[1THING] Blog

[ 8 Thanksgiving-flavored wild spots ]

Thanksgiving is an ideal time to express gratitude for the good fortune in our lives as well as to stop and appreciate the incredible legacy of our wild public lands.

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[ Study: polar bears declined 40 percent in past decade ]

A study published last week in Ecological Applications has shown that polar bear populations in the southern Beaufort Sea region has declined by 40 percent.

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[ In Climate Talks, Spotlight Turns to India ]

India’s new leader talks about protecting nature, but what will he do about global warming?

[ Veterans: Congress must fund vital conservation program ]

Retired generals, veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and U.S.

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[ New Mapping Project Details the Importance of Wilderness for Migrating Elk, Moose and Other Wildlife ]

Michael Reinemer

Designated wilderness areas provide important habitat for five migratory big-game species, according to a first-of-its-kind mapping project involving wildlife researchers at the University of Wyoming and cartographers at the University of Oregon.

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[ A new settlement could protect some of Colorado’s most biologically rich public lands ]

A recent legal agreement should settle a long battle over whether or not to allow drilling on the highest lands of the plateau.

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[ Berkeley’s Guilt Trip: Driving Hurts the Planet ]

Car heads north on U.S. 101 on December 26, 2010. (Garrett/Flickr)

Car heads north on U.S. 101 on December 26, 2010. (Garrett/Flickr)

Leave it to Berkeley, a liberal bastion in northern California that’s taken pioneering steps to tax sugary drinks and ban Styrofoam takeout containers. It’s now moving forward with a novel way to address climate change: make people feel guilty about driving.

This week, in a 7-2 vote, its City Council approved a draft ordinance that would require warning labels at fueling stations, even electric-charging ones. The labels would link driving to greenhouse gas emissions and global warming. Their message: a car’s burning of  fossil fuels hurts the planet.

“These labels are analogous to the health warnings placed on cigarettes,” Max Gomberg, chairman of the the city’s Community Environmental Advisory Commission, wrote in a memo that notes his group got the idea from the non-profit environmental activist group 350.org. He said making information about the link between driving and heat-trapping carbon dioxide emissions “available at the point of purchase may contribute to behavioral changes to reduce motorized vehicle use.”

Gomberg said Berkeley is falling behind its target of reducing residents’ carbon emissions 33 percent from 2000 levels by 2020, saying it’s only 8 percent of the way there so far. So he said “more action is needed.”

Even in Berkeley, there was opposition. “The city’s proposal compels speech in violation of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution,” Catherine Reheis-Boyd, president of the Western States Petroleum Association,  wrote in a June letter to the city. She said: “Far less restrictive means exist to disseminate this information to the general public without imposing onerous restrictions on the businesses.”

Gomberg, noting the oil-lobbying group has threatened a lawsuit, said the costs of the labels would be minimal and partially offset by penalties against stations that fail to post them.. To cut implementation costs, he said the program would not require inspections but would follow up on verified public complaints. Before the council casts a final vote, however, the city’s attorney will try to craft legally defensible language for the proposal that won approval Tuesday.

Not to be outdone, San Francisco is drafting a similar ordinance that its Board of Supervisors could approve next year.  In fact, Berkeley is looking to use the same label language that’s being considered by its Bay Area neighbor: “The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has determined that a typical passenger vehicle burning one gallon of fuel produces on average almost 20 pounds of tailpipe carbon dioxide (CO2), which the EPA has determined is the primary greenhouse gas that is contributing to recent climate change. This is a message from the City and County of San Francisco.”

[ Wilderness advocates applaud BLM’s denial of solar project in California’s Silurian Valley ]

Annette Kondo

The following statement can be attributed to Sally Miller, a senior California conservation representative of The Wilderness Society:

[ Wilderness advocates applaud BLM decision to deny large-scale solar development application in Silurian Valley ]

The Bureau of Land Management in California has taken a great step forward with its decision to protect a special part of the desert by denying an application for a large-scale solar project in the remote Silurian Valley.

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[ A Slew of Coal Plants Get New Lease on Life—With Gas ]

Several aging coal plants are being reconfigured to burn natural gas.