New sustainability plan for Washington State Ferries

June 18, 2019 by  
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Washington State Ferries (WSF), the state’s biggest consumer of diesel fuel, has released a two-year action plan for operating the ferry system more sustainably. Washington’s ferries burn more than 18 million gallons of fuel per year, generating more carbon and greenhouse gas emissions than any other component of the state transportation system. The new plan seeks to reduce emissions and waste, improve air quality and protect orca whales. Ferries serve the northwest part of Washington State, linking Seattle, Vancouver, the San Juan Islands and other places that locals and tourists live and visit. “Because we operate our 23 ferries on Puget Sound and manage 20 terminals on its shores, we have an obligation to ensure WSF is doing everything we can to protect our environment,” said Amy Scarton, assistant secretary at Washington State Department of Transportation. “This plan lays out our commitment to tackle these issues and continue our efforts to make Washington’s ferry system the greenest in the world.” Related: Washington becomes the first state to allow human composting To cut down on emissions , the ferries had already decreased speed. Since adopting new speed guidelines in April 2018, they saved about 450,000 gallons in fuel. WSF is now working on hybridization and electrifying the ferry fleet. Local orcas, known as Southern Resident Killer Whales (SRKWs) are listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. Their biggest threats are toxic contaminants , prey availability and disturbance from vessel noise and traffic. WSF has already slowed its vessels in critical orca habitat to reduce noise, and plans to undertake a baseline noise inventory of the ferry fleet. WSF has already begun to remove creosote—which is toxic or carcinogenic to fish, birds, mammals and amphibians —from its facilities, and aims to complete creosote removal by 2021. The ferry system is also installing high efficiency LED fixtures to minimize light spillage. + Washington State Department of Transportation Images via San Juan Islands Visitor Bureau. Photos by Brandon Fralic, Monika Wieland Shields and Western Prince Whale Watching

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Minnesota lawmakers to pay homeowners for bee gardens

May 31, 2019 by  
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New legislation is awaiting Minnesota’s Governor Tim Waltz’s approval to provide financial support for homeowners who want to transform their yards into bee-friendly gardens in an effort to help save the endangered species. The bill will allocate $900,000 and will cover up to 75 percent of the expenses associated with transitioning outdoor space into a flowering garden that attracts the indigenous and endangered rusty patch bumble bee. Like most bees, the rusty patch bumble bee population is declining rapidly. It is indigenous to North America and can be identified by a rusty-colored patch on the back of the male worker bees ’ back. The species has declined by 87 percent over the last two decades mainly due to habitat loss, climate change and pesticide use. The majority of grasslands and prairies have been destroyed or fragmented so the bees cannot find sufficient nectar and pollen to live and reproduce. Climate change also plays a roll in their place on the Endangered Species Act because changing weather patterns limit the time frame the bees have to harvest pollen, hibernate and nest. And finally, chemical fertilizers and pesticides absorbed directly from flowering crops or indirectly through pollen, are devastating populations. Related: Last male Sumatran rhino in Malaysia dies States like Michigan, Minnesota, the Dakotas, Wisconsin and Montana have all implemented programs that encourage landowners to attract and host these important pollinators. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recommends planting flowering plants wherever possible in your yard and patio. Their list of preferred plants includes wild roses and geraniums, milkweeds, thistles, plums, cherries and willows. They also recommend sticking with native plant varieties and removing invasives as soon as possible. Since rusty patch bumble bees nest in the ground– typically in undisturbed soil and rodent burrows– they also recommend that farmers leave some untouched land. As unbowed, brushy and un-tilled areas give the bees a space to live and reproduce. Via The Hill Image via Nottmpictures

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Philippine students must plant 10 trees to graduate, new law says

