Deal Saves Last Refuge of Colorado's Greenback Cutthroat Trout
An agreement between the Center for Biological Diversity and the U.S. Forest Service will help protect the only creek in the world still inhabited by pure greenback cutthroat trout, Colorado's state fish. The deal was struck following a lawsuit by the Center after we heard about damage to Bear Creek, near Colorado Springs, inflicted by off-road motorcycles.
The agreement prohibits motorcycles and ORVs along portions of all five trails in the Bear Creek watershed. For years such vehicles have eroded slopes and led to runoff that harmed water quality and filled in deep pools urgently needed for the trout's survival. Greenback cutthroat trout were listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 1978; a recent DNA survey determined that Bear Creek is the only place on Earth where they still exist in the wild. The Center's agreement will give them a fighting chance.
Read our press release.
9.6 Million Acres of Critical Habitat Finalized for Northern Spotted Owls
Last week the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service protected 9.6 million acres of "critical habitat" for threatened northern spotted owls across federal lands in Washington, Oregon and Northern California. Conservation groups, including the Center for Biological Diversity, that had worked for years to maximize protections for the owl hailed the increase in overall acreage since the Bush era; but we remain concerned about the exclusion of private and state lands the owl needs (a 4.2 million acre cut from what the Service had most recently proposed).
"This decision marks the end of a dark chapter in the Endangered Species Act's implementation when politics were allowed to blot out science," said Noah Greenwald, the Center's endangered species director. "But it's deeply disappointing that the Obama administration has elected to exclude all private and most state lands, which are absolutely essential to the recovery of the spotted owl and dozens of other wildlife species."
Conservation groups are worried about possible ongoing logging in the owl's mature forest habitat: At most, 20 percent of the Pacific Northwest's original old-growth forests remain. Old-tree stands provide crucial shelter for salmon, steelhead and other species, as well as spotted owls; they're key sources of clean water and help to curb global warming.
Read our coalition's press release and check out this Associated Press article.
200 Groups Fight Lead-poisoning Legislation -- Call Your Senators Today
More than 200 citizen groups spoke up last week against a pro-lead-poisoning provision in the Sportsmen's Act of 2012 (Senate Bill 3525), which contains NRA-sponsored language to prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from addressing poisoning of wildlife and humans via toxic lead ammunition or tackle for hunting and fishing.
A wide array of public-interest organizations called on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to allow debate on the lead-poisoning exemption -- debate that has not yet occurred in Congress, despite the serious environmental and public-health problems caused by spent lead ammunition and lost fishing weights and the ready availability of nontoxic alternatives. The organizations supported an amendment by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) to block the exemption and study such lead poisoning.
Voting on the Sportsmen's Act has been delayed; most recently Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) tried to attach an amendment to the defense authorization bill that would exempt lead ammunition from regulation under federal toxics law. It was rightly ruled "nongermane," but this NRA-backed amendment may come back in another form before Congress adjourns -- we'll keep you posted.
In the meantime, please call your senators and tell them to block this poisonous language wherever it surfaces. The Senate switchboard is (202) 224-3121.
Check out our press release and our Get The Lead Out campaign; read more about the fight over the Sportsmen's Act in the Missoula Independent.
Woodland Caribou Habitat Slashed: 30,010 Acres Instead of 375,000
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service finalized critical habitat for the highly endangered woodland caribou Tuesday, slashing the area these majestic animals will be given from more than 375,000 proposed acres to 30,010.
Woodland caribou once occurred in Idaho, Washington, Montana, Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Michigan and Wisconsin. But recently they've only been found in small numbers in northern Idaho, where they’re part of a herd of not more than 50 animals that straddles the border with British Columbia in the Selkirk Mountains.
By slashing the critical habitat, the Service is backing away from recovery-plan goals to bring back caribou into more of their former range in Idaho. These last caribou in the United States are part of a population uniquely adapted to living in the mountains through the heart of winter; their dinner-plate-sized hooves make them good travelers through mountain snow, winning them the moniker "mountain caribou." Logging, hunting and poaching, new roads and disturbances from snowmobiles have propelled them to the brink of extinction.
The Center will keep fighting to make sure we don't lose caribou altogether; read more about our work to save woodland caribou.
Puget Sound's Endangered Orcas at Risk of Losing Federal Protection
The National Marine Fisheries Service announced Monday that it would consider a petition to strip Endangered Species Act protection from Puget Sound's orcas, also known as killer whales. The agency was responding to a scientifically invalid petition from the property-rights group Pacific Legal Foundation, which has argued that the Sound's orcas are not a distinct population -- an argument already rejected by a federal court.
"It would be a tragedy to strip Washington's most iconic species of protections. Only around 85 southern resident killer whales are left, and their Endangered Species Act listing is critical to the population's recovery in Puget Sound," said Center for Biological Diversity Attorney Sarah Uhlemann.
Southern resident orcas were protected as an endangered species in 2005 in response to a petition from the Center and our allies.
Check out this article in The Seattle Times.
