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Vibrant Environment

“Every Culture Has a Science”: An Introduction to Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) and Indigenous Scientific Representation

By Hannah Dale, Research & Publications Intern
Monday, October 29, 2018

In the Alaskan Arctic, Inupiat hunt bearded seals for food and blubber—a tradition spanning generations, and based on hunters’ extensive knowledge of the weather, ice, seal habitats, and how to prepare and pay respects to the animal after killing it. But over the past few generations, their ability to harvest seals has been significantly affected with the warming oceans, melting ice, and changing patterns of marine animals in the Bering Sea. Last spring, hunters in Unalakleet, Alaska, could not participate in the harvest because there was little ice cover. Since seals use ice pans as a place to rest above water, reduced ice cover impedes hunters’ ability to find and hunt the animals. Inupiat worry about what these environmental changes will mean for future generations.

Trotting Toward Trouble: The State of the Bureau of Land Management’s Wild Horse and Burro Program

By Caroline McHugh, Law Clerk
Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Picture the American West.

What do you see? Does a herd of wild mustangs galloping across a sagebrush expanse come to mind? For many, romantic images of the western landscape celebrated in popular culture symbolize American ideals of rugged individualism and freedom. Although first introduced to North America by European colonists, wild horses came to represent those important American themes in our images of the West. Now, the iconic symbols pose a threat to western ecosystems.

The Fate of the Dusky Gopher Frog: ELI’s Discussion on Implications for Habitat Conservation

By Hannah Dale, Research & Publications Intern
Wednesday, September 26, 2018

The dusky gopher grog is a little-known endangered species only found in a few isolated pond habitats of southern Mississippi. This playful amphibian is apparently rather shy, covering its eyes and playing dead when held by a human. Unfortunately, the species has been struggling to survive for decades, encountering threats such as habitat loss, drought, and disease decimating its fragile population.

Federal District Court Enjoins EPA Rule Suspending 2015 Waters of the United States Rule

By Hunter Leigh Jones, Associate Editor, ELR
Wednesday, August 29, 2018

On August 16, 2018, a federal district court in Charleston, South Carolina, enjoined EPA’s rule suspending implementation of the Waters of the United States Rule (WOTUS Rule), which was finalized by the Agency in 2015 under the Barack Obama Administration. The WOTUS Rule was enacted to clarify that wetlands, seasonal streams, and tributaries qualify as “waters of the United States” under the Clean Water Act (CWA), replacing a 1980s regulation that included interstate waters and wetlands adjacent to those waters as “waters of the United States,” but specifically excluded “waters that are themselves wetlands.” The suspension rule, which was finalized in February of this year, effectively delayed the WOTUS Rule until 2020 and reinstated the definition of “waters of the United States” under the 1980s regulation.

China’s Gas Shortage

By Miriam Aczel, Visiting Researcher, Environmental Law Institute
Monday, August 27, 2018

Recent strategies and policies to phase out coal in China have led to an increase in demand for natural gas. In October 2017, China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection unveiled plans to cut harmful air pollution, especially the particularly damaging fine particulate matter known as PM2.5. The plan, or “Coal Ban,” has set strict targets on air quality levels in addition to a ban on burning coal in 28 of its northern cities, including Beijing. However, while the air quality improved significantly in Beijing this past winter, the rapid ban on coal burning and the transition to natural gas has left thousands without heat.

Environmental Regulation That Even a Conservative Would Like?

Portland, Oregon
By Linda Breggin, Senior Attorney
Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Every year, the Environmental Law Institute in collaboration with Vanderbilt Law School publishes a special issue of the Environmental Law Reporter’s News & Analysis. The issue contains condensed versions of articles selected by Vanderbilt law students, in consultation with an expert Advisory Committee, ELI senior staff, and their professors, because they offer some of the year’s best legal and policy solutions to pressing environmental problems.  

Restoring and Protecting Water Quality

ELI organized the 2018 National Training Workshop for CWA 303(d) Listing & TMDL
By Adam Schempp, Senior Attorney; Director, Western Water Program
Monday, June 25, 2018

Restoring and protecting our country’s lakes, rivers, and streams is difficult, especially with populations increasing and budgets in decline. It requires innovation, partnerships, sound science, and effective means of communicating.

ELI has long worked with the agencies tasked with restoring and protecting our waters. Earlier this month, we held the 2018 National Training Workshop for CWA §303(d) Listing and TMDL Staff at the National Conservation Training Center in Shepherdstown, West Virginia....

U.S. Supreme Court Affirms Ninth Circuit’s Decision in Barrier Culverts Case

Coho Salmon in Washington (Photo: BLM)
By J. Nathanael Watson, Of Counsel, Stoel Rives LLP
Wednesday, June 13, 2018

On June 11, 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a 4-4 per curium decision (Justice Anthony Kennedy was recused) affirming the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit’s decision in Washington v. United States, often referred to as the “culverts case.” 

Every tribe, person, public utility, municipality, state, or developer that has an interest in water rights or projects that impact salmon should pay attention to the Court’s ruling in the culverts case—and work with counsel to prepare your strategy for productive engagement to resolve these issues before they lead to expensive bet-the-farm litigation.

Making the Most of the Watershed Approach

By James M. McElfish, Jr., Senior Attorney; Director, Sustainable Use of Land Program
Wednesday, May 30, 2018

The Oil Pollution Act and CERCLA allow for the recovery of more than just cleanup costs following an oil spill or the release of hazardous substances. These laws also provide for the recovery of damages to restore or replace natural resources to the conditions that would have existed prior to the spill or release, as well as to compensate for interim losses of ecological services. Natural resource trustees—states and tribes acting on behalf of the public—are tasked (along with federal trustees) with planning and implementing the restoration of these lost natural resources and services.

The Importance of Wetlands: The 2018 National Wetlands Awards

2018 National Wetlands Awardees (Roxie B. Photography)
By Kathryn R. Ma, Staff Attorney; Senior Editor
Monday, May 21, 2018

“These places hold the world together,” said National Wetlands Awardee Latimore M. Smith of wetlands during his award acceptance speech. Simple words spoken to him early in his career as he explored a Louisiana bog, they continue to hold profound meaning and inspire him to this day. At the National Wetlands Awards ceremony that took place on May 9, 2018, in Washington, D.C., each of the six awardees shared stories about what inspired them in their efforts to protect and preserve wetlands.