Displaying items by tag: public lands

Stephen Nash is the author of GRAND CANYON FOR SALE: Public Lands versus Private Interest in the Era of Climate Change (University of California Press; Sept 2017) Nash has written for The New York Times about national parks and public lands here, here,here,here and here. He is the author of  Grand Canyon for Sale: Public Lands Versus Private Interests in the Era of Climate Change, published by the University of California Press, as well as three other books on science and policy.

He has reported on science and the environment for The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, The Los Angeles Times, The New Republic, BioScience, The Scientist, National Parks and The Progressive.

Prior books have won the American Institute of Physics first prize for science writing, and the Southern Environmental Law Center's first prize for books about southern environmental issues.

He is a visiting senior research scholar at the University of Richmond, where he has taught in the journalism and environmental studies programs since 1980.

Grand Canyon National Park's Centennial is February 2019!


Public Lands versus Private Interests in the Era of Climate Change


“The Trump administration is proclaiming that not only the Grand Canyon but our entire public land heritage may soon be up for sale. I hope this excellent book will awaken all Americans to an unprecedented threat to our parks, national monuments, wilderness areas, wildlife refuges, and ocean sanctuaries.”

              Bruce Babbitt, former U.S. Secretary of the Interior, former governor of Arizona

"...humorous, despite the book’s serious subject matter...describes how efforts to protect U.S. parks have been thwarted by organizations with deep pockets and by the politicians that are responsive to their pleas."                                                                                                                                                                       Review, the journal Science

"...a nuanced, comprehensive, surprisingly up-to-date review of the threats...to national parks, forests, deserts and wildlife refuges...direct, captivating stories..."

Review, Nature -- The International Science Journal

"In the new book Grand Canyon for Sale, the veteran science journalist Stephen Nash explores decades of twisted incentives, rotten politics, and feckless regulators endangering some 28 percent of the national soil. Topped off with climate change and President Trump, “we’re on the precipice, both politically and biologically,” he writes...elegant, readable...                                                     

Review, Sierra magazine

February 26, 2019 marks the 100th Anniversary of the establishment of Grand Canyon National Park by President Woodrow Wilson and an eager-and-willing U.S. Congress. 

In anticipation of this momentous occasion, and to promote public discussion of its urgent significance, author Stephen Nash and the University of California Press released the recent book,  Grand Canyon For Sale: Public Lands versus Private Interests in the Era of Climate Change  (University of California Press: Sept 2017), an investigation by Nash of the precarious future of America’s public lands.  He highlights America’s national parks, forests, wildlife refuges, monuments, and wildernesses and the tens of billions of dollars in potential economic losses if we fail to keep our national promise -- made when the whole park system was created -- to “conserve their scenery and natural and historic objects and wildlife.” The Grand Canyon alone saw six million visitors last year. The whole national park system was visited an astonishing 300 million times.

Taking the Grand Canyon as his key example, and using on-the-ground reporting as well as scientific research, Nash shows how industrial exploitation and accelerating climate change will dislocate wildlife populations and vegetation across hundreds of thousands of square miles of publicly owned national landscape, threatening their survival



The Scarlet Tanager is just one of 386 migratory bird species that will benefit from passage of the Natural Resources Management Act. Photo by Dan Behm

(Washington, DC, February 25, 2019) Passage of the Natural Resources Management Act (S. 47), expected tomorrow in the U.S. House of Representatives, will signify a bipartisan win for birds and people, and a step in the right direction toward advancing wildlife conservation and recreation initiatives. The bill passed the Senate with a vote of 98-2.

American Bird Conservancy (ABC) strongly believes that passing this bill is essential to achieving our nation’s conservation goals, which support our environment and our economy, through bird-related recreation totaling billions of dollars annually.

The bill includes permanent reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), which supports the protection of federal public lands and waters. It also designates wilderness areas, monuments, and other public lands that will help conserve habitat for birds and other wildlife.

Birds will also benefit from the bill’s reauthorization of the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act (NMBCA), which provides direct conservation support for 386 bird species and their habitats in Central and South America, where many birds winter. The Scarlet Tanager, Wood Thrush, and Cerulean Warbler are just a few examples of bird species that benefit from the NMBCA.

