Senator Coons, who earned an undergraduate degree in chemistry, live-tweeted Sunday night's episode of the Fox science show, Cosmos, which focused on the greenhouse effect and its impact on our climate. Take a look at what he had to say:
Looking forward to tonight’s important episode of @COSMOSonTV at 9pm on FOX. The science of climate change and the impacts of inaction.
The New York Times published an op-ed by Kenyan journalist Murithi Mutiga on Wednesday about the importance of engaging local communities in efforts to combat poaching. Community stakeholders, Murithi argues, could be conservationists’ greatest allies in the fight against wildlife-trafficking syndicates.
Wild animals may hold a special place in our global heritage, but all too often they threaten the livelihood of the farmers and herders who live near nature reserves and game parks. Elephants routinely trample precious crops, and carnivores sometimes ravage whole herds of livestock.
Poachers have astutely tapped into this reserve of local grievances — made worse by high rates of poverty and unemployment — and struck up partnerships with people in communities around game parks.
Most Kenyans support conservation efforts. But in a country where arable land is exceedingly scarce and about a tenth of the land area is reserved for national parks and reserves, the authorities should take a more sophisticated approach in winning local support for conservation initiatives.
African countries, the author notes, could learn from Nepal, which gives special rights to communities living around major national parks – including royalties of 30 - 50 percent of the proceeds from park entry fees. The result is a local community invested in protecting the park and a massive decline in poaching.
Namibia has also had success with the community-based conservation model. The country's world-renowned conservancy program has empowered communities to create their own conservancies to manage and sustainably benefit from wildlife on communal land, including through tourism.
Senator Coons, chair of the Senate Foreign Relations African Affairs Subcommittee, has been a leading voice in the Senate for wildlife conservation and efforts to combat poaching in Africa. His third annual Opportunity: Africa conference, held earlier this month in Wilmington, featured a workshop on ending poaching and protecting Africa’s wildlife led by conservation experts from the State Department and World Wildlife Fund, as well as John Kasaona, a Namibian pioneer of community-based conservation. John was also a featured speaker at a Senate briefing on wildlife trafficking hosted by Senator Coons earlier this month.
The League of Conservation Voters (LCV) has once again recognized Senator Coons’ strong environmental voting record, awarding him a 92 percent rating for 2013 in their latest National Environmental Scorecard. The scorecard provides objective, factual information about the most important environmental legislation considered by Congress and the corresponding voting records of all members. Senator Coons’ lifetime rating is now 95 percent.
The 2013 LCV scorecard includes 13 Senate votes that demonstrate Chris’ commitment to addressing important environmental issues affecting Delaware and the nation. Chris scored above the Senate average by 35 percent and Delaware was noted as one of 26 states with an average score above 90, thanks to high scores from all three members of the Delaware congressional delegation.
At home in Delaware and in the Senate, Chris has been a strong voice for environmental conservation, clean and renewable energy development, and measures to curb and combat the effects of climate change. Over the last year, Chris voted for disaster relief for victims of Superstorm Sandy and investments to make our communities more resilient against future storms, as well as to preserve investments in advanced next generation biofuels by the Department of Defense, the nation’s single largest energy user. He also opposed efforts to block EPA regulation of greenhouse gases for the purpose of combating climate change.
Chris advocated heavily for the inclusion of strong conservation provisions in the farm bill approved by Congress last week. He has led a letter to the Appropriations Committee for the past three years urging robust funding for farm bill conservation programs.
For over 40 years, the National Environmental Scorecard issued by LCV has been the nationally accepted yardstick used to rate members of Congress on environmental, public health, and energy issues. The Scorecard represents the consensus of experts from 20 respected environmental and conservation organizations who selected the key votes to be scored.
(Above) Senator Coons joins National Wildlife Refuge System Chief Jim Kurth at a Congressional briefing on the findings of a new U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service study.
Every year, millions of bird watchers, hikers, hunters, fishermen, and outdoor enthusiasts visit the National Wildlife Refuge System, our nation’s extensive network of preserved lands and waters dedicated to conserving wildlife. President Theodore Roosevelt created the first wildlife refuge in Florida in 1903 and since then, the system has grown to a network of over 560 refuges encompassing more than 150 million acres. In Delaware alone, every year more than 200,000 people visit Prime Hook and Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuges, which represent some of the best examples of pristine tidal saltmarsh and wetlands on the East Coast.
This week, Senator Coons joined National Wildlife Refuge System Chief Jim Kurth at a Congressional briefing to share the findings of a new U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service study of the economic benefits of the refuge system. The report entitled, “Banking on Nature” quantifies the revenue generated for local and regional economies by refuges across the country, including Delaware’s very own Bombay Hotoutsok and Prime Hook. From 2006-2011, over 46 million people visited the National Wildlife Refuge System generating a total of $2.4 billion in economic output. Considering that every $1 of investment in the refuge system yields around $5 for the economy, national wildlife refuges are among our most productive national investments.
