Endangered Earth - Online, No. 395 - Walruses, Corals, Murrelets, and Spotted Owls
Center for Biological Diversity




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Mexican Gray Wolf Population in Critical Decline

After trapping, shooting, and removing as many as 22 wolves -- two were returned -- from the  wild in 2007, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced on February 7 that only 52 wolves now remain in New Mexico and Arizona. A year ago there were 59 wolves. The Service also announced that four breeding wolf pairs remain in the area, while just a year ago seven pairs were present in the New Mexico and Arizona wilderness.

According to Michael Robinson, conservation advocate with the Center for Biological Diversity: "The Bush administration is deploying guns, traps, and lies to ensure the second extinction of the Mexican wolf in the wild. It will take all kinds of people, from scientists to ranchers, as well as the leadership of New Mexico Governor Richardson working together to save the Mexican wolf."

Endangered Species Protection Sought for Pacific Walrus

On February 7 the Center for Biological Diversity petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect the Pacific walrus under the Endangered Species Act. Global warming and increasing oil and gas development in the Arctic are threatening the survival of the walrus. Like polar bears, walruses depend on sea ice; females and young follow it year-round and rely on ice floes as essential resting platforms, since they cannot continually swim. In the winter, all Pacific walrus are dependent on sea ice for their breeding activities.

"The Arctic is in crisis from global warming. Arctic sea ice is disappearing at a stunning rate that vastly exceeds the predictions of the best climate models," said Shaye Wolf, a biologist with the Center and lead author of the petition. "The Pacific walrus is an early victim of our failure to address global warming. As the sea ice recedes, so does the future of the Pacific walrus."

Read more about the Pacific walrus in The Daily Green.

Critical Habitat Protection Proposed for Florida's Disappearing Corals

On February 6, nearly 5,000 square miles of critical habitat were proposed for threatened staghorn and elkhorn corals; the proposal includes a large area of reef habitat off the coasts of Florida, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands for protection under the Endangered Species Act The federal government's habitat proposal comes in response to a 2007 settlement agreement obtained by the Center.

"Critical habitat is one of the most important safety nets for wildlife listed under the Endangered Species Act," said Center attorney Miyoko Sakashita. "For corals, critical habitat will add a layer of defense against threats to the marine habitat such as pollution, overfishing, increased temperatures, and ocean acidification."

Staghorn and elkhorn corals have the dubious honor of being the first and (pending an overdue final listing decision on the polar bear) only species listed under the Endangered Species Act due to threats from global warming.

Learn more about staghorn and elkhorn corals at NOAA, where you can also submit your comments on the species' critical habitat proposal.

Court Rejects Timber Industry Attack on Threatened Seabird

On February 5 the courts thwarted the timber industry's latest attack on the marbled murrelet. In response to a Center lawsuit, the court rejected the industry's plea to remove the bird from the endangered species list. Had the timber industry's lawsuit been successful, much of the murrelet's old-growth forest habitat would have been open for logging.

The marbled murrelet is a small seabird that nests in old-growth forests along the Pacific Coast of North America. In 1992, the Fish and Wildlife Service listed murrelet populations in Washington, Oregon, and California as threatened due to logging of their habitat. Despite undisputed scientific evidence that murrelets are disappearing from the Pacific Coast, the timber industry continues to set its sights on the small seabird to increase logging of trees over 100 years old.

You can read more at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer Blog.

Mexican Spotted Owl Habitat Remains Protected

February 1 marked a victory for the Mexican spotted owl. After the Center intervened on behalf of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, a Phoenix court upheld protection of 8.6 million acres of critical habitat for the threatened owl species. Habitat across Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, and Colorado will continue to be protected for the owl.

Said Noah Greenwald, science director with the Center, "The Mexican spotted owl will continue to get the habitat protection it needs to survive and recover. To save endangered species, we have to protect the places they call home."

Lawsuit to Stop Sell-off of Millions of Acres of Polar Bear Habitat

On January 31 the Center for Biological Diversity and allies took the Bush administration to court over its plan to sell 30 million acres of prime polar bear habitat for oil and gas development in the Chukchi Sea. The action comes in response to the administration's fast-tracking of oil lease sales as it delays a final Endangered Species Act listing decision for the polar bear. The lawsuit maintains that the administration violated the National Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act in approving the oil lease sales off Alaska's coast in the Chukchi Sea.

Read more in CNSnews.

Impact Report Thrown Out of Court Halts Housing Development

On January 29 in response to a Center lawsuit, a 1,400-home development in Banning, California, was halted when a court threw out the project's environmental impact report.  The inadequate report was struck on nine separate grounds, including failure to provide evidence of an adequate water supply for the project.

"Overall, this is a resounding victory," said Center attorney Matt Vespa. "The court's wide-ranging repudiation of the environmental impact report makes it unlikely that this environmentally damaging project will move forward anytime in the foreseeable future."

Pacific walrus photo by Captain Budd Christman, NOAA.

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