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EPA Sued for Ignoring Fatal Wildlife Lead-poisoning

Bald eagle

Breaking news in the fight against lead poisoning: Just hours ago, the Center for Biological Diversity and allies sued the Environmental Protection Agency for its continued refusal to address toxic lead in hunting ammunition. Lead ammo continues to kill long after it's fired from a gun; spent lead pellets and bullet fragments poison millions of birds and other animals each year. Despite extensive science on this lead exposure, the EPA has twice denied petitions to regulate toxic lead ammo, ignoring requests by the Center and 147 other groups in 38 states.

Eagles, swans and endangered California condors continue to die from lead poisoning. In all, 130 wildlife species are known to suffer from lead exposure from lead shot and bullets contaminating the environment. Condors and other scavengers, for example, feed on carcasses of animals shot with lead bullets, suffering painful lead "toxicosis," or even death. Humans, too, can get lead poisoning from eating game shot with lead bullets, which is especially dangerous for children. The Center has been working to get the lead out of our environment and pushing for lead-free hunting for nearly a decade.

Read more in our press release and learn about our Get the Lead Out campaign.

White-tailed Ptarmigan Closer to Protection

White-tailed ptarmigan After years of work by the Center for Biological Diversity, one of the species most threatened by global warming in North America is a step closer to Endangered Species Act protection. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Monday that the Mt. Rainier and southern subspecies of white-tailed ptarmigans may warrant federal safeguards. The decision comes in response to a 2010 Center petition and as a result of the historic legal settlement we reached with the Service last year to move forward on protection decisions for 756 other imperiled animals and plants.

The smallest bird in the grouse family, the white-tailed ptarmigan is also one of the few animals to live on alpine mountaintops all its life. From its feathered, snowshoe-like talons to its ability to gain body mass in harsh winters, it's adapted to thrive in the cold. But that means as the climate warms, these same adaptations could spell the bird's doom. Its alpine habitat is shrinking as hotter temperatures creep up mountainsides, threatening to push the tree line -- and the ptarmigan -- to ever-higher elevations . . . until there's no room to rise. The Center is working hard to save other cold-adapted species from a similar fate.

Read more in the Summit County Citizens Voice and learn about our campaigns to save mountaintop species and white-tailed ptarmigans.

Key Sierra Nevada Species Earn Science Panel Spotlight

Pacific fisher

Sierra Nevada species in 10 national forests will now be better looked after due to a settlement won by the Center for Biological Diversity and allies this week. The U.S. Forest Service has agreed to have an independent science panel evaluate a selection of plants and animals -- "indicator species" whose well-being helps reflect the health of their ecosystems -- in order to better manage Sierra Nevada forests. The agreement settles our 2007 suit challenging a Bush decision to dramatically reduce the number of species monitored on national forests in California's largest mountain range -- thereby increasing the risk to forest ecosystems from activities like logging and road building. The new panel evaluation should lead to a better, more permanent plan to maintain the health of the Sierra Nevada and their inhabitants.

Imperiled species benefitting from our settlement range from the Pacific fisher, a plush-furred carnivore once decimated by now-outlawed trapping, to the northern goshawk, a swift, scarlet-eyed raptor. Both creatures, long championed by the Center, are under dire threat from logging.

Read more in The Sacramento Bee and learn about our work for forests.

"Frostpaw" the Polar Bear Asks Obama to Stop Shell's Drilling -- Watch Video


At a campaign stop in San Francisco on Wednesday, President Barack Obama got an earful from dozens of activists -- including the Center for Biological Diversity's polar bear mascot "Frostpaw" -- delivering an urgent message: Stop Shell's Arctic drilling. Unless President Obama reverses course, Shell will begin drilling in the Arctic this summer, opening polar bears' fragile home to dangerous oil exploration and subjecting our rapidly warming climate to more greenhouse gas pollution.

The Center and more than a million people around the country have been pushing the president to call off the drilling operations and save the Arctic from industrial pollution and the risks of disastrous oil spills.

The president waved to Frostpaw as his limo stopped yards away, and media outlets interviewed Center experts about the danger to the Arctic. Hopefully the message gets through.

Learn about the Center's Arctic Oil Development campaign, listen to a live radio interview of the Center's Miyoko Sakashita at the protest and watch (and share) our Stop Arctic Drilling video mash-up.

Black-backed Woodpeckers Win Back Safeguards

Black-backed woodpecker

Over the past 18 years, the California Fish and Game Commission has approved rules allowing the killing of wildlife that are being considered for protection under the state's Endangered Species Act. These rules, passed nine times, have targeted species like coho salmon, Pacific fishers and, most recently, black-backed woodpeckers. Now -- thanks to a new settlement by the Center for Biological Diversity and the John Muir Project -- that killing will stop.

We brought the case as part of our work to save the rare woodpecker, which, after our 2010 petition, was made a "candidate" for protection under California's Endangered Species Act in 2011. This January, the state's Fish and Game Commission passed a rule permitting the killing of the woodpecker without any clear justification, so we sued. Under the settlement announced late last week, the black-backed woodpecker is ensured state protection, and the commission is now required to give a full explanation and justification for any future harm permitted to all other candidate species in the Golden State.

The robin-sized, mottle-breasted black-backed woodpecker thrives on a diet of wood-boring beetles living in densely packed, naturally burnt forests in the Sierra Nevada. Called "snag forest," this misunderstood but crucial habitat is often aggressively logged out of existence -- but properly protecting this woodpecker could help save it.

