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Rare Plant Gets Reprieve From New Mine
A mining company just scrapped its plan for gypsum exploration in a sensitive southern Montana desert — sparing Crow and Northern Cheyenne archaeological sites, Jurassic fossils, and habitat for imperiled species like the greater sage grouse and thick-leaf bladderpod.
This win follows the Center for Biological Diversity’s Endangered Species Act petition to protect the bladderpod, which reaches only a few inches in height and has tiny, bright-yellow flowers. The delicate plant ekes out a living in just one small area of Montana’s Pryor Desert, where it grows in a highly specific type of soil made of blue-green algae, lichens, mosses, microfungi and bacteria. Here, a mine for gypsum — commonly used to make fertilizer — could quickly drive the unique plant extinct.
“This is great news for the thick-leaf bladderpod and the many other species that call the Pryor Desert home, but we still need federal action,” said the Center’s Kristine Akland. “It’s time for the Bureau of Land Management to withdraw this wild area from mineral leasing forever.”
EPA Must Study Toxicity of Plastics
Under a legal settlement the Center won Tuesday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency must analyze the toxic effects of PVC (or polyvinyl chloride, aka vinyl) and decide if discarded PVC should be regulated as hazardous waste.
Spoiler alert: It should.
Every year, people in the United States toss out about 7 billion pounds of PVC, which is found in children’s toys, clothing, electronics and many other household goods. But studies show it’s highly toxic to human health — the most environmentally damaging kind of plastic there is.
“We hope this is the federal government’s first step toward acknowledging the toxic legacy of PVC and ultimately leads to the end of its production,” said Center attorney Emily Jeffers.
Tope Sharks Move Toward Protection
Following a petition by the Center and allies, the federal government just announced that tope sharks may warrant protection under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.
Tope sharks — aka “soupfin sharks” — have declined by 88% globally in the past 80 years because of commercial overfishing for their liver oil, meat and fins, as well as bycatch and habitat degradation. Off Southern California’s coast, they face a high risk of bycatch and entanglement in Mexico’s gillnets.
“This is an important first step toward providing tope sharks with the protection they need to prevent their extinction,” said Kristin Carden, a scientist in the Center’s Oceans program. “But federal officials have to move quickly.”
Suit Filed for California Old Growth, Owls, Condors
The Center and a coalition of other environmental, business and recreational organizations — plus Ventura County and the city of Ojai — just sued to challenge logging atop Pine Mountain and Reyes Peak in California’s Los Padres National Forest.
The logging project would hack a brutal scar across 750 acres of a pristine area that’s historically and culturally important to Indigenous people, popular with recreationists, and protected habitat for endangered California condors. It’s also home to old-growth conifer forests, rare plants, and other sensitive species, from imperiled bats to California spotted owls.
“The Forest Service wants to let chainsaws chew up old-growth conifers and crucial habitat for wildlife,” said Center attorney Justin Augustine. “It’s immoral, it’s illegal, and we hope to stop it in court.”
Report: Utilities Shut Off Power 3.6 Million Times
According to a new report by the Center and partners called Powerless in the Pandemic 2.0, electric utilities have disconnected U.S. households more than 3.5 million times since the beginning of Covid-19.
A 12-member Hall of Shame — including some of the biggest utilities in the country — perpetrated 87% of all documented customer shutoffs in 2020 and 2021, while increasing shareholder payouts by $1.9 billion. That amount could have forgiven the unpaid bills five times over.
“It’s appalling that millions of U.S. families have lost electricity while utility oligarchs reap huge windfall payouts,” said Jean Su, director of the Center’s Energy Justice program.
Saving the Climate From Gas-Guzzling Mail Trucks
The U.S. Postal Service delivers mail to almost every neighborhood nationwide every day. The Postal Service just had a chance to replace its aging fleet of gas-burning delivery trucks with electric vehicles. Instead — sidestepping mandatory environmental reviews — it's planning to replace 90% of its old gas guzzlers with 150,000 new ones. So the Center and allies are suing.
“It’s backward and bewildering that the USPS would show such disregard for the climate and public health with its decision," said the Center's Scott Hochberg.
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That's Wild: How Spiders Escape Sexual Cannibalism
In many spider species, females eat the males after sex. But males of the orb-weaving spider species Philoponella prominens have figured out how to avoid that fate. As soon as mating is done, they catapult themselves out of harm’s way with explosive speed generated by hydraulic pressure in their front legs. Males who don’t make this getaway can expect to get wrapped by the female in yards of silk so tightly they’re either crushed to death or suffocated — and then eaten. Romantic!
Read more in Smithsonian.
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