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The member-driven Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics teaches people of all ages how to enjoy the outdoors responsibly, and is the most widely accepted outdoor ethics program used on public lands.
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[ A sneak attack on wilderness: Legislation that hurts backcountry sportsmen looms in the U.S. Senate ]
So many of our memories are made when we spend time with our favorite people in our favorite wild places.
Now, a bill that passed the U.S. House of Representatives threatens those memories. H.R. 4089 is a sneak attack on wilderness disguised as a pro-hunting bill. It would fundamentally undermine existing protections for some of our nation’s backcountry destinations, including wilderness areas:
- Allowing motorized vehicles and other development in congressionally-protected wilderness areas
- Eviscerating the president’s authority to designate national monuments under the Antiquities Act
- Allowing development in hiking, hunting and fishing areas without public review or comment
A master of deception
Like all things in disguise, H.R. 4089 is not what it seems. The bill’s supporters claim that it supports and would even help hunting and fishing in wilderness — something that The Wilderness Society strongly supports. After all, sportsmen are some of America’s greatest conservationists, harking back to the “Wilderness Warrior,” President Theodore Roosevelt.
In reality, the bill would not help hunters or anglers. Instead, it would destroy the wilderness that defines the backcountry hunting and fishing experience. H.R. 4089 is Congress at its worst: trying to fix a problem that simply does not exist.
Unfortunately, H.R. 4089 deceived enough members of Congress to pass the U.S. House of Representatives. Now it is in the Senate, and we need to reveal its true identity: a gift to those who want to destroy these backcountry traditions that this country was built upon.
Sadly, H.R. 4089 is part of a wave of legislation that seeks to systematically dismantle decades of laws that protect America’s wilderness and public lands. To learn more about these dangerous bills, please see our report, Wilderness Under Siege. All together, these bills threaten nearly half a billion acres of public land.
Congress should protect our backcountry, not destroy it.
Alaska’s Western Arctic contains a 23-million-acre tract of some of the most stunning wildlands on Earth. It teems with migratory birds, caribou, polar bears, wolves and other wildlife, but is cursed with what may be the ugliest and most ill-fitting name of any wild landscape: the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska.
In the aftermath of World War I, President Warren G. Harding set aside this area on Alaska’s North Slope in 1923 as an emergency oil reserve for the U.S. Navy, which was then converting its fleet from coal power to oil. Nearly 90 years later, one of the largest tracts of undisturbed public land on the planet is seen as a dartboard by oil and gas companies, and there’s nothing they would love more than to throw drill bits at it.
It is a vast and beautiful landscape that is not only important habitat to millions of birds and animals, but also home to Alaska Natives who live by subsistence hunting and fishing, and who need a healthy and productive ecosystem to provide a plentiful supply of food.
Even larger than its 19-million-acre cousin to the east — the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge — this area known to many as the Western Arctic Reserve contains one of the largest wetlands complexes in the circumpolar Arctic and provides extraordinary habitat values for birds and other species.
And Teshekpuk Lake — Alaska’s third-largest — provides year-round habitat for the Teshekpuk Lake caribou herd, thousands of nesting and molting waterfowl, and fish.
In 1976, Congress recognized the special ecological and wilderness values of these lands and transferred management of them to the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM). That agency has since designated four Special Areas: Teshekpuk Lake, Colville River, Utukok Uplands and Kasegaluk Lagoon, all of which were recognized for their significant values, including their wild character and a diversity of bird species, caribou, and marine mammals such as threatened polar bears, walrus and seals.
Oil and gas leases have been sold in the Western Arctic Reserve for years, and further development is part of the nation’s long-term energy plan. But, as directed by Congress, that development must be done with restraint to provide maximum protection of areas identified as having significant subsistence, recreational, fish and wildlife, or historical or scenic value.
As the BLM considers a variety of scenarios for future management of this spectacular place, we are committed to fighting for permanent protection of the sensitive wildlife habitat in designated and proposed Special Areas. Research by our staff scientists is helping identify critical habitat and make the case for limiting the locations where drilling can occur.
The reserve is cursed with an ugly name, but it’s far too beautiful and special to throw away.
Green Quiz Challenge – Bike Commuting
About 40% of trips in the U.S. are taken within 2 miles of home—an ideal distance for riding a bike—yet only a small fraction of people pedal to their destination. Why is this?
One of the biggest factors preventing people from riding bikes is concern for safety. When governments build bike lanes and paths, more people feel comfortable riding a bike. The growth in bike commuting in the past decade is a result of cities growing their bike-friendly infrastructure.
