Center for Progressive Reform

Protecting Wildlife and Ecosystems

The nation’s -- indeed, the world's -- wildlife and ecosystems are under sustained assault from overdevelopment, pollution, poor stewardship and more.  CPR Member Scholars have written extensively on the subject.

One particular focus for scholars has been devising strategies for cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay.  The nation's largest estuary, the Chesapeake has been deteriorating since the 1930s, when water clarity, crab and oyster populations, and underwater bay grasses began to decline. Excess nutrients – phosphorus and nitrogen – and sediment runoff from agriculture, urban and suburban development, and sewage treatment plants caused the Bay’s cloudy waters, resulting in “dead zones” containing too little oxygen to support aquatic life. The Bay’s oyster population has been devastated, down to 2 percent of its average levels in the 1950s. The Bay’s famous blue crab populations are also low, about 30 percent below the annual average from 1968 to 2002.  CPR Member Scholars have studied the problem closely, authoring a series of reports on how to finally clean up the Bay after years of neglect. 

Another area of interest to CPR Member Scholars is the preservation of functioning ecosystems. In the decades since Congress and state legislatures passed most of our biggest environmental laws, knowledge about ecosystems has increased dramatically, and scientists now know much more about the “goods and services” that ecosystems provide. But policymakers haven’t yet taken advantage of much of that new knowledge. CPR Scholars have observed that as ecologists learn more about the complex and dynamic interactions that produce these valuable services, decisionmakers and advocates should adopt an ecosystem services approach to implementing laws that affect the environment. CPR Scholars are helping to define the ecosystem services approach to implementing laws that affect the environment, the beginning of a long-term discussion on how to adapt environmental, natural resources, and other laws to our dependence on functioning, dynamic ecosystems. 

Read a CPR web article on Protecting Ecosystem Services, and check out various materials from CPR the topic:

  • Ecosystem Services Manual. Letting Nature Work in the Pacific Northwest: A Manual for Protecting Ecosystem Services Under Existing Law (CPR White Paper 1304), defines the approach and identifies both prerequisites and principles for implementing it. The paper then applies the ecosystem services approach in the context of floodplain restoration, focusing on flood hazard mitigation and the broad range of services provided by floodplains.

  • Ecosystem Services Webinar. In April 2013, CPR hosted a webinar to discuss the publication and its key points. Presenters included CPR Member Scholars Robert W. Adler, Robert L. Glicksman, Daniel J. Rohlf, and Robert R.M. Verchick.

CPR Member Scholars have also been active in defending the Endangered Species Act from a variety of efforts to weaken its provisions.  Learn about CPR Member Scholars’ work to protect precious natural resources from destruction and misuse:

  • ESA Amendments. Read Robert Fischman's September 9, 2014 testimony before the House Committee on Natural Resources on proposed amendments to the Endangered Species Act.
  • Letting Nature Work. Read Letting Nature Work in the Pacific Northwest: A Manual for Protecting Ecosystem Services Under Existing Law, CPR White Paper 1304, by CPR Member Scholars Robert W. Adler, Robert L. Glicksman, Daniel J. Rohlf, and Robert R.M. Verchick and CPR Policy Analyst Yee Huang, April 2013. Read a blog post from the day of release. Read a CPR web article on Protecting Ecosystem Services.
  • International Treaties. Read Reclaiming Global Environmental Leadership: Why the United States Should Ratify Ten Pending Environmental Treaties, CPR White Paper 1201.
  • Missouri River Flooding. Read "Species conservation not factor in flooding," by Member Scholar Sandra Zellmer and John H. Davidson on species conservation considerations and the 2011 Missouri River flooding, published July 3, 2011 in the Omaha World-Herald.
  • New York Times Opinion Article. Read "The Law's Great Strength," by Holly Doremus, on the Endangered Species Act, April 21, 2011, on the New York Times website's Room for Debate page. (Read all articles in the debate.)
  • Comments on ESA Consultation Rules.  On August 3, 2009, CPR Member Scholars Mary Jane Angelo, Holly Doremus, and Daniel J. Rohlf, and CPR Policy Analyst James Goodwin submitted comments to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) proposing several ways to improve regulations for implementing interagency consultations under the Endangered Species Act.  Read James Goodwin's blog entry on the comments.
  • Cheapeake Bay Clean-up.  Read about CPR's work developing recommendations for strengthening accountability among the states participating in the Chesapeake Bay Program. 
  • Midnight Regulation on Endangered Species Act Interagency Cooperation.  Read an April 1, 2009 letter to Interior Secretary Salazar and Commerce Secretary Locke from CPR Member Scholars Holly Doremus, Robert Glicksman, Alejandro Camacho, Daniel Rohlf, and Policy Analyst Margaret Clune Giblin, urging the Secretaries to take advantage of a 60-day window for withdrawing a Bush Administration midnight regulation weaking a requirement that agencies consult on actions that would harm endangered or threatened species.  Also read their blog entry on the subject.  Also read October 10, 2008 comments from Doremus, Glicksman, Camacho, Rohlf and Giblin, joined by Mark Schwartz (UC Davis), opposing the midnight regulation when first proposed.  The comments argued that the Fish and Wildlife Service was in an "unseemly rush" to weaken the Endangered Species Act before the Bush Administration left office, and that the proposed rule would make it less likely that endangered species would be shielded from destructive activities.
  • Navy Sonar Case Op-Ed in Slate.  Read "Free-Willy-Nilly" (link goes off-site to Slate) by CPR Member Scholar Holly Doremus, published in Slate Magazine, November 14, 2008, on the Supreme Court's decision in a case challenging the U.S. Navy's use of underwater sonar in anti-submarine testing because of its dangerous impact on whales.
  • Mountaintop Mining.  Read blog entries from CPR Member Scholars and staff on the mining industry's practice of blowing the tops off of mountains and depositing the remains in streams:  by Holly Doremus on June 11, 2009, May 20, 2009, April 6, 2009; and by Matthew Shudtz on December 16, 2008.
  • Proposed Executive Orders for the Obama Administration.  In November 2008, the Center for Progressive Reform transmitted to the Obama Transition Team a slate of seven Executive Orders addressing a series of critical issues, including climate change, transparency in government, environmental justice, children's exposure to toxics, citizens' right to sue corporations whose products cause them harm, and stewardship of public lands.  Read a web article about the proposals, and read the white paper itself, Protecting Public Health and the Environment by the Stroke of a Presidential Pen (3.3 meg download). Or read the news release.
  • Endangered Species Opinion Articles in Slate. Holly Doremus has published two articles in Slate Magazine on the Bush Administration's decision about whether to list polar bears as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.  Read the pre-decision January 18, 2008 article in Slate Magazine or the post-decision May 20, 2008 article (link goes off-site to Slate).
  • A CPR Perspective. CPR Member Scholars have authored articles on related topics, as part of the CPR Perspectives Series. These include Perspectives on Mountaintop Mining and Protecting Endangered Species.


The Center for Progressive Reform

455 Massachusetts Ave., NW, #150-513
Washington, DC 20001

© Center for Progressive Reform, 2013