Safeguards in Sight for Pacific Northwest Songbird, Butterfly
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed Endangered Species Act protection this week for a bird called the streaked horned lark and a butterfly called Taylor's checkerspot. The agency also proposed a total of almost 20,000 acres of protected "critical habitat" for the animals in Washington and Oregon. The decision was, once again, part of the Center for Biological Diversity's 757 agreement.
Both species are now found at only a handful of scattered locations around the Puget Sound, Olympic Peninsula, Washington coast, Columbia River and Willamette Valley; their prairie habitats have been plowed under, paved or converted to forest or nonnative plants. The lark, though, has found habitat at many of the region's airports, including in Olympia, Wash., and Portland, Ore.
Read our press release.
Suit Filed to Stop Unregulated Fracking in California
On Tuesday a coalition of conservation groups, including the Center for Biological Diversity, filed suit in California to force the state agency responsible for regulating the oil and gas industry to protect public health and the environment from hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, under the California Environmental Quality Act. At least 600 California wells were fracked in 2011 alone, yet the state has not analyzed, regulated or monitored the impacts of this activity.
Fracking is an inherently dangerous technology used to extract oil and gas by injecting vast quantities of high-pressure water, mixed with toxic chemicals, into underground rock formations. Besides posing dangers to people and to the immediate environment -- which includes major active earthquake faults -- fracking also releases large amounts of methane, a potent greenhouse gas.
Wildlife is also at risk. In California, pollution and development associated with fracking threatens endangered species like the California condor, San Joaquin kit fox and blunt-nosed lizard.
Read more in The Wall Street Journal.
Three Florida Plants, 8,500 Acres Closer to Safeguards
With sea-level rise closing in on Florida, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed to protect three state plants -- and more than 8,500 acres of important habitat -- under the Endangered Species Act. The decision is the result of the Center for Biological Diversity's historic 757 agreement.
The plants include the aboriginal prickly apple, which grows up to 20 feet tall on Florida's west coast; the Florida semaphore cactus, a flowering cactus that grows near seawater on bare rock; and the Cape Sable thoroughwort, a small, flowering plant found in Miami-Dade and Monroe counties. All three of these South Florida plants have declined drastically in the face of rampant urban sprawl, nonnative species and other factors. All three face the additional threat of sea-level rise driven by climate change.
Read more in our press release.
Mussels Closer to 2,000 Miles of Protected Habitat
More than 2,000 miles of river in 12 states in the Midwest and Southeast have been proposed for protection to help save two freshwater mussels that were recommended on Monday for Endangered Species Act protection. The decision will preserve habitat for the Neosho mucket and rabbitsfoot mussels, living on the bottom of rivers and streams, which have suffered steep declines because of water pollution and dams.
Meanwhile the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also finalized protection for 229 miles of river in four Southeast states to help five imperiled fish: the Cumberland darter, chucky madtom, laurel dace, rush darter and yellowcheek darter. The freshwater protections in Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama and Arkansas will also provide benefits to people who rely on those rivers for water and recreation.
The decisions were part of the Center's 757 agreement, reached last year.
Read more in our press release.
2012 Rubber Dodo Award -- Vote Now
It's election time again -- that is, time to elect 2012's most outrageous eco-villain to win the 6th annual Center for Biological Diversity Rubber Dodo award. So please fill out this form to cast your vote! Named for the world's most famous extinct species, the Rubber Dodo is given annually to a person or institution that the Center and supporters decide has done his/her/its very best to destroy wild places and drive species to extinction.
The 2012 shortlist is (drumroll): Senator James Inhofe; Senator Jon Tester; and Shell Oil.
Sen. Inhofe (R-Okla.), the country's boldest and most notorious global warming denier, has done his best this year, indeed every year, to make sure the U.S. Congress takes absolutely no action to combat the single-greatest threat facing life on Earth. Sen. Tester (D-Mont.) stuck a rider on a must-pass budget bill that removed federal protection from wolves in many western states, resulting in the deaths of at least 600 animals so far. And Shell -- what can we say? The oil giant seems hell-bent on sucking oil out of the Arctic Ocean, no matter what it hurts in the process -- polar bears, walruses, seals or the global climate.
Read more on the contenders and cast your vote before Oct. 25.
