Taylor on Increasing Diversity in Environmental Leadership

It occurred to me after I posted some quotes from Dr. Taylor’s work, that some of you might not be familiar with her work on diversity in environmental organizations. I was looking for sociological studies of environmental organizations for my “Finding Common Ground” paper, and found Taylor’s report “The State of Diversity in Environmental Organizations” which was commissioned by a group called Environment 2.0, “watchdogs for inequality in the environmental sector.” Their website is well worth checking out as Taylor’s report.

Here are two excerpts from the study:

a. Environmental organizations are much less likely to promote ethnic minorities already working in an organization to leadership positions. b. Promotions go primarily to White females. Women of color are still on the outside looking in, along with their male counterparts. c. This results in a narrowing of the gender gap while perpetuating the already wide racial gap in the leadership of environmental organizations.

Ethnic minorities are severely underrepresented in the environmental workforce. ii. Though ethnic minorities are also underrepresented in the science and engineering (S&E) workforce nationwide, they are employed in the S&E workforce to a much greater percentage than they are in the environmental workforce. Asians, Blacks, Hispanics, and Native Americans comprise 29% of the S&E workforce.

Why is this of interest? Perhaps if the goal is to diversify leadership (including political) of federal agencies, it would make it more difficult to select diverse people if you look mainly in ENGOs. And the white female thing.. I did notice that in recently appointed folks in Interior, there seemed to be quite a few white females. Not that there is anything wrong with white females, of course, but our whole community (ENGOs, government agencies, industry, academia) has a long way to go toward diversity, and IMHO the Biden Administration is a good place to make some sizeable gains. In my experience, groups who face similar challenges tend to band together, so while you might hire or promote one person, you may well bring an entire network of possibilities with them.

There may well be a greater proportion of diverse folks working in natural resources than in environmental fields, possibly due to the outreach and support that has been going on, with a great many ups and downs, for at least twenty years. There may be other reasons that would be worth exploring. In my own career with the Forest Service, I worked for three high-level (SES) Black male leaders, Larry Bembry, Jim Reaves, and Brian Ferebee, and I retired about ten years ago.

Good on Secretary Vilsack or whomever picked Randy Moore! Anyway, here’s a piece Taylor wrote in 2020 for Sierra Magazine updating her 2014 study:

When I researched and wrote The State of Diversity in Environmental Organizations in 2014, I found that minorities composed just 14.6 percent of the staff of environmental organizations. Most of them worked in entry-level or mid-level positions in human resources, accounting, and community organizing. Meanwhile, people of color make up 38 percent of the US population, and this will be a majority-minority country by the year 2042.

When they were asked why so few people of color worked at their organizations, environmental staff blamed limited job openings, a lack of minority applicants (and not knowing how to find and recruit them), and the absence of a diversity manager. Any existing diversity efforts had mostly benefited white women.

I was moved to write the report because of the painfully slow progress environmental organizations were making. When I talked with environmental leaders, they always asked me for proof that levels of diversity are as low as people of color allude to. The report was an attempt to provide that evidence and document the difficulties that people of color face while working at these organizations.

After the report was released, several major environmental organizations pledged to support the goals outlined in the document. Over five years later, they still have predominantly white workforces and are increasingly reluctant to collect and reveal institutional diversity data. In 2014, only 6 percent reported gender and race data. By 2018, that number had dropped to 3 percent.

Environmental justice advocates want to see more than words to heal the wounds of the past. They want to see full accountability from environmental organizations about the concrete steps they have taken and what they have accomplished in making their organizations diverse, equitable, and inclusive. The future of environmental justice is one in which people of color are recognized as equal partners in environmental affairs, and it is one in which people of color can realize the adage coined at the outset of the environmental justice movement: “We speak for ourselves.”

Joshua tree one step closer to federal Endangered Species Act listing

 

We issued this press release at WildEarth Guardians today. – mk

WildEarth Guardians scores groundbreaking legal win for the Joshua tree

Court rules that the federal government cannot ignore impact of climate change on iconic—and imperiled—Joshua trees

Los Angeles, CA—A federal district court in Los Angeles has ruled that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (the “Service”) violated the law when they failed to list the imperiled Joshua tree under the Endangered Species Act (“ESA”).

