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11,000 Protected Acres Proposed for Endangered Southwest Frog

One of the rarest frogs in the Southwest is finally about to get important habitat protections. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service this Monday proposed setting aside 11,000 acres of protected "critical habitat" for the beautifully bespeckled Chiricahua leopard frog in Arizona and New Mexico. The frog, protected under the Endangered Species Act after two Center for Biological Diversity lawsuits, has declined more than any other leopard frog in Arizona. It was once found at more than 400 Southwest sites but is now down to just 80 due to livestock grazing, water withdrawals and pollution, disease and other threats. This bright-green frog, with its striking black-and-brown rosette markings, is now extinct in its namesake Chiricahua Mountains, where it was first discovered.

Besides earning federal protection for this frog, the Center has worked hard to protect its remaining habitat from cattle grazing and to reverse the degradation of one of its last refuges, Arizona's Fossil Creek.

Read more in Digital Journal.

Alaska Joins Big Oil in Polar Bear Attack

It isn't just big oil companies attacking polar bears -- now the state of Alaska is piling on, too. Just days after BP, ExxonMobil and 13 other oil companies filed the first legal challenge to the 120-million-acre "critical habitat" designation for polar bears, state officials filed one of their own. Both lawsuits aim to demolish this protected area, hard won by the Center for Biological Diversity, so that Alaska's pristine coastlines and offshore waters can be turned into industrial oil operations.

The polar bear desperately needs all 120 million of its protected acres to survive oil development and global warming, and the Center -- which wrote the petition and spearheaded the lawsuit that earned the bear its Endangered Species Act status -- is leading the fight. We've been defending the polar bear for more than a decade, and our work in court has staved off oil drilling on Alaska's North Slope since 2007.

Now we need your help to stay strong against the powerful, wealthy opposition of Big Oil and Alaska. Please consider donating to our Polar Bear Protection Fund to stop the unprecedented industry assault on the bear's crucial habitat safeguards. And share this critical lifesaving campaign with friends on Facebook and other social media. Then read more on Alaska's suit in The News Tribune.

Tragedy in Japan Raises Questions at Home

It's been heartwrenching to watch the terrible events unfold in Japan: first an earthquake and tsunami causing thousands of deaths, then a still-unfolding crisis at the country's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station. While the focus has rightly been on the immediate threat to people in Japan, the situation highlights serious long-term concerns about nuclear power here in the United States.

Japan's vast nuclear infrastructure has long been touted for its safety and perceived ability to withstand an emergency. But over the past six days, we've watched as emergency crews struggled to prevent meltdowns and widespread radiation contamination. President Barack Obama has promoted nuclear energy as a safe, viable option for transitioning the United States away from dirty coal and oil (which were the source of separate disasters in 2010, with the BP spill and the West Virginia coal-mine explosion). But it's now clearer than ever that, for the sake of ourselves and the planet, we must look beyond nuclear to energy sources that are clean, renewable and safe.

Learn more about energy and global warming.

Plagued Delta Fish Gets New Chance at Protection

Due to a petition and lawsuit by the Center for Biological Diversity and allies, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service this week announced it's launching a new review to decide whether longfin smelt deserve federal protection. These small, silver-scaled fish are native to the San Francisco Bay-Delta, the biggest estuary in the state and one of the most severely degraded. The largest population has seen two catastrophic declines from massive water diversions and other threats contributing to the "smeltdown in the Delta." The Center petitioned in 2007 to protect the smelt under the Endangered Species Act, but the Service in 2009 denied that Bay-Delta smelt are "a distinct population" deserving safeguards. So the Center sued.

Longfin smelt face an upstream battle, and federal protections are sorely needed. In fact, California is pushing for a peripheral canal that could lead to exporting more water from the beleaguered Delta. Last month, a state panel evaluating the ecological health of the ecosystem floated the idea that it's too late to restore endangered fish anyway. But the Center won't let longfin smelt go extinct.

Get more from the Courthouse News Service.

Gray Wolves Declining -- Congress Takes Aim, You Can Take Action

Just as Congress was taking aim at gray wolves -- threatening to cut off their federal protection in Washington, Oregon, Utah, Montana, Idaho and Wyoming -- a new report late last week found that wolf numbers in the population declined in 2010. The survey found 80 fewer wolves than in 2009, largely due to federal trapping and aerial gunning -– a decline the wolves can ill afford. Still, some lawmakers in Washington, D.C., have been intent on removing Endangered Species Act protection for all wolves from Wyoming to Washington to Utah, leaving them even more vulnerable to killings.

If such legislation passes, wolves would be the first ever species to have federal protections removed by politicians, instead of according to the science-based recovery criteria laid out by law. And the animals would be left wide open to slaughter by states eager to reduce their numbers even lower. Idaho is already circulating drafts of a law that would put a $500 bounty on the head of each dead wolf.

Last week, the Center for Biological Diversity and 47 other groups asked Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chair Barbara Boxer to help stop anti-wolf legislation. Take action with us now by telling your senators to oppose it, too. Then read more in Digital Journal.

