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A project tracking federal judicial nominations and courts.

Defenders of Wildlife

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Senators Put Politics Above People in Obstructing Supreme Court Nominee (Huffington Post, 03/03/16)
Trip Van Noppen, President, Earthjustice: "In every Supreme Court vacancy in the history of our Republic, performing the “advice and consent” role has meant giving genuine consideration to a nominee; evaluating the person’s credentials and qualifications, judicial temperament and experience; and deciding whether the individual nominee should be approved. This has been the case even when a vacancy has occurred during a presidential election year. But apparently not this time. This time Senate Republicans are refusing to do their job. They stand to make American history by becoming the first Senate majority to put playing politics above doing their job by refusing to consider any nominee from the president, no matter how qualified the candidate may be."

Editorial: Habitat expansion key to right whale recovery (Eagle-Tribune [MA], 02/02/16)
"There is reason to be optimistic that the recent move by the federal government to expand the protected habitat of the North Atlantic right whale will protect the endangered species without harming its equally at-risk ocean neighbor, the commercial fishing industry.... The designation is essential to the continued recovery of the species, however, especially as more plans come forward for oil platforms in the south and wind farms and aquaculture in the Northeast. That's a bonus for the fishing industry, which has its own concerns about those endeavors."

Mercury News editorial: Stop the Delta tunnel water madness (San Jose Mercury News [CA], 01/29/16)
"Every serious scientific study of the Delta shows that its health is deteriorating because too much water already is being drained away. State biologists reported this spring that the Delta smelt, the canary in the coal mine for the Delta, is almost extinct. Salmon runs were pathetic this year. The best way for California to meet its water needs is to focus on conservation, recycling and reuse. Agriculture uses about 75 percent of the state's water supply, but only 40 percent of farmers use drip irrigation."

EDITORIAL: Cecil’s revenge: A tragic killing puts lions on the endangered list (Pitt News [PA] , 12/26/15)
"Cecil, the majestic lion shot and killed by a Minnesota dentist in Zimbabwe, was a senseless statistic in the war on Africa’s kings of the jungle. But good has come from the tragedy — amplified concern for these beautiful animals and the importance of added legal protection. To that end, the Obama administration on Monday placed lions in central and western Africa on the endangered species list."

EDITORIAL: The better days of the California condor (San Diego Union-Tribune [CA] , 12/25/15)
"A species doesn’t get much closer to extinction than did the California condor. There were just 22 of these birds in the world in 1983 .... Today, there are more than 420 California condors ... This bird with a scraggly head and a 9-foot wingspan remains endangered. But it is flying higher today than at an time in 30 years."

Editorial Hope for the threatened African lion (Los Angeles Times, 12/23/15)
"After two decades of dramatic decline, African lions are finally getting the status that they, sadly, deserve. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Monday that it would list one subspecies of lion as "threatened" under the federal Endangered Species Act and another subspecies — of which only 900 remain in Africa — as "endangered," meaning it is at risk of extinction. The tough new regulations are a welcome move to protect these extraordinary animals, which find themselves under tremendous environmental strain.... Animal welfare groups petitioned the U.S. government to list the animals nearly five years ago."

Mercury News editorial: Drought relief held hostage to trashing the Delta (San Jose Mercury News [CA], 12/02/15)
"Central Valley Republicans want to strip out essential environmental protections for the Delta to quench Big Ag's thirst for more water for questionable orchard crops such as almonds and pistachios. The Bay Area delegation has to fight this -- but there are signs that Sen. Dianne Feinstein will go over to the dark side with House Republicans to in essence destroy the Endangered Species Act. ... Environmentalists, farmers and federal water regulators battled for 19 years to forge a 2006 settlement aimed at restoring year-around water flows to the river and reintroduce salmon and other habitat. It's crazy to undo that effort,"

Editorial: The G.O.P.’s Worst Budget Riders (New York Times, 12/02/15)
"Many anti-environmental riders have been put forward by lawmakers in committees with jurisdiction over energy, water, air quality, public lands and endangered species. Arguably the most serious threat is one that would invalidate a new rule from the Environmental Protection Agency that clarifies which waters are protected under federal law from unrestricted dredging, filling and development.... The White House has said it opposes many of these riders, and has threatened previously to veto attempts to weaken the clean-water improvements. But in 2011, the administration caved on some environmental riders. ... Republicans in the House and Senate appear divided, with the House’s far-right caucus eager for a shutdown if it doesn’t get its way and the Senate leadership desperate to avoid one for fear it would hurt its party’s electoral prospects in 2016. That is an opening for Mr. Obama to do the right thing with harmful riders: Just say no."

