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Kemp's ridley sea turtle

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Suit Launched to Save Turtles From Burning Alive -- Take Action

The Center for Biological Diversity on Wednesday joined shrimp-boat captains and conservation partners in a suit seeking a temporary restraining order against BP to stop oil-burning operations that have killed endangered Kemp's ridley sea turtles. In a separate action, the Center and Turtle Island Restoration Network this week filed a notice of intent to sue BP and the U.S. Coast Guard for allowing the endangered turtles to be burned alive during oil-spill cleanup efforts.

These beautiful, federally protected animals -- along with other sea creatures -- are becoming trapped on the Gulf's oily surface and then torched by cleanup crews in "controlled burns" of corralled oil. BP has started at least one reported burn operation without letting a turtle-rescue crew first survey the area and rescue endangered Kemp's ridley turtles. Now is the worst time possible for sea turtles to face danger in the Gulf, where they're now trying to nest -- and where newly hatched youngsters are making their way out to sea only to find themselves in a mucky mess. As of this week, more than 400 dead sea turtles have been collected in the Gulf, with many more likely killed or injured.

Thanks to the immediate outpouring of support from our online activists, on Monday, we and CREDO Action hand-delivered more than 150,000 signatures to BP demanding that it stop blocking efforts to rescue turtles from death by fire.

Get more from the Los Angeles Times and tell BP to stop torching endangered sea turtles now.

Washington Post: Spill Too Much for Big Oil's Cleanup Group

The Center for Biological Diversity once again found itself front and center in a major news article about the Gulf oil spill. A front-page story in The Washington Post on Wednesday revealed a troubling truth: The oil industry's own spill-cleanup group, called the Marine Spill Response Corp., was woefully unprepared for the magnitude of the BP disaster. The group "has never had to deal with anything even remotely this large and chaotic," the Center's executive director, Kieran Suckling, told The Post. The tax-exempt Marine Spill Response Corp. -- set up two decades ago by oil companies and funded with hundreds of millions of dollars for equipment and staff in case of an offshore catastrophe -- is in way over its head, The Post reports. It lacks the equipment or ability to collect oil 5,000 feet underwater, not to mention cleaning up the vast oil slick spreading across the Gulf's surface. In fact, much of the group's equipment is as old as the group itself. But that didn't stop BP and other companies from citing the Response Corps (alone or with for-profit cleanup companies) as their first responder for massive spills.

The group's utter lack of preparation shows that safeguarding the coasts shouldn't be left to private industry, said Suckling. "It seems to me there is a real significant conflict of interest here. When you are dealing with an issue that has such enormous stakes for public health and safety, it should be in the government's hands."

Also a government job: preventing offshore drilling disasters in the first place.

Read more in The Washington Post and take action to stop all new offshore drilling.

Center Petitions to Protect Gulf Fish Habitat From Drilling

As oil continued to erupt from the floor of the Gulf of Mexico, the Center for Biological Diversity last week called on the government to do more to protect fish and fish habitat in the Gulf of Mexico from the nasty effects of offshore drilling. The Center filed a legal petition urging federal agencies to strengthen conservation for threatened Gulf fish habitat and fisheries. Neither the new Bureau of Ocean Energy (formerly the Minerals Management Service) nor the National Marine Fisheries Service has done its job in adequately analyzing the effects of oil and gas activities on protected "essential fish habitat" in the Gulf. As a result, scores of important fish, from the Atlantic bluefin tuna to the blacknose shark, are harmed by ocean noise, mercury contamination, ocean acidification, climate change -- and, of course, oil spills and dispersants.


Squirrel Triumphs Over Bombing Range

Just hours after the Center for Biological Diversity announced we'd sue, the federal government on Tuesday ditched plans to build a sprawling State Department training center in rural Maryland, smack in the middle of habitat for the endangered Delmarva Peninsula fox squirrel. The Foreign Affairs Security Training Facility had been proposed for the Ruthsburg area, which is heavily used by the rare squirrel.  Occupied habitat would have been clearcut, and the squirrels would have been subjected to vehicle strikes and noise impacts.

