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A program that saved the red wolf from extinction could come to an end. This week, we talk to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service official about the experimental Red Wolf Recovery Program and the review that will determine its effectiveness.
Southeastern North Carolina is the only place on Earth where the endangered red wolf roams in the wild. But as their numbers dwindle, a program trying to save them is in doubt. Per request of the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will soon begin an evaluation of the experimental Red Wolf Recovery Program to determine if it should continue. Assistant Regional Director for Ecological Services for the Southeast Region Leo Miranda says these routine evaluations are performed every few years.
“We do this kind of evaluation for many species and as a public agency, I think it’s the right thing to do. Every couple of years, we should be evaluating where are we, where are we heading to see if our efforts are on the right track.”
For this review, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services focuses on three areas to determine the success of red wolf recovery in the wild.
“We currently use the science in making a determination of having a self-sustaining population of red wolves in eastern North Carolina is viable or not, given the hybridization with coyotes issue, as well as climate change, sea level rise that might be a big threat to the species.”
They also evaluate program management within the community, the state and with partnering organizations. Red wolf populations have been showing a steady declining trend, with estimates that only 90 to 110 remain in Beaufort, Dare, Hyde, Tyrrell, and Washington counties. Red wolves can die from a number of reasons; from being hit by a vehicle to natural causes. But Miranda says there’s been a marked increase in red wolf gunshot mortality since 2004.
“Back then, we had, I believe an average of four gunshot deaths a year, in 2013, we had nine. We went up from four to nine gunshot deaths.”
So far, five red wolf deaths have been reported this year; two of those caused by gunshot wounds. In May, a federal judge banned hunting coyotes, which are often mistaken for red wolves, in the five county wolf territory. The ruling came after three advocacy groups sued to block the state’s open season on coyotes.
The possibility of the Red Wolf Recovery Program in northeastern North Carolina shutting down is a real one. A similar red wolf program aimed at establishing a red wolf population in the Great Smoky Mountains ended in 1998 after only seven years. Miranda says both programs – in the mountains and here at the coast – were classified as experimental.
“We decided to end the program because of the low pup survival and the inability of red wolves to establish their home ranges within the national park. We maybe have some of that happening here in eastern North Carolina with most of the wolf packs we have right now established on private land, not in the national wildlife refuge. Although not at the levels as western North Carolina, we have seen some decrease in pup survival.”
Miranda says Fish and Wildlife Services could decide to continue the program as is, make changes or cancel the program all together. He says it’s too soon to predict how a decision could impact the wild red wolf populations currently calling eastern North Carolina home, especially if they cancel the program.
“If we decide to go there, then we need to define what we need to do with the animals that remain in the population.”
In a letter to the Wildlife Resources Commission, the US Fish and Wildlife Service committed to have a draft scope of work for the evaluation. Miranda says they hope to have it ready by next week. The Red Wolf Recovery Program receives about $1.3M a year for restoring the wild population, making red wolves the species with the most funding invested by the Service. But the Program entails more than just growing the number of wild red wolves. Nearly 200 red wolves are currently captive in 40 breeding facilities scattered throughout the United States. For more information on the Recovery Program and to see pictures of the red wolf, go to publicradioeast.org.
Contact Fish & Wildlife Services now to tell them to continue the program!
Example text: “I am deeply disturbed that the Fish and Wildlife Service is even considering changes to the red wolf recovery program that would weaken or undercut efforts to save this important species. Red wolves are an integral part of this country’s natural heritage, and the Service is responsible for recovering endangered species. Its mission is not to placate extreme anti-wildlife interests. Hundreds of red wolves are in captivity right now, and it must be the Service’s goal to return more of them to the wild in more locations — not to add more to the captive population by capturing the few wild red wolves left in North Carolina” – Center for Biological Diversity.
E-mail or call: Cynthia_Dohner@404-679-4000
“To Contact Fish & Wildlife Services about this issue e-mail Cynthia_Dohner@or call her at 404-679-4000″ - Piedmont EF!
article below by Joseph Hinton published in The Ecologist
7th July 2014
The US Fish and Wildlife Service has done pioneering conservation work to save North America’s endangered Red Wolf, under threat from shooting and inter-breeding with coyotes. But now federal budget cuts are putting all that – and the Red wolf itself – at risk.
