SPECIAL MESSAGE FROM THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR:
Tester, Reid, Obama Sell Out Wolves
The dire wolf situation in the northern Rockies and Pacific Northwest got catastrophically worse Tuesday when Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) placed a rider on the must-pass federal budget bill stripping protections for endangered gray wolves in Montana, Idaho, Washington, Oregon and Utah and setting the stage for near-term delisting in Wyoming. Making matters worse, the rider also strips citizens of their right to challenge the delisting in court, while preserving anti-wolf lawsuits brought by Wyoming and others.
Congress has never previously overridden the Endangered Species Act to remove a species from the endangered list. The rider could easily have been stopped by Senate majority leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and the White House, but instead they used it as a political bargaining chip in a last-minute deal designed to help Tester get re-elected in 2012. Tester, who is one of the most vulnerable Democrats in the upcoming elections, has cynically decided to engage in a wolf-hating contest with his Republican opponent in a bid for conservative votes.
To head off the impending legislation, the Center for Biological Diversity and nine other groups negotiated a settlement with the Department of the Interior to keep protection for wolves in Washington, Oregon and Utah; strike down the Bush-era policy used to justify elimination of protections in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming; preserve the right of citizens to challenge all future listing decisions in court; and establish an independent scientific panel to determine the long-term recovery needs of northern Rockies wolves. Unfortunately, the court rejected the settlement due to opposition by four conservation groups, giving us no leverage to rally senators against Tester and Reid. The budget bill could be passed as early as today -- anti-wolf rider included.
Read our press release for more details, and please join us in sending a letter to the president letting him know how important wolves are to you and urging him to oppose the wolf rider.
Alaska Belugas Win 2 Million Protected Acres
The future of Alaska's beluga whales just got brighter. Following a petition for protection and notice of intent to sue by the Center for Biological Diversity and allies, the National Marine Fisheries Service on Friday set aside nearly 2 million acres of protected "critical habitat" for the endangered beluga whales of Cook Inlet. The belugas received Endangered Species Act protections in 2008 -- over objections from the state of Alaska -- due to a Center petition and litigation. But the Service delayed proposing protected habitat for the rare white whales, so we stepped in. We're also in court defending the belugas from state officials' challenge to the whales' Endangered Species Act protections.
Only 300 to 400 Cook Inlet belugas remain on Earth, all facing a host of threats, from oil and gas development to port expansion and a new bridge. The polluted and degraded Cook Inlet, host to the city of Anchorage, is the most populated watershed in Alaska. These 2 million acres will breathe new life into the recovery of this magnificent white whale.
Get more from Reuters and watch the Center's Rebecca Noblin on Alaska's KTVA TV.
Lawmakers Renew Vow to Gut Clean Air Act -- Take Action
The Clean Air Act may have dodged a bullet last week in the federal budget deal reached late Friday night, but there are more rounds in the chamber. Republicans have vowed to exploit any opportunity to chop the Act off at the knees and stop the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating dangerous greenhouse gas pollution. Not only did the U.S. House of Representatives recently approve Rep. Fred Upton's (R-MI.) bill that would hobble EPA's work on climate -- a bill that's now headed for the Senate -- but similar language is expected to be tucked into upcoming votes on the budget and spending policies. "Lots of different ways to skin a cat," one GOP lawmaker said.
The Center for Biological Diversity will fight those measures at every turn; the Clean Air Act is the most important existing law we have to combat out-of-control climate change. But we'll need your help.
Check out our Clean Air Act website and then sign up today to become a Clean Air Advocate.
One Year After BP Spill: Deadly Toll on Gulf Wildlife
Almost a year after BP's Deepwater Horizon rig exploded, causing the worst oil spill in U.S. history, the Gulf of Mexico's wildlife are still hurting -- and will be for years to come, according to a new report released by the Center for Biological Diversity. A Deadly Toll: The Gulf Oil Spill and the Unfolding Wildlife Disaster compiles federal data, scientific papers and media accounts to estimate the number of animals so far harmed by the spill. The report goes beyond government tallies and uses leading scientists' methods of calculating the actual toll on wildlife, not just animals that were seen and collected. The report estimates that up to 6,000 sea turtles, 26,000 dolphins and whales, 82,000 birds, and countless fish and invertebrates were harmed by the spill, and the fragile, complex ecosystems in the Gulf will feel the oil spill's effects for decades.
Read more in our press release and check out the wildlife report for yourself.
Offshore Oil-drilling Report: 10 Overdue Reforms
Although there's been plenty of finger-pointing and accusations in the 12 months since the Gulf oil disaster began, many of the most important reforms have yet to take place. A report released by the Center for Biological Diversity today, Lingering Threats, outlines 10 key policy, regulatory and oversight reforms that must be addressed by regulators and elected officials if we're to avoid another offshore oil-drilling catastrophe that kills people and wildlife, ruins economies and fouls an entire ecosystem. The report calls for an end to environmental waivers for drilling projects, true reform of safety measures, and compliance with laws that protect endangered species like sea turtles and sperm whales. Here's hoping policymakers finally start learning the lessons of the Deepwater Horizon disaster and prevent the next catastrophe.
