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Gray Wolves in Danger -- Take Action

It's been a big -- and especially bad -- week for endangered gray wolves across the country. In the Southwest, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service again halted the release of a captive-bred pack of eight Mexican wolves -- badly needed to bolster a dwindling population -- into the Arizona wild. And in Oregon's Umatilla National Forest a young gray wolf was illegally killed by a poacher, the third wolf killed since the species began returning to Oregon after extermination more than 60 years ago. The first two were shot by the U.S. Department of Agriculture last year before the Center shut down 'wolf control' in Oregon.

To seek justice for the dead wolf in Oregon, the Center for Biological Diversity this week contributed to a reward of $7,500 for information leading to the killer's identification. In the Southwest, we're working to earn Mexican gray wolves Endangered Species Act protection separate from other gray wolves, which will compel the development of their own, much-needed recovery plan. We're also fighting for a national gray wolf plan that will help recover the entire species in former habitat on the West Coast and in the Great Basin, southern Rockies, Great Plains and New England.

Read more about our reward for the Oregon wolf killers and the delay of the Mexican wolf pack release. Take action to help safeguard gray wolves in the Great Lakes, which are threatened with the removal of protections despite their endangerment. Then please donate to our Wolf Legal Defense Fund to aid our campaign for all gray wolves across the country.

More Habitat Safeguards on Horizon for Rare Right Whale

In response to a petition and lawsuit by the Center for Biological Diversity and allies, the National Marine Fisheries Service last week announced plans to expand federally protected "critical habitat" for the sake of endangered North Atlantic right whales. Fewer than 400 of these massive, acrobatic whales cling to survival after being decimated by historic hunting and current ship collisions, oil and gas development, entanglement in commercial fishing gear, climate change and other threats. Yet when the Center petitioned to expand critical habitat for the North Atlantic right whale in 2009, the feds dragged their feet in responding -- so we sued last May. Now the Fisheries Service says it will make an official proposal to revise protected habitat next year.

In an 18-month period, three pregnant females and their full-term young died after being hit by ships outside their too-small critical habitat, a protected area off New England and the Florida-Georgia border that hasn't been revised since 1994. "Protecting key calving and migration habitat is essential to the continued survival of this species," said Sarah Uhlemann, a staff attorney with the Center. "Every one of these whales -- and every square mile of protected habitat -- counts."

Get more from the Environment News Service.

Gulf Deepwater Drilling Moratorium Lifted

Less than six months after the oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, the Obama administration on Tuesday announced it would lift its moratorium on deepwater drilling. That move -- coupled with the feds' largest expansion of offshore drilling in decades, proposed this spring -- demonstrates the oil industry's unfortunate power over the White House to put America's waters and wildlife in danger for the sake of dirty energy.

Said the Center for Biological Diversity's Executive Director Kierán Suckling: "Every offshore oil rig is a ticking time bomb waiting to go off. The nightmare we all witnessed in the Gulf of Mexico earlier this year came from a single blown-out well. The result was more than 200 million gallons of oil spilled, thousands of dead birds and sea turtles and the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history."

Read more in our press release and get the latest on the Gulf disaster.

Feds Set Aside $1.6 Million to Save Bats -- More Action Needed

In a good step forward in the fight to save bats from the worst bat disease ever documented, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service last week announced it's providing $1.6 million for new studies of white-nose syndrome. The disease, which has killed millions of bats over the past four years, affects nine species in 14 states and two Canadian provinces, including the endangered Indiana and gray bats. The resulting devastation has been called the worst wildlife decline in North American history, and biologists now fear that white-nose syndrome will spread this winter to the upper Midwest, the South and parts of the West. So while the set-aside of new funds to study the disease is a positive move, the action is unfortunately dwarfed by the magnitude of the crisis.

The Center for Biological Diversity has been pulling out all the stops to combat the disease: petitioning to close bat caves to stop the disease's spread, seeking a halt all federal activities that harm bats, and protection for two rare bat species endangered by white-nose-syndrome. "The federal government must dramatically scale up efforts to stem the spread of this disease or risk widespread catastrophe for bat populations around the country," said Mollie Matteson, conservation advocate for the Center. "The Fish and Wildlife Service still lacks a national plan to address the disease, has not declared new protections for plummeting bat species, and continues to request inadequate funding to tackle this huge ecological threat."

Read more in the Boston Herald.

Four-inch Georgia Mussel Makes Big Strides Toward Protection

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has finally proposed Endangered Species Act protection for one of the South's rarest invertebrates: the Altamaha spinymussel. This purple/pink and greenish mussel has been a "candidate" for protection since 1984 and has dwindled to just 57 individuals. This species is part of a backlog of 249 candidate species that the Center for Biological Diversity and allies have sued to protect. Since the Obama administration came to office, it has only proposed protection for 16 species, finalizing protection for just one plant in the conterminous United States.

