The Center for Biological Diversity won important Endangered Species Act decisions for 104 animals and plants last year, an unprecedented number. We're happy about those victories -- from birds like the graceful streaked horned lark to the fiery-flowered Florida semaphore cactus -- most of which came about through our 757 agreement. But we're determined to go even further and one-up ourselves in 2013. This special edition of Endangered Earth Online looks forward to our work on 13 top issues in the coming year; take a look at what we're planning.
Defend Wolves Nationwide
The Center is the only group fighting to protect all endangered wolves across the country. This year we'll persist in our efforts in court challenging the removal of federal protections for wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains and Great Lakes regions. We'll keep pushing for wolves' expansion into suitable habitat along the West Coast -- where they once roamed aplenty -- and fight to make sure California heeds our 2012 petition to protect them under the state's Endangered Species Act. We'll do everything in our power to raise the number of Mexican gray wolves in the wild -- including by continuing our battle to give them stronger federal protections as a subspecies or unique "distinct population segment," which will compel the feds to develop a new, much-needed recovery plan, the first in 20 years.
We'll also push forward for wolves beyond the lower 48. We're working hard in Alaska to protect the beautiful, black-coated Alexander Archipelago wolf, whose habitat in the Tongass National Forest is threatened by logging. We've already petitioned for their federal protection, and we won't let it -- or these special animals -- slip away.
Learn about how we're restoring the gray wolf.
Build On Our 757 Agreement
Since our 757 species agreement in July 2011, we've won positive protection decisions for hundreds of species, from the giant, aquatic Ozark hellbender salamander to the beautifully bright-colored, tree-dwelling scarlet Hawaiian honeycreeper. In 2012 we won positive decisions for 104 species and more than 31 million acres of protected wildlife habitat -- positively unprecedented.
And in 2013 the Center plans to set some more precedents, too. We'll use the inertia behind the string of victories we've set in motion to win even more positive decisions, moving more species closer to protection, as well as making sure the federal government sticks to every aspect of our agreement. This year we're expecting protection decisions (and they'd better be good ones) for scores more imperiled animals and plants, including the pocket-sized Oregon spotted frog; the small, sea-diving Kittlitz's murrelet; the tenacious American wolverine; and the slender, beautiful yellow-billed cuckoo.
Learn more about our historic victory for 757 species.
Battle the Climate Crisis
The Center has been on the front lines of the fight against global warming -- and on front pages, too -- for years now with some of the country's most innovative legal, policy and grassroots campaigns to save the globe from irreversible climate catastrophe. Last year we started our Clean Air Cities campaign, which urges cities to sign formal resolutions calling on the Obama administration and the Environmental Protection Agency to use the Clean Air Act to make dramatic reductions in greenhouse gas pollution; we've already signed on 40 cities, including Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, Seattle, Miami and Nashville. We'll grow that number substantially in 2013.
Our Climate Law Institute will continue with our other pioneering climate work, including to save the Arctic from oil drilling, to stop dirty fuel-extraction methods like oil and tar sands development and fracking, to improve fuel economy, to protect warming-threatened species under the Endangered Species Act, and more. So stay tuned to find out what new tricks we have up our sleeves; we're not giving it all away yet.
Learn about our work at the Climate Law Institute.
Save Our Seas
In just a few decades, coral reefs and all their rich biodiversity could disappear. As carbon dioxide is spewed into our air it also falls onto our oceans, where it makes the water corrosive to sea life like coral, oysters, sea stars, crabs and plankton. Ocean acidification could affect animals all the way up the food chain, from plankton to salmon and marine mammals -- which means all the way up to the people who depend on oceans for their livelihoods and sustenance.
This year the Center -- with the help of our supporters -- will elevate the issue of ocean acidification to a new level, demanding national action to confront the problem and start to fight it. We'll watchdog the federal government to make sure, this year, it protects dozens of corals that were proposed for protection last year after a Center petition. We'll also ramp up our campaigns battling other marine threats, like plastic pollution -- which can entangle, drown and choke imperiled seabirds and other wildlife -- as well as deadly fishing gear, like gillnets and longlines that also entangle and drown wildlife (notoriously endangered sea turtles).
Dive into our Web page about saving endangered oceans.
