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Forest Service proposes regulatory rollbacks that would increase logging, mining on national forests and limit public input

For Immediate Release
June 12, 2019

Contact:
Alison Flint, The Wilderness Society, 303 802-1404, Alison_flint@tws.org
Susan Jane Brown, Western Environmental Law Center, 503-914-1323, brown@westernlaw.org
Sam Evans, Southern Environmental Law Center, 828-318-0925, sevans@selcnc.org 

WASHINGTON, DC (June 12, 2019)  — Today the U.S. Forest Service released an advance copy of its proposed rule to overhaul its environmental analysis procedures under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which will dramatically curtail the role the public and science play in land management decisions on 193 million acres of national forest lands across the country.

These changes would create loopholes to increase the pace and scale of resource extraction, including logging and mining, all while limiting the scope of public awareness and input on proposed projects. The Forest Service has proposed several new categorical exclusions that would allow the agency to move project planning behind closed doors by cutting out the public out from the decision-making process.

The goal of NEPA is to foster better decisions to protect, restore, and enhance our environment and is based on three key principles: 1) transparency; 2) informed decision making; and 3) giving the public a voice. This is achieved through two key tools: public comment and requiring the Forest Service to “look before it leaps” by preparing environmental assessments (EA) and environmental impact statements (EIS). These documents provide agency decision makers, the public and outside experts with relevant information and require agencies to take a “hard look” at the potential environmental consequences of a proposed project before making decisions and taking actions.

The Forest Service’s proposed rule undermines these basic tenets by increasing the number and scope of “categorical exclusions” for nearly every type of land management action, and exempts those decisions from public comment. Only cursory public notice may occur.

“Balancing America’s many needs and uses on our public lands is hard work, but it’s the Forest Service’s most important job—today’s proposal makes it clear that the agency is turning its back on that responsibility,” said Sam Evans, leader of the Southern Environmental Law Center’s National Forests and Parks Program. “Instead of working to balance the many ecological, economic, and recreational demands of our National Forests, the Forest Service is proposing to cut the public out of decisions that could cause serious harms to these treasured places, and to return to back-room decision making without any transparency or accountability.”

“The Forest Service has used the mantra of ‘shared stewardship’ to describe its management goals for national forests with stakeholders such as states, tribes, and the broader public,” said Susan Jane Brown, staff attorney and public lands director with the Western Environmental Law Center. “But this proposed rule cuts the public out by authorizing nearly every land management action without detailed environmental analysis and public comment or administrative review. That’s no one’s definition of shared stewardship.”

“This proposed rule is an affront to our national forests and their owners – the American people. It would gut important procedural safeguards for our most sensitive forest lands and resources, including roadless and other wildlands that provide our drinking water, wildlife habitat, and unmatched recreation opportunities,” said Alison Flint, director of litigation and agency policy at The Wilderness Society. “The rule would shut the public out of the environmental review process by allow damaging logging and road-building projects in those areas to move forward with no public input or environmental analysis. This comes at the same time that the Forest Service is weakening substantive protections for those same roadless areas.”

To justify its proposed rule, the Forest Service argues that changes to NEPA are necessary to increase its efficiency and increase the pace and scale of land management decisionmaking. However, the Forest Service itself has acknowledged that a lack of internal agency capacity and training, as well as an agency culture that rewards “moving out to move up” (or, agency turnover), leads to delays in planning and implementation. The proposed rule does not address this fundamental problem.

“The proposed changes for planning under the National Environmental Policy Act is just the latest example of this administration ignoring its responsibilities to steward public lands for wildlife, watersheds, and recreation values in pursuit of increased development on national forests,” said Peter Nelson, director of federal lands at Defenders of Wildlife. “They would diminish the public’s ability to carefully examine the impacts of logging and roadbuilding projects on national forests or to hold the administration accountable for decisions that harm public lands, as well as the wildlife and communities that depend on them.”

“Yet again the Trump administration is rolling back vital safeguards and curtailing public input. These changes will not protect our forests from fire, but rather risk their future,” said Kirin Kennedy, Sierra Club deputy legislative director for lands and wildlife.

“The Trump administration is trying to stifle the public’s voice and hide environmental damage to public lands,” said Ted Zukoski, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “These rules would let the Forest Service sidestep bedrock environmental laws. Logging companies could bulldoze hundreds of miles of new roads and chainsaw miles of national forests while ignoring the damage to wildlife and waterways. All of this would happen without involving nearby communities or forest visitors.”

