Recovery Plans: Endangered Species Act

I apologize to all, as I have not been able to post in quite some time. Getting used to the “new normal,” it seems as though I will have a lot more time on my hands in which to provide you all with some content on here. As many of you may know, I am currently a law student. I have found a passion in studying the law and how it relates to the world around us. Luckily, environmental law exists, and is something that I enjoy further researching through my posts to you.

Though my prior posts have been very primitive in legal nature, this one (perhaps) delves more in to the hard-letter law surrounding this issue. I, as usual, welcome any comments and feedback on this topic, should you want to provide any to the forum. All posts are open for comment.

The Endangered Species Act, as many may know, was drafted in large part to protect our national bird from extinction. Circa 1966, the bald eagle’s population had drastically decreased due to hunting, habitat loss, and the excessive use of DDT. For those that may not know, DDT is a toxic pesticide. This occurrence motivated Congress to pass the Endangered Species Preservation Act. This predecessor to the law that we have today required the United States Departments of the Interior, Agriculture, and Defense to protect listed species and their habitats. This laid the groundwork for the current Endangered Species Act of 1973 (ESA).

Though many use the terms synonymously, there is a distinct difference between being “endangered” and being “threatened” under the Act. A species is endangered when it is in danger of becoming extinct throughout all or within a significant portion of its range. It is deemed threatened when it is considered at risk of becoming endangered at some point in the future.

What many may not understand about the ESA is that it does not list species as a whole. It lists them in population sectors. Therefore, though a species may be endangered on, say, the East coast, it may not be the same in other parts of the country.

Species are listed in one of two ways: by biologists at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or by public petition. So, if you believe a species to be threatened, take action! Anyone can submit a written petition, and the government must notify the individual within 90 days as to whether the species warrants further research. This further research must be completed within one calendar year.

The Act also lists things like “critical habitat.” In cases such as the snail darter, once a species is considered threatened or endangered, the habitat in which it resides cannot be massively destroyed or altered to the point that the species may further dwindle.

A major reason that this Act works is because of its implementation of recovery plans. Recovery plans provide, according to the Act itself, that the Secretary must incorporate:

  1. A description of such site-specific management actions as may be necessary to achieve the plan’s goal for the conservation and survival of the species;
  2. Objective, measurable criteria which, when met, would result in a determination, in accordance with the provisions of the section that would result in the removal of the species from the list; and
  3. Estimates of the time required and the cost to carry out those measures needed to achieve the plan’s goal and to achieve intermediate steps towards the goal.

Aside from all of the legal terminology, the basic gist of a recover plan is to “recover” the species. The objective is to get the species’ population back to where it is supposed to be, and the Secretary must outline specific steps in doing so. Should these steps be followed, the species should be eventually delisted.

99% of the species granted protection under the Act have managed to survive today. Many have survived enough to be delisted, and are no longer in danger. Until today, case law has allowed for recovery plans to be drafted at the government’s pace. There is no time constraint on the drafting of recovery plans.

Though this notion may make sense in the grand scheme of things, as the government wishes to acquire as many facts and as much information on species as possible, it is difficult, at least for me, to wrap my head around not at all giving the government a time limit within which these plans need to be drafted.

The numbers simply do not lie. Recovery plans help to save species. Sure, listing the species is a step in the right direction. However, if it takes ten years to form a recovery plan, the species could continue to die off. In the case of the polar bear, should a recovery plan take twenty years to form, there is no telling how much habitat is going to be harmed and, thus, what portion of the species is going to not survive to see the recovery plan’s action.

Recovery plans are drafted on a priority basis. However, in the case of the scalloped hammerhead shark, the first shark to be listed as endangered, the listing took effect in 2014. There is still no recovery plan in place for this species, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife’s website as of today. So, how much weight can a plan carry when it does not exist? How effective can the rebound of a species be, should there be no specific avenue of recovery in place?

