Obama Plan Will Ban New Uranium Mining in Grand Canyon
The spectacular Grand Canyon landscape got great news yesterday with the announcement of an Interior Department plan to ban new uranium mines on 1 million acres surrounding the national treasure for the next 20 years. The proposal came after years of hard advocacy by the Center for Biological Diversity and its allies to protect the lands and waters of the Grand Canyon from the toxic legacy of uranium mining. Thank you for the thousands of emails, phone calls and letters you sent the Interior pushing for this ban.
The decision will protect some of the most biologically rich lands in the Southwest, home to springs, creeks and more than 1,000 species, including imperiled animals like the humpback chub. Banning new uranium mining on 1 million acres will save these iconic landscapes from roads, mining waste and industrial pollution. An official decision making the rule final is expected in about 30 days.
Read an AP story on the ban here.
Black Abalone Earns 90,000 Protected Acres
On the outside, it's dark-colored and dull. On the inside, it gleams pink and green and iridescent. It's the black abalone, one of the rarest shellfish in the world -- and it now has a chance to become less rare.
On Monday, as the result of a March 2010 lawsuit by the Center for Biological Diversity, the National Marine Fisheries Service set aside nearly 90,000 acres of federally protected "critical habitat" for the black abalone, once decimated by overfishing and today threatened by global warming and other dangers. The new designation means the government must prevent destruction of the abalone's protected habitat.
"Numerous threats besiege our coasts -- ocean warming, acidification, pollution -- and have pushed black abalone to the brink of extinction," said Center attorney Catherine Kilduff. "Today's decision will help them and help California's coastal ecosystems at the same time."
Read our press release and learn more about the black abalone.
Lawsuit Defies Bogus Claim of Keystone XL Safety
TransCanada, the company behind the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, says that oil spills from its massive, controversial project are "unlikely." But in fact spills aren't just likely -- they're almost certain, which is not a pretty prospect for the animals and plants that live around the hundreds of waterways the pipeline would crisscross on its 1,700-mile route from Canada to Texas. And the spill risk is just one of the reasons we must stop Keystone XL, which would also exacerbate climate change by transporting one of the dirtiest fossil fuels -- oil from tar sands -- and destroy habitat for endangered species struggling to survive in the pipeline's path.
That's why the Center for Biological Diversity and allies this week expanded our lawsuit against the pipeline, challenging claims that spills are unlikely and that the project therefore won't hurt whooping cranes and other rare wildlife and fish. We first filed suit against the project on Oct. 5, challenging premature work on the proposed pipeline route. Even before final State Department approval, TransCanada has mowed down native prairie grasslands in Nebraska and trapped and removed thousands of American burying beetles, an intriguing and beautiful insect protected by the Endangered Species Act.
Read more in our press release, learn about the fascinating American burying beetle and take action at the White House on Nov. 6.
18 Months After Gulf Oil Disaster, BP Gets Green Light for Gulf Drilling
A year and a half after the Deepwater Horizon explosion killed 11 people and launched a spill that likely killed more than 100,000 animals in the Gulf of Mexico, the Obama administration has done little to reform offshore-oil activities in the Gulf. Just last week, the administration granted BP permission to participate in the government's next lease sale, even though the oil behemoth hasn't paid a single fine for last year's spill, the largest manmade environmental disaster in U.S. history. Not only that, the administration has also approved a drilling plan for BP to drill four exploratory wells in the Gulf. It's the first such approval since the rig exploded and spilled more than 200 million gallons of oil, and the very same kind of activity that led to the disaster . . . but in even deeper water.
The Center for Biological Diversity filed 11 of the major lawsuits pending in the courts to reform drilling and hold BP accountable, including the largest Clean Water Act citizen suit ever filed. Our advocacy contributed to a drilling moratorium and to the demise of a lax regulatory agency, the Minerals Management Service. Still, instead of forcing genuine analysis of the risks of drilling in order to guard against another catastrophe, the Obama administration continues to rely on the "voluntary" safety assurances of BP and other oil giants. While BP is seeking to drill in the Gulf again, Shell is pushing to drill in the sensitive Arctic, where there's no way to clean up a spill. The Center will continue to fight to protect our oceans and coasts and move the country away from fossil fuels. And we'll be calling on you soon to take action with us.
Read more about the new drilling approval in The New York Times and check out the Center's extensive work for both large-scale reform and help for wildlife and communities following the Gulf disaster.
Take Action for West Coast's Only Marine Wilderness
Point Reyes National Seashore in California is a national treasure, renowned for remote beaches, expansive views and charismatic wildlife like tule elk and elephant seals. The ecological heart of Point Reyes is Drakes Estero, a rich estuary refuge for harbor seals, a major stop for migrating birds and a nursery for native fish.
It's also the only designated marine wilderness on the West Coast. But commercial interests and anti-wilderness advocates are lobbying to overturn the 1976 Point Reyes Wilderness Act so they can maintain a private, commercial oyster business within this unique estuary. The feds are considering this plan and will soon decide whether Drakes Estero is protected as part of our national heritage or exploited for profit in contradiction of our nation's wilderness laws and values.
We need your help to protect this important wildlife habitat -- take action now to submit comments supporting the end of commercial activity in the wilderness area. Then learn more about saving the Point Reyes wilderness.
