Effect of ESA on Environmental Activist


I just finished up my portion of the ESA Stakeholder Project. After a few revisions I came down what you see below. As a part of the Environmental Activist group, I learned quite a bit about how the ESA effects this group and their ability to protect species. Obviously with a few sections like HCP, it makes the job of the environmental activist that much harder. But having the ESA allows them to protect species that they might not have been able to. I spoke to Kathryn the T.A who helped me shape my presentation and help me see the two types of Activist that arguably were created due to Section 10.


Changes to the ESA such as section 10 exceptions authorizing HCPs, has created two different types of environmental activists: compromising groups and the non-compromising groups. One compromising group is Save the Bay. Their goal is to save bay area species and habitats, not only for the good of the species but for our benefit as well.  The HCP exceptions limit what we can do to protect these habitats and species. Due to HCP exceptions there has been immense loss of habitat for things like commercial salt ponds and other building projects. These companies that build on these habitats are required to restore habitat in other areas, a process called mitigation

Loss of marshlands can cause unknown effects to the hundreds of species who rely on them, but also to people who live by the marshlands. These communities are left facing the risks of unchecked flooding with the loss of the wetlands. Since mitigation isn’t happening as often as we would hope, environmental groups such as Save the Bay have to rely on the community for funding and volunteering to restore these marshlands that so many endangered species rely on. Save the Bay must also spend more resources defending loss of habitat compared to restoring habitat. An example of this is when they spent years preventing SFO’s bay filling for extended runways from 1998-2003. They are also currently trying to prevent Cargill from filling 1,400 acres of restorable salt ponds in Redwood City. A positive that come from HCPs is the fact that Save the Bay is able to acquire land for restoration because companies are required to do so.

Primitive ferns fierce in fighting pollution

I’m learning something new every week having to write these jounrals. Today I saw an article released last week on sfgate.com where they talked about the ability of ferns to help clean up pollution. Who Knew? Probably a lot of biologist and bio students, but I didn’t know about it until now. It’s called Phytoremediation. The article mentions that ferns are the best at this practice of reducing toxicity in soils.

According to the article, ferns used to cover much of the earth, but evolution has forced them to evolve to much smaller sizes. The plants have survived for hundreds of millions of years. The article highlights a particular fern, Chinese brake fern (Pteris Vittata) which are deemed hyper-accumulators. This particular fern is able to pick up heavy metals from the soil and apparently is great at extracting arsenic.

The article mentions that arsenic is now being used to kill insects, bacteria and fungi, though it has been used previously as a wood preservative. The decomposing wood treated with arsenic will leave behind some arsenic which can be picked up by this fern. The problem with this is the Petris Vittata, is not native to the U.S. and is considered an invasive species in the south, especially Florida.

I’m not quite sure what the impact of that fern species is, but if they are so good at cleaning up pollutants, i’m pretty sure we should start covering the earth with ferns. Probably not the best idea, I know, but maybe we should surround metal plants or industrial plants with ferns so at least it cleans up that area. Pretty amazing what plants can do, it’s a shame that we try our hardest to get rid of all the forests on earth.

Full Article: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/10/12/DDHG1LFORB.DTL

Trip to Monterey Bay Aquarium

Over the last few weeks we’ve been talking about the ESA, the effects of each section and what is being done to keep endangered species alive. I’ve always been more partial to marine life, though I’m incredibly afraid of the ocean. So this week I decided to take advantage of my student ID and head down to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. I signed up for a membership, which is the same price as two visits, and I’ve officially done a small part to help fund the Aquarium and everything they do to educate the public about marine life.

I think what is important about this class is that it gives you the background to really understand why we should appreciate marine life and wild life in general. Once you understand what kind of problems some of these species are dealing with than you can start to really appreciate what you see at the aquarium. The Open Ocean exhibit is a perfect example of that. You see all kind of species: Hamerhead Sharks, Sardines, Sea Turtles and the amazingly creepy Sun fish. Seriously, those things look so strange it almost seems fake. The Open Ocean exhibit gives us the ability to see marine life in action and see how these different species interact with each other. I happened to show up at the exhibit when they were featuring a baby Great White Shark. This was definitely a treat to see the shark swim all around the giant tank and watch the other fish avoid it at all cost. Even at its small size it was a commanding presence in the tank.

I walked around the entire exhibit, though I wasn’t able to study each exhibit as closely as I would have liked. It was crowded as usual. I did try to find the coral reef meter that was talked about during the Savenature.org presentation, but I couldn’t find it for the life of me. The people working there didn’t even know about it. Oh well. I’ll be back for sure, especially for the member nights. It was definitely a great time, I haven’t been there since I was very young, and now with all my environmental knowledge I can definitely appreciate it much more and reinforce why it’s worth protecting.

