Center for Biological Diversity

Sitka black-tailed deer

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Petition Seeks Protection for Alaska's Ancient Yellow Cedars

Alaskan yellow cedarThe Center for Biological Diversity and allies on Tuesday petitioned to federally protect the yellow cedar, a beautiful, long-lived conifer native to Alaska and common in the Tongass National Forest. Capable of living more than 1,000 years, the cedar is prized by native Alaskan people -- for carving, medicinal and ceremonial purposes -- and by animals like Sitka deer and brown bears.

But over the past century, more than 70 percent of yellow cedars have died in many parts of Alaska as climate change has melted the snow that protects the trees' fragile roots from freezing air in winter. And since these ancient trees hold massive amounts of carbon dioxide -- which means they've been helping keep climate change in check even as it has ravaged their population -- the yellow cedar's decline is yet another illustration of climate change's snowball effect.

"Our actions caused this decline," said the Center's Kiersten Lippmann, "and our actions can save it -- if we act right now."

If the yellow cedar wins Endangered Species Act protection, it will be the first tree in Alaska to do so.

Read more in Anchorage Daily News.

Groups: Grizzlies Need Continued Protection to Survive

Grizzly bearsBefore the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service strips federal protections from Yellowstone's grizzly bears, the agency needs to take a very hard look at the bears' status in the rest of the West, said a letter the Center and seven other groups sent this morning to top wildlife officials.

The letter comes on the heels of a landmark Center petition calling for a vast expansion of grizzly recovery in the continental United States that includes more than 100,000 square miles of potential habitat in Colorado, California, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico. Rather than declaring that Yellowstone's grizzlies are recovered and walking away, the Fish and Wildlife Service needs to put more bears in more places. That's the best way to ensure they can survive climate change, habitat loss and other threats.

"If the Service moves to delist the Yellowstone bear population -- one of the few populations the agency has made any effort to recover -- it'll declare the job done and close the door on recovering these magnificent animals across other parts of their historic range, just as it's trying to do with gray wolves," said the Center's Brett Hartl.

Read more in our press release.

What Lowe's Doesn't Know: Neonicotinoids -- Take Action

BeeAre bee-killing plants lurking in your backyard? According to Gardeners Beware 2014, a new study from our partners Friends of the Earth and the Pesticide Research Institute, there's a good chance they might.

The report shows that more than half of tested plants purchased at top garden retailers throughout the United States and Canada contain harmful pesticides called neonicotinoids -- with no warning to consumers. What's worse, the nectar in some of the plants contain high enough levels to kill bees outright, and 40 percent of the plants were treated with two or more of the toxic chemicals. The report confirms what a pilot study revealed last year: In a dark and ironic twist, bee-attracting plants continue to hurt bees and other key pollinators.

The European Union has already banned neonicotinoids, the UK's top retailers have voluntarily stopped selling them, and just last week President Obama announced a new initiative to prevent the widespread collapse of bee colonies in the United States.

Act now to declare your independence from Lowe's and other U.S. garden retailers until they stop selling these poisoned plants. Then watch this video from Friends of the Earth.

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Supreme Court Upholds EPA's Authority to Fight Global Warming

Coal power plantIn a key victory in the fight against global warming, the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday, for the third time, rejected the fossil fuel industry's assault on climate science and again backed the Environmental Protection Agency's authority to regulate greenhouse gas pollution under the Clean Air Act.

The ruling affirmed the EPA's authority to require most large industrial plants to reduce carbon emissions, though the 5-4 decision exempted certain operations that don't also emit conventional pollutants. Importantly, the opinion doesn't affect other Clean Air Act programs used to fight climate change, such as the recently proposed carbon reduction standards for power plants.

The decision follows a report by federal scientists predicting serious threats from global warming, including rising sea levels, increased risk of hurricanes, hotter temperatures and threats to the food supply. The EPA should now take swift, ambitious action to cut carbon emissions from other sources, including power plants and refineries, cars, trucks and airplanes.

Read more in Mintpress News.

Martha, World's Last Passenger Pigeon, to Go on Exhibit at Smithsonian

Martha the passenger pigeonThis year will mark the 100th anniversary of the extinction of the passenger pigeon, a species once so abundant in North America that a flock was reported in Ontario in 1866 as being a mile wide, 300 miles long and taking 14 hours to pass overhead.

