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Great White Sharks Move Closer to Protection in California

Great white sharkFollowing a petition submitted by the Center for Biological Diversity and two partners in August, great white sharks living off the coast of California are now official candidates for protection under the state's Endangered Species Act. California's Fish and Game Commission voted last week to begin a one-year study of this white shark population to find out if it qualifies for state protection.

With only about 350 adult sharks estimated to remain along the entire West Coast, there may be fewer than 100 reproductive females in existence -- a dangerously low number. The targeting and sale of white sharks is already banned, but these ocean predators are all too often caught and killed accidentally by fisheries targeting swordfish, California halibut and white sea bass.

"Sharks are such amazing animals. But despite their power, they're actually incredibly vulnerable to the terrible way we treat our ocean," said the Center's Emily Jeffers.

The three groups have also submitted a petition to protect the West Coast's great whites under the federal Endangered Species Act. A decision is expected in June 2013.

Get more from Reuters.

Obama Vows Action on Climate Change

Polar bearFor the second time in a month, President Obama has vowed to take action on climate change. We hope he means what he says, because if the climate crisis is going to be effectively tackled we need strong action now. Obama's latest statements came during Tuesday's State of the Union address. Importantly, the president said he'd push changes forward even if Congress doesn't.

A day before Obama's speech, the Center for Biological Diversity laid out five executive actions the president should take, including full use of the Clean Air Act to cut greenhouse pollution; a national carbon pollution tax, a ban on fracking on public lands; rejection of Arctic drilling and the Keystone XL pipeline; and joining the world in a fair and binding climate treaty.

"Every day of delay is a day closer to climate catastrophe," said Kierán Suckling, the Center's executive director. "We need bold, strong leadership that pushes through immediate policies that will result in significant reductions in carbon pollution."

Read more about what Obama should do in The Progressive.

Rare Southern California Plant Gets 9,600 Acres of Protected Habitat

Coachella Valley milk vetchA rare plant that only lives in Southern California is finally getting protected habitat. The Coachella Valley milk vetch, which has been protected under the Endangered Species Act since 1998, will now have four areas of protected habitat in Riverside County, amounting to 9,600 acres.

Tuesday's decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service came in response to a lawsuit filed by the Center for Biological Diversity in 2009 that challenged a Bush-era decision not to protect any habitat for the plant. The Coachella Valley milk vetch, related to peas, is a short-lived perennial covered with white, silky hairs and beautiful purple flowers. It's threatened by development, groundwater pumping, nonnative plant species, off-highway vehicle impacts and alteration of stream flows.

Read more in E&E News.

Tell Feds Not to Abandon Wolf Recovery -- Take Action

Gray wolfThe U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is poised to strip Endangered Species Act protections from wolves across the lower 48 -- even though the animals have only just begun to recover in most portions of their former range. In fact, wolves today occupy a mere 5 percent of their historic habitat. There's still plenty of suitable wolf country in places like the Pacific Northwest, California, the southern Rockies and the Northeast; the job of returning wolves to the American landscape is far from complete.

Fortunately some members of Congress are stepping in. Representatives Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.) are circulating a letter to the Fish and Wildlife Service opposing the premature removal of wolf protections. Congressman Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) is a leading signatory.

We need your help to make sure Congress keeps badly needed wolf protections in place. Call your member of Congress and then email her or him today.

Latest Endangered Species Act Success Story: The Island Night Lizard

Island night lizardThe island night lizard, which lives only on California's Channel Islands, is the latest Endangered Species Act success story. Last week the U.S. Fish and Wildlife said the lizard -- protected since 1977 -- has recovered to the point where protections under the Act can be lifted.

The four-inch lizard was pushed to the brink of extinction through habitat destruction by nonnative goats and pigs. Removal of those goats and pigs was a key part of a recovery plan written in 1984. Today there are more than 21 million island night lizards living on the Channel Islands.

"The recovery of the island night lizard and its habitat is a real cause for celebration, both for this animal and for the Endangered Species Act, with its long record of success," said Collette Adkins Giese, the Center for Biological Diversity's specialist on reptiles and amphibians. "Through the cooperative efforts of federal agencies, this once-vanishing species is now on a steady path to survival."

Get more from Reptile Channel and in our special report about species recovering around the country.

