Undoing the Damage Bush Has Done

Obama Halts Attack on Gray Wolves, Other Bush Misdeeds

Swooping into office to save the species this week, President Obama started his administration off right by immediately announcing a freeze on publication of all the Bush administration’s last-minute, biodiversity-harming rules not yet put into print. This means the new administration will get a chance to review — and hopefully trash — bad Bush-era policy decisions, including the heinous removal of Endangered Species Act protections from gray wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains and Great Lakes regions. The freeze will also put stop to Bush’s laughably low fuel-economy standards and a rule that would have injuriously changed the format of the endangered species list to redefine the extent of coverage provided to endangered species.

Unfortunately, President Obama’s move can’t undo the worst of the Bush administration’s latest environmentally detrimental actions: the changes to the rules implementing the Endangered Species Act — eviscerating our country’s most important wildlife protection law — and the relaxation of rules restricting mountaintop removal mining. Reversing those will take a little more work, but the Center for Biological Diversity will work to see it done.

Read more on Obama’s freeze in the Guardian UK and learn what it could mean for wolves in the Idaho Statesman.

Center Fights Bush-era Interference Harming 19 Species in Nine States

Filing a final challenge to the Bush administration over its political meddling in almost 60 Endangered Species Act decisions, last Wednesday the Center for Biological Diversity filed seven lawsuits over habitat-protection decisions wronging 18 species, as well as one notice of intent to sue over the denial of protection to the Colorado River cutthroat trout. The San Bernardino kangaroo rat, Arkansas River shiner, Riverside fairy shrimp, 12 Texas invertebrates, and three California plants were all robbed of federal habitat protections on Bush’s watch — in the case of the Riverside fairy shrimp, more than 97 percent of the area of habitat deemed by scientists as “essential” was removed from protection thanks to interference by Bush administration officials. In all, more than 158,000 protected acres are at stake in last week’s seven suits. The Colorado River cutthroat trout was denied protection despite severe range loss, ongoing threats, and repeated Center action.

The Bush administration’s mismanagement of the Endangered Species Act, now under extensive federal investigation, is the focus of the Center’s Litigating Political Corruption campaign, through which we’ve already had substantial success in fighting to restore proper protections to 59 imperiled species.

Read more in the Desert Sun.

Feds to Revisit Protections for Southern California Fish

Acknowledging the fishiness of one more of its scientifically flawed and politically tainted Bush-era Endangered Species Act decisions, last week the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reached a settlement with the Center for Biological Diversity and allies over a rule slashing habitat protections for one of California’s rarest freshwater swimmers, the Santa Ana sucker. The small-bodied, big-lipped fish, though highly adaptable, has suffered serious harm from development, water projects, and other threats and is now reduced to just three populations in the middle part of the Santa Ana River. In response to a Center lawsuit, in 2004 the Fish and Wildlife Service protected more than 21,000 acres of habitat along three of the fish’s four home rivers — only to issue a scientifically unjustifiable decision a year later to reduce the protected area to a measly 8,305 acres, eliminating protections from the sucker’s namesake river, the Santa Ana.

Our latest lawsuit for the Santa Ana sucker — filed in November 2007 with Cal Trout, the California-Nevada Chapter of the American Fisheries Society, and Friends of the River — is another part of our Litigating Political Corruption campaign. Hopefully, all 59 species we’re fighting for will get the attention they deserve under the new administration.

Check out our press release and learn more about the Santa Ana sucker.

Suit Forces Agencies to Address Warming’s Impacts on Species

Following almost two years of being ignored by the Bush administration after we petitioned for nationwide laws to protect species from global warming, the Center for Biological Diversity has filed suit against six federal agencies to compel a response to our action. In February 2007, we jumpstarted our Global Warming and Endangered Species Initiative by petitioning the Department of the Interior, Department of Commerce, Department of Agriculture, Department of Defense, Department of Transportation, and Environmental Protection Agency to integrate opposition to global warming into all major federal decision-making processes and speed the recovery of endangered species from the American pika to the yellow-billed loon. Our suit, filed last Thursday, demands consideration of the requests of our petition, including reviewing species to spot those especially threatened by warming and prohibiting all federal actions from appreciably reducing the likelihood of a species’ recovery.

