Five Populations of Loggerhead Sea Turtles Get Full Protection
The northern loggerhead sea turtle is finally getting full protection under the Endangered Species Act. In response to two legal petitions by the Center for Biological Diversity and allies, this week the National Marine Fisheries Service designated the North Pacific loggerhead sea turtle "endangered" under the Act -- upgrading its status from the less-protective classification of "threatened." The rare and ancient marine reptile, which spends much of its time off the coasts of Mexico and California, has declined by at least 80 percent over the past decade due to fisheries bycatch, climate change, oil spills and other threats.
Although loggerheads in the Northwest Atlantic are also seriously at risk and have seen a 40 percent decline in nesting on Florida beaches since 1998, the agency did not list them as it did their North Pacific cousins. Instead, it split loggerheads into nine populations worldwide and protected only five of these. But North Pacific turtles now have a much better shot at recovery: Threats like deadly longline and gillnet fisheries will be under increased scrutiny, and the Fisheries Service will now have to identify areas to set aside as federally protected "critical habitat" for the turtles.
Read more in the Los Angeles Times.
Western Gull-billed Tern Saved From Egg Killing
In some good news for one of California's most misunderstood imperiled birds, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has officially abandoned a plan to kill the eggs of western gull-billed terns nesting in San Diego Bay. There are only around 200 pairs of the rare tern left in the United States -- in San Diego and at the Salton Sea. Due to lack of habitat, the terns and other endangered birds, including the snowy plover and California least tern, are forced to nest in quarters that are too close for comfort. Gull-billed terns sometimes prey on chicks of the other endangered birds, prompting the Service to propose killing the tern eggs to try and bolster populations of the other species.
The Center has opposed the killing of one imperiled species to benefit another. The true solution is to restore California's degraded and destroyed coastal wetlands so all species have enough habitat to thrive, instead of being forced to compete with each other in an artificially small area.
Learn more about the western gull-billed tern.
N.M. Rejects Bid to Delay Protecting Rare Lizard
Call it a pleasant surprise: The New Mexico Legislature recently rejected a bill seeking to delay Endangered Species Act protection for the dunes sagebrush lizard. Lawmakers were urged to pass the bill by those claiming that protecting the lizard would be bad for the economy. State lawmakers didn't buy it.
The swift, sand-colored lizard, whose dunes habitat has long been in decline, was proposed for federal protection in December following a 2002 petition from the Center for Biological Diversity and allies. New Mexico's Rep. Steve Pearce, who has accepted nearly $1.2 million from Big Oil and Gas since 2002, and his cronies have been out in full force trying to scare up opposition to the listing. Earlier this year, we released an analysis soundly debunking Pearce's claims of economic disaster. We've also set up a new website focusing on Pearce's propensity for stretching the truth.
Check out www.PearceLies.com, read our press release and learn more about the dunes sagebrush lizard.
Melon-smashing Pearce Ally Has Bad Web Day
New Mexico Rep. Steve Pearce's anti-environmental campaign is regularly bolstered by the rantings and writings of Marita Noon, director of two oil-industry booster groups: Energy Makes America Great and Citizen's Alliance for Responsible Energy. Noon is famous for whipping up hysteria in pro-industry rallies by chanting "smash the watermelons" after telling the crowd that environmentalists are watermelons because they are green on the outside and red on the inside. Noon's attack-dog routine is often directed at particular environmental groups opposing Pearce's radical agenda, including yours truly, the Center for Biological Diversity.
Like Pearce, though, Noon is factually challenged . . . which caused her to have a very bad web day recently when several conservative websites removed her blog after the Center informed them that she had falsely accused us of extorting money. Whoops. See the dead links here, here, here and here.
This isn't the first time Noon's anti-environmental vitriol has run into factual trouble. An earlier blog attack on the New Mexico Wildlife Federation has been replaced with: "This commentary has been removed in its entirety because of factual inaccuracies." More on that controversy here.
And then there are the charges by a reporter that Noon plagiarized his article while trying to derail protection for the imperiled dunes sagebrush lizard. Seems like oil and gas money just doesn't buy the kind of quality propaganda it used to.
Here's a smashing idea: Check out the Center's Web page devoted to tracking the latest lies and distortions by Steve Pearce and friends, at www.PearceLies.com.
Take Action to Ban Toxic Weed-killer
After years of work by the Center for Biological Diversity and our allies on the toxic herbicide atrazine, we finally have a chance to end its use for good. The Center's legal actions have resulted in several agreements to protect individual species from atrazine -- the Barton Springs salamander in 2005, the California red-legged frog in 2006 and the Delta smelt in 2010 -- with a massive 2011 suit pending to force evaluation of the chemical's impacts on more than 170 endangered and threatened species nationwide.
And now, at long last, the Environmental Protection Agency is considering whether to ban this widely used weed-killer, which is linked to significant human and wildlife health problems, including birth defects, fertility problems and certain cancers. Research has provided evidence linking atrazine to prostate cancer and decreased sperm count in men and higher risk of breast cancer in women. The herbicide has been banned in Europe since 2004, but 80 million pounds are still applied in the United States each year. It's one of the most common contaminants of groundwater, surface water and drinking water; it chemically castrates male frogs at concentrations 30 times lower than what the EPA calls "safe."
