Huge, Harmful Pipeline Nixed to Save Threatened Species
In a victory for endangered fish and other river species, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has -- for a second time -- rejected a permit for a massive, controversial pipeline that would be a disaster for the Colorado and Green rivers. The Flaming Gorge pipeline would suck an astonishing 81 billion gallons of water from the Green per year, dealing a potentially fatal blow to one of the West's last great rivers -- as well as to razorback suckers and Colorado pikeminnows.
After legal intervention in the pipeline's permit process by the Center for Biological Diversity and allies, represented by Earthjustice, the commission said the project was poorly defined and that its proponent, Wyco Power and Water, Inc., was dismally unprepared to get all the authorizations needed to build it. That means this outrageous attempt to deplete two rivers should be dead in the water.
Read our press release and learn about saving the razorback sucker.
Two California Plants Closer to Recovery
In the same week that the Center for Biological Diversity released our report proving the success of the Endangered Species Act, two plants offered a prime example of that success. Last Tuesday, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed to reclassify the San Clemente Island lotus and San Clemente Island paintbrush as "threatened" under the Act -- a welcome step forward from their former "endangered" status.
Both plants declined dramatically when nonnative goats and pigs trampled their island home. But after federal protection in the 1970s, the U.S. Navy -- which owns and trains on San Clemente Island -- stepped up to remove those animals and made a plan to protect the plants. The beautiful, yellow-flowered lotus and hairy-leaved paintbrush were just two of the 110 species studied in the Center's report On Time, On Target: How the Endangered Species Act Is Saving America's Wildlife. A full 90 percent of the protected plants and animals we reviewed are on pace to meet recovery goals.
Read our plant press release and check out our 110-species report, plus a cool interactive map to help you find protected species in your region.
Suit Launched to Save Arizona Condors From Lead Poisoning -- Take Action
The Center for Biological Diversity and allies are preparing to sue the U.S. Forest Service for failing to protect Arizona's endangered California condors from lead poisoning, which is affecting 95 percent of the birds and often kills them. When these sensitive, broad-winged birds scavenge carcasses shot with lead bullets that are left behind by hunters, they ingest the toxin, too -- which enters their bloodstream and can cause painful death.
Officials in California -- after many years of work by the Center and allies -- mandated the use of only nonlead ammunition in the state's condor range. Unfortunately in Arizona the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service still allows lead bullets in the Kaibab National Forest, which is home for the Arizona condor population.
These amazing birds, whose wings can span 10 feet and which can live 60 years, were once so endangered that by the mid-1980s only 22 were left in the world; the Endangered Species Act brought them back from the brink. Still, with only about 400 condors in the wild and in breeding programs, the birds continue to need our help.
Check out our lawsuit press release and read about condors' population boost in the Oregonian. Then learn about saving condors and take action to defend them from the National Rifle Association.
Lawsuit Looming to Defend 25 Reptiles, Amphibians
The Center for Biological Diversity filed a notice of intent to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Tuesday for the agency's failure to move forward on protecting 25 reptiles and amphibians headed toward extinction in the Southeast. Our notice should speed Endangered Species Act safeguards for nine turtles, two snakes, 13 salamanders and one skink -- the Florida Keys mole skink, a tiny lizard that burrows into sand and can lose and regrow its tail like a gecko.
We petitioned for these creatures (plus hundreds of other Southeast aquatic species) with our allies in 2010, but though the Service said the species "may warrant" protections, it missed its deadline to propose them. Scores of U.S. reptiles and amphibians are threatened with extinction, but they make up only 58 of the 1,400 federally protected U.S. species. The Center -- boasting the only attorney in the world devoted to defending these animals -- is determined to change that.
Get more from The Miami Herald, and then read this piece by our own Collette Adkins Giese in the latest issue of FrogLog about the importance of protecting reptiles and amphibians under the Endangered Species Act.
Forest Service Awards Agency Insiders Massive Tree-cutting Contract
The U.S. Forest Service has awarded one of the largest-ever tree-cutting contracts in the history of the national forest system to a timber company represented by a retired Forest Service official.
The contract, awarded last week, calls for timber cutting on approximately 300,000 acres of ponderosa pine in northern Arizona as part of the Four Forests Restoration Initiative, a showcase forest restoration project for the Obama administration under what's known as "the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Act."
The Forest Service chose Pioneer Forest Products, a company represented by a retired agency official who, in his years with the Forest Service, tried to loosen logging limits, acted as the liaison for Pioneer, and then began representing the company within a year of retiring from the Forest Service. Importantly, the agency didn't choose a company that has collaborated with conservation groups, that doesn't want to log larger-diameter trees, and that actually offered the Forest Service $10 million more than Pioneer did -- including money for monitoring imperiled species. "The decision stinks of cronyism," said Taylor McKinnon, with the Center for Biological Diversity.
