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Polar Bear Gets its Picture On the Cover Of...

OK, its not Rolling Stone, but getting your picture on the cover of Newsweek is nothing to shake a stick at. It may even save you from going extinct, if you're a polar bear. The current issue has the polar bear on the front cover and feature piece on the Center's efforts to save it--and the world--at the same time.

The article opens way back in 1998, when Kassie Siegel, the Center for Biological Diversity's Climate, Air and Energy program director, was first searching for "an animal to save the world," and goes on to ponder why her gravitation to the polar bear has captured the world's attention. It also delves into the Bush administration's efforts to ignore not only the needs of the polar bear, but the wolverine, sage grouse, wolf, and virtually every other endangered species that swims, flies or crawls.

Pick up a copy at your local newsstand (Or if you're really in a hurry, read the article online here.)

Newsweek Does Dung Beetles Too

Since you're already reading Newsweek, turn to the "On Science" section and check out an endangered species article that turns away from the polar bear issue in favor of smaller, creepier, and less cuddly species -- like the American burying beetle. Lamenting the fact that the beetle isn't iconic enough to share the cover with the polar bear, the article celebrates the critical importance of species like moths, spiders, clams, and snails to the great web of life and reminds readers that though these creatures may not be cute, they are the foundation of life on Earth.

For a supportive authority, the article features Kierán Suckling, executive director for the Center for Biological Diversity and famous underdog advocate: "Plants and invertebrates are the silent majority which feed the entire planet, stabilize the soil and make all life possible....", tricks, Suckling says, that "polar bears and blue whales haven't mastered yet."

Still don't have your copy of Newsweek? Then we guess you can read this article here.

New Climate Bill Doesn't Cut It

It's a scary time for us on Earth. If we don't drastically cut carbon dioxide, methane, and black carbon emissions fast -- which we can easily do right now -- we'll soon reach the tipping point. Global warming will be completely beyond human control.

Unfortunately, those in Washington don't quite seem to realize the extent of the danger. Yes, the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act of 2008 does represent a breakthrough in finally getting Congress to debate global warming. It's an important attempt to shift the nation to a low-carbon economy, deal with warming impacts, and protect wildlife and plants. But even if the bill's goals are met, atmospheric carbon levels will remain above 350 part per million -- the number scientists say will spell catastrophe for humans and other animals -- and will continue to rise.

Read our analysis of the bill or the Washington Post's coverage.

Tejon Ranch Kicks Condors When They're Down

Following a deal allowing the Tejon Ranch Company to build huge developments on Tejon Ranch, California's biggest privately owned ecological jewel, the company is seeking a permit to "take" -- that is, kill -- California condors and other wildlife to ease its plans. The latest version of the proposed permit would exclude Tejon Ranch's hunting program from the list of activities covered by the permit, even though a 2003 hunting event killed the beloved condor AC-8, one of the last wild-born birds of its kind.

This comes just as scientists have found at least five new condors with lead poisoning, contracted from scavenging animals killed by hunters using lead bullets. Five is no small number compared to the mere 34 condors remaining in Southern California's wild space. This highly endangered bird can't afford more casualties.

Learn details in our press release and read about the latest poisonings from the Los Angeles Times.

Feds Try Sneak Attack on Public Lands

As if imperiled species didn't have enough problems getting the protection they need, the administration is now proposing changes to a key policy manual for managing at-risk wildlife on federal lands -- and they're not good changes. Proposed alterations to the "Special Status Species Manual" would limit help for public-lands-dwelling species that need Endangered Species Act protection but haven't yet received it, leaving some of the most vulnerable species more vulnerable than ever. The changes would also hurt species already listed under the Endangered Species Act, not only directly limiting their protections from harmful activities but allowing protected habitat to be traded or sold.

Last month, the administration claimed it wouldn't go through with last-minute regulatory changes, and that it would provide for "an appropriately open and transparent process." Apparently, though, it was scheming behind closed doors.

Check out our press release, where you can read the proposed changes for yourself.

Teshekpuk Lake Protected... Sort Of

Last month, the Bureau of Land Management announced that it would back off from oil and gas development in the most sensitive area of the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska -- Teshekpuk Lake.  But like all "good news" announced by the Bush administration, this is only a partial victory . . . at best. 

