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Habitat Protections Will Give Bighorn Big Boost

Thanks to a Center for Biological Diversity lawsuit, this Tuesday the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service gave its final say on protected habitat for the Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep, officially deeming more than 400,000 acres of land worthy of federal safeguarding for the animal's survival and recovery. The bighorn sheep, one of the most magnificent species in the Sierra Nevada (and that's saying a lot), already lives mostly on federal land, but its distribution has been greatly disturbed for more than a century and it's still in danger from growing threats like climate change, domestic sheep grazing, and off-road vehicle damage. Thankfully, it was protected under the Endangered Species Act almost a decade ago, but the Service ignored the issue of protecting the sheep's habitat until the Center took the agency to court in 2005.

The new habitat designation comes at a critical time, just as disease transmitted by domestic sheep has been hitting the bighorn hard. Besides requiring protected areas to be off-limits to domestic animals, recovery may also mean limiting off-road vehicles in protected areas.

Read more in the San José Mercury News.

EPA Sued to Reduce Emissions From Ships and Aircraft

Putting the finishing touches on a bad month for the Environmental Protection Agency, on July 30 the Center for Biological Diversity, along with a coalition of conservation groups and state attorneys general, formally notified the agency we'll sue over its failure to address greenhouse gas emissions from ships and planes. Since EPA released a mid-month document putting off deciding whether to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act -- despite an earlier (but suppressed) finding that the gases endangered human welfare -- the agency has come under increased scrutiny and has put a gag order on its pollution officials.

Emissions from sea- and air-bound vessels are the fastest-growing sources of carbon dioxide in the world. Twice last year the Center petitioned to regulate these sources under the Clean Air Act, but to no avail.

Get a full report from

Alaska Challenges Polar Bear Protection

Joining the ranks of those who feel the polar bear's new "threatened" status protects it too much -- namely, trophy hunters and carbon-spewing industries -- Alaska Governor Sarah Palin announced Tuesday that her state will sue the Bush administration for listing the bear under the Endangered Species Act. Claiming that there's no real difference between bear subpopulations, Palin and other Alaska officials basically declared that a little loss of habitat wouldn't make a dent in the population as a whole, so the decision to protect the species wasn't "based on the best available science."

The real reason Alaska officials don't want the bear protected? They're afraid it would slow oil and gas development in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas, prime Alaska polar bear habitat -- despite the fact that Interior has done everything it can to undermine the polar bear's federal protections, including allowing drilling in the area to move forward. The Center for Biological Diversity and allies will be seeking to intervene in the lawsuit and have it dismissed.

Get details and background from the Associated Press.

Center Sues Wal-Mart Over Super-dirty Supercenter

Last week the Center for Biological Diversity filed suit against the nation's largest retailer -- and top private energy consumer -- to force a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions during construction of a new Supercenter near Joshua Tree National Park, California. Despite the megacorporation's much-hyped claims that it wants to be 100-percent green-energy powered, it has refused to include cost-effective features like solar panels in the new store. Wal-Mart's actions fly in the face of the state's landmark environmental law, the California Environmental Quality Act, which requires such projects to reduce their carbon footprints by all feasible means. Wal-Mart is also defying the California Global Warming Solutions Act and hindering the state in reaching its bold emissions-reduction goal.

The Center's Wal-Mart suit is just one part of our campaign to lower California greenhouse gas emissions under the California Environmental Quality Act. We've already had huge success in San Bernardino County, and we'll continue our efforts to ensure that carbon dioxide levels are reduced to below 350 parts per million -- a goal wholly incompatible with business-as-usual big-box sprawl.

Read more in the San Bernardino Sun.

Federal Uranium Project Expanded -- and Challenged

Even as concern and opposition have mounted over uranium mining near Grand Canyon National Park, the Department of Energy has decided to vastly expand its uranium program in southwest Colorado -- so on July 31, the Center for Biological Diversity and partners took the agency to court. The administration's decision paves the way for up to 38 new uranium mines on 42 square miles of public land near the spectacular Dolores River Canyon, a tributary to the Colorado River, and threatens the area's water, soil, and wildlife habitat -- especially habitat for imperiled fish like the Colorado pikeminnow, razorback sucker, and humpback and bonytail chub. In the last five years, uranium mines in the area have more than doubled in number, and according to the Environmental Protection Agency, pollution from active and abandoned metal mines, including uranium mines, has polluted 40 percent of the West's headwaters.

Local governments and American Indian tribes throughout the Southwest have made it clear they recognize the threats of uranium mining. The Center's suit aims to ensure the federal government gets the picture, too.

Get details from the Santa Barbara News-Press.

Hard-won Climate Report Threatened by Industry Group

Just months after a Center for Biological Diversity lawsuit forced the Bush administration to release its long-suppressed second National Assessment -- a legally required, comprehensive federal report on global warming's U.S. impacts -- the report and all the truths it contains have come under industry fire. Last Friday, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce asked the government to withdraw the assessment, finally released last May, because it uses unpublished sources (so it must not be "sound"). Commonly made scientific predictions like warming-caused sea-level rise and increasing droughts, heat waves, and intense storms are all called into question, the chamber says, because the public can't access some of the report's cited documents.

The chamber's challenge mirrors former complaints by the Competitive Enterprise Institute about the first National Assessment, which made the government put a disclaimer on that report. "The chamber is essentially recycling the same climate denier arguments that CEI used eight years ago," says Center Oceans Program Director Brendan Cummings. "We don't believe it can work here." (Hey, at least the Chamber of Commerce is recycling.)

Get the full story from Climatewire.

New "Recovery" Plan Latest Threat to Desert Tortoise

Making the desert tortoise's precarious situation worse, this Monday the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released a draft of a new recovery plan for the threatened reptile that would provide a lot more monitoring than actual aid. The Mojave desert tortoise, which has been protected under the Endangered Species Act since 1990, is unfortunately still declining in numbers, and it's recently been the victim of a poorly thought out -- and carried out -- relocation project since Mojave's Fort Irwin began expanding into prime desert tortoise habitat.

Instead of updating and potentially improving the old tortoise recovery plan, which was approved in 1994 and truly does call for actions to help the tortoise, the new draft provides only vague descriptions of recovery actions decidedly not derived from the best available science. To cover up its inadequacies, the plan mires itself in descriptions of time-consuming and complicated monitoring methods. The Center for Biological Diversity has worked long and hard for the desert tortoise, and we don't intend to sit idly by while the Fish and Wildlife Service simply monitors the tortoise's demise.

Check out our press release and learn more about the desert tortoise.

Center VIP Hits Vermont, Lands Intriguing Interview

To celebrate the Center for Biological Diversity's brand-new Northeast Regional office in Richmond, Vermont, our very own conservation director and co-founder Peter Galvin recently traveled to Vermont and Massachusetts for two big Center-member events. There he met up with nature artist Rod MacIver, who's also the founder of Heron Dance, a nonprofit art studio and publisher that uses visual art and words to rejoice in nature.

Besides putting out a biannual journal and donating art to many nonprofits, Heron Dance publishes a weekly e-newsletter called A Pause for Beauty. This week's highlight? An interview with Peter Galvin, covering topics from endangered dugongs and condors to the role of goodwill in the environmental protection movement.

Check out the interview here and read what the Burlington Free Press has to say about the Center's Vermont debut.

Kierán Suckling
Executive Director

Photo credits: desert tortoise by Beth Jackson, USFWS; Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep courtesy of USDA Forest Service; jet plane by Axwel; polar bear by Pete Spruance; Wal-Mart by Jared C. Benedict; humpback chub by John Rinne; Birch II courtesy of Heron Dance.

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