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Petition Seeks Panther Reintroduction in Florida, Georgia

To help save the Southeast's most majestic, endangered -- and only remaining -- large wild feline, the Center for Biological Diversity and allies have petitioned to reintroduce Florida panthers to the greater Okefenokee ecosystem in southern Georgia and northern Florida. This region is part of the panther's historic but currently unoccupied range, where studies show panthers could thrive. Their return would also help control nonnative feral hogs that are damaging native vegetation. Only one breeding population of 100-120 Florida panthers clings to existence in South Florida in less than 5 percent of the species' once-broad range -- habitat that's getting paved over as the human population increases.

The 2008 Florida panther recovery plan calls for protecting habitat and increasing distribution in South and south-central Florida, as well as establishing two additional populations outside that region through reintroduction. In 2009, the Center petitioned to protect more than 3 million acres as "critical habitat" for the panthers. When the feds denied our petition, we joined with allies to sue.

Read more in The Florida Times-Union and The Gainesville Sun.

House Republicans Wage War on Environmental Laws -- Take Action

U.S. House Republicans have launched an all-out war on some of our nation's most important environmental laws. This week, the House is formally debating a spending bill known as a "continuing resolution" that's supposed to simply provide stop-gap funding to keep the federal government functioning. The problem is, the bill contains a staggeringly long list of amendments that have nothing to do with spending and everything to do with undermining -- or outright eviscerating -- bedrock protections for the country's air, water, wildlife, public lands and public health.

The continuing resolution would, among other things, remove Endangered Species Act protections for the gray wolf, halt the reduction of dangerous CO2 pollution under the Clean Air Act, pave the way for more mountaintop-removal mining and loosen pollution rules for toxic mercury.

"This bill isn't mere tinkering with policy, it's carpet-bombing some of our nation's most important environmental laws," says Kierán Suckling, the Center's executive director. "In crafting this bill, Republicans have created a feeding frenzy for those intent on dismantling laws that for decades have protected our air, water, climate and wildlife."

Read more in our press release and take action now by becoming one of the Center's Clean Air Advocates. Then RSVP for our conference-call briefing in early March about congressional attacks on environmental laws and what we can do to help squash them.

Suit Launched to Save Whales From Gulf Oil Exploration

Ten months after the catastrophic explosion of BP's Deepwater Horizon, the feds still aren't protecting marine mammals from offshore oil drilling in the Gulf -- but the Center for Biological Diversity and allies are. Last week, we filed a notice of intent to sue Interior Secretary Ken Salazar for ignoring the Marine Mammal Protection Act and Endangered Species Act when approving no fewer than 10 Gulf offshore projects since mid-October that pose dangers for endangered sperm whales, manatees, bottlenose dolphins and other wildlife.

A main focus of our pending lawsuit is the harm caused to marine mammals by seismic surveys, which oil companies use to search for oil. Dozens are approved each year, despite the fact that noise from these surveys can cause hearing loss, disturb essential behaviors and obstruct communication in sound-sensitive marine mammals. Seismic surveys are nearly as loud as explosives.

Get more from the Kansas City Star.

Bill Would Protect Bats, Other Wildlife From Diseases

In the midst of the most devastating wildlife epidemic ever documented in North America -- the spread of the mysterious bat disease white-nose syndrome -- we may finally have a tool to speed a full-scale federal response. This Tuesday, Sen. Frank Lautenburg (D.-N.J.) introduced a bill into Congress that would let the secretary of the interior declare wildlife emergencies and fund and coordinate rapid responses. The bill would also create a wildlife disease committee to increase U.S. preparedness for addressing wildlife diseases like white-nose syndrome, chytrid fungus in amphibians and chronic wasting disease in deer and elk.

Though fast-spreading white-nose syndrome has already killed more than a million bats in 16 states and two Canadian provinces, the feds have yet to adequately launch a counterattack. Since 2008, the Center for Biological Diversity has been working on all fronts to fix that.

Get more on the new bill from and read an eye-opening opinion piece on white-nose syndrome by the Center's Mollie Matteson in The Huffington Post. Then take action to help protect western bats during 2011 -- the International Year of the Bat.

The Center in High Country News: Obama's Record in the West

The February issue of High Country News features a fairly comprehensive examination of whether the Obama government's environmental policies have been a force for positive change in the West. The answer? Not really. The story highlighted some of the Center for Biological Diversity's efforts to push President Barack Obama and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to do more to protect endangered species and make significant progress on climate change. Unfortunately, says Center Executive Director Kierán Suckling, Obama and Salazar have "either declined to lead or led in the wrong direction on virtually every issue that matters" -- from wolves to offshore drilling to, of course, global warming. Yes, the administration has taken a few steps forward, but trying to save wildlife, wildlands and the climate just won't work by "nick[ing] away" at the environmental crises we face.

Though the article mentions a number of environmental groups, the Center pops out as one of the only organizations taking the strong stance necessary to effect real -- and positive -- change on the environment. Our favorite metaphor from the article? "If the environmental movement is an ecosystem," Suckling is one of its "indicator species: The most sensitive ones, the first to react when their habitat falls out of balance."