Background: Changes in the proposed draft rule

Expands categorical exclusions. NEPA allows certain projects to be categorically excluded from detailed environmental review. In some cases, the public would only be notified of a proposed project, without an opportunity to review or comment on its environmental consequences. As a result, the federal courts will be the only way for the public to have their voice heard. The Forest Service also proposes to adopt any categorical exclusion created by any other federal agency as its own, without discussing the environmental effects or appropriateness of these potentially limitless exclusions.

Utilization of “determinations of NEPA adequacy.” This new proposed authority, based on similar Department of Interior authority, would allow the Forest Service to rely on its “experience” with past projects to authorize a proposed action of a similar nature without conducting site-specific environmental analysis. However, because the Forest Service rarely monitors the actual effects of its decisions, it is unlikely that the agency can rationally conclude that future projects will have no environmental impacts. Moreover, given the severely degraded condition of many of our national forests, it is arbitrary to suggest that past land management decisions have resulted in limited environmental impacts.

Embraces condition-based management. This authority allows the Forest Service to conduct land management actions, generally timber harvest, whenever the agency encounters a particular environmental condition, such as insect outbreaks or high fuel loads, on the ground. Site-specific analysis would not be required. The agency would not be required to consider a range of alternatives to addressing the environmental condition, even though alternative development is the “heart” of the environmental analysis process.
TAKE ACTION: Defend Your Right to Be Involved In Public Land Decisions at OurForestsOurVoice.org

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Court Ruling: Feds Illegally Approved Colorado Gas Drilling in Elk Habitat

For Immediate Release
March 27, 2019

DENVER― A federal judge ruled today that the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service illegally approved two adjacent natural-gas drilling plans in western Colorado, finding that officials did not adequately analyze wildlife and climate impacts.

In today’s ruling U.S. District Judge Lewis T. Babcock faulted the two federal agencies for failing to account for downstream emissions from drilling and faulted BLM for failing to adequately address potential harm to mule deer and elk. The judge said the agency must clarify the area it used when analyzing potential harms to elk and mule deer habitat.

“This is an important win for our public lands, the climate and the tenacity of the North Fork Valley community. Requiring the Bureau of Land Management to clearly and properly analyze all potential direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts of this large-scale industrial oil and gas development project is absolutely critical to protecting the rare and irreplaceable ecosystem of the North Fork Valley and all those who rely on it,” said Natasha Léger, Executive Director, Citizens for a Healthy Community.

“High Country Conservation Advocates is thrilled with the court’s favorable ruling,” said Matt Reed, public lands director at Crested Butte’s High Country Conservation Advocates. “The Bull Mountain area is home to important populations of elk and mule deer, iconic species increasingly under threat from surrounding oil and gas development. Ensuring that impacts from this project are considered, analyzed, and adequately addressed is critical to maintaining their long-term vitality in the Upper North Fork.”

In January 2018 Citizens for a Healthy Community, High Country Conservation Advocates, Wilderness Workshop, the Center for Biological Diversity, WildEarth Guardians and the Western Environmental Law Center filed suit to challenge the 146- well Bull Mountain Master Development Plan and an adjacent 25-well project.

“For too long agencies have ignored their obligation to consider and disclose the climate-related impacts of burning oil and gas they lease on our public lands,” said Peter Hart, Staff Attorney at Wilderness Workshop. “A slew of recent cases confirm that the law requires more. Public land managers must consider how their management of fossil fuels will affect our climate, and that information must be disclosed to the public prior to approving more development.”

“This ruling is welcome news,” said Laura King, attorney for the Western Environmental Law Center. “It joins a string of favorable rulings on downstream climate effects, helping to ensure that the federal government shares with the public and considers the true climate effects of its fossil fuel extraction approvals.”

The Bull Mountain project is in the headwaters of the North Fork of the Gunnison River, which provides drinking and irrigation water to residents and farmers who supply the Western Slope and the Front Range with some of the state’s highest-quality produce, meats and wineries.

“This ruling is a victory for everyone who wants Colorado’s wildlife, watersheds and most spectacular landscapes protected,” said Allison Melton, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The Bureau of Land Management shouldn’t be forcing our state to sacrifice healthy deer and elk populations for Trump’s reckless drill-anywhere agenda. It’s wonderful to see the court recognize that the BLM can’t just ignore the significant harm to these animals that results from oil and gas development on public lands.”

In today’s ruling the judge said the Forest Service and BLM “acted in an arbitrary and capricious manner and violated NEPA by not taking a hard look at the foreseeable indirect effects resulting from the combustion of oil and gas” in their environmental analyses.