Here are a few pictures I took and a video of Open Ocean:

Open Ocean Videohttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iWwH5KbekP0&feature=youtu.be

Short Rant on the ESA and the Uninformed

The Endangered Species Act might not be as well known as the EPA, but it’s probably more effective. I knew about the ESA prior to the class, but I’m definitely learning more about it and its history. Before I get to that, I was astonished by how few people knew about the ESA. I might be a bit older than some of the students in the class, but still. I even heard people talking about the ESA protecting animals that are outside of the U.S., even after we’ve discussed that it is a U.S only law. It really does show how small of a bubble some people live in, and how little they understand about the U.S wildlife. It almost seems as if people generally know more about the wildlife in Africa compared to the wildlife in, lets say the Bay Area. I’m sure more than a a few people didn’t know what a salt marsh was until they took this class. Still even though they might not know it, I hope they are learning more about it thanks to this course.

I was surprised to learn about how rocky the history of the ESA was. Implementation of the “Good Squad” exemption seemed like it was the only way for the opposition to continue to work around the law. Thankfully it was dropped in the 90’s.  It was quite shock, though it probably shouldn’t have been, that the halting of some projects due to an endangered species could take so long and goes through so much litigation. The Tellico Dam situation took over 10 years to be settled and most of it was going back and forth from the dam company wanting to build where an endangered species lived and the environmentalist firing back to stop it. I knew our judicial process was slow, but that’s just insane.

Learning about the specifics of Section 7 of the ESA was both depressing and encouraging. It turns out that Section 7 does more to encourage companies to be more environmentally conscious rather than stopping the destruction entirely. That’s not a bad thing since at least we can save some of the environment using Section 7. It’s not a surprise to me that the Bush administration tried to get rid of section 7, but I am glad that it has consistently held up. The ESA is a very important tool for saving U.S. wildlife and while it’s frustrating that more people don’t know about it, at least 40 more people now know how important it is.

Summary of the ESA and Section 7:

Through federal action and by encouraging the establishment of state programs, the 1973 Endangered Species Act provided for the conservation of ecosystems upon which threatened and endangered species of fish, wildlife, and plants depend. The Act:

  • authorizes the determination and listing of species as endangered and threatened;
  • prohibits unauthorized taking, possession, sale, and transport of endangered species;
  • provides authority to acquire land for the conservation of listed species, using land and water conservation funds;
  • authorizes establishment of cooperative agreements and grants-in-aid to States that establish and maintain active and adequate programs for endangered and threatened wildlife and plants;
  • authorizes the assessment of civil and criminal penalties for violating the Act or regulations; and
  • authorizes the payment of rewards to anyone furnishing information leading to arrest and conviction for any violation of the Act or any regulation issued thereunder.

Section 7:

All other federal agencies, in consultation with and with the assistance of the
Secretary, must use their authorities in furtherance of the purposes of
the Act by carrying out programs for the conservation of listed species.
All federal agencies, in consultation with and with the assistance of the lead agency,
must insure that any action authorized, funded or carried out by the agency (agency
action) is not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of an endangered or
threatened species, or result in destruction or adverse modification of a critical
habitat of a species.

San Francisco Bay Getting Healthier

The State of the Bay Report comes out every two years and this year’s research has found that the Bay Area waters is improving, though there is still a long way to go to return to clean waters. The report published on September 19th, showed that the waters are far less polluted than the 1950’s and 60’s. Thanks to the Clean Water Act passed in 1972, billions of dollars were spent to clean up wastewater. The banning of substances like DDT and PCBs have also helped with cleaning the water.

“The bay’s health is definitely getting better. We’re making progress,” said Andrew Gunther, an environmental scientist and chief author of the “The State of San Francisco Bay 2011.” “But we still have a way to go. Starting with the Gold Rush, we had a century of degrading the bay. And we’ve only been restoring it since the early 1970s.”

This shows what can be done if attention is brought to environmental issues, but most of the turn around can be dedicated to all the money spent in order to protect our waters. That is one of the issues with our society. We need laws in order for us to do the right thing, but not enough of us go out of our way to be environmentally conscious. San Francisco is a rare case where people are constantly making choices to better the environment. Even little things like using reusable water bottles and grocery bags have helped keep trash out of the waters.  Still I think we can do more, but again it’s going to cost money.

One thing we learned is that saving a species is nice, but saving an ecosystem is the best way to reverse the effects we’ve had on the environment.  The report has found that in the last decade almost 10,000 acres of wetlands have been restored. That brings the number to 50,000 acres. The news article about this report states that biologist are already seeing increase in birds and fish in the restored areas. This is one way we can help to further improve the Bay Area waters. The plan now is to get to 100,000 though funding remains an issue.

The article points out that there are still issues pleaguing the Bay Area, one of them being the diversion of fresh water from the San Joaquin River Delta.

“For the past several decades, the bay has been in a state of chronic drought,” Swanson said. “Protecting the bay’s ecosystem and recovering its fisheries will require changes in water management in the bay’s tributary rivers and the Delta to increase freshwater flows, particularly during the spring.”

There is also still an issue with mercury flowing from the abandoned mines and into the bay waters. Still reports like these give us hope and lay out plans for what we can do to improve the waters in the coming decade.

[Full news article: http://www.mercurynews.com/science/ci_18927046]