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Rockhopper Penguins Earn Protection

Another penguin is marching toward protection following a Center for Biological Diversity petition and lawsuit: The Department of the Interior announced Tuesday that it's granting protected status to the New Zealand and Australia populations of southern rockhopper penguin under the Endangered Species Act. U.S. protections will increase funding for research and conservation of the birds, provide oversight of U.S.-approved activities that may hurt them, and raise awareness of their plight -- primarily, drastic changes to their marine environment due to climate change.

The southern rockhopper joins six other penguins that have earned U.S. protection due to a 2006 Center petition to protect 12 penguin species across the globe.

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Center Report: Clean Air Act Must Fight Warming -- Take Action

As members of Congress wage war on the Clean Air Act, a new report released this morning by the Center for Biological Diversity shows why the 40-year-old law is the best tool we have to combat climate change. The report, called The Clean Air Act Works, highlights the law's long record of protecting our air, as well as its central role in helping the Environmental Protection Agency achieve necessary greenhouse gas pollution reductions -- which, starting this year, the agency has already begun doing.

Instead of stepping up efforts to wield the Act's massive potential in the global warming war, the U.S. House of Representatives last week voted to strip all funding from the EPA to reduce CO2, claiming it would harm the economy. On the contrary, our report says: Study after study has found that clean energy creates jobs, compliance with CO2-reducing laws doesn't push industry overseas, and estimated costs of new environmental protections are routinely overstated.

Read more in our press release, where you can take a look at our report, and learn more about the Clean Air Act. Then get in on our exciting conference-call briefings on what you can do to fight Congress's attack on our environmental laws.

Nine Rare Cave Critters Win 7,000 Acres

Some rare Texas cave dwellers are finally getting a little more elbow room -- and a better shot at survival. In response to a lawsuit by the Center for Biological Diversity and allies, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed designating nearly 7,000 acres of critical habitat for nine rare, cave-living invertebrates in central Texas. The proposal reverses a Bush-era designation the Center sued over, which set aside a measly 1,000 acres for all nine colorfully named species: the robber baron cave harvestman; Comal Springs riffle beetle; helotes mold beetle; Braken Bat Cave meshweaver; Rhadine exilis; Cokendolpher cave harvestman; vesper and Government Canyon cave spiders; and Madla Cave meshweaver.

Though these nine spiders and beetles live in the deep, dark, damp environments of caves -- and have lost their sight and color -- they're all seriously threatened by urban sprawl, which alters the vegetation around cave entrances and effects cave temperature and moisture levels.

Read more in our press release and visit our Comal Springs riffle beetle Web page.

Center Fights in Court Again Over Polar Bear's Fate

The Center for Biological Diversity was back in court in Washington, D.C., yesterday for the latest battle in our campaign to earn full protection for the polar bear. After a Center petition and years of litigation by the Center and allies, the Bush administration in 2008 finally granted the polar bear "threatened" status under the Endangered Species Act -- at the same time passing a rule denying the bear protections from its most pressing threat: global warming. The Obama administration has continued to withhold adequate protections from the bear, so the Center is fighting to earn it "endangered" status, which would by law require full protections.

Currently, the court is deciding whether to send the matter back to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which would then reconsider its unscientific decision to withhold "endangered" status. Kassie Siegel, head of the Center's Climate Law Institute, argued our case valiantly in a grueling seven-hour hearing against a vast array of lawyers on the other side who were trying to reduce or stymie increased protections for the great white bears. It's unclear when District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan will make his ruling, but the Center won't stop the fight.

Read more in the Anchorage Daily News.

Suit Filed for Vanishing Tiger Beetle

In defense of one of the Midwest's most beautiful and rare insects, the Center for Biological Diversity and partners this week filed suit to protect more "critical habitat" for Nebraska's endangered Salt Creek tiger beetle. Although a team of scientists determined that the beetle needs 36,000 acres of protected habitat to survive and recover, the Obama administration last year set aside a tragically tiny 1,933-acre area.

This long-legged, gold and black beetle, now surviving in just three populations along the edges of Lincoln's Little Salt Creek, is in serious peril due to habitat destruction. More than 90 percent of its native salt-marsh habitat has been degraded or completely destroyed by urban and agricultural sprawl. We won't let sprawl kill the few hundred individuals still clinging to life, but will defend their habitat so they and other wetland species have a chance to thrive in the future.

Read more in the Lincoln Journal Star.

Endangered Species Condoms Win Ad Award; Take Action Against Overpopulation

Our wildly popular Endangered Species Condoms are getting some additional love. This week we found out the colorfully packaged condoms, part of our campaign highlighting the connection between overpopulation and species extinction, won the American Advertising Federation's gold ADDY Award in Tucson in the "public service" category. In case you haven't seen them, the nifty condom packages feature illustrations of six different endangered species, along with catchy slogans like "Cover your tweedle, save the burying beetle" and "Wear a jimmy hat, save the big cat." The Center handed out 350,0000 condoms last year and hopes to send more out soon to draw attention to this crucial issue. Through the empowerment of women, education of all people and universal access to birth control, we can curb our population to an ecologically safe level.

