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Suit Filed to Stop Rockies Wolf Slaughter

Challenging the feds' second legal assault in less than a year on northern Rockies gray wolves, this Tuesday the Center for Biological Diversity and allies sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over its removal of wolves in Idaho, Montana, and parts of Oregon, Washington, and Utah from the endangered species list. On April 2, the Obama administration finalized the Bush administration's proposal to delist wolves and leave them to the mercy of state-authorized hunting and unconstrained federal "predator control" -- potentially reducing the wolves' numbers from about 1,500 to just 200 to 300 in Idaho and Montana. Wolves in Yellowstone National Park declined by 27 percent in the past year, and wolves in greater Yellowstone, central Idaho, and northwest Montana haven't yet achieved the interconnectivity needed for long-term survival. 

After the federal government's last removal of wolf protections in spring 2008, conservation groups (including the Center) successfully sued to get protections reinstated -- but unfortunately, not before more than 100 wolves had been killed. The current delisting rule excludes Wyoming, whose wolf-slaughter plan was remanded by the court, but will still leave vast areas permanently wolfless. We aim to ensure that wolves regain their protections and are allowed to expand their ranges to the remaining important habitats where they once lived. "Wolves are still endangered," said the Center's Michael Robinson, "and we believe the court will see through this smoke-and-mirrors act."

Get more from the Associated Press.

Sea Turtles Take to Court 

After more than a year with no response to our petitions for stronger sea turtle safeguards, last Thursday the Center and its allies sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service to upgrade the protection status of loggerhead and leatherback turtles. Both species are severely imperiled by commercial fisheries, coastal development, and global warming. Loggerheads could be functionally extinct by the mid-21st century if current trends continue, and leatherbacks in the Pacific could be lost within as little as a decade.

Though they have survived for 100 million years, including the asteroid strike that drove the dinosaurs extinct, sea turtles are finding it hard to cope with the massive human population explosion. The more of us gobbling up land, spewing pollution, and consuming fish, the fewer there are of them.

In some good news for sea turtles, the Center and allies recently won the emergency closure of the Gulf of Mexico's turtle-killing longline fishery.

Read more about our sea turtle lawsuit in and take action for oceans by telling the administration to give ocean acidification the attention it needs.

Emergency Gull-billed Tern Petition Shuts Down Egg-killing Plan

Swooping to the rescue of a highly imperiled but sadly misunderstood bird, this Wednesday the Center for Biological Diversity petitioned the Fish and Wildlife Service to protect the western gull-billed tern under the Endangered Species Act. The tern hasn't received the conservation attention it deserves, largely because it preys on the chicks of federally protected western snowy plovers and California least terns in the San Diego Bay National Wildlife Refuge. But while those birds must be protected, and the impact of predation must be acknowledged, the biggest problem for the plover and both terns is habitat destruction -- and the gull-billed tern needs federal protection, too. In fact, the gull-billed tern is less abundant and has fewer breeding sites than either the plover or the least tern.

Instead of protecting the bird, the Fish and Wildlife Service hatched plans to reduce its population by destroying eggs in the Bay Refuge -- but just after we filed our petition, we learned that the agency won't move forward with those plans anytime soon. Still, egg-destroying plans may resurface next year, and the western gull-billed tern needs federal protection immediately.

Read more in the Palm Springs Desert Sun.

Water-gulping Nuke Plant Threatens Fish, Plants

To help make sure endangered Southwest fish and plants won't be harmed by a water-gulping nuclear power plant, last week the Center for Biological Diversity submitted a protest of water-rights applications filed by the Kane County Water Conservancy that would be used to advance a nuclear power plant at Green River, Utah. Our protest points out the lack of information given to the public about the use of 29,600 acre-feet of water, and how the diversion of that water would affect the flow of the Colorado and Green rivers -- and the species that live in and around them, including the federally protected Colorado pikeminnow, bonytail and razorback suckers, and Maguire daisy. It's believed that the planned power plant will use more than 1.1 million gallons of water per hour for cooling its reactor.

Said Center Conservation Advocate Rob Mrowka, "The needs of federally and state protected wildlife and plant species and the maintenance of the natural conditions of their habitats imposes a significant beneficial use that is required to be protected under Utah code."

Read more in Deseret News.

Yes, We Can! Destroy Mountains for Coal, That Is: Obama Disappoints on Appalachian Coal

Far from ending the "Appalachian apocalypse," as the devastating practice of mountaintop-removal coal mining is aptly nicknamed, the Obama administration has decided to give its blessing to dozens of new mountaintop removals. In a letter to Rep. Nick J. Rahall, D-W. Va., the EPA says it will OK 42 out of 48 mine projects it's reviewed so far, including two dozen mountaintop-removal projects. While coal-friendly politicians insist that the economy and communities of Appalachia are dependent on the mining technique -- which blows off entire tops of mountains and dumps waste directly into streams -- in reality, mountaintop-removal mining tears communities apart and employs few people. Meanwhile, it pollutes streams, destroys species habitat, and scars Appalachia's stunning landscape.