Wildlife refuges fuel the economic growth of surrounding communities by attracting visitors that support local economies when they pay for travel arrangements and buy food, supplies, accommodations, and other products and services. Refuges also give visitors and nearby residents access to the sights of waterfowl migration and gorgeous views of the landscape, which are free for all to enjoy. Additional ecosystem services provided by our coastal refuges include water filtration, flood mitigation, and healthy fish populations, solidifying their place as valuable natural assets.
In October, Chris led a resolution with Senators Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) recognizing the importance of the National Wildlife Refuge System. The bi-partisan resolution, S. Res. 296, to designate the week of October 13th, 2013 as National Wildlife Refuge Week was adopted November 14 by unanimous consent. Chris led similar resolutions designating National Wildlife Refuge Week in 2011 and 2012.
Most Americans are familiar with the importance of oil for gasoline and diesel, copper for electric wiring and motors, and aluminum for packing and vehicles. However, we do not often hear about the importance of yttrium, cerium, neodymium, or lanthanum for consumer uses. These basic elements are critical for more efficient light bulbs, oil refinery catalysts, lasers, and batteries respectively.
To help secure the continued supply of minerals vital to our national defense, domestic energy, electronics production, and medical industry technologies, Senator Coons recently joined a bipartisan group of 16 senators to introduce the Critical Minerals Policy Act of 2013 (S. 1600). The legislation includes a number of provisions that would help revitalize the domestic supply of these precious minerals, many of which are in short supply domestically and come from overseas.
According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the United States is currently 100 percent dependent on foreign sources for 17 key mineral commodities and 50 percent dependent on overseas suppliers for some 24 additional minerals. The goal of the Critical Minerals Policy Act is to secure a more stable supply of mineral commodities by developing domestic sources, recycling existing supplies, and researching alternatives for critical minerals. Chris is also a strong supporter of efforts at the University of Delaware to develop alternatives to the use of rare earth elements, a subset of critical minerals.
Through the establishment of a federal register in the Department of the Interior (DOI), the Critical Minerals Policy Act will help officials pinpoint which minerals are subject to potential supply restrictions and develop strategies to prevent price shocks and balance market demand. Other agencies, including the Department of Energy (DOE) and USGS, will join the DOI to strengthen educational research and workforce training critical to the development of domestic mineral supply chains. The legislation would also streamline the permit and review process of critical mineral mining on public lands to reduce costs and facilitate the environmentally responsible production of domestic resources.
To further public understanding of critical mineral solutions, the Critical Minerals Policy Act would expand research programs aimed at promoting efficient mineral use and recycling across various U.S. industries. The DOE would also submit an assessment of domestically trained workers capable of carrying out critical mineral research, analysis, manufacturing, and production to enhance the domestic availability of critical minerals.
According to the National Academy of Sciences, more than 25,000 pounds of new minerals are needed every year for each person in the United States in order to make the items we use every day for infrastructure, energy, transportation, communications, health care and defense. By coordinating efforts across federal agencies, the Critical Minerals Policy Act will help to update mineral policy for the 21st century and ensure our position in the world as both an economic and technological leader.
Senator Coons joined members of Delaware’s Ducks Unlimited (DU) Chapter to welcome visiting DU National CEO Dale Hall, Board President George Dunklin, and DU of Mexico Board President John Tomke to Delaware at a barbeque dinner Wednesday night in Dover. Hall, Dunklin, and Tomke were in town to congratulate Delaware DU members for their outstanding fundraising efforts, which bring in nearly $1 million each year for conservation in the state. The daylong visit included meetings with Delaware chapter members and a clay shoot.
“DU and its members in Delaware are among our nation’s best advocates for wetland conservation, farmland preservation, and preserving sporting traditions,” Senator Coons said. “Delaware’s thriving wildlife and pristine landscapes speak to the enormous success of DU’s efforts to conserve our vital natural resources. It was an honor to welcome DU’s national leaders to Delaware to show off the outstanding accomplishments of our state chapter and discuss opportunities for continued collaboration.”
Delaware’s DU chapter has more than 6,300 members and has earned a national reputation for its passionate, active membership and highly successful fundraising. Delaware is also situated along the Atlantic Flyway, a major migration and wintering route for North American waterfowl. Over the past seven years, DU’s staff and volunteers have helped to conserve over 15,000 acres in Delaware and 13 million acres across North America.
During Wednesday’s dinner, Chris spoke with DU leaders about important legislative priorities, including passing a five-year farm bill, preserving funding for the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA), increasing the price of the Duck Stamp, and reintroducing a sportsmen’s package of conservation, hunting and fishing bills.
Chris has been a strong advocate for each of these priorities in the Senate, supporting programs that protect wildlife and habitat, water quality, and open space. Earlier this year, he helped to introduce legislation to reauthorize NAWCA and cosponsored a bill to secure permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which protects land and waterways of state and national importance.
Senator Coons congratulated Delaware’s Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) Thursday on the launch of its third grant project, and commended the program’s accomplishments over its ten-year history in the state. The National Science Foundation awarded a five-year, $20-million Research Infrastructure Improvement grant to Delaware EPSCoR in June for research focused on sea level rise and renewable energy.
