West Coast Shorebird to Win 28,000 Protected Acres
In great news for the western snowy plover, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service this week responded to a Center for Biological Diversity lawsuit by proposing to greatly expand the area of protected "critical habitat" for the plover's Pacific Coast population. This pint-sized, buff-and-white-feathered shorebird -- hit hard by habitat destruction across its range from California to Oregon, and once down to a frightening 1,500 birds -- has thankfully rebounded somewhat due to its Endangered Species Act protection.
It hasn't been an easy path toward recovery. After the Center secured nearly 20,000 acres of habitat protections in 1999, the science-twisting Bush administration slashed those protected acres to only 12,000 -- not nearly enough for the bird's recovery in the face of development, off-road vehicles, oil spills and other threats to its home. So the Center filed our second snowy plover lawsuit in 2008. Now the shy bird's habitat will be more than doubled, proposed at 28,261 acres.
Read more in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
Polar Bear Sacrifice to Big Oil Proposed -- Take Action
In an unacceptable new move against some of the Arctic's most iconic animals, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing regulations that will give oil companies permission to harm and harass struggling Alaska polar bears and Pacific walruses for the next five years -- despite the fact that the bears' sea-ice habitat is rapidly melting away and they need more protection, not less, to survive. Due to years of hard work by the Center for Biological Diversity, polar bears are protected under the Endangered Species Act, and Pacific walruses are candidates for federal protection, because of climate change.
Yet last week the Service determined that proposed oil and gas activities in the Beaufort Sea pass muster under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. As the Center pointed out, this is based on years-old information that doesn't acknowledge changing Arctic conditions or recently won protections for the majestic animals; it downplays the great danger of an oil spill in the icy Arctic Ocean.
Read more in Law360. Then please take action to tell the Service we can't put polar bears and walruses further at risk for the sake of dirty energy.
Harmful Roads Blocked on N.M. National Forest -- Thank You
Responding to a challenge by the Center for Biological Diversity and allies, the U.S. Forest Service this week reversed a decision to add environmentally damaging user-created roads to the official road system for New Mexico's Carson National Forest. The Carson must now close those roads -- created without authorization in the first place -- and exclude them from its motor-vehicle use map, which it has been developing since early 2009. In July 2009, the Center, our allies and more than 3,500 Center supporters contacted the agency, forcing it to release reports detailing the environmental impacts of the proposed plan.
"User-created" roads are made when people drive off-road to camping spots with their motorhomes, trucks and off-road vehicles. These roads can cause erosion, destroying stream banks and critical wildlife habitat and presenting safety problems for people. Our road-closing victory will greatly benefit the burrowing owl, goshawk and numerous other imperiled forest species. Thank you so much for your help in closing these damaging roads.
Read our press release and learn more about our fight against destructive off-road vehicles.
111 Groups Helping to Get the Lead Out
The Center for Biological Diversity's campaign to end the use of toxic lead ammunition and fishing tackle keeps gaining momentum. More than 100 organizations in 30 states representing birders, conservationists, hunters, scientists, veterinarians, American Indians and public employees have now signed on in support of our call to require the use of nonlead ammunition and fishing tackle to prevent wildlife poisoning and stop putting humans' health at risk.
Since the Center filed a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency last November for failing to regulate the use of toxic lead hunting ammunition and fishing gear, we've seem some positive steps. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service now requires only nonlead ammunition for controlling "nuisance" birds to prevent lead exposure for wildlife that could eat those birds. And the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is considering restricting the use of lead shot and tackle on some state lands. Wisconsin regularly has high numbers of loon deaths from poisoning due to ingestion of lead fishing tackle.
Learn more about our Get the Lead Out campaign and sign up here if you'd like to add your group's support to the campaign.
Agreement Protects Northwest Wolves, Preserves Options for Rockies Wolves
As both Republican and Democratic congressmen gear up for an unprecedented attack on wolves and the Endangered Species Act, the Center for Biological Diversity and nine other local and national environmental groups have reached a difficult agreement with the Interior Department to salvage as much wolf protection as possible and prevent a disastrous congressional intervention.
If approved by the court, the agreement will retain, but temporarily stay, a court order striking down the delisting of wolves in Montana and Idaho. It will keep full protection for wolves in Washington, Oregon and Utah, and it will keep protection for wolves in Wyoming unless and until the state develops a management plan that will pass federal muster. The stay will last until Interior issues a new decision on the fate of wolves across the region. We expect this will take 18-24 months.
The agreement also revokes the Interior policy used to justify previous delisting decisions, sets up an independent scientific panel to examine recovery goals and progress for the northern Rockies population, and preserves the right of environmental groups to sue over the final Interior Department decision.
Said Center Executive Director Kierán Suckling: "Given the virtual certainty of Congress permanently stripping protection from all northern Rockies and Northwest wolves, barring litigation to challenge the delisting and establishing no scientific baselines for recovery, we believe this agreement is necessary to preserve long-term recovery potential and head off a terrible precedent that would invite conservative congresspersons to push legislation to delist endangered species all over the country. It was a difficult and heartwrenching decision, but one that we feel is the best course in this very difficult and dangerous situation."
Read our statement on the settlement and learn more about the Act-gutting solicitor's memo that it negates.