But some members of Congress are making that very hard. In fact, the House has just passed a bill to cut government funding for critical programs like women's health clinics -- which for millions of people provide the only available access to reproductive services, family planning and birth control. With this February marking Global Population Speak Out month, it's time to tell our elected representatives they should be expanding those programs, not cutting them -- for the sake of our planet and the public.

Check out our Endangered Species Condoms Project and sign the GPSO pledge. Then learn more about the legislative attack on family-planning services from and contact your senators asking them to counter it.

Plains Bison Denied Protection

One of America's largest and most awe-inspiring species received a big blow yesterday when, following a citizen petition and a 2010 Center for Biological Diversity lawsuit, the Obama government denied federal protection to the plains bison. This immense, shaggy mammal once roamed a wide swath of North America to the tune of about 50 million; now only a sad remnant survives -- about 20,000 bison in a handful of conservation herds.

In denying protection for the plains bison, the Obama administration ignored the fact that the bison has been eliminated from almost all of its historic range, twisting the language of the Endangered Species Act to argue that only a species' current range must be considered in decisions on protection. "This see-no-evil, hear-no-evil approach is entirely inconsistent with the broad purposes of the Endangered Species Act," said the Center's Noah Greenwald. "We will certainly challenge this absurd finding."

Read more in our press release.

Study: Permafrost Meltdown Heralds Warming Catastrophe

In some frightening news for our climate -- and all us who depend on it -- new research finds that rapidly thawing Arctic permafrost could leave us even less time than previously thought to avert irreversible, ruinous global warming. A recent U.S. study shows that the warming-caused melting of long-frozen Arctic soil, along with the decomposition of vast quantities of organic matter, could release at least 126 gigatons of carbon into the atmosphere by 2200. That's about half as much as humans have added through fossil-fuel burning since the Industrial Revolution: a mind-boggling amount of CO2. According to the study, one- to two-thirds of the entire planet's permafrost -- which took millennia to form -- will melt in just 200 years.

What, exactly, does this mean? That the strong steps scientists say we need to take to confront climate change must be even stronger -- and occur faster, too.

Read and listen to this story by Scientific American.

Men's Journal Profiles Center "Eco-warrior"

The March issue of Men's Journal includes a revealing profile of Center for Biological Diversity Executive Director Kierán Suckling, whom the magazine calls "the last eco-warrior." The issue, on newsstands now, follows him from his activist roots in New Mexico to his current role leading one of the most efficient, successful conservation groups in the country. The article stresses the "stubborn resolve" that's helped the Center save more than 500 endangered species and 240 million acres of habitat over the past 20 years and contributed to our "leading the charge to cut greenhouse gases."

Men's Journal describes Suckling as "the radical conscience of the environmental movement -- a scourge on everyone from Big Timber to Walmart. Now, he's suing BP for $19 billion." It highlights some of our biggest campaigns, from saving the spotted owl to fighting offshore oil drilling to preserving the California Desert. In the process of "defending wild places the way we might our homes," the article says, Suckling and the Center have piled up "vanquished foes includ[ing] some of the most powerful companies in the country."

Read the article for yourself. (But let the buyer beware: It's sprinkled with salty language.)

Wild and Weird: Male Squids Go Berserk

Even wonder why squids go berserk? We didn't either, until we read about scientists who recently discovered a molecule that makes male squids go mad with aggression. Investigating the longfin squid during mating season, biologists found that males were visually attracted to masses of eggs laid on the sea floor -- and when they came into contact with a single protein on the eggs' surface, they instantly went from swimming calmly to extreme belligerence. Males grappled with each other, lunged at each other and beat their fins, apparently in an attempt to get at females (even when females were nowhere to be seen). The molecule appears to be the first aggression-causing pheromone -- a secreted chemical that triggers a social reaction in animals -- known in any marine creature.

Interestingly, the pheromone in question is similar to a protein found in other animals . . . including at high levels in human males. The bar-brawl molecule, perhaps?

Read more in The Christian Science Monitor.

Kierán Suckling
Executive Director

Photo credits: rockhopper penguin courtesy Flickr Creative Commons/StormPetrel1; rockhopper penguin (c) Larry Master/; smokestacks courtesy NASA; Salt Creek tiger beetle by Sam Willey, USFWS; Comal Springs riffle beetle courtesy Texas Parks and Wildlife; polar bear by Pete Spruance; jaguar condom package design by Lori Lieber, artwork (c) Endangered Species Print Project; plains bison courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Jack Dykinga; thawing permafrost courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Dentren; Mexican spotted owl (c) Robin Silver; longfin inshore squid courtesy NOAA.

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