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Victory for Belugas: Judge Kills Alaska's Anti-whale Lawsuit

Chalk up another loss for Alaska's anti-wildlife crowd -- and another important win for the state's wildlife. A federal judge on Monday utterly rejected a lawsuit sparked by former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin to strip Endangered Species Act protections from Cook Inlet beluga whales. The decision means the whale population (which fell from 1,300 in the 1970s to only 300 or 400 today) will keep the federal protection designed to save the animals from extinction. The ruling caps more than a decade of work by the Center for Biological Diversity and our supporters to get these magnificent white whales the protection they need.

The Center first petitioned to protect Cook Inlet belugas under the Act in 1999. The whales were designated as an endangered species in 2008 and, within months, then-Gov. Palin announced that the state of Alaska would sue. The Center and allies intervened in the lawsuit. Finally, this Monday, the judge shot down the state of Alaska, ruling that the decision to protect the belugas was based on sound science and should stand. Although the whales were awarded nearly 2 million acres of protected habitat earlier this year, threats remain, including coal-export operations, pollution from Anchorage, offshore oil and gas drilling, development, and a planned billion-dollar bridge in the heart of the whales' most important habitat.

Get more from CBS News.

Jaguar Returns to the United States

Here's something to be thankful for: For the first time since jaguar Macho B was tragically killed three years ago, a jaguar has been spotted in the American wild. Just this Saturday, the 200-pound animal was photographed in southern Arizona by a hunter after being treed by his dogs. (The hunter and dogs left the area afterward.)

The Center for Biological Diversity's legal work earned the jaguar a place on the endangered species list in 1997, but it wasn't until last year -- after more Center advocacy and nearly 20,000 emails from Center supporters -- that the Obama administration pledged to protect "critical habitat" and draft a recovery plan for the species. With protected habitat, the jaguar should be able to roam safely in the Southwest again.

Thank you for your role in the Center's jaguar wins. Join us tomorrow in reflecting on all the endangered animal and plant victories we've been able to celebrate this year -- from earning protections for the Miami blue butterfly to the return of this great cat.

Read more in the Arizona Daily Star.

New Fuel Rules Are Dangerously Deficient

The Obama administration's newly proposed fuel-efficiency standards won't get us far; they fall dramatically short of what's needed to curb global warming. Under the proposed standards announced last week, gas mileage for cars and light trucks would reach a maximum of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. That's below the European Union's proposed standards for five years earlier, and it's far below what technology can already deliver. The Center for Biological Diversity supports standards of at least 60 miles per gallon.

Here's why: The global climate crisis is setting in, and species everywhere -- plants, animals and people too -- are feeling the devastating effects, whether it's floods and fires or rapidly disappearing sea-ice habitat. "These weak standards simply don't reflect the urgency of the climate crisis," said Center attorney Vera Pardee. "The United States has long had some of the weakest fuel-economy standards in the industrialized world, and today's announcement does little to change that."

Read more in our press release and learn about the Center's campaign for the fuel-economy standards we need.

Help Save Wyoming Wolves From Slaughter -- Take Action

When Congress stripped Endangered Species Act protection from gray wolves last spring, wolves in Wyoming were lucky enough not to be affected. But their luck seems to be running out.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently announced that Wyoming's wolves will lose their federal protected status and management will be turned over to the state wildlife agency, completing the destructive delisting of all northern Rockies wolves. This will drastically reduce the state's population and allow wholesale persecution of wolves across 83 percent of the state.

The Center for Biological Diversity has been at the forefront of efforts to protect our country's wolves. We need your help to ensure these wolves get the lifesaving protection they deserve. Under Wyoming's "wolf-management plan," wolves would be declared predatory animals, legal targets for anyone to shoot on sight. Only 100 animals in the entire state will be protected outside Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks.

Please take action now to help save Wyoming's wolves and then learn about the Center's ambitious campaign to restore gray wolves to the lower 48 states.

Lead Contamination Threatens Arizona Wildlife

The Center for Biological Diversity is blowing the whistle on lead contamination in the Coronado National Forest near Tucson, Ariz. A popular recreation area has been turned into a hazardous dump by irresponsible people who drag out their old TVs and computers and use them for target practice. That means that area is contaminated with lead bullets and the toxic chemicals found in the electronic "targets" -- creating a health hazard, for both people and wildlife, that can't be ignored. The lead content has been measured in the tens of thousands of parts per million when normal levels are beneath 100 ppm. This national forest is home to imperiled species like the Mexican spotted owl, Gila chub and desert tortoise.

When a local reporter asked the Forest Service about the poisoned land, the Forest's spokesman said they didn't know anything about the problem. We know this isn't true, and the Center refused to keep the dirty little secret quiet. Said the Center's Cyndi Tuell, "You've got to let people know the soil is contaminated, you've got to stop people from abusing this land."

