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Suit Filed to Save Whales From Manmade Leviathans

Cars aren't the only vehicles that shouldn't speed; fast ships can be deadly, too -- especially to whales. That's why, this week, the Center for Biological Diversity filed suit against the U.S. Coast Guard for shirking its responsibility to protect endangered whales and other species from ships hurtling through their habitat off Southern California. Last September, at least three endangered blue whales off the California coast were killed by collisions with speeding ships, so in the very same month, the Center petitioned the administration to limit ships' speed in area whale habitat. Since no one heeded our call, on Wednesday we began our legal crusade to force the Coast Guard to analyze how whales are harmed by ship traffic and take steps to make sure that harm doesn't happen.

Read more in the Ventura County Star.

Two Rare Plants Get New Chance to Grow

Settling a suit brought by the Center for Biological Diversity, the Bush administration agreed Wednesday to revisit two 2005 decisions that would work against the recovery of two federally protected Southern California plants. The spreading navarretia, a tiny, white-flowered plant that dwells in rare seasonal ponds, was granted just 652 acres of protected habitat -- even though it's found in a total of 18,747 acres -- while the thread-leaved brodiaea, a clay-loving lily, was left no better off with just 597 out of 4,093 acres of habitat protected. These scanty habitat designations were scientifically indefensible and just happened to take place smack in the middle of a period fraught with politically tainted endangered-species decisions made by Bush administration appointees. The Center filed a notice of intent to sue over 55 of those decisions and has moved forward with more than one lawsuit -- and the spreading navarretia and thread-leaved brodiaea are among the species likely to benefit.

Thanks to this week's settlement, the administration must go back to the drawing board and make new decisions regarding protected habitat for both plants. Final designations are due by 2010, with proposals to be made next year.

Learn about the spreading navarretia, the thread-leaved brodiaea, and our "Watchfrogging Political Corruption" campaign on our Web site.

Bush to Lift Decades-old Offshore Oil Drilling Ban

Taking yet another step to help oil companies and doom our planet's climate, species, and habitat at the same time, this Wednesday President Bush announced he wants to lift a 27-year-old ban on oil drilling in U.S. coastal waters, accounting for about 80 percent of the country's Outer Continental Shelf. Since 1981, a congressional moratorium has made these areas off-limits to drilling -- and even Bush Senior banned coastal oil drilling in 1990 -- yet George W. says the ban must go in order to keep gas prices down. Apparently, letting oil companies harass polar bears and Pacific walrus off Alaska isn't enough; they should have free rein on the East and West coasts, too -- disturbing marine life, destroying habitat, and risking countless oil spills. To heck with all that, Bush says: restrictions on offshore drilling are "outdated and counterproductive."

Hear more from BBC News, which highlights an interview with Center for Biological Diversity climate program director Kassie Siegel.

First-ever "Frog Fence" to Benefit Oregon Amphibian

It's no livestock ban, but it just might work: In response to a Center for Biological Diversity lawsuit, the Forest Service has proposed to build a "frog fence" to keep cattle out of key habitat for the Oregon spotted frog in its namesake state. The lawsuit -- filed last month with our allies Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics and the Klamath Siskiyou Wildlands Center -- challenged the Forest Service's decision to allow continued grazing near Jack Creek, crucial breeding grounds for one of the frog's declining populations. In the past nine years, the number of Oregon spotted frog egg masses at the creek has fallen from 335 to just 21; the species is currently on a long list of candidates waiting for Endangered Species Act protection.

Besides fencing livestock out of the Jack Creek site, the Forest Service has also promised to take measures to restore the area as optimal frog habitat. Says Center science director Noah Greenwald: "This is welcome news for the Oregon spotted frog."

Learn all about the Oregon spotted frog on our Web page.

Cattle Catastrophe More Than Just Greenhouse-gassy

Speaking of livestock, last week we reported on the detrimental climate effects of the methane-filled burps and farts emitted by cows, sheep, and other cud-chewing animals. When our readers heard about the potential solutions to the problem (cashew-shell oil in cattle feed and a methane-emission livestock vaccine, in case you forgot), some of them said things like "Great!" "Interesting!" and "Ha ha ha!"

But some other readers reminded us that the environmental catastrophe caused by cattle doesn't end with their gaseous emissions. By destroying native vegetation, damaging soils and streambanks, and contaminating water, livestock are one of the greatest threats to endangered species in the Southwest -- and, as the plight of the Oregon spotted frog shows -- in other regions, too. We hear you. Since our founding, the Center for Biological Diversity has been led efforts to reform overgrazing on millions of acres of public lands, and we're still at it.

Learn more about our Grazing Reform campaign.

Center Report: Nevada Natives Nefariously Neglected

A new study by the Center for Biological Diversity, published this month in the international journal Biodiversity and Conservation, found that most of Nevada's 384 imperiled species are inadequately protected by habitat reserves, laws and conservation agreements. Mapping out locations of the 384 species and all of Nevada's reserves, the study found that 55 percent of the species had less than a quarter of their habitat protected in reserves. Of those, only 9 percent are protected by the Endangered Species Act or voluntary conservation agreements.

First, this means that Nevada needs more reserves -- so the study identified 19 imperiled-species hotspots that would be ideal places to protect. And second, of course, the study's results show that more Nevada species need Endangered Species Act protection. (We're on it.)

Check out our press release.

Eastern Bats Get Help: Listen to Center Radio Interview

As the mysterious bat disease white-nose syndrome decimates Northeast bat populations, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is showing sympathy for at least one endangered bat species in the state of New York. Last week, the agency asked to suspend permits for three wind-turbine projects in Indiana bat habitat until more is known about turbines' effect on bats -- which could be deadly, since studies show bats are attracted to the blade-spinning structures. The Indiana bat, long ago listed under the Endangered Species Act due to dramatic habitat loss, has been especially hard hit by white-nose syndrome.

To offset the destruction of white-nose syndrome, this April the Center for Biological Diversity threatened to sue federal agencies if they didn't take extra steps to protect Northeast bats' habitat. "Our concerns have now been justified..." said Center conservation advocate (and big bat fan) Mollie Matteson in a recent radio interview. But: "I think there's a lot more that needs to be paid attention to."

Hear Matteson speak on WAMC/Northeast Public Radio and learn about the Indiana bat's plight in the Chicago Tribune.

Barcoding the Boccacio: Scientists to Track All World's Fish

Modern marine biologists have more in common with grocery store clerks than you might guess.

Biologists with the federal National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association are now engaged in FISH-BOL, the global Fish Barcode of Life Initiative, through which they plan to gather at least five specimens from each of the world's 30,000-plus fish species and give each species its very own identifying barcode by collecting a short piece of DNA. This DNA coding offers a fast and precise way to identify species and share information, and researchers hope it'll help document diversity and guide good fisheries management. FISH-BOL is just one part of the International Barcode of Life Project, which will involve all kinds of species, as well as an alliance of researchers and biodiversity groups in 21 countries.

Creepy? A little. Interesting? Yes.

Learn more about FISH-BOL and the International Barcode of Life Project.

KierĂ¡n Suckling
Executive Director

Photo credits: spreading navarretia bu Ileene Anderson; blue whale by Schulman; oil facility courtesy of Energy Information Agency; Oregon spotted frog by Kelly McAllister, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife; cow (c) Daniel Schwen; Furnace Creek Badlands courtesy of National Park Service; Indiana Bat by Adam Mann, Environmental Solutions and Innovations; apache trout courtesy of Arizona Game and Fish.

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