LEGISLATIVE GREEN UPDATE: We welcome Adam Snyder of Conservation Alabama for his biweekly update of the status of eco-related bills under consideration in the Alabama legislature: Forever Wild continues its march toward renewal with another affirmative vote in a Senate committee. Last week, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee again passed the Forever Wild legislation 6-3, but this time it was the House version of the bill. That sets up one final vote for HB126 on the floor of the Senate, expected to come this week. Votes remain tight and a filibuster is likely by some staunch opponents to the most successful program in state history. Support for Forever Wild by the public and the more than 120 organizations signed on in support have not wavered despite the pushback from a vocal few in the state.
AARP held its “Complete Streets Day at the Capitol” last week, including a rally and lobby day around HB342. On April 20, the House Transportation, Utilities and Infrastructure Committee held a public hearing on the bill. While there was general support by the committee for the concept of complete streets–designing and building streets for all users including motorists, pedestrians, bicyclists, and transit riders regardless of age or ability–concerns by ALDOT kept the bill from being voted on.
Two landfill bills moved last week. One that would make a landfill permit denied if a local government doesn’t act on the application within 90 days passed the House 95-0 on April 19. Another bill that would affirm Governor Robert Bentley’s two-year moratorium on landfills in order to further study the way landfills are permitted passed the House 88-0 on April 21.
Finally, a bill that hasn’t gotten much attention that could bring green budgeting to public works projects is awaiting a final vote in the Senate. HB13, sponsored by Rep. Jack Williams, would allow governments to consider the life-cycle costs of public works projects when determining the low bidder.
That means greener products that may have higher upfront costs but are cheaper to operate in the long-term can be considered.
You can follow legislation related to the environment each week on Conservation Alabama’s Hot List at conservationalabama.org.
CONFESS YOUR SINS: Glad Earth Day is over? Sick of being told to be green? Would you like to tell someone that you LOVE pushing your gas pedal to the floor and speeding down an open road in your SUV? Eco-site Grist.org has created what they call an “extra snarky” new web site just for you. Go to www.earthconfessions.com and admit your “sins” against Mother Earth. Among the recent “confessions” at the site are the following: “The only green I care about is the green in my wallet” and “I ate at Big Ed’s Chicken Pit for lunch...off a styrofoam plate...and I liked it.”
IT’S STORY TIME: Beginning Earth Day, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service web site launched a series of 50 stories on 50 consecutive weekdays that will explore the impact that climate change is having on America’s fish and wildlife. According to a news release from the FWS, climate change—along with urbanization, invasive species and water scarcity—is disrupting the natural systems upon which wildlife and people depend. The series of stories will cover 50 states, examining regional challenges posed by climate change. For example, the rising sea along the Atlantic Coast is destroying historical nesting grounds for shorebirds and sea turtles.
The loss of snowpack and changing hydrology in the Pacific Northwest is hurting native trout species. And the deep snow cover in the Northeast on which the Canada lynx depends to shield it from predators may be significantly reduced by rising temperatures in the region. The stories will highlight science-based solutions and collaborative actions that are making a difference for wild things and places. New stories are posted each weekday
U.S. COURTS EVIL, SAYS GREENIE: According to the dude who coordinated the first Earth Day in 1970, radical conservatives are taking over U.S. courts and undermining our environmental protections. In a blog post April 22 at the American Constitution Society web site (www.acslaw.org), Denis Hayes—president and CEO of the Bullitt Foundation and honorary chairman of the Earth Day Network—says we are undergoing “a sea change in environmental law” that “calls out for heightened attention and action.” According to Hayes, “In recent years, our courts have issued rulings undercutting the Clean Water Act, lifting deep water drilling moratoriums, expanding mountain top removal, and weakening other environmental protections.” Hayes says that “right-wing extremists have successfully packed [federal] courts with antienvironmental zealots who ignore legislative intent and scientific evidence.”
SAVE THE PANTHER: Conservation groups in Florida have appealed a federal judge’s ruling earlier this month that upheld a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decision not to protect what is left of the Florida panther’s shrinking habitat among sprawling development in South Florida. According to a release from the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, the Sierra Club and three other groups, they filed the appeal in order to protect critical habitat for the panther, which has been listed as endangered for more than 40 years. The appeal was filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit. “You can’t protect endangered species without protecting the places they live and that’s what needs to happen to give the Florida panther any shot at survival,” according to Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity. For further information on Florida panther mortality rates, go to www.floridapanthernet.org/index.php/pulse.