Background

The Bull Mountain Master Development Plan is a large-scale drilling project for the North Fork of the Gunnison River watershed in Colorado, proposed by Texas-based SG Interests. The Master Development Plan calls for 146 new gas wells, four new waste water disposal wells, and associated infrastructure in the Bull Mountain Unit — a nearly 20,000-acre area between Paonia Reservoir and McClure Pass, immediately adjacent
to the Thompson Divide.

This area is primarily private surface ownership with a majority of public minerals. The BLM approved the drilling project after preparing an environmental impact statement.

The 25-well project is adjacent to the Bull Mountain project and involves the construction of 25 natural gas wells. The BLM and Forest Service approved the drilling project after preparing an environmental assessment to analyze the environmental impacts.

Western Colorado’s North Fork Valley, roughly defined as the area around the three small towns of Crawford, Hotchkiss and Paonia, has been named “Colorado’s Farm-to-Table Capital” by Colorado Life Magazine and declared a certified creative district by former Gov. John Hickenlooper. Farmers across the valley produce much of Colorado’s apple, cherry and pear crops, and the state’s second largest grape and peach crops.

The North Fork Valley is home to the highest concentration of organic farms in the state of Colorado and to the West Elks American Viticultural Area, a federally recognized wine-growing region.

Contacts:

Natasha Léger, Citizens for a Healthy Community, (970) 399-9700
Matt Reed, High Country Conservation Advocates, (866) 349-7104
Peter Hart, Wilderness Workshop, (970) 963-3977
Allison Melton, Center for Biological Diversity, (970) 309-2008,
amelton@biologicaldiversity.org
Jeremy Nichols, WildEarth Guardians, (303) 437-7663
Laura King, Western Environmental Law Center, (406) 204-4852

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New Trump executive order threatens National Forests

December 23, 2018

Contacts: Andrea Alday, 818-512-7628, andrea_alday@tws.org

WASHINGTON— Just before Friday night’s government shutdown, President Trump quietly released an executive order, threatening America’s National Forests and public lands with increased logging and seeking to eliminate both public input and environmental regulations affecting federal forest management.

The order uses recent wildfires to undermine designated wilderness and roadless area protections, even though decades of data show these lands are the most likely to exhibit healthy fire behavior. In fact, commercial logging and road building have been found to increase wildfire risk.

The Wilderness Society issued this statement from Mike Anderson, Senior Policy Analyst:

“We are disappointed that the Executive Order calls for more logging and less public involvement to solve the nation’s wildfire problems. Instead of promoting divisive legislation to weaken environmental laws, the administration should work with the new Congress to give the Forest Service and the Department of the Interior the funding they need to reduce fire risks and properly manage the national forests and public lands.”

 

The Wilderness Society is the leading conservation organization working to protect wilderness and inspire Americans to care for our wild places. Founded in 1935, and now with more than one million members and supporters, The Wilderness Society has led the effort to permanently protect 109 million acres of wilderness and to ensure sound management of our shared national lands. Visit www.wilderness.org. 

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Farm bill rejects majority of attempts to undercut forest conservation

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 10, 2018

Contact: Michael Reinemer, Deputy Director, Communications Strategy, michael_reinemer@tws.org, 202.429.3949
Chris Rackens, Senior Representative, Government Relations, chris_rackens@tws.org, 202.429.2643

SAN FRANCISCO (December 10, 2018) — In spite of efforts by the Trump administration to weaken forest protections by exploiting the California wildfires, congressional leaders have agreed on a bipartisan farm bill that provides some improvements to forest policy.

Today, the House and Senate Agriculture Committee chairs and ranking members announced a conference report for the farm bill. The agreement rejects proposals to undermine the environmental laws that protect forests and ensure public participation in forest management decisions.

Statement by Jamie Williams, President, The Wilderness Society:

“Thankfully, common sense prevailed and this farm bill rejects efforts to weaken protections for our national forests, including attempts to cut the public out of decisions for our public lands. Instead, it embraces bipartisan proposals to restore forests, protect drinking water and preserve wilderness for future generations.”

“From day one, Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow and Chairman Pat Roberts committed to passing a bipartisan farm bill. We applaud this commitment and, on behalf of farmers, families and our public lands, we urge the House and Senate to now pass the farm bill without delay.”

Among the forestry provisions in the final bill, positive developments included: 

Tennessee Wilderness Act – Protecting 19,556 acres in the Cherokee National Forest as wilderness.
Water Source Protection Program – Authorizes the Forest Service to enter into water source investment partnership agreements with end water users to protect and restore the condition of national forest watersheds.
Watershed Condition Framework – Establishes criteria to evaluate and classify the condition of watersheds, and to identify drinking water sources across the National Forest System for protection and restoration.
A reauthorization and doubling of funding for the successful Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program (CFLRP) which encourages communities to work together on science-based ecosystem restoration of priority forest landscapes.
Provisions to facilitate tribes playing a greater role with forestry management on public lands adjacent to tribal lands.
Provisions to promote cross-boundary and landscape scale restoration efforts.