In March, the Center called for a legally required analysis of the project's impact on the fox squirrel and spotlighted the proposed location's utter inappropriateness. The large, fluffy-tailed tree squirrel is already struggling to avoid extinction from the primary threats of habitat destruction and vehicle strikes. "It was clear from the outset that bombing and live-ammunition exercises shouldn't be conducted anywhere near these rare squirrels," said Center Staff Attorney Bethany Cotton. "This is a victory not only for the fox squirrel, but also for the rural character of Queen Anne's County."

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New Lawsuit Filed for Famous Sage Grouse

A new legal effort has been launched to rescue one of the Interior West's most iconic and enchanting birds. The Center for Biological Diversity and allies this week filed suit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for delaying Endangered Species Act protection for the greater sage grouse, as well as for two distinct populations of the bird (the bistate population of Nevada and California and Washington's Columbia Basin population). These theatrical birds -- whose males strut their stuff in riveting, complex spring mating rituals -- have less to strut about every year as their populations decline due to livestock grazing, development, off-road vehicles and other threats. Yet after we petitioned and sued in defense of the grouse, the Fish and Wildlife Service merely made it a "candidate" for Endangered Species Act status -- leaving it to wait for protection indefinitely (along with the other 245 current candidates). Our suit challenges those delay tactics and urges immediate protection for these showy birds.

"The sage grouse needs protection under the Endangered Species Act to have any chance at survival," said Noah Greenwald, endangered species program director at the Center. "More bureaucratic delay places sage grouse at increased risk of extinction from further habitat destruction and other factors."

Read more in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

After 26 Years, Hawaiian Damselflies Earn Safeguards

In response to one of the Center for Biological Diversity's most ambitious lawsuits, last week the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service finally protected a pair of highly endangered Hawaiian damselflies under the Endangered Species Act. The species were just two of a backlog of 245 species long considered by the feds to be "candidates" for protection, but shoved to the side to await safeguards indefinitely -- hence the Center's suit, filed in 2005, to speed protections for all species on the candidate list. Both damselflies, the Pacific Hawaiian damselfly and the flying earwig damselfly, had been waiting for Endangered Species Act status for an appalling 26 years.

"Today's proposal is welcome news for these highly endangered Hawaiian species and a step in the right direction, but still falls well short of the kind of progress that is needed to address the backlog of species waiting for protection," said Noah Greenwald of the Center. "Indeed, species have gone extinct waiting for protection. Fortunately, these two unique Hawaiian damselflies are not among them."

Damselflies look a lot like dragonflies but hold their wings parallel to their bodies when resting (instead of perpendicular). Both just-protected species have been pushed out of much of their ranges and remain threatened by habitat loss.

Read more in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

Five Fish, Three Flowers on Way to Protection

In more good news for the country's imperiled "candidates" for Endangered Species Act protections, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service last week proposed to safeguard three Colorado wildflowers and five southeastern freshwater fish. All eight were included in the Center for Biological Diversity's sweeping 2005 lawsuit to extend Endangered Species Act protections to hundreds of species deemed "candidates" for listing but left indefinitely in limbo.

The three flowers -- Parachute penstemon, DeBeque phacelia and Pagosa skyrocket -- have been candidates for federal protection since at least 1990. All are threatened by industrial development and have extremely limited ranges. The five fish -- the Cumberland darter, rush darter, yellowcheek darter, chucky madtom and laurel dace -- have been waiting up to 25 years for protection and are endangered by dams, pollution, groundwater extraction and climate change. One of the fish is also the subject of a recent Center petition, now being considered by the Fish and Wildlife Service, to protect 404 southeastern freshwater species.

Check out our southeastern fish press release, read more about the wildflowers in the San Francisco Examiner and learn about the Center's Candidate Project.

