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Court Nixes Arctic Oil-drilling Plan

Thanks to a lawsuit brought by the Center for Biological Diversity and allies, last Thursday the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals dealt a big blow to the Bush administration's authorization of a major new Arctic offshore oil-drilling program. In a 2-1 decision, the court declared that the plan for the program, proposed by Shell Offshore Inc., failed to adequately consider drilling's effect on bowhead whales and other Arctic wildlife, as well as native villagers. The Minerals Management Agency must now do a better environmental review of the project -- which will probably be reconsidered under the next administration.

Observed Center attorney Rebecca Noblin: "If polar bears and other ice-dependent species are to survive as the Arctic melts in the face of global warming, we need to protect their critical habitat, not turn it into an industrial zone."

Get more from the Los Angeles Times.

Suit Prompts State to Protect Wildlife From Fish-stocking

Things have been looking up for California's native fish and amphibians since last Thursday, when the Center for Biological Diversity and Pacific Rivers Council secured an agreement from the state to take steps to protect native species from fish-stocking. After a string of daily conferences, the California Department of Fish and Game agreed to stop stocking hatchery-raised fish in many lakes and streams where 16 native fish and nine native frogs are at risk from associated predation, competition, disease, and invasive species.

In May 2007, the court ruled that fish stocking has "significant environmental impacts" on aquatic ecosystems, ordering the Department to do a report on the environmental impacts of its stocking program by the end of 2008. But the agency has been slow to wrap up its report, and in the meantime, native fish and frogs have suffered. The new agreement will help species like the mountain yellow-legged frog and Santa Ana sucker move toward recovery.

Read more in the Sacramento Bee.

Smalltooth Sawfish to Gain Protected Habitat

Thanks to a Center for Biological Diversity lawsuit, late last week the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed to protect habitat for one of Florida's most intriguing species, the rare smalltooth sawfish. Listed as endangered in 2003, the smalltooth sawfish is a relative of the shark and has a distinctive serrated snout that looks just like a saw. Unfortunately, the species' population in U.S. waters off Florida and around the Gulf of Mexico has declined by an astonishing 95 percent. The cause? Loss of habitat due to human activities like development, dredge-and-fill operations, boating, erosion, and pollution. Still, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service failed to acknowledge that the fish needs federally protected habitat until the Center sued to gain habitat protections for the sawfish and several other marine species.

Read more in the Fort Myers News-Press.

New Power-line Proposal Would Ruin Habitat and Warm Planet

Just after the California Public Utilities Commission took two steps in the right direction regarding the Sunrise Powerlink transmission line, the Commission's president proposed a decision that could ruin everything. Late last month, the Commission issued two decisions with some merit: one denying construction of the power line through some of Southern California's last wildlands, and one requiring San Diego Gas & Electric, the company behind the project, to agree to a plan that would ensure it made good on its promises for renewable energy.

The latest proposed decision, obviously made under pressure from San Diego Gas & Electric, would let Sunrise Powerlink go forward without any restrictions whatsoever, not only allowing the project to ruin wildlife habitat and pose a substantial fire risk -- but also letting the line be used to transmit fossil fuel-generated electricity (completely contradicting Governor Schwarzenegger's reason for supporting the project).

Read more in the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Mexican Garter Snake's Protection Put on Hold

After a petition and two lawsuits by the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Monday that the Mexican garter snake indeed deserves federal protection -- but the agency still failed to grant it. Claiming that the snake's inclusion on the endangered species list is precluded by other actions to list species, the Service is continuing more than 20 years of delay in protection for the critically imperiled snake, which began back in 1985 when it was first deemed a "candidate" for protection.

The Mexican garter snake, a highly imperiled indicator species for Southwest streamside ecosystems, is just one of 282 species still waiting for needed Endangered Species Act protection.

Learn more from International Animal Rescue UK.

