Arctic Ice Seals Win Protection
Another much-needed win for Arctic animals: Responding to a Center for Biological Diversity petition, the government has protected ringed and bearded seals under the Endangered Species Act. They're the first species since polar bears (also protected via Center action) to get federal safeguards because global warming is melting their sea-ice home.
Bearded seals, with their thick, beard-like whiskers, need the ice to give birth and raise their pups; ringed seals build "snow caves" on the ice to keep their pups warm and safe from predators. As the Arctic melts, the pups' shelters can collapse and kill them.
Arctic summer sea ice fell to half its average size in 2012, and the ringed and bearded seals' winter sea-ice habitat in Alaska's Bering Sea is projected to decline at least 40 percent by 2050, boding ill for these endearing, unique creatures. Endangered Species Act protection is urgently needed to help them survive.
Read more in the Los Angeles Times and learn about the Center's work to save Arctic seals.
Rare Southwest Bird Gets 200,000 Protected Acres
In response to decades of advocacy by the Center for Biological Diversity, the federal government has set aside 208,973 acres as protected "critical habitat" for endangered southwestern willow flycatchers. These dainty, insect-eating birds -- whose scientific name partly means "mosquito king" -- are, sadly, kings no more of their riverine habitat, of which 90 percent has been gobbled up or ruined by dams, water withdrawal, livestock grazing and urban sprawl.
Flycatchers were one of the first animals the Center ever worked to save, petitioning for the species with our allies in 1992 and winning its Endangered Species Act protection in 1995. But despite decades of Center work, the flycatcher has never before been granted adequate critical habitat. Now it will be protected along 1,227 miles of rivers in six states: California, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah and Nevada.
Read more in the Los Angeles Times and learn about the Center's work to save the southwestern willow flycatcher.
2012: Hottest Year in U.S. History
On Tuesday the National Climatic Data Center reported that 2012 was the hottest in recorded U.S. history (i.e., since 1895). "The temperature differences between years are usually measured in fractions of a degree," read an item in The New York Times, "but last year blew away the previous record, set in 1998, by a full degree Fahrenheit." The news confirms the need for rapid, ambitious action on climate, starting with full implementation of the Clean Air Act.
"This puts the heat on President Barack Obama to take immediate action against carbon pollution," said Shaye Wolf, the Center for Biological Diversity's climate science director. "The blazing temperatures that scorched America in 2012 are a bitter taste of the climate chaos ahead. Science tells us that our rapidly warming planet will endure more heat waves, droughts and extreme weather. The president needs to start making full use of the Clean Air Act to fight greenhouse gas emissions, before it's too late."
So far more than 40 communities around the country agree -- Broward County, Fla., just joined the Center's Clean Air Cities campaign. Will your city be next?
Read The New York Times article, learn more about our Clean Air Cities campaign and find out how you can make your community the next Clean Air City.
Lawsuit Seeks Protection for Loggerhead Sea Turtle Habitat
The Center for Biological Diversity and other groups filed suit on Tuesday against two federal agencies for failing to protect critical habitat for loggerhead sea turtles along the West Coast and East Coast. The ancient turtles are facing threats from fisheries, climate change and coastal development; their most important nesting beaches and ocean waters need help.
In Mexico alone 1,000 loggerheads are estimated to die each year from gillnet fishing; 400 washed ashore dead last summer. And with sea levels projected to rise by at least three to six feet by 2100, key nesting habitat on vulnerable beaches will be flooded. Critical habitat protection would help safeguard marine and terrestrial areas essential for migrating, feeding and egg-laying.
"The impacts of Hurricane Sandy and Tropical Storm Debbie have made clear that healthy coastal beaches are important -- both for humans and for nesting sea turtles," said Jaclyn Lopez, the Center's Florida attorney.
Learn more in our press release.
Help Celebrate 40 Years of Endangered Species Act Success
The Endangered Species Act turns 40 in 2013, and we want to make sure the world knows what a success it's been. All year we're teaming up with the Endangered Species Coalition and other environmental groups on a campaign called "A Wild Success: Celebrating 40 Years of the Endangered Species Act."
Will you help us? Throughout the year we'll be asking people around the country to write letters to the editors of their local newspapers about the power and necessity of the Act. You can write about your favorite species the Act has saved; urge Congress not to weaken this bedrock law; or just submit a few lines saying you're thankful for the lives the Act saves every day.
This month we're asking people in the Pacific Northwest to write letters. So if you live in Oregon or Washington, find out how you can help. If you live in another part of the country, no fear -- your time will also come.
In Memoriam: Rebecca Tarbotton
One of the environmental movement's most promising and passionate leaders has died at 39. On Dec. 26 Rebecca Tarbotton, executive director of the Rainforest Action Network, drowned while swimming in rough surf near Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Since 2010 Tarbotton, the first female director of RAN, had led her group in defending wild places from forces like climate change, deforestation, coal development and mountaintop-removal mining. She took on the financial institutions that funded those activities and challenged corporations to change their ways for the benefit of the planet and its shrinking, vital wealth of biologically rich and diverse forests.
