Endangered Earth - Online, No. 394 - Wolves, polar bears, bats, and salamanders
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What's Old Is New: Kieran Suckling, Center for Biological Diversity Founder, Now Executive Director

Michael Finkelstein, the Center for Biological Diversity's executive director for the past three years, has stepped down to take a health break and pursue campaign-based work to save wilderness. The Center's "new" executive director is Kieran Suckling. Suckling is one of the founders of the Center, has served on its board for 19 years, and was the executive director for the Center's first 14 years, from 1989 through 2003.

Read about it in the Arizona Daily Star: "Polar bear protection tops list for bio center's 'new' chief."

Wolf-slaughter Plan Challenged

On January 28 the Center and allies filed suit to stop the Bush administration from allowing the states of Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana to kill half the Rocky Mountain wolf population. Up to 900 wolves could be killed, primarily by aerial gunning.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service adopted the wolf-slaughter rule in response to the state of Wyoming, which insisted that states have the right to kill wolves affecting elk herds, even if a federal court overturns delisting the wolf in the northern Rockies. Elk numbers are near historical highs throughout the region, but wolves could be killed anyway. The rule remains in effect only until the administration removes wolves from the list of endangered species -- an action that is expected to come next month, which the Center will also litigate.

The suit was filed by Earthjustice on behalf of the Center, Natural Resources Defense Council, Defenders of Wildlife, and other groups.

Read more here, and learn more about the issue in the New York Times Dot Earth blog.

Suit Filed to Save 30 Million Acres of Polar Bear Habitat

On January 31 the Center for Biological Diversity and allies challenged the Bush administration's plan to sell 30 million acres of prime polar bear habitat to the oil and gas industry. The administration has fast-tracked the oil lease sale while at the same time illegally delaying an Endangered Species Act listing decision for the bear.

In its listing proposal, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife stated it did not have enough information to designate the polar bear's critical habitat. "If the interior secretary claims to not know what areas are essential to the conservation of the polar bear, then he certainly cannot sell off huge tracks of polar bear habitat to oil companies and claim it will have no impact on the species," said Kassie Siegel, climate program director for the Center.

The oil and gas development is slated to occur in an area that provides crucial habitat not only for polar bears, but also endangered bowhead whales, gray whales, Pacific walrus, ribbon seals, threatened spectacled eiders, and other marine birds and fish. Read more in the Guardian.

Immediate Protection Needed for North American Bats

A mysterious illness is threatening populations of the endangered Indiana bat and significantly affecting other North American bat populations. On January 29 the Center and allies asked the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to close all bat hibernation sites and withdraw all federal permits to "take" imperiled bats until the cause of the bat deaths is understood

While details are limited, scientists have given the name "white-nose syndrome" to describe a Fusarium mold found around the dead bats' noses. The syndrome is associated with the discovery of more than 10,000 dead bats in at least two Albany, New York-area caves last winter. It is unknown whether white-nose syndrome is the cause of the death or a symptom of what causes the death.

Read more in Schenectady, New York's Daily Gazette.

Victory at Furnace Creek: Dangerous ORV Plan Ditched

On January 29 the Bureau of Land Management announced it will scrap its controversial plan to build a road through Furnace Creek, a perennial desert stream in California's eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains. The announcement came in response to an array of protests and some 7,000 public comments in support of protecting Furnace Creek from off-road vehicles.

"Preserving rare and unique desert oases like Furnace Creek is critical to ensuring the health of the entire desert ecosystem," said Chris Kassar, wildlife biologist with the Center. "Our victory means that this fragile place and the life it supports will now have the opportunity to recover even more fully. This is a great day for Furnace Creek."

VOTE and Send Donations to the Center

CREDO Mobile is a branch of Working Assets Wireless. Each year it donates a large sum of money to social and environmental groups via a voting system. This year the Center is on CREDO's recipient list, but our contribution will be entirely determined by how many votes we get.

If you are a member of CREDO Mobile, please take a moment and vote today!

Go to http://www.workingassets.com/vote.

Salamanders Suffer at Hands of Timber Industry Pseudo-Science

After relying heavily on non peer-reviewed timber-industry studies, on January 24 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service found that the Siskiyou Mountains and Scott Bar Salamanders do not warrant protection under the Endangered Species Act. According to one unpublished study conducted by the Timber Products Company, the salamander species do not need old-growth forests to survive.

"The decision to deny the Siskiyou Mountains and Scott Bar salamanders protection flies in the face of sound science," said Noah Greenwald, conservation biologist with the Center. In its decision, the Service conceded that peer-reviewed science does indicate the salamander species are closely associated with old-growth forests, but ultimately, the Service discounted those conclusions and relied instead on the findings of the Timber Products Company. The company's unpublished study concluded that the salamanders "persist in a wide variety of habitat conditions" and downplayed the necessity of old-growth forest to the Siskiyou Mountains and Scott Bar Salamanders.

Spitting Mad: Conservation Groups Seek Protection for Giant Palouse Earthworm

On January 24, the Center and allies went back to court seeking protection for the giant Palouse earthworm. The action comes in response to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service finding that the rare, three-foot-long, spitting earthworm does not warrant endangered species protection. The Service's decision was released nine months late and only after the Center and allies threatened to take the agency back to court.

At the turn of the 20th century, the giant Palouse earthworm was described as "very abundant," but today, sightings of the species are few and far between. Most recently, the species was seen in May 2005 by a university researcher; before that, the giant worm was last spotted in 1988. Despite the animal's rarity, there is still hope that with protection under the Endangered Species Act the giant Palouse earthworm can be saved.

Read about the giant Palouse earthworm in Science Friday.

Like the Limelight? Wanna Be on the Web?

How do you stand up for the endangered California red-legged frog? The polar bear? Mexican gray wolf? Are you a public-lands activist taking a stand for a favorite hiking trail? Or are you partaking of a creative carbon-footprint reduction regimen? In 150 words or less, inspire us -- tell us what you do to protect the species and wild spaces in your life. And if your story catches our fancy, we may feature you on the Center's new Web site.

Email us at jjohnson@biologicaldiversity.org.

If we like it, we'll request a picture, too.

Polar bear photo by Connie Barclay.

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