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Major Win for Polar Bear, 120 Million Protected Acres -- Take Action

In a historic win for polar bears -- and in response to a lawsuit by the Center for Biological Diversity and allies -- the federal government just protected more than 187,000 square miles (about 120 million acres) of "critical habitat" for the polar bear on Alaska's north coast. The critical habitat designation -- by far the biggest in Endangered Species Act history -- comes at a critical time for this iconic Arctic animal: Due to our litigation, the Interior Department is now under court order to reconsider its decision to declare the polar bear "threatened" under the Endangered Species Act rather than granting it the more protective status of "endangered." Interior is also considering whether to allow oil companies to drill for oil in the polar bear's newly designated critical habitat in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas of Alaska. The polar bear earned federal protection in May 2008 due to our petition and lawsuit.

Global warming is fast melting the sea ice polar bears depend on to hunt, mate and raise cubs. If current greenhouse gas trends continue, scientists predict two-thirds of the world's polar bears -- including all Alaska bears -- will likely be gone in 40 years or even much sooner. "The critical habitat designation clearly identifies the areas that need to be protected if the polar bear is to survive in a rapidly melting Arctic," said Brendan Cummings, senior counsel with the Center. "However, unless the Interior Department starts to take seriously its mandate to actually protect the polar bear's critical habitat, we will be writing the species' obituary rather than its recovery plan."

Get more from The New York Times and take action now to help polar bears earn endangered status.

Boycott Launched to Save Bluefin Tuna: Sign Our Pledge

Bluefin tuna -- one of the oceans' most remarkable species -- continues to be pushed toward extinction, yet international fishing regulators have refused to do anything about it. That's why on Tuesday the Center for Biological Diversity launched a national boycott of bluefin tuna, which is still a staple in many sushi restaurants. We're calling on chefs, restaurateurs and consumers like you not to buy bluefin tuna or spend money at restaurants that serve it. This warm-blooded fish can grow up to 10 feet long, swim at 50 miles per hour and cross the entire Atlantic ocean in just 60 days. Because of overfishing, it's declined by more than 80 percent since 1970. It took another hit earlier this year when the Gulf of Mexico oil spill polluted its only spawning grounds, decimating an estimated 20 percent of all juvenile bluefin. The Center petitioned for Endangered Species Act protection for Atlantic bluefin in May. But just last week, international regulators approved new fishing quotas that don't do anything to help this magnificent fish.

"The urgent plight of bluefin tuna has been well known for years and, while some restaurants have rightly removed it from their menus, others continue to serve it," said the Center's Catherine Kilduff. "That has to stop if we're going to keep this fish from slipping into oblivion."

Already, more than 15,000 people have signed our pledge to stop eating bluefin tuna sushi or going to restaurants that serve it. You should be next, and then share this campaign with your friends, family and on Facebook. Bluefin are counting on you.

Sign our pledge now to let bluefin off the hook and check out our new Bluefin Boycott website. Then get more from AFP.

800 Acres Safeguarded for Rare SoCal Plant

In response to a lawsuit by the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Tuesday designated almost 800 acres of protected "critical habitat" for Southern California's endangered San Diego ambrosia. This low-growing, blue-gray herb with tiny yellow flowers has declined dramatically from 50 U.S. populations to just 18 in recent years, mainly due to urban sprawl. The designation of 189 protected acres in Riverside County and 594 in San Diego County will help ensure the plant's survival: Species with critical habitat are less than half as likely to be declining as those without.

But, says Center biologist Ileene Anderson: "San Diego ambrosia is in desperate need of critical habitat not just for its existence but for its recovery. This designation will safeguard where the plants currently are growing, but it completely fails to ensure that they will be able to recover to levels to prevent extinction." The Center has been working to protect the ambrosia since 1997, when along with the California Native Plant Society we first petitioned to earn it Endangered Species Act safeguards.

Check out our press release and learn more about San Diego ambrosia.