Though some may not seem like pressing issues, any listed species is equally important. From the snail darter to the polar bear, any species is important and and integral part of the habitat and ecosystem that it calls home. Therefore, without some sense of urgency in recovery plans, it is difficult for me to see how each species gets equal consideration and protection. Though this is not a Constitutional issue, and animals are not afforded Equal Protection under the law, it could still be said that a remote plant species is just as important as the Grizzly bear.

Listing a species may help, but developing a recovery plan in a swift manner could help the species more. By setting a limit on when these plans need to be in place, the species does not have to hope that their mere listing will allow them to recover. Rather, there will be specific, outlined, steps being taken in prompt fashion.

I encourage everyone’s feedback. If you have not already, subscribe to get updates when I post! I hope, in the coming weeks, to post more and start to inform everyone of the mechanics and statutes in place, as well as the same content of general issues that I have formerly posted. I hope everyone is faring well in this time of national transition and time of struggle; stay safe!

Ghost Fishing

It being October, I presumed that this concept would best make its appearance now. Most have already encountered this concept, without ever knowing. Ghost fishing is something that plagues every body of water on which commercial and recreational fishing occurs. This concept, like many others, takes one small thing and turns it in to one colossal impact.

Ghost fishing is what fishing gear does when it has been lost, dumped, or abandoned. The term derives itself from the resemblance to a “ghost.” It is not seen, and the effects are not known until after it is too late.

This conflict arises when nets, long lines, traps, or anything else that man uses to catch fish or marine organisms is abandoned or unattended. The gear will still catch or ensnare fish and organisms, those fish die, attract scavengers that get caught in the same net, and the cycle only escalates.

No one is profiting from these catches. Therefore, they are adversely affecting the already depleted stock of commercial fish. By simply leaving gear, for whatever reason, commercial fishermen are only hurting themselves. As many other environmental issues, we are self-sabotaging here.

Not only is this abandoned gear trapping and killing fish, it is also having a detrimental impact on others trying to navigate the same waters that the ghost gear is present in. By leaving this gear, it can become trapped in boat propellers, ensnare swimmers, and make overall navigation of the body of water difficult.

This gear is often lost during storms or in strong currents. It can also get abandoned by becoming entangled with traps set along the seafloor by other fishermen. As one could imagine, these nets can travel long distances before they eventually wash up on shore, if they ever do. According to one article, it is estimated that 95% of nets that wash ashore in Australia have come from other countries.

Though it may seem as though the legal system cannot do much to counteract this concept, they are trying. The United Nations has implemented education programs for fishermen and the fishing industry on this topic. On top of this, they have created incentives for fishermen to report lost equipment and retrieve the nets that they find at sea. Likewise, more stations for fishermen to dump damaged or recovered equipment are popping up along the shores of our oceans.

Individuals have also taken some matters in to their own hands. Divers and certain conservation groups have started their own local projects to help marine life combat this situation. Some groups are also working to convert recovered gear in to consumer goods such as: socks, carpet, and swimwear.

Like many other concepts that have become apparent in my research thus far, this problem is easy to “tip-toe” around. Most of this happens on the sea floor where most humans will not normally see or have to deal with it. Again, our out-of-sight, out-of-mind mentality has gotten the best of us. This problem is somewhat invisible, but we cannot remain ignorant to the fact that it exists.

How Hunting Helps

Growing up in a rural community, I had never met a single person who did not have at least one hunting family member. Once I arrived at college, that changed. There were some that were strongly against it, and some that, like my hometown, strongly advocated for it. Those from larger cities, those with different views, and those that may not have fully understood it obviously disagreed with it when the subject came up. Seeing that hunting seasons are in full swing, I found it appropriate to make this post about the practice.

As any other practice, there are some cons to hunting. I feel as though this is because of “trophy hunting.” What, however, is the controversy with such a practice? Is it the abandonment of a carcass? Is it the disruption of the ecosystem that the taking of an animal may cause? Regardless of the individual malfeasance with this practice, most ideas of what actually happens are often misconstrued.

