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Forty-four Congressmen Call for Repeal of Bush ESA Rules

With about a month till it's too late to save the Endangered Species Act with the stroke of a pen, last Friday 44 members of the House of Representatives sent a letter calling on Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Commerce Secretary Gary Locke to rescind the Bush administration's rules gutting our nation's premier environmental law by exempting thousands of federal activities, including those driving global warming, from independent review. On March 10, Congress passed legislation empowering the administration to retire the rules within 60 days without legal ado, but Salazar has so far kept mum about his intentions -- hence the representatives' letter. Led by House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Nick Rahall and signed by seven committee chairman and several other high-ranking leaders, the letter strongly opposes the regulations because they "cut at the heart of the law that has protected and recovered endangered fish, wildlife, and plants for the past 35 years" -- and "every day they remain in effect places endangered wildlife at greater risk of extinction." Hear, hear.

Check out our press release and learn more about the Endangered Species Act rule changes and how you can help.

Air-quality Concerns Freeze Minnesota Off-road Plan

Last Friday the Center for Biological Diversity and six allies scored a success for the Canada lynx, gray wolf, and other iconic species of the North Star State when Minnesota's regional forester halted an off-road vehicle plan for the Superior National Forest, citing unease about vehicles' effects on the crisp air of the beautiful Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. The Center and partners appealed the Forest's decision to allow motorized travel on more than 1,600 miles of roads and trails due to problems with air quality, water quality, noise pollution, and a failure to protect endangered species and more than 2.7 million acres of forest. We were surprised to learn that the Forest Service saw no difference between the potential impacts of passenger cars and those of off-road vehicles. Hmm. Now the Forest Service has acknowledged it needs to take a long, hard look at the environmental impacts of off-roading before it moves forward with a plan.

As Center conservation advocate Cyndi Tuell declared, "This is definitely a victory for Americans who treasure wilderness and quiet recreation on their public lands."

Read more in the Duluth News Tribune.

Lawsuit Filed for Rare California Seabird

With the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service more than five months past its deadline to decide on federally protecting the ashy storm petrel, last Wednesday the Center for Biological Diversity filed suit to stop the agency's illegal foot-dragging. A barometer of the health of California's coastal waters, the ashy storm petrel has been seriously declining due to global warming, pollution, development (including offshore energy terminals), shipping traffic, commercial fishing, and oil spills -- in fact, the largest colony of ashy storm petrels shrank by 42 percent in the last 20 years, prompting the World Conservation Union and BirdLife International to deem the species endangered. Still, the Fish and Wildlife Service hasn't yet made its 12-month finding on whether to put the shy, smoke-gray bird on the U.S. endangered species list (even though its decision was due last October).

Get more from San Francisco's CBS5.

Center Offers $30K Reward for Condor Shooter; Act Now for Condors on Tejon Ranch

As if it weren't bad enough that California condors are frequently poisoned by lead ammo-killed game, last month two of the highly endangered birds were themselves found shot full of lead bullets -- and the Center for Biological Diversity, determined to bring the perp to justice, has established a $30,000 reward. Santa Barbara's Wendy P. McCaw Foundation has pledged $25,000 of the total, which was posted after the announcement that biologists found a young female condor with three shotgun pellets lodged in her wing and thigh -- just three weeks after finding another condor shot full of 15 pellets. Both birds are still alive but may never return to the wild, and they were also suffering from lead poisoning, which happens when condors scavenge lead bullet-shot game. Work by the Center and allies led to California outlawing the use of lead ammunition in the condor's range -- but of course that makes no difference to outlaws.

And unfortunately, shooting and lead poisoning aren't all the condor's troubles: The rare bird is also threatened by a development-friendly, misleadingly named "habitat conservation plan" for California's Tejon Ranch, which contains some of the condor's most crucial habitat. In order to develop a luxury mega-resort, the Tejon Ranch Company is asking the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for permission to harm the iconic condor and 25 other rare species that call Tejon Ranch home.

Read more on the condor shooting in the San José Mercury News and take action to save condors and other species from development on Tejon Ranch.

Feds Get Ultimatum Over Protecting Arctic Seal

Preparing to add another unfortunate creature to the list of warming-threatened species we're in court to save, this Tuesday the Center for Biological Diversity warned the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration we'll sue if it doesn't open its eyes to the endangerment of the ribbon seal. Despite clear scientific evidence that the beautiful seal is in danger from climate change, which is melting its Arctic habitat at record rates, the agency responded to a 2007 Center petition for protection by declaring the seal shouldn't be on the endangered species list because it will have enough sea ice to sustain it at least until mid-century. But the agency's decision ignores its own data, which show that spring sea ice in the seal's northernmost breeding range could be half gone in the not-too-distant future, forcing seal pups to enter icy Arctic waters before they're big and strong enough to survive.

