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Defenders of Wildlife

Editorials and Opinion


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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."

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."

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."

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."

EDITORIAL: G.O.P. Assault on Environmental Laws (New York Times, 06/08/15)
"President Obama has announced or will soon propose important protections for clean water, clean air, threatened species and threatened landscapes. Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, and other Republicans in Congress are trying hard not to let that happen ... the sage grouse initiative is a legitimate executive action aimed at carrying out Congress’s purpose in the 1973 Endangered Species Act, which was to save a species before it disappears."

Editorial Assembly bill on ivory sales is worth approving (Los Angeles Times, 06/07/15)
"[L]egal ivory trade can serve as a cover for illegal trade. AB 96, introduced by Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins (D-San Diego), would tighten the rules by barring the sale of almost all ivory in California. (The bill would also ban the importation and sale of endangered rhinoceros horn.) It passed the Assembly last week with bipartisan support. The Senate should pass it too, and the governor should sign it into law.... It's not likely that the courts will see this law as a violation of the Takings Clause under the 5th Amendment of the Constitution. When California outlawed shark fins, a group sued, arguing that the government had taken away the value of traders' shark fins. The courts ruled otherwise, stating that the government was not in violation of the Constitution when it imposed a complete ban on a product determined to be harmful to the species."

Editorial: Cheers and Jeers (Gainesville Sun [FL], 06/06/15)
"Jeer: Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officials, for suggesting that the endangered status of the Florida panther may need to be reviewed. Wildlife advocates told a GateHouse Media reporter that the agency is rejecting scientific evidence in claiming that having a panther population near 200 shows the animal is no longer endangered."

Editorial: Population peril (Charleston Gazette [WV] , 06/02/15)
"Population problems of many sorts are outlined in the latest Free Inquiry magazine. Some examples: ... “The rate of plant and animal extinction is about 1,000 times higher than the natural rate . ... Other species ... are going extinct at the highest rate since the extinction that wiped out most dinosaurs 65 million years ago.” • “For most of Earth’s recent history, our atmosphere has contained about 275 parts per million of carbon dioxide. Today, we are at 400 ppm and climbing, a level that essentially locks in significant climate change ... . The increase of CO2 in the oceans is... the highest it has been in about 20 million years.” • “About 90 percent of the ocean’s population of large fish has been wiped out by overfishing and other human activity.”"

Editorial: Protecting the pollinators (Providence Journal [RI] , 05/28/15)
"Europe has banned three types of the pesticides known as neonicotinoids, widely used on U.S. crops but feared by some researchers to endanger bees. With U.S. environmental groups pushing for their elimination here, the accelerated review of their impact is welcome.... the loss of honeybees and other pollinators may be signaling broad problems with U.S. ecosystems. The more researchers discover now, the better the chance of averting a crisis."

Editorial: Obama’s bee report has a hole in it (Fresno Bee [CA] , 05/27/15)
"Billions of dollars and a third of the nation’s food supply are at stake. So it’s only right that the Obama administration is taking up the plight of the honeybee, a linchpin of our food system. The only thing wrong is that the plan doesn’t go far enough.... the task force stops short of direct recommendations about curbing the use of neonicotinoids, a class of pesticides that’s applied to crops.... At a minimum, we need to speed studies about the pesticides, and either clear them of the collapse, or make hard decisions about their continued use."

PD Editorial: Plan Bee to save the pollinators (Press Democrat [CA] , 05/26/15)
"Farmers and scientists have watched with alarm as honeybee colonies died off in recent years. Bees are pollinators, bringing color to backyard gardens and tending crops that feed the nation — almonds, avocados, apples, peaches, plums, pears, blueberries, strawberries, the list goes on....President Barack Obama offered a plan to expand breeding and feeding grounds for bees and other pollinators, including monarch butterflies, another species suffering sharp declines. Obama also directed the Environmental Protection Agency to re-evaluate the effects of neonicotinoid pesticides on honeybees. The agency has restricted their use around bee colonies, but, unlike the European Union, it hasn’t enacted a moratorium. ... It’s a cautious, science-based approach that deserves funding to expedite research and public cooperation in maintaining gardens and other spaces where bees and butterflies can thrive. Otherwise, some of our favorite foods may start disappearing from supermarket shelves and kitchen tables."

EDITORIAL: Our Views: Louisiana black bear makes remarkable turn exiting endangered species list (New Orleans Advocate, 05/25/15)
"One of our trademarks, the bear that inspired Teddy bears, is no longer an endangered species, according to federal authorities, although some longtime advocates for conservation dispute the decision of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service....As few as 100 bears are thought to have been living in the 1950s. We don’t want to go back to that level, but we are reasonably confident that the plans by federal and state authorities will not allow that to happen. This has been in discussion for a long time. Still, it’s good that the Black Bear Conservation Coalition and other environmental groups will keep a close eye on this new development.... Nor could it have happened without private citizens like Harold Schoeffler, whose legal action prompted the settlement that listed the bear as a threatened species in 1991. He’s not entirely happy with regulators now and will doubtless be heard on this new step."

EDITORIAL: The endangered pollinators (Baltimore Sun, 05/22/15)
"It's estimated that every third bite of food a person consumes can be traced to a honey bee, wild bee or other insect pollinator. ... That's why the science-based strategies endorsed recently by President Barack Obama are a good step in the right direction toward restoring the environmental balance. The loss of pollinators requires a focused government response that will not only pinpoint the causes behind the collapse but set the nation on remedial action now while a recovery is still possible. Corrective action involves not just limiting pesticide applications on fields traveled by bees but also planting pollinator-friendly crops and preserving natural habitat."