Despite great strides to restore red wolves to their former range, much work needs to be done, and an end to the USFWS Red Wolf Recovery Program could see the end of the red wolf.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has agreed to review the red wolf program, raising the possibility that the 27-year experiment to restore the rare predators in eastern North Carolina may come to an end.
The Charlotte Observer reports (http://bit.ly/1pASvPH) the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission asked the federal agency this month to “determine the appropriateness of continuing the experimental (wolf) program.”
The 90 to 110 endangered wolves roaming near Albemarle Sound have been under fire for several years. A growing number of gunshot deaths threaten the group’s ability to reproduce.
A federal judge in May temporarily banned hunting for coyotes, which are often mistaken for wolves, in the five-county wolf territory. The ruling came after three advocacy groups sued to block the state’s open season on coyotes, which often attack pets.
Gunshot deaths of wolves on the Albemarle peninsula have climbed in recent years, to nine cases in 2013. Only two wolves have died of suspected or confirmed gunshots in 2014, but most fatal shootings have occurred in the fall.
Fish and Wildlife ended a seven-year effort to establish red wolves in Great Smoky Mountains National Park in 1998. The state commission said too many pups died and adults weren’t able to stay within the 521,000-acre park.
The commission questions whether the federal program can achieve its goal of establishing a “self-sustaining” wolf population on federal land. Much of the wolf range on the Albemarle peninsula is privately owned.
It quotes the federal Endangered Species Act as requiring the agency to estimate the time and cost to achieve the recovery goal.
Gordon Myers, the wildlife commission’s executive director, declined comment Friday because of the coyote-shooting lawsuit. U.S. District Judge Terrence Boyle is to review the ban in November.
The Fish and Wildlife Service agreed to do the review of the wolf program, which it said was due anyway.
“All the options, every time we do one of these evaluations, are on the table,” said Leo Miranda, an assistant regional director in Atlanta. “It’s everything from status quo to modifying the program to canceling the program like we did back in 1998.”
But Miranda called the recovery effort “extremely successful” for meeting its population goal of 45 to 55 wolves in 1995 and saving the animals from extinction in the wil
Urge the Fish and Wildlife Service to continue the reintroduction program and keep the last 100 red wolves in the wild from being returned to captivity. Send a personalized e-mail to Cynthia_Dohner@Or, call her at 404-679-4000.
Three earth defenders have been taken into custody for this morning’s action at the Seneca Biomass burner in Eugene, Oregon. We will need funds to assist with bail and legal defense. Click here for donation page.
View more pictures of the action here.
EUGENE, OR—Scores of activists with Cascadia Forest Defenders and Earth First! converged on the Seneca Jones biomass plant this morning to protest the company’s privatization of public lands in the Elliott State Forest and ongoing pollution in West Eugene. Continue reading
Right now anti-wildlife special interests are pushing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to end North Carolina’s red wolf reintroduction program.
Red wolves were once abundant across the Southeast — roaming from Virginia to Florida and all the way to east Texas. By 1970, however, they’d been driven to the brink of extinction by decades of persecution and systematic efforts to eliminate wolves from the American landscape. After the species was declared endangered in 1973, the last 17 wild red wolves were captured for a captive breeding program.
Red wolf releases began in North Carolina’s Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge in the mid 1980s, but recovery efforts have repeatedly been thwarted by illegal shootings that have kept the population from expanding. And now, rather than taking steps to curtail activities that harm red wolves, the Service stands back and the poaching continues.
Please act now to protect red wolves in North Carolina: Urge the Fish and Wildlife Service to continue the reintroduction program and keep the last 100 red wolves in the wild from being returned to captivity. Use the link above for an e-mail from Center for Biological Diversity, or, better yet, send a personalized e-mail to Cynthia_Dohner@fws.gov Or, call her at 404-679-4000.
New research found that delays caused by conflict with communities can result in the loss of $20 million per week.
Photo Credit: Waging Nonviolence
May 31, 2014 |
The knock on environmental protests is that they oftentimes only appear to delay the inevitable — be it forcing a coal-fired power plant to shut down for just one day or forcing the construction of a pipeline to be rerouted. But what if those delays really were more than symbolic victories? What if they amounted to something really powerful that actually imposed serious costs on industry? Well, that’s exactly what a new study says.
