Obama Gives Polar Bears a Lump of Coal for Christmas Instead of Full Protection
Following a Center for Biological Diversity-led lawsuit, President Obama's Interior Department announced it won't grant polar bears the fully protected status of "endangered" -- instead of their current "threatened" status -- under the Endangered Species Act. With the decision, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar reaffirms the Bush government's 2008 argument that threats to polar bears are only of concern in the distant future, even though bears are currently starving in the face of global warming. Salazar is also defending the Bush decision to exempt greenhouse gases from regulation under the Endangered Species Act -- leaving the bears vulnerable to their worst threat. The Center will be back in court in February arguing against Secretary Salazar's latest assault on America's wildlife.
"President Obama could have appointed Sarah Palin as secretary of the interior and polar bears would be no worse off than they are under Ken Salazar," said Rebecca Noblin, director of the Center's Alaska office.
Read more in the Los Angeles Times. Then consider making a year-end donation to protect polar bears, wolves and other species against the mounting threats from the White House and Congress. (Perhaps Salazar needs a gift membership to the Center this year?) And until Dec. 31, your gift will be worth three times as much.
Alaska Launches New Attack on Polar Bears
Even without the dubious leadership of Sarah Palin, the state of Alaska has launched another attack on the polar bear. This time, Gov. Sean Parnell is threatening to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for protecting 120 million acres for the bear in response to a Center for Biological Diversity lawsuit. It is the largest critical habitat designation ever made. Covering large portions of Alaska's north slope coastline and ocean, the critical habitat reserve is designed to allow the habitat-threatened bear to survive and recover.
The Center is already in court defending the polar bear against the state's previous suit to have it removed from Endangered Species Act protection, arguing instead that protection should be upgraded. Scientists estimate there's a greater than 80 percent chance that polar bears in Alaska will be extinct by mid-century under current greenhouse gas emissions trends.
Alaska is also challenging endangered species protections won by the Center for the Cook Inlet beluga whale and ringed seal. Sean Parnell is turning out to be as bad as Palin on the environment; hopefully he won't pay someone to write a book under his name too.
Read more in the The Washington Post, and give a gift today to be a champion for polar bears and other wildlife. With your help, we can protect these majestic creatures and wildlands from the Sarah Palins and Sean Parnells of the world -- and a generous donor will triple-match your gift before Dec. 31.
Lawsuit: It's Time to Recover Wolves Across Country
Pushing forward in our most sweeping campaign yet for all U.S. endangered gray wolves, the Center for Biological Diversity this Tuesday filed a notice of intent to sue the feds for failing to develop a recovery plan for the species across the lower 48 states. The Endangered Species Act requires such a plan -- an official roadmap laying out steps to recovery -- for all protected species, and it should have been developed at least 30 years ago for gray wolves. Instead, the Department of the Interior's U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service finalized recovery plans for three of four previously protected gray wolf subspecies. But these decades-old plans cover only a small fraction of the wolf's former range and set population goals well below what scientists now know are necessary for the species' health and survival.
In July, the Center filed a scientific petition to develop a national recovery plan that would help wolves repopulate suitable habitat in the Pacific Northwest, California, Great Basin, southern Rocky Mountains, Great Plains and New England. But Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has refused to even respond to the petition because it runs counter to his plan to strip federal protection from wolves as fast as possible so they can be shot with impunity.
"Wolves are an integral part of this county's natural history and need a national recovery plan now," said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center. "Although wolves have made important strides toward recovery in parts of the northern Rockies and Great Lakes, these areas represent less than 5 percent of their historic range."
Read more in USA Today.
Get Your Free Holiday Wildlife E-cards
Sick of the malls yet? And more particularly, of the environmental havoc wreaked by holiday waste? If you haven't yet taken advantage of the Center for Biological Diversity's online shopping and gift options, check them out now -- and help save species at the same time. We don't sell plush polar bear and wolf toys made in China, but the Center's organic cotton baseball cap is pretty cool. And you can avoid consumption altogether with the best gift membership around -- the Center's, of course.
And guess what? We have a present for you: a series of free holiday e-cards you can send to your friends and family without using a single tree-wasting envelope or contributing to a single mailman's gas mileage.
Get gifts for your loved ones and the Earth at the same time through our Greener Giving Guide. Then use our holiday e-cards to remind everyone you know of the gifts we've already been given by Mother Nature: countless animal, plant and fungi species to make our world and lives rich every day of the year.
Suit Filed to Protect 36,000 Acres for Tiger Beetle
The Center for Biological Diversity and allies sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service late last week for not protecting enough "critical habitat" for the seriously imperiled Salt Creek tiger beetle. The half-inch-long beetle, with its beautiful metallic-green underside and unique splotchy color pattern, lives in Lancaster County, Neb., where more than 90 percent of its salt-marsh habitat has been destroyed (or nearly destroyed) by urban and agricultural sprawl. Only a few hundred individuals remain in three populations. Although the Service's appointed team of biologists said more than 36,000 acres of habitat must be protected to allow this beetle to recover, this year the agency set aside a paltry 1,933 acres of critical habitat.
"This critical habitat designation directly contradicts Interior Secretary Ken Salazar's repeated promises to follow science in management of endangered species and should be reconsidered," said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center. Protection of the beetle's habitat would also benefit numerous other species, including piping plovers, salt-adapted plants and even humans, because salt marshes purify water and control floods.
Read more in the Lincoln Journal Star.
