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For Immediate Release, May 3, 2012

Contact: Jaclyn Lopez, (727) 490-9190,

From Sea Turtles to Panthers, Wildlife to Benefit From Launch of
Florida Center for Biological Diversity Office

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.— The Center for Biological Diversity has opened a regional office in St. Petersburg, Fla., to expand its work to conserve wildlife in the Southeast. The Center already has a history of environmental advocacy in the Southeast; its new office will be headed by staff attorney and Florida native Jaclyn Lopez.

“I’m thrilled the Center has solidified its presence in the region by opening a local office,” said Lopez. “With thousands of miles of coastline, a multitude of rivers and streams, and millions of acres of forest, the Southeast is blessed with an incredibly rich diversity of wildlife — which unfortunately is at serious risk from rampant sprawl, pollution, logging, sea-level rise and a host of other factors.”

The Center has successfully achieved protection for a variety of species and habitats in the Southeast, from corals threatened by climate change and Florida panthers threatened by urban sprawl to unique fish and mussels threatened by dams, pollution and excessive water withdrawal. A few highlights include:

• Secured Endangered Species Act protection for elkhorn and staghorn corals in 2006. The Center’s successful petition made these the first species protected because of the threat posed by climate change. Now seven additional corals in the Caribbean and Florida are under consideration for protection, and a new report found they are extremely likely to go extinct.

• Fought for greater protections for the Florida panther by petitioning in 2009 to have critical habitat designated and petitioning in 2011 for the species’ reintroduction to the Okefenokee.

• Petitioned in 2010 to have 404 Southeast species, dependent on the region’s rivers and wetlands, protected under the Endangered Species Act, resulting in an initial positive decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that 374 of these species may warrant protection.

• Signed a landmark settlement agreement with the Fish and Wildlife Service requiring it to make protection decisions for dozens of southeastern species. This has already resulted in protection for the Miami blue butterfly, five fish, and four mussels, including the yellowcheek darter, chucky madtom, Altamaha spiny mussel and Georgia pigtoe.

• Spearheaded legal efforts to compel reform of offshore drilling safety after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and just recently sued to compel the EPA to study the wildlife impacts of chemical dispersants to protect the Gulf of Mexico.

In the coming years, the Center will continue to expand its advocacy for endangered species in the Southeast.

“The Southeast is home to an incredible array of species, many that don’t live anywhere else on Earth,” Lopez said. “Losing these species not only impoverishes the wild places they live but indeed the rest of us who call the Southeast home.”

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