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Judge Upholds Uranium Mining Ban in Colorado

Dolores River

Uranium won't be mined anytime soon near two of Colorado's most stunning waterways. A judge has upheld a ban on the U.S. Department of Energy's 42-square-mile uranium leasing program near the Dolores and San Miguel rivers -- a ban first obtained by the Center for Biological Diversity and four other environmental groups on a lawsuit we filed in 2008 -- even in the face of what the Center's Taylor McKinnon called the "Department of Energy's legal shenanigans."

According to the Center's suit and Judge Martinez's decision, the department violated environmental laws when it approved the leasing program, threatening rivers with uranium, selenium, manganese, vanadium, arsenic and other nasty pollutants. Selenium and arsenic have been implicated in the decline of four endangered fish -- the Colorado pikeminnow, humpback chub, razorback sucker and bonytail chub -- and may still be impeding the fishes' recovery. The injunction will help protect and restore what McKinnon calls "two of the West's loveliest little rivers."

Read more in the Summit County Citizens Voice.

Sea Turtles Threatened by Deadly Fishery Expansion

leatherback seaturtle

An old danger could move into new waters for endangered Pacific leatherback sea turtles and thousands of other marine animals off California shores. This week, the federal Pacific Fishery Management Council voted to pursue the expansion of California's devastating gillnet fishery for swordfish and sharks into a 200-mile area that's currently off-limits to that type of fishing to protect Pacific leatherbacks. The expansion would also encroach into the first-ever area federally protected as "critical habitat" for leatherbacks -- won just this year by the Center for Biological Diversity and allies.

Every year the fishery's deadly, mile-long drift gillnets indiscriminately capture and kill or injure more than 130 protected whales, dolphins, seals and sea lions. They also capture sharks, sunfish, bluefin and albacore tuna, and striped marlin -- any animal unlucky enough to swim into the nets in the dark ocean at night when those nets are set out to catch swordfish and thresher sharks. Most of the creatures inadvertently caught are dumped back into the ocean, dead or maimed.

Read more in our press release and learn about leatherbacks and fisheries.

New Habitat Protected for Endangered California Plant

willowy monardella

A beautiful plant living in a tiny area of west San Diego County just received a boost in federally protected "critical habitat." In response to a lawsuit by the Center for Biological Diversity, the willowy monardella -- a stately perennial in the mint family with prickly purple blooms -- was granted 122 protected acres on Tuesday by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Though the plant would benefit from even more critical habitat, the increase over a Bush-era designation of only 73 acres is a nice forward step for this species.

The willowy monardella is severely threatened by urban sprawl, changes in water,  sand and gravel mining, trash dumping and erosion. Only 18 small populations are left on Earth; all but one are now declining. 

Read more about the willowy monardella.

Wolves Could Lose Vital Protections Across United States

gray wolf

Outrageous: At a time when gray wolves need tougher protections and a concerted recovery effort, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service last week recommended removing federal protections for gray wolves anywhere they don't currently live (except for possibly in a few special cases, such as that of the Mexican gray wolf). The proposal would cover places that haven't yet seen a return of gray wolves but were home to wolves for millennia, before humans exterminated the social canines, and still contain good wolf habitat.

Despite some real gains, the job of wolf recovery has only just begun. A mere 5,000 to 6,000 wolves occupy only about 5 percent of the animals' historic range. What's needed -- and what the Center for Biological Diversity has petitioned for -- is a national wolf recovery plan to guide reintroduction of gray wolves to suitable habitat in the Northeast, Southwest and Rocky Mountains, as well as on the West Coast.

Wolves are keystone predators and are critical both to ecosystem balance and to keeping parts of our country wild.

Check out our press release and read more about the Center's work to save wolves.

Oceans on Acid: Seawater Worst in 300 Million Years

coral reef

There's fresh evidence that sea life is in danger. A new study finds the world's oceans are turning acidic faster than at any time in the past 300 million years -- a period that included four mass extinctions of species. That spells trouble for corals, crabs, urchins, oysters and others losing the ability to grow the protective armor they need to survive. The change affects other creatures up the food chain, including fish, sea otters and even people.

