Trump Order May Open California’s Giant Sequoia Nat’l Monument To Development

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Environmentalists and the outdoor recreation industry aren’t standing for President Donald Trump’s new executive order that threatens to rescind, shrink or resize dozens of recent national monument designations, including seven in California.

Trump’s new executive order requires Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke to review national monument designations that are over 100,000 acres and created under Presidents Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.

Trump argues that some national monument designations may “create barriers to achieving energy independence.”

But environmental groups and outdoor recreation companies see the review as the first step in an assault on public lands, with the ultimate goal being to open the land up for oil and gas drilling.

And they say they’re prepared to fight to keep these federal lands free from development.

San Francisco-based Earthjustice, a major nonprofit environmental law organization, says, “Any attempt to reverse or shrink a monument designation by the executive branch is unlawful under the Antiquities Act. Only Congress has the authority to modify a national monument. Earthjustice stands ready to defend the Antiquities Act and the national monuments protected under the law.”

According to Earthjustice, the seven national monuments in California that could be threatened are Giant Sequoia, Berryessa Snow Mountain, Carrizo Plain, Sand to Snow, San Gabriel Mountains, Santa Rosa & San Jacinto Mountains and Mojave Trails.

In Arizona, part of the Grand Canyon is also under review.

The order draws special attention to the latest designation, the 1.3 million-acre Bear’s Ears National Monument in Utah. Republican Governor Gary Herbert and the Utah legislature has asked Trump to rescind the designation of Bears Ears as a national monument.

Ventura-based outdoor retailer Patagonia has not only been a staunch supporter of Bears Ears, but with Wednesday’s executive order, it has threatened to sue.

“We’re watching the Trump administration’s actions very closely and preparing to take every step necessary, including legal action, to defend our most treasured public landscapes from coast to coast,” Patagonia said in a statement.

Trump’s executive order calls for a preliminary report with suggested legislative acts on Bears Ears be provided to the president within 45 days after the executive order was issued. A final report on suggested actions on all national monuments under review is to be provided within four months.

Zinke tried to reassure the public as he discussed the executive order stating, “nobody loves public lands more than I do. You can love them the same. But not more.”

He argued that in some cases, the designation of the national monuments may have resulted in loss of jobs, but when pressed, he didn’t list any specific communities that lost jobs as a result of the monuments. He said that would be looked at in the review process.

Woolly mammoths are extinct. Here’s why they may be considered ‘endangered.’

The Extinction Chronicles

Woolly mammoths, long-buried in permafrost—until now—are valued for their “ice ivory.” When carved, their tusks are hard to distinguish from those of elephants.

PHOTOGRAPH BY JONATHAN BLAIR, NAT GEO IMAGE COLLECTION

A global summit on the wildlife trade will consider the proposal, which could further restrict the ivory trade.

ONE OF THE most surprising proposals under discussion at the giant global wildlife trade treaty meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, is about woolly mammoths—creatures that once wandered huge tracts of North America, Europe, and northern Asia—and went extinct more than 4,000 years ago.

The move to consider adding an extinct species to the list of living, regulated animals is controversial, since the objective of the CITES treaty is to help prevent species today from being driven to extinction because of the international trade in wildlife products. The treaty doesn’t specifically preclude…

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Scientists Have Been Underestimating the Pace of Climate Change

The Extinction Chronicles

A book entitled Discerning Experts explains why—and what can be done about it

Scientists Have Been Underestimating the Pace of Climate Change
Credit: Getty Images

Recently, the U.K. Met Office announced a revision to the Hadley Center historical analysis of sea surface temperatures (SST), suggesting that the oceans have warmed about 0.1 degree Celsius more than previously thought. The need for revision arises from the long-recognized problem that in the past sea surface temperatures were measured using a variety of error-prone methods such as using open buckets, lamb’s wool–wrapped thermometers, and canvas bags. It was not until the 1990s that oceanographers developed a network of consistent and reliable measurement buoys.

Then, to develop a consistent picture of long-term trends, techniques had to be developed to compensate for the errors in the older measurements and reconcile them with the newer ones. The Hadley Centre has led this effort, and…

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Study confirms that, yes, a nuclear war between the US and Russia would be the end of days

The Extinction Chronicles

It might sound silly to think that a nuclear war between the United States and Russia would be anything but the apocalypse, but for scientists studying climate and atmosphere, the changes such a conflict could bring to our planet are a worthy subject of study.

Now, a new paper published in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres corroborates decade-old estimates and confirms that if the U.S. and Russia started throwing nukes around, nuclear winter would indeed follow. The study stops short of declaring a nuclear war the end of mankind, but given the study’s findings, it certainly seems like the writing is on the wall.

