Suit Seeks Notes From Salazar Meetings With Big Oil
The biggest oil spill in the history of the United States is no time for the government to hide its closed-door dealings with the offshore drilling industry. That's why the Center for Biological Diversity sued Interior Secretary Ken Salazar on Monday to release emails, phone logs, meeting notes and other documents related to his dealings with offshore operators. Back in May, we requested those public documents under the Freedom of Information Act to uncover the extent of oil-industry involvement in Salazar's offshore drilling decisions. The public needs to know more about his decisions to expand drilling on the Atlantic Coast, eastern Gulf Coast and Alaska and to challenge a court order vacating BP's Deepwater Horizon drilling project before it began.
"Secretary Salazar has been cozy with the offshore drilling lobby for many years," said Center Executive Director Kierán Suckling. "We want to know who Salazar was talking to, what was said and what deals were made."
Read more in E & E News.
New Drilling Ban: Good Start -- But Not Good Enough
After the Obama administration's original deepwater-drilling ban was overturned by a federal judge, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar took another swing at it on Monday. The new moratorium is an essential step toward protecting the people, wildlife and beaches of the Gulf Coast and elsewhere -- but it only goes halfway, flouting the very real dangers of shallow-water drilling operations. Between 1992 and 2006, most blowouts actually occurred during the drilling of wells at water depths of less than 500 feet, according to the U.S. Minerals Management Service's own review.
Get more from the Associated Press and take action with us against offshore drilling by participating in the No More Spills Month of Action.
Center Defends Grand Canyon From Uranium Mining
Looking to set a precedent for mining operations on public lands, the Center for Biological Diversity and allies this Monday appealed a court decision refusing to halt the Arizona 1 uranium mine just six miles north of Grand Canyon National Park. We originally filed suit to stop the mine in 2009, after the U.S. Bureau of Land Management allowed it to reopen without updating its 1980s-era mining.
The mine is within a reintroduction area for the critically endangered California condor and is part of the 1 million-acre area that Congress and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar have declared off-limits to new mining claims. Geologists have warned that mining could deplete and contaminate aquifers that discharge into the Grand Canyon and that cleaning them up would be next to impossible.
"The Bureau of Land Management is playing Russian roulette with Grand Canyon National Park's aquifers and wildlife," said the Center's Taylor McKinnon. "The Grand Canyon deserves better than shirking environmental reviews and risking irretrievable pollution for the benefit of the uranium industry."
Read more in our press release and learn about our work to protect the Grand Canyon from uranium mining.
Study: Lead in Game Meat Worse Than Thought
Lead poisoning is widely known as a grave threat to California condors, golden eagles and other species. These birds sometimes die after ingesting lead bullet fragments while scavenging carcasses shot with lead ammunition. Evidence is mounting, however, that humans, especially children and pregnant women, are also at risk. According to a new scientific study, lead levels in some cooked game meat exceed the European Union's maximum-allowed levels.
Depending on the species and recipe used, 20 percent to 87.5 percent of cooked meat sampled had dangerous levels of lead, even after lead pellets were removed. This is particularly dangerous for children, people with existing health issues and those who eat large quantities of lead-shot game. The good news, as Science Daily confirms, is that hunters can now use safe nontoxic alternatives to lead bullets -- and, for their own health, should.
Because California condors are particularly vulnerable to lead poisoning, the Center in 2004 began pushing for a nonlead ammunition requirement for hunting throughout the bird's California range -- which we won in 2007. Now we've expanded our Get the Lead Out campaign to protect condors in Arizona and Utah, as well as other wildlife -- including eagles, falcons, herons, doves and even humans -- across the entire country.
Read more in Science Daily, learn about the Center's Get the Lead Out campaign and please take this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to generously support our campaign by clicking here -- before the NRA spends millions to oppose us.
Suit Filed to Save California Fish, Public From Water-rights Ripoff
As part of a coalition of environmentalists, farmers and sportfishing interests, the Center for Biological Diversity has filed suit to save one of Southern California's most crucial water sources from greedy corporate interests. Our lawsuit seeks to have the Kern Water Bank -- a massive, state-built underground reservoir in Kern County -- returned to state control after it was gifted to powerful corporate agribusiness interests and real-estate speculators as part of the controversial "Monterey Plus Amendments," which changed California's long-term water contracts.
Besides grabbing water rights from the California public, the Monterey Plus Amendments will increase water exports from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, worsening water-quality problems and possibly triggering the final collapse of the Delta's fisheries, ecosystem and endangered fish like the delta and longfin smelts. "The Kern Water Bank is an integral part of our State Water Project and crucial to the future health of our farms, our cities and our environment," said Adam Keats, urban wildlands program director at the Center. "It was built and paid for by the people of California and should remain the property of the people of California, not handed over to a small group of powerful private interests."
Read more in the San Francisco Chronicle.
Feds Taken to Task for Delaying Mollusk Protections
Mollusks may not be the cuddliest critters around, but that's no reason to neglect them into extinction. So last week, the Center for Biological Diversity filed a notice of intent to sue the federal government for its foot-dragging to protect the excellently named Georgia pigtoe mussel, interrupted rocksnail and rough hornsnail. Habitat destruction caused by dams and other development has banished all three species from more than 90 percent of their historic ranges in and around Georgia and Alabama's Coosa River. Sadly, the interrupted rocksnail has only one population left -- and that one's falling sharply.
But instead of promptly protecting the molluskan trio under the Endangered Species Act, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service relegated all three to the "candidate list" to await protections indefinitely. After the Center filed a petition and lawsuit to protect all "candidate" species, last June the Service finally proposed upgrading the Southeast mollusks to endangered status -- but the agency has now missed its year-long deadline to do that.
