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The Wild

Most environmentalists believe that nature has a right to exist for its own sake, but that's not how the law works in our country.

In the United States, nature is defensible only if a human will miss the forest, species, or clean water when it is gone. To use the law, a human must first prove harm to their person.

If that proverbial tree falls in the woods and no human cares, no laws were broken. But if a tree falls and the hiker who depended on its shade is harmed, the U.S. legal system may provide some relief.

Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne didn't like the law that required him to promptly protect public lands around the Grand Canyon from uranium mining.  So he's getting rid of it. Citizens have only a few days to express their opposition.

With less than 100 days left in its life, the current administration has its hands full.  The economy is on its scariest roller-coaster ride in generations. And we're still fighting two wars.  You'd think the administration would be too busy to do anything else.

We won a significant victory in our phosphate case on Oct. 6. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers suspended a permit that gave Mosaic Phosphate the go-ahead to destroy 480 acres of high-quality wetlands within Southwest Florida's Peace River watershed.

Our court case is ongoing, but the Corps decision to suspend the permit shows that the permit didn't comply with the law and should never have been granted.

In its letter, the Corps said: "The Corps has determined that it is in the public interest to revisit the analysis in support of the permit decision."

Attention has been focused on the financial crisis recently. Yet a study headed by a Deutsche Bank economist concludes that the annual costs of forest destruction is between $2 trillion and $5 trillion. So while Wall Street has lost between $1-$1.5 trillion, we are losing "natural capital" at a rate of $2 to $5 trillion every year 

The phosphate mines in Florida are so damaging that their ugly scars on the planet can be clearly seen from space. Florida's public rivers, lakes, streams, and coastal waters pay the price for these corporate strip mines, year after year.

Attorney Monica Reimer in Earthjustice's Florida office has filed an important lawsuit that challenges federal approval for one of these mines near the beautiful Peace River outside Bradenton.

Judge Clarence Brimmer of the federal district court in Wyoming must feel a bit under siege. He's doing battle with two other federal district court judges, one in San Francisco, the other in Washington, DC. Judges are encouraged to respect each other's opinions—it's called comity, otherwise known as courtesy or deference—and comity is taking a bit of a beating these days.

Forests are helping reduce global warming, but global warming is killing forests.

Global warming sometimes can seem like a faraway thing in the American West. 

Glaciers?  We really don't have many.  Except in that national park in Montana.  But those will all be gone in 20-30 years or so.

Polar bears?  Not in our neighborhood. 

Just a few weeks ago, I stood with my two young sons in the Southern Sierra, gazing at the fortress walls of the Great Western Divide and marveling at how peaceful it seemed compared to 30 years before.

Those decades ago, I had come to this same spot as a newspaper reporter to write about the early struggles of the environmental movement - struggles that saved Mineral King from development, halted clearcutting on the national forest, created the Golden Trout Wilderness, and gave birth to Earthjustice.

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