Polar Bear Victory: Court Upholds Protection, Confirms Global Warming Threat
Polar bears will keep their hard-won federal protections. On Friday the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed efforts by the state of Alaska, polar bear trophy hunters and others to strip polar bears of their Endangered Species Act protection. It upheld the government's 2008 decision -- responding to a Center for Biological Diversity petition and litigation -- to protect the Arctic bears as threatened throughout their range.
The appeals court ruled that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's decision to protect the bear due to the melting of Arctic sea ice was well supported in every regard. The court also noted the listing decision was, if anything, underprotective of polar bears, rather than overprotective as the state of Alaska had claimed. Global warming is robbing polar bears of the sea ice they need to survive. Left unchecked, two-thirds of the world's polar bears, including all in Alaska, could be gone by 2050.
''If we're going to save polar bears, the Obama administration needs to move swiftly to cut greenhouse pollution," said Kassie Siegel, director of the Center's Climate Law Institute.
Also in breaking news today, the international community lost an opportunity to ban the trade in polar bear parts -- especially rugs -- when Canada successfully opposed a U.S.-backed ban under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species to keep the animals from being commercially hunted. Check next week’s edition for more details.
Read more in the Los Angeles Times.
Keystone XL Moves Closer to Approval -- Take Action
The Obama administration has released an ''environmental impact statement" on the Keystone XL project -- moving this dirty, disastrous oil pipeline one step closer to approval. Keystone XL would cross the heart of the Midwest and deliver oil from Canada's tar sands all the way to the Gulf of Mexico, where much of it would be exported to other countries. Along the way the pipeline would cut through rivers, streams and prime wildlife habitat -- including habitat for at least 20 rare and vanishing species, including whooping cranes and pallid sturgeon.
The planned pipeline would ship, every day, up to 35 million gallons of the dirtiest oil on the planet to refineries on the Gulf Coast. Keystone XL will move us closer to climate catastrophe, threaten our land and water with spills and encourage further strip mining -- bringing destruction of a boreal forest the size of Florida.
Read more in GlobalPost, then take action to tell the administration to reject Keystone XL.
Wolves Poised to Lose Protections -- Give Today to Fight Back
Around 2,000 wolves have been killed in states where Endangered Species Act protections were prematurely lifted in 2011, including 1,200 in 2012 alone. Now Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has proposed removing federal protections for nearly all wolves in the lower 48 states this month -- essentially giving up on recovering wolves in places like California, Oregon, Washington and Colorado.
The fact is, though, that wolves today occupy just 5 percent of their historic range. There's much more work to be done to bring them back to their rightful place in the landscape. The first step, though, will be stopping Salazar from stripping wolf protections as his farewell act. Earlier this week, more than 50 members of Congress sent a letter asking the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to reverse course and keep wolves protected.
The Center for Biological Diversity has been fighting for decades to save wolves, and we're at a critical tipping point now to stop the stripping of protections for these incredible animals. We urgently need your help.
Stand with us now by giving to our Wolf Defense Fund and join us to beat back these attacks on America's wolves.
Poll: Americans Support Endangered Species Act -- Speak Out in California
A new national poll commissioned by the Center for Biological Diversity finds that two out of three Americans want the Endangered Species Act strengthened or left alone, but not weakened. More people also said the United States is still not doing enough to protect species from extinction. The poll comes as anti-wildlife politicians in Congress are revving their engines once more for a new assault on the Act.
The Endangered Species Act turns 40 later this year. There's never been a better time to hail (and defend) the success of this landmark law. 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." Each month we're asking citizens in one region or state to write letters to the editors of their local newspapers. This month we're featuring California, where the Act has an impressive track record.
Read about the new poll in our press release and then join our select group of ESActivists and learn more about how species are recovering across the country.
20,000 Acres of California Forest Protected
After much work by environmental groups and green Northern California residents -- supported by the Center for Biological Diversity -- forests won over the vineyard industry in one of the largest conservation purchases along the North Coast in years. A $24.5 million deal was reached last week to set aside a 20,000-acre chunk of timberland forest in northwestern Sonoma County, dubbed Preservation Ranch, thus derailing a state proposal to transform part of it into vineyards that would have decimated habitat for imperiled species, hurt steelhead trout and coho salmon and eliminated the forest's capacity to sequester climate-changing carbon.
The Center has recently been involved in the forest-to-vineyard-conversion battle in Northern California, defending beautiful, biodiverse woods from being plowed over -- while their precious waterways are drained -- to grow wine grapes. We're now in court over a different damaging proposed vineyard forest grab, known as the Fairfax project, also in the Sonoma area.