These remarkable birds -- with their iridescent wings, fiery-red feet and sparkling scarlet eyes -- were killed off in 1914. Their extinction was "the moment humanity learned we had the awesome power to erase an entire species off the face of the Earth," the Associated Press recently wrote.

Now the body of Martha, the very last passenger pigeon, who died of old age in the Cincinnati Zoo, is on display in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., along with that of George, the last male of the species -- a troubling public reminder of what can be lost when we're careless with our wildlife.

"This was a real wake-up call for the public and frankly for scientists, too," said Helen James, curator of birds at the Smithsonian's Natural Museum of History. "Ornithologists studied birds and they didn't really think of species becoming extinct."

Read more in The Seattle Times.

Frostpaw, Climate Activists Greet President Obama, Hillary Clinton

FrostpawTalk about a busy few days. The Center's Frostpaw the Polar Bear, along with other activists, was in San Francisco last night at a book event for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. We're urging the likely 2016 presidential contender to speak out against the Keystone XL pipeline; we organized 30 other conservation groups this spring calling on Clinton to join our effort to fight this dangerous development.

Meanwhile, tonight, more than 1,500 miles away, Frostpaw will be in Minneapolis to rally outside President Obama's fundraiser. There we'll be calling on the president to reject Keystone and the Enbridge expansion pipeline, another tar sands project from Canada that would come into the upper Midwest. It's part of the Center's all-out effort over the past year or so to keep Frostpaw, and our anti-Keystone message, in front of the president wherever he goes.

"If President Obama is serious about tackling the climate crisis, he should start with rejecting Keystone XL and the Enbridge expansion," said the Center's Valerie Love. "Allowing these kinds of fossil fuel projects to move ahead only raises the risk of climate catastrophe and makes it harder to move toward energy sources that are cleaner and safer."

Read more about Keystone XL and all our events.

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If May Had You Hot Under the Collar, There's a Good Reason

Collared lizardIs it getting warm in here? Turns out May 2014 was the warmest May ever recorded. It was also the 39th May in a row that was warmer than average, and the 351st consecutive month in which the global temperature was hotter than the 20th century average, "meaning if you are 29 years old," according to Climate Progress, "you have never experienced a colder-than-average month in your life."

The new data released this week by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says the average temperature over global land and water surfaces was 1.33 degrees warmer than average for the 20th century.

That, of course, spells trouble for people and wildlife -- even a few degrees of global warming can spark changes like sea-level rise, more dangerous weather, habitat loss and heat waves.

Learn more from the NOAA.

Wild & Weird: What Does the Bat Say? Ask a 3rd Grader -- Watch Video

Mixed colony of Indiana bats and little brown batsIndiana bats are awesome creatures, and they're in trouble. They help us out by eating half their weight in bugs every day and protecting crops, but they're also federally endangered and dying off at an alarming rate from habitat loss and the deadly fungal disease called white-nose syndrome.

And no one seems to know this better -- or sing about it with more wit and wisdom -- than a group of 3rd graders in Muncie, Ind.

As part of an intensive course in biodiversity, these young wildlife defenders learned firsthand about the bats' beauty and peril and the need to protect them. Then they recorded a music video with a well-choreographed jam -- a parody of "What Does the Fox Say?" by Ylvis -- to share their knowledge with the world.

Watch the music video "What Does the Indiana Bat Say?" and then read more about the bat extinction crisis.

Kierán Suckling
Executive Director

Photo credits: Sitka black-tailed deer courtesy Flickr/Gary O. Grimm; Alaskan yellow cedar by Walter Siegmund; grizzly bears courtesy Wikimedia Commons/John Good, NPS; bee courtesy Flickr/Joe Philipson; wolves by John Pitcher; coal power plant courtesy Flickr/davipt; Martha the passenger pigeon; Frostpaw courtesy Center for Biological Diversity; brown bear (c) Robin Silver, Center for Biological Diversity; collared lizard courtesy Flickr/Colleen Morgan; mixed colony of Indiana bats and little brown bats by Tim Krynak, USFWS.

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Center for Biological Diversity

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Tucson, AZ 85702