By what percentage did bike commuting increase in the U.S. between 2000 and 2010?
The correct answer is C. 43%. Congratulations to our green quiz winners: Carly Johnston, Susan Williams, and Kevin Gregson!
What will it really take to get the public to make tradeoffs on energy?
It’s a fundamental question, because energy policy is all about the tradeoffs. No form of energy is perfect. Everything comes with pros and cons. The key to moving forward is figuring out what people will accept: how much will they pay, what risks are they willing to accept, and what alternatives we should pursue.
The latest survey on this issue, published in Nature Climate Change and conducted by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication, tries to pin down how much people will pay for cleaner energy. The survey concludes that most Americans would be willing to pay modestly higher energy bills in support of a national clean energy standard. The same study uses a statistical model to go on to project that such a standard could pass Congress if it increases electricity rates less than 5 percent on average.
It’s a useful and intriguing analysis. But there may be more fundamental issues when it comes to how the public considers energy tradeoffs. Survey after survey shows that consensus is possible, at least on paper, but we never actually seem to get there in practice.
One reason may be that the public lacks some basic knowledge about energy. A Public Agenda survey in 2009 found nearly 4 in 10 Americans (39 percent) couldn’t name a fossil fuel. Nearly half couldn’t name a renewable energy source. More than half of the public (56 percent) says incorrectly that nuclear energy contributes to global warming. About one-third of the public (31 percent) thought solar energy contributes to global warming. While the survey is a few years old, we’re skeptical that public knowledge has improved all that much.
And that may be the under-appreciated issue in public opinion on energy. No wonder the public has trouble judging what’s realistic and what’s not. No wonder that it’s hard to figure out how much people are willing to pay to change their energy future: they don’t know what they’re getting for their money.
Experts, particularly scientists, often overstate the importance of information in public decision making. Facts are important, but they’re not enough. The public can have all the facts and still not move forward on a problem, if all the solutions seem impractical, expensive, or in conflict with their values.
More importantly, people don’t need to become experts on an issue in order to fully participate in democratic decision making. We don’t expect the voters to become physicians in order to set priorities for health care reform or hold a doctorate in education to realize what’s needed in their local schools. And people have the right to a say in choices that affect their lives, whether they recall their middle-school science lessons or not.
But the public does need enough information so it can understand the basic elements of the problem and wrestle with the implications of different choices. In the end, we face some basic choices on energy: what kind of energy should provide our electricity? What kind of vehicles should we drive? All the other choices flow from that.
And that’s one reason why consensus is so elusive on this issue: not that people are selfish, cheap or unreasonable, but that they’re not prepared to judge what our real alternatives are and come to firm conclusions. If more than half of Americans believes that nuclear energy contributes to global warming and roughly 3 in 10 think solar energy does the same, it’s really no wonder the national energy debate is so muddled. Until we help the public grasp the country’s alternatives and weigh them, we probably going to keep on postponing the decisions the country genuinely needs to make.
Portlanders can feel good about going to the Portland Rose Festival, running May 25 through June 17, because the Rose Festival is consistently ranked as the “Cleanest and Greenest” festival in America by the International Festivals and Events Association. With partners SOLVE, Portland General Electric and the City of Portland’s Maintenance Bureau, the Starlight and Grand Floral Parades are the cleanest ever, setting an industry standard for clean-up. The festival’s CityFair also recycles over seven tons of trash annually, uses carbon offsets, and works with the Parks Department to restore Waterfront Park to its natural state. So enjoy the Portland Rose Festival in all its greenery. Visit www.RoseFestival.org for a full schedule of events.
And to make matters greener, the Portland Rose Festival Starlight Parade, sponsored by Portland General Electric, is carbon-neutral, thanks to carbon offsets purchased to cover the emissions from the parade entries, garbage trucks and street cleaners. So when you’re watching the eclectic, electric fun of the Portland General Electric / SOLVE Starlight Parade on June 2, enjoy it more, knowing that it’s a carbon neutral event.
Why New Pesticides are Putting Bees at Risk
Jay Feldman is a cofounder of EarthShare member charity Beyond Pesticides and has served as its director since 1981. In this, the second of our two-part series (read Part 1 here), Feldman talks about his concern about pesticides like clothianidin that have been in the news recently for their detrimental impacts on honeybees.
EarthShare: Why is clothianidin harmful to bees? What crops is it used most heavily on?
