As the global pandemic rages, I am set adrift without connection to my home anchor.
This charmed place with the monochromatic desert landscapes and auburn central river are but a distant memory. I breath in the thirsty air and watch a pair of coyotes skulk through the urban refuge in my hometown. The geese snub the prowlers, yet disperse at the bright call of a meadowlark.
Even then, a dark veil of uncertainty washes over me—unease as to what lies ahead.
The Rio Grande, like many western rivers, is experiencing a collision of crises threatening its future, the future of the aquatic and riparian ecosystems it supports, and the communities and cultures that are at its heart.
Like the endless murder of crows I watch congregate in the crooked branches of an elderly cottonwood, doom is near for this lifeblood of the desert Southwest.
Life exists along the Rio Grande because of the sacrifice made by this Great River to nourish the environment and the 6 million people that inhabit the watershed from the crisp snowcapped mountains of Colorado to the humid and vast Gulf of Mexico.
It is now our turn to show gratitude by charting a new course for a sustainable future for this icon of the West.
The Rio Grande watershed is the fifth largest in North America, draining 336,000 square miles, which is an area larger than the state of Texas. Here, where I am transfixed on a juvenile bald eagle scanning the Bosque at sunset, the riparian corridor represents only one percent of the landscape. However, it is home to over 400 species of native fish, wildlife and plants, including beloved sandhill cranes, speckled Rio Grande cutthroat trout, reclusive ocelot, charismatic yellow-billed cuckoo, and the oldest and largest cottonwood forest in the world.
Ecosystem collapse is all but certain for this desert river without legal and political intervention and significant public outcry as to its value as a living river.
The Rio Grande does not have a right to its own water, unsustainable water use is causing its flows and aquifers to disappear, archaic laws and management prevent its flows from reaching the sea, extinction threatens many of its native species, and climate change is predicted to decrease available flows by an additional 25 to 50 percent by 2100.
I remember standing at the edge of the shimmering expanse of water, which today has only but a fleeting breath of water left to survive. In its absence, lost would be the calamity of cranes vying for safe island refuge among its waters, solace for human souls, and ancient ways of being.
To add insult to injury for the Rio, federal agencies issued a litany of rules over the past four years that remove fundamental environmental protections for clean water, native species, and public participation mandates for impacted communities with rollbacks of the Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act, and National Environmental Policy Act. The legal framework that helps support and protect these fragile environments, already heavily-burdened communities, and their life-source rivers are at risk.
We are at a moment of reckoning.
To be sure, we can continue to demand more of rivers and demolish the public health and environmental safeguards that protect the planet, its people, and its delicate ecosystems in the name of greed and false prosperity. But another more beautiful, likely more modest, and more equitable alternate future is possible for both people and the environment.
An acute power shift is necessary to realize this vision requiring people to step forward and others to open space. I am not talking about politics, although the same is true in that realm as well, but essential structural shifts in our homes, our workplaces, our communities, our watersheds, and our ecoregions.
My perception has always been that an ominous mass of crows looms dark. However, I’ve heard that in some native cultures, crows signify wisdom and luck. There is much wisdom left unheard and unseen that must be unleashed. If there was a time to liberate those voices, it is now. A different perspective can be magic.
In an effort to protect living rivers and stop extinction, WildEarth Guardians submitted comments on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s latest attempt to limit habitat protections for the western yellow-billed cuckoo. On February 27, 2020, the Service released its revised critical habitat designation for the cuckoo, which dropped 30 percent of the habitat included in the original rule it proposed in 2014 and also identified vast exclusions for consideration especially in states like Colorado, Nevada, Wyoming and Texas, where populations are in greatest danger of disappearing.
The western yellow-billed cuckoo is a migratory bird that travels between its wintering grounds in South and Central America and its breeding grounds in the United States and Mexico. Cuckoo populations have declined drastically since the early 1900s due to habitat loss and modification. They were once found throughout the West from Canada to Mexico, but now are restricted to a few isolated breeding populations in California, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, New Mexico, and possibly Nevada. The Rio Grande in central New Mexico is home to the largest breeding group of yellow-billed cuckoos north of Mexico. As a result of the species decline, the cuckoo was listed as a “threatened” species under the Endangered Species Act on October 3, 2014. This critical habitat designation is the next step in ensuring the survival and recovery of the species.
“This is a shady attempt to backpedal on the original proposal for critical habitat,” said Jen Pelz, Rio Grande Waterkeeper and director of the rivers program at WildEarth Guardians. “The yellow-billed cuckoo is an iconic bird of western rivers, and protecting their habitat would protect healthy watersheds and clean water; too bad the Trump administration isn’t interested in things like that.”
