Bush’s Stealth Attack – Mountaintop Removal Mining

The Bush Administration, as it limps along in lame duck mode, has quietly begun proceedings to soften all kinds of environmental, wildlife and conservation regulations. Issues such as mountaintop removal coal mining in Appalachia, the public’s ability to provide input on national forest decisions and the de-listing of the gray wolf from the Endangered Species List are on the administration’s attack list. Completely irrelevant in the foreign affairs arena, sinking to lower job approval percentages every day with the American public and ineffective with Congress, Bush and his administration are now isolated and can do the only thing left — modify departmental regulations.

Photo by Vivian Stockman, Oct. 19, 2003

Photo courtesy Vivian Stockman/www.ohvec.org, Oct. 19, 2003; flyover courtesy SouthWings.org

This is the first of a multi-post series addressing these issues. I hope to raise your awareness of the issues as well as invite you to learn more and then SPEAK OUT, write a letter to the editor, join or contribute to an advocacy group, call your congressmen regarding the administration’s actions and methods, just do something!

Mountaintop removal mining has become a critical battleground for both environmental and fish and wildlife advocates as they desperately fight the coal industry which has the blessing and regulatory backing of the Bush Administration. The stated opposition to this mining procedure by both presidential candidates, Barack Obama and John McCain, has motivated the current administration to rush through and lock in pro-industry regulation modifications.

Here is the case brief on mountaintop removal from EarthJustice:

Mountaintop removal is one of the most environmentally destructive activities in the country. The Army Corps of Engineers has issued permits for four mines that will dump millions of tons of rock and debris into nearby streams and valleys, burying them forever. The permits were issued without the required environmental studies and impact statements. On March 23, 2007, a federal judge agreed and rescinded the permits.

That was in 2007. In 2008 the Bush Administration, along with energy and coal industry groups, is appealing earlier court rulings with hopes of reversal which will allow mining companies to proceed. The Administration’s motto seems to be that they never found an environmental or conservation rule yet that they can’t or at least won’t try to at least soften if not do away with completely. The New York Times editorial on Oct. 20, 2008 gives more information and part of the disturbing history of the Administration regarding mountaintop mining, and the latest proposal that has come from the Interior Department’s Office of Surface Mining.

Do you think this is only an Appalachian problem? Do you think that because you live far away from West Virginia and the other Appalachian states threatened by this devastating form of mining that it doesn’t involve you and therefore you don’t need to be involved? Go to ilovemountains.org and type in your zip code. You’ll be surprised. I live in Utah, a coal producing state in its own right, but when I saw my own connections to mountaintop removal coal I determined to do something, anything.

The effects of this mining process are multiple, negative and permanent. To physically remove the tops of the mountains destroys habitat, forest, natural drainage. Filling the valleys pollutes water, kills streams, destroys communities. Processing creates air and water pollution. All of these combine and destroy in a matter of months a mountain system that took natural systems hundreds of millions of years to create. I refuse to accept that “we need the coal, we need the energy from the coal.” There MUST be a better way. This process, from a human perspective, destroys permanently. The mountains will never be the same; the streams and valleys will never be the same; this is their end. It is more than rape, it is murder.

From Stopmountaintopremoval.org

From Stopmountaintopremoval.org

Please learn more about this issue and speak out to your congressmen, to advocacy groups, to your power company, to anyone because this last photo is what these mountains, valleys and streams are supposed to look like.

Originally printed in the Appalachian Voice, June 2005, photo by Kent Kessinger

Originally printed in the Appalachian Voice, June 2005, photo by Kent Kessinger

Here are some useful links for more information:

Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition

West Virginia Highlands Voice

EarthJustice

Stop Mountaintop Removal

I love Mountains

Photos: iLoveMountains.org

Wolves Back on the List!

Have you heard the latest on the delisting of the gray wolves?  The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the agency responsible for the well-being of fish and wildlife had removed the wolf from the Endangered Species List (ESL) in March.  That action resulted in the immediate killing of wolves in Wyoming and Montana, a subsequent response of outrage from environmentalists and wildlife advocates, and a temporary court order against the decision.  Now the same agency that removed wolves from the ESL is asking the court to vacate their decision so they can study the issue more deeply.  One may ask why they didn’t think of that sooner???

Jim Robbins of the New York Times wrote in his article, “The reconsideration of the listing was not related to a recently announced decline in the wolf population in the Rockies. Wildlife officials counted 1,455 animals this summer, down from 1,545 a year ago. It was the first drop in more than 10 years, and officials said they were not sure why.”

by National Geographic Photographer Joel Sartore

by National Geographic Photographer Joel Sartore

Previous posts & other gray wolf links:

Not So Fast

Endangered No Longer–Oh Wait!

The Wolf Den

National Wildlife Federation

Defenders of Wildlife

Sierra Club

Not So Fast!

This is part II of the story.
For part I, see “Endangered No Longer — Oh Wait!” April 12, 2008.

For part III of the story, see “Wolves Back on the List,” September 30, 2008.

In response to a lawsuit filed by Defenders of Wildlife, the Sierra Club and other environmental organizations a Federal District Court judge has reinstated the gray wolf’s endangered list status (link to the NY Times article for more information). It seems that there were many of us who were outraged by the decision earlier in the year to take them off the list. Within days of their removal from the Endangered Species List four gray wolves had been shot by Wyoming ranchers, within 61 days sixty-nine wolves had been killed and hunts scheduled for fall 2008 in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming would have allowed five hundred wolves to be killed. According to an article posted on the website for Defenders of Wildlife, Idaho’s state code would allow the killing of a wolf for “merely annoying or worrying livestock.” The State of Wyoming, as part of the plan approved by Fish and Wildlife Service, had proposed maintaining only eight breeding pairs of gray wolves instead of fifteen breeding pairs as required by the federal government.

This issue is not over; this decision can be reversed and you can be sure that the states listed above who were supported by rancher and cattleman associations and the National Rifle Association will be pushing back.

I used this photo on an earlier blogpost and decided to use it again because it is magnificent. In the first post I neglected to give credit to the photographer, Gary Kramer.

Kramer, Gary, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Image Source: Kramer, Gary, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Other links for information on wolves:

The Wolf Den

National Wildlife Federation

Defenders of Wildlife

Sierra Club

Endangered No Longer — Oh Wait!

This is Part I of three entries (so far) on the Endangered Species List status of the gray wolf.

For part II of the story, see “Not So Fast,” July 29, 2008.

For part III of the story, see “Wolves Back on the List,” September 30, 2008.

As you may already know, gray wolves were recently removed from the Endangered Species list. As expected, the great Wyoming hunters took immediate action to protect themselves, their herds of livestock and the deer and elk that they love to hunt and shot and killed four wolves. What a difference a day makes. Can you imagine the angst of the hunters that has built up over the last many years when those nasty wolves could just do whatever they wanted and the hunter just had to stand by and let them? Well, no longer! The delisting of the wolves meant that states took over control of the species. If you go to the article, you read that the wolves had been hanging around a state-managed elk feeding station. So, if I understand this correctly, we feed the elk so we can shoot them and then shoot the wolf who is a natural predator of and might kill the elk that we would shoot. Gotta love the logic.

Want a way to express the distaste you may feel? Friederike Kolbay offers a viable solution: “Save a wolf. Boycott Wyoming.”

Thanks, Mr. Kolbay, I think I will.

(Great site for pics and info on wolves.)