Judge Moves Polar Bear Toward True Protections
In an important step for saving one of the Arctic's most iconic and imperiled mammals, a federal judge this morning ordered the feds to rethink their decision not to grant polar bears the most extensive protection possible under the Endangered Species Act. In response to a lawsuit by the Center for Biological Diversity and allies, the court said the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service hasn't justified its decision to classify the bears as merely "threatened," rather than the more protective "endangered." The agency is now forced to explain exactly why the polar bear isn't "endangered" -- which, if real science is used, will be hard to do.
The Center has been working to save the polar bear since 2005, when we first petitioned to protect it under the Endangered Species Act. After years of our litigation with two allies, in 2008 the species was listed as threatened. But denying the bear the more appropriate "endangered" designation allowed the Service to issue a special rule exempting greenhouse gases from regulation under the Act. That meant polar bears would receive no protection at all from the very worst threat driving them toward extinction: global warming. An "endangered" finding will compel true and meaningful protection for this magnificent white bear.
Learn more about our groundbreaking campaign to save the polar bear.
Onward: Reflections on a Disappointing Election
There's no way to sugarcoat it: Yesterday's elections were a depressing setback for the environment, human rights, workers' rights, cultural diversity and our natural faith in a caring, just society. The divided Congress isn't likely to move much legislation, but the House will use its access to committees, hearings, subpoenas and the media to whip up a bleating, endless attack on clean air, clean water, healthy ecosystems and the rights of other species to simply live.
The White House, already timid in the face of opposition and endlessly seeking bipartisan compromises, will want to tack to the right. And that's where the amazing power of the U.S. legal system and vibrant grassroots activism will win the day. The Center for Biological Diversity will press harder than ever in the courts -- where we've had enormous success over the past two decades -- to save imperiled species, stop global warming, break the addiction to fossil fuels and hold policymakers and polluters accountable. Now is not the time to despair, it's the time to organize and engage. Onward. And we need your help every step of the way, so keep writing those email messages, making those phone calls, visiting those congresspersons, sending those checks and even protesting in the streets to stand up for the species that rely on us every day.
Learn more about our work protecting the environment through the Endangered Species Act and the laws we defend at our Climate Law Institute.
Two Snails, Mussel, 160 Miles of River Protected
In response to Center for Biological Diversity litigation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Monday granted Endangered Species Act safeguards to three Southeast mussels and snails, protected 160 miles of river as their "critical habitat" and proposed protection for two more mussels. The newly protected Georgia pigtoe mussel, interrupted rocksnail and rough hornsnail -- as well as the soon-to-be-protected rayed bean and snuffbox mussels -- are threatened by pollution and habitat destruction that degrades their sensitive freshwater homes. All five species have spent years on the "candidate" list waiting for protection. The Center has sued to speed up protections for them and 250 other species on the waiting list. Unfortunately, on Monday the Service also denied protection to Mississippi's Bay Springs salamander after declaring it extinct -- even though some salamanders might still exist. The salamander was part of a Center suit earlier this year defending 93 species from federal foot-dragging.
"We're glad the five species are finally receiving the protection they need, but the Service needs to move more quickly to protect hundreds of other candidate species from oblivion," said Center Endangered Species Director Noah Greenwald. "And the Service should have protected the Bay Springs salamander and carried out surveys to determine if it still survives."
Read more in The Birmingham News.
The Center in the Arctic: Watch Polar Bears Return to Sea Ice
After fasting all summer, polar bears are now returning to the sea ice to hunt -- and next week, you can watch them live with the Center for Biological Diversity. Our polar bear lawyers, Kassie Siegel and Brendan Cummings, will be on the western edge of Hudson Bay in Manitoba, Canada, as part of Polar Bear International's Tundra Connections, which will stream live webcasts and video straight from the Bay to your computer. Participants can log on and ask questions of polar-bear experts in real time, and you'll get the rare opportunity to see one of the Far North's most iconic mammals, live, in the wild. As global warming continues to shorten the sea-ice season, Hudson Bay has become Ground Zero in the fight to save the polar bear, the place where climate changes have hit the species hardest.
Kassie Siegel will be featured in webcasts available to all on Tuesday, Nov. 9, and Wednesday, Nov. 10, at noon CST; Brendan Cummings will take part on Thursday, Nov. 11, at the same time.
Learn more about the Center's polar bear campaign and sign up to watch the webcast on the Tundra Connections website.
Editorial: Feds Should Go to Bat for Bats
In the Northeast's Times Record this week, an astute editorial points out exactly why people should hold bats dear -- and, quoting a call to action from the Center for Biological Diversity, why the federal government should do everything possible to protect bats from a fast-spreading, deadly disease. Though bats have always had something of a public-relations problem, says the author, these creatures are in fact "our best friends": One little brown bat can eat 600 mosquitoes in an hour, a red bat eats 100 moths a night, and one small, 150-bat colony can eat up to 33 million crop pests in a single summer.
The editorial echoes our calls last week for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to dramatically ramp up its response to the mysterious bat disease known as white-nose syndrome, which in four years has killed more than a million bats in 14 states and is rapidly spreading westward. Alarmingly, the feds haven't reacted with nearly the strength necessary, recently issuing only a skeletal draft plan to deal with the epidemic. It's past time to heed the Center's cry to declare white-nose a wildlife emergency, dedicate at least $10 million for research and restrict nonessential human access to all bat caves on federal land.
Read the editorial for yourself.
