No. 636, September 27, 2012
Deal Saves Wildlife Corridor in Southern California
A critical corridor connecting two wildlife areas in Southern California has new protections as part of a settlement reached by the Center for Biological Diversity and allies. The deal gives safeguards to a strip of land linking the 1,500-acre Sycamore Canyon Wilderness Park and the 649-acre March Stephens' kangaroo rat conservation area in Riverside County. The settlement, approved last week, is our third legal victory in two years and protects more than 800 acres in an effort to help imperiled local wildlife like bobcats, burrowing owls and coast horned lizards. It also caps a series of successful settlements orchestrated by the Center dedicating wildlife habitat in Sycamore Canyon Wilderness Park and protecting habitat on Riverside County's former March Air Force Base property.
Providing a permanent connection between protected preserves increases species' mobility, which reduces the risks posed by genetic isolation, disease outbreaks and natural disasters like wildfires. "Protecting corridors that link wildlife reserves is absolutely critical to maintaining our web of life," said the Center's Jonathan Evans.
Read more about this string of victories in our press release and Inland News Today. Then check out our map of the protected habitat.
Nevada Butterfly Poised for Protection
One of Nevada's rarest and most stunning butterflies is on its way toward Endangered Species Act protection. On Wednesday, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed protection for the Mount Charleston blue, a silvery blue butterfly that survives only in upper-elevation open forests of Mount Charleston, northwest of Las Vegas. The decision is the result of a historic agreement between the Center for Biological Diversity and the Fish and Wildlife Service to speed protection decisions on 757 imperiled plants and animals around the country.
The Mount Charleston blue is highly threatened by attempts to suppress natural fires that have led to dense, overgrown forests that the butterfly can't live in. Its habitat has been further degraded by subsequent fire-reduction projects by the U.S. Forest Service, in which small trees and brush were chipped and spread on the ground, covering the butterfly's host plants and their seedbeds.
"Federal protection for this lovely butterfly will lead to a recovery plan that will involve several agencies hopefully working together to make sure it survives and ultimately thrives," said Center biologist Tierra Curry.
Read more in E&E News and learn more about the Center's 757 species agreement.
Rare Fish in Missouri Proposed for Federal Safeguards
In yet another win from the Center for Biological Diversity's landmark 757 agreement, a rare Missouri fish was also proposed for federal protection Wednesday. The tiny grotto sculpin -- growing up to just 4 inches long -- lives only in resurgences and springs in two cave systems in far western Missouri. Unfortunately, pollution is decimating its habitat, including sinkholes leading directly to the water the fish swims in that have been polluted by household garbage, tires and even dead livestock. Other threats include failing septic systems, poor agricultural practices, runoff from roads and a hazardous waste facility in Perryville, Mo. Illegal dumping has caused at least two grotto sculpin die-offs.
Other Missouri freshwater species have been proposed for protection -- or are already protected -- due to the Center's 2011 settlement, including the Ozark hellbender and several mussels. Studies show that North American freshwater habitats are some of the world's most threatened.
Read more in our press release.
BLM Sued to Protect Oregon Tree Voles, 92 Forest Acres
To help save acres of ancient, irreplaceable trees in Oregon, and the rare North Coast red tree vole, the Center for Biological Diversity and allies this week filed suit against the U.S. Bureau of Land Management over the controversial Rickard Creek timber sale. The proposed sale would clearcut 92 acres of coastal forest, including 19 acres of old-growth trees, where the imperiled red tree vole -- a nocturnal rodent considered the most tree-dependent mammal in all of North America -- is known to reside. But in violation of the law, the BLM proposed the timber sale without doing surveys for tree voles surviving in the sale's footprint.
The Rickard Creek timber sale goes directly against a recent finding by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, following a petition by the Center and allies, that the North Coast population of the red tree vole warrants protection under the Endangered Species Act. The vole's nests have been found throughout the timber sale area -- we won't let the feds clearcut this special tree mammal's home.
Read more in our press release.
Petitions Filed to Save Vanishing California Minnow
The Center for Biological Diversity filed petitions this week to protect the Clear Lake hitch -- a large minnow found in only one lake in Northern California -- under both federal and state endangered species acts. The fish's habitat in the lake and its tributaries has been dramatically degraded by water diversions, pollution, invasive species, development and agriculture.
Historically a plentiful staple for the original Pomo inhabitants of the region, hitch once clogged the lake's tributaries by the millions during spectacular spawning runs and provided a vital food source not only for people but also for birds, larger fish and other wildlife. Now only a few thousand fish spawn each year in only two of the lake's tributaries.