The Wilderness Society, founded in 1935, is the leading conservation organization working to protect wilderness and inspire Americans to care for our wild places. With more than one million members and supporters, The Wilderness Society has led the effort to permanently protect 109 million acres of wilderness and to ensure sound management of our shared national lands. www.wilderness.org.
 

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Earthjustice: Statement on the Farm ‘Harm’ Bill

For Immediate Release
 
Contact: Martin Hayden, Earthjustice, (202) 745-5218

Washington, D.C. (May 18, 2018) — Today, Earthjustice’s Vice President of Policy and Legislation, Martin Hayden, released the following statement after the House voted down the Farm Bill (H.R. 2).

“The House Farm Bill just deservedly landed on a big pile of manure. This bill was riddled with dangerous poison pill provisions that threatened our health, our water, our climate, our workers and our wildlife. This wasn’t a Farm Bill, it was a Harm Bill that included a bumper crop of corporate giveaways that would have sold out our health and environment for big business benefits.”

Among the numerous poison pills in this bill were the following provisions:

Clean Water Attacks:  One poison pill in the bill would have repealed the Clean Water Rule, which protects the drinking water sources of one in three people across the country. This is a commonsense safeguard that should be left alone. And a “Poison Our Waters Provision” in the bill guts vital Clean Water Act protections for pesticides sprayed directly into water supplies.
Tongass Clearcutting:  This provision would take the Tongass and Chugach National Forests out of the 2001 Roadless Areas in order to spur logging in pristine old-growth watersheds protected by the rule in the world’s largest remaining temperate rainforest.
Lawless Logging: The bill contained multiple provisions intended to increase various types of logging by eliminating public participation, environmental review and hamstringing federal courts’ ability to enforce the law.
Endangered Species Attacks: The bill included a “Poisoned Pollinators Provision” that would curtail the government’s ability to assess the effects of toxic pesticides on pollinators and other imperiled species. In addition, this dangerous legislation would exempt all approved pesticide use from enforcement under the Endangered Species Act, even when these toxic chemicals directly kill or injure endangered wildlife.
Climate Change Denial: The bill discouraged practices that have been proven to help farms and ranches survive the more frequent and extreme droughts, flood, heat waves, and pest attacks caused by climate change and reduces funding to support these practices.
Access to Justice Attacks:  The bill included a provision, the “King Amendment”, which would strip the public of state law protections for agricultural products, and the accompanying right to enforce those protections through access to state courts. This attack on the public’s access to justice is even more egregious because this same provision also expands judicial rights for industry.

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Earthjustice is the premier nonprofit environmental law organization. We wield the power of law and the strength of partnership to protect people’s health, to preserve magnificent places and wildlife, to advance clean energy, and to combat climate change. We are here because the earth needs a good lawyer.

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40 Civil Rights, Labor & Environmental Orgs to Trump: “It’s Time for Pruitt to Resign, or Be Removed”

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Contact: Adam Beitman, adam.beitman@sierraclub.org or 202-670-5585

40 Civil Rights, Labor & Environmental Orgs to Trump: “It’s Time for Pruitt to Resign, or Be Removed” 

NAACP, SEIU, Union of Concerned Scientists, Physicians for Social Responsibility, OCEANA & More Take out Full Page Ads in the New York Times, New York Post, and Oklahoma’s Largest Newspaper.

NEW YORK CITY – Forty national civil rights, labor, conservation and environmental organizations representing millions of members and supporters across the United States have taken out a series of full page ads Wednesday calling for the resignation or firing of EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. On Monday, the Government Accountability Office reported that some of Pruitt’s behavior violates the law.

The ads appear in the main news sections of The New York Times, the New York Post (which Donald Trump receives each day), and the largest newspaper in Pruitt’s home state of Oklahoma, The Oklahoman.
** Link to the Ad **
These new nationwide organizations calling for Pruitt’s ouster add to a growing chorus, including:

Editorial boards ranging from The Houston Chronicle and The Joplin Globe to The Washington Post and The LA Times
Over 100 Democrats in the House & Senate
At least three Republican members of the House
Increasing public pressure from other Republicans including House Oversight Chairman Trey Gowdy who suggested Pruitt should become ‘a monk’ if he wanted to avoid having his feelings hurt, rather than taking first class flights at taxpayer expense.

