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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: Saving the wolves (Toledo Blade [OH], 01/21/15)
"The issue has been at least temporarily resolved by a federal court ruling that wolves remain an endangered species in Michigan, and may not be hunted. But wolves — and the ecology — are endangered on Isle Royale, a 206-square mile national park in Lake Superior. There, a native wolf pack has dwindled, thanks to generations of inbreeding, to no more than nine animals. As a result, the moose population is out of control. Moose are stripping vegetation at an alarming rate and may face mass starvation. Detroit Zoo director Ron Kagan has offered his help in capturing wolf packs from the Upper Peninsula and transporting them to Isle Royale, That would be a win for all concerned. The Legislature should speedily authorize this proposal, for the benefit of both man and beasts."

EDITORIAL: Open for business? (Philadelphia Inquirer [PA], 01/16/15)
"A plan to sell newly preserved land for development threatens to weaken public trust in New Jersey's open-space program.... The DEP was right the first time, when it moved to preserve the land. It abuts a wildlife preserve in one of the most pristine forest tracts in the state, a prime habitat for threatened and endangered species such as the northern pine snake. And as an upland area, it could also help replenish the aquifer below and affect the watershed of the protected Maurice River."

Editorial: Little fish could be delta’s savior (Chico Enterprise-Record [CA], 01/13/15)
"Delta smelt, though, are a marker species, the canary in the delta coal mine. When they start going away, it means the delta ecosystem is in bad shape and other species will follow. That’s what the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said back in 2008. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld that biological opinion Monday, agreeing with an earlier ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that was challenged to the highest level.... The delta ecosystem — that includes the smelt — shouldn’t have to pay for the poor decisions of San Joaquin farmers and cities.... Nobody should be surprised by environmental restrictions. The government and the courts have long recognized that you can’t just take whatever the environment has.... San Joaquin Valley farmers who feel put off by Monday’s Supreme Court ruling should know there is some precedent. When salmon stocks dwindled in the Sacramento River system, north state farmers made many expensive improvements — things like screening canals, or changing seasonal irrigation schedules, or leaving sensitive land fallow. It has helped immensely .... The delta smelt have been listed as a threatened species since 1993. It’s not like the people complaining about the decision couldn’t see it coming. They just didn’t want to admit that they had to do their part to help a failing ecosystem."

EDITORIAL: The Record: Eagles are staying (, 01/13/15)
"The eagles were nearly wiped out after World War II by the pesticide DDT, and, in 1982, state officials said there was only one bald eagle in New Jersey. With the use of DDT banned in the 1970s, wildlife scientists began a concerted effort to restore the state's bald eagle population. There are now more than 100 pairs of bald eagles in New Jersey ... What a treat it is to have bald eagles living in congested and noisy northern New Jersey. The presence of Al and Alice enhances the whole area"

EDITORIAL: Lawsuit Is Next Step In Saving Plum Island (Hartford Courant [CT], 01/09/15)
"With Congress doing nothing to save the ecologically important Plum Island, two environmental groups are right to take the next step: suing the federal government to stop the sale of the property.... Save the Sound and the Connecticut Fund for the Environment note that Plum Island is home to a unique mix of habitats and wildlife — plants, birds, marine mammals — some of which are threatened or endangered.... Legislative action is often preferable to legal action. But it's appropriate to apply all reasonable pressure to preserve this environmental jewel for the sake of the wildlife there."

Editorial: A small reminder about working toward orca recovery: The newborn Puget Sound southern resident orca born emphasizes the need for humans to do more to help killer whale recovery. (Seattle Times [WA] , 01/02/15)
"Although much remains to be learned about these distinctive marine mammals, the government’s decision to place them on the U.S. Endangered Species list 10 years ago was an important first step toward orca recovery. Requiring marine vessels to keep greater distances from the whales would be a strong second....chinook are also listed as an endangered species.... Their human neighbors must do more to help them."

EDITORIAL: Planet Earth, the half-empty zoo (Chicago Tribune, 01/02/15)
"[I]n the 40 years preceding 2010, the world's population of vertebrate animals — our mammals, reptiles, birds, fish and amphibians — plummeted by 52 percent.... Many people give only so much bandwidth to environmental crises that seem hopeless and out of reach. Yet the extermination of wildlife is neither. ... Each of us can support these efforts even if we can't single-handedly save what remains of the animal kingdom. We can also push our politicians"

Editorial: More ups than downs (Houston Chronicle, 01/02/15)
"(up)We're aflutter over the seemingly good news from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which this week announced it will be conducting a status review of the monarch butterfly under the Endangered Species Act. Texas is part of the regal butterfly's flyway when it makes it annual 3,000-mile trek from south central Mexico to Canada. The orange-and-black beauty has been under threat because of habitat loss - the agency's press release indicates the loss of milkweed, the monarch caterpillar's sole food source, has been hit hard - and mortality due to pesticide use. Those wishing to add their voices to the issue have until March 2 to do so."