The hitch's closest relative was the Clear Lake splittail, driven extinct in the 1970s by drying streams and invasive fish. The Center hopes federal and state protections will help spur restoration of the vanishing Clear Lake hitch.
Read more in the Lake County News.
New Urgency in Effort to Save Colorado's State Fish
New research is adding urgency to the Center for Biological Diversity's work to save Colorado's state fish, the rare greenback cutthroat trout. Scientists on Monday revealed DNA findings that the cutthroats don't survive in five wild populations as once thought, but only one. And that one is in Bear Creek just west of Colorado Springs.
Last week, the Center sued Colorado's Pike and San Isabel National Forest for failing to protect the greenback cutthroats from damage done by off-road vehicles, which are severely eroding Bear Creek Canyon's steep slopes. The runoff is also harming water quality and filling in deep pools that the fish use to hide from predators and survive winters and droughts. The agency has known for years that ORVs threaten the greenbacks, protected under the Endangered Species Act since 1978, but has yet to do what's needed to keep them safe.
Here's hoping the latest scientific findings that Bear Creek is the absolute last refuge for these rare fish will finally get the Forest Service to do the right thing.
Read more in The New York Times.
Grand Canyon-area Forest Opened to ORV Assault
The U.S. Forest Service just released a new "travel-management plan" that opens up more than 500,000 acres to destructive ORVs in the Kaibab National Forest just north of the Grand Canyon. The new plan largely prohibits off-roading for car camping, but it does let hunters drive across public lands in their ORVs and trucks to retrieve felled game nearly everywhere in the forest.
Beautiful, specialized species such as northern goshawks, California condors and mountain lions deserve to have their habitat protected rather than demolished for an activity that even many hunters can't stand (54 percent of them say ORV noise disturbs their hunting experience). The vehicles will also spread invasive plants throughout the forest, and maintaining all the plan's new roads will add stress to a system already strained by a $43.5 million maintenance backlog. The tranquility and quality of nature near the Grand Canyon should be preserved -- not torn up by tires.
Get more from the Cronkite News Service and learn about the Center's off-road vehicle campaign.
Science Journal Echoes Call for Bat-saving Measures -- Take Action
One of the country's leading scientific organizations has come out in support of restricting human access to caves in order to stem the spread of white-nose syndrome, the disease that has killed nearly 7 million bats in North America over the past six years. In the latest issue of Bioscience, editor-in-chief Dr. Timothy Beardsley, of the American Institute of Biological Sciences, wrote an editorial about white-nose syndrome called "Quarantine the Caves." It concludes: "Preventing human contamination of vulnerable environments should now be a priority." That includes closing caves where bats hibernate so humans don't accidentally help spread white-nose when they go from cave to cave.
The Center for Biological Diversity has, for more than four years, called for national action against this deadly bat disease, including closing caves to human access except for emergencies and important scientific research. We also petitioned the White House earlier this year for an aggressive national plan addressing white-nose syndrome, one of the worst wildlife disease outbreaks in our nation's history.
Read more in our press release, where you can also read Dr. Beardsley's editorial, and take action to save bats now.
Wild & Weird: Mystery of Underwater Crop Circles Solved
Underwater photographer Yoji Ookata was baffled by what he saw off the coast of Japan some 80 feet below the ocean's surface: an intricately designed and beautiful "crop circle" nearly 7 feet in diameter. Intrigued, he spent days hanging around the underwater circle waiting to discover the hand of the artist at work.
Turns out it wasn't the doing of aliens who'd overshot a Nebraska cornfield or out-of-work art students with scuba gear. No, it was a masterwork by an amorous and talented male Fugu rubripes, the poisonous pufferfish eaten by only the bravest sushi connoisseurs.
Recently aired on Japanese television, Ookata's underwater film shows the fish's fins forming circular sand patterns, then lining the ridges with tiny, cracked shells. Apparently the intricate circles attract female pufferfish -- the more ridges, the more interest -- which mate with the males and lay eggs in the centers of their circles.
Check out photos and read more about Ookata's underwater discovery at the website Spoon & Tamago.
Photo credits: Mount Charleston blue butterfly courtesy Flilckr Commons/Sky Island; Stephens' kangaroo rat (c) Mark A. Chapell; Mount Charleston blue butterfly by Corey Kallstrom, USFWS; grotto sculpin courtesy Missouri Department of Conservation; red tree vole (c) Nick Hatch; Clear Lake hitch by Richard Macedo, California Department of Fish and Game; greenback cutthroat trout courtesy EPA; northern goshawk courtesy USFWS; little brown bat by Ryan Linden, New York Department of Environmental Conservation; pufferfish courtesy Flickr Commons/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.
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