Two Oregon Plants Earn 11,000 Protected Acres
Responding to a longstanding Center for Biological Diversity lawsuit, this Tuesday the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed 11,038 acres of protected habitat for the imperiled Cook's lomatium and large-flowered woolly meadowfoam. These quaintly named rare plants have a lot in common: Both dwell in southern Oregon's vernal pool ecosystems, bloom in these ephemeral wetlands each spring after heavy winter rains, and are restricted to just a few small locations. And both are seriously threatened by urban sprawl, off-road vehicle use, nonnative species, mining, grazing, and wetland destruction.
Thanks to work by the Center, both plants earned Endangered Species Act protection in 2002 -- but their shrinking vernal-pool habitats had remained without federal safeguards. The proposed habitat in this settlement will be crucial for the expansion and eventual recovery of the two plants. As Center biologist Ileene Anderson reports, "Species with protected critical habitat are more than twice as likely to be recovering as those without it."
Read more in The Oregonian.
Sucky Gold Mining Stopped in the Golden State
New permits for suction dredge mining were stopped by California's Alameda County Superior Court this week, following legal action by the Center and a coalition of allies. Suction dredge mining, which mines for gold using machines that suck up gravel and sand from river bottoms, often pollutes rivers by reintroducing mercury from historic mining. It can turn a clear-running mountain stream into a murky watercourse unfit to sustain life -- and suction dredge mining has been taking place in supposedly safeguarded habitat for the federally protected Coho salmon, Pacific lamprey, and green sturgeon. Meanwhile, the California Department of Fish and Game has been using state taxpayer money to subsidize it.
Now on Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's desk is a bill that would ban all suction dredge mining in California until a full review and overhaul of the dredge-mining program is completed. And this week's court ruling confirms that he should sign the bill to stop the harmful practice in its tracks. If you live in California, take a minute now to tell the Terminator to do right by these fish.
Read more in the San José Mercury News.
New Center Report: Roadless Rule Needed to Save National Forests
Forest advocates cautiously cheered when the Obama administration pledged earlier this year to protect our designated roadless national forest areas, calling for an official timeout on road-building in these areas. But as we saw last week, that pledge didn't stop Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack from OK'ing the logging of 4.4 million board-feet of timber on nearly 400 acres of southeast Alaska's old-growth Tongass National Forest -- with an option to cut another 2.4 million board-feet if it's "economical." According to the 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule, federally designated roadless areas in public forests nationwide -- more than 58 million acres of them -- should be off-limits to development. But after nearly eight years of bashing by Bush, the Roadless Rule and the forests it's supposed to protect are still at risk.
On Monday, the Center released Saving Our Natural Legacy: The Future of America's Last Roadless Forests a new report on the threats -- both material and political -- that continue to face our nation's roadless areas, and why we need strong, nationally consistent rules to protect them. "President Obama said he wants to permanently protect roadless areas," said Center Conservation Advocate Mollie Matteson. "He needs to do it soon, before we lose any more precious acres."
Get more on the Tongass logging plan from E & E News; visit our Roadless Area Conservation Web page, where you can read our new report; and take action for roadless areas across the nation now.
Coal-fired Power Plants Would Choke Great Basin Landmark
According to a just-released government report, air quality and visibility in Nevada's beautiful Great Basin National Park will take a turn for the worse if even one of two controversial coal-fired power plants are built. The Ely Energy Center and White Pine Energy Station, both staunchly opposed by the Center for Biological Diversity, are planned for Nevada's White Pine County, about 55 miles north of the remote park. The plants will be major new sources of nitrogen oxides, which combine with other airborne chemicals and sunlight to form ozone, a pollutant with harmful effects on the lungs of animals, including humans. Measurements of ozone in the Great Basin National Park have already exceeded the standard set by the Environmental Protection Agency. What will happen if more ozone forms, thanks to the new power plants? The plant's proponents are pretending they can't predict.
Besides belching out pollution like nitrogen oxides, the White Pine Energy Station and Ely Energy Center would together annually emit 23.48 million tons of CO2, drain 13,000 acre-feet of groundwater, and harm habitat for endangered species including the desert tortoise, greater sage grouse, and yellow-billed cuckoo. In May, the Center warned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Bureau of Land Management we'll sue over the Ely plant; we've also filed comments against the White Pine plant.
Read more in the Las Vegas Sun.
