Tag Archives: environmental law

Climate Change, Wetlands & Mitigation: A Workshop at Stetson University

Last week I traveled to St. Petersburg, Florida for the first time and walked along the beach in the dark. Moonlight sparkled on the waves, which I couldn’t see because it was pitch-black. The strange sound of chirping birds at my feet caught me off guard because I couldn’t see them; I spun around shining the Assistive Light app on my smartphone to light my path through the dark sand.

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Ed Thomas spoke about climate change adaptation and flood mitigation in a wetlands context

The Environmental Law Institute partnered with Stetson University College of Law to hold a workshop on the legal and scientific responses to a Supreme Court case known as Koontz. Nearly 70 people attended the workshop. For a local radio coverage of the workshop, click here.  I posted live Tweets for @ELI_Wetlands throughout the workshop, while the speakers, including renown wetlands ecologist, Dr. William Mitsch, Director of the Everglades Wetlands Research Park in Florida, and Ed Thomas, President of the National Hazard Mitigation Association, led the discussion. Royal Gardner, a professor of environmental law at Stetson and author of the book, Lawyers, Swamps and Money, framed the issues. (I’m reading his book now, thanks to Ed!) A series of panel discussions rounded out the day, ending with a pool-side reception, where the conversation about wetlands continued. It was a lively discussion enriched by student and audience participation during the small group break-out sessions. In my group, a number of participants discussed the NGO perspective of wetlands implications of the Koontz case. For more information about the Koontz case, see this SCOTUS blog post. (Supreme Court blog)

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Visiting the U.S. Botanic Garden for the National Wetlands Awards Ceremony

Last week I started my new job as Editor of the National Wetlands Newsletter, a bi-monthly publication of the Environmental Law Institute, based in Washington, D.C. It was the first time I visited Washington as an adult (not counting changing planes at Ronald Reagan National Airport (DCA). My grandfather, Rufus Stetson, brought me to Washington when I was 13 and we stayed at his “club” and visited the Washington Zoo. Bebop, as I called him, was a U.S. tax attorney for the federal government (Justice Department, U.S. Treasury, etc.) in the 1950s and ’60s, and so it seemed fitting to me that I would begin this new role at the Environmental Law Institute while walking in his old stomping grounds in the NW quarter.

I stayed on E Street, a few blocks from the Smithsonian museums–although I worked until after 6pm most evenings, and the museums closed at 5:30pm (except for Fridays and weekends) so I didn’t get a chance to see any of the Smithsonian museums during this trip. On May 9th, I attended the National Wetlands Awards ceremony at the U.S. Botanic Garden, which I loved exploring. Severe allergies gripped me as soon as I arrived in D.C. on Sunday evening, and I couldn’t breathe well most of the week. As I walked around the exhibits of various ecosystems in the Botanic Garden, I breathed easiest in the “Hawaii” exhibit.  I confess that I went to “Hawaii” every chance I got (a few times) throughout the evening’s activities en route to the ladies’ room or just to catch my breath. The ceremony recognized seven leaders in wetland categories, e.g. State/Tribal Program Management, Community Leadership, Education/Outreach. ELI’s President John Cruden gave the keynote address and all of the speakers, including the presenters and the award winners, inspired us with stories about protecting and restoring wetlands. Starting in a couple of weeks, I will become the Manager of the National Wetlands Awards program.  I’ll be responsible for planning the ceremony for May 2014, the program’s 25th anniversary.

If I don’t write much in this blog for the next few weeks, it’s only because I’ve taken the helm at the National Wetlands Newsletter, and I’m focused on setting up my new office. I will also be working on the two new websites for the National Wetlands Newsletter and the National Wetlands Awards in the coming weeks. If you’re an avid reader of the NWN, please reach out to me with feedback or suggestions as I work on the new website and summer issue.

Dirty Gold, Dug Dirt Deep

There are two wetlands-related Alaskan cases in the news right now with one being the controversial Supreme Court decision in Couer, Alaska resulting in a ruling that could allow mining activities in the Bristol Bay watershed, which is home to the sockeye salmon. The decision potentially affects a much larger mining project in Bristol Bay in Southwest Alaska. With the speed of social networking sites, the ripple effects of this decision are international, potentially global, and supporters of the Bristol Bay fishery are coming in all shapes and sizes – even jewelry. At least six U.K. based jewelry companies and designers, including Tiffany’s & Co., have declared they won’t buy the so-called “dirty gold” from the Pebble mine in the Bristol Bay watershed. The pebble mine has not officially filed for a permit or decided yet whether it will dump waste into the Lower Slate Lake. (Its back-up plan involves filling area streams and wetlands and then putting the rock waste on top of the fill.)

Summary of the June 22, 2009 Supreme Court Decision in Couer Alaska, Inc. v. Southeast Alaska Conservation Council, et al. In  6-3 Clean Water Act ruling that could allow lakes and other waters to be more easily destroyed and polluted by mining and other polluting activities, the Supreme Court today upheld that an unprecedented agency permitting decision allowing the Couer Alaska mine company to avoid stringent permitting requirements and instead dump their waste directly into Alaska’s Lower Slate Lake. For the summary and decision, go to: For a summary, go to: http://topics.law.cornell.edu/supct/cert/07-984

For a related news story, go to: Court allows gold mine to dump waste in lake
http://www.adn.com/money/industries/mining/story/840031.html 

Leading UK Jewelers Say *No* to Dirty Gold from Alaska Mine
Earthworks Press Release – April 14, 2009
Six prestigious UK jewelry retailers, including Tiffany’s & Co., and designers representing 260 stores pledged their support for Bristol Bay, Alaska, by announcing that they will not buy gold from Anglo American’s proposed “Pebble” mine, a massive open-pit operation being considered in the bay’s headwaters. The Bristol Bay watershed supports the world’s most productive wild sockeye salmon fishery, which is critical to the state’s economy and to the livelihoods of many Alaska Native communities. The UK is the largest consumer of Bristol Bay canned sockeye salmon. The threat to the Bristol Bay fishery has generated an unusual and diverse array of allies, including Alaska’s commercial fishing industry, over 140 sportfishing businesses, the Alaska Intertribal Council (a consortium of 231 Alaska Tribes), and numerous conservation groups.http://www.earthworksaction.org/PR_AK2UK.cfm

More links to information about the Pebble Mine and Pebble Partnership in Alaska:
http://www.stoppebblemine.com/
http://www.flyfisherman.com/alaska/jrpebble/
http://www.pebblepartnership.com/

For NPCA press release, Report Finds Lake Clark National Park in Pristine Condition, Resources Threatened by Mining, go to:http://www.npca.org/media_center/press_releases/2009/lake_clark_report_071409.htmlFor the full report on Lake Clark National Park & Preserve in Alaska, go to:http://www.npca.org/stateoftheparks/lake_clark/