Bush Sued for Polar Bear Plot
On May 16 -- the day after the polar bear was officially declared protected under the Endangered Species Act -- the Center for Biological Diversity, Greenpeace, and the Natural Resources Defense Council filed court papers against the Bush administration for trying to avoid actually protecting the beleaguered bear.
When Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne deemed the polar bear "threatened" last Wednesday, he simultaneously issued "special regulations" designed to ensure that greenhouse gas-spewing power plants and oil and gas pumping weren't affected by the decision. The Center's new lawsuit will ensure that the polar bear and its habitat are fully protected, regardless of the Bush administration's last-ditch effort to avoid global warming regulations.
Watch Center executive director Kierán Suckling discuss the new suit here.
California Old-growth Timber Sales Stopped
Thanks to a legal challenge brought by the Center for Biological Diversity and numerous allies, a federal judge last week shut down a series of massive timber sales in California's Sierra Nevada mountains. The ruling declared that the U.S. Forest Service likely broke the law when it revised a management plan for all 11 national forests in eastern California -- calling for a more than fivefold increase in logging throughout the Sierra range.
The logging plans would have sawed down old-growth forest to pay for the logging of smaller trees. But destroying the Sierra's large, fire-resistant old-growth trees would increase the risk of fires that could devour homes and communities. And let's not forget all the imperiled species -- including the Pacific fisher and the California spotted owl -- that would be harmed by increased logging ravaging their ancient forest habitat.
Learn more in the Union Democrat.
Rio Grande Cutthroat Trout Angling Toward Protection
Following a petition and three lawsuits filed by the Center for Biological Diversity, the Bush administration finally announced last week that the Rio Grande cutthroat trout warrants protection under the Endangered Species Act. The trout -- which happens to be New Mexico's state fish -- is threatened by nonnative trout, disease, habitat degradation, climate change, and plenty of other things. But while the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service admitted that the fish needs federal protection, it stopped short of actually providing it. Instead, the agency declared the fish a "candidate" for protection, adding it to a list of 280 other imperiled species waiting to be placed on the endangered species list. At least 24 species have gone extinct after being designated candidates for protection.
Read more in the Las Cruces Sun-News.
Science-meddling Scandal Grows and Grows
A new report has just revealed that former Interior Department official Julie MacDonald -- infamous for censoring science to squelch endangered species protections -- wasn't the only administration appointee who used political clout to hurt endangered species. In fact, shows a Government Accountability Office investigation, at least four other officials meddled in key decisions about imperiled species and their habitat -- including whether to protect the Miami blue butterfly, a highly endangered insect still waiting for the protection it deserves. The report also uncovered informal MacDonald-issued policies that reduced protections through schemes like ignoring scientific recovery plans and restricting protected habitat.
Read more about it in the Salt Lake Tribune.
Feds Agree to Tally Imperiled Marine Mammals
Less than a week after the polar bear was declared federally "protected" -- and five days after the Center for Biological Diversity and allies challenged its lack of true protections -- a judge approved a settlement requiring new population counts for the bear and other protected U.S. marine mammals. These counts, called stock assessments, are meant to give decision-makers the facts they need to help protect marine mammals, and the counts are supposed to take place every year for endangered species and every three years for others. But Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne -- responsible for counts of polar bears, walruses, sea otters, and manatees -- has completely ignored the law. The last polar bear and walrus counts were more than five years ago, and sea otter and manatee counts are more than 12 years old. Hmmm... global warming threatens all those species, and it's happening a lot faster than that.
The settlement results from a 2007 lawsuit brought by the Center and the Turtle Island Restoration Network.
Read more about it in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.
Agency Given Last Chance to Take Steps for Pygmy Owl
The Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, and Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility gave notice Tuesday that they'll sue if the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service keeps ignoring their petition to bring back federal protection for the cactus ferruginous pygmy owl. The lovable owl, tiny in body, also has a dangerously small population of fewer than 30 birds in Arizona; nevertheless, it was taken off the endangered species list in 2003 when agency officials denied that protection was needed and ignored the fact that the Arizona owls are the last of their kind in the United States.
The groups' petition gives the administration three options: protect the pygmy owl in Arizona, protect it in the Sonoran Desert as a whole, or protect it throughout its range. The bottom line? Protect the owl.
Read what the Tucson Citizen has to say.
Wolf Mismanagement Continues -- And Congress Hears About It
Last week, the government-appointed team in charge of Mexican wolf reintroduction dug in its heels to uphold SOP 13, a controversial rule calling for the removal of any wolf involved in three livestock killings in a year. Trappings and shootings required by SOP 13 devastate wolf family groups, orphan wolf pups, and lessen needed genetic diversity. But instead of ending the rule, as scientists and New Mexico's governor requested, the team proposed a "clarification" that changes pretty much nothing. The Center for Biological Diversity and sixteen other groups have written to request a once-and-for-all end to government wolf removals.
At a Wednesday congressional hearing about tainted endangered species decisions (see the first Endangered Earth item for more), retired Mexican Wolf Recovery Coordinator David Parsons revealed that political interference is to blame for low wolf numbers. He specifically cited the adoption of SOP 13.
Get details in our press release, where you can also read the "clarification" proposal and our letter.
World Turtle Day Is May 23, 2008
...and HerpArts.com, the only online gift shop for people who love reptiles and amphibians, is having a special fundraising sale to celebrate -- and to help turtles at the same time. This year, from May 22 to May 25, 10 percent of the purchase price of all items bought through HerpArts.com will benefit the Center for Biological Diversity's work to stop commercial collection of turtles.
At HerpArts.com, you'll find all kinds of reptile and amphibian items for all kinds of people, including fine art, antique prints, jewelry, household decorative items, sculptures, photo albums, toys, stationery, bumper stickers, crossing signs, books... and even more.
So surf on over to www.herparts.com, shop, and help the Center save the turtles.
Former Center Star "Unsung" No More
Brent Plater, once a staff attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity, has long been a celebrity in certain circles thanks to deeds like securing Endangered Species Act protection for the elkhorn and staghorn corals -- the first species ever federally protected due to climate change -- as well as for the Puget Sound killer whale. Now, among other things, he's the man behind the Golden Gate National Recreation Area Endangered Species Big Year, a year-long contest challenging the public to help imperiled animals and plants in the Bay Area's Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Brent's latest accomplishments were recognized on Wednesday with an "Unsung Hero" honor by nonprofit group San Francisco Tomorrow at its annual awards dinner. Brent, we already knew you were a hero -- now San Francisco is sure to know, too.
Learn more about the Big Year and the 33 endangered species it's helping.
Photo credits: polar bear by David S. Isenberg; polar bears by Pete Spruance; giant sequoias courtesy of USGS; Rio Grande cutthroat trout courtesy of USFWS; Miami blue butterfly by Jaret C. Daniels/McGuire Center for Lepidoptera Biodiversity; Pacific walrus by Bill Hickey; cactus ferruginous pygmy owl by Aaron Flesch; Mexican gray wolves (c) Val Halstead/Wolf Haven International; Barbour's map turtle courtesy of USGS; Brent Plater by Bob Plater.
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