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2013 Rubber Dodo Award -- Vote by Oct. 30

Rubber dodoIt's time to pick the most flagrant eco-villain of 2013 for the Center for Biological Diversity's Rubber Dodo award, started in 2007 to spotlight those powerful people who've worked most rabidly and fervently to destroy wild creatures and wild places. Past Rubber Dodo winners include climate denier Sen. James Inhofe (2012), BP CEO Tony Hayward (2010) and polar bear foe Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (2008).

This year's nominees are:

Rep. Doc Hastings (R.-Wash.), who's led a campaign of baseless attacks on the Endangered Species Act in Congress, striving hard to place industry profiteers and anti-government ideologues first -- and America's wildlife last.

The Koch Brothers, a super-secretive, ultra-rich duo that has bankrolled numerous far-right causes, putting gazillions of dollars into stopping sane action on climate change, promoting anti-wolf demagoguery, and generally easing the path for big corporations to maximize profits at the expense of... well, everyone else.

Keystone XL Booster/TransCanada CEO Russ Girling, for promoting TransCanada's Keystone XL pipeline, which will facilitate the burning of so much fossil fuel that a leading climate scientist says it will mean "game over" for avoiding climate catastrophe. The pipeline will also put more than a dozen endangered species in harm's way.

National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre: When it comes to common-sense measures to, say, save wildlife from being poisoned by lead ammo, no one throws a tantrum better than NRA Grand Poobah LaPierre, whose powerful group and its political cronies have stepped in, time and time again, to stop even the merest hint of reason or logic from entering into the national guns-'n'-ammo debate.

You be the judge: Which of the sterling characters above most deserves this year's glamorous Rubber Dodo title? Cast your vote now.

Help on Horizon for Butterflies in Midwest, Great Lakes

Dakota skipperWhat's not ailing the Dakota skipper and the Poweshiek skipperling? These two charming butterflies of the Midwest and Great Lakes region have been hit hard by loss of native prairies, groundwater depletion, pesticides, drought and climate change -- the list goes on.

Their fortunes, though, are about to turn. This week the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed to protect both of these inch-long, orange-and-brown butterflies under the Endangered Species Act, along with 39,000 acres of their most important habitat in Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa and the Dakotas.

The skipper was proposed for protection as part of the Center's historic agreement in 2011, which speeds up protection decisions for 757 species. The skipperling was added because it's also highly endangered and shares habitat with the skipper.

Read more in the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Safeguards Granted to Florida Plants Threatened by Sea-level Rise

Cape Sable thoroughwortWith rising sea levels closing in, three plants in Florida are now getting federal protection. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Wednesday announced Endangered Species Act protection for the aboriginal prickly apple, Florida semaphore cactus and Cape Sable thoroughwort. Most the populations of the plants live near sea level, which is destined to rise as the climate crisis worsens.

"These native plants are being squeezed out of existence -- pressed between coastal development and rising sea levels," said Jaclyn Lopez, a Center attorney based in Florida. "Protection under the Endangered Species Act will give them a role in South Florida's planning for rising seas."

The protections for these struggling plants came as part of the Center's 757 agreement.

Read more in the Miami Herald.

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New Troubling Revelations About Offshore Fracking in California

Green sea turtleIt's worse than we thought: A new report from the Associated Press finds that fracking is more widespread off the coast of California than previously believed, including in areas popular with surfers and tourists. The report says oil companies have used fracking more than 200 times over the past 20 years near Long Beach, Huntington Beach and Seal Beach -- all with little to no oversight from state or federal regulators.

Fracking -- which employs dangerous chemicals to squeeze more oil out of wells -- poses huge risks to wildlife-rich waters off California, home to rare and protected species like sea turtles and whales.

That's why the Center filed a notice this month asking the government to suspend any fracking operations off the California coast, noting that fracking has occurred in federal waters without environmental review.

Read more in USA Today.

Habitat Protected for Rare Texas Cave Critters

Peck's cave amphipodThe Center works to save all creatures -- great and small, furry and scaled, tree-nesting and cave-dwelling. This week we won a big victory for three on the small end: the Comal Springs riffle beetle, Comal Springs dryopid beetle and Peck's cave amphipod (a crustacean).

After two lawsuits for these three invertebrates -- which live only in four springs running through caves near Texas's Edwards Aquifer -- the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Tuesday announced it would designate protected "critical habitat" for them, overlapping areas amounting to 169 acres. All the species are most threatened by groundwater pumping and pollution of the precious aquifer that feeds their springs.

These animals are all way too interesting to fully describe here (for instance, the riffle beetle sports a mass of tiny, unwettable hairs on its underside, which allow it to make a thin bubble of air letting it breathe while it swims).

So read details in our press release and learn more about the riffle beetle, dryopid beetle and amphipod.

Bestselling Author Alan Weisman on Human Population -- Watch Our Interview

Alan Weisman interview screenshotIn his book The World Without Us (2007), journalist Alan Weisman imagined how the planet might look if Homo sapiens vanished. Now -- since humans aren't going anywhere quite yet, and in fact keep multiplying at a phenomenal pace -- he's written a new book, titled Countdown: Our Last, Best Hope for a Future on Earth?, that explores just how many of us the planet can really support.

For Countdown, Weisman traveled the globe asking what many experts called "the most important questions on Earth" -- exploring diverse cultures, traditions and religions for ways to talk about population and our responsibility to the environment.

