When you think of the Endangered Species Act, the U.S. Marine Corps probably isn't the first group that comes to mind. But the Corps has proven to be an excellent caretaker for the native plants and animals on its bases. In Hawaii, it has helped raise the population of endangered Hawaiian stilts from 60 birds 22 years ago to 160 today. How'd that happen? Just before nesting season, the Corps conducts "mud ops" training exercises with amphibious assault vehicles on the Nu'upia Ponds wetlands. By churning up the ground, they kill invasive pickleweed and provide better nesting sites and feeding opportunities. The Corps has also helped on the mainland with the desert tortoise in California and the red cockaded woodpecker in North Carolina.
The Department of Defense sponsors range tours of its installations, promoting interaction between the environmental community and the armed services to protect native habitats and species while balancing the military's demands for on-site training. The tours began in 2000, and Maribeth Oakes, the Sierra Club's Lands Program Director, believes that the program is becoming increasingly productive. Read Maribeth's journal of her experience on last week's range tour to three facilities in Hawaii.
Consider this: During the administration of the first President Bush, on average, 58 species per year were protected under the Endangered Species Act. The Clinton administration averaged 65 per year. And the administration of George W. Bush? Eight species per year -- and most of those only after the courts compelled it to take action. That means that in five years, only 40 species have gained ESA protection -- fewer than in any single year of the two previous administrations. While the Act is under assault by Congressman Richard Pombo and his legislative allies, Ted Williams (that's him at left), editor-at-large of Audubon magazine and conservation editor of Fly Rod & Reel, reminds us in an exclusive web-only essay of the myriad ways that the Bush administration undermines a law it is ostensibly charged with upholding. The Endangered Species Act, a law that protects America's most vulnerable species, needs protection itself, and, as Williams writes, it "reflects America at its very best."
Wherever you live in the United States there's a good chance that an endangered plant or animal lives nearby (or, more likely, used to live nearby). Check out our new interactive Endangered Species Map featuring examples of species in need of protection, as well as some that have successfully recovered thanks to the ESA. From Maine (Atlantic salmon) to Hawaii (Mauna Kea silversword), the ESA protects habitats in every region of the country.
If you click on the Great Plains section of the Endangered Species Map (above), you'll see a grizzly bear staring back at you. There currently are about 1,000 grizzlies in the contiguous United States -- just one percent of the population when Lewis and Clark explored the American West. Yet the Bush administration wants to remove ESA protections on grizzlies in Yellowstone area.
"If Endangered Species Act protection is taken away, one-third of the habitat that grizzlies currently use would be opened to exploitation and development," says Heidi Godwin, of the Sierra Club Grizzly Bear Project. "Do we really want to gamble the hard-won progress we've made when we're just starting to see this species come back from the brink of extinction?"
Last week, Godwin delivered more than 25,000 comments in support of continued grizzly protections (many of them from Insider subscribers) to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, raising the total comments to more than 150,000. Supporters of grizzly protection note that implementing the proposed changes would actually cost more than continued ESA protection. Help us continue to protect the bear by ensuring the Endangered Species Act remains strong.
Meanwhile, Grist continues spotlighting the intersection of poverty and the environment in a series of articles on environmental justice. It recently examined efforts to revitalize the poor and polluted neighborhood of Anacostia in Washington, D.C. Jim Dougherty, a member of the D.C. Sierra Club told Grist, "Washington has always been a tale of two rivers, what you could call the white river and the black river." As the article explains, "While the Potomac has been blessed with plentiful green space, with the Jefferson Memorial and the Marine Corps War Memorial gracing its banks, the Anacostia has been home to the jail, incinerators, and power plants."
But a movement is afoot to restore the Anacostia river and neighborhood, and the city has adopted the Anacostia Waterfront Initiative to make it happen. While some worry that this improvement project mighty bring about a gentrification that uproots the poor, Sierra Club environmental justice organizer Linda Fennell notes that it has already brought "an increased level of energy, with communities advocating for better libraries, better parks."
And in Houston, Rhonda Adams has started Project GROW to help children in that city's disenfranchised Fifth Ward document and interpret their neighborhood Superfund site. Adams works under the umbrella of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Houston, which she started with her husband Reginald Adams, a Sierra Club organizer. She lives near the Superfund site, as well, and tells Grist, "I have a young child of my own and I realize that one day we will have to rely on these children to become the stewards of the community." Grist is featuring a slideshow of participants in Project GROW along with examples of the art these children produce.
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