California Joins Center Suit to Save Endangered Species Act
Almost exactly two weeks after the Bush administration finalized its rules gutting the Endangered Species Act -- which the Center for Biological Diversity and allies sued over before they were even published -- this Monday California Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. joined the legal battle against the feds' endeavor to disable our nation's most powerful wildlife protection law. "The Bush administration is seeking to gut the Endangered Species Act on its way out the door," Attorney General Brown declared. "This is an audacious attempt to circumvent a time-tested statute that for 35 years has required scientific review of proposed federal agency decisions that affect wildlife."
The rules, officially made final on Dec. 16, exempt thousands of federal activities -- including those generating greenhouse gases -- from environmental review, and were rushed through despite massive public opposition. California's lawsuit points out that the Interior Department failed to adequately consider public comments opposing the revisions (many of which were submitted by Center supporters).
Get more from the San Francisco Chronicle.
Petition Filed to Protect Florida Manatee
With the Florida manatee's protected habitat designation now 32 years old, this month the Center for Biological Diversity, Wildlife Advocacy Project, and Save the Manatee Club petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for a long-overdue revision in southwest Florida. Since 1976, when the area of habitat was first protected, plenty of new information on the manatee's needs have surfaced and the severity of some threats has shifted. The manatee is now in especial danger from toxic algae blooms, habitat and seagrass loss, and entrapment in canal locks or floodgates -- not to mention climate change and boat collisions, the latter of which tops of the list of manatee mortality causes.
Our petition calls for more protection of the most important habitat features for the manatee, including warm water and shelter sites, travel corridors, and food sources.
Read more in the Naples Daily News.
Court Catalyzes Protection of Flamingo, Other Foreign Birds
Thanks to a series of Center lawsuits begun in 2003, three rare and beautiful birds from Latin America and the Caribbean are now flying toward federal protection. The large, yellow-legged Andean flamingo; the tiny, iridescent Chilean woodstar; and the medium-sized, white-spotted St. Lucia forest thrush are all in decline thanks to myriad threats from habitat destruction to pollution -- so last Wednesday, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed to protect all three species as endangered under the Endangered Species Act.
The Service's proposal comes just in time to obey a court order, resulting from a Center suit, which required the agency to decide on protection for five international birds by the end of this year. The other two birds specified -- the Ecuadorian black-breasted puffleg and medium tree finch -- were proposed for protection on Dec. 8.
Learn more about our International Birds Initiative and read the Service's decision.
Center Calls for Investigation of Tainted Tortoise Plan
Lending a seasonable helping hand to the federally protected desert tortoise, last week on Christmas Eve the Center for Biological Diversity stepped up to help save the species from its latest threat: politics tainting its own terribly revised draft "recovery" plan. Armed with correspondence showing political meddling with science in the plan's revision, we asked the Interior Department's inspector general to investigate the interference, sparked by corrupt former Interior official Julie MacDonald. On the same day, we called on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to re-write the revision before it's finalized so it can actually help the reptile recover.
The desert tortoise's old draft recovery plan, though never implemented adequately, at least provided specific, on-the-ground conservation guidelines. The latest version proposes more species monitoring than conservation actions and ignores scientifically recognized desert tortoise threats.
Read more in the Desert Dispatch.
Feds Killed Mascot of Wolf Reintroduction Program, Enviros Assert Photo of Dead Wolf Would Be More True to Bush Plan
Three years after the tragic death of Brunhilda, the Mexican gray wolf whose photo takes center stage on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's wolf Web pages, last week the Center for Biological Diversity and 15 other wildlife-loving groups asked the agency to take the photo down -- not only from the Web site, but also from the walls of the agency's Washington, D.C. headquarters. An alpha female, Brunhilda was one of the original 11 Mexican gray wolves reintroduced to the wild in 1998, when a photographer snapped an award-winning shot of her stepping out of a pen into freedom. Ironically, her 2005 death was caused by stress and overheating after she was trapped and taken into captivity for the third time since her original release.
Brunhilda is one of almost 3,000 gray wolves killed thanks to the federal government since 1996. The Service's use of her photo to laud its actions for the species misleads the public and adds insult to injury (or, we should say, slaughter).