THE FOLLOWING ORGANIZATIONS ARE REPRESENTED ON THE LETTER:

National Audubon Society – NAACP – Union of Concerned Scientists – SEIU – Physicians for Social Responsibility – Oceana – Sierra Club – Earthjustice – Green For All – Natural Resources Defense Council – League of Conservation Voters – Hip Hop Caucus – GreenLatinos – Citizens’ Climate Lobby – Ocean Conservancy – The Wilderness Society – National Parks Conservation Association – Clean Water Action – Greenpeace USA – American Rivers – Defenders of Wildlife – Environment America – Moms Clean Air Force – Latino Victory Project – Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments – Oil Change International – Montana Environmental Information Center – Alliance for Climate Education – Brighter Green – Partnership for Policy Integrity – Gasp – SustainUS – Carmelite NGO – Alliance for Affordable Energy – Power Shift Network – Rhode Island Interfaith Power & Light – iMatter Youth – Elders Climate Action – Green the Church – Climate Wise Women – Friends of the Earth

SIGNATORY ORGANIZATIONS PROVIDED THE FOLLOWING STATEMENTS:

SEIU, Executive Vice President Luisa Blue:

“Scott Pruitt’s extravagant spending of the public’s money makes crystal clear what we already know from his policies: he just doesn’t care about the American people. As the largest union of healthcare workers, SEIU members care for people with asthma, cancer and others who have been impacted by the environment. Pruitt’s actions to pull back environmental protections will quicken the devastating impact of climate change, putting the profits of polluting corporations ahead of the health and safety of our families. Pruitt’s actions are an attack on SEIU members and their families who live in communities that already struggle for clean air to breathe and clean water to drink.”

Union of Concerned Scientists, President Ken Kimmell:

“While Scott Pruitt clearly violated ethical standards and bilked taxpayers, he inflicted far worse injury on our children, families, and communities by sidelining science and abandoning the EPA’s public health and environmental mission.”

Latino Victory Project, President Cristóbal J. Alex:

“Scott Pruitt wasted taxpayers’ dollars on luxury travel and soundproof phone booths while cutting vital EPA programs, directly hurting Latinos across the United States. Latinos live on the front lines of the climate change crisis, with half of all U.S. Latinos living in the country’s most polluted cities and Latino children at greater risk of dying from asthma than white children. The job of the EPA Administrator is to protect our natural resources and the health of all Americans, and Pruitt is clearly not up to the task.”

Earthjustice, President Trip Van Noppen

“Beyond his mounting ethical lapses Scott Pruitt has made it his mission to dismantle the many safeguards Americans depend on for clean water, clean air and more with little respect of the law. Scott Pruitt needs to go and until then we will see him in court.”

GreenLatinos, President Mark Magana

“Instead of doing his job to protect our health and environment – especially in marginalized communities and communities of color – Scott Pruitt has wasted hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars on luxury travel and unapproved pay raises for close aides, and has become the subject of multiple independent government investigations. He has endangered our communities with reckless rollbacks and repeals of lifesaving health safeguards, making our air dirtier and our water more dangerous to drink. He’s putting families at risk, and it’s been time for him to resign.”

Ocean Conservancy, CEO Janis Searles Jones

“In the 14 months that he’s been EPA Administrator, Pruitt has intentionally and methodically dismantled protections for our ocean, clean water and clean air. Among his many misguided decisions, he’s proposed a budget that would completely eliminate essential EPA functions including keeping our beaches safe from pathogens, monitoring contaminants in the fish we eat and gutting the marine pollution program. It’s time for Scott Pruitt to go. We cannot afford an EPA administrator who actively undermines the health of our ocean.”

Clean Water Action, President Bob Wendelgass:

“When Scott Pruitt isn’t doing everything he can to try to weaken protections for clean water and public health, he’s wasting taxpayer money or flouting the rules to pad the pockets of his friends and protect the bottom lines of corporate polluters. His destructive agenda and his corrupt behavior go hand-in-hand — he thinks he can get away with both if he keeps giving special interests what they want. It’s dangerous behavior from a public official and it has to stop. Scott Pruitt needs to go.”

Physicians for Social Responsibility, Jeff Carter

“As a public official, Scott Pruitt has shown a lot more interest in whatever perks and advantages he can extract from his position than in advancing the mission of the agency he was tasked to run. He attacks environmental rules and regulations with a prosecutor’s zeal, but with a view of the law not as an instrument of justice, but as a card in a stacked deck, designed to further empower and enrich special interests at the expense of health, the environment, and the less powerful.”

