Tejon Sprawl Deal Threatens Condors, Wildlands
Tejon Ranch, California's largest swath of privately owned land -- as well as one of its most remarkably beautiful, biologically diverse landscapes -- has just received a huge blow in an agreement struck between some conservation groups and the ranch's owner, the Tejon Ranch Company. While the deal has a few positive aspects, like the potential set-aside of land for a state park, it also paves the way for the construction of the Centennial -- the largest development ever proposed in California -- and Tejon Mountain "Village" right in the heart of federally protected habitat for the endangered California condor. Sprawling over 11,600 acres of rolling native grasslands and wildflower fields, Centennial would destroy more irreplaceable wildlife habitat as well as critical wildlife linkages.
"This deal does a disservice to the wildlands and wildlife of Tejon, to the people of Southern California who will suffer the consequences of overdevelopment, and to all Californians, who will pay the price," said the Center for Biological Diversity's Adam Keats. "We can and must demand better."
Read more about the deal in the Los Angeles Times and learn about Tejon Ranch on our Web page.
Suit Filed to Halt Whale-deafening Oil Exploration in Arctic
The Center for Biological Diversity, Earthjustice, Alaskan Native groups, and other conservationists filed suit Monday to stop oil exploration off the Alaska coast in order to save whales and other marine mammals. This "seismic exploration," which uses powerful vibrations to map out the ocean floor, involves air-gun blasts 10 times louder than a rocket launch. They can literally deafen whales, seals, and walruses, as well as disrupting whales' feeding and migration habits. As if that weren't enough, the ships needed to carry out the exploration will disturb wildlife and bring risks of leaks, oil spills, and ship strikes injuring swimming animals.
With oil companies rushing to exploit the Arctic like there's no tomorrow, it looks like this year will be the busiest for seismic exploration off Alaska since the '80s. The Center is determined to prevent species from suffering because of it.
Read more about it in this Reuters article.
Oklahoma Stops Turtle Harvesting
In response to a petition filed by the Center for Biological Diversity and allies, the state of Oklahoma Monday enacted a three-year halt to commercial harvesting of turtles from public waters. The Center's petition, submitted in March along with similar petitions to Florida, Georgia, and Texas, sought an end to unsustainable commercial harvesting of freshwater turtles because not only does it imperil sensitive and threatened turtles -- it also poses a risk to humans, since turtles sold for food can be contaminated with mercury, PCBs, and pesticides.
This is Oklahoma's first move of any kind to regulate turtle harvest. Decision-makers say they'll consider going further with the ban to close all waters, including private waters, to harvest.
Read more about it in the Oklahoman.
Help on the Way for San Francisco Delta Fish
On Tuesday the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued an initial positive decision on the Center for Biological Diversity's scientific petition to protect the longfin smelt of the San Francisco Bay-Delta as an "endangered" species. Once so abundant that it supported a commercial fishery in San Francisco Bay, the smelt has fallen prey to excessive water diversions and reduced water flow, along with the effects of introduced species and water pollution. It has undergone two catastrophic declines in just two decades and is now at record low numbers. Its precipitous decline mirrors the plight of several other Bay-Delta fish.
Read more about it in the Sacramento Bee.
30,000 Acres Closed to Off-road Vehicles
Last week the Bureau of Land Management closed 30,000 acres of its Clear Creek Management Area to anyone not wearing a protective suit and a gas mask due to a severe risk of asbestos poisoning. The Clear Creek area contains the country's biggest asbestos deposit, large amounts of which are thrown into the air by off-road vehicles and then breathed in by ORVers and other recreationists. A recent federal study concluded that just five visits a year over three decades could cause lung cancer.
The area is now closed to the public. (Unless, it seems, you can get your hands on the cool outfits pictured in this actual EPA photo). Bizarrely, off-road vehicle lobbyists have threatened to sue to preserve their right to breathe asbestos.
Besides endangering recreationists, off-road vehicles near Clear Creek have devastated populations of the imperiled San Benito primrose -- so four years ago, the Center for Biological Diversity and the California Native Plant Society sued to get off-road vehicle use limited to 242 miles of trails. The Center applauds the sad but necessary Clear Creek closure for the sake of human and ecosystem health.
Read more in the Los Angeles Times.
Report: California Off-road Vehicle Surge Spewing Greenhouse Gases
Off-road vehicles don't just churn up dust and tear up habitat -- they also emit greenhouse gases and spew out 118 times more smog-forming pollution than cars on a per-mile basis. This has a terrible impact on both our warming climate and physical welfare.
So reveals Fuel to Burn, a landmark Center for Biological Diversity report released on Tuesday that examines off-road vehicle use in California -- one of the smoggiest states in the country and a place where off-road vehicle use has doubled over the past 15 years. The report urges California to consider off-road vehicle emissions as it carries out its 2006 resolution to cut greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.
See more in our press release and read the report for yourself on our Web page.
Steelhead Trout Return to Alameda Creek
Last week California's Alameda Creek watershed became the nursery for what biologists hope are fresh-out-of-the-egg central California steelhead trout, an imperiled fish that hasn't been able to reproduce in the area due to blockage by dams and diversions. Hundreds of the baby fish were sighted in waters currently called home by "Bonnie and Clyde," a famous steelhead pair whose getaway from habitat destruction has been monitored since they began migration. If the newly emerged trout are indeed steelhead, this will be the first hatching of the fish in the watershed in more than 40 years.
Read more in the San José Mercury News and get details in a press release put out by the Alameda Creek Alliance.
Arizona to Adopt Clean Car Program
On Wednesday Arizona became the 14th U.S. state to approve the Clean Car Rule, under which cars and light trucks delivered for sale starting in 2011 must meet an average greenhouse gas emissions standard. Arizona -- especially Phoenix -- has a serious pollution problem, and the technology already exists to allow non-hybrid automobiles to meet the new rule's standards. By 2018, experts expect, carrying out the rule in Arizona will have reduced emissions by a whopping 5,505 tons of carbon monoxide, 892 tons of hydrocarbons, and 1,436 tons of oxides of nitrogen. Way to go, Arizona.
Hear the story from a local point of view in the Arizona Republic.
Is the Giant Spitting Earthworm Expanding?
Before this year, the intriguing and imperiled giant Palouse earthworm had only been sighted once in nearly two decades, and it was only known from the Palouse prairie in southeastern Washington, west central Idaho, and northeastern Oregon. But in March, researchers near Moscow, Idaho found -- and accidentally killed -- what appears to be one of the giant worms. The worms can reach up to three feet in length and spit lilac-scented mucous. Even more surprising was this year's second sighting, made on a forested slope in central Washington by a Seattleite who at first took the worm for a snake.
If the newly found worm specimens are indeed of the giant Palouse clan, that means it's not too late to save the species, whose historic habitat has been almost entirely obliterated by agriculture and development. The Center for Biological Diversity and allies filed suit in January to protect the worm under the Endangered Species Act.
Learn more in the Seattle Times.
Photo credits: hikers courtesy of Environmental Protection Agency; Tejon Ranch © Andrew Harvey; bowhead whale by Rick LeDuc, NOAA; Barbour's map turtle courtesy of USGS; longfin smelt courtesy of California Department of Fish and Game; Clear Creek off-roader courtesy of Environmental Protection Agency, steelhead trout courtesy of National Park Service; giant Palouse earthworm courtesy of University of Idaho.
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