Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. Addresses Concert for the Climate Group
Environmentalism has emerged as our nation’s most important civil rights issue, says Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Natural Resources Defense Council senior attorney and Waterkeeper Alliance president-at-large. Government’s role is to protect the commons, he maintains, because natural resources are the nation’s social safety net.
During his Sept. 29 keynote speech at Concert for the Climate overlooking the confluence of the Missouriand KawRivers in Kansas City, Kan., Kennedy addressed fishing, a pastime he claims is victimized by powerful political entities, and focused on rising mercury levels in American waterway-caught fish.
“Last August the National Academy of Sciences released a 10-year study saying that every freshwater fish now has dangerous levels of mercury in its flesh. This mercury is coming from those coal plants. We are now living a science fiction nightmare where my children, every child in Kansas, and most of the children in United States of America can no longer engage in the seminal activity of youth, which is going fishing with their father and mother at the local fishing hole and coming home to safely eat the fish because of the political power of these coal plant.
“According to the Centers for Disease Control, one of out every six women has dangerous levels of mercury in her womb. I fish a lot. I eat the fish. My levels were 10 times what EPA considers safe. I was told by Dr. David Carpenter, the national authority on mercury contamination, that a woman with my levels would have children with permanent brain damage. I said, ‘you mean she might have.’ He said, ‘no, science is certain.’ At my level, a child would be born with a permanent IQ loss of 5 to 7 points.
“So, today, according to CDC, there are 640,000 children born in this county every day exposed to dangerous levels of mercury in their mothers’ wombs that would cause them to lose an IQ point or have a grim inventory of other diseases including autism; blindness; mental retardation; or heart, liver, kidney disease. These are costs of coal imposed on us. They are telling us coal costs 11 cents a kilowatt hour. They are not telling us about these other costs we are paying because we are dependent on coal.”
Mercury contamination isn’t a new topic for Kennedy. But it’s one that has gained additional importance to him after this year’s international treaty negotiations regarding global emissions of mercury. In addition, a recent report by the Biodiversity Research Institute and IPEN, the network of 700 public interest organizations in 116 countries, documented mercury levels exceeding health advisory levels linked to pollution from coal-burning power plants, small scale mining, and other industrial sources.
In his weekly blog, Kennedy wrote: “The United States is only now starting to see progress in reducing mercury emissions. In America, citizen action forced EPA to adopt the first ever mercury and air toxics rule in 2012. This rule will prevent 90% of the mercury in coal burned at power plants from being emitted into the air.”
Invasive, sharp-shelled mollusk discovered in several locations around lake
The Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism (KDWPT) has confirmed the presence of zebra mussels in Clinton Reservoir in DouglasCounty. An adult population was discovered by KDWPT fisheries staff during routine fish sampling activities, and a subsequent survey of other locations around the lake indicated the population was widespread. Twenty-two Kansas lakes have now been confirmed to have zebra mussels. Other reservoirs in northeast Kansas with zebra mussel infestations include Milford, Perry, John Redmond and Melvern.
Clinton Reservoir covers approximately 7,000 acres west of Lawrence. It is managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), and KDWPT manages the fishery. The lake and surrounding areas are popular destinations for fishing, camping, swimming, hiking, and a variety of boating and other water-related activities.
USACE and KDWPT officials stress that there is no known method to rid a lake of zebra mussels, noting that the public plays a key role in stemming their spread to uninfested lakes. “These latest discoveries show how important it is for the public to be aware of the dangers of aquatic nuisance species (ANS) and to take precautions to prevent their spread,” said Jessica Howell, KDWPT Aquatic Nuisance Species Coordinator.
According to Howell, prevention is the best way to avoid spreading ANS. “By always cleaning, draining, and drying boats and other equipment and by not moving water around, we can stop the spread of not just zebra mussels, but most aquatic nuisance species that may be present,” she said.
The lake will be added to the list of ANS-designated waters in Kansas, and notices will be posted at various locations around the reservoir. The sharp-shelled zebra mussels attach to solid objects, so visitors should be careful when handling mussel-encrusted objects and when grabbing an underwater object when they can’t see what their hands may be grasping. Visitors should protect their feet when walking on underwater or shoreline rocks, a helpful precaution any time they are outdoors.
Zebra mussels are just one of the non-native aquatic species that threaten our waters and native wildlife. After using any body of water, boaters and anglers must remember to follow regulations and precautions that will prevent their spread:
· Clean, drain and dry boats and equipment between uses
· Use wild-caught bait only in the lake or pool where it was caught
· Do not move live fish from waters infested with zebra mussels or other aquatic nuisance species
· Drain livewells and bilges and remove drain plugs from all vessels prior to transport from any Kansaswater on a public highway.
For more information about aquatic nuisance species in Kansas, report a possible ANS, or see a list of ANS-designated waters, visit ProtectKSWaters.org.
As hunting seasons open across the nation, hunters are facing numerous challenges created by the shutdown of the federal government.
Countless hunters depend on federal lands for their hunting activities, and the closure of lands controlled by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service and the Corps of Engineers is placing an unfair burden on sportsmen. Among the number of reasons people cite for why they stopped hunting is the lack of access to places to hunt, and the blockade to millions of acres of public hunting land is simply making the problem worse.
Not only has the closure of public lands proved to be difficult but the lack of information available about the status of various lands and facilities is creating barriers to hunting. Hunters are investing hard-earned money and time to travel, sometimes hundreds of miles, to their planned hunting locations only to find them closed.
Hunters positively impacted the economy to the tune of $87 billion in 2011 and supported more than 680,000 jobs. Reducing public land access hurts businesses and workers across the nation. When hunters can’t find a place to hunt, there’s no reason for them to purchase hunting arms, ammunition or even licenses, which in turn reduces vital funding for wildlife conservation. Excise taxes on hunting arms, ammunition and archery equipment funds a vast majority of wildlife conservation and habitat restoration efforts in every state.
In Kansas, a youth program in southeast Kansas was cancelled due to the shutdown. With youth waterfowl seasons about to open the next two weekends, many potential youth hunts are in jeopardy, including a scheduled hunt for John Redmond on the 26th. Many Corps of Engineers and Bureau of Land Management reservoirs inKansas offer public hunting access for waterfowl hunters which will not be available should the shutdown of the federal government continue through the end of the month.