Gulf Devastation Continues -- We Saw It
Four months after the Deepwater Horizon explosion, disturbing news continues to come out of the Gulf of Mexico. The New York Times reports early results from Florida researchers indicating that undersea oil plumes may be more dangerous to marine organisms than previously thought. The Los Angeles Times says state biologists in Louisiana are trying to determine whether thousands of dead fish at the mouth of the Mississippi River are connected with the oil spill or chemical dispersants. Meanwhile, officials continue to report oil and tar balls along Gulf beaches and shoreline.
The Center for Biological Diversity's team that visited the Gulf recently returned with its own grim reports: beaches covered in oil; marshes fouled with black goo; and oil-covered crabs, turtles and birds struggling to survive. Despite rosy claims by oil companies and the Obama administration, the Gulf is devastated by the spill, and it will take years to assess and repair the damage.
"Rather than downplay the oil damage, as it first downplayed estimates of the spill rate, the Obama administration should mobilize more money and workers to get this mess cleaned up," said Kierán Suckling, the Center's executive director.
Get more from The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times and nola.com. Then watch a slideshow of the Center's visit to the Gulf and check out the latest news on our Gulf disaster website.
Center Defends Four Mountaintop Species From Warming
As the planet warms, species go looking for somewhere to keep cool. But those already living in high-elevation habitats may quickly run out of options. That's why the Center for Biological Diversity on Tuesday filed scientific petitions to protect three birds and one mammal whose mountaintop homes are threatened by global warming. Our petitions ask for federal Endangered Species Act protection for the i'iwi, a blazing-red Hawaiian songbird; the white-tailed ptarmigan, a grouse-like bird of the Rocky Mountains; the Bicknell's thrush, a dainty songbird of the Northeast; and Southern California's acrobatic San Bernardino flying squirrel. All four are limited to habitat in high, cool mountaintops. As conditions warm and move upslope, they'll have fewer and fewer cool refuges. Without protection, they'll be pushed right off the mountaintops and into extinction.
"The plight of these four species shows that global warming is causing widespread harm, here and now, across the United States," said Shaye Wolf, a Center biologist. "If we don't rapidly reduce greenhouse gas pollution, scientists predict, one third of the world's species will be condemned to extinction by 2050."
Read more in the Fresno Bee.
Western Bats to Get Some Help in Face of Deadly Disease -- But Not Enough
After a Center for Biological Diversity petition, the Bureau of Land Management has recommended targeted cave closures and other measures to help save bats from white-nose syndrome -- a positive step, but not enough to sufficiently fight the deadly disease's rapid western spread. The agency's action comes a month after the U.S. Forest Service ordered the closure of all caves on national forests and grasslands in five western states. But our petition requested the closure of all bat caves on federal land in the lower 48 -- and that's what's needed to stop the syndrome, which has already wiped out more than a million bats across the East.
White-nose syndrome now affects nine bat species, including the endangered Indiana and gray bats. Biologists believe humans may have inadvertently spread the fungus from cave to cave, aiding its progress across 14 states and two Canadian provinces since it first popped up in New York in 2006. "Here in the Northeast, most of our bats are gone," said Mollie Matteson, the Center's Vermont conservation advocate. "Western land managers are finally waking up to the overwhelming threat of white-nose syndrome to bats, but this devastating disease simply will not allow the luxury of half-measures."
Read more in Land Letter.
Prairie Orchid Closer to Federal Protection
Following a lawsuit by the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service this Monday announced that the Oklahoma grasspink orchid may qualify for protection under the Endangered Species Act. The dainty light-pink flower lives in wet prairies and open savannahs but is jeopardized by urban and agricultural sprawl, livestock grazing and fire suppression. The grasspink once occurred across 17 states but now likely survives in only eight.
The orchid announcement marks the eighth decision in favor of endangered species made by the Fish and Wildlife Service since the Center filed suit to protect 93 plants and animals last February. In addition to those 93, 245 "candidate" species have been declared in need of protection but have yet to receive it. "The Obama administration continues to move painfully slowly to protect new species under the Endangered Species Act, frequently only taking action in the wake of lawsuits," said Noah Greenwald, endangered species program director at the Center.
Check out our press release and learn more about our campaign to save America's 1,000 most endangered species.
Center Sues to Save Rare Nevada Fish From Water Grab
It's already been a rough summer for the Moapa dace, a tiny endangered fish that only lives in the upper Muddy River and its tributary springs in Nevada. In June, a fire burned across much of its best -- and last -- habitat. Now, developers want to pump water out of the groundwater aquifer that the dace needs in order to quench the thirst of southern Nevada. But on Monday the Center for Biological Diversity filed suit to force the feds to follow the law and save the dace from this massive water grab. Our suit challenges the Interior Department for entering into agreements with the Southern Nevada Water Authority to "pump-test" the underground aquifer near the dace's home. Because local groundwater is already overdrawn, even test pumping could drive the quick-swimming, olive-yellow Moapa dace extinct.
