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Give thanks for environmental protections

Ranger Steve’s Nature Niche

By Ranger Steve Mueller

Environmental protections are insurance for people, our economy, and a sustainable healthy future for present and coming generations. Michigan Audubon’s mission is dedicated to connecting birds and people for the benefit of both. They do this through conservation, education, and research. Their work is not done in a vacuum. When I was a board member, we realized ecosystem nature niches depend on living and nonliving environmental components.

During mid 1800’s and 1900’s, many human activities imperiled the health of US ecosystems supporting our livelihood and imposed life-threatening community conditions. By the 1970’s hard gained protections were implemented. As we close the year, many of those protections are being eliminated by the current US president.

Significant recovery actions for Canada Geese headed for extinction in the early 1900’s resulted in recovery. Bald Eagle recovery is a great success story on two fronts. The Bald Eagle Protection Act established in 1940 prevented indiscriminate shooting of the species. Later protections were established for hawks and other species that eat meat. Laws already protected people from indiscriminate shooting but of course some people ignore the law. People are still shot and eagles are still shot like the recent shooting of a Bald Eagle with the excuse they thought they were shooting a Canada Goose. 

The second event allowing eagle recovery was banning use of DDT and other chlorinated hydrocarbon pesticides in the US. Most eagles stay in the US and recovery of nesting pairs increased from 40 to 800. 

The President has removed restrictions on lead shot. Chocolay Raptor Center near Marquette reported lead poisoning cases have doubled. Environmental protection elimination puts eagles at risk and endangers our families. 

Lead has been a known toxin for 2000 years and historians conclude that lead-lined water ducts contributed to the fall of the Roman Empire. President Trump overturned the US lead ban in 2017. People have told me the Flint lead issue is political to benefit nonwhite races and it should not be the responsibility of the community that switched the water source to save money. The result increased community costs and human health decreased. The idea has its supporters and some think it should include eliminating protections from PFAS, air and water pollution. The president is gutting environmental laws that protect people and wildlife despite more than 80 percent of Americans thinking his environmental directives are moving in the wrong direction.

He has overturned protections preventing the dumping of mined mountain tops directly into rivers to make coal mining more economically competitive with alternative energy sources and ignores the dire climate change threat. He is ignoring the drinking water treatment costs, lost fishing opportunities and aquatic life needs.

Removing pollution protection by gutting Air and Water pollution Acts might result in short term financial savings for home heating but will increase long term economic and health costs for people, wildlife, and plants similar to switching the water sources in Flint. I wrote about my first job as an urban forester assigned to revegetate Midland after Dow Chemical killed trees with air pollution. 1970’s air pollution laws required smokestacks have pollution controls. I was commissioned to select trees on Dow property for transfer to replace killed trees. The law reduced air related human health problems, extended lives, and reduced medical expenses.

300 million plus tons of heavy metals, solvents, and toxic sludge are dumped in waters annually. 75% of the planet’s land area has been severely altered by human activity. Ten times more plastic floats in oceans than did in 1980. An estimate states 1 in 8 species are threatened by extinction. 500,000 species do not have adequate land-based habitat for sustainable survival. An important cause is the increase in human population and excessive resource consumption resulting from 3.7 billion people in 1970 increasing to 7.6 billion in 2019. The human population is expected to double rapidly again. Solutions depend on voluntary population control and continued air and water protections from being gutted by the Trump administration.

An oil spill resulted in 11 people being killed and three months of uncontrolled oil release into the Gulf of Mexico with devastating costs to coastal businesses plus untold damage to aquatic life that continues. Public outcry demanded better safety valves to prevent similar events. The decades old Exxon oil spill in Alaska is still killing aquatic life and harming the fishing industry. Trump appointed a former oil industry lobbyist to head interior department environment protection. The result is a plan to roll back oil drilling safety requirements. Trump is committed to erasing Obama presidency protections. 

Our collective memory of past pollution devastation will be relived unless Americans demand staying engaged in the Climate Accord, continued strong bipartisan Air and Water Protection Acts, protection of Federal lands that the current administration wants to sell to private interests with different missions that do not include sustainable protection for national parks, BLM lands or national forests. He does not think US citizens should collectively own public lands and opposes Teddy Roosevelt’s establishment of such. 

Our future and that of children depends on us demanding representatives, senators, and the president work for public benefit. Your actions are important to support your views regarding your future, that of coming human generations and that of wildlife ecosystems we all share. Wildlife survival is a reflection on our own future. We can live like bacteria in a Petri dish consuming food and natural resources in a boom and bust or maintain a sustainable environment and ecosystems that we depend on for survival. 

Today is Thanksgiving. Give thanks for the foresight of bipartisan environmental protections during the last century and expect the same from all current political parties.

Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at odybrook@chartermi.net – Ody Brook Nature Sanctuary, 13010 Northland Dr. Cedar Springs, MI 49319 or call 616-696-1753.

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