Hip Hop Caucus, Rev Lennox Yearwood Jr., President & CEO

“Pruitt puts his ego and polluter profits over people. It’s outrageous that he thinks he can waste our taxpayer dollars with no consequences. What’s even more tragic is that he continues to roll the dice with our lives. His actions continue to undermine our health and the future of the planet. He needs to go now.”

National Parks Conservation Association, President & CEO Theresa Pierno:

“From day one, Scott Pruitt has demonstrated time and again that his goal is not to hold

the very polluters jeopardizing our air, waters and national parks accountable, but instead to protect them. The Environmental Protection Agency should do just that—protect the environment. The agency, and all it was created to safeguard, deserves a leader befitting of this critical work. As we feared at his confirmation, and as he has shown in the time since, Scott Pruitt is not that person.”

Sierra Club, Executive Director Michael Brune:

“Scott Pruitt is the definition of the swamp, with new ethical and abuse of power scandals breaking virtually every day for the past two weeks. Its past time for Pruitt to resign or be fired, particularly now that some of his most absurd actions are being ruled illegal. Every day Scott Pruitt stays at the EPA is another day he embarasses Donald Trump, and our entire country.”

Natural Resources Defense Council, President Rhea Suh:

“With each new investigation, Scott Pruitt’s disregard for ethics and the rule of law is becoming increasingly egregious and unacceptable. And so is his blatant hostility to the central mission of the EPA, which is to protect public health and the environment. Enough is enough. It’s time for him to go.’”

Greenpeace USA, Executive Director Annie Leonard

“Scott Pruitt’s brazen disrespect for both the environment and our democracy is beyond offensive–it’s one of the most catastrophic consequences of the Trump administration. Scott Pruitt is insulting every person in America by living a life of luxury on the taxpayer’s dime while committed to destroying our environment, our air, our water, and our climate. It’s time for Scott Pruitt to resign, or be fired, before he does any more damage to our country.”

iMatter Youth, Maddie Adkins, Core Team:

“Future generations will have to deal with the consequences of climate change. If the administrator of the EPA cannot be trusted to make decisions that will preserve the planet and protect the futures of our country’s youth, then he needs to go.”

Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments, Executive Director Katie Huffling

“As a public health agency, the EPA’s mission is to protect human health and the environment. In his tenure at the EPA, Scott Pruitt has rolled back essential public health safeguards, which are putting communities at risk for negative health impacts from climate change and exposures to dirty air and water. The communities and families nurses care for deserve an EPA Administrator who is committed to putting public health first. Pruitt is not that person.”

SustainUS, Executive Coordinator Garrett Blad:

“As a public official, Scott Pruitt is trusted to protect the common good. Instead, he is doing everything in his power to damage the lives of young people in this country by handing federal regulating over to fossil fuel executives and lobbyists, giving out bonuses to his friends, and wasting public money to play by his own rules. Scott Pruitt cannot be trusted to safeguard our health or our nation’s democratic principles and should be removed. ”

Montana Environmental Information Center, Deputy Director Anne Hedges

”Scott Pruitt is making Montana’s pollution problems worse. In places such as Colstrip, Montana there are 800 acres of leaking coal ash ponds that have polluted ground and surface waters. The passage of the federal coal ash rule by the Obama Administration was a welcome relief and promised to finally get a handle on the problem in Montana and across the nation. Now Pruitt is trying to undo that rule and put polluters in the driver’s seat – the same polluters who caused the problem in the first place. It’s unconscionable, but that seems to be Pruitt’s middle name. This is just one example of many. He is unethical, imprudent, and more concerned about protecting polluters than public health. It’s time to draw the line.”

Gasp, Executive Director Michael Hansen:

“Scott Pruitt cannot be trusted to lead the agency tasked with protecting our air, land, water, and health. Time and again, he has shown himself to be openly hostile to healthy air, clean water, and basic science. By undermining public health safeguards and undoing critical environmental protections, Scott Pruitt has put all of us at increased risk for cancers, asthma, lung disease, and other illnesses. Pruitt should never have been put in charge of the EPA, and we now have ample evidence to prove it. Scott Pruitt has to go.”

Jamie Rappaport Clark, President and CEO of Defenders of Wildlife:

“Wildlife rely on clean water, clean air and a balanced ecosystem for their survival. Scott Pruitt’s policies at the EPA threaten all of these. He has dismantled environmental protections and abused his position as Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. It’s time for Scott Pruitt and his policies to go.”

 

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Legislative Riders Poison House Farm Bill

For Immediate Release, April 12, 2018

Contact: Gwen Dobbs, Defenders of Wildlife, 202-772-0269, gdobbs@defenders.org

WASHINGTON (April 12, 2018) — Rep. Mike Conaway (R- TX) introduced legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives today reauthorizing the farm bill. In addition to addressing traditional agricultural and food policy, the farm bill has major implications for wildlife and our environment. The House legislation contains toxic riders, including a particularly egregious one that would exempt pesticides from key Endangered Species Act protections and others that would weaken species protections and severely weaken safeguards on national forestlands.  

