The blazing remnants of Deepwater Horizon, April 21, 2010. Courtesy US Coast Guard
More than two years after the disastrous 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, BP announced today that it will pay $4.5 billion in fines to the U.S. government and plead guilty to 14 criminal charges, including those related to the deaths of 11 Deepwater Horizon rig workers, lying to Congress about the amount of oil pouring out of the ruptured well, and violating of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. “This settlement matches the unprecedented offense BP committed,” says David Yarnold, Audubon president and CEO.!--/end tags-->
Sandhill Crane, photo by Dwayne Longenbaugh
Don’t let that holiday turkey be the only bird your family encounters this Thanksgiving. Go for a hike. A post-feast nature walk can be as much a family tradition as cranberry sauce and stuffing. While burning off calories, you can enjoy the fresh air and see some wildlife. There are plenty of places to go. Visit one of Audubon’s 48 centers laced with trails. Or choose a National Wildlife Refuge. The Refuge System encompasses 150 million acres, and there is at least one refuge in every state. Many of them are Important Bird Areas. The following 16 National Wildlife Refuge walks are family-friendly and relatively short. Each one offers a chance to see many birds and other wildlife in late November.!--/end tags-->
Nearly two years ago, on New Year’s Eve two whales washed up on the shore of New Zealand and died. Government conservation workers identified them as Gray’s beaked whales, which commonly wash ashore, took skin samples, buried them, and left them alone—completely unaware that they’d actually been handling two of the world’s most mysterious mammals.
When researchers from the University of Auckland sequenced DNA from the samples a few months later, they found something much more exciting than expected. The specimens were the first evidence found since 1986 of the spade-toothed beaked whale.!--/end tags-->
Central Park Conservancy
Thousands of trees never stood a chance against hurricane Sandy’s merciless winds that blasted the Northeast last week. And when those trees faltered, they fell with crushing force. Uprooted, splintered, and draped over houses and utility wires, downed trees continue to be a reminder of the unprecedented super storm that pounded the region. In Central Park alone, an estimated 650 trees toppled, including a 160-year-old pin oak.!--/end tags-->
In a meeting on Thursday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced that the State Department is getting serious about fighting the illegal wildlife trade, which has become increasingly enmeshed with organized crime and rogue military groups. She announced that she was asking the Central Intelligence Agency to investigate the effects of the illegal wildlife trade on U.S. security interests.!--/end tags-->
Audubon and ESRI offer an intimate look at what it’s like to be a piping plover with their interactive map story, Beating the Odds: A Year in the Life of a Piping Plover.
Piping plovers have the right idea: This time of year, they’re on sandy southern beaches. To reach their topical destinations, the six-inch birds face a 2,000-mile odyssey, fighting storms like Hurricane Sandy in the air and perils on the ground, from predators to development to off-road vehicles. But don’t take my word for it—see for yourself in Audubon's interactive map.!--/end tags-->
A sooty tern. Photo: Duncan Wright, USFWS
After a dramatic event such as Hurricane Sandy, there is a tendency to want to engineer a solution to prevent a repeat occurrence. We need to be mindful that coastal habitats—barrier islands, estuaries, and more are inherently dynamic, shaped by wind, tides, and yes, storms.!--/end tags-->
A state constitutional amendment would give Arizona sovereign authority over the Grand Canyon (above) and 19 other national park units.
UPDATE: Of the five measures, four were defeated. Click through for the results.
After a record-spending campaign season, Election Day is finally here. While much of the national focus will be on the Presidential race and which party will end up controlling the Senate, voters in several states are voting on measures that are of interest to any environmentalist. Here’s a look at five of these, which could affect everything from foods lining grocery store shelves, to iconic landmarks, to renewable energy development.!--/end tags-->
From my home in eastern Maine, I have followed with horror and dismay the travails of so many people whose lives have been torn apart by Sandy. I have never experienced the crushing sense of a personal assault delivered by “an act of God” that seems to have been so common in this disaster. But, through one long-ago encounter, I have an inkling of the impact such an event can make: the ultimate word to describe it is violence. One can never forget it.!--/end tags-->
Hurricane Sandy Update From the Field: Brooklyn’s Prospect Park Loses Beloved Trees but Boasts a Rare Bird Sighting