Inspector General: Killing of Last U.S. Jaguar a Crime
Confirming our worst fears -- and supporting our lawsuit against the Arizona Game and Fish Department -- the inspector general's office last week released its long-awaited investigation into the death of Macho B, the last known American jaguar, originally requested by the Center and Congressman Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.). The report concluded that the state agency lacked the necessary permits to capture jaguars, that its employees and contractors appeared to have purposefully and criminally captured Macho B, and that it intimidated federal biologists who were concerned about the agency's reckless behavior. It also concluded that critical evidence was destroyed because a key U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decision-maker ordered a "cosmetic necropsy" without knowing what the word necropsy means.
As a result of Game and Fish's bungling, Macho B was killed in 2009. The Center has sued the agency to prevent additional capturing and killing of jaguars.
Read more in The New York Times.
Center 48, Bush 0
A settlement won by the Center for Biological Diversity this Monday brought us to a total of 48 victories in overturning corrupt Bush-era decisions harming 55 endangered species. Our latest success put the imperiled Sacramento splittail, a silvery minnow native to the San Francisco Bay-Delta, back on track for Endangered Species Act protection after the Bush administration chose politics over conservation and decided to remove the fish's protections -- which were originally won through a Center lawsuit.
Eight of our victories have reversed decisions to deny Endangered Species Act protections to species clearly threatened with extinction, including the Gunnison sage grouse, Hermes copper butterfly, and Mexican garter snake. We've also reversed decisions denying adequate "critical habitat" protections to 39 animals and plants, protecting millions of acres for species such as the Canada lynx (25 million) and California red-legged frog (1.8 million). We're still in court pursuing justice for seven species, including the West Virginia northern flying squirrel and the Everglades' Cape Sable seaside sparrow.
Read more in the Oakland Tribune.
California Salmon to Be Protected From Water Pumping
Following a notice of intent to sue from the Center for Biological Diversity and allies, California is beginning a process to regulate excessive vineyard water diversions to protect imperiled salmon in the Russian River watershed. Vineyards pump water for grapes from streams that are the spawning grounds of federally protected coho salmon, Chinook salmon, and steelhead trout. Vineyards not only draw water during warm weather -- they also pump for "frost protection" for budding grapes during the winter. When freezing temperatures hit the North Coast, vineyard pumping can actually dry up portions of the Russian River and its tributaries, stranding and killing baby salmon.
The California Water Resources Board has recommended that any diversion of water from the Russian River watershed must be monitored to ensure it doesn't dry up salmon and steelhead habitat, and a water-management plan for the basin is underway to regulate pumping. The Board declined to take the emergency action needed to protect salmon this winter -- but its move is a critical first step.
Read more in the Santa Rosa Press Democrat.
Center Cruises to Court to Save 83 Corals
To save our country's "rainforests of the sea" from global warming and ocean acidification, last week the Center for Biological Diversity filed a notice of intent to sue the feds for failing to respond to our petition to protect 83 ailing corals in U.S. waters. Scientists warn that in just a few decades, all the world's coral reefs and their amazing biodiversity could be lost. When corals are stressed by high ocean temperatures, they're vulnerable to mass bleaching events and death -- and when water chemistry is changed by carbon-dioxide-driven ocean acidification, corals lose their ability to build the protective skeletons they need to survive. But since the Center filed a scientific petition for Endangered Species Act safeguards for the 83 most imperiled U.S. corals last October, there's been no word from the National Marine Fisheries Service.
The Center won federal protection for elkhorn and staghorn corals -- the first species to be protected under the Act due to global warming -- in 2006. Now 83 other corals need our help. As Center Oceans Director Miyoko Sakashita put it, "Timing is of the essence to reverse the tragic decline of these vitally important reefs, and we can't afford any delays."
Read more in The Washington Post.
Lawsuit Launched to Fight Massive Minnesota Mine
This Monday the Center for Biological Diversity and partners sent a notice of intent to sue mining company Cliffs Erie over its fouling of waters surrounding a proposed copper mine in northeastern Minnesota. The company's own reports document myriad ongoing violations of water-quality laws caused by past mining. Plans for a newly proposed copper mine, the first of its kind in the state, are to pile its own tailings on top of those from a former taconite mine that are already polluting ground and surface waters -- waters that ultimately make their way to Lake Superior. The new mine would process more than 225 million tons of ore at the processing facility, using a tailings basin already known to be leaking.
"Before the state even considers the approval of a new wave of mining in northeastern Minnesota, it should first require the mining companies to clean up the pollution from past taconite mines," said Center Staff Attorney Marc Fink. "As we all learned as kids, you should clean up one mess before making another one."
Read more in the Duluth News Tribune.
Emergency Petitions Filed to Close Caves, Stop Bat Disease
With white-nose syndrome having killed a million bats across nine states, last week the Center for Biological Diversity filed two new petitions to slow the spread of the deadly bat disease and grant federal protection to two bats at risk of prompt extinction. Our first petition asks federal agencies to restrict visitor access into all bat caves under federal jurisdiction until (or unless) it can be proven that people don't play a part in spreading white-nose syndrome. Careful exceptions to restricted access would be made for essential activities, like ongoing research on the bat disease and activities ensuring human safety. Our second petition requests Endangered Species Act protection for the eastern small-footed bat and the northern long-eared bat, both hit hard by white-nose syndrome -- and both of which were already perilously rare before the disease struck.
