Biden Administration Says “No” to Right Whale Protection

The Biden administration refused Jan. 20 to extend emergency protections under two federal wildlife protection laws to critically endangered North Atlantic right whales.

A December 2022 petition sought federal regulatory intervention to prevent ships from striking females of the species and their calves. Specifically, the Center for Biological Diversity, Conservation Law Foundation, Defenders of Wildlife, and Whale and Dolphin Conservation sought application of existing speed limits for vessels to all ships exceeding 35 feet in length and whenever a right whale is observed.

The petition invoked the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

According to the four environmental advocacy organizations that filed the request, “in 2020 and 2021, vessel strikes in U.S. waters alone killed or seriously injured at least four right whales, including a reproductive female.” That is a large number relative to the estimated 340 living individuals of the species still in existence.

Collisions with ships, according to the Dec. 2022 petition, “kill or injure right whales by causing blunt force trauma resulting in fractures, hemorrhage, and/or blood clots. Sharp force trauma, including direct propeller strikes, can result in fatal blood loss, lacerations, and/or amputations.”

The environmental advocacy groups also warned that ” nonlethal collisions may weaken or otherwise adversely affect right whales such that they are more likely to succumb to subsequent injury or death.”

NOAA Fisheries concedes that ships with a length as short as 30 feet can kill right whales. “Since 1999, we have confirmed eight events in which North Atlantic right whales were struck by boats less than 65 feet long,” the agency said in a March 2022 press release. “These strikes occurred across all seasons and were observed in waters off Massachusetts, New Jersey, Georgia, and Florida.”

North Atlantic right whales are dark in color and lack a dorsal fin, which means they can be difficult for mariners to detect. Females and offspring are particularly vulnerable to being hit. “They spend nearly all their time at or near the surface of the water but are not always easily visible,” according to NOAA Fisheries. “And disturbance to mother-calf pairs could affect behaviors, like nursing, that are critical to the calves’ health and survival.”

Environmentalists were critical of the decision.

“This is an extinction-level emergency,” Kristen Monsell, oceans legal director for the Center for Biological Diversity, said. “Every mother right whale and calf is critical to the survival of the species. Protecting right whales from vessel strikes is even more crucial after the Senate’s recent omnibus bill, which delayed efforts to curb right whale entanglements in lobster gear.”

“We expect our leaders to make hard decisions to fix problems,” Gib Brogan, a program director for Oceana, said. “By rejecting this request to quickly act on its own proposal, the Biden administration is assuming risk for this species.”

Eubalaena glacialis is an endangered species under American law. Before European colonization of North America the population of the species may have numbered in the tens of thousands. Hunting of North Atlantic right whales began in the late 19th century. A quest for whale oil was a driver of the extensive killing. E. glacialis has never recovered from extensive hunting that began in the late 19th century.

North Atlantic right whales calve only off the coasts of Georgia and Florida in an area designated as critical habitat under the Endangered Species Act in 1994. Females give birth between Nov. 15 and Apr. 15.

The administration of President William J. Clinton imposed in 1999 a mandatory reporting obligation on ships moving through the calving area. The MRO requires vessels larger than 300 gross tons to notify a shore-based station of entry to the zone. American law also imposes a speed limit on ships traveling in North Atlantic right whale habitat.

NOAA Fisheries is currently considering revisions to the 1999 MRO rule.

The agency must also delay until 2028 efforts to limit the adverse impacts of lobstering equipment on individuals of the species. Congress included a rider to that effect in an unrelated bill enacted into law late last year.

A July 2022 decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit had upheld a regulation that prohibited the use of vertical buoy lines, which entangle and kill individual North Atlantic right whales, between mid-October and January.

E. glacialis is a Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species Appendix I species, which means that is among the species tracked by CITES that are most endangered.

Adult North Atlantic right whales can grow to more than 50 feet in length.

The common name “right whale” relates to the tendency of individual corpses to rise to the surface after being harpooned.


ANWR Protection Bill Introduced

A group of legislators has introduced a bill to protect Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from oil drilling. The bill, if enacted, would designate ANWR’s coastal plain as wilderness.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, a Trump administration initiative approved by a Republican-dominated Congress, opened that portion of ANWR to fossil fuel development after decades of controversy surrounding preservation of the refuge.

“This bill would ensure that one of the most imperiled pieces of our natural heritage will be protected now and for future generations of Americans,” Kristen Miller, executive director of Alaska Wilderness League, said. “We cannot afford to create more climate disasters when scientists agree that an urgent transition is needed to cleaner energy sources.” 