Secure Critical Habitat
According to an independent scientific study, an endangered species is twice as likely to be improving under the Endangered Species Act if it has federally protected "critical habitat." Under the Act, critical habitat is designated for endangered species to ensure their recovery. Within its boundaries activities that would hurt species, from logging to road-building to oil and gas drilling, are specifically restricted.
Yet astonishingly many species protected under the Act have never had critical habitat designated. The Florida panther, for example -- which roams thousands of acres but needs much more to thrive -- has no critical habitat at all. We'll work this year to change that. In 2012, we won 31 million acres of protected habitat for plants and animals around the country -- we're hoping to top that this year.
Read more about the Endangered Species Act and how critical critical habitat is to the law's success.
Save Species From Deadly Toxics
Toxics such as pesticides, lead and chemicals are detrimental to our wildlands, wild animals and health. Chemicals in water are especially hard on endangered amphibians -- from the Tehachapi slender salamander to the California red-legged frog -- whose semipermeable skin easily absorbs poisons, which can alter their hormones and mutate their DNA. And lead ammo that kills game is another senseless threat, causing millions of birds and other animals, who scavenge on lead-shot carrion, to die from lead poisoning every year. People, especially children and pregnant women, can also be poisoned by lead-shot game.
In 2012 the Center and allies sued the Environmental Protection Agency for refusing to address the lead problem. This year, we plan to win that suit -- and ramp up our battle against all toxics that harm endangered species. This year we'll also continue our legal fight to reform the way the EPA analyzes the effects of pesticides on imperiled wildlife.
Read about pesticides reduction and how the Center is getting the lead out.
A fracking boom is coming to California. The petroleum industry is eager to tear into the Golden State's shale oil deposits, which are so large that they dwarf those causing fracking booms elsewhere in the county. Frighteningly, however, California's state government doesn't yet regulate or even monitor fracking, so the public will remain almost totally unprotected as the industry blasts millions of gallons of highly pressurized and toxic "slick water" deep into the earth to break up rock formations in search of oil and gas. Slick water is truly hazardous: about 25 percent of the chemicals involved cause cancer, while other chemicals threaten the skin, the eyes, and the reproductive system. Further, this slick water can –- and has –- escaped into the environment. Overall, fracking can poison our water and air, drive climate change, trigger earthquakes, and destroy habitat for more than 100 imperiled species (like the endangered San Joaquin kit fox and California condor).
The Center fought fracking throughout 2012, but we know we can't leave the ring just because we rang in the new year. As California regulators belatedly consider adopting weak fracking regulations, we'll push to protect the state from hazardous fracking using all of the tools available to us. We'll work to convince California legislators that, because fracking can't be made safe, a ban is necessary, continue publicizing the issue until people all over the country recognize "fracking" for the dirty word it is, and use the courts to ensure that government and industry are not ignoring important environmental protections.
Read more on our battle against California fracking.
Step Up for Arctic Animals
Things are coming to a head in the Arctic, which dozens of imperiled species call home -- and which is under myriad threats, from oil drilling to climate change. The Center will defend this majestic, icy region and the species that need it to survive, including polar bears, walruses, ice seals and more. Unfortunately, Shell's still trying to drill in the Arctic Ocean and the federal government's pushing to expand -- instead of ban -- oil exploration. Besides ruining crucial habitat for already endangered species, exploring for oil in the Arctic is extremely dangerous: If a spill occurred, it would be almost impossible to clean up in the area's icy waters and powerful winds.
The Center has a long history of successfully protecting the Arctic and its inhabitants: We stopped Shell from drilling there for five years, and we've earned federal protection for several species (with more protections pending). We won't stop now.
Read about all our previous efforts against Arctic oil development.
Honor 40 Years of the Endangered Species Act
The Endangered Species Act is one of the world's most powerful, successful environmental laws -- and in 2013 it will mark its 40th anniversary. As the anniversary approaches, the Center is celebrating the Act's hundreds of lifesaving successes, from gentle Florida manatees to graceful whooping cranes. Words can't do justice to this powerful law, which now protects thousands of species and has withstood numerous political attacks. It was because of the Act that, for the first time ever, a recalcitrant Bush administration was forced to acknowledge the imminent threat of global warming, when it finally protected the polar bear in 2008 (as a result of the Center's 2005 petition and legal work).
