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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

New Threats to the Endangered Species Act.

The current Congress, especially the House of Representatives, has distinguished itself as one of the most anti-environmental on record. After setting their sights on roadless forest and wilderness protections, exempting our cornerstone environmental laws in the name of border patrol and artificially increasing logging, it appears they are now after endangered species.

The House Natural Resources Committee recently held the first in a series of oversight hearings on the Endangered Species Act , The Committee Chairman, Rep. Doc Hastings (R-WA04) from eastern Washington, argues that the nearly 40-year old landmark environmental law is broken and needs fixing. In his opening statement to the committee, Hastings states, “of the species listed in the past 38 years, only 20 have been declared recovered. That’s a 1% recovery rate.”

At first blush, one percent is not the picture of success, but consider what the Endangered Species Act really is. It is the emergency room for species on the brink of extinction. Species which have seen their habitat decline by 90% due to logging road building and development, struggle to adapt to effects of global warming or suffer impacts from pollution. These species are in the Intensive Care Unit and are fighting for their lives.

This type of care is by definition expensive and not always successful. It is a last resort. A better approach than changing the Endangered Species Act would be to treat the reasons why species end up on the list in the first place. Healthcare professionals preach preventative medicine like exercise, diet, stress management and regular check ups. Perhaps what we really need to do to protect species and reduce the list of endangered species is to protect and restore wildlife habitat, control pollution, reduce greenhouse emissions and practice sustainable development.

Some of Washington State’s most well-known and iconic animals are endangered; including the local Orca whale, several salmon species, Northern Spotted Owls, and sea otters. There are also hundreds of threatened, endangered, and declining species that find refuge in the roadless and wild areas in Washington State.

While no bill has yet been introduced on changes to the Endangered Species Act, I worry what may be around the corner in this Congress. Legislation has already been introduced that would sell off our public lands, allow construction of military bases in our National Parks and preclude future wilderness designations.

What’s next?

Monday, December 12, 2011

Op-Ed: Save conservation fund for students

Originally printed at: http://www.heraldnet.com/article/20111126/OPINION03/711269987/-1/OPINION%23Save-conservation-fund-for-our-students

Save conservation fund, for our students

During my 27 years as a teacher, I have witnessed time and again students' joy when they connect scientific content from the classroom to real life investigations in the outdoors. Some of my favorite memories in teaching have been moments watching students gasp at the spectacle of salmon spawning near the Wild Sky Wilderness -- an area I worked with Sen. Patty Murray for nine years to protect.

I worked on that bill because I know that future scientists are born in the outdoors. That is why I am so thankful to Sen. Murray not only for the Wild Sky, but also for co-sponsoring the No Child Left Inside (NCLI) Act which, if it passes, will expand opportunities for experiential outdoor learning so drastically needed by today's students.

But future students may not be able to fully benefit from these efforts. Currently, some in Congress are seeking to eliminate or reduce funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), which protects lands across the United States. LWCF provides funding for national parks, forests and refuges, as well as state and local parks.

North Puget Sound residents have the LWCF to thank for many of our kids' chances to experience the outdoors close to home. The LWCF has protected some of Washington's most engaging landscapes and wild places, from portions of the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest and North Cascades National Park to nearby treasures like Deception Pass.

The fund has helped create local parks in Everett like Howarth, Langus Riverfront, and Lions neighborhood park, just to name a few. And the LWCF helped to expand the Wild Sky, protecting the water quality needed by those spawning salmon that so impress my students.

When we conserve forests, natural areas and wildlife habitat, all Washington residents benefit -- especially students. Our parks and natural areas are outdoor classrooms where children learn by using all of their senses: tasting wild berries, smelling the scent of an old cedar forest, and watching with wonder the return of our wild salmon.

But the LWCF, the premier program to safeguard places for our students to experience the outdoors, is in grave danger of being slashed in Congress's 2012 budget. The House has proposed roughly $90 million for the program in 2012, a staggering 90 percent cut from the president's budget.

Without that funding, critical, ready-to-go opportunities will be lost. Critical projects to preserve our heritage in Ebey's Landing and to conserve the North Creek Forest, 24 acres of rich habitat in forests and streams near Bothell, will be lost, among others around the state.

It is important to note that the LWCF doesn't use a penny of taxpayer dollars. Instead, it is funded by offshore lease royalties paid by oil and gas companies. This program is a promise that Congress made to the American people in 1965 to offset the negative effects of offshore drilling.

Fortunately, our senators have rejected the drastic cuts in the House proposal and proposed $350 million in funding for the program this year. Sen. Murray has spoken up in support of the LWCF, and we are very lucky to have her as our champion. In her leadership role in the Senate, Sen. Murray is in a key position to protect outdoor spaces for our kids and grandkids.

Sen. Murray understands that we need to provide opportunities for the next generation to learn and excel, especially in science, by getting outside and discovering the marvels of our natural world. She and Sen. Maria Cantwell, who co-sponsored a bill to fully and permanently fund the LWCF, are champions for our quality of life and our children's. I urge others in Congress to follow their lead and support funding for the LWCF and to pass the No Child Left Inside legislation.



Mike Town has taught high school science for 27 years. Last year he was an Einstein Fellow with the National Science Foundation in Washington, D.C., where he researched STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education policy. He has hiked extensively throughout Snohomish County and worked closely with Washington Wild on the passage of the Wild Sky Wilderness Act.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Becoming Washington Wild

Dear Friends,

For 32 years, the Washington Wilderness Coalition – WWC, as we’ve been affectionately known - has been the leading organization working to protect wilderness in Washington State. Over these past 32 years, as new threats have appeared, we’ve continually expanded our efforts to protect roadless areas, which contain the last of our remaining wild National Forests. We’ve worked to combat threats to our wild lands and rivers from poorly conceived and sited mining projects, damaging off-road vehicle use and salmon-killing dams. We’ve worked to ensure sound public policies for our National Forests and to support funding for much needed watershed protection.

In recent years, we’ve worked in coalitions to combine the protections of wilderness with Wild & Scenic Rivers, and National Park additions, in campaigns that will provide permanent protection for our lands and waters while respecting the diversity of interests of those who cherish these lands. We’ve worked to educate the public and build the broadest community possible of those who support protections for our wild lands and waters.

In June of this year, after a lengthy and thoughtful strategic planning process, the Board of Directors agreed that the name “Washington Wilderness Coalition” no longer fully encompassed the breadth of our work and decided to update our name.

I am very pleased to announce that Washington Wilderness Coalition is becoming “Washington Wild” to better reflect the scope of our work protecting our wild lands and waters.

Over the coming months, as you begin to see the name Washington Wild integrated throughout the organization, know that while our name has changed, we will always lead on wilderness preservation in Washington and will continue to work to protect and restore wild lands and waters in Washington State through advocacy, education and civic engagement. Thank you for your continued support.

If you have any questions about these changes, please feel free to contact me at kim@wawild.org or 206.633.1992.

Yours for a Wild Washington,

Kimberly Adank

Membership & Development Director