The Service disregarded overwhelming scientific evidence showing that climate change poses a major threat to the Joshua tree’s survival when the agency denied listing the species as threatened under the Act. The decision stems from a 2019 lawsuit filed by WildEarth Guardians, challenging the Service’s decision that the desert icon did not warrant federal protection, despite all the available scientific evidence pointing to the same conclusion: Joshua trees will be in danger of extinction throughout most of their current range by century’s end from climate change driven habitat loss, invasive grass fueled wildfire, and other stressors.

“The Court’s decision represents a monumental step forward for the Joshua tree, but also for all climate-imperiled species whose fate relies upon the Service following the law and evaluating the best scientific data available with respect to forecasting future climate change impacts,” said Jennifer Schwartz, staff attorney for WildEarth Guardians and lead attorney on the case. “The Court’s unequivocal holding—that the Service cannot summarily dismiss scientific evidence that runs counter to its conclusions—will force the federal government to confront the reality of climate change and begin focusing on how to help species adapt.”

WildEarth Guardians first filed a petition to list the Joshua tree as “threatened” under the ESA in 2015 and the Service found the listing “not warranted” in August 2019. Under the Trump administration, the Service ignored every available peer-reviewed study to model future climate impacts to Joshua tree—all of which agree that the vast majority (roughly 90%) of the species’ current range will be rendered unsuitable by the end of the 21st century. The Court lambasted the Service’s decision in the ruling stating that “[i]n concluding that climate change will not affect Joshua trees at a population- or species level, the Service relies on speculation and unsupported assumptions.”

Notably, while the decision was issued by the Service under the Trump administration, the Service refused to budge from its indefensible position—or even consider taking a fresh look at the finding—even under the Biden administration. In addition to the litigation, Guardians filed emergency petitions to protect two species of Joshua tree in May 2021, following the release of even more conclusive climate change findings and the large Cima Dome fire that swept through the Mojave National Preserve and killed an estimated 1.3 million Joshua trees. But the Service has failed to respond to the renewed petitions.

“While we are grateful to the Court for this positive decision, we are very disappointed that the Biden administration failed at several junctures to do what’s right by these iconic Joshua trees,” said Lindsay Larris, wildlife program director for WildEarth Guardians. “The time and money the federal government spent defending a decision that the Court could clearly see was wrong—instead of using these funds to conserve species and determine how to mitigate massive biodiversity loss from climate change—is tragic and, unfortunately, telling. We need this administration to take swift action to protect species and habitat, not just deliver nice messages about the importance of fighting climate change while defending the damaging actions of the prior administration.”

The Court order now directs the Service to reconsider its decision, taking into account the best available science, including climate change models, in issuing a new decision for the Joshua tree. Pursuant to the ESA, this decision is required to be issued within the next 12 months, though the Service will now have 60 days to decide whether or not to appeal the decision.

“For the sake of the Joshua tree and the overwhelming majority of the public who believe in conservation, science, and protection of species and habitat, we are optimistic that the Service will use this opportunity to quickly issue a decision to protect the Joshua tree,” said Schwartz. “Our climate-imperiled species—plants and animals alike—do not have time for political gamesmanship that questions unambiguous science. Now is the time for action to preserve what we can of the natural world before it is too late.”

The Smokey Wire Question of the Day: What’s Holding up Advisory Committee Paperwork?

From Black Hills Advisory Board Meeting 2019 Newscenter 1 photo

Federal Advisory Committees are extremely important ways for the voice of stakeholders to be heard in government decisions. I was hoping that the Biden Administration, because of the importance of hearing from the public, and the experience of many appointees from the Obama Administration, would have a smoothly operating approval process for renewals and appointments (a girl can dream, right?). Folks tell me that the Black Hills Federal Advisory Committee, at one time the only forest level FACA committee in the US, has been held up for over a year (of course, there’s transition, but it’s not a surprise to the new Admin that FACA approvals are on their list of things to do..)

Does anyone know…

(1) Is this level of delay true of all FACA committees or only some? What about the ones you know about/work on?

(2) Is there a way for the public to apply pressure to speed up the process (it’s not COP26 negotiations here…not a trade agreement, nor even a forest plan; how many people really need to clear them)?

Dr. Taylor’s Definition of Internal Colonialism and its Application to the Interior West: Does Partisan Politics Distract Us From Justice?

