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Loggerheads Get 300,000 Square Miles of Protected Habitat

Loggerhead sea turtleIn a historic win, the federal government this week protected 685 miles of beaches from Mississippi to North Carolina and more than 300,000 square miles of ocean as "critical habitat" for loggerhead sea turtles along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. It's the largest designation of critical habitat ever.

The decision comes after more than five years of delay and a lawsuit last year by the Center for Biological Diversity and allies. Loggerhead sea turtles have been on the endangered species list since 1978, and we've been fighting for years to get the government to safeguard their nesting beaches, ocean homes and migratory corridors. Northwest Atlantic loggerhead hatchlings leave nesting beaches and spend up to 12 years in the open ocean before returning to coastal areas, where they stay until they reach maturity at around 35 and seek out beaches to nest.

Thanks to all of you who've supported our work to save loggerheads and their most important habitat.

Read more in the Star-Telegram.

Government Bureaucrat Orders Scientists: Deep-six Plan to Save Wolverines

WolverineIn a troubling case of déjà-vu, a top official at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has ordered agency scientists to reverse their own conclusions and withdraw last year's proposal to protect American wolverines under the Endangered Species Act. Fewer than 300 wolverines remain in the lower 48 states, and global warming over the next 75 years is predicted to wipe out 63 percent of the snowy habitat they need to survive. In fact the warming climate is "threatening the species with extinction," the Fish and Wildlife Service said in February 2013.

Now, though, a leaked memo obtained by the Center reveals that a top director at the agency wants scientists to abandon those conclusions, even though there's been no new science casting doubt on their findings.

"The decision to overrule agency scientists and deny protection to the wolverine is deeply disappointing and shows that political interference in what should be a scientific decision continues to be a problem under the Obama administration, just as it was under George W. Bush," said the Center's Noah Greenwald.

The Center fought hard for years to get protection for wolverines -- and we'll go to the mat over this latest scandal to make sure these fierce, mysterious predators get the help they deserve.

Read more in the San Francisco Chronicle.

NRA's Lead Ammo Bill Defeated in Senate -- Thank You

California condorA Senate bill died this morning that included an NRA-backed provision to block the Environmental Protection Agency from protecting people and wildlife from lead poisoning. Thank you to all who answered our urgent plea earlier this week to fight this disastrous measure.

The so-called "Sportsmen's Bill of 2014" would have been a serious blow to a years-long effort to finally get the EPA to get lead out of hunting ammunition. Although lead has long been known to be an extremely toxic substance -- so dangerous that we no longer allow it in paint, toys or gasoline -- incredibly, thousands of tons of it still enter the food chain every year from lead ammo.

Millions of birds like loons, cranes, eagles and condors -- and even bears, panthers and wolves -- are dying painful deaths from lead poisoning.

We're happy to see the bill defeated, though the NRA will no doubt try again.

Learn more about our work to get the lead out.

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Two Southwest Snakes Win Safeguards

Northern Mexican garter snakeTwo imperiled snakes from Arizona and New Mexico earned Endangered Species Act protection Monday as part of the Center's landmark 2011 agreement forcing the feds to make rapid progress on protecting 757 species. The Mexican garter snake's protection also follows a 2003 Center petition and several lawsuits.

The narrow-headed and Mexican garter snakes are nonvenomous snakes uniquely adapted to the delicate, increasingly rare oases of desert streamside habitats. (For example, it's believed that the narrow-headed garter snake's streamlined, elongated head helps it strike at fish and other prey underwater when facing upstream.) In Arizona and New Mexico, about 90 percent of these riparian areas have disappeared over the past decades; unsurprisingly, both snakes have experienced dramatic declines. These shy animals are also threatened by nonnative predators.

"The decline of these snakes is typical of the catastrophic loss of aquatic animals across the Southwest," said the Center's Collette Adkins Giese. "Protecting them, and the region's shrinking waters, will benefit every other animal that depends on these river systems."

Read more in the Arizona Republic.

Offshore Fracking in California Puts Otters, Marine Life in Harm's Way

Sea otterOffshore fracking in California could deliver some very real and direct harm to sea otters, fish and other marine animals. In fact, scientific studies have shown that at least 10 of the fracking chemicals routinely used could kill or harm marine life, according to a letter from the Center that was sent to the California Coastal Commission on Wednesday.

The commission needs to act fast to protect California's precious marine species before their habitat becomes a massive industrial zone.

The Center's analysis raises serious concerns over toxic fracking chemicals, including nonylphenol ethoxylate, which has been found to build up in the tissues of sea otters. Among the otters we're most concerned about are southern sea otters, a threatened species that has a small recovering population in the Santa Barbara Channel -- the same area where fracking is happening off the California coast.

Read more about our letter and our fight to halt offshore fracking in California.

