon, the Geo Tour Road, and Skull Rock Natural Trail. Additionally, Joshua trees have been toppled or damaged. “Joshua Tree National Park belongs to all of us,” David Smith, park superintendent, stated in a news release issued Tuesday. “Using paint or chisels on rocks and trees destroys the beauty we are trying to protect in our parks. “It is our hope that anyone with knowledge of these incidents will come forward so that we can eliminate future problems. It is illegal deface any of the resources in the park.” The park requests that anyone with information about the recent vandalism report their observations via email at jotr_graffiti@nps.org. The park also is seeking volunteers for various tasks, including graffiti cleanup and patrols. Vandalism is an ongoing problem for the sprawling desert park. During the partial government shutdown that began in late December 2018, several of the park’s signature Joshua trees were destroyed or removed by vandals. [Ed note: why are humans so consistently...
‘They won’t survive’: Trump gas wells would block pronghorn migration route

‘They won’t survive’: Trump gas wells would block pronghorn migration route

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: February 24, 2020 SNIP: The Path of the Pronghorn is a 170-mile migration route that the antelope-like creatures have traveled annually for 6,000 years. It is one of North America’s last remaining long-distance terrestrial migration corridors. And it is at risk. This week conservation groups filed a legal petition challenging the Trump administration’s plan to allow 3,500 new gas wells in south-western Wyoming that would block the route. The petition alleges that the government approved the wells without properly analyzing the potential harm to pronghorn and the greater sage grouse, a chicken-like bird that requires vast, intact landscapes for habitat, from well pads, roads, pipelines and other infrastructure. The frack-field expansion would prevent access to winter ranges that pronghorn need to survive. Migration memory is passed from parent to offspring among ungulates, said the conservationist Linda Baker, the director of the Upper Green River Alliance. “If we cut off their migration route, that memory is lost and not likely to be regained in the life of a pronghorn. This area is a high cold desert, so they survive on sagebrush. If they can’t get to traditional winter ranges on these pathways, they won’t survive.” The migrating animals belong to the the Sublette herd, which has already declined by 40% in the past decade. About 300 animals from this herd live in a summer range in Grand Teton national park in north-western Wyoming and travel the Path of the Pronghorn to their winter range in the Upper Green River Valley in south-east Wyoming. The northern portion of their route is protected as the nation’s first national...
Nearly All Coral Reefs Will Disappear Over The Next 20 Years, Scientists Say

Nearly All Coral Reefs Will Disappear Over The Next 20 Years, Scientists Say

SOURCE: Forbes DATE: February 24, 2020 SNIP: Over the next 20 years, scientists estimate about 70 to 90% of all coral reefs will disappear primarily as a result of warming ocean waters, ocean acidity, and pollution. Expand that out to 2100 and it’s “looking quite grim,” says Renee Setter, a marine scientist at the University of Hawaii in Manoa. By 2100 there will be nearly zero suitable coral habitats remaining, eliminating nearly all living coral reef habitats. Recent research, presented at the Ocean Sciences Meeting 2020, is focused on transplanting lab-grown corals into dying reef ecosystems in hopes that it will revive the reefs. While there have been promising results in the short term, by 2100 ocean environment will be too harsh for corals to survive. In recent decades scientists have become increasingly alarmed at what looks like the inevitable fate of coral reefs. Scientists have tried to use underwater speakers to play continuous sounds of healthy coral reefs in hopes this entices marine life to return. While this, along with other artificial means to encourage coral reef growth has been successful to some degree, the increasingly harsh environment will lead to coral reef die-off. Corals live in a mutually symbiotic relationship with photosynthetic algae, called zooxanthellae. Corals make up the hard calcium carbonate structure of coral reefs and provide protection and a home for zooxanthellae. In return, the zooxanthellae provide nutrients to the coral. When surface ocean temperatures warm beyond a narrow livable range, the coral kicks out the zooxanthellae, causing “coral bleaching” and often times the eventual death of the coral. A similar process occurs when corals...