Trophy hunters often gain a bad reputation. The common misconception behind a trophy hunt is the abandonment of the carcass. However, what most do not understand is that abandoning a carcass is exceedingly illegal. No hunter can abandon the carcass of a slain animal legally. If they do so, they are subject to fines, revocation of their license, and even jail time.

Most of the time, the carcass of a trophy hunt is either processed and consumed by the hunter or donated to places such as local soup kitchens, hunger-ending efforts, and the homeless in general. Hunters do not hunt simply for the recreation. If a hunter is doing so legally, they will never leave a carcass of an animal that they killed. That animal is going to benefit someone, somewhere.

Another common misconception is that hunters do not hunt for necessity, but for recreation and “the trophy.” Where there may be some truth to the necessity portion, hunters do not simply hunt for a mount on their wall. Being a hunter myself, I can personally attest to the fact that any hunter in the woods legally is doing so with the upmost respect for the animal that they seek.

Animals are superior in their habitat. Any hunter would attest to that fact. Animals that are hunted are extremely smart; they have superior senses. I know hunters that put an alarming amount of time in tracking an animal, studying its habits, making sure it has the proper nutrition, and improving the environment around said animal. Would they do so with an extreme disregard of that animal?

I, personally, believe that any hunter in the woods has the utmost respect for any animal residing there. They have respect for the land around them and the animals that they take from it. I understand that others may not agree with me, and that fact is nothing new. However, I want to ensure that people are not disagreeing for all of the wrong reasons.

There are some hunters that hunt for sport, leave the carcass, and do so illegally. Unfortunately, those few have gained all of the rest a bad image. If you are one that hangs on to the bad image brought on by those few, I ask you to think about the situation logically. I do so by drawing your attention to the following correlation:

Some hunters leave behind animal carcasses. To deny this fact would be naive. However, the amount of hunters that do this are so few, and are doing so illegally. When a scene like this is discovered, it is disheartening. It is disheartening to the hunter with the best of intentions, to the public, and even to the wildlife officers that respond. How is this so unlike murder? Some people take the lives of others, abandon the body, and do so illegally. The amount of murderers, compared to the entire population, are few. Does this make the rest of the population soul-less murderers? Does this warrant the pointing of fingers to every other person in the population? The two situations are not unalike.

Another common misconception of hunting is the reduction of the population of the animals being hunted. To counteract this, animals with a population in jeopardy are limited. The state and federal government puts restrictions on the amount of animals that may be taken when a certain animal’s population has visibly decreased. So, again, when hunters hunt legally, this is not an issue.

I found it necessary to first discuss the common misconceptions of hunting. Now, I feel it necessary to discuss some of the benefits of the practice.

Deer.

Deer can cause an extreme amount of damage in a short period of time. They can eat over 700 plant species, and do so without regard to the livelihood of the farmer that they just decimated. They could cause several thousand dollars in damage to a single property in just one day.

In the United States alone, deer cause an estimated 200 deaths every year in collisions with automobiles. Likewise, the amount paid out by insurance companies totals nearly $4 billion annually. Hunting helps to keep the population controlled and can keep the overall amount of accidents under control.

Likewise, for those that cannot afford to put meat on the table, hunting provides them a means of doing so. Hunters oftentimes prefer putting meat on the table that they took. This gives them a sense of security in knowing what is in their food, where it came from, and how it got there.

Hunting fuels environmental conservation programs. The revenue collected in the licensing of hunters is used in environmental conservation programs to ensure that efforts are taken to further preserve the world around us.

Though I did not address all issues with hunting, nor all of the benefits, I believe that this is a way of informing the public as to the reasons why the practice is not full of malice, as some believe. The legal field, whether federal or state, takes measures to ensure that hunters are doing so with the most integrity possible. On the other hand, they ensure that populations are not being decimated beyond recovery.

