Photo by Mike Dunn
WE THANK THOSE OF YOU WHO VOTE AND COMMUNICATE WITH YOUR ELECTED REPRESENTATIVES AS IF THE FUTURE LIVES AND HEALTH OF OUR LOVED ONES, COMMUNITY, COUNTRY, AND THE EARTH DEPENDED ON IT !
We are deeply concerned about erosion of safeguards for our nation's public lands and waters. While Americans are divided on many issues, we believe our mutual love for our nation's wild lands and natural places is a common cause that unites us. Protecting our public lands and natural heritage assets is not a "blue" or "red" issue. The vast majority of Americans support the conservation of America's environmental resources and natural heritage. President Joe Biden pledges to devote executive branch attention and priority for addressing the twin crises of Climate Change and Destruction of Natural Resources.
Those of us who care about the environmental health and well-being of our country and region must take defensive action and attempt to retain guarded optimism for the future. We envision better times ahead "when hope and history rhyme." Actions are urgently necessary to restore the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, National Environmental Policy Act, the Paris Agreement on Climate Change… and more -- all of which were drastically curtailed in the previous Trump U.S. presidency and by the radical majority of the US Supreme Court. These laws and treaties are absolutely essential to protecting the natural world we all rely on. One by one, they've been eroded… making it easier for polluters, industry, and large-scale developers to operate unchecked and damage our planet.
Remember that the U.S. president sets the agenda of the federal government, while Congress holds the "purse strings" and authorizes the national budget, and the federal courts hold powers to curtail and interpret legislation.
We will alert you to opportunities and efforts to reverse environmental damages, and provide links to other partner organizations that are monitoring environmental federal proposals and actions, and are leading in response strategies. Many of our national and regional environmental protection organizations are leading efforts to reinstate essential programs and policies, and to remove bad ones. We recommend you stay abreast of these efforts, including those of the Southern Environmental Law Center.
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CODE RED FOR HUMANITY: Changing Climate Realities and Threats Demand Urgent Response and Mitigation Attempts
Extreme heat, droughts, wildfires, melting ice caps, sea level rise, species extinction and potential collapse of ecosystems and ocean currents are all real threats and are worsening due to human-caused heating of the global climate. Urgent and immediate mitigating action is demanded to counter these threats and to reduce emissions of carbon, methane, and other fossil-fuels causing catastrophic climate changes. Steadily rising heat is inevitable for Earth’s lands and seas. If remediation actions are not taken NOW, then our civilizations, human health and welfare, and natural ecosystems are all in immediate jeopardy. See this troubling Washington Post article about potential action pathways for Climate Change
https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate-environment/interactive/2022/global-warming-1-5-celsius-scenarios/ "We looked at 1,200 possibilities for the planet’s future. These options are our best hope." The results suggest is that the world has probably run out of easy options to stay under 1.5C — or have a low overshoot.
The extremity of the situation is further articulated in a 2022 article from Earth.org, which analyzed findings from the UN’s Intergovernmental Platform for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES):
US Supreme Court majority maims wetlands protection
The U.S. Supreme Court on May 19th, 2023, handed down a 5-4 vote outrageous decision that puts our clean water and communities at risk. Ignoring scientific consensus and decades of established law defining the scope of the Clean Water Act. That decision drastically limits the law’s protections for wetlands. The Supreme Court’s majority ruling on the Sackett v US EPA case restricts the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act. This ruling jeopardizes drinking water supplies for millions of people and threatens the health of our nation’s streams and wetlands.
For more than 50 years, federal law has been the backbone of wetland protections in our states. The Supreme Court majority's ruling drastically reduces the scope of the Clean Water Act and discards protection of wetlands (on its 50th year anniversary) at a time when they are desperately needed. The Court's ruling puts nearly half of America's remaining wetlands in peril of destruction. "At least half of the nation's wetlands could lose protection under this ruling, which provides an even narrower definition of 'protected waters' than the Trump administration had sought" (New York Times).