Watch a news story from Tucson's KOLD News 13.

Keep Big Oil Out of the Arctic

Royal Dutch Shell has big plans to drill for oil in America's Arctic next summer. Through lawsuits and advocacy, the Center for Biological Diversity has managed to hold the corporation back so far, but the pressure is mounting. The Obama administration recently gave its support to a massive, Bush-era oil and gas lease sale in Alaska's Chukchi Sea. Now the Interior Department is barreling ahead with plans to let Shell drill there -- a sensitive area full of wildlife, including polar bears, walruses and ribbon seals.

Times are already tough in the Chukchi Sea region: Ice is disappearing rapidly, the ocean is acidifying, and massive storms are battering coastlines that used to be protected by ice. President Obama should be doing everything in his power to protect the Chukchi Sea, not selling it off to the highest bidder.

Read more in Alaska Dispatch. Then take action to tell the president to protect the Chukchi and its wildlife from oil development.

Have You Seen Me? Reward Offered for Sighting of Snake

Suppose a species is declared extinct before it's really gone -- when there's still a chance to keep it from oblivion? We think that may have happened to the South Florida rainbow snake, a colorful nocturnal creature the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service declared extinct last month (in response to a petition for Endangered Species Act protection from the Center for Biological Diversity). That determination may have jumped the gun, because it was made without in-depth surveys for the snake and despite several recent, unconfirmed sightings.

That's why on Tuesday the Center for Biological Diversity and the Center for Snake Conservation announced we're offering a $500 reward for the first person to document the existence of this beautiful rainbow snake. It's a harmless, aquatic slitherer that feeds exclusively on the American eel and is known from just three specimens, the last of which was collected in 1952 in Glades County, Fla. If the snake does still exist, it will need the help of the Endangered Species Act -- the most powerful tool in the country for saving plants and animals from extinction. Here's hoping the shy snake is still out there, waiting to be found.

Check out our press release and learn about the reptile and amphibian extinction crisis.

Hundreds Defend Arizona Mountains From Copper Mine

Hundreds of southern Arizona residents, including Center for Biological Diversity staffers, packed a public hearing on Saturday to oppose Rosemont Copper's proposed open-pit copper mine in the scenic Santa Rita Mountains outside of Tucson, Ariz.

Twenty-eight of the first 30 comments were against the mine, pointing out flaws in the Coronado National Forest's environmental review of the project as well as the long list of threats the mine would pose to clean air, clean water, rural communities and scenic roads. The massive project also poses danger to imperiled species in the Santa Ritas, including the Rosemont talus snail and Coleman's coralroot, a rare orchid.

Check out these electric comments in this video.

Study: Prognosis Bleak for Frogs Across the Globe

New research shows that frogs, salamanders and other amphibians across the planet may soon have no safe place left to live because of the triple whammy of global warming, killer fungus and shrinking habitat. The study, just published in the journal Nature, predicts that in 70 years all of those threats will spread until one or more of them cover most of the ground that now supports amphibians, leaving no part of the world free of a major threat to amphibian survival.

Worldwide, about a third of all amphibian species are believed threatened with extinction; 159 species have already disappeared.

The study, while bleak, adds to the urgency of the Center for Biological Diversity's work to save frogs and other imperiled amphibians. The Center is the only conservation group with a full-time attorney focused on saving and protecting herpetofauna. It's clearer than ever that they need it.

Read more in The Washington Post.

Wild & Weird: A Vertical Forest Planned for Italy

Italian architect Stefano Boeri has designed a project to green Italy's second-largest city, Milan, in a whole new way: highrises covered in trees. Construction began in October on this ambitious, extraordinary "vertical forest" -- the development's Italian name is "Bosco Verticale."

Apparently inspired by the ivy-covered buildings of yore, Boeri's dream house is made up of residential towers that look like forests rising into the sky. According to a Creators Project blog, "Each apartment unit has a balcony attached, with a lush garden enveloping the structure. The two towers will provide roots for 900 trees, as well as plenty of shrubbery and other floral vegetation . . . Bosco Verticale provides a plan to make reforestation possible within the confines of a developed city."

Check out the photos and blog here.

Kierán Suckling
Executive Director

Photo credits: beluga whale courtesy Flickr Commons/James Grimmelmann; beluga whale (c) Mike Tiller, MCT Images; jaguar courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Pascal Blachier; gas pump courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Rama; gray wolves courtesy USFWS; young desert tortoise near Redington Pass courtesy Flickr Commons/Lon & Queta; ribbon seal by Captain Budd Christman, NOAA; rainbow snake courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Alan Garrett; Coleman's coralroot (c) Ron Coleman; Chiricahua leopard frog by Jim Rorabaugh, USFWS; chestnut tree courtesy Wikimedia Common/Yzmo.

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