California Board Supports Clearcutting Carbon Credits
The California Air Resources Board has approved a cap-and-trade program including a ludicrous loophole that will encourage forest clearcutting in the name of reducing carbon emissions and fighting climate change. The program, adopted last Thursday as part of California's effort to reduce statewide greenhouse gas emissions, would let industrial polluters purchase carbon dioxide "offset credits" from forest carbon projects -- including clearcutting -- instead of reducing their own emissions. The program also includes loopholes that allow big timber companies to claim carbon credit for tree growth that was already slated to occur; it lets industrial polluters dodge responsibility for greenhouse gas emissions caused by burning "biomass" -- including whole, green trees -- for energy.
"Clearcutting forests is not the solution to global warming," said Brian Nowicki, California climate policy director at the Center. "At best, this will subsidize, at the expense of the people of California, some of the most damaging forest management going on today. At worst, this will incentivize the clearcutting of natural forests to be replaced by tree farms."
Read more in The New York Times.
Clean Air Wins Again: EPA CO2 Regulation on Track for 2011
Due in part to work by the Center for Biological Diversity and allies, Jan. 2, 2011, will be a historic day -- a victory for clean air and the climate as the Environmental Protection Agency starts regulating carbon dioxide emitted by the largest industrial polluters under the Clean Air Act. But that victory was almost derailed yet again. Last week, the Center was about to hit "send" on an urgent action alert asking you to once again save the Clean Air Act -- our nation's strongest existing law to curb carbon pollution -- from yet another attempt to stop it from helping us fight global warming. Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.V.) was pushing for a last-ditch vote on his move to gut the Act before Congress adjourned for the year. Thankfully, the vote for 2010 was quashed.
The bad news is that it will be back. Next year, Big Oil, Big Coal and politicians under their thumbs will be pulling out all the stops to block our current best chance to curb greenhouse gas pollution. The fossil-fuel industry already asked a court to delay Clean Air Act regulation for greenhouse gases while it challenges the EPA's plans -- a request the court rightly denied. We hope you'll join us in one of our New Year's resolutions for 2011: Continue to ensure that we keep the Clean Air Act working to address global warming now.
Read more in The New York Times.
Colorado Plants Bring "Candidate" List to 254 -- Take Action
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has determined that two more species deserve Endangered Species Act protection -- but at the same time has refused to grant those protections. Two Colorado plants -- the skiff milk vetch, which gets its name from its boat-shaped fruits, and the Schmoll's milk vetch, found in pinyon-juniper forests on mesa tops -- have been declared "candidates" for protection. They join a list of 252 other imperiled plants and animals badly in need of safeguards but made to wait for them indefinitely. At least two dozen species have gone extinct while on the candidate list, and the newest candidates could, too: The Schmoll's milk vetch is threatened by nonnative plants invading its habitat following fire, while the skiff milkv etch is threatened by habitat destruction and roads. The Biodiversity Legal Foundation (now a part of the Center for Biological Diversity) petitioned to protect these pea-family plants in 1993.
Counting the two milk vetches, the Obama administration has now put off protections for 16 plants and animals in dire need of them. The Center has filed a massive lawsuit to protect all 254 species on the candidate list.
Learn more about our Candidate Project and take action now to tell the Obama administration to grant protection to all the plants and animals that need it.
The Nation: Center Is "Remarkably Effective"
As 2010 draws to a close, a thoughtful piece in The Nation assesses the strategies of environmental groups big and small over the past year, providing important insight as the movement girds itself for battle in 2011. The article highlights the central importance of the EPA's authority to cut greenhouse pollution under the Clean Air Act and the Center's approach in this regard -- not just defending the EPA's ability to regulate CO2 from industry attacks, but pushing the agency to regulate it more and better . . . or face us in court.
"For more than 20 years," says the article, "this tactic of monkey-wrenching by legal brief has been the center's method, and it has been remarkably effective. The center's lawsuits have shut down massive cattle-grazing and large-scale industrial logging and mining operations on public lands, and checked suburban sprawl, and they are pushing back hard against GHG emitters. Amazingly, the center can boast a 93 percent success rate in court."
Thanks for the kudos.
Read the article in The Nation for yourself.
New Tropical Mistletoe Discovered in Africa
Just in time for Christmas, British biologists have identified a new species of tropical mistletoe found in Mozambique. Like its evergreen cousin, this African mistletoe is a partially parasitic plant, meaning it gets nutrients both from the host plant it grows on and by producing its own nutrients through photosynthesis. The new species, dubbed Helixanthera schizocalyx, was first discovered in 2008 on stunted trees in the coffee family on northern Mozambique's Mount Mabu. Most tropical mistletoes have bright-colored, tubular flowers that attract birds and insects that pollinate them.
Sadly, before biologists even observed the new mistletoe's flowers or berries in the field, they've had to deem the species in danger of extinction. According to Bill Baker, senior research biologist at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, this is common with newly discovered animals and plants: "Whenever we talk about new species, we tend to talk about things disappearing before we have even named them and found out what their properties are." All the more reason to be thankful for -- and keep working to save -- all the world's species this holiday season.
Get more from MSNBC.
Photo credits: polar bear (c) Larry Master/MasterImages.org; polar bear courtesy Flickr Creative Commons/Martha de Jong-Lantink; Arctic sunset (c) Brendan Cummings; gray wolf courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Chris Muiden; sea star (c) Steve Elkins; Salt Creek tiger beetle courtesy USFWS; clearcutting courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Tero Laakso; clean air courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Fir0002; pinyon-juniper forest and mesa courtesy USFS; Navajo power plant courtesy USGS; mistletoe courtesy Flickr Creative Commons/kqedquest.
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