Uranium Mining Stopped on 42 Square Miles
In a major win for public lands and endangered species, a federal judge on Tuesday halted the Department of Energy's entire 42-square-mile uranium-leasing program in southwestern Colorado. The Center for Biological Diversity and allies had sued the Department of Energy for not properly protecting the environment or adequately analyzing the program's impacts -- which include depleting Colorado River basin water; polluting rivers with arsenic, uranium and many other toxins; and harming endangered fish species like the Colorado pikeminnow, razorback sucker and humpback chub.
The judge's sweeping ruling halts all drilling, mining and exploration at the program's 43 approved mines, enjoins all 31 existing leases, prohibits any future leasing, and invalidates the Department's approval of the entire program until new environmental reviews of the program are satisfactorily completed.
This is an important win for our efforts to protect species and public lands from industrialized mining and adds momentum to our fight to stop pending legislation that would open up 1 million acres near the Grand Canyon to new uranium mining.
Read more in the Summit County Citizens Voice.
Anti-Polar Bear Rule Tossed, Fate of Species Now in Obama's Hands
Global warming is robbing polar bears of the Arctic sea ice they need to survive and was the primary reason the bears were protected under the Endangered Species Act in 2008. But the Bush administration banned greenhouse gas limits specifically tied to saving the bear.
The Center for Biological Diversity and allies fought back with a lawsuit, and this week a federal judge tossed the Bush rule, sending it back to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for a do-over.
It's now up to the Obama administration to decide if polar bears will go extinct because of global warming. The U.S. Geological Survey says that without help, two-thirds of the world's polar bears -- including all those in Alaska -- will probably be gone by 2050.
The Center fought for and won federal protections for the bears in 2008 and more than 120 million acres of protected habitat last year. Now, with your help, we'll press the Obama administration to make full use of the Endangered Species Act to save the bear. Look for an email from us soon asking you to sign a petition and make phone calls.
Get more from NPR and read this Huffington Post op-ed by the Center's Kassie Siegel, who wrote the original petition to protect the polar bear.
Suit Filed to Save California Frog From Pesticides
More than 100,000 tons of toxic pesticides are applied every year in California -- including in and near habitat for endangered species. The Environmental Protection Agency's own research shows that 62 registered pesticides used widely in the state are likely harmful to the California red-legged frog, the largest native frog in the American West. After the Center for Biological Diversity sued the agency in 2002, we won a settlement requiring the EPA to work with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to do formal evaluations of those pesticides' impacts. We also won restrictions on use of those pesticides near frog habitat until the evaluations are done -- which they were supposed to be by 2009, potentially requiring permanent restrictions on pesticide use to protect frogs.
But the agencies have failed to act, so on Wednesday the Center sued again. This latest lawsuit is part of our long-running work to prevent harmful pesticide use in endangered species habitats -- part of our campaign to expose the EPA's negligence, secure changes in the pesticide registration process and stop toxic pesticides from contaminating habitat.
Read more in our press release, learn about the Center's fight to reduce pesticides and take action to ban atrazine, one of the most dangerous pesticides.
Mexican Wolves Finally Released in Mexico
After decades of planning, wildlife authorities in Mexico have reintroduced a family group of five endangered Mexican gray wolves to the wild in northeastern Sonora. The release -- which comes 31 years after Mexican wolves were last confirmed in the wild in Mexico -- took place in the San Luis Mountains after much work by Mexican nonprofit Naturalia.
"Mexican wolves belong in Mexico, the landscape that shaped their evolution," said Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity. "For genetic reasons, it is vital that wolves in Mexico and those in the American Southwest be allowed to migrate and breed with each other."
Work by the Center and allies first led to the reintroduction of Mexican wolves to the American Southwest in 1998. Today we continue our fight to save wolves across the country -- including the two Oregon wolves that were recently slated for killing by the state. After the Center and allies went to court, a judge stopped the killings -- but only temporarily.
Please consider a generous gift today to help us secure permanent safety for these two precious wolves (and share this request with friends). Then take action and read more in the Albuquerque Journal.
New Group Defends Equal Access to Justice
Extremists in Congress are trying to block nonprofits from using the courts to protect veterans, the environment and other parties in need of help. They want to exempt nonprofits and pro bono attorneys from the Equal Access to Justice Act so that only corporations and the wealthy have the means to challenge government decisions. A new group called Access for All has started up to ensure just that: equal access for all Americans to our legal system.
Check them out on Facebook and click the "like" button if you like what you see. We did.
