Center to Fish and Wildlife: Keep Protecting Great Lakes Wolves
Continuing our fight to help gray wolves survive and recover across the nation, the Center for Biological Diversity and the Humane Society of the United States this week filed comments demonstrating that wolves in the Great Lakes region must keep their Endangered Species Act protection. Our comments defend wolves from petitions by state wildlife managers and sport-hunting groups to remove wolf protections in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is now considering those petitions despite explicit concerns our comments raise, such as the continuing loss of gray wolf pups to disease; hybridization among gray wolves, eastern wolves and coyotes; and state laws specially crafted to facilitate wolf killings after federal protections are lifted.
Wolves occupy just 5 percent of their original range in the lower 48 states and make up a tiny fraction of historical numbers (once about 2 million in North America). So besides specifically defending wolf populations in the Great Lakes, northern Rockies, Southwest and Pacific Northwest, we've petitioned the feds for a nationwide recovery plan that would help restore wolves to significant portions of their old U.S. range. "It's easy to forget how lucky we are to have wolves in our woods, where they help keep the balance," said the Center's Collette Adkins Giese. "Wolves shouldn't be stripped of protection before achieving national recovery."
Check out our press release, take action by submitting your own comments defending Great Lakes wolves and contribute to our emergency Wolf Legal Defense Fund if you haven't yet.
Lawsuit Filed to Restore Deepwater Drilling Ban
The Center for Biological Diversity last Friday sued Interior Secretary Ken Salazar for concluding that oil drilling doesn't put the environment at risk -- and then putting the environment at risk by lifting the U.S. moratorium on deepwater drilling. Our lawsuit seeks to reinstate the moratorium until the feds do a complete analysis of deepwater drilling's dangers to wildlife and the environment. The suit comes just after the Interior Department announced it's considering its first deepwater drilling permit since it lifted the moratorium.
"It's astonishing that despite the BP spill's overwhelming toll on the Gulf of Mexico and its wildlife, Secretary Salazar lifted the moratorium by concluding there are no significant environmental effects from drilling," said Miyoko Sakashita, the Center's oceans director. "Salazar is repeating the same tragic mistakes that led to the massive spill in the Gulf by discounting the risks of drilling for oil thousands of feet underwater."
Get more from ABC News.
Two Southwest Fish to Earn 900 Miles of Habitat
In response to a lawsuit by the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service yesterday proposed to set aside nearly 900 river miles of federally protected critical habitat for two imperiled southwestern fish, the spikedace and loach minnow. The agency also proposed to upgrade the status of each fish from "threatened" to "endangered" under the Endangered Species Act. That designation will provide additional protections from livestock-caused habitat destruction, the spread of invasive species and other threats. The Center has been working for the spikedace and loach minnow since 1993, when we first sued to protect habitat for the fish -- and were successful. Unfortunately, industry lawsuits and Bush-era efforts to limit protections have repeatedly blocked the fish from getting the protections they need.
"Increased habitat protection and recognition of the precarious status of these two fish species should raise the alarm bells for emergency action to protect Southwest rivers and streams," said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center. "This includes restricting livestock grazing, water withdrawals and other habitat disturbances in riparian areas."
Read more in the Arizona Daily Star.
Feds Fail in Response to Bat Horror Show -- Take Action
Bats have long been central icons of our scariest holiday, Halloween. But due to the mysterious and deadly white-nose syndrome, many bats -- animals that are crucial to insect control -- are facing a scarier fate than most of us can imagine: extinction. And the federal government has been zombie-slow in its response to the crisis. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service yesterday finally released a national response plan, but it's still only in draft form, lists no specific action items and makes no concrete recommendations for research and management of the disease. The Center for Biological Diversity is urging the Service to take real action, including declaring white-nose syndrome a wildlife emergency, dramatically increasing funding for white-nose syndrome research and improving protections for bat caves that haven't yet been hit by the disease. We've been working hard against the disease since 2008, including petitioning to protect two bat species and close all federally owned bat caves in the lower 48 to nonessential human access.
"What would Halloween be without bats? Scarier still, what would America be without them?" said the Center's Mollie Matteson. "If we're going to stem the spread of this deadly disease we need the government to move quickly with a well-coordinated, well-funded response." Since white-nose syndrome popped up in New York four years ago, it has already killed more than a million bats. The fungus associated with the disease has spread to nine species in 14 states and two Canadian provinces, and has hit two endangered bat species, the Indiana bat and the gray bat.
Read our press release, learn more about our campaign against the bat crisis and take action for bats now.
Center to Sue for Wolf, Sunfish, Earthworm, Orchid
This week the Center filed a formal notice of intent to sue the federal government for its slow response on protecting the Mexican gray wolf, spring pygmy sunfish, giant Palouse earthworm and Oklahoma grass pink orchid. The Mexican wolf, though protected along with gray wolves nationwide, needs special protection as a subspecies or distinct population in order to earn a much-needed modern recovery plan -- yet after a Center petition, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service still hasn't granted that protection. The Service has basically ignored our petition to protect the spring pygmy sunfish, a small, striped Southeast fish threatened by development and pollution -- while failing at a timely response to our petition for the extremely rare giant Palouse earthworm, which reportedly spits and smells like a lily. The agency has also been slow to help the Oklahoma grass pink orchid, a plant that inhabits wet prairies and open savannahs but has struggled to survive against sprawl and grazing.
These four species join 92 others in a different 2010 Center suit to earn Endangered Species Act status for long-neglected species clinging to life by a thin thread.
Peruse our press release and learn more about the Mexican gray wolf, spring pygmy sunfish, and giant Palouse earthworm.
