Suit Targets Dangerous Deepwater Drilling in Gulf
With the Gulf of Mexico's ecosystem still reeling from last year's BP oil spill, the federal government has OK'd Shell's plan for new deepwater drilling in the region -- failing to fully analyze the potentially disastrous impacts, just as it did with Deepwater Horizon. While regulators acknowledge that Shell's drilling could cause a spill 10 times worse than last April's disaster -- the worst oil spill in U.S. history -- the government somehow concluded that Shell's drilling has zero potential for significantly harming the environment.
So this morning the Center for Biological Diversity, led by our new Oceans Senior Attorney Deirdre McDonnell, joined allies in taking the feds to court. Our suit aims to defend the Gulf and its species -- from the mighty loggerhead sea turtle to the dwarf seahorse -- from another spill that would bring them all closer to extinction.
Get more from the Associated Press.
Petition Filed to Stop Ships From Killing Whales
Whales may be large, but they're no match for massive ships plowing at high speeds through their habitat -- and, more and more often, killing them. So this week, the Center for Biological Diversity and friends filed a legal petition seeking a mandatory speed limit to slow down big ships in California's marine sanctuaries. These sanctuaries are supposed to be safe havens for some of the nation's most endangered marine species, including the largest animal on the planet: the blue whale. But they're also some of the most heavily trafficked shipping lanes in the country, and unprecedented numbers of blue, humpback and gray whales have recently been killed by ship strikes -- at least 50 large whales off the California coast in the past decade.
The Center has been working to protect marine mammals from boat strikes since 2007. Our latest petition was filed just before World Oceans Day, a global effort to raise awareness of our oceans' perils.
Read more in the San Francisco Chronicle.
Three Tiny Snails, One Shrimp Win More Habitat Protections
Some little-known endangered invertebrates in New Mexico and Texas are getting a big boost toward recovery. On Monday, federal officials announced plans to expand, by more than 120 acres, the protected "critical habitat" for three freshwater snails and one freshwater crustacean. The Roswell springsnail, Koster's springsnail, Pecos assiminea snail and Noel's amphipod -- a tiny, green-brown freshwater shrimp -- earned an additional 76 acres in eastern New Mexico, including on the Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge, and 61 acres in western Texas, including in Diamond Y spring complex, the last major spring still flowing in Pecos County. The main threats to all four species are groundwater depletion and pollution of the clean water they need to survive -- such as from oil and gas operations crisscrossing their remaining range.
The Center for Biological Diversity secured Endangered Species Act protection for all four animals in 2005, as well as the original habitat designation of 397 Texas acres. Center Conservation Advocate (and New Mexico resident) Michael Robinson has long defended the tiny species, stressing the importance of protecting the few "wet spots" they still inhabit in our increasingly hot and dry world.
Read more in the Las Cruces Sun-News.
Agency Outlines Extensive Damage From Proposed Arizona Mine
A newly released draft document from the U.S. Forest Service analyzes the likely effects of the controversial Rosemont open-pit copper mine in southern Arizona -- and they're not good. According to this early draft of the legally required "environmental impact statement," the mine will damage air and water quality, thousands of acres of wildlife habitat and movement corridors, endangered species, groundwater, springs and streams, and public health and safety.
Yet the Forest Service continues to say it has little choice but to approve the mine.
The Center for Biological Diversity and allies have sued the Forest Service over its preparation of the environmental impact statement, which has allowed mining company influence behind closed doors but no public participation in key meetings. The Center has also petitioned to federally protect five species -- the Rosemont and Sonoran talus snails and three plants (the Bartram stonecrop, beardless chinch weed and Coleman's coralroot) -- that could be devastated by the mine.
Read more in our press release and learn about the Center's Sky Islands Conservation campaign.
Habitat Safeguards May Expand for Rare Tiger Beetle
The Center for Biological Diversity and partners won a settlement Tuesday forcing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to consider increasing protected "critical habitat" for Nebraska's endangered Salt Creek tiger beetle. Although scientists have said the beetle needs more than 36,000 protected acres to recover, the Obama administration granted it just 1,933 acres last spring -- so the Center and allies sued to increase that.
The beautiful, metallic-backed Salt Creek tiger beetle is a ferocious predator that can seize and devour prey as big as itself. But its massive mandibles can't help it against development, dams, pollution or destructive grazing, which have cost it more than 90 percent of its salt-marsh Nebraska habitat. Only a few hundred beetles are estimated to remain on Earth, and additional protected acres will be key to their recovery.
Read more in the Lincoln Journal-Star.
