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House Takes Aim at Endangered Species Act -- Fire Back

Rare and imperiled species across the country are under the gun again in Congress, this time from a new "extinction rider." This rider -- language attached to the Interior Department's spending bill in the House of Representatives right now -- would handcuff the Endangered Species Act, preventing any new federal protections for plants and animals. The rider would also stop the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from spending any money to designate protected "critical habitat" for species' survival or upgrade species classified as "threatened (like the polar bear) to the more protective legal status of "endangered." Perversely, the rider does allow a species to be downgraded in status -- or stripped of protection altogether.

The budget bill, with all its anti-species add-ons, could see a full House vote in the coming days. The rider came up just days after the Center for Biological Diversity reached a sweeping agreement with the Fish and Wildlife Service to speed protections for 757 imperiled species around the country.

The Center's now hard at work with our allies to get the rider removed from the bill, and we urgently need your help today. Take action by telling your congresspersons to oppose the extinction rider or any proposal that weakens protections for endangered species. For more details on the Center's historic 757-species agreement, check out our website.

Pacific Fisher, Old Growth Guarded From Ski-area Expansion

The Center for Biological Diversity is fighting the latest attempt to enlarge a ski area in Oregon that would be devastating to the rare Pacific fisher and its old-growth forest home. The U.S. Forest Service is trying to expand a ski area on majestic Mount Ashland that would displace fishers (at least 12 of which lived in the area at last count) from the upper east fork of Ashland Creek, a key migration corridor in the Siskiyou Mountains. The Pacific fisher -- a small, plush-furred forest carnivore -- is the only known animal tough and clever enough to prey regularly on porcupines. But now, due to past trapping and the ongoing destruction of its old-tree habitat, the creature is in steep decline.

The Center first petitioned to protect the Pacific fisher in 2000; now, under an agreement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service covering 757 species, a determination on whether the fisher warrants federal protection is due by 2014.

Check out our press release, learn about the Pacific fisher and read more in The Oregonian.

2,600 Acres Defended From Dangerous Fracking

The Center for Biological Diversity and allies this week filed a formal protest to save 2,600 acres of sensitive California watersheds from oil and gas development -- including hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking." This dangerous, controversial drilling method blasts through rock to extract natural gas, in the process often polluting groundwater with nasty toxins and risking aboveground spills of contaminated wastewater. In addition, oil and gas development -- whether through fracking or not -- releases significant amounts of methane, one of the most potent greenhouse gases.

Yet the Bureau of Land Management is planning to lease thousands of acres in Monterey and Fresno counties for oil and gas drilling without properly examining its environmental effects. The Center's protest is intended to protect the area's landscapes, water and wildlife, including the San Joaquin kit fox and blunt-nosed leopard lizard.

Read more in the Los Angeles Times.

Grand Canyon Threatened by Congress, Uranium Mining

Unfortunately, the "extinction rider" isn't the only set of anti-environment provisions tacked on to the current Interior Department budget bill -- the legislation also takes aim at the magnificent Grand Canyon. Just days after Interior Secretary Ken Salazar voiced support for extending a ban on new uranium mining across 1 million acres surrounding the park, House Republicans introduced legislation that would block those protections. Uranium mining in the canyon's watershed would industrialize iconic wildlands, threaten irreparable pollution of groundwater and destroy habitat for endangered species from the California condor to the humpback chub.

Take action now to tell your congressional representatives not to leave one of our nation's most spectacular natural wonders vulnerable to destructive, poisonous new uranium development -- and share a video on the issue narrated by author Craig Childs. Then learn more about the Center's campaign to save the Grand Canyon.

Two New Shrew Crews Debut

Good news for a rare shrew: Two new populations of the seriously endangered Buena Vista Lake ornate shrew have been discovered in Southern California's San Emigdio Canyon. In all, 11 new shrews were counted. That may not seem like a lot, but it's a big boost from the last time the population was tallied, when researchers found fewer than 50. Scientists have submitted the discovery to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, since it may call for expanded habitat protections.

The beady-eyed, scaly-tailed Buena Vista Lake ornate shrew is an intriguing mammal indeed: Neither rodent nor mole, it has a super-speedy metabolism requiring it to eat more than its own weight in bugs, slugs and worms each day. The shrew earned Endangered Species Act protection in 2002 after a lawsuit by the Center for Biological Diversity and allies.

Learn more about the Buena Vista Lake ornate shrew.

Call for Immediate Halt to Mountaintop Removal -- Take Action

Recently, the Center for Biological Diversity reported on a new scientific study linking mountaintop-removal coal mining in Appalachia with increased incidence of birth defects. Shockingly, lawyers for the coal industry responded to the study by attributing the birth defects to inbreeding. Their inaccurate and insulting assertion helped spur a new national campaign, which the Center is supporting: MTR Moratorium Now, which calls for an immediate halt to the mining practice and a federal investigation into its health effects.

