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Gulf Disaster, One Year Later -- New Drilling Must Stop Now

This week marked a grim anniversary: It's been a year since BP's oil rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, eventually leaking more than 200 million gallons of oil and unleashing the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history. Thousands of birds, sea turtles and dolphins died -- and some are still washing up. Yet there have been no meaningful reforms to guarantee a similar spill will never happen again.

That's why the Center for Biological Diversity marked the spill anniversary by calling for an end to all new offshore drilling -- before it's too late -- and pressing forward with our newest lawsuit to regulate toxic oil dispersants.

Further, we just released a report analyzing the spill's true toll on wildlife, estimating that about 6,000 sea turtles, 26,000 dolphins and whales, and a staggering 82,000 birds were likely harmed by the spill. We also released a report outlining 10 critical reforms that have gone unaddressed since the Gulf crisis.

In the wake of the spill, the Center has launched nine lawsuits and petitioned to protect two species harmed by oil in the Gulf, the Atlantic bluefin tuna and the dwarf seahorse. This disaster isn't over, and neither is our fight to stop the next one.

Read more in our press release, visit our revamped Gulf Disaster website (where you can watch our new One Year Later video statement on the disaster) and see an interview with Center Executive Director Kierán Suckling on Democracy Now!

Lawsuit to Defend Wildlife From Toxic Oil Dispersants

A year after the ocean was polluted with more than 2 million gallons of toxic oil dispersants to break up oil from BP's devastating Deepwater Horizon spill, the Center for Biological Diversity on Monday filed a notice of intent to sue the Environmental Protection Agency for authorizing the use of dispersants without analyzing their effects on endangered species and habitat. In fact, the dispersant most used by BP to combat the catastrophic Gulf spill is actually banned in England and much of Europe, but was used liberally in our waters without environmental analysis.

Dispersants -- chemicals used to break up oil into tiny droplets -- can allow toxins to build up in the marine food web, with potentially devastating consequences for wildlife, including sea turtles, fish, whales, piping plovers and corals.

Read more in the Summit County Citizens' Voice.

Legal Counterattack filed to Protect 120 Million Acres for Polar Bears -- Thank You

As we've been telling you over the past couple months, the Center for Biological Diversity is in an all-out fight against oil companies' attack on our hard-won legal victory to protect 120 million acres of "critical habitat" for the polar bear. Thanks to the generous support of more than 2,200 members, we were able to raise the funds to take the next critical step and keep the momentum going to protect these majestic animals and their habitat.

This week, the Center and allies intervened in the companies' suit to defend the bear's much-needed habitat safeguards. Those protections, secured by the Center in late 2010, constituted the largest swath of critical habitat in history, and we're not about to let them be turned into an industrial zone for oil and gas companies.

Top Center attorneys were back in court last week arguing for additional polar bear protections. We were encouraged by a federal judge who said he's considering making the Obama administration revisit the controversial Bush-era rule that denies the bear protections from its greatest threat: global warming. That rule -- part of the Center-won decision in 2008 to protect the polar bear under the Endangered Species Act -- exempted greenhouse gases from regulation under the Act.

In an all-day hearing last Wednesday, at which the Center's Brendan Cummings argued in the polar bear's favor, the judge indicated he may throw the rule out for further environmental review. We'll keep you updated as our polar bear protection campaign moves forward. Thank you again to all those who stepped up to fund this critical work.

Get details on the court case from E & E News and read more on the critical habitat suit in The Bristol Bay Times.

Suit Seeks 70,000 Square Miles for Leatherbacks

To help save one of the most magnificent sea turtles on Earth, the Center for Biological Diversity and allies this week sued the feds for failing to protect "critical habitat" for the Pacific leatherback. In response to a legal petition by the Center and partners, last year the National Marine Fisheries Service proposed to protect about 70,000 square miles (45 million acres) of ocean off California, Oregon and Washington for the sea turtle -- but missed its deadline to finalize the proposal. Meanwhile, leatherbacks continue to die on their epic 12,000-mile journey from Indonesia to the West Coast -- tangled in commercial fishing gear, poisoned by pollution, killed by poaching and facing many other threats.

While in U.S. waters, leatherbacks eat almost a third of their weight in jellyfish a day -- and they need those waters to be protected.

Read more in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Center Back in Court to Earn Habitat for Florida Panther

Florida is on the verge of losing its last large, wild feline and the Southeast's only remaining large, wild cat: the stealthy, majestic Florida panther. To make sure this powerful hunter gets the roaming room it needs to survive, the Center for Biological Diversity this Wednesday appealed a court decision denying federal protections for the species' habitat. The cat's habitat has been under assault for decades, shrinking rapidly in the face of growing human population and sprawling development in South Florida.

