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Bush Administration Abandons Jaguar Recovery

Due to a Center for Biological Diversity lawsuit, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed the jaguar as an endangered species in 1997. The New World’s largest cat formerly occurred from Monterey Bay, California across the southern states to the southern Appalachian Mountains. It was extirpated from the United States in 1963 when the last female was shot by federal agents. In recent years, however, the jaguar has been making a comeback, with a small but steady number of sightings in southern Arizona and New Mexico.

Rather than support the return of the jaguar, the Bush administration today issued its death warrant. In a first-of-its-kind decision in the 34-year history of the Endangered Species Act, the administration abandoned recovering the jaguar as a federal goal. It will not prepare a recovery plan or ensure the species recovers, either in the United States or throughout the animal’s range, extending to South America.

Read more about it in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Center Testifies at Congressional Polar Bear Hearing

Kassie Siegel, director of the Center’s climate, air, and energy program, testified today before the House Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming about the need to protect the world’s polar bears. Last week, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service missed the legal deadline for issuing a decision to protect the polar bear under the Endangered Species Act. At the same time, the U.S. Mineral Management Service rushed forward to finalize oil development in 46,000 square miles of the Chukchi Sea, prime polar bear habitat off the coast of Alaska.

Siegel authored the petition to win endangered species protection for the polar bear. She explained to the committee the need to reduce the global warming impacts to arctic sea ice and protect polar bears from oil spills. Representative Edward J. Markey (D-Mass), chairman of the committee, has prepared legislation to require the Department of the Interior to postpone the oil and gas lease until after it has issued a final listing determination for the polar bear and designated its critical habitat under the Endangered Species Act.

Read more in the New York Times, Salon, and Anchorage Daily News, and learn about Canada’s Hudson Bay polar bears in this Canadian Broadcast Corporation documentary in which Kassie Siegel and Brendan Cummings are featured.

Save the Bears, Sign Our Petition Today

If you haven’t already signed our petition asking the Bush administration to stop stalling and list the polar bear as an endangered species, please do so as soon as you can. We need to get 50,000 signatures by January 31st.

If you already signed, please forward the petition link to 10 friends:

Mountaintop Removal Good For Endangered Species?

That’s what the federal Office of Surface Mining apparently thinks. For more than 10 years, the office has operated under a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service-generated, circularly reasoned “biological opinion” concluding that strip mining, also known as mountaintop removal, will never damage endangered species or their habitat so long as coal operators comply with federal surface mining law. Since 1996, this biological opinion has exempted many strip mines from being subject to permit-specific reviews.

On January 15 the Center and allies petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to stop using this blanket waiver. Most coal operations use explosives and heavy machinery to rip away stone and soil covering coal seams. Sometimes, blast rock and dirt is pushed into nearby valleys, hollows, and streams; likely such practices could harm endangered species and their habitat. Said John Fay, a biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, "I'm appalled by mountaintop mining...I don't know whoever thought that was a good idea."

Read more in the Charleston Gazette and Roanoke Times.

Black Abalone Proposed as Endangered Species: Threatened by Overharvesting, Disease, and Global Warming

In response to a petition filed by the Center for Biological Diversity, on January 11 the National Marine Fisheries Service proposed protecting the black abalone as an endangered species. The black abalone, an intertidal mollusk that historically ranged from the California-Oregon border to Cape San Lucas, Baja California, has all but disappeared from the Southern California coastal waters in which it was once found.

Commercial fishing, disease, and global warming are largely responsible for the mollusk’s decline. Once occurring at densities of 120 per square meter, the black abalone was one of the most common invertebrates in Southern California tidepools, but now has been eradicated from 99 percent of its range. Says Brendan Cummings, ocean program director for the Center, “The plight of the black abalone is indicative of what we have done to our oceans?Our oceans are in crisis, but if we squarely address this crisis even the most imperiled species, like the black abalone, will have a chance to recover.”

Learn more about the black abalone in the L.A. Times and Ventura County Star.