May 31, 2019 by  
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The Philippine Senate passed a new law passed this month requiring all students to plant 10 trees in order to graduate. The program would total about 525 billion trees planted across one generation of students. The “Graduation Legacy for the Environment Act,” championed by Congressman Gary Alejano encourages inter-generational collaboration and responsibility for the future of the environment. The Act encompasses 12 million elementary school graduates, 5 million high school graduates and half a million college graduates every year . Related: English tree planting challenge will help plant 130,000 trees “While we recognize the right of the youth to a balanced and healthy ecology …there is no reason why they cannot be made to contribute in order to ensure that this will be an actual reality,” said Congressman Gary Alejano. Local nonprofits will assist with the implementation of the new legislation by selecting indigenous tree species and site locations. According to the Act, trees will only be planted in mangroves, existing forests, protected areas, military ranges, abandoned mining sites and urban areas. The nonprofits will also establish nurseries to ensure the stock of trees can keep up with the annual surge in demand. The Philippines is recognized as a highly deforested country. Nearly 25 million acres of forest cover was cut down in just 50 years between 1938 and 1988, primarily for the logging industry. Throughout the entire 20th century, forest cover dropped from 70 percent of land to just 20 percent. Without trees to stabilize the ground and coastline, communities and urban areas are at elevated risk for flooding and landslides. Congressman Alejano is confident that even if only 10 percent of the trees survive, the widespread planting will result in at least 525 million additional trees. Furthermore, students will learn the valuable lesson that they must be part of the solution to protect the environment for their future and for their children’s future. Via Bored Panda Image via Exchanges Photos

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Philippine students must plant 10 trees to graduate, new law says

Earth911 Quiz #58: Endangered Species and Biodiversity

April 25, 2019 by  
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Species are going extinct at an accelerated and dangerous rate. … The post Earth911 Quiz #58: Endangered Species and Biodiversity appeared first on Earth911.com.

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Earth911 Quiz #58: Endangered Species and Biodiversity

Court allows Trump’s border wall to violate several conservation acts

February 15, 2019 by  
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Donald Trump is moving forward with the construction of his controversial border wall, even if it means sidestepping important environmental laws. A federal judge ruled in favor of Trump’s wall construction along California’s southern border, a project that is expected to violate several conservation acts. The federal court ruled that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has the power to wave environmental laws in the construction of the border wall, including the National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act and the Clean Air Act. The majority opinion argued that the Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 gives the DHS power to ignore certain laws when it comes to border security. Related: 10 species at risk of extinction under the Trump administration “Because the projects are statutorily authorized and DHS has waived the environmental laws California and the environmental groups seek to enforce, we affirm the district court’s grant of summary judgment to DHS,” Judge M. Margaret McKeown said. According to EcoWatch , environmentalists and conservation groups attempted to stop the construction of the border wall in 2017. Building the prototypes for the structure has already violated at least 37 regulations in San Diego County. Once construction begins, environmentalists predict that more than 90 endangered species could be harmed by the time the wall is complete. California is not the only state facing an environmental crisis. Texas is also getting ready to start construction of its border wall , and conservation groups are worried about how the wall will affect one of the most successful butterfly sanctuaries in the country: the National Butterfly Center . A 5-mile portion of the wall will cut through the heart of the property, which has environmentalists worried about how it will affect the 200 variations of butterflies that call the sanctuary home. This includes the monarch, black swallowtail and the Mexican bluewing. Conservation groups are currently attempting to stall construction of the wall in Texas as they scramble to figure out a solution. The Trump administration has hailed the new court decision as a major victory in its effort to secure the border. The White House has not, however, addressed how building the border wall will break dozens of environmental laws and potentially harm endangered species. Via EcoWatch Image via Melissa McMasters

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Conchs in the Bahamas could be extinct in 10 years

January 24, 2019 by  
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The Bahamas is famous for its large conch population, but some studies claim that could change significantly over the next decade if the archipelago doesn’t start enforcing its laws and introduce stricter regulations. Overfishing has devastated many of the Bahamian conch communities, and it is making reproduction so difficult, the sea slug could be extinct within 10 years. This would be devastating to Bahamian tradition and culture, not to mention the economic impact on the fishing industry. According to the Matador Network , about 9,000 fishermen, which is about 2 percent of the population, depend on the conch fishery. These sluggish sea creatures move too slowly to mate in just pairs. Instead, it’s safer for them to mate in groups, with at least 50 others nearby. But many of the Bahamian conch communities are below critical levels. Related: 60% of wild coffee species are now threatened with extinction The conchs in the Florida Keys suffered the same fate more than four decades ago. Back in 1975, the once abundant conch population went extinct because of overfishing. Now, the Bahamas are facing the same problem, because the nation has some of the most lenient fishing regulations in the Caribbean. However, the Bahamas’ Department of Marine Resources announced on January 13 that it would be ending exports and increasing its regulatory staff in an effort to protect the conchs . There could be some push-back according to Shelly Cant-Woodside, the director of science and policy for the Bahamas National Trust. “We’re not used to regulations or enforcement,” Cant-Woodside told National Geographic . Because the conch industry is the only source of income for many residents of the Bahamas, they might not welcome new restrictions. Right now, the fishermen can legally fish adult conchs after they have had enough time to reproduce. But the Bahamas’ Department of Marine Resources will enforce this rule more strictly by recommending a mandatory minimum shell thickness. Biologist Any Kough said that the new recommendation is encouraging, and it is a “clear sign” that the department is aware of the troubles the conch population is facing in the Bahamas. Via Matador Network and National Geographic Image via Briana Baud