Population Institute: United States Gets Bad Grades on Reproductive Rights
The Population Institute recently released its first-ever, state-by-state report card grading each U.S. state's reproductive-rights policies. It found that only 12 states received a B- or higher; 17 states received a D or D-; and nine states received an F, utterly failing to make the grade. The failing states were Arizona, Florida, Louisiana, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, North and South Dakota, and Tennessee. Overall, the grade for reproductive health in the richest country in the world averages out to a dismal C-.
What that means, among other things, is that the U.S. rate of unplanned pregnancy remains high: Almost half of all pregnancies in the country are unintended. Teen pregnancy rates here have fallen over the past two decades, but are still higher than in both Chile and Mexico.
Read the report card and find out more about the Center's human population campaign.
Fisheries Service Allows Sea Turtle Drownings to Go On
The National Marine Fisheries Service on Tuesday backed out of finalizing protections for imperiled sea turtles. Under the terms of a settlement with the Center for Biological Diversity and allies, the agency had previously proposed new rules to reduce sea turtle captures in skimmer trawls (fishing equipment that's currently exempt from using "turtle excluder devices," or TEDs). Even though it had formally proposed a rule to prevent sea turtle deaths, the agency reneged on that proposal after discovering that even with the devices small turtles can still get caught in the nets.
"The Fisheries Service says it's not abandoning its promise to protect sea turtles, but rather than move forward with protective measures, it's maintaining the deadly status quo," said the Center's Jaclyn Lopez, a Florida attorney. "The agency has known about this chronic problem for a long time. Further delay will cause unnecessary turtle deaths, and that's tragic."
Shrimp trawling has for many decades been the primary threat to sea turtle survival in the United States. TEDs prevent turtles from drowning in nets, but limited use and lax enforcement are thought to have led to thousands of deaths in 2010 and 2011.
Read more about it in the San Francisco Chronicle.
Suit Filed to Speed Recovery of Mexican Gray Wolves in Southwest
The Center for Biological Diversity filed suit Wednesday challenging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's failure to respond to its 2004 petition. The Center called for implementation of sweeping reforms in the management of the Mexican gray wolf population in Arizona and New Mexico, which has grown by a scant three animals over the past eight years. Only 58 wolves remain in the wild today.
Recommendations from a scientific panel in 2001, which called for an immediate reduction in the number of wolves removed from the wild and an increase in the number released, have languished for 11 years even as the Service has repeatedly pledged to act on them. The wild wolves' genetic diversity has been compromised through inbreeding, likely leading to small litter sizes and reduced pup-survival rates.
"The only wild Mexican wolf population on Earth is stagnant, and losing irreplaceable genetic diversity, because the Fish and Wildlife Service is ignoring the pleas of scientists and stalling on vital reforms," said Michael Robinson, the Center's Mexican wolf specialist.
Read more about the Center's decades-long campaign to recover Mexican gray wolves.
World Bank: Climate Change Progress Urgently Needed -- Take Action
The World Bank has called for urgent global action to address the climate crisis. In a report released last week, the international lender offered a snapshot of a world 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit warmer -- the worst-case scenario projected by the International Panel on Climate Change, possible as soon as 2060.
A warmer climate will produce record heat waves, rising sea levels, more severe and frequent tropical storms, droughts and floods, and irreversible biodiversity loss; effects will include extreme water scarcity, food shortages, increased poverty and impaired public health, according to the Bank's report.
Said Rachel Kyte, the Bank's vice president for sustainable development: "We hope this paper makes it more difficult for policymakers to ignore the science. The science is unequivocal."
Read more in U.S. News & World Report and take action to tell decision-makers to reduce greenhouse gases.
Wild & Weird: Bigfoot Denied Endangered Species Status
At the Center for Biological Diversity we shed both sweat and tears fighting for some of the country's rarest species. It's hard work getting federal protection for gray wolves and bald eagles -- so just imagine trying to lock in safeguards for the eastern pink-tailed unicorn or the Florida ring-necked chupacabra!
Recently the founder of the Chautauqua Lake Bigfoot Expo, located in western New York, requested that the state's Department of Environmental Conservation protect Gigantopithecus Americanus, aka Bigfoot, from hunting. The man's concern may be linked to Spike TV's recent $10 million bounty offer for sasquatches, which came during the height of New York's big-game season.
In a quite courteous official letter of reply, the department's chief wildlife biologist noted that, while his agency works "hard to restore and protect rare species," the request to protect Bigfoot would have to be denied, since "no program or action in relation to mythical animals is warranted."
Read the official letter denying protection to poor Bigfoot; read more on the bounty at The Huffington Post.
Photo credits: northern spotted owl by Kris Hennings, USDA Forest Service; greenback cutthroat trout courtesy the EPA; northern spotted owl by Tom Kogut, USDA Forest Service; California condor courtesy Flickr/Lorraine Paulhus; woodland caribou by John Nickles, USFWS; Puget Sound orca courtesy Flickr/Tony Cyphert; endangered species condoms by Russ McSpadden, Center for Biological Diversity, design (c) Lori Lieber and artwork (c) Roger Peet; Kemp's ridley sea turtle by Bill Reeves, Texas Parks and Wildlife; Mexican gray wolf by Robin Silver, Center for Biological Diversity; smokestacks courtesy NASA; Bigfoot screenshot from the Patterson-Gimlin film courtesy Wikimedia Commons.
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