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John McManus's blog

After years of essentially being drained dry and left for dead, two legendary streams on the Hawaiian island of Maui came back to life this week, thanks to the work of Earthjustice.

The streams were diverted over a hundred years ago to irrigate sugar cane and pineapple plantations. Over time sugar and pineapple have faded in the islands, succumbing to cheaper foreign competition. This freed up the water to restore the streams.

The state of Montana is planning to greatly increase the number of wolves hunters will be allowed to kill this fall. That is unless a federal judge rules in favor of an Earthjustice lawsuit intended to protect wolves.

Montana recently approved plans to allow hunters to kill 186 wolves, up from the 75 wolves allowed in last year's hunt. <Check out what the New York Times has to say!>

While oil continues to pour into the Gulf of Mexico from BP's blown-out well, a six-month offshore drilling moratorium imposed by the Obama administration is being argued in the courts.

Last week, oil industry groups got a New Orleans judge to issue an order blocking the moratorium. The administration is appealing that decision—assisted by the intervention of Earthjustice—at the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Yesterday a federal district judge granted a request by oil industry groups and blocked a six month moratorium on new offshore oil drilling projects in the Gulf of Mexico put in place by the Obama administration. The judge ruled that the administration moved too fast and overreacted when it decided to stop deep offshore oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.

It's hard to know how similar the Gulf spill is to the Exxon Valdez spill in 1989, but there is at least one parallel: fishermen idled by a mess threatening their livelihood.

In March of 1989 fishermen were readying themselves for the herring fishing season. This would be followed a few months later by the salmon fishing season in a normal year. After the Exxon Valdez ran aground on Bligh Reef and spilled it's 11 million gallons of crude oil, nothing was normal.

(Earthjustice Media Director John McManus remembers what it was like covering the Exxon Valdez oil spill as a CNN journalist)

The oil now washing up on the Gulf Coast reminds me of the last big oil spill America lived through, the Exxon Valdez spill 21 years ago.

On March 24, 1989 a supertanker that had just topped with oil left the port of Valdez and crashed into a submerged rock reef in Alaska's Prince Williams Sound. Eleven million gallons of north slope crude oil gushed from the side of the ship into the Sound.

This time of year is when young salmon in California hitch a ride on the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers out to the ocean—if they escape the massive pumps in the Delta. These pumps redirect the water and send it south to huge agricultural operations in the San Joaquin Valley - in the process the sucking in and killing salmon.

Thousands of jobs linked to the decline of Sacramento River salmon have been lost—but big agricultural interests in California are stepping up political efforts that may permanently extinguish salmon and the industries they support.

Even without this latest assault, the future of California's king salmon is in doubt. Salmon runs are at all time lows, due in large part to water pumps in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River delta that suck baby salmon in and kill them. The water is going to agricultural operators south of San Francisco Bay—and now they want more.

Interior Sec. Ken Salazar stepped up to the microphone this week and told the nation the days of drilling oil and gas everywhere on public lands are over. This is welcome news to Earthjustice attorneys who opposed many of the public lands oil and gas leases ramrodded through by the Bush/Cheney administration.

Salazar made clear that he, unlike his predecessors in the prior administration, understands some public lands, especially in the west, are special and should not be drilled.

Commercial fishing for swordfish can be deadly for sea turtles that get hooked and often killed in the process. Turtles aren't the only unintended victims. Albatross, dolphins, whales, and sharks are often hooked and killed, too. The giant leatherback sea turtles, which currently cling to existence with shrinking numbers in the Pacific, are among the victims of greatest concern.

A major swordfish longline fishing fleet operates out of Hawai'i and ranges far and wide throughout the central Pacific, fishing the same waters where turtles travel. Federal regulations passed in 2004 tightened rules on how much the fleet could fish in an effort to reduce the bycatch of turtles.

In a move hard to comprehend, the federal government loosened these restrictions earlier this month, unleashing the fleet from any restrictions on the amount of fishing it can do, and upping the number of turtles it can catch before triggering a fishery shut-down.

Earthjustice attorney Paul Achitoff didn't take long to respond. He knows the issue well, having won the 2004 rule-tightening restrictions in a court victory. Achitoff found various instances in the new rules that run counter to existing federal law and wrapped his findings up in a court challenge filed in Honolulu. Hopefully a court will step in and help us bring these great creatures back from the brink.
 

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About the Earthjustice Blog

unEARTHED is a forum for the voices and stories of the people behind Earthjustice's work. The views and opinions expressed in this blog do not necessarily represent the opinion or position of Earthjustice or its board, clients, or funders. Learn more about Earthjustice.