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Shark fins still being sold in US restaurants amid ban

January 24, 2019 by  
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Shark finning has sparked numerous controversies for the horrible act of animal cruelty that has led to the banning of shark finning in 12 U.S. states. However, the ban is so difficult to effectively enforce that some restaurants in at least 10 of the states still manage to have shark fins on their menus, and some are starting to question if the ban is worth it. Shark finning — the act of slicing fins off live sharks and throwing the wounded shark into the ocean , where they sink and eventually die of suffocation and blood loss — became illegal in U.S. waters back in 2000. Yet, shark fins have been making their way to the states from countries that don’t ban the practice and catch sharks. Although the Animal Welfare Institute in Washington D.C. — who supports the national shark fin ban — updates their yearly list of establishments that serve shark fin soup, restaurants are still featuring the infamous soup on the their menus. According to National Geographic ,  shark fin soup is a “status dish in Asian countries” and has a long history dating back to the Song Dynasty. Currently, the soup is traditionally served at wedding receptions as a sign of respect for guests. Related: Nine more states join seismic blasting lawsuit against the Trump administration The “luxury dish” is prepared by boiling the shark fins and removing the skin and meat. The softened protein fiber that is left behind is then shredded and put into the soup. Trying to ban this item from restaurants is proving to be a major problem for U.S. enforcement agencies due to understaffing. Not to mention, making a case against shark fin vendors can be difficult since the trade is mostly underground, like illegal drugs. “I know it’s going on, I know it’s out there,” says San Francisco marine warden William O’Brien. “But it’s a very private matter — it’s not the kind of thing that, you know, people are selling to the public.” To make matters worse, the fines and jail sentences for violating the ban are usually light and don’t deter the practice. Via National Geographic Images via Shutterstock

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60% of wild coffee species are now threatened with extinction

January 17, 2019 by  
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When people think of threatened and endangered species, charismatic animals like tigers and giant pandas are usually top of mind. But climate change  really hits home when it lands in your morning mug. Coffea arabica , the wild relative of the world’s favorite coffee, has hit the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. According to a study done by scientists at England’s Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew , 60 percent of wild coffee species risk extinction. The culprits? Climate change, deforestation, pests and fungal pathogens. Kew scientists undertook their research in African forests and on the island of Madagascar. Their computer models predict that by the end of the century, climate change could decrease the land now used for Ethiopian coffee production by 60 percent. Ethiopia is Africa’s largest coffee exporter — the annual export value tops $1 billion — and the birthplace of Arabica coffee. The wild Arabica coffee is a vital seed stock for coffee farmers. Related: Champagne could lose its classic taste due to climate change This is bad news for coffee lovers, the multi-billion dollar coffee industry and the farmers who depend on the crop for their livelihood. “Among the coffee species threatened with extinction are those that have potential to be used to breed and develop the coffees of the future, including those resistant to disease and capable of withstanding worsening climatic condition,” said Aaron Davis, head of coffee research at Kew. “The use and development of wild coffee resources could be key to the long-term sustainability of the coffee sector.” The Kew study is the first IUCN Red List assessment of the extinction risk to coffee worldwide. “A figure of 60 percent of all coffee species threatened with extinction is extremely high, especially when you compare this to a global estimate of 22 percent for plants,” said Eimear Nic Lughadha, senior research leader in Kew’s conservation department and lead scientist for Kew’s plant assessment unit. “Some of the coffee species assessed have not been seen in the wild for more than 100 years, and it is possible that some may already be extinct. We hope this new data will highlight species to be prioritized for the sustainability of the coffee production sector so that appropriate action can be taken to safeguard their future.” + Kew Images via Emma Sage and Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew

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Iguanas reintroduced to island after 200 years

