June 28, 2011

Tonight, In the first part of the hour we’ll be on the phone to Denver, where we will talk with Nada Culver, counsel for the Wilderness Society. She and the Society are concerned about recent softening of legislation that will undercut the Bureau of Land Management’s ability to protect millions of acres of wilderness from dangers ranging from off-road vehicles to oil drilling and mining.

Later, we’ll review some recent news about other efforts to protect the planet–land, sea, animals and other living things–and to protect our food supply.

Listen to the Program

Our Discussion with Nada Culver

As you probably know, the federal Bureau of Land Management owns and administers vast quantities of land in the west. BLM land is currently under some protection from encroachment by developers, oil drillers, recreational enthusiasts, and other who might despoil the land. But the Wilderness Society reports that some of those protections are under attack. With us on the phone from Denver to discuss these problems is Nada Culver, senior counsel of the Wilderness Society’s BLM Action Center. Welcome, Nada.
–To begin, please tell us a little about the BLM Action Center and its purpose within the Wilderness Society.
–Will you give us some background on the BLM itself? What’s its mission? How much land does it actually control? What legal standing and legislation does BLM have in place to protect those lands?
–The Wilderness Society is concerned about proposed legislation and “a backroom deal”. Please explain for us:
…BLM’s new Wildlands Policy that has been “stopped in its tracks”
…The proposed Wilderness and Roadless Area Release Act
–We lived in Nevada for some time and are very fond of Alder Creek, known historically for its connection with the ill-fated Donner party. It’s one of the areas in Nevada that would be under attack. What might happen to Alder Creek if the bill proposed by Rep. Kevin McCarthy passes? Could you give us examples of other areas that might be damaged as a result of the bill?
–What kind of involvement has the Obama administration had in these dealings? Is his administration providing adequate support–or any support at all–to the wildlands preservation effort? What has Secretary Salazar had to say? –What are the next actions that we might see in the halls of Congress? What is the Wilderness Society’s plan and strategy to oppose and reverse bad decisions?
–How can concerned listeners become involved in these actions? We’re posting the link to the Wilderness Society on our website. <wilderness.org/> Are there other organizations or resources that we should investigate?

Other Efforts to Save the Earth

Florida Rivers. Here’s a news story from June 24 from EarthJustice <http://Earthjustice>, a non-profit public interest law firm “dedicated to protecting the magnificent places, natural resources, and wildlife of this earth, and to defending the right of all people to a healthy environment.” David Guest writes about the “sliming” of South Flordia: “Algae season peaks with warm sun and abundant nutrients–Green slime on Caloosahatchee River”. He says:

As I write this, half of the 75-mile long Caloosahatchee River in southwest Florida is covered by nauseating green slime. It’s a heartbreaking sight – dead fish wash up along the banks, and waterfront homes have a pricey view of a stinking mess. One dismayed homeowner told me he plans to petition local government to lower his property valuation because his waterfront lifestyle is now so gross that no one would ever want to live there. It is so bad that local health authorities are warning people not to even touch the water, fish or let their pets near it because it is toxic. This toxic algae outbreak is a direct result of too much phosphorus and nitrogen that comes from fertilizer, sewage and manure pollution. This is the same thing that happened last summer on the St. Johns River outside Jacksonville – a 100-mile swath of green slime essentially shut the river down to boaters and fishermen. This is the water that supplies kitchen taps for Florida families. This is the water that tourists come to play in, contributing badly needed revenue into our state economy. As my colleague Joan Mulhern in Washington so aptly described it: The maddening reality is that this pollution is preventable. We sued under the Clean Water Act, and in 2009, we negotiated an historic settlement with the Environmental Protection Agency in which the EPA agreed to set enforceable numeric standards in Florida for phosphorus and nitrogen. On Nov. 15, 2010, EPA set nutrient pollution limits for Florida’s freshwaters and lakes after spending years coordinating with state scientists to get the right numbers. That’s when the maddening political posturing began. Florida sued the EPA to block the new pollution limits. Florida’s new governor, Rick Scott, is doing everything he can to help polluters fight Florida’s water cleanup, even though everyone knows Florida’s tourism-fueled economy depends on clean water. Florida Congressman John Mica acted for polluters and against his constituents by sponsoring H.R. 2018, legislation he characterized as an effort to “rein in” the Obama administration EPA, which he claimed has “run roughshod” over states. Mica’s very bad legislation – which will hamstring the EPA’s ability to enforce the Clean Water Act in Florida and elsewhere — passed the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee by a vote of 35–20 on June 22. This is not about the state versus the EPA. This is about clean water versus dirty water, plain and simple. This legislation turns back the clock to a time when the Cuyahoga River was on fire, where there were oil spills all across California beaches and the majority of our drinking water was unfit to drink. These politicians are obviously living in a very different universe than the people on the Caloosahatchee River, who look out at the green slime, warn their pets and children away from the water, and ask: Why isn’t someone doing something about this public health crisis? You can read the full story at earthjustice.org <http://earthjustice.org/blog/2011-june/unwanted-green-tourism-slimes-florida>

