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Feds Will Study How to Buy Less Single-Use Plastic
In response to a petition filed by the Center for Biological Diversity and 180 other groups, the U.S. government’s procurement arm just announced it will study ways to purchase fewer single-use plastic products.
The United States uses about 100 billion plastic bags every year — and by 2050, scientists predict, there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean. Since the U.S. government is the world’s single-largest consumer of goods and services, its purchasing power can make an enormous difference.
“We hope this marks the beginning of the government’s commitment to tackle the plastic pollution crisis head on,” said Emily Jeffers, the Center attorney who authored the petition. “The Biden administration has a real opportunity here to stem the tide of single-use plastic entering our waste stream and harming wildlife, the oceans and human bodies.”
Thank you to the 22,000-plus Center supporters who helped us push for this.
In Court to Save Old Trees and Grizzly Habitat
The Center and allies have sued the U.S. Forest Service for approving the Black Ram Project, which would log nearly 4,000 acres of the Kootenai National Forest in Montana
— including more than 400 acres of centuries-old, carbon-storing trees.
The logging and related road construction would also destroy key habitat for a fragile population of about 25 grizzly bears on the Montana-Canada border.
“Allowing huge, old trees and crucial grizzly habitat to be destroyed is reckless and incredibly shortsighted,” said the Center’s Randi Spivak. “We’ll do everything possible to save these magnificent bears and the forests they call home.”
Help our fight to save these grizzlies and other wildlife with a gift to our Saving Life on Earth Fund.
Orcas and Fish Win Safeguards From 3 Pesticides
Partly in response to Center advocacy, NOAA Fisheries just released a rule protecting salmon, steelhead, sturgeon and Puget Sound orcas from three dangerous and widely used insecticides. The rule contrasts starkly with weak action on pesticides from its sister agency, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which is also responsible for protecting endangered species.
NOAA Fisheries’ rule clinches its earlier finding that the three chemicals — chlorpyrifos, diazinon and malathion — push 37 protected species toward extinction and harm their federally protected habitat.
“This is how pesticide consultations are supposed to work,” said Brett Hartl, the Center’s government affairs director. “The agency should be commended for upholding scientific integrity despite industry pressure.”
Win: Federal Court Restores Critical Wildlife Protections
A federal district judge just restored comprehensive Endangered Species Act protections to hundreds of species and their habitat. Without this ruling, the Biden administration might have kept harmful Trump regulations in place for an indeterminate period.
The Center and other conservation groups — joined by a group of states and an animal-welfare organization — had challenged damaging Trump rules that undermined longstanding policies protecting imperiled species, from rusty-patched bumblebees to American wolverines.
“Trump’s gutting of endangered species protections should have been reversed on day one of the Biden presidency,” said the Center’s Noah Greenwald.
Suits Filed Over Habitat for Eastern Bird and Bat
The Center and allies filed two lawsuits this week to force the Fish and Wildlife Service to protect critical habitat for endangered Florida bonneted bats and threatened birds called eastern black rails. Both species are highly vulnerable to rising sea levels and development, among other forces.
To explain its refusal to protect black rails’ home, the Service said protecting habitat would expose the species to threats from “overzealous birders” — a laughable menace compared to coastal development and climate change. And Florida bonneted bats have one of the smallest ranges of any bat species. In their South Florida habitat, sea level is expected to rise between 3 and 6 feet before century’s end.
Alabama Mussel Wins Protection, Habitat Safeguards
In response to a decade-long campaign by the Center and allies, on Monday the Fish and Wildlife Service protected the Canoe Creek clubshell under the Endangered Species Act, also protecting 36 river miles of critical habitat.
Threatened by a newly proposed dam and mega-development projects, this rare freshwater mussel lives only in two creeks flowing into the Coosa River in Alabama. We first petitioned to protect it in 2010.
“North America has already lost 35 species of freshwater mussels to extinction,” said Center biologist Tierra Curry. “So it’s fantastic that the Canoe Creek clubshell at long last has federal protection.”
SCOTUS Move Leaves Climate Pathway for Biden, EPA
Last week the U.S. Supreme Court limited the Environmental Protection Agency's authority to regulate coal- and gas-fired power plants — but thankfully, it didn’t foreclose all roads to climate action. The court left one powerful Clean Air Act tool untouched: setting a nationwide greenhouse gas pollution cap.
And President Biden still has powerful means available to him for fighting the climate emergency. He can deny new fossil fuel infrastructure projects and new permits on federal lands, and he can ratchet down oil and gas production — as long as he acts fast.
Learn more in this new op-ed by the Center's Jean Su and Maya Golden-Krasner.
Rule Allows More Wolves But Fails on Science
Thanks to legal work by the Center and our allies, the Fish and Wildlife Service has finalized a rule ending its 2015 policy of taking endangered Mexican gray wolves from the wild whenever their population exceeds 325.
Unfortunately the rule also rejects science-based reforms needed to increase the population’s genetic diversity. Instead of releasing wolf families into the wild together — which helps them survive — in 2016 the agency began releasing captive-born pups, without their parents, into wild wolves’ dens. Of the 72 pups released from 2016 through 2021, just 13 survived to age two.
“This rule is a missed opportunity to return to releasing genetically diverse wolf families and making their survival the priority,” said Center wolf expert Michael Robinson.
That’s Wild: The Mites Who Mate on Our Faces
Mites called Demodex folliculorum live deep within human hair follicles and eat sebum, a substance released by cells inside our pores. At night, while we sleep, they emerge from hiding to find a new follicle, meet a partner, and mate.
That may not be pleasant to think about, but these tiny animals are usually harmless, found on the skin of about 90% of people.
Scientists used to think the mites were parasitic, extracting nutrients at humans’ expense. They thought the mites didn’t have anuses, so their bodies accumulated feces until they died, releasing it onto our skin and causing inflammation.
But a new study shows that’s not true. They do have anuses, it says — and more importantly, they may be evolving a symbiotic relationship with humans, helping clean our skin by unclogging pores. The bad news is they may be evolving toward extinction.
Get more — including some details on the mites’ microscopic sexual anatomy — from Euronews.
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Photo credits: Hawaiian monk seal by Matthew Chauvin/NOAA; grizzly cub via Pixabay; Southern Resident orca by Miles Ritter/Flickr; American wolverine by mieshahmo/Flickr; Florida bonneted bat by Gary Morse/Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission; Canoe Creek clubshell by Frank Chitwood, Coosa Riverkeeper; smokestack by Tom Burke/Flickr; Mexican gray wolf by Brian Gratwicke/Flickr; solar panels by Jon Callas; Demodex folliculorum via Wikimedia.
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