Audubon Advisory newsletter – June 13 2012

Audubon Advisory
June 13, 2012
Vol 2012 Issue 6

Women in Conservation meet with EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson
Audubon’s Women in Conservation meet with EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson.

Women in Conservation Go to Washington
In mid-May, conservation leaders Allison Rockefeller, Laura Zukerman, Simon Roosevelt, and Jeanine Getz, among other supporters of Audubon’s Women in Conservation program, joined Audubon’s policy leaders in Washington, DC to carry a conservation message in to the halls of power.

The Women in Conservation leaders held meetings with EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA), and several other members of the New York Congressional Delegation, to urge passage of legislation to protect Long Island Sound, and to urge passage of the RESTORE Act to direct billions of dollars in fines from the Gulf oil spill to large-scale ecosystem restoration.

The Women in Conservation program was created for girls and women to discover the world of conservation and connect with the best and brightest women leaders in the environmental movement. The program promotes education on important environmental issues, like climate change, clean air and water, wildlife preservation, and environmental justice. Audubon is interested in connecting girls and young women to the environmental movement by providing a forum for education, information sharing, and exchange of ideas.

For years, the Women in Conservation team has raised funds to support Audubon’s policy work to protect Long Island Sound. This year’s visit to Washington, DC brought the group’s influence and clout to support Audubon’s national conservation agenda.

Find out more about the Women in Conservation movement:

Aerial view of Brazilian Rainforest | Neil Palmer/CIAT, Flickr
A new forest code could reverse 20 years of work to protect the Amazonian rainforest.

New Brazilian Forest Law Threatens Rainforest
Last month, the Brazilian Congress approved a series of revisions to Brazil’s Forest Code that, if passed by the President, will open up significant portions of the Amazon rainforest for clear-cutting for agricultural and timber production, weaken the conservation mandates for Amazonian landowners, reduce penalties for illegal logging, and ultimately, as some critics warn, could reverse 20 years of international conservation struggle to protect the Amazon.

After making its way through the Brazilian Congress, the revision of the forestry bill was taken up late last month by President Dilma Rousseff. President Rousseff vetoed a portion of some of its more controversial articles, including loopholes reducing mandates on reforestation and amnesty for past incidences of illegal logging. The revised bill now has 30 days to make its way back around Congress for approval.

“Although the vetoes and modifications are a step back in the right direction, we believe that they will not be enough to guarantee sustainability of the natural environment for future generations,” said Jaqueline Goerck, CEO of SAVE Brazil, Audubon’s BirdLife International partner in Brazil. “Overall the new Forest Code weakens environmental legislation in Brazil.”The Amazon rainforest has long been hailed as the world’s lungs, home to some of the world’s most significant biodiversity and carbon reserves. This news coincides with IUCN’s new release of the updated RedList of species, revealing that the risk of extinction has increased substantially for 95 species of Amazonian birds. Finally, the President’s decision to only partially veto this bill will set a poor precedent for a country which, in just a few weeks’ time, will be hosting the world’s largest environmental gathering in the Rio+20 Earth Summit.

National Audubon Society, along with other members of the environmental community, are calling upon President Rousseff to take a stronger opposition to these reforms, which have been pushed through by Brazil’s powerful agricultural lobby which has long pressed for loosening Brazil’s conservation laws—particularly the mandate for Amazonian landowners to preserve 20% of their lands as forests.

Please join Audubon, along with over two million global activists and 79% of the national population of Brazil, to call on President Rousseff to take a stronger stand against these reforms weakening Brazil’s conservation of the Amazon Rainforest. You can add your name to a petition to President Rousseff at the Audubon Action Center.

Long-tailed Ducks | Dave Menke/USFWS
The new Smart from the Start approach to offshore wind development ensured that high value habitat for Long-Tailed Ducks was protected.

Smart from the Start: Responsible Offshore Wind Advances
At the end of May, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) identified the newest area designated as suitable for offshore wind energy development on the Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf, off the coast of Massachusetts. In finalizing the delineation of the new Wind Energy Area (WEA), BOEM reduced the area originally under consideration by 330 square miles to address siting sensitivities such as conflicts with commercial fishing and wildlife habitats. A large portion of the cuts were ordered to protect high value habitat areas of Long-tailed Ducks.

Weighing in on the decision were federal agencies such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, review by a state Habitat Working Group convened for the purpose of making sound offshore siting decisions, and a robust public input process. Part of the Department of Interior’s Smart from the Start approach to offshore wind leasing in federal waters, this latest designation is a case study in how to do responsible project planning. The results are tangible. Within a week, 10 companies had expressed interest in developing projects in the new Wind Energy Area. Further environmental assessment will be done through BOEM review.

Additional information, including a map of the final Wind Energy Area and the excluded areas taken off the table for wind development, can be found at the BOEM website.

