Flawed Species Deal Held Up by Court
In response to opposition by the Center for Biological Diversity, a federal judge on Tuesday declined to approve a weak, vague and unenforceable legal settlement concerning the future of some 839 imperiled species. He has ordered the U.S. Fish and Wildlife and another conservation group into mediation with the Center for a month to resolve the problem.
The settlement concerns 839 imperiled plants and animals, including 251 species that have been waiting indefinitely for safeguards on the federal "candidate list." The Center petitioned to protect 192 of the 251 candidates and 511 of the other 588 species at issue. But while the Center was working to reach a strong, concrete agreement to save all these species, the Fish and Wildlife Service convinced another conservation group (that had petitioned for few of the species) to accept a weaker version riddled with loopholes for the 839 species and designed to delay protection for other equally threatened species such as the Pacific walrus and American wolverine.
Get details in our press release and read more in the Los Angeles Times.
Rare California Plant Earns 14,000 Protected Acres
Following a long campaign by the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Wednesday designated more than 14,000 acres of "critical habitat" in the Mojave desert for the endangered Lane Mountain milk vetch. Although only four populations of this wispy, silver-leafed plant exist in the world, the Bush administration never protected any of its habitat, which is under dire threat from off-road vehicles, mining and development.
Besides filing the lawsuit that granted this milk vetch Endangered Species Act protection back in 1998, the Center has twice sued to federally protect its habitat since 2001.
Read more in the Redlands Daily Facts.
Big Oil, Obama Push for More Offshore Drilling
Politicians and big oil companies are looking to leverage rising gasoline prices by opening up more areas to dangerous offshore drilling. Shell recently submitted its plans to explore for oil in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas off Alaska -– even though there's still no way to clean up a spill in the harsh, icy conditions of the Arctic Ocean. And President Barack Obama is jumping on the drill-baby-drill bandwagon: Earlier this week, he said he wants to fast-track drilling on the Atlantic Coast and the Gulf of Mexico as well as open up a 24-million-acre Alaska wilderness area to drilling. It's as if the oil-spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico had never occurred.
The Center for Biological Diversity continues to call for a long list of important, fundamental changes to protect people, wildlife and the environment from the dangers and devastation of offshore drilling. Polar bears, Pacific walrus, sea turtles, bluefin tuna and scores of other species are depending on us to make sure they have clean, oil-free places to live.
The only bright spot this week came yesterday, when the U.S. Senate rejected a bill that would have mandated a dramatic expansion of offshore operations and watered-down, already-inadequate environmental reviews. But clearly the fight is far from over, and we're not letting up.
Read more on Shell's latest designs, the Senate's vote and our campaign against Arctic oil development.
More Than 1 Million Fish Suffer Mass Die-off on West Coast -- Take Action
Staggering numbers of Northern California's most at-risk fish -- spring-run chinook salmon and the Sacramento splittail -- have recently died at water pumps in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Government data show that pumps for the Central Valley Project have killed more than 10,000 juvenile spring-run Chinook salmon since the project's inception; even more shockingly, the pumps have killed more than 1.25 million Sacramento splittail in just the past week.
Spring-run Chinook salmon, a unique salmon that spawns in the Sacramento River, are protected under the Endangered Species Act and now survive in the wild in just three tributaries. The Sacramento splittail -- a hardy, foot-long minnow -- was stripped of protections in 2003; the Center will keep working to ensure this fish gets the safeguards it so obviously needs.
Read more in our press release and take action.
Victory Over Seabird Killings in Hawaii
Years of advocacy by the Center for Biological Diversity and allies paid off last Friday when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued a permit forcing a Hawaii utility company to protect imperiled seabirds from death. Since 2002, the Kauai Island Utility Cooperative has been illegally killing and harming two bird species protected by the Endangered Species Act -- the Newell's shearwater and the Hawaiian petrel -- which can become disoriented by the utility's streetlights and die when they strike power lines. The Center and other groups, represented by Earthjustice, sued the utility last year to save the birds.
The Newell's shearwater, a black-capped bird locally known as the 'a'o for its moan-like call, declined by 75 percent between 1993 and 2008 -- no small thanks to the Utility Cooperative. Meanwhile the mysterious, rarely seen Hawaiian petrel has been protected as endangered since 1967 and is still declining. Now the utility will have to take concrete actions to stop all avoidable bird deaths and offset unavoidable harm.
Get details in our press release and learn more about the Newell's shearwater and Hawaiian petrel.
New York Times: Ban Toxic Lead in Ammo, Fishing Gear Now
A spot-on editorial in The New York Times this week supports the Center for Biological Diversity's long-running campaign to end the use of all toxic lead in hunting ammunition and fishing tackle –- and calls out the NRA for its effort to block the Environmental Protection Agency from doing the right thing.