Yesterday, the Colorado Springs Gazette ran an essay by Vince Bzdek. It was about Governor Polis disagreeing with Biden Admin policies on Covid and agreeing with (some previous) Trump Admin policies. I really liked one quote which I think it particularly relevant to TSW topics:

Not all problems have a left and a right. Some problems are just problems, and the minute we Velcro ideology onto some problems, they often become bigger, uglier, less solvable problems.

It will be interesting to look through that lens at various topics. One that comes to mind is the question of what we might call domestic imperialism (I think I first heard that from Matt Carroll at WSU, a rural sociologist). Another related topic was raised by Patrick McKay in this comment. I see actually two levels here: (1) justice (social and environmental) implications of distant folks making decisions with impacts on local communities, and (2) given that this is our current political/legal system, to what extent are the “on the ground” decisions made by the personal predilections of local officials? I see the first as more of a political science question, and the latter as more of a “how does this work in practice?” question. Both are worth reflection and discussion, I think. For this post, I’ll stick to #1.

In Dr. Dorceta Taylor’s, of Yale School of the Environment, book “The Rise of the American Conservation Movement: Power, Privilege, and Environmental Protection“, she traces the history of race, gender and class

Let’s look at what she calls “internal colonialism”.

In addition to colonial expansion, countries seek to bring their hinterlands or peripheral regions under the control of the central government. Such moves toward internal colonization result in tensions or conflict between the country’s core or center and its periphery. The core develops exploitive relationships with the periphery, using the hinterland’s natural resources and cheap labor to enhance or sustain the development or expansion of the core. If the periphery has indigenous or culturally distinct people, the core often discriminates against them. The core monopolizes trade and commerce, thus forcing the peripheral region to develop as a complementary economy of the core. The economy of the core typically relies on one or a few exports. The movement of laborers in the periphery is determined by forces outside of the region. Economic dependence of the internal colony is reinforced by legal, political and military measures. The periphery is often characterized by lower levels of service and low standards of living than the core (Blauner 1969, 1972, 1982; Hechter 1994; Horvath 1972; Taylor 2014.

While Taylor focuses on the role of peripheral regions in providing natural resources, it may be just as IC (internal colonialist) to require peripherals to provide certain kinds of recreation by limiting land uses.

Which reminds me of a personal story:

When we started the journey that would become Colorado Roadless, Senator Hickenlooper was Mayor Hickenlooper of Denver. We had a public meeting in Denver and Hick spoke about how important it was to protect recreational opportunities because those opportunities attract businesses and people to Denver. I was standing next to our Regional Forester and said something like “he seems to be forgetting that rural people have their own agency.. sounds colonialist to me!”. Of course, that was Hick’s job as Mayor, to make sure his own folks’ interests were taken into account. Still, this can easily be the modus operandi for any state with urban and rural populations. That not only are urban interests prioritized, but their views on what should occur on rural lands imposed via having the majority of voters.

Circling back to Bzdek’s comment, here’s a question: if the Interior West were not occupied by people who vote Republican, would ENGO’s, the media and other opinion leaders be more sensitive to their quest for (we can disagree about how much) autonomy and political power over the lands they inhabit?

The Caldor Fire and Fuel Treatments: SF Chronicle, LA Times and Sac Bee Stories

SF Chronicle story..very cool graphics .. also “catching people doing something right”.

Meyers and Christmas Valley area
Up and over the mountains past Echo Summit and back down the ridge, the small communities of Meyers and Christmas Valley near South Lake Tahoe were well prepared for a wildfire — so well prepared that the Caldor Fire skipped over much of it.

A Lake Tahoe Basin fire commission of more than 20 local, state and federal agencies that came together after the 2007 Angora Fire spent years fireproofing the area, which included several fuel treatment projects, which included prescribed burns. The commission produced a meticulous response map showing how firefighters could use those areas to their advantage, Anthony of Cal Fire said.

Large-scale treatment projects like the Caples restoration projects are very effective, Stewart of UC Berkeley said, but difficult to make happen because of the complicated processes and costs. They also often face opposition from area residents and environmentalists over the use of heavy machinery, air quality or change to the landscape, he added.

“We need to do (treatments) on a bigger scale,” he said. “Just look at the scale of these fires. Even with all the resources they threw out, they couldn’t slow these fires down.”

There needs to be a more practical approach to fuel treatments in California, Stewart added. He says agencies need to examine what’s working versus not through data and be willing involve people and ideas that can help projects scale up.