"The science is clear that global warming is threatening the ribbon seal with extinction," said Center biologist Shaye Wolf. "This decision was a parting shot from the Bush administration, emblematic of the disregard for science under that administration, and it must be reversed."

Check out our press release and learn more about the ribbon seal.

Center Opposes Goshawk-harming Timber Sale, Climate-harming Clearcuts

Last week the Center for Biological Diversity swooped to the aid of our country's most sizeable remaining population of northern goshawk, challenging a timber sale north of the Grand Canyon that would degrade habitat for sensitive goshawks on the Kaibab Plateau. By approving the 26,000-acre Jacob Ryan timber sale, the Kaibab National Forest failed to heed goshawk-protection requirements laid out in its own Land and Resource Management Plans. This timber sale is the second in northern Arizona to defy codified national forest-plan habitat requirements for the goshawk -- but the first, the Jack Smith timber sale on the Cococino National Forest, was happily withdrawn for redesign after a 2007 Center challenge.

In other logging-related news, this week the Center submitted comments on a proposed forest clearcutting project in California, with a focus on the fact that plans for the project -- now up for state approval -- will significantly contribute to carbon emissions and drive global warming. The comments are just the latest in a series of Center efforts to ensure that logging companies and the California Department of Forestry stop disregarding clearcutting's terrible climatic effects.

Read more on our efforts for the goshawk in the Tucson Citizen and check out the press release on our clearcutting comments (where you can also read the comments themselves).

Take Action to Aid Species at Risk From Border Wall

Anyone who's been following the plight of jaguars -- which, thanks to a Center for Biological Diversity lawsuit, may gain a recovery plan and protected habitat -- probably knows about the bad effects of the U.S.-Mexico border wall on the species' well-being. The wall makes it difficult for jaguars to roam back and forth across the border -- and since the last known U.S. jaguar was hastily euthanized last month, it's all the more important that they do. Along with associated construction and maintenance activities, the wall also negatively affects the habitat, daily existence, and movement of countless other at-risk Southwest species, including the cactus ferruginous pygmy owl; Sonoran pronghorn; southwestern willow flycatcher; and another majestic feline, the ocelot (which could expand its U.S. range to include Arizona if the wall doesn't stop it).

To advocate for sensitive species and habitat affected by the border wall, Center Conservation Advocate Randy Serraglio will be attending a border-wall lobbying week in Washington, D.C. from April 26 to 29 -- and he wants you to join him.

Learn how to get in on the D.C. action or get more information by contacting Randy Serraglio. And if you can't make it to the capital, you can still take action by writing your Congressional representative.

Robot Spies on Sage Grouse Mating Matters -- See the Footage for Yourself

Imagine your horror if you'd been vigorously courting a mate -- strutting around, making all the right moves and vocalizations -- only to find the focus of your affections to be a robot in disguise. Luckily, the avian objects of a new sage grouse study don't seem too picky when it comes to female attention in the heat of spring courtship rituals. For the study, a Wyoming researcher used a remote-controlled, robotic female sage grouse decoy to infiltrate the action in the middle of mating grounds and catch the courtship on camera, up close and personal. And it's some movie: Male sage grouse are famous exhibitionists, having evolved elaborate tricks and complex anatomy to snag the ladies -- including an inflatable chest air sac, specialized head feathers, and a spreadable tail that's made them "the North American version of the peacock." Unfortunately, grazing, development, and other threats have sent sage grouse numbers tumbling in many areas, making it all the more important to understand their reproduction.

The Center for Biological Diversity is working hard to protect the country's rarest sage grouse -- the Gunnison sage grouse and the Mono Basin greater sage grouse -- under the Endangered Species Act. Thanks largely to our efforts, late last month the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agreed to reconsider protecting the Gunnison sage grouse; the Mono Basin area bird is also in line for safeguards.

Get more on the Wyoming study and watch a video of the sage grouse "fembot" in action courtesy of the Billings Gazette.

Kierán Suckling
Executive Director

Photo credits: California condor by Scott Frier, USFWS; bald eagle (c) Robin Silver; Canada lynx courtesy Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife; ashy storm petrel (c) Glen Tepke; California condor by Scott Frier, USFWS; ribbon seal by Captain Budd Christman, NOAA; northern goshawk (c) Robin Silver; jaguar courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Cburnett; Gunnison sage grouse courtesy BLM.

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