Read the press release.
Fifty years ago, a group of visionaries created an event to honor, celebrate and protect the earth. The original founders of Earth Day were inspired by an understanding that Earth and its life support systems were increasingly vulnerable. They also understood a profound and simple truth—if the Earth suffers, then humanity suffers too.
If Earth and its natural systems are to thrive in the next 50 years, we need a deep recommitment to the bold vision that inspired the first Earth Day. Simply put, it’s time for action and we need Guardians like you to step up and help be a catalyst for the type of bold changes needed to address systemic problems, like the nature crisis and climate crises.
First, if you haven’t already, sign our Earth Day Pledge and make sure to share it with your friends and family.
Next, help us take over social media for Earth Week! To do that, we’ve assembled ready-to-go images for Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. If you’re short on time, we’ve even put together some sample Facebook posts and Instagram hashtags for you. We’ve created something extra special for people on Twitter: A compelling series of 15 tweets. We’d be especially grateful if you could send them all out!
Finally, you can find WildEarth Guardians on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @WildEarthGuardians, so make sure to tag us!
All Earth Day images can be downloaded from this folder. They’re already sized for Facebook/Instagram or Twitter. You can also click on each image below and get a full-size image for use on social media.
Start your very own Twitter Storm by sending out the following 15 tweets. We’ve made it simple: Just grab and post! Please note: If an image isn’t associated with the suggested tweet (Example: Suggested Tweet #1) an image will automatically propagate when you post the entire tweet.
Suggested Tweet #1
The original founders of #EarthDay were inspired by an understanding that Earth and its life support systems were increasingly vulnerable. They also understood a profound and simple truth—if the Earth suffers, then humanity suffers too. https://wildearthguardians.org/brave-new-wild/news/earth-day-2020-a-vision-for-the-next-50-years/
Suggested Tweet #2
Sign the Earth Day Pledge: https://guardiansaction.org/EarthDayPledge @wildearthguard
Suggested Tweet #3
Thanks to the catalyzing effect of the original #EarthDay vision—as well as a deep and wide progressive social and political movement—a whole suite of environmental safety nets now exist to protect nature, the air we breathe, and the water we drink. https://wildearthguardians.org/brave-new-wild/news/americas-bedrock-environmental-laws-a-conversation-with-john-horning/
Suggested Tweet #4
This #EarthDay is a time to reject dualities that seek to deny our interdependence and embrace our shared destiny—planet and people have one health. From this stems our belief that the rights of nature and the rights of people are inextricably intertwined. https://wildearthguardians.org/brave-new-wild/news/earth-day-2020-a-vision-for-the-next-50-years/
Suggested Tweet #5
Help spread the word about #EarthDay2020! Check out our Earth Day social media tool kit for a series of ready-to-go tweets, posts, and images. Let’s be loud and be proud this #EarthDay! @wildearthguard https://guardiansaction.org/EarthDayToolkit
Suggested Tweet #6
There has never been a better time to chart a new course towards a restorative and regenerative future. Take the #EarthDay Pledge: https://guardiansaction.org/EarthDayPledge @wildearthguard
Suggested Tweet #7
Extractive industries that mine, drill, log, and graze on #publiclands are fueling the climate crisis and the nature crisis. We must equitably retire extractive industries on public lands. Take action: https://guardiansaction.org/EarthDayPledge #EarthDay
Suggested Tweet #8
Living rivers are vital to the diversity of life on earth. To ensure the future health of rivers and the species that depend on them, we must revive the pulse of great waterways and expose the historic injustice to rivers. Take the pledge: https://guardiansaction.org/EarthDayPledge #EarthDay
Suggested Tweet #9
Native #wildlife, especially carnivores, are suffering under the multiple and intensifying threats of habitat destruction, climate disruption and questionable hunting and trapping practices. We must nurture an ethic of compassionate co-existence: https://guardiansaction.org/EarthDayPledge #EarthDay
Suggested Tweet #10
Public lands in the American West are home to some of the last remnants of wild, yet still unprotected, landscapes in our nation. There are potentially up to 40 million acres of #publiclands that would be eligible for permanent protection. ACT: https://guardiansaction.org/EarthDayPledge #EarthDay
Suggested Tweet #11