For their study, the team of researchers from Rutgers University, the National Center for Atmospheric Research, and the University of Colorado used an updated climate model to show how a nuclear conflict between the…

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Microplastics discovered in ‘extreme’ concentrations in the North Atlantic

https://www.cnn.com/2019/08/19/world/microplastics-sargasso-sea-north-atlantic-intl/index.html

Sargasso Sea (CNN)Within the Atlantic Ocean is the world’s only sea without shores, its borders defined by the currents of the North Atlantic gyre. The Sargasso Sea takes its name from sargassum, a free-floating golden brown seaweed that is a haven for hatchling sea turtles and hundreds of other marine species who use it to feed, grow and hide from predators. But the sargassum is now home to objects wholly unnatural too.

Caught up in the swirling gyre is a growing collection of human waste: trash from countries that border the Atlantic, from the west coast of Africa to the east coast of the US, slowly breaking up on its long journey into microplastics that end up in the gills and stomachs of aquatic animals.
We joined a Greenpeace expedition to the Sargasso where scientists were studying plastic pollution and turtle habitats. Our mission was to get a better understanding of what lives out on the sargassum ecosystem, what is threatening it, and how that may impact us.

Into the blue

My cameraman, Brice Laine, and I thought we had an understanding of how humanity’s reliance on plastic has impacted Earth. We have reported from the remotest regions of our planet, from the Arctic to the Antarctic, where we witnessed the discovery of microplastics, fibers and PFAS (chemicals that are used as stain and water repellents in things like cookware and outdoor gear).
The Sargasso Sea is another place where few humans venture. Constantly changing with the currents, this oval shaped body of water is around 1,000 miles wide and 3,000 miles long. From the bow of our ship, Greenpeace’s Esperanza, the water looks pristine, inviting. Having never really been in waters like this — the open ocean, often believed to be a biodiversity desert — we’re excited to get in.
There are small schools of juvenile trigger and file fish, and other species darting around or just hiding within the sargassum. There are many species we don’t see, too small, too apt at blending into this rich nursery ground like young shrimp and crab, tiny frog fish, and what we really hoped to find but didn’t — baby turtles.
Embedded in most of the sargassum are the easily visible pieces of trash: shampoo bottles, fishing gear, thick hard containers or thin soft bags amongst many other types of plastic. One of the scientists points out fish bite marks in a small plastic sheet we pull out. But what is really jarring is when you dive down and look into the blue and realize you are surrounded by tiny glittering pieces of broken up plastic called microplastic.
It wasn’t until witnessing it that the extent of plastic pollution and what it means sank in. And it’s terrifying.
Greenpeace scientists say they found “extreme” concentrations of microplastic pollution in the Sargasso Sea, although they are still reviewing their findings. In one sample, they discovered almost 1,300 fragments of microplastic — more than the levels found last year in the notorious Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
Their analysis indicates this pollution originates from single-use plastic bottles and plastic packaging, according to Greenpeace.
Greenpeace’s trip to the Sargasso is part of its year-long pole-to-pole expedition to campaign for a Global Ocean Treaty that calls for the protection of a network of ocean sanctuaries covering 30% of the world’s oceans by 2030.
Off the side of the Esperanza, the manta trawl lazily gobbles up water samples from the ocean’s surface that are filtered through its long mesh tail. An hour later, what is collected shows us the bleak reality of what is in the water.
“In most of the samples that we have been sampling where there is sargassum we have seen a lot of plastics because they get entangled in the sargassum,” Celia Ojeda, a marine biologist with a PhD in ocean conservation, explains, pointing to the tiny pieces floating at the top of one sample.
“It’s a really nice blue; you can’t imagine what is under there, and then when you get the sample you get really shocked at the numbers,” she says.
Along with research assistant Shane Antonition, who is with the Bermuda Aquarium Museum and Zoo, Ojeda spends hours picking through the sargassum and what was collected in the manta trawl net.
Grabbing the tiny pieces with tweezers, she places them carefully on paper to count.
Antonition was part of a similar study years ago. “The more I learn, the more I see how much more like a spaceship Earth is, and how fragile these systems are and how much we rely on these ecosystems services to keep us alive. So, (we are) learning more about our impact on the earth and using those discoveries to inform the change that can prevent further degradation of our environment,” he says.

From your bin to your plate, via the ocean

Only around 9% of plastic produced has ever been recycled. Most single-use plastics end up in landfills or are burned in huge toxic fires. Some finds its way into our rivers or the oceans, either flushed into water systems or blown by wind currents.
A close up shot of small pieces of plastic among the Sargassum. Plastics become broken down until they're so small they're consumed by wildlife and enter the food chain.