Off-road Vehicles Threaten Mojave Fringe-toed Lizard; Rare Reptile Advances Toward Endangered Species Protection

On January 10 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that the Amargosa River population of the Mojave fringe-toed lizard will be considered for endangered species protection; the decision comes in response to an April 2006 petition from the Center for Biological Diversity. Now the Service must begin a one-year status review of the species.

“Off-road vehicles come at this highly adapted and unique lizard from all sides — they degrade its habitat, destroy its food source, and trample lizards directly,” said Chris Kassar, wildlife biologist with the Center for Biological Diversity. “This is a rare and vulnerable creature that simply cannot co-exist with such off-road vehicle excess. The lizard desperately needs the protection of the Endangered Species Act to avoid extinction.” Read more in the L.A. Times and the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Suit Challenges Southwest Energy Corridor

On January 10, the Center filed a lawsuit challenging the Department of Energy’s October 2007 designation of the Southwest National Interest Electric Transmission Corridor for failing to analyze the environmental impacts of the corridor. The transmission corridor encompasses millions of acres of protected federal and state lands in California and Arizona, including 3 million acres of national parks and national wildlife refuges; the 21-million-acre California Desert Conservation Area; and 750,000 acres of national monuments. In total, nearly 7.5 million acres of federally designated wilderness areas and as many as 95 threatened or endangered species lie within the energy corridor.

“The Energy Department cannot turn southern California and western Arizona into an energy farm for Los Angeles and San Diego without taking a hard look at the environmental impacts of doing so,” said Amy Atwood, staff attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. “The Southwest Energy Corridor will have far-reaching environmental impacts that must be considered before moving forward.”

Western Environmental Law Center is representing the Center in the suit. And you can learn more in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

Center Teams Up With the Global Owl Project

The Center for Biological Diversity has joined forces with the Global Owl Project. David H. Johnson, the project’s founder, says this exciting new partnership is really something to hoot about. With support from the Center, the project will continue to pursue the foundational science and conservation strategies for owls in the remotest parts of the earth.

The Global Owl Project works closely with college professors, museum curators, conservation biologists, and graduate students to develop owl survey methodologies, analyze DNA for species determinations, acquire sound recordings of owl vocalizations, and map habitats. Recently, the project completed a DVD compendium with the original descriptions of all the world’s owls, including fossil species. Among the projects for 2008, Johnson and his team plan to launch a traveling exhibit dedicated to owls in human lore and culture. To learn more, visit the Global Owl Project.

A Win for the Endangered Alabama Sturgeon: Supreme Court Refuses to Hear Case

On January 7 the Alabama sturgeon’s legal journey came to an end when the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal from an industry group opposed to the sturgeon’s endangered species listing. The Court’s decision effectively upholds lower rulings that federal officials acted properly in granting the sturgeon endangered species protection in 2000.

Once plentiful in the rivers that drain into Mobile Bay, the brassy orange, 30-inch-long sturgeon is now ranked among the nation's rarest fish. Though scarcely seen today, the fish was so abundant in Alabama's waters during the 19th century that it was a prized commercial species. But populations have dwindled due to overfishing and the construction of hydrodams in the later 20th century.
Today, the fish's range extends for less than 130 miles up the lowermost portion of the Alabama River, with only one confirmed sighting in the past seven years. Learn more at the Montgomery Advertiser.

Protection Sought for Rare New Mexico Checkerspot Butterfly

On January 7, the Center for Biological Diversity and Forest Guardians filed suit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for failing to grant federal protection to the Sacramento Mountains checkerspot butterfly. Under the Endangered Species Act, the Service is supposed to respond to a petition within 90 days. “The Sacramento Mountains checkerspot butterfly has been denied protection for too long,” said Noah Greenwald, conservation biologist with the Center. “The Bush administration has the worst record in history at protecting endangered species, having not listed a single species in more than 600 days.”

The butterfly occurs on less than 2,000 acres of private and Lincoln National Forest land within a six-mile radius of the village of Cloudcroft, New Mexico, and faces many threats in its narrow range. The most significant threats are insecticide spraying, climate change, habitat destruction from urban sprawl, off-road vehicles, and livestock grazing.

Learn more in the Las Cruces Sun-News and NBC.

Jaguar photo courtesy of  USFWS.

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