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Idaho Wolf Hunt Ends, Hired Gunman Halted

Gray wolvesFaced with a looming court deadline to defend its actions against a suit by the Center for Biological Diversity and our allies, Idaho's Department of Fish and Game on Monday halted its wolf-extermination program in the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness. Nine wolves had already fallen to a hired hunter-trapper who began killing wolves in December; it's unknown how many animals remain alive in the two targeted packs.

We've sued the department -- and the U.S. Forest Service, which was assisting it -- arguing that the wolf-killing program prioritized elk numbers for human hunters over wilderness values. After a federal judge rejected our request to stop the program on Jan. 17, we took our fight to the court of appeals, filing an emergency request for an injunction Jan. 23.

"It's a tragedy that nine wolves had to die before the state of Idaho finally pulled the plug on its needless effort to eradicate two whole wolf packs from one of America's largest wilderness areas," said Noah Greenwald, the Center's endangered species director. "The wolves were only playing the role they play in nature and should never have been killed. It shouldn't take court action to stop such cruel, unnecessary and wasteful killing -- but I'm glad it has stopped."

Read more in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Breaking News: Offshore Alaska Saved From Big Oil Again

WalrusSince 2007 the Center and allies have been keeping dangerous, destructive oil drilling out of sensitive wildlife habitat in the Arctic's Beaufort and Chukchi seas. A recent court win last week left our streak unbroken -- and has also influenced Shell Oil to put its 2014 Arctic drilling plans on ice.

Just this morning, citing the decision against Alaska drilling from a lawsuit filed by the Center and partners, the oil giant announced it won't be looking for oil in Alaska for the seventh year in a row, leaving pristine, icy Arctic waters and the animals that live there in peace.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last week that the Interior Department broke the law when it sold offshore oil and gas leases in the Chukchi -- a big victory for Alaska's Arctic and all who live there, both wildlife and people.

"The melting Chukchi Sea is no place for drillships," said Rebecca Noblin, the Center's Alaska director. "It's a place where polar bears hunt for ringed seals, where walruses socialize and bowhead whales make their way to rich feeding grounds."

Read about Shell's decision in The Washington Post; then get details on the court decision in the Seattle Post Intelligencer.

2,500 Wolves Killed in Northern Rockies, Midwest Since 2011

Gray wolf pupIn a grim glimpse of how wolves will fare across the country if the Obama administration goes ahead and drops federal protections, 2,570 gray wolves have now been reported killed by hunters and trappers in the six states where their protections were eliminated in 2011 and 2012. Since then, states have sponsored aggressive hunting and trapping seasons, and roughly half the total known population of wolves in the lower 48 has been killed.

So far 915 wolves have been killed in Idaho, 566 in Montana, 130 in Wyoming, 562 in Minnesota, 374 in Wisconsin and 23 in Michigan. The death totals are in addition to wolves killed by agency staff over livestock conflicts, and wolves killed by illegal poaching. Scientists estimate that when Europeans arrived on the North American continent, as many as 2 million wolves roamed the landscape. As settlers moved west, the livestock industry refused to coexist with wolves, and the animals were all but eliminated in the lower 48.

"If this senseless slaughter doesn't convince the Obama administration we need to reverse course on plans to drop wolf protections, the bloodbath will go on," said Amaroq Weiss, a wolf advocate at the Center.

Get more from Mongabay.

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Mr. President, the State of the Union's Climate Is Dire

Keystone protestOK, so none of us really believed that President Obama's State of the Union speech would unveil a bold new vision for tackling climate change. But hey, a little hope never hurt -- did it? Well, the president rightly included climate change in his "year of action" plan Tuesday night, but the climate action he plans to take is far too modest to meet the crisis we face.

The day before the speech, the Center released a list of five things we must do in 2014 to fight climate change: Create a national cap on carbon pollution, strengthen power plant pollution rules, push to end subsidies for oil companies, reject Keystone XL and other dangerous energy projects, and ban fracking and other fossil fuel development on public lands.

The president's "all of the above" energy plan won't cut it. If we're going to avoid the effects of catastrophic climate change -- including rising sea levels, more (and more deadly) extreme weather events, epic droughts and ocean acidification -- we need genuinely brave, visionary leadership. Stay tuned on how you can help push the president in the right direction.

