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The endangered San Bernardino kangaroo rat is even more vulnerable since it was robbed of habitat protections last week. Photo (c) Lloyd Glenn Ingles/California Academy of Sciences.

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Legal Victory Gives Cutthroat Trout Second Chance

Last Friday, a judge gave vulnerable coastal cutthroat trout populations a new chance at recovery, ruling that the Bush administration wrongfully denied them protection under the Endangered Species Act. The ruling was in response to a suit brought by the Center for Biological Diversity, Oregon Wild, the Pacific Rivers Council, and WaterWatch.

Ocean-migrating coastal cutthroat trout in the Columbia River and southwest Washington are threatened by logging, grazing, dams, and urban development. In recognition of the trout's troubles, the Clinton administration proposed protecting it as officially "threatened" in 1999, but in 2002, Bush reversed the proposal -- without a lick of information that the fish's situation was improving.

Read more about it in our press release.

Agreement Could Save Rare New Mexico Butterfly

In response to a lawsuit by the Center for Biological Diversity and WildEarth Guardians, last week the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agreed to heed the plight of the Sacramento Mountains checkerspot butterfly, a colorful, medium-sized butterfly with an extremely limited range around the town of Cloudcroft, New Mexico. The butterfly is imperiled by insecticides, climate change, and habitat destruction from sprawl, off-road vehicles, and grazing. Just last year, the heart of the butterfly's range was targeted for insecticide spraying.

The Center first petitioned to protect the butterfly in 1998, and while the government proposed to list it as endangered in 2001, the proposal was withdrawn three years later. This checkerspot can't wait any longer for protection.

Read more about it on our Web page and in the Las Cruces Sun-News.

Bush Slashes Protections for Charismatic Kangaroo Rat

Last Wednesday the Bush administration announced plans to drastically reduce habitat protection for the endangered San Bernardino kangaroo rat, a small, seed-eating rodent that now hops around in just a few last fragments of undeveloped Southern California riparian areas. Though tiny, the rodent plays a huge role in streamside ecosystems, helping re-establish plants and habitat after floods by distributing seeds and trimming vegetation. But the government's proposal would cut the little mammal's protected habitat from 33,295 acres to just 10,658.

Read more about it our press release.

New Mexico's Gila River Declared Endangered

Rare species aren't the only things that can be called "endangered" -- the biologically rich, rapidly disappearing ecosystems they live in need recognition, too. Last week, American Rivers declared that the Gila River, one of the only free-flowing rivers in the Southwest, is also one of the 10 most endangered rivers in the country. The main threats to the waterway come through provisions of a 2004 law that authorized the use of more than 100 million dollars for New Mexico to build any project to meet its future water needs. Now, some in the state have proposed to divert huge amounts of water from the Gila and its tributary, the San Francisco River, annually -- impairing flows, harming habitat, and fueling growth. Hopefully, a move by New Mexico governor Bill Richardson will help the Gila; he announced last Thursday that he'll consider proposing protection to block the construction of dams or water-diversion projects on the river in southwestern New Mexico.

Read more in the Arizona Republic and the Silver City Sun-News.

Federal Protection Sought for Las Vegas Buckwheat

On Monday the Center for Biological Diversity filed a scientific petition requesting that the imperiled Las Vegas buckwheat be listed under the Endangered Species Act. The buckwheat, a one-of-a-kind plant found only at a few small sites in Nevada, has been devastated by unchecked growth spreading across the Las Vegas Valley -- not to mention off-road vehicles tearing up the gypsum-rich soils it needs to survive. More than 95 percent of the buckwheat's historic habitat has already been destroyed.

Now, the buckwheat is in more danger than ever: much of its enduring habitat in the Upper Las Vegas Wash is set to be sold for development, and two other buckwheat populations also live on coveted land. Without Endangered Species Act protection, the plant soon may not have any undeveloped soil in which to sink its roots.

Read more in the Las Vegas Sun.

Scientists Ready for Civil Disobedience to Protest Border Wall

Since Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff suspended more than 30 environmental laws this month to ease construction of a U.S.-Mexico border fence, scientists have shown extreme concern about what it means for wildlife and habitat.

"This wall is so asinine, and so wrong, I am one of a dozen scientists ready to lay our bodies down in front of tractors," said Healy Hamilton, director of the California Academy of Sciences' Center for Biodiversity Research and Information. "Make it 13!" added Allison Jones, a conservation biologist with Wild Utah Project.

Things certainly aren't looking good for rare species that live along the border -- or for the delicate ecosystems that harbor them, like the San Pedro River watershed. A border wall could be the final blow for jaguars, Mexican spotted owls, Gila chub, Sonoran pronghorns, and many other fascinating animals and plants already struggling to survive.

Read more in the Washington Post and our Web page.

Humans and Elephants -- Can't We All Just Get Along?

During the 1970s and '80s, nearly half of Africa's elephants were killed for ivory. Thanks to improved anti-poaching law enforcement, today numbers have risen, but slowly recovering elephant populations face a new threat as their old habitat is increasingly taken over by development, roads, and agriculture.

Fortunately, African elephants are generous creatures. Case in point? Every year during Zambia's mango season, one munificent elephant family shares its space with humans who built a safari lodge right in its feeding area. When the lodge's lobby was expanded to block the elephants' path to their favorite mango tree, people assumed the huge animals would walk around the building to taste the tree's luscious fruit -- but the elephants saw no reason to change their ways. They walked straight through the lodge's new reception area, astounding tourists and staff alike -- and providing prime elephant-viewing opportunities.

See a photo of the elephant incident taken by renowned photographer Frans Lanting.

Blackle Schmackle: Uh, Black's Not So Green After All

Last week we reported that the new dark-screened search engine uses less energy than traditional light-screened Web sites. Not so fast, complained many of our readers.

"I just wanted to let you know," writes with-it reader Steve, "that your suggestion to use 'Blackle' would actually cause users of LCD (liquid crystal diode) monitors to consume MORE power. ... LCD users can effectively consume less power by simply turning down the brightness slightly." Ashley at Grist agreed, noting that Google and determined that Blackle energy savings were minimal or nonexistent depending on the type of monitor used. She recommends these five better energy-saving computer tips.

Mea culpa.

Photo credits: coastal cutthroat trout courtesy of California Department of Fish and Game, Sacramento Mountains checkerspot butterfly by Eric Hein/USFWS, San Bernardino kangaroo rat (c) Lloyd Glenn Ingles/California Academy of Sciences, Gila River by Robin Silver, Las Vegas buckwheat by Rob Mrowka, San Pedro River by Robin Silver, African elephant courtesy of USFWS.

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