LA Times story:

 

Susie Kocher, forestry and natural resources advisor at the University of California Cooperative Extension, agreed.

“If you look at any of the fire maps, there’s a big gap between Kirkwood and Tahoe,” said Kocher, who was forced to evacuate her Meyers, Calif., home Monday. “That’s Caples.”

She said that due in part to its allure, the Tahoe area has been more successful than many parts of the Sierra in attracting resources for such projects.

The Tahoe Fire and Fuels Team, a multiagency coalition formed after the damaging Angora fire in 2007, said it has performed 65,000 acres of fuel reduction work in the Tahoe Basin over the past 13 years. The group also helps neighborhoods prepare for fire.

In a recent community briefing, Rocky Oplinger, an incident commander, described how such work can assist firefighters. When the fire spotted above Meyers, it reached a fuels treatment that helped reduce flame lengths from 150 to 15 feet, enabling firefighters to mount a direct attack and protect homes, he said.

“It takes both fuels reduction and active suppression in an environment like this to help the community and the forest survive,” Kocher said.

And an interview in the Sacramento Bee with Scott Stephens, fire researcher..during the fire.

How much consensus is there among fire scientists that these treatments do help?

I’d say at least 99%. I’ll be honest with you, it’s that strong; it’s that strong. There’s at least 99% certainty that treated areas do moderate fire behavior. You will always have the ignition potential, but the fires will be much easier to basically manage.

NEPA nerds Lake Tahoe is the only FS unit with its own CE as far as I know.

Lake Tahoe Basin Hazardous Fuel Reduction Projects. The 2009 Omnibus Appropriations Act (Public Law (Pub. L.) 111-8) established a CE for hazardous fuels reduction projects within the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit.

Within the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit, projects carried out under this authority are limited to the following size limitations:

a proposal to authorize a hazardous fuel reduction project, not to exceed 5,000 acres, including no more than 1,500 acres of mechanical thinning. (Sec. 423 (a))

This CE can be used if the project:
is consistent with the Lake Tahoe Basin Multi-Jurisdictional Fuel Reduction and Wildfire Prevention Strategy published in December 2007 and any subsequent revision to the strategy;

is not conducted in any wilderness areas; and

does not involve any new permanent roads. (Sec. 423 (a))

A proposal using this CE shall be subject to:

the extraordinary circumstances procedures…; and

an opportunity for public input. (Sec. 423 (b))

Document this category in a decision memo (FSH 1909.15, 33.2 – 33.3). The decision memo should include a description of the efforts taking by the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit provide an opportunity for public input.

Cite this authority as Pub. L. 111-8, Sec. 423

Note that this is up to 5,000 acres. I just think it’s interesting and likely related to politics. It’s more important to protect some communities than others?

Career Feds Gone Wild: BLM and APD Approvals?

From the Farmington Daily Times- part of a good article outlining the approval process

As I predicted, when Republicans are in power, things some ENGO’s (or perhaps PENGOs, for Partisanly inclined ENGOs) don’t like are blamed on evil Republicans.  And folks are very concerned about impacts to career feds, the innocuous victims of bad political appointees. But when D’s are in power, the identical activities can be blamed on the career feds. These two concepts seem to conflict a bit, but perhaps I’m the only person who notices?  An interesting example is this piece by Jonathan Thompson who runs the “Land Desk”- lots of interesting and valuable articles there, but perhaps not this one.

Stepping back, we at TSW investigated on our own the reason for increased approved APD’s during the Biden Admin (held up by some as “Biden isn’t doing enough.”)

Rebecca Watson had some ideas in this comment here , and here’s what a BLM person from State X told me: “there was a big surge in State X and I think there were a variety of reasons for that including the election results, companies getting pre-positioned for any resultant post pandemic oil price increase and finally, companies catching up on activities that have a big field work component that were impacted by folks minimizing group interactions, working from home, etc..”

What I find interesting about stories I’ve read that mention this is that the increase is used as a talking point to make the case “not doing enough” (a political push toward COP26) and the other side of the story is not being told. So much of what I read is not “news” in the traditional sense of 1) telling what’s happening and 2) trying to understand why (note, this article is not news, but it’s becoming increasingly difficult to tell what is and should be held to those standards).

