No. 400, March 13, 2008
Polar Bears, Bald Eagles, Uranium, and Wildfire
Suit Challenges Grand Canyon Uranium Mining
With the price of uranium up 15-fold over the past eight years, uranium development has increased tremendously on federal lands just south of the Grand Canyon. So far, the area is faced with 2,100 uranium claims, five uranium exploration projects, and the possibility of opening at least one mine. On March 12 the Center for Biological Diversity, Sierra Club, and Grand Canyon Trust filed a lawsuit challenging the approval of up to 39 new uranium drilling sites -- some within a few miles of Grand Canyon National Park.
As Taylor McKinnon, public lands advocate with the Center, put it: "The Grand Canyon simply isn't the place for uranium development. Our national treasures deserve better than the calamity of an adjacent industrial zone."
Read more in the Arizona Republic.
Polar Bear Protection Delay Challenged
Though federal scientists have shown that global warming is driving polar bears extinct, the Bush administration is illegally delaying a decision on whether to place the snowy icon in the federal endangered species list. To end the delay, the Center for Biological Diversity, Greenpeace, and the Natural Resources Defense Council took the administration to court on March 10th. It is the second time the Center has been forced to sue the administration since filing a scientific petition to protect the polar bear in 2005.
Polar bears live only in the Arctic and are dependent on sea ice for all their essential needs. The rapid warming and melting of the Arctic poses an overwhelming threat to the species, which could become the first mammal to lose 100 percent of its habitat to global warming.
Read more in Time Magazine and on the Center's polar bear Web page.
Arizona Bald Eagle Back on Endangered Species List
While bald eagle numbers soared over most of the United States in the past 30 years, federal and independent scientists worry that the distinct Arizona population is still very small and endangered by water diversions that are killing the state's last rivers to fuel unsustainable development. This spurred the Center for Biological Diversity, Maricopa Audubon Society, and several Indian nations to ask that the Arizona population remain protected by the Endangered Species Act when protection is removed elsewhere.
The Bush administration not only refused, it bullied federal scientists and hid reports by independent scientists in order make its case. Even the disgraced former deputy assistant secretary of the interior got involved, ordering the agency to ignore all information in its file supporting protection of the eagle.
The administration's strong-arm tactics unraveled, however, on March 6 when a federal judge sided with the Center and the tribes in striking down the protection denial and ordered the Arizona bald eagle be placed back in the endangered species list.
Read more in the Arizona Republic.
Oregon Spotted Frog Hopping Toward Extinction
In Jack Creek, Oregon spotted frogs are in trouble. The Jack Creek population in particular -- one of only 29 remaining Oregon spotted frog populations -- is under intense threat from increased cattle grazing. On March 11 the Center for Biological Diversity and allies filed suit against the Fremont-Winema National Forest for failing to conduct proper environmental analyses and for allowing grazing to continue in an area where a population of spotted frogs is known to live. The Oregon spotted frog has been a candidate for endangered species protection since 1991 and overall is now gone from 90 percent of its range. In Jack Creek, numbers have plummeted; in 2005, as few as 13 remained.
Read more about it in The Oregonian.
Thanks to You, San Diego Mercenary Camp Bites the Dust
Last summer the Center for Biological Diversity ramped up efforts to stop Blackwater USA from building a mercenary training facility on environmentally sensitive lands in San Diego County. Thousands of our members and supports signed petitions to stop the development, and the private military company, which is embroiled in controversy over its actions in Iraq, soon found itself embroiled in controversy here as well.
Bowing to the intense pressure, Blackwater announced on March 10 that it is withdrawing plans to build the training center near the Cleveland National Forest and the rural town of Potrero.
Read more in the San Diego Union Tribune. And thanks again for your help in keeping Blackwater out of Potrero.
Wildfire Bill Would Extinguish Burning Budgets
Here's an intriguing fact: Two percent of today's fires account for 80 percent of the Forest Service's firefighting costs. And increasingly, the high cost of a handful of fires leads the agency to borrow money from its other programs. On March 6 Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) introduced legislation to establish a fund for federal agencies battling the largest, most expensive wildland fires. According to Taylor McKinnon, public lands advocate with the Center, the bill would "allow the Forest Service to fight emergency fires without compromising its core functions like conserving wildlife habitat and restoring degraded streams and forests."
Read our press release.
North Pacific Right Whale Recognized and Protected as Endangered Species
The North Pacific right whale is the most imperiled whale species on the planet. On March 6, in response to petitions and litigation from the Center for Biological Diversity, the federal government recognized the North Pacific right whale as a distinct species and protected it under the Endangered Species Act. The species, once ranging from California to Alaska and across the North Pacific to Russia and Japan, is distinct from right whales in the Atlantic. Currently, fewer than 50 North Pacific right whales are known to return each summer to feed in the Bering Sea.
The Bush administration has proposed opening up the right whale's critical habitat in the Bering Sea to oil development, a proposal the Center is challenging in court.
Read our press releases: March 2008 and July 2007.
Suit Filed to Protect Endangered Species on Southern California National Forests
On March 5 the Center for Biological Diversity and allies filed a lawsuit over the failure of three federal agencies to protect dozens of threatened species on four Southern California national forests. According to the suit, land-management plans prepared by the U.S. Forest Service and related documents written by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service do little to protect federally listed threatened and endangered species from off-road vehicles, power lines, oil and gas development, logging, and grazing.
The Angeles, Cleveland, Los Padres, and San Bernardino national forests encompass over 3.5 million acres of coast, foothill, mountain, and high desert terrain and shelter 3,000 plant and animal species in Southern California.
Check out our press release.
Photo credits from top to bottom: Grand Canyon by Michelle Harrington; polar bear by David S. Isenberg; bald eagle courtesy of USFWS; Oregon spotted frog by Kelly McAllister/Washington Dept. of Fish and Game; Cleveland National Forest courtesy of USFS; forest fire by Tom Brownold; North Pacific right whale courtesy of Marine Mammal Commission; San Bernardino National Forest by Monica Bond.
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