48 Hawaiian Plants, Birds, Insects Protected
The Center for Biological Diversity's campaign to protect 1,000 imperiled plants and animals got a big boost yesterday when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced it will place 48 species from the island of Kauai on the federal endangered species list. The Center filed scientific petitions to protect most of the species and followed up with legal action when the agency dragged its feet. The Fish and Wildlife Service also designated 40 square miles of the island as protected critical habitat for 47 of the species.
Hawaii is one of the world's extinction hot spots due to logging, development, and the introduction of a slew of exotic species, including pigs, sheep, and mosquitoes. The protection of these 48 species will ensure they too don't become extinct in our lifetime.
Thanks to everyone who donated to our 1,000 Species campaign at the end of 2009. We hope to report even bigger victories as the year progresses.
Check out the Associated Press story and learn more about our campaign to save America's 1,000 most endangered species.
Suit Forces Walmart to Slash Greenhouse Gas Pollution
Settling lawsuits filed by the Center for Biological Diversity, late last week Walmart agreed to adopt significant anti-global-warming measures in constructing two new Supercenters in Southern California. The settlement requires the nation's largest retailer to install three 250-kilowatt rooftop solar facilities and incorporate cutting-edge efficiency measures at planned stores in Perris and Yucca Valley, as well as to start a refrigerant audit and improvement program to reduce emissions at certain existing California Walmart stores. Walmart will also contribute $120,000 to the Mojave Desert Land Trust for land-conservation purposes. The big-box chain agreed to employ similar CO2-reduction measures for a proposed Supercenter in Riverside.
The settlement adds to the Center's list of successes in upholding California's premier environmental and land-use law, the California Environmental Quality Act, to improve new development, reduce greenhouse gas pollution, save energy, save money, and promote a vibrant green economy. In the words of Center Senior Attorney Matt Vespa, "If big-box stores are to be built in California, measures like the installation of solar-power systems must be adopted to minimize the projects' greenhouse gas pollution."
Get more from the Los Angeles Times.
Loggerhead Sea Turtles Will Get New Protections
In response to two scientific petitions by the Center for Biological Diversity and allies, yesterday the Obama administration proposed to upgrade the Endangered Species Act protection for U.S. loggerhead sea turtles from "threatened" to "endangered." Agencies also proposed to protect loggerheads around the globe as nine separate populations, each with its own distinct status. In the North Pacific, loggerheads have already declined by at least 80 percent, while Florida beaches -- which host the largest nesting population of loggerheads in the Northwest Atlantic -- have seen a decline in nesting of more than 40 percent in the past decade.
"The proposed rule marks a turning point in our ability to protect loggerhead sea turtles," said Center attorney Andrea Treece. "By recognizing and preventing impacts to regional populations and their habitats, we'll have a much better chance of putting these magnificent, prehistoric animals on a path to recovery instead of extinction."
Read more in the Los Angeles Times.
California Tiger Salamander Protected
After a scientific petition, lawsuit, and six long years of hard work by the Center for Biological Diversity, last week the California Fish and Game Commission voted 3-2 to protect the imperiled California tiger salamander under the state's Endangered Species Act. The sensitive salamander depends on seasonal ponds, or vernal pools, for breeding -- but these pools have proven ephemeral in more ways than one. In recent decades, 95 percent of California's vernal pools has been lost to development -- as has at least 75 percent of the species' habitat across the state.
Due to efforts by the Center and allies, three populations of the California tiger salamander have been protected under the federal Endangered Species Act for years. But California Fish and Game denied the salamander state protection in 2004, falsely claiming that the Center's petition didn't have enough data. A judge overturned that move in 2008, after we sued, giving the salamander a new chance at the additional protections it needs.
Read more in the San Francisco Chronicle.
Sage Grouse Deemed Endangered, But Given No Help
In response to a petition and lawsuit by the Center for Biological Diversity and partners, last Friday the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that a seriously imperiled sage grouse population in California and Nevada warrants protection under the Endangered Species Act. But, instead of granting that protection, the Service put the bird on the "candidate" list to await safeguards indefinitely.
The Mono Basin area greater sage grouse -- an icon of the West known for males' elaborate strutting, tail-fanning, and sac-inflating mating displays -- is in danger of dying out due to grazing, development, road construction, off-road vehicles, and other threats. "Delaying protection for the Mono Basin sage grouse is clearly illegal and irresponsible," said the Center's Rob Mrowka.
Read more in the San Francisco Chronicle and watch this piece about the Center on the TV show Democracy Now!
Suit Filed to Save Penguins From Warming, Fisheries
Since the Obama administration didn't meet its legal deadline to protect seven penguin species, this Tuesday the Center for Biological Diversity and Turtle Island Restoration Network hauled the Interior Department to court. The seven species -- the African, Humboldt, yellow-eyed, white-flippered, Fiordland crested, and erect-crested penguins, as well as a few populations of the southern rockhopper -- were proposed for Endangered Species Act protections after a 2006 scientific petition by the Center and supposed to be officially protected last December. Though their ranges span the globe, all seven penguins are threatened by changes caused by global warming and industrial fisheries that deplete their food supply and drown them in nets and longlines.
