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In Court for Arctic Seals
The Center for Biological Diversity just took legal action to defend ringed seals from a misguided attempt to strip away their federal protection.
These plump, beautifully patterned seals give birth and shelter their pups in snow caves built on sea ice. With climate change warming their Arctic home almost four times faster than the rest of the planet, that ice is receding and snow caves are collapsing, leaving pups vulnerable to predators or freezing to death.
Thanks to a Center petition, ringed seals won Endangered Species Act safeguards in 2012. The American Petroleum Institute and allies tried and failed to remove that protection, but now the state of Alaska and others are in court trying again — even though science clearly shows these adorable animals need help to escape extinction. We’re intervening to help the federal government save them.
“If we don’t tackle climate change with ambitious action, we’ll face a lonely future on a planet that’s missing these seals and so many other amazing creatures,” said Center lawyer Kristen Monsell.
Help us fight for seals and other species with a gift to our Saving Life on Earth Fund.
Crucial Protections Restored to Tongass Rainforest
In a win for forest wildlife, Alaska Native communities, fishing and recreation — and the climate too — the U.S. Forest Service just restored federal protection from industrial logging and damaging roads across 9 million acres of the Tongass National Forest.
Harboring wildlife like salmon, brown bears, bald eagles and wolves, the 17-million-acre temperate rainforest in Southeast Alaska draws visitors from across the world. It’s the ancestral homeland of the Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian peoples and absorbs more carbon than any other U.S. forest.
“The Tongass is a lifeline for our planet,” said Center attorney said Ted Zukoski.
If you’re one of the 60,000-plus Center supporters who pushed for this victory over the past five years, thank you.
You Can Help This Incredibly Rare Plant
After years of legal work by the Center and partners, Nevada’s imperiled Tiehm’s buckwheat was recently protected under the Endangered Species Act. But now the U.S. Bureau of Land Management is planning to approve a mine right on the plant’s doorstep, dooming it to extinction.
The proposed Rhyolite Ridge lithium mine would create an open pit deep enough to hold the Eiffel Tower, surrounded by the equivalent of 1,000 football fields of mining waste. This destruction would ring the precious plants’ main locations on three sides, coming within just 13 feet of the rare wildflowers, in violation of the protections granted under the Act.
Tell the BLM to say no to this plan and save Tiehm’s buckwheat.
Sickle Darter Gets Critical Habitat
Thanks to a 2010 Center petition and a 2015 agreement, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has now proposed to protect 104 miles of rivers as critical habitat in Tennessee and Virginia for a beautiful, bronze-colored fish called the sickle darter. The fish is threatened by siltation, dams and pollution.
“Protecting these 104 miles is an important step toward restoring not only the sickle darter but the health of our Appalachian rivers,” said Will Harlan, a scientist at the Center.
California Bird, Four Plants No Longer Endangered
A slew of new Endangered Species Act successes: The Fish and Wildlife Service is rightly removing five California island species — Bell’s sparrows and four plants — from the endangered species list.
San Clemente Island, off the state’s southern coast, is run by the U.S. Navy. After the birds and plants — a bush-mallow, a paintbrush, a lotus, and a larkspur — were protected as endangered, the Navy began removing feral animals that led to their decline. Now the sparrows number more than 4,000 adults, and the native plants are recovering.
“This is an incredible comeback story for five of California’s unique Channel Island species that fought so hard to survive for decades,” said the Center’s Stephanie Kurose.
Traveling Mexican Wolf Is Captured
A female Mexican gray wolf named Asha has been captured in northern New Mexico, ending her historic northward journey. Asha, who’ll be held and eventually released into Mexico, had journeyed farther north and east than any other Mexican wolf since reintroduction began in 1998.
Despite scientific evidence that these wolves need habitat north of Interstate 40, the Fish and Wildlife Service requires their capture when they set foot there. That’s due to a provision the Center is suing over, which Arizona and New Mexico insisted on to help the livestock industry.
“We need to let wolves roam free,” said Michael Robinson, one of our wolf advocates.
Mourning a Forest Defender Killed by Police
Last week police shot and killed activist Manuel Terán, aka Tortuguita, 26, during a militarized raid on a protest camp in the Weelaunee Forest of south Atlanta. This uniquely large urban forest in the South River watershed is threatened by planned developments, including a hotly contested police-training facility.
While police killings are all too familiar and violence against protesters is sadly common, a shooting death by police at a protest camp is unprecedented in the U.S. environmental movement.
Without police body-camera footage, we’ll never know what really happened in Tortuguita’s last moments. But the Center has signed onto a statement of solidarity with the mourning and the movement. We support those fighting for the Weelaunee Forest and send our condolences to Tortuguita’s family.
The End Is Near for LA’s Dangerous Oil Drilling
After a decade working with frontline communities — and thousands of letters from our supporters — the Center helped spur the city and the county of Los Angeles to pass ordinances banning new oil drilling and phasing out existing drilling.
There’s still work to do. L.A. County’s ordinance doesn’t cover wells in much of the Inglewood Oil Field, the largest urban oilfield in the United States. And we’re pushing to end drilling ahead of the current 20-year timeline. But today we’re celebrating these historic policies, which will help communities breathe a little easier.
“L.A. is on its way to righting decades of environmental injustice,” said the Center’s Maya Golden-Krasner.
That’s Wild: Wasps Fight Back With Spiky Genitalia
Researchers just discovered that male mason wasps have evolved a self-defense trick to ward off hungry predators: using spiked genitals to mimic a female sting.
Females of this wasp species have egg-laying organs called ovipositors, from which their venomous stingers evolved. Male wasps don’t have stingers, but tree frogs — who love to chomp on wasps — can’t usually tell their sex right away. So males can fake a stinger using spines on their reproductive organs, called aedeagi (the insect versions of penises).
A new study showed this fake-it-till-you-make-it strategy worked about 35% of the time. Not bad, unless you compare it to the 87% escape rate of females with the real deal.
Check out one frog’s reaction in this video on YouTube or Facebook.
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Photo credits: Ringed seal by Shawn Dahle/NOAA; Tongass brown bears by Mark Meyers/USFS; Tiehm's buckwheat by Patrick Donnelly/Center for Biological Diversity; sickle darter courtesy Conservation Fisheries Inc.; Bell's sparrow by Alan Schmierer/Flickr; Mexican gray wolf by Brian Gratwicke/Flickr; Tortuguita by Gabe Eisen; drilling-ban advocates by L.A. County Supervisor Holly J. Mitchell; dugong by Mark Goodchild; screenshot from frog-and-wasp video in study by Shinji Sugiura and Mitsaki Tsujii.
Center for Biological Diversity
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