Archive for the ‘Author: Cherney, D.’ Category

Wolf Conservation in Greater Yellowstone

April 16th, 2009

Posted by: admin

In yesterday’s Daily Camera, columnist Clay Evans wrote an editorial criticizing Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar for delisting wolves from the Endangered Species Act in Idaho and Montana. My critique of Evans’ position was printed in today’s Letter to the Editor:

Clay Evans’ editorial “Delist Wolves: Not So Fast” (Camera, April 15) does a good job of summarizing the most recent incident in a more than 100-year struggle over how wolves should be managed in greater Yellowstone and who gets to decide. However, the focus on Ken Salazar’s decision to delist wolves from the Endangered Species Act is a distraction from the real issue.

It is often asserted — as Evans does — that there are two types of people: those for wolves and those against. While this dichotomy is a convenient explanation for storytelling, a number of studies demonstrate that the public holds a wide range of attitudes towards wolves. Framing the political debate as “yes” or “no” is inaccurate and serves to perpetuate this 100-year conflict.

The most promising long-term solution for wolves is not protection under the Endangered Species Act. Rather, we must reduce the political intensity of wolf management and develop co-existence strategies. Wolves deserve a future no matter who is in political power. The best place to start is where human-wolf conflict actually occurs on the ground. Hint: The real issue occurs far from Washington D.C.

Is the “Death of Environmentalism” becoming mainstream environmentalism?

October 23rd, 2008

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James “Gus” Speth just published an article in Yale Environment 360 critical of modern environmentalism. Speth’s argument is particularly notable due to his prominence within mainstream environmentalism. Gus founded the World Resources Institute (WRI), co-founded the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), and is currently the dean of Yale University’s School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. Speth is careful to highlight the successes of the past, but argues environmentalism must develop a new politics to succeed. Sound familiar?

A specter is haunting American environmentalism — the specter of failure.

All of us who have been part of the environmental movement in the United States must now face up to a deeply troubling paradox: Our environmental organizations have grown in strength and sophistication, but the environment has continued to go downhill, to the point that the prospect of a ruined planet is now very real. How could this have happened?

Before addressing this question and what can be done to correct it, two points must be made. First, one shudders to think what the world would look like today without the efforts of environmental groups and their hard-won victories in recent decades. However serious our environmental challenges, they would be much more so had not these people taken a stand in countless ways. And second, despite their limitations, the approaches of modern-day environmentalism remain essential: Right now, they are the tools readily at hand with which to address many pressing problems, including global warming and climate disruption. Despite the critique of American environmentalism that follows, these points remain valid…


Why shouldn’t we expect nonprofits to ‘push politics?’

October 9th, 2008

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In this week’s Denver Post, there is a series of articles criticizing the Colorado Democracy Alliance. The articles insinuate impropriety among a loose collection of left-leaning nonprofits. The reporter, Jessica Fender, argues in her article “Progressive gang uses nonprofits to push politics”:

Colorado’s best-known progressive donors are advancing their political and ideological agenda through a web of advocacy and nonprofit groups, many of which claim nonpartisanship and receive tax exemptions.

The 37 organizations that collectively receive millions at the direction of the Colorado Democracy Alliance (CoDA) serve unique purposes in the progressive power brokers’ toolbox.

They build voting blocs, provide policy research, shape media communications, train progressive leaders or encourage civic engagement, according to the alliance’s organizing documents.

She continues in a second article:

The model, which appears to legally skirt federal regulations that prevent coordination between candidate campaigns and issue groups, has proved so successful at turning a red state blue that it could cause nationwide change as 18 other states prepare to adopt it.

While Ms. Fender might not like the outcome, what is wrong with a nonprofit engaging in politics?

Yes, there are a number of laws that restrict nonprofit behavior in politics. A 501(c)(3) nonprofit — the most restrictive tax designation – cannot support specific candidates for office, contribute to political campaigns, or tell its members how to vote.

However, 501(c)(3) organizations can engage in issue advocacy, sponsor talk by candidates, and attempt to persuade candidates to adopt the organization’s position. Certainly, these are political activities!