Hunting… helps. This fact I truly believe.

Earth’s Rainforests, Our Storms

Welcome to my third blog post, and thank you all for your support thus far! Today, I chose to take a different direction. My first two posts were about the ocean, as that is something that I am passionate about. However, today’s post has taken a more “solid-ground” direction. Deforestation.

Deforestation is something that plagues the Earth. As our population continues to grow, we continue to cut down more and more trees, forests, and woods to make room for our people. This occurs globally, but effects tropical rainforests the most.

It is estimated that, if current deforestation levels proceed, the world’s rainforests may COMPLETELY vanish in less than 100 years. This statistic was provided by National Geographic. Readers in the continental United States may not see this as a big deal. “It’s the rainforest, we don’t have any of those here. Who cares?”

My friends, this happens globally. This means that no one is going unharmed by this practice. Since 1600, 90% of the continental United States’ indigenous forests have been removed. That’s NINETY percent.

There are many different forms of deforestation. These include: burning trees, clear cutting, and many more. These forms leave the Earth with virtually no way to recover, for it is not used to recovering from such practices. Normally, the Earth can recover from anything that happens naturally. The only thing that these practices would relate to are volcanic eruptions which, as one can probably gather, take many years to recover from.

Deforestation also releases carbon dioxide in to the air, as well as water vapor. When trees are cut down, they release these greenhouse gases. For this reason, it is believed that deforestation is one of the major causes of global warming.

Unfortunately, reforestation (planting trees) will not completely fix the problem. It is still important that we, as humans, remain conscious of the waste that we are producing and the fossil fuels that we are burning. This also reins true with certain species. Reforestation will not save species that we have diminished populations of severely.

The legal field has taken small steps to stop deforestation, and to regulate the process when necessary. These include, in the United States: the Endangered Species Act, the Wilderness Act, the Lacey Act, and the Roadless Rule. Global treaties and regional rules are also observed to protect forests and the species that inhabit them.

So, what does this mean for all of us? I would say that it means changes need to be made, per usual. Make the conscious decision to use recycled paper products, or to walk short distances. Plant a tree at your own home, support organizations that are working to prevent or recover from these actions, or volunteer with a local organization.

It is the small things that, when combined across the globe, will make a big difference. Soon, these resources will not be available for use by anyone. 100 years may be a long ways away, but our children will be living through that time. If not them, our grandchildren. Our “out-of-sight, out-of-mind” mentality has to change before then, or they will suffer the consequences.

Make sure to subscribe to Lawyer Reef to get updates when I post new content! Your support is greatly appreciated. In fact, it is so appreciated that I will be organizing a give-away soon and picking one subscriber to win, so be sure not to miss the opportunity to get a Lawyer Reef shirt!

Don’t Use That Cup!

I apologize that I have not been able to post in awhile. Preparing to return to school, on top of all of the other events of the summer, has hindered my ability to get on here as much as I would like. Hopefully all of that will change in the upcoming weeks as everything winds down!

My second blog post, and it’s about… cups? I suppose so!

It is no secret that litter has plagued our planet for almost as long as man has inhabited it. However, do we truly understand what it is doing to the wildlife around us? There is truth behind saying that we do not truly understand how our actions effect the world around us. As I mentioned in my last post, our “out-of site, out-of-mind” policy is the largest detriment to our planet.

Among the litter that has plagued our planet, some takes the cake for “most detrimental”. Plastic, styrofoam, aluminum, and even the common cigarette butt are extremely slow to degrade. Environment Ohio writes: aluminum could take up to 100 years to degrade, a cigarette butt up to 5, a paper bag up to nearly two months, and styrofoam up to 500 years. Yes, you read that right. 500 years. Even more terrifying, some styrofoam NEVER degrades.

Imagine the headlines that could’ve been! “Styrofoam Cup Found Off the Coast of the Atlantic: Coffee Confirmed to have been Sipped by Christopher Columbus.”