Feds Move to Bar Wolves From Protection -- Act Today

News reports this week said Interior Secretary Ken Salazar is supporting federal legislation that would exempt endangered gray wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains from Endangered Species Act protections. His approach echoes a bill written by Sens. Max Baucus and Jon Tester (D.-Mont.) that would deprive wolves in Idaho and Montana from the federal safety net of the Act, leaving these important predators vulnerable to state persecution and even outright extermination. (The bill is one of four recently introduced in Congress that attacks gray wolves.) Further, Congress could exempt these wolves from the Act and its protections, without public hearings, before the end of the year. But science shows that gray wolves in the northern Rockies haven't yet recovered, and this blatantly political move goes against the whole intent of the Endangered Species Act.

The Center for Biological Diversity has fought for a decade to defend not only the northern Rockies gray wolf, but wolves in the Great Lakes region, the Southwest and across their historic U.S. habitat. We've filed a petition for a national recovery plan that would help restore wolves to parts of their former range across the lower 48 states.

Take action now by telling President Barack Obama and your U.S. senators to protect northern Rockies wolves and ensure the integrity of the Act. Then read this New York Times editorial and check out our brand-new Restoring the Gray Wolf Web page.

New Offshore Plan Would Hurt Arctic Wildlife

The Obama administration on Wednesday announced plans to revise the national offshore oil-drilling plan that, while protecting areas off Florida and the Atlantic seaboard, would allow for drilling in the fragile Arctic off Alaska -- right in areas newly designated as protected "critical habitat" for the polar bear. The new proposed plan, covering the years 2012-2017, is almost the same as the Bush administration's 2007-2012 plan, which the courts struck down as illegal. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has also announced plans to consider letting Shell Oil drill off the coast of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge -- where polar bears, spectacled eiders and many other sensitive species dwell -- as early as next summer.

The Center for Biological Diversity and allies filed the lawsuit that resulted in Bush's offshore plan being deemed unlawful. Since 2007 we've also been in court fighting Shell's Arctic drilling, and after Center opposition this year, BP announced last week it was delaying its controversial "Liberty" Arctic drilling project. If an oil spill like this year's Gulf of Mexico disaster were to occur in the Arctic, the results would be ecologically catastrophic, since we don't have the technology or infrastructure to clean up oil in icy waters. "While protecting the fragile coasts of Florida and the Atlantic is important, there is no excuse for continuing to consider drilling in polar bear critical habitat off the coast of Alaska," said the Center's Brendan Cummings. "If the risk of an oil spill is too great for Florida, it is also certainly too great for Alaska."

Get details in our press release and check out our brand-new Arctic Oil Development Web page.

More Uranium Mines Threatening Grand Canyon

Despite opposition to any uranium mining near the Grand Canyon by conservation groups, the public, and tribal and regional governments, the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality is making a renewed push to issue air and aquifer permits to Denison Mines for three uranium mines in Grand Canyon National Park’s watershed. Uranium mining threatens to industrialize iconic wildlands bordering Grand Canyon, harm wildlife, and contaminate and deplete aquifers that discharge into the Canyon’s biologically rich seeps, springs and caves. Studies show that public lands in and around Grand Canyon are already suffering from contamination in the wake of past uranium mining.  Federal regulators have issued more than 60 citations since 2009 relating to operations at Denison's Arizona 1 mine north of the Grand Canyon and the company's Pandora mine in Utah. The Center for Biological Diversity and partners are suing the Bureau of Land Management for allowing the opening of the Arizona 1 mine without updating ancient mining plans and environmental reviews.

The Center will be speaking out strongly against lax permits for the three new mines in public hearings next month; stay tuned to learn how you can get involved. In the meantime, we're working to support the Obama administration's proposed congressional resolution to ban new mining across 1 million acres of Grand Canyon public lands. That resolution will be considered by the Flagstaff, Ariz., city council next week.

Check out our press release and learn more about Grand Canyon uranium mining.

