ORDER BLOCKS WHALE KILLING IN GULF OF MEXICO
On Monday, 10-28-02,
the Center for Biological Diversity won a temporary restraining order
stopping a government/university research project linked to the killing
of beaked whales in the Gulf of California. The order not only protects
one of the largest and most important beaked whale populations in the
world, it will help establish once and for all that U.S. environmental
laws apply to U.S. funded projects killing wildlife in other nations.
Geographers from the
National Science Foundation, Columbia University, and the Georgia Institute
of Technology have been using acoustic cannons to bombard the Gulf with
mind-numbing 220 decibel sound blasts. Their goal is to map portions of
the sea floor, but the earshattering noise appears to be killing beaked
whales as well. 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 surveys have been conducted.
Dozens of beaked whales
in the Bahamas have been killed by similar sound levels blasted into the
ocean by the U.S. Navy. Nevertheless, the National Science Foundation
refused to stop the deadly research project, claiming there was no credible
evidence linking the acoustic cannons to the whale deaths. With
no other option to save the whales, the Center went to court winning the restraining order.
ACRES PROTECTED FOR CALIFORNIA PLANT
In keeping with a
legal agreement negotiated by the Center for Biological Diversity and
the California Native Plant Society, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
designated 5,910 acres of critical habitat for the purple amole (Chlorogalum
purpureum) on 10-24-02. The protected areas include grasslands and
oak woodlands in Monterey and San Luis Obispo counties.
The Smithsonian Institution
petitioned to list the purple amole as an endangered species in 1975.
The Fish and Wildlife Service issued a listing proposal in 1976 but never
completed the process. The Center and the California Native Plant Society
filed suit in 1999, winning federal protection for the species in March
2000. During the 25 bureaucratic year delay between the Smithsonian petition
and the listing, purple amole habitat and populations continued to decline,
making the species harder and more expensive to recover today than if
swift action had taken place in the 1970's.
the Center's Native Plants Campaign
FILED TO LIST AZ CACTUS AS ENDANGERED SPECIES
On 10-23-02, the
Center for Biological Diversity submitted a petition to the U.S. Fish
and Wildlife Service to list the acuna cactus (Echinomastus erectocentrus
var. acunensis) as an endangered species. The cactus is found at only
seven small sites in two disjunct parts of Arizona: one between Florence
and Kearny in south-central Arizona, and another in and around Organ Pipe
National Monument in southern Arizona. It is threatened by mining, urban
sprawl, livestock grazing, illegal collection, and spread of exotic plants.
Of the seven sites, only the population in Organ Pipe National Monument
receives any protection or monitoring. And even that population has declined
sharply over the last decade. The other populations are near extinction.
The acuna cactus is
one of thousands of imperiled plants orphaned by chronic federal protection
delays. At the request of Congress, the Smithsonian Institution petitioned
the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1975 to list 3,244 plants as endangered
species. Among them was the acuna cactus. The Service has delayed action
on most, including the cactus, for over 25 years. Thus far it has listed
only 508 of the Smithsonian plants. And most of those only after being
repeatedly sued by environmental groups. Many of the Smithsonian plants
went extinct due to the delays.
IN WORKS TO PROTECT RIO GRANDE CUTTHROAT TROUT IN NM, CO
On 10-24-02, the
Center for Biological Diversity, Biodiversity Conservation Alliance, Carson
Forest Watch, Center for Native Ecosystems, Pacific Rivers Council, and
fisherman Michael Norte notified the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that
they will sue the agency over its refusal to list the Rio Grande cutthroat
trout as an endangered species.
The Fish and Wildlife
Service admits the trout has been eliminated from as much as 99% of its
historic range, but argues that the existence of just 13 tiny, secure
populations is sufficient to make the species safe from extinction. Like
most native cutthroat, the Rio Grande is threatened by introduction of
non-native trout, livestock grazing, logging, road building, dams, water
diversions, and disease. Without the protection of the Endangered Species
Act, it will likely become extinct.