EDITORIAL: Written in feathers (Idaho Mountain Express, 01/02/15)
"A rider in the bill, which had absolutely nothing to do with keeping the government running and everything to do with lawmakers paying back influential donors and constituents, prevents the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service from issuing rules to place sage grouse on the endangered species list. The agency was facing a court-ordered deadline of September 2015 to decide if the grouse would be placed on the endangered species list. ... What they can do is tell us where our common habitat is headed and perhaps foretell our own future if things don’t change. But the sage grouse can only tell us this if we look closely and listen. This will be helpful only if we act intelligently, boldly and soon to protect what sustains those with feathers and those without."

EDITORIAL: Florida panthers are dying out; For Florida’s state animal — the panther — 2014 was a bad year (Florida Times-Union, 12/31/14)
"This tawny feline is the most endangered of all of the state’s symbols and must be protected. ... The program that funds both overpasses and underpasses for wildlife on major highways should be expanded.... You also can help the effort to save Florida’s remaining panthers by donating to organizations such as Defenders of Wildlife and The Nature Conservancy, two nonprofit organizations with special panther protection programs. We must all work to reduce panther deaths or risk losing an animal that has become synonymous with Florida."

EDITORIAL: Black bear roars back (News-Star [LA], 12/27/14)
"Officials enrolled Louisiana black bears in the Endangered Species Act program in 1992. When Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Secretary Robert Barham was appointed in 2008, his goal was to save the teddy bear. To the relief of the children and the satisfaction of conservationists, Barham's goal is close at hand....Any decision to remove the black bear from the list should be accompanied by clear guidelines to further encourage the revitalization of the species. we agree with Barham's contention: Restoration of any threatened species should be a priority for his department. Some will argue it should be the top priority.... The recovery of the Louisiana black bear is a Louisiana success story."

EDITORIAL: Don't backtrack on bobcats, Governor (Chicago Tribune, 12/24/14)
"Six months ago, Gov. Pat Quinn signed a bill that, when it takes effect next Thursday, will enrich every citizen of Illinois: It adds the black bear, gray wolf and cougar to the state's list of protected species. ... Even though a species has rebounded from near extinction, humans shouldn't take that as license to return to the practices that nearly wiped out the animal in the first place."

EDITORIAL: The last-minute ‘cromnibus’ federal spending bill invites too much abuse  (Kansas City Star, 12/16/14)
"Lawmakers — primarily Republicans — inserted inappropriate pet causes, pork and pandering to special interests....Policy riders in the bill were even worse. ... Among the other conservative priorities slipped into the bill were ... prohibiting regulations on light bulb efficiency; prohibiting bans of lead ammunition used in hunting; making school lunches less healthy; and forbidding naturalists from classifying two sage-grouse species that are dying off as endangered, an anti-environmentalist move that’s music to the ears of Kansas conservatives. All of those might be reasonable topics for discussion. If so, they should go through the normal, deliberative legislative process that allows ample time for analysis and public comment."

Our View: Woodpecker recovery project keeps on succeeding (Fayetteville Observer [NC] , 12/15/14)
"It's not easy to spot red-cockaded woodpeckers. ... But they're out there, and that's reassuring - especially to the Department of Defense, which once faced serious training restrictions on Fort Bragg because of the federally endangered birds. But no more. Efforts to restore the woodpeckers' longleaf pine habitat around the post have been a stunning success."

EDITORIAL: Saving red knots  (Record [NJ] , 12/14/14)
"What it boils down to is that in order for the red knot to survive much longer, it is going to need a little help from humans. ... Last week brought another important development, when the red knot was declared "threatened" by the federal government under the Endangered Species Act. The bird had already been declared endangered by New Jersey, but the federal listing could mean more financial resources brought to projects that restore red knot habitat.... The bird and its miraculous flight have inspired long hours of preservation work not just from scientists and environmentalists, but from countless volunteers who recognize the rarity and determination of the species. Let's hope the new federal designation helps spur a greater push toward recovery"

Editorial, 12/13: The otter's happy success (Lincoln Journal Star [NE], 12/12/14)
"That’s a spectacular development, considering that otters had been extinct in the state for decades.... In fact, otters are doing so well in Nebraska that they could become the first mammal removed from Nebraska’s list of threatened and endangered species. That would be a remarkable achievement the whole state “otter” celebrate."

EDITORIAL: Hiding Bad Policy in a Budget Bill (New York Times, 12/12/14)
"The Fish and Wildlife Service would be banned from adding the greater sage grouse to the endangered species list — a victory for the gas and oil industry, which covets even more of America’s threatened Western landscapes than it already has access to."

EDITORIAL: High court decision saves Captain Sam's (Post and Courier [SC], 12/11/14)
"The South Carolina Supreme Court dealt a formidable blow on Wednesday to a long-contested development proposed by Kiawah Development Partners along a narrow strip of pristine barrier island. The court's decision should finally put an end to a bad idea....Captain Sam's Spit serves as irreplaceable habitat for numerous shorebirds, including at least one endangered and one threatened species.... Those assets merit protection, and both the South Carolina Legislature and the state Supreme Court agree. In the court's majority opinion, Justice Kaye Hearn wrote, "To allow the benefits to a private developer to override the interests of the people of South Carolina undermines the [S.C. Coastal Zone Management Act] statute and defeats the very purpose of the public trust doctrine.""