Suit Seeks Safeguards for California Seabird
The Center for Biological Diversity yesterday filed suit against the Interior Department to challenge the denial of Endangered Species Act protections for the ashy storm petrel, a California seabird in steep decline. In 2007, the Center petitioned to protect this rare seabird from predation, pollution, oil spills and climate change. Yet despite recommendations by its own scientists, last year the Interior Department denied protection for the bird, which is already classified as endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and BirdLife International. In response to a Center letter, Interior has indicated that it plans to reevaluate its flawed 2009 decision. Our suit seeks a binding commitment from the feds to reevaluate protection for this small, smoke-gray seabird by a firm deadline.
"If the Interior Department were doing its job, it would have granted to the ashy storm petrel Endangered Species Act protection years ago," said Wolf. "We are going to court to ensure this seabird doesn't have to wait any longer."
Check out our press release and learn more about the ashy storm petrel.
Spotted Seals Left Unprotected in U.S. Waters
After a scientific petition and lawsuit by the Center for Biological Diversity, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration last week finalized Endangered Species Act protection for two small spotted seal populations in China and Russia -- but has left U.S. spotted seals, equally imperiled, out in the cold. All spotted seals are in dire danger from global warming, which is melting the sea-ice habitat they need to survive. In fact, winter sea ice in spotted seal habitat in the Bering Sea off Alaska is projected to decline by at least 40 percent by midcentury. But after the Center petitioned to protect several populations in 2008, the Service last year declared that 98 percent of the world's spotted seals living in Alaska and Russian waters didn't warrant protection -- because they would somehow adapt to a life on land or migrate to sea-ice habitat elsewhere. Center biologists haven't seen any science to back that conclusion.
While spotted seals in China and Russia certainly deserve protection, those in Alaska need it, too -- and the U.S. government can do much more for the species in Alaska waters. Specifically, Endangered Species Act protections could help save spotted seals from a Bush-era plan to expand offshore oil and gas development in their Alaska habitat.
Get more from the Courthouse News Service.
Fuel Rules for Large Vehicles Must Be Stronger
On Monday, the federal government released its first-ever proposal to improve fuel efficiency for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles -- an historic step, but one that falls far short of what we can do to cut greenhouse gas emissions in the truck/bus sector. The proposal would reduce emissions from three categories of trucks and buses by less than 20 percent overall, while a recent National Academy of Sciences report found that a reduction in fuel use of more than 50 percent from the 2010 baseline is technologically feasible by 2020, and that's from tractor-trailers alone. Such a discrepancy won't help us on the journey toward avoiding catastrophic global warming.
In 2007, the Center for Biological Diversity and allies won a landmark court victory overturning the Bush administration's laughably lax fuel-economy standards for passenger cars and light trucks -- and we won't accept lax standards for heavy trucks and buses, either. Said Center Executive Director Kierán Suckling, "These trucks and buses produce about 20 percent of total greenhouse pollution from the transportation sector, so it's imperative that we reduce their emissions."
Read more in The New York Times and learn about transportation and global warming.
Study: Conservation Works, More Needed
According to a new survey assessing 26,000 species across the globe, biodiversity losses would be at least 20 percent higher without conservation actions like those we take at the Center for Biological Diversity. Due to environmental safeguards, the study says, 64 vulnerable species have begun recovering. Reintroduction has let two American species -- the California condor and black-footed ferret, both of which the Center has worked to save -- repopulate the wild after near-extinction. And many species move measurably toward recovery due to a combination of protective policies -- like the Asian crested ibis, which benefited from nesting-tree protection and control of chemicals and firearms.
But the overarching results of the study are grim. More and more species are facing extinction, including a fifth of all vertebrates and a third of sharks and rays. Each year, 52 species move a category closer to extinction. And this year has been dubbed the International Year of Biodiversity -- the year set by the 1992 Convention on Biodiversity for having achieved a significant reduction in biodiversity loss.
The path is clear: We need more conservation, and we need it now.
Read more in The Washington Post.
A Happy Halloween for 3,000 Hairy-legged Spider Babies
When All Hallows' Eve dawns this Sunday, thousands of baby fen raft spiders -- belonging to one of the United Kingdom's most endangered spider species -- should be contentedly dwelling in wild habitat after being released last week. Since spring, an ecologist with Britain's Natural England had been hand-rearing 3,000 spiderlings in her own kitchen, personally feeding flies to every one of her charges until all were set free in a Suffolk, UK, nature preserve.
Fen raft spiders, one of only two arachnids fully protected under British law, are named for their ability to float on water -- thanks to their very hairy legs -- in wetlands and fens, or swamps, which are rapidly being destroyed and polluted by humans. The spiders can grow to be five centimeters long and are known for their distinctive cream-colored stripes and elaborate bobbing mating dance. The newly released babies will boost numbers of two of three remaining British populations of the spider. Here's hoping that as many as possible make it to adulthood -- because these spiders have a lot more to fear from us than we do from them, Halloween or not.
Read more in The Guardian.
Photo credits: gray wolf (c) Robin Silver; gray wolf courtesy USFWS; in situ oil burn by John Masson, U.S. Coast Guard; spikedace by Marty Jackle, USFWS; bats courtesy Flickr/Tolka Rover; spring pygmy sunfish courtesy Conservation Fisheries, Inc.; ashy storm petrel (c) Glen Tepke; spotted seal by Ensign Carl Rhodes, NOAA; semi-truck courtesy Flickr/cupcakes2jpg; black-footed ferret by Dean Biggins, USGS; fen raft spider courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Helen Smith.
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