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Judging the Environment judicial nominations photo

A project tracking federal judicial nominations and courts.

Editorials and Opinion


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EDITORIAL: Climate change report raises new alarms about future disasters (Kansas City Star, 03/31/14)
"A new report from an international study group on climate change could hardly be gloomier. The adverse effects of greenhouse gases in global environments, at least in part probably caused by human activities, extend from coastal flooding to farmland drought. Food insecurity. Social displacement. Biodiversity losses. Systemic collapse.... Responding with urgency may cost far less than waiting until disaster strikes."

Editorial: Threatened chicken (Hays Daily News [KS], 03/30/14)
"The move by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to list the lesser prairie chicken as threatened under the Endangered Species Act should not have come as a surprise. The grouse's natural habitat in native grasslands and prairies has been reduced an estimated 84 percent. Last year, the bird's population dropped by almost half from the year before to a record low 17,616.... The lesser prairie chicken should be listed as threatened. Without mitigation, this particular bird likely would become endangered and then extinct. State and local stakeholders have the opportunity to ensure that doesn't happen. They should be grateful, not threatening legal or congressional action."

EDITORIAL: Bald eagles' return: A majestic success story (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review [PA] , 03/28/14)
"The return of the bald eagle to Western Pennsylvania is a success story of majestic proportion. In 1980, our national bird had almost disappeared from the state"

Forum editorial: Confluence oil spill is troubling (Forum of Fargo-Moorhead [ND], 03/25/14)
"Here is a generous serving of high praise for North Dakota Game and Fish supervisor Kent Luttschwager. He seems to be one of the few (the only?) state habitat/wildlife managers who has spoken out forcefully regarding oil pollution....The mess will require extensive cleanup, and could be a threat to the endangered pallid sturgeon, one of the iconic fish species in the rivers.... But there is no effective regulation that orders the wells be shut down and secured before damage and spills occur. There are no short-term or long-term response plans for protecting habitat after a spill. In other words, it’s pretty much up to the oil well companies to respond in the way they see fit, which they can do because what regulation exists is perceived as toothless."

EDITORIAL: Return of the bats? (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review [PA] , 03/25/14)
"Field observations by Nature Conservancy and Pennsylvania Game Commission biologists provide grounds for some optimism that bat populations ravaged by a fungal malady are stabilizing. It's a glimmer of hope for creatures that humans rely on to control insect and pest populations in forests and farm fields....Given bats' critical ecological role and their swift, steep decline, these early indications that white nose syndrome's grim grip is weakening is encouraging."

Endangered species not Arizona’s to delist (Arizona Daily Sun, 03/23/14)
Letter to the Editor by Bob James

Where's the science? Fish and Wildlife Service must rewrite proposal to strip endangered species protections from gray wolves (San Jose Mercury News [CA], 03/21/14)
Paul Paquet and Bob Ferris: "Our unflattering assessment derives from the peer review of the service's 2013 proposal to strip Endangered Species Act protections from most wolves in the West. The service's recommendation to "delist" wolves was judged to have ignored and misrepresented the "best available science," which is the unambiguous standard for species listing decisions. We wholeheartedly agree with the peer reviewers' troubling conclusions, and we are disappointed that the service pursued political expediency rather than abiding by the lawful provisions of the ESA."

Protect the Endangered Species Act: Editorial; The most successful environmental legislation ever enacted faces new threats from Congress (Scientific American, 03/18/14)
By The Editors: "The Yellowstone wolves are among the 6,000 or so gray wolves that now inhabit the lower 48 states thanks to the Endangered Species Act (ESA).... The ESA has prevented the extinction of 99 percent of the 2,000 listed species. ...The latest assault comes in the form of the Endangered Species Management Self-Determination Act, ... lawsuits filed by environmental groups have led to many of the ESA's accomplishments. ... conservation efforts must be updated to reflect what scientists now know about climate change and the threats it poses to wildlife. As temperatures rise, many more species will fall on hard times. Policy makers should thus increase ESA funding to allow more rigorous monitoring of wildlife and to protect more species."

