The Latest On: The Wild
This month, I had the very good fortune to visit Costa Rica, home to some of greatest biodiversity in the world. In this tiny nation, plants and animals from temperate North America and from tropical South America mingle in habitats at different altitudes (including active volcanoes and rain forests at the beach)! I marveled at hundreds of leaping dolphins, huge rain forest trees with rich canopy life, miraculous birds, sloths and anteaters.
The first responsibility of a physician is to do no harm. The first responsibility of an environmentalist is never to accept a dumb solution to a problem when a better solution is available.
Case in point: Devil’s Slide south of San Francisco, a stretch of Highway 1 that would crumble into the Pacific every 10 years or so during a big storm. Rebuilding was time-consuming and expensive. The state of California sought a more permanent solution—and seized on one that ignited two decades of opposition resolved only when a doughty Earthjustice attorney finally stepped in.
Perhaps you’ve already read the good news by our crackerjack Alaska attorney Holly Harris, who reported that ConocoPhillips is the latest Big Oil company to postpone drilling in the oft-treacherous waters of the Arctic Ocean. Shell previously announced it was abandoning plans to drill there this year.
Earthjustice and AIDA, representing local and international environmental organizations, are challenging Mexico’s approval of four massive developments in the Gulf of California. The Mexican government approved the projects without conducting appropriate assessments of how they would impact the ecosystem, which has an extremely high level of biodiversity. In doing so, it ignored its own laws.
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) recently released an environmental assessment that indicates climate change will have significant effects on the Colorado Plateau, including a temperature increase of 1 to 2 degrees Celsius and extremes of both low and high levels of precipitation. The plateau covers more than 30,000 acres, and its wildlife and geography could become destabilized from these changes. Earthjustice is pressuring the BLM to use the study’s findings as a starting point for changing its management policies in the area.
It's hard to know, sometimes, who to trust with America’s wildlife.
For the most part, wildlife is managed by individual states, which do some good science and issue tags for hunting licenses. They are also, theoretically, on the front lines of ensuring that wildlife species don’t get into such trouble that the federal government needs to step in under the auspices of the Endangered Species Act.