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New Federal Plan Makes Way for Jaguarundi Comeback

Gulf Coast jaguarundiGood news for an extremely rare cat: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has approved a new recovery plan for Gulf Coast jaguarundis -- felines with long necks, short legs and flattened faces. Never heard of 'em? That may be because the closest known population of these small gatos is 130 miles south of the border in Mexico. Since 1976 they've been listed as endangered in the United States, and the last known cat in Texas died on a road in 1986.

The recovery plan's goal is to support 500 animals among three interconnected populations -- and if the science shows that reintroduction into south Texas is feasible, these cats could be back on the U.S. map. Jaguarundis disappeared here due to habitat loss from agriculture and residential development, but restoration projects underway for ocelots in Texas could help ease the other cats' repatriation.

"Returning jaguarundis to the thickets and grasslands of the Rio Grande Valley to hunt for rodents and reptiles could help protect these fascinating and little-studied animals from extinction," said the Center's Michael Robinson.

Read more in the Houston Chronicle.

100,000 People, San Francisco Leaders Urge Fracking Ban

DolphinIn California, opposition to fracking keeps mounting. This Tuesday more than 100,000 comments were submitted calling for a ban on fracking in the state -- and later that same day, San Francisco became the state's first major city to call for a statewide fracking ban. The resolution passed unanimously and is a big step forward in the fight against fracking, which threatens the state's air, water and longstanding work to curb climate change -- and of course its wildlife, from the San Joaquin kit fox on land to whales, dolphins and sea otters offshore.

Introduced by San Francisco Supervisor David Chiu, the resolution was supported by the Center and the statewide coalition Californians Against Fracking.

"We are deeply concerned about the threats fracking poses to California's water, our coastal environment, and the well-being of people across the state, so the board of supervisors is urging a halt to this practice," said Chiu.

Read our press release and learn more about our fight against fracking in California.

Lawsuit Seeks Documents on Rare Fox Threatened by Keystone XL

Swift foxThe Obama administration has admitted that construction of the Keystone XL pipeline could crush families of swift foxes in their dens and destroy some of their last habitat in the United States. Yet the feds have refused to provide documents about the exact status of these tiny, beautiful foxes under the Endangered Species Act and haven't fully examined the pipeline's likely effects on the vulnerable animals.

This morning the Center filed two lawsuits under the Freedom of Information Act to require the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to confirm that the foxes have been protected by the Endangered Species Act since 1973. We hope the next step will be a full analysis of the risks swift foxes face from Keystone.

Northern swift foxes rarely exceed 6 pounds, their small bodies dominated by big ears and bushy tails. They've already lost about half their historic habitat. Today some of their remaining homes -- in South Dakota and near the Alberta-Montana border -- are directly threatened by Keystone.

Learn more about how Keystone XL will hurt endangered species and then sign our pledge opposing the pipeline.

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Center Op-ed: "Gassing" Snakes Is Brutal -- Take Action

Western diamondback rattlesnakeWould you flood an animal with gasoline, even if it didn't happen to be the cuddly kind? Even if you happened to be afraid of snakes?

Most U.S. states won't let you, said the Center's Collette Adkins Giese in an op-ed this week in the Austin American-Statesman. Nearly 30 states have outlawed the savage practice of "gassing" rattlesnakes -- pouring deadly chemicals like gas or ammonia down their holes to flush them out for capture and then slaughter them at events called "rattlesnake roundups."

Texas is one of the few states that still allows gassing. Besides the western diamondback rattlesnake targeted by Texas snake hunters, many other animals that share underground homes with snakes (from foxes to insects, and including at least 20 endangered species) can be "gassed" with the snakes.

Collette's op-ed challenges the Lone Star State to ban gassing and "get a jump on making sure western diamondbacks remain an iconic part of the Texas landscape for generations to come."

Read more in the Austin American-Statesman and take action now.

Study: Decline of Large Carnivores Is Global Conservation Crisis

African lionAn important article in the journal Science last week highlighted how habitat loss, human persecution, and reduction in prey are combining to create global hotspots of carnivore loss. More than 75 percent of the studied 31 large-carnivore species are declining; 17 of them occupy less than half their former ranges. Large carnivores have already been exterminated from much of the developed world, including Western Europe and the eastern United States.

