Suit Filed to Save Southern California Forests
Continuing our campaign to save Southern California's four national forests from themselves, the Center for Biological Diversity and six allies sued the U.S. Forest Service last Thursday. We seek to strike down the master land-management plans for the Los Padres, Angeles, San Bernardino, and Cleveland national forests because they allow too much habitat destruction and development. The plans, issued by the Forest Service in response to a 1998 Center lawsuit, largely ignore a comprehensive "conservation alternative" developed by the Center and its allies. Our alternative outlined ways to protect and preserve the forests, but the agency instead adopted a plan with too much road-building, off-road traffic, power lines, energy development, logging, grazing, and other threats to sensitive species and ecosystems.
Last week's challenge follows a March suit by the Center and friends over federal agencies' failure to protect dozens of imperiled species on Southern California's four national forests, as well as a state of California suit challenging the 2005 plans specifically for allowing development in roadless areas.
Read more in the San Diego Union-Tribune.
Center Goes to Court for Warming-threatened "Boulder Bunny"
Sticking up for one of the most conventionally cute species threatened by climate change, this Tuesday the Center for Biological Diversity filed two lawsuits -- one in state court and one in federal court -- to win protections for the American pika under the California and federal Endangered Species Acts. The pika, a small, rabbit-like mammal living in boulder fields near mountain peaks in the American West, is adapted to cold, alpine conditions and can die from overheating when exposed to temperatures as low as 80 degrees for just a few hours. That's why as climate change causes temperatures to rise, pikas living in warmer, lower-elevation areas are disappearing. More than a third of the animal's known populations in the Great Basin mountains of Nevada and Oregon have already gone extinct, and those remaining have moved way upslope.
The Center petitioned to list the California pika population under that state's Endangered Species Act a year ago, but the California Fish and Game Commission denied the petition, saying that "facilitating adaptation to climate change" wasn't in its "purview." And while we petitioned to protect the species federally last October, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has so far failed to take action.
Read more in the San José Mercury News.
Listen to Center Director Discuss Bush's Latest, Greatest Threat to the Endangered Species Act
This week's Wild Side News radio show is devoted to the latest -- and by far one of the gravest -- Bush administration travesties: the proposed gutting of the Endangered Species Act, which would excuse thousands of federal activities, including all greenhouse gas emissions, from independent review under the Act. With the help of Center for Biological Diversity conservation advocate Rob Mrowka and executive director Kierán Suckling, the show tells you all about how the Endangered Species Act works now (and boy, does it!)... and how the proposed changes would turn it absolutely inside out, leaving countless species -- from the arroyo toad to the Florida panther -- out in the cold.
"If a species goes extinct," Suckling reminds us, "you cannot reverse that mistake. It's an all-or-nothing proposition. So we need to work very, very hard to ensure that this never happens."
Listen to the show, and take action yourself before it's too late.
Two More California Plants Shorted on Habitat Protections
Prolonging its pattern of cheating species out of the protected habitat they need, last Thursday the Bush administration announced its final decision on habitat safeguards for the San Bernardino Mountains bluegrass and California dandelion, giving neither imperiled California plant enough protected living space to recover. Habitat protections for the San Bernardino Mountains bluegrass, a perennial bunch grass with modest, petal-less flowers, were reduced by 16 percent compared with the originally proposed area, while habitat for the California dandelion -- a golden-flowered annual growing only in the San Bernardino Mountains -- failed to include key plant locations. The defective designations lengthen the list of California plants robbed of protections over the past decade, including the Lane Mountain milk-vetch, San Jacinto Valley crownscale, and Munz's onion -- all species the Center for Biological Diversity has done much to protect.
Read more in Plenty.
Bush's Berlin Wall Batters Border Biodiversity
In stark contrast to an environmental analysis done by the Department of Homeland Security, a National Park Service report obtained last week shows that Arizona's Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument has suffered hefty damage from flood obstruction and debris piling up along the U.S.-Mexico border wall. The environmental analysis, conducted in 2007, insisted that the wall somehow would "not impede the flow of water," and that right after heavy rains, built-up debris near the wall would be removed. But the Park Service's report makes it very clear that substantial erosion, infrastructure damage, and desert flooding have already occurred -- and will keep occurring, as long as the border wall and heavy desert rains coexist.