Do environmentalists need a new politics?

October 1st, 2008

Posted by: admin

Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger argue in their book Break Through that environmentalists need to transition from a ‘politics of limits’ to a ‘politics of possibilities:’

Through their stories, institutions, and policies, environmentalists constantly reinforce the sense that nature is something separate from, and victimized by, humans. This paradigm defines ecological problems as the inevitable consequences of humans violating nature. Think of the verbs associated with environmentalism and conservation: “stop,” “restrict,” “prevent,” “regulate,” and “constrain.” All of them direct our thinking to stopping the bad, not creating the good.

…we must choose between a resentful narrative of tragedy and a grateful narrative of over coming.

In yesterday’s Los Angeles Times, Nordhaus and Shellenberger illustrate this argument with a practical example of how a politics of possibilities might be more effective than the status quo.

As the election enters its endgame, Democrats and their environmental allies face a political challenge they could hardly have imagined just a few months ago. America’s growing dependence on fossil fuels, once viewed as a Democratic trump card held alongside the Iraq war and the deflating economy, has become a lodestone instead. Republicans stole the energy issue from Democrats by proposing expanded drilling — particularly lifting bans on offshore oil drilling — to bring down gasoline prices. Whereas Barack Obama told Americans to properly inflate their tires, Republicans at their convention gleefully chanted “Drill, baby, drill!” Obama’s point on conservation and efficiency was lost on an electorate eager for a solution to what they perceive as a supply crisis…


Ensuring Yellowstone’s Future

September 26th, 2008

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Todd Wilkinson, author of Science Under Siege: The Politicians’ War on Nature and Truth, gave Professor Susan G. Clark’s new book Ensuring Greater Yellowstone’s Future: Choices for Leaders and Citizens a rave review in this week’s Jackson Hole News and Guide. For the last five years, I have worked on natural resource issues in the Yellowstone region. I could not agree more with Todd’s assessment of the book. Of course, my opinion has nothing to do with the fact Susan was my master’s degree advisor. ;-)

Compared with pulp fiction or even the latest sleaze in the National Enquirer, books that are written about the operational process of government bureaucracies often make a strong case for the virtue of narcolepsy.

What I mean to say is show me a dry scientific treatise on the topic of administering Western public land management agencies, and I’ll find you readers who would rather be waterboarded than crack open the pages.

Despite its unflashy title, Ensuring Greater Yellowstone’s Future: Choices for Leaders and Citizens by Susan Clark, founder of the Jackson-based Northern Rockies Conservation Cooperative and adjunct professor of environmental policy at Yale University, is actually a barn burner.

It’s one of the best books ever written about the major jurisdictional fiefdoms the National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Bureau of Reclamation, Army Corps of Engineers and fish and game departments from three states – that collectively oversee the management of more than 18 million public acres in this famous corner of the American West…


Questions for Senator Inhofe

September 25th, 2008

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Today, Senator Inhofe (R-OK) released a report entitled Political Activity of Environmental Groups and Their Supporting Foundations. This document is an expanded version of a document published in 2004. The report’s general argument is that environmental groups are stealth advocates for the Democratic Party despite that environmental organizations claim to serve public interests:

Environmental activism has become a multibillion dollar industry in the U.S. Campaigns to save the whales or stop mining beg average Americans for their support through donation of their hard earned dollars. These environmental campaigns also receive millions from charitable foundations such as the PEW Foundation, Turner Foundation, and Heinz Foundation. But what most don’t know when they donate to a cause to “save the rainforest” or “save the polar bear” is that their money could end up being used for partisan activities that are only tangentially related, if related at all, to the cause for which they are intended…

…Because of the complicated web of 501(c), 527, and PAC organizations, it is clear that individuals who donate to a 501(c)(3) organization intending to contribute to the cause of the organization, have no clear mechanism for verifying that their donation was used for the cause. Unsuspectingly, these donors may be contributing to partisan activities when they originally intended their donation to aide an environmental cause. Additionally, there is not sufficient oversight over these organization to police their political and campaign activities.