Get details in our press release and read the full report.
Lethal Bat Disease Expands Into 18th State, Kentucky
Wildlife officials announced Wednesday that white-nose syndrome, the deadly, fast-moving disease that's killed more than a million bats in North America in the past five years, has just been detected in Kentucky. The disease, or the pathogenic fungus associated with it, has now reached 18 states and three Canadian provinces and has been found on nine species of bats, including endangered bats. White-nose syndrome is considered one of the worst wildlife crises in U.S. history.
The Center for Biological Diversity has pushed the federal government to fully mobilize against the frightening disease, fund research about how to stem its movement, and protect bats that face the grim prospect of extinction if the disease spreads out of control.
Read more in the Louisville Courier-Journal. Then check out the International Business Times to learn about the critical role bats play in pest control for our farms and communities -- saving the United States up to $53 billion per year.
Iconic Northwest Salmon Swims Toward Safeguards
In response to a petition from the Center for Biological Diversity and allies, the National Marine Fisheries Service this week announced that chinook salmon in the upper Klamath River may deserve Endangered Species Act protection. Biologists now count just 300 to 3,000 wild spring-run chinook in Northern California and southern Oregon -- though these fish used to be the most abundant chinook in the Klamath, and the Klamath Basin used to be the third-largest producer of salmon and steelhead trout on the entire West Coast. Dams have cut off the salmon from at least 300 miles of key spawning habitat, and much of their remaining habitat has been severely degraded by logging, hatcheries, pollution and other factors.
Marvels of evolution, spring-run chinook salmon live most of their lives in the Pacific Ocean but return to the river in the spring with enough fat reserves to survive without eating till they spawn in the fall. Our petition also requests protection for fall-run chinook, which have a larger population but are likewise in danger.
Read more in the San Jose Mercury News.
Rare Butterfly Relegated to "Candidate" List
The Obama administration this week reached a new landmark in not protecting species. After a petition and lawsuit by the Center for Biological Diversity, the Interior Department admitted on Wednesday that Southern California's Hermes copper butterfly deserves Endangered Species Act status, but then merely made the species a "candidate" for protection -- meaning it will join 260 other species waiting indefinitely for a place on the endangered list while extinction looms closer every day.
The yellow and orange spotted Hermes copper is seriously imperiled because its habitat has been gobbled up by Southern California sprawl and massive wildfires. The Obama administration has used the "warranted but precluded" designation more than any other previous administration. The Hermes copper is the 25th species to get that designation on Obama's watch.
Get more from San Diego's KPBS.
Southwest Springsnails On Way to Protection
Two tiny invertebrates with tiny populations were proposed for Endangered Species Act protection this Monday, along with the federally protected "critical habitat" they need to survive and recover -- and just in time. The Three Forks springsnail, an aquatic snail less than one-fifth of an inch long, has been reduced to just two populations (one of which, on last count, consisted of three individuals) since the Center for Biological Diversity petitioned for its protection in 2004. The even tinier San Bernardino springsnail -- a narrow-shelled snail less than one-tenth of an inch long -- is down to three populations, two of which are also perilously small. Both snails live in Arizona and are threatened by groundwater depletion, pollution, nonnative species and more.
Get more from AZCentral.com.
Wild and Weird: Legendary Giant Turtle Rescued in Vietnam
Legend came to life this month when Vietnamese citizens returned the favor of rescue to a giant turtle revered as the savior of an ancient king. It took 50 men two hours to capture the giant turtle (estimated at 440 pounds) from Hanoi's Hoan Kiem Lake after finding it with lesions on its head and shell -- either from pollution or injuries caused by fishermen's hooks and smaller turtles. The giant turtle -- of whose species, Rafeteus swinhoei, only one other creature is known -- will be taken to a "turtle hospital" for rehabilitation.
Scientists estimate the turtle is at least 80 years old, but some believe it to be the same giant golden turtle that, according to legend, helped Vietnamese King Le Loi fight off the Chinese with a magical golden sword nearly six centuries ago.
Get more from BBC News and watch a video of the rescue.
Photo credits: beluga whale courtesy Flickr Commons/James Grimmelmann; gray wolf courtesy USFWS; beluga whale (c) Mike Tiller, MCT Images; power plant courtesy Wikimedian Commons/luchegorsk.ru; oiled pelican courtesy Flickr Commons/Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal; Deepwater Horizon explosion courtesy U.S. Coast Guard; Indiana bat courtesy USFWS; chinook salmon courtesy Flickr Commons/Josh Larios; Hermes copper butterfly (c) Vince Scheidt, Calphotos; Three Forks springsnail by Mike Cox, USFWS; Hoan Kiem turtle courtesy Wikimedia Commons/haithanh.
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