No. 658, February 28, 2013
Shell Pulls Out of Arctic Drilling This Summer
Great news for the Arctic, polar bears and other creatures of the Far North: Shell Oil has announced it won't drill in Alaska's Beaufort or Chukchi seas this summer. Wednesday's announcement follows a series of mishaps for Shell in the Arctic, including one of its drilling rigs running aground earlier this year.
The Center for Biological Diversity and allies have been pushing for years to stop drilling in the Arctic ocean, home to polar bears and other imperiled creatures that would be devastated by an oil spill. More than a million people sent messages to President Obama last year urging him not to allow Arctic drilling. Shell began exploratory drilling operations last summer but was beset by a series of mishaps.
"Although Shell calls this simply a 'pause' in its plans for Arctic drilling, we think it ought to be a permanent stop," said Rebecca Noblin, the Center's Alaska director. "Drilling in the Arctic can never be made safe for polar bears, whales and ice seals or the fragile ecosystems where they live. President Obama ought to use the opportunity to rethink his support for Arctic drilling and take if off the table forever."
Coincidentally, Wednesday was also International Polar Bear Day. What a great way to celebrate.
Read more in The New York Times.
Poll: Americans Connect Population With Wildlife Extinctions, Climate Crisis
A new national poll commissioned by the Center for Biological Diversity found that a majority of Americans -- 60 percent -- believe the world's growing human population is driving wildlife species toward extinction; 57 percent say human population is making climate change worse. A majority of Americans (54 percent) also say stabilizing the human population will protect the environment.
The poll, conducted by Public Policy Polling last weekend, also found that 60 percent believe our society has a "moral responsibility" to address wildlife extinctions in the face of a growing population. That's important vindication for the work the Center's been doing for years highlighting the connection between population growth and wildlife declines and other environmental problems.
"It's now more clear than ever that Americans are concerned about the toll that human population growth is having on wildlife and the planet," said Jerry Karnas, population campaign director at the Center. "Population is clearly a driving factor in so many of our environmental issues today, whether it's sprawling development crowding out Florida panthers and sea turtles, loss of wild habitat for San Joaquin kit foxes in California or the climate crisis pushing polar bears and ice seals toward extinction. It's heartening to see that most Americans understand these connections and don't want to see them ignored."
Read more about our poll in an op-ed from Jerry in The Daily Beast the share it on Facebook and Twitter.
New Video Highlights Border Patrol's Wilderness Destruction
The Sierra Club and the Center for Biological Diversity just released a new video depicting destruction by Border Patrol vehicles driving through Organ Pipe National Monument and the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge -- both designated wilderness areas in Arizona, along the U.S.-Mexico border. Cyndi Tuell, a Tucson-based conservation advocate with the Center, is featured in the video, called Too Many Tracks.
The ruts, tracks and new roads slicing through once-pristine wilderness are in areas where motorized vehicle travel is prohibited by law. In 2011 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service documented more than 8,000 miles of vehicle tracks and roads in the refuge and linked much of that disturbance to U.S Border Patrol operations.
"These roads and vehicle tracks cause tremendous damage to some of America's wildest public lands," says Cyndi. "These are beautiful, fragile desert ecosystems that will take decades or even centuries to recover."
Check out the video, then read our press release.
Endangered Wildlife Threatened by Deadly Rat Poisons -- Take Action
Extremely dangerous, "super-toxic" rat poisons known as second-generation anticoagulant rodenticides pose severe health risks to pets and children: In some cases, accidental poisonings even result in death. But the chemicals are also extremely dangerous to wild animals that eat the poisoned rodents.
In California alone poisonings and deaths have been documented in eagles, hawks, falcons, owls, bobcats, mountain lions, and endangered Pacific fishers and San Joaquin kit foxes. In fact, studies have documented second-generation anticoagulants in more than 70 percent of wildlife tested.
In an effort to protect wildlife from these needless poisonings, the Center for Biological Diversity has filed a formal notice of intent to sue the California Department of Pesticide Regulation. With safe and cost-effective alternatives available, there's no reason to leave the worst poisons on the market.
Listen to this story on KMUD and then take action to get super-toxic rat poisons off the shelves.
California’s Draft Fracking Rules Among Weakest in Nation
As oil companies gear up for a hydraulic fracturing boom in California, state regulators have proposed industry-friendly fracking regulations that would do little to protect the state’s air, water and wildlife from pollution. The Center for Biological Diversity, in comments submitted this week, is pressing officials to recognize that the draft fracking rules fail to protect the public and fall far short of legal requirements.
In a boisterous public meeting in Los Angeles earlier this month, the Center’s Kassie Siegel told California officials that their proposal would not allow for a real assessment of the impacts of fracking, or for compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act. The state’s proposal to exempt fracking with diesel from the state’s Underground Injection Control Program would also violate the federal Safe Drinking Water Act. The federal government has already criticized California's Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources for not doing enough to protect state water from oil industry pollution.
