Massive Old-growth Timber Sale Stopped
In response to a lawsuit by the Center for Biological Diversity and allies, this Tuesday a judge put the brakes on a destructive, money-wasting timber sale in Alaska's Tongass National Forest. The Orion North project was planned in an ecologically rich site at the heart of the Sea Level Creek watershed, one of the forest's essential roadless areas. The sale would have required six miles of new roads to clearcut 4.3 million board-feet of old-growth forest, or about 26,000 average trees. The main issue in the case was that the sale would have cost taxpayers $1,579,880 and generated only $140,635 for the trees.
We didn't like the math, and neither did the court.
Read more in the Anchorage Daily News.
14,600 Acres Protected for Rare Fish, Lily
In two more victories in the Center for Biological Diversity's sweeping campaign to clean up Bush's anti-wildlife legacy, this week the feds proposed to expand protected "critical habitat" for California's endangered Santa Ana sucker fish and thread-leaved brodiaea lily. Due to a Center lawsuit, the diminutive fish will receive 9,605 acres worth of habitat protections. The thread-leaved brodiaea, a purple-flowered Southern California native, will earn almost 4,000 acres of protected habitat.
Both designations will overturn politically fouled decisions made under Bush that robbed the species of needed protections. Previously designated sucker habitat excluded the Santa Ana River, which the fish needs to survive and recover. And the thread-leaved brodiaea's new designation will be a vast improvement over its old allotment of only 597 acres -- though the plant still needs more.
The Center has sued to overturn 54 corrupt Bush-era species decisions, and the Obama administration has so far agreed to redo 45. Read more in the Press Enterprise and our brodiaea press release.
Black Mesa Coal Mine Permit Struck Down
In response to objections by the Center for Biological Diversity and allies, last Thursday the Environmental Protection Agency withdrew a controversial water permit for Arizona's massive Black Mesa coal mine. And it's about time: Discharges of heavy metals and toxic pollutants from the mine -- that haven't been regulated -- have been threatening wildlife, habitat, groundwater, and local communities' drinking water. The 95,000-acre Black Mesa Mine Complex is a project of Peabody Energy -- the world's largest private dirty-coal company -- and would mine 670 million tons of coal. It's long been a cause of concerns about air and water pollution; harm to local people, including American Indian tribes; the drying-up of aquifers and springs; and coal pollution's contribution to global warming. Among other imperiled species, the mine also threatens the federally protected Little Colorado spinedace fish and its habitat.
Read more in the Durango Herald.
Suit Seeks End to Polar Bear Poisoning
Last week the Center for Biological Diversity sued the Environmental Protection Agency for neglecting to protect polar bears and their Arctic habitat from pesticide contamination. Pesticides that the EPA approves for use throughout the United States eventually end up in the Arctic, where they're transported from organism to organism, reaching their highest concentration at the top of the food chain -- in predators like the mighty polar bear. Pesticides and related contaminants have been linked to polar bear sickness, altered biology, genetic mutations, and cub deaths. And guess who else is at risk from Arctic contamination? The region's other top predators: human subsistence hunters.
Our suit marks the first legal challenge to pesticide regulations due to their impacts on the Arctic, though we've already brought several successful lawsuits against the EPA over their impacts in the lower 48, most recently winning an EPA proposal to evaluate the impacts of 74 pesticides in 11 Bay Area species.
Read more in the Anchorage Daily News.
EPA: C02 Dangerous to Human Health and Welfare
This Monday, the Environmental Protection Agency made a monumental stride toward confronting global warming through our best existing tool to do so -- the Clean Air Act -- by officially recognizing greenhouse gas pollution as a "threat to public health and welfare." The decision comes in response to a Supreme Court victory by the Center and large coalition of states, cities, and environmental groups overturning a Bush decision that carbon dioxide is not a pollutant.
The decision clearly shows that the Obama administration already has the legal tools to achieve deep and rapid greenhouse emissions reductions from major polluters, consistent with what science demands, through the Clean Air Act. The next step is for the EPA to issue pollution-reduction rules for vehicles, smokestacks, and other polluters, and to set a science-based national pollution cap for greenhouse gases.
The EPA's announcement comes less than a week after the Center and 350.org petitioned the agency to set national limits for greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act, as well as to cap CO2 at 350 ppm to avoid catastrophic global warming.
Read more in The Washington Post.
Center Goes to Copenhagen -- Watch Footage and Check Out Our Blog
This week, the Center for Biological Diversity is at the center of the action in Copenhagen for the United Nations global warming talks, taking a stand for our climate and broadcasting the dire need for President Barack Obama to promote an agreement that will prevent climate catastrophe. On Tuesday, we released a report showing that Obama has clear legal authority -- not to mention the obligation -- to commit the United States to meaningful greenhouse gas pollution reductions without waiting for Congress to act, and without paying heed to the grossly inadequate cap-and-trade bill currently under debate. The Center's Climate Law Institute Director Kassie Siegel spoke alongside other legal and policy experts on how Obama can and must return the United States to a position of global leadership on climate change before it's too late.