EDITORIAL: Protect and serve; Nations must keep expanding conservation efforts to avoid a biodiversity crisis. (Nature, 12/10/14)
"Climate change and the spread of invasive species (often facilitated by humans) will drive extinction rates only higher....The pace of extinction is leading towards a crisis."

EDITORIAL: In our opinion: Saving the sockeye salmon — a successful recovery of an endangered species (Deseret News [UT] , 12/06/14)
"Officials were not content merely to stave off extinction. They labored intently to bring the population back up to levels that are sustainable in the long term. That can and should be the mission of all government efforts under the Endangered Species Act."

Editorial: Winners and losers: Mike Riley, wolf deaths (Statesman Journal [OR], 12/04/14)
"LOSER: Killing wolves. Research conducted through Washington State University found that wolf kills in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming actually increased the number of sheep and cattle killed by wolves the following year. "The reason appears to be that killing the alpha male or female in a pack frees the other wolves to start breeding. And breeding pairs trying to feed pups are more likely to kill livestock than individual wolves," the Associated Press said, quoting wildlife ecology professor Rob Wielgus. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife paid for the study, which was published in the journal PLOS One."

Editorial: A somber record for the Florida panther (Tampa Bay Times [FL], 12/02/14)
"Drivers needs to be alert in panther territory. But more importantly, public officials should show renewed support for conservation efforts to preserve the state's most endangered symbol. One worthy idea is the Florida Wildlife Corridor ... This would benefit the Florida panther as well many other threatened Sunshine State species."

Editorial: A somber record for the Florida panther (Tampa Bay Times [FL], 12/02/14)
"Drivers needs to be alert in panther territory. But more importantly, public officials should show renewed support for conservation efforts to preserve the state's most endangered symbol. One worthy idea is the Florida Wildlife Corridor, which aims to create a sustainable path for wildlife stretching from the Everglades to Georgia and Alabama .... if people don't support conservation efforts, future generations might be able to see the Florida panther only on the special license plate of a car."

EDITORIAL: Japan Is Back in the Hunt for Whales (New York Times, 11/30/14)
"Claiming purely “scientific” motives, Japan’s political leaders are cynically planning to resume whale hunting in the Southern Ocean, despite the International Court of Justice finding that the Japanese government regularly violated its obligations under the international ban against commercial whaling off Antarctica."

EDITORIAL: Texas sea turtles’ future in jeopardy (San Antonio Express-News [TX] , 11/23/14)
"The bad news comes as federal research dollars have been slashed, funding from the Natural Resource Damage Assessment for turtle patrols along the Texas coast is coming to an end, and turtle patrols have been cut. The Natural Marine Fisheries Service has abandoned plans to require excluder devices on shrimp boats to safeguard against turtles drowning in nets. It would be terrible to lose these turtles after the investment of so much time, effort and funding to grow their numbers. We urge the federal government to restore funding taken from the Mexico/U.S. Binational Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle Population Restoration Program."

EDITORIAL: Our View: Keep the red wolf alive -- somewhere, somehow (Fayetteville Observer [NC] , 10/23/14)
"The government may continue the restoration program, or it may give it up. But whatever happens, we hope this valiant attempt to keep a beautiful species alive won't end. Our planet will be poorer for yet another loss."

EDITORIAL: Redbelly's future  (Hays Daily News [KS], 10/16/14)
"[T]he redbelly snake ... have been listed as threatened under the Kansas Threatened and Endangered Species Act for some time. And the task committee that reviews the state list every five years recently has recommended the redbelly remain "threatened."... Jennison should take a stand on principles. Jennison might find himself dismissed from the governor's cabinet, but the redbelly snake would have a chance of continuing to be protected. ... It appears likely the redbelly snake is going to be thrown under the bus -- or the earth-mover in this case. The primary person entrusted with its survival, Secretary Jennison, should not be the one issuing the death sentence."

Editorial: Snake politics; Political pressure, not science, may decide the fate of a threatened snake species in Kansas. (Lawrence Journal-World [KS], 10/16/14)
"In the 40 years since passage of the Kansas Threatened and Endangered Species Act, the wildlife commission has never overridden a recommendation from its task force that evaluates what species need protection....micromanagement by state legislators would be detrimental to the state, not to mention much of the wildlife that live here. The future of the redbelly snake in Kansas is important but not as important as the precedent the wildlife commission would set by deciding this issue based not on science, but on the fear of political retribution by the Kansas Legislature."

EDITORIAL: Florida's manatees need us to protect them (Florida Times-Union, 10/15/14)
"They seem to have disappeared in the blink of an eye. That’s all the time it’s taken for over half the world’s wildlife to disappear."

EDITORIAL: Follow science, not politics (Wichita Eagle [KS] , 10/15/14)
"If the Kansas Wildlife, Parks and Tourism Commission follows Secretary Robin Jennison’s recommendation and takes the redbelly snake off the state’s threatened list, it will be avoiding a political fight by discounting science. It also will set a bad precedent for the next time somebody wants to ignore the scientific experts for reasons of cost or convenience. And the next."