Trump Wants to Open Up Roadless Areas in Tongass National Forest to Logging | Take Action Tuesday @EarthFoodLife

Road to extinction: The endangered marbled murrelet, a small seabird, nests on moss-covered trees in the Tongass National Forest in southeast Alaska, which has become a target of the Trump administration for more aggressive logging by changing the Roadless Rule. Such a move would not only permit logging activities, but would also open previously pristine wildlife habitat to mining, hydropower and recreation, imperiling the survival of several threatened species. (Photo credit: Tom Benson/Flickr)

Audubon: For nearly two decades, the federal Roadless Rule has prohibited road-building and logging on nearly 60 million acres of the country’s most pristine national forest land. The Roadless Rule currently protects more than half of the nearly 17-million-acre Tongass National Forest in Alaska. Part of the largest remaining temperate rainforest on Earth, the Tongass hosts the Prince of Wales Spruce Grouse and the Queen Charlotte Goshawk, a subspecies of Northern Goshawk that hunts and breeds exclusively in old-growth forests. These wild areas are in jeopardy: the U.S. Forest Service has proposed a new rule that would open these old-growth woods in Alaska to clearcutting. The agency is accepting public comments on this misguided plan through December 17.
>>>Urge the U.S. Forest Service not to gut forest protections in the wild roadless areas of the Tongass National Forest.

Animal Welfare Institute: In a move that threatens to undermine a host of legal protections guaranteed to marine mammals in the United States and Canada, Mystic Aquarium in Connecticut has applied for a permit to import five captive-born beluga whales from Marineland in Canada. If the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) grants this permit, these animals would be on public display at Mystic Aquarium and likely Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta, and possibly other facilities throughout the United States. All five of these whales are descended from the Sakhalin Bay-Nikolaya Bay-Amur River stock of beluga whales—the same stock that NMFS designated as depleted in 2016. The U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) prohibits the import of marine mammals from depleted populations—and their descendants—for public display. In Mystic’s permit application to NMFS, it seeks to circumvent this legal prohibition by claiming that “incidental” public display is allowed when a marine mammal from a depleted population is to be imported for research. This is not so. Allowing this import would create a massive loophole in the MMPA’s prohibition against the import of depleted marine mammals for public display.
>>>Urge the NMFS to deny Mystic Aquarium’s request to import beluga whales from Canada.

Change: While all countries contribute to the oceans’ dire plastic pollution problem, Indonesia is one of the biggest culprits. After China, Indonesia is the largest contributor of plastics to our oceans. The country sends 3.22 million metric tons of the material into our oceans each year alone. That fact became even more apparent after a dead 31-foot sperm whale washed ashore at the Wakatobi National Park in Indonesia. Experts discovered that the whale was stuffed full of plastic debris. All in all, the whale had 115 drinking cups, four plastic bottles, 25 plastic bags and two flip-flops in its stomach. In recent years, Indonesia’s attempts to curtail plastic use have been relatively toothless. Their $0.02 plastic bag tax and proposed excise tax against plastic producers have both been discontinued. These policy failures make it highly unlikely the country will meet their goal of reducing plastic waste by 70 percent in less than 10 years. In reality, there is already a model that works. If Indonesia wants to get serious about dumping their plastic addiction, they need to look no further than countries like Kenya and Rwanda, which have banned single-use plastic bags completely. In those countries, breaking the ban can get the offender in real trouble. Serious fines and jail time and have worked so well, they won Kigali—Rwanda’s capital—the title of “the cleanest city in Africa.”
>>>Urge Indonesian President Joko Widodo to implement a complete and total ban on single-use plastics.