Viewpoints: OR-7’s return and expanding Oregon wolf population are wake-up calls for California (Sacramento Bee [CA] , 03/17/14)
Amaroq Weiss: "The question now is whether the California Fish & Game commissioners who have the final word on state wolf protections will follow the science or the politics ... Their decision on wolves should be informed by recent missteps on the federal level after a peer-review panel of national wolf experts revealed last month that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ignored the best available science in proposing to drop Endangered Species Act protections for most wolves in the lower 48 states even though wolves exist in only 5 percent of their historic range. The unanimous conclusion of the legally required review – that the federal June 2013 wolf-delisting proposal misrepresents the most current science regarding wolf conservation and wolf taxonomy – poses a big scientific problem for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s national wolf-delisting proposal."

Advocate's view: Wolf plan ignored in rush for the hunt (Duluth News Tribune [MN] , 03/16/14)
Maureen Hackett: "Minnesota’s wolf hunting and trapping season, created by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, is unnecessary, unpopular and unnatural."

Opinion: The Endangered Species Act turns 40 (Rutland Daily Herald [VT] , 03/16/14)
Deb Markowitz and Dorothy Allard: "Global climate change is causing extreme fluctuations in weather, as well as drought, floods, ice and fire, and weakens species already at risk. In Vermont, the warming climate impacts our high alpine habitat, and is causing a rapid increase in the spread of forest pests and invasive species. Increased rainfall rates mean we have more pollution running into our lakes and streams, threatening important spawning grounds of many fish species.... But if nothing else, working together for the forty years since the Endangered Species Act was signed into law has proven that we can find a way to protect the biodiversity that makes our planet and its ecosystems work for all of us. In one of the great comeback stories of the last century, the bald eagle, gray whale, American alligator and many other species were saved from becoming consigned to memory because of the federal Endangered Species Act."

Gray wolves deserve continued protection: Guest opinion (Oregonian, 03/15/14)
Guest Column by Rep. Peter DeFazio: "Three years ago, swayed by special interests and conservative western states, Congress foolishly voted to end ESA protections in Idaho, Montana, and parts of Oregon, Washington, and Utah and allowing extermination once again. In 2012, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) removed protections for wolves in Wyoming. One of these states—Idaho—has turned back the clock, resurrecting the same extermination programs that landed the gray wolf on the endangered species list in the first place. ... Now, compounding the error of removing ESA protections for the wolf in the Western United States, FWS has proposed removing protections for all gray wolves in the lower 48 states.... The conclusion of the peer review leaves no option but for FWS to rescind the proposed rule and continue federal protections that are essential to the long-term survival and recovery of gray wolves."

Op-ed: BLM plan isn’t enough to sustain sage grouse  (Salt Lake Tribune [UT], 03/15/14)
George Fenwick, president, American Bird Conservancy: "ABC and other groups, including Defenders of Wildlife and the Sierra Club, are recommending that public comments call on federal agencies to designate protected reserves for greater sage grouse populations and sharply limit or ban oil and gas leases in key habitats. Livestock grazing should be managed to leave adequate ground cover in grouse nesting areas and to protect springs and other riparian habitats where these birds raise their young."

My view: The sage grouse is worth protecting (Deseret News [UT] , 03/13/14)
Kirk Robinson & Allison Jones: "we have reduced the sage grouse population to about 10 percent of its original size by land use practices that have steadily degraded sagebrush steppe ecosystems.... By shifting funding from sage grouse conservation efforts to litigation and lobbying, the legislature is essentially admitting that Utah's plan, which relies heavily on voluntary compliance, is not strong enough to deliver the needed protections and management.... Protecting the sage grouse will help Utahns by providing adequate forage for livestock and continued energy extraction, while also protecting invaluable wildlife habitats for numerous native species as well as the functionality of our precious watersheds. In one of our favorite quotes from Utah's Department of Agriculture, "what is good for the sage grouse is good for the rancher" — and, we would argue, all Utahns."