Read more in the Press Democrat.
Bat-killing Disease Reaches Illinois
White-nose syndrome, the devastating disease that has killed nearly 7 million bats in the United States, has spread to Illinois. State wildlife officials confirmed that little brown bats and northern long-eared bats in four Illinois counties tested positive for the disease. There's no known cure for white-nose syndrome, and it's believed the fungus that causes it can be spread to new caves by human visitors.
In 2010 the Center for Biological Diversity petitioned to protect little brown, eastern small-footed and northern long-eared bats under the Endangered Species Act. The Center has also called for the closure of publicly owned caves to human visitation in all but scientific or emergency circumstances to prevent the spread of the fungus.
''If we're serious about stemming the spread of this disease and preserving bat populations throughout North America, we have to do what's needed. Right now that means an all-out effort by the government to ensure white-nose syndrome is not made worse by people spreading it to new parts of the country," says the Center's bat advocate Mollie Matteson.
Read more in our press release.
California Bill Would Protect Bobcats From Commercial Fur Trapping
Following a sharp rise in bobcat trapping in California, state Assembly Member Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica) has introduced legislation to prohibit commercial trapping of bobcats in the state. Prices for pelts have risen, as has the number of bobcats being killed, to meet overseas demand; during the 2012-2013 trapping season, bobcat trapping created public controversy after traps were found by property owners on private lands along the boundaries of Joshua Tree National Park. Numerous locally familiar, well-loved bobcats abruptly disappeared during trapping season.
The proposed law would ban the commercial trapping of bobcats in California, along with the commercial sale and export of their pelts.
''Under California's antiquated trapping laws, it's perfectly legal for trappers to line the boundary of a national park with traps, kill the park's wildlife, and ship the animals' pelts to international markets," said Brendan Cummings, director of the Center for Biological Diversity's Wildlands program. ''Bobcats are being killed for the private profit of a few individuals engaged in the international fur trade. But these beautiful animals are far more valuable to the state as a living component of our wild heritage."
Read more in the Los Angeles Times.
The Spine of the Continent: Jaguars, Wolves, Center in New Book
From the Yukon to Mexico, the vast expanse of the Rocky Mountains and associated ranges are rich with pristine, breathtaking landscapes and well-loved wildlife like the pika, grizzly bear, gray wolf and jaguar. But human threats, from development to climate change, are fracturing the habitat that makes up our continent's backbone, isolating species and endangering ecosystems. So a coalition of groups has launched the "Spine of the Continent Initiative": a coordinated, international conservation action to protect and connect this network of mountains, basins, deserts and plateaus.
Author, environmentalist and Center for Biological Diversity supporter Mary Ellen Hannibal has explored North America's spine from top to bottom and past to present, revealing her findings in her engaging new book The Spine of the Continent: The Most Ambitious Wildlife Conservation Effort Ever Undertaken. The book includes observations, anecdotes and interactions with leading conservationists, including the Center's Michael Robinson, Shaye Wolf, Kassie Siegel and Executive Director Kierán Suckling.
On Saturday Hannibal will be in Tucson to talk about her book, including stories of local wildlife conservation work for jaguars, borderlands and wildlife corridors. Please join Center staff there if you're in Tucson and learn more about Mary Ellen Hannibal.
Wild & Weird: Fossilized Lightning Tells an Ancient Story
Even something as evanescent as lightning can tell a tale.
"Fulgurites" are geological formations created when lightning pierces the earth, melting the sand to form a glassy, hollow, tubular cast of the bolt. Scientists can date these petrified electrical discharges and gather data from them on ancient climates and ecologies.
A fulgurite specimen discovered in the Sahara desert in 2007, for instance, also held bubbles of trapped carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and nitric oxide, created when the lightning oxidized organic material in the soil some 15,000 years ago. Researchers were able to conclude from the gases that the ecology of the Sahara back then, unlike the dry desert of today, consisted of hearty grasses and shrubs typical of semi-arid environments. Fresh evidence that the Sahara was once a more hospitable place -- and that lightning really is illuminating.
Read more at ScienceNOW.
Photo credits: Gray wolf courtesy Flickr/StoneHorseStudios; polar bear (c) Brendan Cummings, Center for Biological Diversity; whooping crane courtesy USFWS; gray wolves courtesy Flickr/Sakarri; peninsular bighorn sheep (c) Steve Elkins; coho salmon courtesy Dan Bennett; little brown bat by Marvin Moriarty, USFWS; bobcat by Annica Kreuters; American pika (c) Larry Master, masterimages.org; lightning courtesy Flickr/JohnFowler.
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