Briefly Noted

  • Gulf restoration legislation tied to must-pass Transportation Bill.
    The current Transportation Bill expires on June 30th. Both the House and the Senate have passed different versions of the legislation, which will fund our transportation infrastructure at about $110 billion over the next two years. Audubon’s number one legislative priority—the RESTORE Act, which directs Clean Water Act penalties owed by BP back to the states directly impacted by the oil spill, instead of into the General Treasury, has been tied to this bill. Audubon remains hopeful that an agreement that includes RESTORE is reached soon as conferees from both chambers hash out differences between the Senate and House versions.
  • Major habitat conservation programs threatened by new Farm Bill.
    Over the next several weeks the Senate will debate the reauthorization of the Farm Bill. The Conservation Title programs in the Farm Bill help to protect natural resources in a uniquely successful way—by funding a variety of voluntary partnerships and cooperative conservation efforts between the U.S. Department of Agriculture and private landowners. These conservation programs are essential to the sustainability of U.S. agriculture and forestry and to meeting the growing demand for food and fiber at home and abroad. They also represent one of the largest funding sources for protection and creation of habitat for birds and wildlife. The Farm Bill currently under debate includes $6.4 billion in cuts to conservation programs over 10 years, out of a total cut to farm bill spending of $23 billion over 10 years. While the Senate bill also includes a number of policy improvements that should make conservation programs more effective on the ground, these cuts will have an net negative impact. Further cuts could seriously undermine conservation efforts across the country. Audubon is committed to ensuring that there are no further cuts to conservation in the Farm Bill.
  • Ecosystem restoration programs advance.
    Last week the House passed their version of the 2013 Energy and Water Appropriations Act. This legislation funds most of the nation’s ecosystem restoration projects as well as other important programs in the Army Corps of Engineers and the Department of Energy. We are particularly pleased with the funding level for Everglades restoration projects—$145,658 million, although it is about $8 million less than President Obama’s request. The Senate has not yet finalized their version of the bill, but the current version contains the President’s request of $153,324 million.The bill also contains a new construction start for land restoration in coastal Louisiana—the first time ever that a water diversion will be constructed for restoration purposes. This $10 million project came as a result of an amendment offered and passed by Congressmen Steve Scalise (R-LA) and Cedric Richmond (D-LA).

    Unfortunately, the bill also contained some drastic cuts to environmental and restoration programs on the Missouri River. The Senate is expected to take up their bill in July, and we hope to remove these harmful provisions during the long appropriations process.

  • Your comments en route to Alaska and EPA!
    As you read this, over 17,500 comments are making their way to Alaska in support of a new plan that is our best opportunity in a generation to safeguard extraordinary Arctic habitat in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, America’s largest public lands. THANK YOU for sending in postcards and submitting electronic citizen comments. Stay tuned for updates when the final plan is released. And on an equally important issue, over 12,000 comments to EPA on their proposed rule to limit carbon pollution from new power plants are part of a community-wide effort to send an avalanche of support to EPA for their historic action. THANK YOU for sending in postcards and responding to our alert. Chapters have also been instrumental in getting cards in and signing on to a group comment letter to EPA.

News from Our State Network

  • California: Audubon partners with federal agency, other conservation groups to enlist rice farmers to help migratory birds.
    More than 165 California rice growers have signed up for an innovative program to enhance bird habitat on their land. The Sacramento Valley farmers recently enrolled in a new Natural Resources Conservation Service program—operated in conjunction with Audubon California, The Nature Conservancy and Point Reyes Bird Observatory Conservation Science—that offers almost $3 million in incentives to the growers to manage their properties in ways that will benefit birds. The farmers come from Glenn, Colusa, Yuba, Sutter, Sacramento, and Yolo counties. The program will benefit the millions of shorebirds (including Western Sandpiper, Long-billed Curlew, and Black-necked Stilt, among others) that rely on rice fields as surrogate wetland habitat. Learn more:
June Mystery Bird
White-faced Ibis | Dave Menke/USFWSCongratulations to Linda L. from North Carolina, who was randomly chosen from the entries that correctly identified last month’s White-faced Ibis, at right. Good luck with this month’s challenge, Not an African or a European Swallow, below. HINT: North America’s largest member of the swallow family—and the only one without “swallow” in the common name—migrates each year from South America, including the Brazilian rainforest. The winner will receive a plush Audubon singing bird and will be chosen at random from all entries received that correctly identify the species. Be sure to include the full species name—i.e. “Downy Woodpecker,” not just “Woodpecker.” One entry per person please (NAS employees can play but not win). Please email usyour entry with the words “Mystery Bird” in the subject line. Deadline for entering is Sunday, July 8.

May 2012 Mystery Bird | Credit: Dave Menke/USFWS

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