Nationwide Ban on Lead Ammo Sought to End Wildlife Poisoning
In the most significant initiative to prevent lead poisoning of wildlife in more than two decades, the Center for Biological Diversity and allies on Tuesday submitted a legal petition to ban toxic lead in hunting ammunition and fishing tackle. Every year, lead poisoning kills 10 million to 20 million birds and other animals. Animals are exposed to lead when they scavenge on carcasses shot and contaminated with lead bullet fragments or ingest lead shot pellets or lost fishing weights. Condors, eagles, swans and other animals die needless and painful deaths from lead poisoning or suffer for years from lead's debilitating effects. There are human health risks, too: Recent studies show that tiny lead fragments can infect meat in lead-shot game up to a foot and a half from the bullet wound, and some state health agencies have had to recall venison donated to feed the hungry because of lead contamination.
Our petition, filed under the Toxic Substances Control Act, asks the Environmental Protection Agency to require nontoxic ammunition for all hunting and fishing nationwide. "Over the past several decades we've wisely taken steps to get lead out of our gasoline, paint, water pipes and other sources that are dangerous to people," said Jeff Miller of the Center. "It's long past time to do something about this deadly - and preventable -- epidemic of lead poisoning in the wild."
Read more in The New York Times.
New Gulf Estimate: Oil Spill Worst Ever of its Kind
New government documents offer some scary assessments of the Gulf oil spill. The first was word that federal scientists now estimate that 4.9 million barrels (roughly 206 million gallons) of oil leaked from the well after the April 20 explosion. That makes it the world's biggest accidental oil spill into a marine ecosystem and the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history. There was also troubling news -- released in a letter and documents by Massachusetts Rep. Edward Markey -- that the U.S. Coast Guard allowed BP to apply toxic dispersants dozens of times after a joint directive by the Coast Guard and the EPA said the chemicals should only be used in "rare" circumstances.
The Center for Biological Diversity continues its fight in the Gulf, going after the EPA for allowing dispersants to be used without ensuring the chemicals won't hurt endangered species, including sea turtles, and their habitats. One of our attorneys was also in Boise last week for a federal hearing on where hundreds of cases against BP -- including our $19 billion suit to hold BP responsible for Clean Water Act violations -- will be heard. The oil spill may not be gushing as it once was, but the important work of holding BP and the government accountable and helping heal ecosystems harmed by the oil and toxic dispersants is only just beginning.
Read more on the spill's size and the dispersants misuse in The New York Times. Then check out the latest on our Gulf Disaster webpage.
Five Penguin Species Win Federal Protection
In response to a 2006 petition by the Center and two lawsuits filed with allies, five imperiled penguin species are now protected under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. This Monday, the Interior Department announced it will protect the Humboldt penguins of Peru and Chile -- whose populations have plummeted by 95 percent in the last century -- as well as four species from New Zealand: the yellow-eyed, white-flippered, Fiordland and erect-crested penguins.
All five penguins are jeopardized by climate change, ocean acidification and commercial fisheries that deplete their food supply. Unfortunately, the Interior Department didn't acknowledge climate change as a threat to the penguins despite the scientific evidence. Still, the protections will give these penguins an increased chance at survival.
Read more in the New Zealand Herald.
Congress May Be in Recess, But Climate Help Needed Now
As you probably know by now, Congress failed to pass any climate legislation before its summer recess. The Center for Biological Diversity has been closely tracking each version to make sure it actually does what's needed now: reduce carbon pollution to the levels that scientists say are required to avoid the worst effects of global warming. The latest watered-down proposal -- the Kerry-Lieberman bill known as the "American Power Act" -- fell well short of science-based targets of reducing carbon in the atmosphere to 350 parts per million. In fact, the bill would have worsened the problem by offering incentives for offshore oil and gas development.
Any climate bill has to reach those carbon targets, work with existing environmental laws -- especially the Clean Air Act -- and be free of loopholes that allow polluters to delay or avoid reducing greenhouse gas emissions. When Congress resumes, it's likely to take up bills to address the Gulf oil spill. We'll be watching closely to make sure it doesn't gut the Clean Air Act in the process. The Center continues to push the EPA to fully harness the existing power of the Act to curb pollution and dramatically draw down carbon levels. The clock is ticking to save the planet from meltdown: A new federal report notes that the first half of 2010 was the hottest on record. We need your help in encouraging the Obama administration to take action. You can start by signing and spreading the word about the People's Petition to the EPA to Cap Carbon Pollution at 350 parts per million.
Also check out our Legislating for a New Climate webpage.
Mexican Wolf May Get Own Special Status
In response to a scientific petition by the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service this week announced that the Mexican wolf may qualify for Endangered Species Act protection separate from other gray wolves. Listing the Mexican gray wolf on its own would not only call special attention to this unique wolf's plight, it would also require the feds to update the wolves' 1982 recovery plan, which didn't include any criteria for recovery and predated modern genetic analysis. The new plan would benefit from lessons learned from 12 years of the wolf's reintroduction into eastern Arizona and western New Mexico and provide an important new roadmap for a healthy recovery.
At last count in January, only 42 wolves -- including just two breeding pairs -- survived in the wild. "The Mexican wolf is on a trajectory to extinction," said Michael Robinson, the Center's wolf expert. "This decision breathes life into a recovery effort that has flatlined in recent years."
Read more in the Los Angeles Times.
