Date: 8/24/17 9:38 am
From: Betsy Kane (via carolinabirds Mailing List) <carolinabirds...>
Subject: Re: Important conservation issues

Thank you for these details. I want to take action, but I don't have time
to dig deep into the issues or figure out the process from scratch, as I am
committed to other efforts. Would it be possible for you to advise, or can
someone you know advise, on specific actions to be taken when the time is
right? I would be extremely grateful and ready to call or submit comments
if I could know 1) what to say (very briefly) 2) when to say it, and 3)
who to say it to.

Betsy Kane

On Thu, Aug 24, 2017 at 8:30 AM, Russ Oates <carolinabirds...> wrote:

> Maggie,
> Thank you for your response. You are absolutely right about the EPA. I
> was remiss in omitting the EPA from my comments on "Continuity of Executive
> Branch Natural Resource Management." Administrator Pruitt is intent on
> destroying the agency. His efforts to remove science from the decision
> making process are dumbfounding. We should prepare for deadly smog and
> burning rivers....the clock is turning back to the 1950s.
> Truly overwhelming...
> Russ
> On Thu, Aug 24, 2017 at 7:46 AM, Maggie Strickland <
> <gallinasviejas...> wrote:
>> Russ,
>> Thank you so much for this clear and specific information. While most of
>> my recent contacts with our senators and representatives has concerned
>> other matters, I am horrified at the sweeping changes at the EPA. The
>> wholesale retreat from preservation and conservation is so disheartening. I
>> promise I will take action on these issues.
>> Sincerely,
>> Maggie Strickland
>> Harmony, Maine
>> On Wed, Aug 23, 2017 at 8:39 PM, Russ Oates <carolinabirds...>
>> wrote:
>>> CBC Members,
>>> There are several nationally or internationally important bird-related
>>> issues in Alaska that are currently approaching decision points in the
>>> Congress and/or the Executive Branch. Given the anti-conservation
>>> statements and actions of the current Administration and the likely
>>> willingness by the Congress to follow suit, I am asking you to review these
>>> issues and to consider contacting the appropriate Executive Branch agencies
>>> and especially your US Congressional delegation to encourage them to act on
>>> the side of responsible conservation. Many of these issues will be
>>> decided in the US Senate. Currently-proposed legislation and executive
>>> actions will cause irreparable damage to Important Bird Areas. Much is
>>> at stake.
>>> A significant proportion of members from both parties in Congress are
>>> conservationists at heart but the Republicans will be under severe pressure
>>> to roll back environmental protections nationwide. We only need 3
>>> Republican senators to vote against an ill-advised development project or
>>> management action to block it, so your calls or letters to your US
>>> Congressional Delegation could be crucial.
>>> Alaska is a hugely-important nesting area for birds from all four North
>>> American flyways (especially Pacific and Central) as well as the East
>>> Asia/Australasia and East Asia/East Africa flyways. Bird band reports
>>> (returns) have shown that some of the Tundra Swans and at least 4 species
>>> of ducks that breed in Alaska also spend the winter in NC. Although I
>>> couldn’t easily check banding data for other species, AK and NC share at
>>> least 16 species of shorebirds. Also, Alaska has historically been a
>>> safe haven for species depleted elsewhere in their ranges (for example:
>>> Bald Eagles, Trumpeter Swans, Peregrine Falcons) and for many years
>>> provided eggs and/or young to the lower 48 states for restoration.
>>> I present each issue by identifying it, followed by the desired outcome.
>>> This will be followed by a brief explanation of what’s at stake and why
>>> there is an issue. If you need more information, you can Google
>>> Audubon Alaska or the names of the locations of concern.
>>> *ISSUES:*
>>> 1) *Issue:* Beaufort/Chukchi Sea (off the north shore of Alaska)
>>> offshore petroleum drilling.
>>> *Desired outcome:* Block offshore development in Chukchi and Beaufort
>>> seas.