Nineteen U.S. senators are listed as co-sponsors of the proposed legislation, with Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) in the lead. Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Cal.) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Penn.) introduced the bill in the House of Representatives. An additional 37 members of the House are co-sponsors.

Political battles over ANWR have raged since the 1980s. Opponents of drilling on the coastal plain were able to prevent any mandates to open the refuge for oil and gas exploration until Republicans attached an amendment compelling oil and gas extraction there to a tax cut plan proposed during former President Donald Trump’s first year in office.

About 1.5 million acres of ANWR would be added to the National Wilderness Preservation System if the bill becomes law. The proposed designation tracks a 2015 recommendation by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Similar bills have been introduced in previous Congresses.

Image courtesy Alaska Wilderness League, photo by Florian Schulz.

New U.S. House Natural Resources chair opposes limits on fossil fuel development

NOTE: This story by reporter Jacob Fischler appeared in Colorado Newsline on January 30, 2023. It is republished here under the terms of Creative Commons license BY-NC-ND. The publisher of Natural Resources Today has not edited the story except to exclude photographs that were published with it on the Colorado Newsline website.

The incoming chairman of the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee wants to allow more mining and believes technology — not limitations on fossil fuel production — is the best way to address climate change.

As part of their organization of the chamber they now control, U.S. House Republicans selected Arkansas’ Bruce Westerman to lead the panel that oversees the U.S. Interior Department and the U.S. Forest Service and has a major role in shaping federal energy and environmental policy. Republican Reps. Lauren Boebert and Doug Lamborn of Colorado serve on the committee.

Its power, though, will be severely checked for at least the next two years by a Democratic Senate and president.

In an interview with States Newsroom, Westerman, a forester with a background in engineering, said his direction for the panel would depart from that of Democrats.

He’d rather focus on technology — including nuclear energy, carbon sequestration and biochar, a 2,500-year-old technique of heating wood, manure and other biomass to create carbon charcoal with multiple uses — to reduce carbon emissions and atmospheric buildup, than on limiting industry. 

Westerman also said he’d work to open more mining development to gather resources like cobalt, nickel, copper and others needed to build electric vehicles and additional tools of an energy transition, though he added electric vehicles’ potential to reduce carbon emissions was overstated.

Congress should have a role in shaping a transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources, he said, but lawmakers should be mindful that it’s a global issue and that developing countries are not trading their own economic growth to limit emissions –— and perhaps the United States shouldn’t either.

“We can’t wreck our economy for something that’s not going to be a valid solution,” he said.

The following interview, conducted by phone on Jan. 26, has been condensed and edited for clarity.

States Newsroom: Just to start out, what are your priorities for the committee’s work this Congress?

Bruce Westerman: You may or may not be aware of our Commitment to America (House Republicans’ proposed agenda heading into the 2022 midterms) that we put out. Part of that is energy security, national security, energy independence. 

And that’s really a broad subject. It involves not just oil and gas, but also all the mining and critical minerals that are needed for the electrification that’s being proposed and ties in with Chinese supply chains. 

So there’s a lot of things tied up in our Commitment to America that the Natural Resources Committee will have a role in. Energy and mining is a huge one of those. 

The United States has been blessed with natural resources. There’s been a mentality that we’re going to lock those resources up and not use them — kind of a not-in-my-backyard mentality — mainly coming from the left. But the fact is that if we’re not producing them here, they’re being produced somewhere else in the world and they’re being produced in a less environmentally friendly way, and less environmental, health and safety regulations on it.

SN: Are you talking about the rare earth metals or other types of mining? Or what in particular?

BW: All of the above.

If you look at China in particular, and their supply, the amount of rare earths and other minerals that they mined and supply to the world, they’re almost on a different scale on the charts. And we’re very dependent upon products that are made with processed minerals out of China.

We still have a large part of our economy that’s based on that. But I think it’s pretty low compared to the Chinese economy. We use about $900 billion of processed minerals in the United States a year, and we generate about $3.3 to $3.4 trillion of GDP on that, so it’s still a huge part of our economy. 

But we’re also importing a lot of those processed minerals from China. And we’re also buying a lot of products that are manufactured in China, which is essentially exporting our wealth to the Chinese government. 

We can look at natural resources as a way to leverage our U.S. economy against the Chinese economy.

