California Halts Damaging Suction Dredge River Mining
California Governor Jerry Brown extended a moratorium on environmentally destructive suction dredge gold mining in the Golden State last week until it can be proven safe. The vacuums used for dredge mining poison waterways by kicking up settled mercury deposits from historic mining. Worse, the practice destroys wildlife habitat for salmon, songbirds and amphibians, and damages American Indian cultural resources.
Former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Gov. Brown had previously imposed temporary moratoriums; now the moratorium will stay firmly in place until the state can clean up the suction dredge program, which also costs taxpayers more than it creates in revenue (it ran deficits close to $1 million in 2009). Any new program would have to eliminate significant environmental harm and be revenue neutral.
Read more in The Sacramento Bee and learn about our work against all kinds of harmful mining.
Oregon Suspends 10 Timber Sales in Rare Seabird Habitat
A month after the Center for Biological Diversity and allies sued over Oregon's logging activities in three state forests -- activities that were hurting federally protected seabirds called marbled murrelets -- the state has suspended operations on 10 timber sales in the birds' habitat in the Tillamook, Clatsop and Elliott forests. To prevent more murrelet habitat from being chopped down while our case moves through the courts, we've also filed an injunction request.
"Oregon's irresponsible logging is driving the marbled murrelet to extinction," said the Center's Endangered Species Director Noah Greenwald. "We're asking the court to stop the worst of the state's timber sales and encouraging the development of scientifically supported management plans for our coastal state forests."
The shy, old-growth-dependent murrelet is a small, plump, puffin-like bird with a short neck and tail.
Read more in The Oregonian and learn about saving the marbled murrelet.
Suit Seeks Protection for Ultra-secretive Carnivore
Humboldt martens were once so rare they were thought extinct for 50 years. Today we know a few dozen survive in the coastal forests of California and Oregon. It's clear these cat-sized carnivores -- related to minks and otters -- badly need the protection that only the Endangered Species Act can provide. On Monday, the Center for Biological Diversity sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for failing to move fast enough to protect them.
The Center and allies petitioned to protect the martens in 2010. Although the agency said that they "may warrant" protection, it failed to decide within the one-year period required by law. Martens are extremely secretive animals known for their slinky walking motion and alleged ability to prey on porcupines by biting them on the face. Most of their historic old-growth-forest habitat has been destroyed by logging -- they're now gone from 95 percent of their California habitat and a signification portion of their Oregon habitat. Once thought completely lost, Humboldt martens were rediscovered in 1996 by a remote-sensing camera.
Get more in The North Coast Journal and learn about saving the Humboldt marten.
Ship Speed Limits Sought for Critically Endangered Whales
We all take car speed limits for granted, but what about ship speeds at sea? Despite three decades of Endangered Species Act protection, ship strikes remain one of the top threats to critically endangered right whales. Because of this, the Center for Biological Diversity and allies filed a petition with the National Marine Fisheries Service this week to set new speed limits where the whales feed, breed and give birth. Only about 400 North Atlantic right whales are left.
"Slower ships will speed up right whale recovery by avoiding collisions in the places where these whales raise their families," said Sarah Uhlemann, a Center attorney. "Speed limits are a simple and effective way to keep whales from dying unnecessary deaths."
North Atlantic right whales can reach 55 feet in length; they give birth only once every 4 years and were devastated by commercial whaling in the 18th century.
Learn more in Florida Today and about our work to save the North Atlantic right whale.
Suit Filed for Rare Orchid in Footprint of Planned Arizona Mine
The Center for Biological Diversity filed suit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for its failure to protect the highly endangered Coleman's coralroot -- a gorgeous, recently discovered Arizona orchid at risk of extinction from the Rosemont open-pit copper mine. Rosemont, which is proposed for southern Arizona's breathtaking Sky Islands area near Tucson, threatens the survival of many rare and threatened species and would result in the direct loss of at least 6,500 acres of wildlife habitat, with indirect harm to more than 145,000 acres.
"You can't blast a mile-wide open pit, produce 1,200 million tons of toxic waste and withdraw 33 billion gallons of water without leaving a permanent scar on this fragile landscape and the plants and animals that depend on it," said Center biologist Tierra Curry.
The Center petitioned in 2010 to federally protect Coleman's coralroot, which has neither leaves nor roots and gets its food through a relationship with symbiotic fungi rather than photosynthesis. Besides being threatened by Rosemont, the plant is hurt by livestock grazing, human disturbance, drought and climate change. The Service said it "may warrant" federal protection -- but has since failed to move forward in the protection process. Our suit, filed Friday, intends to correct that.