"Obama's actions to slow mountaintop removal don't amount to a hill of beans," declares Center for Biological Diversity biologist Tierra Curry, an Appalachian native. "Rubberstamping 88 percent of pending mining permits is not change we can believe in. Allowing 24 more mountains to be blown up in one of the oldest, most diverse ecosystems on earth is enough to make the preacher cuss."

Read more in the Los Angeles Times.

Center's Bat Woman Crusades Against Extinction; Listen to the Interview

With the first day of summer fast approaching -- and the fatal bat disease white-nose syndrome fast proliferating -- it's a crucial time for biologists to study bats in their summer habitat and do everything possible to stop the disease's spread. Since it first arose two years ago near Albany, New York, an estimated million-plus bats have died from the syndrome, including the federally protected Indiana bat; the disease now exists in nine states, and Texas is gearing up for the possibility that it will spread there soon. After the Center for Biological Diversity and Heartwood petitioned to close off bat hibernation sites to help prevent the disease's spread, this spring the U.S. Forest Service announced it would close thousands of caves and abandoned mines in 33 states. But much more still needs to happen, and agencies don't have enough resources to deal with the disease -- what leading bat expert Merlin Tuttle has deemed "the worst wildlife crisis documented in North America in the last century."

As the Center's main bat advocate Mollie Matteson proclaimed in a recent radio interview, "There need to be concerted efforts to make this more of a priority." That's why the Center and 60 allies wrote Congress requesting increased funding for research, coordination, and management to fight white-nose syndrome. And this morning, Center Senior Counsel Bill Snape attended a House hearing on how to address the problem. We hope it will receive the urgent attention it deserves.

Listen to Matteson's radio interview and learn the latest on the syndrome in the Miami Herald.

LA Magazine: Center Eco-Barons Fight for Last Frontier

This month, Los Angeles magazine's feature story covers the Center for Biological Diversity's battle to save California's Tejon Ranch from the developer's blade. Tejon, a vast, biologically rich expanse of privately owned land home to the endangered California condor, is slated to become the largest master-planned community in the state. When other conservation groups signed a "conservation agreement" with developers to allow development in protected condor habitat in exchange for not developing most of the ranch, the Center refused to give up our stance that the entire ranch should be preserved. Tejon should be a national park, not the biggest sprawl, golf course, hotel, industrial development in California's history.

Penned by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Edward Humes, the article tracks his newest book Eco Barons and introduces the Center this way:

"Though few outside the rarefied world of environmental litigation are familiar with the center, evidence of its work is ubiquitous. Almost every species that since 2001 had been grudgingly listed by the Bush administration as imperiled -- a total of 63 -- has been protected because the center used the courts to force the issue on a recalcitrant White House…More than 100 million acres of wildlands have been preserved as habitats for these endangered species -- an area more than twice the size of all the national parks in the contiguous 48 states combined. It is no exaggeration to say that the modern American environmental movement has been reinvented by the center."

Read Humes' piece in Los Angeles magazine, check out his Eco Barons blog, and if you find yourself intrigued, get Eco Barons for yourself (10 percent goes to the Center).

The New, Improved, Fuel-efficient . . . Cow?

Though the Obama administration is finally stepping up to improve national gas-mileage standards, the United States is still far behind Europe, Japan, and even China on miles-per-gallon requirements for cars and trucks. But what about Canada? Well, we're about tied with Canada on fuel-efficiency standards for cars -- but cows are another story.

Scientists in Canada are now researching ways to produce cattle that eat less and emit less -- that's right, we mean farting and burping, which, when cows do it, pollutes the atmosphere with methane (a powerful greenhouse gas that accelerates global warming). Fuel-efficient cow genetic engineering studies are underway, as well as studies correlating type of feed with methane emissions. Through selective breeding, scientists have already created cattle that produce 25 percent less methane than the average bovine: the Priuses of the field.

Read more in Discovery News.

Kierán Suckling
Executive Director

Photo credits: gray wolves courtesy Wisconsin Fish and Game Service; gray wolf courtesy NPS; loggerhead sea turtle courtesy NOAA; western gull-billed tern (c) Kathy Molina; Maguire daisy courtesy USFWS; mountaintop removal site courtesy Wikimedia Commons/JW Randolph; Indiana bat by Adam Mann, Environmental Solutions and Innovations; Tejon Ranch (c) M. Harvey; cow (c) Daniel Schwen.

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