“For ten years, the EPSCoR program has brought Delaware’s best and brightest scientists and educators together to pioneer innovative technologies and train the next generation of experts in rapidly growing fields,” Senator Coons said. “Each successive grant project has expanded our universities’ capacity to produce cutting-edge research, and helped Delaware become a leading hub for science and technology education. This grant will allow Delaware EPSCoR to continue supporting its successful programs and address the critical effects of climate change on our coastal areas.”
Delaware’s project will focus on water quality and renewable-energy use in vulnerable coastal areas subject to pressures from land use and climate changes. The research employs natural, physical, and social science approaches to examine the effects of rising sea levels on the cycling of soil-bound contaminants. The project will also investigate coupled land use and climate change impacts on water and natural systems ranging from tidal wetlands to agricultural land, to densely populated and polluted urban areas. Novel sensors will be developed for environmental monitoring. The project will also address renewable energy, including offshore wind.
The University of Delaware, Delaware State University, Wesley College, and Delaware Technical Community College will collaboratively address these themes using innovative research approaches and educational programs. The project includes public outreach activities and partnerships with private industry and government.
EPSCoR is designed to fulfill the National Science Foundation's (NSF) mandate to promote scientific progress nationwide. Twenty-eight states, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Guam are currently eligible to participate. Through the program, NSF establishes regional partnerships with governments, higher education, and industry that strengthen states’ research and development capacities and boost academic competitiveness. Delaware was designated an EPSCoR state in January 2003, and program grants awarded in 2005 and 2008 have supported two previous projects focused on enhancing environmental science, complex environmental systems, and ecosystem health research.
Delaware was one of only five states awarded an NSF grant for science and engineering academic research.
The Senate on Wednesday night passed Senator Coons’ White Clay Creek Wild and Scenic River Expansion Act, S.393, which would add nine miles of White Clay Creek and its tributaries in Delaware and Pennsylvania to an existing Wild and Scenic River designation. This legislation, which is cosponsored by Senators Carper and Casey, will ensure that White Clay Creek continues to be protected as an important resource for Delaware. Legislation like this is part of the Senator’s ongoing effort to preserve and protect important national resources in Delaware.
In 1968, Congress passed the National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act in order to protect free-flowing rivers with great cultural, recreational, historic, and scenic values. In 2000, Congress designated the majority of White Clay Creek and its tributaries as part of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System.
Senator Coons’ legislation would increase the total number of protected miles of White Clay Creek and its tributaries to 199, adding the 1.6-mile stretch of Lamborn Run in Delaware and 7.4-miles of stream in Pennsylvania’s New Garden Township. This will help provide more comprehensive protection and preservation for the entire White Clay Creek watershed, an important resource for both Delaware and Pennsylvania.
Home to 33 species of mammals, 21 species of fish including brown and rainbow trout, twenty-seven species of reptiles and amphibians, and over ninety species of birds, the White Clay Creek watershed is an important habitat for Delaware’s wildlife. The protected land also provides recreational opportunities for hikers, cyclists, birders, and hunters.
Growing up, Chris spent a lot of time in White Clay Creek watershed and understands its importance to nearby communities. Years ago, his grandmother donated some of her land along the banks of White Clay Creek to help preserve it. Chris is proud to be a leader of this important legislation that further protects White Clay Creek and its tributaries in a way that does not require spending a single dollar of taxpayer money.
The bill must still be passed in the House of Representatives before it can become law.
Senator Chris Coons, a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, participated in a half-day summit on Thursday on issues of importance to rural communities across our nation. The event was hosted by the Senate Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee and featured two moderated panels focused on rural economics, infrastructure, and access to critical services.
The panel highlighted the economic conditions facing rural communities and the agriculture industry, and what role the federal government can play in ensuring long-term support for the communities. Issues discussed during the summit include the importance of investing in the health of farmland, natural resources, and infrastructure. Another topic of discussion was connecting our farmers and ranchers with consumers, including individuals, schools, hospitals, and businesses.
“Our rural communities are central to our identity, our economy, and our values,” Chris said. “Between our agriculture sector, environmental conservation, and tourism, it’s no surprise that Delaware’s rural communities are thriving. It’s important that we continue to facilitate an open dialogue between our rural communities and our elected officials to ensure we aren’t hindering their growth and development. I thank the members of the University of Delaware for attending today’s event and sharing their views on how we can strengthen our state’s rural areas.”
More than 200 rural development advocates attended the summit, including Mark Reiger, Dean of the College of Agriculture & Natural Resources, University of Delaware; Michelle Rodgers, Cooperative Extension Director, University of Delaware; and Melanie Allen, student, University of Delaware.
The Senate Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee is dedicated to fostering dialogue between Senate Democrats and community leaders from across the nation. The Steering Committee hosts regular meetings each year with advocates, policy experts, and elected officials to discuss key priorities and enlist their help in the development of the Democratic agenda in the Senate.
Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.), a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, on Monday afternoon spoke on the Senate floor calling for action to address the adverse effects of climate change in Delaware. The speech was given on Earth Day.