200-plus Groups Urge Grijalva for Next Interior Secretary
The next secretary of the Interior Department will need to tackle the most critical environmental issues of our time, including climate change, the species extinction crisis and preserving clean air, water and wild places. On Monday a diverse coalition of 238 groups, including the Center for Biological Diversity, sent a letter to President Barack Obama urging him to nominate Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) for the post. The nationwide alliance included conservation, Hispanic, recreation, animal welfare, religious, labor, youth and women's groups.
Grijalva -- now a ranking member of the House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands and a leading Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee -- is a fierce advocate for conservation.
"Congressman Grijalva's a visionary leader with the courage and practical skills to solve the long list of pressing environmental issues we face," said Kierán Suckling, the Center's executive director. "There's no better person for interior secretary than Mr. Grijalva."
Read the full letter here and check out this article in the Arizona Republic.
Suit Filed to Protect Mexican Gray Wolves as Endangered -- Help Now
The Center for Biological Diversity sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Monday over the agency's rejection of our 2009 petition to classify Mexican gray wolves as an endangered subspecies. Now protected along with other wolves in the lower 48 states -- except those in the northern Rockies and Great Lakes regions -- the Southwest's unique, genetically distinct wolves are in desperate need of special protection to survive and recover.
Nearly 15 years after Mexican wolves were first reintroduced to the Southwest in response to a Center lawsuit, there are only 58 wolves in the wild; it has been four years since a new wolf was released from captive-breeding facilities. Meanwhile the feds have failed to take the steps recommended by their own scientists, more than a decade ago, to recover these struggling wolves.
"We're filing our second lawsuit in three weeks on their behalf because these very rare animals are on the razor edge of extinction," said the Center's Michael Robinson. "We don't want to look back in 10 years and wonder if there was anything else we could have done to save them."
The Center is the only group fighting for all the country's wolves -- and right now southwestern wolves are in particularly urgent peril. Please consider making a special gift to help us save these majestic animals.
Then read more about the suit in the Los Angeles Times and check out our Restoring the Gray Wolf page.
Four Northwest Pocket Gophers Proposed for Protection
First some good news from the pocket gopher world: Four subspecies of these big-cheeked, small-bodied rodents in the Pacific Northwest were proposed for Endangered Species Act safeguards Monday, following the Center for Biological Diversity's 757 settlement last year, along with 9,234 acres of protected "critical habitat." There was bad news too; a fifth pocket gopher subspecies was declared extinct.
All five pocket gophers live (or lived) in the state of Washington and are subspecies of the Mazama pocket gopher, whose populations have plunged, mostly because of the loss of prairie habitat to development and agriculture. The four subspecies proposed for protection are the Olympia, Roy Prairie, Tenino and Yelm pocket gophers; the subspecies declared extinct was the Tacoma pocket gopher, which had been a "candidate" for protection since 2001. The Center and allies petitioned for these and three other pocket gophers in 2002.
Pocket gophers get their name from the external pouches on their cheeks, with which they carry plants for food and building nests. They don't need to drink because they get enough water from plants; they're homebodies, seldom emerging from their burrows, but also key seed dispersers and hole diggers in their prairie ecosystems.
Read more in The News Tribune.
California Fracking Protest Demands Halt to Land Auction
Dozens of demonstrators in hazmat suits rallied in Sacramento on Wednesday outside a Bureau of Land Management auction that leased more than 17,000 acres of California public land to oil companies for drilling and fracking, a dangerously polluting form of oil and gas development.
The campaign to halt the lease sale, organized by the Center for Biological Diversity and allies, has attracted support from many quarters, including farmers, vineyard owners and even Congressman Sam Farr (D-Calif.), who asked that the auction be delayed. They're all concerned about the new California fracking boom, fueled by a lack of regulations and emerging fracking technologies.
Scientists say about 25 percent of fracking chemicals could cause cancer, while many others damage our nervous, endocrine, immune and cardiovascular systems. Fracking is tied to air and water pollution, emits large amounts of methane -- the most potent greenhouse gas -- and, of course, decimates wildlife habitat.
Learn more about fracking in this NPR story featuring Center attorney Kassie Siegel.
Garbage-infested Waters Near Hawaii Nominated for Superfund Cleanup
The Center for Biological Diversity took a bold step this week to get badly needed help for the plastic-infested ocean. On Tuesday we petitioned the Environmental Protection Agency to designate the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands -- including the portion of the enormous Pacific Garbage Patch within U.S. waters -- as a Superfund site.
The 1,200-mile island chain is home to more than 7,000 marine species, many found nowhere else. Sadly, the reefs and shores of this critical marine refuge have been deluged by plastic and debris from the Pacific Garbage Patch, a swirling mass of litter bigger than Texas.
Plastic debris kills or injures thousands of seabirds, marine mammals and sea turtles every year while contaminating the environment with toxic chemicals and posing a threat to people who consume plastic-eating fish. We're asking the EPA to evaluate the entire island chain to see if it qualifies for the Superfund program, one of the EPA's most powerful tools for cleaning up dirty, hazardous sites.