In the South, we know the value of wetlands. From salt marshes to Carolina bays to mountain bogs, wetlands provide essential habitat for wildlife, filter pollution, and absorb floodwaters that threaten our communities with increasing frequency. Wetlands are essential to healthy streams, rivers, and fisheries. This decision is a gift to big polluters and industry interests to strip the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to protect our health and our waters. The decision will allow more pollution to flow into our streams and rivers and for developers to destroy wetlands’ ability to absorb floodwaters.
“For 50 years the Clean Water Act has been instrumental in revitalizing and safeguarding drinking water sources for people and wildlife, wetlands for flood control, and habitats that sustain our wildlife heritage,” said Jim Murphy, director of legal advocacy for the National Wildlife Federation. “Federal protections that don’t depend on local politics or regional polluter influence are essential to vulnerable and disadvantaged communities nationwide. The court’s ruling removes these vital protections from important streams and wetlands in every state.”
And even worse, Republican-majority controlled state legislatures --including in North Carolina -- immediately passed legislation reducing the scope of wetlands protection within states.
With the Court’s ruling as a major blow, the fight to defend clean water and protect vital wetlands has never been more urgent. Although the Supreme Court’s decision is significant and disappointing, it will not stop defenders of the environment from fighting to protect wetland ecosystems, clean water and applying place-based knowledge and expertise. We must not stop efforts to protect wetlands in the South and the communities that depend on them. Too much is at stake. We have to continue to work at the local, state, and federal level to build protections for wetlands and to defend our natural communities from rampant wetland destruction. We will have to fight in our courts, state legislatures, in Congress, and in local governments to protect our waterways and wetlands.
International Biodiversity Preservation Summit delivers for nature!
Despite pessimistic predictions, the international forum on biodiversity preservation held in Montreal, Canada, in December 2022 produced groundbreaking goals to preserve natural habitats for at least thirty percent of Earth's land and waters, which could go far toward forestalling the predicted extensions of a quarter of ALL of the wild animals and plants on our planet. This 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP) and representatives of nearly 200 countries reached a historic agreement to protect nearly a third of the planet by 2030 to safeguard biodiversity. Here’s a summary of what came from the biodiversity: https://apple.news/A3Z7Adoq0TJqv-33c31nQnA
National Audubon, NatureServe, and other parters work with CBD to track progress toward this goal, building off current scientific and technical support provided by the Biodiversity Indicators Program.
Defenders of natural resource conservation and environmental protection programs must be vigilant and register their concerns with their congressional representatives if we are to ensure continuation of federal funding for important environmental protection and natural resource conservation programs.
MANY PERILS DEMAND RESPONSE
A report from the Center for American Progress highlights the Biden Administration’s progress on its priority of conserving more public lands. Explore the report
Once-in-a-Generation Federal Investment:
Among landmark elements of the federal Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) enacted into law on August 16, 2022 (after being passed along strictly political party lines in both the US Senate and House) are great advances toward reducing the nation’s impacts on the Earth’s climate. The legislation includes tax breaks for electric vehicles and incentives to ramp up carbon-capture facilities, urge green hydrogen production, and boost U.S. manufacturing of solar panels, wind turbines, and next-generation batteries. There is $369 billion in climate- and energy-related funding — much of it aimed at high-tech solutions to help nudge the world’s biggest historical emitter toward a greener future.
Climate action investments included in the IRA will produce positive results including these projects, which by 2030 will achieve in the United States:
Beyond those headline-making investments, the legislation acknowledges another essential part of the effort to combat climate change: nature—that given a chance, nature can be a profound ally in the fight against climate change. “It’s historic, without a doubt,” said Tom Cors, director of North America policy and government relations at The Nature Conservancy, who called new funding to protect forests and boost climate-friendly agriculture practices a “once-in-a-generation investment.”
The money set aside for “nature-based” climate solutions includes about $20 billion for agricultural conservation and $5 billion to safeguard forests around the country, according to the Congressional Research Service. While those numbers pale in comparison to other big-ticket items, many environmental advocates say such investments are critical in giving the nation a better shot at hitting long-term climate goals, and will serve as a reminder that taking care of the land has added benefits to wildlife and human health.
