ENVIRONMENT WINS AS CHRISTO ABANDONS CONTROVERSIAL ART PROJECT
We celebrated a victory for the environment in January! Artist Christo has abandoned his “Over the River” project, which would have involved suspending 5.9 miles of fabric panels above the Arkansas River in Colorado, a federally designated Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC). An ACEC is a place set aside primarily for protection of wildlife. “The federal government is our landlord. They own the land. I can’t do a project that benefits this landlord,” Christo told the New York Times Jan. 26. Asked to elaborate on his views of the new president, he said only, “The decision speaks for itself.”
Friends of Animals (FoA) does not hate art.
We just believed that Christo’s plan crossed the line between art and environmental destruction. That’s why we decided to represent the group Rags Over the Arkansas River Inc. (ROAR), a grassroots organization that sued the Bureau of Land Management for approving the project, hoping to put a halt to the artist’s plans. The project would have required more than three years of heavy construction in a federally protected area of critical environmental concern. Christo’s team would have drilled 9,100 holes, each approximately 30 to 50 feet deep, along the river bank and in bedrock for bolts nine feet long. They would also have needed to install 1,275 steel cables, which would have hovered 8 to 25 feet above the water, as well as 2,275 anchor transition frames, most of which would have been left behind when the project is over.
“The project would have impacted numerous wildlife,” said Michael Harris, director of FoA’s Wildlife Law Program. “In approving the project, the federal Bureau of Land Management acknowledged numerous impacts to bald eagle, golden eagle, peregrine falcon and osprey, including altered habitat, possible collision with cables and fabric panels leading to injury and death and disturbance to nesting birds had also been documented. In addition, upwards of half of the bighorn sheep living in the canyon were presumed to be killed from construction related activities.
“Whether Christo’s decision will outlast the Trump administration is unknown. In the meantime, Friends of Animals and ROAR will continue legal efforts to make sure the canyon and its wildlife are forever protected from ‘Over the River.’"
FIVE SPECIES OF TARANTULAS POISED TO GET ESA PROTECTIONS
In December, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed to list five Sri Lankan tarantula species under the Endangered Species Act. Friends of Animals (FoA) litigated the case after WildEarth Guardians submitted a petition on Oct. 29, 2010. Mike Harris, director of FoAʼs Wildlife Law Program is confident that the five species— Poecilotheria fasciata, P. ornata, P. smithi, P. subfusca, and P. vittata— will be listed following the public comment period. P
oecilotheria is a genus of arboreal spiders native to Sri Lanka and India. Poecilotheria species are among the largest spiders in the world, with body lengths of one-and-a-half to three-and-a-half inches and maximum adult leg spans varying from six to 10 inches. They are known for their very fast movements and potent venom that, in humans, typically causes extended muscle cramps and severe pain.
They are hairy spiders and have striking coloration, with dorsal color patterns of gray, black, brown, and in one case, a metallic blue. Unfortunately for them, their striking markings make them popular for commercial trade. A single adult can sell for $250, a strong incentive to collect them from the wild.
The protections of the ESA would help eliminate the part played by the United States in the illegal trade in these spiders, and focus attention on their plight. Poecilotheria species are typical tarantulas in many respects. However, they differ from most tarantulas in that they are somewhat social and reside in trees rather than ground burrows. Therefore, habitat loss and degradation are considered primary factors negatively affecting them because they eliminate or reduce the availability of trees required by them for reproduction, foraging and protection.
And due to the limited ability of these spiders to travel far, as well as their sedentary habits, forest loss and degradation are also likely to result in direct mortality of individuals or populations, via physical trauma caused by the activities that result in forest loss and degradation, or the intentional killing of these spiders when they are encountered by humans during these activities. Pesticides are also identified as a threat to these tarantulas in Sri Lanka. The five species addressed in this finding could potentially be exposed to pesticides via pesticide drift into forests that are adjacent to crop-growing areas; by traveling over pesticide treated land when dispersing between forest patches; or by consuming prey that have been exposed to pesticides.