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Juno and Mariachi

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2,000+ Stream Miles to Be Protected for Southwest Songbird

More than 2,000 miles of Southwest streams will be designated as "critical habitat" for the endangered southwestern willow flycatcher. The announcement from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service came in response to a lawsuit by the Center for Biological Diversity. If finalized, the designation would be a big improvement on the 730 stream miles set aside by the Bush administration in 2005.

The Center has been working for southwestern willow flycatchers for two decades; we petitioned to protect them back in 1992. The small, quick-moving neotropical songbird is native to Southwest streamside habitats and endangered by development, water projects, climate change, grazing and many other threats.

Read more in the San Jose Mercury News.

Six Foreign Birds Earn Safeguards

Years of work to protect foreign bird species are paying off. The  U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Friday designated six foreign bird species as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. The Cantabrian capercaillie, Marquesan imperial pigeon, Eiao Marquesas reed warbler, greater adjutant, Jerdon's courser and slender-billed curlew are very different birds, found in very different parts of the world -- from Spain to Siberia to Southeast Asia -- but all will benefit from U.S. protections. The new designation will restrict the buying and selling of imperiled international species, increase conservation funding and attention, and add scrutiny to U.S. development projects proposed abroad.

In response to petitions by bird biologists in the 1980s, the Service determined that more than 70 foreign birds deserved U.S. protection -- but it took multiple Center for Biological Diversity lawsuits to spur the progress achieved by the agency today, including protecting these six birds (and others) and proposing protections for additional avians worldwide.

Check out our press release and learn more about our International Birds Initiative.

International Protections Sought for 20 Turtles

In our latest move to save freshwater turtles, the Center for Biological Diversity on Monday petitioned to protect 20 species in the South and Midwest from harmful international trade. We're calling on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to recommend these turtles -- including the alligator snapping turtle, spotted turtle, and several map and softshell turtle species -- for safeguards under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). CITES protections would help regulate the international turtle trade that's now devastating these 20 species' populations. In the past five years, more than 12 million wild-caught live turtles have been exported from the United States, mostly to supply food and medicinal markets in Asia.

The United States is a turtle biodiversity hotspot, with more types of turtles than any other country. The Center has petitioned all states with inadequate turtle "harvesting" restrictions to enact rules to combat this serious threat, compelling Florida to ban almost all commercial turtle harvesting. We've also petitioned for Endangered Species Act status for several turtle species.

Read more in our press release and check out our revamped Web page on the reptile and amphibian extinction crisis.

Victory Over Dirty Energy: Massive Coal Plant Halted

After hard work by a coalition of environmental groups including the Center for Biological Diversity, plans to build one of the largest and most heavily polluting coal plants in the West have been called off. The White Pine Energy Station, which was to be sited just 30 miles from Nevada's Great Basin National Park, would have spewed nearly 13 million tons of climate-warming carbon dioxide into the air each year (not to mention air-polluting mercury, sulfur dioxide and fine soot). It also would have required the sale (and degradation) of 1,281 acres of pristine public lands.

When the Bureau of Land Management refused to properly address the project's impacts, the Center and our many allies appealed its approval. Now the plant's proponents have abandoned the project altogether.

Learn more about our campaign against coal.

Suit Filed to Protect Climate From Biomass Burners

Large-scale biomass burning -- the incineration of trees and other organic material for fuel -- is far from carbon neutral. In fact, recent scientific information shows it can increase global warming pollution even compared to fossil fuels. Compounding the problem, big biomass plants are under pressure to log native forests for fuel, chopping down carbon-absorbing trees and destroying species habitat at the same time.

Yet the Environmental Protection Agency has passed a rule exempting biomass-burning power plants from carbon dioxide limits under the Clean Air Act for the next three years.

To save forests, habitat and the climate from a rush to build polluting biomass power plants, the Center for Biological Diversity and allies on Monday sued to challenge the rule. "The science is clear," said Center attorney Kevin Bundy. "Burning our forests for energy makes no sense as a strategy for dealing with climate change."

Get more from The Hill and check out our new biomass Web page.

New Website, Op-ed Speak Out on Climate Change: It's Here Now

There's simply no doubt: Climate change is here now, and it's hurting. Nearly every day, it seems, we see or hear about its effects: extreme weather, rising sea levels that threaten densely populated coasts, increasing instability of food and water supplies, worsening human health and well-being -- and of course suffering species, from starving and drowning polar bears to coral reefs eroding and bleaching due to warming and ocean acidification.