According to researchers from the University of Queensland, Harvard Kennedy School and Clark University, conflict has become a major contributor to the cost of projects in the mining, oil and gas industries. The researchers looked at 50 planned major extractive projects and found that local communities launched some sort of “project blockade” in half of them, leading to 15 percent of the projects being suspended or abandoned.
“There is a popular misconception that local communities are powerless in the face of large corporations and governments,” said Daniel Franks, Deputy Director of UQ’s Centre for Social Responsibility in Mining. “Our findings show that community mobilization can be very effective at raising the costs to companies.”
The research, which is based on confidential interviews with 45 high-level industry officials, found that delays caused by conflict with communities can result in the loss of $20 million per week for mining projects valued between $3 billion to $5 billion. One company’s costs reached $6 billion over two years — more than 10 percent of its annual operating profits. In general, though, protests were most successful when they took place early on, during the planning and construction phases of a project.
“This [is] in part because the project is smaller in scale and therefore easier to contest,” Franks told Vice’s Motherboard, “but also because at later stages of the project cycle, capital has been sunk into an area, changes become costly to retrofit, revenues begin to be generated, and there are increased incentives for companies and governments to ‘defend’ their projects.”
The lesson for companies, according to the researchers, is to consider the benefits of building relationships with communities.
“If companies are interested in securing their profits,” Franks explained in an interview with Rabble, “then they need to have high environmental and social standards and collaborate with communities.”
While greater control over these projects may be enough for some communities, many others are saying “no” altogether to extraction. And the cost of such resistance should not be minimized either. In 40 percent of the projects researched in this study, at least one person died as a result of physical protest. But knowing that these deaths are not in vain, that they are actually part of successful movements, casts new light on resistance efforts.
Take, for instance, the recent crackdown by Guatamalan police forces on the peaceful protesters who have been blocking the entrance to El Tambor gold mine for over two years. According to the blog MiMundo.org, police violently evicted the locals so that heavy machinery could be introduced to the industrial site. What might normally be considered a tragic scene — women singing and praying until they were faced with tear gas, and others were injured and detained — can now be seen in the broader context of imposing serious costs to the mining industry, costs that could eventually kill the project.
- by Amy Laura Hall
Amy Laura Hall is an ordained Methodist elder, an Associate Professor of Christian Ethics at Duke Divinity School. Her most recent book is Conceiving Parenthood: American Protestantistm and the Spirit of Reproduction (Eerdmans, 2007). She blogs here.
Here in my beloved South, the main characters in our political drama are still men, on the left and the right, wearing clerical collars and officers’ uniforms. Moral Mondays have now started up again in North Carolina, and I am asking hard questions about how to teach my daughters to be brave in a political world run by men.
My youngest daughter and I had a confusing argument on the way home from Raleigh a few weeks ago. I had brought her with me to a meeting about wage theft in the restaurant industry. She was ostensibly doing homework while the grown-ups strategized, but she left inspired. “I want to go to the next protest, and get arrested!” I explained she was not old enough to make that decision, and that she could be brave in other ways. She was disgusted. “I am TOO old enough to get arrested, and I want to do something REAL!” (Emphasis in the original.)
Where did my daughter get the idea that being arrested is the only REAL way to witness? She learned this last summer, at Moral Mondays in Raleigh. Many of my friends had discerned their conscience and participated in the weekly liturgy of orderly resistance. [See, for example, Willie James Jennings' essay in RD, "Becoming the Common." –the Eds.] I am not sorry she and I attended the rallies together. I am sorry she left with the message that the only real way to work for justice is to line up according to instruction, put her hands behind her back, and be led toward a police vehicle.
My older daughter was hitting adolescence when Barack Obama ran for his first term in 2008. I am a “yellow dog democrat,” and, for the previous two elections, I had checked the box while holding my nose against bad doggie breath. This election was different. I was inspired. Pundit after pundit told us Obama was a pragmatist, but his campaign was an experience of networked optimism.
The name “Obama” was divisive in many neighborhoods across North Carolina, but in Durham, North Carolina his sign in your yard meant hopeful solidarity across the unbridgeable divides of race. It was a heady, heart-felt time for us, as we wrote letters and knocked door to door. But my daughter said something right after President Obama won that gave me pause. She woke up on November 5 with a deflated sense of purpose. She was going to miss being a part of a giant project for, well . . . hope itself.
