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Suit Brewing to Save Species From Massive Oil-shale Mine

To protect sensitive western species and lands from the most wasteful and dirty kind of oil development, this Tuesday the Center for Biological Diversity and 10 fellow groups formally notified the Bush administration we'll sue if it doesn't halt its rush toward a commercial oil-shale industry in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming. In two letters -- each addressing a separate wrongful decision -- we told the U.S. Bureau of Land Management that it's violating the Endangered Species Act by refusing to consider oil-shale development's effects on imperiled species.

Oil-shale production in the West will require enormous amounts of electricity -- which means a lot of greenhouse gas emissions -- as well as water taken from the already overtaxed Colorado River, damage to some of the Rockies' best wilderness, and threats to plants, fish, and other species, from the Mexican spotted owl to the black-footed ferret. But the Bush administration has hastily issued final regulations and land-use amendments to move forward with commercial oil-shale production anyway -- and if those moves aren't stopped, leases could be issued before Bush leaves office.

Read more in the Aspen Times.

Center Challenges Logging in New Hampshire Wilderness

Standing up for the landmark Roadless Rule -- which has been left in limbo by the Bush administration's attack on roadless areas -- last Friday the Center for Biological Diversity and the Vermont and New Hampshire chapters of the Sierra Club submitted an official protest of a project that would devastate a pristine part of New England's White Mountain National Forest. The proposed Mill Brook project calls for logging that would damage about 300 acres of the Kilkenny Roadless Area, one of the largest and most isolated remaining roadless tracts in the eastern United States -- in a part of New Hampshire where black bears, American martens, northern goshawks, and Canada lynx roam (and moose are more likely to be seen on the trails than hikers).

The Kilkenny area has been named by the U.S. Forest Service as one of the top places for solitude and natural scenery -- yet the agency is moving full steam ahead with the destructive Mill Brook project, ignoring the Roadless Rule meant to protect remote parts of national forests from road construction and logging.

Get more from the Sun Journal.

Bush Backs Down on Bad Fuel Plan, Leaves Decision to Obama

As smart consumers across the country were trading in their gas-guzzlers this winter, President Bush -- while we won't get into matters of intelligence -- was proving how little he cares for fuel efficiency: Two weeks ago, he announced a plan to bail out Chrysler and General Motors, two makers of the most gas-guzzling vehicles around. He was also preparing yet another round of way below-par fuel economy standards for automakers -- but this week, the administration proclaimed it wouldn't finalize its standards. Perhaps it realized the error of its ways, since last year a court ruled in a Center for Biological Diversity suit that the feds illegally failed to consider greenhouse gas emissions when setting their standards. But more likely, as the Center's Brian Nowicki says: "The unjustifiably low proposed standards were simply not going to fly after a federal bailout for U.S. automakers."

What does the Center have to say about it? If any government loans are given to Chrysler and GM, they must include certain conditions to help safeguard our environment. And why not go farther, instead simply buying out at least one of the Big Three to finance a new fleet of clean vehicles and support a public transportation system?

Get details on the Center's resolution on fuel economy standards here, and read a compelling opinion piece (published before Wednesday's news) by the Center's Francisca Santana in the San Jose Mercury News. Then check out what the New York Times has to say.

Groups Call for End to Government Slaughter of Wildlife

Helping ensure that the next administration is far better for species than the current one -- before our next president even takes office -- the Center for Biological Diversity joined 114 other concerned organizations in writing a letter to Agriculture Secretary nominee Tom Vilsack, requesting that he end the federal government's systematic killing of predators, prairie dogs, and other wildlife. In 2007 alone, the "lethal control" program run by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services spent more than $100 million to slay 90,262 coyotes, 2,277 gray foxes, 2,412 red foxes, 2,090 bobcats, 340 gray wolves, and many other animals -- even cats and dogs.

The agency indiscriminately slaughters "unwanted" carnivores and smaller "nuisance" animals like prairie dogs to appease the livestock industry, killing other creatures, like blackbirds, on behalf of other agribusiness enterprises.