The research, published in the journal Science, says that while past spikes in carbon dioxide levels that have turned the ocean acidic were driven by volcanoes and other natural causes, the latest disastrous shift in water chemistry is because of human pollution. Every day, 22 million tons of the CO2 we spew into the air are absorbed into our oceans. "If industrial carbon emissions continue at the current pace," one researcher says, "we may lose organisms we care about -- coral reefs, oysters, salmon."

Read about the study in The Christian Science Monitor and learn more about the Center for Biological Diversity's work to stop ocean acidification.

Expedition Will Search for South Florida Rainbow Snake

fisheating creek

The search is on for a phantom snake in South Florida. Staffers from the Center for Biological Diversity, the Center for Snake Conservation and others are heading to Florida's Fisheating Creek next week to find the South Florida rainbow snake, a species that may have been prematurely deemed extinct last fall. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service made the designation in October without conducting a thorough investigation into whether the snake still survives. The Center and others quickly offered up a reward for anyone who spotted the snake, and we've had some promising leads.

The expedition will consist of five days of snake-searching at the pristine Fisheating Creek Wildlife Management Area. Partners in this effort include the Center, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the Fish and Wildlife Service.

Rainbow snakes -- as their name suggests -- are a stunning species featuring red stripes running down a glossy black back. Here's hoping their South Florida cousin is still with us and can be found.

Learn more about the rainbow snake at the Center for Snake Conservation, as well as the Center's campaign to stop the amphibian and reptile extinction crisis.

Bay Area Golf Course Caught Killing Rare Frogs

California red-legged frog

The Center for Biological Diversity and allies have asked for a court order to stop the killing and draining of wetlands breeding habitat for of one of California's favorite amphibians -- the federally protected California red-legged frog. For the second year in a row, observers have caught the San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department killing rare frogs at Sharp Park Golf Course near Pacifica in the San Francisco Bay area -- a money-wasting golf course built on top of wetlands that should be restored to habitat for endangered species.

The California red-legged frog was the star of Mark Twain's "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County." Restoring the frog population at Sharp Park will benefit the critically endangered San Francisco garter snake, one of the world's most beautiful serpents. Community groups and San Francisco legislators are gearing up for another effort to remove the golf course and restore the natural ecosystem.

Read more in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Center's Siegel, Cummings Featured in Wildlife Heroes Book

Kassie Siegel

A new book called Wildlife Heroes focuses on 40 of the world's top conservationists -- and includes a chapter on the Center for Biological Diversity's Kassie Siegel. The book is an inspiring collection of those "acclaimed for their vision, determination and success" in saving species at the edge of extinction, including lions, whales, bats and, of course, polar bears.

Wildlife Heroes, written by conservationists Julie Scardina and Jeff Flocken, details groundbreaking work by Siegel and the Center's Brendan Cummings to get polar bears protected under the Endangered Species Act in 2008 as part of our work to address the global climate crisis. "Solving climate change will require real change -- not change around the edges," Siegel says in the book. "And change is hard but incredibly exciting."

Check out the book. The authors are donating all proceeds from the book to the organizations it features.

Wild & Weird: Hey There, Boo-Boo, How 'Bout a Free Facial?

Grizzly bearWho needs a spa treatment when you can just scrape your head with an abrasive rock?

During a recent trip to Alaska, scientist Volker Deeke watched as a brown bear, while bathing in shallow water, picked up a crusty-looking rock and carefully rubbed it across its face and over its head fur, much like a person preening and cleaning. The bear repeated the process with another appropriately scratchy rock.

Though other creatures -- birds, fish -- have been known to consciously maneuver an object to accomplish a task, this is a rare instance of a nonprimate mammal using a tool.

Read more in Discovery News, where you can check out one of Deeke's cool photos of this beautifying bruin.

Kieran Suckling

Kierán Suckling
Executive Director

Photo credits: Razorback sucker by Mark Fuller, USFWS; Dolores River courtesy Flickr Commons/moabadventurer; leatherback sea turtle courtesy public domain; willowy monardella courtesy Flickr Commons/USFWS; gray wolf courtesy Flickr Commons/Sakarri; coral reef courtesy Flickr Commons/USFWS Pacific; Fisheating Creek courtesy Flickr Commons/B A Photography; California red-legged frog (c) Colin Brown; Kassie Siegel; Grizzly bear (c) Robin Silver.

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