“Maybe I should become a football fan. Now I understand why people want to have a team!”
Even though she had been working phones and licking stamps with other girls and women for over a year, she had been training for a relatively short, exciting game—a game with a charismatic, masculine leader.
During that mommy moment, a video came up in my MTV-cluttered brain. The first time I saw the video for Living Colour’s “Cult of Personality” I was a sophomore in college. The video shows a little girl bathed in the glow of the TV as she watches a montage of Kennedy, Mussolini, Gandhi, Stalin, and Malcolm X—a strong warning to little girls (and others) about the cult of male charisma that often comes with large movements.
I was originally confused by the song. Why loop together such good leaders with such tyrannically bad leaders? And did they really mention the Nobel Prize in a negative valence? Fifteen years later, and I was an avowedly feminist mother raising two daughters during an era of global, economic misery and war. Forget tampons and mascara. I needed to pay closer attention to the gender politics of leadership.
Fast-forward to the present, and my participation in Moral Mondays last summer. I drove from central Durham to downtown Raleigh Monday after Monday because I wanted to be with other brave people who had a clue about the ALEC-funded poop-storm we are in as a purple, battle-ground state. I met a librarian who reminded us to smile for the police cameras, because we were, she explained, being recorded for facial recognition data-banking. I listened to teachers talk to each other about whether or not to post anything on social media, because they knew a teacher who’d been reprimanded for attending. I cheered on the Raging Grannies, who have memories of protesting other wars that took young men and women violently and nonsensically from this world.
Basically, I went because of the conversations around the stage, not so much because of the speakers on the stage. I met fabulous women from all over North Carolina eager to register our daring, determined hope against the hired bullies who have declared a cynical war against their own people. But, in all of this, I was clear about one thing. I was not going to be instructed in orderly disobedience toward arrest. I wasn’t going to follow directions and put my hands behind my back and appear calm while a police officer handcuffed me and led me away. That seemed, in my gut, the wrong message to send to my daughters.
As we enter this second summer, I am concerned about both the public ritual of compliant arrest and a growing cult of personality at Moral Mondays. It doesn’t matter to me that the personality around whom the cult is forming is a truly good one. Rev. Dr. William Barber seems to be a wonderful and genuine human being working for beautifully fruitful change. But a movement revolving around one central hero is not conducive to the long-game sort of work toward equality and democracy. And a movement revolving around one central, authoritative, masculine, politically and religiously charismatic hero is simply not true to the best of Southern populism. At our best, people in the South have agitated for change in break rooms, classrooms, prison yards and such, pausing for rallies rather than mistaking rallies for the real thing.
While well-orchestrated arrests of large groups, at the instruction of a religious leader, may have the power of nostalgia, egalitarian democracy requires other models.
It also does not matter to me whether the desire for moral heroism is just contagious or subtly encouraged and exploited. There are instances here of both. There are white men without prior records and/or with personal and political connections striding around with barely concealed pride for being arrested with an African-American man of authority. Some of these white men will eventually use their proximity to Rev. Dr. Barber and the abiding culture of muscular heroism in the South to write sermons and books about racial reconciliation and go on well-publicized lecture tours.
There are also men and women who are not seeking street credibility, but who are caught up in the chance to be a part of a righteous team with a legitimate, morally unambiguous leader. It is a heady, heart-felt sort of thing, as well as the sort of thing ripe for manipulation and self-promotion. That is part of the problem with the sort of organizing effort we usually call a “movement.”
I will be attending Moral Monday events this summer. I will also keep speaking the truth about North Carolina as I see it, with my daughters and with anyone else who wants to visit. I will learn from women who see through the allure of personality and heroism and do the work of justice without public credit.
I will also pray that Moral Mondays will shift away from the form of a high-pulpit, Southern church service toward the cacophony of democracy.
Here I think about the sometimes joyful, sometimes anguished form of democracy that arose when police officers joined firefighters, hotel housekeepers, postal workers, and teachers to resist the tyranny of other ALEC-funded bullies across the Midwest a few years ago. It seems time for us to ‘pull a Wisconsin’ here in the Tar Heel state, with or without hymns.
