Massive Timber Sale Stopped at Grand Canyon
In a big victory for northern goshawks and some of the last, best old-growth ponderosa pine forests in the Southwest, the Center for Biological Diversity and the Sierra Club stopped a Forest Service plan to log 26,000 acres just north of the Grand Canyon. In response to an appeal we filed this March, the Forest withdrew the Jacob Ryan timber sale after its third attempt to put it into action since planning began in 1998, admitting in a letter this weekend that the decision and analysis violate forest plan requirements to maintain goshawk habitat. Independent tree-age research conducted by the Center had revealed that the Forest Service planned to cut down trees up to 200 years old. While we're happy those important trees have been spared, it's unclear why the logging project was scrapped altogether instead of replaced with a plan to only thin young, small trees -- which would help bring the forest natural, beneficial fire.
"This is a victory for wildlife and old-growth at the gateway to Grand Canyon National Park," said Center ecologist Jay Lininger. "But there remains a need to safely restore natural fire to the forests at Jacob Ryan."
Check out our press release and learn more about the northern goshawk.
"Clean Energy" Bill Puts Politics Over Public Interest
Last Thursday, several months of debate over energy policy reached a disappointing point for the climate, consumers, and communities when the House Energy and Commerce Committee passed the Waxman-Markey bill or "American Clean Energy and Security Act." The legislation puts limits on greenhouse gas emissions way too slowly to avoid climate change catastrophe, establishes a cap-and-trade system riddled with loopholes that could allow industries to avoid real emissions reductions for almost 20 years, and removes the president's authority to address global warming pollution with existing laws. To top all that off, the bill showers polluters with billions of dollars of free allowances and direct subsidies that would let dirty industries clean up -- and not in the good way.
As the Center for Biological Diversity declared this Tuesday in a joint statement with 14 allies: "Regrettably, we cannot support this legislation unless and until it is substantially strengthened. The lives and livelihoods of 7 billion people worldwide will be affected by America's response to the climate crisis. The response embodied in today's bill is not only inadequate, it is counterproductive."
Read about a study showing the bill's doubtful effects on coal use in the Houston Chronicle and visit the Center's Climate Law Institute Web page, where you can also read our statement on the bill.
Historic Conservation Agreement Signed for Bay Area Quarries
Last week, the Center for Biological Diversity and the Alameda Creek Alliance announced a landmark agreement with a mining company to help protect species and habitat around two quarry projects -- the Apperson Ridge Quarry and the Sunol Valley Quarry -- in the Sunol area near California's San Francisco Bay. The agreement, signed last December, will dramatically change the Apperson Quarry project; protect and enhance more than 600 acres of habitat for endangered species like the California red-legged frog and steelhead trout; fund monitoring, reintroduction, and a much-needed habitat upgrade for tule elk; and address greenhouse gas emissions head on.
"The Apperson agreement is a model for cooperative conservation planning between environmental groups and private companies," said Peter Galvin, conservation director at the Center. "It's a good deal for wildlife and a boon for conservation and restoration projects in the area for the next half-century."
Read more in the East Bay Express.
Protection Ordered (Again) for Flat-tailed Horned Lizard
In response to a lawsuit brought by the Center for Biological Diversity and allies, last week the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service must consider federal protection for the flat-tailed horned lizard, a camouflage-capable Southwest reptile adept at disappearing on the desert floor -- and in danger of disappearing altogether. The lizard, native to the Sonoran Desert and severely imperiled by sprawl, off-road vehicles, and other threats, was first proposed for Endangered Species Act protection in 1993; since then, the Fish and Wildlife Service has withdrawn the proposal three times, with conservation groups challenging each withdrawal in court. Last week's decision rejected a Bush administration policy that required the Fish and Wildlife Service to ignore loss of historic range (which the horned lizard has experienced plenty of) when determining if a species warrants Endangered Species Act protection.
Said Noah Greenwald, the Center's Biodiversity Program director, "The courts have determined today that the Bush administration's emergency-room approach to species protection -- in which only species that are on the brink of extinction everywhere are protected -- is plainly illegal."
Learn more from the Courthouse News Service.
Agency Proposes New Rules to Safeguard Green Sturgeon
The ancient but imperiled green sturgeon, which has survived unchanged for the past 200 million years, got new hope for years to come last week when the National Marine Fisheries Service proposed Endangered Species Act regulations to protect the fish's southern population from "take" -- that is, harm, harassment, capture, and killing -- and other harmful activities. Besides prohibiting unauthorized take of the fish throughout its spawning and rearing range in California's Sacramento, Feather, and lower Yuba rivers, the rules could spur green changes in operations of dams and water diversions, fisheries, dredging operations, and pesticide applications to protect the fish and its habitat.
