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Suit to Defend Condor, Tejon Ranch From Megadevelopment

Refusing to let sprawl destroy critical habitat for the California condor and ancient cultural sites, today the Center for Biological Diversity and a coalition of Native American, environmental justice, and community groups will sue to stop the construction of two new cities on California's precious Tejon Ranch. The cities, quaintly misnamed Tejon Mountain "Village," were approved last month by Kern County and are being pushed by Tejon Ranch Company, a project of the massive Third Avenue Real Estate, or TAREX -- whose specialty is developing the living daylights out of ecological gems.

Not only would Tejon Mountain Village obliterate habitat for the severely endangered California condor and other species; it would also threaten local Native American village sites and culture, overburden the area's already maxed-out highway -- encouraging even more sprawl -- and spew out greenhouse gases and other pollution that would further damage public health in California as well as the global climate. Our suit -- to be filed with Wishotyo Foundation, TriCounty Watchdogs, and the Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment -- aims to get Tejon's species and thousands of people out of harm's way.

Learn about our work for Tejon Ranch and the California condor, and help us stand strong for condors now.

Mining Ban Saves 1 Million Acres of Tortoise Habitat

In one of the largest land withdrawals the Bureau of Land Management has ever enacted, late last month the agency blocked new mining claims on nearly 1 million acres of southern Nevada land for the next 20 years. The land in question, made up of federally designated "areas of environmental concern" due to encroaching development, is home to threatened desert tortoise and endangered birds, fish, and plants. These areas also happen to be historic hotspots for gold mining.

The Center for Biological Diversity has been working to defend the desert tortoise for decades, including waging a successful campaign to close an immense cinder mine in Mojave tortoise habitat and filing a 2009 notice of intent to sue the feds over a faulty land-management plan in Nevada, which would hurt the tortoise and other species.

Read more in The New York Times.

100,000 Letters Support Protecting Grand Canyon

According to tallies released last Thursday, nearly 100,000 people -- including more than 21,000 Center for Biological Diversity supporters -- have written to the Bureau of Land Management in favor of new uranium-mining protections for Grand Canyon watersheds. The flood of comments demonstrates strong public approval of the Interior Department's proposal to prohibit new uranium mining across nearly 1 million acres around Grand Canyon National Park. "This massive show of support confirms the fact that watersheds feeding the Colorado River are no place for a radioactive industrial zone," said Center Public Lands Coordinator Taylor McKinnon.

The proposed million-acre mining halt came after the Center sued Interior for going against a Congressional resolution by authorizing uranium on the same 1 million acres.

Check out our press release and learn more about our campaign against destructive mining.

Public Wins Power Over Verde River's Fate

In a big victory for central Arizona's beautiful Verde River, last week citizens in Prescott, Arizona voted for a direct say in large-scale city projects -- most notably the Big Chino Water Ranch project, which would likely spell the demise of the Verde and a host of animals and plants depending on it. The proposed Big Chino pipeline would remove upward of 13 million gallons of water per day from the Big Chino aquifer -- which supplies 80 percent of the Verde's flow -- pumping it all 45 miles away to quench the thirst of water-gulping developments.

The Center for Biological Diversity has been working to save the Verde since before 2004, when we first filed a notice of intent to sue Prescott and Prescott Valley over Endangered Species Act violations. Thanks to last week's vote, Prescottonians will now have the power to veto the devastating Big Chino pipeline and save Verde River endangered species, from the headwater chub to the desert nesting bald eagle.

Read more in the Daily Courier.

Senate Climate Bill Spells Disaster

The Senate took a disastrous step backward on climate legislation last week, passing a loophole-ridden global warming bill with unacceptably low pollution-reduction goals that would also work against our most effective existing law to fight global warming. First, the bill has no target for atmospheric CO2 levels; in fact, it would let CO2 increase to about 600 parts per million -- while science shows we must reduce levels to 350 ppm to avoid climate catastrophe. Second, the bill eliminates the Clean Air Act's requirement for federal scientists to determine the safe level of greenhouse gas concentrations. Third, the bill's carbon-offset provisions are so many and poor that they undermine its own pathetic emissions-reduction goals.

Nearly 50,000 Center for Biological Diversity supporters have signed petitions to the Senate seeking a strong bill. Says Center Executive Director Kierán Suckling: "Our elected leaders need to fix the problem, not apply false Band-Aids. We call on the Senate leadership to fix the grave problems in the current bill and present Americans with a bill that will actually stop global warming. Anything less than that is unacceptable."

Learn more in The New York Times and read the Center for Biological Diversity's statement on the Senate bill's serious shortcomings.