And, when I do attend rallies this summer, I will not be told when to dance or how to pray or when to put my hands behind my back and submit. I’m too free these days for that. I was liberated by a God who put on an apron, washed dirty feet, and preferred the periphery to the stage.
For more info see: Fight or Flight Tour
This summer, The Bunny Alliance, Resistance Ecology, and the Earth First! Journal present the Fight or Flight Tour, a collaborative nationwide tour with three distinct objectives: 1) to intensify The Bunny Alliance’s campaign against Delta Air Lines and the broader Gateway to Hell campaign to end the transport of animals to labs, 2) to share skills and build connections within the grassroots animal and ecological activist movements, and 3) to promote coalition building and solidarity with a diversity of movements and communities.
To increase the mounting pressure on Delta concerning the airline’s intimate relationship with Air France and the transport of animals to labs, the Fight or Flight Tour will hold protests at Delta airports, cargo offices, laboratories, and the houses of board members and executives. We will bring the campaign home to Delta with a large protest at their corporate headquarters, as well as work with local, national and independent media to place Delta’s involvement in animal testing in the public eye.
Tour stops will also include activism workshops, tailored to the needs and interests of each community. General workshop topics will include information about the international effort to end the transport of animal to labs, strategic and effective campaigning, protest tactics, and strengthening inner and cross-movement relationships. Through support from the Civil Liberties Defense Center, the workshops will also feature a collection of legal topics including “know your rights” trainings, security culture basics, tips for doing legal research, and legal observer trainings.
In addition to this tour being about the demonstrations and workshops hosted by the touring organizations, this tour was hatched from the desire to empower grassroots activism through meaningful cross-movement solidarity. We want to work with other groups involved in social justice work and provide support in the forms they desire; to build bridges between animal liberation and environmental activists; to start friendships that can grow into powerful alliances; to talk face-to-face with others and embrace what it means to build connections in real life rather than online; and exchange skills and stories of experience among activists.
We invite you to join us. Not to just support the work we are doing, but to work with us in turning grassroots activism into a force powerful enough to protect the earth and its inhabitants.
“All right, motherfuckers! This is an unlawful assembly!”
A group of five “police” charge at a mob of milling “protesters,” throwing several to the ground and playfully beating them with rolled-up pieces of old newspaper—the “batons.” “Fucking hippies!” someone shouts from the tussle.
The make-believe cops have been supplied with blaze orange construction vests, plastic badges and faux police caps, which combine with their many tattoos and piercings to make them look like a punk version of the Village People.
This mock police ambush was part of a three-hour crash course in “Responsible Direct Action” held at last week’s Energy Exports Action Camp in Maryland’s Jug Bay Natural Area, a county park some 25 miles southeast of Washington, D.C. The week-long camp was designed to train, connect and energize activists gearing up to take direct action to stop Dominion Energy’s Cove Point project, a natural gas export terminal planned in Lusby, Md. Opponents say the plant will encourage more fracking, spur Maryland to drop its state-wide moratorium on the practice, and exacerbate global climate change.
The camp’s core organizers hail from Chesapeake Earth First!, a local chapter of the loosely organized national environmental group. They were joined by about 60 activists from around the mid-Atlantic region, including other Earth Firsters and non-aligned sympathizers. In keeping with their infamous slogan, “No Compromise in the Defense of Mother Earth,” Earth Firsters support what’s known as a “diversity of tactics”—code for a willingness to use force. Historically, their bag of tricks has included blockades, tree-sits, and in rare cases, acts of industrial sabotage, or “monkey-wrenching,” a term popularized by Edward Abbey’s classic 1975 novel.
Activists at the camp are encouraged to use “every tool in the toolbox,” according to Richelle Brown, one of the organizers, “from lawsuits to lock-downs.”
As Earth First! and its rabble-rousing sympathizers prepare to jump into the fray, they open a new chapter in the struggle to stop Cove Point. To date, protests against Cove Point, led mostly by the non-profit Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN), have included a large rally in Baltimore, smaller rallies at the offices of elected officials, and a couple of civil disobedience actions at two different county courthouses—none of which has managed to seriously disturb Dominion’s dreams of becoming the first gas exporter on the East Coast. It’s hard to say what direct actions Earth First! is planning, since activists traditionally keep mum on any such plans. Nobody I asked told me of any specific plots. But Batty, a Baltimore-based activist who declined to provide her full name, says, “The protests have been very fluffy. As we say, things need to get a bit spikier. Because spikier gets more attention.”