>>> I know of no oil spill anywhere in an area of broken or solid ice cover
>>> on marine water that was effectively cleaned up or even contained. *Current
>>> spill clean up technology doesn’t work in ice-choked waters. * Historically,
>>> ice has been present in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas more than 200 days
>>> per year. In addition to the threats to whales, seals, and polar
>>> bears, an offshore or nearshore spill occurring in late winter or early
>>> spring poses a tremendous threat to at least 2 million spring-migrating
>>> Long-tailed Ducks and King and Common eiders. Also threatened would be
>>> Endangered Species Act (ESA)-listed “Threatened” Spectacled and Steller’s
>>> eiders (the entire North American breeding population of Steller’s Eiders)
>>> and ESA listed “Warranted But Precluded” Yellow-billed Loon. Large
>>> numbers of many species of shorebirds, gulls, terns, and jaegers would be
>>> at risk from floating oil and oiled shorelines. Here is the nightmare
>>> scenario: We know that essentially all of the bird species mentioned
>>> move to northern breeding grounds as early in spring as conditions will
>>> allow. These birds fly north along the Bering Sea coastline and turn
>>> east into the Chukchi, using any open water patches to rest and feed while
>>> enroute to their breeding grounds in arctic Alaska and Canada. If a
>>> spill occurs at an offshore rig or seabed pipeline in late winter or early
>>> spring, the floating portion of the spill could be waiting as a death trap
>>> there for the migrating birds. This could affect tens to hundreds of
>>> thousands of birds and there could be no way to stop the spill, clean up
>>> the spill, or rescue birds. There is clearly potential for population
>>> level impacts on several species (at a minimum: King Eider, Spectacled
>>> Eider, Steller’s Eider, Common Eider, Yellow-billed Loon).
>>> 2) *Issue:* Opening the Teshekpuk Lake Goose Molting area to oil
>>> development. *Desired outcome:* Maintain the moratorium on development
>>> of this area.
>>> Teshekpuk Lake, the second-largest lake in Alaska, is located within the
>>> 23.5 million acre National Petroleum Reserve, Alaska (NPRA, administered by
>>> Bureau of Land Management), and sits about 15 miles south of the western
>>> Beaufort Sea coastline (175 miles west of Arctic National Wildlife Refuge).
>>> The 200+ lakes loosely clustered between Teshekpuk Lake and the coastline
>>> constitute the largest arctic goose molting resort in North America,
>>> supporting multiple species of flightless molting birds (Mid-continent
>>> White-fronted Geese, Pacific Black Brant, Lesser Snow Geese, and Cackling
>>> Geese) for several critical months each summer. Frequently, up to
>>> 100,000 geese molt in these lakes. During the annual wing molt, these
>>> birds are exceptionally sensitive to disturbance, and an on-the-ground
>>> research scientist during the 1970s reported birds reacting (avoidance
>>> behavior) to a person walking across the board-flat tundra at a distance of
>>> one mile. With that high level of sensitivity, it’s no wonder that the
>>> geese picked one of the most remote locations in Alaska to undergo the 2-3
>>> week flightless period. The area appeared to be secure from
>>> large-scale disturbance until winter seismic work revealed the possibility
>>> of extensive oil deposits directly under the molting area. I have seen
>>> a detailed proposed development scenario prepared by the petroleum industry
>>> that I strongly believe would result in the complete abandonment of the
>>> molting area. Over the years, scientists (from government and
>>> conservation organizations) have successfully defended this important
>>> molting area against several industry and pro-development administration
>>> attempts to open it for oil development. I credit Audubon Alaska with
>>> leading the effort that resulted in the latest stay of execution. During
>>> the Obama Administration, a ten-year moratorium on development was
>>> instituted in this area to protect the geese, shorebirds and the
>>> 60,000-head Teshekpuk Lake Caribou Herd’s calving area. Due to the
>>> intense pressure from the current administration to open currently closed
>>> areas of Alaska to petroleum development, it is very likely that the
>>> moratorium will be cancelled.
>>> 3) *Issue:* Opening the Coastal Plain (commonly referred to as the
>>> “1002 {ten oh two} area”) of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to
>>> oil exploration and development.
>>> *Desired outcome:* Protect the entire Coastal Plain area of Arctic
>>> National Wildlife Refuge with wilderness designation.
