Jaguar Court Hearing Goes Well... Check Out the Video
Exactly three weeks after the death of Macho B, the last known jaguar in the United States, this Monday a federal court heard oral arguments in the Center for Biological Diversity's bid to win a federal recovery plan and protected habitat areas for the endangered species. The hearing went very well. The judge peppered the government lawyer with difficult questions and clearly was skeptical of the agency's changing litany of arguments.
Though jaguars were declared endangered under the Endangered Species Act in 1997 -- thanks to another Center lawsuit -- the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has done nothing to recover the species or protect its habitat. In a cruel irony, the agency argues that it doesn't need to protect the jaguar because it's too endangered. That's right -- because the great cat's U.S. range has shrunk to near nothing, the agency argues it's too small to protect. Presumably, if the jaguar were less endangered, it would receive more protection?
Read more in the Arizona Daily Star and check out this post-hearing video clip featuring Center jaguar specialist Michael Robinson.
Gunnison Sage Grouse May Get Federal Protection
Agreeing to reconsider yet another Bush-era endangered species decision polluted by politics, this week the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that it would reconsider its past denial of federal protection to the Gunnison sage grouse. The imperiled bird -- whose males are famous for strutting their stuff in fascinating, elaborate mating displays -- are Audubon-recognized as among the 10 most endangered birds in the United States thanks to livestock grazing, oil and gas drilling, motorized recreation, and urbanization. But in 2006, under the influence of former Interior official Julie MacDonald, the Service ignored the recommendations of its own biologists and failed to put the bird on the endangered species list. The Service's latest decision comes after a second report by Interior's inspector general finding that MacDonald and other Bush administration officials interfered with not just the sage grouse decision, but multiple others robbing endangered species of federal protections they need.
The Center for Biological Diversity is working to reverse decisions harming 59 species, including the Gunnison sage grouse, for which we went to court with allies in 2006. Said Center senior attorney Amy Atwood, "It is promising that the Department of the Interior has apparently realized that defending Julie MacDonald's antics in this matter would be a waste of resources, and has voluntarily gone back to the drawing board."
Check out our press release and learn more about our Litigating Political Corruption Campaign.
Suit Seeks Real Protection for False Killer Whale
Seeking an end to the slaughter of false killer whales in Hawaii, last week the Center for Biological Diversity, Earthjustice, and allies sued the National Marine Fisheries Service over its failure to protect the rare marine mammal from the state's longline fishery. For nearly a decade, false killer whales -- actually large members of the dolphin family -- have been getting hooked and entangled by Hawaii's longline fleet, dying at rates far beyond what the population, which numbers at only about 500, can sustain. The Marine Mammal Protection Act requires the Fisheries Service to try to eliminate these deaths, yet even after a 2004 Earthjustice lawsuit by the Center and allies -- when the Hawaii-based fishery was ominously classified as "Category 1" due to its excessive killings of false killer whales -- the agency failed to act on the mammals' behalf.
Read more in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin.
Feds Illegally Delay Protections for Warming-threatened Loon
After a Center for Biological Diversity petition and subsequent lawsuit for the rare yellow-billed loon, this week the Department of the Interior declared that the bird indeed needs Endangered Species Act protection -- but refrained from moving forward on actually protecting it. Instead, Interior invoked an excuse commonly used under Bush-era Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne, claiming that protecting the loon was "precluded" by higher-priority actions for other species. But the yellow-billed loon can't wait: The largest of all loon species, it's also one of the rarest birds in North America, severely threatened by oil development, drowning in fishing nets, overharvest, and global warming rapidly deteriorating conditions in its coastal habitat from Alaska to Russia.
With this week's unfortunate decision, the yellow-billed loon joins 251 other at-risk species considered mere "candidates" for protection. The Center is working to earn all these species the federal attention they need before any more go extinct waiting in line for protections -- as at least 24 have already done.
Read more in the Fort Mill Times.
