EPA’s Environmental Justice Head Resigned After 24 Years. He Wants to Explain Why.

“To move backward didn’t make any sense.”

In his resignation letter, Ali attempted to make the case for the Office of Environmental Justice by appealing to Pruitt’s interest in economic growth. He described what happened in Spartanburg, South Carolina, which received a $20,000 grant from the EPA to address the community’s abandoned dump sites that were leaching toxic chemicals. The mostly low-income, African American residents of the region experienced high rates of cancer and respiratory disease. Local black leaders leveraged that grant into $270 million from investors and the government to revitalize the city, “creating jobs and improving their environments through collaborative partnerships,” Ali wrote. “When I hear we are considering making cuts to grant programs like the EJ small grants or Collaborative Problem Solving programs, which have assisted over 1400 communities, I wonder if our new leadership has had the opportunity to converse with those who need our help the most.”

Read the rest of it here. And check out yesterday’s post about the budget slashing funding for scientific research, and gutting the EPA budget.

And finally, call your representatives, this fight is far from over (and consider marching for Science in April).

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Do you like Grizzly Bears in the Cascades?

One of my favorite online comics: The Oatmeal, put up a post to try to reestablish grizzly bears back into the Northern Cascades.

It only takes two things: 1) 25,000 dollars (already paid by the author of the Oatmeal and 2) 50,000 comments on the department on the interior website.

Interested? He even gives you specific examples if you’re not feeling particularly articulate this morning (like me). Check it out here.

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Also, check out the amazing story of the mantis shrimp, the awesome angler fish and my personal favorite, the flatworm parasite Captain Higgins.

A Race to Document Rare Plants Before These Cliffs Are Ground to Dust

Not figurative dust. Literal dust. Cambodia’s limestone karsts exist nowhere else and are home to a host of endemic species. These environments are being pulverized for cement and scientists are racing to document all the rare plants before they are gone.

Read about it over at the NYTimes!

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The Endangered Species Act may be heading for the threatened list.

Well this is nuts. Not surprising… but nuts none the less.

“A Senate hearing to “modernize the Endangered Species Act” unfolded Wednesday just as supporters of the law had feared, with round after round of criticism from Republican lawmakers who said the federal effort to keep species from going extinct encroaches on states’ rights, is unfair to landowners and stymies efforts by mining companies to extract resources and create jobs.

The two-hour meeting of the Environment and Public Works Committee was led by Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), who said last month that his focus in a bid to change the act would be “eliminating a lot of the red tape and the bureaucratic burdens that have been impacting our ability to create jobs,” according to a report in Energy and Environment News.”

The article goes on to discuss how it will likely be dismantled. Call your representatives!

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Behold, the Gargantuan Stick Insect

What’s that? You prefer your biological organisms to be of the charismatic variety? You like cute cuddly bears, and seals?

Giant insects terrify you? Skip this post.

Everyone else, WELCOME TO THE WEIRD FAUNA OF AUSTRALIA!

Seeing the Gargantuan Stick Insect in the wild is… wild. So read all about this encounter at Science Friday!

And check this guy out: 000220524c.jpg

If you know a Federal scientist, give them a hug. It’s been a really bad week.

From a friend who works for the forest service:

“This week my colleagues and I have had to deal with confusing gag orders and onerous requests for information and justifications of our work. In one case, I was given only half an hour to write statements on a number of pending agreements to explain why they were in the “public interest.” Note, these agreements involve *already allocated funds*, that have gone through *numerous justification and vetting processes already*. I have no idea how these justification requests will be used, but signs out of other agencies are ominous.

All of that said, the *single most pressing issue* for us right now is the blanket hiring freeze. We can muddle through with a hiring freeze on permanent staff, but my work and that of many of my colleagues (and much the functioning of the rest of the Federal system) depends on temporary and seasonal workers.

If this part of the ban is not lifted, then I will not be able to complete a number of projects that are critical to learning how we can best restore arid ecosystems in the Western United States. These lands are under threat from increasing fire frequency, invasive species and other disturbances. These lands support and sustain wildlife, pollinators, rare plants, clean air, clean water, Native American tribes, recreationists, sportsmen and ranchers. These lands are part of our heritage as Americans.

If you would like to help Federal scientists and other Federal employees continue to provide the public service that you have *already paid for* as a tax payer, please consider adding *lifting the ban on temporary and seasonal hiring* to your list of things that you are calling your Senators and Representatives about. Thank you.”

Science will not be silenced

I was on a tour of Berlin this past summer and there’s a monument outside of Humboldt University. It’s a room full of empty bookshelves, meant to remind people that during Hitler’s rise to power the Nazi’s striped books from the University library and burned them. My tour guide mentioned that when you start censoring science and knowledge, you know you’ve got a real problem.

In his first week in office, Trump has done just that. There is a TON of information out there about what happened in the last 24 hours, I’m going to summarize SOME of it here.

First Trump signed an executive order to freeze all grants and on-going projects. The following was posted by scientists on social media.

“The EPA was just directed to freeze all grants. This means that grad students and researchers funded on EPA funds are now without funds. All ongoing studies are stopped.It happened in a moment with a memo, by executive action, with zero input or oversight.It could happen to any Federal institute, including the National Science Foundation, which funds research at universities around the country — including the health insurance and living stipends of many, many students. Trump also froze all federal hiring yesterday.Please, if you can safely raise your voice, raise it loudly. Call your congresspeople, call the White House, write op-eds and articles and blog posts. This is only Day 4. Please, stand up for science and the environment. This is the emergency we were all worried about. (Share widely. I did not write this. It was copied and pasted from a scientist who wants to remain anonymous. The fear of retaliation is real.)”

A gag order on both the USDA and ESA followed quickly, which means that scientists are not allowed to communicate science. This is not normal. 

In response, Badlands National Park twitter feed went rougue, in direct defiance of the order, began posting nothing but climate change facts. Those tweets have since been deleted.

Today was a bad day for the environment, but a terrible day for scientists. Meanwhile, the Republicans in the House quietly closed any investigation into the Flint water crisis.

Before now we were talking in hypotheticals, about what might happen if Trump was the president, what that might mean for science or for the environment. The reality is scarier than I imagined.

Please don’t take this likely. Call your senators or congressional representative. It is not acceptable to silence scientist, let them know we will not stand for this.

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