Read more in our press release.

50,000 Speak Out Against Georgia's 'Rattlesnake Roundup'

Eastern diamondback rattlesnakeThe Center has long stood up for the right of all kinds of critters, even "creepies and crawlies," to live free and wild -- including eastern diamondback rattlesnakes. And a few parts of the South are still persecuting the feared snakes via brutal "rattlesnakes roundups" that involve capturing and butchering rattlers (and hurting all kinds of other native animals in the process). But Georgia has been good enough to listen, switching from roundups to wildlife festivals -- all except one little town.

Whigham, in southwest Georgia, still clings to its outdated "rattlesnake roundup," which encourages locals to catch as many rattlesnakes as possible (often by pouring gasoline into their burrows) and then sell them at the roundup for their skins and meat. So before Whighham's roundup last weekend, we rallied wildlife supporters against it -- delivering a petition boasting more than 50,000 signatures calling for an end to the town's totally unnecessary animal cruelty.

Eastern diamondback rattlesnakes are in rapid decline, and we've petitioned to protect them.

Read more in an op-ed by the Center's Collette Adkins Giese in the Savannah Morning News.

Explaining Population and Sustainability in 90 Seconds -- Watch Video

Polar bearWe're adding 227,000 people to the planet every day. And with them comes an increased appetite for land, water and other natural resources -- an appetite that ultimately drives the species extinction crisis, exacerbates global warming, and worsens many of our other environmental woes.

This year the Center is expanding its groundbreaking Population and Sustainability program to highlight not only runaway population growth (7 billion today, possibly 10 billion by 2050) but also overconsumption. We just released a new video on that work -- a thumbnail introduction to these issues and a good way to get the conversation started with your friends and family.

Watch the video and share it on Facebook.

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Sea Turtle Champion Joins Center's Board of Directors

Todd SteinerTodd Steiner, executive director of Turtle Island Restoration Network, has recently been elected to the Center's board of directors. Steiner has spent more than 30 years as an organizational leader, biologist and director of successful advocacy campaigns for endangered marine species and ocean habitats.

Todd brings with him an uncompromising commitment to the Earth's wildlife and deep expertise in ocean campaigns, including tireless work to protect dolphins from tuna fishing and closing endangered Pacific leatherback sea turtle habitat to drift gillnetting. As founder and executive director of Turtle Island Restoration Network, he has overseen initiatives such as, the Salmon Protection and Watershed Network, and He has a master's in biology and a bachelor's of science in nature conservation and interpretation.

We're very pleased to welcome Todd; read about it in our press release.

Wild & Weird: The Real Fake Johnny Cash Confronts Big Coal -- Watch Video

Coal trainCountry music legend Johnny Cash was an iconoclast hillbilly who spoke out against poverty, racism, the logic behind the Vietnam War, and the deep injustices suffered by American Indians. His politically infused, down-home ballads reached through the radios of millions across the United States -- including the homes of many conservative country fans.

Now a tribute band, headed up by a Man in Black impersonator named Counterfeit Cash, is honoring that twangy, outspoken tradition with a rousing rewrite of a Cash classic, retitled "Coal Train Blues." The song soulfully and wittily tackles Big Coal and a coal-export plan that would take millions of tons of coal through the Pacific Northwest for shipment to Asia, poisoning waterways and wildlands as it goes.

Check out the Johnny Cash and June Carter Tribute Band's music video "Coal Train Blues" and learn about the coalition fighting the coal-export plan.

Kierán Suckling
Executive Director

Photo credits: Gray wolf courtesy Flickr/Chris Smith; gray wolves courtesy Flickr/Forester__; walrus by Uri Golman; gray wolf pup courtesy Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife; Keystone protest courtesy Chelsea Tu, Center for Biological Diversity; eastern diamondback rattlesnake courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Bjorn Christian Torrissen; polar bear screenshot courtesy population video, Center for Biological Diversity; photo courtesy Todd Steiner; coal train by Ian Britton.

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Center for Biological Diversity

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Tucson, AZ 85702