The Center also pointed out other fatal flaws in the draft regulations and urged state officials to replace the extraordinarily weak regulatory proposal with a simple prohibition on fracking.
Read more in the Center’s comment letter.
Saving Predators May Help Save Climate
Sure, predators regulate prey -- simply by eating them. But a new study shows that, at least in freshwater ecosystems, these food-chain top dogs are also key characters in curbing carbon pollution. In a project published in Nature Geoscience, when researchers removed all of two prime predators from certain streams and ponds, they found these ecosystems emit a lot more carbon dioxide than normal aquatic networks: 93 percent more.
In the water or on land, when you eliminate creatures that eat creatures that eat plant matter, plant-eaters proliferate while plants decline. Since plants absorb CO2, and CO2 emissions are a primary cause of global warming, this means predator loss could worsen the looming climate crisis.
And of course freshwater predators are already disappearing from their watery habitats, killed off by threats like pollution, development and drought -- which itself is a common result of climate change. Significantly, one of the two predators targeted in the new study was a fish called the threespine stickleback, whose subspecies the unarmored threespine stickleback has been on the endangered species list since 1970. The Center for Biological Diversity has long been defending this tiny, scaleless fish and fighting greenhouse gas emissions, doing our utmost to block frightening feedback loops driving climate change -- just like the one dooming predator-poor freshwater ecosystems.
Read more in Mother Jones.
BLM Pushes Destructive Plan in Arizona's Ironwood Forest
A new management plan for southern Arizona's Ironwood Forest National Monument leaves fragile deserts and endangered species vulnerable to off-road vehicle destruction and fails to protect wilderness values across 74 percent of the monument's wilderness-quality lands. All told, the Bureau of Land Management wants to open more than 100,000 acres to ORV use on 124 miles of designated motorized routes, all of which can destroy species like desert tortoises and damage the very archaeological sites the monument was created to protect.
The 129,000-acre Ironwood Forest National Monument was designated in 2000 by former President Bill Clinton. Its namesake ironwood tree is among the region's oldest-growing trees. Several endangered species live in the monument, including Nichols Turk's head cactuses, lesser long-nosed bats and cactus ferruginous pygmy owls. The monument's population of desert bighorn sheep is the last viable native population in the Tucson basin.
Read more in our press release.
Rare Sea Turtle May Meet Extinction in 20 Years
Breaking -- and heartbreaking -- news about endangered leatherback sea turtles: If current declines continue, scientists said this week, their unique western Pacific population may completely die out in just two decades.
Leatherbacks are the world's largest turtles and champion swimmers and divers. These massive yet majestic creatures are federally protected everywhere they travel, from the Atlantic to the Pacific. But the western Pacific population, which feeds in West Coast waters, is the most endangered. An international study released Tuesday found that since 1984, nesting sea turtles have declined 5.9 percent per year at the last large nesting site in the entire Pacific, in Indonesia; in addition, at a site accounting for 75 percent of total leatherback nesting in the western Pacific, nests have fallen from 14,455 in 1984 to a frightening low of 1,532 in 2011.
The Center for Biological Diversity has been working for leatherbacks for more than a decade, last year finally earning them federally protected "critical habitat" -- more than 40,000 square miles -- of coastal waters off Washington, Oregon and California. But, says the Center's Catherine Kilduff: "This study is a grim warning that we're not doing enough to save leatherback sea turtles or their ocean home. The problems they face -- climate change, plastic pollution, fisheries that catch far more than fish -- are problems that threaten us, too. We need to act now."
Read more in The Huffington Post.
Wild & Weird: A Man and His Manatee -- Watch Video
According to Tea Party speaker and author Michael Coffman, government regulations that prohibit riding on the backs of Florida manatees bring us one step closer to, uh, fascism.
"There is nothing in the Constitution that allows the federal government to get into state rights' issues like riding the manatee," Coffman told John Stewart's The Daily Show, adding: "Today we can't ride a manatee, tomorrow we won't be able to open a business."
Should riding a gentle sea cow be considered a fundamental American freedom? Will jack-booted sea cow conservationists take away the homes of god-fearing citizens? We're betting against it. And hey -- manatees deserve freedom from tyranny too.
Check out Coffman's interview on The Daily Show.
Photo credits: polar bears and bearded seal (c) Larry Master, masterimages.org; Florida panther courtesy Flickr/Mac Jewell; Border Patrol tracks in Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge courtesy Flickr/Michael Lusk; Pacific fisher courtesy Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife; fracking rig by Rose Braz, Center for Biological Diversity; unarmored threespine stickleback courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Barrett Paul, USFWS; cactus ferruginous pygmy owls courtesy NPS; leatherback sea turtle by Scott R. Benson, NOAA; Florida manatee courtesy USFWS.
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