New Bill Gets the Lead Out of California Wildlife Areas

In another victory in the transition to nontoxic ammunition for hunting, the California Assembly has passed a bill banning the use of lead shot in California's 667,000-acre network of state-owned wildlife-management areas. Assemblyman Pedro Nava introduced the bill to prevent upland birds from ingesting and becoming poisoned by spent lead shot. Nonlead shot has already been required for more than two decades for hunting in wetlands, and recent studies have shown the devastating effects of lead poisoning on birds in upland areas as well. "The science is increasingly clear that lead shot poses a real danger to bird populations on these lands," Nava said in a statement. "With viable alternatives to lead shot -- this is just a no-brainer."

The Center for Biological Diversity has been working to get toxic lead out of the food chain since 2004, when we and allies first petitioned to require nonlead ammunition in habitat for the California condor -- a severely endangered species whose recovery has been stymied by widespread lead poisoning from condors ingesting ammunition fragments from scavenged carcasses. California now requires lead-free hunting in the condor range, but the voluntary nonlead bullet programs in Utah and Arizona haven't prevented condors in those states from continued high rates of lead poisoning. The Center is now working harder than ever to get the lead out nationwide -- for the benefit of all species that may consume toxic lead, including humans.

Read more in the Redding Record-Searchlight and learn about the Center's Get the Lead Out Campaign.

Suit Brewing for Endangered Bats -- Take Action

With bats from the East to the Midwest continuing to die en masse from white-nose syndrome, last week the Center for Biological Diversity filed a formal notice of intent to sue the feds for delaying protections to two bat species hit hard by the disease. In Massachusetts, New York and Vermont, the eastern small-footed bat population has decreased by nearly 80 percent in just the past two years, and the northern long-eared bat population has shrunk by a shocking 93 percent. In January, the Center sought Endangered Species Act protections for both bats, but the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service missed its April deadline to respond to the petition, letting too much time elapse while more bats died. Since white-nose syndrome first appeared in New York two years ago, it has killed more than a million bats and has spread to 14 states and two Canadian provinces. The mysterious disease, which produces a white fungus around the noses of bats before it kills them, has now been documented in nine bat species.

"Bat numbers are plummeting, bat biologists across the country have been urgently sounding the extinction alarm, and yet the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is silent," said Mollie Matteson, a conservation advocate at the Center. Bats need action now.

Get more from and take action to help save bats.

Red Squirrels Adopt Orphaned Kin: Watch Video

If one of your relatives died, leaving behind a newborn orphan, you'd do what you could to help that baby, right? So, unsurprisingly, would other social animals -- like lions and chimpanzees -- which spend a lot of time with family and usually won't hesitate to adopt an orphaned niece, nephew, sibling or grandkid. But what about "asocial" animals -- like territorial, loner-type red squirrels? As it turns out, these mammals don't always display hard-hearted behavior: A just-published research paper has revealed that red squirrels will adopt orphans -- at least, if they're family. Biologist Andrew McAdam suspects that if a nursing mother finds a neighbor's youngster alone on her territory, she can remember that her neighbor was a relative and will carry the pup back to her nest. Red squirrels may even investigate if they don't hear a nearby relative's unique calls for a few days. "This is very intelligent behavior for a squirrel," declares McAdam.

Read more in The Epoch Times and watch a video of North American red squirrels going about their daily business.

Kierán Suckling
Executive Director

Photo credits: Kemp's ridley sea turtle courtesy Flickr/krembo1; oil spill courtesy USGS; bluefin tuna courtesy NOAA; Delmarva Peninsula fox squirrel by Megan Simon, Maryland Environmental Service; greater sage grouse courtesy USGS; Hawaiian damselfly (c) David Preston and Dan Polhemus; parachute penstemon courtesy Wikimedia Commons/ZyMOS; California condor by David Clendenen, USFWS; White-nose syndrome by Al Hicks, New York Department of Environmental Conservation; red squirrel courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Ray eye.

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