Endangered Earth - Online, No. 393 - Dugongs, fishers, cougars, and butterflies
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Okinawa dugong

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Endangered Okinawa Dugong Defeats U.S. Department of Defense

On January 24, in response to a suit brought by the Center for Biological Diversity, a federal court found the Department of Defense in violation of the National Historic Preservation Act. The department is now required to consider all impacts of a new U.S. airbase on the endangered Okinawa dugong, a cultural icon of Japan's Okinawan people. The decision sets an important precedent in international environmental law. 

The National Historic Preservation Act requires U.S. government agencies to consider effects on cultural and historic resources when carrying out activities abroad. Thus the Department of Defense must adhere to the law and take into consideration any harm that might occur to another nation's cultural resources. The endangered dugong, listed on Japan's register of protected cultural properties, is therefore entitled to protection. And the Department's failure to produce, gather, and consider information about effects of the new airbase on the species are a clear violation of the statute.

Attorneys Sara Burt and Martin Wagner from Earthjustice are representing the Center in the case. Read more at the Environmental News Service, and to read the decision, click here.

Protection for Pacific Fisher Sought Under California's Endangered Species Act

On January 23 the Center for Biological Diversity filed a scientific petition with the California Fish and Game Commission to protect the Pacific fisher as an endangered species under the California Endangered Species Act. Related to otters, weasels, and wolverines, the Pacific fisher is a small forest carnivore dependent on old-growth forests and large trees for survival. In California, fisher populations have declined by more than 50 percent, and currently, only two isolated populations remain in the state. Logging and road construction are key threats to the fisher, and protection under the California Endangered Species Act could bring logging restrictions to private lands.

With the worst record in history for protecting imperiled species, predictably the Bush administration has not shown an interest in safeguarding the fisher. According to Paul Spitler, public lands director with the Center: "The fisher is perilously close to extinction, partly because of the Bush administration's wholesale failure to protect it. The state of California can't just keep fiddling while Rome burns. Where the feds have failed to act, we have to take action ourselves."

Read more in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Ranchers, Environmentalists Unite to Stop Federal Cougar Killing

On January 23, the Center for Biological Diversity, along with a coalition of ranchers and wildlife advocates, filed suit to stop the federal government from killing up to 2,000 cougars across the state of Oregon. The suit argues the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services may have violated the National Environmental Policy Act in its decision to kill the big cats on behalf of Oregon's Department of Fish and Wildlife.

In 2006, Oregon approved a plan to slaughter as many as 2,000 cougars statewide, with the help of the federal government. But a 2006 wildlife-management study found that cougar populations in the Pacific Northwest are declining and recommended reduced cougar hunting - not slaughtering the population by as much as 40 percent. Ranchers and environmentalists blasted the decision for being based on faulty science; some ranchers fear that targeting and removing older cougars would skew the population toward younger cats more likely to prey upon domestic animals.

Point Your Browser and Click: www.biologicaldiversity.org Gets Great New Look

Did you click it?  Go on, click. We'll wait.... That's our fabulous site, now with over 100 new descriptions, natural histories and stunning photos of the endangered species we protect. And with fresh navigation and new features, the site will also keep you up to date on the latest Center news, upcoming events, and spotlight campaigns. The take-action toolbox gives tips for drafting a letter to the editor or composing a message to your representatives in Congress. Don't know your Senator or Rep.? No worries. The toolbox can help you find their name(s) and contact info. Check out the new site and enjoy. Then get ready for action.

Six Rare International Bird Species Finally Protected

On January 16, after languishing on the "candidate list" for 14 years, six critically imperiled international bird species have won endangered species protection. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service finally responded to a series of lawsuits by the Center for Biological Diversity and listed the black stilt (New Zealand), caerulean paradise-flycatcher (Indonesia), giant ibis (Laos, Cambodia), Gurney's pitta (Burma, Thailand), long-legged thicketbird (Fiji), and Socorro mockingbird (Mexico) as endangered species. Listing international species under the U.S. Endangered Species Act restricts buying and selling of imperiled wildlife, increases conservation funding, and garners more media attention for the species.

Though these rare birds have finally won protection, the Bush administration continues to hold the record for amount of time passed without listing a U.S. species as endangered - so far that's 624 days and counting.

Quino Checkerspot Butterfly May Have Habitat Slashed

On January 16 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed cutting the Quino checkerspot butterfly's critical habitat from 171,605 acres to just 59,558 acres. Once common on southern California's coastal slopes, the Quino checkerspot now is found in only 10 locations in Riverside and San Diego counties and a handful of places in Baja, California. Rapacious urban development, wildfire, and climate change are forcing the butterfly to the brink of extinction.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has a history of eliminating essential habitat protections for the Quino checkerspot. Though listed as endangered in 1997, the butterfly did not gain protected habitat until 2002, and even then, the habitat designation was cut from the proposed 301,010 acres to 171,605 acres. This most recent habitat proposal for the butterfly is for 98,487 acres, but proposed exclusions would cut that to under 60,000 acres. Jeff Miller, conservation advocate with the Center, offered this insight: "The species needs more protected habitat, not less - this proposal is like encountering a burn victim whose house is going up in flames and then mugging him."

Read more at the San Diego Union Tribune.

Dugong photo by Suehiro Nitta.

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