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The Wild

Ten years ago, my family saw firsthand the power of the Endangered Species Act in action. We were backpacking in the Grand Canyon and a California condor soared overhead. The sheer size of his wingspan was awe-inspiring. As we rounded the next bend, there sat the condor at the side of the trail, a marvel to behold.

In November, whales and other marine mammals along the Pacific Coast from Northern California to the Canadian border got a little help from a federal court. Magistrate Judge Nandor Vadas set a deadline of August 1, 2014 for the National Marine Fisheries Service to develop a plan that will ensure Navy sonar and live-fire training doesn’t violate the Endangered Species Act.

Two years ago, after a decades-long struggle that involved Native Americans, biologists, Earthjustice, and eventually Congress itself, engineers began to dismantle two century-old dams on the Elwha River on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington state. The river is only 70 miles long, but most of it is in the Olympic National Park, and so is in pretty good shape, having avoided the fate of other Pacific Coast streams, that have been badly damaged by logging.

Last week, Earthjustice and 20+ partner organizations hosted an event to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act and honor some of the most important champions of this visionary law.

On Dec. 28, 1973, Democrats and Republicans in Congress came together to pass the ESA—one of the most effective environmental laws ever enacted—with near-unanimous support. The Act was then signed into law by Republican President Richard Nixon.

Hikers enjoy the the Humbug Spires Wilderness Study Area, a 11,175-acre roadless area near Butte, Montana. The 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule protects wild national forests and grasslands from new road building, logging and development.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could be done protecting Forest Service roadless areas because they were all protected? If you have followed the tortured history of President Clinton’s national Roadless Area Conservation Rule—which Earthjustice defended for more than a decade, with success—you’d be forgiven for thinking that 2001 rule settled the matter.

Shell Oil told investors this week that—after an embarrassing set of failures last year—it plans to go back into the icy Arctic waters in 2014. The announcement comes as a surprise given that CEOs of other Big Oil companies have been urging caution for month about returning to the area. And in fact, Shell has abandoned efforts to drill in the Beaufort Sea next summer.

Earlier this month, the North American Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) agreed to review a petition by Earthjustice and the Interamerican Association for Environmental Defense (AIDA) asserting that Mexico is failing to enforce its environmental laws to protect coastal ecosystems in the Gulf of California from rampant tourism development.

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