“Thanks to NMBCA funding, we have created a network of reserves to provide essential wintering habitat,” said Andrew Rothman, ABC’s Migratory Bird Program Director. “The NMBCA is one of very few sources of funding available to help protect the full life cycle of migratory birds in the Western Hemisphere. These species engage in one of the greatest animal migrations on the planet. NMBCA is the lifeline for our migratory birds.”

Since 2002, the NMBCA has supported 570 conservation projects — including habitat protection, monitoring, research, and education — on more than 4.5 million acres of critical bird habitat across 36 countries.

The 2016 State of the Birds Report found that over one-third of North America’s bird species are in decline or facing serious threats.

“This decline signals a broader crisis that Congress has now, through its support of the Natural Resources Management Act, acted upon to help reverse,” said Jennifer Cipolletti, Director of Conservation Advocacy for ABC. “Birds are sensitive indicators of how we are protecting our environment as a whole, so this is an important step and a big win, not only for birds, but for the economy as well.”

American Bird Conservancy applauds the broad bipartisan support for public lands and migratory birds in Congress and across a diverse coalition of conservation and recreation interests. Thanks to this support, the Natural Resources Management Act will preserve vital conservation funding for the country’s birds and the critical habitats they depend upon.


American Bird Conservancy is dedicated to conserving birds and their habitats throughout the Americas. With an emphasis on achieving results and working in partnership, we take on the greatest problems facing birds today, innovating and building on rapid advancements in science to halt extinctions, protect habitats, eliminate threats, and build capacity for bird conservation. Find us on abcbirds.orgFacebookInstagram, and Twitter (@abcbirds).

(Washington, D.C., Dec. 1, 2017) Conserving Greater Sage-Grouse requires more habitat protection, not less. That’s the message conservation groups are delivering to the administration as it considers potentially devastating revisions to the landmark 2015 Greater Sage-Grouse conservation planning initiative. The revisions, if enacted, would come at too high a cost to the sage-grouse and the remaining sagebrush habitat on public lands, sending the future of both the bird and its iconic landscape back into uncertainty.

More habitat protection is needed to conserve sage-grouse. Photo by Warren Cooke“Because of these proposed backward-looking changes and new development plans for public lands in the region, the grouse is once again at risk of extinction and in need of stronger protection,” said Steve Holmer, American Bird Conservancy’s Vice President of Policy. “The stability and certainty provided to local communities and land users by the federal management plans and other grouse conservation measures are also now at risk of being lost if these changes are put into place.”

Instead of changing direction, the federal government should live up to promises it made in 2015 to ensure sage-grouse protection — promises that formed the basis for not listing the sage-grouse under the Endangered Species Act. The coalition of conservation groups, which includes those most focused on sage-grouse protection over the past decade, are gravely concerned about the recommendation made in the Interior Department’s Sage-Grouse Report to roll back those vital protections and eliminate Sagebrush Focal Areas.

“We oppose the administration's plan to roll back these protections, and also oppose efforts to reduce sage-grouse habitat by further reducing protected habitats, reversing adaptive management that occurs when habitat or population triggers are tripped, or eliminating general habitat management areas in Utah,” said Rebecca Fischer of WildEarth Guardians. “It's also appalling that the planning effort is occurring on a state-by-state basis. This ignores the need to consider the species’ needs at a range-wide scale and will result in the failure to apply strong and consistent protections.”

The Greater Sage-Grouse has become a wildly popular and iconic symbol of the American West and its wide-open sagebrush basins. Year after year, sage-grouse gather in the spring at small arenas in the sagebrush called leks to dance, display, and mate. Their mating dance is one of the great natural spectacles of the West.

“The protections which the administration appears ready to eviscerate are essential, not just for sage-grouse but for a broad diversity of wildlife and the health of public lands in the West,” said Erik Molvar of Western Watersheds Project. “Sagebrush Focal Areas are the only habitats where the land-use plans even come close to the protections recommended by scientific experts, so at minimum all of the priority habitats should receive this level of protection.”

The groups are urging Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke to adopt the scientific recommendations of the Bureau of Land Management’s own science team on sage-grouse. Those recommendations include refraining from fluid-mineral leasing in priority habitats, buffering leks by four miles to prevent any impacts from known disturbances, ensuring that all grazing allotments are meeting science-based standards for sagebrush habitat integrity, ceasing vegetation treatments that degrade sagebrush habitat, preserving winter habitats, limiting disturbances to one per section and 3 percent of each square mile of priority habitat, and withdrawing sagebrush habitats from mining. The agencies’ analysis should preserve priority habitats through a network of areas of critical environmental concern and zoological areas managed to protect sage-grouse, according to the groups.