2008 a Deadly Year for Mexican Wolves

Speaking of carnivore killings, records now show that last year was one of the worst for illegal Mexican gray wolf deaths since the majestic canine was reintroduced into the wild in 1998. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is investigating seven suspicious wolf deaths, at least four of which are known to be the result of illegal shooting. With just 52 free-roaming wolves counted at the beginning of 2008, every wolf's passing is devastating to the population. "It is alarming," said Michael Robinson, the Center for Biological Diversity's carnivore expert. "We find each one of these deaths heartbreaking. It is one of the factors that has so far kept the numbers [of wolves] suppressed, the other big factor being federal predator control."

Read more about the wolf killings in the Albuquerque Journal and watch Robinson on EarthTalk Today speaking about wolves, the Endangered Species Act, and his book Predatory Bureaucracy.

Bull Trout Gets Chance to Overcome Political Meddling

Thanks to a report on yet another case of political interference in endangered species management, the Bush administration is finding itself at a loss to justify a past unscientific decision that granted deficient protections for the bull trout. In 2000 and 2005, lawsuits by Montana nonprofit Friends of the Wild Swan drove the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect some habitat for the threatened fish -- but not nearly enough, and not in the right places. In fact, the agency's habitat designations went against science showing exactly what and how much habitat the trout needed.

Just before Interior official Julie MacDonald resigned in disgrace in 2007 due to evidence of her meddling in endangered species decisions, Congress asked Interior to inspect other decisions, including the 2005 bull trout habitat designation. Last month, it was shown that the trout decision -- among numerous others -- was indeed tainted by interference undermining science. The Center for Biological Diversity has been working to defend the species wronged by Bush-administration meddling since August 2007, when we launched our Litigating Political Corruption campaign, which is in full swing to right wrongs affecting 59 imperiled species.

Read more in the Missoulian.

Manatee Mortality Mushrooms in Florida

With 2008 ended, the numbers are in for the deaths of endangered Florida manatees last year -- and they're not good news. Florida's total count was 337 individual deaths, marking the seventh time in the past 10 years that more than 300 manatees died in state waters. Scientists documented a record high of 101 perinatal deaths, which include both unborn manatees and dependent babies of less than five feet in length. One of the worst threats to Florida's manatees are boats, which can kill the gentle creatures through collision. Last year, 90 manatees died in Florida waters thanks to watercraft.

The Center for Biological Diversity, Wildlife Advocacy Project, and Save the Manatees Club petitioned last week petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to update the Florida manatee's federally protected habitat designation, now 32 years old.

Read more in the Fort Myers News-Press.

Media Buzzing About Endangered Species Ringtones

Since the Center for Biological Diversity recently revamped and expanded its free endangered species ringtones site,, we've been getting quite the response -- even from the august New York Times. Last week on New Year's Day, after Rare Earthtones logged more than 200,000 downloads by users worldwide, the paper wrote a laudatory story highlighting some Center supporters who've had quite interesting (you could say wild) experiences with our ringtones. And what do you expect when your cell phone rings with the sound of a tiny American pika, a 40-ton humpback whale, or one of the new sounds we've just added -- like the haunting call of the Mexican spotted owl? Oh, and did we mention all the ringtones are free?

Adding to the goodies available to Center supporters -- many of whom need of some fashionable clothes to layer this winter (climate change notwithstanding) -- our store has put all our long-sleeved, Center logo-boasting T-shirts on sale. We want to make it as easy as possible for folks to don Center fashions, share our pro-species and anti-global-warming message, and stay warm at the same time.

Download your own endangered species ringtones here, read about them in the New York Times, and check out our awesome store.

KierĂ¡n Suckling
Executive Director

Photo credits: Mexican gray wolf (c) Robin Silver; Colorado River (c) Michelle Harrington; Canada lynx courtesy Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife; exhaust pipe courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Steevven; coyote (c) Robin Silver; Mexican gray wolf by Val Halstead, Wolf Haven International; bull trout (c) Manu Esteve Cavaller; Florida manatee by Jim Reed, USFWS; American pika (c) William C. Gladish.

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