Clean Air Cities Campaign Takes Off
Cities around the country are speaking up for clean air and a healthy climate. Since the Center for Biological Diversity launched our Clean Air Cities campaign last month, five city councils have signed on, passing resolutions to urge the Obama administration to use the Clean Air Act against global warming. We're working with volunteers across the country to get their communities on board, urging national leaders to use the Act to reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide to no more than 350 parts per million -- the level scientists say is required to avoid runaway climate change.
So far, resolutions have been approved in Albany, N.Y.; Berkeley, Santa Monica and Richmond, Calif.; and Boone, N.C. Meanwhile, Seattle, Wash., Warrenville, Ill., Solana Beach, Calif., and Durango, Colo., are moving forward in the resolution process. As Congress continues its attack on the Clean Air Act -- our best existing tool to reduce CO2 emissions -- we hope to win support from many more cities, including yours.
We urge you to use our Take-action Toolbox to pass a resolution in your own city or town (we'll help you ever step of the way). Also, check out our press release and learn more about our Clean Air Cities campaign.
Endangered Species Condoms Highlighted in "7 Billion" Media
Next Monday, on Halloween, the United Nations will make a scary announcement: For the first time ever, the world population has reached 7 billion people. Media outlets all over the world are running special reports with plenty of shots of crowded streets and full maternity wards. The Center for Biological Diversity has been adding its voice to this wave of awareness, speaking out about the direct impact that overpopulation is having on plant and animal extinction.
As part of our 7 Billion and Counting campaign, we're handing out 100,000 of our Endangered Species Condoms this year. Volunteers in all 50 states are holding events and talking about overpopulation and imperiled species. The condoms are being given out at potlucks, libraries, bars and college parties. They're also getting national media, including at Grist.org, which is highlighting the condoms as part of its extended coverage on 7 billion.
To stay engaged in the Center's 7 Billion And Counting campaign and get regularly updated on articles and new writing on population issues, join us on Facebook and sign up for our Pop X newsletter.
Last of Its Kind: Javan Rhino Goes Extinct in Vietnam
The last Javan rhinoceros is now extinct in Vietnam; the World Wildlife Fund and International Rhino Foundation announced this week that the last one died in April 2010 with a bullet in its leg and its horn hacked off. The announcement came after all dung samples from a 2009 and 2010 survey at Cat Tien National Park -- former home of the only remaining Javan rhinos in the country -- were confirmed to have been from this last remaining animal. "Vietnam has lost part of its natural heritage," said Tran Thi Minh Hien, WWF Vietnam country director.
Poor protection in southern Vietnam's Cat Tien National Park left rhinos vulnerable to poaching for their horns, which continue to be sought after for use in traditional Asian medicines; demand grows every year. Other species are also on the brink of extinction in Vietnam, including the tiger, Asian elephant and Siamese crocodile.
About 50 Javan rhinos now survive in the world, in a small national park in Indonesia.
Read more in IOL.
Activist Spotlight: Fourth-graders Bake for Species' Sak
According to the conservation-crazy kids at Los Angeles' St. James School, "Nothing is im-paw-sible if we all help." It's not too late to save polar bears, wolves, pikas and other species if we all pitch in.
Which is what these students did: Last spring, Jana Castañares' fourth-grade class started the Wolf-It-Down Bakery, where they sold 1,500 cookies in their communities to raise hundreds of dollars for the Center for Biological Diversity. Along with the cookies, the students handed out booklets full of conservation tips and recipes for baking their special treats.
Said one fourth-grader, "I think it's important to help the Center because they know how to use the money wisely, they know how to save the animals with money, and they know what they are doing."
Get the whole story on our Activist Spotlight Web page. Have you done something big to help save endangered species and support the Center? Share your story with us.
Wild & Weird: Dracula Wasp Creates Zombie Spiders
Spooked by spiders? Come Halloween, you won't be the only one. But spiders can get spooked, too -- or so it seems when they're around a certain parasitic wasp.
Apparently spiders get completely discombobulated under the spell of Zatypota percontatoria wasp larvae, which somehow manipulate them into constructing wildly weird webs. Not only is the parasite-controlled spider made to weave its web in the wrong season, it's also compelled to construct the web as an odd, dome-like structure perfect for protecting a wasp pupa. Once the web is woven, the larva kills and devours the spider, using the structure it made to house its own pupal cocoon. Some reward the spider gets for its selfless subservience.
Scientists aren't sure what's behind the wasp's creepy form of mind control, but they suspect it manipulates the spider's nerves or hormone-secreting glands. Some studies suggest that parasites can also control the human mind, gut and other body parts. Now you can really get spooked.
Read more in Discovery News.
Photo credits: American burying beetle courtesy USFWS; Grand Canyon (c) Taylor McKinnon; black abalone by Glenn Allen, NOAA; American burying beetle courtesy USFWS; Gulf disaster courtesy U.S. Coast Guard; clean air city courtesy Wikimedia Commons/UpstateNYer; harbor seal courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Marcel Burkhard; crowd courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Dr. John Kelley, NOAA; Javan rhino; Wolf-It-Down Bakery; spider web courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Tom Burke.
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