John Fitzpatrick, Director of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, said: “This ill-timed revision of federal sage-grouse management plans, before they have had a chance to work, runs counter to the best available science.”

Instead of balancing development with conservation, the administration has adopted a policy of “energy dominance,” prioritizing fossil fuel development over other uses on western public lands.

“This attack on sage-grouse conservation is part of a larger trend of plundering public lands and resources,” said Michael Saul of the Center for Biological Diversity. “Secretary Zinke’s proposed gutting of the sage-grouse plans reads like an oil and gas industry wish list, and is a recipe for accelerating the decline of Greater Sage-Grouse across the West.”

Photo of Greater Sage-Grouse by Warren Cooke


American Bird Conservancy is dedicated to conserving birds and their habitats throughout the Americas. With an emphasis on achieving results and working in partnership, we take on the greatest problems facing birds today, innovating and building on rapid advancements in science to halt extinctions, protect habitats, eliminate threats, and build capacity for bird conservation.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.5 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology is a membership institution dedicated to interpreting and conserving the earth’s biological diversity through research, education, and citizen science focused on birds.

Western Watersheds Project works to protect and restore western watersheds and wildlife through education, public policy initiatives, and legal advocacy. WWP works to influence and improve public lands management throughout the West with a primary focus on the negative impacts of livestock grazing on 250 million acres of western public lands.

WildEarth Guardians is a nonprofit environmental advocacy organization dedicated to protecting the wildlife, wild places, wild rivers, and health of the American West. Guardians has worked for years and continues to work to protect the Greater Sage-Grouse and the Sagebrush Sea so that future generations might continue to enjoy this spectacular species.


Dangerous Pesticides Kill Wildlife, Harm Unique Ecosystems

Contact: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., Director of Pesticides Science and Regulation, American Bird Conservancy, 202-888-7475, or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., Staff Attorney, Earthjustice, 415-217-2000

(Washington, D.C., Sept. 20, 2017) On behalf of American Bird Conservancy (ABC), the nonprofit environmental law organization Earthjustice has petitioned the California Fish and Game Commission to adopt a statewide prohibition on the use of neonicotinoid pesticides in the more than one million acres of wildlife habitat under its jurisdiction. “We need to be sure that these lands remain safe havens for birds and other wildlife,” said Cynthia Palmer, ABC’s Director of Pesticides Science and Regulation.

Neonics are a relatively new class of chemicals with the potential to derail California’s efforts to safeguard its unique ecosystems. Neonics are deadly to pollinators and other wildlife, including birds. For example, a single seed coated with neonics is enough to kill a songbird, and exposure to just one-tenth of a coated seed per day during the egg-laying season is enough to impair reproduction. Even tiny doses can cause birds to lose coordination and the ability to fly. Neonics are also lethal to many of the terrestrial and aquatic invertebrates — including butterflies, bees, earthworms, and mayflies — that are critical food sources for birds and other wildlife.

“What’s so stunning about these pesticides,” said Palmer, “is the fact that they can actually exacerbate the pest problems they were meant to solve. By harming pollinators like bees and butterflies, as well as natural pest control agents like birds and beneficial insects, neonics are sabotaging the very organisms on which we all depend.”

Europe has enacted a moratorium on the use of neonics, and Canada has proposed a nationwide ban on the most widely used neonic, imidacloprid, given the risk it poses to birds, insects, small mammals, and other wildlife. In addition, many U.S. companies such as Home Depot, Lowe’s, Walmart, True Value, and BJ’s Wholesale Club, as well as state and local legislatures, are reining in the use of neonics. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service banned neonic use on National Wildlife Refuge lands as of last year.

“We hope that the California Fish and Game Commission will follow the lead of the federal Fish and Wildlife Service and prohibit any use of neonicotinoid pesticides on the important network of wildlife refuges it oversees throughout California, one of the nation’s most biodiverse states,” said Trent Orr, the Earthjustice staff attorney who worked on the petition.