January 15, 2019 by  
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In 1835, Charles Darwin was the last person to officially see a land iguana on Santiago Island in the Galapagos. After that encounter, predators like the feral pig wiped the lizard population out of that location. Now — nearly two centuries later —  an initiative by the Galapagos National Park authority has reintroduced more than 1,400 land iguanas (Conolophus subcristatus) back to Santiago Island. Authorities said in a recent statement that on January 3 and 4, the land iguanas were taken from neighboring North Seymour Island and introduced to the coastal regions Puerto Nuevo and Bucanero, which have similar ecosystems to the iguanas’ former home. The Galapagos Conservation Trust says that the archipelago’s land iguana population suffered when species like cats, rats, dogs and pigs were introduced. Those species prey on baby iguanas and eggs, plus they compete for food. Some cats even target adult iguanas up to four years old. But, the last feral pig on Santiago Island was eradicated in 2000 as part of the Galapagos Conservancy’s Project Isabela, and the island became officially pig-free in 2004. Related: Endangered green and loggerhead turtles make Mediterranean comeback The Santiago Island iguana reintroduction initiative was in due to depleting vegetation on North Seymour Island, which was threatening also a main threat to the food source of more than 5,000 iguanas. However, some lizards did remain to avoid compromising the existing vegetation . “The land iguana is a herbivore that helps ecosystems by dispersing seeds and maintaining open areas free from vegetation,” says Galapagos ecosystems director Danny Rueda. Authorities will continue to monitor the iguanas that have been reintroduced to the Galapagos island in order to determine if the iguanas are properly adapting and creating nests, and also to see if they are finding necessary food. They will also keep a close eye on newer species found on the island, such as rodents and ants, to make sure they are not disturbing the iguanas’ nests. Galapagos National Park Director Jorge Carrión said on Twitter that reintroducing the iguanas to Santiago Island was “great news for #Galapagos, for #Ecuador, and the world.” Via CNN Image by 8moments

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10 species at risk of extinction under the Trump administration

