I’ve mentioned things like this before, so I thought I would again. Here is a list of twelve environmental victories for this year that might have escaped the hysteria of mass media outlets but are still worth mentioning. In the event that you hate the environment and are upset about these things, just scroll past and think of your Humvee 🙂
The bald eagle is back
2007 may be remembered as the year of the eagle – the American bald eagle to be more precise.
Just before the July 4th holiday, Environmental Defense joined Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne for the historic announcement that the American bald eagle had officially recovered and was being removed from the threatened and endangered species list.
Bald eagles were once down to just 417 nesting pairs. But, our work to ban the use of DDT a generation ago combined with decades of implementing Endangered Species Act recovery management practices helped restore America’s national symbol and one of nature’s most majestic creatures.
Better permits, better markets for fishermen
Morro Bay in California’s central coast is home to one of the richest assemblages of marine life in the world. But destructive trawl fishing has threatened this important ocean ecosystem.
Environmental Defense worked with The Nature Conservancy and Morro Bay fishermen to come up with fishing practices that don’t harm the environment. Together, we persuaded the Pacific Fishery Management Council to allow fishermen to lease trawl permits while using sustainable gear like hooks and traps, instead of trawls which are of the most damaging kinds of fishing gear. We also helped Morro Bay fishermen develop markets for seafood caught in sustainable ways.
Cleaning up school buses
Our work with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg to develop a 127-point “greenprint” to make New York the nation’s greenest city earned many headlines this year.
But, you may not have heard about our work to clean up the city’s school buses by retrofitting more than 2300 large buses. These retrofits reduce the amount of particulate (soot) pollution from buses by 20-30% making for healthier commutes for our kids.
And in North Carolina, we helped secure legislative funding for a pilot program to retrofit a minimum of 250 school buses to reduce soot by 90%. The pilot program is the first of its kind in North Carolina and follows Environmental Defense’s work in Texas, where a multi-year plan is underway to clean up Texas’ entire fleet of school buses.
States take on global warming
This summer, three states – Hawaii, New Jersey and Florida – joined California to enact tough statewide global warming pollution limits.
Several other states also took action to promote cleaner energy, including North Carolina where we helped pass a landmark energy bill, which includes a renewable energy standard and makes North Carolina one of only a handful of states to include a standard for energy efficiency.
Protecting valuable wetlands
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has mismanaged many projects, few more conspicuously than the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet (Mr. Go), a little-used shipping channel. By destroying cypress swamps that had provided a buffer against storms, Mr. Go funneled Katrina’s storm surge into New Orleans.
This fall, we helped convince Congress to pass major water legislation that shuts down Mr. Go and calls on the Corps to submit controversial projects to independent review.
1000 miles to the north, we successfully launched our Western Lake Erie Basin project that promotes planting trees and grasses along streams, restoring wetlands and declining habitats in two key Lake Erie subwatersheds – the Blanchard and Tiffin.
Gulf catch program a success for all
Our oceans team made a big splash this year by showing how innovative catch share programs conserve fisheries and improve a fisherman’s bottom line. A precedent-setting catch program for the red snapper fishery in the Gulf of Mexico is already producing results. Catch shares dedicate a secure share of fish to fishermen, fishing communities or associations. Amounts are determined before each season begins and fishermen are allowed to buy and sell shares in order to maximize their profit.
We helped design and build the red snapper catch share program, which replaces old rules that restricted fishing to certain days and forced crews to throw back tons of dying fish. With the new rules, snapper prices are up by one-third and bycatch – the unintentional killing of fish – has dropped 80%.
Healthier hog farms in NC
Our North Carolina office helped pass the Swine Farm Environmental Performance Standards Act, which makes North Carolina the first state in the nation to ban the construction or expansion of lagoons and sprayfields on hog farms. The Act also sets strict health and environmental standards for any new waste management systems on hog farms and establishes a voluntary cost-share program to help hog farmers convert existing lagoons to cleaner systems.
Courts rule for the environment
It was hard to miss the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision this spring decreeing that the EPA cannot sidestep its authority to regulate global warming pollution. But two recent federal appeals court victories could set the stage for cleaning up global warming pollution from America’s vehicles.
In September, a federal judge in Vermont rejected arguments from automakers that they couldn’t meet tighter global warming emissions standards. Then, earlier this month, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned major aspects of the Bush administration’s flawed fuel economy standards for SUVs and light-duty trucks and ordered the Department of Transportation to strengthen the standards. Our lawyers helped argue both cases.
Environmental partnerships reap rewards
Our Corporate Partnerships team had another huge year with breakthroughs ranging from safer nanotechnology standards to developing new purchasing standards for eco-friendly farmed shrimp and helping Wal-Mart reduce its environmental footprint.
We also launched the landmark U.S. Climate Action Partnership (USCAP), an alliance of 27 major corporations and 6 national environmental groups dedicated to Congressional passage of a national cap on greenhouse gas emissions. Together, we’re calling for a market-based cap to reduce emissions 60% to 80% by 2050.
First interstate marine park created from NC to FL
We helped design and win approval for the first interstate system of marine parks, stretching from North Carolina to the Florida Keys. The 500,000-acre network comprises eight tracts of stunning deep-water corals that serve as critical habitat for 73 species of grouper, snapper and tilefish.
The new network complements reserves we helped establish earlier, protecting shallow reef habitat in areas such as Florida’s Dry Tortugas.
TX steps up to protect its rivers
As the West enters a record eighth year of drought, cities, agriculture and industry are vying for scarce water, often leaving too little water in rivers to keep fish and wildlife healthy. Now Texas has become the first state to legally protect natural river flows.
We worked with water users to pass a new state law to better manage minimum flow requirements for every river in the state, including the seasonal flooding and other natural processes that rivers, bays and estuaries– and their wildlife–need to thrive.
40 endangered species safe in Puerto Rico
For the last several years, proposed plans to build two mega-resorts had threatened the Northeast Ecological Corridor (NEC) in Puerto Rico, located on the eastern corner of the main island. Construction of these resorts would have destroyed wetlands, habitat for over 40 endangered species and coral reefs.
However, thanks to the hard work and commitment of our activists and a coalition of environmental groups, The NEC’s subtropical rainforests, leatherback sea turtles and coral reefs are now out of harm’s way.
This fall, the Governor of Puerto Rico heard our calls for protection and issued an executive order designating the NEC a nature reserve, ensuring the necessary protection of its great ecological wealth.