23 Species to Earn Protections in Hawaii
In a victory for some of Hawaii's most imperiled species, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed Endangered Species Act protection on Monday for three invertebrates and 20 plants native to the island of Oahu. The plant species, some with fewer than 50 individuals remaining in the wild, come from a variety of habitat types but are all threatened by habitat loss and invasive species. The three invertebrates -- the crimson, blackline and oceanic Hawaiian damselflies -- are delicate, iridescent-winged, dragonfly-like insects threatened by development, stream alteration and nonnative insects. When seized by a predator, the oceanic Hawaiian damselfly plays dead.
This good news for Hawaiian species follows the Center for Biological Diversity's landmark legal deal, struck last month, to move 757 imperiled species closer to protection, which included 19 of the 23 Oahu species; we'd petitioned for the 19 species in 2004. "These unique Hawaiian species are a national treasure, and we're thrilled they'll be getting the Endangered Species Act protection they need to survive," said Center biologist Tierra Curry.
Read more in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser and learn more about our historic 757-species agreement.
Judge Reluctantly Upholds Rider Stripping Wolf Protections
While condemning Congress's budget-bill rider stripping protections from northern Rockies gray wolves, a federal judge on Wednesday nonetheless reluctantly denied a challenge to the rider by the Center for Biological Diversity and allies. Declaring the rider "a tearing away, an undermining, and a disrespect for the fundamental idea of the rule of law," the judge effectively agreed with the Center that it violated the separation-of-powers clause of the U.S. Constitution. However, he wrote, he was constrained to uphold it by binding appellate court precedents.
The Center and other conservation groups had challenged the rider, approved in April, which removed Endangered Species Act protection for wolves in Montana, Idaho, Oregon, Washington and Utah. The decision marked the first time that Congress, rather than scientists, took a plant or animal off the endangered species list. "Today's decision means that hundreds of wolves that need protection won't get it," said Kierán Suckling, executive director of the Center. "Although wolf numbers have risen, the job of wolf recovery in the northern Rocky Mountains is far from complete."
Read more in the Great Falls Tribune and learn about our campaign to restore gray wolves across the United States.
Feds Approve Risky Oil Drilling in Arctic
The Department of the Interior took a dangerous and disappointing leap toward drilling in the remote and fragile waters of Alaska's Beaufort Sea yesterday, green-lighting a plan by Shell Oil to drill in the Arctic Ocean. Shell's drilling risks a major oil spill to which neither Shell nor the government could adequately respond -- seriously threatening endangered bowhead whales, polar bears, seals and Alaska Native subsistence traditions. It seems the Interior Department has learned little since the Deepwater Horizon tragedy in the Gulf of Mexico last year.
Legal work by the Center for Biological Diversity and allies has prevented Shell drilling in the Arctic since 2007. Under this plan, the oil giant would start drilling in the Beaufort Sea in summer 2012.
Read more in The New York Times.
House Determined to Thwart Species Protection, Clean Air Act
The U.S. House of Representatives left behind a mess in Washington, D.C., when it adjourned for its summer break earlier this week. The worst: A still-pending Interior appropriations bill that's packed full of anti-environment amendments. They include measures to defund the Mexican gray wolf recovery program, prevent Endangered Species Act protection for the rare dunes sagebrush lizard in New Mexico and Texas, stop the Clean Air Act from limiting greenhouse gas pollution and halt a long-running effort to protect 1 million acres around the Grand Canyon from uranium mining.
Make no mistake: House members determined to enact these outrageous proposals will pick up right where they left off when they return in September. The Center for Biological Diversity -- which helped, with your support, defeat an "extinction rider" that would have disabled parts of the Endangered Species Act -- will be back too, fighting to kill all these damaging measures. We can't do it alone, so stay tuned for how you can help.
Read more in E & E News.
Congressional Showdown Looms Over Fate of Grand Canyon
It's hard to imagine the iconic, world-famous Grand Canyon could be fair game for industrial devastation. But Tea Party radicals in Congress seem to want to sacrifice the Canyon's stunning vistas and unique wildlife to uranium mining: They now have their sights set on halting efforts to protect 1 million acres around Grand Canyon National Park from dangerous, toxic mining. With the debt-ceiling deal taking center stage earlier this week, voting on the Grand Canyon uranium rider was pushed back to the fall, when budget discussions -- and the fight over the uranium rider -- will resume.
When that happens, the Center for Biological Diversity and our 320,000 supporters must be ready to strike back and save this majestic region from being turned into a radioactive industrial zone. We've waged a strong fight, and it's time to ensure this irreplaceable national treasure -- home to more than 1,400 species of plants and wildlife -- gets the protection it truly deserves. Center supporters' almost 100,000 letters pressuring Congress and the administration to safeguard the Canyon have been critical to building broad political support for new protections and garnering opposition to bad legislative riders.
We need to keep that pressure on, so right now we're shoring up resources for the stacked battle ahead. Please consider a gift, and help us take advantage of the powerful 1-to-1 match a donor's offering to double your tax-deductible donation today. Also read our op-ed in The Huffington Post, watch a video about the Grand Canyon and the dangers of uranium mining, and learn more about our campaign.