Yet, we do not see these headlines. Columbus’s gas-station coffee cup is not on display in a National Museum. Is this because they did not have styrofoam to dispose of, or that they simply had more regard for the planet that they lived on back then? I would venture to say that the answer is: “A little bit of both.” Though you would have had to have the styrofoam for it to end up as litter, you get my point.

Environment Ohio, again, informs that scientists have found some sort of plastic or styrofoam fragments in 86% of all sea turtle species, 44% of all seabird species, and 43% of all marine mammal species. Since these animals are not able to break these things down, they often end up starving as a result of a blocked digestive track.

It does not stop there, however. Think logically for a minute. If the animals and fish that we eat are ingesting these materials, then are we not inadvertently ingesting the same toxins? Animals and fish are not suddenly rid of all toxins as soon as they are pulled from their habitat and processed for consumption. So, if you are not a selfless person willing to save the environment because it is the right thing to do, be a selfish person. The food that you eat is not anywhere near as clean as it could be because we, as humans, have made it that way. Self-sabotage, you say?

Environment Ohio calls for 25 states to ban take-out foam cups and containers. This is half of the states in the entire country. (Law students can still do math? Who knew?)

Plastic companies do not like this idea (obviously). So they have fought it since its suggestion. Why let something that is so easily disposable to us become another living thing’s death sentence? We may be at the top of the food chain, but we forget that this is not our world. We’re just living in it.

Nearly 200 cities have made the choice to ban plastic and styrofoam use. I do not think that it is too much to ask for others to do the same. Why do we consciously make the decision to use something for five minutes that could sit on our planet for hundreds of years? Is it the ease? Is it the mindless acceptance that the future is too far away to care about now?

Your children’s children’s children could find a styrofoam cup that you threw out of your car window one day because you didn’t want to wait to get to a trashcan. They could find an aluminum can that you crushed and didn’t want to pick up, or maybe an empty coffee cup that flew off of the table while you were setting up for the annual family picnic.

The legacy that we leave can be so much more than the pollution that already plagues this Earth. We, as humans, are the only ones that can make the decision to make the change.

Laws are being passed, and the legal field is attempting to restore our environment. Slowly, but somewhat surely, we may reach a different mindset. One person changing their lifestyle is better than none, so make the conscious decision to change if need be. Help the lawmakers fight against the companies that are fighting against a better future. As usual, everything comes full circle. The sooner we start having that mindset, the sooner things will change for the better.

I hope that you enjoyed this post! Subscribe to my blog to get updates every time I post new material. Thanks, everyone!

Shark… Finning?

Ever since the discovery of the vast ocean, sharks have been the major predators of the sea. Much like the humans of our time, most actions are not recognized unless it is something the world thinks to be heinous. For this reason, sharks have got a bad wrap.

We, humans, are not natural prey to a shark. Most shark attacks happen not because a shark is hungry for human blood, but simply because they are curious creatures. Ever since I could remember, this Ohio girl has had a certain infatuation with sharks. They have always been something so foreign and intriguing to me. I look forward to shark week annually, and continuously try to find ways to advocate for their habitat.

Though not really anywhere near my hometown, the ocean has always peaked my interest. I believe that sharks have done the same because they are seemingly some of Earth’s most “misunderstood” creatures.

The purpose of this post is to share with you all what I discovered a few mere years ago. Had I not been forced to find an article to write about for a class in college, I would have remained blind to the fact that this practice was a very real thing.

Shark finning.

For those of you that do not know what this practice is, I highly recommend some further research on it. Basically, large amounts of sharks are being caught, their fins are being severed from their bodies, and they are being thrown back in to the ocean.

Unfortunately, when a shark’s fin is harvested, they can no longer survive. In order to keep water, and, thus, oxygen, moving through a shark’s gills, they must keep swimming. In other words, they never stop moving. Without enough fins to swim, finned sharks are tossed back in to the ocean to slowly suffocate.