Jay Feldman: Clothianidin is an insecticide which is toxic to a range of insects, including many pollinators. The most common effects to honey bees exposed to clothiandin are sub-lethal in nature, meaning that the bees will not die from exposure to the chemical alone, but that it will injure them to a degree that it makes it difficult or impossible for them to perform essential tasks. It is thought that the chemical can weaken the bees’ immune systems, making it harder to fight off viruses and parasites which can have more direct and immediate effects on health and mortality.
The most common application method is to actually coat the crop seeds with the substance before they are planted. Then, when they germinate, the pesticide literally becomes part of the entire plant pollen. When the bees land on the plant and gather the pollen, they are exposed to the chemical, and if they bring the pollen back to the hive, the rest of the colony becomes exposed as well.
There is also increasing evidence that bees are exposed to clothiandin during the planting season, even before the plants containing the chemical have grown. Several studies have shown that dust which is expelled from mechanical seed planters while planting treated seeds is laced with large amounts of clothianidin. When bees fly though this dust, they become coated with the chemical and begin to suffer adverse effects.
Clothianidin is currently registered for use as a seed treatment on corn and canola seed. Although these crops don’t require pollination, they do produce pollen and are often visited by bees whose hives are located nearby. Despite the fact that honey bees aren’t used commercially to pollinate corn, by virtue of its sheer prevalence (corn covers 88 million acres of U.S. farmland), this crop accounts for a large portion of honey bee nutrition and exposure, and nearly all U.S. corn is treated with systemic insecticides such as clothianidin.
What’s the status of the drive to ban Clothianidin?
A petition has been filed with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency by Beyond Pesticides and several other environmental groups on behalf of commercial beekeepers. The petition seeks to have the agency immediately suspend any use of clothianidin and more thoroughly study its effects on pollinators.
When the pesticide was first licensed (“registered”), EPA only allowed it to go ahead on the condition that the manufacturer, Bayer, submit data concerning the chemicals effects on the health of pollinators, namely honey bees. However, in the nine years since it was first registered, there has been no adequate data on pollinator effects submitted to EPA and the agency has simply allowed the chemical to achieve full, unconditional registration. Thus, the agency has failed to follow its own requirements and has seriously endangered the U.S. population of honey bees and the U.S. food system as a result.
Beekeepers and environmental advocates are asking EPA to respond to the petition within 90 days of its filing (by mid-June 2012) and are hoping that the agency will recognize the dire situation that has arisen as a result of allowing the use of this chemical.
What other pesticides most concern you right now?
We are concerned about a broad range of toxic pesticides that have adverse effects on human health and the environment. Pesticides in the organophosphate and synthetic pyrethroid families are particularly problematic because they are neurotoxic and have effects on the neurological and endocrine systems as a result of low-dose exposure.
While EPA has reduced the use of organophosphates in the residential environment, they are still used in agriculture, for mosquito control and on golf courses. Synthetic pyrethroids, which include pesticides like bifenthrin, cause detrimental effects on organ systems well after exposure in the developmental phases of life. EPA’s model for testing has been high-dose chemical exposure, ignoring the implications of toxic mechanisms that work in miniscule doses. We also are seeing studies that link the synthetic pyrethroids to learning capacity and autism.
In addition to specific chemical effects, the development of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and genetically engineered (GE) crops has resulted in increasing dependency on pesticides. These crops are designed to be tolerant of herbicides, so that more pesticides can be used in the cultivation of the crops without fear of crop damage.
The most well-known GMO crop has been “RoundUp-Ready” corn, which allows the widespread use of the pesticide glyphosate. But, as the weeds have become resistant to the chemicals, new pesticide-tolerant crops are being developed. The latest is 2,4-D tolerant corn, which will increase the use of one of the most notorious chemicals, Agent Orange. While the other chemicals in Agent Orange were banned years ago, 2,4-D has a hazardous track record of its own, linked to cancer among farmers who use it.
In the end, these GMO system increase pesticide dependency and force a continuation of the pesticide treadmill, as chemical strategies try unsuccessfully to overwhelm nature. If you think this is just an agricultural issue, stay tuned for the newly developed genetically engineered grass seed that will soon be widely available.
How can EarthShare readers help protect bees and other wildlife?
Once EPA formally publishes the petition to ban clothianidin in the Federal Register, it will seek input from the public on the issue. You will have a chance to submit a public comment supporting the goals of the petition and urging the agency to take action to protect pollinators from this toxic chemical. Stay tuned to www.BeyondPesticides.org for important updates on how you can voice your thoughts to EPA.
Closer to home, managing your lawn and garden organically provides pollinators, as well as other wildlife, with a safe habitat and food source. Visit our website to pledge your property as a pesticide-free, bee-friendly habitat, and find out more about actions you can take to protect pollinators.