Last year, the Center's work compelled the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to draft a plan for managing white-nose syndrome -- but much more needs to be done, and fast.
Read more in the Boston Herald.
Protection Sought for Yellow-legged Frog
This Monday, the Center for Biological Diversity petitioned to list all populations of the hardy but highly imperiled mountain yellow-legged frog under the California Endangered Species Act. Because of a Center petition, the frog's Sierra Nevada population is now a "candidate" for federal protection, but only the Southern California population actually enjoys a place on the endangered species list. And all the species' populations need protection, seriously threatened as they are by introduced trout; disease; pesticides; and habitat changes from global warming, drought, and grazing.
Since the Center settled a lawsuit to defend the frog from its primary threat -- fish stocking -- in 2008, the California Fish and Game Commission has taken steps to reduce nonnative trout in the yellow-legged frog's home streams. But the amphibian is still hurt by stocked trout and desperately needs state protection in the absence of federal safeguards.
Check out our press release and learn more about the Sierra Nevada mountain yellow-legged frog.
Murkowski Tries to Gut Clean Air Act
Last Thursday, Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski and others introduced a resolution to block the regulation of greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act -- and doom the climate as a consequence. As our readers know, the Environmental Protection Agency has proposed enacting rules that would use the Clean Air Act to put costly limits on power-plant pollution, a great step toward the CO2 limits we need. But the Murkowski legislation would reverse the EPA's recent finding that greenhouse gases endanger public health and welfare, pulling the rug out from under efforts to save public health and welfare from catastrophic global warming.
The Center for Biological Diversity was a party in the groundbreaking lawsuit that originally established CO2 as a pollutant under the Clean Air Act and enabled its regulation under the law. Said Executive Director Kierán Suckling on Murkowski's efforts to undo our progress: "The Senate should resoundingly reject Murkowski's resolution to block the EPA from doing its job of reducing greenhouse pollution through the Clean Air Act, our strongest and most successful law for protecting the air we breathe and a safe climate."
Read more in The Washington Post.
Utah Wants in on Wolf Killing
His bloodlust piqued by the slaughter of hundreds of wolves in Idaho and Montana, Senator Allen Christensen is seeking to pass a law requiring the killing of all wolves that migrate into Utah. Backed by a posse of hunters and cattlemen, Christensen thinks wolves are out of control in Utah (that would be all two that have entered the state since 1975).
The confused Christensen says his bill is "good for wildlife" but under questioning admitted that "wolves are wildlife, too" (very good, Senator!). Apparently referring to Utah, Christensen declared: "We would like them not to immigrate into here."
Senator Christensen, please check your grammar, logic, and basic legal knowledge. While gray wolves in Idaho, Montana, and the northeast corner of Utah were prematurely removed from the endangered species list last year, they're federally protected in most of Utah -- and the Center for Biological Diversity is now in court to earn back federal protections for all northern Rockies gray wolves, including those in Utah, as we've already done for Great Lakes gray wolves. With the wolves federally protected, any state bill to exterminate them would crash into the supremacy clause of the U.S. Constitution.
UPDATE: This week, Utah's top wildlife official, Jim Karpowitz, came out against the bill, saying it would force him to go to federal prison for killing wolves or to state prison for not killing wolves.
Read more on Christensen's bill and Karpowitz's opposition.
State of the Union Addressed, State of the Climate Not
Yesterday in his State of the Union Address, President Barack Obama failed -- as he has for the past 12 months -- to advocate for the greenhouse gas reductions necessary for a livable planet. The president already has the tools he needs under the Clean Air Act to set a 350 ppm atmospheric CO2 goal and save us from climate catastrophe. But even while expressing support for creating clean-energy jobs and climate legislation, Obama also called for increased fossil-fuel production and opening new areas to offshore oil and gas development.
Said Center for Biological Diversity Executive Director Kierán Suckling: "A clean-energy economy does not include continued reliance on dirty coal and further risky drilling for oil in fragile offshore areas. We cannot solve the problem with business as usual, but instead need the change Candidate Obama promised."
Read more in the Guardian.
Photo credits: Macho B photos courtesy Arizona Department of Fish and Game; Sacramento splittail by Tina Swanson, USFWS; coho salmon by Ken and Mary Campbell, NPS; Monipora flabellata (c) Keoki Stender; Lake Superior courtesy Wikimedia Commons/XopherSmith under the Creative Commons attribution license; Northern long-eared bat courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Jomegat under the GNU free documentation license; mountain yellow-legged frog by Adam Backlin, USGS; smokestacks by Alfred Palmer, US Farm Security Administration; gray wolf by John and Karen Hollingsworth, USFWS; Barack Obama courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Catherine Szalkowski under the GNU free documentation license.
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