The National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska, despite its designation as a "petroleum reserve," is an area of incredible ecological importance, and it's the largest unprotected wilderness area in the United States -- besides being a place where polar bear mothers build dens and have cubs. It should be permanently protected in its entirety. Not surprisingly, the administration thinks otherwise.

In 2006 it finalized plans to auction off the area around Teshekpuk Lake, the heart of the reserve, to oil companies, but actual leasing was blocked by a successful lawsuit brought by the Center for Biological Diversity and our allies.  The new plan would protect the bed of Teshekpuk and defer leasing in some areas adjoining the lake for ten years, but it would immediately open up nearly 4 million nearby acres of the Reserve to oil development.  So while the heart of the area is "protected," the rest of the body is sacrificed.  Hardly a cause for celebration.  Looks like the courts, once again -- or perhaps a new administration -- will be needed to truly save Teshekpuk Lake.

Read more in the International Herald Tribune and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

Suit Filed For Sensitive San Pedro

On Wednesday the Center for Biological Diversity, Maricopa Audubon Society, and Tucson Audubon Society sued Arizona's Pinal County over destruction of the publicly owned lower San Pedro River conservation area. The county had used deceitful tactics to seize federal lands and open an unrestricted passageway across the San Pedro -- straight through the conservation area -- claiming it was an "emergency," and that of course the Bureau of Land Management wouldn't object. But the Bureau did object . . . and there was no emergency.

To maintain its illegal passageway, Pinal County must bulldoze the stream and import dirt from an outside area -- which the county has no permit for. Plus, the passageway encourages off-road vehicles that erode soil, destroy streamside habitat, and pollute water, affecting a host of precious San Pedro species like the endangered southwestern willow flycatcher. Wednesday's lawsuit aims to undo the underhanded seizure and stop damage to the stream.

Read our press release and learn more about the San Pedro on our Web site.

Agency Spurns Appeal to Fix Bad Forest Plans

In a move destined to damage Southern California's last precious ecosystems, on Monday the U.S. Forest Service rejected a Center for Biological Diversity appeal of its bad management plans for the Angeles, Cleveland, Los Padres, and San Bernardino national forests. The plans decidedly favor exploitation and industrial recreation over conservation, letting activities like transmission-line projects, new reservoir construction, grazing, and off-road vehicle use harm the forests' 3.5 million acres and 3,000 diverse species. Yet the Forest Service says the plans are A-OK.

The Center has been fighting for Southern California's four national forests for years, successfully filing suit in 1998 to update management plans and protect species, and subsequently watching over plan revisions, leading public comments, and with allies releasing a 400-page report full of recommendations. The appeal rejected this week was filed in 2006 by the Center and our partners.

Learn more from KPBS News.

Endangered Sea Turtles: "Going Faster Than You Think"

Turtles aren't known for their speed, but they can race -- sea turtles can, at least. For proof, check out the second annual Great Turtle Race, which tracks the progress of eleven endangered leatherback sea turtles as they make their epic migrations from Indonesia nesting beaches and feeding areas along the U.S. West Coast to a finish line in the center of the Pacific. The race, which kicked off on Monday, doesn't take place in real time, but the race's Web site makes it seem like it does, with humorous daily updates by "Mr. Leatherback" the race announcer and animation showing where each turtle is and when. The site also offers a chance to meet and cheer on each turtle, an interactive presentation on a leatherback's life and journey, original content by leading researchers on how global warming threatens leatherbacks, and lots more.

Sorry, there's no place on the Web site for betting. (But we're not responsible for what turtle-racing fans do on their own time...)

Get the latest on the race, learn about leatherbacks on the Center for Biological Diversity's Web page, and take the "Seafood Pledge" to help sea turtles and other marine life.

Kierán Suckling
Executive Director

Photo credits: dung beetle by Bruce Marlin; California condor courtesy of Arizona Department of Game and Fish; forest by Edward McCain; polar bear and cubs by Pete Spruance; San Pedro River by Robin Silver; San Bernardino National Forest by Monica Bond; leatherback sea turtle hatchlings by Betsy Lordan, USFWS.

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