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Vibrant Environment

Fourth Circuit Vacates Permits Authorizing Pipeline Construction in National Forest

By Hunter Leigh Jones, Associate Editor, ELR
Wednesday, January 30, 2019

On December 13, 2018, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit vacated permits issued by the U.S. Forest Service authorizing a pipeline, known as the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, to be constructed across two national forests and the Appalachian Trail. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline is a proposed 604-mile natural gas pipeline that would stretch from West Virginia to North Carolina.

Feeling the Burn: the Future of California’s Electric Utilities and Homeowners Insurance in Continual Wildfire Season

By Sierra Killian, Research Associate
Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Months after the devastating Camp, Woolsey, and Hill fires in California, the fallout of the blazes continues to rock the state. In the past month, PG&E, the state’s largest electric utility, transitioned out several top executives, had its credit rating downgraded to junk status, and was mandated to inspect its entire electric grid in a sharply worded court order. Last week, the company announced plans to file for bankruptcy by January 29. Citizens, insurance companies, and the state government are also feeling the heat as expected damage costs rise and climate change intensifies the frequency of wildfires. The strain on California’s public and private institutions foreshadows the difficult decisions to come across the fire-prone American West.

Insight on Compensatory Mitigation: Progress and Opportunities

Monday, January 14, 2019

Natural resource mitigation—avoiding impacts to important species and habitat, minimizing impacts, and then providing offsets for remaining, residual impacts—is a valuable tool for developers and agencies to comply with the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act, a variety of federal statutes that regulate impacts to important wildlife species and habitat, and/or public land management statutes requiring that uses of public lands be balanced with protection and conservation.

The Future of the Amazon Under Bolsonaro

By Avital Li, Research Associate
Monday, January 7, 2019

On the campaign trail, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro promised to eliminate existing protections of the Amazon. Despite some restrictions on his power to fulfill those promises, his administration will have a huge role to play in determining the delicate future of the earth’s largest rainforest, 65% of which is located within Brazil’s borders. Indeed, limiting the ability of agencies to enforce existing laws is more than sufficient to enable the proliferation of illegal logging, farming, and mining in the rainforest.

This Is America’s Food Policy—This Is the 2018 Farm Bill

By Caitlin F. McCarthy, Director, Education, Associates and Corporate Partnerships
Wednesday, December 19, 2018

“Our nation's food security depends on strong agricultural policy that provides stability for America's farmers and ranchers; protects our land and natural resources; develops new trade opportunities while leveling the playing field for our producers; strengthens rural communities; and helps Americans of all stripes access the nutritious foods they need to keep their families healthy. This is America's food policy. This is the Farm Bill.” (The House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture)

Traditional Ecological Knowledge and the Law: The Canadian Case (Part II)

By Cynthia Harris, Staff Attorney; Director of Tribal Programs; Deputy Director of the Center for State, Tribal, and Local Environmental Programs
Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Continuing from ELI’s December 10 post  on the legal authorization and applications of TEK in the United States, today, we explore incorporation of TEK into Canadian law.

Around the world, decisions impacting indigenous peoples’ traditional territories historically have been made without the participation, input, and consent of the indigenous communities themselves. Natural resource management relied solely on Western science, excluding rich knowledge gained over centuries of direct experience and practice.

Traditional Ecological Knowledge in the United States: Contributions to Climate Adaptation and Natural Resource Management (Part I)

By Greta Swanson, Visiting Attorney
Monday, December 10, 2018

Well before the world’s atmospheric level of carbon dioxide reached 400 ppm, residents and scientists in the Arctic were documenting dramatic changes taking place in the Arctic environment, which is warming at twice the rate as lower latitudes. The Arctic has seen loss and deterioration of summer and fall sea ice, melting of permafrost, migration of shrubby plants into the region, fires, and changes in the phenology of birds, animals, insects, and plants such that their seasonal cycles have become out of sync.

“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.