The Center's new Population and Sustainability Director Stephanie Feldstein had the chance to sit down with Weisman recently to talk about the book and about our population growth crisis

Check out this video of Stephanie and Alan's conversation now. You can also buy Countdown at Powell's Books.

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Lead Ammo Ban in Calif. Urgent for Dying Condors -- Tell Feds to Help

California condorThe new, historic ban on lead hunting ammo in California will spell relief from lead poisoning for California's wildlife -- but the nontoxic ammo regulations won't be phased in till 2015 and won't take effect fully till July 2019. Meanwhile there's been an unprecedented condor death toll in California's Big Sur condor flock from lead poisoning in the past year. Researchers with the federal condor recovery team say the birds simply can't reproduce fast enough to make up for the numbers dying from lead poisoning.

Relief from the state for condors, eagles and other birds poisoned by spent lead ammunition won't kick in for another six years. What on Earth can be done? Hmm... is there any other authority that could step up? Anyone at all?

We at the Center would like to recommend a fully qualified candidate for the job, with 40-plus years of experience in regulating lead -- our very own EPA! In fact the federal agency, which has overseen removal of lead from gasoline, paint and kids' toys, happens to be celebrating National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week as you read this. Who better to make sure lead is taken out of hunting ammo -- and prevent poisoning of our nation's wildlife, not to mention the families of hunters who eat lead-shot game? Folks, we think we have a winner.

Yet the agency continues to fight efforts by the Center and a broad coalition of partners to take toxic lead out of hunting ammo. Could it be that a certain powerful gun lobby is enjoying more sway than scientists or the public?

Read more about this year's condor deaths in the San Francisco Chronicle and ask the EPA to ban lead hunting ammo

Three Caribbean Plants to Get Protection

Island brittleleafAfter lawsuits brought by the Center -- and our historic 2011 settlement spurring protection decisions for 757 imperiled species -- the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service this week proposed Endangered Species Act safeguards for three rare plants from the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico: Egger's agave, island brittleleaf and Puerto Rico manjack.

All three plants are imminently threatened by land development and have been on a waiting list for federal protection for more than three decades. Egger's agave is a robust, perennial herb with large, tube-shaped flowers that can grow up to 23 feet tall, native only to the island of St. Croix. Island brittleleaf (a small evergreen) and Puerto Rico manjack (a large shrub) are both known to grow only in Puerto Rico.

The Service is expected to take all three plants off the "candidate" waiting list and put them on the endangered species list within just one year.

Read more in our press release.

Standing in Solidarity With Jailed Environmental Activists in Russia

Free the Arctic 30 protest in MadridThirty people -- including 28 activists, a freelance photographer and a freelance videographer -- are in a Russian jail cell today for participating in a peaceful protest against oil drilling. The group, dubbed "the Arctic 30," was speaking out against a Gazprom oil platform in the Arctic, where the fossil fuel giant is taking advantage of ice melts fueled by climate change to drill for oil in pristine areas that were once inaccessible.

It's not a crime to bring attention to a company that's destroying one of the last unspoiled places on the planet and deepening the devastating climate crisis. The crime -- against wildlife and future generations of people -- is the drilling itself. Peaceful acts of protest should be celebrated by Russians, Americans and other people all over the world, rather than met with charges and imprisonment.

The Center stands in solidarity with those engaged in civil protests, and we're calling for charges to be dropped immediately against the Arctic 30 so they can be released to their families.

Learn more about stopping drilling in the Arctic.

Wild & Weird: Mammals Pee for About 21 Seconds -- Watch Video

Dog urinatingThe hydrodynamics of urination is a sadly neglected field of study. What role do urethra length, bladder volume and gravitational force play in the final stages of the famed pee-pee dance? How does a goat's flow rate compare to that of an elephant?
Well, a group of physicists from Georgia Tech recently set out to answer those pressing questions. They discovered that mammal physiology has evolved so that bigger mammals tend to have longer urethras, meaning they pee faster than their tinier counterparts. The average duration of urination is around 21 seconds.

From the study: "Using high-speed fluid dynamics videos and flow-rate measurement at Zoo Atlanta, we discover the ‘Law of Urination,' which states animals empty their bladders over nearly constant duration of average 21 seconds (standard deviation 13 seconds), despite a difference in bladder volume from 100 mL to 100 L."

A couple caveats: The study hasn't been published in a peer-reviewed journal, and a standard deviation of 13 (around an average of 21) is pretty darn hefty. So let's not make new pee-time policy just yet.

Don't miss this fun Law of Urination video (warning: explicit scenes of animals peeing) and check out this infographic in National Geographic.

Kierán Suckling
Executive Director

Photo credits: green sea turtle courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Brocken Inaglory; rubber dodo; Dakota skipper by Phil Delphey, USFWS; Cape Sable thoroughwort by Keith Bradley, Institute for Regional Conservation; green sea turtle courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Goncalo Veiga; Peck's cave amphipod (c) Mike Quinn, TexasEnto.Net; Alan Weisman interview video screenshot; California condor courtesy Flickr/San Diego Shooter; island brittleleaf by Alejandro J. Sanchez Munoz; free the Arctic 30 protest in Madrid courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Osvaldo Gago; dog urinating courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Glen Bowman.

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Center for Biological Diversity

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