Cause for concern…

The worst is yet to come: The Pine Bend oil refinery in Rosemount, Minnesota, run by Flint Hills Resources, a subsidiary of Koch Industries. A report published on November 20 by the United Nations Environment Program has found that the emission reduction pledges made by the 188 nations that signed the 2015 Paris climate agreement are not enough to avoid the worst impacts of the climate crisis, concluding that “exceeding the 1.5°C goal can no longer be avoided.” To make matters worse, even the current pledges will most likely not be achieved. The report’s authors blame continuing governmental support of the oil and gas industry, including ongoing fossil fuel subsidies and lack of appropriate carbon pricing schemes. (Photo credit: Tony Webster/Flickr)

Round of applause…

For the winThe Game Changers, a Netflix documentary produced by Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jackie Chan, Lewis Hamilton, James Cameron and Novak Djokovic (above), finds that the ideal diet for human performance and health is plant-based. The film is having a significant impact, with many viewers going vegan after watching it. Even Roger Whiteside, the chief executive of Gregg’s, a U.K. food company famous for their meat-filled pastries, went vegan after seeing it. (Photo credit: mirsasha/Flickr)

Parting thought…

“Veganism is not a sacrifice. It is a joy.” —Gary L. Francione

Earth | Food | Life (EFL) explores the critical and often interconnected issues facing the climate/environment, food/agriculture and nature/animal rights, and champions action; specifically, how responsible citizens, voters and consumers can help put society on an ethical path of sustainability that respects the rights of all species who call this planet home. EFL emphasizes the idea that everything is connected, so every decision matters.

Click here to support the work of EFL and the Independent Media Institute.

Questions, comments, suggestions, submissions? Contact EFL editor Reynard Loki at [email protected]. Follow EFL on Twitter @EarthFoodLife.

Trump’s Misguided War on America’s Wolves | Take Action Tuesday @EarthFoodLife

Out in the cold: On March 6, the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Fish and Wildlife Service announced its plan to remove federal Endangered Species Act protections for all gray wolves in the U.S. who are currently protected. “Livestock producers look upon themselves as royalty, believing the natural world to be placed at their disposal by a sort of divine right. The wolf fits into this dominionist worldview, if it fits at all, as a hated fairytale monster, to be driven out or killed at every opportunity,” writes Erik Molvar on The Hill. “Their war on wildlife targets not just wolves, but other carnivores like coyotes, mountain lions, and grizzly bears, ecological keystone species like prairie dogs and beavers, and even elk and deer that compete for forage with their cattle and sheep. This tiny but vocal segment of the public insists on decimating native wildlife for their own profit-driven self-interest.” (Photo credit: Pixabay/Pexels)

Endangered Species Coalition: Hunting, trapping and habitat loss drove gray wolves to near extinction in the 20th century. Conservation efforts made possible by the Endangered Species Act has allowed them to come back and begin to re-establish their former habitats. But the Trump Administration is in the process of preparing a rule that would strip every gray wolf in the lower 48 states of crucial Endangered Species Act protections. “Wolves have only been restored in a tiny fraction of their historic and suitable range,” said Leda Huta, executive director of the Endangered Species Coalition. “Wolf recovery could be one of America’s greatest wildlife conservation success stories if the Fish and Wildlife Service would finish the job it started.”
>>>Urge Department of Interior Secretary David Bernhardt: Don’t take Endangered Species Act safeguards away from gray wolves and support continued efforts to bring wolves back.

Care2: The global shark and ray population is in serious trouble, but, thankfully, legislators in Hawaii are currently considering doing more to protect these creatures in state waters. Currently there’s a bill that would make it a misdemeanor (with up to a $10,000 fine) for killing, capturing or abusing sharks and rays. Sharks and rays need full protection under the law, for their benefit and for the health of our oceans. Rep. Nicole Lowen, who chairs the House Environmental Protection and Energy Committee said, “As apex predators, sharks and rays help to keep the ocean ecosystem in balance, and protecting them from unnecessary harm is essential to the health of our coral reefs.”
>>>Tell Hawaii’s state legislators that you support the passage of HB 808 to outlaw the intentional killing, capture, abuse or entanglement of sharks and rays in the state’s marine waters.

