Wolves' Fate at Stake in Congress -- Take Action
The Center for Biological Diversity and 47 other groups yesterday wrote to Sen. Barbara Boxer (D.-Calif.), chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, urging her to oppose legislation that would permanently end federal protections for endangered gray wolves, leaving them open to slaughter. Later in the day wolves caught a slight break when the Senate voted down a House Republican spending bill that, among other anti-environment measures, included a provision to strip wolves of federal protections.
But that doesn't mean wolves are out of the woods. Members of Congress have shown a disturbingly keen interest in stripping Endangered Species Act protections for wolves throughout Montana and Idaho and parts of Utah, Oregon and Washington. If approved, such legislation will bar protection for northern Rockies wolves as "endangered" even if their numbers plummet toward zero. Both Montana and Idaho have long been chomping at the bit to raze wolf populations.
Congress has never taken a step like this before -- and endangered species protection must be determined according to science, as current law prescribes, not through a rider hidden in a gigantic funding bill. In fact, such legislation puts the very Endangered Species Act at risk and sets a terrible precedent for other species hovering on the brink of extinction.
Take action with us now by telling your senators to stop any congressional effort to strip protections from gray wolves. Then read more in E & E News.
Big Oil Sues Over Polar Bear Habitat Protections
Big Oil has filed the first lawsuit challenging the biggest "critical habitat" designation ever made -- and won by the Center for Biological Diversity and allies. Specifically, the Alaska Oil and Gas Association -- representing 15 oil and gas companies, including BP, Exxon and Chevron -- last week sued the federal government for protecting 120 million acres for Alaska's polar bears. The oil companies say that polar bears are too "abundant" to deserve the protected area, and that setting aside the land will be too expensive because it may get in the way of oil and gas development. Other entities, including the state of Alaska, are also expected to challenge the designation.
The Center has been working since 2001 to save the polar bear from the dire threats the species faces -- including oil and gas development. We're the group that originally wrote the petition earning the bear its status under the Endangered Species Act; we're still fighting to earn it the full "endangered" protection it desperately needs. We won't let any critical-habitat challenge succeed. Stay tuned for a polar bear update soon.
Read more in the UK's Daily Mail.
Wolf Massacre Halted in Alaska -- Thank You
Wolves on Alaska's Unimak Island won't have to face the prospect of getting gunned down by aerial shooters -- and you deserve some of the credit. After Center for Biological Diversity supporters sent in nearly 34,000 comments, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service this Monday announced it won't let Alaska aerial gunners kill gray wolves on the island as part of a misguided attempt to stop the decline of caribou. (There's little evidence that wolves are at fault.) The Alaska Department of Fish and Game was planning to shoot wolves from helicopters on the Alaska Maritime Wildlife Refuge. Aerial killing is as inhumane as it is unnecessary, especially during the pup-rearing season. Thanks so much for saving wolves young and old from devastating deaths.
Get more from the Alaska Public Radio Network.
Protection Restored for Tongass National Forest
In another big Alaska victory, a judge has ended a lawsuit brought by the Center and allies by vetoing a decision that exempted the majestic Tongass National Forest from the Roadless Area Conservation Rule. The rule, passed in 2001, is meant to protect pristine public forests from destructive activities like road building and resource extraction. But to boost the timber industry, the Bush administration decided the rule wouldn't apply to the Tongass, leaving the 17-million-acre forest wide open to exploitation.
"This is a victory for the wolves, bears, deer, goshawks and other unique species that rely on the untouched old-growth forest of the Tongass for their survival," said the Center's Alaska Director Rebecca Noblin. "The Tongass never should have been exempted from the roadless rule, and this court decision provides valuable respite for old-growth-dependent species that have been hammered by unsustainable logging practices in the Tongass."
Read about the Tongass victory in the Los Angeles Times.
Off-road Rally Stopped to Save Tortoise
A quick mobilization by the Center for Biological Diversity helped stop a massive off-road vehicle rally in California that was set to happen smack in the middle of critical habitat for the desert tortoise. Desert activists hiking in Southern California notified us about the event scheduled for earlier this month. It was dubbed "Desert Storm" for the havoc it was supposed to wreak on the sensitive California desert. In fact, the event's promoters hadn't officially notified the public or the Bureau of Land Management about the event; instead they obtained a "parade" permit on the sly from Riverside County.
Less than 24 hours after the Center alerted state and federal wildlife agencies and demanded that the event be stopped, the county withdrew its permit. Last weekend, rangers patrolling the area of the rally's planned mayhem reported peaceful, undisturbed tortoise habitat.
Learn more about our work to save the desert tortoise, other species and pristine lands from becoming off-road wreckage.
