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Suit Targets 6,000-mile, Habitat-wrecking Energy Corridor

In defiance of dirty energy and in defense of public lands and species, this Tuesday the Center for Biological Diversity and allies sued over a Bush-era plan designating energy corridors that would promote fossil fuels and slice through special places across the West. Instead of taking advantage of the region's vast potential for wind, solar, and geothermal energy -- according to local, state, and Obama-administration policies -- the plan sets aside about 6,000 miles and 3.2 million acres of federal land in 11 western states as rights-of-way for pipelines, transmission lines, and related infrastructure to transfer energy from coal-fired power plants and other dirty power sources. In designating the corridors, the Bush administration didn't consider effects on species and lands; it also failed to consult with local and state governments, ignored Congressional testimony, and flouted thousands of written comments supporting environmentally sensitive corridors. The currently designated corridors would affect Utah's Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and Arches National Park, as well as New Mexico's Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge.

"The West-wide corridors perpetuate the coal infrastructure that must become obsolete very soon if we're to avoid the worst effects of climate change," said Center Public Lands Energy Director Amy Atwood. "We must develop a West-wide Energy Corridor that facilitates a rapid transition to a green energy economy while doing everything we can to protect the West's wildlife and ecosystems."

Read more in The New York Times.

EPA Agrees to Crack Down on San Francisco Area Pesticides

Under a settlement with the Center for Biological Diversity, last week the Environmental Protection Agency proposed to formally size up the harmful effects of 74 poisonous pesticides on nearly a dozen imperiled species in the San Francisco Bay Area. The settlement concludes a 2007 Center suit over the EPA's violation of the Endangered Species Act in registering the pesticides and allowing their use without considering the detrimental effects they may have on federally protected species -- decidedly not pests. The settlement could be a habitat-saving grace for 11 Bay Area animals, from the delta smelt to the San Joaquin kit fox. And until EPA's analysis of the pesticides' effects is completed, the agency promised, it will restrict the use of all 74 pesticides in and abutting endangered species habitat.

"The toxic stew of pesticides in the Bay-Delta has played a major role in the collapse of native fish populations, and pesticides are a leading cause of the loss of native amphibians," said Center Conservation Advocate Jeff Miller. "This agreement is a positive step for protection of some of the Bay Area's most endangered wildlife from pesticides." 

Read more in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Feds Agree to Speed Protection Decision for California Seabird

In response to a Center for Biological Diversity lawsuit, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has agreed to determine by August whether California's ashy storm petrel will be added to the federal endangered species list.

The small, ash-colored seabird has done a nosedive in numbers in recent decades thanks to coastal development, pollution, and introduced predators on its breeding islands. Even artificial lighting at night is a significant threat to these nocturnally active birds; they're attracted to lighted structures like moths to a flame and can die in collisions with them. Meanwhile, global warming decreases the bird's food availability and threatens sea-level rise that could drown important petrel nesting habitat.

Check out our press release and learn more about the ashy storm petrel.

Leopard Frog Hops Toward Protection in 18 States

Responding to a petition by the Center for Biological Diversity and allies, this Wednesday the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officially declared that leopard frogs in 18 states may qualify for federal protection under the Endangered Species Act.

Pesticides, competition from invasive bullfrog bullies, nonnative diseases, and loss of wetlands have caused northern leopard frog populations to crash by at least 30 percent in all states and 100 percent in some. Eleven states show declines of up to 80 percent. Atrazine, the most widely used pesticide in the country, has caused reproductive deformities throughout the West, and the herbicide Roundup is lethal to amphibians even at "recommended" levels.

Unfortunately, northern leopard frogs are not the only amphibians in trouble: every frog species in the western United States is declining.

Get details and more statistics in our press release and learn about our Amphibian Conservation Campaign.

Center Sues for Recovering Forest Near Grand Canyon

To save thousands of acres of Arizona forest still convalescing after a devastating wildfire, this Monday the Center for Biological Diversity, Sierra Club, and WildEarth Guardians sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Forest Service over planned logging on the Kaibab Plateau north of the Grand Canyon. The "Warm Fire Recovery Project," approved for part of the Kaibab National Forest hit hard by the Warm Fire of 2006, is actually a poorly named timber sale that would log 73 million board feet of recovering trees, allow tractor logging on 9,114 acres of sensitive soil, reopen 95 miles of logging roads that would impact local watersheds, and remove large trees from 3,460 acres of federally protected habitat for the threatened Mexican spotted owl. Earlier this year, the Center and Sierra Club successfully challenged another federal logging project on the Kaibab Plateau: the Jacob Ryan timber sale.