Read the article for yourself. Then check out Obama's subpar eco-grade on our two-year Obama environmental report card.

Rare Ocelot Seen in Southern Arizona

Some heartening news for those who love the Southwest: Last week a rare, dappled ocelot was spotted -- no pun intended -- in Arizona, where only one other wild ocelot has been confirmed since the 1960s. A man in southern Arizona's Huachuca Mountains observed the ocelot -- a small wild cat found mostly in Central and South America -- after his barking dog drove it up a tree. After confirming that the creature was indeed an ocelot, the Arizona Game and Fish Department let it go on its way.

Fewer than 100 individual ocelots are estimated to remain in the United States, where they're primarily threatened by habitat loss, road strikes and predation. Last year, the Center for Biological Diversity filed a notice of intent to sue the Obama administration to halt trapping and snaring that endangers ocelots and other Southwest species.

Get more from Arizona's KOLD News 13.

EPA Agrees to Clean up Particulate Air Pollution

Under a settlement obtained by the Center for Biological Diversity this week, the Environmental Protection Agency faces new deadlines for making sure several western states are meeting standards for reducing particulate air pollution. We sued the EPA after it failed to meet its original deadlines to make sure parts of Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, Montana and Nevada met particulate-pollution standards and adopted air-quality plans necessary to address this pollutant -- tiny airborne particles like road dust and pollution from industrial, construction and demolition sources.

Particulate pollution is widespread, pervasive, and poses immediate risks to human health. It not only causes serious respiratory illness and premature death, but also damages ecosystems and obscures vistas across the West. The Clean Air Act requires the EPA to ensure that the states comply with nationwide standards for reducing this dangerous pollution.

Get more from Law360.

Speak Out Against Overpopulation

As the world's human species accelerates toward 7 billion -- at the astonishing rate of 250,000 people a day -- the natural world is suffering serious consequences . . . like losing entire animal and plant species at an equally astonishing rate of dozens per day. We're talking about it -- and asking you to do the same -- as part of Global Population Speak Out month this February, an opportunity for citizens to spread awareness on this critical issue.

Talk to your friends and family, bring it up on Facebook and other social networks, contact your congressional representatives or write a letter to your local newspaper. There are several ways to reach a sustainable population level, including female empowerment, educating all people and universal access to birth control. In 2010, the Center distributed 350,000 Endangered Species Condoms to highlight the link between overpopulation and extinction.

Sign the GPSO pledge, learn more about overpopulation and visit our Take-action Toolbox, including new guidance for writing your newspaper. Then sign up for Pop X, our overpopulation e-newsletter.

Biodiversity Briefing: The Environmental Challenges of 2011

This year is shaping up to be a challenging one for rare animals, plants and the global climate. President Barack Obama's first year in office disappointed hopes for environmental progress, and 2010, unfortunately, was overall no better -- among other failures, protections were stripped from wolves and badly needed leadership against climate change fell by the wayside. Now, with a decidedly anti-environment Congress in session, we've already seen the first of a slew of expected attacks on our most important wildlife and clean-air laws.

But the Center for Biological Diversity won't let that stop us from defending the animals, plants, habitats and natural resources that need us, said Center Executive Director Kierán Suckling in the most recent of our quarterly "Biodiversity Briefings." In fact, the Center has helped the Endangered Species Act, Clean Air Act and other critical laws -- and the species they protect -- in some of the toughest times in environmental history. And we're ready to do it again through in-depth scientific and policy research, legal filings, grassroots organizing and of course effective outreach to the media and hundreds of thousands of supporters like you.

We invite you to listen to a recording of the first part of the briefing. For information on how you can join the Center's Leadership Circle and be invited to participate in Biodiversity Briefings live when they happen, email Major Gifts Associate Julie Ragland or call her at (520) 623-5252 x 304.

Wild and Weird: Colorado Bear Flees Country Music

Apparently in Boulder, Colo., there are only two kinds of music to chase away a bear: country and western.

The local newspaper there reports that a plumber found a hibernating black bear in the crawlspace of a cottage when he snuck under the porch to fix some frozen pipes. The plumber took his cue when he heard some ominous growling and beat a hasty retreat. State wildlife officials' plan? Tuck a radio under the house and blast some good ol' country-western music. It worked: The bear apparently boot-scooted right out of there. Eviction achieved.

Read more in the Daily Camera.

Kierán Suckling
Executive Director

Photo credits: Florida panther by Rodney Cammauf, NPS; Florida panther courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Monica R.; gray wolf courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Martin Mecnarowski; sperm whale courtesy NMFS; little brown bat with white-nose syndrome by Ryan Von Linden, New York Department of Environmental Conservation; sage grouse (c) Carol Davis; ocelot by Tom Smylie, USFWS; particulate pollution courtesy Flickr Creative Commons/Shawn Thorpe; crowded street courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Steve Jurvetson; polar bear by Scott Schliebe, USFWS; black bear (c) Robin Silver.

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