Bush Administration Strips Gray Wolves of Protection, Again
Just in time to inflict a parting blow to gray wolves before the Bush administration bites the dust, this Wednesday -- for the third time -- the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced a final rule to remove Endangered Species Act protections from the regal predators in the northern Rocky Mountains and Great Lakes regions. The only wolves in these areas allowed to keep their endangered status are those in Wyoming, home of Yellowstone National Park. From 1996 through 2008, even with the necessary protections of the Endangered Species Act, the Fish and Wildlife Service used a loophole in the Act to kill 931 northern Rockies gray wolves and at least 1,951 Great Lakes wolves on behalf of the livestock industry. Removal of the wolves' federal protections will leave them vulnerable to widespread slaughter -- and Montana and Idaho have already crafted plans for public hunts.
Each of the administration's previous actions to rob wolves of protections has earned it overwhelming opposition from the public and from environmental groups -- including the Center for Biological Diversity -- and brought it straight to defeat in court. As the Center's wolf expert Michael Robinson vows, "Once again we will go to court to keep the wolves alive."
Read more in the Los Angeles Times.
Black Abalone Federally Protected in California, Mexico
Though we're famous for working on polar bears, wolves, and whales, the Center for Biological Diversity works just as hard to protect small plants and animals that few people will ever see. We think all creatures are equal and deserving of a chance to survive. So we're excited to report that our multi-year campaign to save the black abalone from extinction got a big boost when the National Marine Fisheries Service placed it on the federal endangered species list this week. The agency will now have to prepare a federal recovery plan and protect the abalone's habitat.
Once occurring at densities of up to 120 individuals per square meter off the coast of California and Baja, Mexico, the black abalone has declined by as much as 99 percent due to commercial fishing (now outlawed), a devastating disease called withering syndrome (exacerbated by global warming), and ocean acidification, which hinders its ability to build a shell.
The black abalone joins the white abalone, elkhorn coral, and staghorn coral as the only marine invertebrates among the 1,300 species protected by the Endangered Species Act. All are endangered by global warming, and all won protection due to scientific petitions by the Center for Biological Diversity.
Read more in the San Jose Mercury-News.
Sarah Palin Attacks Beluga Whales in Favor of Oil Industry
Solidifying her reputation for assaulting endangered species on behalf of Big Oil, this Wednesday Alaska Governor Sarah announced that her state intends to sue the federal government over recent protections granted to the Cook Inlet beluga whale. After petitions and litigation by the Center for Biological Diversity and allies -- and over strong objections from Governor Palin -- last October the National Marine Fisheries Service dubbed the whale officially endangered under the Endangered Species Act, giving the critically imperiled cetacean much-needed protection in the face of proposed offshore oil and gas development in its Cook Inlet habitat, Alaska's most populated and fastest-growing watershed.
Alaska's pending lawsuit over the beluga's protection represents the second time in recent months that Governor Palin's administration has launched a legal attack against a species imminently threatened by oil and gas development -- the first attack, of course, being Alaska's suit to overturn federal protections for the polar bear. The Center is already in court to block Palin's anti-polar bear actions, and we'll do whatever it takes to rescue the beluga from her clutches as well.
Read more in the San Francisco Chronicle. Then, check out this Raffi-inspired ditty about the beluga's plight written by a Center supporter.
Suit Brewing to Stop Sea Turtle Slaughter in Gulf of Mexico
To stop the astonishingly high rate of sea turtle captures by longline commercial fishing in the Gulf of Mexico, the Center for Biological Diversity and a coalition of conservation groups this week formally notified the National Marine Fisheries Service that we will file suit if the turtle-killing fishery is not immediately shut down.
Bottom longline gear, usually consisting of a mainline up to 10 miles long with up to 2,100 hooks, snags sea turtles or entangles them when they swim too close, killing and injuring them. According to the government's own analysis, the Gulf of Mexico's commercial bottom longline fishery was responsible for the capture of nearly 1,000 threatened and endangered sea turtles between July 2006 and the end of 2007. Of particular concern are federally protected loggerhead sea turtles, which numbered 799 among the captured creatures.
Even though the fishery has captured more than triple the sea turtles it's allowed to take under the Endangered Species Act, the Bush administration has taken no action.
Check out our press release and learn more about our campaigns to protect loggerhead sea turtles and fight unsustainable fisheries.
