Rare Butterfly Nets New Chance at Protection
Due to a lawsuit by the Center for Biological Diversity, last week the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that one of Southern California's rarest butterflies, the Thorne's hairstreak, may officially deserve Endangered Species Act protection. After severe wildfires in 2003, the delicate insect was reduced to only five locations on one small area on Otay Mountain in San Diego County -- with surveys turning up fewer than 100 individuals. But although the species' protection had been petitioned for twice -- including by the Center -- in 2006 the Bush administration's U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service refused to put the butterfly on the endangered species list, ignoring clear science calling for its protection. Now, after two Center lawsuits, the Service is giving the species the chance at the safeguards it needs -- before one more wildfire has the chance to wipe it off the planet.
Our win for the Thorne's hairstreak is one of 51 Center victories in overturning Bush-era decisions that tainted or ignored science to deny animals and plants needed Endangered Species Act protection or "critical habitat."
Read more in The San Diego Union-Tribune.
Forest Service Starts Over on 193-million-acre Wildlife Plan
Following Center for Biological Diversity litigation, the Obama administration is starting from scratch on new rules to govern all regional forest plans and site-specific projects -- from logging to oil drilling -- on the entire 193-million-acre national forest system. And this month, after the Center and 100 allies requested independent scientific and public input, the Forest Service is asking for public participation up front, hosting a series of national and regional roundtables to get it.
This will be the Forest Service's fourth try at new regulations under the National Forest Management Act since 2000; the first three attempts were found illegal in court challenges by the Center and allies. As with the earlier attempts, our number-one concern is that the agency not weaken the longstanding wildlife "viability" provision from the 1982 regulations, which requires that wildlife populations be managed at healthy levels. That provision was removed from the last two sets of regulations, which would have left thousands of wildlife species at the mercy of loggers, oil companies, road builders, off-road vehicles, and others. The Center is keeping a close eye on the new rules' development to make sure they're strong, enforceable, and science-based to protect wildlife, plants, and the climate.
Read more in the Missoulian and check out the schedule of roundtables to see if you can attend one in your area.
Suit Filed to Protect Pacific Fisher
To save one of the West Coast's most tenacious yet imperiled forest mammals, last Thursday the Center for Biological Diversity and three allies, represented by Earthjustice, sued the feds for their failure to protect the Pacific fisher. A relative of the mink and otter, the fisher is a shy but tough predator that can actually prey on porcupines -- no easy feat -- but its Pacific population has been decimated by historic fur trapping and old-growth logging. In response to a petition by the Center and others, in 2004 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service acknowledged that the fisher warranted protection under the Endangered Species Act -- but never bestowed that protection, claiming that concrete action was "precluded" by moves for higher-priority species. But the agency has been barely inching forward on protecting other species.
The Pacific fisher is in fact just one of 252 animals and plants waiting for protection under the Endangered Species Act -- which these "candidate species" have been doing for an average of 20 years. The Center is in court to speed the protection of all 252 candidates.
Read more in the Los Angeles Times.
Bay Area Fish Warrants -- But Doesn't Receive -- Greater Protection
In response to a Center for Biological Diversity petition, this month the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service finally announced that the near-extinct delta smelt deserves an Endangered Species Act status upgrade from threatened to endangered. Unfortunately, the agency decided not to actually improve protections for the fish, near extinction in its San Francisco Bay-Delta home, claiming that the move is "precluded" by other actions. This strategy has been used and abused by the Bush administration -- and, increasingly, the Obama administration -- to withhold protections from imperiled species and habitats. In contrast to the federal approach, last year California last year changed the delta smelt's state protected status from threatened to endangered in response to another Center petition.
Although the delta smelt has been federally protected as threatened since 1993, its population has collapsed in the last decade to unprecedented low numbers, correlating with record levels of water diversions from the Delta -- and that's a very bad sign for the entire Bay-Delta ecosystem, since the smelt is an indicator of its health. Given the political climate in California and lobbying attempts by agricultural interests to waive water pumping from Endangered Species Act regulation, the fish needs greater protection now more than ever.
Learn more about the delta smelt.
Kangaroo Rat, Wildlife Preserve Defended From Development
To save an endangered kangaroo rat and other rare species, this week the Center for Biological Diversity and allies filed two suits against the City of Riverside, California, opposing its approval of industrial development in a local wildlife area. Much of the site proposed for destruction -- in the form of a warehouse distribution center and industrial park -- is part of an area designated for permanent protection, adjacent to the Sycamore Canyon Wilderness Park, that hosts habitat for the Stephen's kangaroo rat, the bobcat, burrowing owls, the least Bell's vireo, and the coast horned lizard. But the boundary of the protected area was surreptitiously changed, without environmental review, to let the project move forward. Project planners (and approvers) were heedless of habitat demolition and the effects that increased diesel traffic would have on local air, as well as the global climate.
The Center is already in court over a proposed "land swap" that would further threaten Riverside endangered species with commercial and industrial development.
Read more in the Press-Enterprise.