We can talk about Russia in that as well, with oil and gas.

SN: Just to go back for a second. You talked about the mining needed for “the electrification that’s being proposed.” Like, more electric vehicles? Or what did you mean by that?

BW: All of the above. You can’t have electric vehicles without having a place to plug them in. And you can’t have a place to plug them in without increasing the size of the grid. You’ve got to be able to generate more electricity. 

If you’re going to generate it with wind and solar, you’re going to have to have a tremendous amount of things manufactured from elements and minerals to generate that electricity, or we’re going to be generating it the way we’re generating 69% of it right now and that’s with fossil fuels.

So it’s a very complicated network of interactions there and all of it is dependent upon energy and minerals. 

I think the problem with the Democrats’ and the Biden administration’s approach is that — what I’ve been saying is they have two problems. I think they have not defined the problem correctly. Hence, they’re trying to go about solving the problem in the wrong way. 

I think electric cars are fascinating, but electric cars in the United States are going to do very, very little, if anything, to decrease global carbon emissions. And if all the eggs are in that basket in the U.S., there’s going to have to be a tremendous amount of mining for lithium and copper and cobalt, nickel, a lot of ingredients that go into an electric car. 

And then at the end of the day, it could have an impact of less than 1% global greenhouse gas reductions, if you were able to convert every passenger car and light-duty truck in America to an electric vehicle overnight. 

That’s less than 15% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions are emitted from the United States. Twenty-seven percent of that comes from all of transportation, then 57% of that comes from light-duty trucks and passenger vehicles. So now you’re down to a little over 2%. And then you look at the fact that only 31% of our electricity comes from a non-carbon-emitting source. 

So you’re below 1% global impact on carbon emissions and I don’t think we’re going to get the bang for our buck putting all our eggs in the basket of electric vehicles. 

Plus, if you want carbon-free energy, wind and solar, they’re two sources, but they’re just a blip on the chart. It’s going to have to be something like nuclear power or someday maybe fusion power to generate enough electricity to offset the electricity that’s being produced by coal, oil and natural gas and biomass right now.

SN: So if Democrats are not defining the question correctly, how would you define it?

BW: That’s a great question, I’m glad you asked.

I think Democrats have defined the problem in the context of: The climate is changing. It’s changing because of carbon in the atmosphere. We must stop all carbon from going into the atmosphere. 

The part they’re leaving out of that is that the quality of life in the world is increasing because of innovation in energy. There’s a developing world out there that wants to have the same kinds of energy and the benefits that come from having energy. And the world has an insatiable appetite for more energy. 

The Democrats’ approach is to remove fossil fuels, which maybe someday we can do that, but we’re a long way from getting to that point. 

And if you look globally, developing countries are building energy-generating systems which utilize fossil fuels much faster than we’re building windmills or solar farms, which have much less energy density. 

So, we’ve got to work on a couple of different fronts, innovation being one of them. What the world wants is reliable and affordable energy, and we’ve got to be the innovators that figure out how to make that clean.

The technology we’ve got right now, you go down the logic diagram, and you end up with nuclear power, because, quite frankly, you can’t build enough windmills and solar farms to offset the amount of energy that’s produced from fossil fuels right now. 

But people have a problem with nuclear power. The largest component of green power that we have right now is hydropower. And you have people wanting to tear dams down. So that’s going the opposite direction.

SN: Should we be working to reduce carbon emissions? Or is that sort of secondary to having plentiful energy supplies?

BW: We’ve got to work to reduce carbon emissions, but you’ve got to do it in the context of reality that there’s a world that has an insatiable appetite for energy.

And when China builds a new coal-fired plant every week, which they’ve been doing for the past several years, it absorbs any carbon reduction benefits that we’ve created here in the U.S. 

There’s too much focus on electric cars, and it’s like a red herring that you do this, and it’s going to fix the problem and it’s not. Show me the math that says it’s going to fix the problem. It’s much larger scale than that. And if we cut our fossil fuel usage, the rest of the world’s not going to. 

SN: But does that mean it’s not worth doing? It seems like if it’s a worldwide effort, that the United States could be a leader in that effort worldwide.

BW: We’re already a leader. 

We’re relying on technology that has to be subsidized. India doesn’t have money to subsidize wind farms and solar panels. African nations can’t do that. 

And you just look at the order of magnitude of how much energy you can produce from a windmill and a solar farm, and, again, we’re trying to solve the wrong problem. 