The 2023 FEDERAL APPROPRIATIONS ACT FUNDS MANY IMPORTANT ENVIRONMENTAL PROECTION ACTIONS
The omnibus federal appropriations legislation in the US Congress in its December 2022 "lame duck" session was passed by bipartisan majorities and was accepted and signed into law by President Biden. It regrettably omitted some desirable components but did fund some important environmental protection actions. Passed in the final days of 2022, the Fiscal Year 2023 appropriations bill includes big wins for climate and conservation, although it did not include other important legislation that would greatly benefit wildlife. Read more in this National Audubon Society assessment. Included in the appropriations bill, the Growing Climate Solutions Act recognizes the critical role that the agriculture and forestry sectors play in conservation and naturally storing carbon—will not only help to create a cleaner future for both people and wildlife, but will also preserve bird habitats, and help rural economies. Read more
Water Resources Modernized to Meet 21st Century Issues
Also passed by Congress in December 2022 was the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) which will help restore ecosystems like the Everglades, Great Lakes, and Mississippi River. The WRDA included key provisions directing the Army Corps to incorporate climate change into project planning and design. Read more
PRESIDENT BIDEN'S CLIMATE CHANGE RESPONSE EXECUTIVE ORDERS CALL FOR CONSERVING 30% OF LAND AND WATERS BY 2030
President Biden in his first month in office released an executive order calling for conservation of 30% of the U.S. land base and public waters by 2030. "This bold '30x30' vision is firmly rooted in science, given that protected land is key to a healthy and secure future for all Americans. It will provide pure drinking water, healthy food, clean air, habitat for wildlife, and places for people to reflect, recreate, hunt and fish. Conserved land also provides protection from natural disasters, such as floods and droughts, and absorbs and keeps carbon from the Earth's atmosphere." (Andrew Bowman, Pres. & CEO of the Land Trust Alliance. More HERE.)
After President Biden set the goal of conserving 30 percent of the nation’s land and waters by 2030, an interagency team in early May laid out broad principles — but few details — for achieving that vision. The Conserving and Restoring America the Beautiful report highlights one of the Biden administration’s central challenges: having committed to bold environmental goals, agency officials now face the more uncertain and contentious task of figuring out how to follow through on those ambitions.
Conserving and Restoring America the Beautiful, the preliminary report to the National Climate Task Force, was developed by the U.S. Departments of the Interior, Agriculture and Commerce, and the White House Council on Environmental Quality, and was released in early May 2021 on directive by President Biden. It recommends a decade-long national conservation effort that emphasizes a commitment to collaboration, support for voluntary and locally led conservation, and honoring of Tribal sovereignty and private property rights. The report outlines a locally led and voluntary nationwide conservation goal to conserve 30 percent of U.S. lands and waters by 2030 as an important part of the solution to the problems of the disappearance of nature, climate change, and inequitable access to the outdoors. The report outlines steps the U.S. could take to safeguard key areas on land and in the sea to restore biodiversity, tackle climate change and make natural spaces more accessible to all Americans. (Read a summary of the “America the Beautiful” Initiative and find a link to the full report here. )
In early 2024 Biden Administration released the third annual progress report on its America the Beautiful Initiative. Read the blogpost from Brenda Mallory, Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, and explore the full report
Inflation Reduction Act Funding for Climate-Smart Agriculture
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced in early 2023 that it is making funding available for agricultural producers and forest landowners nationwide to participate in voluntary conservation programs and adopt climate-smart practices. The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) provided an additional $19.5 billion over five years for climate smart agriculture through several of the conservation programs that USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) implements. NRCS is making available $850 million in fiscal year 2023 for its oversubscribed conservation programs: the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) and Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP).
“The Inflation Reduction Act provided a once-in-a-generation investment in conservation on working lands, and we want to work with agricultural and forest landowners to invest in climate-smart practices that create value and economic opportunities for producers,” said Department of Agriculture Vilsack, who spoke today at the National Association of Conservation Districts annual meeting. “We know that agriculture plays a critical role in the nation’s effort to address climate change, and we’re using this funding to bolster our existing programs, maximize climate benefits, and foster other environmental benefits across the landscape.”