Our team at the Center's Climate Law Institute this week launched a new web page that brings this global crisis into sharp focus, providing an up-to-date compilation of the latest science, studies and stories showing the effects of climate change today.

"As the daily toll of climate change mounts, it's time to embrace the reality that the United States can wait no longer for meaningful action," wrote Kassie Siegel, our Climate Law Institute director, in a recent op-ed. "Climate change is happening now, we are causing it, and the costs of inaction -- to us, to plants and animals, to the physical world that we depend on -- are too steep to ignore and pass to the coming generations."

Read more in The Huffington Post and check out our absorbing -- if disturbing -- new website compiling media on the mounting toll of climate change.

Safeguards in Sight for Rare Southwest Springsnail

After legal action and a landmark settlement achieved by the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed to protect New Mexico's imperiled Chupadera springsnail under the Endangered Species Act -- and to protect 1.9 acres of "critical habitat" for the species. This springsnail, one-tenth of an inch long and with a lifespan of just one year, is primarily threatened by livestock grazing -- which has damaged about 80 percent of all stream habitat in the United States -- and groundwater depletion due to water pumping and climate change-caused drought.

The Chupadera springsnail qualified for Endangered Species Act protection more than two decades ago. The Center sued for its protection in 1999 and made it part of our historic settlement reached last month that will speed decisions on protections for 757 species around the country.

Check out our press release.

Grand Goal Reached for Grand Canyon -- Thank You

Thanks to more than 1,000 of you, the Center for Biological Diversity is more prepared than ever to fight to save the Grand Canyon and its surrounding wildlands from destructive uranium mining and pollution. With your generous help, on Monday we reached our goal of bringing in $15,000 to take on the uranium industry and protect our most biodiverse national park from its toxic, polluting mining. Now we'll be ready for the fight.

And it's going to be a tough one. This iconic landmark remains under threat from a proposal by Tea Party radicals who want to stop a 20-year ban on mining and open up the region to new uranium development. If this goes forward when Congress reconvenes next month it will spell disaster, polluting streams, fouling the landscape and threatening hundreds of species that call this place home. We'll be watching closely and will keep you updated.

Learn more about our campaign to protect the Grand Canyon from uranium mining.

Center Lawyer Leads Deaf Swim Team to World Championship Win

This month Center Senior Counsel Bill Snape -- environmental lawyer by day, coach of the U.S. National Deaf Swim Team, er, also by day -- took a break from defending the Clean Air Act and Endangered Species Act and fighting for polar bears to lead his team to an incredible victory in the world championship meet in Portugal. Surprising everyone, dark horse U.S. team members swept up a week's worth of records and best times, snagging the overall team trophy and leaving the favored Russian team treading water in their wake.

Congratulations to Bill and his swimmers. When he returns to work this week, we know he'll dive right back into saving species.

Read more in the U.S. Deaf Swimming Team's press release.

Wild & Weird: Beluga Whale Digs Mariachi Music -- Watch Video

Mariachi music and beluga whales: They go together like . . . well, we didn't really think they went together at all. (Not that we'd given it much thought.)

That all changed this month when a playful beluga named Juno showed a very obvious appreciation for mariachi music when a band came to play for a wedding at his Connecticut zoo home. Not only did he stay by the window to watch (and listen) to the band -- he also bobbed his head up and down to the melody, and even head-butted the window glass in apparent approval.

Maybe the high-pitched trumpet and violins reminded Juno of shrill beluga calls. Maybe he was attracted to the musicians' big, black sombreros or silver-studded pants. Or maybe he wanted to learn how to serenade the ladies, charro style. (Or torment them -- while the band was playing, Juno's two female poolmates stayed far away from the action.)

Watch the video on Discovery News.

Kierán Suckling
Executive Director

Photo credits: Juno the beluga whale courtesy captainkickstand and Mariachi Connecticut; southwestern willow flycatcher courtesy USGS; Marquesan imperial pigeon courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Samuael Etienne; spotted turtle courtesy USGS; power plant courtesy Wikimedia Commons/; biomass plant courtesy Flickr/Green Ron; Adelie penguins courtesy Flickr Commons/iWOUW!; springsnail habitat courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Stan Shebs under the GNU free documentation license; Grand Canyon courtesy Flickr Commons/Mordac; Bill Snape; beluga whale.

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