>>> The coastal plain portion of ANWR is approximately 1.5 million acres in
>>> size, and represents about 5% of the coastal plain north of the Brooks
>>> Range. *Virtually all of the 95% not within the Refuge is already open
>>> for oil exploration and development. * Giving this relatively small
>>> area Wilderness status would permanently protect a complete arctic
>>> ecosystem from the shoreline on the Beaufort Sea coastline, south across
>>> the coastal plain, through the foothills and the north slope of the Brooks
>>> Range (it’s all tundra from the divide north to the Beaufort Sea), and
>>> sweeping down the south slope to the boreal forests and the northern
>>> floodplain of the Yukon River. Most of this area looks as it has for
>>> thousands of years, and it is ecologically complete and intact with a full
>>> suite of life including a complex of top-level predators. Why would it
>>> hurt to develop the coastal plain portion? The coastal plain is *the*
>>> calving area for the 150,000-strong Porcupine Caribou Herd, a herd that is
>>> a vitally important subsistence resource for the Gwichin Athabascan Indians
>>> that live south of the Brooks Range in Alaska and Yukon Territories (where
>>> the caribou herd winters). The herd concentrates on the coastal plain
>>> during a mass birthing in late June/early July, and the cows tend to their
>>> young and try to protect them from a whole host of predators (brown bears,
>>> wolves, wolverines, and Golden Eagles converge for this annual feast.) The
>>> caribou are also an important subsistence resource (second to bowhead
>>> whales) for the Inupiat Eskimos of the Alaska North Slope. Despite the
>>> deliberate misrepresentations of the affected area (particularly by former
>>> Secretary of Interior under George W. Bush) and research done on caribou
>>> response to oil pipelines (by multiple pro-development administrations), a
>>> prominent caribou researcher told me that pregnant females and females with
>>> calves stay away from oil pipelines (based on work done in the Prudhoe Bay
>>> area). A spider web of pipelines connecting production wells, and
>>> associated structures and airfields, would likely have dire long-term
>>> consequences for the herd and associated predator populations (not to
>>> mention the subsistence hunters). The coastal plain is also an
>>> important migration area for Yellow-billed Loons and nesting and migration
>>> habitat for a host of different shorebird species (for example:
>>> Buff-breasted Sandpiper, Black-bellied Plover, American Golden Plover,
>>> Semipalmated Plover, Pectoral Sandpiper, Semi-palmated Sandpiper,
>>> Long-billed Dowitcher, Stilt Sandpiper, Red and Red-necked Phalaropes,
>>> Bar-tailed Godwit, and Baird’s Sandpiper.) The coastal plain is
>>> important in some years for as many as 350,000 Lesser Snow Geese (that
>>> nested in a western Canada colony) to fatten on sedge rhizomes before
>>> migrating south.
>>> 4) *Issue:* Approval of the Pebble Mine.
>>> *Desired outcome:* Maintain the EPA position protecting the area from
>>> mining and provide permanent protection to the watershed.
>>> Pebble is a massive mining project proposed for Alaska state lands in
>>> the middle of the watershed containing the spawning area of the largest
>>> sockeye salmon stock in the world (and the other 4 species of salmon as
>>> well). In addition, sockeye hatchlings live 1-2 years in connected
>>> lakes until they are large enough to go out to sea. Roughly half of
>>> the world’s wild-caught salmon comes from Bristol Bay. If developed,
>>> the mine will be the largest mine in North America and the highly toxic
>>> tailings will be stored behind the largest earthen dam in the world (over
>>> 700 feet tall and several miles long.) This is a seismically active
>>> area, and independent scientists doubt whether the dam would survive a
>>> major earthquake on the order of the one that severely damaged Anchorage
>>> and several other southcentral Alaska coastal communities in 1964. Needless
>>> to say, the failure of this dam would be catastrophic for the salmon and
>>> potentially for the many species of marine birds (including Emperor Geese
>>> and ESA listed Steller’s Eiders) that use Bristol Bay as a foraging area
>>> during migration.) After extensive investigations, this area was
>>> declared by the EPA to be too valuable and vulnerable to mine, but the
>>> Trump administration resurrected the project. If you like to eat wild
>>> salmon or support sustainable management of wild salmon, you have a dog in
>>> this fight. Please, take a moment to check out this web site:
>>> <>
>>> 5) *Issue:* The State National Forest Management Act of 2017 (SNFMA)
>>> and the Alaska Mental Health Trust Land Transfer Act (AMHT).
>>> *Desired outcome:* Defeat both bills.
>>> SNFMA, (HR 232, sponsored by Rep. Don Young of Alaska) was introduced in
>>> January of this year. I don’t understand all of the details, but I
>>> read the text and this is my take: While there are some specific Alaska
>>> provisions, much of the bill applies to all states and national forests in
>>> North and South Carolina could be profoundly affected. As written,
>>> this bill would allow each state to select up to 2,000,000 acres of
>>> National Forest within their respective state boundaries for transfer to
>>> state ownership and management with the mandate to supply the needs of all
>>> wood processing operations in the state. Potentially, 100% of NC’s
>>> 1.255 million acres of National Forest could be transferred to the state.
>>> This legislation would also permit mining in the “former” national forests.
>>> AMHT, sponsored by Senator Lisa Murkowski, has been developed in the
>>> Senate to the point that it can be added as a rider to another, more urgent
>>> bill. The bill is intended to allow the transfer of old growth acreage
>>> to private (Alaska Native) corporations in exchange for their
>>> corporate-owned logged-over areas. This will facilitate the rapid
>>> destruction of the magnificent old growth trees, some of which are more
>>> than 1,000 years old.
>>> The Alaska congressional delegation has, for decades, done everything in
>>> their power to open up the remaining old growth trees of the magnificent
>>> Tongass National Forest to logging. Only 3% of the Tongass is old growth,
>>> so we must act now to save it.