“It’s time for the agencies managing state refuges across the nation to join in protecting our endangered species and other wildlife from these poisons,” Palmer stated. “California has long been an environmental standard-bearer for the other states on everything from auto emissions to building codes. We urge the California Fish and Game Commission to lead the way on pesticides, as well, by adopting a statewide prohibition on neonicotinoid insecticides.”

(Photo: Banning the use of neonics on Califonia's public lands would benefit songbirds such as Horned Lark and many other species. Photo by Tom Grey)


American Bird Conservancy is dedicated to conserving birds and their habitats throughout the Americas. With an emphasis on achieving results and working in partnership, we take on the greatest problems facing birds today, innovating and building on rapid advancements in science to halt extinctions, protect habitats, eliminate threats, and build capacity for bird conservation.

Earthjustice, the nation’s premier nonprofit environmental law organization, wields the power of law and the strength of partnership to protect people’s health, to preserve magnificent places and wildlife, to advance clean energy, and to combat climate change. Because the earth needs a good lawyer.

National wildlife refuges — public lands set aside to conserve American wildlife and wildlife habitat — not only offer outstanding wildlife viewing and public recreation, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar said Wednesday. They also stimulate local economies.


“Americans know national wildlife refuges are public treasures that protect imperiled species and improve public health and recreation” said the Secretary, speaking at Philadelphia’s Independence Hall on the 109th birthday of the National Wildlife Refuge System. “They may not be as aware that these same refuges where they love to fish, to hunt, to hike and see wildlife are powerful economic engines that give back far more dollars to the community than they receive in appropriations.” Refuges also benefit their communities in other critical ways, he said.


As an example, the Secretary pointed to John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum, just 11 miles away. The refuge, located wholly within Philadelphia city limits, each year plays host to 8,000 inner-city schoolkids whom it teaches about nature. John Heinz Refuge staff run one of the Refuge System’s largest paid youth employment programs, recruiting some 75 city youngsters for summer jobs in and around Philadelphia.  


The refuge also attracts more than 125,000 other visitors each year — to fish, to hike or to birdwatch. For the local community, visitors mean revenue. The refuge generated $2 in local economic effects for every $1 it was appropriated, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s 2007 analysis called Banking on Nature.  An updated analysis is expected by 2013.


“John Heinz Refuge is a terrific model of some of the many  ways in which refuges improve the quality of life, economically and otherwise,” said Secretary Salazar.  


In much the same way, the Secretary said, national wildlife refuges boost business in local communities across the country. The Refuge System recorded 45 million refuge visits last year. The more visitors enjoy birding or hunting or hiking at some of the Refuge System’s 556 refuges, the more sales rise in nearby restaurants, hotels, shops and gas stations. 


Data from local tourism bureaus and chambers of commerce confirm the link. 


According to an October 2011 report commissioned by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, a nonprofit conservation organization, refuges and other natural lands managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service generated about $4.2 billion in economic activity and supported more than 32,000 jobs in 2010. 


The 2007 Banking on Nature report found that more than 34.8 million visits to refuges in fiscal year 2006 generated “$1.7 billion in sales, almost 27,000 jobs, and $542.8 million in employment income in regional economies.”


New data show how three popular refuges — one in the desert Southwest, one on a barrier island in the Gulf of Mexico, and one in the Midwest heartland —help their local economies. The three are Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico, J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge in Florida, and Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge in Illinois. 


Every winter, tens of thousands of sandhill cranes and snow geese flock to the desert oasis of Bosque del Apache Refuge, Wildlife enthusiasts follow. The refuge’s annual Festival of the Cranes in November draws up to 10,000 people in just one week. In sparsely populated Socorro County, with fewer than three people per square mile, that presence is felt. Local businesses vie to piggyback onto festival events, luring visitors with concerts, tours and art shows.  


“Definitely, Bosque del Apache is the largest of our tourism attractions and economic generators,” says Terry Tadano, executive director of the Socorro County Chamber of Commerce and a former deputy manager of the refuge. As a destination site, he says, the 57,000-acre refuge outdraws the area’s ghost towns, fishing and hunting sites, a Civil War fort, a historic cattle drive-away, and a radio astronomy observatory, “Bosque is still number one of all those sites combined.”


Joe Ruiz, manager of the Best Western Hotel in Socorro, appreciates the uptick in business from Bosque’s Festival of the Cranes. “Folks enjoy being out there [on the refuge]…We put up information [about the festival] on our marquis without being asked.”


