Biodiversity Activist #320

October 11, 2002


Center for Biological Diversity biologist Monica Bond has been awarded Environment Now's "Forest Activist of the Year" award. Before joining the Center, Monica studied California spotted owls in the El Dorado National Forest. She has been instrumental in challenging damaging timber sales in the Sierra Nevada and developing a comprehensive management plan alternative for the four Southern California National Forests.

Monica will be honored at a fundraising dinner in Los Angeles next month. The fundraiser will benefit the Environment and Protection Information Center (EPIC), the John Muir Project, and Sequoia Forest Keepers.


In 1999, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) banned pelagic longline fishing in 2.6 million nautical square miles of international waters off the New England coast. The fishery uses thousands of miles of fishing cable inset with tens of thousands of hooks. In addition to the target species- swordfish, tuna, and mahi mahi- the longlines catch and kill thousands of non-target fish, including endangered loggerhead and leatherback sea turtles. NMFS closed the fishery, which is outside United States' 200 mile "exclusive economic zone" to protect the sea turtles.

The fishing industry sued, arguing that NMFS has no authority to regulate fishing on the high seas. The industry wants international waters to remain a lawless zone governed only by industry competition. Before the fishing ban, pelagic longliners in the closed area were responsible for 75% of loggerhead sea turtle and 40% of leatherback sea turtle take. 991 loggerheads and 1,012 leatherbacks were killed in the area in 1999.

The Center for Biological Diversity, Turtle Island Restoration, and Ocean intervened in the lawsuit, arguing that the federal government has the right and the responsibility to curb unsustainable practices by the U.S. fishing industry, even in international waters. The judge agreed, ordering that the ban remain in place.

Visit the Center's marine Program.


In keeping with a legal agreement brokered by the Center for Biological Diversity and the California Native Plant Society, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service designated 74 acres as a protected "critical habitat" area for the endangered Kneeland prairie penny-cress (Thlaspi californicum) on 10-9-02.

A member of the mustard family, the penny-cress is endemic to serpentine soil on the outer north coast range of Humboldt County, CA. About 8,000 plants remain in a single, fragmented site near the Kneeland Airport. The total area occupied by the plant is less than an acre. It is threatened by continued habitat fragmentation, degradation, and destruction.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service designated the penny-cress as a "candidate" for Endangered Species Act protection in 1980, but took no action to actually protect it despite continued habitat fragmentation until it was sued by the Center and the California Native Plant Society in 1999. The suit resulted in the penny-cress and nine other plants being listed as endangered species in 2000. Another 101,027 acres of critical habitat for the other nine species will be finalized in the next year.

Since 1995, the Center has won the protection of 38 million acres of critical habitat in the western U.S. from Alaska to Texas.

Visit the Center's Native Plant Conservation Campaign.


In keeping with a legal agreement brokered by the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed to designated 420 acres of critical habitat for the Ventura Marsh milk-vetch (Astragalus pycnostachyus var. lanosissimus) on 10-9-02.

The milk-vetch occurs in just one natural population on less than half an acre in the midst of a proposed 300-home coastal development near Oxnard, CA. It formerly occurred in coastal wetlands in Ventura, Orange, and Los Angeles counties. The critical habitat proposal includes the development as well as portions of McGrath State Beach and the Carpinteria Salt Marsh Reserve.

The Ventura Marsh milk-vetch is one of thousands of plants lingering without protection for decades despite a petition filed by the Smithsonian Institution in 1975 to list them as endangered species. Rather than listing the plants, the Fish and Wildlife Service bounced them around its "candidate" program like Oliver Twist from orphanage to the orphanage. The milk-vetch and many other plants continued to suffer habitat loss while left unprotected on the candidate list. At one point the remains of the only known plants were found in lawn mower clippings at McGrath State Park.

The Center filed suit in 1999 to protect the plant, winning a listing decision in 2001 and this month's critical habitat area proposal. The final critical habitat designation will be completed by 10-1-03.

Visit the Center's Native Plant Conservation Campaign.


In the early 1990s, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed to protect the Pacific Islands dugong, the scimitar-horned oryx, addax, and Dama gazelle as endangered species. The dugong is a marine mammal similar to a manatee. It inhabits shallow, tropical, marine coastal waters and is more strictly a marine species than the manatee. It is a flagship species for efforts to protect dwindling sea grass beds in Palau. The oryx, addax, and gazelle are types of African antelope threatened by habitat loss, development, and hunting.

When the Wildlife Service failed to finalize the protection of these species under the Endangered Species Act, the Center for Biological Diversity formally filed notice that it would take legal action. This has resulted in an agreement whereby the agency will initiate a scientific review, begin a public comment process, and make a final decision on the protection of the species by September 30, 2003.


In response to a Center for Biological Diversity lawsuit, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service designated 1,148 river miles (=127,000 acres) of critical habitat in NM, TX, and OK for the Arkansas River shiner on 3-30-02. Portions of the Canadian River, Beaver River, Cimarron River, and Arkansas River were included in the designation.

Industry groups with vested interests in maintaining the status quo of pollution, dams, water diversions, and unsustainable pumping have filed suit against the Bush administration to strike down the protected status. They expect Bush to give up without a fight, agreeing to remove protection for the rivers. The Bush administration has developed a cozy relationship with industry lawyers in which it encourages anti-environmental lawsuits, then quickly gives up protections enacted by the Clinton administration.

A federal judge, however, has granted the Center for Biological Diversity permission to "intervene" in the lawsuit to defend the government and the Arkansas River shiner against the industry challenge and the Bush administration's almost certain decision not to defend itself. The Center will be represented by Matt Kenna of Kenna & Hickcox (Durango).

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