And even while leasing was paused, the BLM continued to hand out drilling permits at a feverish pace. Since Biden’s inauguration, the agency has issued the following tally of approvals:

  • California: 56 (all by the Bakersfield Field Office)
  • Alaska: 6
  • Colorado: 15 (Royal Gorge, Tres Rios, and White River Field Offices)
  • New Mexico: 1,372 (1,275 in the Carlsbad Field Office, or Permian Basin; 94 in the Farmington Field Office, or San Juan Basin)
  • Utah: 183 (170 in Vernal Field Office with the rest in Moab and Price)
  • Wyoming: 693 (376 in Buffalo Field Office; 198 in Casper Field Office; 74 in the Pinedale Field Office)

That’s a lot of drilling permits, making Trump’s energy dominance look a little flaccid, at best. I had a conversation with a colleague about this phenomenon recently. He argued that the BLM had no choice but to issue the permits, since the oil and gas companies were vested with private property rights when they acquired the leases. Both industry and field office managers make the same argument, parroting the ideology of the Wise Use movement of the 1990s, but it’s mostly bogus. Grazing leases and oil and gas leases are on public land, and they do not confer private property rights to anyone. If that was the case, then why bother with the permitting process? Why not just offer the drilling permits with the lease?

At the same time, it’s not Biden himself, or even Haaland, who is handing out the drilling permits. It’s the field office managers, who tend to operate how they choose, regardless of who’s in the Oval Office.

(My bold) Mr.Thompson thinks the validity of lease sales is “bogus” but having sat through innumerable meetings with Interior Solicitors and USDA OGC on exactly this issue, enthusiatically trying to get the USG out of leases on the Thompson Divide, I’d say.. not. I don’t know if Mr. Thompson believes this about BLM managers, or whether this is another polemical throw-away line.

Reducing Carbon Demand From Federal Lands: A Modest Proposal

 

 

There seems to be a full-court press by NGOs with the concept that President Biden should show his support for climate action (related to COP26) by shutting down oil and gas leasing on federal lands (without regard to its legality, apparently).  As we’ve seen with forest products, though, that actually doesn’t stop demand and use, and simply moves the environmental costs and social benefits of production to other countries.  What I’d like is to open up the question of ways we could instead reduce consumption, preferably while not affecting poor/working class/people of color disparately, using federal land policies, that is legally viable.

To start the discussion, I’ll start with a likely to be highly unpopular idea.. but hopefully this will trigger other, more likely to be popular, ideas.

Discouraging High Carbon Tourism

Having recently returned from visiting three National Parks in Alaska, with thousands of other folks who flew in, used boats, cars and RVs. I propose analyzing the carbon footprints of visitors and workers in heavily used National Parks and closing, or greatly restricting, visitation to the ones with the highest footprints (tourists from farthest away; air travel, non-resident seasonal employees).  Here are my arguments.

1. Heating, transportation of necessities, combines and snowplows, travel to work are necessities; “airplane level” tourism not so much. One view might be that If we as a country want to keep our footprint small, we should prioritize necessities, not luxuries. Many folks like this recent piece in the WaPo, recommend tourism close to home to reduce carbon footprints.

The farther from home you go, the more fuel you need to get there (unless you’re going by bike, on foot or via renewable energy, of course), says Katharine Hayhoe, an atmospheric scientist, professor, director of the Climate Center at Texas Tech University and author of the forthcoming book “Saving Us: A Climate Scientist’s Case for Hope and Healing in a Divided World.” Her advice for travelers is to explore your own backyard and opt for more domestic trips.

2. At Denali, I asked why their Visitor Center was closed (I assumed it was due to Covid). The Park employee told me that it was because the Park was not funded or staffed well enough to keep it open. By closing or reducing access, perhaps Parks could better match their finances with their services.

3.  Concessionaire employees are interacting with tourists (although Park employees, thankfully, are not).  There are mask mandates but, if employees would not be safe with these same restrictions, then concessionaire employees would equally not be safe. For example, at Denali, the visitor center was closed, and the store was open. Fewer or no visitors would mean less chances for Covid transmission.

4. People say that National Parks are the “highest level of protection”. Seems like they would be even more “protected” without thousands of visitors, or with many fewer.

5. Tourism is seasonal and often workers are not permanent residents of the state. Even more travel could be reduced by having no concessionaires’ employees, and those workers especially now, would be likely to find similar (relatively low-paying) jobs in their own communities.