Northern Spotted Owl, Old Growth Defended in Suit Intervention

A few months after the Bush administration wrongfully slashed protected habitat for the northern spotted owl, this week the Center for Biological Diversity and 17 allies filed to intervene in a timber-industry lawsuit aimed at weakening owl protections even more. Last August, the administration declared it would reduce the area of federally protected habitat for the northern spotted owl by about 1.6 million acres -- despite scientists' warnings that spotted owl populations have been steadily dwindling by 4 percent a year for the past 15 years. The decision, deviously justified based on a scientifically discredited plan to recover owls -- which we're also challenging -- is just one outcome of this administration's ongoing trend of political interference in endangered species science.

The Center and allies are pressing for a more sensible approach to managing the northern spotted owl's Northwest forest habitat -- not more logging of mature and old-growth trees.

Get details in the Oregonian.

Trouble for Paradise: Lawsuit Challenges Coal-fired Power Plant

Since the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency still hadn't ruled on our petition challenging a permit for one of the most polluting coal-fired power plants in the nation, the Center for Biological Diversity, the Sierra Club, and two Kentucky residents filed suit last Thursday. The Tennessee Valley Authority's Paradise power plant in Kentucky, "TVA Paradise," burns more than 7 million tons of coal and emits thousands of tons of air pollutants each year -- pollutants the Environmental Protection Agency has deemed hazardous to human health and the environment. The plant also heavily contributes to greenhouse gas pollution: Last year, it spewed out more than 14 million tons of carbon dioxide.

It's not surprising that plant's operating permit, approved in 2007 by a state agency, fails to comply with pollutant-regulating requirements mandated by the Clean Air Act -- but the Environmental Protection Agency apparently had no objections. Our petition and suit seek to overturn the permit so the ill-named plant is forced to get its act together.

Get more dirt on the plant in our press release.

Gremlin-like Creature Pops Up in Indonesia

The pygmy tarsier, a tiny, arguably adorable primate native to Indonesia's misty mountaintops, was long thought by many to exist no more -- not a single living specimen had been found for 78 years. Last Tuesday, though, scientists announced that three of the mouse-sized mammals were recently discovered on Mount Rorekatimbo in Central Sulawesi.

Of special interest to the media has been the pygmy tarsier's uncanny resemblance to both the Furby -- a furry, talking electronic toy -- and what's referred to in the cult classic Gremlins as a "mogwai" -- a gremlin before its post-midnight meal. Curious biologists are psyched about the creature's rediscovery because it's one of the most puzzling primate species, boasting claws instead of fingernails and seeming to use neither vocalizations nor scent marking to communicate. (No information has been released on whether it's safe to feed a pygmy tarsier after midnight.)

Get more from

Bush Pardons Eagle-killer, We Tick Off Days Till He's Gone

Exactly fifty-six days before his administration's end, this Monday President Bush issued pardons to 14 criminals, including Leslie O. Connor, let off the hook for a 1996 conviction for the unauthorized use of a pesticide in killing endangered bald eagles. It's just one more reason the Center for Biological Diversity is literally counting down the days (actually, seconds -- check out our homepage) till the next administration.

Speaking of the Obama administration and endangered species, last Friday insightful blogger Chris Clarke brought up a good point on his Web site "Coyote Crossing": Endangered species weren't much talked about during the last election, so we really don't know what the next administration will bring. As Clarke observed in a special shout-out to the Center, we've adopted a tone of "cautious optimism."

Read about Bush's pardon in the New York Times and check out Clarke's blog.

KierĂ¡n Suckling
Executive Director

Photo credits: Mexican garter snake (c) Phil Rosen; bowhead whale by Rick LeDuc, NOAA; mountain yellow-legged frog by Adam Backlin, USGS; smalltooth sawfish (c) Diliff, courtesy of Wikipedia; Anza-Borrego Desert State Park (c) David Corby; northern spotted owl by John and Karen Hollingsworth, USFWS; coal-fired power plant by Phillip J. Redman, USGS; pygmy tarsier by Davidwr, courtesy of Wikipedia; bald eagle by Lee Emery, USFWS.

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