Guest opinion: Udall: Gray wolf delisting not sound science (Tucson Sentinel [AZ], 03/12/14)
Lori Udall: "Forty-six years ago, my father Stewart Udall — as Secretary of Interior — issued the first endangered species list under the Endangered Species Preservation Act.... 2013 marked the fortieth anniversary of the Endangered Species Act. As the years have passed, evidence is overwhelming that the law is highly effective and has saved hundreds of species from extinction. ... Over a million Americans, and counting, have commented on the wolf delisting and the majority are against it; now top scientists concur."

Endangered species bills before House and Senate must be defeated: Frank H. Felbaum (Patriot-News [Harrisburg, PA] , 03/10/14)
Op-Ed: "I would like to remind all legislators who sponsored and plan to vote in favor of bills affecting Pennsylvania's endangered species law that you have a responsibility to all Pennsylvanians and not just to industry lobbyists."

Guest Opinion: By rejecting nonlethal options, Idaho’s wolf plan loses (Idaho Statesman, 03/09/14)
Suzanne Asha Stone, Western Representative, Defenders of Wildlife: "almost immediately after federal protection was lifted, the state abandoned its wolf management plan and then began adopting one lethal anti-wolf control proposal after another, again treating wolves more like vermin. ... Nonlethal control methods — livestock carcass removal, range riders, electric fencing and guard dogs — are far more effective and cheaper options for keeping wolves away from livestock. And these nonlethal methods are already working in Idaho where they are being applied."

EDITORIAL: Not what it seems: Deceptive bill won’t protect endangered species (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette [PA], 03/09/14)
"In nature, some species disguise themselves in order to appear innocuous. That happens in politics too. The deceptively labeled Endangered Species Coordination Act (state House Bill 1576) is a prime example. ... The sole reason for this bill’s existence is to make life less burdensome to natural gas drillers and coal mining companies. It puts economic interests ahead of protecting endangered and threatened species."

Editorial: Anti-wolf bills clear case of over-reaction (Arizona Daily Sun, 03/06/14)
"The last time we visited the topic of endangered Mexican gray wolves in this space was to call for more details of a proposed expansion plan and consultation by federal officials with local communities. ... But some state lawmakers took the expansion plan as a call to arms, and this winter they have introduced bills seeking not only to hamstring or kill off the recovery program but end the entire federal Endangered Species Act in Arizona.... There are about 80 wolves in the wild and the number of claims made by ranchers for wolf depredation is minuscule. ... Further, public opinion is solidly behind the wolves, not the ranchers. Poll after poll shows most citizens believe there is plenty of room on the national forest for cows and wolves with sensible management."

EDITORIAL: You can help the vanishing monarch butterfly (Fresno Bee [CA] , 03/04/14)
"But monarchs are in danger. Their population has been sharply declining over the past 20 years, and environmental advocates think they know why: the widespread use of an herbicide called glyphosate, more commonly known by the brand name Roundup.... If a world without monarch butterflies isn't reason enough, consider the bigger concerns about environmental degradation and the stress on the all-important pollinators."

Editorial: Autism treatment works, and should be covered: Utah kids need Legislature’s help (Salt Lake Tribune [UT], 03/04/14)
"There are some obvious places to “draw the line” so funding is available for this vulnerable group of children. How about the ... $3 million requested to fight a federal listing of the sage grouse as an endangered species? Or the $1 million-plus allocated with no strings attached for lobbying to get wolves off the endangered list, although the animals are almost non-existent in Utah?"

EDITORIAL: Keep politics out of sage grouse habitat protection (USA Today, 03/04/14)
"Nevada must work hard to convince federal agencies that it is serious about developing a science-based protection plan.... the governor damaged the state's credibility when he forced out the director of the Nevada Department of Wildlife, a well-respected expert on sage grouse. ... The decline of the sage grouse is a warning that there is trouble on our public lands, just as the falling populations of northern spotted owl once served to warn us about the effects of clear-cutting of old-growth forests in the Northwest. These birds serve as an early warning system that we ignore at our own peril. When they disappear, it will be too late to do anything about it."

