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Settlement Extends Lead Protection for Condors

Brightening the outlook for California condors across their namesake state, last Wednesday the Center for Biological Diversity and allies reached a settlement with the state of California requiring the use of non-lead ammunition in condor habitat for depredation hunting (that is, shooting animals deemed a nuisance or threat). This move extends protections already offered by the historic Ridley-Tree Condor Conservation Act -- passed after the Center, Natural Resources Defense Council, and other groups filed suit to protect condors from lead poisoning -- which limits the use of lead ammunition for big game throughout much of the bird's California range. The state also agreed to consider banning lead ammunition for the hunting of small mammals that sometimes turn into condor snacks.

Lead poisoning is a major threat to California condors, which are still struggling to recover after nearing extinction in the '80s and '90s. When the birds scavenge animals killed with lead bullets, the toxic heavy metal enters their bloodstream and causes reproductive problems and often death.

Read more in the Los Angeles Times.

Agency Protects More Habitat for Hawaiian Picture-wings

Thanks to a Center for Biological Diversity lawsuit, last Friday the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service finally protected a notable amount of habitat for some of Hawaii's most intriguing invertebrates. Twelve species of Hawaiian picture-wing flies, dubbed the insect world's "birds of paradise" for their rainbow-hued wing patterns and elaborate courting methods, earned Endangered Species Act protections after a lawsuit by the Center and the Conservation Council for Hawaii forced the administration to heed their imperilment. But it took another lawsuit to secure last week's protected habitat: Due to political meddling by former Interior Department official Julie MacDonald, the administration's first designation, made in 2006, secured just 18 acres for the flies.

Male Hawaiian picture-wings perform intricate mating rituals to attract females, each species using its own unique choreography. The biggest threats to these fairy-like flies are habitat destruction and the loss of suitable host plants.

Check out our press release and learn more about Hawaiian picture-wing flies.

Bush Removes Rule Guarding Grand Canyon

In its latest last-minute attempt to roll back environmental regulations, last Wednesday the Bush administration announced it was doing away with a provision that would protect spectacular Grand Canyon public lands from destructive uranium mining. The provision required the Bureau of Land Management to withdraw lands from mining when Congress says immediate action is needed -- which it did this summer when it told Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne to immediately halt mining on millions of acres near Grand Canyon National Park. When Kempthorne illegally refused to do so, the Center for Biological Diversity, Grand Canyon Trust, and the Sierra Club filed suit. But instead of complying with the law to resolve the lawsuit, the Bush administration is trying to change its own rules.

In the past five years, thousands of new uranium mining claims have popped up within a few miles of Grand Canyon National Park, threatening land, habitat, and precious water resources. The lands at stake need an immediate reprieve from mining, or they could be destroyed.

Get details from the New York Times.

Auto Bailout Needs to Be Green

Kicking off the week set for Congress's vote on a bailout for the nation's three largest automakers, this Monday the Center for Biological Diversity wrote a letter to congressional leaders asking them to include three common-sense measures for fuel efficiency. Number one: Give California a Clean Air Act waiver to apply its greenhouse gas emission motor vehicle standards (something the Environmental Protection Agency has illegally failed to do). Number two: Make federal agencies improve currently proposed -- and far too lax -- corporate fuel efficiency standards for upcoming model years. Number three: Require that any car company getting funds through the bailout dismiss any lawsuits blocking state efforts to reduce automobile emissions, as well as submitting plans for ramping up fuel-efficient vehicle production.

"The U.S. automobile manufacturers' relentless opposition to fuel economy and emissions improvements has been a major contributor to both the climate crisis and the current economic crisis," said the Center's Climate Program director, Kassie Siegel. Heeding our call for fuel efficiency is the least those Big Three bigwigs can do.

Check out our press release, where you can also read our letter.

Ecuador Birds May Get Endangered Status

As a result of a series of Center lawsuits defending imperiled birds around the world, this Monday the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed to protect two Ecuadorian birds as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. The medium tree finch, native to the island of Floreana in the Galapagos Islands, is one of the 14 finch species that helped Charles Darwin discover evolution -- but it's now highly imperiled by habitat destruction, introduced species, domestic animals, and other threats. The other bird to be protected -- the black-breasted puffleg -- is a tiny, shiny Ecuadorian hummingbird restricted to a single population, mostly due to deforestation.

Alarmed about declines of scores of the world's rarest avian species, ornithologists petitioned the Fish and Wildlife Service years ago to protect 73 imperiled birds -- and the Center sued to force a reaction from the administration. The medium tree finch and black-breasted puffleg join a list of six other birds recently proposed for protection thanks to the Center.

Read more about the Center's International Birds Initiative.

Mexican Wolf Newly Released in New Mexico, Center Staffer Speaks on Recovery Plan

Late last month "F836," a five-year-old female Mexican gray wolf born in the Minnesota Zoo, was finally released into the wild near Alpine, New Mexico. First brought to the state's South Salem Wolf Conservation Center in 2004, she was raised with her sisters in forest enclosures and has spent the past eight months bonding with a wild-born mate, with whom she was released -- together, they're called the "Moonshine Pack." F836's sister, with the equally uncreative name "F838," was released in Arizona in 2006 but was tragically shot and killed by a hunter just two months after she found freedom. Let's hope F836 fares better than her ill-fated sibling.

Meanwhile, to help F836 and her peers, the Center for Biological Diversity has been pushing for a revision of the sadly outdated Mexican gray wolf recovery plan, first published in 1982. Center carnivore expert Michael Robinson spoke on National Public Radio this week about our efforts and the wolf's plight.

Learn F836's story and listen to Robinson on the radio.

Give Greenly This Season With the Center

We at the Center for Biological Diversity could write pages about how the holidays wreak environmental havoc -- the gas used to drive to stores to buy products produced in fossil fuel-burning factories, the forest-diminishing wrapping paper that envelops those products, the fuel used to ship them here, there, and everywhere. And the lights, and the Christmas trees! And so much else! So how can we possibly still enjoy the most wonderful time of the year?

Good news: For every way the holidays hurt the planet, there's a way to help -- and the Center has compiled a list of them. One of the best ways is to give your loved ones nonmaterial gifts, like a Center membership, which gives them the satisfaction of saving species all year long. Or you can do some holiday shopping at our online store, saving gas and spreading the word about species protection by buying folks cool, conversation-starting clothing bearing the Center's message. For more ideas -- or as a gift in itself -- check out the new book Green Christmas.

Peruse our Green Giving Guide and read a review of Green Christmas.

Calling All Working Assets and CREDO Customers: We Need Your Vote Now

Earn money for the Center for Biological Diversity with a free click of a button...  quick, before it's too late

Each year, Working Assets donates a portion of its customers' charges to a select group of progressive organizations like ours, who receive it at the end of the year -- coming up fast. We're excited to be on the ballot, but the percentage of customer votes we get will determine how much we receive for 2008. 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.

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KierĂ¡n Suckling
Executive Director

Photo credits: California condor courtesy of Arizona Game & Fish; Hawaiian picture-wing fly (c) William P. Mull; Colorado River (c) Michelle Harrington; exhaust pipe by Steevven, courtesy of Wikipedia; black-breasted puffleg by Benji Schwartz; Mexican gray wolf by Val Halstead, Wolf Haven International; gifts (c) Kelvin Kay.

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