"Something this big and disgusting needs the kind of attention that only a Superfund designation can provide," says Emily Jeffers, a Center attorney.
Read more in the Honolulu Civil Beat.
California's Riverside Fairy Shrimp Given 'Critical Habitat'
Spurred by a suit from the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has finalized protections for 1,724 acres of habitat for California's Riverside fairy shrimp. The protections are more than a fivefold increase from Bush-era designations and could give the tiny crustaceans a fighting chance.
Riverside fairy shrimp may be dainty, but these minuscule inverts -- similar to the "sea-monkeys" of comic-book fame -- are a cornerstone of their wetland food web. They hatch, grow, breed and lay eggs in a single wet season of around three or four months. During dry periods, their hardy eggs can withstand extreme temperatures and even survive the stomachs of birds and other prey.
The shrimp's vernal pools are disappearing, and their populations plummeting, as housing developments and commercial agriculture move in. These protections will provide the minimum needed for the shrimp's survival, though 3,000 acres they live in were excluded.
Read more in our press release.
Fisheries Service: Human Population Growth a Major Threat to Corals
The National Marine Fisheries Service recently released a sweeping and historic proposal to protect 66 corals found in American waters under the Endangered Species Act. Not only was the decision an important victory for the Center for Biological Diversity's efforts to protect corals (we petitioned for them in 2009), but it also highlighted another key issue we're working on: the impacts of runaway human population growth on plants and animals.
The Fisheries Service acknowledged that corals face a variety of threats, including climate change and changing ocean waters, but then pointed out, "The common root or driver of most, possibly all, of these threats is the number of humans populating the planet and the level of human consumption of natural resources, both of which are increasing in most areas around the globe."
Unfortunately, threats to corals from population growth are not diminishing. Between 2005 and 2009, the agency said, human population living within six miles of the coast increased 30 percent faster than the global average.
Learn more about our population work here and get the latest on our coral protection campaign.
Millions of Turtles Being Seized From the Wild -- Take Action
Every year more than 2 million U.S. freshwater turtles are seized alive from the wild and exported overseas -- mostly to support food and medicinal markets in Asia. Unregulated international trade has allowed the depletion of native turtle populations across the United States, including the beautiful Blanding's turtle, with its striking yellow throat and lightly speckled shell. This unique reptile is already at risk of extinction.
In response to a 2011 Center for Biological Diversity petition, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently proposed protection under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) for Blanding's turtles, spotted turtles and diamondback terrapins. This is a key step forward: Once a species is listed under CITES, international trade is monitored and regulated with permits.
Take action with us to tell the Fish and Wildlife Service that you support CITES protections for freshwater turtles -- before it's too late. Then read more about our campaign to save southern and midwestern freshwater turtles.
New York Times Op-ed: How Will Mass Extinction Affect Children?
This Sunday The New York Times published an op-ed by Center for Biological Diversity staffer Lydia Millet about the crucial role played by wild animals in human childhood -- from stuffed animals and nursery rhymes to storybooks, games and movies -- and the cultural and personal implications of the ongoing disappearance of these creatures for the children of the future.
For centuries parents have surrounded their children with animal imagery, Millet notes, to teach them to be human; what will take the place of the great beasts in children's menageries if the polar bears, penguins, elephants and hundreds of other species, now so close to children's hearts, go extinct?
Read the op-ed. You can also read a review of Millet's new novel about extinction, Magnificence, in the same issue of the Times, or read the novel yourself by ordering it from Indiebound.
Wild & Weird: 'Unicorn Lair' Found in North Korea?
Strange news out of North Korea: According to a highly suspect report from the state news agency, archaeologists have identified a "unicorn lair" in the city of Pyongyang said to have belonged to King Tonmyong, a figure who, legend holds, founded the ancient Korean kingdom Koguryo.
We don't pretend to understand all the nuances at play here -- is "unicorn" even the right translation of the rock carving outside the alleged lair? Still, we have to admit we're intrigued. (Though there was no mention as to how such a lair had sat, undetected, in the city of more than 3 million for so long.)
North Korea's state media has a knack for making overly bold statements. In this case, it has sparked a debate about language, mythology and the origins of Korea's first capital.
Read more at 9 News.
Photo credits: Grand Canyon by Edward McCain; official photo of Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.); Mexican gray wolf by Robin Silver, Center for Biological Diversity; Mazama pocket gopher courtesy the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture; fracking protester by Patrick Sullivan, Center for Biological Diversity; plastic garbage in the ocean courtesy Flickr/Kevin Krejci; Riverside fairy shrimp courtesy Victoria School IT Club; boulder star coral courtesy Flickr/FWC Fish and Wildlife Research Institute; Blanding's turtle courtesy Maine.gov; stuffed toy elephant courtesy Flickr/Marco Recuay; Kim Jong-un tames the unicorn photoillustration by Russ McSpadden, Center for Biological Diversity.
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