Biodiversity & Species

Trump Administration Attempts to Eviscerate the Endangered Species Act

Rather Than “Improve” ESA, Newly-Adopted Regulations Dramatically Erode Its Historic Protections

The Endangered Species Act, enacted in 1973, has for most of its history been the most controversial and politically-charged of all the foundational environmental laws adopted by Congress in the 1970’s.  But despite its contentious history, opponents of the ESA have been unsuccessful in their efforts to weaken the law, either through significant Congressional amendments […]

Continue Reading

The Flight of the Bumblebee

The Trump Administration loses an environmental case. Again.

Last Friday, the Fourth Circuit halted efforts to build a natural gas pipeline because the Administration had done such a lousy job of showing its compliance with the Endangered Species Act. This was one of the Administration’s many losses in court. The case involved a perfect example of “arbitrary and capricious” decision making, to use […]

Continue Reading

Endangered Deference

The Supreme Court’s recent, misguided, Weyerhaeuser decision displays the Court majority’s hostility to agency expertise

Cross-posted from The Regulatory Review In Weyerhaeuser v. US Fish and Wildlife Service, a unanimous Supreme Court, with Justice Gorsuch not participating, indicated that it is not inclined to defer to agency expertise. Judicial power dominates this Court’s approach to administrative law, not just in the context of Chevron deference, and not just within the […]

Continue Reading

Governing New Biotechnologies for Biodiversity Conservation

Cover of "Genetic frontiers for conservation" from the IUCN

The fourth in a series examines how international institutions have responded

The previous two posts in this series described how and why genetically modified organisms (GMOs) could be introduced into wild populations, either “typically” modified ones that would transmit their altered genes ineffectively or those with “gene drives” whose changes would quickly propagate through the entire population. In both cases, their potential applications include helping conserve […]

Continue Reading

Genetically Modifying Wild Populations

Gene drive inheritance. Image from the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine.

The third in a series examines powerful new gene drive tools

In my previous two posts, I introduced what I call first, second, and third generation genetically modified organisms: (1) GM bacteria for diverse, mostly indoor purposes; (2) GM crops and agricultural animals; and (3) GMOs that would be intentionally placed into natural environments, where they would live, reproduce, and transmit their modified genes to offspring. […]

Continue Reading

In Defense of Live Carbon

Why Stopping Deforestation May be the Hardest and Most Important Part of the Climate Change Challenge

When contemplating the enormous challenge of global climate change, it is sometimes helpful to think about a simple model of the global carbon budget (see figure below).  These admittedly reductionist schematics distinguish between sources, sinks, and reservoirs.  Fossil hydrocarbons from the geological reservoir–call this dead carbon—are extracted and burned to generate energy, emitting vast amounts […]

Continue Reading

Could Genetically Modified Organisms Help Conserve Biodiversity?

Oxitec GM mosquitoes are released in the Cayman Islands. Photo by Taneos Ramsay of the Cayman Compass.

The second in a series examines GMOs intentionally released into the wild

Last week, I introduced what I call “first generation” genetically modified organisms (GMOs) – altered bacteria for diverse, mostly indoor purposes – and “second generation” ones – GM crops and agricultural animals. Here, I describe third generation GMOs, which are those that would be intentionally placed into natural environments, where they would live, reproduce, and […]

Continue Reading

Climate Change and Your Family’s Future

How much climate change will you see in your lifetime? How about your kids? 

If you think about yourself and the two generations after you, a lot depends on your current age, whether you already have kids, etc.  To keep this from getting too complicated, let’s focus on someone who was born in the US at the start of the millennium, in 2000.  To simplify, I won’t specify gender […]

Continue Reading

Genetically Modified Organisms Return to the International Policy Agenda

March Against Monsanto, Vancouver, May 25, 2013. Photo by Rosalee Yagihara, CC BY 2.0

This first in a series begins by looking back at GMOs and environmental law

Although the big news in international biodiversity this week was the release of the summary of the first global assessment from a relatively new UN-affiliated body, the topic of another report warrants attention as well. Yesterday the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) published its findings on “the potential positive and negative impacts of synthetic […]

Continue Reading

Trump Administration’s Cold Water War With California Turns Hot

Feds’ Curious New Lawsuits Against State Water Board Likely Just the Opening Litigation Salvo

When it comes to California water policy, the federal-state relationship has always been both strained and challenging.  That intergovernmental tension harkens back at least to the Reclamation Act of 1902.  In section 8 of this iconic federal statute that transformed the American West, Congress declared that the federal government “shall proceed in conformity with” state […]

Continue Reading