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Agency Advised: Wolf Recovery Plan Way Past Due

Since the Mexican gray wolf's recovery plan turned 26 years old this fall -- and still hasn't been amended -- this Wednesday the Center for Biological Diversity and allies petitioned for a much-needed update. The current plan, published back in 1982, is way too old to provide good guidance for helping the wolves recover. And it doesn't even include benchmarks for downlisting the species from "endangered" to "threatened" under the Endangered Species Act, not to mention removing it from federal protection altogether. These failings have let the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service dodge taking steps to increase the population -- shown at the beginning of this year to be at just three breeding pairs and 52 animals (compared to the 100-plus wolves in just one of two reintroduced populations called for by the 1982 recovery plan).

If the Mexican gray wolf is to thrive -- or even survive -- it obviously needs a recovery plan that's been revised since the days when mullets were popular. As Center carnivore expert Michael Robinson puts it: "Recovery is the goal of the Endangered Species Act, and recovery plans are road maps showing how to get there. ... North America's most imperiled mammal deserves the benefits of 21st-century science."

Read more in the Tucson Citizen.

Center Plans Suit to Protect Corals From Climate Change

In response to a Center lawsuit, the National Marine Fisheries Service last Wednesday finally designated critical habitat for the elkhorn and staghorn corals -- and the very same day, the Center filed a notice of intent to sue. Why, you ask? In its designation, the Fisheries Service included a giant loophole disregarding the two main reasons the corals were protected under the Endangered Species Act in the first place: ocean acidification and elevated seawater temperature caused by global warming.

Last week's decision is eerily -- but not subtly -- similar to the Bush administration's decision to list the polar bear under the Endangered Species Act. It's just another action exposing the administration's illegal attempts to ignore the mounting threat greenhouse gas emissions are posing to species from the Arctic to the Caribbean.

Get more from NBC Washington.

Administration Hauled to Court for Sake of Pacific Walrus

After almost 10 months with no response to our petition to protect the Pacific walrus under the Endangered Species Act, the Center for Biological Diversity this week filed suit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne. The Arctic-dwelling walrus, whose scientific name entertainingly translates to "tooth-walking sea horse," is dependent on sea ice for mussel-foraging, resting, nursing, and other life activities -- but the rapid melting of that sea ice, caused by global warming, is forcing the species into a land-based existence it can't deal with. Making matters worse, the species' most important foraging grounds are being auctioned off to oil companies.

The Pacific walrus's winter sea-ice habitat is projected to decline by 40 percent by mid-century if current greenhouse gas emissions continue. This magnificent pinniped needs federal protection if it's going to survive.

Get more from the Associated Press.

Protections Defended for Northwest Seabird

This week the Center for Biological Diversity and eight allies stepped in to help uphold protections for the marbled murrelet, a small, chunky auk dependent on old-growth forests for survival. Though murrelets living in California, Oregon, and Washington are currently deemed threatened as a "distinct population segment" under the Endangered Species Act, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service last reviewed the bird's status, the agency determined that the tri-state population no longer qualifies as a distinct population segment -- a determination now proven to have originated from political interference in science. Based on that finding, a timber-industry group petitioned to remove the poor bird's protections -- and the Service has found merit in the petition.

The Center's comments, submitted this Monday, affirm that the Service's review of the species' status was flawed, and the result of interference. Not only should the marbled murrelet still be protected, we declare; it should be given better protections by granting it endangered status and protecting murrelets in British Columbia and Alaska, too.

Read our comments for yourself.

Tortoise-threatening Vehicle Routes Challenged

After the Bureau of Land Management illegally resolved to open two off-road vehicle routes in desert tortoise habitat in Kern County, California, this Monday the Center for Biological Diversity appealed the decision. In making its determination, not only did the Bureau tiptoe around public involvement procedures required by the National Environmental Policy Act, but it's also relying on an inadequate education and permit program to monitor and limit use of the new roads -- pretty much meaning use won't be monitored or limited. If the Bureau's decision holds, almost anyone will be able to drive on roads that were previously closed to protect the threatened desert tortoise, an ancient and rare reptile that's facing enough problems already.

