1. Federal Conservation Funding – Where does your administration stand on increasing federal funding to programs that protect important bird habitats and conserve wildlife?
Our nation is endowed with a wealth of natural resources, including the biodiversity inherent in its wildlife. Too many of our biodiversity resources are being degraded and even pushed to the brink of extinction by misguided economic policies. Right now, the main piece of legislation protecting these resources, the Endangered Species Act, is under assault by lawmakers who are in the pockets of industries, including Big Oil, seeking to encroach farther and farther onto their habitats, with little to no concern for the long term value of these habitats. Additionally, the accelerating impacts of climate change threaten a global level extinction event.
These new challenges warrant an increase in federal funding that will ensure the preservation of avian and other wildlife habitats. We must fund a proactive approach that allows us to better monitor habitat quality and quantity, better monitor population trends, and reduce the number of threatened and endangered species.
2. Endangered Species Act – What would your administration’s view be on the Endangered Species Act, including providing additional resources to recover listed species and to prevent species from needing to be listed?
The Endangered Species Act itself is endangered right now. President Obama recently weakened the Act’s effectiveness by making the process of nominating potential threatened/endangered species by the public more cumbersome. Additionally, whereas citizens could previously nominate multiple species in a single petition, under the new rules, only one species per petition may be nominated. We must change this and allow a seamless process that does not impeded our ability to protect and preserve imperiled species.
Section 10 of the act, which allows for the incidental take of threatened/endangered species was designed to be utilized as a last resort when federal projects are unable to avoid critical habitats. In too many instances we are witnessing the abuse of Section 10 to allow for more fossil fuel exploration and extraction as well as cattle ranching. The Stein administration would increase the level of scrutiny on any project attempting to trigger the use of Section 10, ensuring that it’s an absolute last resort.
The Stein/Baraka campaign is already committed to ending subsidies to fossil fuel industries and other land exploitation enterprises that are impairing our natural resources. We would employ the savings from these subsidy cuts to could provide substantial funding increases to assist with the recovery of listed species. Moreover, Dr. Stein would increase fines and penalties for individuals and industries that unlawfully take a listed species.
Limiting the expansion of fossil fuel exploration and extraction as well as land development that violates smart growth principles will greatly relieve pressure upon wildlife populations. We are observing dangerous precedents where species are being sacrificed to allow fossil fuel operation to encroach on their habitats. This is occurring right now in Florida, where seismic testing in the Big Cypress National Preserve and parts of the Everglades may have dire impacts on one of the most imperiled species in our nation, the Florida Panther. Further, the Greater Sage Grouse was denied federal listing so that natural gas extraction could increase its range on their habitats, despite evidence that this decision would adversely impact population counts. Jill Stein supports a national ban on hydrofracking similar to the state bans that have been enacted in several states.
In general, Dr. Stein’s administration would make informed decisions based on sound science. Once studies indicated that a species is under threat, we would take the necessary steps to allow for as expeditious a recovery as possible, thereby reducing the need to list species.
3. Migratory Bird Treaty Act – Where does your administration stand on supporting regulations to reduce and mitigate the incidental take of migratory birds?
As discussed above, Dr. Stein’s administration would ensure that Section 10 of the ESA is used only as a last resort and would implement policy to crack down on abusive use of this section to facilitate encroachment on habitats critical to species. Moreover, Dr. Stein would direct her Secretary of the Interior to personally review all cases where Section 10 is proposed prior to approval.
4. Public Land Use – What would be your administration’s view concerning maintaining and restoring of public lands?
Dr. Stein would end leasing of public lands for fossil fuel exploration/extraction on her first day in office. She would also reduce livestock grazing on public lands significantly. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is entrusted with maintaining and preserving the people’s land, but is increasingly coming up short in their duties. One reason for this is the high level of access Big Oil and the grazing industry have to this agency, in many cases enjoying more direct access than the people. Dr. Stein would review the amount of time land use petitioners spend meeting with BLM and compare this to the level of public participation in an effort to level the playing field and ensure the people, including Tribal councils have equal access to coordinate with BLM.
Many of our public lands have been greatly impaired by damaging land uses. Some of our public lands have become contaminated to the point where they are unfit for use or enjoyment by the public and wildlife. In the case of contamination, Dr. Stein believes that an update to the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) is necessary to hold those who impair our public lands more accountable. That advent of increased fossil fuel exploration/extraction and mining for minerals like copper and uranium has warranted a CERCLA update that allocates funds from polluters for the use of restoring the people’s land.
5. Environmental Protection Agency – What would be your administration’s view on increased incident reporting of wildlife deaths and increased regulation of neonicotinoids?
Dr. Stein believes that increased reporting, along with more restrictive policies to better protect our nation’s wildlife are necessary steps to prevent an increase in federal listings. To that end, Dr. Stein would increase coordination and data sharing between EPA and the Interior Department so that a more proactive approach can be implemented in addressing wildlife deaths, especially for threatened/endangered species.
This includes protecting one of the most critical insects in our nation, bees. New research is revealing the potential toxicity of neonicotinoids to bees and other beneficial insects. While not definitive, there are those in the scientific community who believe there could be a link between neonicotinoids and the adverse syndrome, Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). Additionally, some research suggests that these insecticides weaken the immune system of bees to fight parasites and pathogens including, but not limited to, Nosema, which has been implicated as a potential factor in CCD.
Bees are too critical to our natural systems, especially as it pertains to food production, to ignore the threats to their populations. Further research is required and Dr. Stein would implement a moratorium on the use of neonicotinoids until we learn more about their effects on bee populations.
6. Fire and Water Management – How would your administration ensure wildlife considerations are accounted for in addressing federal management of fire and hydrology?
A Stein Administration would insist that wildlife impacts be taken into consideration in all decisions regarding fire management and hydrology. Wildlife, whether on private or public lands, is a national resource and should be protected by the federal government.
7. Protection of Wildlife from Renewable Power Development – How would your administration ensure wildlife impacts are minimized and energy developments are sited appropriately?
The threat of climate change makes it essential that we transition our nation’s energy system from fossil fuels to renewable energy. But we must not pursue renewable energy in a way that degrades public lands or destroys our biodiversity resources.
Achieving this goal will require greater diligence by federal land managers and project developers in avoiding, to the greatest extent possible, the development of renewable energy development on lands with known high-resource values including wildlife. All feasible mitigation measures should be required whenever a project is allowed on public land.
An additional approach to reducing wildlife impacts is to prioritize renewable energy development on lands that have been previously disturbed. Redevelopment of disturbed sites not only reduces impacts to wildlife, it also offers opportunities to restore lands that may not otherwise be reclaimed. We would build upon programs already in effect to prioritize the use of disturbed lands for renewable energy development:
Dr. Stein would also expand programs designed to increase “in-fill” renewable energy development in cities and urban centers. In fill development would reduce the need for developing new transmission lines, thus reducing habitat impacts associated with transmission line corridors.