Surprise Canyon Rescued From Off-road Destruction
Ending a third attempt in two years to open a beautiful Death Valley stream to off-road vehicles, last week a federal agency denied an application by extreme off-roaders to drive through California's beloved and delicate Surprise Canyon. Previous off-road vehicle use of the area is proof of what those machines can do: In the '90s, when one route was still open in the canyon, tricked-out four-wheelers ravaged its plants, filled in its streambeds, and polluted its water.
A 2000 lawsuit by the Center and allies spurred the closing of the canyon to vehicles, and its fragile ecosystem is accordingly on the mend. More off-road vehicle activity could cause irreversible damage to habitat for species from the Inyo California towhee to the Panamint daisy -- so it's a good thing the Interior Board of Land Appeals has recognized this area's need to be handled with care.
Check out our press release and learn more about our campaign for Surprise Canyon.
Feds Withhold Protections From Warming-threatened Seal
Almost exactly a year after the Center for Biological Diversity petitioned to put the ribbon seal on the endangered species list, this Tuesday the Bush administration decided the uniquely patterned pinniped doesn't warrant protection. Long threatened by human activities from shipping to oil development, now ribbon seals are probably facing the worst threat of all: climate change, which is rapidly melting the sea ice they depend on for resting, rearing pups, and molting. Although the science on the matter is clear -- by mid-century, winter sea ice in the seals' Bering and Okhotsk seas habitat could decline by 40 percent -- the administration has denied the animal's predicament, feebly asserting that sea ice "will continue to form each winter . . . where the majority of ribbon seals are located."
It's no coincidence that the seals' habitat, which would be off-limits to destructive activities if the species were fully protected, is coveted by oil and gas companies itching to drill. The Center won't let the administration's last-minute science-twisting tactics allow the ribbon seal to slip away.
Get more from the Anchorage Daily News.
Land-management Changes Will Hurt Public-lands Species
Dealing yet another parting punch to the nation's struggling species, last Wednesday the Bush administration finalized detrimental changes to a key policy manual for the management of endangered, threatened, and other special-status plants and animals on federal lands. Among the changes to the Bureau of Land Management's "Special Status Species Manual" are new directives that undermine protections for endangered and threatened plants, limit efforts to safeguard species officially in line for Endangered Species Act protections, make it hard to protect sensitive species found in more than one state, and remove some protections for state-protected species dwelling on federal lands. Thirty-five Colorado species -- including kit foxes, sandhill cranes, and burrowing owls -- would lose protection; hundreds of state-protected California species would likewise lose out.
Way to top the charts for "worst holiday gift ever," Bush administration. No, really -- you shouldn't have.
Read more in the Desert Dispatch.
California Asked to Cut Clearcutting Emissions
Continuing our fight against the global warming effects of logging in the golden state, last week the Center for Biological Diversity filed comments on a timber-harvest plan up for approval by the California Department of Forestry. The new plan fails to address and analyze the enormous amount of carbon emitted by proposed logging projects -- even though the Department is supposed to make sure this is done under the state's premier land-use and environmental protection statute, the California Environmental Quality Act. Current requests to clearcut in California forests affect thousands of acres.
Logging not only releases emissions that exacerbate global warming -- as we all know, it also removes the carbon dioxide-absorbing trees that help keep greenhouse gases from piling up in our atmosphere in the first place. The Center is determined not to let the double-edged axe of logging aid in warming our climate to the point of no return.
Check out our press release and learn more about the California Environmental Quality Act.
Center Takes Big Action for Bighorn Sheep
After the Bureau of Land Management expanded the use of a road right through protected Peninsular bighorn habitat, the Center for Biological Diversity, Sierra Club, and the Wilderness Coalition went to court last Thursday to protect the endangered wild sheep. Dunn Road, an illegally constructed roadway near Palm Springs, California, bisects a necessary lambing area in the northern part of the bighorn's range, but the Bureau has just amended a plan to let commercial vehicles use it -- and frighten Peninsular bighorn away.
Once the most numerous desert bighorn sheep, the Peninsular Ranges population plummeted from 1,171 sheep in 1974 to a minuscule 276 in 1996. Thanks to Endangered Species Act protection, today they number about 800 -- but that number won't keep increasing if lambing areas are destroyed by roads.
Read more in the San Bernardino Sun.
California Commission Approves Damaging Transmission Line
Setting aside one wise judge's recommended rejection of the Sunrise Powerlink transmission-line project, last Thursday the California Public Utilities Commission approved a southern route for the controversial, 123-mile power line. The southern route, which would carve through Cleveland National Forest and other natural areas, was ranked as having among the highest number of significant and irreversible environmental impacts of any transmission line ever approved in California. Making matters worse, the Commission ignored a recommendation to approve the line only if San Diego Gas & Electric commits to a binding agreement to use the line solely for clean, renewable energy.
"Not only is the southern route of this line terribly destructive to the Cleveland National Forest and local communities," said Center attorney Steven Siegel, "it may make Southern Californians more dependent on dirty global warming fossil fuels. Unfortunately, with this decision, corporate profit won out over the best interests of the community."
Get details in the San Diego Union-Tribune.
Spread Tidings of Joy With e-Cards From the Center
Never got around to sending out those holiday cards this year? Good! Paper cards mean logging, and even the recycled variety take lots of energy to manufacture and mail. Besides, few cards are as awesome as the Center's latest e-postcards, featuring breathtaking photos of special species in need. Making these cards didn't require a single tree to be cut down, and sending them won't burn a single ounce of gas. Plus, they have a meaningful message: Peace on Earth and goodwill toward wildlife.
So check out our cards and send them along to your friends and relatives before the ball drops this New Year. And whatever holiday you celebrate -- or don't celebrate -- make sure to celebrate nature. Hallmark, eat your heart out.
Hey, Working Assets and CREDO Customers! It's Your Last Chance to Vote!
Earn money for the Center for Biological Diversity with a free click of a button... now. 'Cause time's almost up.
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 -- which is 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 -- quick! Cast your vote before New Year's.
Go to http://www.workingassets.com/vote.
Photo credits: ribbon seal by M. Cameron, NOAA; California towhee (c) Joyce Gross; burrowing owl (c) Robin Silver; forest by Edward McCain; Peninsular bighorn sheep (c) Christopher Christie; Cleveland National Forest courtesy Wikimedia/Althepal; polar bear (c) Jenny E. Ross/www.JennyRoss.com.
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