Enviros of different stripes disagree on a lot of issues, but many have lamented in unison the recent absence of a full-time environmental writer at the New York Times. Got a hot story in need of some serious national ink? Whom do you call? USA Today? The news mags? The networks? Sure — you call them all. But everyone knows that the biggest impact comes when the Old Gray Lady springs into action.

Word on the street is that the empty slot at the Times is about to get filled. Muckraker is told that the Times will slide Douglas Jehl, formerly in the paper’s Cairo bureau, into the D.C. enviro beat that has been vacant since Jack Cushman left early last year. After four years in Egypt, Jehl said he is “throwing one Rolodex out and trying to fill up another.”

Of course, the day-to-day green beat is also still open at this columnist’s paper, the Washington Post, following Joby Warrick‘s move to a broader investigative beat and Tom Kenworthy‘s jump to USA Today.

Bud Ward of the Environmental Health Center, who writes regularly about environmental journalism, says the anticipated Times move comes none too soon. “It drives things,” Ward said of the paper’s enviro coverage. “I’m curious about the timing. I don’t know why it’s taken this long.”

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Speaking of Ward, his publication, Environment Writer, has generated a bit of buzz recently with a piece about the Greening Earth Society‘s attacks on Times science writer William K. Stevens.

Seems that GES, an industry-funded climate skeptic group, put out a press release accusing Stevens of having “cast aside any semblance of journalistic objectivity” in his coverage of climate change issues.

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What’s in a Name?

It’s all about branding these days in the environmental community. At least that’s what we’re hearing in the wake of Environmental Defense Fund‘s decision to drop the Fund and change its name to Environmental Defense.

It seems that a branding effort is also underway at the Natural Resources Defense Council. While the group was searching for a new communications director not long ago, one NRDC staffer reportedly went so far as to say that the group was hoping to become “the Bloomingdale’s of the environmental movement.” Does that mean they will start selling perfume, mink coats, and ladies’ lingerie?

We’re not sure, but if they really want to achieve that kind of name recognition, it’s gonna cost a pretty penny, according to PR pros who chose to remain nameless. As one experienced PR wag put it, “That kind of branding campaign takes $75 million, not $75,000,” which is closer to the figure that groups like NRDC may be willing to spend.

We also hear that Defenders of Wildlife might be getting ready to jump on the branding bandwagon. If you know details, by all means drop us a line.

Can You Make Head or Trail of This?

Our recent dispatches from the campaign trail (Iowa and New Hampshire) noted the limited role environmental issues have played in the campaign thus far, despite spirited bird-dogging of candidates by Ozone Action and its cadre of fired-up collegiate activists.

We saw the kids from Ozone Action hound John McCain on a number of occasions and each time they elicited fairly limited responses from the Arizona senator, who mainly said he wanted to convene a panel of experts to get the real word on climate change (wait, didn’t somebody already try that?).

We apparently missed a McCain event in Milford, N.H., where the senator discoursed at some length on climate change, prodded by Ozone Action and Campus Green Vote student activists in the crowd sporting smoke-stack hats and anti-global-warming costumes. An excerpt from his comments:

I don’t claim to be an expert on this issue, but I do claim to you that I think that there is sufficient evidence that there is a problem. So we need to get the best minds in America to start assessing it. … I would urge this at the Congress level and I would also appoint an ad hoc council under the White House, mostly volunteers, made up of the smartest minds in America, so that we can make an assessment. Within a year from the time I take office, [the council would] come up with a set of definitive recommendations as to how we are going to address this problem. Thank you for being here, thank you my dear friends, thank you. … Love those hats!

Some political observers expect that the environment will bubble up to the top of the issue mix in California, the biggest plum in the gargantuan March 7 primary sweepstakes that will also see contests in New York, Ohio, and 14 other states. Close to 60 percent of the total delegates needed for nomination in both parties will be chosen that day.

Here’s Lookin’ at Pickachu, Kid

Think Pokémon characters and trading cards are among the most annoying things on Earth? Well, you’re not alone. But the Oregon Natural Resources Council is looking to turn the toy sensation into an environmental activist tool. Check out their Pokémon page to learn more.