January 2, 2019 by  
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The Endangered Species Coalition has released a report titled  Extinction Plan: Ten Species Imperiled by the Trump Administration , which outlines the possible impact of the current administration’s anti-wildlife policy stances. The report highlighted the 10 species that are in the most danger because of proposed new regulations as well as the specific changes that put these animals at risk. California Condor The California Condor has a 10-foot wingspan, making it one of the largest land birds in North America. These birds can reach altitudes of 15,000 feet and speeds up to 55 miles per hour. They are a critically endangered species, with fewer than 500 left, after flying in the skies of the western U.S. and Mexico for thousands of years. Most California Condors die in the wild from lead poisoning, and when the population shrank to less than 30 back in 1982, survivors were captured and put in breeding facilities. By 2017, more than 290 were flying free in the wild, with another 173 in the breeding program. However, on his first day in office, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke rolled back legislation from the Obama administration that banned the use of lead ammunition in critical condor habitat. This could be a catastrophic action that might lead to the end of the California Condor. Leatherback and Loggerhead Sea Turtles Both of these sea turtles can swim for thousands of miles, and they help maintain balance in their ocean habitat while providing essential nutrients to the beaches where they nest. Both types are protected by the Endangered Species Act (ESA), but they are also vulnerable to human activity. Each year, thousands are snared in fishing nets and die, and climate change is hitting their homes hard. Related: Study finds microplastics in sea turtles around the world The Trump Administration’s proposed new regulations give leeway when it comes to how a habitat is or isn’t protected. If those regulations do kick in, the Fish and Wildlife Service can ignore protections in that habitat altogether, and the leatherbacks and loggerheads could lose their fragile beach nesting grounds entirely. Red Wolf Red wolves were declared extinct in the wild back in 1980. But after a successful experimental breeding program, they were reintroduced in North Carolina in 1987. The red wolf is on the edge of extinction again, with fewer than 30 left in the wild. The only place in the world that you can find red wolves is in a five-county area in North Carolina. Under proposed regulations from the Trump Administration, the delisting of the red wolf could be justified, even though scientists are still investigating their genetics. This would be a fatal blow to the species. Hellbender This ancient salamander is slimy and mud-brown or speckled gray, like a river rock. It has flappy skinfolds on the entire length of its body, lidless eyes that keep it from seeing much of anything and chubby toes for clinging to the river bottom. It also has a superb sense of smell. Hellbenders live solitary lives under a single boulder, and they never relocate. They do not pose any threat to humans and are a vital indicator of water quality, because they thrive in clean streams but deteriorate when their habitat does. Because the Trump Administration’s proposed regulations include economic analysis in their listing decisions, it could mean the end for the hellbender. The economics of mining, logging and fossil fuel extraction could cloud a listing for this species, and those businesses could also damage the hellbender’s habitat beyond repair. Giraffe The world’s tallest animal with 6-foot-long legs and a 6-foot-long neck, the giraffe is a highly social animal that roams in groups called towers. Their patterned coats are unique, just like fingerprints, and the animal is emblematic of Africa’s savanna. Hunting and habitat encroachment have reduced the population by 30 percent in the last three decades, and the animal appears to have gone extinct in seven countries. The two biggest threats are a growing trade in giraffe parts and trophy hunting; however, this animal is not protected internationally or by the Endangered Species Act. Related: Trump administration wants to allow “extreme and cruel” hunting methods in Alaska To make matters worse, Zinke created an International Wildlife Conservation Council full of NRA members that is promoting and expanding international trophy hunting. President Trump has not responded to a request to add the giraffe to the Endangered Species list. At this point, fewer than 100,000 are left. Humboldt Marten Related to the mink, the Humboldt marten is the size of a kitten. It is a stealthy hunter that lives deep in the forests of Northern California and Southern Oregon. This animal is so secretive, there is only a handful of photos in existence, and they were taken by remote-sensing cameras. At one time, the species was thought to be extinct until it was rediscovered in 1996. But only four separated populations remain, and humans have put them at risk by trapping them for their fur and logging in their rainforest habitat. Fewer than 400 are left, but it is not on the endangered species list and receives no federal protection. The Trump Administration finally proposed to list the Humboldt marten under the ESA but only to classify it as threatened. Under the new proposed regulations, a species classified as threatened no longer receives the same protections as those classified as endangered. There is also a special rule that exempts logging operations, which means the Humboldt marten population could vanish entirely. Rusty Patched Bumble Bee This species was the first bee in the continental U.S. to be listed under the ESA. That was a challenge all its own, because the paperwork was delayed on President Trump’s first day in office when his administration put a hold on the protections just before the bee was supposed to be listed. It finally made the list in 2017, but the Trump Administration’s proposed regulations prioritize the protection of habitat currently occupied by the species. This is a problem, because the rusty patched bumble bee has vanished from nearly 90 percent of their historic range due to disease, habitat degradation and use of pesticides . The bee needs that historic habitat to recover. If there are no safeguards for the habitat these bees once called home, it could have deadly consequences. West Indian Manatee This fully-aquatic, plant-eating mammal has some interesting relatives. At one end there is the elephant, and at the other, there is the hyrax. Manatees weigh around a thousand pounds and can live up to 60 years old. They have no natural enemies … except for humans. Manatees get hacked by propellers, smashed in watercraft collisions, drowned in canal locks and tortured and killed when they eat fish hooks, litter and lines. The biggest threat to the manatee is habitat loss thanks to red tides, algae blooms and pollution . But this didn’t stop the Trump Administration from downlisting the West Indian Manatee from endangered to threatened. The new rules also ignore impacts to habitat unless those impacts occur across the entire habitat and affect the whole species. With the manatees having such a scattered population, their habitat won’t get necessary protections. San Bernardino Kangaroo Rat This little rodent has specialized fur-lined face pouches that allow them to cache seeds in their cheeks until their face almost bursts. The San Bernardino Kangaroo Rat is about four inches long, and its tail is longer than its body. Their survival depends on natural cycles of wet and dry, and they never have to take a drink. They get all of their moisture from food, which comes from plants that mature at the perfect time and produce seeds at the right rate. Green vegetation stimulates their reproduction, but it has to be in moderation. There is a fragile wet/dry balance that human activities have messed up with mining, dam building and residential and commercial development. The new regulations from the Trump Administration would require less consultation between agencies, which means they can ignore the impact of what they do to their surroundings. Something as simple as a new road can mess up the rat’s wet and dry life, leading to extinction. Western Yellow-Billed Cuckoo This bird loves where the water meets the woods, and they often avoid detection even when they are out hunting caterpillars and other prey. One researcher once watched a Western Yellow-Billed Cuckoo for an entire hour waiting for him to budge, but he didn’t. In addition to hiding in plain sight, this bird is disappearing altogether. There are only about 2,000 left, and the species was listed under the ESA in 2014. But the bird needs habitat protections. It is now being reviewed for delisting, and the new regulations from the Trump Administration could kill the recovery plan. This could end up being a fast-track to extinction . + Endangered Species Coalition Images via U.S. Department of State , U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ( 1 , 2 , 3 , 4 , 5 ), Red Wolf Recovery Program , Brian Gratwicke , Charles J. Sharp , Nbonzey and Mark Linnell / U.S. Forest Service

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10 species at risk of extinction under the Trump administration

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