Heal the Bay: An unchecked plastic waste stream is a global threat. We are now finding plastics everywhere they shouldn’t be: our drinking water, seafood, table salt, and even in our soil. Exposure to plastics and associated toxins has been linked to cancers, birth defects, impaired immunity, endocrine disruption, and other serious health issues. California representatives introduced Senate Bill 54 and Assembly Bill 1080 earlier this year to drastically reduce plastic waste for generations to come. The bills set the framework for a 75% reduction of all single-use plastic packaging and products sold in California by 2030, with the rest being effectively recyclable or compostable.
>>>Urge the  the California Senate and Assembly to fast-track the approval of the California Circular Economy and Plastic Pollution Reduction Act.

PETA: Dessert snack company Little Debbie was started by a family and was even named after the founders’ granddaughter, Debbie. So we know how important family is to this business. But humans aren’t the only species to love their families. Mother cows bond with and nurture their young, and hens communicate with and protect their chicks. Yet throughout the years that Little Debbie has been making baked goods—during which time the company has been passed down through four generations of the family—it has exploited and destroyed the families of countless generations of cows and hens for its dairy- and egg-laden cakes, cookies and brownies.
>>>Urge Little Debbie to offer vegan items to its product line.

Cause for concern…

Avocado toast’s true cost: Petorca Valley in central Chile is the epicenter for the nation’s ongoing water conflict, where intensive avocado farming since the early 1990s has damaged the natural environment and encroached on the residents’ water rights. While avocado trees cover some 40,000 lush acres in Petorca to supply the popular fruit, primarily to U.S. and U.K. consumers, local Chileans are forced to drink their water out of trucks. “Large businesses came and started to plant what they were calling ‘green gold,’ but it turned into a nightmare for our valley. We lost our local agriculture, streams and rivers,” Petorca’s mayor Gustavo Valdenegro told KCET. “Our valley was a good place to grow avocados as low humidity levels produce excellent fruit, but there has not been anywhere near enough regulation and they started to plant indiscriminately, brutally destroying the ecosystem.” (Photo credit: Lisa Folios/Pexels)

Round of applause…

No people, please: A baby moose. A 2018 report by the World Wildlife Fund found that populations of mammals, birds, fish, reptiles and amphibians have declined by 60 percent in just over 40 years, primarily due to agriculture and overexploitation of wildlife, both driven by human activity. “If we have allowed so many people to live in Colorado that there is not room for the lion, the bear and the moose, then we need to do some serious soul-searching. After all, not only are they sentient creatures [who] feel pain, but they are huge drivers of our Western Slope economies,” writes Frosty Merriott, a member of the Environmental Board in Carbondale, Colorado. He advocates “no people zones,” which he says would be “like no-fly zones where wild animals get to be wild animals without having to interact with people.” (Photo credit: Leyo/Wikimedia Commons)

Parting thought…

“You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference and you have to decide what kind of a difference you want to make.” —Jane Goodall

Climate Change Has Unleashed a Global Wave of Marine Invasions That Could Threaten Our Food Supply

Rising temperatures are pushing species into new territory, which could endanger fisheries around the world.

by Amy McDermott

Gloomy octopuses used to blend in. They were just another cephalopod, drab-gray and medium-bodied, living in the ocean off east-central Australia—until a few decades ago, when the octopuses started to spread.

They crept south, establishing populations down Australia’s East Coast, a climate change hotspot where seawater temperatures are rising almost four times faster than the global average. Gloomies love the heat—and chowing down on shellfish. If the newcomers’ appetites disrupt existing fisheries, researchers say, it could spell trouble.

In Australia and around the world, ocean animals are relocating because of climate change, often with consequences for fisheries. Gloomy octopuses are just one of many marine species on the move. Their expansion is a harbinger of what’s to come in places warming more slowly than Australia. Forget blending in: Climate consequences have arrived.

Gloomy octopuses have expanded down the East Coast of Australia in recent years. Above, one recovers after genetic sampling in Cape Conran, Australia. (image credit: Colin Silvey)

Lives in Motion

It happened fast.

