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Monday, February 24, 2014

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Requests Public Comment on Managing Oil and Gas Development on National Wildlife Refuge System Lands

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) today announced the start of a public process and the opening of a 60-day comment period seeking input on managing non-federal oil and gas development on National Wildlife Refuge System (NWRS) lands.

This effort is part of the Service’s ongoing commitment to avoid or minimize adverse effects on natural and cultural resources and wildlife-dependent recreation, ensure a consistent and effective regulatory environment for oil and gas operators, and protect public health and safety.

“Throughout the process, the Service will work with the public, the oil and gas industry and conservation groups to ensure we are using the best management practices and other industry standards for the conservation of fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats,” said Director Dan Ashe. “Working in collaboration with these stakeholders will improve the agency’s ability to ensure landscapes capable of supporting sustainable populations of fish and wildlife while providing for the energy needs of local communities – now and in the future.”

On many Service lands, including wildlife refuges, the federal government does not own the rights to subsurface minerals. Instead, mineral rights are owned by private individuals or other entities, which have the legal authority to develop their oil and gas resources.

Additionally, some refuges had existing oil and gas wells and associated infrastructure and pipelines when they were acquired by the Service, which has allowed operations of oil and gas facilities to continue. Based on the Service’s best available data, more than 200 refuges have oil and gas operations, including more than 5,000 wells, almost 1,600 actively producing oil and gas wells, and almost 1,300 miles of pipelines.

In 2003 and 2007, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued reports to Congress recommending that the Service clarify permitting authority for non-federal oil and gas operations by adopting regulations similar to the National Park Service and the U.S. Forest Service. These regulations would provide a consistent and reasonable set of regulatory controls over the oil and gas activities occurring on refuges to protect the public’s surface interests and provide reliable processes for industry.

Due to recent technological advances in drilling technology, the NWRS is experiencing an unprecedented level of interest in accessing formations such as the Marcellus in the eastern U.S. and the Bakken in North Dakota and Montana, both previously uneconomic to develop. Refuges that lie above these formations are being impacted at rates much higher than in the past. Existing oil and gas regulations do not fully address these challenges.

Written comments and information can be submitted by one of the following methods:
  • Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. Follow the instructions for submitting comments to Docket No. [FWS–HQ–NWRS–2012–0086]; or
  • U.S. mail or hand-delivery: Public Comments Processing, Attn: [FWS–HQ–NWRS–2012–0086]; Division of Policy and Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, MS 2042–PDM; Arlington, VA 22203.
Since this is a formal rulemaking process with subsequent National Environmental Policy Act support, the Service anticipates this effort will take at least three years to complete.

The notice will publish in the Federal Register on February 24, 2014. Comments must be received within 60 days, on or before April 25, 2014. The Service will post all comments on http://www.regulations.gov. This generally means the agency will post any personal information provided through the process. The Service is not able to accept email or faxes.

Comments and materials, as well as supporting documentation, will be available for public inspection at http://www.regulations.gov under the above docket number. In addition, more details on the kinds of information the Service is seeking is available in the notice and will be posted online at http://www.fws.gov/refuges/oil-and-gas/.

The National Wildlife Refuge System protects wildlife and wildlife habitat on more than 150 million acres of land and water from the Caribbean to the Pacific, Maine to Alaska. Refuges also improve human health, provide outdoor recreation and support local economies. Visit our home page at www.fws.gov/refuges. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Recipients of the 2014 Orvis Customer Matching Grants to Protect Nature

The Orvis Company, Inc. of Manchester, VT announced the four recipients of its annual Customer Matching Grant program. Targeted to raise $360,000 or more, these grants are the cornerstone of Orvis’s annual commitment of 5% of its pre-tax profits to protecting nature. In total, Orvis will raise and contribute more than $1 million to conservation initiatives in 2014.

