Judge: Center Likely to Win Wolf Protection Case, But Wolves Can Be Killed Till Then
This Tuesday, a federal judge gave us some very good news -- and some very bad. The good: He agreed with the Center for Biological Diversity and allies that the feds likely shouldn't have removed the northern Rocky Mountains gray wolf from Endangered Species Act protections. The bad: He declined to halt the wolf hunts in Idaho and Montana, which we challenged late last month. And now the ugly: The hunt in Idaho -- already begun -- could result in 255 wolf deaths; 75 wolves could be slaughtered in the Montana hunt, scheduled for September 15.
The judge's ruling came not long after Oregon's tiny gray wolf population was dealt a gigantic blow. This weekend, U.S.D.A. Wildlife Services shot down and killed one of the state's three wolf pairs.
Get more from the Associated Press.
Pacific Walrus Tooth-walks Toward Protection
In response to a petition and lawsuit by the Center for Biological Diversity, this Tuesday the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced it's evaluating the endangerment of the Pacific walrus. The blubbery, massive-tusked Arctic pinniped -- or "tooth-walking sea horse," as its scientific name dubs it -- is seriously threatened by oil and gas development and global warming, which melts its sea-ice habitat. But after the Center petitioned to protect the species under the Endangered Species Act in February 2008, the administration failed to respond; instead of working to protect the walrus, it leased 2.7 million acres of the species' most important foraging habitat to oil companies. We sued to earn the species protections last December, and a judge ruled in our favor. Now, the Fish and Wildlife Service will decide whether the walrus warrants a place on the endangered species list by September 2010.
Get more from the Guardian.
Ribbon Seal's Fate Defended in Court
In other warming-threatened pinniped news, last Thursday the Center for Biological Diversity and Greenpeace filed suit against the National Marine Fisheries Service for failing to safeguard the ribbon seal under the Endangered Species Act. Scientific evidence makes it patently clear that the beautiful, strikingly patterned seal is threatened by global warming and the consequent loss of its sea-ice habitat; like the Pacific walrus, the ribbon seal is also jeopardized by oil and gas development. In a predictable move for the Bush administration, last December Bush's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration concluded the seal didn't need protection because enough ice would supposedly remain to let the species survive until at least mid-century. First of all, that conclusion wasn't supported by the agency's own data or independent studies, which show that sea ice in the seal's breeding range will decline significantly and soon. Second, a species just holding on to life until mid-century can hardly be called safe.
Last month, over the objections of conservation groups, the Obama administration authorized "harassment" of ribbon seals and other marine mammals by oil company Shell Offshore while it mines for black gold in ribbon seal habitat. The administration is also actively defending in court several Bush-era decisions to open up the seal's habitat to oil development.
Read more in the Washington Post.
Mine Threatens Grand Canyon, Center Threatens Lawsuit
On Tuesday the Center for Biological Diversity, Grand Canyon Trust, and Sierra Club warned the Bureau of Land Management we'll sue over an old uranium mine near the Grand Canyon slated for reopening. Our 60-day notice of intent cautions the agency not to allow the Arizona 1 mine to reopen without considering the harm it might inflict on species and ecosystems, including the rare southwestern willow flycatcher and four Colorado River fishes. Since the mine was originally approved in 1988, several species in the area have been added to the endangered species list, and reams of new science have been published on the canyon's spring and seep biodiversity that mine-depleted or contaminated aquifers could threaten. Our letter also says that a new "plan of operations" is required from the mining company and that no mining can proceed without "valid existing rights" being demonstrated for the mining claims. The new plan and valid existing rights have been required since July, when the Department of the Interior announced a temporary ban on new mining across 1 million acres of land surrounding Grand Canyon National Park.
In 1984, a flash flood swept four tons of high-grade uranium ore from a mine near the Arizona 1 mine into the Colorado River and Grand Canyon National Park -- and the 1988 assessment states that the Arizona 1 mine is built in a wash that may host floods to follow the same course. In any case, the Bureau of Land Management's current course is against the law. Said the Center's Taylor McKinnon, "Today's notice affords the Bureau of Land Management both the opportunity and justification to correct its illegal course."
Read more in The New York Times.
Center Moves to Save 70,000 Acres of Everglades
To defend one of Florida's rarest birds from political meddling, last week the Center for Biological Diversity and Florida Biodiversity Project sued to compel protection of 70,000 acres of additional habitat for the endangered Cape Sable seaside sparrow. Scientists have identified more than 150,000 acres in six areas in and around the Everglades as necessary for the sparrow's recovery; disregarding science in favor of politics, in 2007 the administration excluded nearly half that area from the bird's federally protected habitat. The designation leaves out areas west of the Shark River Slough, which provides a barrier to fire; without the Slough, the bird could be driven to extinction by a single bad fire year.
Our suit to gain the sparrow the habitat protections it needs is part of a larger campaign to undo a slew of decisions by the Bush administration that ignored the government's own scientists and weakened or denied protections for 62 endangered species.
Read more in the Naples Daily News.
