Great Lakes Gray Wolves Under Attack . . . Again
After three attempts to remove federal protections from gray wolves in the Midwest -- all foiled in court by the Center for Biological Diversity and allies -- the feds are trying again. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service this week said it will consider four petitions to remove wolves in the Great Lakes region from the threatened and endangered species lists. The requests were filed by the natural resources departments of Minnesota and Wisconsin, as well as the Safari Club and other anti-wolf groups. This time, unlike the last, the Fish and Wildlife Service will allow public comment, which will enable us to submit key genetic information showing these wolves still require federal protection.
Read an article from Minnesota Public Radio and hear an audio story on Interlochen Public Radio.
Center Takes Action to Save 101 Species
To speed badly needed safeguards for 101 imperiled animals and plants, the Center for Biological Diversity on Monday took legal action to save them all under the Endangered Species Act. Our new suit requests immediate progress on protecting three southeastern mussels -- the comically named but seriously endangered Georgia pigtoe, interrupted rocksnail and rough hornsnail -- whose protections were proposed last year but never finalized. We also moved to amend an ongoing lawsuit over the feds' sluggishness in responding to 20 petitions for 92 species. Notably, we're requesting to add six species to the suit: the plains bison, striped newt, berry springs salamander, Puerto Rican harlequin butterfly, gull-billed tern and Mohave ground squirrel.
The Obama administration has yet to substantially increase the pace of new species protections, safeguarding only one species in the lower 48 states and proposing protection for just 15 others. "Under Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is failing to meet its legal obligations to provide prompt protection to the nation's endangered species," said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center. "This is more than mere bookkeeping: It's placing dozens of species at risk of extinction."
Check out our press release and learn about our campaign to save America's 1,000 most endangered species.
Suit Launched to Protect Gulf's Bluefin Tuna
With the Gulf of Mexico's ecosystem many years away from recovery -- and hearing no response to our petition to protect one of the Gulf's most vulnerable fish -- the Center for Biological Diversity this Tuesday filed a notice of intent to sue the feds to earn safeguards for the Atlantic bluefin tuna. The majestic tuna, which migrates all the way across the Atlantic to spawn in the Gulf, can weigh close to a ton and grow to 13 feet; it's one of the fastest species in the world, reaching speeds of more than 55 miles per hour. Despite its impressive abilities, it's being driven toward extinction by habitat degradation -- especially after the Gulf disaster -- and overfishing. Yet the National Marine Fisheries Service missed its legal deadline to respond to our scientific petition, filed in May, to grant the tuna Endangered Species Act status.
"The oil well is capped, but the effects of the spill on bluefin tuna will be seen for years to come," said Catherine Kilduff, a Center oceans program attorney. "To survive this disaster and recover, fish and wildlife need stronger oversight of the offshore oil industry and protection of essential habitat."
Meanwhile, the Center's campaign to save the Gulf moves on. Today a New Orleans judge will hear arguments on how and when our latest Clean Water Act suit -- which aims to hold BP accountable for up to $19 billion worth of damages -- will be heard.
Check out our press release and learn more about the Atlantic bluefin tuna.
3,500 Abandoned Gulf Wells to Be Capped
In a little bit of good news for the beleaguered Gulf of Mexico, the Obama administration yesterday ordered nearly 3,500 of the region's abandoned oil and gas wells to be permanently plugged, with about 650 unused production platforms to be dismantled. Unused wells pose a risk of neglected equipment failing and eventually leaking toxic oil into the Gulf -- without anyone even knowing -- and idle platforms present navigation dangers if they're knocked loose in a storm.
Unfortunately, a recent Associated Press investigation counted about 1,000 unused production platforms and more than 27,000 abandoned wells in the Gulf, many dating back to the '40s and '50s and about 600 belonging to BP. "This is an important first step in cleaning up what's become a dumping ground for the offshore oil and gas industry," said Peter Galvin, the Center for Biological Diversity's conservation director. "But it can't stop with today's order. Rather than lift the moratorium on deepwater drilling, the Obama administration needs to extend it to new projects in shallow waters, too, until the safety of people and the environment can be assured."
Get more from MSNBC.
Pacific Walrus in Big Trouble -- Take Action
As you read this, an unprecedented 10,000 to 20,000 Pacific walrus are crowded on a tiny Alaskan beach because global warming has shrunk their sea-ice habitat and pushed it hundreds of miles offshore. Walruses need sea ice for resting, giving birth, raising young and socializing -- and without it, mothers and calves are forced to migrate to shore, where babies can be trampled to death by their own kind or killed by predators. Meanwhile, the U.S. Geological Survey has released a report finding a 40-percent chance that the Pacific walrus will be approaching extinction by the end of the century -- and that's with the agency underestimating emissions and warming rates, as well as omitting proper emphasis on ocean acidification and oil and gas development, two more prime threats to this ivory-tusked, beautifully blubbery mammal.
After a petition and lawsuit by the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is now reviewing the Pacific walrus' plight to decide whether to place it on the endangered species list -- and the agency is wide open for public comments.
Take action now by telling the Service these walrus need federal protection immediately. Then read more in the Guardian.
Center Report: All Arctic Species at Risk -- Watch Slideshow
Of course, the Pacific walrus isn't the only Arctic species in great danger from climate change -- and neither is the polar bear. A report and slideshow released Monday by the Center for Biological Diversity and Care for the Wild International make that abundantly clear. Pairing the latest scientific information with vibrant photos, the report and slideshow highlight the already dire consequences of global warming and acidifying oceans for Arctic wildlife, from tiny plankton to arctic foxes to great whales, as they lose their habitat and food supply.
