No. 372, October 16, 2006


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Comeback Kid #4: Atlantic Piping Plover

Piping plovers were formerly common on the beaches of the Atlantic Coast. In the late 19th and early 20th century, hunters and the millinery trade decimated populations from Maine to South Carolina. Those that survived to the second half of the 20th century were hammered by roads, housing developments, dune stabilization projects, predation and nest disturbance. When placed on the endangered species list in 1986, only 550 pairs remained. Due to habitat protection, habitat restoration and nest site protection, the Atlantic Coast population climbed to 1,423 pairs in 2004, with 659 pairs in New England, 519 in New York-New Jersey, and 245 in the Southern region. The New England region met or nearly met its recovery goal of 625 pairs in 1998 and in each of the seven following years. The New York-New Jersey region is progressing toward, but has not yet reached its goal of 575 pairs. The Southern region is also progressing, but more slowly. 

WildWeb: Polar Bear Has 4,000 Friends

The polar bear recently set up its own web site on to tell the world how global warming is driving it extinct. MySpace is an internet community with more than 100,000,000 members. Almost 4,000 people have already added the polar bear to their network of friends.

Court: "No Surprises" Policy Destroys Wetlands

Concluding that it “would permit monumental destruction" of wetlands, a federal judge struck down the wetlands portion of the San Diego Multiple Species Conservation Plan. The plan was naively touted as a national model for multiple species planning, but it allowed wholesale destruction of vernal pools based on a hopeless mitigation scheme, which the judge referred to as a “vague and noncommittal ... shell game." Confirming widespread complaints about the controversial "no surprises" policy, the plan approved a patently unworkable mitigation scheme and locked it into place for 50 years via the "no surprises" rule. This put the costs of all future mitigation – if any were even possible – on taxpayers instead of developers. Virtually calling it a fraud, the judge struck down the plan and banned further destruction of vernal pools in San Diego until it is reworked.

Also confirming widespread complaints about Habitat Conservation Plans, the judge ruled that the San Diego plan failed to consider the recovery needs of the species. As more than half of all the habitat for seven wetland species was controlled by the plan, it effectively pre-empted the federal recovery plan despite the fact that it did not provide for the recovery of the species.

The suit was brought by the Center for Biological Diversity and 15 other environmental groups.

WA Post: Abramoff Laundered Money through "Environmental" Group Created by Norton/Norquist

The Washington Post reports that convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff funneled large sums of money to the Council of Republicans for Environmental Advocacy and the National Center for Public Policy Research to have them represent the interests of his clients. Both are prominent anti-environmental voices in Washington, D.C. Grover Norquist and former Secretary of Interior Gale Norton founded the Council. A Senate report concluded that the groups violated the law "by laundering payments and then disbursing funds at Mr. Abramoff's direction; taking payments in exchange for writing newspaper columns or press releases that put Mr. Abramoff's clients in a favorable light; introducing Mr. Abramoff's clients to government officials in exchange for payment; and agreeing to act as a front organization for congressional trips paid for by Mr. Abramoff's clients."

Border Wall: "You Could Kiss the Jaguar Goodbye"

The New York Times reports that jaguars are increasingly crossing the Mexican border into Arizona and New Mexico but are threatened by a plan to build a wall between the two nations. If that happens, "it’d be all over. You could kiss the jaguar goodbye," said Jon Schwedler of the Northern Jaguar Project. The Center for Biological Diversity is fighting the new “Berlin Wall” and pressing the government to establish a recovery plan and critical habitat to ensure the jaguar has a fighting chance in the U.S.

Scientists: Global Warming Threatens Polar Bear

The University of Chicago Chronicle reports that 31 scientists from the U.S. and Europe submitted a letter to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service urging it to list the polar bear as an endangered species: “Biologists have determined that sea-ice is critical in the life cycle of the polar bear and the survival of the polar bear as a species. Under the Endangered Species Act, the Fish and Wildlife Service is required to list a species for protection if it is in danger of extinction or threatened by possible extinction in all or a significant portion of its range. The ongoing and projected increased loss of sea-ice in the warming Arctic poses a significant threat to the polar bear.” The Center for Biological Diversity, NRDC and Greenpeace have petitioned the federal agency to protect the polar bear under the Endangered Species Act.

"Where Species Go to Die"

Citing research by the Center for Biological Diversity, the Philadelphia Inquirer published an expose on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's efforts to avoid protecting imperiled species by placing them on the unprotected "candidate" list instead of the threatened and endangered lists. The candidate list, said Jason Ryland of Defenders of Wildlife, "is where species go to die." At least a dozen species have gone extinct while stuck on the list.

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