HE’S THE SHOOTER: An Indiana man has been sentenced in the shooting of a whooping crane, according to a recent news release from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Wade Bennett of Cayuga, Ind., pled guilty March 30 for his involvement in the shooting of a whooping crane that was found dead Dec. 1, 2009, in rural Vermillion County. Bennett and a juvenile received probation, fines and fees. A citizen tip helped investigators from the FWS and the Indiana Department of Natural Resources close the case. (By the way, you have to wonder who the “juvenile” is. “C’mon, Sonny,” Bennett probably told him. “Let’s go kill us some endangered life forms.”) This killing follows the shooting deaths of cranes in Alabama and Georgia early this year, crimes which have not yet been solved, according to the release. The sad thing is that whooping cranes face enough challenges—including disease, habitat destruction and other predators—without people shooting them. According to U.S. government researcher Dr. John French, “With fewer than 400 whooping cranes in the wild, every bird is important in our efforts to keep this species from extinction.” Whooping cranes are protected by state laws, the federal Endangered Species Act and the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act. To learn about FWS wildlife conservation, visit www.fws.gov. For information about whooping crane recovery efforts, visit www. bringbackthecranes.org.
PUT DOWN ROOTS: The drastic population loss suffered in recent decades by Detroit, Mich., the former “Motor City,” is well known. Along with a loss in population, of course, comes the loss of businesses. This includes the closing of grocery stores, which creates what are known as “food deserts.” But green shoots are appearing through cracks in Detroit’s concrete, as people search for a way to make the city a healthy place again and provide good food for its residents. And now there’s a new documentary film that follows Detroit’s urban farming phenomenon. Urban Roots is co produced by Leila Conners and Mathew Schmid and directed by Mark MacInnis. Conners also coproduced the documentary The 11th Hour with Leonardo DiCaprio. The film is being screened as part of Whole Food’s “Do Something Reel” Film Festival, a 70-city traveling eco-themed festival that began April 1, according to a news release from Tree Media Group. Urban Roots tells the story of the rise of urban farming and community agricultural projects that provide locally grown, organic food to residents of the decaying city. The traveling film festival was created to raise awareness of environmental and food issues. For screening locations and dates, visit www.dosomethingreel.com. For more information about Urban Roots, visit www. urbanrootsaction.com.
BECAUSE IT’S THERE: A
bad-ass mountain climber from Colorado says that he will climb a bunch
of mega-tall mountains over the next three years to help raise funds to
provide decent sanitation and drinking water to poor people around the
world. On Earth Day, Jake Norton began a quest to do something no
climber’s ever done, according to a news release from the non-profit
Water for People. By summer 2014, Norton hopes to become the first
person to have scaled all 21 of the Triple Seven Summits—the three
highest peaks on each continent. Along the way, the release says, Norton
wants to generate attention for the nearly one billion people without
safe drinking water or the 2.6 billion without adequate toilets. Norton,
we’re told, has already climbed some of the world’s highest peaks,
including Everest, Kilimanjaro and McKinley, and helped locate the
remains of famed climber George Mallory on Everest. Norton is scheduled
to climb Mount Kenya and Mount Stanley in Africa beginning in August. He
plans to climb the remaining mountains on his weird bucket list every
four to six months, conditions permitting. The goal of the expedition is
to raise at least $2.1 million and get 2.1 million new people who will
support the call for safe water and sanitation.
The proceeds raised will go to Water for People, which develops water and sanitation programs in developing countries. For more information, visit www.challenge21.com or www.waterforpeople.org.
TAKE IT EASY: An
easy canoe trip on the beautiful Locust Fork River is scheduled for
Saturday, April 30, according to an email from the Friends of the Locust
Fork River. We’re told that fish, turtles, birds (including osprey) and
wildflowers abound on the stretch of river chosen for the trip. There
are some very small rapids, the email says.
Meet at 9 a.m. at the park and ride at Exit 284 off I-65 in Blount County or at 10 a.m. at the County Road 13 bridge put-in. Bring a boat, paddle and life jacket, as well as lunch, water, sunscreen and extra clothes. Optional dinner afterward. For more information, call (205) 647-6961. Visit the Friends at www.flfr.org
MAKE YOURSELF USEFUL: In
Tuscaloosa May 6 & 7, you can learn more about protecting our
lakes, then go outside, get your freakin’ hands dirty and pick up trash
around lovely Lake Tuscaloosa.
The first-ever Lake Tuscaloosa Watershed Festival will take place Friday, May 6, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., at the Phelps Activity Center near the Lake. The Festival will include a presentation from Dr. Doug Phillips, host of the Alabama Public Television program Discovering Alabama. There will be information available regarding the water uses of lakes, storm water pollution and erosion prevention. The Clean Water Partnership of Alabama, Black Warrior River Lower Basin, will host.
Saturday, May 7, also at Lake Tuscaloosa, the City of Tuscaloosa Water Department will present its annual “Clean Our Lake Day.” Area
residents, businesses and organizations are encouraged to join city
crews and sponsor volunteers in picking up litter. Visit the City of
Tuscaloosa website at www.tuscaloosa.com.