The consequences of Cove Point
After fracking and horizontal drilling took off in 2008, domestic prices of natural gas fell steeply. Aroused by the allure of new markets, U.S. gas producers are increasingly looking to take their goods abroad: most notably to Asia, where liquefied natural gas (LNG) fetches about triple its price stateside. In 2011, Dominion Energy started making moves to convert Cove Point—a seldom-used LNG import facility built in the 1970s to service gas from Algeria—into an export facility.
Unlike, say, TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline, which is still awaiting State Department approval, Cove Point is breezing through the federal regulatory process for LNG export terminals. The Department of Energy (DOE) has already granted conditional approval—the first big step in the permitting process. Now, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) appears to be on the verge of giving the thumbs up—the second major hurdle before construction can move forward. The other key permit-issuing agencies in this case, such as the Army Corps of Engineers and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), have until mid-August to weigh in. Meanwhile, a separate 30-day public comment period for the assessment ends June 16. By law, FERC needs only to wait for that public comment period to conclude before making a decision. But a negative response from one of the key permit-issuing agencies—the EPA, for instance—could cause further delays.
An agency spokesperson tells In These Times that FERC will take the time to carefully review the public comments before coming to judgment. But the radicals at Jug Bay have little faith FERC will reverse course.
“They are essentially a rubber-stamp for industry,” says Jesse Schultz, a Chesapeake Earth First!er and Industrial Workers of the World member who biked to the action camp from his house in D.C..
Among the crew’s many gripes with the agency is its unwillingness to acknowledge Cove Point’s full climate-change impact. Critics say that an environmental assessment issued last month by FERC glossed over the full cycle of greenhouse gas emissions associated with the terminal—that is, the cumulative methane and carbon emissions produced by drilling, transporting, liquefying, re-converting and shipping natural gas across the globe.
Another major grievance is FERC’s rejection of environmental advocates’ claims that Cove Point could lead to more fracking in the region—arguably, the single greatest rallying point for the opposition. “The specific details, including the timing, location, and number of additional production wells that may or may not be drilled, are speculative,” FERC’s assessment reads. “As such, impacts associated with the production of natural gas that may be sourced from various locations and methods for export by the Project are not reasonably foreseeable or quantifiable.”
Kelly Canavan, one of the camp’s organizers, says the agency’s claims are especially frustrating because publicly available information shows otherwise. Last December, Cabot Oil & Gas signed a20-year agreement to supply Cove Point with gas from the Marcellus Shale. The deal supplies almost half of the terminal’s capacity. Transco’s proposed expansion of the Atlantic Sunrise pipeline will ensure that Pennsylvania-drilled gas flows to the terminal. Critics say that new infrastructure will help sustain affordable fracking in the region for the long run.
What is to be done?
On July 13, Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN)—an environmental non-profit that has galvanized in-state opposition—will hold a mass protest march in Washington, D.C., calling on FERC to reject the project. The march comes on the heels of a February rally in Baltimore, deemed the largest environmental protest in city history.
But action camp participants believe that it’s going to take more than continued marches and appeals to public officials to put the brakes on Cove Point.
Environmentalist activism against the project and local advertising in its favor by Dominion have faced off to influence public opinion. But when it comes to the key regulators and politicians, the CCAN-led coalition of non-profits has struggled to land its punches. For months now, CCAN has unsuccessfully demanded that FERC conduct an environmental impact statement (EIS) rather than the less thorough environmental assessment. FERC maintains an EIS is unnecessary since Cove Point already exists as an import facility and would not be built from scratch.
CCAN has also fruitlessly called on Maryland’s two U.S. Senators, Democrats Ben Cardin and Barbara Mikulski, to demand an EIS. Meanwhile, on May 30, the Maryland Public Service Commission approved Dominion’s proposal to build a power generating station for Cove Point—in defiance of a CCAN-driven April petition delivery of more than 35,000 signatures against the plan as a whole.
So what’s it going to take?
Kelly Canavan, who also heads the Accokeek Mattawoman Piscataway Creeks Council, a local non-profit, says the key is delaying construction until it’s no longer profitable for Dominion to continue.