"The proposed pumping tests are the equivalent of playing Russian roulette with the survival of an endangered species," said Rob Mrowka, a Nevada-based Center ecologist. "The Interior Department should be defending the water rights of the Refuge, not sacrificing them to fuel unsustainable growth in Vegas."
Get more from Reno's KTVN News and check out our press release.
Northwest Salmon Win Reprieve From Toxins
A recent court ruling has banned the application of 38 harmful pesticides along Pacific Northwest streams and waterways that are home to threatened salmon and steelhead trout in California, Oregon and Washington. Major retailers in West Coast cities that sell pesticides must also now post warnings that read "Salmon Hazard" for seven harmful chemicals. Salmon, like many other species affected by toxic pesticides, are already struggling to cope with water diversions, habitat loss and rapid climate changes. Pesticides can harm salmon growth, development, behavior and reproduction, and they've been shown to impair swimming ability, cause abnormal sexual development, reduce food supply and disrupt navigating abilities to return to their spawning grounds.
The Center for Biological Diversity is preparing to file a landmark lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency for inadequately regulating hundreds of dangerous pesticides -- illegally approving their use without consulting federal wildlife agencies on their impacts to endangered species. This year, we filed a notice of intent to sue the EPA in defense of hundreds of pesticide-harmed endangered species across the country. We'll likely go to court on the case.
Listen to a KPFK Radio interview with the Center's Jeff Miller and learn more about the Center's national Pesticides Reduction campaign.
Texas Congressman's Bill Would Harm All U.S. Wolves
Just before Congress disbanded for August recess, U.S. Rep. Chet Edwards, D-Waco, filed a bill to remove Endangered Species Act protections from all imperiled gray wolves nationwide, leaving them wide open to unregulated killing and jeopardizing years of restoration efforts. Edwards filed his legislation just a day after the Center for Biological Diversity and allies won a court decision to restore gray wolves to the endangered species list throughout Montana, Idaho, eastern Oregon, eastern Washington and northern Utah.
Rather than being removed from the endangered species list, gray wolves in this country need stronger protections -- including a national recovery plan that would help them expand into unoccupied habitat on the West Coast and in New England, additional portions of the Rockies and the Great Plains. The Center petitioned for just such a recovery plan this summer -- because we're 100-percent committed to saving this majestic, ecologically critical carnivore.
And Edwards' bill has a slim chance of passing. "This is clearly a chest-beating exercise," declared the Center's Bill Snape.
Read more in the Waco Tribune-Herald.
Study: Polar Bears' Pesticide-poisoning Risk Increasing
There's troubling news from a new comprehensive review of polar bear research: The bears are in more danger than ever from toxic contaminants in the Arctic. That's because as global warming melts the region's sea ice -- shrinking the icy platforms polar bears need for feeding, breeding and migration -- scientists believe it's also releasing formerly ice-locked toxic chemical compounds that have built up over decades after arriving from thousands of miles away via air and ocean currents. As the region's top predators, polar bears are particularly at risk of poisoning because contaminants "bio-accumulate" as they move up the food chain, becoming more potent as they're transferred from organism to organism. They're especially abundant in the ample fat cells of ice seals, the bears' favorite prey.
Chemical pollutants, including pesticides, PCBs and hydro-carbonated substances, can affect polar bears' immune and hormonal systems, and have even been known to change a bear's sex from female to male.
Read more in Deutsche Welle.
Exotic Iguana Stowaway Rescued From Ford Plant
Auto workers in Detroit recently received a very surprising shipment: a Yucatan spiny-tailed iguana, native to Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula. The gray and blue, foot-long reptile was seen scurrying along a loading dock of Ford Motor Co.'s Van Dyke Transmission Plant; it's believed to have hidden itself in a box of auto parts in Mexico and made the long journey from its home unharmed. After a Ford safety worker spotted the iguana and called animal control, it was taken to the Sterling Heights Nature Center. After it finishes a 90-day quarantine, it'll join a female black iguana at the Detroit Zoo.
"This is a unique and rare rescue situation," said Detroit Zoo Curator of Reptiles Jeff Jundt, stating the obvious. Yucatan spiny-tailed lizards are themselves unique and rare, found only within a 1,200-square-mile area and one of the smallest iguana species in the world.
Read more in the Detroit Free Press.
Photo credits: Kierán Suckling on oiled Gulf shore courtesy Center for Biological Diversity; hermit crabs courtesy Center for Biological Diversity; 'i'iwi (c) Tom A. Ranker; gray bat courtesy USFWS; grasspink orchid by Rhonda Stewart, USFWS; Moapa dace courtesy USFWS; chinook salmon courtesy Flickr/Pacific Northwest National Laboratory; gray wolf courtesy Flickr/dobak; polar bear courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Ansgar Walk; spiny-tailed iguana courtey Flickr/Max Orz.
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