Times like these show the importance of safety nets. We must secure and strengthen environmental safety nets like the Endangered Species Act and National Environmental Policy Act to meet the challenges ahead. Sign the pledge: https://guardiansaction.org/EarthDayPledge #EarthDay
Suggested Tweet #12
WildEarth Guardians’ #EarthDay vision calls for leadership at all levels of society. We need leaders from all political spectrums to shoulder the responsibility of creating and embrace the vision of a new, more nurturant social contract with citizens. https://wildearthguardians.org/brave-new-wild/news/earth-day-2020-a-vision-for-the-next-50-years/
Suggested Tweet #13
Living rivers and #cleanwater are vital to all life. Flowing, healthy rivers nourish communities, connect ecosystems, and provide corridors and habitat for fish and wildlife. Sign the pledge to protect and defend #livingrivers: https://guardiansaction.org/EarthDayPledge #EarthDay
Suggested Tweet #14
We must deepen our commitment to greater equity and inclusion in our human communities to ensure that people are treated with compassion and afforded the dignity that all people deserve. #EarthDay https://wildearthguardians.org/brave-new-wild/news/earth-day-2020-a-vision-for-the-next-50-years/
Suggested Tweet #15
The beauty, resiliency, and dynamism of Earth can still inspire a sense of awe and wonder in each of us. If we re-commit, with a greater sense of urgency, to the founding vision of #EarthDay, we can ensure future generations will experience the beauty too. https://guardiansaction.org/EarthDayPledge
Suggested Facebook Posts
Suggested Facebook Post #1
The original founders of Earth Day were inspired by an understanding that Earth and its life support systems were increasingly vulnerable. They also understood a profound and simple truth—if the Earth suffers, then humanity suffers too.
As we commemorate this 50th anniversary of Earth Day, we do so with a somber reckoning that we have not heeded planetary health warnings early or well enough. Therefore, these times require ever more bold actions to realign our commitment to Earth and its natural systems and our mutual well-being.
Here’s what guardians like you can do today to help us collectively achieve this vision.
Suggested Facebook Post #2
If Earth and its natural systems are to thrive in the next 50 years, we need a deep recommitment to the bold vision that inspired the first Earth Day. It is a time for action. It is time to reweave the threads of the environmental, public health, and economic safety nets, which ensure that the public welfare and the common good are each protected.
Take the Pledge: https://guardiansaction.org/EarthDayPledge
Suggested Facebook Post #3
Happy Earth Day…Now get to work for the Earth!
Our Earth Day social media tool kit is a one-stop-shop of ready-to-go tweets, posts, and images.
Instagram Hashtags and Link for Bio
Put this link to the Earth Day Pledge in your bio: https://guardiansaction.org/EarthDayPledge
Hashtags: Use one, or use them all!
#EarthDay #EarthDay2020 #EarthDayEveryDay #ClimateAction #StopExtinction #PublicLands #Wildlife #EndTheWarOnWildlife #LivingRivers #KeepItInTheGround #ProtectWhatYouLove #SaveTheEarth #SaveThePlanet #ProtectOurPlanet #ActOnClimate #EarthWeek #WaterIsLife #CleanWater #CleanAir #Biodiversity #Coexistence #ProtectNature #SaveNature #ProtectWildlife #OneEarth #Together #EndangeredSpecies
Our nation’s bedrock environmental law–the National Environmental Policy Act–is under attack by corporate polluters and their cronies in the Trump Administration, threatening our right to a healthy environment in the United States.
Fortunately, we have a chance to fight back against this brazen assault and defend our health and communities.
Most people have no clue what the National Environmental Policy Act is, but virtually everyone knows what it does.
Passed 50 years ago, the law ensures federal agencies analyze and fully disclose the environmental impacts of their activities. More importantly, it gives the public the right to be involved and to influence federal actions that may affect their environment.
Described as “our basic national charter for protection of the environment,” the National Environmental Policy Act has been a critical check on the activities of our federal government.
Often called NEPA (that’s pronounced “nee-puh”), the law enshrined the goal of environmental protection in the United States and enforced the need to involve the public in federal decisions. And since its passage, NEPA has worked tremendously.
It’s given communities a voice and sway when new highways are proposed through neighborhoods. It’s empowered local and state governments to stand up to federal agencies. It’s provided Tribes the tools needed to defend sacred lands. And it’s enabled watchdogs across the country to make a difference for people and the planet.
The law has truly been a ray of sunshine and for Americans.
For WildEarth Guardians, NEPA is absolutely key to protecting and restoring wildlife, wild places, wild rivers, and health in the American West.
