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Center for Biological Diversity

No. 807, Jan. 1, 2016

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Thank You for a Historic Year -- Watch Video

Hawaiian monk sealBecause of your support of our work, the Center for Biological Diversity made history in 2015. Check out this video of some of the highlights. We couldn't do it without you.

It was the hottest year in recorded history, but it was also a year of hope -- including a great moment in November when, after years of groundbreaking work from the Center and conservation allies, President Obama finally rejected the dirty Keystone XL pipeline.

Building on that Keystone momentum, we played a lead role in the launch of an ambitious "Keep It in the Ground" campaign, which aims to push our country's leaders to stop new oil and gas leasing on federal lands and oceans -- a decision that would singlehandedly keep 450 billion tons of carbon pollution safely underground. The movement, more than 400 groups and public figures strong, is already gaining traction.

We also saw a slew of wins for biodiversity, including the designation of nearly 7,000 square miles of protected critical habitat for highly endangered Hawaiian monk seals, which we've been working to protect for more than 15 years. We opened our first international office and launched our exciting and already productive new program, Environmental Health.

That's just the tip of the iceberg; thank you for your part in these wins and beginnings, and please read on for news of more.

Learn more about Keystone XL and the Center's Keep It in the Ground campaign.

Endangered Species and Habitat

Gray wolfWe restored protections for wolves in Wyoming through a court victory, oversaw the third year in a row of no wolves killed in Oregon, and led the effort to return wolves to the West Coast and expand wolf populations in the Southwest. We opposed efforts by Congress to gut protections for endangered species, including releasing a report documenting a 600 percent increase in legislative attacks on endangered species and the oil and gas money behind those attacks.

The Center won final endangered species protection for eight plants and animals this year, including black pine snakes, northern long-eared bats and Langford's tree snails -- for a total of more than 550 species since our founding. We won proposed protection for another 33, including eastern massasauga rattlesnakes, Big Sandy crayfish, Kentucky arrow darters and elfin-woods warblers in Puerto Rico.

The Center won more than 4.6 million acres of critical habitat for endangered species this year. We secured 5,000 acres for Mount Charleston blue butterflies, among the world's most severely endangered butterflies, threatened by fire-suppression activities and recreational development; and 229,000 acres for rabbitsfoot mussels, threatened by water pollution, mining, dredging, dams and displacement by exotic mollusks.

We also launched a campaign to paint endangered species murals in communities across the country, which we inaugurated with a beautiful mountain caribou in Sandpoint, Idaho and followed with an Arctic grayling in Butte, Mont.; a monarch butterfly in Minneapolis, Minn.; and watercress darters in Birmingham, Ala.

Check out our Endangered Species Mural Project and get more on our wolf work.

Battling the Climate Crisis

Paris climate teamThe Center was on the front lines this year, as we are every year, fighting the climate change juggernaut from California to Washington, D.C., to France. At the Paris climate summit, our team pressed for the United States to do its fair share to cut pollution.

We successfully pushed the Environmental Protection Agency to acknowledge that airplane emissions pose a major climate threat -- the first step toward regulating this soaring, uncontrolled source of greenhouse gas. With partners, we won a major California Supreme Court victory dealing a precedent-setting reversal to plans for a new city near Los Angeles that would add hundreds of thousands of tons of climate pollutants to the atmosphere each year.

We battled fracking and drilling to keep fossil fuels in the ground; exposed a water-contamination scandal in California, where oil companies are dumping toxic fluid into protected aquifers; halted construction of a new oilfield on the state's Central Coast; and led the fight against oil trains, including releasing a major report showing that 1 million California students attend school near oil-train routes.

Explore more at our Climate Law Institute webpage.

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Protecting Public Lands

Gila River, New MexicoAlong with leading the charge on the new, national "Keep It in the Ground" campaign urging the president to halt all new federal fossil fuel leases of coal, oil, gas, oil shale and tar sands, we pushed for protections for greater sage grouse across 11 western states by reining in mining, oil, gas and road development.

We built diverse public and political support for four proposed national monuments, which would add spectacular lands to our country's treasure trove of protected wild places: the proposed Grand Canyon Heritage National Monument in Arizona and Mojave Trails, Sand to Snow and Castle Mountains national monuments in California.

We spearheaded a campaign to keep the Gila River in New Mexico -- the last free-flowing river in the state -- from a destructive proposal to create dams and divert water; we continue to advocate for national forests, pushing back on inappropriate logging and post-fire logging in the Sierras and Pacific Northwest; and together with allies among the San Carlos Apache, we fought this year to protect sacred lands at Arizona's Oak Flat and overturn an infamous land giveaway to a multinational mining company that would destroy the place's natural and cultural value.

Learn about the proposed California national monuments and our other public lands work.

Taking Our Work to the World

VaquitaThe Center opened our first international office this year, in La Paz, Mexico, to ramp up our fight to protect Mexico's incredibly diverse wildlife. Our first priority was to stave off extinction of the world's smallest, rarest porpoise, the vaquita. We petitioned the United Nations' World Heritage Committee to deem Mexico's Gulf of California World Heritage Area "in danger" to save the animals, whose population has plummeted to only around 50.

