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Mexican Wolf Down to Two Breeding Pairs Due to Killings and Captures

Last Friday the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released the latest population figures for the Mexican gray wolf -- and they're not good. From late 2007 to last December, the number of wild Mexican wolves has stagnated at 52 animals; the number of breeding pairs dropped from three to an unfortunate two. This number contrasts starkly with a 1996 projection that 18 breeding pairs and 102 total wolves would be roaming wild by 2006. It's no coincidence that throughout 2007, the federal government trapped and shot 19 wild wolves; since 1998 -- the year of the wolf's reintroduction to the wild -- the feds have shot 11 wolves, indirectly killed 18 through capture, and trapped and held 34 others. The second-biggest loss to the wolf's population has been illegal shooting, which has killed 32 wolves since 1998. Federal killings and captures have removed almost twice as many wolves from the wild as illegal shootings, but the feds blame these shootings for the wolves' inability to make progress toward recovery.

The Center for Biological Diversity has been fighting to save the Mexican gray wolf for 19 years, ever since our lawsuit brought about the carnivore's reintroduction to the wild. "The Mexican wolf cannot afford any more government trapping and shooting," said the Center's Michael Robinson. "This animal is on the brink."

Get more from the Arizona Republic.

Energy Company Abandons Plans for Nevada Coal-fired Power Plant

The Center for Biological Diversity and clean-air lovers across the country celebrated this Monday when power company NV Energy announced it will ditch its original plans to construct the Ely Energy Center, a proposed coal-fired power plant in eastern Nevada. The project would have annually consumed about 8,000 acre-feet of water (in its first phase alone) and added an estimated 10.6 million tons of carbon dioxide to the air, all while threatening endangered species from the bull trout to the Carson wandering skipper. Luckily, citing environmental and economic concerns, NV Energy has declared the project postponed till greenhouse gas capture and storage-capture technology becomes commercially viable -- which is "not likely before the end of the next decade." A special thank-you to everyone who submitted comments last week to stop the Ely Energy Center. You share in this victory.

According to the Center's Public Lands Energy Director Amy Atwood, Monday's announcement "reflects the fact that power companies are starting to recognize coal's bleak future." In related news, we're still in the process of fighting another Nevada coal-fired plant, the White Pine project.

Learn more in the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Hunters Embrace Lead-free Ammo Rules to Protect Condors

In great news for one of the most endangered birds on the planet, last week the California Department of Fish and Game reported that a whopping 99 percent of Golden State hunters have followed new rules requiring the use of non-lead bullets in the California condor's central and Southern California range. The rules are designed to prevent the poisoning of condors scavenging on bullet-shot game. Lead poisoning is the leading killer of condors, which have been struggling to recover since their number dropped to just nine in the wild in 1985 and they were subsequently reintroduced in California and Arizona. Unfortunately, non-lead ammunition rules in the condor's Arizona range have been less effective so far, with only 70 percent of Arizona hunters in compliance.

The Center for Biological Diversity has been working to protect condors since 2004, when we helped push California to require non-lead ammunition in the condor's range. Moving forward, says the Center's Jeff Miller, "The California Fish and Game Commission should promptly announce a phase-in of non-lead ammunition for all hunting throughout the rest of the state to protect other wildlife poisoned by lead and to safeguard human health."

Check out our press release and learn more about the California condor.

Obama Moving Forward Fast for Climate, Air, Species, Lands

It's already been a busy month for reversing Bush's push to destroy the environment. Last Wednesday, the administration cancelled 77 oil and natural-gas leases on Utah public lands, with the new Interior secretary declaring that move only "one of a dozen or so" planned to reverse bad Bush policies (including the gutting of the Endangered Species Act). Last Friday, the president asked the Supreme Court to dismiss a Bush appeal of an air pollution case, upholding the rejection of Bush's lax plans to "regulate" mercury air pollution; Obama is now delaying a rule that would let some expanding facilities avoid pollution control. This Monday, he declared he'd like to double the production of alternative energy under his economic recovery package. And this Tuesday, the administration announced it's shelving Bush's 11th-hour plan to open much of the coastline to offshore oil drilling. In a visit to the Interior Department this week, First Lady Michelle Obama affirmed that the new administration's top priorities include protecting the natural environment and using natural resources responsibly.

These (and yet other Obama actions) are all great steps -- but the administration has a long way to go if it wants to undo Bush's environmental sabotage. "The Bush administration did its utmost to do the least amount of protection possible," said the Center for Biological Diversity's Noah Greenwald. "For a while, we're going to have to be focused on cleaning up the Bush legacy."

Read a string of articles on recent Obama deeds and check out this Arizona Republic piece on last week's oil and gas lease cancellation (including an assessment of what still needs to be done).