The researchers singled out seven species to study, including gray wolves, sea otters and African lions. Fewer predators, they found, leads to an increase in browsing animals such as deer, elk, and -- in the case of the otters -- sea urchins. More browsing disrupts vegetation, shifts birds and small mammals, and changes other parts of the ecosystem in a widespread cascade of impacts.

"Globally, we are losing our large carnivores," said William Ripple, the paper's lead author and a professor at Oregon State University. "Human tolerance of these species is a major issue for conservation. We say these animals have an intrinsic right to exist, but they are also providing economic and ecological services that people value."

Among those services (documented in other studies) are carbon sequestration, riparian restoration, biodiversity and disease control.

Read more about the study in Science Daily.

A Move to Protect People, Wildlife From Soot Pollution

Coal-fired power plantThe Clean Air Act saves millions of lives -- both human and animal -- from diseases caused by polluted air. But this bedrock law can't do its job unless it's enforced, and at the moment, in several states (plus Puerto Rico), that's not happening. The EPA failed to develop air-quality plans to reduce soot -- dangerous particulate pollution from coal-fired power plants and other sources -- in Alaska, Iowa, Puerto Rico and Washington. So the Center has filed a notice of intent to sue if the agency doesn't clean up its act.

Soot pollution, called "particulate matter" by the EPA, certainly comes in small units: It's made up of tiny particles about 30 times smaller than the width of the average human hair.

But in fact its size is part of what makes it so dangerous: Soot's microscopic particles can lodge deep in the lungs, posing serious health risks to humans and wildlife. It also hurts ecosystems and creates regional haze, fouling scenic vistas in cities, national parks and wilderness areas.

Read more in the San Francisco Chronicle.

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After Fiery Derailments, Time to Rethink Train Transport of Explosive Oil

Train derailmentIn the wake of two fiery derailments in just two weeks involving crude oil from the Bakken region of North Dakota and western Canada, the Center has sent a letter to federal legislators from New York and Vermont, as well as to key congressional subcommittees, urging a moratorium on rail transport of the hazardous oil in the Northeast.

Bakken-oil derailments garnered widespread attention last summer when a runaway train with 72 tankers of Bakken crude careened into Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, killing 47 people and incinerating parts of downtown. On Dec. 30 a train transporting Bakken crude exploded near Casselton, N.D.; last week another train derailed and caught fire in New Brunswick, Canada.

Trains are now converging on Albany and the Hudson River Valley carrying the same incendiary crude that has been involved in a total of five major rail accidents since last summer. Plans are in the works to double the amount of crude passing through Albany, and also to bring in a new heavy, viscous crude that industry hasn't identified -- which requires a heating facility so it can be pumped. (Tar sands, anyone?)

"Every day trains with tens of thousands of barrels of highly flammable Bakken crude are rumbling through small towns in upstate New York," said Mollie Matteson, a senior scientist at the Center's Vermont office. "It's looking like tar sands will be the next rail cargo. A moratorium is needed until a careful review can ensure safety measures are in place to avoid another tragic accident."

Read more in our press release.

Wild & Weird: Does This Donkey Meat Taste Like Fox?

DonkeyIf you happened to pick up a package of "Five Spice" donkey meat at a Walmart in China's eastern province of Shandong recently, you may have gotten more than you bargained for: The world's largest retailer is recalling the product after DNA tests confirmed it contained fox meat.

Authorities were tipped on the issue when a consumer -- who'd purchased a whopping 1,600 packages of donkey at Walmart -- brought the meat to government inspectors after he noticed a strange taste.

Walmart says it will reimburse customers who bought the "Five Spice" donkey, but it offered no explanation as to how the contamination occurred.

Read more at Business Week.

Kierán Suckling
Executive Director

Photo credits: Sea otter courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Mike Baird; Gulf Coast jaguarundi courtesy Wikimedia Commons/USFWS; dolphin courtesy Flickr Commons/Blue Dolphin Marine Tours; swift fox courtesy USFWS; western diamondback rattlesnake courtesy Flickr Commons/Tom Spinker; African lion courtesy Flickr/Tambako the Jaguar; coal power plant courtesy Flickr/davipt; train derailment courtesy Wikimedia Commons/NTSB; donkey courtesy Flickr/jonathan mcintosh.

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