Puerto Rican Pipeline Stopped in Its Tracks
An ill-conceived plan to build a pipeline through prime wildlife habitat in Puerto Rico has been stopped. The Center for Biological Diversity joined a coalition of conservation and citizen groups opposing the 92-mile Vía Verde natural gas pipeline that threatened wetlands and hundreds of species, including the coquí llanero, a dime-sized frog that was recently protected. A year ago, with allies, we notified the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers -- which was considering a wetlands permit for the project -- that it was in violation of the Endangered Species Act.
Last week the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority announced it's withdrawing its application to the Corps.
"We are cautiously celebrating this announcement and will let the streamers fly once the Corps officially pulls the application," said Jaclyn Lopez, staff attorney at the Center's office in St. Petersburg, Fla.
Read more in our press release.
Request to Minnesota Supreme Court: Stop Wolf Hunt
The Center for Biological Diversity and Howling for Wolves went to the Minnesota Supreme Court on Monday to halt plans this fall to hunt and trap wolves. Minnesota is poised to unleash its hunting and trapping season on Nov. 3, selling up to 6,000 licenses to kill 400 of the state's wolves.
We filed a lawsuit last month seeking a preliminary injunction to stop the hunt because the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources failed to provide a proper opportunity for public comment. The Minnesota Court of Appeals rejected that request last week, so we went to the state's highest court.
"I'm hopeful the Supreme Court will recognize what the Court of Appeals did not -- that the shooting and trapping of 400 wolves is an irreversible harm caused by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources," said Collette Adkins Giese, a Minneapolis-based attorney with the Center.
Read more in the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
Stop the Destruction of Marbled Murrelet Habitat -- Take Action
The Center for Biological Diversity has been working for years to save the Pacific Northwest's marbled murrelets -- small, shy seabirds that nest in moss on the branches of coastal old-growth trees -- from extinction. The birds' 4 million acres of protected "critical habitat" are crucial to their survival. But now the Fish and Wildlife Service has signed a quiet little agreement with the timber industry to strip away that protected habitat and allow clearcut logging.
If ancient forests in the Pacific Northwest fall to logging, murrelets could spiral toward extinction. Please, take action to help save the murrelets' home: Ask President Barack Obama to withdraw this agreement and restore "critical habitat" protection for murrelets.
Your Vote on Nov. 6 Matters
It's easy to get overwhelmed, jaded and turned off by politics this time of year. But as an American voter you have a chance to influence how our country is run, what environmental laws are enacted and upheld, how federal dollars are spent and who makes decisions on your behalf in the courts, Congress and the White House. We can't, and won't, tell you how to vote. That's up to you. But we will say this: The election process is set up for every American to have a say in who manages this country and how. You're a vital part of that process. We hope you'll vote Nov. 6 -- or even before then if you're voting by mail.
Wild & Weird: Talk About a Wandering Eye
Last week, while strolling the shoreline in Pompano Beach, Fla., Gino Covacci spotted what turned out to be a monstrously sized blue eye tossed ashore by the waves. He kicked it -- what other way to greet a giant severed eyeball? -- then picked it up. Unsure of its origins, he eventually handed it off, on ice, to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission for answers.
When the agency posted a photo of the mysterious eyeball, viewers were aghast and enthralled, speculating that it must have come from a giant squid, sea monster, alien, or boating-tragedy Bigfoot.
Turns out the grapefruit-sized eye likely belonged to a swordfish. According to the commission, the color, size and structure, as well as the presence of bone around the tissue, point in that direction. Genetic tests are underway to confirm the hypothesis.
See a video of the giant eyeball at The Guardian and read more at NBC News.
Photo credits: Taylor's checkerspot butterfly by Aaron Barna, USFWS; Hawaii courtesy Flickr/Oliver Regelmann; streaked horned lark by David Maloney, USFWS; San Joaquin kit fox courtesy USFWS; Florida semaphore cactus courtesy Flickr/Carly Lesser & Art Drauglis; chucky madtom courtesy Conservation Fisheries International; rubber dodo; coquí llanero courtesy USFWS; gray wolf courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Retron; marbled murrelet by Rich MacIntosh, USGS; I voted courtesy Flickr/BXGD; giant eyeball courtesy Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission.
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