Read our press release, where you can also view the report for yourself.
Court Ruling Threatens 58 Million Acres
Late last Tuesday, a Wyoming judge issued a decision blocking the federal government from enforcing the Roadless Area Conservation Rule, a landmark policy that protects pristine national forest land across the nation from development. The decision, which attempts to remove protections against road-building, logging, mining, and oil and gas leasing from about 58.5 million acres of designated "roadless" forest land, directly conflicts with a 2006 San Francisco court ruling upholding the protections.
The Roadless Area Conservation Rule, issued in 2001 after the most extensive federal rulemaking process in American history, has been at the center of a series of court decisions enjoining and then reinstating it. It's considered one of the most significant conservation programs ever undertaken by the U.S. Forest Service -- and the Center for Biological Diversity won't let it fall prey to a Wyoming judge's whim.
Get more of the story in the New York Times.
Bush's Substandard Gas-mileage Standards
Punctuating the end of the comment period for the Bush administration's latest fuel-economy standards proposal, this Monday the Center for Biological Diversity filed comments of its own, revealing the proposed national gas-mileage standards for cars, trucks, and SUVs to be decidedly sub-par and legally flawed. As our comments show, the standards are not only laughably low; they also seem to have been drafted by people out of touch with modern reality. For just one example, the proposal's creators reduced the standard dramatically by assuming gas would cost about $2.36 a gallon in 2020. (We don't think we have to elaborate on the problems with that.)
On the same day the Center's comments were filed, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals denied the administration's request to revisit a 2007 decision that ended a Center lawsuit, stemming largely from the administration's failure to analyze the impact of fuel-economy standards on global warming. The court's new decision affirmed that standards must be set at the maximum feasible level to save oil, reduce greenhouse gas pollution, and protect consumers.
Get the numbers and read the Center's comments in our press release.
Center's Mickey "Methane" Moritz Awarded for Global Warming Work
Everyone knows we have to reduce carbon emissions -- and fast -- if we want to stop global warming. But slashing other greenhouse gas emissions is also a necessary part of the anti-warming agenda. Mickey Moritz, the Center for Biological Diversity's Seattle law clerk, lays out the case for rapid and deep reduction in methane and black carbon emissions in her contribution to a 2007 report entitled Not Too Late to Save the Polar Bear: A Rapid Action Plan to Address the Arctic Meltdown. Cutting these emissions is not only the fastest way to reduce global warming; it's cost effective and will clean the air we all breathe.
The report was the centerpiece of the Center's testimony before Congress last winter. This summer, it won Moritz the University of Washington School of Law's prestigious Eugene Wright Scholarship. It also won Mickey the not-entirely-flattering but well-meant nickname "Methane."
Learn more about the Center's Climate, Air, and Energy Program on our Web site, where you can also read Not Too Late to Save the Polar Bear.
Predators of the Caribbean: Invasive Fish Threaten Reefs
The Caribbean's newest scourge doesn't need ships, swords, or cannons to reap its booty: The red lionfish, a stripey, billowy-finned Asia native with poisonous spikes, simply gulps down its prey in one bite. Thought to have originally escaped from a Florida aquarium during Hurricane Andrew, the invasive fish has been multiplying -- and feeding -- like crazy in the Bahamas, where biologists have seen it in every habitat, including mangrove thickets thick with baby fish. Spreading fast, the predator is already hurting delicate Caribbean ecosystems as it devours grazing fish that keep seaweed from engulfing coral reefs, which are already imperiled by climate change, pollution, overfishing, and other threats. Some are saying this may be the worst marine invasion in history.
Fortunately, the Caribbean's most endangered corals, elkhorn and staghorn coral, are protected under the Endangered Species Act thanks to the Center for Biological Diversity. Unfortunately, the lionfish problem is unlikely to be solved any time soon, since most marine predators turn up their noses at eating the spiky intruder.
Get more of the story from the Tucson Citizen.
Photo credits: American pika by Larry Master; San Bernardino National Forest by Monica Bond; American pika by William C. Gladish; Florida panther courtesy of USFWS; California dandelion by Brother Alfred Brousseau, St. Mary's College/Calphotos; Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument by Robin Silver; San Bernardino National Forest by Monica Bond; red lionfish by Raimond Spekking.
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