Protection Proposed for Rare Sage Grouse, Plus 1.7 Million Acres
Under the Center for Biological Diversity's landmark 757 species agreement, rare and spectacular Gunnison sage grouse have now been proposed for Endangered Species Act protection -- along with more than 1.7 million acres of habitat. These birds and their sagebrush home have needed help for decades -- yet in response to a 2000 petition from conservation groups, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service gave the grouse mere "candidate" status. Finally, last week, the bird was proposed for protection to help defend it from livestock grazing, oil and gas drilling and other threats.
Gunnison sage grouse, which are distinct from all other sage grouse species, occur in just seven small populations in southwest Colorado and southeast Utah. Males are remarkable in appearance, with flashy plumage and inflatable air sacs. Their intricate mating performances are unique, involving different vocalizations and "dance moves" from those displayed by their cousins: Upon ending their courtship dances, for instance, Gunnison sage grouse wag their tails.
Read more in the San Francisco Chronicle.
Sweeping New Climate Report Paints Alarming Picture of Future
A new report says the United States is already suffering the effects of the global climate crisis, which threatens future food supplies, increases the risk of flooding and powerful hurricanes and, if left unchecked, could warm the country catastrophically -- by as much as 10 degrees by 2100. The draft National Climate Assessment, released this week, says that by the end of the century, if current greenhouse gas emissions continue on their current path, "what now seems like an extreme heat wave will become commonplace."
The Center for Biological Diversity was the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit that forced the federal government to release the long-overdue second national climate assessment in 2008.
"This report gives Americans a disturbing preview of a harsh future ruled by climate chaos," said Shaye Wolf, the Center's climate science director. "Our country will suffer searing heat, surging seas and terrifying storms unless we act immediately against greenhouse gas pollution. Fighting climate change should be the first thing on President Obama's mind in the morning and his last thought before bed."
Read more in City Watch, learn the report's five most troubling predictions in our press release, and check out our campaign to enforce national assessment of climate change effects.
As Salazar Departs Interior, New Calls to Nominate Grijalva
Now that Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has announced he's leaving in March, President Barack Obama has a historic opportunity to nominate someone who'll put a renewed emphasis on critical issues like the climate crisis, protecting endangered species and preserving water and wildlands. The Center for Biological Diversity, joined by more than 200 other groups, is renewing our call for the president to nominate Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) as the next interior secretary.
The broad coalition has sent a letter to President Obama in support of Mr. Grijalva. The nationwide coalition includes conservation, Hispanic, recreation, animal welfare, religious, labor, youth and women's groups. We need someone who'll unflinchingly protect national parks, wildlife, refuge, deserts, forests and rivers.
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.
Read more in The Huffington Post.
Beautiful Bolivian Bird Flies Toward Protections
In the latest good news for the Center for Biological Diversity's International Birds Initiative, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Monday proposed to protect Bolivia's colorful blue-throated macaw under the Endangered Species Act. The Center has been working to protect this and scores of other exotic avians across the globe since 2003, when we first sued the Service over its delay in proposing protections for 73 foreign birds. As a result of that lawsuit, the Service issued a long-overdue finding that more than 50 of the species warranted protection, but kept insisting it had to delay that protection because of higher-priority actions. Since then more Center lawsuits (in 2006 and 2009) have advanced safeguards for many of these rare birds.
The blue-throated macaw, which has been waiting for final protection since 1991, suffers from trapping (primarily for the pet trade), with possibly only 100 birds left alive in the wild. U.S. protection should grant tighter trade restrictions and increased conservation funding to this long-tailed, gorgeous turquoise-and-yellow parrot.
Get more from the Courthouse News Service.
New Yorkers Protest Fracking -- Now Don't Frack California
At least 1,000 protesters recently rallied in Albany, N.Y., to tell Gov. Andrew Cuomo to say no to fracking. New York has a temporary moratorium on fracking, but Cuomo is considering regulations that would allow the practice in the state -- exposing people, wildlife and wildlands to all of fracking's dangers, including massive methane emissions, water pollution and the production of more dirty fossil fuels. More than 120,000 comments against fracking were also submitted to Cuomo, thousands of which were sent by Center for Biological Diversity supporters. Thank you.
Meanwhile the Center's also mobilizing in California -- where state officials don't yet regulate or even monitor fracking -- to ban the practice. Fracking for oil and gas is already happening in at least nine California counties, and high oil prices are speeding its spread. State officials are now floating draft regulations that -- like New York's -- will do painfully little to protect the environment or public health.
On Tuesday Center Senior Counsel Brendan Cummings presented arguments in a court hearing in San Jose in a challenge to the Bureau of Land Management's leasing of public land for fracking in California -- a key part of our anti-fracking campaign.
Learn more about the New York protest from WBNG News, read about California fracking, and take action to tell California: Ban fracking now.
Appeals Court Opens Door to Disclosure of Gulf Spill Chemicals
A federal appeals court ruled last week that a lower court had erred in dismissing the Center for Biological Diversity's suit seeking full disclosure of the amount and type of chemicals that spilled into the Gulf of Mexico during 2010's Deepwater Horizon spill. The disaster killed 11 people and spewed 200 million gallons of oil, methane and other toxins.
