Montana youth spark a climate win

A state judge in Montana gave climate activists a decisive win on Aug. 14 when she ruled that the state’s support of fossil fuels violates their constitutional right to a clean and healthful environment. The ruling struck down as unconstitutional a state policy barring consideration of the impacts of greenhouse gas emissions in fossil fuel permitting.

The court deciding that there is a constitutional duty to protect the environment, the climate and the health and safety of present and future generations represents a rare victory for climate activists who have tried unsuccessfully in the past to use the courts to push back against government policies and industrial activities they say are harming the planet.

That gives Friends of Animals hope and is a warning for government officials who are failing in their moral, political and now constitutional duty to protect the planet and the human and non-human animals who call it home. FoA will be studying the ruling to see how our Wildlife Law Program can use this powerful new tool in future legal action to protect wildlife and their threatened habitats.

New federal support proposed for plant-based food production

U.S. Representative James P. McGovern (D-MA), ranking member of the House Rules Committee and senior member of the House Agriculture Committee,has introduced a bill to support American farmers and rural communities through plant-based food production.

Introduced earlier this summer, The Peas, Legumes, and Nuts Today Act, or PLANT Act, aims to provide loans and rural development grants to businesses producing foods using plant-based proteins and farmers that supply them. Sections of the bill also allow for research and funding grants “to improve the functionality, flavor and nutritional value of the use of soybeans, wheat, mushrooms, oats, sorghum, almonds, and other crops for the plant protein industry,’’ the Daily Hampshire Gazette reported.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has spent almost $50 billion in subsidies for livestock operators since 1995, according to an analysis from the Environmental Working Group. By contrast, since 2018 the USDA has spent less than $30 million to support plant-based proteins that produce fewer greenhouse gases and require less land than livestock.

“That’s why I introduced legislation that establishes new opportunities for farmers and food companies, creates new jobs in farming communities, advances USDA’s efforts to connect American farmers to new markets at home and abroad, and expands consumer choices at the grocery store through plant-based food research and production,” said McGovern.

California wolf advocates are howling with delight

A new family of gray wolves has shown up in California’s Sierra Nevada, several hundred miles south of any other known population of the endangered species,  the California Department of Fish and Wildlife  (CDFW) announced on Aug. 11.

The wolves were spotted in the Sequoia National Forest in Tulare County in July, the CDFW said. The wolf family consists of at least five animals not previously detected in California, including one adult female, who is a descendant of California’s first documented wolf in the state in recent history, and two female and two male offspring, the Visalia Times-Delta reported.

There are now three confirmed packs in northern California: Whaleback Pack (Siskiyou County), Lassen Pack (southern Lassen/northern Plumas counties), Beckwourth Pack (Plumas and Sierra counties).

In 2011, Congress ended protections for wolves in the northern Rockies, and in 2020 the Trump administration stripped wolves of their critical Endangered Species Act protections across the country. In 2022, a judge ruled that fish and wildlife officials prematurely removed ESA protections for gray wolves. Because the judge overturned the Trump-era decision, gray wolves regained federal protection across most of the lower 48 United States.