The other side of that is we got to work on ways to get carbon out of the atmosphere that’s already there. That’s why I’m a big proponent of natural solutions and why I think forestry and innovative products like biochar can play a huge role in removing carbon from the atmosphere. 

You got to look at both sides of the equation. How much are you putting up, and how much are you taking out?

SN: It sounds like you’re saying it’s less worthwhile to try and artificially limit fossil fuel supply and usage and more about working on research and development to make energy cleaner and on a larger scale. Is that fair?

BW: We’ve got to work on it every day, making every form of energy we’ve got cleaner and safer and healthier.

Now, the problem is there has to be a transition time. There may be a day when we can have carbon-free energy, but the reality is it’s nowhere close. Not even remotely close. And we can’t solve that in the United States by building electric cars.

SN: But do you think Congress should be working toward that transition and that should be an objective?

BW: I think it should, but it has to be in the realm of reality. It has to be with eyes wide open, knowing that somebody in a developing country that doesn’t have the quality of life that they see the rest of the world having, they don’t really care about how much carbon is in the atmosphere.

I mean, look no further than China and the number of coal-fired plants they’re building so they can generate electricity to create jobs, to manufacture stuff to ship to the rest of the world. 

So, I just want people to take a realistic approach to it and not just push stuff that I would call eyewash. It’s not a valid solution. My background is in engineering, my undergraduate degree’s in engineering. And they teach you problem-solving process and the first thing you have to do to solve a problem is to define the problem correctly. 

And I think that our current policy in the country has greatly missed what the definition of a problem is and therefore we’re working towards solutions that aren’t going to solve any kind of a problem anytime soon. 

And it’s more than reality. It’s, it’s not realizing that people desire to have energy, they desire to have a better way of life. And they can’t afford it.

SN: When you talk about like the developing world and China and India, are you saying that because their carbon emissions we have no control over and they’re likely to grow, maybe grow very fast, that then we shouldn’t make a tradeoff to limit our own emissions in the United States? Is that sort of what you’re getting at?

BW: No. We can’t wreck our economy for something that’s not going to be a valid solution.

The hope is that America would be the innovators, that we would continually work to make the energy sources we have cleaner and that eventually we’ll develop the technology that the rest of the world adopts that is reliable and affordable and that happens to be clean as well. 

But the path that we’re on is one that would do great harm to our economy and do harm to our ability to actually solve these problems in the future. I wish we were in person; I’ve got a chart I can show you the global demand for energy global consumption by source. And you just about need a magnifying glass to see where wind, solar, and other renewables fit on the chart. 

And it’s growing at an exponential rate. The world consumption of energy doubled from 1800 to 1900. It doubled again in 1942 and doubled again in the mid-60s, doubled again in the ‘80s and doubled again in 2021. And by 2035 we’re projected to be 50% higher on global consumption of energy than we are now. 

And by far the largest source of energy is coal, oil and natural gas.

SN: Obviously, it’s a divided government. Republicans have a slim majority in the House. Are there things that you think you can work with Democrats on?

BW: The (Strategic Petroleum Reserve) bill on not selling oil to China has huge bipartisan support

The president went into it calling it a partisan issue. But I think we see it had huge bipartisan support. 

Specifically with the Natural Resources Committee, I think there are a lot of things we can work on. When it comes to forestry and natural climate solutions, that can be bipartisan. I think if we get the facts out there, the impact of using U.S. energy versus foreign energy, we could get bipartisan support to do that. 

There was a lot of money put out in the Infrastructure and Jobs Act, which I think was misnamed, and there was a lot of money put out in the Inflation Reduction Act, which again I think was misnamed. So there’s a lot of money out there to build quote green infrastructure.

But people are finding out the green infrastructure people are having the same problems the other kind of infrastructure folks are having and it’s that they can’t get a permit. You can’t build anything because you can’t get a permit. And our laws have been weaponized. 

So I think there could be bipartisan support to go in and fix some of these regulations with common sense so that you can build solar farms and transmission lines and you can build pipelines and you can manage a forest and do things that are part of the big equation on how you address climate.

SN: Sen. Joe Manchin III (a West Virginia Democrat who chairs the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee) had a proposal on that last year. Is that something you’d be interested in revisiting? Or would you all take a different approach to permitting reform?

BW: He and I are supposed to get together here pretty soon and I’m sure we’ll talk about permitting.

