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Center Opens Vermont Office

On January 2 the Center for Biological Diversity and Forest Watch made it official — both organizations joined forces creating the new Northeast office of the Center for Biological Diversity. The Northeast office will keep watch over Vermont's Green Mountain National Forest while broadening its conservation efforts by focusing on the Northeast's federal forests, wilderness areas, and national wildlife refuges.

Founded in 1994, Forest Watch led the charge in protecting Vermont’s public lands from all-terrain vehicles and was instrumental in reforming Forest Service land-management practices. Former Forest Watch Executive Director Jim Northup is optimistic and “looking forward to being a part of a positive, collaborative vision for ecological restoration...the Center will certainly help to implement that vision.”

West Coast Waters May Be Protected for Endangered Leatherback Turtles

On December 28 the National Marine Fisheries Service said it would consider protecting waters off the California and Oregon coasts as critical habitat for leatherback sea turtles. The announcement came in response to a petition filed by the Center for Biological Diversity seeking critical habitat designation for a 200,000-square-mile, nutrient-rich area of ocean upwelling.

Since the 1970s, leatherback sea turtles in the Pacific Ocean have declined by more than 90 percent — largely from having tangled and drowned in longline and gillnet fishing gear intended to catch swordfish. "Leatherback sea turtles survived the asteroid that killed off the dinosaurs, but they are unlikely to survive our voracious appetite for swordfish," said Brendan Cummings, staff attorney and oceans program director for the Center. "If leatherbacks are to survive, we must turn the waters off California and Oregon into a true sanctuary for these imperiled creatures."

The National Marine Fisheries Service must now ask for public comment and complete a detailed review by September 2008.

Under Siege: Rancher Allegedly Used Bait and Telemetry to Force Killing of Endangered Mexican Gray Wolves

It seems at least one cattle ranch on New Mexico’s Gila National Forest may have perfected an illegal method of Mexican gray wolf removal. The High Country News recently reported a ranch hand admitting to baiting wolves by branding a pregnant cow near a wolf den, allegedly enticing the wolves to attack the freshly-seared livestock. The location of the den was likely known to the ranch through the use of government-issued telemetry equipment — tools originally intended to allow for better protection of cattle from wolves.

Livestock operators in New Mexico have been reluctant to embrace the reintroduction of Mexican gray wolves, with some apparently willing to actively thwart the reintroduction effort. As one rancher told the High Country News, "We would sacrifice a calf to get a third strike." Once an individual wolf has killed three cows, sheep, or other domestic animal, the wolf can then be removed or killed. The Center is currently requesting an inspector general investigation into the killing and removal of allegedly baited Mexican wolves and the possible abuse of government telemetry devices by livestock owners. Read more in the Albuquerque Journal.

Bering Sea Ribbon Seal Feeling Heat of Global Warming

Like polar bears, penguins, and the American pika, the ribbon seal of the Bering Sea is also feeling the effects of global warming. On December 20 the Center for Biological Diversity petitioned the National Marine Fisheries Service to protect the ribbon seal under the Endangered Species Act because of global warming.

Like polar bears, ribbon seals also depend on Arctic sea ice for survival; from late winter through early summer, ribbon seals must have edges of sea ice as safe habitat for birthing and nursing their pups. But this winter sea ice has been rapidly disappearing, and if current ice-loss trends continue, the ribbon seal could be extinct by the end of this century. "With rapid action to reduce carbon dioxide, methane, and black carbon emissions, combined with a moratorium on new oil-and-gas development and shipping routes in the Arctic, we can still save the ribbon seal, the polar bear, and the Arctic ecosystem," said Shaye Wolf, a biologist with the Center. "But the window of opportunity to act is closing rapidly."

Read more at the Environment News Service and Wildlife Extra.

Minimizing Emissions: Congressman Markey Addresses U.N. Climate Summit as Second Life Avatar

Could the popular internet reality game Second Life emerge as an important tool in reducing greenhouse gas pollution? When Chairman Edward Markey needed to be in two places at once, the Second Life virtual reality community made it possible for him to be both in Washington, rallying support for a clean energy bill, and halfway around the world in Bali, Indonesia to participate in the United Nations climate summit. Markey created a 3-D version of himself and "traveled" online to OneClimate Islands Virtual Bali conference center — without ever leaving the ground.

Click here to watch Markey’s speech.

Endangered Species Protection Sought for Rare Yellow-Billed Loon

More than two years after the legal deadline, on December 19 the Center and allies sued to protect the yellow-billed loon under the Endangered Species Act. This extremely rare bird is threatened by the double edge of oil development in Alaska as well as loss of tundra habitat in the face of global warming. The suit seeks to force the Department of the Interior to issue its long-overdue listing proposal.

The yellow-billed loon breeds in tundra wetlands in Alaska, Canada, and Russia and winters along the west coast as far south as California. Approximately 16,000 of these loons are distributed worldwide, and of the 4,000 in Alaska, most breed in the western Arctic in areas recently opened to oil-and-gas development. Much of the yellow-billed loons’ habitat in Russia is also subject to such development.

Six South Pacific Seabirds Up for Endangered Species Protection

It's been 23 years since these bird species first warranted endangered species protection, but on December 17, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service finally proposed protecting six imperiled seabirds from New Zealand, Fiji, New Guinea, and the Galapagos Islands under the Endangered Species Act. The proposed listings come in response to a series of lawsuits by the Center.

In 1980, ornithologists began submitting petitions to protect foreign birds under the Endangered Species Act, but the Service illegally delayed responding to the petitions. In 2004 the Center sued to force the agency to issue a long-overdue finding that 51 of those birds warranted protection. Sadly, at least six petitioned bird species went extinct during the long delay in protecting them.

The listing proposal includes the Chatham and magenta petrels (New Zealand) and the Fiji petrel (Fiji) as endangered; and the Cook’s petrel (New Zealand), Galapagos petrel (Galapagos), and Heinroth’s shearwater (Papua New Guinea) as threatened.

Taking Back the Act: Thanks for Your Support

Thanks to nearly 3,000 members’ gifts, and with late December checks still rolling in, we will reach our goal of raising $250,000 to help Take Back the Act. And better yet, these dollars will be matched one to one by our challenge grant. That’s great news for endangered species conservation in the New Year.

Take Back the Act is the most aggressive protection strategy in the 34-year history of the Endangered Species Act, and we’re already making rapid progress. We can keep putting critical resources into this campaign, thanks to members and donors like you.

If you haven't supported us with a gift yet and would like to join the Center, please click here. You can count on us to step up and speak out for imperiled plants and animals, delivering you news and opportunities to take action all year long.

Photo  by M. Cameron, NOAA.

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