Polar Bear Scientist Suspended, Center Cries Foul
In the run-up to the Interior Department's approval of oil drilling in the Beaufort Sea, there are disturbing reports of continuing political interference with the work of Arctic scientist. Early this year, the Obama administration sent criminal investigators -- with no scientific background -- to grill an Interior Department scientist about drowned polar bears that he observed in 2004. Then, in the past two weeks, Interior abruptly suspended that scientist, Dr. Charles Monnett, and put the brakes on ongoing polar bear research in the Beaufort Sea off Alaska. Not coincidentally, this is an area that Interior is considering opening to offshore oil drilling.
The Obama administration promised scientific integrity in government, and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar vowed to reform the dysfunctional agency that oversees offshore oil development, but the government's treatment of Dr. Monnett recalls the worst moments of the Bush era.
This week, the Center for Biological Diversity submitted a formal request for an independent investigation of Interior; we also submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to get to the bottom of the story. Said Kassie Siegel, director of our Climate Law Institute: "Dr. Monnett appears to be the subject of precisely the type of disgraceful political interference that President Obama promised to end. Unfortunately, the Interior Department today appears to be as dysfunctional and beholden to the oil industry as it was under the Bush administration."
Read more in E & E News.
Obama's No Co-pay for Birth Control Helps Address Population Crisis
The Obama administration this week made a big step forward for the nation's family-planning services, issuing new rules requiring insurance companies to begin covering birth control without a co-pay. The move, set to take effect next year, will help ensure those who want birth control have access to it. That's an important milestone for reducing our unsustainable human population growth and easing the burden on plants and animals around the world.
The planet's human population is expected to hit a staggering 7 billion in late October and 10 billion by century's end. The Center for Biological Diversity is working to raise awareness of the crisis -- and in particular, how population growth drives consumption and results in more pollution, more habitat destruction and fewer places for species to survive. The new rules from the Obama administration are promising; meanwhile, worldwide more than 200 million women who want contraception still don't have access to it.
Read more in The New York Times and learn about our overpopulation campaign, including our latest ad in New York's Times Square.
Illegal Fishing Ring Highlights Plight of Bluefin Tuna -- Take Action
Here's yet another reason why bluefin tuna are in trouble: Italian officials are investigating a huge illegal fishing and trafficking operation targeting bluefin tuna in the Mediterranean. Authorities say they've found more than 1,000 violations, including falsified fishing records and trading documents.
Bluefin tuna around the world have been in severe decline for decades because of overfishing and top-dollar prices in the sushi market. The Center for Biological Diversity launched a nationwide boycott of bluefin tuna last year, and so far more than 25,000 people and restaurants have signed on. But saving the world's bluefin tuna from extinction will require more: This majestic, imperiled warm-blooded fish needs to be classified as endangered, international commissions that set catch limits must recognize its precarious state, and crackdowns on overfishing (including illegal operations) need to dramatically ramp up.
Read more in Martha's Vineyard Magazine, learn about our Bluefin Boycott and sign up to take the pledge. Then take action and join the Center in our campaign to get the imperiled bluefin protected internationally.
Proposed Fuel Standards Need More Get-up and Go
The Obama administration on Friday proposed new rules to make vehicles more efficient and less polluting. While the standards are a step forward (car gas mileage would have to reach 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025) -- they don't go nearly far enough. Cars in the European Union already get an average of more than 40 mpg.
Stopping runaway global warming will require major cuts in greenhouse gases in the coming years, including from the transportation sector, which accounts for a third of all U.S. greenhouse emissions. Our existing laws are designed to spur those cuts through the development and use of new technologies so we can achieve pollution reduction in the future beyond what's achievable now. Yet the administration's standards for 14 years hence are actually lower than what we can achieve with technologies available today, including more efficient and less-polluting engines and transmissions, strong but lightweight materials, improved aerodynamics, and hybrid and electric vehicles. Indeed, the Obama administration's goal for 2025 is below what Europe proposes for 2020 -- so we know we can aim higher.
Read our press release and find out more about our work to improve U.S. fuel economy.
Wild & Weird: Elk Saves Life of Drowning Marmot
He may not be a Baywatch babe, but one Idaho elk makes a heck of a lifeguard.
When a marmot at the Pocatello Zoo fell into a water trough last week, a towering elk named Shooter came to the rescue. Before then, Shooter had a bit of a prickly reputation -- he's punctured car tires with his antlers -- and was known to be on the aggressive side. But when the marmot ran into trouble in the trough, zookeepers watched in astonishment as the giant elk took the tiny marmot in his mouth and set it down on the ground. He even prodded the furry critter with his hoof as if to make sure it was OK. "We all know he's a real character," said one zoo staffer, "but I think he must have a soft side we didn't know about."
Read more in the Daily Mail and watch an ABC newscast showing photos of the incident.
Photo credits: oceanic Hawaiian damselfly (c) David Preston and Dan Polhemus; gray wolf courtesy Flickr Commons/Sakarri; bowhead whale by Rick LeDuc, NOAA; dunes sagebrush lizard courtesy USFWS; Grand Canyon courtesy NPS; polar bear (c) Brendan Cummings; crowd courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Dr. John Kelley, NOAA NOS COOPS; bluefin tuna (c) Paul Colley; exhaust pipe courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Steevven1; elk.
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