California Tiger Salamander on Rough Road To State Protection

After a 2004 Center for Biological Diversity petition, a Center lawsuit, and a recent court of appeals ruling, last week the California Fish and Game Commission finally declared the California tiger salamander a candidate for status under the California Endangered Species Act. The declaration grants protections to the little amphibian for a year while a review of the species' status is underway. Unfortunately, the Commission has also illegally approved "take" prohibitions that exempt some projects from heeding those protections, putting the salamander straight in harm's way even as the agency is supposedly safeguarding the species.

The California tiger salamander -- whose Santa Barbara County, Sonoma County, and central California populations are already federally protected -- is on the verge of blinking out thanks to habitat destruction, pesticides, and other threats. The Center has been fighting for the creature for almost 10 years; we've already wrote a letter opposing the Commission's take prohibitions and will sue if official state protection is denied next year.

Check out our press release and learn about our campaign for the California tiger salamander.

Center Fights for Nevada Fish and Desert Tortoise

In defense of the threatened desert tortoise and the Moapa dace, one of Nevada's most imperiled fish, this Tuesday the Center for Biological Diversity warned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Bureau of Land Management we'll sue over the agencies' approval of groundwater pumping and development that would harm both species. The highly endangered Moapa dace makes its last home in the upper Muddy River and its tributary springs, which would be hurt by the proposed Kane Springs Valley Groundwater Development, the proposed Coyote Springs sprawl community, and a 2006 memorandum of agreement for groundwater withdrawals affecting the Muddy River's Warm Springs area. Desert tortoises, recognized as threatened under both the federal and Nevada endangered species acts, will also be harmed. With climate change already warming and drying sensitive Nevada lands, neither species can afford more habitat destruction.

In 2008, just 460 Moapa dace were struggling to survive in Nevada; the desert tortoise is no better off, considering the multiple threats it already faces throughout the Southwest. "These three groundwater projects may well lead to the extinction of the Moapa dace," the Center's Rob Mrowka says sadly. "At the same time, they'll badly hurt desert tortoise habitat."

Get details in the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

New Mexico Off-road Plan Meets Opposition

Late last week the Center for Biological Diversity, Amigos Bravos, and the Western Environmental Law Center came out against a plan by New Mexico's Carson National Forest to keep 2,100 miles of roads open to off-road vehicles without heeding the needs of the forest's plants, animals, and rivers. While the plan takes some positive steps -- like helping protect Middle Fork Road, Goose Lake Road, and Bitter Creek -- it doesn't address how motorized routes and use will impact water quality, wildlife habitat, and other recreational activities like hunting, fishing, and hiking. The Carson can afford to maintain only 17 percent of the proposed routes, and the plan goes against the Forest Service's own documents that say just 1,400 miles of roads are needed for visitors, safety, and management of the forest. What's worse, the Forest Service has set aside only 19 days for the public to comment on the plan.

Besides submitting preliminary "prescoping" comments against the Carson's plan, the Center, Amigos Bravos, and the Western Environmental Law Center have asked for a 30-day extension of the public comment period. We're drafting more comments as you read.

Read more in the Albuquerque Journal and learn how to take action with your own comments.

Your State Could Win Wolves in Idaho "Predator Giveaway"!

Got wolves? Idaho does, and apparently it's willing to share. In a burst of sarcastic generosity last Thursday, the Idaho Senate almost unanimously approved a bill putting the state's northern Rockies gray wolves up for grabs by the rest of the country. Since Idaho lawmakers evidently feel the state has too many wolves-- and the state hasn't succeeded in wiping them out since they're federally protected as endangered -- senators have munificently agreed to give them away to more wolf-needy states, free of charge (except for "shipping and handling" -- that is, trapping and transporting -- fees). Of course, bill sponsor Republican Senator Gary Schroeder doesn't think states will take Idaho up on its offer, so it's really just a thinly veiled announcement of his view that wolves are unwanted. But we at the Center for Biological Diversity don't think the proposal is all bad. Why not spread Idaho's relative wolf wealth into other states with suitable habitat, as long as it's done right?

Last January, President Obama halted the Bush administration's latest and widely opposed rule to remove the wolves' Endangered Species Act protections (though the Center is still in court to reverse another Bush-era rule granting states the right to slaughter wolves who are still on the endangered list).  If you live in a wolf-extirpated western state like Colorado, Utah, Nevada, California, Oregon, or Washington, call your state and federal legislators and ask them to develop a plan to recover wolves -- possibly through accepting a few of Idaho's wolves for reintroduction in a humane way.

Read more in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

KierĂ¡n Suckling
Executive Director

Photo credits: Mexican gray wolf (c) Robin Silver; Mexican gray wolves by Val Halstead, Wolf Haven International; coal plant by Phillip J. Redman, USGS; California condor courtesy of Arizona Department of Game and Fish; Barack Obama courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/Catherine Szalkowski under the Gnu free documentation license; California tiger salamander (c) Gary Nafis, California Herps; Moapa dace courtesy USFWS; Rio Vallecitos in the Carson National Forest courtesy USFWS; gray wolf by John and Karen Hollingsworth, USFWS.

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