In 2011 Tarbotton was arrested in the White House protests against the Keystone XL pipeline; in October 2012 her organization persuaded the Walt Disney Company to stop using paper derived from the destruction of endangered forests and animals.
Becky was a friend, an ally and an inspiration. She'll be terribly missed.
Get more from Grist, where you can also watch a speech by Becky last October.
Another Reminder of the Dangers of Arctic Drilling -- Take Action
As if we needed another reminder of the dangers of Arctic drilling: On New Year's Eve, Shell's drillship Kulluk broke from her towlines and ran aground in Alaska's Kodiak Bay, en route from the Arctic to Seattle. The rig, carrying about 150,000 gallons of fuel and lubricant, remained stranded in rough, treacherous waters for a week until it was finally pulled free and taken to safety.
The Obama administration on Tuesday rightly ordered a full review of all operations connected with Shell's Arctic project, which has been beset by mishaps over the past several months. But the larger lesson shouldn't be ignored: Drilling for oil in the Arctic, with its hurricane-force winds and forbidding ice, is fraught with massive risk. A spill would be nearly impossible to clean up, and many of the Arctic's wild animals, like polar bears and ice seals, are already struggling to survive in the face of a warming climate.
Read this Huffington Post op-ed by the Center for Biological Diversity's Miyoko Sakashita and then speak out against Arctic drilling.
A (Lead) Bullet Dodged -- for Now
There's new hope for eagles, California condors, loons and people threatened by toxic lead ammunition. After a flurry of opposition, the National Rifle Association and its friends in Congress failed to push through a bill that would have prevented the government from regulating lead in hunting ammo. The hazardous provision had been attached to the Sportsmen's Act, a bill that initially seemed likely to pass the Senate. The Center for Biological Diversity launched a furious campaign to kill the provision, including a series of radio and print ads in Las Vegas -- home to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) -- and a powerful full-page ad in The New York Times.
The Sportsmen's Act never passed the Senate, in large part because of the strong opposition generated by the Center and our members. Thank you for standing by us. We're breathing a sigh of relief right now, but we're also fully aware that the NRA legislation could return, with the lead-poisoning provision attached to a must-pass spending bill. If it pops up again, we'll fight back -- again. Lead left in the wild needlessly kills millions of birds every year and threatens human health. It's a national tragedy that has to stop.
See our ad in The New York Times and stand up to the NRA.
50,000 Ways to Start a Conversation About Population
As 2012 drew to a close, the Center for Biological Diversity distributed 50,000 free Endangered Species Condoms to highlight the connection between human population growth and the extinction of species around the globe.
As always our enthusiastic network of volunteer distributors (more than 600 this time) found some creative ways to make a splash: Some of the condoms were handed out at the Rose Bowl Parade in Pasadena, Calif.; others were featured at a Sunday church sermon; still more were handed out at restaurants, parties and college campuses. The condoms -- which have proven to be enticing conversation-starters -- feature polar bears, panthers and other species threatened by population, habitat loss and consumption of natural resources. We'll give more of them away in 2013.
Check out our population work and then read this op-ed in The Miami Herald by Jerry Karnas, our population campaign director, about Florida's population paradox.
Wild & Weird: New Species of Venomous Armpits Discovered in Borneo
Sure, your coworker's B.O. may be a little offensive at times, but let's try to see the glass as half full, shall we? At least it's not deadly poison. Unlike the armpit secretions of deceptively adorable, big-eyed slow lorises -- a little-understood group of nocturnal primates that live in Southeast Asia. Slow lorises use their venomous pit-secretions for hunting and defense, with mother lorises smearing it on their babies to protect them.
Nycticebus kayan, a newly discovered slow loris in Borneo, accesses its poison by rubbing its hands under glands near its armpits -- not unlike Molly Shannon in Saturday Night Live -- and then applies the poison to its teeth. A bite from one of these ridiculously cute, living Beanie Boos can send a victim into anaphylactic shock, followed by death.
Unfortunately, even weaponized armpits are no match for the illegal pet trade. Read more about that, and the new discovery, in National Geographic.
Photo credits: ringed seal pup courtesy NOAA; bearded seal pup courtesy NOAA; southwestern willow flycatcher courtesy USGS; Fort Lauderdale skyline courtesy Flickr/gobucks2; loggerhead hatchling courtesy USFWS; northern spotted owl (c) Robin Silver; Rebecca Tarbotton courtesy Rainforest Action Network; polar bear by David S. Isenberg; California condor by Lorraine Paulhus; Endangered Species Condoms design (c) Lori Lieber and artwork (c) Roger Peet; slow loris courtesy Flickr/underwhelmer.
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