We’ve got ideas here in the House. Garret Graves of Louisiana has something called the BUILDER Act that we think has some common-sense reforms in it.

I just saw a story somebody forwarded to me earlier about the number of whales that we think are being harmed by offshore wind energy, so there’s a lot of things that we’ve got to consider and we’ve got to get the facts and the data and really make a full-faith effort to do what’s right. For the country and for the environment and for the future.

SN: You were a forester before you got into politics and I’ve heard you talk about forest management, and wildfires is of course a huge issue. How do you think the federal approach to forest management could be improved?

BW: Well actually, I’m still a forester. I renewed my license at the end of the year. I’m still a licensed engineer and a licensed forester.

But this is an area that I really hope to see some progress on. A bill that I’m very excited about is one that we call the Save Our Sequoias Act. Worked very closely with Scott Peters, (Democrat) from California on this bill. 

Actually, Speaker (Kevin) McCarthy and Scott Peters were the cosponsors of the bill in the last Congress. Most of the sequoia groves are in McCarthy’s (California) district. And we went out to look at what’s happening in our sequoia groves and how we had lost 20% of these iconic trees in like two or three years. And when you get out and see what the issues are and academics and Forest Service and Park Service employees pointing out that here’s the problem: These trees have grown up without fire for over 100 years in an environment where they used to get fire every three years or so. It creates ladder fuel (vegetation that allows a fire to move from a forest floor to tree canopies). 

And the result of that is we got a good bill last Congress that had 25 Democrats, 25 Republicans and was endorsed by Save the Redwoods League, the Nature Conservancy and the Environmental Defense Fund. So, I think it requires doing the hard work and really looking at the facts. I’m excited to get that bill filed again. Hopefully we’ll get through committee. We couldn’t even get a hearing on it in the last Congress. 

SN: And how is your approach different from how things have been done?

BW: On this particular bill, it would declare a congressional emergency for the sequoia groves. And they’re unique and they’re very well-defined. There’s like 70 of them and sequoias don’t grow off of those sites. 

So we are declaring a congressional emergency for all the sequoia groves and we’re giving the Park Service and Forest Service — there’s a little bit of tribal ownership of sequoias and a little bit of state of California ownership of sequoias — but we’re giving them the tools and the resources to go in and restore the forest to how it was like in the early 1800s so that they can reintroduce fire to it without destroying the whole forest. And it’s following very rigorous science on forest management.

SN: When you restore the forest to its state in the 1800s, is that through thinning?

BW: It requires mechanical thinning. So, what happened after the gold rush in California, Native Americans quit using controlled burns and then the Forest Service came along early 1900s, 1901 or whatever, and they started putting out every fire.

So, you have what’s called shade-tolerant species, like white fir and different kinds of pine, that grow very slowly in the understory of these giant sequoias. And what would happen, for centuries, they averaged about 31 fires per century in the sequoia groves. Then it went to three fires per century.

So, these slow-growing trees were over 100 years old, they’re pretty good-sized trees, and they got tall enough that the tops of them are in the lower crown of the sequoia.

Then you get wildfire that comes through that then runs up the tree because they’ve got ladder fuel and it gets into the crowns of the sequoias. And we saw a whole grove of sequoia trees that were totally destroyed by forest fire.

I mean, these things can live to be 3,000 years old … Trees are like a history book. Because of their annual rains and fire scars, you can do amazing research on what happened over time. 

The simple solution is, you go in and cut down these white fir trees and pine tree that are growing up into the crown of the sequoias. And then you’ve got it where you can use controlled burns, and the fire goes through low to the ground and cleans up the fuels. And that’s the way the forest had been managed for millennia.

SN: OK, we better wrap it up here. Is there anything else you wanted to mention?

BW: We did talk about biochars in passing, so if you want to research that we can have a very in-depth conversation.

SN: Biochar? C-H-A-R?

BW: Yeah, biochar. The Incans were making it over a thousand years ago. And you can still dig it up. And when we talk about carbon sequestration, this gives us a way to remove overstocked vegetation from the forest, make a product out of it that’s almost pure carbon. Put it in the soil, make the soil more productive and make renewable fuel out of it in the process.

So that’s the kind of innovation I’m talking about when we talk about the big picture of climate.

Federal Appeals Court Rejects Effort to Compel Amended Grizzly Bear Recovery Plan

A federal appeals court turned away Jan. 19 a case that sought to force the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to update its recovery plan for the grizzly bear. The decision cast recovery plans as being outside the scope of a federal statute’s provision allowing for petitions to amend agency rules.