California Greenhouse Gas Emissions Guidelines Fall Short
Last Thursday, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed changes to the state's celebrated environmental protection and land-use law, the California Environmental Quality Act, that fell far short of realizing its great global warming-fighting potential. The changes do require developers to consider whether they'll comply with efforts to reduce emissions statewide, as well as to consider all reasonable means to reduce and counteract greenhouse gas emissions. Unfortunately, they don't set criteria for reducing emissions to specific levels, and they shy away from changes that would help ensure new greenhouse gas sources make use of all available emissions-reducing options. Meanwhile, Schwarzenegger has proposed to grant infrastructure and transportation projects exemptions under the Act in an effort to fast-track the projects without holding them accountable for reducing their global warming impacts.
The Center for Biological Diversity has been working for years to uphold the California Environmental Quality Act to reduce global warming emissions across the state. Says our California Climate Policy Director Brian Nowicki: "It's alarming that the governor is seeking to reduce opportunities to facilitate common-sense solutions to global warming."
Check out our press release and read about Schwarzenegger's efforts to exempt 10 big highway projects from regulation under the California Environmental Quality Act in the Los Angeles Times.
"Owls of Nepal" Project Achieves Success
The year of 2008 was a great one for owls in Nepal, thanks to the work of Friends of Nature Nepal, who've just released a report on an amazing owl conservation project done in the country last fall. The project covered all the bases, from doing owl field surveys outside Kathmandu to documenting local people's relationships with owls to bringing about the country's second-ever owl conservation camp, which taught 71 Nepalese youths about owl biology, conservation, and threats. Participants in the Owls of Nepal project made owl T-shirts, wrote owl essays, visited owl habitat, and took part in owl focus groups to exchange owl anecdotes and share local owl lore. Here's an interesting tidbit we learned: According to Nepalese belief, an owl-bone neck ring chases evil away.
Sponsored by the World Owl Trust (with help from the Center for Biological Diversity's Global Owl Project), the program was covered by local, regional, and national media, spreading the word about saving owls to at least a million people.
Learn more about the Center's Global Owl Project and check out our Give a Hoot for Owls Campaign.
Robby the Prairie Dog Saved, Makes a Movie
In response to our last Endangered Earth Online -- which highlighted the Center for Biological Diversity's free wildlife ringtone site rareearthtones.org, as well as our protest of government-sponsored killings of prairie dogs and other species -- prairie dog rescuer Dianne James sent us footage of her very own squeaky-voiced, ringtone-worthy companion, Robby Ford the Gunnison's prairie dog. Found on a poisoned prairie dog town with his brother, Charley, in 2007, Robby was suffering from severe calcium malabsorption, malnutrition, and a broken leg when he was rescued by a group called Prairie Dog Pals in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and sent along to James, who nursed both Robby and Charley back to health.
James' organization, the Midwest Prairie Dog Shelter, provides hospice care to prairie dogs that can't be released back into the wild due to permanent health issues, often caused by federal efforts to "remove" them to make way for agribusiness -- even though some species, like Gunnison's and black-tailed prairie dogs, are seriously imperiled. Luckily, today Robby, Charley, and numerous other rescued prairie dogs are thriving in James' care.
Read more about James here, where you can also watch videos of Robby and his friend Speedy. Then learn more about the Midwest Prairie Dog Shelter and download Robby the Gunnison prairie dog's ringtone for your cell phone here.
Dirk Kempthorne's Legacy? A $236,000 Bathroom
What should any decent, self-respecting Secretary of the Interior be doing when he's about to end his term? Why, reflecting on his accomplishments as the protector of our country's natural heritage, of course. As the overseer of such agencies as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Bureau of Land Management, he might congratulate himself on the species he's helped save or the national parks he's safeguarded. Unfortunately, as most of our readers know, current Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne has little to boast about in the nature-protecting department. So what's he leaving behind to be proud of? A very expensive bathroom.
Last week, Interior's own inspector general launched an investigation into Kempthorne's spending of $236,000 in taxpayer money on a new bathroom for his office. Completed last fall, the renovated loo comes complete with a new shower, wainscot wood paneling, and a refrigerator and freezer -- the latter of which, Kempthorne's spokesman says, is a must for serving office guests ice-cold Diet Coke.
Get more bathroom humor from the Washington Post.
Photo credits: gray wolf courtesy USFWS; gray wolf courtesy NPS; black abalone by Glenn Allen, NOAA; beluga whale (c) Martin Tiller, MCT Images; loggerhead sea turtle courtesy USFWS; smog (c) iStockPhoto.com; barn owl courtesy USFWS; Gunnison's prairie dog (c) Lisa Lynch; Dirk Kempthorne courtesy Department of the Interior.
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