Congress Ramping Up Resistance to Cutting Climate Pollution

Members of Congress are ramping up their assault on efforts to cut pollution and keep global warming in check. Thankfully, after intense pressure from the Center for Biological Diversity, our allies and citizens, the U.S. Senate recently rejected House Republicans' spending bill -- one that was larded with anti-environment provisions, including some gutting the Environmental Protection Agency's ability to curb greenhouse pollution.

But big polluters, and those who carry their water in Congress, aren't giving up. Just this week the House Energy and Commerce Committee approved a measure that would halt the EPA's current efforts to cut greenhouse gases. (Astonishingly, it would also repeal the agency's seminal, science-based finding that those pollutants threaten human health and the environment.)

These pollution-cutting measures, especially the Clean Air Act, are the best existing laws we have for drastically reducing emissions that endanger not only our health but also a healthy climate. We need your help in telling senators and representatives that the Act -- which has an excellent, cost-cutting 40-year-record -- needs to be protected and preserved, not shot full of holes to gain political points.

Read more in The New York Times. Then call your senators and ask them to support, not gut, the Clean Air Act.

Two Ice Seals Under Fire -- Take Action Today

A petition by the Center for Biological Diversity spurred the National Marine Fisheries Service to decide in 2008 that two ice-dependent seals, the ringed and bearded seals, need federal protection. But while science clearly shows that global warming and oil development threaten these seals with extinction, Alaska and Big Oil oppose protecting the species because it also means protecting their Arctic habitat from dirty oil development.

Climate change is hurting both bearded and ringed seals by melting the sea ice they depend on for giving birth and raising young. Warming is already causing the collapse of snow caves excavated by the clever, splotchy-furred ringed seal to protect its pups.

Take action now to tell the Fisheries Service to stand up to Alaska and Big Oil to grant both these seals the Endangered Species Act protections they need. Then learn more about the Center's campaign to save bearded, ringed and spotted seals.

Five Rare Mussels Earn Concern in Kentucky

In response to work by the Center for Biological Diversity, a destructive project planned for one of the South's most important freshwater ecosystems will get the environmental scrutiny it deserves -- and some very rare mussels may be thrown a lifeline. In fact, no fewer than 20 different sensitive mussel species living in the Ohio River in Paducah, Ky., are imminently threatened by a proposed boat-dock and riverfront development that would fill in five acres of a critical mussel bed. Three of the whimsically named mussels that live there -- the orangefoot pimpleback, fat pocketboot and pink mucket -- are federally protected under the Endangered Species Act, while two others -- the sheepnose and spectaclecase -- have been proposed for protection. The project would kill thousands of individual mussels, including hundreds that are endangered.

Fortunately, comments submitted by the Center have spurred the Federal Highway Administration to do a better environmental analysis for the project and consider alternatives to the current proposal that would heed the mussels' plight.

Learn more about the Southeast freshwater extinction crisis.

Arizona's Permits of Grand Canyon Uranium Mining to Face Appeal

Ignoring widespread opposition from the public, the Center for Biological Diversity and allies, the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality last week OK'd three uranium mines in the sensitive Grand Canyon watershed by issuing air- and aquifer-pollution permits. While the mines are still subject to federal approval, the move demonstrates the state of Arizona's nose-length shortsightedness when it comes to permitting anything that might make a buck -- even at the cost of the state's iconic, namesake national park. By handing these mines "general" air- and water-pollution permits -- usually reserved for gas stations and other relatively minor facilities -- instead of simply denying the permits, state regulators are foolishly risking more radiological contamination of Grand Canyon National Park and its surrounding wildlands.

"Arizona regulators are throwing caution to the winds by risking even more radiological contamination of the air and water in the Grand Canyon region," said the Center's Taylor McKinnon. "Now they will face appeal."

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

Wild and Weird: Naked Mole Rats Handsome? No. Cancer-free? Yes.

Naked mole rats win no beauty contests. With their pale, pruny pelts, buckteeth and tiny, beady eyes, they’re cute to few and cuddly to none but each other. They have strange biology, too -- feeling little pain in their skin and dwelling in smelly, underground colonies like insects. Plus, young naked mole rats eat nothing but the feces of adults. The most intriguing thing about the mole rats, though, may be longevity: “Old Man,” the most ancient naked mole rat known to humankind, died last November at the ripe old age of 32. Naked mole rats routinely live almost 10 times longer than their aboveground cousins.

One reason naked mole rats enjoy such long lives? They've never been known to get cancer -- in contrast with mice, 70 percent of whom perish from the disease at just a few years of age. In fact, naked mole rats may prove as valuable as mice in finding a cure for cancer. That beats winning a beauty contest any day.

Read more on this intriguing species in The Washington Post.

Kierán Suckling
Executive Director

Photo credits: ringed seal (c) John Moran; Chiricahua leopard frog (c) Tom Brennan; polar bear (c) David S. Isenberg; Fukishima nuclear power plant courtesy Wikimedia Commons/KEI; longfin smelt courtesy NOAA; gray wolf courtesy Flickr Creative Commons/Todd Ryburn; coal plant courtesy Flickr Creative Commons/Rainforest Action Network; bearded seal pup courtesy NOAA; orangefoot pimpleback courtesy USFWS; Grand Canyon courtesy Wikimedia Commons/chensiyuan; naked mole rat courtesy Flickr Creative Commons/Miss Tessmacher.

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