“Integrating global warming considerations into all levels of government is the challenge of our times,” declared Center senior counsel Bill Snape. “Yet the Bush administration not only refused to provide direction on climate change policy, it prevented agencies from doing so.”

Get more from Law360.com.

Lawsuit Filed Over Habitat Protections for Endangered Caribou

To protect one of the most majestic and endangered mammals on hooves, last Thursday the Center for Biological Diversity joined the Lands Council, Defenders of Wildlife, and the Selkirk Conservation alliance in suing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to gain federally protected habitat for mountain caribou. Though caribou once roamed by the thousands across the northern United States, hunting, poaching, logging, and roads pushed the entire population into the Selkirk Mountains of northeastern Washington, northern Idaho, and British Columbia. Now disturbance from poorly managed snowmobiling threatens to push caribou out of even this last refuge. Conservation groups filed a petition to protect the caribou’s remaining habitat back in 2002, but the next year the Fish and Wildlife Service said it had higher priorities — and went on to ignore the petition.

Caribou, the only member of the deer family in which both sexes grow antlers, are most vulnerable during the coldest months — just when snowmobiles come out to play. They need vehicle-free habitat if they’re to survive many more winters.

Read more in the Seattle Times.

Groups Defend Oregon Streams and Forests From Bush Attack

After the Bush administration issued an 11th-hour decision to let the timber industry decimate public lands in western Oregon, the Center for Biological Diversity and 12 other conservation and fisheries organizations — represented by Earthjustice — filed suit in defense of salmon and old-growth forests. The Western Oregon Plan Revision allows current logging in the area to nearly quadruple, rezoning 2.6 million acres of federal public forests in Oregon tended by the Bureau of Land Management. The Bush administration timber giveaway ignores science clearly showing these dramatic increases in logging will pollute salmon spawning streams, destroy much of Oregon’s old-growth forest, contribute to global warming, and seriously threaten winged residents like the northern spotted owl and marbled murrelet.

Get more from Oregon Public Broadcasting.

Center Warns Agency to Heed Warming-threatened Seabird

When the Bush administration was three months late responding to our petition to protect California’s rare ashy storm petrel, last Wednesday the Center for Biological Diversity officially warned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service we’ll sue if it fails to investigate the species’ status. The small, smoke-gray seabird resides in the polluted, development-stressed waters near California’s largest cities and is further threatened by offshore energy terminals, shipping, commercial fishing, and oil spills. Worsening matters, global warming is changing the marine ecosystem of the bird’s home state, leaving warmer, less-abundant waters and causing ocean acidification that depletes the sea of the storm petrel’s prey. In the past 20 years, the largest colony of ashy storm petrels decreased by 42 percent, prompting the World Conservation Union and BirdLife International to list the species as endangered. Still, the Fish and Wildlife Service failed to make its decision on our petition to protect the bird, due last October.

Get details in our press release and learn more about our work to save the ashy storm petrel.

Get Fish Smart With “FishPhone” — and Take Action for Oceans

Do you have fish guilt? That is, do you care about consuming sustainably but not know if the fish you’re eating is good for ocean health or your own? Don’t worry. Thanks to New York-based nonprofit Blue Ocean Institute, if you have a cell phone you can use what the group has dubbed “FishPhone.” The next time you’re in the supermarket or sushi bar and find yourself at sea regarding what fish to ingest, just send a text message reading “FISH,” along with the kind of fish you’re considering, to 30644. Instantly, you’ll get a reply on how healthy your choice is for you and the planet. If your fish is fishy, it’ll be red-flagged.

And here’s a more action-packed way to aid our oceans: Tell the National Marine Fisheries Service to ban swordfish imports from countries that aren’t up to par on their fishing practices. The agency hasn’t been enforcing existing law, allowing the importation of fish caught through methods that kill thousands of marine mammals, sea turtles, and seabirds each year. The Center for Biological Diversity and Turtle Island Restoration Project petitioned the feds to enforce the ban, and now the Fisheries Service wants to hear from you.

