Endangered Species Act Protection Proposed for Wolverines
One of the West's rarest predators is finally on its way to federal protection. Under the Center for Biological Diversity's 757 species agreement, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service just proposed Endangered Species Act protection for American wolverines -- feisty, solitary hunters that once roamed a large swath of the mountainous West but are now severely threatened by climate change. There are only 250 to 300 left in the lower 48 states.
The Center has been working to protect wolverines, whose population has shrunk drastically, since 1995. Federal listing for the animals will likely put an end to Montana's plans to allow wolverine trapping and could bring reintroduction of the rare creatures to Colorado. But frustratingly, the Fish and Wildlife Service says the listing can't be used to address the biggest threat to wolverines: the global climate crisis.
"The wolverine has a reputation for killing prey many times its size, but it's no match for global climate change, which is shrinking spring snowpack across the West," said Noah Greenwald, the Center's endangered species director. "If we're going to save the wolverine and countless other wildlife species, as well as the world we all depend on, we need to take immediate steps to substantially and quickly reduce our greenhouse gas emissions."
Read more in the Los Angeles Times.
Help Us Stop Fracking -- Give Today
Hundreds of wells in California have already been fracked, but the oil and gas industry is just revving its engines for a race toward massive expansion of fracking in the Monterey Shale, a geological formation that's also home to more than 100 threatened or endangered species of plants and animals. If industry gets its way, it'll ravage public lands, destroy wildlife habitat, exacerbate the climate crisis and pollute our land and water.
The Center for Biological Diversity is leading the charge to stop the California fracking boom before it's too late. We've filed three lawsuits already, organized several public protests and are making an all-out push to raise these issues in the media. Still, we need to do more to ensure that fracking doesn't wreck our lands, water and wildlife. With your help, we can win in California and then take the fight to places like New York, Pennsylvania and Nevada.
Please consider donating today to our Don't Frack My Lands fund.
Southwestern Wolf Released Into the Wild -- And Quickly Recaptured
First the good news: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service finally -- after four years of delay -- released a new Mexican gray wolf into the wild in Arizona on Jan. 7. The bad news: Three weeks later, government agents recaptured the wolf in New Mexico and stuck him back in captivity, apparently because he had wandered outside the established territory of his intended mate, the alpha female of the Bluestem Pack, which lost its alpha male to a criminal shooting last summer.
There was more good news/bad news for Southwest wolves this week. On Wednesday it was announced that the population had increased to 75 in 2012, up from 58 a year ago. Unfortunately, the number of breeding pairs dropped from six to three. The Center for Biological Diversity has been fighting for years to increase the number of wild wolves, halt genetic inbreeding and stop government shooting and trapping of wolves.
"If wolves are truly going to return and recover in the Southwest," says the Center's Michael Robinson, "more wolves must be released into the wild."
Read more in the Arizona Daily Star.
EPA Limits Most Toxic Rat Poisons in Homes But Leaves Wildlife at Risk
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency last week put new limits on some of the most dangerous rat poisons -- excellent news for the 10,000 children accidentally exposed to rat poison in their homes every year. But the decision allows continued use of the poisons for agricultural and other purposes, threatening thousands of animals a year when they consume poisoned rodents. Wildlife poisonings and deaths have been documented in eagles, hawks, falcons, owls, bobcats, mountain lions and endangered San Joaquin kit foxes.
The EPA's order comes after years of opposition from d-CON rat-poison manufacturer Reckitt Benckiser, which has fought the EPA to limit tamper-resistant packaging and keep super-toxic rat poisons on the shelves.
"I'm very relieved the EPA has taken this significant step to protect our families from accidental poisonings," said Jonathan Evans of the Center for Biological Diversity, which works to reduce the exposure of both people and wild animals to toxins. "But wildlife, too, need protection from these cruel, indiscriminate and deadly toxins. It's time we get them out of the wild."
Read more in the San Francisco Chronicle.
Suit Launched to Save 90 Percent of Caribou's Protected Habitat
After a petition and lawsuit by the Center for Biological Diversity and allies, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2011 proposed to protect more than 375,000 acres of "critical habitat" for the endangered mountain caribou. But in November 2012 the Service finalized protection for just a tiny sliver of that area, only about 30,000 acres -- so we've filed a notice of intent to sue.
Majestic herds of woodland caribou once roamed across much of the northern lower 48 states; now only a small population -- the "mountain ecotype" of woodland caribou -- clings to life in the Rocky Mountains of northern Idaho and northeastern Washington. These last U.S. caribou are specially adapted for deep snow, with dinner plate–sized hooves that let them nimbly walk atop it, plus an amazing ability to survive on nothing but tree lichens throughout the winter.