We brought mass media attention to Mexican wildlife issues, including through a major interview on Televisa, Latin America's largest media company, on the country's deadly sea turtle bycatch. And following a 2013 Center petition, the U.S. government "certified" Mexico for killing thousands of endangered sea turtles in its fishing gear each year -- the first step toward economic sanctions if Mexico doesn't better protect the ancient turtles. Also, as a result of a Center lawsuit, the National Marine Fisheries Service proposed new regulations to ban the import of seafood that doesn't meet U.S. marine mammal protection standards.

We petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect African elephants as endangered and, for the first time, recognize that there are not one but two African elephant species -- forest and savannah. Both species have experienced steep population declines in recent years, including a greater than 60 percent decrease in forest elephants, a trend fueled by the ongoing trade of ivory.

We also petitioned the Service to protect pangolins -- the world's most illegally trafficked mammal -- as endangered. These odd but adorable creatures have suffered enormous population declines due to demand for their scales in traditional Asian medicine.

Learn more about vaquitas, African elephants and our new Mexico office.

Innovating on Population and Consumption

Endangered Species CondomsThe Center's innovative Population and Sustainability program expanded even further this year, taking on new staff and mobilizing students at 175 colleges and universities across the country to lead actions to improve sustainability by reducing meat consumption on their campuses.

We helped lead a coalition of environmental, animal and health-advocacy groups to drive a national conversation about the need for meat reduction and sustainability in food guidelines. Our coalition got more than 150,000 petition signatures, with more than 150 organizations and experts signing on in support of having federal direction for less dietary meat and more plants. Our new "Whacked for Wildlife" campaign brought 200 men forward to share their stories of why they chose to get vasectomies to protect the planet.

We redesigned our popular Endangered Species Condoms with new artwork and sustainable, fair-trade materials, distributing more than 100,000 of them through our volunteer network. And the Center's Population director went on a speaking tour to 18 of the top-ranked law schools in the United States and Canada to talk to law students about how policy can play a role in expanding human rights, reproductive healthcare, equity and food justice to tackle the population/overconsumption problem.

Visit our Population and Sustainability webpage for infographics, videos and more.

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Tackling Toxins for the Sake of Environmental Health

BumblebeeThis year the Center's long commitment to battling the proliferation of toxins was embodied in our newly launched Environmental Health program, which has already seen significant progress. We won a landmark settlement forcing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to analyze the impacts of the two most commonly used pesticides in the United States, atrazine and glyphosate -- accounting for nearly 40 percent of total pesticide-use volume -- on 1,500 endangered plants and animals nationwide.

Another lawsuit has also pushed the EPA to reverse its approval of Enlist Duo, a toxic pesticide cocktail designed to drench next-generation genetically engineered crops. And we've filed three new lawsuits challenging the agency's failure to protect endangered species from dangerous new pesticides. We've been stalwart advocates for our beleaguered native bees, working with a national coalition of pollinator protectors to urge new national policies for protecting these vital creatures and winning battles to get retailers like Lowe's and Home Depot to stop drenching their nursery plants with bee-killing pesticides.

We've also joined with local and regional groups to bring a legal challenge to destructive mountaintop-removal coal mining in West Virginia. We achieved strong protections against destructive suction dredge mining for California's drinking water supply and native fish, and we're defending Oregon in a lawsuit by miners challenging the state for enacting protections against this destructive mining. Our Clean Air Act lawsuits will force the EPA to protect air quality in North Carolina, Iowa and Puerto Rico.

Explore our new Environmental Health webpage.

Advocating for Oceans

DolphinsThe Center's Oceans program advocated to stop dangerous offshore drilling in California by mobilizing public outrage and challenging offshore fracking permits. We also won a lawsuit, with partners, challenging the Navy's unfettered use of sonar and bombing in biologically sensitive areas for whales and dolphins.

And following a years-long campaign, involving lawsuits and protests and public education across the country, to save the Arctic from destructive offshore oil drilling, we celebrated Shell's withdrawal from drilling in the Chukchi Sea and the government's cancellation of new Arctic oil and gas lease sales in the Arctic.

We also secured nearly 7,000 square miles of ocean and beach habitat for Hawaiian monk seals, at risk of extinction because of limited food availability, entanglement in fishing gear, predation, and disease, and now global warming; and we won a proposal to protect almost 40,000 square miles of protected habitat for North Atlantic right whales along the East Coast.

Dive into our Oceans webpage and peruse pages on Hawaiian monk seals and North Atlantic right whales.

Kierán Suckling
Executive Director

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Photo credits: Hawaiian monk seal courtesy National Wildlife Refuge Association; gray wolf courtesy Flickr/myheimu; Center staff in Paris courtesy Center for Biological Diversity; wolves by John Pitcher; Gila River by Dennis O'Keefe; vaquita by Paula Olson, NOAA; Endangered Species Condoms art by Shawn DiCriscio and design by Lori Lieber; brown bear (c) Robin Silver, Center for Biological Diversity; bumblebee courtesy Flickr/Smudge 9000; dolphins courtesy Flickr/Willy Volk.

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Center for Biological Diversity
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