Siegel, Senior Attorney Vera Pardee, and Public Lands Director Brendan Cummings are bringing us exciting daily reports and photos from the scene.
Check out this video in a New York Times blog and read the Center's Copenhagen blog, full of photos, more video footage, a slideshow, and daily updates on the most important global negotiations of our time. And check back in tomorrow, when Siegel will give a Copenhagen briefing to bloggers and online media around the world.
129 Scientists to Feds: Shape Up on Species Protection
129 prominent scientists from around the country sent a letter to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar today, asking him to trash a Bush-era policy that limits the scope of the Endangered Species Act. The policy lets the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ignore historic range when deciding whether species require protection -- thus, if a plant or animal is completely extinct in many areas but doing OK in one, it doesn't have to be deemed endangered at all. The policy also limits a protected species' safeguards to the area it currently exists, completely denying that species the opportunity to expand back into its healthy historic range. If this policy had been in place when the California condor was extinct in the wild, the magnificent bird would have only been protected in zoos.
Disappointingly, Salazar has thus far embraced the Bush policy despite its clear intent to limit the protection and recovery of endangered species. Will he listen to country's top scientists? The jury is still out, but his mixed record recently prompted the UK's Telegraph to ask "Is Barack Obama deaf to the call of the wild?"
Biodiversity Going Down, Disease Risk Going Up
The decline of Earth's diversity of life is tragic in itself. But research is now showing that biodiversity loss is dangerous, too -- not just to animals and plants, but to human health. In fact, a new study says, habitat destruction and species extinction are linked to an increase and spread of infectious diseases in humans. The mechanisms behind the link are complicated. But the study found that when deforestation reduced the Amazon's structural diversity provided by trees, malaria-transmitting mosquitoes increased. Similarly, because Lyme disease-carrying ticks have had fewer mammals to host them, they're affecting more humans than they might otherwise.
Bird flu, swine flu, West Nile virus -- they're all part of an "epidemiologic transition" that's happening on a global scale. As species are going extinct and disappearing from vast portions of their ranges, new diseases are popping up while old ones are reasserting themselves and expanding their reaches across the world. It's a new and ultra-compelling reason for us to preserve every creature and plant we can.
Read more in Science Daily.
Take Action: Tell Obama Yes, You Can Save Our Climate
Today President Barack Obama is receiving the Nobel Peace Prize. Next week he'll head to Copenhagen for the most important international meeting on climate change ever. Please take one minute to call the White House to congratulate him on the Nobel Prize and to let him know that the world's inhabitants -- people, animals, and plants -- are relying on his bold leadership to bring with him to Copenhagen emissions-reduction targets of 45 percent or more below 1990 levels by 2020 rather than his current proposal to reduce emissions only 3 percent below those levels by 2020 . . . which would lead to climate catastrophe.
We need Obama to negotiate a climate agreement that sets an overall cap on atmospheric CO2 levels of no more than 350 parts per million; maintains and uses all of the Clean Air Act's ability to regulate critical polluters; and eliminates or greatly reduces offsets and other loopholes. It's essential we get it right the first time. This may be our only chance.
Call the White House now at (202) 456-1111. You can also write Obama a letter and get more information here. If you need pointers on your call, contact the Center for Biological Diversity's Climate Campaign Coordinator Rose Braz.
Bid With Your Lid . . . Before It's Too Late
This fall, through its Profits for the Planet Program, eco-savvy organic yogurt company Stonyfield Farm will donate a portion of $100,000 to the Center for Biological Diversity, based on the number of votes we get from people across the country. Since October 1, Stonyfield yogurt lids have displayed a message about the Center and two other nonprofits; every time you lick the lid of a Stonyfield yogurt cup, you can read about the Center and our co-competitors, then vote with a simple click or use the codes from your yogurt lids to cast multiple votes.
But voting ends next Tuesday. The Center is neck and neck with our top competitor for first place, so keep bidding with those lids -- and thanks.
Photo credits: polar bear (c) Brendan Cummings; Tongass National Forest courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Henry Hartley under the GNU free documentation license; thread-leaved brodiaea (c) David Bramlett; Little Colorado spindace courtesy Arizona Department of Game and Fish; polar bear (c) Brendan Cummings; smokestacks courtesy NASA; Kassie Siegel (c) Brendan Cummings; California condor courtesy Arizona Department of Game and Fish; mosquito courtesy USDA; Barack Obama courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Catherine Szalkowski under the GNU free documentation license; logo courtesy Stonyfield Farm.
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