Gulf Update: Take Action Six Months After Nation's Worst Eco Disaster
Wednesday was a dark anniversary for those who care about wildlife and wild places. Six months ago, BP's Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico -- launching a disaster that would spill more than 200 millions of oil and kill more than 6,100 birds, 605 sea turtles and nearly 100 mammals. Today, oil still fouls beaches and wetlands and cripples populations of birds, endangered turtles and other Gulf species. Yet the federal government still hasn't dealt with offshore drilling's frightening environmental risks. Says Kierán Suckling, the Center's executive director, "We should be marking the six-month anniversary of the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history by redoubling our efforts to protect the environment and making sure something like this never happens again."
That's what the Center's doing. Last week we voiced our opposition to the government's premature lifting of the ban on deepwater drilling. Days later, Suckling spoke on the keynote panel at the Society for Environmental Journalists' annual conference about the BP disaster, highlighting the seven lawsuits we've launched to hold the government and BP accountable and showing why we've been leaders in calling for offshore drilling reforms -- which we're not done with, not by a long shot.
Learn more in our press release, check out our revamped Gulf Disaster webpage, and take action to compel Interior to stop rubber-stamping drilling now. Then listen to audio of Suckling speaking at the panel last weekend, where the Center was introduced as "arguably the hardest-hitting environmental group on a national scale."
D.C. Judge May Hand Lifeline to Struggling Polar Bears
There was a glimmer of hope this week for one of the Arctic's most iconic animals. A federal judge has indicated he'll order the Interior Department to reconsider its decision to designate the polar bear as merely "threatened" instead of the more protective status of "endangered." After achieving Endangered Species Act protections for the polar bear in 2008, the Center for Biological Diversity and its allies were in court in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday seeking additional protections for the polar bear, one of many Arctic species imperiled by climate change. Much of the hearing focused on the legal difference between "threatened" and "endangered." The judge rejected the government's argument that the "endangered" designation was only for species facing "imminent" risk of extinction. He indicated he'll send the decision back to Interior to come up with a more reasonable explanation for how those terms should be applied to the polar bear.
The development may be a hopeful sign (though nothing's guaranteed) that more significant protections could be coming for the polar bear and other species threatened by loss of sea ice and other effects of climate change. It's clear they need help: Scientists estimate that if current greenhouse gas pollution trends continue, two-thirds of the world's polar bears will be gone by 2050, including all of Alaska's, while the rest will near extinction by century's end.
Read more in The Washington Post.
Idaho Throws Temper Tantrum Over Wolves (Again)
In a not-so-surprising move, Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter this Tuesday ordered his state's Department of Fish and Game to stop assisting federal authorities in investigating illegal wolf kills. The action won't likely make a difference on the ground: Few wolf poachers in the northern Rockies are apprehended in any event, and the greater threat to the state's wolves is federal predator "control" accomplished through homing in on radio-collared wolves and gunning them and their families down from the air. Otter's move comes after litigation by the Center for Biological Diversity and allies put all northern Rocky Mountains wolves back on the endangered species list earlier this year -- much to the governor's chagrin. We're still pulling out all the stops to maintain gray wolves' endangered species status across the country and opposing the loosening of wolf-control regulations.
Read more on Otter's order in the Billings Gazette. And if you haven't yet, take action now to help us uphold protections for Great Lakes wolves. You can also donate to our emergency Wolf Legal Defense Fund to give us the best chance for success in saving this critical predator.
Warming-threatened Pika Wins in California Court
Following the Center's petition and lawsuits by the Center and Earthjustice, a California judge this Tuesday ruled (for the second time) that the state must reconsider granting protection to the American pika due to threats from climate change. The Center petitioned to protect the tiny, thick-furred mammal under the California Endangered Species Act in 2007 because the species is adapted to survive only on cold mountaintops and is being pushed farther and farther upslope as temperatures rise. After the California Fish and Game Commission rejected our petition, we sued and won a court invalidation of the agency's denial. When the Commission again denied the petition, refusing to confront the science showing the pika is imperiled by climate change, we went back to court. Our newest win should force the Commission to take a comprehensive look at the science showing the pika is threatened with extinction.
The Center is also in the middle of a hard battle to win pika safeguards under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.
Get more from The New York Times.
EPA May Block Mountaintop-removal Mine -- Help It Happen
In a huge blow to one of the biggest mountaintop-removal projects ever proposed -- and after nearly 4,200 comments were filed by Center for Biological Diversity supporters -- the Environmental Protection Agency has recommended against approving the devastating Spruce mountaintop-removal coal mine. Last Friday, the agency advised its Office of Water to deny a Clean Water Act permit for the mine, proposed for Logan County, W.V. The recommendation was based on grounds that it would bury almost seven miles of streams and pollute many more miles of nearby waterways after literally blowing off the top of a mountain to mine for coal. The proposed Spruce Mine would also destroy 2,300 acres of forest. If the Office of Water follows the EPA's recommendation later this year, it will be the first time the agency has retroactively denied a mountaintop permit.
Pollution from mountaintop removal mining has been found to cause deformities and reproductive failure in downstream wildlife and has been associated with cancer clusters in human communities exposed to high levels of coal-mining activity. Mountaintop-removal coal mining has already destroyed more than 500 mountains, more than 1 million acres of hardwood forest and more than 2,000 miles of streams in Appalachia.
Read more in the Charleston Gazette and take action by tomorrow night to tell the EPA mountaintop removal is an environmental injustice.