“This goes into the food chain.” Ojeda explains. “The fish and shrimps eat the plastic, we are eating them or the fish that eat them, and this will end up in our bodies somehow.”
The plastic humans discard — food wrappers, plastic bags, even nappies — find their way back into homes in the food that you buy. A study from June 2019 said the average person ingests around 2,000 microplastic particles a week — around five grams, or the weight of a credit card. What scientists don’t yet fully understand is what that plastic or the toxins that plastic contains can do to us.
Plastic pollution is hardly a new phenomenon. A study off the shore of Bermuda back in the early 1970s found 3,500 pieces of plastic per square kilometer. A more recent, as yet unpublished study by the Bermuda Aquarium Museum and Zoo found that nearly 42% of fish samples had ingested microplastics.
The weight of evidence that humans are contaminating one of our major food sources is overwhelming — not only introducing potential toxins into our own bodies, but also polluting whole ecosystems and killing precious marine animals.

How can you protect the ocean?

The key to tackling ocean plastic is to stop it getting there in the first place, but the solution doesn’t just lie with recycling.
“We need to be reusing and refilling,” Ojeda says. “The consumers are doing a lot of things, but if you as a consumer are going to the supermarket and you are unable to buy something which is not wrapped in plastic it’s not your fault. You are a person. It’s companies; companies need to take the step, need to lead the change — and governments need to push the companies.
“For the oceans to recover to we need to stop them (plastics) now. If we are thinking we can stop them in 10 years, we can phase them out, no: we need to stop single-use plastic. Then the seas will have time to clean up.”
Sunset aboard the Esperanza, a Greenpeace vessel scouring the Sargasso Sea for microplastic samples.

“We need to look at all the ways we are not understanding the fate of plastic,” says Robbie Smith, a marine ecologist and the curator of the Bermuda Aquarium and Zoo. “Recycling is terrible, even in the US. Countries are facing up to the reality, but they are not ready to turn off the tap.
“We need to look at the types of plastic we are using and eliminate the ones that can’t be recycled. We need to tidy up land-based sources (landfills and the like).
“We need to be more respectful that plastic is a great tool but can become a nightmare,” he adds. “There is no quick fix. Nothing is going away fast. It takes a decade or two for plastic to make its way into the watershed.”
Few of us witness what is out in the open oceans far from our homes, which is one of the many challenges for ocean protection and why few truly understand how dire the situation is. Out of sight, out of mind.
But in reality, it’s ending up right back in front of us — and inside us — even though we may not see it.

Remove the target on wolves

Committee to Abolish Sport Hunting Blog

I am subscribed to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife email notification list. When I check my email and I see a message from WDFW Wildlife Program with the subject “New update on Washington wolves” my heart skips a beat. All too often it will say that there has been a confirmed wolf depredation or that wolves are going to be killed by the department. Our endangered wolves are caught between hostile states to our east, tribes with unlimited year-round killing, in-state poachers and state sanctioned killing.

Over the past several years, we have been told that wolf recovery in our state was a success story because the population was increasing 30% or so per year. But that was simply a reflection of the fact that the count started from a very low base. Over the past year…

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Time to Put the ESA on the Endangered List?

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Committee to Abolish Sport Hunting Blog

Ever since President Nixon signed the bill declaring the Endangered Species Act the law of the land, subsequent presidents (mostly his fellow Republicans) have tried to weaken, undermine or undo it. Not to be outdone, our current president (businessman Donald Trump) has taken a stab at it, or, according to the title of an article cheering his administration on, “revamp” it.

I’m sorry, but, at the risk of sounding distrustful, to me the word “revamp” sounds more like something a bloodsucking Count from Transylvania likes to do when sun goes down, not the kind of behavior you’d expect from an esteemed ruler of the free world.

So what would this planned “revamping” do exactly? What sort of revisions to the Endangered Species Act do the Trumpetts propose?

The Department of the Interior (namely the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. as well as the National Marine Fisheries Service) has introduced new…

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South Africa gets go-ahead to increase black rhino trophy hunting

Committee to Abolish Sport Hunting Blog

Conservation groups split on impact of move agreed at international wildlife summit

Black rhino
 There are now about 5,000 black rhinos, almost 2,000 of them in South Africa. Photograph: Pierre-Philippe Marcou/AFP/Getty Images

South Africa has won permission to almost double the number of black rhinos that can be killed as trophies after arguing the money raised will support conservation of the critically endangered species.

The decision was made at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) after receiving support from some African nations and opposition from others.

Poachers supplying the illegal trade in rhino horn decimated numbers in the past but the population is now growing. About 5,000 black rhinos exist today, almost 2,000 of them in South Africa.

Since 2003, South Africa has been allowed to sell hunting rights for five black rhinos a year. The latest decision means it…

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Veggie burger opens new divide in the US

Impossible Foods meatless Whopper
Impossible Foods meatless Whopper

The veggie burger has emerged as the latest battleground over traditional American values.