Southwest Forest Threatened by 1,500-plus Miles of Roads
After receiving comments from the Center for Biological Diversity on its flawed off-road vehicle plan earlier this year, New Mexico's Carson National Forest made a new plan -- but it's not much better than the old one. It would keep more than 1,500 miles of roads open in four ranger districts alone, despite a strapped budget with funds to maintain less than 20 percent of that distance. Imagine driving from Santa Fe to New YorkVancouver, B.C. when less than one mile in five is maintained. Making matters worse, the plan would reward off-road lawbreakers by legalizing up to 33 miles of illicitly created routes -- none of which have undergone meaningful environmental scrutiny. The Carson National Forest contains the Chama River Wilderness and the highest peak in New Mexico; it's also home to elk, mountain lions, lynx, reintroduced river otters, and bighorn sheep.
We're asking the public to take a critical look at the Forest's new plan. Read it on our press release page, learn more about our campaign for responsible travel management on our public forests, and take action for the Carson National Forest before August 15.
Center "Biodiversity Briefing" Tackles Overpopulation Crisis -- Listen Now
Everyone's talking about carbon footprints, but it's time to talk about too many feet. So that's just what we did in the latest of the Center for Biological Diversity's quarterly "Biodiversity Briefing" series, in which Executive Director Kierán Suckling confronted the elephant in the environmental movement -- human overpopulation. We're now at 6.7 billion people, and it's estimated we'll be at 9 billion by 2050, which doesn't leave much room for the birds, plants, fish, snails, bears, wolves, butterflies, and whales the Center's striving to protect. Would we want to live in a world with that many people? Can we avoid destroying the natural world through consumption reduction alone? The answers, unfortunately, are no and no.
The Center is working on a massive communications strategy to bring the overpopulation problem into the public eye, and we're developing policy solutions to tackle its complexities. "Simply put," as Suckling said, "overpopulation has the potential -- not the potential, the certainty -- of overwhelming all the good work that we do." If we don't stop it, that is.
To find out more, listen to a clip of the briefing. For information on how you can join the Center's Leadership Circle and be invited to participate in Biodiversity Briefings live when they happen, email Development Director Jennifer Shepherd or call her at (520) 396-1135.
Eco Barons Book a Popular Favorite
If you're a Center for Biological Diversity supporter who hasn't yet picked up Eco Barons: The Dreamers, Schemers, and Millionaires Who Are Saving Our Planet, you may soon be in the minority. The book, written by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Edward Humes, is being bought by the thousands across the country and receiving media attention and rave reviews in publications from The New York Times to Times magazine. It profiles a host of "eco barons" who've helped set aside huge swaths of land as efficiently as, in the 19th century, the robber barons laid it waste. The best part? That would be part 2, devoted to the Center's history -- from a few guys with a solar-powered fax machine in the wilds of Gila, New Mexico 20 years ago to today's impressive staff of 60-plus scientists and lawyers on a mission to save endangered species. This page-turner also looks at some of our current campaigns and highlights the Center's unprecedented success rate in court.
To celebrate the book, we've just launched an Eco Barons Web page. Check it out, and if you haven't already, buy the book now (10 percent will go to the Center).
Galápagos Tortoise May Be World's Oldest Dad
The world's "rarest living creature" may soon become the oldest living new father after almost a century of bachelorhood. Lonesome George, the last known Pinta Island giant Galapagos tortoise, has taken another stab at paternity after spending most of his lifetime celibate, despite repeated efforts by scientists to compel him to procreate. Last year, George finally discovered the joy of reproduction with a female of a different subspecies, but her eggs turned out to be infertile. Thankfully, he's chosen another favorite female with whom to sow his precious seed, and the results -- five new tortoise eggs -- are now being incubated. We'll know whether there'll soon be a little George or Georgette in 120 days, when the eggs are scheduled to hatch. If they're fertile, George will be the oldest natural papa on record at 90 to 100 years of age (according to scientists, still at his sexual peak). He may spur the manufacture of a "World's Oldest Dad" mug -- we can see it selling like hotcakes in a drugstore near you.
Stay tuned for another Lonesome George update in November, and listen now to a National Public Radio story on Lonesome George's latest exploits.
Photo credits: Cook's lomatium (c) Norm Jensen; Cook's lomatium (c) Tom Kaye; coho salmon by Ken and Mary Campbell, NPS; Tongass National Forest courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Henry Hartley under the GNU free documentation license; yellow-billed cuckoo (c) Ron Austing; bighorn sheep by Corel Corp., USFWS; Manhattan courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Jleon under the GNU free documentation license; Eco Barons cover courtesy HarperCollins Publishers; Lonesome George courtesy Wikimedia Commons/putneymark.
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