Orvis has awarded cash grants—to match its customers’ contributions up to equal amounts—to the following organizations:

Trout Unlimited, to continue its multi-year collaboration with Orvis to establish the Orvis/Trout Unlimited 1,000 Miles Campaign, which will reconnect 1,000 miles of stream passage for fish in watersheds throughout the United States over ten years. This project will open up waterways through the repair, modification and/or removal of culverts and other obstructions.(Photo courtesy of jimyuskavitchphotography.com)

The Petfinder Foundation, for its programs benefitting shelters and providing homes for rescued dogs across America. Another repeat, this program, whose goal is to ensure that no adoptable pet is euthanized for lack of a loving home, is so popular with Orvis customers that it more than doubled its goal in both 2012 and 2013. (Photo courtesy of RAGOM)

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation to benefit its Oyster Restoration Program, which works to restore native oyster reefs in Maryland and Virginia. Restored reefs improve water quality and fish habitat in Chesapeake Bay. (Photo courtesy of johnwerry.com)

Rare, for its Fish Forever program in Belize. Fish Forever empowers local communities to sustainably manage their fisheries, thereby increasing food security, conserving important marine habitats and species, safeguarding local jobs and creating coastal climate resilience. (Photo courtesy of Jason Houston)

“Protecting the natural world and a love of the outdoors is not just a corporate commitment, but a way of life that resonates with our customers and all of us here at Orvis,” says CEO Perk Perkins. “That’s why we contribute 5% of pre-tax profits to protect nature. With our matching grants, we invite customers to participate with their own donations, and we match their contributions dollar for dollar.”

Throughout 2014, Orvis will feature each of the four grant programs in its catalogs, website, and retail stores, as well as in other print and online promotions, social media and its conservation blog. The in-kind value of this exposure exceeds $600,000 on top of the cash grants awarded, according to Bill Eyre, Orvis Director of Corporate Marketing and Conservation. These promotional efforts, coupled with the matching funds from Orvis, provide a remarkable opportunity for customers, organization members and the general public to amplify their contribution to the protection of nature through these programs.

In addition to its Customer Matching Grants, Orvis donates smaller, non-matching grants to organizations that preserve and restore fish and wildlife habitat, support communities, and advance canine health and well-being. Key 2014 projects include habitat restoration on upstate New York’s Sands Creek through a grant to Friends of the Upper Delaware; preservation work on California’s fabled Hat Creek through a grant to CalTrout; and a variety of other projects with partners such as The Nature Conservancy, American Rivers, World Wildlife Fund, Casting for Recovery, Project Healing Waters, Ducks Unlimited and the Morris Animal Foundation.

Over the past 20 years, Orvis has raised and donated in excess of $15 million for a wide variety of conservation programs, from Kodiak Island, AK to the Florida Everglades; from the Mountain Gorillas of Rwanda to the great Coral Triangle of the South Pacific; and in dozens of vital fisheries through America and the world. Details of this and past year’s Orvis Customer Matching Grant projects can be seen at www.orvis.com/commitment. A brief synopsis of each of this year’s grant recipients follows:

Trout Unlimited – The Orvis/TU 1,000 Miles Campaign
For the third year in a row, Orvis will match its customers’ contributions up to $90,000 as part of a campaign to repair or modify culverts throughout the United States to reconnect 1,000 miles of streams across the US in 10 years. A compelling new video about this program can be viewed at: www.orvis.com/1kmiles. Outdated, damaged or impassable culverts—the passages that connect streams underneath roadways everywhere—are a major threat to all species of trout and other coldwater fish, often blocking passage to vital upstream spawning habitat. Compared with dam removal, these relatively low-cost, high-impact projects, “make fixing a culvert so that fish can pass one of the best investments we can make in trout recovery,” according to Trout Unlimited President and CEO Chris Wood. Funds raised through the Orvis/TU 1,000 Miles Campaign will go toward the engineering and removal of culverts. Each year TU determines a list of watersheds that will most benefit from a concerted effort to replace culverts. In the program’s first two years, more than 20 culvert projects have been completed or started from Maine to Oregon, Virginia to Wisconsin, and points in between.

Petfinder Foundation
Each year, five out of every ten dogs in shelters across the United States are euthanized for the simple reason there is no one to adopt them. Nationwide, there were an estimated 8 million new pets added to the shelter system this year. The Petfinder Foundation is a nonprofit charity whose mission is to ensure that no pet is euthanized for lack of a home. Founded in 2003, the foundation helps homeless pets through adoptions, helping shelters prepare for and recover from disaster, and working to make shelters across the country more sustainable. The foundation supports more than 14,000 animal-welfare organizations, providing direct funding, as well as training, education, and grants of equipment and supplies so that homeless pets have happier lives. In 2014, Orvis will match customers’ donations up to $30,000 to support and protect these vulnerable pets.