Get more from the Courthouse News Service and learn about our work for Coleman's coralroot.
Navy War Games to Pollute Ocean With PCBs, Other Toxins
To protect ocean waters, in April the Center joined allies to petition the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to stop exempting the Navy's SINKEX program from environmental laws. But the Navy is insisting on a toxic war-games plan this summer to sink three decrepit ships off the coast of Hawaii, thereby releasing PCBs and other toxins into the sea. The toxins will then accumulate in the bodies of fish, dolphins, whales and other marine life.
Instead of being sunk for target practice, the three ships should be part of ship-recycling programs. Besides poisoning the ocean, their sinking will needlessly waste valuable resources by sending about 38,000 tons of fully recyclable steel, aluminum, copper and lead (valued around $27.6 million in today's scrap market) to Davy Jones' locker. Also forfeit with the sinking of these vessels will be hundreds of potential U.S. ship-recycling jobs.
Get details from The Washington Post and learn about the Center's Oceans program and Toxics and Endangered Species campaign.
New Sea Turtle Rule Could Save Thousands -- Take Action to Pass It
Every year thousands of sea turtles drown after becoming entangled in fishing nets, despite the fact that technology already exists to reduce their unnecessary suffering and death. "Turtle excluder devices," or TEDs, give sea turtles and other "nontarget" marine species a way to escape the nets. Unfortunately, not all fishing vessels use them.
Now the National Marine Fisheries Service has proposed to require all shrimp boats in the Gulf of Mexico and southeast Atlantic to use TEDs, which could save thousands of sea turtles every year.
Take action now to tell the Fisheries Service to go ahead and make this rule to save sea turtle lives.
National Forest, Rare Salamander Threatened by ORV Destruction
New Mexico's Santa Fe National Forest has issued a decision that would leave a spider web of more than 2,400 miles of roads open, exposing wildlife to the continued damage of excessive motorized use of public lands, including by ORVs -- even though the U.S. Forest Service can afford to maintain only 10 percent of roads approved in the plan.
The decision would allow roads to continue to devastate habitat for species like the Jemez mountain salamander, a small, insect-eating amphibian that spends much of its life underground and is threatened by not only road building but also logging, climate change and fire suppression.
The Center for Biological Diversity and allies petitioned the Forest Service to close the roads in this area in 2009 to protect the salamander. About 3,500 comments from the public -- including you Center supporters -- opposed the road-opening decision.
Read more and see a photo of off-road destruction in our press release.
Congo Tragedy: Killing of Conservationists, Okapis
Our hearts go out to the Institute in Congo for the Conservation of Nature, where elephant poachers killed six people and 14 okapis (rare and secretive mammals related to giraffes) and burned down a conservation center. The center, located in the Democratic Republic of Congo, is headquarters of the Okapi Conservation Project, dedicated to saving okapis and helping the local people. The poachers were apparently retaliating against the center's staff for reporting poaching operations. A neighboring village was also looted and burned.
The Wildlife Conservation Network is collecting contributions for emergency supplies for the okapi center and local people. For more information, read this account.
Then read more in The Huffington Post.
Wild & Weird: For Rock-like Creature, It Only Takes One to Tango
Pyura chilensis, a rock-like creature with guts and clear blood, dwells on the ocean floor just past the wave breaks along the coast of Chile and Peru. Covered in a stony exterior that conceals flaming red insides, these extraordinary fellas are born male but become intersexed with female gonads at puberty, thus avoiding the painful pangs of adolescent pining. They're able to reproduce through so-called "selfing" orgies.
That's not to say that P. chilensis is antisocial -- indeed, if given the chance these guys do prefer mating by dating. But when mates aren't available, selfing will suffice: In an undersea spasm of fertility, eggs and sperm are released in a cloud, producing tadpole-like youngsters that will eventually develop the rocky countenances of their happily single mom-dads.
Local people crack open these stony libertines and eat their guts raw or stewed, rendering what some have described as a "bitter" and "soapy" taste.
See a picture of P. chilensis and read more about it in Scientific American.
Photo credits: Bottlenose dolphin courtesy Flickr Commons/Willy Volk; chinook salmon courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Josh Larios; marbled murrelet by Rich MacIntosh, USGS; Humboldt marten courtesy USFS; North Atlantic right whale; Coleman's coralroot (c) Ron Coleman; U.S.S. Dwight D. Eisenhower courtesy U.S. Navy; letherback sea turtle; Jemez mountain salamander courtesy USGS; okapi courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Charles Miller; P. chilensis courtesy Flickr Commons/sergio.majluf.
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