Join Climate Bill Conference Call, Sign Our People's Petition
To coincide with Earth Day, Senators Kerry, Lieberman, and Graham are expected to introduce yet another version of climate legislation. But what we're hearing about the legislation doesn't bode well for the Earth at all -- in fact, it appears the planned bill would cripple the Clean Air Act's ability to regulate greenhouse gases, without setting science-based targets for CO2 or doing nearly enough in other areas to stop catastrophic global warming.
The Center for Biological Diversity believes our current best hope to address the climate crisis lies in the Clean Air Act -- and the best way to save the Clean Air Act is to use the Clean Air Act. But we need you to help us push the Environmental Protection Agency to do both.
Sign up now for a conference call with the Center's Bill Snape about what's at stake and what's in the Kerry-Lieberman-Graham proposal. (The call's date and time are to be announced, but space is limited.) Then sign our People's Petition to Cap Carbon Dioxide at 350ppm and help us get 500,000 people to sign by forwarding the petition to your contact lists. We simply can't do this without you.
Tell Forest Service to Protect Roadless Areas
The U.S. Forest Service has released its sixth plan in the past three years to log an "inventoried roadless area" on New Hampshire's magnificent White Mountain National Forest. The agency has slated the Table Mountain Roadless Area, which lies in one of the most scenic valleys in the East, for numerous clearcuts.
Last year, the Obama administration declared its commitment to protecting national-forest roadless areas -- but so far, it's failed to rein in chainsaw-happy officials on the White Mountain National Forest. Other roadless areas around the country are also targeted for logging, road-building, and other activities that exactly contradict the administration's promise to safeguard these vital public lands. The Forest Service's shameful pattern of logging our scarce roadless lands has to stop.
Take action now by telling the Forest Service and the Obama administration that protecting roadless areas does not mean clearcutting them.
Coast Guard Called On to Protect Endangered Whales
Diving to the defense of imperiled whales, last week the Center for Biological Diversity and allies urged the U.S. Coast Guard to include marine mammal-protection measures in its just-announced plans to modify shipping lanes into the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports. Right now, protections from ship strikes are sorely lacking in the lanes through the Santa Barbara Channel -- perilous swimming grounds for humpbacks, gray whales, fin whales, and the densest known seasonal congregation of blue whales on the planet. In fall 2007, at least five highly endangered blue whales were struck and killed by ships in the channel.
Besides the ability to modify shipping routes, the Coast Guard also has the authority to set much-needed speed limits for ships in the channel -- which the Center has also requested. "Slowing down ship traffic reduces air pollution, protects whales from ships strikes, and can even save money on fuel costs," said Center attorney Andrea Treece. "The Coast Guard has a terrific opportunity here to protect the health of coastal communities and the whales they love."
Check out our press release and learn more about the Center's campaign against deadly boat strikes.
Free App Brings Species Calls, Activism to Your iPhone
Today the Center for Biological Diversity launched an innovative application to transform your iPhone into an effective activist tool. The free app, dubbed Wild Calls, lets users receive an authentic endangered species sound each week (or more often) via "push notification"; users can then download the sound as a ringtone or browse other species sounds and wallpapers, learning facts about endangered species at the same time -- and provoking conversations about conservation every time a downloaded ringtone goes off in public. Wild Calls' "Wake Up Wild" feature even lets you program a species sound as your cell-phone alarm-clock ring. iPhone users can bring animals into their lives in a whole new way by waking up to the howl of a gray wolf or the eerie song of an orca.
The app also allows users to respond to Center action alerts on their iPhones -- and even receive this very online newsletter. Said Center co-founder and app idea man Peter Galvin: "Wild Calls allows folks to experience the sounds and images of endangered species and other fascinating wildlife throughout the day, to learn more about the issues, and to take action to protect the environment. Wild Calls helps keep the wild close by, no matter where you are."
Read our press release and get the app from our site or from the Apple Store. If you don't have an iPhone, check out our free endangered species ringtones site www.RareEarthtones.org.
Center Wins Four Out of Four Stars for Funds Management
It's just been announced that for the fourth year in a row, the Center for Biological Diversity's responsible use of funds has earned us a four-star rating -- the highest possible score -- from nonprofit evaluator Charity Navigator. That means we're dubbed one of the most financially efficient organizations out there -- probably because we funnel as much of our funding as possible, more than 84 percent, straight into saving species and lands, instead of using it up for administration, advertising, and other things (like plush-toy marketing gimmicks).
Only 8 percent of charities evaluated by Charity Navigator have received four consecutive four-star ratings. Says our esteemed evaluator, "This 'exceptional' designation from Charity Navigator differentiates the Center for Biological Diversity from its peers and demonstrates to the public it is worthy of their trust."
Check out our Charity Navigator profile and membership FAQ.
Photo credits: Thorne's hairstreak butterfly photos (c) Douglas Aguillard; Caribou-Targhee National Forest courtesy USFS; Pacific fisher courtesy Pacific Biodiversity Institute; delta smelt by P.B. Moyle, Native Fish Conservancy; Stephen's kangaroo rat (c) Mark A. Chappell; polar bears by Scott Schliebe, USFWS; White Mountains courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Charlie DeTar; humpback whales by Joseph Mobely, NMFS; Mexican gray wolf (c) Robin Silver; logo courtesy Charity Navigator.
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