The IRA funding includes an additional $8.45 billion for EQIP, $4.95 billion for RCPP, $3.25 billion for CSP, and $1.4 billion for ACEP. The increased funding levels begin in fiscal year 2023 and rapidly build over four years. These additional investments are estimated to help hundreds of thousands of farmers and ranchers apply conservation to millions of acres of land. Additionally, the IRA provides $300 million to quantify carbon sequestration and greenhouse gases (GHG) through the collection and use of field-based data to assess conservation outcomes. Information gained through this effort will be used to improve practices and technical assistance to customers. Further guidance on this important work will be provided as the implementation of this portion of the IRA continues.
For additional details on funding, timelines, and applying please click here.
Biden-Harris Administration Announces New Steps for Climate Resilience and Forest Conservation
In advance of 2023 Earth Day celebrations, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of the Interior (DOI) announced actions to foster forest conservation, enhance forest resilience to climate change, and inform policymaking on ensuring healthy forests on federally managed lands administered by the USDA Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Full Article here.
USDA Invests More than $48.6 Million to Manage Risks, Combat Climate Change
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will invest more than $48.6 in 2023 through the Joint Chiefs’ Landscape Restoration Partnership for projects that mitigate wildfire risk, improve water quality, and restore healthy forest ecosystems on public and private lands. Through the projects, USDA’s Forest Service and Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) are working together with agricultural producers, forest landowners, and National Forest System lands to improve forest health using available Farm Bill conservation programs and other authorities. Read more.
U.S. Department of Transportation announced in late 2023 more than $110 million in federal funding as part of its new Wildlife Crossings Pilot Program. For insights into how such investments are hitting the ground with impact within a specific landscape, read the DoT announcement and explore the Y2Y synopsis .
Biden Administration Invests Nearly $10 Million for Reforestation with Forest Nursery and Native Seed Partnership
The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced that nearly $10 million is being invested in forest nursery and native seed partnerships, thanks to funding from the Infrastructure Law. Of the total funding, $4.5 million is being invested in twenty-nine facilities from states, U.S. Island territories and commonwealths to modernize forest nurseries and $5.3 million will help increase native seed collection and native plant availability to restore and support resilient ecosystems on national forests and grasslands. These investments help build capacity across public and private lands to meet mounting reforestation demands and complement the recently announced $35 million investment in Forest Service nurseries in support of the National Forest System Reforestation Strategy (PDF, 7 MB). According to The Nature Conservancy’s Reforestation Hub, it's estimated that up to 146 million acres of land in the U.S. could benefit from reforestation. This translates to a need for more than 75 billion trees. At their current level of production -- about 1.4 billion annually -- it would take more than 50 years for nurseries to meet that need.
WILDLIFE PROTECTION COMPONENTS IN ENACTED FEDERAL INFRASTRUCTURE LEGISLATION
The physical infrastructure funding package recently passed by the U.S. Congress and enacted by President Biden in November 2021 includes $350 million for wildlife crossing projects for highways across America! This is the first time in United States history there will be dedicated federal funding to reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions and is a game-changer for wildlife.
PROMISES IN "BUILD BACK BETTER" FEDERAL LEGISLATION
America’s environmental protection and conservation organizations were united and pleased with enactment of the federal Build Back Better Act. Its investments will protect and restore corridors of habitat for species of all kinds, safeguard coastlines where marine animals can thrive and prevent vast, pristine landscapes from being destroyed by oil and gas development. Envision a real and dramatic reduction in climate-harming emissions in this country as a result of meaningful investments in clean energy and climate-smart measures. The Build Back Better Act can make these a reality.
When combined with the recently passed bipartisan infrastructure package, the Build Back Better Act will make the largest investments in climate action in Congress’ history, putting the country squarely on the path to dramatically reduce emissions by 2030. This legislation is critical in our effort to protect communities from climate-fueled disasters and reduce pollution, and it provides a much-needed investment in clean water, clean energy, and natural infrastructure. It will provide resources for our country to recover threatened and endangered species, protect wildlife refuges, and strengthen the health of our forests and native grasslands.
