Slow but Steady? Government foot-dragging, Freshwater Turtles, and Dugong Delays
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Barbour's map turtle

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Kempthorne Refuses to Testify on Delay of Polar Bear Protection, Center Lawyer to Appear

The Bush administration's mysterious delay of a final decision on whether to add the polar bear to the endangered species list took an even stranger turn this week when Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne refused a congressional request to testify under oath about the delay. The polar bear, the largest and only completely carnivorous bear in the world, is facing extinction as the Arctic ice melts away under the relentless pressure of global warming. Congress wants to know why he has illegally delayed protecting the polar bear while at the same time speeding up Arctic oil and gas development.

Kempthorne may miss the hearing, but the Center for Biological Diversity won't. Kassie Siegel, the director of our Climate, Air, and Energy Program, will testify next Wednesday as an expert on polar bears and global warming. Siegel authored the 2005 scientific petition that put the polar bear on the road to federal protection.

Read about Kempthorne's refusal in the Anchorage Daily News or visit our polar bear Web page.

Seals Threatened by Global Warming Advance Towards Federal Protection

In response to a December petition filed by the Center for Biological Diversity, the National Marine Fisheries Service announced March 26 that it would review whether to grant Endangered Species Act protection to the ribbon seal, a beautiful marine mammal whose sea-ice habitat is quickly disappearing due to global warming. The ribbon seal relies on sea ice off Alaska and Russia for giving birth and nursing pups each winter, but scientists say that if current greenhouse gas emissions continue, this sea-ice habitat will decline by 40 percent by mid-century -- and the ribbon seal will likely face extinction.

In addition to the ribbon seal, the government will review the status of the bearded, spotted, and ringed seals, three other ice-dependent seals that live near Alaska. These seals now join the polar bear as Arctic species waiting for federal protection from global warming and other threats.

Read more in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Mexican Wolf Celebrates Anniversary of Reintroduction Into Wild

One snowy day 10 years ago this Saturday, 11 captive-bred Mexican wolves -- the most endangered wolves in the world -- were released back into the wild in the Apache National Forest in east-central Arizona. Before that day, the species had been unknown in the Southwest for 50 years, driven almost to extinction by poisoning, poaching, and trapping. Though Endangered Species Act protection has been crucial to the wolf's survival, it continues to be persecuted and even killed.

The Center is co-sponsoring a party in Tucson to inaugurate the wolf's comeback and we encourage you, wherever you are, to celebrate el lobo along with us this March 29.

Learn more about the Mexican wolf on our Web site.

Vote and Help the Center

CREDO Mobile is a branch of Working Assets Wireless that each year 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're a member of CREDO Mobile, please take a moment and vote today!

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Turtle-harvesting Ban Sought in Southern States

The Center has filed emergency petitions with the states of Florida, Georgia, Oklahoma, and Texas to ban commercial turtle harvesting in public waters. Because of their unique biology, freshwater turtles are highly sensitive to overharvesting, which only compounds threats they already face, from water pollution to habitat loss. Scientists warn that these turtles can't withstand significant collection without population crashes. Yet Oklahoma, Florida, and Georgia continue to allow the unlimited and unregulated harvest of wild turtles for the Asian food market and the pet trade, and Texas still allows unlimited harvest of some native turtles on private lands.

Not only is turtle harvesting devastating for the turtles themselves; it also endangers human health because turtles sold for food are often contaminated with mercury, PCBs, and pesticides.

Learn more in our press release.

Arizona Oasis Escapes Highway-bypass Destruction

Southern Arizona's San Pedro River Valley, one of the most biologically diverse ecosystems on earth, avoided being slashed by a highway last Friday when Arizona's transportation board decided to remove it from the list of possible sites for a bypass around Tucson. Opposition to road construction in the San Pedro watershed from politicians and concerned citizens -- including those at the Center -- has been so strong at public meetings that the board's decision was unanimous.

Read more at KOLD-TV or on our San Pedro River Web page.

Developers Threaten Condor; Hear an Interview With Center Biologist Ileene Anderson

California's Tejon Ranch, a 270,000-acre swath of land encompassing four different ecoregions and an extraordinary wealth of biodiversity, is home to at least 81 rare species and provides vital habitat for the endangered California condor. Unfortunately, as Center biologist Ileene Anderson explains in a recent radio interview, none of these species will have an easy time surviving if massive developments planned for the area are constructed. Making the situation worse, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed Wednesday to allow the ranch's owners to kill and harass the iconic condor to ease the development process -- even though a single condor death would be devastating to the species.

The Center strongly opposes the granting of a "license to kill" condors and has joined with other conservation groups in sounding the call to forever preserve Tejon Ranch's most vital habitat as a state or national park.

Learn more about Tejon Ranch and the Center's campaign to save it on our Web page.

Defense Department Must Heed Dugong

As the U.S. Marine Corps prepared last week to begin an environmental survey for a new military air station in Okinawa, Japan, their efforts were delayed by the sighting of an endangered Okinawa dugong, a rare, manatee-like saltwater mammal sacred to the Japanese culture -- of which fewer than 50 are known to exist. Dugongs, whose remaining habitat contains the site of the planned U.S. airbase, were the focus of a successful Center for Biological Diversity lawsuit challenging the Department of Defense development.

Read more in Stars and Stripes.

Photo credits: Barbour's map turtle courtesy of USFS, polar bear copyright Pete Spruance, ribbon seal by Captain Budd Christman/NOAA, Mexican wolf and San Pedro River copyright Robin Silver, California condor courtesy of Arizona Fish & Game, dugong copyright Suehiro Nitta.

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