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Endangered Species Act

As Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the water buffaloes try to use our drought crisis to pave the way for diverting more precious Sacramento River water to Los Angeles and, especially, San Joaquin Valley growers with their lovely subsidies, some of the same interests are asking Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to empanel the God Squad.

The Squad, formally known as the Endangered Species Committee, can override the Endangered Species Act in time of great emergency, and the Pacific Legal Foundation argues that the biological opinions that order more water for salmon and smelt, constitute just such an emergency for agriculture. The salmon opinion, in fact, says that not only are protected salmon at risk from not enough water--but Puget Sound killer whales are,too, since the salmon are an important part of theiir diet. PLF has its work cut out for it.

One of the grandest victories scored by environmental types in California has been the battle to save Mono Lake at the eastern foot of the Sierra Nevada. Owens Lake, to the south, was obliterated by users in the Los Angeles basin, who simply appropriated virtually all the water that once flowed from the mountains into the lake (the easiest and most entertaining way to brush up on this story is to see the movie Chinatown).

 Right whales are called such because years ago whale hunters thought these particular whales were simply the "right" ones to hunt. Their distinct V-shaped blow of water alerted whalers, and their habit of swimming near the surface made them easy targets.

Now, decades later, these endangered whales are swimming into danger again because of their propensity to swim near the surface.

The debate over climate change legislation is heating up. And as members of Congress grapple with which position to take, they'll be bombarded with opinions from many different sides of the debate.

But last week, as members of Congress arrived at work in the morning and left in the evening, they were greeted by the silent stares of one important (albeit non-voting) constituency: the plants and animals likely to be impacted by rising sea levels, changing weather patterns, and other impacts of climate change.

Last November, as Barack Obama won the election, we recommended a list of "easy things" the new president could immediately do to cement his promises about being a pro-environment president. This is our second update on how he's doing.

Grist, the most valuable daily green news and comment ezine, published a very interesting piece May 4, talking about "old" environmentalism and "new" environmentalism as exemplified by campaigns to protect wolves (that's the old part) and polar bears (new).

Both efforts have news hooks just now, and one, at least, does not display the Obama administration, particularly Interior Secretary Ken Salazar in a good light.

The first Earth Day, 39 years ago today, was a godsend for a country mired in war and riven by racial, political and cultural issues. Arriving suddenly—as a gift whose time had come—it offered folks something to unite around: the idea of an entire planet, our home, in peril.

Earthjustice is preparing to sue the Obama administration over its stunning decision to withdraw protections from northern gray wolves.

Any day now, a notice of intent to sue will be filed, giving  Interior Sec. Ken Salazar just 60 days to rescind his wolf edict or face court action.

Salazar last week said he will strip the wolf of Endangered Species Act protections, in the process endorsing one of the most infamous Bush-era actions. As a result, gray wolves could be targeted by hunters in at least two states.

Reversing its August 2008 decision, the California Fish and Game Commission recently voted to grant candidate status to the Pacific fisher under the California Endangered Species Act.

This begins the review process to determine if full protection is warranted.

Earthjustice and our colleagues at Center for Biological Diversity have worked to protect the fisher for many years, so this policy reversal is very good news.

The fisher (Martes pennanti) lives in old growth forests and is a close relative of the marten.

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