Judge Orders Better Safeguards for 40 SoCal Forest Species
In a lawsuit brought by the Center for Biological Diversity and a quartet of allies, this Monday a federal judge ruled in favor of endangered species across 3.5 million acres of Southern California, requiring greater protection for more than 40 plants and animals -- from the California condor to steelhead trout -- that make their homes in the region's four national forests. The judge ruled that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service violated the Endangered Species Act in 2005, when the agencies reviewed revised forest-management plans and failed to properly protect and monitor the status of endangered species in the Angeles, Cleveland, Los Padres, and San Bernardino national forests, together recognized as one of the most biologically rich areas of the planet.
"This ruling is a great victory for the rare and endangered species that call the Southern California forests home," said Ileene Anderson, a biologist with the Center. "These rare plants and animals are all currently moving toward extinction, and they need help -- help that the federal agencies should have provided but chose not to during the Bush administration. We can now start making sure they're properly protected."
Read more in the Ventura County Star.
Center Will Sue to Save Arctic Seals -- See Warming at Work in Our Polar Bear Ads
To help prevent the sea-ice habitat of three Arctic pinnipeds from becoming a slushy, polluted industrial zone, late last week the Center for Biological Diversity filed a notice of intent to sue the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for delaying Endangered Species Act protections for the bearded, ringed, and spotted seals. In May 2008 we petitioned to protect the seals from global warming, increasing oil development in their habitat, and other threats, and while the agency has since found that all three seals may deserve federal protection, it failed to make a decision on that protection before its one-year legal deadline. "Unfortunately," said Center lawyer Rebecca Noblin, "the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has shown the same disregard for the law under the Obama administration as it did under Bush. Federal officials should not be allowed to view compliance with legal deadlines as optional."
The bearded, ringed, and spotted seals all need sea ice to survive, but global warming is rapidly depleting that ice -- also critical to the famous polar bear, for which the Center is still working at full tilt. To educate the public about the polar bear's plight, we created two heartbreaking TV ads showing warming's devastating effect on the bears (and the planet). Polar bears are dying, but it's not too late to help them and the entire Arctic ecosystem.
Watch our gripping TV ads, share them with everyone you know, and take action for polar bears now. Then read the latest on the Arctic seals in USA Today.
Save Mexican Wolves From Trapping, Shooting
Cattle are dying in New Mexico's Gila National Forest -- independently of any wolf activity -- and their carcasses are being left out in the open, where the scent attracts endangered Mexican gray wolves. When wolves are drawn in by smelly dead cattle, they're tempted to spend time near vulnerable livestock and made more likely to seek out cattle instead of their natural prey -- and more likely to be scapegoated and trapped or shot by the federal government. But unlike in the northern Rocky Mountains wolf reintroduction program, livestock owners in the Southwest aren't required to clean up cattle carcasses to prevent wolf scavenging; in fact, in 2007 there were allegations of deliberate baiting of wolves that led to their deaths, and nothing was done. Due to government trapping and shooting, Mexican gray wolves are the most imperiled mammal in North America, numbering just 52 wolves and only two breeding pairs in the wild.
Last year, Arizona's Apache National Forest proposed a management plan requiring cattle clean-up, but the plan hasn't been finalized, and the Gila National Forest has taken no steps to fix the dead-cow problem at all, despite concerns raised by the Center and others in recent months. Currently, two of only three wild Mexican wolf packs in New Mexico are perilously close to dying cattle in the Gila.
Take action now by telling the Gila National Forest and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to clean up cattle carcasses immediately and ensure that wolves that have scavenged aren't blamed for subsequent depredations.
Center Petition May Finally Earn Habitat Protection for Woodland Caribou
Seven years after a petition by the Center for Biological Diversity and allies -- and after seven years of getting the cold shoulder from the Bush administration -- endangered woodland caribou may finally receive protections for their habitat in the Selkirk Mountains in northern Idaho and Canada. Last week, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced it would respond to our 2002 petition to designate federally protected habitat for the species, pledging to have a draft decision on habitat by November 2011 and, hopefully, a final designation by 2012. The woodland caribou, though it's been declared federally endangered since 1984, has failed to recover because its little remaining habitat has been unguarded from excessive logging, road building, snowmobiles, and other threats. Currently, the U.S. population of caribou is down to a single herd of 45 individuals, and surveys show that as few as three caribou have ventured south of the Canadian border each year.