Several states have passed labelling laws banning the use of the word meat – and even meat-related terms such as burger or hot dog – for plant-based products.

The row has pitched high-tech food innovators against the ranchers’ trade body US Cattlemen’s Association and mainly conservative politicians in America’s rural heartland.

Environmentalists extol the planet-friendly virtues of plant-based meat, arguing that it is responsible for far lower methane emissions than cattle.

From the other corner conservatives, like Texas Republican senator Ted Cruz, have been scathing about vegan food.

During his bitter election battle with Beto O’Rourke, he claimed on Twitter that the Democrats would ban barbecues across the state.

Mississippi, Missouri, Louisiana and Arkansas have led the way in passing strict labelling laws, imposing fines on companies who  transgress.

Ted Cruz

@tedcruz

.@peta protested our town hall yesterday, handing out barbecued tofu. We were glad to welcome them, but it illustrates the stakes af the election: if Beto wins, BBQ will be illegal! 😂😂😂 https://twitter.com/peta/status/1041373529684434946 

PETA

@peta

Yesterday, PETA supporters gathered outside of Sen. Ted Cruz’s campaign event in #Texas and handed out samples of barbecued tofu 😋 Tofu is versatile, healthy, and grown right in the Lone Star State, and if Cruz knew this we’re sure he’d want to see tofu in every Texas pot!

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In America’s cattle-producing states, the legislation has broad support, said Billy Hudson, a Republican state senator who piloted the law through the Mississippi legislature.

“The intent of this legislation was to help consumers better identify their foods. We don’t want fake meat confused with real meat.

“If there is a product on the shelf made from bugs, plants or grown in a lab, and someone wants to buy it, Mississippi wants that to happen. But the packaging material should not be misleading or deceptive.

“The legislation passed the Senate and House without opposition. Democrats and Republicans, conservatives and liberals all voted for it.”

Andy Berry, the executive vice president of the Mississippi Cattlemen’s Association, described the measure as purely a piece of consumer protection legislation.

“The beef industry has never been worried about competition. We produce a high-quality product.

“I like vegetables too,  but just don’t call them meat.

“My family was in the Chevrolet business from 1936 to 2009. We would never put a Corvette sticker on a Malibu.”

Cattle in Louisiana
Cattle in Louisiana where new meat labelling laws have been introduced CREDIT: NICOLE CRAINE/BLOOMBERT

However, the Plant Based Foods Association and one of its members,  Upton’s Naturals, are challenging the law in court, arguing it infringes the US First Amendment which guarantees free speech.

“We have been in business for 13 years and we have never had anyone say they have bought our products unknowingly,” said Nicole Sopko, the company’s vice president

“We are not trying to trick people. We are proud of what we produce.

“This is a protectionist move by the meat industry: it is trying to limit the competition.”

Last month another challenge was filed in Arkansas on behalf of a company producing Tofurky.

That lawsuit is backed by the local branch of the American Civil Liberties Union, the Good Food Institute and the Animal Legal Defence Fund.

Underpinning the battle is ranchers’ alarm at soaring demand for alternatives to meat which, according to the Plant Based Food Association, has seen sales grow five times faster than the food sector as a whole.

Last month it said the plant-based food market was worth $4.5 billion a year, representing an 11 per cent increase over the previous 12 months.

The strength of the flourishing new industry was underlined when Beyond Meat, one of the biggest producers of vegan burgers and sausages, went public in May.

Shares rose 160 per cent on the first day’s trading as investors piled in.

Its main rival, Impossible Foods, which has been selling its laboratory-produced meat alternatives since 2016, has even teamed up with Burger King to offer “Impossible Whoppers”.

The company broke new ground by using heme – a protein which is found in soybean plants – to replicate blood. It means that the patty has the appearance of a meat equivalent, including being red in the middle for those who prefer their burgers underdone.

Ranchers argue that consumers are being misled by the use of the term meat when no animal was slaughtered.

But this was denied by an Impossible Foods spokesman.

“Consumers are not at all confused about the fact that plant-based meat contains no animals. That’s precisely why they’re buying it at record levels,” she said.

Huge Wildfires in the Arctic and Far North Send a Planetary Warning

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The Extinction Chronicles

The planet’s far North is burning. This summer, over 600 wildfires have consumed more than 2.4 million acres of forest across Alaska. Fires are also raging in northern Canada. In Siberia, choking smoke from13 million acres — an area nearly the size of West Virginia — is blanketing towns and cities.

Fires in these places are normal. But, as studies here at the University of Alaska’s International Arctic Research Center show, they are also abnormal.

My colleagues and I are examining the complex relationships between warming climate, increasing fire and shifting patterns of vegetation. Using locally focused climate data and models from the Scenarios Network for Alaska and Arctic Planning, the research group I help coordinate, we are finding evidence that is…

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