New Documents Show Keystone XL May Be Delayed
According to recent detective work by the Center for Biological Diversity, our lawsuit opposing Keystone XL may be helping to stop the pipeline from being fast-tracked through endangered species habitat. This week we uncovered documents showing that on July 10, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service stopped a researcher from using his research permit to help the pipeline's proponent, TransCanada, relocate endangered American burying beetles from the project's path. Yet last year the agency allowed that very same beetle relocation to occur -- and the Center and allies sued. Coincidence? We think not.
Now the pipeline will have to go through a full environmental review and TransCanada will have to get a permit before beetles can be moved -- which could delay the project for quite some time. If approved, Keystone XL would carry up to 830,000 barrels of dirty tar-sands oil from Canada to Texas, not only threatening oil spills and contributing to the climate crisis but also mowing down native prairie habitat for the American burying beetle. This beautiful, black and orange beetle uses fluid-covered balls of animal carcasses to feed and shelter its larvae and is protected under the Endangered Species Act.
Read more in the Omaha World-Herald and learn more about our work to stop the Keystone XL pipeline.
NRA Moves to Block Protection of Wildlife From Lead Poisoning
The National Rifle Association took legal action Tuesday to block the Environmental Protection Agency from protecting wildlife and people from deadly poisoning via lead hunting ammunition, intervening in a lawsuit by the Center for Biological Diversity and allies that asks the agency to regulate lead in hunting ammo.
Millions of bald eagles, California condors and other wildlife are needlessly poisoned every year by ingesting fragments from toxic lead hunting ammo left in the wild -- often dying painful deaths. With alternatives to lead bullets on the market in virtually every caliber used by hunters, and lead long since removed from gasoline, paint and other exposure sources in the United States, it makes no sense to continue using toxic ammo that causes unnecessary killing.
Under the federal Toxic Substances Control Act, the EPA has the authority to stop the wildlife lead-poisoning epidemic -- but the NRA is bound and determined to keep the agency from doing its job.
Read more in the Kansas City InfoZine, make a gift to stand with us against the NRA's anti-wildlife, pro-lead poisoning attack, and learn about the Center's campaign to get the lead out.
West Virginia Fish, River Proposed for Protections
Named one of the "Desperate Dozen" by the Southeastern Fishes Council, the diamond darter was proposed for Endangered Species Act protection last Wednesday -- along with 122 miles of its habitat in the Elk River in West Virginia and Kentucky. One of the rarest fish in the world, this small, quick creature -- named for its sparkle and the olive-green diamond shapes on its back -- was thought to be extinct until it was rediscovered in West Virginia in 1980.
The proposal is part of the Center for Biological Diversity's 2011 settlement compelling the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to speed protection decisions for 757 plants and animals. Protection for the darter and its river habitat will bring a wave of benefits to the Southeast ecosystem -- the most diverse freshwater community in the world and also a hotbed of mountaintop-removal coal mining, raw-sewage contamination, invasive algae and oil and gas development (including fracking). Fifty Southeast freshwater species have recently gone extinct; the Center is working to ensure that doesn't happen to 400 others.
Read more in National Geographic and learn about the Southeast freshwater extinction crisis.
Defunct Wisconsin Mine Proven a Long-time Polluter
Wisconsin's Flambeau River, popular for fishing and canoeing and home to species like bald eagles and ospreys, has won an important victory. Since the closing of the nearby Flambeau copper mine in 1997, the mine site has continued to discharge toxic copper runoff into the Flambeau River -- but after a 2011 lawsuit by the Center for Biological Diversity and allies, a federal court last week charged the Flambeau Mining Company with 11 violations of the Clean Water Act.
This doesn't bode well for future copper-mine proposals in Wisconsin, Center attorney Marc Fink pointed out. A moratorium in the state prohibits the mining of sulfide ore like copper unless mine proponents can point to a sulfide mine that's been closed for at least 10 years without polluting the environment. The small Flambeau mine had been hailed as an environmentally successful "example mine" -- but it won't be anymore.
Fortunately for local wildlife and people, since the Center's lawsuit last year Flambeau Mining Company has also taken some steps to clean up the mine in an attempt to prevent future discharges at the site.
Get more from Wisconsin Public Radio and learn about the dangers of copper mining from our page on sulfide mining in Minnesota, which faces many of the same issues as in Wisconsin.
89 Miles of Sierra ORV Routes Closed
California red-legged frogs and other imperiled species have won back much of their critical, fragile Sierra Nevada meadow habitat in California, thanks to a legal challenge by the Center for Biological Diversity and allies. A judge Tuesday ordered the U.S. Forest Service to close off 89 miles of illegal off-road vehicle routes that had been destroying precious native meadow habitat in the Eldorado National Forest and tainting clean-water resources for the whole state.