Study: Oil Spill Devastating for Imperiled Bluefin Tuna
Confirming the Center for Biological Diversity's worst fears for one of the Gulf's most amazing fish, a scientific study released Monday estimated that the BP oil spill killed 20 percent of the area's juvenile Atlantic bluefin tuna. Already, overfishing has caused the fish's western population, whose only known breeding grounds are in the Gulf, to decline by more than 80 percent. So the Center filed a petition to protect the tuna in May, just after it spawned in the middle of the worst oil spill in U.S. history. This September, the National Marine Fisheries Service reacted positively to our petition, announcing it will consider Endangered Species Act status for the tuna. That would require the feds to protect the fish from threats like offshore drilling, as well as banning bluefin importation and compelling the set-aside of federally protected "critical habitat."
The bluefin tuna is a massive fish, up to 13 feet long and up to a ton in weight, and among the fastest of all species, swimming at up to 55 miles per hour. This year's oil spill has proven one of the worst bluefin threats yet.
Get more from Mongabay.com and check out our Atlantic bluefin tuna page.
Suit Filed to Save California, Nevada Species From ORVs
In defense of bighorn, sage grouse, trout and other imperiled plants and animals, the Center for Biological Diversity on Wednesday sued the U.S. Forest Service for allowing off-road vehicles in sensitive areas along the California-Nevada border. In March, the agency designated 220 miles of new motorized routes in the area's Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest -- routes that cross key habitat for the federally protected Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep and Lahontan cutthroat trout, as well as sage-grouse nesting habitat. Making matters worse, the Service's decision allows 49 miles of new routes in federally designated "roadless areas" -- which, as the name implies, are supposed to offer large, uninterrupted expanses of roadless land for the sake of both wildlife and people. The Forest Service admits ORVs can hurt wildlife by disrupting behavior, crushing animals, tearing up habitat and impairing water quality for fish and frogs.
"The intrusion of noisy, exhaust-spewing off-road vehicles into roadless areas is completely at odds with the very values for which these areas were protected in the first place," said the Center's Rob Mrowka.
Read more in the Reno Gazette-Journal.
Center LA Times Op-ed: Get the Lead Out
Scientists estimate that more than 10 million birds and other animals die each year through poisoning due to toxic lead in the environment, left behind as fragments from lead hunting ammunition, lead shot and lead fishing tackle. Scavengers like endangered California condors ingest lead in lead-contaminated carcasses, while water birds like swans, cranes and loons eat discarded or lost lead fishing weights that are mistaken for food or grit. Some animals die painful deaths; others suffer for years from lead poisoning's debilitating effects. And people aren't immune -- those who eat lead-shot game meat also risk lead poisoning, especially children.
The Environmental Protection Agency could change that, says a recent Los Angeles Times opinion piece by the Center for Biological Diversity's Jeff Miller. This summer, the Center and allies petitioned the agency to require the use of nonlead hunting ammo and fishing tackle nationwide. Unfortunately, the EPA promptly -- and incorrectly -- denied its power to regulate lead ammo; we await a decision on fishing tackle. "We're asking the EPA to reexamine its decision on lead ammunition and to take a more scientific approach to the decision on toxic fishing weights," Miller writes. "The nation's top environmental agency cannot simply walk away from the preventable poisoning of wildlife."
Read the piece for yourself in the Los Angeles Times.
Flattery Will Get Us Everywhere: Write the Center a Good Review
Last spring, after the Center for Biological Diversity rallied our online newsletter readers to rate us on GreatNonprofits.org, we got so many astoundingly positive reviews it brought tears to our eyes and won us (by a landslide) GreatNonprofits' annual Green Choice Campaign, a contest to find the best eco groups in the nation among 262 total contestants. Though we still have an overall five-star rating (of course!), as primary elections near and political ugliness emerges, we've noticed that a few misinformed individuals have given us negative reviews. What a drag.
Please take a moment to boost our spirits and our chance for winning next year's Green Choice Award by telling the world why you read our online newsletter, contribute to our campaigns, take action online to help us save species and/or just plain appreciate the work we do. Your input makes all the difference.
Review us now here.
Stop Junk Mail, Save Species
Do you cringe -- or even moan, wail or scream -- every time you open your mailbox to a cascade of coupons, catalogues and credit-card offers? You're not alone: The average adult receives 41 pounds of postal junk mail every single year, and most of us don't like it, whether we're thinking about the enormous amounts of energy and resources it wastes or just plain annoyed.
Luckily, the Center for Biological Diversity is in on a great way to you unburden your mailbox for a whole year: Just make a quick trip to 41pounds.org, a nonprofit that stops 80 to 95 percent of junk mail from ever being stamped with your address. Now, when you enlist the helpful services of 41pounds, you can designate more than a third of the fee to go to the Center -- so you'll be saving trees, reducing greenhouse gases and protecting species at the same time.
Reclaim your mailbox with the Center and 41pounds.org today.
Photo credits: in situ oil burn by John Masson, U.S. Coast Guard; oiled pelicans (c) Jose-Luis Magana, Greenpeace; polar bear courtesy Flickr/Stefan Cook; gray wolf courtesy Flickr/Sakarri; American pika (c) Larry Master/MasterImages.org; mountaintop removal in eastern Kentucky courtesy Flickr/ilovemountains; bluefin tuna courtesy NOAA; Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep courtesy California Department of Fish and Game; loon by Tim Bowman, USFWS; southwestern willow flycatcher courtesy USGS; logo courtesy 41pounds.org.
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