Report: 20 Ways to Strengthen Endangered Species Protection
The Endangered Species Act is one of the most successful environmental laws in U.S. history and our main tool for protecting biodiversity. But when it comes to carrying out the Act, there's plenty of room for improvement. That's why this morning the Center for Biological Diversity released a new report detailing the top ways the Obama administration can ensure that protected animals and plants get the legally required help they need to recover. A Future for All: A Blueprint for Strengthening the Endangered Species Act lays out 20 important improvements the administration should make to strengthen implementation of the landmark law, from addressing global warming to speeding habitat protections and recovery plan development.
The report follows federal wildlife agencies' announcement that they'll be developing new regulations to update and clarify the Act. Proof of the law's success includes the recovery of scores of species it once protected -- from the American alligator to the peregrine falcon to the bald eagle -- and hundreds more on the road to recovery.
Get details in our press release, where you can also access the report itself, and learn more about the Endangered Species Act's success.
Cutting Commentary: SoCal Dam Must Go
There's no mistaking the message of the new graffiti on the Matilija Dam in Southern California: It's time for the old dam to come down. Last month, someone painted a 28-foot pair of scissors on the dam's concrete wall and a nice dotted line down its concrete face.
Since its construction back in 1948, the Matilija Dam on the Ventura River has caused massive ecosystem destruction, including the disastrous decline of imperiled steelhead trout. These days the dam serves no purpose (and now has trapped 6 million cubic yards of sediment). It's long past time for Ventura County to stop dragging its feet on dam removal, as the Center for Biological Diversity and allies have been saying for more than a decade.
County officials took the latest message less as cutting criticism than as a witty -- and astute -- statement.
Read more in the Ventura County Star and check out these cool photos of the graffiti.
Study Details Dangers of Lead
Evidence keeps piling up that we need to get the lead out -- all the way out. According to a new federal report, even a tiny bit of lead in the body can cause significant health problems. In children, low levels of lead in the blood were associated with ADHD and other cognitive issues, while slightly higher levels were connected to delayed puberty, decreased hearing and lowered IQ. In adults, low-level lead exposure was linked to renal problems, increased blood pressure, hypertension, a greater risk for heart problems and reduced fetal growth in pregnant women.
This new report makes the dangers of lead clearer than ever, including the dangers of lead the wild. The Center for Biological Diversity has been working in and out of court to ban lead hunting ammunition and fishing tackle to save swans, loons, California condors and other wildlife from lead poisoning caused by ingesting spent ammunition. We're trying to save human health, too, since people can be exposed to low levels of lead from eating lead–shot game -- the very same sinister low levels described in the new report.
Read more in E&E News and learn about the Center's Get the Lead Out campaign.
And the 2011 Rubber Dodo Goes to . . .
. . . the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
That's right: After more than 7,000 of you cast your votes, the Center for Biological Diversity's 2011 Rubber Dodo Award went to the Chamber of Commerce, which has come out against every significant piece of climate legislation in Congress and has consistently opposed bedrock environmental laws like the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act and Endangered Species Act. This business lobby is also cheerleading the controversial, 1,700-mile Keystone XL pipeline, which would tear up habitat and risk our water while transporting tar sands oil -- the dirtiest fossil fuel -- thus pushing us deeper into the climate crisis.
The Center's Rubber Dodo Award is annually bestowed upon the ecovillain who's done the most to drive endangered species extinct. Past winners include former BP CEO Tony Hayward (2010), massive land speculator Michael Winer (2009), former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (2008) and former Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne (2007).
Check out our press release.
Wild & Weird: Paging Mr. Spielberg -- Cyclops Shark Ready for Closeup
If you haven't been on the Internet this week, here's what you've missed: the Cyclops shark.
It's so absurd-looking it can't possibly be real, but media outlets from CBS to National Geographic are citing biologists' confirmations that the one-eyed albino shark recently found in the Gulf of California is authentic. "Cyclopia" -- in which only one eye develops -- is a real developmental anomaly sometimes found in fetuses and newborns of several different species, from kittens to humans. This particular eye was reportedly comprised of functional optical tissue. The baby shark didn't survive but it found a new place in the annals of science -- and became an Internet star in the process.
Get more on the shark (and some other interesting creatures) from MSNBC. Then check out this Cyclops shark YouTube video.
Photo credits: humpback chub by George Andrejko, Arizona Game and Fish Department; polar bear (c) Brendan Cummings; California red-legged frog (c) Colin Brown; Mexican gray wolf by Jim Clark, USFWS; Access for All logo; peregine falcon courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Ltshears; Matilija Dam (c) Anthony Plascencia, Ventura County Star; California condor (c) Lorraine Paulhus; Rubber Dodo Award; Cyclops shark courtesy YouTube/MysteryHistorydotTV.
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