For one, that includes “paper-wrenching”—lawsuits that force Dominion to expend its team of highly paid corporate lawyers and experts to stamp out an array of legal challenges. Canavan pointed to two such lawsuits filed on behalf of the AMP Creeks Council: One alleges the Calvert County’s Board of Commissioners improperly used zoning text amendments to pave the way for Cove Point and another targets the County’s non-disclosure agreement with Dominion.
Canavan also says the AMP Creeks Council will appeal the appeal the Public Service Commissions’ recent approval of the power station.
“We are absolutely in it to win every one of these fights,” she stresses.
Then there’s the direct action route: Unpredictable headline-generating actions at various pieces of Cove Point-related infrastructure could force Dominion to spend more money on public relations, beef up its security presence, and encourage more public scrutiny of the project.
“Part of the project’s success hinges on sticking to a timeline; [Dominion] has said that publicly several times,” Canavan says. “So every time we appeal something, every time we drag out a lawsuit, every time someone steps in and does some sort of direct action, it throws them off their timeline.”
Canavan even hinted at some potential targets.
“Dominion is starting to move forward with preliminary steps like clearing off ‘Site A’ [a parking and storage space a mile and a half away from the main site] and starting construction of their pier,” she says. “I fully expect to see autonomous direct action begin to take place.”
“What I would like to see?” asks Batty. “Maybe something a bit creative and a little bit cheeky—you can do [those actions] in a way that makes people feel really great, and those are always the most powerful.”
Of the 60 or so camp attendees, only a handful actually reside in Calvert County. Most travelled to Jug Bay from D.C., Baltimore and Philadelphia. Many had already met each other at similar action-oriented camps: Shalefield Justice Spring Break in central Pennsylvania, which focused on fracking, or Mountain Justice Spring Break, based this year in northern West Virginia, and geared toward the coal industry.
The roving band of mostly 20-somethings is driven by an intense love for the eco-system, an equal measure of hatred for extractive industries and a deep mistrust in state-led responses to the climate crisis.
Earth First!ers and their allies tend to practice an intense form of “security culture”—a set of organizing principles designed to minimize the risk of information leaks to hostile parties. While activists may all consider themselves part of the same cause, they often work in individual affinity groups, i.e. “cells,” that don’t share information with each other.
Keeping from being publicly identified was a major concern for some.. At one point, I was reprimanded by a few activists for taking photos of the mock direct action that Nadine Bloch facilitated (despite identifying myself as a journalist, warning that I planned to take photographs, and getting approval from Bloch) Some of the participants accused me of violating their consent and insisted that I delete every photo I took. When I photographed a different session, a handful of people moved in order to get out of the shot.
This struck me as a bit paranoid, but it’s not without basis. In Green Is The New Red, a book recommended to me by several different Jug Bay campers, journalist Will Potter chronicles the U.S. government’s post-9/11 crackdown on radical environmentalists and animal rights advocates. The period is often known as the “Green Scare.”
The Bush administration may be gone, but the federal government still has an unfortunate tendency to treat peaceful environmental activists like violent terrorists. Sometimes this takes the form of draconian charges: Last December, for example, anti-Keystone XL activists were charged with staging a “terrorism hoax” after unfurling a banner at the Oklahoma City headquarters of Devon Energy.
Oftentimes, it’s just surveillance: This February, the Columbus Free Press obtained a July 2013 report from an FBI-Pennsylvania State Police Joint Terrorism Task Force focused on “eco-terrorism.” The report mentioned Marcellus Shale Earth First, warning that Pennsylvania and New York Earth First chapters were engaged in “active training events related to civil disobedience.”
But it’s part of the game, says Gabriel Echeverri, an ethnobotany major at Frostburg State University. “If you fight these kinds of things, if you fight these corporations, if you fight these governments, and your movement has any teeth to it, they come after you,” he says.
And there’s no doubt it’s worth it, he says.
“It’s necessary to fight to be able to look myself in the eye, to be able to have any kind of interaction with this natural world that I consider to be home, to be able to hold my head high when I walk through the woods and interact with the rest of our brothers and sisters in creation. To be able to do that, I have to do this. I have to fight,” Echeverri continues. “And maybe there is a certain amount of self-satisfaction that comes from throwing a wrench in the gears. From just screwing with them.”