This has always been a practice that has baffled me. I am no stranger to hunting. In fact, I have gone hunting myself. I believe that legal, regulated hunting practices play a big role in regulating populations of allowable species. However, I was taught from a young age not to take a life if you did not intend to make the best of your action.

Shark finning is just that, there is no “making the best” of this senseless killing. To put it simply, a life is being wasted here. It is estimated that 100 million sharks are killed each year globally, a major reason being shark finning.

This practice has put certain species in jeopardy of becoming endangered, and for what? Not only would you think that this is morally wrong, but it is further destroying an already damaged ecosystem. Without the balance that sharks provide the ocean ecosystem, the oceanic ecosystem will continue to crumble. This happens in any ecosystem that loses some of its main predators , prey, or anything of the like.

Picture an ecosystem as a bicycle. In order to run, a bicycle must have a chain. Let us assume that the bicycle chain represents sharks in this scenario. You are going for a bike ride, when all of a sudden the chain on your bike is shortened by a few links. These links can represent the different species that are in jeopardy of becoming endangered and/or extinct. Without these, seemingly unimportant before, links, your bicycle can go no further. You try, and try, and try, but you just cannot get the chain to work without the missing links.

An ecosystem is no different. Without the “links” the ecosystem has grown to function on, it will slowly start to crumble. The only difference between these two things is that you cannot simply “buy a new” ocean. Overpopulation of one species may result, or the extinction of another that is the natural prey of the overpopulated species. We would not want gravity’s balance to suddenly change, so why are we allowing the same to happen in our oceans?

Luckily, though never too soon, the legal field has attempted to step in. About 20 countries have placed regulations on shark finning. Likewise, all sharks caught in U.S. waters must be returned to shore with their fins on. More advances are necessary to stop this practice, in more fields than one.

Most of our ignorance as a society is not that we cannot understand, it is that we do not know enough to attempt to understand. I believe that we all turn a blind eye to things that do not directly have an influence on us. However, everything comes full circle.

As others may not know, farming has been something of a chore this year. Our region, one of the top grain producers in the country, had been plagued by rain, making it impossible for farmers to yield what they usually do. Though this may seem trivial to most, it will come full circle. Fuel prices will rise, food prices will rise, meat prices will rise, and animal feed prices will rise. Everything finds a way to come full circle. This is no different.

Who am I?

Hi, everyone! My name is Kayla. My family and I live in an average town in Northwest, Ohio. Surrounding us are primarily rural, farming communities. I know, “blogs aren’t typical in rural, farming communities”!

My five siblings and I were fortunate enough to grow up outside of town, and have taken many a trip to get closer to nature. It seems as though everywhere we end up, we find some way to explore the great world that God put us here to see.

After graduating high school a few short years ago, I moved on to college. Some of my most sporadic choices came out of that experience, as I am certain the same goes for most! After two short years at my undergraduate university, I moved on to law school. I found at a late (high school) age that the legal field held my heart.

There is something about advocating for something/someone more than yourself that attracts me to the legal field. Likewise, the great abyss that is nature attracts me to the outdoors and its components just the same.

Sitting through my first year graduate classes, I could not help but wonder what more I could do to raise awareness of two of my great passions: the environment and the legal field. We become so lost in our ignorance sometimes, me included, that we forget what is going on around us. Ignorance is bliss, as they always say.

I believe that our greatest ignorance as a society is that encompassed in our actions towards the planet that we call home. This, I do not believe, is because we do not want to know what is going on, but simply because we don’t .

My goal here is to simply make myself and others more aware of the happenings of the environment, what the legal field is doing to counteract the bad, what they are not, and how we all can help.

That being said, I hope you all subscribe to my page as I begin this wonderful journey, and enjoy following me as much as I enjoy learning alongside all of you!

Disclaimer: I do not claim that any legal statements are correct. I am in no way a viable source of legal information, nor will I give any legal advice. All thoughts are my own.