>>> 6) *Issue:* Building a road to the village of King Cove through the
>>> Designated Wilderness portion of Izembek National Wildlife Refuge.
>>> *Desired outcome*: Prevent the road from being built.
>>> Izembek National Wildlife Refuge, one of Alaska’s oldest refuges, is the
>>> principal fall staging area for essentially 100% of the Pacific Black Brant
>>> population. The area is also a vital staging area for Emperor Geese,
>>> which winter to the west on the Alaska Peninsula and Aleutian Islands and
>>> breed almost exclusively to the north on the Yukon Delta National Wildlife
>>> Refuge. Izembek lagoon provides lush eelgrass beds that allow the
>>> brant to accumulate huge amounts of body fat (nearly doubling their weight)
>>> necessary to enable the birds to survive the 60+ hour direct flight to
>>> overwintering areas principally in the bays of the Pacific coast of Baja
>>> and mainland Mexico. Most of the historic wintering areas on the west coast
>>> of the Lower 48 states have been destroyed or dramatically reduced by
>>> dredging and other development.
>>> Never since the passage of the Wilderness Act in 1964 has a designated
>>> Wilderness Area been compromised for the purpose of road construction. A
>>> federal Judge ruled in 2015 in favor of the Department of Interior’s
>>> decision to deny permission for construction of the road. The US House
>>> of Representatives recently passed legislation that would open the area to
>>> road construction. This bill sets a very dangerous precedent by
>>> potentially opening the door to road construction in Wilderness Areas
>>> nationwide. *The bill now goes to the Senate where we will have our
>>> final chance to defeat it.* Please contact your US Senators and
>>> encourage them to protect the Refuge.
>>> Read more at the following site:
>>> U&h=ATMupmgV-v_gK4pynARMjWZyRCHtlXoqa7HSyzJ7Eavxean6O-cr04Ho
>>> hyVXHZ_oF7nxNLuA34P3lHvMs55XcmyuWsxwFL30mx32Pkg_QoLMSrT5MESK
>>> ygZxJ5oqNn1lyGzfHnR37nhUVShgv23woUDpVuyhOmuUCZtb0MhUtBu8GzaU
>>> UVn1wDC28--kUtg
>>> <>
>>> 7) *Issue:* Climate change.
>>> *Desired outcome:* The US fully engages in the Paris Climate Change
>>> Accords.
>>> Alaska is home to vast amounts of glacial ice, sea ice, and permafrost.
>>> If these melt, and they certainly are melting at this point, they will
>>> make a huge contribution to a warming climate. The threat of melting
>>> permafrost is probably least known by the public. When permafrost
>>> melts, it releases not only carbon dioxide the but also large amounts of
>>> methane (molecule for molecule, far more problematic than carbon dioxide.)
>>> The consequences of extensive permafrost melting across the northern
>>> hemisphere are unthinkable.
>>> 8) *Issue:* Continuity of Executive Branch Natural Resource
>>> Management.
>>> *Desired Outcome:* Full funding for natural resource conservation
>>> functions for Department of Interior (especially US Fish and Wildlife
>>> Service, US National Park Service, and Bureau of Land Management)
>>> Department of Agriculture (US Forest Service and the Farm Bill) and
>>> Department of Energy; cessation of the “reshuffling” of senior leadership
>>> positions among agencies; retain the designations of the National Monuments
>>> currently under “review” by Secretary of the Interior Zinke.
>>> In my recent summer trip to Alaska to visit family, I visited with
>>> former colleagues from the US Fish and Wildlife Service and learned that
>>> the President’s budget as well as statements and actions by the top
>>> administrators in EPA, Energy, and Interior send clear signals of a desire
>>> to significantly damage or eliminate important federal conservation
>>> programs. Interior Secretary Zinke has engaged in a policy of
>>> shuffling occupants of senior leadership positions, removing leaders from
>>> areas of expertise and placing them in positions in other agencies that do
>>> not relate to their experience or training. Clearly, the intent is to
>>> cripple the agencies at the top, create chaos, and stop them from
>>> conducting and disseminating scientifically rigorous science that is
>>> inconvenient to the Administration’s ideology. The extent of this
>>> effort is beyond anything I saw in my 31 year federal career.
>>> I regret the great length of this post. These are incredibly difficult
>>> times. There is so much at stake! Thank you for any help that you can
>>> provide!
>>> Russ Oates (USFWS Alaska, Retired)
>>> Burnsville, NC
>>> --
>>> *Conserve wild things, protect wild places.*
> --
> *Conserve wild things, protect wild places.*

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