CLOSING THE CONSERVATION FUNDING GAP
Accelerating losses of Earth’s biodiversity is well documented. The Nature Conservancy states that from 1970 to 2016 there was a nearly 70% average decline in populations of birds, amphibians, mammals, fish, and reptiles. Research suggests that by 2070, the Earth could lose another third or more of its species if immediate steps are not to taken to stop the extinctions. Human survival too is dependent on such action.
Biden Administration federal agencies move to Nature-Based Solutions following Roadmap for Climate Progress, Natural Resources Conservation, & Social Equity - "Investing in Nature to Solve Today's Challenges"
In late 2022 US President Biden's multi-agency National Climate Task Force issued a "Roadmap" that set forth guidelines to federal agencies for achieving climate, conservation and equity goals to help offset impacts of climate change and continual loss of nature, which endanger American communities, ecosystems, and infrastructure. These strategies are called "Nature-Based Solutions" (NbS). The guide contains summaries and links to 177 federal resources, tools, guidance and technical assistance on such nature-based solutions.
Duke University's Nicholas School of the Environment in January 2023 hosted a webinar featuring a panel of federal agency spokespersons who explained the Administration's Nature-Based Solutions initiative --
The Nature-Based Solutions Roadmap for the United States. This was one of the webinar series Nature-Based Solutions: Current Issues, hosted by the National Ecosystem Services Partnership and the Resilience Roadmap Project. You can find a recording of the session here.
There were many resources highlighted by the webinar speakers and mentioned during the discussion. They are linked here for easy access:
ONE MILLION OF EARTH'S SPECIES HURTLING TOWARD EXTINCTION
At least 1 million of the Earth's species will be extinct within the next few decades without immediate human intervention, according to the United Nations report released in early May 2019, which was authored and researched by an international panel of over 450 premiere conservation biologists who composed the Intergovernmental Science-Polity Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). This horrendous rate of extinction is due to a combination of human-caused land uses, pollution, climate change, population growth, and overfishing.
The new scientific assessment concludes that to slow this loss of the Earth's biodiversity and ecosystems, "transformational change" to the way society operates is demanded to put us back on course to meet global sustainable development targets. Species loss is accelerating to a rate tens or hundreds of times faster than in the past--all due to humans. But it’s not too late to fix the problem, the report said.
The report relies heavily on research by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which is composed of biologists who maintain a list of threatened species. The IUCN calculated in March 2019 that 27,159 species are threatened, endangered, or extinct in the wild out of nearly 100,000 species biologists examined in depth. That includes 1,223 mammal species, 1,492 bird species and 2,341 fish species. Nearly half the threatened species are plants. But scientists have only examined a small fraction of the estimated 8 million species on Earth.
The big picture: The IPBES findings are a first-ever global report on the state of nature, and is aimed at getting policy-makers, activists and others to understand that biodiversity must be a high global priority.
Thousands of species depend on the Endangered Species Act for survival (from Center for Biological Diversity)
The Endangered Species Act has been severely underfunded for decades and desperately needs more funding to combat the climate crisis, habitat loss, wildlife exploitation and pollution, which are pushing more animal and plant species to the brink. We call on Congress to double its funding for endangered species conservation to $592 million per year. We can't curb the extinction crisis without giving every species what it needs.
One million animal and plant species face extinction in the coming decades — and there simply isn't enough budgeted for their survival. The Endangered Species Act saves 99% of the species that are granted its powerful protection. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, hundreds of endangered animals and plants receive less than $1,000 a year for their recovery. Many species receive no funding at all. Our proposal calls for every species listed under the Act to receive a minimum of $50,000 per year for recovery.
Humanity Will Wipe Out More Than A Quarter Of Earth’s Biodiversity
Scientists predict what species will likely disappear in the next century due to humanity's impact on the planet. Read in Forbes: https://apple.news/AfkeJk1H3Tsm6Tb9XBYD38A
Over the past 50 years the Earth has lost an extraordinary number of its wildlife species and their populations, including loss of an estimated 3 billion birds in North America alone since 1970. It is critically urgent to take action to combat dual crises of biodiversity and habitat losses and the deleterious effects of climate change.
Wildlife can’t wait. Please tell Congress to fight the extinction crisis with all the tools available. Tell Congress to save life on Earth by fully funding species conservation. Take Action!