Dating from the Pleistocene, the prehistoric green sturgeon is one of the oldest, largest, and longest-living fish species in the world. Thanks to a Center for Biological Diversity petition and lawsuit, the southern green sturgeon was listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 2006; federal protections for habitat were proposed last year.
Read more in the Sacramento Bee.
Herbicide Plan Threatens New Mexico Species
Holding the feds accountable for the well-being of water and wildlife in one of New Mexico's most biologically important wetlands, last Friday the Center for Biological Diversity filed comments opposing a Bureau of Land Management proposal to poison nearly 1.5 million acres of New Mexico public lands with weed-controlling chemical herbicides, including zones feeding groundwater springs in the Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge. Though the Bureau admits toxic herbicides can harm groundwater and species, it failed to designate "herbicide-specific" buffer zones for water bodies and didn't trouble itself to consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on the herbicides' effects on endangered species -- both steps legally required by a 2007 Bureau decision and the Endangered Species Act. The lands planned to go under the spray nozzle host no fewer than 11 animals and three plants federally protected under the Act, from the southwestern willow flycatcher to the black-footed ferret -- not to mention five species that are candidates for protection.
Weeds are a major problem, but there are better ways to control them than by using toxic herbicides. As the Center's Jay Lininger attests, "Spraying chemicals without consideration for wildlife that may be affected poses an existential threat to some species."
Get the details in our press release and learn more about our Pesticides Reduction Campaign.
Northeast Forest Slated for Fifth Timber Sale -- Despite Feds' "Timeout" on Roadless-area Destruction
Despite an announcement today from the Obama administration on roadless areas, yet another vital roadless area in the breathtaking White Mountain National Forest in New Hampshire will soon fall to the ax. Last week, the White Mountain National Forest approved its fifth timber sale within a roadless area over the past couple of years: the Stevens Brook sale within the South Carr Mountain Inventoried Roadless Area. Plans allow the logging of 157 acres of trees in the area, with 43 acres to be clearcut. And a sixth timber sale, the Four Ponds Project in western Maine, may also include part of a roadless area. The Center for Biological Diversity submitted comments opposing the Forest Service's logging plans last August, citing the importance of roadless areas for species -- including endangered bats -- as well as the effects of clearcutting roadless areas on our global climate.
Today, the Obama administration announced a one-year "timeout" on destructive activities in roadless areas, but it only applies to those areas included in a set of maps dating from the Clinton-era Roadless Conservation Rule, and thus doesn't include the "newly inventoried" White Mountain National Forest roadless areas that are slated for logging and clearcutting. Because these roadless areas are equally in need of protection, the Center continues to urge the administration and legislature for strong, nationally consistent protections for all roadless areas -- permanently.
Take a peek at our press release on the planned timber sale, where you can also watch a video of Northeast clearcutting, and learn more about today's announcement in the Los Angeles Times.
Second Monk Seal Shot in Kauai, Justice Sought for Condor Shootings
Federal authorities are now investigating the tragic, likely gun-caused death of a member of one of the most endangered marine mammal species in the world: the Hawaiian monk seal. Last week, the National Marine Fisheries Service retrieved the body of a female monk seal that witnesses believe was senselessly shot with a gun as it lounged on a beach on Kauai's North Shore. It's the second monk seal to be found dead on the island in a month -- a four-year-old male was discovered shot dead in late April on another Kauai beach. The exact causes of both deaths remain "under investigation" by the Fisheries Service, but two witnesses have already provided a detailed description of events leading up to the female seal's shooting. Hawaiian monk seals, protected as endangered under the Endangered Species Act, are expected to plunge in population to fewer than 1,000 animals in the next few years -- and obviously can't afford to add shootings to their long list of threats.
Meanwhile, across the ocean in central California, a similar situation involving a very different -- but also seriously endangered -- species just went down when two California condors were shot full of lead bullets this spring. The Center for Biological Diversity has hired an investigator to find the shooter or shooters and is now distributing wanted posters advertising the $40,000-plus award for information leading to their capture.
Read more on the monk seal tragedy in the Honolulu Advertiser and get the latest on the condor-shooter investigation in our press release, where you can also download our wanted poster to help our campaign.
Photo credits: northern goshawk courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Thermos under the Gnu free documentation license; northern goshawk courtesy USFWS; Big Bend power station; California red-legged frog (c) Dan C. Holland; flat-tailed horned lizard by G. Andrejko, Arizona Game and Fish; green sturgeon (c) Dan W. Gotshall; black-footed ferret by Dean Biggins, USGS; White Mountains courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Charlie DeTar under the Gnu free documentation license; Hawaiian monk seal courtesy NMFS.
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