Defenders of Wildlife President and CEO, Jamie Rappaport Clark, issued the following statement:

“The House legislation hijacks the farm bill. Important legislation has been turned into a vehicle for attacking bedrock environmental laws and damaging our wildlife and national forests. The severe overrides of the Endangered Species Act and the Clean Water Act would allow the killing of endangered wildlife and the dumping of pesticides in waterways, with virtually no legal consequences.

“A real ‘poison pill’ rider added to the bill should raise anew Rachel Carson’s warning in ‘Silent Spring’ issued so many years ago. The rider eviscerates Endangered Species Act requirements for the Environmental Protection Agency to work with the expert fish and wildlife agencies when approving pesticide use, while shielding the pesticide industry from liability for harming endangered wildlife. This reckless provision gives the pesticide industry a free pass to poison pollinators and hundreds of endangered and threatened species with potentially dangerous chemicals.

“In addition, the forestry title is a massive attack on environmental safeguards for clean drinking water, endangered species, forest restoration and science-based decision making on our forests. It exempts 6,000-acre-logging projects from even basic review and oversight under the National Environmental Policy Act—doubling the size of the largest existing exemptions—and adds a long list of new exemptions; directs the forest service to ignore impacts to endangered species and wilderness areas, when approving the use of these exemptions. What’s more, it exempts the Forest Service from important consultations with wildlife experts under the Endangered Species Act.

“Members of Congress interested in passing a farm bill should oppose these and other riders that will only serve to stop the legislative process in its tracks. Congress should craft a balanced bill that serves the needs of the agricultural community while protecting the fish, wildlife, and plants that depend on private lands and forests nationwide.”

Background

The Farm Bill is the marquee legislative responsibility of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees. Congress reauthorizes the Farm Bill about every five years. The current 2014 Farm Bill is set to expire on September 30, 2018.
The Farm Bill is the largest source of federal funds for habitat conservation on private lands. Two-thirds of land in the lower 48 states is privately owned, and more than 40 percent of that is managed for agriculture. Many species of conservation concern, including federally protected and candidate species, depend on private lands. Conservation of these lands is essential to their recovery.
Title IX drastically weakens important requirements under the Endangered Species Act that address the effects of toxic pesticides on threatened and endangered species including Pacific salmon, black-footed ferrets, and butterflies. This damaging language would exempt pesticide manufacturers and users from liability under Section 9 of the Act for killing endangered wildlife. It would also remove the requirement under ESA Section 7 for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to work with expert federal wildlife agencies to assess the effects of toxic and potentially dangerous pesticide products on endangered and threatened species. Instead, the bill allows EPA to make its own self-interested determinations regarding the impacts of pesticides on endangered species, and removes any requirements for the EPA to make those determinations within a reasonable timeframe. For pesticides that are already registered, the EPA would not be required to complete reviews until 2026 or 2033 and for pesticides registered after enactment of this language, the EPA would have four whole years after the registration date to complete species-related reviews. On January 25, over 250 conservation, consumer, agricultural and other public interest groups sent a letter to Congress opposing all efforts to weaken essential on-the-ground protections from pesticides for listed species. This title also undermines important Clean Water Act permitting safeguards for pesticides directly sprayed into waterways.
Title VIII exempts logging operations up to 6000 acres (double current exemptions) from safeguards under the National Environmental Policy Act.  It adds new exemptions, rolls back other safeguards under the current law – allowing for exempt logging in the back country and diluting resources away from addressing fire issues near where people live.  
Defenders of Wildlife developed recommendations for the farm bill. The priority recommendations are available here; the complete recommendations are available here.

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Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With over 1.8 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come. For more information, visit Newsroom.Defenders.org and follow us on Twitter @DefendersNews.

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Congress to Fund 33 Miles of Environmentally Destructive Border Wall

For Immediate Release, March 22, 2018

Contact: Paulo Lopes, (202) 849-8401 x 105, plopes@biologicaldiversity.org

WASHINGTON (March 23, 2017)— The spending plan introduced in Congress Wednesday includes $641 million for border wall construction in the Rio Grande Valley and $1.6 billion for border enforcement. While the proposed budget prohibits funding new border wall designs, such as Trump’s prototypes, it authorizes construction of approximately 33 additional miles of border walls on public and private lands in the coming months, without any meaningful environmental review.