6. For gateway communities, less traffic would also mean less congestion in their communities, saving even more fuel.

In this Wall Street Journal article, they talk about local businesses pushing back to efforts to restrict/manage entry. On the other hand, there may be local people who would support the idea fewer tourists.

Awhile back during both the government shutdown, and because of Covid, many folks were arguing that Parks should be shut down to protect the resource Maybe this would be a win/win for the Park environment and reducing carbon impacts.

Other ideas?

Montana puts Yellowstone wolves in the crosshairs

Gray wolf photo by Jacob W. Frank/NPS; graphic element added by Gus O’Keefe.

It’s September 15, which means the general wolf hunting season opened in Montana at dawn this morning. If you’ve been following the wolf issue in Montana recently, you are likely aware of a suite of new, archaic, brutal, and ethical laws and regulations on the books thanks to the Montana Legislature and Governor Greg Gianforte. (Idaho has also put in place similar draconian wolf-eradication laws and regulations).

You may recall that Governor Greg Gianforte is a convicted assailant who body-slammed a reporter on election eve in 2017.  Then in 2021, Governor Gianforte violated state hunting regulations when he trapped and shot a collared wolf near Yellowstone National Park in February. Governor Gianforte trapped the collared Yellowstone wolf on a private ranch owned by Robert E. Smith, director of the conservative Sinclair Broadcasting Group, who contributed thousands of dollars to Gianforte’s 2017 congressional campaign.

Specific to national forest policy, the new wolf-killing laws in Montana allow for unethical baiting of wolves by hunters and trappers, including within federal public lands and Wilderness areas. The state of Montana intends to killed up to 50% of the wolves in the state, so to help make that happen, the state has authorized any individual to kill up to 10 wolves during the hunting and trapping season, including deep within Wilderness areas and inventoried roadless areas on U.S. Forest Service administered public lands. The state also now allows snaring of wolves, including in designated Wilderness. So, essentially a Montana hunter or trapper can shoot, trap, and/or snare 10 wolves during the next 6 months on federal public lands—including Wilderness areas—in the state of Montana while using bait. The state also now allows night hunting of wolves with artificial lights or night vision scopes on private land statewide.

What do readers of this blog think? Does this sound like science-based management of a keystone native species? Should this type of brutal and unethical “management” of a rare keystone species be allowed on federal public lands, including deep within Wilderness areas? As a Montana resident, who is also a backcountry hunter of elk and deer, I personally find these news laws and regulations tragic and disgusting.

Below is a press release we issued today at WildEarth Guardians.

MISSOULA, MONTANA—Starting today, iconic Yellowstone wolves crossing the boundary of Yellowstone National Park into the state of Montana face slaughter by trophy hunters with high-powered rifles, including within federally-designated Wilderness areas. Wolves living in Glacier National Park face a similar fate when they exit the national park.

Last month, Montana not only eliminated any cap on the number of wolves that can be killed in hunting and trapping zones bordering Yellowstone National Park and Glacier National Park, but individuals can now kill a total of 10 wolves per season. New regulations also allow unethical baiting for wolves statewide, including within federal public lands and Wilderness areas. Night hunting with artificial lights or night vision scopes is also allowed on private lands statewide.

“Despite a groundswell of public opposition from individuals across Montana, the nation, and world, Montana has declared open season on wolves in the state, clearing the way for nearly 50% of the state’s wolf population to be decimated in the upcoming hunting and trapping season,” said Sarah McMillan, the Montana-based conservation director for WildEarth Guardians.

“Yellowstone’s wolves are nationally and internationally famous and the biological role these iconic wolves play within the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem is priceless. Yet starting today, an individual can slaughter up to ten Yellowstone wolves for just $12,” explained McMillan.

The general wolf hunting season in Montana runs for the next six months, until March 15, 2022, while the wolf trapping and snaring season will start on November 29, 2021 and also run until March 15, 2022.

In response to the on-going slaughter of wolves, in June, WildEarth Guardians and a coalition of fifty conservation groups asked the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to immediately restore Endangered Species Act protections to gray wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains. In July, Guardians and allies also petitioned the Biden administration to list the Western North American population of gray wolves as a distinct population segment.  Over 120 Tribes have signed “The Wolf: A Treaty of Cultural and Environmental Survival,” and have called on Interior Secretary Haaland to meet with a Tribal delegation regarding the Treaty and to reinstate protections for wolves. So far, the Biden administration has failed to take any steps to protect wolves.