The state fish of
new Mexico, the Rio Grande cutthroat trout is one of 14 subspecies of
cutthroat trout native to the Western U.S.. Two of the subspecies are
extinct, four are already listed as endangered, and six have been petitioned
The Center has joined
with the Pacific Rivers Council, Biodiversity Conservation Alliance, and
Trout Unlimited to form the Western Native Trout Campaign. The Campaign
is dedicated to protecting and restoring all native trout in the Western
U.S.. For more information:
RALLY ON COLUMBUS DAY TO SAVE SACRED ZUNI SALT LAKE FROM COAL MINE
Park hosted an eventful day of education and resistance this Columbus
Day as members and supporters of the Zuni Salt Lake Coalition marched
to the Salt River Projects (SRP) corporate headquarters to demand
that SRP drop plans to develop a new coal mine in western New Mexico.
Over a dozen tribal runners from Zuni, Hopi and elsewhere joined the rally
after completing a 300 mile run from the Zuni Salt Lake to Phoenix.
Fence Lake Coal Mine would destroy 18,000 acres of rolling hills and grasslands
which are home to golden eagles, prairie dogs, and pronghorn antelope.
The mine area also contains over 500 documented burial and other archeological
sites, and an extensive network of ancient trails used by the Zuni, Acoma,
Apache, Laguna and other tribes when making pilgrimages to the Zuni Salt
Lake. The biological diversity and cultural richness of this unique area
would be destroyed as the land is dynamited, bulldozed, and ripped open
to dig for coal, the dirtiest of the fossil fuels. Zuni Salt Lake itself,
sacred area to the Zuni and most other Southwestern tribes, would be drained
by groundwater pumping needed to control dust at the mine.
The Zuni Salt Lake
Coalition is a growing and diverse group of organizations and individuals
dedicated to defeating the Fence Lake Coal Mine, including the Center
for Biological Diversity, the Zuni Pueblo, Zuni tribal member Cal Seciwa,
Citizens Coal Council, Water Information Network, the Sierra Club,
Salt Lake Coalition website.
DELAY DRIVES STURGEON EXTINCT?
On 9-17-02, the last
known Alabama sturgeon, a male named bubba, died in a state
fish hatchery. We hope that a tiny number of wild fish still exist in
the Cahaba and Alabama rivers, but intensive fish surveys and widespread
recreational fishing have failed to find any since 1999. Had the federal
government, especially the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Army
Corps of Engineers, not delayed protection for the sturgeon for 25 years
after determining it was endangered, a captive breeding program could
have been set up, and the species might still be with us.
The Alabama sturgeon
was formerly widespread throughout 1,000 miles of the Mobile River Basin
of Alabama and Mississippi. Commercial fisheries at the turn of the century
measured the yearly sturgeon catch in the tens of thousands of pounds.
But habitat destruction, especially the construction of 11 dams and the
dredging/channelizing of hundreds of miles of river, sent the long-lived
sturgeon into a tailspin. By 1976, biologists described the fish as endangered,
though it lacked any official designation or protection.
Rather than protect
the sturgeon under the Endangered Species Act, however, the U.S. Fish
and Wildlife Service made it a candidate for protection in
1982. As has been the case for thousands of species left languishing on
the candidate list, the sturgeons habitat and population continued
to decline. In 1992, the Fund for Animals, the Biodiversity Legal Foundation
and a staff member of the Center for Biological Diversity filed suit to
force a listing. The Fish and Wildlife Service issued a listing proposal
in 1993, but withdrew it in 1994 when faced with massive political opposition
lead by Alabama senators Howell Heflin and Richard Shelby. Though a handful
of sturgeon still existed, the FWS justified withdrawing the listing by
declaring the species extinct. Just four months later, however, a sturgeon
was caught in the Alabama river.
Despite the clear
evidence of the sturgeons existence, the Fish and Wildlife Service
took no steps to protect what was clearly the most endangered fish in
North America. The force action, the Biodiversity Legal Foundation filed
a second lawsuit in 1995 and listing petition in 1998. The Fish and Wildlife
Service finally listed the sturgeon as endangered in 2000. By then, only
two fish were known to exist- both male and both living in the Marion
State Fish hatchery.