Chesapeake Bay Foundation-Oyster Restoration
Saving the Chesapeake Bay is uniquely tied to restoring the native oyster. The oysters in the Chesapeake were once so plentiful they could filter a volume of water equal to that of the entire Bay (some 19 trillion gallons) in three days. Today it would take the current oyster population more than a year to perform the same task. In fact the Bay’s native oyster population has been reduced to as low as 1% of historic levels, making restoration critical to the improvement of the Bay’s water quality. In 2014 Orvis will match customer donations up to $30,000 to enable CBF to restore native oyster reefs, utilizing a unique method of “setting” juvenile oysters on reef balls which will then be deployed into sanctuary reefs, protected from harvesting. This project will not only further oyster restoration, but will enhance both water quality and fish habitat, benefiting the entire Chesapeake ecosystem.

Rare-Fish Forever in Belize
Around the world a billion people depend on fish as their main source of protein. Most of these small-scale fisheries are poorly managed and overfished. Rare, in cooperation with the Environmental Defense Fund and the University of California, Santa Barbara, has developed Fish Forever, an innovative program designed to empower coastal communities to sustainably manage their own fisheries. A $30,000 grant from Orvis, coupled with a match from customers, will generate $60,000 to help develop the first national system of this type of managed fishery in Belize, inspiring change and improving the lives of thousands of Belizeans, while incubating a replicable model of sustainability for the rest of the world.

About The Orvis Company
Founded in 1856, Orvis pioneered the mail order industry in the United States, currently mailing nine catalog titles and three websites offering the world’s finest fly-fishing gear, quality men’s and women’s apparel, gifts, home furnishings, luggage, pet accessories, and wingshooting gear, as well as sporting schools and travel adventure services. Orvis operates more than 80 retail stores in the U.S. and the U.K. including its Flagship store in Manchester, VT, and serves a network of over 400 independent dealers worldwide. Orvis commits 5% of pre-tax profits each year to protecting nature, supporting communities and advancing canine health and well-being. Orvis headquarters are in Manchester, Vermont. Learn more at www.orvis.com.

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission approves 2014 – 2018 Strategic Plan

At its 2014 winter meeting the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission approved its 2014 – 2018 Strategic Plan. The plan establishes seven major goals and related strategies that will be implemented through annual action plans.

The Commission Chair Dr. Louis B. Daniel, III of North Carolina stated, "“The document revises the Commission’s long-term vision, values, driving forces, and goals to better respond to new challenges and opportunities in Atlantic coast fisheries management. The Commissioners’ goal, through the review process, was to strengthen the Strategic Plan to make it more effective, concise, and accessible to the public."

More than 4,500 comments were submitted during the public comment period with the majority of the comments supporting the direction of the Commission.

The Plan’s seven goals are:

1. Rebuild, maintain, fairly allocate, and promote Atlantic coastal fisheries
2. Provide the scientific foundation for and conduct stock assessments to support informed management
3. Promote compliance with fishery management plans to ensure sustainable use of Atlantic coast
4. Protect and enhance fish habitat and ecosystem health through partnerships and education
5. Strengthen stakeholder and public support for the Commission
6. Advance Commission and member states’ priorities through a proactive legislative policy agenda
7. Ensure the fiscal stability & efficient administration of the Commission

The 2014 – 2018 Strategic Plan is available on the Commission website at

Arctic Marine Mammals Are Ecosystem Sentinels

As the Arctic continues to see dramatic declines in seasonal sea ice, warming temperatures and increased storminess, the responses of marine mammals can provide clues to how the ecosystem is responding to these physical drivers.

Seals, walruses and polar bears rely on seasonal sea ice for habitat and must adapt to the sudden loss of ice, while migratory species such as whales appear to be finding new prey, altering migration timing and moving to new habitats.

“Marine mammals can act as ecosystem sentinels because they respond to climate change through shifts in distribution, timing of their movements and feeding locations,” said Sue Moore, Ph.D., a NOAA oceanographer, who spoke today at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Chicago. “These long-lived mammals also reflect changes to the ecosystem in their shifts in diet, body condition and physical health.”

Moore, who was part of a panel of U.S. and Canadian scientists on the health of marine mammals and indigenous people in the Arctic, stressed the importance of integrating marine mammal health research into the overall climate, weather, oceanographic and social science research on changes in the Arctic.

“Marine mammals connect people to ecosystem research by making it relevant to those who live in the Arctic and depend on these mammals for diet and cultural heritage and people around the world who look to these animals as symbols of our planet’s health,” Moore said.

