Leatherback Sea Turtles Win 40,000 Protected Square Miles
Pacific leatherback sea turtles finally have a safe place to rest and eat jellyfish after completing their annual 6,000-mile migration. The National Marine Fisheries Service -- following a petition and lawsuit by the Center for Biological Diversity -- just agreed to protect 40,000 square miles of "critical habitat" for leatherbacks along the West Coast. It's the first-ever critical habitat protection for leatherbacks in continental U.S. waters, and the largest area ever set aside to protect sea turtle habitat in the United States.
The leatherbacks' epic journey -- among the longest migrations of any creature -- takes them from Indonesia, where they nest and lay eggs, all the way across the Pacific Ocean to the beaches of California, Oregon and Washington, where they feed. Last Friday's critical habitat designation will be crucial to safeguarding the sea turtles from many threats they face, such as coastal development. While the rule does fall short of the ideal by excluding migration routes and overlooking the threat posed by fishing gear, this is still clearly a moment to celebrate for these ancient, dinosaur-era animals.
Read more in the San Francisco Chronicle.
Beautiful Hawaiian Bird Soars Toward Protections
The scarlet Hawaiian honeycreeper -- otherwise known as the 'i'wi -- is one of the most attractive birds in Hawaii, with its brilliant red body and black wings; big, black eyes; and long, curved red beak. But it's also highly endangered, because the cool mountaintops where it lives -- a traditional refuge from mosquitoes carrying deadly avian diseases -- are drawing more lethal mosquitoes as climate change pushes warmer temperatures up Hawaii's slopes.
But there's good news. In response to a petition by the Center for Biological Diversity and an independent scientist, on Monday the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said the bird may warrant Endangered Species Act protection and promised to review its status. It's the latest result of the Center's landmark settlement with the Service to move an astonishing 757 species toward federal protections. Hundreds of animals and plants -- including, now, the 'i'wi -- have already benefited from that agreement.
Read more in the Honolulu Civil Beat.
42,000 Acres Saved From Grazing in Arizona
A beautiful Southwest creek and the vast array of sensitive species that live there won in court on Monday when a judge overturned a U.S. Forest Service decision allowing cattle grazing on 42,000 acres of the Fossil Creek watershed. Fossil Creek, in central Arizona, is home to highly endangered fish and amphibians like the desert pupfish, razorback sucker and Chiricahua leopard frog; it helps support many other endangered animals as well, from the desert nesting bald eagle to the Mexican spotted owl. The creek is still recovering from the operation of two water-sucking hydroelectric power plants that were decommissioned in 2005 after much work by the Center for Biological Diversity and allies. We also helped get two endangered fish, the loach minnow and spikedace, reintroduced to the creek in 2007.
After all our labor to protect one of the Southwest's most important creeks, we couldn't stand idly by while the Forest Service approved destructive grazing across the watershed -- so we filed an administrative appeal in 2009. We're still watchdogging the management of this important, highly diverse and delicate waterway.
Check out our press release and learn more about Fossil Creek.
Cruel Rattlesnake Roundup Called Off in Georgia -- Help End Them All
During annual "rattlesnake roundups" in some parts of the Southeast, participants bring in as many rattlesnakes as they can catch in a year, slaughter them and sell the meat and skin. The toll this takes on declining eastern diamondbacks, as well as other species, is tremendous, and the Center for Biological Diversity has been working to stop the inhumane events. This week sponsors of the rattlesnake roundup in Claxton, Ga., announced that they're switching to a kinder wildlife festival that recognizes the importance of saving native species -- not butchering them.
The Center is now working to end the one rattlesnake roundup that still remains in Georgia. We presented a petition this week bearing more than 5,000 signatures to the sponsors of this weekend's rattlesnake roundup in Whigham, Ga., calling on them to follow Claxton by switching to a festival free of snake-killing.
Read more in the Statesboro Herald and learn about the eastern diamondback rattlesnake and outlawing rattlesnake roundups. Then add your signature to our petition calling for an end to all rattlesnake roundups.
Lawsuit Looming to Protect Rare Seabird
The Center for Biological Diversity and allies have filed a notice of intent to sue Oregon to protect the marbled murrelet from logging. The murrelet is a small, black-and-white seabird that nests in old-growth forests on the Oregon coast. The birds, listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, lay one egg between mid-April and September in the deep moss of old-growth trees, some of which are more than 140 years old; they only nest in core areas of old-growth forests, where their hatchlings are safe from predation by jays and ravens.
Unfortunately, in 2010 and 2011 Oregon approved vast logging increases on the Elliott, Tillamook and Clatsop state forests -- critical nesting grounds for the murrelet. "Logging on Oregon's state forests is driving the marbled murrelet to extinction," said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center. "We have a network of clearcuts, but no network of protected areas for rare and precious wildlife and fish."
Read more in The Oregonian.
Canada Challenged Over Polar Bear Kills
Polar bears on Canada's western Hudson Bay are among the most threatened in the world. On a visit to the region last fall, the evidence was plain to see when Center for Biological Diversity staffers (and you, in our webcast with Polar Bears International) observed the bears' annual migration to the sea ice, which forms later every year due to global warming -- forcing the bears to wait too long to be able to hunt seals on the ice after fasting all summer.
