Donald Trump has been plotting to screw our climate and kill off the diversity of life for four years.  This isn’t hyperbole; he has devasted critical habitat and created scars over 400 miles long through National Parks, private and public lands along the US and Mexican borders with his racist wall. By changing the Endangered Species Act, he has assaulted the country’s biodiversity by changing the rules that define critical habitat. 

The list is endless, really, but yesterdays ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit shut down one of his more reckless assaults on wildlands that are critical to giving our biosphere a fighting chance to defy the odds and continue to pull carbon out of the atmosphere whether at the sea bottom or in tropical rainforest soil.

Determined to drill in the Arctic Ocean, he fast-tracked the first offshore development in the Beaufort Sea in Alaska, risking the lives of all the marine species that evolved to thrive in the Arctic by seismic blasting and oil spills.

Biodiversity press release. 

ANCHORAGE, Alaska— The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit today rejected the Trump administration’s approval of the first offshore oil drilling development in federal Arctic waters.

Hilcorp Alaska received approval in 2018 to build and operate the controversial Liberty project, an artificial drilling island and underwater pipeline that would risk oil spills in the sensitive Beaufort Sea and threaten polar bears and Arctic communities.

The lawsuit was brought by the Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, Defenders of Wildlife, and Pacific Environment, all represented by Earthjustice.

“This is a huge victory for polar bears and our climate,” said Kristen Monsell, oceans legal director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “This project was a disaster waiting to happen that should never have been approved. I’m thrilled the court saw through the Trump administration’s attempt to push this project through without carefully studying its risks.”

The court also held that the Fish and Wildlife Service had violated the Endangered Species Act by failing to adequately analyze the effects of the project on polar bears —specifically, that the agency arbitrarily relied on uncertain mitigation measures in concluding the project would not adversely modify the polar bear critical habitat and failed to properly consider the harm to them from noise disturbance.

“Today’s news is a victory for Alaska’s imperiled polar bears that are threatened by oil and gas development throughout virtually all of their terrestrial denning critical habitat ─ in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, and in the nearshore marine environment as well,” said Nicole Whittington-Evans, Alaska program director at Defenders of Wildlife. “Defenders will continue our fight against destructive oil and gas drilling and for the survival of polar bears in the Arctic.”

For some, mocking the plight of the polar bear is pure joy for some strange reason. But it’s not just polar bears that are threatened; if you enjoy Alaskan King Crab or the taste of wild salmon, or if you like to breathe, think about the loss of phytoplankton.

Trump is gone; a change is coming; stay vigilant. We have much to do.