Learn more about FishPhone in Scientific American and take action by January 29th against unsustainable foreign fisheries here.

Kierán Suckling
Executive Director

Another Small Victory

Dear Doug Hagler,

Thank you for taking the time to email us as we always appreciate hearing from our customers.

At Loblaw Companies, we strive to offer our customers excellence in customer service alongside offering superior products.

As a company, we are committed to providing our consumers with a wide range of high quality, safe foods that are produced, manufactured and sourced responsibly. We serve a wide range of customers, and are proud of our ability to offer a large variety of choices to meet their expectations.

We have taken steps which we feel support our commitment for responsibly raised and caught fish and seafood products, including a partnership with the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC). We are in the process of reviewing our policies regarding the sale of critical seafood species and are currently developing a future sustainable fishing policy.The shark fin soup product was a new, limited time item for Loblaw available only in select stores. We appreciate the sensitivities around the item that were brought to our attention, and upon close and immediate review we have now removed it from our shelves directly and the item will no longer be featured in our flyers.

As we value our customer feedback, we hope that we have addressed your concerns today and look forward to continuing to serve you.

Kindest regards,

Catherine S.

Sr. Customer Relations Representative
Loblaw Companies

A Little More Good Guys Winning to Cheer Me Up

I’m thrilled to tell you that Shell announced yesterday that they canceled their 2009 drilling plans in the Alaska’s ‘Polar Bear Seas.’

This is a direct result of our recent court victory ruling that Shell could not start offshore drilling because the Department of Interior did not adequately assess the environmental and social impacts from drilling.Offshore drilling comes at too high a cost to Arctic communities and wildlife that are already facing unprecedented threats due to the effects of climate change.

This is the third year in a row that we’ve blocked Shell from drilling in the Arctic and we’re committed to keep fighting until we see permanent protections enacted in the region. In 2009 we’ll work with our Alaska Native partners to ensure the new administration addresses climate change and invests in renewable energies instead of perpetuating our addiction to oil.

We couldn’t have won this amazing victory without your support over the last year – thank you!

Thanks again and happy holidays,

Whit Sheard
Alaska Program DirectorPacific

Sharkwater Wins Another Award

I’ve talked about this film and the issues it brings to light before, and I’m glad whenever it gets recognition. Call it creation care; call it environmental justice; call it collective self-preservation or whatever you want to call it. We are living a wrong way, and we need to find a right way to live before its too late. Period.

Congratulations to Sharkwater. I hope it keeps winning awards until people start paying attention.

Prayer Experiment 1: Fear of Prayer is Fear of Pain

There’s some profanity in this one. So you’ve been warned. Also, this is not some kind of call for reassurance or that kind of thing. It is a post to myself, and I’m not even sure I’ll click [Publish Post].

The topic for this post has been rattling around in my head for a few weeks now. It occurred to me during the Multicultural Conference as my mind was, honestly, wandering a little at some point.

I often reflect to myself that I am not good at many of the things that are usually associated with Christianity. I am not a naturally trusting person. I think it has to do with going through abuse as a kid and adolescent and having a few hard knocks since. Nothing extraordinary, and at this point mostly reconciled, but breaches in trust when you’re very young just stay with you a lot longer than you’d think, and they come up in strange and disturbing ways.

I am also not naturally very hopeful. I am a pessimist. I hedge my bets. I always, always plan for the worst. If you ask me what I will do if something goes wrong, I’ve got at least three or four answers off the top of my head, because I’ve been obsessively thinking about it long before you even thought to ask. This could be connected to childhood issues as well. Also, to be honest, some things have gone wrong severely enough in my life that those worst-case-scenario plans actually had to be put into action. My life has been easier than most people’s lives, I definitely realize that, but there have been times that it has been as hard as I could possibly stand without absolutely breaking down.

I also don’t pray very often. I’ve said in the past that I pray publicly as part of pastoral ministry and other than that I pray as an act of desperation. I pray shipwrecked, stranded, hopeless, lost prayers when all else fails me. This is partly a habit from when I though that you should never pray when instead you could act. I’ve gotten past that view since to see value in prayer itself…I just don’t do it very often.