The Seas. There is also continuing work to preserve Ocean Health, a daunting and occasionally discouraging task. But there are some optimistic signs. A few months ago we interviewed biologist Carl Safina about his book, The View from Lazy Point, describing changes he has seen in fish flows and populations near his home in Long Island. Now Carl has prepared a series airing on PBS. It’s called SAVING THE OCEAN:

In one episode called “Shark Reef,” Carl travels to Belize’s Glover’s Reef Marine Reserve, where harks are thriving in the Reserve, in contrast to large parts of the world where the fin trade kills millions of sharks every year. The Reserve, which covers an entire Caribbean coral atoll, allows some fishing but bans longlines and nets – the methods most lethal to sharks. He also heads to the Belize City fish market, where the resident fin trader shows him bags of dried shark fins ready for sale. The huge global trade in shark fins – to make shark fin soup – is driving many shark species to extinction, but Carl finds hope in the idea of marine reserves, and in changing consumer tastes in China.

In another Episode of Saving the Ocean, The Sacred Island , Carl Safina travels to the island of Pemba, part of the Zanzibar island chain off the East African coast, where local fishing villages are winning control over their vital fishing grounds. Once threatened by resort development, Pemba’s pristine reefs and lagoons – World Heritage candidates – are now managed by, and for, the fishermen.

And in a forthcoming episode, The Great Whale Comeback, he studies the near-extinction and remarkable increase of great whales in much of the world. In the North Atlantic the Gray Whale was hunted to extinction and the Right Whale’s hold on existence remains tenuous – but Humpbacks, Finbacks, Minkes and others have increased impressively. In the Pacific the Blue Whale is also on an impressive recovery streak, Sperm Whales are common in some places, and Gray Whales allow tourists to pet them.

Other episodes by Carl Safina on Saving the Ocean include: Have Your Shrimp and Eat Them, where he explores sustainable shrip farming methods that avoid mangrove destruction; and Fish and Rocket Science, dicussing ways of reversing fish declines in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef and Cape Cod. Additional programs will cover swordfish, the white marlin, tuna and dolphins, and that dinosaur of the deep: the leatherback turtle. Both the dvds and the program schedule are available at the pbs web site<http://www.pbs.org/programs/saving-the-ocean/tv-schedule/>

Farmaggedon. Last week we talked with Chris Kerston of Chaffin Family Orchards about “Farmaggedon: The Unseen War on Family Farms,” being shown tomorrow night at the El Ray theater. Filmmaker Kristin Carty will be on hand to discuss the film, which documents attacks–literal attacks–on family farms that are not part of the industrial agriculture juggernaut. It’s a shocking film and speaks directly to the need for us to protect our access to local, undrugged, unpoisoned food.

The event is a fundraiser for the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund, which helps protect family farms and other providers of locally sourced products from undue harassment.The last we heard, the show at the El Ray is nearly a sellout, but you can go to Chico Natural Foods to check for tickets or go online to <farmageddon.eventbrite.com> for ticket info. Also, the film will be out as a DVD in a few months; check out the website at Farmaggedonthemovie.com.