But the caribou's hardiness can't save them from threats like snowmobiles, roads and habitat loss; they need more safeguarded acreage than the originally proposed 375,000, not less. "This reduction in protected habitat is a death sentence for mountain caribou in the United States," said the Center's Noah Greenwald.
Read more in The Spokesman-Review.
New Measures Will Help Protect Wolves in California Coyote Hunt
State wildlife officials in California refused to call off a coyote hunt in Modoc County this weekend but agreed to a series of additional measures recommended by the Center for Biological Diversity and allies. We raised serious concerns about the hunt for several reasons, including the fact that it's scheduled in an area within the range of OR-7, the first wild wolf in California in nearly nine decades.
The California Fish and Wildlife Department received almost 10,000 comments from members and supporters of the Center who opposed the coyote hunt. Thank you. On Wednesday -- following a hearing that included testimony from Amaroq Weiss, our West Coast wolf organizer -- wildlife officials agreed to tell the hunt's sponsors and participants that shooting a wolf violates state and federal law and to educate participants on the physical differences between coyotes and wolves. The agency will also provide wardens to ensure the hunt complies with the law.
We'd certainly prefer that the hunt was called off altogether, but are pleased state officials will take extra measures to reduce the risk to wolves.
Read more in the San Francisco Chronicle and watch an ABC News video about the hunt featuring Amaroq.
Suit Launched in Missouri to Protect Ozark Hellbenders
The Center for Biological Diversity and a local partner notified two federal agencies last week that we intend to sue over their failure to protect the Ozark hellbender, Hine's emerald dragonfly, Tumbling Creek cavesnail and two endangered mussels in Missouri's Mark Twain National Forest. We want the U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to revisit the Mark Twain's 2005 forest plan to make changes that will help save endangered species and essential habitats on the forest -- aquatic species that have gained their federally protected status since 2005.
"Poorly managed recreation and timber harvest pollutes waterways on the Mark Twain National Forest that the Ozark hellbender needs to survive," said the Center's Collette Adkins Giese. "To save the hellbender, we have to protect the rivers that people treasure, too, for drinking water, fishing and boating."
The lawsuit will likely result in forest-plan amendments -- for instance, a prohibition on construction of bridges or boat ramps near hellbender habitat.
Check out this St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorial.
Live in the Northeast? Help Us Celebrate the Endangered Species Act
The Endangered Species Act turns 40 later this year. There's never been a better time to hail the success of this landmark law -- and defend it from those in Congress who want to see it weakened. All year long we're teaming up with the Endangered Species Coalition on a campaign called "A Wild Success: Celebrating 40 Years of the Endangered Species Act."
As part of this campaign, each month we're asking citizens in one region to write letters to the editors of their local newspapers. In February we're featuring states in the Northeast, where the Act has helped save and recover bald eagles, shortnose sturgeon and the Atlantic piping plover.
If you live in the Northeast and want to help, join our select group of ESActivists and then learn more about how species are recovering across the country.
Wild & Weird: Sperm Whales Adopt Disabled Dolphin
Sperm whales like Moby Dick, the villainous white whale from Herman Melville's classic novel, may be due for a public-relations makeover. According to a forthcoming paper in the journal Aquatic Mammals, scientists have discovered what appears to be the adoption of a malformed bottlenose dolphin by a pod of sperm whales.
The dolphin calf, which has a rare spinal curvature that probably stops it from keeping up with its own kind, was observed traveling for many days with a pod of whales. The scientists saw the whales nuzzling and playing with the dolphin.
"It really looked like they had accepted the dolphin for whatever reason," said one of the scientists. "They were being very sociable." He also said that as far as he knew, sperm whales -- fairly aloof cetaceans -- have never been known to mingle with another species in this way.
Read more in National Geographic and watch a video of the dolphin and whales.
Photo credits: American wolverine courtesy Flickr/Josh More; American wolverine by Audrey Magoun, USFWS, masterimages.org; San Francisco fracking protest by Patrick Sullivan, Center for Biological Diversity; Mexican gray wolf by Robin Silver, Center for Biological Diversity; San Joaquin kit fox by Heather Bell, USFWS; mountain caribou courtesy USFWS; coyote by Robin Silver, Center for Biological Diversity; Ozark hellbender courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Brian Gratwicke; piping plover by Sidney Maddock; dolphin and sperm whales courtesy Alexander Wilson and Aquatic Mammals.
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