Read more in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
Feds Propose (Inadequate) Habitat Protections for Rare Plant
Thanks to a Center for Biological Diversity lawsuit, this week the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued a brand-new proposal on protecting habitat for the spreading navarretia, an imperiled plant whose pointy leaves and star-like flowers are native to vernal pools and swales in Southern California. Unfortunately, the new proposal still isn't adequate, covering only a third of the 19,399 acres of habitat the Service itself declared in 2005 to be "essential for the conservation" of the plant. The latest proposed habitat designation of 6,872 acres is certainly an improvement on the plant's current designation -- a laughably small 652 acres -- but that's not saying much, considering that designation was the result of political interference under disgraced Bush-era Interior Department official Julie Macdonald. "This newest critical habitat proposal leaves out substantial areas where the plants currently occur with little scientific justification for this omission," said Center biologist Ileene Anderson.
Check out our press release, learn more about the spreading navarretia, and find out about our far-reaching campaign to save species from political corruption.
California County Shelves Harmful Oil and Gas Development
After the U.S. Bureau of Land Management approved the sale of 21 oil and gas leases in Monterey County, California (heedless of potential harm to species), the Center for Biological Diversity and allies filed a formal protest and warned of a lawsuit -- and this Monday, the county voted to delay the sale. Originally scheduled for June 23, the sale covers 35,000 acres of land in a region home to sensitive wildlife areas and several endangered species, including the San Joaquin kit fox and the California condor. But in approving the sale, the Bureau not only relied on outdated information about the status of local endangered species and the impacts the sale would have on them; it also depended on environmental studies that failed to analyze how each sale will affect air and water quality, future water supplies, and the global climate. Nor did it make any attempt to disclose the greenhouse emissions that would result from the sale and the eventual combustion of the oil and gas produced. Our formal protest aimed to stop the sale on these grounds, while our notice of intent to sue warned of a suit under the Endangered Species Act in defense of the kit fox, condor, and other animals and plants.
This Wednesday, the Bureau of Land Management agreed with Monterey County that the sale should be delayed for reconsideration, citing the need for "more extensive consultation" on its impacts. This delay is a break for species in the county, but we'll be following the reconsideration process closely and will keep you updated.
Read more in the Monterey County Herald.
Forest Service Ignores Off-road Threat to New Mexico Species
In a stubborn move against local residents, politicians, conservationists, and sensitive species and habitat, New Mexico's Santa Fe National Forest has rejected a petition by the Center for Biological Diversity and more than 70 other groups and individuals to protect part of the Jemez Mountains from illegal off-road vehicle use. In rejecting our petition, the Forest Service denied that off-road vehicles are causing damage in the Jemez Ranger District (which they clearly are) and claimed that petitioners are seeking to protect the area using the wrong administrative rule (which we're not). Particularly in danger from off-road vehicles in the area is the Jemez Mountain salamander, a slender brown amphibian that makes 90 percent of its home in the Santa Fe's temperate forests. The most endangered of only three salamander species in all of New Mexico, the Jemez Mountains salamander is also threatened by logging, road building, climate change, and fire suppression.
Get more from the Associated Press.
Afghanistan Issues Own Endangered Species List
War is no good for wildlife, and few species know that better than those that have struggled through more than 30 years of conflict in Afghanistan, which has never had its own wildlife conservation list -- until now. The country has just announced the compilation of its first list of threatened wildlife that can no longer be hunted or harvested. The list, which the country's National Environmental Protection Agency hopes to expand to 70 species next year, currently includes seven birds, four plants, one insect, one amphibian, and 20 mammals. Many of the mammal species, such as snow leopards, were under pressure from excessive hunting and would have been up a creek without the new protections, since a presidential decree banning hunting in Afghanistan recently expired. The evaluation of the species began last year using the same scientific criteria as the IUCN's Red List of Threatened Species. Hopefully, Afghanistan's wildlife list will soon swell, and so will local species' populations.
All this comes just months after Afghanistan created its first national park: Band-e-Amir, a beautiful lake formerly afflicted by the local practice of fishing by blasting the water with hand grenades.
Get more from BBC News.
Photo credits: spotted seal by Ensign Carl Rhodes, NOAA; coastal California gnatcatcher by Marci Koski, USFWS; woodland caribou by Jon Nickles, USFWS; ringed seal courtesy National Marine Mammal Laboratory; spreading navarretia (c) Ileene Anderson; San Joaquin kit fox by B. Moose Peterson, USFWS; off-road vehicle damage in the Santa Fe National Forest (c) Chris Kassar; Mexican gray wolf by Val Halstead, Wolf Haven International; snow leopard courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Bernard Landgraf under the Gnu free documentation license.
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