California Butterflies Get a Helping Hand
Floating to the rescue of two rare Southern California butterflies -- and stinging like a bee in court -- this Tuesday the Center for Biological Diversity sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to gain Endangered Species Act protection for the Hermes copper and Thorne's hairstreak butterflies. Sprawl, rampant wildfires, and climate change could wipe out either insect in the blink of an eye, but the Service still decided to deny them protection after a Center petition and previous suit. In doing so, documents show, the Bush administration went against the views of its own biologists, who said enough information existed to warrant protection and the butterflies' situation deserved further research. The bright-orange Hermes copper is down to just 15 known U.S. populations, while the delicate, reddish-brown Thorne's hairstreak exists in only five populations within a few square miles.
Get details in our press release, where you can read actual Fish and Wildlife Service documents, and learn more about the Hermes copper and Thorne's hairstreak butterflies.
Lawsuit Looming Over Bay-Delta Fish Protection
While the state of California is moving (slowly) toward safeguarding two of the San Francisco Bay-Delta's most imperiled fish, the longfin and delta smelt, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has stalled on responding to petitions for protection -- so this week, the Center for Biological Diversity and the Bay Institute filed a notice of intent to sue. In 2007, the Center and allies petitioned the federal government and California to protect the longfin smelt, but the Bush administration didn't make a decision on protection by its August deadline. Way back in 2006, the Center petitioned to upgrade the delta smelt's federal and state Endangered Species Act status from threatened to endangered -- but 23 months after a decision was due, the feds still haven't responded. Luckily, California has been a bit more proactive, designating both fish as candidates for greater protections. But meanwhile, thanks to degraded conditions in the Bay-Delta caused by water diversions, pollution, and introduced species, both the delta smelt and the Bay-Delta population of the longfin smelt are fading fast.
The "smeltdown in the Delta" -- as the extinction trajectory of Bay-Delta smelts is known -- is on fast-forward, but despite court orders to clean up their act, federal and state water agencies are still mismanaging California's largest and most important estuary.
Check out all the details in our press release and learn more about the delta smelt and longfin smelt.
Take Action Now for Freshwater Turtles in Florida, Other States
With wild freshwater turtles dying at unprecedented rates thanks to unsustainable harvesting, this month Florida's herpetologist advised its Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to propose ending all commercial harvest of the turtles in the state. Of course, the problem goes beyond just Florida: Skyrocketing (and unfortunately still legal) harvests of freshwater turtles in a dozen southern and midwestern states are causing drastic reductions in numbers of turtles -- many of which are destined for domestic and international food markets, and many of which are contaminated with mercury, PCBs, and pesticides. Since 2008, the Center and allies have petitioned all 12 states where unsustainable harvesting is legal to end that harvesting -- and now we need your help. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and other states need to hear from you that they must propose and finalize a rule to completely ban the harvest of wild turtles, for the sake of turtles and humans alike.
Take action for turtles across the South and Midwest and learn more about our campaign to save them.
Bat Blasts Off as Space-shuttle Stowaway
A small, daring free-tailed bat made one giant leap for batkind this month while clinging to the external fuel tank of the space shuttle Discovery -- and holding on for dear life even after liftoff. It's highly unlikely that the bat made it into space -- since the shuttle accelerates from zero to 100 miles per hour in 10 seconds after takeoff -- but in the photo of Discovery clearing the launch tower, the tiny creature is definitely visible on the side of the tank. Though the flight was probably fatal, the bat has made history and will live on in legend.
Unfortunately, even as we mourn the loss of the first "space bat," bats across the Northeast are experiencing an even scarier and not-at-all-entertaining demise thanks to the mysterious, deadly, and rapidly spreading bat disease known as white-nose syndrome. The Center is working to protect bats from all threats in the face of the devastating sickness, which just this month was confirmed to have spread to West Virginia.
Get details on Discovery's bat passenger from space.com and learn more about our work for Northeast bats on our Bat Crisis campaign page.
Photo credits: jaguar (c) Robin Silver; Gunnison sage grouse courtesy BLM; mountaintop removal site courtesy Wikimedia Commons/J.W. Randolph; false killer whale courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Southwest Fisheries Science Center; yellow-billed loon; Hermes copper butterfly (c) Douglas Aguillard; longfin smelt courtesy California Department of Fish and Game; Barbour's map turtle courtesy USGS; Mexican free-tailed bat courtesy U.S. Department of Transportation.
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