Biodiversity Activist #321
DOES THE U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE GET SUED SO MUCH?
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service reduced the area of Mexican spotted owl critical habitat by 8.9 million
acres (66%) between the proposed and final rules. It reduced the area of wintering
critical habitat for the piping plover by 1.9 million acres (92%) between the
proposed and final rules. The Service asserted that it was not necessary issue
a new proposal or take new public comment on these massive changes.
But, the Service asserts,
it can not add five acres (0.1%) to Santa Cruz tarplant critical habitat between
the proposed and final rules. According to the Service, this change would require
a new critical habitat proposal and a new public comment process. Instead, it
excluded the area even though it admits it may be necessary for the conservation
of the species.
ACRES PROTECTED FOR CALIFORNIA PLANT
In keeping with a legal
agreement between the Center for Biological Diversity and the California Native
Plant Society, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service designated 2,902 acres of
critical habitat for the Santa Cruz tarplant (Holocarpha macradenia)
A member of the aster family,
the aromatic tarplant grows only in coastal grasslands and prairies- habitats
highly sought after by developers. The tarplant has spiraled toward extinction
as coastal grasslands give way to expensive housing developments. Just 13 native
and eight experimentally seeded populations remain today, primarily near the
cities of Santa Cruz, Soquel, and Watsonville.
Though the Smithsonian Institution
petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to list the Santa Cruz tarplant
as an endangered species in 1975, and although it was placed on the Services
candidate list in 1980, it was not protected under the Endangered Species Act
until 2002. And that listing only came about in response to three environmental
lawsuits. The failure of the Fish and Wildlife Service to swiftly list the tarplant
as endangered back in the 1970s allowed massive levels of habitat destruction
to occur uncontested. The last remaining natural population in the San Francisco
Bay area was paved over by developers in 1993- 18 years after the Smithsonian
petition and seven years before it was protected.
ACRES PROPOSED TO PROTECT PACIFIC ISLAND BAT AND BIRDS
In keeping with a legal
settlement between the Center for Biological Diversity and the Marianas Audubon
Society, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed to designate 30,887 acres
of critical habitat on the islands of Guam and Rota to protect the endangered
Mariana fruit bat, Mariana crow, and Guam Micronesia kingfisher on 10-15-02.
The agency declined to designate critical habitat for the Little Mariana fruit
bat, Guam broadbill, and Bridled white-eye because they are now extinct.
The Mariana fruit bat formerly
inhabited mature forests on all the major islands of the Mariana archipelago.
The Guam population was about 3,000 bats in the 1950s but has declined to between
300-500 individuals. The Guam Micronesian kingfisher is endemic to the island
of Guam, where it is dependent upon large stands of mature native forest. It
was common as late as the 1940s, declined to just 3,000 birds by the 1980s,
and today is extinct in the wild. Just 63 individuals are left in the world,
all of them living in zoos. The Mariana crow is one of the few corvid species
to inhabit oceanic islands. It is endemic native forests on the islands of Guam
and Rota. Formerly common, the species has been reduced to just 12 individuals
on Guam and between 350-650 on Rota. The Rota population has declined by 38%
in the past decade. All three species are threatened by forest clearing and
predation by introduced brown tree snakes. Mariana crow nestlings and eggs are
also being predated by introduced rats.
The case was argued by Doug
Henkin of Earthjustice (Honolulu).
SUIT AGAINST ENDANGERED LAKE SHREW BLOCKED
On 10-10-02, a federal judge
ruled in favor of the Center for Biological Diversity and the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service in dismissing a case by agribusiness interests to strike down
the listing of the Buena Vista Lake ornate shrew (Sorex ornatus relictus).
The court agreed that agribusiness jumped the gun by suing based on its complaints
about the proposed listing rule. Since the agencys final listing rule
sets forth the scientific reasons why the shrew is endangered, agribusinesss
focus on proposed rule was bizarrely misplaced.
With a voracious appetite,
a long snout, and tiny bead-like eyes, the Buena Vista Lake ornate shrew is
one of California's most intriguing mammals. It formerly inhabited the nearly
one million acres of wetlands and riparian forests that ringed the massive Tulare,
Buena Vista, Kern, and Goose Lakes in the southern Tulare Basin. Today 95% of
the wetlands and riparian areas in the southern Tulare Basin have been destroyed,
impoverishing what had once been one of North America's greatest wildlife havens.
Just 57,000 acres of potential shrew habitat remain. Much of this habitat, however,
is too small and fragmented to support viable shrew populations.
Fewer than 30 Buena Vista
Lake ornate shrews are known to exist today. They are divided among four populations
inhabiting just 575 acres scattered along a 70-mile stretch of the west side
of the basin. The populations are threatened by water diversion, agricultural
expansion, pesticide spraying, selenium poisoning, and drought.
The case was argued by Matt
Kenna of Kenna & Hickcox (Durango).
For more information on
the shrew, click
RESEARCHERS KILLING BEAKED WHALES IN MEXICO-YOUR LETTERS NEEDED
Geographers from the National
Science Foundation, Columbia University, and the Georgia Institute of Technology
are bombarding the waters of the Gulf of California with acoustic cannons reaching
220 decibels. Their goal is to map portions of the sea floor. But the earshattering
noise appears to be killing beaked whales. Scientists from the National Marine
Fisheries Service found two dead whales near the research area and believe they
were killed by the deafening noise. It is likely that more whales have been
killed, but no comprehensive effort has been initiated to find out.
Many beaked whales in the
Bahamas have been killed by similar noise levels projected into the ocean by
the U.S. Navy. Nevertheless, the National Science Foundation says it will continue
the blasting until there is credible evidence linking the noise
to the whale deaths. The Center for Biological Diversity has informed the researchers
that it will seek a legal restraining order if the sound cannons are not immediately
The Gulf of California supports
one of the largest and most important beaked whale populations in the world.
Please click the link below to send a letter to the National Science Foundation
asking them to stop killing beaked whales.
of Intent to Sue
Take Action Now: use our
automated system to send a letter of opposition.
LECTURE ON ROLE OF LOGGING AND GRAZING IN DESTRUCTIVE WILDFIRES
On 10-23-02, the Arizona
State University Environmental Law Society, the Law and Science Student Association,
and the Center For Law Science and Technology will host a lecture by Kieran
Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity, on forest
management and wildfire. Mr. Suckling will discuss the impact of a century of
logging, grazing, road construction and fire suppression on federal forests
and present plan restore forests to ecological health.
The lecture will be from
12:15 to 1:00, on Wednesday, October 23, 2002, in Room 114, Armstrong Hall,
Arizona State University College of Law.
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