Ariz. Road Closures Help Endangered Pronghorn
The elegant, elusive and very endangered Sonoran pronghorn will have a more disturbance-free fawning season starting this weekend, which marks the beginning of extensive four-month road closures in its habitat near Ajo, Ariz. Stretching across the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Barry M. Goldwater Range and Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge, the annual closures are meant to protect female pronghorn and their brand-new fawns from vehicles during their most vulnerable time. Concerned about the pronghorn and other species, the Center for Biological Diversity has asked for maps and other data documenting horrendous vehicle damage to Cabeza Prieta, requesting that off-road vehicles be banned from the refuge.
Sonoran pronghorn -- sometimes called "prairie ghosts" for their fleeting appearances on the landscape -- are North America's fastest land mammal, reaching speeds of up to 60 miles per hour. Only about 100 wild individuals are left in the United States, plagued by habitat fragmentation from roads and other activities, grazing, climate change and many other threats.
Read more in the Arizona Daily Star.
Nevada Butterfly Denied Protection, 258th "Candidate"
The Obama administration continues to add to the long list of species that badly need Endangered Species Act protection but won't get it. In response to a 2010 Center for Biological Diversity lawsuit, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service this week denied protection to the Mount Charleston blue, a rare southern Nevada butterfly. Only known to survive in two remaining spots, the colorful, one-inch-long butterfly is threatened by habitat loss, fire suppression, drought and other factors -- and the Service itself has declared that the butterfly deserves federal protection. But instead of granting that protection, the feds have placed the tiny invertebrate on the "candidate list" to join 257 other needy plants and animals that have been pushed aside to wait indefinitely for help.
On average, candidate species wait a whopping 20 years to earn protection; at least two dozen candidates have gone extinct while they waited. To date, the administration has hit a rate of protecting only 29 species a year, compared to Clinton's 65 per year and Bush Sr.'s 58 per year.
Get more from the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Make the Center Your Green Choice Again in 2011
Get your typing fingers ready and your reviewing brain in gear: The Green Choice Campaign, a charity-rating contest put on by GreatNonprofits.org, is already underway (a month earlier than last year). Thanks -- and we mean thanks -- to rave reviews from you supporters, last year the Center for Biological Diversity earned the highest number of positive ratings of all 262 environmental organizations, making us the top-rated green group in the campaign. With your help, we can be No. 1 again this year.
So what do you like best about the Center -- our unparalleled success rate in court, our dedication to saving species and habitat, or our devastating good looks? Until March 31, you can let the whole world know why you support us. And please do. All you have to do to participate is sign in and weigh in on what the Center's doing right, and we'll secure recognition with donors, the media and the public.
Review us now at GreatNonprofits.org.
Buy Gear, Shirts (on Sale) and Support the Center
Beat back the last of the winter chill and scoop up a long-sleeved Center for Biological Diversity T-shirt -- especially since they're 15-percent off this month. Not only are these shirts comfortable and colorful -- they're also a great way to strike up a conversation about conservation. When someone asks, "Hey, what's the Center for Biological Diversity?" you can turn around and display the back of your shirt, which lists of some of our very favorite imperiled species -- from the California condor to the Alabama beach mouse -- and discuss everything we (and you) are doing to save each one from extinction.
Got enough T-shirts, but still want to harness your purchasing power for the Center's good? Head to Patagonia.com via the special link below, where a big 7 percent of what you spend will go toward our work to help save imperiled plants, animals and wildlands. After all, March is also the perfect time to stock up on outdoor gear (before camping season peaks).
Check out the Center's T-shirts (along with some other cool stuff) at our online store. Then shop for clothing, outdoor equipment and more to benefit the Center at this Patagonia link.
Wild and Weird: Who You Calling Dumbo?
Not only are elephants complex, social and highly intelligent mammals -- they can even devise shortcuts to outwit people testing them.
Researchers in Thailand recently gave an intelligence test to 12 elephants that encouraged them work cooperatively in pairs to grab rope ends to pull a corn-laden table toward them. The elephants quickly learned they needed a partner to get the food, walking up to the rope and waiting expectantly for a partner to appear before they tried to pull their end.
But the youngest elephant, named Neua Un, found a way to "cheat" the system by simply stepping on one rope end when another elephant appeared, keeping it from slipping away while her partner did all the pulling. Another study participant, an 18-year-old named JoJo, simply scorned his testers if they didn't release another elephant, refusing to budge unless a partner was available to help pull the rope.
Get more from MSNBC.
Photo credits: gray wolf courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Bernard Landgraf; gray wolf courtesy Flickr Commons/rustybadger; polar bear courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Ansgar Walk; Alsaka gray wolf pup (c) California Wolf Center; grizzly bear (c) Robin Silver; desert tortoise courtesy Flickr Commons/sandman; pronghorn (c) Robin Silver; Mount Charleston Blue Butterfly by Corey Kallstrom, USFWS; American pika (c) William C. Gladish; long-sleeved Center for Biological Diversity shirt; Asian elephant courtesy Flickr Commons/robertpaulyoung.
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