For over 30 years, we’ve relied on the law to confront proposals by federal agencies to log old growth forests, dam rivers, decimate wildlife, destroy the climate, and desecrate sacred lands. We’ve relied on the law to mobilize support for safeguarding endangered species, protecting wilderness, and saving lands and waters throughout the American West.
Just last month, we filed suit in federal court to block the sale of nearly two million acres of public lands for fracking in five western states over the federal government’s failure to comply with NEPA. The case confronts the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s refusal to account for the climate impacts of authorizing more fossil fuel production and more greenhouse gas emissions.
For WildEarth Guardians, as well as countless other environmental, health, community, justice, Indigenous, and other advocates, NEPA is the backbone of our accountability efforts. It’s given us all the tools needed to stand up to private, often well-financed efforts to exploit our environment at the expense of our health and well-being.
Sadly, because groups like WildEarth Guardians have successfully used NEPA to defend our environment, it’s come under fire by polluters who view the law as an impediment to their ability to exploit communities and public resources.
Claiming the law is inefficient, cumbersome, and ineffective, corporate interests have for many years called for its gutting. Now, with Trump and his pro-polluter cadre in the White House, these interests are launching an unprecedented strike on our nation’s basic charter for environmental protection.
In a draft released on January 10, the White House Council on Environmental Quality published a proposed set of regulations that, if adopted, would effectively roll back and destroy NEPA as we know it (watch our recent Facebook Live check-in to learn more about these rollbacks).
The rules would completely rewrite regulations originally promulgated in 1982 and in doing so, completely upend our ability to hold our federal government accountable to protecting our environment. It’s not surprising that lobbyists for the nation’s polluters have described the rules as “exactly” what they recommended to the Trump administration.
Among the sweeping changes, the Trump administration’s proposal would:
- Strike language describing NEPA as “our nation’s basic charter for environmental protection” and instead describe the law as procedural and only requiring federal agencies to minimally disclose the environmental impacts of their actions;
- Severely restrict opportunities for public involvement in federal agency actions affecting the environment;
- In many situations, exempt federal agencies from having to complete environmental reviews;
- Let agencies shortcut environmental reviews and to reject science and public comments;
- Undermine transparency by allowing agencies to withhold environmental information from the public;
- Make it more difficult for watchdogs to enforce NEPA before administrative appeals boards or federal courts; and
- Prohibit federal agencies from analyzing and disclosing cumulative environmental impacts, or the impacts of their actions when added to the impacts of other past, present, and reasonably foreseeable activities.
That last proposed change is particularly distressing. The duty for the federal government to address the cumulative impacts of its actions is a critical and powerful means of ensuring agencies don’t worsen environmental problems, like climate change.
By eliminating the duty to account for cumulative impacts, the proposed changes would completely erase the federal government’s responsibility to protect our environment.
In keeping with the anti-public spirit of the proposal, the Council on Environmental Quality has also provided only 60 days for people to provide comments on the draft regulations and scheduled only two public hearings–one in Denver and one in Washington, D.C.–where only a little more than 100 people will be allowed to comment.
There’s no doubt that if approved, the proposed rules would effectively shut the American public out of the operations of the federal government, leaving our environment, our communities, our health, and our families more vulnerable than ever.
In response to Trump’s attack on NEPA, a massive coalition of advocates across the country are gearing up to fight back.
The resistance is kicking off in Denver, Colorado this Tuesday, February 11. That day, the Trump administration is holding its first of two public hearings on the proposed rollbacks.
While many will be speaking at the formal hearing, the Council on Environmental Quality provided only 112 speaking slots that were filled in less than five minutes due to extremely high demand. That’s why most people will be speaking and rallying across the street as part of the “Peoples Hearing to Protect NEPA,” an all-day action meant to uplift and empower the voices that were excluded by the Trump administration.
Groups are also pushing back in other critical ways. Last month, WildEarth Guardians joined hundreds of other groups in demanding the Trump administration extend the public comment period for the proposed rollbacks and calling for more public hearings.
Congressional leaders are also rising up to defend NEPA. In a bipartisan letter last month, U.S. Representative Diana DeGette of Colorado, a Democrat, and Representative Francis Rooney of Florida, a Republican, were joined by hundreds of other members of the U.S. House in calling on the Council on Environmental Quality to back down from the proposed rollbacks.
In the meantime, now, more than ever, we need your voice to help derail these terrible rollbacks to NEPA. If you haven’t yet, sign our petition and join thousands of others who are rising up to speak out for our environment and our voice.
Together, we can thwart Trump and his gang of polluters in the White House. Together, we can #ProtectNEPA.