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Noah Greenwald, (503) 484-7495
In response to litigation brought by the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today protected the Georgia pigtoe mussel, interrupted rocksnail and rough hornsnail as endangered under the Endangered Species Act and protected 160 miles of their river habitat in Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee. The agency also proposed protection for the rayed bean and snuffbox mussels. But the agency denied protection to Mississippi's Bay Springs salamander, declaring it to be extinct. All the species are threatened by degradation of freshwater habitats through pollution and habitat destruction.
"Dams, urban sprawl and industrial and agricultural pollution have all taken a serious toll on freshwater habitats and the species that depend on them in the United States, including the five species protected today," said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center. "Scientists have determined that extinction rates in U.S. freshwaters are comparable to those in tropical forests. Protection of these five species under the Endangered Species Act will spur action to restore hundreds of miles of rivers and streams, which will benefit us all."
The three mussels and two snails have been waiting years for protection. Fish and Wildlife first identified the rayed bean as needing protection in 1984 by placing it on the list of candidates for protection, which provides no actual safeguards. Likewise, the two snails and the snuffbox were designated candidates in 1991 and the pigtoe in 1999. More than 240 other species continue to languish on the candidate list without protection. The Center filed suit in September to obtain final listing of the two snails and mussel protected today and has litigation ongoing over Fish and Wildlife's continued delay of protection for all the candidate species.
"We're glad these five species are finally receiving the protection they need to survive but the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service needs to move more quickly to protect hundreds of other candidate species from oblivion," said Greenwald.
In February, the Center filed suit over the Fish and Wildlife's failure to protect 93 species, including the Bay Springs salamander, which was petitioned for protection by a private citizen, Jeremy Nichols, in 2006. The salamander was first described in 1998 based on two specimens collected in 1964 from a single spring near the town of Bay Springs in Jasper County, Mississippi. It has not been collected since but may have been spotted in 1995, when the last nighttime survey was conducted. The Fish and Wildlife Service has protected species believed to be extinct in the past in order to stimulate further surveys. Given the cryptic nature of this particular salamander, it is possible that some individuals remain.
"After failing to protect the Bay Springs salamander for nearly five years, during which time no additional surveys were conducted, the Fish and Wildlife Service has thrown in the towel and declared the salamander extinct," said Greenwald. "But it's premature to call this animal extinct. The Fish and Wildlife Service should have protected it and carried out surveys to determine if it still survives."
The two snails and Georgia pigtoe are native to the Coosa River drainage of Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee, where Fish and Wildlife designated 160 river miles as protected critical habitat, including stretches of the Coosa, Conasauga and Oostanaula rivers and Terrapin, Hatchet and Yellowleaf creeks. The rayed bean and snuffbox are native to numerous drainages in the Great Lakes, Tennessee, Ohio, Cumberland, Mississippi and other watersheds.
At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature — to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters and climate that species need to survive.(520) 623-5252
"We encourage the IPCC to maintain its credibility by taking steps to ensure that Big Agriculture and the global meat industry have no influence over future reports."
As the United Nations marked International Day for Biological Diversity on Monday, advocacy groups and activists underscored the devastating impact of animal agriculture on the Earth's climate, while urging a leading U.N. panel to rebuff efforts by the meat and dairy industries to water down key processes and publications.
In recent letter to Hoesung Lee, who heads the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 98 groups and individuals noted how the IPCC in 2021 removed language from its Sixth Assessment Report underscoring the urgency of reducing meat consumption—especially in developed nations—and shifting to a plant-based diet as a crucial means of combating the climate emergency.
"The provision was reportedly heavily contested—and actively lobbied against—by the global meat industry via Brazil and
Argentina's delegations," the letter states. "Our organizations, representing millions of individuals who are concerned about the future of our planet, are deeply troubled by the potential influence of the meat industry's years-long campaign of interference on any climate recommendations that include plant-based diets as a solution."
\u201cLast week, RDP and 80+ allies sent a letter to the IPCC demanding that it boldly uplift climate science & defend the public interest \u2014 even & especially when it conflicts with the private interests of notorious super-polluters like the global meat industry https://t.co/HebhKYsxdS\u201d— Revolving Door Project (@Revolving Door Project) 1684768855
"We are writing to urge the IPCC to fully recognize the scientific evidence that shows the role of food and agriculture in driving the climate crisis and to ensure that future reports specifically highlight plant-based diets as a key climate strategy," the letter states. "Furthermore, we encourage the IPCC to maintain its credibility by taking steps to ensure that Big Agriculture and the global meat industry have no influence over future reports."
According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, animal agriculture produces 16.5% of global greenhouse emissions. On its own, the global livestock industry—which emits the methane equivalent of 3.1 gigatons of carbon dioxide annually—would be the world's third-largest greenhouse polluter.