"Carbon Credits for Clearcuts" Policy Challenged

Opposing the absurd idea behind offering eco-points to those who cut down forests, this Tuesday the Center for Biological Diversity filed a formal letter to stop a program granting carbon credits for clearcutting in California. Defying all logic -- and law -- the California Air Resources Board has adopted a "Forest Project Protocol" that forms the first step toward letting forest landowners collect credits for the CO2 stored in trees, even while those same landowners help destroy the climate by clearcutting big, old trees and replacing them with plantations. Not only does the process of clearcutting spew new CO2 into the air from the machines cutting, transporting, and processing the trees; it also releases CO2 already stored in the trees and soil.

The Center has been fighting the Protocol since it was first proposed; we've also halted three large CO2-spewing logging projects in the Sierra Nevada due to their effects on climate change.

Check out our press release and learn more about our Clearcutting and Climate Change campaign.

Dirty Coal Czar Confirmed by Senate

Despite massive public outcry -- including a flood of letters from Center for Biological Diversity supporters -- last Friday the Senate confirmed dirty-coal bigwig Joseph Pizarchik as director of the U.S. Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement. In his past post as director of Pennsylvania's Bureau of Mining and Reclamation, Pizarchik consistently made decisions benefiting industry at the expense of the environment and communities, advocating for unsafe toxic coal-ash disposal, weakening stream buffer-zone rules, and more. Now, thanks to the Obama administration and the Senate, he can bring those disastrous policies to mining practices across the country.

Said the Center's Tierra Curry, "It is extremely alarming that the Senate would confirm such a controversial nominee with a record of consistently downplaying the devastating effects of coal mining and coal ash on the environment."

Read more in the Charleston Gazette and take action to save an ancient mountain from dirty coal.

Obama Trailing Bush on Species Protection

Late last week, the Obama administration released its first review of animals and plants deemed deserving of federal protection that are still languishing without it -- and there are a whopping 249. On average, these candidates for Endangered Species Act protection have been waiting for safeguards for 20 years; at least 24 candidate species have gone extinct due to delays in protection. The Center for Biological Diversity and allies have a lawsuit pending in D.C. to stop the illegal and fatal stall in protecting all 249 candidate species, from the Oregon spotted frog to the Florida semaphore cactus.

After 10 months in office, the Obama administration has granted federal protection to only two species, including the Hawaiian plant Phyllostegia hispida, which had been on the candidate list for more than a decade. The Bush administration -- with the worst species-protection record in history -- put an average of about eight species per year on the endangered list. Obama administration, you'd better get cracking.

Check out our press release and learn more about our Candidate Project.

The Plight of the Albatross: Too Many People's Plastic

Ever since "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" made them famous, albatrosses have been larger than life. But now, thanks to too many humans consuming too much plastic, these beautiful seabirds are themselves literally consuming too much plastic -- and dying awful deaths. This fall, photographer Chris Jordan journeyed to Midway Atoll, a set of islets near the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre -- otherwise known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, where more than 7 million tons of plastic now clog an area more than twice the size of Texas. On Midway Atoll, Jordan captured devastating photos of just one of the consequences this plastic has on the ecosystem: deceased Laysan albatross chicks stuffed with pieces of bright-colored plastic their parents mistakenly fed them.

Limiting global plastic use and disposal would certainly help these birds, not to mention thousands of other species affected by our wanton love of the troublesome material. But the Center for Biological Diversity knows one simple way to curb the growth of the Garbage Patch, and that's curbing the growth of the human population.

Get more from CNN and view a slideshow of Jordan's devastating photos. Then check out the Center's Overpopulation and Oceans Web page.

Bid With Your Lid for the Center -- You're Making a Difference

This fall, through its Profits for the Planet Program, eco-savvy organic yogurt company Stonyfield Farm will donate a portion of $100,000 to the Center for Biological Diversity, based on the number of votes we get from people across the country. Since October 1, Stonyfield yogurt lids have displayed a message about the Center and two other nonprofits; every time you lick the lid of a Stonyfield yogurt cup, you can read about the Center and our co-competitors, then vote with a simple click or use the codes from your yogurt lids to cast multiple votes for one of us. And ahem, we hope that's the Center.

Thanks to your votes, we're now in second place -- but we'd love to be first, so keep bidding with those lids. Voting ends December 15, 2009.

Kierán Suckling
Executive Director

Photo credits: California condor courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Chuck Szmurlo under the GNU free documentation license; California condor courtesy USFWS; desert tortoise by Beth Jackson, USFWS; Grand Canyon courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Luca Galuzzi under the Creative Commons attribution license; desert nesting bald eagle by Tom Gatz, USFWS; Navajo Power Plant courtesy USGS; logging courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Jastrow under the GNU free documentation license; Joseph Pizarchik; Phyllostegia hispida courtesy USFWS; Laysan albatross courtesy USGS; logo courtesy Stonyfield Farm.

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