Read more in High Country News and learn about the black-backed woodpecker.

Suit Filed to Force Better Acid Rain Rules


Think acid rain is a problem of the past? Think again. Acid rain is still here, and causing big problems. However, while the Environmental Protection Agency has admitted that its own standards don't fully address the problem (the rules haven't been updated since 1971), the agency has failed to act -- so the Center for Biological Diversity and allies did. This week, we sued the EPA for putting the nation's parks, forests, rivers, lakes, wildlife and public welfare at risk.

Acid rain is caused by power plants and other industrial operations pumping nitrogen and sulfur compounds into the air -- with terrible and widespread consequences. Acidic waters and soils have been linked to reduced growth in several salmon and trout species, dieback and disease in sensitive trees like red spruce and sugar maple, and breeding and feeding changes in aquatic birds like beautiful common goldeneye ducks and lovely-voiced loons.

Read more in our press release.

It's "End Mountaintop Removal Week" -- So Help End It

Head shaving at the mountaintop removal protestThis week is End Mountaintop Removal Week in Washington, D.C. Hundreds of people from Appalachia rallied in D.C. yesterday carrying the message that it's time to end mountaintop-removal coal mining, and the health crisis that comes with it. Dozens of activists staged a sit-in at the U.S. Capitol, and arrests followed.

Mountaintop removal -- in which the tops of mountains are literally exploded away in the search for coal -- kills endangered species and has been linked to cancer and birth defects in people. The toxic mining waste is dumped directly into streams: habitat for wildlife and a drinking-water source for Appalachian residents.

Last week, women in West Virginia gathered on the steps of their state capitol and shaved their heads in a silent vigil, stripping their own crowns in solidarity with the mountains that have been stripped and the coalfield residents who've suffered from disease linked to mining pollution. The same week, the Center for Biological Diversity filed suit to protect Appalachia's Big Sandy crayfish, which has lost 70 percent of its range due to mountaintop removal.

Now, we're asking our supporters to help end this horrible mining practice. Take action now and learn about ending mountaintop removal.

Arctic CO2 Levels Rocket Past 400 ppm

Polar bears

There are new signs of the climate crisis unfolding across our planet: Monitoring stations in the Arctic are measuring carbon dioxide levels at more than 400 parts per million.

The global CO2 level has recently been accelerating upward, with the global level currently standing at 395 ppm, soon to rise past 400. It's going in the wrong direction. Scientists say we need to get to 350 ppm (or below) to avoid irreversible, catastrophic climate change.

It's probably been more than 800,000 years since our planet saw levels in the 400s. Before the Industrial Age, levels were at just 275 ppm. The added carbon pollution is already taking a devastating toll: extreme weather, massive wildfires, droughts, rising sea levels and scores of species -- from polar bears to pikas -- struggling to survive their rapidly changing environments.

The Center for Biological Diversity is urging national action on climate change -- and we need your help.

Read more in The Christian Science Monitor and learn about our Climate Law Institute, the Arctic meltdown, and what you can do in your own city. Then take action to help cut global warming pollution from coal-fired power plants, the largest single source of CO2 emissions in the United States.

Another Blow to Harmful Suction Dredge Mining

Coho salmon

In an important victory against one of the most environmentally damaging mining methods, a federal appeals court has found that suction dredge gold miners can't skirt endangered species laws when mining on national forests in parts of the West. Late last week, a judicial panel from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals sided with the Karuk Tribe of California in requiring miners to analyze whether they'll harm protected species like salmon, steelhead trout or California red-legged frogs before they begin any project.  

Suction dredge mining uses machines to vacuum up gravel and sand from streams and river bottoms in search of gold. The practice is a scourge to wildlife, releasing mercury into waterways and harming salmon spawning grounds -- in addition to destroying important cultural resources. This spring, the Center for Biological Diversity also launched a lawsuit to end suction dredge mining in California. 

Read more about the Center's suit in the Redding Record Searchlight and about the Karuk Tribe's victory in the Los Angeles Times.

Wild & Weird: Mere Lip-Smacking or the Origins of Oration?

ChimpanzeeExperts have long pinned the evolutionary origins of human language to nonhuman primate vocalizations -- the hoots, coos and howls heard from lofty jungle canopies. But new research suggests that the quieter tongue flapping and lip-smacking that monkeys use during close, face-to-face communication may be far more related to our own speech roots than monkey hollers from on high.

Researchers at the University of Vienna used x-ray movies of monkey lip-smacking to show that the softer sounds it produced -- quiet "p p p p" sounds and other audible vibrations (not vocal-cord vibration in the larynx) help vowel and consonant generation, like in human speech. Macaques use lip-smacking in close, friendly communication, especially with their young: monkey baby talk.

As far as primates acting like babies goes, grown-up chimpanzees also vibrate their lips like a kid making a "raspberry." Ah, what science teaches us.

Read the full article in Discovery News.

Kierán Suckling
Executive Director

Photo credits: California condor courtesy Flickr Commons/a2gk3; bald eagle courtesy Flickr Commons/Pen Waggener; white-tailed ptarmigan courtesy Flickr Commons/Daniel Arndt; Pacific fisher courtesy WDFG; Frostpaw; black-backed woodpecker courtesy NPS; loons courtesy Flickr Commons/Kenton Letkeman; head shaving at the mountaintop removal protest (c) Richard Hypes; polar bears (c) Brendan Cummings; juvenile coho salmon by Paul Kaiser, USFWS; chimpanzee courtesy Flickr Commons/Valentina Storti.

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