Bobcat Trapping On the Rise in California

BobcatBobcats are amazing, hardy creatures, capable of traveling 25 to 30 miles a day and of roaming through suburbs other big cats can't abide. But they can't see invisible lines in the sand. That's a problem in Southern California's Joshua Tree National Park, because, while bobcats are safe inside the park, they're increasingly falling prey to trappers just outside the boundaries.

Bobcats are trapped for their pelts, which can fetch up to $600 in places like China and Russia. The number of commercial trappers killing bobcats in California has more than doubled in the past year as pelt prices soared. Residents of Joshua Tree recently discovered traps on the boundaries of the national park, and several well-known bobcats, who'd prowled the park boundaries for years, suddenly disappeared this trapping season. But the problem is not limited to Joshua Tree; trapping of bobcats is booming throughout California.

You'd think that lining the boundary of a national park with traps to kill the park's wildlife would be illegal, but in California it's unfortunately perfectly legal. The Center for Biological Diversity is launching a statewide campaign to change the law and ban this archaic and cruel practice.

Read this in the Los Angeles Times. Then, if you live in California, please take action today to end bobcat trapping in the Golden State.

Biodiversity Briefing: Top Campaigns for 2013 -- Listen Now

Pacific walrusesThe Center for Biological Diversity's key campaigns for 2013 were the subject of our most recent quarterly "Biodiversity Briefing" phone call with Assistant Executive Director Sarah Bergman.

All year long we'll celebrate the Endangered Species Act's 40th anniversary, calling on supporters to write letters to the editor and hold local events highlighting the Act's success. Up in Alaska the Center will defend polar bears, Pacific walruses and their Arctic habitat from oil drilling and climate change -- which we'll also battle throughout the country via our Clean Air Cities campaign. We'll fight for corals and other ocean species threatened by acidification; ensure the feds move forward on our historic 757 species agreement; and ramp up our work against toxics, lead and dangerous fracking. We'll also expand our groundbreaking 7 Billion and Counting campaign highlighting the link between population growth and species extinction, including bringing more environmental groups to the issue and giving away more of our Endangered Species Condoms.

Listen to a recording of Sarah's briefing and check out her accompanying Web presentation. These personal phone briefings, including Q&A sessions, are open to all members of the Center's Leadership Circle and Legacy Society. For information on how to join and be invited to participate live on the calls, email Major Gifts Associate Julie Ragland or call her at (520) 623-5252 x 304.

Happy Valentine's Day -- Send Out Our Free Endangered Species E-cards

Prairie dogsAt the Center for Biological Diversity we don't need roses or chocolates for Valentine's Day; we need to curb the extinction crisis and stand up for our planet's last wild places. We're fighters like that -- but hey, man, we're lovers too. We've got a soft spot for all the critters we work to save.

This Valentine's Day we're offering you a chance to show your love for some of these species. We've created six new Valentine's Day endangered species e-postcards, a great way to share the love we all feel for imperiled species as diverse as gray wolves, boreal toads and prairie dogs. Send the cards to friends, family or even a secret crush.

Wild & Weird: Why One Small, Adorable Birdie Is Called the Zombie Tit

Great titCommon throughout Europe and Asia, the great tit (Parus major) is a colorful wee bird that produces a lovely, chirping song. It's also known to many as the zombie tit, and for terribly good reason. Like all birds, zombie tits belong to a subgroup of therapods, making them living descendants of some of the dinosaur kingdom's fiercest predators -- think T. rex.

And yeah -- those sweet-looking little zombie tits also eat brains. They eat bat brains, the brains of other birds -- brains, brains and more brains. While most of their diet consists of insects, seeds and fruit, zombie tits have also been documented cracking and slurping the skulls of 10 birds for a single meal. They'll even sneak into caves to gulp down the cranial contents of hibernating bats.

Yet more evidence that ferocious dinosaurs live on.

Check out this recording of the zombie tit's seemingly innocent birdsong; read more about its ravenous appetite for gray matter in Scientific American; check out these disturbing photos of the tit's victims at the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

Kierán Suckling
Executive Director

Photo credits: great white shark courtesy Flickr/Hermanus Backpackers; great white shark courtesy Flickr/Ken Bondy; polar bear courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Ansgar Walk; Coachella Valley milk vetch courtesy California Department of Fish and Wildlife; gray wolf courtesy Flickr/Diane Hammond; island night lizard by Charles Drost, NPS; bobcat by Annica Kreuter; Pacific walrus cow and calf courtesy Flickr/Joel Garlich-Miller, USFWS; prairie dogs (c) William C. Gladish; great tit courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Luc Viatour.

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