Loggerhead Sea Turtles' Protections Delayed -- Help Save Them
Despite devastating sea turtle fatalities in the wake of the BP oil spill, nearly one year later the feds are now postponing and reconsidering their proposal to upgrade loggerhead sea turtle safeguards from "threatened" to "endangered" under the Endangered Species Act. But loggerhead sea turtles' plunge toward extinction won't pause for bureaucratic delay. Loggerheads in the Gulf of Mexico and Pacific urgently need the greater protections provided by a status upgrade -- which the feds proposed in 2010 after petitions from the Center for Biological Diversity and allies.
Loggerheads have declined by at least 80 percent in the north Pacific, while Florida beaches (which host the largest nesting population of loggerheads in the northwest Atlantic) have seen a more than 25-percent nesting decline since 1998. Long-term effects of the oil spill, including from relocation of more than 70,000 turtle eggs, primarily loggerheads, are still unknown. On their epic migrations across the sea, these long-lived, 250-pound turtles risk painfully drowning in commercial fishing gear -- and they face many other dangers, from coastal development to global warming, year round. Meanwhile, the feds have approved a new deepwater drilling plan for the Gulf -- even as a new oil slick has been spreading over Gulf waters and imperiled turtle habitat.
Take action to protect loggerhead sea turtles and read our press releases about loggerheads, the new deepwater drilling plan and the new Gulf oil slick.
Southern Salamander Passed Over for Protection -- Speak Out
Instead of protecting Tennessee's rare Berry Cave salamander under the Endangered Species Act, this Monday the Obama administration added it to the already dangerously long "candidate list," which now consists of 259 imperiled species. These species, from the white fringeless orchid to the yellowcheek darter fish, have been deemed endangered enough to deserve federal protection -- but instead of winning that protection, they've been pushed aside to await it indefinitely. The average amount of time these species have been on the list is two decades; dozens of species have gone extinct while waiting.
The Berry Cave salamander -- a nine-inch-long, insect-eating amphibian found in just nine caves near Knoxville -- could soon be wiped out forever by development and pollution. The Center for Biological Diversity is currently in court to earn protection for this salamander and all the other candidate species.
Read the Center's press release, learn more about our Candidate Project and take action now to tell the administration to protect all 259 candidates.
193 Million Forest Acres at Risk -- Take Action
A critical new rule is being developed by the Obama administration rule for management of wildlife and other natural resources across the entire U.S. national forest system -- 193 million acres of precious habitat. Unfortunately, like administrations past, the federal government isn't proposing strong, enforceable conservation laws that will keep destructive activities in check. Like the past three forest-management rules -- which have all been struck down in court due to lawsuits by the Center for Biological Diversity and allies -- the current draft of the rule fails to adequately protect forests and endangered species from the myriad threats they face, including roads, oil and gas development and logging.
But you can make a difference by telling the Forest Service you demand a rule that provides strong safeguards for all national forest species, from the Canada lynx to the California red-legged frog.
Write a letter (or attend a public meeting) now. Then learn more about our campaigns for forests.
Earth Hour 2011: Turn Off, Tune In, Stop Warming
Looking for an easy but artful way to break with the energy-hog status quo? Unite with others across the globe -- including, of course, the Center for Biological Diversity -- by participating in Earth Hour this Saturday, March 26, from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m. local time wherever you live on Earth. By turning off your lights (and computers, TVs, microwaves, etc.) for a single hour, you can help enlighten political leaders on the need for strong action against climate change now. Last year was the biggest Earth Hour so far, with hundreds of millions of people in a record 128 countries and territories taking part.
Needless to say, when you turn your lights back on after Earth Hour, we don't advocate you leave them all burning brightly the rest of the time. As Aristotle said, excellence is not an act but a habit; for it is repetition, not a single moment, "that makes a man blessed and happy."
(Of course, Aristotle also said "the female is, as it were, a deformed male." But don't worry about that one.)
Visit the World Wildlife Fund's U.S. Earth Hour website -- where you can get involved, read details and watch videos -- and learn more about the Center's Climate Law Institute.
Wild and Weird: The Secret Names of Whales
If you think it's hard to pronounce the name of certain people -- like, maybe Icelandic Prime Minister Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir? -- try properly identifying Suzy the Sperm Whale in her native tongue. Researchers have known for years that sperm whales use series of very complex and subtly different consecutive clicks, or "codas," to communicate across miles under the sea, including to announce themselves to each other by group or family. But according to a recent study in the Caribbean, each whale may have a unique coda -- distinguished only by tiny differences in the timing of its clicks -- that identifies him or her individually (that is, by name).
More research is needed to dive deeper into the possibility of sperm whale names, but biologists already know that dolphins have individual identifying whistles -- and sperm whales are similarly complex social animals. Many researchers are already dubbing them among our planet's most intriguing "nonhuman persons" (which also includes chimps and other great apes).
Read more on whale name-calling in Wired.
Photo credits: snowy plover courtesy Flickr Commons/JAC6.FLICKR; western snowy plover courtesy Flickr Commons/MikeBaird; polar bear courtesy Flickr Commons/longhorndave; burrowing owl (c) Robin Silver; loons courtesy Flickr Commons/KentonLetkeman; gray wolf courtesy Flickr Commons/Sakarri; loggerhead sea turtle hatchling courtesy USFWS; Berry Cave salamander (c) Matthew L. Niemiller; Canada lynx courtesy Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife; Earth courtesy NASA; sperm whale courtesy Flickr Commons/7scout7.
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