Editorial: Due process needed in coastal development cases (Island Packet [SC], 11/18/15)
"A court ruling in Columbia last week could spell trouble for environmental protection all along the South Carolina coast. A decision by Chief Administrative Law Judge Ralph King Anderson III would enable developers to build a half-mile long, steel sheet pile wall, road, sewer lines and water lines to a spit of shifting sand south of Kiawah Island. In doing so, the court lifted an "automatic stay" to halt this foolishness while it is being challenged in court. It only makes sense to hold off on harmful development that may not, in the end, be permitted. Why ruin the environment, only to find out later that it should not have been done? It makes no sense.... Conservationists filed an emergency appeal directly to the South Carolina Supreme Court, which will hopefully restore common sense.... Coastal Conservation League says. "It is a critically important public trust resource providing habitat to a variety of rare, threatened and endangered species."... We urge the public to support the South Carolina Environmental Law Project and the Coastal Conservation League in this fight and the subsequent fight in the legislature. We urge Beaufort County residents to make it clear to local legislators that the "automatic stay" and due process in court are vital to our economy and way of life."

The Endangered Species Act, species it protects are under attack (Bangor Daily News [ME], 11/03/15)
Rep. Roland “Danny” Martin: "During my tenure as commissioner of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, I learned firsthand what I had always known intuitively: Maine’s wildlife is a valued and wondrous gift that, at the same time, is resilient and fragile. ... The state, however, could only do so much, and without the protections of the Endangered Species Act, or ESA, first passed in 1973, many of our efforts would have fallen short. Unfortunately, the ESA is under attack. Despite its nearly 99 percent success rate of preventing the extinction of listed species, the ESA is under fire as some in Congress continue to try to weaken or eliminate very important portions of the act. For example, there have been multiple legislative proposals introduced to prevent intrastate species — species that can only be found in one state — from being listed under the ESA. This could lead to the extinction of countless species because states do not spend adequate funds on the protection and recovery of imperiled species.... it is more important than ever that Collins and King know the Endangered Species Act — legislation that has protected some of the most vulnerable animal and plant species in our country — is in need of protection itself. Maine and Mainers are counting on them."

Endorsements: No on Initiative 1366, Yes on Initiative 1401 (Yakima Herald-Republic [WA], 10/18/15)
"Initiative 1401, is financed by Microsoft founder Paul Allen and would target the sale of animal parts from endangered species like elephants and rhinoceroses. The Yakima Herald-Republic Editorial Board recommends the following: Initiative 1401: Yes"

Editorial: I-1401 is flawed but necessary step (The Olympian [WA], 10/17/15)
"On one hand, there is no civilized reason that Washington should allow the sale of parts taken from these threatened and endangered species. Strengthening the state’s prohibitions could fill in gaps in the enforcement of federal laws against the import and sale of endangered animals through our ports.... We support this initiative with misgivings. But its backers’ impulse is the right one. Thousands of species are being slaughtered unnecessarily. It’s time to end the market for these products everywhere."

In Our View: Vote ‘Yes’ on Initiative 1401 (Columbian [WA], 10/15/15)
"The poaching of exotic animals might seem like an issue that is far removed from Washington. Yet that should not prevent voters in this state from taking a step to combat the global scourge. With Initiative 1401 on the statewide ballot, Washingtonians have an opportunity to weigh in on the trading of exotic animal parts and set a standard for other jurisdictions to follow. The Columbian’s Editorial Board recommends a vote in favor of I-1401.... There is little that can be done in Washington to alter a global market or prevent the abhorrent practice of killing endangered animals for their tusks, horns or fins. But with Oregon and California also considering measures to reduce trafficking of such parts, this state can help build a wall along the West Coast while sending a message that such practices are unacceptable."

Editorial: I-1401 will help protect endangered species (Spokesman-Review [Spokane, WA], 10/10/15)
"Can Washington stop the slaughter of the elephants in Africa, tigers in Asia, or sharks on the high seas? The obvious answer is no. But we might save some if the financial inducements for traffickers are removed. ...Respect for nature is almost bred into Washingtonians, and the lions on Africa’s savannahs deserve the same regard we hold for the salmon in our rivers or the elk in our mountains."

Editorial: Fight ivory, other species trafficking here (Herald [WA] , 10/09/15)
"Since passage in 1972 of the federal Endangered Species Act and in 1973 of an international treaty on endangered species, trafficking in ivory and other products from those species has been illegal....the Obama administration announced it was changing regulations to ban interstate trade of most ivory and cut off commercial imports of ivory. Voters now have the opportunity to strengthen laws here that would make it riskier and potentially more costly for traffickers in endangered animal products to come through Washington state, joining similar efforts in New York and California, that would make those major ports less attractive to traffickers.... Washington state is a long way from the African savanna and Asian forests, but our position as a state with major ports of entry requires state residents to address the issue of endangered animals and the trafficking in ivory, fur, meat, shells, organs and more."