Read more in the Salt Lake Tribune.
Battle Against Lead Bullets Taken to Beehive State
After years of ongoing work by the Center for Biological Diversity and allies to protect California condors from lead poisoning in California and Arizona -- as well as nationwide -- Utah is finding itself directly in the spotlight in the condor-protection drama. Just weeks ago, the Center reached a settlement with California extending the protections of the historic Ridley-Tree Condor Preservation Act, which requires non-lead ammunition in the state's condor range. In Arizona, which already provides vouchers to hunters for non-lead ammunition, we're pushing for a similar non-lead requirement. Increasing numbers of condors are now calling Utah home, but while the state plans to follow Arizona's lead on providing non-lead bullet vouchers, it's unfortunately not considering a needed law requiring condor-safe ammo.
California condors, struggling to recover after almost dying out in the '80s and '90s, are seriously threatened by ingesting lead from lead bullet-killed carcasses, which enters their bloodstream and makes them sick -- often fatally. Now that 53 free-flying condors have moved from Arizona to Utah just this year, it's more important than ever for the Beehive State to step up for the highly endangered scavenger.
Read more in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
Climate Change Killing Minnesota Moose
Alaska has the polar bear, Florida has the elkhorn and staghorn corals -- and now Minnesota has its own iconic species in danger of extinction from global warming: the moose. This month, wildlife specialists gathered in Duluth for a "moose summit" to address the fact that in just two decades, northwestern Minnesota's moose population has plummeted from 4,000 to fewer than 100 knobby-kneed but majestic cervids. According to one population biologist, if the current trends continue, moose will be gone from Minnesota in 50 years. The reason for the dramatic decline? Over the past 40 years, the average winter temperature in the region has risen 12 degrees, with summers 4 degrees warmer -- and moose need shade, water, and cool weather to survive.
As fright about the fate of Minnesota's moose mounts, the Bush administration has changed the Endangered Species Act to prohibit federal agencies from evaluating global warming's endangered species effects. Hopefully, the next administration won't ignore the moose's plight.
Get more from the Chicago Tribune.
Happy Birthday, Endangered Species Act! (And Many More!)
On December 28, 1973, the great Endangered Species Act was born, signed into law by President Nixon. If it weren't for that celebrated day, who knows how many imperiled plants and animal species would've now been wiped off the planet? Unfortunately (as our readers know), just when the Act should be in the prime of its life at 35 years old, it's being hit harder than ever by the Bush administration -- an eight-year affliction that has almost been fatal.
Luckily for endangered species from the Mexican gray wolf to the Miami blue butterfly, a new administration is about to take control, and the Center for Biological Diversity has high hopes for what we can accomplish for species in the coming years. Happy birthday, Endangered Species Act -- may you live forever, and get stronger as you age.
Check out this essay on the Endangered Species Act and gray wolves by the Center's Michael Robinson and get an Alabama viewpoint on the Act in the Tuscaloosa News.
Psst... It's Your Last Chance to Donate in 2008
From melting Arctic sea-ice habitat to last-minute attacks on the Endangered Species Act, no one can deny it's been a hard year for endangered plants and animals. So before you don your party hat, grab the champagne, and put on your dancing shoes this New Year's Eve, make sure you're really ready to end 2008 right by donating to the imperiled species the Center for Biological Diversity works so hard to protect. Make a louder year-end bang by helping us reach our midnight goal of raising $100,000 to qualify for the Foundation for Global Community's Challenge Grant. After all, if you wait too long, it'll be too late for that lovely and well-deserved tax deduction -- and donating is so easy, you can do it in less time than it takes the ball to drop.
Donate right here, right now.
Photo credits: Andean flamingos by Adrian Pingstone; bald eagle by Lee Emery, USFWS; andean flamingo by Adrian Pingstone; desert tortoise by Beth Jackson, USFWS; Brunhilda courtesy of USFWS; California condor courtesy of Arizona Game & Fish; moose courtesy of USFWS; Mexican gray wolves by Val Halstead, Wolf Haven International; Times Square ball by Clare Cridland.
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