What occurred to me is that, to a large degree, I don’t pray because it is so painful to do so most of the time. When I’m leading prayer or praying as part of a worship service, I am caught up in the moment, and my thoughts of the other people gathered there, and so the pain is dulled, but it still comes out in what I say when I’m not scripted. But by myself, if I pray honestly, it is incredibly painful.

I mention not being a trusting person and not being a hopeful person because those definitely play into this problem. There are two other things that I have identified as well in my reflection (and there has been a huge amount in my life for a while now on this topic). Those two things are grief and fear.

The grief comes most strongly when I try to make any kind of intercessory prayer. I just…I feel the weight of tragedy and horrible things going on in the world very deeply and viscerally. I have been profoundly re-sensitized by my spiritual life and my service to the Church and my study of scripture and my life in different communities. All of those statistics that we gloss over so glibly have kept me awake in the past with anguish and still do. The idea that we are destroying hundreds of species, so that they are gone forever without even a trace in many cases, every year, is devastating. It attains the level of unimaginable tragedy in my mind – beautiful things I believe were created by God which we destroy wantonly and thoughtlessly. And they will never be back. Good things of God’s world that we will never, ever get back.

I read about what we’re doing in Iraq or Afghanistan, what we have done in the past in so many dozens of places to millions of innocent people, and I feel a deep shame and a creeping horror that I cannot escape or wash off. That is the weight of sin that I feel most deeply – that horrible things are being done and I have not done everything in my power to prevent them. And I can’t. I don’t have the energy or the strength. I have so much to worry about just wondering where I will live in two months or how I will afford to live, or whether my wife will get to start work again, and in the meantime how do we pay our bills? I do little paltry things like this stupid blog and my stupid little letters and occasional volunteering (God I wish I had more time) and tiny donations that I can’t afford and its pathetic and shameful that this is all I do.

There is no way I can make any kind of accounting for my life. None whatsoever. I cannot even begin to think of how I would find my life acceptable in any theological or moral sense. I’ve got nothing. And I grieve for the terrible things that wound the world that I cannot stop, and I grieve at my own shameful failure to do more, to do something, anything more than I am doing.

This transitions well into my point about fear. I fear that I will be convicted if I dare to pray for very long, that my petty hypocrisies will be brought to light and will be made starkly visible. That I do not do enough to love my enemies. That I do not do enough to end violence against the helpless which my taxes pay for and my silence empowers. That I do not do enough to care for God’s creation. That I am too much a slave to the shit that I buy with money I earn doing a job that just feeds the machinery one hour, one transaction at a time. That I do not do enough to represent Christ to the people in my life. That I am too quick to anger and too long to forgive. That I let fear and anxiety control me. Over and over and over. One thing after another.

I always wonder what I am doing here. I know what I am doing here, and I also have no idea what I am doing here. You’re supposed to get things you deserve. Right? That’s what Job’s friends said, and they seem like smart guys. You are supposed to have earned what you have. Good things are a reward and bad things are a punishment. Right? So then how is it that I am being rewarded?

Partly it is the bare, terrible fact that I benefit from injustice and I let it happen. I can justify this to myself any number of ways, and God knows I do, but it is in the end unjustifiable. If I had any integrity whatsoever, I would never dare to spend money to go to seminary while a single human being was starving, or living in oppression, or dying from diseases borne by polluted drinking water. If I had any integrity, I would not be here. I only have a bare, reckless hope that having gone here, I can do more good than otherwise. That very much remains to be seen.

So I don’t have integrity. That can’t be what I am being rewarded for by having these opportunities. And we’ve covered the fact that I am untrusting and unhopeful, that I am moved to grief and shame when I consider who I am, that I am driven by fear to hypocrisy and a flinching hesitancy.

But then again – dammit – then again, there have been things that have happened, which have made it possible for me to stay here, when there are only the most feeble explanations for them, desperate grasping for things like lucky coincidence…deep down, below where I usually know things, I sense that this is God. This is God saying “you selfish jerk, I want you right where you are. And I am going to make you depend on me if it kills you.”

And it almost has. And it might yet.