EDITORIAL: Support I-1401 and the world’s endangered animals (News Tribune [WA] , 09/30/15)
"[I]llegal hunting of endangered animals. It’s a huge and profitable business, and it is killing so many animals that many species are on the brink of extinction. ... Now an initiative that will be on Washington voters’ Nov. 3 ballot seeks to make it tougher for the trafficking in endangered species to go unpunished in this state. Voters should approve it.... It’s far too easy in much of the world to traffic in the deaths of endangered species. That’s no reason for it to be easy here, too. Vote to approve I-1401."

EDITORIAL: Sea life dying from human failures (Virginian-Pilot, 09/29/15)
"According to a study this month by the World Wildlife Fund and the Zoological Society of London, half of the ocean's vertebrate population has disappeared in just four decades....Whether it's through overfishing, pollution or carbon dioxide emissions that cause the oceans to warm and acidify, humans are harming the planet and its mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish. The decline has been significant across most species, but it's worse for animals we rely on for food or income.... One in four species of sharks or rays is now under threat of extinction.... Protecting the oceans from exploitation should be part of a worldwide solution .... Reducing pollution and run-off will help take environmental pressure off the oceans' coastal species. So will reducing the emission of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that are changing the composition of the oceans themselves. There is undoubtedly time to reverse the oceans' declines, but only if humans have the will."

EDITORIAL Our view: Let the wolves into the wild (Santa Fe New Mexican, 09/28/15)
"Releasing more wolves into the wild is essential in adding genetic diversity to the wild population.... Commissioners’ decisions have made it easier to hunt and kill cougars and bears. They denied a permit to Ted Turner’s Ladder Ranch to aid in the federal wolf recovery program by providing pen space — a reversal of 17 years of a program that worked. This clearly is a Game Commission hostile to wild animals. Should the commission not allow the release of additional wolves, we trust that U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service bosses will use the Endangered Species Act to force New Mexico’s hand. Under federal law, the United States is charged with protecting the endangered wolves and striving to ensure their survival. ... Such short-sightedness on the state level must be fought by aggressive federal action. If the states won’t do the right thing by wolves, the federal government must act, using its authority under the Endangered Species Act."

Protecting Endangered Species Under the Commerce Clause: People for the Ethical Treatment of Property Owners v. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (American Constitution Society Blog, 09/25/15)
Jason Rylander, Defenders of Wildlife: "Every single court to consider the question – including the Fourth, Fifth, Ninth, Eleventh, and D.C. Circuits – has upheld the federal government’s constitutional authority to protect wildlife through the ESA. But last year, District Court Judge Dee Benson of Utah disagreed, and so the Tenth Circuit will weigh in on what had, until now, been settled law. As I argued in an amicus brief for Defenders of Wildlife and five other national conservation groups, the Tenth Circuit should reverse."

Editorial: The greater sage grouse and the lesser prairie chicken: let science decide (Los Angeles Times, 09/25/15)
"The chicken is one of several species that lawmakers want to pluck out from under the Endangered Species Act through language inserted into the Interior bill, in effect seeking to dismantle the law one species at a time. It also would take gray wolves in Wyoming and the Great Lakes states off the list of threatened species and prevent the Fish and Wildlife Service from listing the Sonoran desert tortoise. Even more troubling is a provision that would halt the service's efforts to tighten restrictions on the importation and sale of ivory in the U.S. as part of a global effort to stop the slaughter of African elephants. Meanwhile, another House bill — to reauthorize defense programs — would de-list the American burying beetle .... decisions about their conservation shouldn't be made by members of Congress and corporate interests. Whether a species is so robust that it does not require the protection of the Endangered Species Act must ultimately be a scientific call, not a political one."

Playing Whack-a-Mole with the Endangered Species Act (American Constitution Society Blog, 09/24/15)
Bruce Myers & Jay Austin, Environmental Law Institute: "To date, a wolf, a toad, two fish, a fly, and a collection of “cave bugs” have successfully carried the banner of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) against a series of constitutional challenges. On Monday, the Tenth Circuit will hear oral arguments ... on whether the Act is unconstitutional as applied to the endangered Utah prairie dog. PETPO has implications for nearly every federal environmental law, and for other laws enacted on the basis of Congress’ authority to pass legislation that is necessary and proper for regulating interstate commerce.... From 1997 to 2011, six appellate cases spanning five circuits rejected similar challenges. ... What remains crystal clear, however, is that Congress is owed a great deal of deference when it enacts environmental or other legislation under its commerce power. ... it is difficult to see how any fair measure of deference afforded to Congress would result in anything other than a reversal of the district court’s anomalous decision."