We have till Dec. 28 -- the Act's true historical signing date -- to celebrate its actual birthday. Until then, and long beyond, we'll be using and protecting this law to its full extent.
Learn about the Act's unprecedented success.
Preserve Our Wildlands
As global warming looms and resources dwindle, it's crucial that the top priority for managing public lands -- which make up almost half of the United States -- is wilderness preservation and endangered species protection. Wildlands shouldn't be used primarily for short-term private profit through activities like clearcutting, oil and gas development, grazing and off-road vehicles. The priority should be keeping them safe for our descendants, and as last refuges for wildlife like the Northwest's marbled murrelet, the Southwest's Mexican wolf, the Southeast's trispot darter and the Northeast's Bicknell's thrush.
In 2013 the Center will use precedent-setting litigation, research and analysis, watchdogging land-management agencies and strategic organizing to preserve our public lands as a safe harbor for sensitive species and have them recognized and valued as the unique, beautiful and irreplaceable ecosystems they are.
Learn more about our Wildlands program.
Keep Freshwater Species Afloat
Many fish, turtles, mussels and other freshwater creatures across the country -- especially in the Southeast, which boasts astounding diversity in its freshwater ecosystems -- have been plummeting in numbers for decades in the face of pollution, habitat destruction, dams, mining and more. The problems won't stop in 2013 -- but the Center intends to continue shedding light on these ecological treasures, from the fluted kidneyshell to the slabside pearlymussel. We'll accelerate our efforts to protect freshwater species big and small -- ecologically critical but often overlooked because of their obscurity; underprotected by the federal government and unvalued by industry.
This year we'll continue our battle against massive-scale freshwater turtle collection for export. We'll also keep our eyes on little guys like the diamond darter, a tiny Southeast fish threatened by mountaintop-removal coal mining, which dumps toxic waste right into the streams the fish calls home. We've already filed a notice of intent to sue the Tennessee Valley Authority to stop it from closing a facility that rears endangered fish and mussels like the orangefoot pimpleback, Cumberland monkeyface pearlymussel and pink mucket, replacing the rearing facility with a coal-ash dump.
Learn about the Southeast freshwater extinction crisis and our campaign to save freshwater turtles.
Address Population Pressure, Overconsumption
There are more people crammed onto Planet Earth than ever before and we've got a voracious appetite for land, water and other natural resources. The Center is one of the few groups with a full-time campaign dedicated to connecting human population growth and consumption to the loss of plants and animals around the globe. With the human population now exceeding 7 billion, it's more important than ever that we address the impact we're having on those we're sharing the planet with.
We're ramping up our population work for 2013: bringing more environmental groups into the campaign, giving away more free Endangered Species Condoms and pushing harder than ever for change that lessens our footprint on the world, promotes smarter growth, improves access to family planning and pursues a world that's healthier and more sustainable.
Read more about our population work at 7 Billion and Counting.
Press for Action on 53 Reptiles and Amphibians
Last year the Center filed a scientific petition seeking Endangered Species Act protection for 53 imperiled reptiles and amphibians around the country. We don't just fight for well-loved species like polar bears and pikas; we also love those cool, cold-blooded, sometimes clammy critters like the Illinois chorus frog, Cascade torrent salamander and eastern diamondback rattlesnake.
Obviously -- and unfortunately -- simply petitioning for creatures' Endangered Species Act protection doesn't mean they're going to get it. So in 2013, if the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ignores our petition or lags on responding to it, we'll make sure that agency changes its tune and snaps to attention for the alligator snapping turtle and 52 of its endangered comrades.
Read more about the amphibian and reptile extinction crisis.
Photo credits: Alexander Archipelago wolf (c) Michelle Rogers; gray wolf courtesy Flickr/rustybadger; yellow-billed cuckoo (c) Glen Tepke; coal-fired power plant courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Arnold Paul; green sea turtle courtesy Flickr/Caleb Slemmons; Florida panther courtesy USFWS; California red-legged frog by Dan C. Holland; San Joaquin kit fox by B. Moose Peterson, USFWS; bearded seal by David S. Isenberg; polar bear by David S. Isenberg; marbled murrelet by Rich MacIntosh, USGS; pink mucket by Craig Stihler, USFWS; Endangered Species Condoms design (c) Lori Lieber and artwork (c) Roger Peet; alligator snapping turtle by Gary M. Stolz, USFWS.
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