This summer, the sea ice -- which many Arctic species depend on for survival -- is likely to drop to the third lowest extent on record. While the Arctic and its wildlife suffer, the Senate has failed to pass a climate bill and is now in a position to block or delay our using the Clean Air Act to fight climate change.
Check out the report, watch the slideshow for yourself and learn more from CNN.
Lawsuit Looming to Save Sensitive Salamander
Just 10 years after its official discovery, one of Texas' rarest amphibians is in immediate danger of extinction. That's why last week the Center for Biological Diversity and Save Our Springs Alliance filed a notice of intent to sue for emergency protections. The two-inch-long Jollyville Plateau salamander spends its entire life underwater and has experienced serious decline, as well as deformities, from urban development polluting its spring and wet-cave habitats. Now it's in more danger than ever from the city of Austin's planned construction of a water-treatment plant in the heart of its habitat. In fact, one population has already been lost to the mere drilling of a test well.
"The Jollyville Plateau salamander needs immediate protection under the Endangered Species Act to survive," said Collette Adkins Giese, a newly hired Center attorney and the world's first lawyer focused exclusively on protecting rare amphibians and reptiles. "The Fish and Wildlife Service has a clear duty to emergency-list the species."
Read more in our press release and check out our brand-new Jollyville Plateau salamander webpage.
Sierra Frog May Warrant State Protection, But Can Still Be Killed
The California Fish and Game Commission on Wednesday declared that the rare mountain yellow-legged frog may deserve protection under the state's Endangered Species Act. The Commission, acting on a scientific petition by the Center for Biological Diversity, advanced the frog to the state candidate list and will conduct a detailed review of the species' status over the next year. Unfortunately, the Commission also adopted special rules the same day allowing the "take" -- that is, killing -- of yellow-legged frogs during activities like the state's own fish-stocking program, as well as the operation of dams. The Center has twice sued the California Department of Fish and Game to force a full evaluation of the fish-stocking program's environmental impacts, and we're seeking measures to protect mountain yellow-legged frogs, rare fish and other imperiled aquatic species from predation and competition from introduced fish.
Mountain yellow-legged frogs are adapted to high-elevation habitats in the Sierra Nevada without aquatic predators. Nonnative fish that are stocked in high-elevation lakes are one of the major threats to the survival of the frogs. These black-spotted, golden-eyed amphibians are also seriously endangered by the spread of chytrid fungus, pesticides, global warming, drought and habitat degradation from livestock grazing.
Check out our press release and learn more about the Sierra Nevada mountain yellow-legged frog.
Scientists Find Drugs That May Help Sick Bats
Offering a small glimmer of hope in the struggle to save bats from deadly white-nose syndrome, scientists reported this week that they may have found drugs to help. Lab tests indicate several drugs can fight the fungus that causes white-nose syndrome. Meanwhile, antiseptics might help decontaminate areas where bats live -- or even the shoes and hands of humans, who are thought to aid the disease's spread from cave to cave. However, biologists say that they have to consider how the application of the antifungals will affect other cave life. Also, treating individual bats is labor intensive and may be logistically impossible over wide areas.
Since the disease popped up in New York in 2007, it has wiped out more than a million bats and spread to 14 states and two Canadian provinces. It's known to affect nine bat species, including the Indiana and gray bats -- both protected under the Endangered Species Act -- and the eastern small-footed and northern long-eared bats, which the Center petitioned to protect this year. The Center is now pushing for increased protection for all bats, as well as more funding to research and fight white-nose syndrome -- before it wipes out some of our country's most unique and crucial night fliers.
Read more in The New York Times.
Tiniest Seahorse Faces Extinction After Oil Spill
After the biggest oil spill in U.S. history, one of the smallest seahorses on the planet has an even smaller chance of long-term survival. The minuscule dwarf seahorse, barely two centimeters tall, lives in the shallow waters of the Gulf of Mexico, where it clings to seagrass floating in the open water. During the three months when oil was gushing from BP's destroyed well, the seahorse's only habitat became mired in toxic muck as oil collected in seagrass mats -- many of which were also set on fire in BP's efforts to stop oil from reaching shore. Thick oil plumes have also prevented seagrass from growing, while the poisonous dispersants BP used for "cleaning up" are likely further shrinking seahorse habitat (not to mention harming the seahorses themselves).
Even worse, these tiny seahorses swim too slowly to escape invading oil or find new seagrass habitat. Plus, they mate for life -- with the father carrying the eggs -- and likely produce too few offspring to withstand a cataclysmic event. The time it will take Gulf seagrass to make a comeback (an estimated five years) represents three seahorse generations -- assuming the seahorses last that long.
The Center for Biological Diversity is looking out for all species in the Gulf, great and small. Stay tuned for more news on our efforts for seahorses.
Read more in the Guardian.
Photo credits: bluefin tuna (c) Paul Colley, www.mpcolley.com; gray wolf courtesy Flickr/Sakarari; plains bison by Jack Dykinga; bluefin tuna courtesy NOAA; Gulf of Mexico oil platform courtesy Flickr/Chad Teer; Pacific walrus courtesy USFWS; Arctic fox (c) Larry Master, masterimages.org; Jollyville Plateau salamander by Mark Sanderson, City of Austin; mountain yellow-legged frog by Adam Backlin, USGS; white-nose syndrome by Rany Von Linden, New York Department of Environmental Conservation; dwarf seahorse courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Stickpen.
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