Obama Adopts Bush's Polar Bear Extinction Plan
In a supremely disappointing -- and, for polar bears, life-threatening -- move last Friday, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced he would endorse a Bush policy condemning the polar bear to extinction instead of rescinding the rule as requested by Congress. Salazar ignored hundreds of thousands of citizen petitions -- more than 94,000 of them from Center for Biological Diversity supporters -- plus letters from scores of lawmakers, 44 law professors, more than 130 conservation organizations, and more than 1,300 prominent scientists. The rule specifically exempts greenhouse gas emissions from Endangered Species Act review even though global warming is driving the polar bear extinct.
"Salazar's decision today is a gift to Big Oil," declared the Center's Biodiversity Program Director Noah Greenwald. We're already in court fighting the bad polar bear rule and will soon press for an injunction to bar its use.
Read more in the New York Times and express your extreme displeasure to Salazar himself.
Warming-threatened Pika Hops Toward Protection
In response to a 2007 petition and 2008 lawsuit by the Center for Biological Diversity, last Wednesday the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced the kickoff of a full review of the American pika's plight to determine whether it deserves protection under the Endangered Species Act -- and it definitely does. The pika, a small, alpine-dwelling rabbit relative living in the western United States, is seriously threatened by global warming because it's adapted to cold mountain climates and can die when exposed to temperatures as low as 78 degrees Fahrenheit for mere hours. Global warming also reduces pikas' food availability, shortens the time they can gather food, and reduces the snowpack they need in winter for insulation. Thankfully, the administration must now decide on granting Endangered Species Act protections to the pika by February 2010. The creature is the first mammal in the lower 48 to be considered for protection from warming under the Act.
In more good pika news, last month a judge agreed with a Center lawsuit against the California Fish and Game Commission, declaring the commission was wrong when it rejected our petition to protect the pika under the state's own Endangered Species Act.
Read more in the Seattle Times.
Lawsuit Brewing Over Death of Last Known U.S. Jaguar
This Tuesday, the Center for Biological Diversity took the first step toward preventing future jaguar tragedies in the United States with a 60-day notice of intent to sue the Arizona Game and Fish Department for unlawfully causing the death of Macho B, the last great cat known to roam north of the U.S.-Mexico border. Macho B died in March after being captured, outfitted with a radio collar, rereleased, and then recaptured by the agency -- which unjustifiably euthanized him promptly after declaring he was suffering from kidney failure. But it's still unclear what his underlying ailment was, and more than one veterinarian has declared that capture contributed to his death. Our suit addresses the fact that the Game and Fish Department didn't have a permit to snare him in the first place -- in direct violation of the Endangered Species Act.
"The death of Macho B was a tragedy that should never have happened," said Michael Robinson, conservation advocate for the Center. "We're taking action to ensure that no more jaguars are captured like Macho B." On the federal level, we had substantial success this spring in our efforts to earn protected habitat and a recovery plan for any jaguars remaining in the United States -- and to enable those south of the border to reclaim their historic U.S. turf.
Read more in the Arizona Daily Star.
Center Defies Bad Management, Dirty Energy on 11.5 Million Acres
For the sake of a diverse array of endangered plants and animals -- as well as for our global climate -- this Wednesday the Center for Biological Diversity warned two federal agencies we'll sue over a government plan for (mis)managing 11.5 million acres of public lands in east-central Nevada. The Ely Resource Management Plan, approved by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management in 2008, covers ongoing activities like off-road vehicle use, grazing, mining, and energy production -- including the construction of three new coal-fired power plants. Neither the Bureau nor the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has stepped up to safeguard federally protected Nevada species like the desert tortoise, Pahrump poolfish, southwestern willow flycatcher, and Ute ladies' tresses in approving the plan. If the agencies don't take action to protect these species as the Endangered Species Act demands, we'll sue on or after June 28.
"The Ely Resource Management Plan commits to ecological disaster," said Amy Atwood, the Center's public lands energy director. "It perpetuates off-road vehicle use in desert tortoise critical habitat and does nothing to promote the conservation and recovery of the many rare species in the planning area. And the power plants authorized by the plan would be totally inconsistent with the need to phase out coal immediately."