The Center for Biological Diversity filed a lawsuit seeking to compel amendment of USFWS’ framework for managing Ursus arctos horribilis after the agency rejected its 2014 petition. The Center asked USFWS to expand the grizzly bear recovery area to Arizona, California, New Mexico, and Utah.

The agency denied the environmental advocacy organization’s request on grounds that an Endangered Species Act recovery plan is not a “rule” under the Administrative Procedure Act. USFWS also said that it had focused recovery efforts only on regions of the country where the animal was present in 1975, the year grizzlies were added to the list of threatened and endangered species.

A federal court in Montana upheld the agency’s decision, holding that recovery plans are not APA rules. U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen’s Dec. 2020 decision said that ESA recovery plans do not implement law or policy.

“[T]he Center’s argument—in sum, that a recovery plan is a rule because it implements the statutory requirements for a recovery plan—is circular and therefore unpersuasive,” the court declared. “A recovery plan does not implement conservation policy because it does not, in and of itself, create change; it doesn’t put itself into effect.”

The net result of the analysis, Christensen argued, is that “the Center’s so-called ‘petition’ is simply a solicitation letter for which the Service had no legal obligation to respond (and correspondingly, its denial letter creates no rights or obligations and there is no final agency action).” As a result, the court lacked jurisdiction to order USFWS to respond to the petition.

Two judges on a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed Christensen’s ruling.

“The caselaw makes plain that adoption of a recovery plan is not agency action by which rights or obligations have been determined, or from which legal consequences will flow,” wrote senior U.S. circuit judge Andrew D. Hurwitz. “The Endangered Species Act does not mandate compliance with recovery plans for endangered species.”

Hurwitz’ opinion was joined by Judge Danny J. Boggs of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit.

Judge Jennifer Sung, who joined the court last year, dissented.

USFWS first issued a recovery plan for U. arctos horribilis in 1982. The agency updated it in 1993, but not since.

The Return of Natural Resources Today

After a long hiatus, Natural Resources Today is returning to regular coverage of developments in the world of environmental law and policy. You can expect updates once or twice each week.

We welcome useful comments!

Report: McCarthy to be Biden climate policy guru

A report in The Washington Post Tuesday said that President-elect Joe Biden will ask former U.S. Environmental Protection Agency administrator Gina McCarthy to be his chief climate policy advisor.

McCarthy, 66, is now president and CEO of the Natural Resources Defense Council and a professor at the T.H. Chan School of Public Health at Harvard University. She served as EPA head between July 2013-Jan. 2017.

During her time at EPA McCarthy led the Obama administration’s efforts to further regulate greenhouse gas emissions from both mobile and stationary sources. In Aug. 2015 the agency finalized a rule aimed at reducing atmosphere-warming gases from electric power plants. Enforcement of the so-called Clean Power Plan was stayed by the U.S. Supreme Court in Feb. 2016 and the regulation was then replaced by the Trump administration with a weaker version.

McCarthy also helped to negotiate both the 2015 Paris Agreement and the 2016 Kigali Agreement to phase out production and use of hydrofluorocarbons.

She will hold the the formal title of director of the White House Office of Domestic Climate Policy. That role will compliment former U.S. Sen. and secretary of state John Kerry’s work as special presidential envoy for climate.

The Post story also said that Ali Zaidi, an aide to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo responsible for climate and energy policy and a former associate director for natural resources, energy and science at the White House Office of Management and Budget, will be McCarthy’s deputy.

Biden elected 46th President, poised to reverse Trump EOs, regulations

Joseph R. Biden, Jr., the former vice president and longtime U.S. senator from Delaware, has been elected President of the United States. The Associated Press declared on Nov. 7 that Biden and his running mate, California senator Kamala Harris, crossed the threshold of 270 electoral votes needed to win the White House.

According to Dave Leip’s U.S. Election Atlas, more than 75 million Americans voted for the Democratic ticket in the Nov. 3 election. The incumbent President, Donald J. Trump, and vice president, Michael R. Pence, won just over 71 million votes.

Aside from winning states that, in recent decades, have consistently voted Democratic presidential candidates, Biden and Harris returned Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin to the Democrats after the Trump-Pence ticket won all three states by narrow margins in 2016. The Democratic candidates also carried Nevada and Arizona. At press time Biden and Harris also lead in Georgia.