Additional detail on aspects of Arctic climate change and marine ecosystem responses is available at the NOAA Arctic Report Card web site: http://www.arctic.noaa.gov/reportcard/

For information on the Distributed Biological Observatory, a change detection array that brings together physical and biological observations in the Arctic go to: http://www.arctic.noaa.gov/dbo/about.html

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

New York Proposes First-in-the-Nation Ban of Plastic Microbeads

Microbead-Free Waters Act Bans Plastic Beads Used In Facial Scrubs, Shampoos And Toothpaste; Beads Found At High Levels In Lake Erie, Beads Pollute New York Waters And Pose Emerging Threat To Wildlife, Public Health 

Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today was joined by Long Island Assemblyman Robert K. Sweeney in proposing first-in-the-nation legislation that bans a form of plastic pollution that is an emerging threat to New York’s Great Lakes and other bodies of water. The Attorney General’s Microbead-Free Waters Act will prohibit the sale in New York of beauty and cosmetic products that contain tiny plastic particles that are often marketed as microbeads. The plastic beads, which were recently found in alarmingly high levels in the New York waters of Lake Erie, can persist in the environment for centuries and accumulate toxic chemicals on their surface, threatening fish, wildlife and public health.

“From the Great Lakes to the Hudson River to Long Island Sound, our commitment to protecting and restoring New York’s waters is among our most important responsibilities,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “New York’s environmental leadership continues today with the introduction of common-sense legislation that will stop the flow of plastic from ill-designed beauty products into our vital waters, preserving our natural heritage for future generations.”

The Microbead-Free Waters Act would prohibit the production, manufacture, distribution and sale in New York of any beauty product, cosmetic or other personal care product containing plastic particles less than 5 millimeters in size. Microbeads are commonly found in more than 100 products, including facial scrubs, soaps, shampoo and toothpaste, where they replace ground walnut shells, sea salt, and other natural materials as an abrasive.

Assembly Environmental Conservation Committee Chair Robert K. Sweeney said, “When people learn more about this issue, they will be unwilling to sacrifice water quality just to continue to use products with plastic microbeads. I never met anyone who has wanted plastic on their face or in their fish.  I want to thank Attorney General Schneiderman for partnering with me to take action on an issue that threatens to pollute our State's environmental treasures."

When products containing microbeads are used in the home, the beads are rinsed down the drain and into our sewer systems. Because of their small size and buoyancy, microbeads escape treatment by sewage plants and are discharged into rivers, lakes and oceans.

In 2012, a team of researchers that included scientists from the State University of New York at Fredonia discovered alarming levels of microbeads in the Great Lakes – with the highest concentrations recorded in the New York waters of Lake Erie. Half of all plastics collected on the surface of Lake Erie were the perfectly spherical, multi-colored beads identical to the microbeads used in beauty products. Other plastics collected included larger plastic litter that had broken down in the environment, such as detergent bottles and Styrofoam.

Once in the water, microbeads, like other plastics, can attract and accumulate certain toxic chemicals commonly found in waters across the state, and can be mistaken as food by small fish and wildlife. Scientific studies have shown that fish and wildlife of all sizes consume plastic. In addition, environmental pollution found in Great Lakes waters, such as PCBs (the industrial pollutants polychlorinated biphenyls), gravitate and attach to the surface of plastic. If fish and wildlife species low on the food chain eat these contaminated plastics, the chemicals might be passed on to larger birds, fish and other animals that people eat.

To date, the Great Lakes are the only New York open waters sampled for plastic pollution. However, microbeads in beauty products can pass through sewage treatment facilities in any part of the State, raising concerns about their introduction into other State waters.

Three leading beauty product manufacturers – Proctor and Gamble, Unilever and Colgate-Palmolive – have all made recent commitments to phase out the use of microbeads in their products. Other companies, such as Burt’s Bees, have never used these plastics in their products. Consumers can determine if their beauty or personal care products contain microbeads by checking the product ingredient list for “polyethylene” or “polypropylene.”

New York State Senator Mark Grisanti said, “Protecting our Great Lakes - especially Lake Erie - goes hand in hand with revitalizing our waterfront. From Grand Island all the way to Brant, our waterfront is undergoing an incredible transformation. I support the concept of the Microbead-Free Waters Act and I believe it will keep dangerous plastic pollution out of our water and protect regional assets like the Great Lakes, which have become epicenters for economic development.”

Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster, a board member of The Great Lakes - St. Lawrence Cities Initiative, said, “Once we became aware of this significant new pollution threat recently uncovered in the Great Lakes, The Great Lakes - St. Lawrence Cities Initiative took a strong stance that the flow of microbeads into our waters must stop. We applaud Attorney General Schneiderman for spearheading this initiative, and we look forward to working alongside him to ensure that the future of the Great Lakes is microbead free.”

Mayor Keith Hobbs, of Thunder Bay, Ontario, and Chairman of the Cities Initiative, said, “We are moving forward with our actions to solve this problem, and these efforts in New York will be a big help in this important initiative.”

New York League of Conservation Voters President Marcia Bystryn said, “New York’s lakes and waterways are among our most beloved natural assets. This legislation will not only help protect them for future generations – it will also set an example for other states around the country to address this emerging environmental threat. We thank Attorney General Schneiderman for forging a common-sense, effective strategy to safeguard the natural resources that we all cherish and depend on.”

Peter Iwanowicz, Executive Director of Environmental Advocates of New York, said, “It’s easy to underestimate the harm that products like this cause, but no matter the shape or size of the plastic, it is still plastic we are flushing down the drain. Plastic microbeads haven’t made a single New Yorker cleaner or more beautiful so their continued use is absurd. Environmental Advocates applauds Attorney General Schneiderman for proposing this legislation, and we urge its passage.”

Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter Conservation Director Roger Downs said, “Plastic pollution is insidious – it doesn’t degrade like natural materials and persists for decades, if not centuries in our environment. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has set the bar on holding the beauty products industry accountable, and we urge other states around Great Lakes basin, and across the country to follow New York’s leadership.”

5 Gyres Institute Dr. Marcus Eriksen, lead author on the paper reporting on the first ever open-water survey of the Great Lakes for plastic pollution, said, “We found more small plastic pieces in the Great Lakes than in the ocean garbage patches, and the majority were microbeads. The 5 Gyres Institute commends New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman for his global leadership in responding quickly to this emerging source of plastic pollution.”

Erin Crotty, Executive Director of Audubon New York and Vice President of the National Audubon Society, said, “Small plastics like microbeads pose a growing threat to many bird species that feed at the water’s surface. Many waterbirds mistake plastics for food -- or are susceptible to bioaccumulation of plastic in the fish they eat -- with detrimental effect, including decreased food-absorption and starvation. Audubon New York applauds New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman for his leadership and attention to the growing problem of plastic pollution, and the threat it poses to birds and people across the globe.”

Brian Smith, of Citizens Campaign for the Environment (CCE), said, “Plastic microbeads that can accumulate toxic chemicals and be consumed by fish and wildlife are unnecessarily polluting New York’s treasured waters and threatening public health. CCE commends Attorney General Schneiderman for his leadership to protect the health of the Great Lakes and all New York waters by proactively addressing this emerging threat.”

Jill Jedlicka, Executive Director of Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper, said, “The emerging threat of microbead pollution has the potential to undermine the billions of dollars of public and private investment into our water-based economies and negatively impact the progress of Great Lakes restoration. We applaud Attorney General Schneiderman for demonstrating New York State's leadership on this issue in the Great Lakes, and for advancing legislation that will directly benefit the health of our waterways."

Paul Gallay, President of Riverkeeper, said, “Riverkeeper commends Attorney General Schneiderman for taking action to address the growing problem of micro bead pollution in New York’s waters. We have strived for decades to reclaim the Hudson River from its industrial, polluted past, and we have a cleaner, healthier river as a result. These plastic microbeads are an unnecessary and harmful product that do not belong in our waterways, and should be phased out of use as quickly as possible – this proposed law would be a precedent-setting first step in achieving this goal.”

Monday, February 03, 2014

Reconnect 1,000 miles of fishable streams

The Orvis/Trout Unlimited goal is to reconnect 1000 miles of trout spawning habitat by repairing or replacing poorly constructed culverts throughout the U.S.

Presently there are projects that involve culvert improvement or removal on Kinne Brook in Massachusetts, the upper Connecticut River in New Hampshire, the Shenandoah valley in Virginia, Big Slough Creek in Wisconsin, the Deschutes River in Oregon, the Bear River in Wyoming, and many more.

Orvis is donating $90,000 in matching funds. Your $100 donation will become $200, for a total of another $180,000 in 2014. Go here to learn more and to make your donation: Help Orvis and Trout Unlimited Remove Harmful Culverts