"Like the Bush administration, the Obama administration is failing to provide prompt protection to wildlife that desperately need it," said Noah Greenwald, endangered species program director at the Center. "So far it has listed only two species in the mainland United States -- an absurdly low number."
Read more in our press release and learn about our Candidate Project.
Wolf Killing Halt Applauded in Oregon
Just after the Center for Biological Diversity and allies halted wolf killing in Oregon, this Sunday an Oregonian editorial pondered the fairest way to deal with endangered gray wolves in the state -- and agreed that it isn't to shoot them. While acknowledging the problem of wolves preying on local livestock, the paper's editorial board affirmed that in Oregon's recent designs on killing two members of its tiny 14-wolf population, the state is "too willing to sidestep the sensible rules in its own recovery plan for gray wolves."
After Oregon made plans to kill the two wolves, the Center for Biological Diversity and allies sued federal wildlife-control agents and won a halt on the hunt until July 31, giving the court time to consider a longer wolf reprieve. Meanwhile, the Center is pushing for the improvement of Oregon's wolf-management plan.
Unfortunately, while we're making progress for wolves in Oregon, critically endangered Mexican gray wolves in the Southwest are facing a new tragedy. Officials are now investigating the suspicious deaths of two gray-wolf alpha males in the past month -- one in eastern Arizona and one in southern New Mexico. A third alpha male has been missing since April. Only 42 total Mexican gray wolves were counted last year.
Read the Oregonian editorial and get the latest on Mexican wolves in the Arizona Daily Star.
Royal Society to Study Overpopulation
The United Kingdom's most prestigious scientific body announced this week that it will undertake a two-year study on the effects of a rapidly growing global population. The Royal Society study will be led by Sir John Sulston -- a Nobel laureate who led the effort to decode the human genome -- and will include naturalist David Attenborough and several other prominent researchers.
With global population predicted to reach at least 9.2 billion by the year 2050, scientists estimate that food and energy production will have to increase by 50 percent and water availability by 30 percent just to keep pace with growing demand. The study will focus on the environmental impacts and challenges to sustainability posed by adding billions of people to an already crowded planet, along with related cultural, gender, economic and legal dynamics.
The Center for Biological Diversity is glad to see the Royal Society take up this important issue -- our own overpopulation campaign focuses on how this unsustainable crush of humanity is driving more and more species toward extinction. As Mr. Sulston put it: "We really do have to look at where we are going in relation to population. If we don't do it, we may survive but we won't flourish."
Read more in The Independent and check out the Center's Overpopulation website.
Take Action to Save Jaguars, Ocelots
Fifteen months after the Arizona Game and Fish Department killed the last known wild American jaguar, Macho B, in a bungled snaring effort, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service last month gave the agency a permit to "take" (i.e. kill or injure) rare ocelots and jaguars. The permit authorizes the purposeful capture of both jaguars and ocelots for research, as well as the unintentional take of both species while trying to capture other animals. The permit requires submission of plans to minimize the likelihood that jaguars or ocelots will be harmed, and allows one such plan for the possibility of an unintentional jaguar capture, to be reviewed solely by the Jaguar Conservation Team -- a group chaired by the very same Arizona Game and Fish Department that captured and killed Macho B.
The Center is currently in court to stop Game and Fish from killing another jaguar, and as a result of a separate Center lawsuit, the jaguar will soon have a recovery team as well as critical habitat. But until then, the majestic species -- along with its fellow wild feline, the ocelot -- is at risk for no reason: No more jaguars or ocelots need to be captured for research purposes.
Read more in the Arizona Daily Star and take action now by telling Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to revoke the permit to capture, injure and kill endangered jaguars and ocelots.
Partying Prairie Voles Prefer Alcohol to Water
Prairie voles are unique among their ilk for their ardent monogamy and good nature -- they live with one mate for life, cuddle and groom each other, nurture babies together and generally show a high level of affectionate behavior. But once exposed to alcohol, the sweet-looking rodents transform into competitive boozers. According to a recent science report, prairie voles not only drink alcohol -- they prefer it to water (especially at levels of about 6 percent, like beer).
Alcohol also seemed to play a big role in the creatures' social bonding: While isolated voles drank almost as much plain water as alcoholic beverages offered, those housed together partied down like frat boys, consuming chugging four times as much firewater -- and matching each other drink for drink. Some voles drank so much that they staggered, fell and had trouble getting up.
Sound like another species you know? Actually, prairie voles are a favorite of researchers looking for mini-models of human behavior, because they seem to have distinct signaling pathways and brain cell receptors for good-feeling neurotransmitters (like dopamine) that reinforce their monogamous habits -- seen in just 5 percent of mammals. Those signaling pathways apparently play a role in addictive behavior, too, giving researchers hope that prairie voles can help us learn exactly what causes alcohol abuse. Who knows? Maybe a solution to the drunken frat-boy problem isn't far behind.
Read more in the Oregonian.
Photo credits: oil rig off California courtesy Flickr/arbyreed; oiled bird courtesy Flickr/Marine Photo Bank; Grand Canyon courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Doc Searls; bullet (c) Kriss Szkurlatowski; longfin smelt courtesy California Department of Fish and Game; pigtoe mussel by Dick Biggins/USFWS; gray wolf courtesy Flickr/Sakarri; overpopulation courtesy iStock/mura; Macho B courtesy Arizona Game and Fish Department; prairie vole courtesy Wikimedia Commons/USNPS.
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