Before Yellowstone: The Arkansas Origin of National Parks

In a forgotten incident, Congress set aside Hot Springs in 190 years ago.

The origins of the national park system is usually traced back Lincoln’s 1864 signature of the Yosemite Grant Act.  But Congress had actually had the idea of protecting extraordinary places over thirty years earlier, in Arkansas of all places. Hot Springs isn’t high on the list of American places to see, which may be one …


Japan Quitting the International Whaling Commission

Will resume commercial whaling in July 2019 but only in national waters

To the surprise of many, Japan has announced that it is formally withdrawing from the International Whaling Commission and will resume commercial whaling in July. Japan has long been a pariah at the IWC, denounced by many for conducting rogue whaling through the Scientific Permit exception of the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling …


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 …


Roping in the GOP on conservation

In few policy contexts has the right’s shift rightward been more apparent, over the last few decades, than on environmental issues. Not that long ago, environmental values fit nicely within the GOP. Teddy Roosevelt created the national parks; the National Environmental Policy Act, one of our mainstay federal environmental statutes, passed the Senate unanimously, won …


Should we revive an extinct Galapagos tortoise?

Cross-posted at CPRBlog. The Washington Post reports today that scientists think they can resurrect the Pinta Island subspecies of Galapagos tortoise whose last remaining member, “Lonesome George” (pictured), died this summer. Scientists at Ecuador’s Galapagos National Park say they have found enough Pinta Island genetic material in tortoise on another nearby island that an intensive …


An inconvenient truth

A new paper in the Marine Ecology Progress Series open access journal (peer-reviewed) tells it like it is in ways that environmental scientists are often reluctant to do.  Authors Camilo Mora and Peter F. Sale took a very big-picture look at how well reserves are protecting biodiversity, on land and at sea. The analysis is …


Post-Tsunami Japan Teaches the World About Energy Within Limits

Earlier this summer, I accompanied a class of renewable energy law students to a home in Vermont that is “off the grid”.  The family lives quite comfortably – television, microwave oven, electric washing machine, sizable refrigerator.  With the exception of a small diesel generator, which they use once or twice a year, they derive all …


White House science advisors call for better ecosystem information

Cross-posted at The Berkeley Blog. If you’ve never heard of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, you’re not alone. It’s not a group that’s often in the news. But its new report, “Sustaining Environmental Capital: Protecting Society and the Economy,” is worth a read. This report does two important things. First, it defends …


Does anybody really know what electricity costs? Does anybody really care?

Just about everything that energy utilities and their regulators do has some kind of  impact on the environment – even when all they are doing is setting electricity rates.  So, when PG&E (California’s largest electric company) proposed a new residential rate structure last week, some were left wondering: as far as the environment is concerned, …


A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall — and Then Get Wasted

A friend from New York, recently transplanted to Los Angeles, has watched aghast as, again and again, weather reporters have greeted any local rainfall more than 1″ with feverish STORMWATCH headlines.  That said, the Southland got hit with quite a storm these last 48 hours. “Well,” say most Angelenos unaccustomed to precipitation.  “At least we …