In addition to destroying habitat for endangered species, surface mining in Appalachia has now been linked to increased mortality rates and cancer clusters in human communities. Debunking another coal-industry claim, a study just published in Annals of the Association of American Geographers concluded that mountaintop removal does not create coal jobs in local communities.

Take action now to demand a moratorium on mountaintop removal and read more in The Charleston Gazette.

Study: Amphibian Behavior Changing With Climate

A troubling study provides new evidence that amphibians around the world continue to struggle with the devastating effects of climate change. A scientist in Indiana found that frogs and salamanders are actually altering their behavior in response to a warming climate. His analysis of 17 years of data showed that all 13 species of amphibians studied are now breeding earlier in the spring than they did back in the 1990s. Unfortunately, climate change isn't the only threat amphibians face. These highly sensitive, permeable-skinned creatures are also at risk from environmental toxins, disease, nonnative predators, habitat destruction and many other dangers. Scientists estimate that 30 percent of the world's amphibians are threatened with extinction. 

The Center for Biological Diversity has been steadily ramping up its efforts to save amphibians and reptiles (together called "herpetofauna"). We file petitions to protect them under the Endangered Species Act; work to keep toxic pesticides out of their habitats; and -- led by the nation's only full-time herp attorney, Collette Adkins Giese from the Center's Minneapolis office -- go to court to ensure that the feds are taking the right steps to save Barton Springs salamanders, California red-legged frogs and scores of other rare, cold-blooded creatures of land, stream and pond. 

Check out the Center's Amphibian Conservation Web page.

Free Birth Control Would Benefit People, Planet

This Tuesday the U.S. Institute of Medicine recommended that the government require insurance companies to foot the bill for birth control. According to the forward-thinking panel, contraception -- along with services like diabetes tests for pregnant women and cervical-cancer screenings -- should be covered as a preventative service for women, without copayments. Though the controversial recommendation raised objections from some, Obama administration officials have indicated they'll accept the panel's advice -- and may act on it by Aug. 1.

Not only would this move help millions of women -- it would also have far-reaching implications for the environment, since better access to birth control means better family planning. As the Center for Biological Diversity has been advocating since we launched our Overpopulation Campaign and Endangered Species Condoms project, fewer people on the planet equals more room and resources for endangered species, as well as better quality of life for humanity.

Get more from The New York Times and watch the Center's timely public-service announcement linking extinction and unsustainable human population growth -- playing now in New York's Times Square.

Magical New Novel for Young Readers Has Global Warming Theme

Today's young people will likely be among the first to face dire consequences of climate change and ocean acidification in their adulthood. The Fires Beneath the Sea, the first novel in an eco-fantasy series for 9-14-year-olds by Center for Biological Diversity award-winning author Lydia Millet, is an engaging way to fire their imaginations to combat these crises.

Millet's story features a Cape Cod 13-year-old named Cara seeking to solve her marine biologist mother's mysterious disappearance. Along with her two brothers, she embarks on a quest that brings the children into magical contact with rare and majestic sea creatures from leatherback sea turtles to orcas -- and eventually takes them to a shipwreck on the bottom of the sea where they find themselves on the front lines of an ancient battle between good and evil.

Learn more about The Fires Beneath the Sea and Millet's reading next week at Vroman's Bookstore in Pasadena, or buy the book here to gift to young friends -- with its sandy, end-of-summer Cape Cod setting it should make great beach reading. Then check out the Center’s oceans campaigns and take action against ocean acidification (with your kids, if you’re a parent).

Wild & Weird: Amazing Technicolor Dream Toad

For the last 87 years, the Borneo rainbow toad might as well have been a myth. No human had seen it since Prohibition, and its only likeness was a beautifully rendered -- but drably black-and-white -- drawing. Although no one knew precisely how cool-looking this toad might be, the legendary leaper made conservation scientists' top 10 list of "most wanted" lost amphibians.

Finally, after months of trekking through high-elevation Borneo rainforests, this summer Malaysian researchers spotted a trio of the toads up three different trees. One scientist took the first-ever photograph of the species -- in living color. Still, the toad's bizarrely bright neon splotches and splatters defy the beholder's belief (especially in these days of Photoshop).

Tragically, the Borneo rainbow toad could disappear again -- this time forever -- due to habitat loss, climate change, collection and other threats. It's our duty to find and conserve the world's lost amphibians -- even if (or because) they look like an eccentric '80s manicure.

Read more in The New York Times.

Kierán Suckling
Executive Director

Photo credits: Borneo rainbow toad courtesy Flickr/visionshare under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license; polar bear courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Ansgar Walk; Pacific fisher courtesy Washington Department of Fish and Game; San Joaquin kit fox by B. Moose Peterson, UsFWS; humpback chub by George Andrejko, Arizona Game and Fish Department; Buena Vista Lake ornate shrew courtesy USFWS; mountaintop removal site courtesy Wikimedia Commons/J.W. Randlolph; California red-legged frog (c) Colin Brown; crowded beach courtesy; The Fires Beneath the Sea cover by Sharon McGill, courtesy Big Mouth House; Borneo rainbow toad courtesy Flickr/visionshare under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license.

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