Millions of birds and other wildlife die every year from lead shot and fishing tackle that's left in the wild. The Times editorial says the EPA was wrong to deny our lead-banning petition last year. It also calls NRA lobbyists' legislation to bar the EPA from restricting the sale of lead ammo and sinkers "another misguided idea from the gun lobby."
"Banning lead poses no threat to hunters or fishermen," the editorial declares. "What needs protecting is wildlife that ingests the lead, including migratory waterfowl and birds of prey, notably California condors. Humans need protection, too."
Congress should ignore the NRA, it concludes, and the EPA should issue the ban the Center has petitioned for -- and now sued to achieve.
Read more in The New York Times.
Feds' Plan for Bat-killing Disease Too Timid
Five years after bats started dying from white-nose syndrome, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service this week finally released its plan for dealing with this deadly disease. Unfortunately, the plan doesn't go nearly far enough.
The Center for Biological Diversity has for years pushed the government to address the white-nose syndrome crisis, which has already killed more than 1 million bats and is considered the worst-ever wildlife disease outbreak in North America. Among changes we've pushed for: blocking all-but-essential human access to caves, protections for the most vulnerable bats and dramatically increased research funding for the cause –- and possible cure –- of the disease. But the feds' plan lacks a sense of urgency about this crisis and specifics about how state and federal agencies can keep the disease from spreading across the country.
A vague plan just won't cut it with this disease, which could drive some bat species toward extinction and leave us without many of our most important insect-eaters. Stay tuned on how you can help us stop the spread of white-nose syndrome and save our bats.
Read more in The Washington Post.
Utah Population Boom: Bad for Both Wildlife and People
Utah has the highest fertility rate of any state, and its population is exploding at a record-setting pace. In fact, new statistics show it experienced record growth in human numbers in every one of its 29 counties between 2000 and 2010, for an overall population jump of 23.8 percent. Predictably, the costs are high for Utah's natural heritage: urban sprawl is obliterating wildlands, air pollution is skyrocketing, water resources are dwindling, and plants and animals are being pushed out of their habitat in every direction.
But what many don't recognize, according to a recent Salt Lake Tribune opinion piece, is that Utah's people are also suffering the consequences of their own unsustainable growth: overcrowded schools, traffic congestion, hospital waiting lists and overflowing landfills.
Utah, of course, is only a microcosm of what's going on around the world. The effects of unsustainable human growth are evident far and wide, from rapidly diminishing forests to accelerating extinction of plants and animals. The world population will hit 7 billion later this year –- which means it's high time we humans start considering what happens to the rest of the planet as our numbers grow and grow.
Read more in The Salt Lake Tribune.
Damaging Dam Opposed on California National Forest
The Center for Biological Diversity and allies have called on federal regulators to finally pull the plug on a proposal to build a new hydroelectric dam in Southern California's Cleveland National Forest. The so-called Lake Elsinore Advanced Pumped Storage (or LEAPS) project would generate electricity from water pumped from Lake Elsinore to a dam on the crest of the forest -- harming wildlife, reducing water quality, ruining local rural character and risking wildfire.
In the most recent blow to the dam, early this month the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission wrote a letter to the project's proponents questioning the viability of the whole thing -- and demanding a good explanation as to why the project's license application shouldn't just be dismissed. The Center's stance? The application should be dismissed -- so just do it.
Get more from the Lake Elsinore-Wildomar Patch.
Wild and Weird: Superhero Tarantulas Defy Gravity
Attention Peter Parker: You're not the only one with an amazing ability to cling to walls. As it turns out, tarantulas have their own freaky superpower to rival Spider-Man's "web-shooter" wrist wear: Shooting sticky silk straight from their actual appendages.
Although these gangly, hairy arachnids are some of the heaviest spiders in the world -- making climbing up walls one of the riskiest things they can do -- they're able to hold fast to a vertical surface when forced to, even when that surface is unstable. But how? Scientists used Chilean rose tarantula test subjects (plus some molted exoskeletons from a pet tarantula named Fluffy -- yes, really) to prove that these spiders, and likely all tarantulas, have tiny silk-producing "spigots" on their feet. The ejected silk evidently helps them cling to a vertical surface when they might otherwise fall to their deaths.
No word yet on whether tarantulas have developed a tingly Spidey-sense.
Read more in Science Daily.
Photo credits: chinook salmon courtesy Flickr Commons/RJL20; American wolverine (c) Gerald and Buff Corsi, California Academy of Sciences; Lane Mountain milk vetch courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Mark Hessing; Pacific walrus by Bill Hickey, USFWS; chinook salmon courtesy Flickr Commons/Pacific Northwest National Laboratory; Hawaiian petrel (c) Matt Brady; California condor by Lorraine Paulhus; little brown bat with white-nose syndrome by Ryan Von Linden, New York Department of Environmental Conservation; Salt Lake City; cranes on Lake Elsinore courtesy Flickr Commons/parrs41; tarantula courtesy Flickr Commons/Search Net Media.
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