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New Protections Proposed for 66 Corals

Elkhorn coralFinally some good news for coral reefs in crisis: After years of work by the Center for Biological Diversity, the National Marine Fisheries Service has proposed protections for 66 corals under the Endangered Species Act. The decision is the most far-reaching move ever made by the agency to address the perils marine animals face from greenhouse gas pollution and ocean acidification.

The beautiful corals come in all colors and shapes, from the flat, brown Lamarck's sheet coral to the towering, hairy-looking pillar coral. They're all found in U.S. waters and urgently threatened by global warming, which causes bleaching events that kill corals, and ocean acidification, which eats away at their skeletons. The Fisheries Service also said that the underlying driver of most of the corals’ troubles -- from carbon pollution to overfishing -- is the burgeoning number of people on the planet and the consumption of natural resources.

The Center first petitioned for the corals' protection in 2009 and filed three notices of intent to sue over government delays. The Fisheries Service now proposes to list 54 corals as "threatened" and 12 as "endangered," including an upgrade to "endangered" for elkhorn and staghorn corals, for which the Center won protections in 2006 -- the first species safeguarded due to global warming.

"I'm deeply saddened by the fact that our extraordinary coral reefs are on the brink of extinction," said the Center's oceans director Miyoko Sakashita, "but there's hope in the fact that our endangered species law is powerful and effective."

Read more in The New York Times.

Ads Urge Sen. Harry Reid to Block Lead-poisoning Law -- Take Action

Mother and childThe Center for Biological Diversity just launched a series of print and radio ads in Las Vegas urging Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to block the "Sportmen's Act" -- a bill backed by the NRA that would ban the federal government from addressing threats to wildlife and humans posed by toxic lead hunting ammunition and fishing tackle.

More than 14,000 tons of lead are shot into the environment every year by hunting; this lead endangers hunters, their families and low-income recipients of venison donations. Lead left in the wild and picked up by scavengers also poisons and kills millions of birds every year, including swans, loons, eagles and cranes. We can't let the NRA and its D.C. cronies stand in the way of stopping needless lead poisoning.

See and hear our new ads in our press release. Then take action by telling your senators to reject this poisonous legislation.

Safeguards Planned for Rare Prairie Chicken

Lesser prairie chickenLesser prairie chickens are few on the ground. But things are looking up for this plump, gray-brown grouse since the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service last week proposed it for Endangered Species Act protection. The decision follows a 2011 agreement made by the Center for Biological Diversity and allies to speed protection decisions for hundreds of species around the country.

Lesser prairie chickens live in parts of Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas, but their range and population have been reduced by more than 85 percent by habitat loss, grazing, roads, and oil and gas development. These unique birds have been on the "candidate" list for protection since 1998.

Now lesser prairie chickens have a better chance to thrive and enact their fascinating communal breeding displays, in which males strut, call, cackle and inflate their bright-red air sacs to attract females.

Read more in the Las Cruces Sun-News.

Help Us Hand Out 50,000 Endangered Species Condoms by Year's End

Endangered Species CondomsThe holidays are almost here, and the Center for Biological Diversity has a gift for our supporters -- well, 50,000 gifts. This month we're sending out supplies of our highly popular and perfectly free Endangered Species Condoms, colorfully packaged with endangered species art and bearing slogans on the link between runaway population growth and the extinction crisis. Whenever the Center has doled out these conversation starters they've garnered massive attention, distributed by all kinds of people -- from college kids to teachers to grandmothers and clergymen.

If you haven't yet joined our 7 Billion and Counting campaign to help spread the word about species suffering from humans' skyrocketing populace, now's the time to do it -- the Center can only engage 600 distributors. To be one of them, you must sign up by Tuesday, Dec. 11.

Sign up now and learn more about Endangered Species Condoms and our 7 Billion and Counting campaign.

Challenge Moves Forward Over Protection for Canada's Polar Bears

Polar bearsA challenge by the Center for Biological Diversity may prompt Canada, which harbors more polar bears than any other nation, to consider giving its great white bears more protection. Last year we filed a formal challenge over the country's failure to fully protect polar bears under its Species at Risk Act. The challenge was filed with the Commission for Environmental Cooperation, established under the North American Free Trade Agreement to ensure the three countries follow their own environmental laws.

On Friday the Commission said the Center's petition documenting Canada's violations of its own laws warrants an official response from the country's government. Canada's polar bears are listed only as a "species of special concern," which affords the animals no substantive protections. We'd like to see the bears listed as "threatened" or "endangered" so they can get the help they need to survive threats like hunting and global warming. Scientists predict that more than two-thirds of the world's polar bears will disappear by 2050 because of melting Arctic sea ice.