Named for their ghostly white eyes, gloomy octopuses spread steadily south in the last two decades, said fisheries scientist Brad Moore of the University of Tasmania in Hobart. Gloomies are naturally found in central-eastern Australia, but appeared hundreds of miles south in Victoria after 2000, and even further down, off the island of Tasmania, in 2006. Three years later, Moore said, the species was included in Tasmania’s fisheries guidebook.

Recreational fishermen and divers also noticed gloomies out of place, and reported sightings as part of an Australian citizen science project called Redmap, which tracks marine species on the move.

“People send in photo observations,” said marine ecologist Gretta Pecl, who started Redmap as part of her research at the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies at the University of Tasmania. “We get an early indication of what species might be shifting, and then we initiate a more targeted research study.”

In the gloomy’s case, commercial fishermen and citizen scientist observations tipped off Pecl’s team, and inspired a forthcoming genetic study, led by marine biologist Jorge Ramos, which confirms a rapid and recent expansion south.

Tentacled Tides

Gloomies can thank climate change for their new digs. Global warming affects ocean currents, including one that runs down the East Coast of Australia. The East Australian Current has extended farther and farther south over the last 50 years.

“We believe it’s moving species into Tasmanian waters,” Ramos said. Warm, strong flows act like a southerly conveyor belt for marine creatures, including the octopuses.

While gloomies are thriving, their arrival in Tasmania has some experts worried. Abalone and rock lobster are the two largest commercial wild fisheries for the island, making up more than 75 percent of landings by weight. Both could suffer, Ramos said, if the octopus eats too many of the shellfish. Abalone and oysters are already struggling through marine heat waves, caused by the growing warm current. Another problem is the last thing they need.

A gloomy octopus rests after scientist Jorge Ramos collected a small tissue sample from one of its arms for genetic analysis. Octopuses can regrow lost limbs, “so the piece of arm will grow back,” Ramos said. (image credit: Colin Silvey)

Not everyone is so worried. Craig Hardy is an octopus fisherman in Stanley, Tasmania, where he’s seen gloomies off the island’s northern tip for about 10 years—as long as he’s been fishing up there. Hardy was the first to hunt octopus in the area, he said, and suspects the gloomies were around all along; people just hadn’t seen them.

That’s possible, Ramos agreed, but he thinks the current swept more octopuses down in the last decade. Based on his forthcoming genetic work, Ramos would “guess the species was there, but in low numbers, and now it’s becoming more common.”

Octopus fishing is decent business in Tasmania. After abalone and lobster, it accounts for 11 percent of remaining landings by weight. Fishermen like Hardy haven’t historically caught gloomies. Most of their catch is a smaller, native species. But the newcomer is becoming an attractive target, Hardy said, because of its size. Gloomies are common in markets on the mainland up north, and Hardy’s found them “a good species to sell.”

The gloomy octopus isn’t the only stranger in Tasmanian waters. The East Australian Current has washed more than 70 species south in recent years. Some, like the long-spined sea urchin, have wrought havoc upon arrival. Others have been less damaging, but they all bring new considerations. Critters will keep coming down the coast in the next 50 years, fisheries scientist Moore expects, making Tasmania’s coast more like the eastern mainland’s as time goes by.

Australia and its gloomy octopus are a parable of things to come in many slower-warming places. Along the West Coast of North America, for example, some fish could shift more than 900 miles this century under a high emissions scenario. Even if change hasn’t come yet, “there’s a lot of evidence to say things will change,” Moore said. “It’s about getting ready.”


Amy McDermott is a science writer and web editor at Oceana, where she covers marine conservation. Previously, her work has appeared in Grist, Discover and The Atlantic, among others. Follow her on Twitter @amygmcdermott.

Top image credit: Colin Silvey

This article is part of a content partnership between Oceana and Earth | Food | Life, a project of the Independent Media Institute.