The EPA is accepting public comments for one month. More than 60,000 supporters of the Center and other advocacy groups, plus 40 prominent scientists, have already weighed in supporting a ban. Send your comments today and learn more about pesticides reduction.
Settlement Helps Kangaroo Rat, Habitat, Climate
The Center for Biological Diversity and allies on Tuesday reached a settlement on a controversial industrial warehouse project planned for Riverside, Calif., that would have harmed one of the county's most conventionally cute endangered species. The Alessandro Business Center project would have cut through an important wildlife connection between the Sycamore Canyon Wilderness Park and the March Stephens' Kangaroo Rat Preserve, home of the big-footed, doe-eyed and seriously endangered Stephens' kangaroo rat. So we filed suit.
Our settlement not only sets aside habitat for the imperiled rodent (including the wildlife connection and an expansion of the Wilderness Park) -- it also requires green-building practices, making the project an important example of energy-efficient, pollution-reducing, greenhouse gas-cutting construction.
Read more in the Press-Enterprise.
Join Our Clean Air Cities Campaign
Think global warming, act local. That's what the Center for Biological Diversity is asking you to do with our brand-new Clean Air Cities campaign, which harnesses the power of individual communities to fight climate change on a national level.
We're calling on cities across the country to pass resolutions that will push the Obama administration and Environmental Protection Agency to use our current best anti-warming regulatory tool -- the Clean Air Act -- to help us limit atmospheric CO2 to 350 parts per million or below. As part of our campaign, you'll be working with the Center and others around the country to urge your city council to pass a formal resolution in support of the Act. We'll provide you with all the materials you need, connect you with like-minded people in your community and help you each step of the way. Since the campaign officially launched just two days ago, several city councils are already climbing on board by placing the resolution on their upcoming agendas.
Sign up here now -- and get informed through our new website and Take-action Toolbox devoted to the campaign.
Cowboys vs. Wolves -- Watch Center Lawyer Defend Wolves on PBS
A recent segment on PBS' NewsHour focused on the plight of gray wolves in Idaho and Montana that are, as of this month, subject to public hunts. Although some ranchers say wolves have no business on the landscape, the NewsHour segment highlights the importance of wolves to the northern Rocky Mountains ecosystem.
Speaking for environmentalists on the show, the Center for Biological Diversity's Senior Counsel Bill Snape warns of the dangers hunters pose to wolves: "They want to shoot hundreds of wolves through a private hunting scheme that would decimate the pack structure and really change the dynamics of the wolves' success." And as the NewsHour correspondent himself declares, danger for the wolves is danger for the entire ecosystem, which depends on the persecuted predators for balance.
Watch the NewsHour clip for yourself and learn about the Center's efforts to restore the gray wolf across suitable habitat in the lower 48 states.
Book Review: Man Swarm and the Killing of Wildlife
Dave Foreman's new book stands out from most writing on overpopulation by focusing on the devastating impact our population explosion is having on plants and animals. Overpopulation is bad for humans, he writes, "but it is much worse news for other Earthlings . . . who are taking a far worse beating than we are for our devil-may-care childishness and greed. Long ago we overshot Earth's carrying capacity for keeping wild things hale and hearty."
Man Swarm and the Killing of Wildlife is a brusque antidote to those who suggest the overpopulation problem is largely about access to dwindling water, farmland and other resources. Yes, we can find new rivers to dam and more wilderness to farm as our population soars past 7 billion -- but that isn't the solution, writes Foreman; it's the problem. Writing from an ecocentric perspective, Foreman makes a plea to reduce not just our growth rate, but our current population size to make room for all the other creatures that have called Earth home for millions of years.
While we don't agree with Foreman's proposal to limit immigration, we do think Man Swarm is an interesting contribution to the conversation about one of the least-addressed environmental crises of our time.
You can find out more and order a copy here.
Wild & Weird: Randy Male Squids Not Overly Picky in the Dark
Is every sperm sacred? Not to male squids deep in the Pacific Ocean, according to recent underwater footage. Researchers found that in the deep sea, male squids will shoot their sperm sacs at just about any passerby who seems remotely like their species -- male or female.
OK, so we admit it's pretty dark down there, and we applaud these guys for not being shallow (bad pun intended) about the appearance of their mates. But can't they pay a little more attention to a mate's sex -- for the sake of continuing the species, at least?
According to one researcher, no: "Squid, including deep-sea species, only reproduce once and they have to find mates in time in an environment where encounters between individuals of the same species are few and far between." Talk about sex-starved.
Read more in the Guardian. (And if you're thinking this subject matter seems familiar, then yes, admittedly, we have written about squid sex before in "Wild & Weird." Is that so wrong?)
Photo credits: dunes sagebrush lizard courtesy USFWS; loggerhead sea turtle courtesy Flickr Commons/Brian Gratwicke; western gull-billed tern (c) Kimball Garrett; dunes sagebrush lizard courtesy USFWS; Steve Pearce; California red-legged frog (c) Colin Brown; Stephen's kangaroo rat (c) Mark A. Chappell; clean air city courtesy Wikimedia Commons/UpstateNYer; gray wolf courtesy Flickr Commons/Rusty Badger; Man Swarm cover courtesy Raven's Eye Press; squid courtesy Flickr Commons/Dan Hershman.
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