The spinymussel grows up to four inches long, with large, intimidating spikes on its shell, and is threatened by drought, reduced river flows and water diversions. "It's a shame that this mussel languished under bureaucratic delay for 26 years," said Tierra Curry, conservation biologist with the Center. "The delay in protection has allowed the spinymussel to decline so far that the situation is now dire. The Fish and Wildlife Service needs to immediately protect all candidate species."

Get more from the Courthouse News Service.

Coal Ash Is Killing Wildlife -- Take Action

Burning coal doesn't just spew carbon dioxide into the air. It also spews toxic waste, called coal ash, into the environment, poisoning wildlife and human communities across the country. Every year, burning coal for electricity produces more than 130 million tons of coal ash laden with arsenic, mercury, lead and other dangerous contaminants. Yet the federal government has set no rules for coal-ash disposal, even while hundreds of coal-ash dump sites are known to be leaking waste into endangered species' habitats and humans' drinking-water supplies.

But instead of regulating coal ash, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is now considering labeling it as common household garbage and letting industry continue dumping it without federal oversight -- in fact, with a government green light.

But you can help -- take action now to demand that the EPA regulate coal ash as the hazardous waste it is.

Center Op-ed: Mountaintop Species Need Protection From Warming

Climate change threatens to dramatically alter some of the nation's mountaintop communities, points out a recent Denver Post op-ed by the Center for Biological Diversity's Noah Greenwald. He writes that climate change is an urgent threat to some species because, as warming temperatures move upslope, cold-adapted species run out of room. That's why the Center recently filed scientific petitions to grant federal protection to four of these species: California's San Bernardino flying squirrel, Colorado's white-tailed ptarmigan, New England's Bicknell's thrush and a flaming-red Hawaii bird called the ‘i‘iwi.

"Though the plight of these mountain-dependent species is troubling on its own, it speaks to a larger concern about the fate of our planet and its species, including people," says Greenwald's piece. "Global warming could condemn a third of the world's plant and animal species to extinction by 2050. . . Ignoring this problem, or failing to act out of political fear, is to place those species on an inexorable path to extinction and put the rest of us next in line -- even those who may never visit the top of a mountain."

Read more in the Denver Post.

Study: Curbing Population Growth Could Cut 1/3 of Emissions

The world's population now stands at 6.9 billion people and could reach 9 billion by mid-century -- a scary thought in terms of the carbon dioxide each of those billions will help emit. But according to a new study, slowing population growth to no more than 7.4 billion by 2050 could be enough to reduce the world's CO2 emissions to levels that could avoid catastrophic, runaway global warming. In fact, the study says, the world's overall population size has the biggest influence on future greenhouse gas emissions, with urbanization and consumption taking second and third place.

"This study helps confirm other research showing that investments in family planning to stabilize population growth are a very effective way to reduce future carbon emissions," said Randy Serraglio, overpopulation campaign coordinator for the Center for Biological Diversity. "If we really want to reduce our carbon footprint -- and the number of species that disappear beneath it -- it will be necessary to reduce the number of feet."

Read more in E & E News and check out about the Center's revamped overpopulation webpage.

Whale Poop: Critical to Ocean Ecosystems (Including Fisheries)

Have you ever wondered what happens to the waste of some of the largest animals in the sea? Well, most whales actually deposit a liquidy plume that floats near the ocean's surface and, according to a recent study in the journal PLoS ONE, dramatically boosts the health of ocean ecosystems. Whales feed near the sea floor, then poop near the surface, bringing to the top of the ocean essential nutrients like nitrogen that help phytoplankton -- and thus fish and the whole food chain -- thrive.

That benefit to fish runs counter to previous assumptions that whales compete with fish for food, and thus that a reduction in whales is good for fishermen. "Our study flips that idea on its head," says whale biologist Joel Roman. "Not only is that competition small or nonexistent, but actually the whales present can increase nutrients and help fisheries and the health of systems wherever they are found." All the more reason to save the whales.

Read more in Science Daily and learn about one whale the Center for Biological Diversity is saving.

Kierán Suckling
Executive Director

Photo credits: Mexican gray wolf (c) Robin Silver; gray wolf courtesy Flickr/dalliedee; North Atlantic right whale courtesy NOAA; oiled bird courtesy Flickr/marinephotobank; Indiana bat by Adam Mann, Environmental Solutions and Innovations; Altamaha spinymussel by Jimmy Rickard, USFWS; Kingston coal ash flood by Dot Griffith; 'i'iwi (c) Tom A. Ranker; overpopulation courtesy iStock/mura; sperm whale flukes in Gulf of Mexico courtesy NMFS.

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