Read our press release and learn more about the Center's long work for forests.
Water Grab Threatens Mojave -- Help Stop It
In the Mojave desert, a politically connected company called Cadiz Inc. is trying to steal water from a place where every drop counts -- to local people, as well as to desert tortoises, bighorn sheep, Mojave fringe-toed lizards and other rare species in the region that need that water to survive. The project would drain a 14-million acre-foot aquifer underlying eastern San Bernardino County and pump the groundwater 200 miles away to suburban Orange County. The water-grab site is just 15 miles away from the Mojave National Preserve, precious protected public land.
San Bernardino County was required to lead environmental review for the project, but let a water district nearly 200 miles away do it instead. Worse, in early May the county also exempted the project from its own groundwater law, replacing it with an unenforceable agreement that, among other things, forces the county to wait a decade before even learning of damage to the aquifer. The Center and allies submitted 80 pages of comments opposing the project, and we're demanding that San Bernardino County take control and stop this dangerous water grab.
Check out our brand-new Cadiz project web page, take action by writing letters and see our own Ileene Anderson's letter to the editor in the Los Angeles Times.
Suit Seeks Release of Crucial Bat Documents -- Act to Save Bats
As the deadly bat disease white-nose syndrome spreads west like wildfire, one of the U.S. Forest Service's regions is withholding documents on cave closures and other steps that could help slow the spread of white-nose in Idaho and Montana. To get those documents where they need to be -- in the hands of those who care about helping bats, like us -- the Center for Biological Diversity has sued the northern region of the agency.
White-nose syndrome has wiped out as many as 7 million bats since 2006. Earlier this spring, the Center called on the White House to launch a nationwide effort to stem the spread of the disease, which has already hit 19 states and four Canadian provinces. One of the best steps is to close caves on public lands to nonessential human travel, because the disease can be transported on cave visitors' clothing and gear.
Unfortunately, some land managers, especially in the West, have been slow to take this important action. But if we're going to save America's bats from this epidemic, we need to use every tool available.
Read more in the Chicago Tribune, visit the Save Our Bats Web page and take action to help bats now.
Biodiversity Briefing: The Endangered Species Act's Success
In the Center for Biological Diversity's latest phone "Biodiversity Briefing" with key supporters, Executive Director Kierán Suckling discussed the effectiveness of the Endangered Species Act, including giving a special sneak peek at the new On Time, On Target report we released last week.
The call focused on the success of the Endangered Species Act, attacks on the Act and the Center's multifaceted work to win legal safeguards for wildlife and wildlands. Kierán discussed the results of the new report -- which showed that 90 percent of the 110 protected species we analyzed are recovering right on time with their federal recovery plans. He predicted that several species, from the northern red-bellied cooter (a northeastern turtle) to the Inyo California towhee (a subtly colored songbird in Inyo County, Calif.), will be "downlisted" or recovered in the next few years.
Listen to the first part of Kierán's briefing. These personal phone briefings, Web presentations and Q&As with Center staff are only open to members of the Center's Leadership Circle and Legacy Society. For information on how to join and be invited to participate live when the calls happen, email Major Gifts Associate Julie Ragland or call her toll-free at (866) 357-3349 x 304.
Wild & Weird: Gila Monster Spit -- Lifesaving Cure for Vice?
Some people are afraid of Gila monsters; these big, black-and-bright-orange Southwest lizards have poisonous bites, and their striking appearance can be intimidating. (It doesn't help that their common name includes the word monster.) But here's a good reason to love North America's largest lizards: Their saliva saves lives.
For years, patients suffering from type 2 diabetes have had the option to control their blood sugar by taking Exenatide, a synthetic drug modeled after exendin-4, obtained from the spittle of the mighty Gila monster. A new study published in the Journal of Neuroscience finds that exendin-4 also positively affects the brain mechanisms that control addictive behaviors, especially compulsive eating. According to Swedish researchers, it reduces craving for chocolate and, potentially, booze -- at least in rats.
Read more in Science Daily.
Photo credits: Gila monster (c) Robin Silver; razorback sucker by Mark Fuller, USFWS; San Clemente island paintbrush courtesy USFWS Pacific Southwest Region; California condor courtesy Flickr Commons/Jim Bahn; seepage salamander courtesy Flickr Commons/aposematic_herpetologist; tree-cutting at Kaibab National Forest courtesy Flickr Commons/USFS Southwest Region; desert tortoise courtesy Flickr Commons/sandman; northern long-eared bat courtesy USFWS; northern red-bellied cooter by John White, Virginia Herpetological Society; Gila monster courtesy Flickr Commons/Carla Kishinami.
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