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A project tracking federal judicial nominations and courts.

Editorials and Opinion


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Editorial: A Ruling to Protect Whales (New York Times, 04/01/14)
"The International Court of Justice in The Hague rightly ordered Japan to stop its current whaling program in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary around Antarctica, a large reserve established by the International Whaling Commission. The United Nations’ highest court came down clearly on the side of conservation and international opinion. This important and unequivocal ruling to protect an endangered species is binding, and Japan cannot appeal.... Japan should cease whaling everywhere instead of waiting for the next international reprimand that is sure to come."

Editorial: Our opinion: Climate change lemmings (Brattleboro Reformer [VT], 04/01/14)
"Climate change will affect food and water resources and the rate of plant and animal extinctions will continue to rise. As the ocean acidifies, due to its absorption of excess carbon dioxide, coral reefs will die and the number of shelled marine creatures -- many of them at the base of the oceanic food chain -- will diminish.... But as dire as the situation is and as quickly as it is progressing, there is still time to stop the degradation of our habitat and eventually reverse the course of global warming."

Editorial: Climate Signals, Growing Louder (New York Times, 04/01/14)
"And without swift and decisive action to limit greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels and other sources, the world will almost surely face centuries of climbing temperatures, rising seas, species loss and dwindling agricultural yields. ... together, the two reports could build public support for President Obama’s efforts to use his executive authority to limit greenhouse gases"

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."

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."

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."

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."

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."

EDITORIAL: Protecting our birds of a feather (Santa Maria Times [CA], 02/20/14)
"The western snowy plover has been on the federal Endangered Species Act list as “threatened” for many years ... Protecting this bird species — any species, really — is vitally important to both the animal and the human kingdom. Once a species goes extinct, as the name implies, it’s gone forever, and the planet has lost something of irreplaceable value. And we can never be entirely certain what the loss of a species will mean in the overall scheme of things. Maybe it’s a little like pulling one stone out of a dam holding back a mighty river, and that one stone was the linchpin."

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.”"

Editorial: Protecting our birds of a feather  (Lompoc Record [CA], 02/20/14)
"The western snowy plover has been on the federal Endangered Species Act list as “threatened” for many years, and every state along the Pacific rim of the West Coast has restrictions regarding treatment of the birds from March to September. Protecting this bird species — any species, really — is vitally important to both the animal and the human kingdom. Once a species goes extinct, as the name implies, it’s gone forever, and the planet has lost something of irreplaceable value. And we can never be entirely certain what the loss of a species will mean in the overall scheme of things. Maybe it’s a little like pulling one stone out of a dam holding back a mighty river, and that one stone was the linchpin."

Editorial: Banning Ivory Sales in America (New York Times, 02/18/14)
"If rigorously enforced, the new rules should help slow the killings in Africa; the United States is the second-largest market for ivory in the world. ... Still, much will depend on whether Washington and the relevant departments — Interior, Justice and Treasury — are willing to put serious money and muscle into the program.... Assemblyman Robert Sweeney of Long Island supports a ban on all ivory sales in New York State, without exception. That would be tougher than the federal ban. But the federal ban will cover a wider market. It is a timely and welcome move."

Editorial: Protecting red wolves: Rebounding breed should not be collateral damage (Winston-Salem Journal [NC] , 02/16/14)
"North Carolina boasts the world’s only wild population of endangered red wolves. That population shouldn’t become collateral damage to those thinning packs of pesky coyotes in the five northeastern counties where the red wolves live. The Southern Environmental Center, representing wolf advocacy groups, is trying to stop that from happening with a suit that seeks to block the state Wildlife Resources Commission’s decision to allow coyote hunting in those coastal counties.... red wolves, which were re-introduced to the North Carolina wild in 1987, have to be protected.... one thing seems certain: In the five counties in question, the state should ban coyote hunting until it establishes firm figures on the numbers of those animals, and establishes whether its plan to prevent cross-breeding and protect the endangered red wolves is working."

Editorial: To Save Fish and Birds (New York Times, 02/16/14)
"The researchers identified five essential characteristics of the most successful marine-protected areas: These areas were designated “no take” (allowing no fishing whatsoever), their rules were well enforced, they were more than 10 years old, they were bigger than 100 square kilometers, and they were isolated by deep water or sand.... Governments and scientists need to work together to better design, maintain, improve and protect “protected areas.”"

Editorial: Legislative focus; Some of the issues drawing attention in the Kansas Legislature would be better left alone. (Lawrence Journal-World [KS], 02/16/14)
"Legislators also are considering questionable preemptive legislation that would make it illegal for federal wildlife officials to enforce endangered species protections for the lesser prairie chicken in the state. The chicken hasn’t even been classified as endangered, but just in case....A Kansas House committee — based on objections that seem more political than scientific — also is taking time to work on a resolution that urges Congress to resist any plan President Obama poses for addressing man-made climate change. Did Congress ask for the state’s opinion?"

Editorial: The happy return of our eagles (Bennington Banner [VT], 02/13/14)
"The bald eagle is an Endangered Species Act success story. This law currently protects about 2,000 species of plants and animals. Less than one percent of listed species have gone on to extinction, according to the group Defenders of Wildlife.... According to the AP, "Republicans have seized on the fact that only 2 percent of protected species have been declared recovered -- despite billions of dollars in federal and state spending." Environmentalists take issue with this number and rightly claim that hundreds of protected species are now on a path to recovery because of protection from the law.... Particularly in the House, the current orthodoxy of the Republican majority is marked by denial of climate change, hatred of government, and contempt for regulation to protect the public interest against strong economic interests. Environmental protection is one particularly reviled bogeyman of this orthodoxy. As evidenced by the resurgence of the bald eagle, the Endangered Species Act has worked well. Fortunately, experts predict that given the current gridlock in Washington, major changes in the law are highly unlikely."

Editorial: Rep. Doc Hastings endangers the Endangered Species Act; The Endangered Species Act celebrated its 40th anniversary in December, but it is under threat from ill-conceived reforms proposed by U.S. Rep. Doc Hastings. (Seattle Times [WA] , 02/12/14)
"Hastings wants to shift the ethic and leverage of the federal government to state and local authorities to protect endangered species. The transparently bad idea would mean no protections whatsoever in many areas. Oregon’s U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio makes the point the best impediment to Hastings’ pinched vision is the U.S. Senate, which has no interest in tampering with something that works. ... In the queue for protection is the greater sage-grouse, which is found in 11 western states."