Editorial: True conservatives support environmental protection (Richmond Times-Dispatch [VA], 09/20/15)
"A Democratic president’s trip reminds Republicans of their historic ties to environmentalism. Theodore Roosevelt’s embrace of conservation planted the seeds for the environmental movement. Nixon created the Environmental Protection Agency. New York Sen. James Buckley showed that certain “green” policies were compatible with conservative principles. Officials in Virginia and its neighbors have developed a heightened appreciation of the need for government intervention to save the Chesapeake. ... A faction among conservatives refuses, with sectarian zealotry, to concede the reality of climate change and the strong possibility than humanity has contributed to warming. A carbon tax deserves conservative support; cap-and-trade deserves serious debate. The Endangered Species Act has fallen under siege, too. Ideologues want to undermine its effectiveness and to limit its scope. This dismays.... the pope’s encyclical letter, “On Care for Our Common Home,” takes a broad view of humanity’s gifts and obligations that conservatives ought to find congenial. ... It is time for conservatives to listen to what their better angels have to say about the environment. Obama went north to Alaska; conservatives can apply much of his message to regions south of the Last Frontier."

EDITORIAL: Our Voice: Thumbs up (Tri-City Herald [WA] , 08/02/15)
"Cracking down on trafficking Thanks, in part to the backing of Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, Washington voters will have a chance to send a strong message to those who seek to profit from the killing of certain animals threatened with extinction. ... Until we take steps like this to dry up demand, hundreds upon hundreds of elephants will be poached for their ivory and the carcasses of rare rhinos will lie rotting in the African bush so their horns can be ground into black market aphrodisiacs."

EDITORIAL: Give horseshoe crabs a break -- before they're gone (Newsday [NY], 07/24/15)
"The board has asked the state to ban harvesting the crabs at town beaches and in Setauket Harbor, to address concerns about overfishing. Given insufficient information about their habitat and whether the population is declining or stable, it's a reasonable request. In environmental matters, erring on the side of caution is almost always a good idea. Beyond the wisdom of preserving species whenever we can, horseshoe crabs are important symbolically and in reality."

EDITORIAL: Wash. voters should support I-1401, taking lead to stop poaching (Seattle Times [WA] , 06/21/15)
"Washington voters should support an initiative to increase penalties for trade of endangered exotic animals.... The northern white rhino’s plight illustrates the devastation caused by exotic-animal trading and why Washington voters should support Initiative 1401. ... These animals need protection, and Washington’s proposed law could encourage other states to take action."

Editorial: Lack of a wolf plan should have U.S. howling mad (Albuquerque Journal [NM], 06/16/15)
"The public ... deserves to know what that final goal is. According to a 2014 lawsuit against Fish and Wildlife by Defenders of Wildlife [and others] “the absence of a legitimate agency blueprint for Mexican gray wolf recovery underlies the ongoing challenges facing the subspecies’ recovery program. Accordingly, those challenges could be resolved through the production and implementation of a scientifically based and legally valid recovery plan to guide and drive Mexican gray wolf management decisions, such as scheduled releases to promote genetic diversity, necessary limitations on wolf removals by FWS and the public, and delineation of appropriate geographic areas to facilitate wolf recovery.”"

Editorial: Where have all the honeybees gone? (Record Journal [CT], 06/15/15)
"Bees pollinate some 80 percent of plant species, and about a third of our food supply depends on them. Some crops, such as almonds, are completely dependent on bees for pollination. But the honeybees have been disappearing ... current theory is that there may be multiple factors involved, including disease, bacteria, parasites — and pesticides, including synthetic nicotine pesticides called neo-nicotinoids.... it should be a major concern for all of us, because all of us depend on honeybees for our sustenance."

Editorial: Do not take Florida panther off endangered list (Tampa Bay Times [FL], 06/12/15)
"Count this among the most shortsighted ideas to emerge from state wildlife protection bureaucrats in recent memory: They want the Florida panther to be removed from the federal endangered species list. Apparently, 150 to 250 Florida panthers are just too many. This is the wrong move for Florida and for the panthers, and it could reverse decades of work aimed at protecting the animals.... reducing federal regulation is not the answer."

EDITORIAL: Prairie dog vaccine program just might help (Great Falls Tribune [MT], 06/09/15)
"We believe this is a useful project that we hope will help rescue a rare species from the brink of extinction. But this also reveals a larger picture — that driving other species to extinction, whether it be bison, prairie dogs, wolves or other animals, is not in the best interests of most Americans or other world occupants. Even sometimes despised creatures can play a useful role in the ecological landscape. Bats are voracious eaters of insects, even if literature has painted them as scary creatures; bison contributed to the prairie ecosystem, and reintroduction in some locations could help restore part of the Great Plains prairie that is rich in both animal and plant life. We applaud efforts to safeguard the existence of other species on the earth, … We support these steps, and we are confident these efforts, if they succeed, will benefit human beings as well as the animals and plants we help to survive."