Nearly one-third of Earth's ice-free land is currently used for livestock production. Beef production alone is responsible for more than 40% of the world's tropical deforestation, while a single quarter-pound beef burger requires the equivalent of 460 gallons of water to produce.
\u201cYour regular reminder that beef has a huge climate impact and we should try and eat less of it. https://t.co/lhxbNSRtRL\u201d— Zeke Hausfather (@Zeke Hausfather) 1683150459
The letter continues:
Meat and dairy industry actors have long obfuscated the negative climate impacts of their practices while putting up roadblocks against healthy and necessary regulations. In fact, the industry's tactics seem to be modeled on the fossil fuel playbook, using its tremendous lobbying power to pressure lawmakers to prevent regulations.
While the IPCC has historically managed to recommend plant-based diets, mention of plant-based diets was notably lacking from this year's report. The scientific community and the public at large deserve to have the IPCC's recommendations be unbiased, untainted, and undiluted by interference from industries that are financially incentivized to undermine science. The IPCC's recommendations would be more powerful and more effective with the assurance that there was no interference [from] industry lobbyists and political actors who prioritize their industry over the common good.
The letter's signatories recommend "avoiding meat and dairy products" as "the single-biggest way to reduce an individual's environmental impact on the planet."
According to the letter, if the world's biggest meat-eaters limited their beef intake to 1.5 hamburgers per week, "they could
avoid about 5.5 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions per year—twice the annual emissions of India."
\u201cIt's the #InternationalBiodiversityDay!\nIndustrial agribusiness boosted by generous subsidies produces plenty of #meat. Meat production requires large areas & takes space from wild nature.\nSo let's eat less meat, and help to revive #biodiversity!\n#BiodiversityDay #forests #beef\u201d— Seppo (@Seppo) 1684752831
Additionally, "if everyone in the U.S. ate no meat or cheese just one day a week, it would have the same environmental impact as taking 7.6 million cars off the road."
"We urge you to take steps to prevent both any potential future interference by the meat and dairy industries, and the appearance of such interference, in a manner that could weaken these necessary recommendations around the urgent need to reduce meat consumption and production," the letter concludes. "The world is counting on the IPCC to communicate the most accurate science and most effective solutions for the safekeeping of our planet's future."
"All Asian Americans will feel the stigma and the chilling effect created by this Florida law, just like the discriminatory laws did to our ancestors more than a hundred years ago."
Accusing Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis of enacting an unconstitutional law that would not have been out of place at the turn of the last century, a group of Chinese American immigrants on Monday filed a lawsuit against the state over S.B. 264, which restricts most Chinese citizens from purchasing homes in Florida.
The law is set to take effect on July 1, but the plaintiffs and the groups representing them—including the ACLU, the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), the Chinese American Legal Defense Alliance (CALDA), and the ACLU of Florida—hope to block the measure in the courts.
"Florida's discriminatory property law is unfair, unjustified, and unconstitutional," said Ashley Gorski, senior staff attorney with the ACLU's National Security Project. "Everyone in the United States is entitled to equal protection under our laws, including citizens of other countries. If S.B. 264 goes into effect, it will profoundly harm our clients and countless other immigrants in Florida."
DeSantis has said the law is meant to protect the state from the Chinese Communist Party, even though, as the ACLU said, "there is no evidence of national security harm resulting from real estate ownership." Citizens of Cuba, Venezuela, Syria, Russia, Iran, and North Korea would also be restricted from purchasing homes in Florida.
\u201cThe new law harkens back to the anti-Asian land laws of the past century, which barred Chinese and Japanese immigrants from owning property in many states.\n\nThose laws violated the fundamental right to equal protection \u2014 just like Florida\u2019s does.\u201d— ACLU (@ACLU) 1684779796
The law is a clear violation of the U.S. Constitution and the Fair Housing Act, said the ACLU. The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing due to national origin and race as well as religion, sex, gender identity, and disability.
The plaintiffs also warned that the law will "cast an undue burden of suspicion on anyone seeking to buy property whose name sounds remotely Asian, Russian, Iranian, Cuban, Venezuelan, or Syrian," and is likely to prompt harassment of Asian American people seeking to buy property.
"All Asian Americans will feel the stigma and the chilling effect created by this Florida law, just like the discriminatory laws did to our ancestors more than a hundred years ago," said Clay Zhu, co-founder of CALDA. "We shall not go back."
Despite DeSantis's claims that the law is meant to protect the state, "The reality will be that any seller, when they see a Chinese name... will think, 'Too much trouble,' and they'll refuse to sell," Echo King, a Chinese American attorney based in Orlando, Florida, toldVox last week.