"To open [those roads] now," asserts Center Public Lands Deserts Director Ileene Anderson, "when illegal driving has been such a chronic problem in the area, is unfathomable and dooms this area of critical environmental concern to continued environmental degradation, trash, and pollution."

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

Interior Asked Not to Bar Input in Water Hearings

Last week, the Center for Biological Diversity joined 23 other conservation groups in requesting that federal agencies be allowed to fully participate in 2009 hearings for an application to pump groundwater in Nevada and Utah. Under the watchful eye of the Department of the Interior, four federal agencies have already agreed to drop their opposition to water applications in Nevada's Cave, Delamar, and Dry Lakes valleys made by the Southern Nevada Water Authority.

The groundwater withdrawals would be another drain on the Southwest's most valuable and life-giving resource in the face of climate change, and would likely push dozens of water-dependent species, including the Snake Valley least chub, toward extinction. We've written to Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne to let him know we won't let Interior order the agencies to abandon all participation in the water hearings, relinquishing their responsibility to protect the environment and public interest.

Read more in Deseret News.

Imperiled Gorillas Get Break, Receive Honor

Thankfully for about a third of the world's last remaining mountain gorillas, rebel groups and government troops fighting in the Congo's Virunga National Park -- one of the primate's most important strongholds -- have struck a deal letting park rangers back into the park. Last Tuesday rangers and scientists entered the gorilla habitat for the first time since it became a rebel encampment more than a year ago. Luckily, a few rangers who stayed behind during the fighting have reported that no monitored gorillas have yet been killed by crossfire or anything else, and in fact, seven baby gorillas have been born. Still, it's imperative that rangers do a new survey of the park's great apes to see how the presence of guerillas has affected the gorillas.

In other gorilla news, this Monday the United Nations declared 2009 "The Year of the Gorilla," during which U.N. agencies will work with the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums to raise money and awareness about threats to the habitat and survival of the animal, which experts believe could go extinct in just a few decades.

Get more on Congo gorillas from the Associated Press and read about the Year of the Gorilla from AFP.

Amuse Yourself While Helping Save Species

Like online games? Like teamwork? Like conquering stuff? Then head over to and join the tournament. Link up with others playing for the Center for Biological Diversity and move around on the site's map, defending your team's territories and attacking opponents until you and your allies have conquered the entire map and eliminated all opposing teams. For every player on the winning team, GoCrossCampus will donate $0.50 to the nonprofit organization that team represents. That means the more relentless gamers who kick online butt for the Center -- and yes, we plan on winning -- the more dollars will go to help species everywhere.

Join the tournament here.

Center Gets Four Stars for Efficiency

Speaking of dollars helping species, you should know that the Center for Biological Diversity helps more species per dollar than many groups could even imagine. In fact, we've just received a letter telling us that for the third year in a row, well-known nonprofit rater Charity Navigator has awarded us their highest rating of four stars for fiscal responsibility. That's because more than 80 percent of our funds go directly toward our programs -- instead of toward administrative overhead, fundraising costs, and other expenses.

We admit we're pretty proud, since only 10 percent of all the charities Charity Navigator rates have earned four stars for three years in a row. How do we do it? Well, we're efficient, hard working, and dedicated! (Plus, we sure don't care about driving nice cars.)

Check out our four-star rating and learn a little more about our financial management.

KierĂ¡n Suckling
Executive Director

Photo credits: Mexican gray wolf (c) Robin Silver; Mexican gray wolf by Val Halstead, Wolf Haven International; elkhorn coral (c) Sean Nash; Pacific walrus by Captain Budd Cristman, NOAA; marbled murrelet by Rich MacIntosh, USGS; desert tortoise by Beth Jackson, USFWS; Snake Valley well courtesy of USGS; gorilla (c) Robin Silver; logo courtesy of GoCrossCampus.

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