Are contributors to environmental groups really so naïve that they do not understand the political implications of the groups they donate to? I doubt it.


A Call to Reinvigorate Environmentalism…

September 23rd, 2008

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I recently came across an interesting article by Jeffrey St.Clair published in February 2007. St.Clair is a progressive journalist/activist and is an outspoken critic of the effectiveness of environmental NGOs:

A kind of political narcolepsy has settled over the American environmental movement. Call it eco-ennui. You may know the feeling: restlessness, lack of direction, evaporating budgets, diminished expectations, a simmering discontent. The affliction appears acute, possibly systemic…

…this much is clear: the vigor of the environmental movement has been dissipated, drained by the enforced congeniality displayed in our disputes with Clinton and Bush, the Democrats in congress, and the grim, green-suited legions of the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management. Despite the rampages of the Bush administration, the big green groups can’t even rouse themselves into much more than the most reflexive kind of hysteria, fundraising letters printed in bold type…


Will environmentalists miss George Bush?

September 13th, 2008

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No doubt, environmentalists are counting down the days until President Bush leaves office. However, is this parting bittersweet? Consider the following figure on the number of Americans that claim to belong to an environmental organization.

According to this dataset, the number of American’s that belong to an environmental organization correlates with presidential party affiliation; claimed membership is approximately 50% greater during a Republican presidency.


Adaptation Policies for Biodiversity: Facilitated Dispersal

July 18th, 2008

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Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg of Queensland University and colleagues have an important article on “Assisted Colonization and Rapid Climate Change” in this week’s issue of Science (pdf). The author’s argue:

Rapid climatic change has already caused changes to the distributions of many plants and animals, leading to severe range contractions and the extinction of some species (1, 2). The geographic ranges of many species are moving toward the poles or to higher altitudes in response to shifts in the habitats to which these species have adapted over relatively longer periods (1-4). It already appears that some species are unable to disperse or adapt fast enough to keep up with the high rates of climate change (5, 6). These organisms face increased extinction risk, and, as a result, whole ecosystems, such as cloud forests and coral reefs, may cease to function in their current form (7-9).

Current conservation practices may not be enough to avert species losses in the face of mid- to upper-level climate projections (>3°C) (10), because the extensive clearing and destruction of natural habitats by humans disrupts processes that underpin species dispersal and establishment. Therefore, resource managers and policy-makers must contemplate moving species to sites where they do not currently occur or have not been known to occur in recent history. This strategy flies in the face of conventional conservation approaches.

The strategy flies in the face of conventional conservation approaches due to the numerous risks associated with the introduction of invasive species. The authors fully acknowledge these risks.

The world is littered with examples where moving species beyond their current range into natural and agricultural landscapes has had negative impacts. Understandably, notions of deliberately moving species are regarded with suspicion. Our contrary view is that an increased understanding of the habitat requirements and distributions of some species allows us to identify low-risk situations where the benefits of such “assisted colonization’” can be realized and adverse outcomes minimized…

…One of the most serious risks associated with assisted colonization is the potential for creating new pest problems at the target site. Introduced organisms can also carry diseases and parasites or can alter the genetic structure and breeding systems of local populations…

…In addition to the ecological risks, socioeconomic concerns must be considered in decisions to move threatened species. Financial or human safety constraints, for example, may make a species’ introduction undesirable. It is likely to be unacceptable to move threatened large carnivores or toxic plants into regions that are important for grazing livestock…

These risks do not invalidate the authors’ major point. If we want to conserve current biodiversity in a changing climate, we will likely need creative alternatives to current conservation approaches. Facilitated dispersal of species is one option that deserves consideration in specific conservation contexts. However, it is far from a silver bullet.

Conservation Nonprofit Revenue

July 3rd, 2008

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This past week, I aggregated IRS tax data for the top 50 revenue producing conservation nonprofit organizations. I documented over $22.5 billion dollars in combined revenue between 1998 and 2005. The combined assets of these organizations were approximately $8 billion in 2005. To help understand where revenue is flowing, I used a simple classification system. The following pie chart breaks down revenue by sector for the eight year period: