Conservation Law Clinic fights to protect Indiana bat

Post by IU Newsroom intern Amanda N. Marino:

After almost four years of litigation, the Conservation Law Clinic made headway in a case being fought to protect Indiana bats from EverPower’s Buckeye Wind Project. Through semester-long internships with the clinic, Indiana University Maurer School of Law students get hands-on experience with litigation in potentially precedent-setting cases like this one, Union Neighbors United v. Sally Jewell in her Official Capacity as Secretary of the United States Department of the Interior, et al Appellees.

“It took a good deal of our time for at least four years,” said W. William Weeks, director of the Conservation Law Clinic. This kind of time and attention is not uncommon for a law firm.

W. William Weeks

W. William Weeks

The Conservation Law Clinic at IU’s Maurer School of Law serves three main purposes: to represent conservation organizations free of charge; to improve conservation law and policy; and to give a hands-on introduction to the practice to second- and third-year law students.

Weeks said the case began with filing a comment on the Buckeye Wind Project’s environmental impact statement. Originally, the project was granted an incidental take permit, which allowed for injuries of the endangered Indiana bat at a rate of about five bats per year.

Weeks said he and the Conservation Law Clinic took an interest in the case because they felt the government was allowing more incidental deaths than the law permits and that in awarding the permit, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service didn’t seek a practical operating plan for the wind facility that would kill fewer bats. Based on the clinic’s interpretation of the Endangered Species Act, it wasn’t a matter of whether the number of bats killed affected the population. Instead, it was about doing the least harm to the population and finding reasonable alternatives to avoid potential harm.

This month, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., reversed and remanded the case in part and affirmed it in part, which means the people challenging the permit got some of what they wanted. Now the government and EverPower have about a month to appeal, Weeks said. If they don’t appeal, the case will return to the District Court, where a new order will be issued that is consistent with the findings of the appeals court decision. The Fish and Wildlife Service will be required to consider a full range of reasonable alternatives before issuing an incidental take permit that will allow the EverPower project to cause the death of any Indiana bats.

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Journal links Ostrom research to study of nonprofits and voluntary action

A special August 2016 issue of the Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly celebrates the legacy of the late Indiana University scholar Elinor Ostrom and applies her insights and theories to new research in the area of nonprofit organizations and voluntary action.

Edited by three researchers who studied with Ostrom while earning Ph.D. degrees at IU Bloomington, the journal features theoretical articles as well as studies on such varied topics as neighborhood dog parks, voluntary support of U.S. national parks and Brazilian microfinance programs.

Elinor Ostrom

Elinor Ostrom

The issue brings together the body of scholarship produced by Elinor Ostrom and her collaborator and husband, Vincent Ostrom, with the academic study of nonprofit and voluntary action, known as NVA. Both areas of research, the editors say, are concerned with similar problems: How institutions are governed and how people organize for collective action.

“The Ostroms were really effective at creating a toolbox of methods and theories that they were able to test in interesting settings,” said Brent Never, associate professor of nonprofit leadership at the University of Missouri-Kansas City and one of the editors. “We felt strongly that the toolbox had a lot of value for scholars in our area, and that it had been underused.”

Other editors of the issue are Brenda K. Bushouse, an associate professor of political science and public policy at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, and Robert K. Christensen, associate professor of management at Brigham Young University.

Among the authors of the articles are IU School of Public and Environmental Affairs faculty members Beth Gazley of IU Bloomington, and Douglas Noonan, Saba Siddiki and Suzann Lupton of IUPUI, as well as researchers at other institutions who earned doctorates at IU.

Elinor Ostrom, a distinguished professor of political science at IU Bloomington, received the 2009 Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel, commonly known as the Nobel Prize in Economics, for her analysis of economic governance, especially of the commons. She is the only woman who has received the award.

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IU professor’s book: Brazil may be making ‘critical transition’

The world’s attention is focused on Brazil with the start of the Rio Olympic Games. And according to Indiana University economic historian Lee Alston, the country is worth watching – and not just for the world-class athletic competitions taking place there this summer.

In the new book “Brazil in Transition: Beliefs, Leadership and Institutional Change,” Alston and his co-authors argue that Brazil has the potential to make a critical transition to become one of the relatively few nations with a strong, sustainable economy and a stable system of governance. They attribute this to Brazil’s embrace of “fiscally sound social inclusion” and a resulting change in institutions.

Lee Alston

Lee Alston

“Very few countries make that transition,” Alston said. “If we look at the countries that were wealthy and successful in 2000, they are pretty much the same countries as in 1900.”

Alston is Ostrom Chair and professor of economics and law at IU Bloomington, where he directs the Ostrom Workshop. Co-authors of “Brazil in Transition” are Marcus André Melo of the Federal University of Pernambuco in Brazil, Bernardo Mueller of the University of Brasilia and Carlos Pereira of the Brazilian School of Administration at the Getúlio Vargas Foundation in Rio de Janeiro.

The question of why nations so rarely manage to break into the exclusive club of successful and sustainable states has long challenged political scientists, economists and other scholars. Alston and his co-authors address the question with a new way of thinking about the process of national development, focusing on the role of beliefs, institutions, leadership and windows of opportunity.

They apply their framework to the example of Brazil, following its history for the past 50 years as it transitioned from a military dictatorship through a populist system plagued by hyperinflation to its current state: a stable nation that may have the resilience to withstand political and economic shocks.

It’s significant that this transition has been accomplished by Brazil, one of the world’s largest nations with a population of over 200 million, Alston said.

“Brazil is half of South America,” he said. “It’s the same size as the continental U.S. By GDP, it’s the world’s fifth or sixth largest country. We think of China and India, but Brazil is right up there.”

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SPEA study: Tolls, gas taxes most ‘tolerable’ road funding sources

Most Americans really don’t want to pay more money to maintain the nation’s highways, according to a study from the Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs. But given a choice, they prefer tolls and fuel taxes to broad-based income or sales taxes as a funding mechanism.

SPEA faculty member Denvil Duncan is the lead author of a study on public attitudes about highway funding.

SPEA faculty member Denvil Duncan is the lead author of a study on public attitudes about highway funding.

And that should get the notice of policymakers, the study suggests, because government officials —  worried about opposition to “new taxes” tied to road funding — have been turning to general budgets funded by income and sales taxes to make up for lagging fuel taxes.

The study, “Searching for a Tolerable Tax: Public Attitudes Toward Roadway Financing Alternatives,” is published in the journal Public Finance Review. Authors are Denvil Duncan, Venkata Nadella, Ashley Bowers and John D. Graham, all of SPEA, and Stacey Giroux of the IU Center for Survey Research.

The study, based on a survey of a representative sample of 2,087 U.S. adults conducted by SPEA in the summer of 2013, was designed to gauge the level of public support for various ways of raising money to pay for highway maintenance and improvements. Among its findings:

  • None of the alternatives had anywhere near majority support, but the strongest support was 34 percent for tolls and 29 percent for a higher gasoline tax rate.
  • The lowest support was for increasing income taxes, 13 percent, and sales taxes, 18 percent.
  • Many of the respondents who opposed the funding mechanisms said they were “strongly” opposed. Those who favored the ideas were less likely to favor them strongly.

The topic matters because officials have struggled to find ways to fund highways and other infrastructure. Historically, road funding relied on per-gallon gasoline taxes. But that source has shrunk as vehicles have become more efficient. According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, there’s a gap of about $94 billion between what the U.S. spends each year on highways and what it should spend.

The survey also measured support for a mileage user fee, in which motorists would pay according to how many miles they drive. Support for that idea was in the middle at 20.9 percent.

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IU study: Religious differences between men and women fade at higher income levels

Post by IU Newsroom intern Annie Brackemyre

Scholars typically agree that women are more religious than men. New Indiana University research shows, however, that there is little difference between women and men who are high earners. When factoring in income, the greater differences in religiosity appear within, not across, genders.

Landon Schnabel, a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Sociology at IU Bloomington, conducted the study, “The Gender Pray Gap: Wage Labor and the Religiosity of High-Earning Women and Men,” to measure differences of religiosity both between high-earning women and men and within genders.

Landon Schnabel

Landon Schnabel

Schnabel’s findings reaffirm scholars’ assumptions that women are more religious than men on all measures and that income is generally associated with less religiosity regardless of gender.

“In my previous research I found that the nonreligious have the most egalitarian gender attitudes and that secularism seems to promote gender equality worldwide. So, I was puzzled by why women seem to be more religious than men,” Schnabel said.

“Scholars have argued that this pattern of women being more religious than men​ is universal and maybe even based on biology. But I suspected that social status and what people get from religion might be important factors that could help explain why women tend to be more religious than men.”

Schnabel goes a step further in his analysis of the 1994-2012 cumulative General Social Survey to find that higher-earning women are less religious than other women across all measures.

Income is strongly related to religiosity of men, too, but the results for men are less clear-cut, Schnabel said. Higher-earning men are more religious than lower-earning men on some measures, but not others.

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Supreme Court immigration decision: No precedent but a setback for immigrants

Post by IU Newsroom intern Annie Brackemyre

On June 23, a 4-4 split Supreme Court reaffirmed the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling in United States v. Texas No. 15-674. The ruling upheld an injunction against President Barack Obama’s 2014 executive action Deferred Action for Parents of Americans.

DAPA would allow unauthorized immigrants who are the parents of lawful residents to apply for work permits and avoid deportation.

Linda Kelly

Linda Kelly

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and 25 other Republican governors immediately challenged the program. They argued that DAPA caused the states irreparable monetary harm.

The one-line decision was both lauded and denounced along party lines as a defeat for immigration reform advocates.

But the court’s decision will not be as legally influential as typical Supreme Court opinions, said Linda Kelly, the M. Dale Palmer professor of law at the IU McKinney School of Law in Indianapolis.

“It’s just an injunction. The case is still ongoing,” Kelly said.

The Supreme Court’s ruling does not affect the case as it continues to be tried in Texas.

In the case heard by the Supreme Court, the Texas litigants argued for an injunction against DAPA while the case was playing out more slowly through the system.

“The injunction is a temporary hold,” Kelly said. “It’s not a full challenge to President Obama’s authority. At this stage, it’s narrower.”

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Research continues as Indiana’s Mount Baldy reveals secrets of dune dynamics

Post by IU Northwest media communications specialist Erika C. Rose

Erin Argyilan has no doubt covered miles while traversing the sand dunes of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore over the past several years.

After logging all those miles, there was perhaps no happier day for the Indiana University Northwest geologist than the day she stumbled over an 8-foot hole hidden beneath the fine sand.

In 2013, Nathan Woessner, a 6-year-old boy from Sterling, Ill., was rescued after falling into a similar hole and being trapped under 11 feet of sand. It was, in fact, the boy’s close call that sparked all those miles Argyilan covered as she sought answers to the mystery.

Erin Argyilan

Erin Argyilan (Photo by Liz Kaye, IU Communications)

Argyilan’s discovery was a defining moment that validated more than a year of research. She had believed that the mysterious holes revealing themselves atop the 120-foot-tall Mount Baldy were caused by rotting oak trees buried beneath the shifting dune. And while her outings exploring the dune yielded many small holes here and there, each giving her hypothesis more credibility, it wasn’t until she could photograph a buried branch leading to a hollowed-out tree trunk that Argyilan could so convincingly prove what she believed to be true.

It was well known that the moving dune had, over time, buried a 70- or 80-year-old forest. Everyone had assumed that any trees buried under the sand would simply decompose. The discovery was that the rotting trees somehow maintained a hollow and hazardous structure and that their collapse could create holes in the dune.

The resulting study, published in the journal Aeolian Research, made the discovery official and gave the phenomenon a name: dune decomposition chimneys. Argyilan and her colleagues introduced the discovery to the world at the Geological Society of America conference in November. Argyilan’s co-authors, including IU Northwest associate professor of biology Peter Avis, contributed their specialized expertise — such as Avis’ knowledge of fungus living within the trees — to make the case.

More dune discoveries to come

The discovery laid the groundwork for more research, which promises to be equally historic. Argyilan and colleagues are well into the second phase of their research. This time they are investigating exactly how the holes — or, more accurately, tree branches and trunks — are able to maintain their hollow shape. Figuring out how this happens, and what conditions contribute to it, will have significant implications for understanding similar phenomena in sand dunes throughout the world.

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IU professor: House sit-in moves the conversation on gun control

Post by IU Newsroom intern Annie Brackemyre

The Democrat-led sit-in on the floor of the House chamber ended Thursday, hours after Republicans brought a major appropriations bill to a vote and adjourned the session. But the standoff over legislation that would expand background checks and prevent anyone on a terrorist watch list from buying a gun is unlikely to end anytime soon.

The partisanship was palpable. Democrats chanted ”No bill, no break” all night, at one point drowning out Speaker Paul Ryan. Aides restrained Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, when he tried to respond to and provoke Democrats on the floor.

Paul Helmke

Paul Helmke

But gun legislation isn’t intrinsically partisan, said Paul Helmke, former president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, former Republican mayor of Fort Wayne and current professor of practice in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at IU Bloomington.

“One of my concerns is that it’s turned into Republicans versus Democrats. It wasn’t always that way,” Helmke said. “President Reagan supported the Brady Bill and assault rifle ban. You used to see urban Republicans supporting measures to restrict gun purchases by dangerous people and rural Democrats supporting gun rights.”

The debate has devolved into a partisan shouting match based largely on fears, Helmke said.

“It plays on people’s fears that some bad guy is going to attack you in the middle of the night. It plays on the fear that the government or civilized society isn’t going to be around to protect you,” Helmke said. “I’m not anti-gun. If you’re in a remote area or a dangerous profession, it might make sense. But a lot of it is just playing on people’s fears.”

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‘Brexit’ vote pits independence and identity against economic concerns

Post by IU Newsroom intern Annie Brackemyre

Today’s “Brexit” vote will decide the future of the United Kingdom’s relationship with Europe. Public opinion polls have swayed and show a divided U.K. Results are expected early Friday.

The vote is a manifestation of an underlying problem for European integration: The European Union fosters multilateral institutions but not a shared European identity.

Timothy Hellwig

Timothy Hellwig

The “Leave” camp argues that the EU’s influence on culture and judicial matters transcends the economic concerns that originally enticed the United Kingdom to join the European Economic Community in 1973.

“The major argument of the ‘Leave’ camp pertains mainly to appeals for independence and self-destiny for Britain,” said Timothy Hellwig, director of the Institute for European Studies in IU’s School of Global and International Studies. “Many, if not most, Britons are skeptical of the EU and see it as an unaccountable bureaucracy, located far away in Brussels, which is not in tune with the needs and desires of the British public.”

The “Remain” camp argues that the EU offers Britain security, increased influence and economic benefits.

“Britain will likely be worse off in terms of trade, commerce, investment and finance if it leaves Europe,” Hellwig said. “Also, advocates for the Remain side emphasize Britain’s historic role as a global and regional leader and point out that without influence throughout the EU, Britain’s economic and political role in the world would diminish.”

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IU anthropologist urges collaboration with local peoples in creating climate mitigation policies

Post by Kevin Fryling, who normally writes at the Science at Work blog:

Large-scale, international conservation and climate change mitigation efforts must engage with the voices and needs of local and indigenous people, IU anthropologist Eduardo S. Brondizio writes in an essay published June 10 in the journal Science. The essay was written in collaboration with Francois Michel Le Tourneau of the New Sorbonne University in Paris.

Science commentary image

Photo by Kevin Frayer/Stringer/Getty Images

The paper was partially inspired in part by the Paris Climate Change Conference, officially called the Conference of the Parties in Paris, or COP21, in December, which brought new hopes and commitments from public and private sectors to mitigate climate change. Among the goals to emerge from the conference were landscape restoration, protection of watersheds, carbon sequestration and the expansion of renewable energy programs.

“This was good news, but it also raises questions about where and how such commitments will be realized. The types of cooperation between stakeholders, including researchers, needed to connect a complex matrix of ideas, goals, cost-benefit, resources and governance approaches,” said Brondizio, a professor in the IU College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Anthropology.

A significant portion of international efforts to mitigate the effects of climate change focus on sparsely populated areas, he added, especially in the Americas, Africa, Asia and Northern latitudes. But Brondizio writes that the onus of these plans — in terms of costs and restrictions on local livelihoods or unfair distribution of the benefits — increasingly falls on the shoulders of rural and indigenous populations, whose needs are pressing and often not heard.

“Although we tend to think about sparsely populated landscapes in distant regions and corners of the world as encompassing small segments of the population, in many regions, in fact, they include large sectors of society,” said Brondizio, a member of the IU faculty since 1998.

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