Center Defends Safeguards for Alaska Beluga
To help ensure the survival of one of Alaska's most imperiled species, the Center for Biological Diversity and allies this Wednesday moved to intervene in a case filed by the state to remove Endangered Species Act protections for the Cook Inlet beluga whale. Recent surveys found just 321 Cook Inlet belugas left, down from historic numbers around 1,300. Although the whales continue to be threatened by oil and gas development, ship traffic, global warming and sewage spewed into its habitat, the state of Alaska sued the National Marine Fisheries Service in June over its decision to protect the whale. Those protections were given in 2008 after two petitions and two lawsuits by Center and allies.
"While Sarah Palin may be gone, her successor is continuing the state of Alaska's irrational war on wildlife," said Rebecca Noblin, Alaska director at the Center. "Alaska should be working to protect its greatest assets -- its wilderness and wildlife -- not suing to overturn protections for endangered whales."
Check out our press release and learn more about the Cook Inlet beluga whale. Then read more in the Anchorage Daily News.
Suit Defends Nine Fish, 1,000 Rivers From Pipeline
The Center for Biological Diversity last week filed suit to challenge the Ruby pipeline, a 677-mile natural gas pipeline that would cross more than 1,000 rivers and streams in five states. Besides using more than 400 million gallons of precious water over the next few years in Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, Oregon and California, the pipeline would plow through protected "critical habitat" for nine endangered fish, including the Lahontan cutthroat trout, Warner Creek sucker, Lost River sucker and Colorado pikeminnow. And there's a possibility that the pipeline will rupture at a stream crossing, which would be an environmental disaster.
Our suit challenges the U.S. Bureau of Land Management's decision to issue rights of way on federal land for the project, as well as the Fish and Wildlife Service's review of its environmental impacts -- which didn't require enough measures to counteract the pipeline's serious environmental consequences or safety risks.
Read more in the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Petition to EPA: Biomass Isn't "Carbon Neutral"
Large-scale burning of biomass (i.e. trees and wood products) for energy threatens both forests and the climate because it emits as much or more carbon dioxide than coal, and forests can take decades or even centuries to pull that CO2 back out of the atmosphere after being logged. Meanwhile the industrial-scale logging needed to produce massive biomass harms forests, soils, water and wildlife. It's not rocket science, yet the Environmental Protection Agency, in its annual inventory of greenhouse gas emissions, erroneously insists on treating CO2 from biomass power plants as being carbon neutral, based on the false idea that the CO2 released when the trees are burned will later be pulled out of the sky by the new trees that grow in their place.
Citing a raft of recent scientific studies, the Center for Biological Diversity last Friday filed a petition asking the agency to correct its erroneous assumption of carbon neutrality. The EPA's error has huge ramifications because it encourages investment in industrial-scale biomass rather than cleaner energy technologies.
The Center's petition also challenges the EPA's failure to consider and respond to public input on its inventory, which was released just hours after the deadline for submitting public comments.
Get more from Examiner.com.
Feds Petitioned to Protect Kit Fox Habitat
To help the tiny, rare San Joaquin kit fox make its way toward recovery, the Center for Biological Diversity this Thursday petitioned the federal government to protect "critical habitat" for the species. Weighing in at about five pounds, this smallest member of the fox family is in dire danger from habitat destruction, coyotes, oil and gas development, pesticides and even certain solar developments that have been recently proposed for its last core habitats. Without protections for its currently occupied habitat along the edges of California's San Joaquin Valley -- plus additional areas the species needs to re-establish itself -- the fox could spiral toward extinction.
The Center has long defended the kit fox from threats like pesticides and oil and gas development in its shriveling range. Critical habitat designation should help stop that range from shrinking further and increase the odds that the fox population will grow. "The existing conservation mechanisms clearly are not working," said the Center's Ileene Anderson. "The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service now has an opportunity to provide additional safeguards and put the kit fox on the path to recovery."
Check out our press release and learn more about our campaign to save the kit fox.
Hear Audio From the Center's Latest Biodiversity Briefing -- Gulf Crisis
If you're a regular reader of Endangered Earth Online, you already know the Center for Biological Diversity has been working double time to make sure a disaster like the Gulf oil spill is never repeated -- as well as to counter the destruction that's already occurring because of it. But we've done so much work -- and already achieved so many successes -- it can be overwhelming to try to keep it all straight. Lucky for you, the Center's most recent quarterly Biodiversity Briefing, led by Executive Director Kierán Suckling, provides a comprehensive but easy-to-understand summary of all our most important actions and wins to date, from the New York Times story that first broadcast the feds' scandalous offshore-drilling mismanagement to our $19 billion lawsuit against BP for environmental damages under the Clean Water Act to our shutting down potentially catastrophic drilling off Alaska. And so much more.
Listen to a recording of part of the briefing and get more on the oil spill on our Gulf Disaster website. For information on how you can join the Center's Leadership Circle and be invited to participate in Biodiversity Briefings live when they happen, email Assistant Executive Director Sarah Bergman or call her at (520) 396-1129.
Photo credits: Humboldt penguins courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Drcwp1; bald eagle (c) Robin Silver; Deepwater Horizon explosion courtesy U.S. Coast Guard; white-flippered penguin courtesy Wikimedia Commons/R. Roscoe; power plant courtesy Wikimedia Commons/luchegorsk.ru; Mexican gray wolves by Val Halstead, Wolf Haven International; beluga whale (c) Mike Johnston; Lahontan cutthroat trout courtesy USGS; San Bernardino National Forest by Monica Bond; San Joaquin kit fox by B. Moose Peterson, USFWS; Gulf offshore platform courtesy Flickr/Chad Teer.
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