House should listen to public on wolf issue; Our View: Don't follow in Senate's mean-spirited footsteps  (Arizona Republic, 03/03/14)
Editorial board: "Arizona’s Senate passed a trio of ill-conceived measures aimed at undermining efforts to reintroduce Mexican gray wolves to our state. The House should not go along. The argument that wolf reintroduction is a threat to livestock and big-game hunters is overwrought. Cattle ranchers lease federal land for their livestock. The American people own the land, and the public supports restoring wolves to the wild.... C’mon, lawmakers, play fair. Wolves are not the enemy. They are a part of Arizona’s stunning natural heritage. This trio of special-interest measures does a disservice to goals of species diversity that are embraced by a broad range of Arizonans."

Editorial: A Reprieve for Bristol Bay (New York Times, 03/03/14)
"E.P.A. determined that even a carefully designed mining operation would exact a heavy toll on wildlife during construction, destroying more than 80 miles of spawning streams and extensive wetlands. The mine would also generate huge amounts of highly acidic wastes that, in the event of an accident, would pollute streams and wetlands and greatly harm Bristol Bay."

Guest opinion: Science and the gray wolf (Daily Camera [CO] , 02/28/14)
Jonathan Proctor, Defenders of Wildlife Rockies and Plains program director: "The peer review report raises extremely serious concerns about the scientific foundation for the service's proposal to delist wolves. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe have said publicly many times that they will use the best science available to make a decision about wolves. The peer review committee's unanimous conclusion now compels a change course on wolf delisting to live up to these commitments to follow best available science."

EDITORIAL: Sharing Earth’s resources (Santa Maria Times [CA], 02/28/14)
"So, in a very real way, water users are responsible for the threatened extinction of the Southern California steelhead trout population, and if we pretend to lay any claim to being humanitarians, we are obligated to do what we can to save the fish.... protecting Earth’s animal and plant species is vitally important, and humans cannot believe they can simply usurp the resources needed to support those species, without facing unintended consequences."

Editorial Short takes: Eagles once again fly Ohio’s skies (Columbus Dispatch [OH], 02/27/14)
"The state had just four nesting pairs of these birds of prey in 1979, seven years after the U.S. banned DDT, which thinned eggshells and caused them to break. Last year, the number of nesting pairs had jumped to 190, according to a survey by the Ohio Division of Wildlife.... Getting to see an eagle soar overhead — and even better, swoop down to snare its next meal with its powerful talons — is an unforgettable experience."

Editorial: Winter may rescue the wolves of Isle Royale; Ice bridge could be lifeline for shrinking pack (Chicago Tribune, 02/24/14)
"Wolves, which are far more numerous on the mainland, now have an avenue to make the move offshore. That would be a godsend for the pack — and for the ecology of this unique area, which is largely wilderness. Without moose, the wolves would have meager food sources. Without wolves, though, the moose can grow so numerous that they devastate the trees they depend on for their own. ... human intervention in the climate is one evident reason the wolves are in such peril. Lake Superior now tends to have less ice than it used to, and ice bridges, never frequent, have grown increasingly rare sustenance. So the disappearance of the wolves would bode ill for the future of the moose.... human intervention in the climate is one evident reason the wolves are in such peril. Lake Superior now tends to have less ice than it used to, and ice bridges, never frequent, have grown increasingly rare."

Eagle editorial: Prairie chicken bill goes off deep end (Wichita Eagle [KS] , 02/20/14)
The Kansas "Senate went way off the deep end last week in voting 30-10 to criminalize federal wildlife enforcement in the state relating to lesser prairie chickens and greater prairie chickens.... The bill’s greatest offense may be how it would make it a felony in Kansas for federal wildlife agents or federal contractors’ employees to do their jobs. As Sen. Carolyn McGinn, R-Sedgwick, argued in vain during the debate (in which the U.S. was characterized as on a fast track to becoming North Korea): “It will lead to expensive litigation and cost our state money while trying to supersede the federal Endangered Species Act.”"