Help Close Yellowstone Sheep Station to Save Wolves and Bears -- Take Action

USDA Sheep Experiment Station Big news for grizzly bears, bighorn sheep, pronghorn, lynx, wolves and sage grouse: More than 100,000 acres of public lands west of Yellowstone National Park may soon be liberated from the munchings and bleatings of herds of domestic sheep. Since 1915 the U.S. Department of Agriculture has run an experimental ranch for thousands of government-owned sheep near the Idaho and Montana border -- but by the end of this year that may no longer be the case.

Following a seven-year campaign and lawsuits by the Center and allies, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has finally proposed closing the sheep station for good. Introduced diseases from the sheep threaten the area's herds of bighorn, and conflicts with the sheep have resulted in the unnecessary deaths of bears and wolves. Closing the station now could also reopen a crucial wildlife corridor between Yellowstone and central Idaho's wilderness.

Idaho's politicians aren't happy about the potential closure, of course. But these lands aren't the right place for livestock. Act now and tell Secretary Vilsack and your members of Congress to close the station and transfer its acres to a nearby wildlife refuge.

Take Action

World Population Day: 40,000 Condoms, New Photo Campaign -- Watch Video and Speak Out

Sandhill crane in suburbiaTomorrow is World Population Day, and the Center is making sure you're ready to participate. As 227,000 more people are added to the planet daily, volunteers across all 50 states will be distributing 40,000 of our free Endangered Species Condoms, whose colorful packages illustrate the link between human population growth and wildlife extinction.

We're also showcasing our #CrowdedPlanet campaign, which lets you add pictures on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter with the #CrowdedPlanet hashtag showing what a people-packed planet looks like to you: Subway commuters crammed into train cars like sardines? Cars lined up in a traffic jam as far as the eye can see? A sandhill crane lost in suburbia?

And in case you'd like to speak your mind using words, we've made a letter-to-the-editor action page, where we'll help you write a letter online about World Population Day and what unsustainable human population growth means for endangered species, from grizzly bears to wolves to whales. We'll even submit your letter to a paper near you.

See what The Washington Post said about our campaign, write a letter to the editor and watch our #Crowded Planet video.

Feds May Weaken Manatee Protections -- Take Action

ManateeDespite uncertainty about the size of manatee populations and continued threats to these gentlest of lumbering sea mammals, the Fish and Wildlife Service announced last week it will consider downlisting the species from "endangered" to "threatened" under the Endangered Species Act.

Downlisting would normally be cause for celebration, but hold off on the party whistles: In this case the move is not only premature -- it could do great harm. Florida's human population continues to grow, and that means threats to manatees loom large. Without the strongest protections of the Act, manatees will be even more vulnerable to cold-stress die-offs, collisions with boats and toxic algae outbreaks.

Thanks to the Act, Florida manatees have shown a slow but steady improvement over the past 40 years. We can't turn our backs on them now.

Act now to tell the Service to keep protections strong for Florida manatees.

Wild & Weird: Ancient Seabird Had Wingspan Longer Than a Truck

Pelagornis miocaenusTwenty-five million years ago, the ancient seabird Pelagornis sandersi soared above the ocean's surface with a wingspan of more than 20 feet. Though the fossilized bones of the massive bird were discovered near an airport in Charleston, S.C., in 1983, a new report published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences is the first to describe it in detail. The bones of the enormous bird had sat in a drawer awaiting analysis for more than two decades.

According to paleontologists who constructed a flight model of the bird, the giant may have preferred to soar just above ancient ocean waves for great distances rather than riding high on air currents -- as do many other large birds, both ancient and modern. And Pelagornis sandersi, the study suggests, was too heavy to take off by running across water like many present-day waterfowl.

"I think they just waited on the beach for a strong wind to carry them aloft," said study author Daniel Ksepka of North Carolina State University in Raleigh in a National Geographic interview. A very strong wind indeed.

Pelagornis sandersi belongs to a now-extinct family of "toothed" birds, equipped with bony protrusions from their beaks that were used to spear prey.

Read more in National Geographic.

Kierán Suckling
Executive Director

Photo credits: Loggerhead sea turtle courtesy Flickr/USFWS, Becky Skiba; loggerhead sea turtle courtesy Flickr/Spyros Kapsaskis; wolverine (c) Gerald and Buff Corsi courtesy California Academy of Sciences; California condor by Scott Frier, USFWS; wolves by John Pitcher; northern Mexican garter snake courtesy Flickr/Albuquerque BioPark; sea otter courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Mike Baird; USDA Sheep Experiment Station by Michael Heaton; brown bear (c) Robin Silver, Center for Biological Diversity; sandhill crane in suburbia by Gloria Driggers; Florida manatee courtesy USFWS; Pelagornis miocaenus courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Ryan Somma.

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Center for Biological Diversity

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