"Burned forests are naturally recovering now, and logging will irreversibly harm that recovery," said Jay Lininger, a fire ecologist with the Center. "Fire-killed trees are biological legacies that link the old forest with the new one. Logging them erodes soil and robs it of organic matter, spreads weeds, increases fire hazard, and destroys wildlife habitat that will take centuries to replace."

Check out our press release, where you can read the lawsuit and other documents, and learn more about our campaigns for forests and ecosystem restoration.

Obama Snubs Chub: Delays Fish Protections

Responding to a lawsuit by the Center for Biological Diversity, this Tuesday the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that the roundtail chub, one of the lower Colorado River's most endangered swimmers, indeed deserves a place on the endangered species list -- but the fish still won't get it. Continuing a long tradition of cheating needy species out of protection because that protection is "precluded" by higher priorities, the Service put the roundtail chub on its "candidate list," where it will wait for protections indefinitely (along with 252 other imperiled "candidates" for protection). Of course by now, maybe the chub should be used to the Service's cold shoulder: It was first dubbed a candidate back in 1985, and when the Center petitioned for the fish in 2003, the agency called the lower Colorado River population "insignificant." This week's announcement is the result of our 2006 suit challenging that finding. Fortunately, the Center and other groups have another lawsuit pending in D.C. over the Service's delays in protecting all 253 candidate species.

The roundtail chub, now lost from more than 80 percent of its historic range, is severely and increasingly threatened by habitat destruction and invasive species.

Learn more from Denver's CBS 4.

Experts: Tejon Sprawl Threatens Condors

This week, some of the most important names in California condor conservation history offered their very valuable two cents on a plan to develop Tejon Ranch, a biodiversity-rich and condor-supporting expanse of land in Southern California -- and their opinions were downright damning. In official comments, eight condor experts broadly denounced the ranch's proposal for Tejon Mountain Village, a megadevelopment that would bulldoze the heart of federally protected condor turf, as well as the associated "habitat conservation plan," which would do anything but conserve condor habitat. In fact, it would allow the ranch to "take" (harass or harm) condors and 26 other rare species. And the plan's centerpiece, which would establish artificial food stations for scavenging condors, would harm rather than hurt the bird, relegating it to an outdoor zoo species and altering its behavior and movement. This plan, as the condor experts elegantly put it, is "neither necessary nor desirable."

"The condor is being brought back literally from the brink of extinction," said Center condor advocate Jeff Miller. "The consensus among independent biologists is that Tejon's supposed conservation plan fails to protect condors and its proposed developments would significantly harm the recovery of the species."

Read details and the scientists' comments in our press release, learn more about the California condor and our campaign to save Tejon Ranch, and take action by filing your own comments against Tejon Mountain Village before July 13.

Happy Planet Index: Costa Rica High, United States Low

Old white guys like to rank all nations by their GDP: gross domestic product, i.e. how rich nations are in goods and services. Obsession with GDP may be the one thing that unites CNN, Fox News, The Wall Street Journal, and The New York Times. Not surprisingly, the U.S. is #1 in GDP.

But what about happiness and sustainability? Isn't that a better and more direct measure of a nation's success? Well, the New Economics Foundation just came out with its latest HPI, or Happy Planet Index. The index divides the average years of happy living by the nation's ecological footprint. By that measure, the United States ranks 114th out of 143 countries indexed. Ecologically savvy, biodiversity-rich Costa Rica, on the other hand, ranks #1.

Don't hold your breath waiting for CNN pundits to debate how to get the competitive edge on HPI. (Do happiness pundits even exist?) But here's a good blog in The New York Times.

Drunk Badger Disrupts Traffic

In an unfortunate public-relations setback to those advocating for the rights of alcoholic mustelids, a badger in Germany recently wandered into a road, refused to budge, and was therefore mistaken for roadkill -- till police showed up and discovered it had merely been jaywalking under the influence and passed out. Apparently the creature had eaten cherries that turned to alcohol and gave it diarrhea. Officers urged the weaselly little lush off the road with a broom.

Read the Reuters story here.

KierĂ¡n Suckling
Executive Director

Photo credits: California condor courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Chuck Szmurlo under the GNU free documentation license; Arches National Park courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Flicka under the GNU free documentation license; San Joaquin kit fox by B. Moose Peterson, USFWS; ashy storm petrel (c) Glen Tepke; northern leopard frog by Tom Bean, NPS; Mexican spotted owls (c) Robin Silver; roundtail chub courtesy Arizona Department of Fish and Game; California condor by Scott Frier, USFWS; Costa Rica courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Jon Rawlinson; badger courtesy USFWS.

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