“It’s heartening to see Congress reject the worst symbol of Trump’s bigotry and racism by prohibiting a concrete wall along the border,” said Paulo Lopes, a public lands policy specialist at the Center for Biological Diversity. “But jaguars and other wildlife can’t get over a wall, no matter what it’s made of. Congress should not sanction the building of border walls and fences on public lands or anywhere else.”

The first planned sections of the Trump border wall would tear through public lands, ranchlands, national historic sites and the National Butterfly Center in the Rio Grande Valley. Congress only spared the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge from these destructive construction activities.

“Our environment continues to pay a staggering cost for the border wall and the infrastructure that comes with it,” Lopes said. “Now that Congress has given Trump this down-payment, he’ll only keep demanding more.”

A recent study by the Center identified more than 90 endangered or threatened species that would be threatened by wall construction along the 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico border.

The Center filed the first lawsuit against Trump’s border wall, and will appeal a recent ruling in a separate lawsuit that challenges the Trump administration’s waiver of dozens of environmental laws to replace border walls near San Diego. The Trump administration is expected to set aside these same laws to speed construction of border barriers in Texas.

Beyond jeopardizing wildlife, endangered species and public lands, the U.S.-Mexico border wall is part of a larger strategy of ongoing border militarization that damages human rights, civil liberties, native lands, local businesses and international relations. The border wall impedes the natural migrations of people and wildlife that are essential to healthy diversity.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.6 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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Omnibus Bill Includes Riders to Ramp Up Logging, Weaken Wildlife Protections

For Immediate Release, March 22, 2018

Contact: Brett Hartl, (202) 817-8121, bhartl@biologicaldiversity.org

WASHINGTON (March 22, 2018) — The $1.3 trillion spending bill unveiled in Congress on Wednesday includes harmful provisions to ramp up logging on public lands, weaken protections for endangered species and fund portions of an environmental destructive border wall.

The bill, however, does not include most of the anti-environment riders proposed by Republicans, including ending protections for wolves in the Great Lakes states, allowing a toxic mine in the Superior National Forest and undermining the National Roadless Area Conservation Rule, which would have allowed damaging road building in the Tongass National Forest in Alaska. It also contains significant funding for conservation and spares the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge from destructive border wall fences.

“We’re very grateful to Democrats for keeping many of the worst riders out of this bill. Unfortunately, there are still some pretty nasty provisions in there for the environment,” said Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Republican members of Congress who hold the entire government hostage to insist on damaging environmental riders are why people are fed up with this dysfunctional Congress.”

The omnibus contains an expansion of the so-called Healthy Forestry Restoration Act of 2003 and will now allow logging projects under the guise of “hazard fuel reduction” of 3,000 acres without any meaningful review under the National Environmental Policy Act or the ability for citizen to object to damaging projects.

The omnibus also includes the so-called Cottonwood legislation introduced by Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) that would weaken Endangered Species Act protections on all national forests. The provision allows the Forest Service to continue to approve destructive logging, mining and grazing actions regardless of the consequence to endangered species — even if a species is added to the endangered species list because of those activities.

“National forests and endangered animals will suffer for decades to come, and wildlife may even go extinct, due to the terrible handouts snuck into this bill by Tester and Daines,” said Hartl. “It’s sad that the price of keeping our government open for a few more months includes these provisions that are bad for people and wildlife.”

Also included in the proposed spending bill are harmful riders that would:

Prevent the federal government from protecting people and wildlife from lead ammunition and fishing tackle;
Limit Endangered Species Act protections for sage grouse;
Restrict the EPA from regulating fill materials in wetlands.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.6 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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Senate Democrats’ Jobs & Infrastructure Plan For America’s Workers Provides Real Investments, Protects Communities and Our Health

WASHINGTON, DC (March 07, 2018) – In response to a new infrastructure proposal introduced by Democrats on the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, Raul Garcia, Earthjustice Senior Legislative Counsel, issued the following statement:
 
“Finally, a plan that recognizes what the American people have known all along – that we can have real infrastructure investment without gutting environmental safeguards that protect the air we breathe, water we drink, and communities we call home. This plan looks at our national infrastructure and our environment as something worth investing into while the President’s plan simply wants to sell them off to wealthy corporations.
 
Unlike President Trump’s scam infrastructure plan, the Democrats’ plan is both practical and actionable. It protects the environment and our health, it is inclusive to local communities and it provides real investment in building safe, clean and resilient infrastructure. While the President’s plan guts health and safety protections, it is all smoke and mirrors when it comes to actual investment. The Jobs and Infrastructure Plan for America’s Workers is the real thing.”
 

 

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