“As we clearly warned would happen, state ‘management’ of wolves essentially amounts to the brutal state-sanctioned eradication of this keystone native species,” said McMillan. “We must not abandon wolf-recovery efforts or allow anti-wolf states, hunters, and trappers to push wolves back to the brink of extinction.”

Montana’s hunting regulation changes come on the heels of the Biden administration doubling down on its commitment to keep all wolves federally delisted, despite the massive public outcry. In August, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service filed a brief in federal court opposing legal efforts from multiple environmental groups—including WildEarth Guardians, Western Environmental Law Center, and Earthjustice—to challenge the federal delisting rule. This case is set for oral arguments in Northern California District Court in November 2021. As the Northern Rocky Mountain population of wolves was delisted by an act of Congress in 2011, the outcome of this litigation will not impact wolves in Montana.

Gray wolves became functionally extinct in the lower 48 states in the 1960s largely due to rampant hunting and trapping, including deliberate extermination efforts carried out by the federal government. Though first listed as endangered in 1967 under a precursor to the Endangered Species Act, gray wolves only began to recover in the West following reintroductions to central Idaho and Yellowstone National Park in the mid-1990s. Scientists estimated a steady population of about 1,150 wolves in Montana between 2012 and 2019. However, hunters and trappers killed 328 wolves in Montana during the 2020-2021 season, and the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks now estimates that only 900 to 950 wolves remain in the state. The total wolf-kill quota for the 2021-2022 hunting and trapping season in Montana is 450, meaning that nearly 50% of the wolf population in Montana could be eliminated in the next six months.

RVCC Report on Good Neighbor Authority

Here is a link to a report by Rural Voices for Conservation Coalition (RVCC) on the use of Good Neighbor Authority- extensive and comprehensive. There’s a section on key findings that’s a good summary. Below are the implications.


Key Implications

• Use of GNA will likely continue to look different across states and forest types due to differences in timber value, proximity to market, state capacity, existing agency programs and priorities, restoration needs, and other factors.

• The frequent inclusion of commercial restoration in Good Neighbor agreements among states most actively using the authority suggests the ability to generate and retain revenue is contributing to greater engagement with authority.

• State and region-level variation in GNA tracking and reporting, as well as trends toward writing agreements broadly and flexibly, could make it difficult to evaluate and report accomplishments and outcomes associated with GNA in a unified way. Such reporting may be important as the statute governing state management of revenue is set to expire in 2023 and would need reauthorization to continue.

• Across the states we examined, the authority was largely being used as a tool to implement projects that had been planned under NEPA, as opposed to state and federal partners planning projects with the express intent of implementing them through the authority. This trend suggests that thus far, GNA has not generally been used or considered as an avenue for collaborative planning.

• Counties and tribes were largely just beginning to explore the authority’s utility for accomplishing restoration and capacity-building goals.

• Positive perceptions among state and Forest Service employees about GNA’s potential to increase capacity for implementing restoration activities on federal lands, utilize and leverage specific expertise and capabilities of state agencies, increase treatment efficiency, and strengthen relationships between states and the Forest Service suggest the tool itself and the state-federal partnership it perpetuates will remain strong.

• There remains a need to more systematically evaluate and define the additive benefits of GNA. This could be aided by new or modified systems for tracking revenue generation and expenditure, partner contributions, and non-commercial restoration accomplishments associated with GNA timber sales.

Notes from Sharon:
* As to the Tribes just beginning to use the authority, I believe at the present time Tribes currently can’t keep funding the same way States can; and a change is currently being worked on in Congress.
* I liked how the authors separated and defined non-commercial and commercial restoration activities; seems very helpful.
*As to “new or modified systems for tracking”, I think the accomplishment and expenditure system for vegetation management could use a total revamp (including GNA), based on the kind of information needed to manage effectively today, not whenever it was developed. Including transparency with States, Congress, and stakeholders. Even without that, it seems useful to develop some kind of standardized approach before units diverge too much.

Why Pick Federal Lands as (the) Climate Target? Examining Potential Environmental Justice Impacts

In this March 25, 2014 photo, workers keep an eye on well heads during a hydraulic fracturing operation at an Encana Corp. oil well, near Mead, Colo. This is not federal land. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)

There are many ways to decrease our country’s carbon footprint.  But for some reason, it seems like federal lands oil and gas leasing has become a symbolic, if not very useful, preferred intervention of some groups (some charitable foundations).  In a recent op-ed in the Denver Post,  Jennifer Rokala of the Center for Western Priorities wrote:

President Biden’s infrastructure plan is a bold vision to move America to a clean energy future–but vision is meaningless without action.