For the emperor penguin and some populations of the rockhopper penguin -- which were also included in the Center's 2006 petition and badly need help -- Interior didn't propose protections at all. The Center has filed a notice of intent to sue for those penguins, too.
Check out our press release and learn more about the Center's campaign for penguins.
Bird-killing Resort Faces Court in Hawaii -- Take Action
Last week the Center for Biological Diversity and allies, represented by Earthjustice, filed notice of intent to sue Hawaii's St. Regis Princeville Resort, the facility responsible for the greatest number of imperiled seabird deaths due to artificial lights on Kauai. During the fall fledging season, critically imperiled Newell's shearwaters and Hawaiian petrels heading to sea become trapped in the glare of bright lights in and around the resort, located smack in the middle of an important seabird flyway. Confused by the lights, birds circle around and around until they fall to the ground from exhaustion or strike the resort's buildings. But while the resort says a $100 million renovation included some lighting changes, recent studies show that more than one-fourth of total birds downed by Kauai lights are still crashing at the St. Regis Princeville. "It appears the resort's renovation served only its high-end clientele, not the birds," concluded the Center's Peter Galvin.
Another significant cause of Hawaiian seabird mortality is the power lines of the Kauai Island Utility Cooperative, which the Center and allies filed notice of intent to sue last January.
Read more in the Honolulu Advertiser and take action to stop the deaths of more Hawaiian seabirds.
Lead Poisoning Kills Ravens, Eagles
A new study in Wyoming proves that reducing the number of toxic lead bullets used by hunters lowered the lead levels of local ravens -- but unfortunately didn't affect the lead levels in eagles. Since the start of a voluntary nonlead-bullet program in the state last fall, lead-bullet use among Wyoming hunters has dropped by 24 percent, corresponding nicely with a 28-percent decrease in the amount of lead found in the bloodstreams of ravens, which scavenge hunter-shot carcasses. But eagles, which also scavenge but are extra-sensitive to lead, apparently received no benefit from the small decrease in lead-bullet use. That means eagles need an environment totally free from lead contamination. Said a spokesperson on the study, "It's kind of a no-brainer."
Severely endangered California condors are also extra-sensitive to lead poisoning from lead bullets -- in fact, it's the leading cause of condor death. So after a petition and lawsuit by the Center for Biological Diversity and allies, California mandated the use of nonlead ammunition throughout the bird's state range. The Center is now pushing hard for nonlead requirements across the country for the sake of condors, eagles, and all other species (including humans).
Read more in the Jackson Hole News & Guide.
EPA to Cut Polluters More Slack -- Watch Center Interview
After years of work in and out of court by the Center for Biological Diversity and allies, the Environmental Protection Agency has moved to use the Clean Air Act -- our most powerful existing anti-climate change tool -- to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. But last week, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson announced her plans to dramatically lower the bar on regulating emissions under the Act, allowing polluters that annually emit up to 75,000 tons of greenhouse gases to slip below the radar.
As Center Senior Counsel Bill Snape says in a recent TV interview, "That's a lot of pollution." And where do we draw the line?
Watch Snape's interview on Clean Skies: The Energy and Environment Network.
Center Wins Three Environment Now Awards
We didn't win an Oscar, but this Monday the Center for Biological Diversity made a dramatic appearance on the green carpet when our Southern California work won us three spots in the sixth annual Top Achievements Report by nonprofit Environment Now. We were congratulated for three ambitious projects in particular: our campaign to save California's four national forests from faulty management, our work to stop the Mid-County "Parkway" (in fact a six-lane freeway) from construction in sensitive species habitat, and our battle to stop the condor-killing mega-development on the vast and beautiful Tejon Ranch. Environment Now noted that Tejon, while shelling out for considerable green cover, is one the worst examples of leapfrog sprawl in the nation.
We'd like to thank our California staff for their tireless efforts, our allies for their aid, and Southern California's endangered species for their inspiration. And to our members and supporters -- we love you. We love you all.
Read the report for yourself at www.environmentnow.org and learn more about the Center's work for Southern California forests and Tejon Ranch.
Photo credits: California tiger salamander by John Cleckler, USFWS; akekekee courtesy USGS; Walmart by Jared C. Benedict; loggerhead sea turtle courtesy NOAA; California tiger salamander (c) Gary Nafis, CaliforniaHerps.com; greater sage grouse by Carol Davis; African penguins (c) Peter and Barbara Barham; Hawaiian petrel (c) Matt Brady; bald eagle (c) Robin Silver; Bill Snape courtesy Clean Skies Network; San Bernardino National Forest courtesy Wikimedia Commons/jcookfisher under the Creative Commons attribution license.
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