1,000 Rocky Mountain Bighorns Killed by Disease
Majestic, nimble wild bighorn sheep are dying across the northern Rocky Mountains from a plague of pneumonia transmitted by domestic sheep grazing in their habitat. Since last winter, nine outbreaks of the disease have killed nearly 1,000 bighorns, which were already seriously threatened by disease, habitat destruction and other factors and have declined from an estimated 1.2 million historically to fewer than 100,000 bighorns now. After a new study confirming the source of the pneumonia, sheep ranchers can no longer deny that their domestic animals are infecting wild bighorns. Meanwhile, wildlife agencies are killing sick and healthy bighorns in a desperate attempt to stop the disease's spread.
Instead of killing bighorns, we should keep domestic sheep completely out of wild bighorn habitat; plans by Idaho's Payette National Forest to gradually cut sheep grazing by about 70 percent are a step forward, but just not enough. The Center for Biological Diversity has long defended imperiled bighorns in the Rockies, the Southwest and Southern California. This year, we helped compel the U.S. Sheep Station to halt grazing on 7,500 acres in the greater Yellowstone ecosystem, helping protect not only bighorns but also grizzly bears and wolves. We'll continue carefully monitoring the Sheep Station and urge more grazing restrictions where necessary.
Get more from Reuters.
"Global Index of Fear" Ranks Overpopulation in Top Five
In a recent survey commissioned by King's College London, overpopulation came up as the fifth-scariest issue facing the globe. The first-ever "Global Index of Fear," as some have called it, polled more than 7,000 people in eight nations: Australia, the United States, Britain, Brazil, China, South Africa, India and Saudi Arabia. Climate change and war/terrorism tied for first-place among global fears, followed by poverty, the economy and overpopulation.
What does all this show, besides the fact that the world is shaking in its boots? Certainly it confirms the importance of dealing with global warming without delay. But the survey also provides an important perspective on overpopulation, an issue the Center for Biological Diversity took up in 2009. Since then, we've given away more than 350,000 of our Endangered Species condoms as a way to highlight the connection between unsustainable population growth and loss of species around the globe. Sometime next year, the world's population is expected to reach a staggering 7 billion people -- all the more reason to redouble our efforts to make sure our rapid growth doesn't doom huge numbers of plants and animals to extinction.
Read more in The Sydney Morning Herald and learn about overpopulation.
1/5 of U.S. Coal-fired Power Plants May Close
According to a recent Wall Street report, tougher U.S. air pollution rules to be enforced next year could mean the end for as many as one in five coal-fired power plants in this country. Regulations now in the works at the Environmental Protection Agency, combined with a recent drop in the price of natural gas, will likely soon cause many power providers to favor closing old plants (especially those older than 40 that lack emissions controls) over shelling out money for federally required upgrades. Great news, for sure -- but The Christian Science Monitor warns that the report could spur some Congress members to step up their attack on federal clean-air rules. And since many of the power plants projected to be closed will be small -- and largely replaced by also-dirty natural-gas turbines -- some say climate benefits would likewise be small.
Still, the economic cards look pretty stacked against the coal industry. The Center for Biological Diversity, which is fighting several of the biggest coal-fired plants in the country and has worked hard for tough air-pollution rules, will take all the help we can get in ending the country's dependence on dirty fossil fuels.
Read more in The Christian Science Monitor.
Endangered Sneezing Snub-nosed Monkey Discovered
A species of monkey unlike any other has just been discovered in the remote forest of northern Myanmar, and it's already on the brink of extinction. The black, long-tailed monkey has white-tufted ears, a white beard and an upturned snub nose that makes it easy to track in the rain, according to local hunters, because it sneezes when water drips into its nostrils. Only 260 to 330 of the monkeys exist in Myanmar's state of Kachin, and all those monkeys are now urgently threatened as their last remaining habitat comes under assault by logging and the construction of a new dam planned by the Chinese. Historically, the monkeys were hunted for their meat and fur, and their body parts were used in traditional Chinese medicines.
The discovery of a new species is a bright spot in the midst of the growing extinction crisis across the globe, but this fascinating monkey could be part of the crisis if new threats drive it extinct, too. According to a coauthor of a study on the species, "The future of the snub-nosed monkey lies in Chinese hands."
Get more from Reuters.
120-plus Great GreatNonprofit Reviews, Thanks to You
In the two weeks since we asked you for positive reviews on the nonprofit-rating website GreatNonprofits.org, we've been gratified to see just how much you value the Center for Biological Diversity. "The Center is, in my opinion, the most aggressive, uncompromised and uncompromising environmental protection organization in America -- hands down," wrote one reviewer. Another appreciates our efforts "to stop mountaintop mining in West Virginia, killing of wolves (and) environmental destruction of habitat for the polar bears." And, a biologist says, "Because of the Center for Biological Diversity's consistently great work on behalf of imperiled species and their habitat, my husband and I have chosen to include the organization in our trust." More than 120 similar (but unique) rave reviews have been added, giving us almost 350 total.
We have one thing to say: Thank you. Your praise helps fuel our mission to stick up for animals, plants and wildlands across the globe.
You can read our reviews -- and keep reviewing us -- at GreatNonprofits.org.
Photo credits: polar bears courtesy Flickr/Marthade Jong-Lantink; polar bear courtesy Flickr/flickrfavorites; polar bear courtesy Flickr/Marthade Jong-Lantink; bald eagle courtesy Flickr/Denis-Carl Robidoux; pigtoe mussel by Dick Biggins, USFWS; polar bear (c) Brendan Cummings; Townsend's big-eared bat courtesy BLM; bighorn sheep courtesy Flickr/Guy Mason; overpopulation courtesy iStock/Tom Bonatti; coal-fired power plant courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Adilettante; Photoshop reconstruction of snub-nosed monkey by Dr. Thomas Geissmann; gray wolf courtesy Flickr/Taken By Tina.
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