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Feds Give Oil Execs Blank Check, Center to Stop Payment

The Chukchi Sea -- home to most of the world's Pacific walruses and one of America's two polar bear populations -- is the least industrially developed portion of the U.S. Arctic. In February, however, while the Department of the Interior illegally delayed protecting the polar bear as a threatened species, it offered oil and gas leases on 30 million acres of the Chukchi Sea.

When Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne finally got around to protecting the polar bear last month, he sought to shield oil and gas drilling by illegally exempting polar bears from the Endangered Species Act's prohibition against killing and harassing imperiled species. He justified the decision by saying the bears would instead be protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act. On Tuesday, however, he exempted polar bears (and walruses) in the Chukchi Sea from protection under the Marine Mammal Protection Act as well.

In addition to directly affecting polar bears, offshore oil operations will emit millions of tons of carbon dioxide, methane, and black carbon. And once the oil and gas are burned, they'll emit billions of tons of additional greenhouse gases.

The Center for Biological Diversity and Pacific Environment have formally notified the Department of the Interior that they'll sue to overturn the decisions and protect all polar bears in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas.

Read more about it at MSNBC.


Gas Line Through Colorado Wilderness Halted

In response to a challenge by the Center for Biological Diversity, High Country Citizens' Alliance, and other groups, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has stopped a planned gas pipeline through three roadless areas on the Grand Mesa-Uncompahgre-Gunnison and White River national forests in western Colorado.

The Bull Mountain pipeline would have plowed 25 miles of roads, including a 100-foot-wide construction corridor, travel lanes, and passing lanes. According to the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management, however, these aren't roads... they're just long, hard-surfaced routes made specifically for vehicles to drive on.

The temporary injunction will last until a final decision is made on the Center's legal case.

Read more about it in the Arizona Republic.


Endangered Toad to Get New California Hopping Grounds

Settling a lawsuit brought by the Center for Biological Diversity, the Bush administration last week agreed to redo a politically tainted decision that reduced the protected "critical habitat" area for southern California's endangered arroyo toad from 182,360 acres to just 11,695.

Though federal investigations revealed that this and many other decisions to strip protection from endangered species were forced upon agency scientists by high-ranking administration officials, the Center was forced to sue to have the decision rescinded. The settlement requires the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to establish a new protected area by October 2010.

Learn more about the arroyo toad, our campaign against tainted endangered species decisions, and the latest settlement.


Pacific Fisher Prevails, Pacific Legal Foundation Adds to Long List of Legal Losses

On Monday, one of the Northwest's most beloved forest mammals got to keep its place in line for Endangered Species Act protection. Agreeing with the Center for Biological Diversity, and adding to a long list of legal losses for the anti-environmental Pacific Legal Foundation, a federal judge ruled that the federal government acted properly when putting the Pacific population of the fisher on a waiting list for Endangered Species Act protection.

The Center filed a scientific petition to list the Pacific fisher under the Endangered Species Act in 2000 to save it from logging of old-growth forests in California, Oregon, and Washington. Representing timber companies, the Pacific Legal Foundation filed suit to stop the listing. The anti-endangered species law firm has lost a string of high-profile legal cases in recent years, stretching from the Alabama sturgeon in the Southeast to killer whales in Puget Sound.

Learn more about the Pacific fisher on our Web page.


Scientists: Just Say No to Tejon Development

This Monday a group of 11 scientists sent a letter to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger protesting a deal allowing the destruction of designated California condor "critical habitat" on Southern California's sprawling Tejon Ranch. Noting that "the agreement is almost uniformly opposed by condor experts" except those paid by the Tejon Corporation, the scientists warned that building thousands of new homes in the middle of essential condor habitat would cause "substantial harm to condors, posing a significant threat to [their] recovery... A major housing development in the heart of one of their most important use areas simply should not be permitted."

The Center for Biological Diversity pulled out of the negotiations when the Tejon Corporation refused to protect the condor. We'll sue to stop the destruction and uphold the scientific integrity.

Get the details from The Mountain Enterprise and read about the pros and cons of the agreement in the Santa Monica Bay Audubon Society Newsletter.


Sad Fate Sealed for Caribbean Monk Seal

Last Friday the U.S. government declared that the Caribbean monk seal is endangered no more -- it's extinct. It was last sighted in 1952 and was put on the endangered species list in 1967 in the vain hope it would be rediscovered. Its extinction was driven by hunters of food, blubber, and skins as far back as 1494, when Columbus noted it was easy prey.

The Caribbean monk seal takes the title as the first seal species to go extinct solely due to human causes. Unfortunately, the endangered Hawaiian and Mediterranean monk seals could be the next to go. Both species are dwindling fast due to global warming, sea-level rise, and other factors. The monk seal's 4-percent annual decline has put it on a fast extinction trajectory unless something is done soon.

Read more in the Los Angeles Times.


Calling All Working Assets and CREDO Customers: The Center Needs Your Vote

Now you can help earn money for the Center for Biological Diversity with the click of a button. Each year, Working Assets donates a portion of its customers' charges to a select group of progressive organizations like ours. We're excited to be on the ballot, but the percentage of votes we get from customers will determine how much we receive at the end of the year. If you get your phone service or credit card from Working Assets or are a CREDO wireless customer, you can go to the Working Assets voting page and assign maximum points to the Center (we're in the Environment section). Please support us and cast your vote now.

Go to http://www.workingassets.com/vote.


Saving the Climate, One Cow Belch at a Time

Anyone who's been on a farm knows livestock can be gassy. But did you know they're greenhouse-gassy? Cows, sheep, and other cud-chewers produce about 20 percent of the world's methane -- a leading greenhouse gas -- when they burp... and, uh... fart.

This is especially distressing for farmers in New Zealand, which aspires to be the first carbon-neutral nation (but also has a lot of livestock). Luckily, researchers in the country are figuring out the genetics behind cattle's methane problem, and they've almost come up with a vaccine against it. And just this week Japanese scientists announced that oil found in cashew shells, when mixed in livestock feed, could cut the animals' methane emissions by 90 percent.

The Center for Biological Diversity applauds these efforts. And we're so glad polar bears don't burp methane.

Hear more about the cashew-nut cure from Reuters UK and learn about New Zealand's pickle in the Los Angeles Times.


It's the Population, Stupid!

Just in from one of our members: "You're right about all the endangerments, but shame on you for putting political correctness above facing the real issue: human overpopulation!"

As we fight to save seals, toads, polar bears, and fishers from extinction, it's clear that they and countless other plants and animals are victims of the massive population and consumption growth of one species: Homo sapiens sapiens. Unless population and consumption trends are checked, extinctions will continue to mount and the climate will continue to warm, possibly jeopardizing human existence as well.

Humans nearly went extinct some 70,000 years ago, likely due to climate change brought on by the eruption of the volcano Toba in Sumatra. We had no control over that crisis, but we can control this one. Unless we soon reconsider how best to live on this Earth, we may wake up one day to find we've created our own modern-day Toba.

Hear more from BBC News.



Kierán Suckling
Executive Director

Photo credits: arroyo toad by Jason Jones; polar bear by Pete Spruance; Pacific fisher courtesy of Pacific Biodiversity Institute; California condor courtesy of Arizona Game and Fish; Caribbean monk seal courtesy of New York Zoological Society; cow (c) Daniel Schwen; volcano courtesy of NASA.

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