The Center at Cancún Climate Conference -- Watch Videos

As this year shapes up to be one of the hottest on record, world leaders are gathering in Cancún, Mexico, for the 2010 climate change conference -- and the Center for Biological Diversity is there too, pushing for significant action on the unprecedented climate crisis our whole globe faces. We've teamed up with to show the world that if we want to avoid catastrophic, irreversible climate change, it's critical to drastically cut greenhouse gas emissions and bring our atmospheric CO2 level to 350 parts per million (down from the current 387 ppm level). While in Cancún, we'll lead a session to educate conference attendees on the 350 target and are hosting an exhibit celebrating the UN's International Year of Biodiversity, highlighting 350 species threatened by global warming, with a special focus on species in Mexico.

And we'll be posting regular video updates on the progress of negotiations, the issues at stake and our hard work to influence the global conversation on global warming.

Read a National Journal article by the Center's Kassie Siegel, who's in Cancún right now. Then check out our new Cancún Web page, where you can watch videos and get the latest updates.

U.S. Fisheries Managers Urged to Protect Marine Mammals From Foreign Fisheries

Following action by the Center for Biological Diversity and friends, this week more than a dozen members of Congress urged federal fisheries managers to move fast on new rules to protect marine mammals from foreign fishing fleets. Hundreds of thousands of whales, seals and other animals die each year as "bycatch" on the hooks of non-U.S. fisheries -- especially foreign swordfish fleets, which use particularly deadly gillnets and longlines responsible for an estimated 300,000 annual marine mammal deaths. The dozens of nations that export wild-captured fish to the United States have never proven that their fishing practices protect marine mammals as required by the U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act.

Spurred by a 2008 petition by the Center and Turtle Island Restoration Network, the National Marine Fisheries Service is now starting to define U.S. standards for all imported seafood. This week's congressional letter is intended to speed that process and focus on the highest-bycatch foreign seafood, including swordfish and tuna. Said Center Oceans Director Miyoko Sakashita, "The United States must encourage foreign fishing fleets to clean up their act."

Read more in our press release and learn about our campaign to fight harmful fisheries.

Give Species a Happy Holiday With Our Greener Giving Guide

The next few weeks will be full of commercials and junk mail about holiday shopping and what everyone's buying. On Black Friday alone, tens of millions of dollars were spent in the United States buying new products to kick off this shopping season. Now, imagine the massive carbon cost to the planet from producing, shipping, advertising, distributing and consuming those products . . . wow.

That's why the Center for Biological Diversity has created the 2010 Greener Giving Guide -- your resource for the best ways to give greener this holiday season, including exclusive tips for nonmaterial gifts (like a Center membership) and an invitation to save gas and contribute to our species-saving mission by shopping our online store. (Note: We offset our own carbon emissions so you can feel good about getting a new eco-friendly Center shirt or hat in the mail.)

Check out this year's Greener Giving Guide, give a gift membership that gives all year and shop our online store for green holiday gifts.

Koalas' Picky Tastes Reveal Favorite "Neighborhoods"

Still feeling the effects of an overindulgent Thanksgiving? Maybe you should've been more like the koala, which may be the pickiest of all marsupials, with its diet exclusively consisting of eucalyptus leaves.

A new study published found something else interesting about koalas: Monitoring their eating habits can help us conserve them. The study, published last month in the journal Ecology, tested eucalyptus leaves on captive koalas to see which ones they preferred eating -- gathering data that may be used to map out prime koala habitat. Specifically, they found that koalas prefer tree "neighborhoods" with large trees, trees whose leaves contained lots of fat-soluble chemicals and trees that stood out as more tasty than those around them.

Read more in Science Daily.

Kierán Suckling
Executive Director

Photo credits: polar bears courtesy Flickr/Martha de Jong-Lantink; polar bear courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Ansgar Walk; bluefin boycott logo by Kimberly Daly,; San Diego ambrosia by Jim Rocks; gray wolf courtesy Flickr/dobak; spectacled eider courtesy USFWS; Grand Canyon courtesy Wikimedia Commons/chensiyuan; Center slide event at Cancún conference; North Pacific right whale courtesy Marine Mammal Commission; Center cap; koala courtesy Flickr/TravOC.

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