Preliminary findings from a new U.S. Geological Survey report on refuge visitation show that in 2010,  nonlocal visitors (93 percent) to Bosque del Apache Refuge spent an average of $64 per person per day in the local area; local visitors (7 percent) spent an average of $41 per person per day.


How does that spending add up? In 2011, the refuge’s 165,000-plus visitors spent more than $5 million during their stay, estimate U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service economists, based on data in the National Survey of Hunting, Fishing and Wildlife-Associated Recreation, conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau. This spending, in turn, generated more than $7.6 million worth of state economic activity and supported 94 jobs outside the refuge. 


Winter is also high season for J.N. “Ding” Darling Refuge on Florida’s Sanibel Island, famed for its abundance of birds, including white pelicans, roseate spoonbills, anhingas and wood storks. More than 700,000 people visit each year — many of them “snow birds” from New York, Chicago, Minneapolis and other northern cities.  


“The refuge is one of Sanibel Island’s top two visitor destinations,” says Sanibel City manager Judy Zimomra. (The other is Thomas Edison’s home.) Spending by refuge visitors, which the Service estimated at nearly $14 million in 2011, helps sustain island hotels, restaurants and shops, she says. The dollars also percolate into the rest of Lee County, hard hit by the housing bubble collapse of 2007. There they generate another $26 million in economic activity and support an estimated 264 jobs, say Service economists.


Beaches rank first among activities enjoyed by Lee County visitors in 2010, according to the Lee County Visitor & Convention Bureau. Nonetheless, 24 percent of 2,440 visitors surveyed reported  “watching wildlife” ; 16 percent reported “birdwatching”; 17 percent reporting visiting “Ding” Darling Refuge.


 “We’re very happy to have ‘Ding’ Darling Refuge here,” says Raynaud Bentley, one of the managers at Doc Ford's Sanibel Rum Bar & Grille, a nearby restaurant. The refuge, he estimates, “probably accounts for at least 10 to 15 percent” of the eatery’s lunchtime business.  Lunch-goers include visitors who tour the refuge by bicycle. “When they’re finished biking, they come here to eat,” says Bentley, “so it works out real well.”


High visitor numbers to “Ding” Darling Refuge boost the local economy one more way, says Zimomra. “Our feeder market for our housing stock is very much based on people visiting the island first. It’s not at all  uncommon for people to visit the island, visit the refuge and then make this their second home or retirement home,” she says.


At Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge in Williamson County, Ill., it’s always high season. Summer is popular with boaters and campers.  Hunters prefer fall and winter. For anglers, the best biting is in spring.


“Outdoor recreation is very large here,” says Shannon Johnson, executive director of the Williamson County Tourism Bureau. All told, some 750,000 people visit the refuge each year, and refuge recreation programs generate millions for the local tourism economy, according to the refuge.


When fishing is good at Crab Orchard Refuge, sales are good at Cooksey’s Bait Shop, a fixture in Marion, Ill. since 1962. “A good 60 percent of our business comes from the refuge,” says owner Ron Reed.


Crab Orchard Refuge also hosts an industrial program (defense contractor General Dynamics is the biggest lessee) that pumps another $40 million a year into the local economy.


Besides the celebrated fishing and hunting, the refuge’s location makes it a go-to destination. Southern Illinois University, with some 20,000 students, is nearby. St. Louis is two hours away; Louisville, Nashville and Memphis are a bit further.


The refuge courts outdoor enthusiasts with five annual fishing tournaments and several smaller “fish-offs”; it also holds special hunts for youth and people with disabilities. Every year, 30,000 visitors come over one week alone —for National Hunting and Fishing Days, the fourth weekend in September. Staff count visitors both  electronically and manually, to know how many come to see wildlife (330,000), to fish (175,000), or to hunt (25,000).


In 2011, refuge visitors spent an estimated $7.9 million, generating $15 million in local trade and supporting 150 jobs outside the refuge, according to Service economists. 


“With tournaments and wildlife observers, [visitors] definitely have to buy gas and get lunch, and stop at Walmart’s. The ladies are going to all of our antique stores,” says Johnson. “[The refuge] definitely is a draw for people to our area.”


Who said nature doesn’t pay?







The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals, and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov. Connect with our Facebook page, follow our tweets, watch our YouTube Channel, and download photos from our Flickr page.