Read more in the Ottawa Citizen.

A Hero Walks On: Ola Cassadore Davis, 1924-2012

Ola Cassadore DavisIn 1989, already a 66-year-old grandmother, Ola Cassadore Davis helped create the Apache Survival Coalition, leading Apache efforts to protect southern Arizona's Mount Graham and preserve Apache religion and culture. She died Nov. 25, at the age of 89.

Mount Graham, or "Dzil Nchaa Si An," which is home to the endangered Mount Graham red squirrel and is sacred to the Apache, was at the heart of a famous legal and activist battle in the 1990s over the installation of high-powered telescopes on the peak -- telescopes that threatened to harm Apache spirits as well as native wildlife. Davis was a passionate defender of this sacred site, for the Apache people a portal to the spirit world.

Hundreds of Apache youth now ascend the Dzil Nchaa Si An summit in a yearly prayer run. Their spirit people, and the culture and worship that surround them, live on.

Read more in Indian Country Today.

Victory at Point Reyes Creates West Coast's First Marine Wilderness

Black brantIn a watershed decision last week, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced he would uphold a 1976 law and protect Drakes Estero -- the ecological heart of Point Reyes National Seashore in California -- as wilderness. A controversial commercial oyster operation in this biologically rich estuary will not have its lease renewed -- which means the area will finally become the West Coast's first marine wilderness, as Congress intended. The oyster business will have 90 days to wind down operations, cease motorboat trips and remove its millions of non-native oysters.

Drakes Estero is home to one of the largest mainland breeding populations of Pacific harbor seals; thousands of birds (like black brants) depend on its shores and waters, and its eelgrass beds provide food and habitat for countless species. The wilderness protection effort was led by the Environmental Action Committee of West Marin with help from many conservation groups, including the Center for Biological Diversity.

Members of the local community, including wilderness advocates, will work together to provide new job and training opportunities and ease the transition for oyster company employees once the final harvest is complete, as well as to help remove and control invasive species spread by the oyster operation.

Read about the wilderness victory in the Los Angeles Times.

Save Bats, Keep Rocky Mountain Caves Closed -- Take Action

Save our batsIf we're going to keep the deadly, bat-killing disease called white-nose syndrome out of the West, it's vital that we limit human access to caves on public lands to only the most necessary visits. That's why the Center for Biological Diversity is calling on the U.S. Forest Service in the Rocky Mountains to keep in place a 2010 order that closed its caves in Colorado, Nebraska, eastern Wyoming, Kansas and South Dakota. We need you to add your voice to this urgent message.
White-nose syndrome has already killed nearly 7 million bats in North America, spreading to 19 states on its westward march. One of the best ways to keep it from spreading is by curbing human transmission; the white-nose fungus was likely brought to North America on the shoes, clothing or gear of travelers from Europe. The Forest Service in the Rockies is starting an "environmental assessment" of the best ways to reduce the spread of the disease. Unless a caving trip will benefit the health and integrity of a cave ecosystem -- say, for scientific research or hazardous waste removal -- the Forest Service should say "no" to cave visitation.
Please take action today to save bats and stem the spread of this deadly disease.

Wild & Weird: Undersea Immortality

Jellyfish varietiesBen Franklin once said that nothing in this world is certain except death and taxes; clearly he wasn't a jellyfish man. As scientists discovered in 1996, Turritopsis dohrnii, also known as the "immortal jellyfish," has in fact figured out a way to escape death (and reportedly paid no taxes this year, either).

At any stage in its development, this jelly can turn back into a polyp, growing younger and younger and then starting over again. As you might expect, immortality has allowed it to spread far and wide in what one biology professor has called "a silent invasion."

What does the jelly's curious secret mean for people? According to Shin Kubota, a Japanese scientist who's devoted himself to the species for years -- and become a famous jellyfish songwriter in the process -- "Once we determine how the jellyfish rejuvenates itself, we should achieve very great things. My opinion is that we will evolve and become immortal ourselves." Kubota's not sure that's a good thing, though -- he doesn't think humans are ready for eternal life.

Read more about the species, and the equally intriguing Shin Kubota, in The New York Times, and don't miss this video of Kubota singing an ode to his beloved jelly.

Kierán Suckling
Executive Director

Photo credits: pillar coral courtesy NOAA; elkhorn coral by Sean Nash; mother and child (c) George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images; lesser prairie chicken courtesy USFWS; Endangered Species Condoms by Russ McSpadden, Center for Biological Diversity, design (c) Lori Lieber and artwork (c) Roger Peet; polar bears courtesy USFWS; Ola Cassadore Davis by Sky Crosby; black brant courtesy USFWS; Save Our Bats logo; jellyfish varieties courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

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