But Canada's government doesn't seem to care about its own suffering bears. Not only did the country fail to grant the bear "endangered" status under its Species at Risk Act last November (which the Center challenged) -- it also quadrupled the number of bears in the western Hudson Bay population that can be hunted, from eight a year to 38. Only about 700 bears remain in the population, down from almost 1,200 two decades ago.
To help save the bears, the Center on Monday filed a formal request with the U.S. Department of the Interior to initiate trade sanctions against Canada for violating the 1973 Agreement on the Conservation of Polar Bears, a treaty among the five nations within the polar bear's range.
Get more from Canada's CBC News, learn about the Center's long fight to save the polar bear and watch videos we took of polar bears on Hudson Bay.
California Island Fox Makes Amazing Comeback
More heartwarming than the comeback tale of any Hollywood has-been is the Endangered Species Act success story of a different species of Californian. Once nearly extinct, with just 100 animals remaining, the pointy-nosed, cat-sized foxes of California’s Santa Catalina Island have today -- just 13 years later -- reached a thriving population of 1,542. The unique foxes were ravaged by a disease probably brought to Catalina Island by a stowaway raccoon or dog from the mainland; their population crashed around 1999, at which point the Institute for Wildlife Services launched a $2 million recovery and captive-breeding program.
The next year the Center for Biological Diversity joined the Institute in petitioning for federal protections for the island fox, and finally, after we filed a lawsuit, the animal earned the safeguards it needed in 2004. Threats to the fox continue, and careful management is still needed, but we're cheering the number 1,542 -- and, of course, the ongoing, unparalleled effectiveness of the Endangered Species Act.
Read more in the Los Angeles Times, learn about saving the island fox and watch a video of our Executive Director Kierán Suckling testifying before Congress about the success of the act.
Obama Family-planning Decision: Good Step for People, Wildlife
Saving wildlife and plants from overpopulation won't happen on its own; it requires daily choices by individuals and important policy decisions by governments. President Barack Obama took a step in the right direction on Friday in deciding to move forward on rules that would ensure full insurance coverage for birth control without exemptions for religiously affiliated employers. That means millions of women working for universities and hospitals with ties to religious organizations will now be given affordable access to basic family planning.
The Center for Biological Diversity's 7 Billion and Counting campaign has been supporting efforts to protect women's access to family planning because we know how integral it is to the future of species protection. With every slash taken at reproductive rights, we lose the choice to live in the world we want. Plants and animals face the threats of extinction every day -- and we need to defend the choice of when or whether to add more people to our planet and its limited resources, upon which all of life depends.
Get more from The New York Times and learn about the Center's work to protect all species from overpopulation.
Take Action -- Say No to Gas-guzzling SUVs
Fully 20 percent of all greenhouse gas pollution in the United States comes from the cars and light trucks we drive. The Center for Biological Diversity has long worked to reduce this pollution and has already achieved significant victories in court. Right now, the Obama administration is finalizing new fuel-efficiency and global warming-pollution standards for these vehicles that will last till 2025. The rules will increase fuel efficiency -- but not nearly fast enough.
These proposed rules would leave the United States far behind fuel-efficiency standards in the European Union, Japan and China. Worse, rather than promoting technological innovation, the rules rely on small improvements in existing technology -- which means that rather than pushing industry to make more efficient, smaller vehicles, they support building more trucks and SUVs that won't have to improve their mileage standards at the same rate as passenger cars. It's the SUV loophole, and it could help doom our climate: Overall, these rules will mean that greenhouse gas emissions from our transportation sector will still increase.
We can't let that happen, and we have to act quickly. Take action to tell the administration to close the SUV loophole now. Then learn more about transportation and global warming.
Wild & Weird: Horsefly Named After Beyoncé's Buttocks
In an unusually bold step for invertebrate taxonomy, an Australian insect with a golden tuchus has just been officially named after pop singer Beyoncé Knowles, also widely recognized as possessing first-rate glutei maximi. The fly, of which the first specimen was apparently captured the same year Beyoncé was born (1981), was dubbed Scaptia (Plinthina) beyonceae by a 24-year-old male researcher from the land Down Under.
Many horseflies are bloodsuckers, but the dietary habits of Scaptia Plinthina beyonceae are not yet known. Also unknown is whether the pop star named her two-week-old offspring, Blue Ivy, as a similar homage to the interplay of the natural and celebrity worlds.
Read more and see photos of the bootylicious fly in The Washington Post.
Photo credits: Eastern diamondback rattlesnake (c) Flickr Creative Commons/Tad20D; leatherback sea turtle (c) NOAA/Mathew Godfrey; 'i'iwi (c) Tom A. Ranker; spikedace courtesy USFWS; eastern diamondback rattlesnake courtesy Flickr Creative Commons/Sophro; marbled murrelet courtesy USGS/Rich MacIntosh; polar bear (c) Robin Silver; island fox (c) Gary Roemer; tailpipe courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Steevven1; horsefly courtesy Flickr Creative Commons/Thomas Shahan.
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