A Biden-Harris administration is expected to act early to reverse Trump regime environmental policies. The President-elect has already indicated that he will re-join the Paris Agreement on climate change very quickly after being inaugurated. The U.S. officially exited the 2015 accord on Nov. 4. He may also restore the boundaries of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, created by President William Jefferson Clinton in 1996, and Bears Ears National Monument, created by President Barack H. Obama in Dec. 2016, to those that existed before Trump dramatically scaled them back in Dec. 2017.

A Nov. 7 article in Bloomberg Law details other actions Biden can take early in his term to reverse Trump environmental policies.

The Electoral College will meet on Dec. 14 to cast the electoral votes that officially elect the President.

Logo by Jonathan Hoefler – via
Public Domain,

Colorado voters order wolf reintroduction

Canis lupus – image courtesy Wikimedia

Voters in Colorado have enacted by initiative a statute that requires gray wolves to be re-introduced to the state by 2023. According to results available at the website of secretary of state Jena Griswold, Proposition 114 passed with 50.64% of the vote.

Wolves will be reintroduced only to the Western Slope. The initiative includes a mandate to compensate ranchers who lose livestock to Canis lupus predation. In addition, the voter-enacted law requires the state parks and wildlife commission to use “the best scientific data available” to develop the reintroduction plan, hold hearings around the state to gather information to be considered in making the plan, and help ranchers to prevent wolf-livestock interactions.

The particular areas on the Western Slope that will again be populated by Canis lupus is left to the commission to determine. Prior to 1940 the animal ranged not only west of the Rockies, but across the state. In more recent years there have been wolf sightings in western Colorado, including a wolf pack.

Despite being added to the U.S. list of endangered and threatened species in 1974, and although gray wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park in January 1995, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service never moved to return the species to Colorado.

The Trump regime eliminated Endangered Species Act protections for the gray wolf on Oct. 29, 2020.

The state parks and wildlife commission rejected a 2016 proposal to reintroduce wolves. Colorado has, however, re-introduced several other species: turkeys during the 1980s, lynx in 1999, and bison in 2015, for example.

New Mexico legislators introduce bill to protect wilderness in Rio Grande del Norte National Monument

Rio Grande del Norte National Monument – photo courtesy Wikimedia

Two members of New Mexico’s Congressional delegation have introduced a bill that would designate more than 13,000 acres within the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument near Questa. The proposal would protect a volcanic caldera that provides a roadless corridor benefitting elk, bears, and mountain lions.

The bill aims to correct an omission in the Cerros del Norte Conservation Act, which became law as part of a broad public lands bill signed by the president in March 2019. That legislation established the 13,420 acre Cerro del Yuta Wilderness and the 8,120 acre Río San Antonio Wilderness.

Democratic Reps. Deb Haaland and Ben Ray Lujan are co-sponsoring the bill to establish the Cerro de la Olla Wilderness.

New Mexico’s two senators, Martin Heinrich (D) and Tom Udall (D), introduced similar legislation in January 2020. Their bill was given a hearing by the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, Subcommittee on Public Lands, Forests, and Mining, in September.

President Barack Obama designated the national monument in March 2013.

Great American Outdoors Act signed into law

President Donald J. Trump has signed the Great American Outdoors Act into law. The bill guarantees $900 million per year to the Land and Water Conservation Fund and sets aside $9.5 billion over the next five fiscal years to address maintenance and repair backlogs in National Park Service and other public land agency facilities.

The funding will be provided by royalties paid by oil and gas, coal, and renewable energy companies to the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

The LWCF was created in 1965. It promised to dedicate hundreds of millions of dollars per year from oil and gas royalties to acquire new federal park lands and to support state and local park development. Actual appropriations have generally fallen far short of that contemplated level. A Ducks Unlimited report indicated that, before the authorization of LWCF expired in 2018, it had been fully funded only twice in 54 years.

The LWCF has financed the purchase of at least seven million acres of public land, either for outright ownership by governments or as easements, over the years.

The measure passed the Senate by a 73-25 vote in June and the House of Representatives by a vote of 310-107, almost all majority Democrats and about half of minority Republicans voting in favor of it. Nevertheless, Trump invited only GOP legislators to the bill signing ceremony at the White House.

According to a report by the Associated Press, the Great American Outdoors Act is “the most significant conservation legislation enacted in nearly half a century.”