That's why we're heading back to court in our challenge to a district judge's decision that said the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service did not have to designate protected "critical habitat" for the panther. Only about 120 individual Florida panthers survive in the wild, clinging to less than 5 percent of their original habitat.

Read more in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

Suit Launched to Protect Plains Bison

In defense of one of North America's most iconic animals, last Wednesday the Center for Biological Diversity and Western Watersheds Project filed a notice of intent to sue the feds for not protecting the imperiled plains bison. This species once roamed a wide swath of the continent by the millions, but slaughter, disease, habitat loss and other threats have reduced it to a fraction of what it once was. Today just a few conservation herds remain. Despite that, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in deciding whether the plains bison needs federal protection, is only considering the species' current range -- and not the fact that it's gone from most of its historic range. That's not good enough and won't give this shaggy beast the help it desperately needs to survive and recover.

Read more in the Chicago Tribune.

Center Steps in for Disappearing Miami Blue Butterfly

The Miami blue butterfly has waited 27 years for Endangered Species Act protection. That's far too long. So last week the Center for Biological Diversity filed a notice of intent to sue to help this fast-declining insect. Though the species is on the brink of extinction due to urban sprawl, fire suppression, pesticides, severe weather and other threats, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service denied it a place on the endangered species list when the Center petitioned for emergency protection after it disappeared from Florida's Bahia State Park in January. Instead of protection, the feds granted the bright blue, inch-long butterfly a place on the "candidate list," which now includes 260 imperiled species whose protections have been put off indefinitely.

Read more in The Miami Herald and check out the latest on the Center's work to win protection for "candidate list" species.

Fracking Under Fire, Causes Disastrous Penn. Spill

There was more troubling news this week about hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," which is a process where chemicals, water and sand are blasted into the earth to pry natural gas and oil from rock. On Tuesday night, a natural-gas well blew out in Bradford County, Penn., leaking thousands and thousands of gallons of fracking fluid through fields and farms and into a stream.

It's the latest in a string of worrisome reports about this destructive practice. It destroys habitat, harms species and injects a chemical cocktail underground, possibly contaminating drinking-water sources. A congressional report put out last week shows that between 2005 and 2009, fracking companies used 93.6 millions of gallons of 279 unidentified "off the shelf" chemical products -- all to extract resources that exacerbate global warming.

The Center for Biological Diversity has scored wins in the fight against fracking, including last year when we helped save West Virginias' Monongahela National Forest from an oil and gas plan that could have allowed fracking on up to 4,400 acres. Now the Environmental Protection Agency is starting to study fracking's impacts -- the first step toward regulation -- and people nationwide are mobilizing against the practice. But the natural-gas industry will fight back, so we'll need all hands on deck to make sure EPA does the right thing. Stay tuned for the next action you can take.

Read more in Huffington Post.

Wild and Weird -- Alien Plants: Totally Goth

Would you laze in the shade of a black elm tree? Eat black lettuce in your salad or play soccer on black grass? New astrobiological research suggests that on a different world, green plants might not exist at all. They might even be black.

That's because Earth gets its light from a unique star -- one whose color, temperature and distance from us makes photosynthetic plants absorb all wavelengths of light except infrared and green (the green is reflected back for our eyes to see). Most stars in the Milky Way aren't like our sun at all -- in fact, about 80 percent are red dwarfs. Photosynthetic plants absorbing the light of these kinds of "suns" could reflect hues of red, blue, yellow, purple or even grayish-black. And according to the new study, plants on planets with two red dwarfs in the sky, which are pretty common, would probably look plain old black.

So there's another reason to take care of this colorful world. Happy early Earth Day.

Read more in National Geographic.

Kierán Suckling
Executive Director

Photo credits: oiled pelican courtesy Flickr Commons/Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal; oiled pelican courtesy Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries; sperm whale courtesy NMFS; polar bear courtesy Flickr Commons/shaindlin; leatherback sea turtle courtesy Flickr Commons/RedJamJar; Florida panther by Rodney Cammauf, NPS; plains bison by Jack Dykinga, USDA; Miama blue butterfly by Jaret C. Daniels, McGuire Center for Lepidoptera Biodiversity; brook trout courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Eric Engbretson, USFWS; black trees courtesy Flickr Commons/naylori.

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