Next month, the president will head to a global climate summit, urging world leaders to cut carbon emissions, while he simultaneously expands oil and gas drilling at home and does nothing to fix a broken leasing system. When the president encourages Congress and the world to act, he has an obligation to lead by example.

Now, as we’ve discussed previously, it seems eminently reasonable to me for the Admin to be leery of being in contempt of court with regard to the leasing process. Is it actually true to say “Biden has expanded oil and gas drilling at home?”.. or is the Admin just following rules, plans, etc. currently in place.. that legally they would need to follow specific procedures to change? So to whom is this particular climate intervention such a big issue? Easiest to get maximum climate benefits (don’t think so)? Some kind of low-hanging political fruit? Least impact to poor communities? And while we think mostly of onshore, not to forget offshore federal is also part of the deal. Some federal oil producing states (Mississippi, Louisiana, as well as onshore New Mexico) are among the poorest US states.

At the same time, this interesting article from another Jennifer, Hernandez of the Breakthrough Institute, touches on impacts of such policies on energy workers who happen to be people of color.

But unaffordable utility bills are only half the story. California climate policies also require the elimination of hundreds of thousands of conventional energy jobs, and will adversely affect millions of other jobs in energy-dependent and related industries. These sectors provide stable, higher-paying employment for less educated residents, the majority of whom are workers of color and recent immigrants. In 2019, 29 percent of all new immigrants had not graduated from high school.[42]A further 20 percent finished high school but did not attend college. As better-paying blue collar work has evaporated, most have ended up in the state’s lowest-paying jobs — that massive cohort of nearly 40 percent of Californians who cannot afford to pay routine monthly expenses.

An analysis of 2017 data by the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation (LAEDC) found that “across all levels of education, earnings are higher in oil and gas industries compared to the all industry average.”[43]The energy sector provides over 152,100 direct and 213,860 indirect and induced jobs in California that pay higher wages and benefits for individuals with lower levels of education. This workforce is ethnically and racially diverse, and about 63 percent of all employees have less than a bachelor’s degree.

LAEDC also showed that another 3.9 million California jobs (16.5 percent of total state employment) rely on purchases from or use products sold by state energy producers, including chemical, machinery, and metal products manufacturing, wholesale trade, utilities, and transportation, as well as professional, scientific, and technical services.[44]Most of these sectors also provide higher-paying jobs for workers of color, often in more affordable areas of the state. These jobs are also at risk from the forced elimination of the in-state energy sector.

California climate advocates have utterly failed to provide a convincing explanation for how workers of color employed in existing energy and energy-dependent sectors will support their families once these industries are gone. Many, like the fantastically wealthy, famously haughty John Kerry, now the nation’s “climate envoy,” airily suggest that green employment will replace job losses in the fossil fuel sector. Even the staunchly progressive Washington Post conceded that this was unlikely, noting that rapid growth in the wind and solar industries over the next decade could plausibly replace at most 20 percent of the workforce of the coal industry alone.[45]

Trade unions and their Democratic political allies aren’t buying what California’s climate cognoscenti are selling either. “Career opportunities for renewables are nowhere near what they are in gas and oil, and domestic energy workers highly value the safety, reliable duration and compensation of oil and gas construction jobs,” North America’s Building Trades Unions said in July 2020 after conducting two studies of the industry.[46]“We can hate on oil, but the truth is our refinery jobs are really good middle class jobs,” echoed California state senator and labor leader Lorena Gonzalez. “Jobs can’t be an afterthought to any climate change legislation. We must have specific plans that accompany industry changes.”[47]

There are no such plans. California’s oil consumption continues, slowing only with the pandemic, while progressive climate elites see no irony in forcing California’s minority communities out of jobs while importing more oil from Saudi Arabia and other countries not known for adherence to progressive labor, gender, environmental, or civil rights values.

I also ran across this article on “Civil rights readers oppose swift move off natural gas

Hernandez also has some other interesting thoughts on housing and transportation, which are related to other TSW topics of interest. I’ll take that up in another post.