Verizon Wireless Condemned Over Mountaintop-removal Rally
Last Friday, the Center delivered a letter signed by 46 conservation and faith groups, representing millions of Americans, to Verizon Wireless asking it to stop sponsoring the now-infamous "Friends of America" rally in West Virginia. The Labor Day rally, hosted by coal giant Massey Energy, was an anti-union, anti-environmentalist, anti-climate legislation event to cheer for the ruinous practice of mountaintop-removal coal mining. In just one week, the Center's rapid response to news of Verizon Wireless' rally support generated a barrage of emails and calls to the company to drop sponsorship, as well as dozens of major media stories across the country. Backed by your tremendous support, and our allies at CREDO Action, we generated almost 81,000 citizen letters to Verizon Wireless. (And that's not counting all the letters flooding in from other groups, bloggers, and individuals.) Disappointingly, Verizon didn't pull out of the rally. But our campaign has helped shed light on Big Coal's destructive mining practices and inspire others to action. This week, a protest got started in front of Massey Energy's West Virginia headquarters. One of the protesters, 81-year-old Roland Micklem, said God didn't intend for mountains to be destroyed by mountaintop removal to make a few people rich. He's organizing a 25-mile senior citizens' march for October.
The rally and the protest are over, but the fight against Big Coal is in full swing -- and not just in West Virginia. The Center now needs your help to stop massive new coal mines from being opened on public lands in Wyoming. The mines would allow for the extraction of almost 900 million tons of coal, which would be burned to produce hundreds of millions of tons of greenhouse gases.
Read about our letter to Verizon Wireless in the Washington Post, hear more on the rally and protest from the Huffington Post, and take action against coal mining in Wyoming.
Feeling Smart? Win Tickets to Climate Film The Age of Stupid
Right now is our only chance to save the planet from catastrophic climate change. And we can do it with collective effort and strong climate legislation. If we didn't do it, that would be . . . just . . . stupid.
The new sci-fi documentary The Age of Stupid imagines we didn't do it -- and shows the consequences as the film's protagonist, a lone man in the warming-devastated world of 2055, looks back at 2007 and asks himself, "Why didn't we stop climate change when we had the chance?" The film will be broadcast via satellite on September 21 to 400-plus theaters nationwide, with the screening to include live performances by Radiohead's Tom Yorke, live climate-impact updates by climate scientists worldwide, and a celebrity panel discussion on the greatest environmental threat of our time.
The Center has tickets to the screening, and if you live in a place it's showing, you could win one. Be one of the first 20 people to reply to this email with your full name, mailing address, and a few words about something smart you've done to fight climate change or to encourage the Senate to pass a strong global warming bill. Check The Age of Stupid Web site for screening locations and to learn more.
Center Writer's Book Made Into Movie
Well, one sentence of it, anyway. Love in Infant Monkeys, an extraordinary collection of animal-themed short stories by Center for Biological Diversity Staff Writer (and acclaimed author) Lydia Millet, boasts a sentence so intriguing that one artist made a stop-action film about it: "Sometimes he wished he could gather all the dogs he loved most and walk off the end of the world with them."
Infant Monkeys zeroes in on the psyches of famous people through examining some of their run-ins with a wide array of nonhumans. From Madonna's ambiguous pangs of conscience over shooting a pheasant, to a pigeon-loving, electricity-obsessed Nikola Tesla, to Sharon Stone's husband's bite injury from a Komodo dragon, Millet's stories are funny, shocking, and thought provoking. They just might make you re-examine your relationship to the animal world.
Watch the one-minute movie in this New York Times blog and read a review of the book on bookforum.com.
Solar Planning: From Bad to Worse to Weird
Brightsource Energy wants to permanently destroy six square miles of the Ivanpah Valley in Southern California to build a massive solar-energy facility. The relatively pristine valley, just north of the Mojave National Preserve, is home to the threatened desert tortoise and numerous rare plants. While the United States urgently needs to increase solar-energy production, it must do so with a rational plan guiding development toward the least important, most degraded habitats. The Department of the Interior has identified 600,000 acres where it wants to guide development, but Ivanpah is not in that zone.
Worse, Brightsource is also pushing to place a massive solar development in the heart of hundreds of thousands of acres of land donated to the federal government. In one of the largest philanthropic gifts in history, The Wildlands Conservancy ponied up $40 million to purchase and donate 600,000 acres to the Bureau of Land Management a few years ago. It did so to protect it from development, but now Brightsource wants to develop the land, even though it, too, is outside the solar-energy development zone.
To protect the donated lands and created a spectacular multimillion-acre refuge connecting the Mojave Preserve in the north to Joshua Tree National Monument in the south, Senator Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., has announced she will introduce a bill creating a new Mother Road National Monument, which may be as large as a million acres.
Here's where it gets weird. Brightsource has trotted its most well-known investor, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., to oppose the new monument and advocate for the company's insistence on developing pristine areas outside the solar development zones. The irony was not lost on The New York Times, which quotes Wildland Conservancy Director David Myers saying: "I'm getting pretty tired of BrightSource using their Kennedy connection. BrightSource [is pursuing] the worst projects in the worst locations, but they have the best PR firm, because Robert Kennedy is involved."
Read the Center for Biological Diversity's press release and our opinion piece explaining that there are plenty of degraded public and private lands to fill our energy needs without destroying important wildlife habitat, wilderness areas, or our obligation to protect lands donated to American people for conservation purposes.
Photo credits: gray wolf courtesy USFWS; gray wolf courtesy NPS; Pacific walrus courtesy USFWS; ribbon seal by Captain Bud Christman, NOAA; Grand Canyon by Edward McCain; Cape Sable seaside sparrow courtesy Flickr/woodcreeper under the Creative Commons 2.0 attribution license; mountaintop removal billboard by Vivian Stockman, www.ohvec.org; smokstacks by Alfred Palmer, U.S. Farm Security Administration; Love in Infant Monkeys cover courtesy Soft Skull Press; desert tortoise by Beth Jackson, USFWS.
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