Biodiversity & Species

The ESA and the Commerce Clause

The federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) is widely known for being the primary law in the United States that focuses on protecting biodiversity, and also for being a “pit bull” of environmental laws that has few exceptions and broad sweep. (For instance, the ESA was a major component of the litigation strategy by environmental groups […]

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Reaching Across the Aisle?

Washington D.C.

The safest prediction is that our Democratic President and Republican Congress will not in fact be able to work together.  Their present gestures toward cooperation may mean nothing more than a willingness to accept the other side’s surrender.  But hope springs eternal.  Are there areas where common ground exists?  That seems nearly impossible on some […]

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The Future of Conservation

Earlier this year I wrote critically about a New York Times op-ed that proposed making the restrictions on development in wilderness areas more flexible in order to allow for adaptation to climate change. This week the Times published what I think is a much more helpful op-ed on the topic of how we should address […]

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Wild horses and the goals of nature protection

Feral horses at Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge, NV. (Photo by Gail Collins / USFWS)

A petition to list wild horses as endangered or threatened highlights questions about what our conservation laws should protect

  Friends of Animals and The Cloud Foundation have filed a petition seeking listing of the wild horse in the American west as an endangered or threatened species. Given that, according to the petition itself, there are currently some 34,000 wild horses on public lands in the west (with other estimates closer to 50,000), listing […]

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The Wilderness Act and climate change

Changing the Wilderness Act to respond to climate change is a terrible idea

The Wilderness Act is one of the iconic pieces of environmental legislation, and it is 50 years old this year. It created a process and management standard by which millions of acres of relatively undeveloped federal land were protected from development and most forms of active human management. These lands are to be managed, as […]

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Going, Going, Gone

sixth extinction

Despite it’s depressing subject, Elizabeth Kolbert’s The Sixth Extinction is a great read.  She travels around the world, from a “hotel” for endangered frogs in Panama to an outdoor biodiversity experiment in the Peruvian rainforest to an endangered rhino’s rectal exam in Cincinnati.  Yet, there’s no denying that the topic is a downer.  The title implies that we […]

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Protecting Marine “Wilderness”

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A new study shows how to strengthen marine preserves.

The Bush Administration is not remembered fondly by environmentalists, but one important exception came at the beginning of 2009.  That’s when President Bush created an additional 195,000 square miles of marine reserves, on top of the 140,000 miles he had created previously.  Such marine reserves are not unique to the United States, of course.  Yet, […]

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It’s Not Waste, It’s An Ecosystem

Letting rivers flow supports ecosystems and people

One thing that droughts in the West provoke are political battles over water.  The drought that California is currently in is no exception.  Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives have just passed a bill that would – more or less – exempt farmers in the Central Valley from environmental laws like the Endangered Species […]

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Pine Beetles, Environmental Law, and Climate Change Adaptation

Inflexible laws may be the best response to climate change

Anyone who lives or has visited the Intermountain West over the past decade or so has noticed the devastating impact of a mountain pine beetle epidemic on the pine forests from Arizona and New Mexico all the way up to British Columbia and Alberta.  As a result of warmer winter weather because of climate change, […]

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