Meadows are one of the most sensitive, important and scarcest habitats in the Sierra Nevada, occurring across just 10,416 acres (1.7 percent) of the 596,724-acre Eldorado. These rare, fragile, wet habitats are heavily used by wildlife.
Read more in our press release and learn more about the Center's campaign against off-road vehicle destruction.
Suit Launched for Northwest's Columbia River
The Center for Biological Diversity and partners on Monday filed a second notice of intent to sue the development company NBW Hood River over its plans for a massive development along the Columbia River, which we believe would destroy endangered species habitat and pollute the river at the Hood River waterfront in Oregon.
The planned development -- made up of a 45,000-square-foot hotel, 20,000 square feet of commercial space and a 230-space parking lot -- would also include a 10-acre motorized wakeboarding park that would use large, crane-like structures and a network of metal cables in a section of the Columbia River where they'd block 11 crucial runs of imperiled fish, including chinook salmon and steelhead trout. Also, the development's restaurant will actually jut out into the river, right in the salmon's federally protected "critical habitat." And as our first notice alleged, NBW Hood River is already violating its permit for dealing with stormwater and polluting the river with toxic sediment left over from past industrial use of the site.
The Center and allies previously sued NBW Hood River over the development (as well as the city of Hood River, for approving the development) on July 10.
Read more in our press release and learn about our campaigns for rivers.
Weather to Believe: Most Say Climate Change Is Here -- Help Stop It
In March, only 65 percent of Americans believed climate change was happening -- but with this summer's wildfires, freak storm events and drought, we've reached a supermajority of climate change affirmers at 70 percent, according to a University of Texas poll conducted July 12–16. The surge is due mostly to changed minds among independent voters and in southern states like Texas.
The most decisive indicator of who believes in climate change is political affiliation -- 87 percent of Democrats vs. 53 percent of Republicans -- but that number is up from only 45 percent of Republicans in March. It may have taken the worst drought in 800 years -- which happened at the turn of this century -- but belief in climate change is no longer a partisan issue for voters.
Another poll, conducted by the Yale Project on Climate Change, shows that in March only one in 10 Americans had taken action on climate change by contacting their representatives. Of that 10 percent, 77 percent urged for action to stop climate change.
Read how Detroit just took climate action against CO2 and take action yourself to call for a cap on carbon at 350 parts per million. Also check out more on the University of Texas and Yale polls, and the turn-of-the-century drought.
Rare Reptiles, Amphibians Earning Much-needed Notice
In the wake of a momentous petition by the Center for Biological Diversity to protect 53 imperiled reptiles and amphibians, these "herpetofauna" are getting a lot of public attention -- and it's about time. As Center biologist and attorney Collette Adkins Giese explained in an opinion piece Tuesday, "Overall, scientists estimate that about 25 percent of the nation's amphibians and reptiles are at risk of extinction, yet they make up only 58 of the approximately 1,400 U.S. species that have received federal protection." Collette is the world's only attorney devoted solely to defending these amazing, intriguing animals from major threats like toxics, global warming and habitat destruction.
And Collette's isn't the only Center article recently published in defense of threatened "herps." Last week Center biologist Tierra Curry wrote a piece publicizing how salamanders in the Appalachians -- home to more of these creatures than anywhere else on Earth -- are endangered by mountaintop-removal mining, which has also been linked to cancer and birth defects in people. And just before that, Center attorney Jonathan Evans wrote an op-ed emphasizing amphibians' extreme vulnerability to pesticides.
Read the articles by Collette, Tierra and Jonathan, learn about our fight against the amphibian and reptile extinction crisis and take action to save frogs from atrazine -- then help publicize herps' plight by sharing our action page.
Wild & Weird: Termite Retirement Plan Features Self-detonation -- Video
While in the human world it's generally the youth that marches off to war, in the insect world it's more often the old folks. A new discovery published this month in the journal Science explains that a colony of termites in French Guiana is no exception: Elderly termites, packed with blue, exploding crystals in their backs, will carry out suicide bombings to protect the nest from invaders. Termite dynamite begins to form just as the older wood-eaters' nibbling mandibles wear away, and it's supercharged in the oldest in the nest -- giving new meaning to the term retirement-age baby boomers.
See a video and read more in The Christian Science Monitor.
Photo credits: American burying beetle by Doug Backlund, SD Game, Fish and Parks; Keystone pipeline courtesy Wikimedia Commons/shannonpatrick17; California condor courtesy Flickr Commons/ms4jah_small; diamond darter courtesy Conservation Fisheries, Inc.; Flambeau River courtesy Flickr Commons/pixt8nr; California red-legged frog courtesy Flickr Commons/Greg The Busker; chinook salmon courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Josh Larios; dry corn husks courtesy Flickr Commons/wattpublishing; California tiger salamander (c) Gary Nafis; termites by Scott Bauer, USDA.
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