Read more in the Las Vegas Sun.
Salamander Earns Fresh Chance at Protected Habitat
Thanks to a Center for Biological Diversity lawsuit, last week the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agreed to reconsider a heinous Bush-era decision eliminating habitat protections for the Sonoma County population of the California tiger salamander, a charming but seriously imperiled Golden State amphibian. In 2005, the administration overruled agency scientists, who had originally proposed federal protection for 74,000 acres of salamander habitat, instead -- under the direction of corrupt former Interior official Julie MacDonald -- granting the salamander a whopping zero acres. Our suit to earn the salamander the protections it needs is part of a larger campaign to overturn politically tainted Bush administration decisions affecting 59 species and more than 8 million acres of critical habitat.
Read more in the San Francisco Chronicle.
Suit Challenges New Uranium Exploration Near Grand Canyon
Following in the footsteps of the Bush administration, Obama's Bureau of Land Management ignored a congressional ban on uranium mining near the Grand Canyon and allowed new exploratory drilling last week. As we have in the past, the Center for Biological Diversity, Grand Canyon Trust, and the Sierra Club immediately filed suit.
"The Bureau's new uranium exploration runs afoul of both the law and a congressional resolution protecting Grand Canyon," said the Center's Taylor McKinnon. "This is an agency in dire need of leadership from the new administration -- the Grand Canyon deserves it."
Read more in NewWest.
Condor-shooter Investigation Continues; You Can Help
With the investigation in full swing to find the person (or people) who shot two endangered California condors full of lead bullets in March, the Center for Biological Diversity and Bruce Robertson, our private eye on the case, have produced a wanted poster to help with apprehension efforts. Both condors -- one of which was found shot with three lead bullets and the other of which was full of 15 -- are still alive but may never return to the wild, where every last California condor is crucial. In addition to hiring an investigator, the Center announced in mid-April that the reward fund for help in capturing the shooter or shooters has increased to $40,500, thanks to generous pledges made by several groups (including the Center, the Wendy P. McCaw Foundation, and the Humane Society).
Lead bullets are the leading cause of death for the endangered condor -- but not from shooting. Many condors die from lead poisoning after scavenging game shot with lead ammo. Just this week, condor No. 286 -- one of the first six condors released to the wild in 2003 at Pinnacles National Monument -- died of lead poisoning.
Read more on our condor-shooter investigation in the Monterrey County Weekly, and if you live in central California, where both shot condors were found, email and/or print out the wanted poster on our California condor Web page for all in condor country to read. Learn more about the death of condor No. 236 in the San Francisco Chronicle.
Endangered Species Day Is Coming -- Spread Awareness With Our E-cards
May 15 brings the number-one holiday here at the Center for Biological Diversity: Endangered Species Day, a day to honor our threatened fellow earthlings and recharge our (solar-powered) batteries in the fight to protect them.
Tomorrow isn't the jolliest holiday; it can be a downer to think about all the plants and creatures caught in the crossfire of destructive human activities, not to mention the species that have already fallen. In a way, Endangered Species Day is like another holiday coming up soon -- Memorial Day. But there are two key differences: Although many species are gone forever, there are lots more that can still recover with our help. And that leads us straight to the other key difference: Instead of giving us a day off from work, Endangered Species Day calls for us to work harder than ever to get active and share knowledge about species on the brink.
To help you get that good work done (and have some fun while you're at it), we've made a batch of Endangered Species Day e-postcards for you to send out to your friends, relatives -- heck, your whole address book (depending on how popular you are). Check 'em out.
Photo credits: polar bear (c) Brendan Cummings; American pika (c) Larry Master/masterimages.org; Macho B courtesy Arizona Game and Fish Department; southwestern willow flycatcher (c) Rick and Nora Bowers; California tiger salamander (c) Gary Nafis, California Herps; Grand Canyon (c) Edward McCain; California condor by Scott Frier, USFWS; Quino checkerspot butterfly (c) Douglas Aguillard.
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