Take Action -- Save Historic Landmark From Mountaintop Removal
Ninety years ago, more than 10,000 coal miners trekked to Blair Mountain, W. Va., to rise against the rule of coal operators and fight for decent living and working conditions. Now the mountain itself must be defended from Big Coal -- specifically, a plan for mountaintop-removal coal mining that would blow up the mountain, destroy sensitive species habitat and dump the resulting toxic waste in waterways for miles around. To protest the mountain's proposed destruction while commemorating the Battle of Blair Mountain, this week thousands of people are marching 10 miles a day toward the landmark, where they'll converge in a unifying rally on Saturday.
Meanwhile, one of the most significant mountaintop-removal documentaries ever made, The Last Mountain, has just premiered. An official selection at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival, the movie explores mountaintop removal's effects as it follows a small group of West Virginia residents in their struggle to save Appalachia from the devastating practice.
Take action now with the Center for Biological Diversity by telling the president to save Blair Mountain and ban mountaintop removal. Then, if you can't join the March on Blair Mountain rally in person, check out the virtual march and see when The Last Mountain is playing near you.
Innovative Media Campaign Launched: Get Lead Out of the Wild
The newest effort by the Center for Biological Diversity to educate the public about a key threat to species survival? A public-service ad, launched this week, on the popular website Grist that says: "We've gotten lead out of paint. We've gotten lead out of gasoline. Now it's time to get lead out of the wild."
Lead continues to poison and kill birds and other animals in the wild. Just recently, three California condors in northern Arizona and southern Utah died from lead poisonings, and three more were found with toxic levels of lead in their bodies. (One had 18 shotgun pellets in its digestive system.) That's exactly why the Center is pushing so hard to get toxic lead out of the environment.
The ad -- expected to get 1 million viewers in the coming weeks -- urges readers to sign a new petition telling President Obama and the Environmental Protection Agency to finally do what's badly needed to save condors and dozens of other species in the wild: end the use of lead hunting ammunition.
Read more about the latest condor poisonings and check out our new ad (it's one of several ads sharing a rotating spot on the right side of the page). Then sign our new petition to finally get lead out of the wild.
Pressure Mounts to Save Grand Canyon From Uranium Mining
In less than six weeks, the current two-year ban on destructive uranium mining in the Grand Canyon watershed will expire -- and 1 million acres in and near the massive landmark are at stake. While the mining industry pushes the Department of the Interior to open up the area to uranium interests, the Center for Biological Diversity and allies are pushing back to defend the Grand Canyon's water, soil and species from contamination and degradation.
The Center has filed suit four times to help save the Grand Canyon area from uranium mining and won't give up till this beautiful natural marvel is protected from new mines.
Tomorrow, Friday June 10 at 2 p.m. EDT, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar will be addressing Grand Canyon protections during a live online chat at 2 p.m. EDT. Submit your question here and then read more in The Kansas City Star.
Center's Funds Management Meets Toughest Standards
In recognition of the Center for Biological Diversity's continued commitment to efficiency and keeping our operations lean, this spring we qualified for listing as a select top-rated charity on charitywatch.org, the website of nationally renowned charity rater the American Institute of Philanthropy.
We put 86 percent of our funding straight toward programs to save imperiled species and their homes -- way more than the 75 percent required for props from the Institute. That helped us land in the organization's "A" grade range, where only about 180 out of more than 500 charities fall. And snagging a top rating is no easy task: The American Institute of Philanthropy is commonly called the nation's most stringent charity evaluator.
Check out why we're proud of how we manage our funds.
Wild & Weird: "Worms From Hell" Unearth New Prospects for Life
Can you imagine any complex creature thriving deep in the bowels of the Earth, a mile or more below the surface? Neither could scientists -- until they recently found two species of roundworm in hot water running through South Africa gold mines, the first multi-celled creatures ever known to live that far underground.
One species, previously unknown to science, was dubbed Halicephalobus mephisto after the Lord of the Underworld/Beezelbub/the archfiend. As reported in a Nature article (which researchers reportedly wanted to title "Worms From Hell"), there was evidence that the worm species had been living in the underground water for as long as 12,000 years.
Not only does the discovery have astounding implications for what Earth-dwellers are capable of but, as The Washington Post points out, it also raises new questions about what creatures might live far below the surface of other planets and moons.
Read more in The Washington Post.
Photo credits: Kemp's ridley sea turtle courtesy Flickr/krembo1; dwarf seahorse (c) Jeff Jeffords, divegallery.com; blue whale courtesy Flickr Commons/Seabass London; Pecos Assiminea by Brian Long, New Mexico Department of Game and Fish; Coleman's coralroot (c) Ron Coleman; Salt Creek tiger beetle by Sam Willey, USFWS; March on Blair Mountain by Cheshire Tongkat; California condor by Scott Frier, USFWS; Grand Canyon (c) Michelle Harrington; top-rated seal courtesy American Institute of Philanthropy; roundworm in wet soil by Josh Grosse.
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