The Center filed a lawsuit in summer 2010, seeking $20 billion in penalties from BP and Transocean under the Clean Water Act to restore the Gulf -- as well as full disclosure, under a federal right-to-know law, of everything that was spilled. The latest court decision denied the Clean Water Act claims, unfortunately, but offered new hope for the disclosure of chemicals.
"The public deserves to know exactly what toxins were spilled into our ocean during the Gulf spill, so we're very pleased to be a step closer with this ruling," said Miyoko Sakashita, oceans director at the Center.
Read more in The Times-Picayune.
Pacific Bluefin Tuna Levels Fall 96 Percent -- Take Action
Like Atlantic bluefin tuna, Pacific bluefin tuna easily traverse the ocean -- except when they're snagged and slaughtered by commercial fisheries for an enormous profit. Just like their Atlantic relatives, Pacific bluefin are in dire need of respite from overfishing -- a fact now well-supported by a scientific report released last week concluding that their population is at a historic low, having declined an astonishing estimated 96.4 percent from unfished levels.
Only a few days before the report came out, a single Pacific bluefin brought $1.76 million in a Tokyo auction. And due to overfishing, most Pacific bluefin tuna don't even have a chance to reproduce before becoming sushi. Today more than 90 percent of bluefin caught haven't yet reached two years old; 70 percent of those bluefin are younger than a year -- just babies, considering Pacific bluefin usually live 15 to 30 years.
Read more in The Boston Globe and join the Center's Bluefin Boycott campaign by signing our pledge not to buy bluefin.
A Year After Mining Halt, Uranium Threats to Grand Canyon Still Loom
One year after the federal government enacted new protections limiting uranium-mine development on 1 million acres around Grand Canyon National Park, following years of advocacy by the Center for Biological Diversity and allies, pollution and legal threats from the uranium industry remain. Five uranium-industry suits -- one seeking $120 million from U.S. taxpayers -- as well as plans to reopen two 1980s mines still threaten public and tribal land and water in and around the world-famous park.
Consolidated into one suit, the claims are now before a federal district court in Arizona; to defend the protection of Grand Canyon lands from uranium mining, the Havasupai Tribe and conservation groups have intervened in that suit.
"The Obama administration's agencies are allowing old mines to reopen without updating ancient environmental studies," said Taylor McKinnon, the Center's wildlands campaigns director. "These mines will bring the same pollution the mineral restrictions intended to block. Their approval in the 1980s was a terrible idea; allowing them to reopen now on the basis of out-of-date science is even worse."
Read more in our press release.
Save Our Vanishing Coral Reefs -- Take Action
In a watershed victory for imperiled marine animals late last year, the National Marine Fisheries Service (responding to a petition by the Center for Biological Diversity) proposed protections for 66 corals under the Endangered Species Act. Now our vanishing corals need your help to ensure the proposed protections become reality.
The decision proposes listing 54 corals as "threatened" and 12 as "endangered." Among the proposed listings are upgrades to "endangered" for elkhorn and staghorn corals, which won protections in 2006 as a result of work by the Center.
Global warming and ocean acidification are inflicting widespread damage to corals and reefs. It's vital that these corals get the help they need from the Endangered Species Act.
Please take action now to tell the National Marine Fisheries Service to advance coral protections; you can even attend one of several planned public hearings. Then read more about the Center's coral conservation work.
Wild & Weird: Rootin' Tootin' Bandit Mouse Eats Scorpion, Howls at Moon
Forget Billy the Kid and Pancho Villa. Onychomys torridus -- a small, carnivorous mouse with tiny pink paws -- may just be the roughest, toughest outlaw the West has ever known.
Also called the grasshopper mouse, this adorable bandito prowls the harsh arid badlands of the Sonoran desert in the United States and Mexico, stalking crickets, rodents, scorpions and tarantulas to sate its monstrous hunger. It battles other rodents, driving them away by force up to and including death; it also steals their burrows. Scientists believe grasshopper mice collect a variety of fleas -- perhaps as grisly souvenirs? -- from their rodent victims, some of which they cannibalize.
And get this: After biting the head off a scorpion and feasting on its flesh, this mouse has been known to throw its head back in wild delight and howl at the moon. Seriously.
Read more about grasshopper mice and their resistance to venom in New Scientist; watch this video of one hunting a tarantula and a scorpion; and check out a video of one howling like a wolf.
Photo credits: Gunnison sage grouse courtesy USFWS; Gunnison sage grouse courtesy the city of Gunnison; polar bears by Pete Spruance; official staff photo of Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.); blue-throated macaw courtesy Flickr/David Burton; fracking protestor by Patrick Sullivan; Deepwater Horizon explosion courtesy U.S. Coast Guard; bluefin tuna courtesy NOAA; Grand Canyon courtesy Wikimedia Commons/chensiyuan; staghorn coral courtesy NOAA; grasshopper mouse courtesy the state of Texas.
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