S.B. 264 harkens back to the so-called "alien land laws" of the early 1900s, which prohibited Chinese and Japanese immigrants from becoming landowners. In addition to harming these communities financially, the laws "severely exacerbated violence and discrimination against Asian communities living in the United States" before they were finally struck down by courts and legislatures across the country.
"We have repeatedly seen how policies in the name of national security have harmed Asian Americans—from immigration restrictions, to the WWII incarceration of Japanese Americans in camps, and post-9/11 surveillance," said Bethany Li, legal director for AALDEF. "Failing to call out the discriminatory impacts means our community will continue to experience racism, violence, and the erosion of rights."
DeSantis is the first Republican governor to sign a discriminatory housing bill targeting Chinese people into law, but more than a dozen state legislatures have proposed similar bills.
"The FCC has a mandate to increase the diversity of local-media ownership and to ensure broadband access is affordable, open and reliable for all," said one advocate. "We need all five FCC commissioners as soon as possible to fully move this work forward."
Eager to end more than two years of deadlock at the Federal Communications Commission, digital rights advocates on Monday expressed relief at U.S. President Joe Biden nomination of former FCC legal adviser Anna Gomez and called on the U.S. Senate to confirm her appointment as quickly as possible.
"Finally!" tweeted media and technology advocacy group Free Press when the nomination was announced. "The agency has been deadlocked since January 2021 and this delay has harmed millions of people."
Gomez currently serves as a senior adviser for international information and communications policy at the State Department and worked for more than a decade at the FCC as a senior legal adviser to then-Chairman William Kennard.
She also worked in leadership roles at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, whose work addresses broadband and internet policy.
The American Prospect's David Dayen noted that he recently wrote about Gomez's career, detailing her work within the telecom industry—which the FCC regulates—as well as her work in government.
\u201cAnna Gomez is announced to fill the vacancy on the FCC. The White House attempts a consensus choice. I wrote about Gomez last week:\nhttps://t.co/cvFcoTeOI0\u201d— David Dayen (@David Dayen) 1684771173
"Gomez has plenty in her background to interest industry," wrote Dayen. "She was the vice president of government affairs (a nice term for lobbyist) at Sprint Nextel. She was an associate early in her career at corporate law firm Arnold & Porter, and more recently she spent several years as a partner at Wiley Rein, the biggest and most influential law firm that represents clients at the FCC."
Communications on unmanned aerial systems, or drones, were a large focus of her work at Wiley Rein, Dayen reported.
Gomez's nomination comes two months after longtime public advocate Gigi Sohnwithdrew her nomination, which had been championed by progressives, after months of attacks by the telecom lobby.
More than 60 digital rights groups wrote to Biden after Sohn's withdrawal, calling for another nominee who would fight forcefully at the commission for net neutrality rules, the rights of low-income and rural communities, and privacy rights.
"We're now approaching two-and-a-half years without a fully functional Federal Communications Commission. Never before has the American public had to wait so long for a commissioner's seat to be filled," Jessica Gonzalez, co-CEO of Free Press, which signed the letter, said on Monday after Gomez's nomination was announced. "In addition to her corporate experience—which has often entailed working for competitive carriers instead of incumbents—Gomez has a long track record of public service, including high-ranking positions at the FCC and Commerce Department. She is eminently qualified for this role at the FCC."
Dayen noted that some of Gomez's positions on communications issues have not been publicized, including her views on congressional rules that punish internet service providers (ISPs) for underinvestment in low-income communities and on net neutrality rules, which prevent ISPs from creating internet "fast lanes" for companies that can pay for them and throttling other content by slowing down speeds.
"We expect Gomez to help restore the proper legal framework for broadband and the net neutrality protections that the FCC repealed during the Trump administration," said Gonzalez. "In poll after poll, people in the United States of all political stripes say they want enforceable rules for an open internet. We're confident that Gomez will give weight to this overwhelming public support and be responsive to public input on the full range of issues before the agency."
The 2-2 deadlock at the FCC has made it impossible for the commission to stop ISPs from "digitally redlining" low-income communities with slower service for the same rates as wealthier customers, as Common Cause said last October, and to restore net neutrality rules.
"The FCC has a mandate to increase the diversity of local-media ownership and to ensure broadband access is affordable, open and reliable for all," said Gonzalez. "We need all five FCC commissioners as soon as possible to fully move this work forward."
"Any further delay means big companies will have an easier time engaging in unjust, unreasonable, and discriminatory actions, because they know this vital watchdog agency isn't operating with the majority it needs," she added. "If these leaders want to improve the lives of internet users, cellphone customers, TV watchers, and radio listeners—meaning everyone—they need to speed up confirmation before the clock runs out at the FCC."