And shit. I’m backed into a corner, have been backed into a corner a few times while I’ve been here, where my wife and I have just looked at each other, and usually started to cry a little, or a lot, in relief, and thought what is going on? This isn’t supposed to happen. How did this happen?

[And this is one big reason why I cannot accept penal substitutionary atonement. If God must punish, then God cannot possibly punish enough. But when the time came, God chose not to punish at all, not even to fight back when we in our insanity chose to punish God in our midst, to torture and execute the eternal Word for the sake of our fear and hysteria and arrogance. God is the one who accepts unjust punishment from us, and who, in love, refuses to mete out just punishment that we have long had coming. That is why this God is different, to me at least. This is why this God is actually God. Because this God’s grace is so huge that it shatters our concepts of what justice is, what punishment means, what we deserve; all of it lies in ruin on the floor in pieces, and God is still standing there, brushing the last bits of our notions of punishment and reward from God’s hands, saying “Now we are done with that.”]

But I digress. I have decided to take up an experiment, in light of all the things I’ve typed above, which are not new realizations at all. This experiment is going to seem paltry and elementary to most of you – a real no-brainer – but it is big to me. And if you want to make comments to that end, frankly, expect them to be deleted.

The experiment is: I will pray for a set amount of time every day. I will pray about all of these horrible things that I see going on around me, in intercessory prayers which are by far the most painful for me to pray. I will pray on behalf of the many people I know well who are suffering. I will pray on my own behalf, for all of the things that I lack. I will then see what happens. If I feel inclined, I will post about it.

That’s the plan.

"We Fight Them Until We Can’t"

The quote is from Starbuck, season two of the new Battlestar Galactica series.

I’ve needed things to cheer me up lately, and maybe this will do for some of you too. My contributions to each campaign were quite meager, but still, its nice to feel like I’m a very small part of something good, a fight to protect the beautiful things in this world which God called good. Sometimes, I think it’s important that we actually act as if we believed that.

…There are also obviously some links to check out. If you want to get involved, its easy enough for me to do it even while in school full time, working two jobs and writing a book (not to mention a load of blogs), so you can probably find time to participate too…

Here are just a few recent victories we have to celebrate because of you:

Your support helped us…

Gray Wolf Howling (Photo: USFWS)
Save Alaska’s voice by helping to defeat Governor Sarah Palin’s legislation that would have cancelled a vote this summer on the state’s brutal aerial wolf hunting program — a program that Alaskans have voted down twice before.
Bison (Photo: National Park Service, D.A. Buehler)
Give bison a break in Montana. More than 50,000 activists like you wrote messages to Montana tourism officials expressing outrage over the senseless slaughter of bison outside Yellowstone National Park. Last week, Governor Brian Schweitzer announced a deal to create a much-needed winter corridor for these icons of the American West.
Black-Footed Ferret (Photo: National Park Service)
Rally for ranchers like Larry and Bette Haverfield in Kansas. More than 16,000 activists like you spoke out to support efforts to return the once-thought-to-be-extinct black-footed ferret to their land. And last December, the Fish & Wildlife Service came through, releasing the first black-footed ferrets to be seen on the Kansas prairie in 50 years.
Tundra Swan (Photo: USFWS)
Protect the Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge. Defenders rallied our conservation partners and local residents to save the Refuge, home to snow geese, tundra swans and the world’s only wild population of red wolves. Thanks to this near constant pressure, the U.S. Navy abandoned plans to build a harmful landing field near this important refuge.

As we celebrate these achievements, we’re also looking forward. Our wildlife faces some pretty daunting challenges — and we’re ready to tackle them with you by our side.

We’ll continue our 35-year fight to ensure the long-term survival of wolves in the Greater Yellowstone region and beyond. And our biggest challenge will be addressing global warming and its impacts on our wildlife.

Thanks to you, we’ve been there for our wildlife and wild places — and with your help, we’ll continue to be there well into the future.

Rodger Schlickeisen, President (c)Daniel J. Cox/www.naturalexpos
Rodger Signature
Rodger Schlickeisen
Defenders of Wildlife

P.S. Doug, thank you so much for your past support of Defenders. If you wish to do something more, please consider making an emergency contribution to stop the slaughter of Greater Yellowstone wolves.