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Oil and Gas Drilling Halted in Alaska's Chukchi Sea

Ruling in a landmark lawsuit by the Center for Biological Diversity and allies, a judge yesterday stopped companies from drilling oil and gas wells on billions of dollars of leases in the Chukchi Sea off Alaska. The judge said the former Minerals Management Service didn't properly analyze the environmental effects of natural gas development before selling drilling rights. It also failed to analyze or obtain basic scientific information on the Chukchi Sea that was missing that could make or break a prudent decision to drill there, the ruling said. Despite the significance and sensitivity of the Arctic Ocean, the agency doesn't have enough data on the sea and its wildlife -- including polar bears, bowhead whales, and spectacled and Steller's eiders -- to keep it safe from an oil spill, which could be catastrophic in the Arctic's icy waters.

"With one coast of our country already irrevocably scarred by oil, it is time for the Obama administration to break with the bad decisions of the past and take drilling in the Arctic off the table permanently," said Rebecca Noblin, Alaska director of the Center. Yesterday's decision will halt Chukchi oil and gas development until proper environmental review can be done -- and it should prod Interior Secretary Salazar to do what he should have done in the first place: revoke the flawed and illegal oil and gas leases in the Arctic.

Read more in The New York Times.

Nationwide Recovery Sought for Gray Wolves

Wolves once roamed across this country, and it's time their recovery had a nationwide scope. That's why the Center for Biological Diversity filed a scientific petition Tuesday to reestablish gray wolves in several connected populations throughout their historic habitat in the United States. Our petition calls for a recovery plan to bring back wolves in suitable areas in the Pacific Northwest, California, the Great Basin, the southern Rocky Mountains, the Great Plains and New England. Currently in the lower 48 states, the gray wolf's small, isolated populations are limited to the northern Rocky Mountains, western Great Lakes and Southwest -- less than 5 percent of its historic range. The animals are living under outdated plans that underestimate how many wolves are needed for populations to recover and don't acknowledge that wolves can, and must, inhabit other areas too.

"Wolves are an engine of evolution," said Michael Robinson, the Center's predator expert. "They help feed bears, eagles and wolverines with the leftovers from their kills. They help pronghorn and even foxes survive by controlling coyotes. A continent-wide approach to wolf recovery is necessary both to save the wolf and to restore ecosystems across the United States."

Hear an interview with Robinson on the Northern Ag Network and read more in The New York Times.

Petition Filed to Keep Gulf Sea Turtles Out of Shrimp Nets

In our latest action to save endangered sea life from the devastation of the BP oil spill, the Center for Biological Diversity and Turtle Island Restoration Network last week petitioned the feds to protect sea turtles from the Gulf's shrimp fishery. Our petition asked the National Marine Fisheries Service for an emergency extension of the fishery's seasonal closure, as well as an analysis of the fishery's environmental impacts to make sure it doesn't further jeopardize turtles before it's ever opened again. So far, more than 600 sea turtles have been reported killed or injured since the Gulf explosion (likely a small fraction of the species that have been, and will be, killed) and thousands of adults and hatchlings are leaving their nesting sites and could be headed directly into the spill as you read this. Those turtles can't afford to face the additional threats of being snagged and drowned by shrimping nets, which is the leading cause of adult sea turtle deaths. Sea turtles are especially vulnerable because of the oil spill, and we want BP to fully compensate fishermen for their spill-related losses.

Meanwhile, although BP has finally managed to stop the gush of oil into the Gulf, tension is mounting as we wait to see whether the cap will hold -- and already leaks are developing at and around the well cap, signaling intense pressure beneath it that could mean even more destruction. And even if successful, BP's efforts to cap the well won't solve the Gulf crisis, as animals continue to die from the 100-million-plus gallons of oil that have already spewed.

Learn more about our sea turtle-saving petition, read our official statement on the capping of the well, and get the latest oil-spill news on our Gulf Disaster website.

Caves Across Five States to Close in Fight Against Bat Disease

Half a year after a petition by the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Forest Service confirmed plans last week to close caves in five western states to protect bats from the fast-spreading, fatal white-nose syndrome.

The move is part of a desperate push to slow this mysterious disease, which has killed more than a million bats since it first popped up in upstate New York four years ago. The fungus -- which has left behind a 100-percent mortality rate in some areas -- has spread to 14 states and two Canadian provinces and is marching westward. The Center asked the federal government earlier this year to close caves in the disease's path; these latest closures will include certain federally managed caves in Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming and South Dakota.

The closures will take effect in the next couple weeks and last a year, limiting public access to caves in the hopes of stemming the syndrome's spread, which may be facilitated by people. The next step? Close all federal bat caves across the West and encourage precautionary closures of all other public and private caves harboring bats.

Read more in USA Today and take action to help save bats now.

Two Oregon Plants Protected on 10,000 Acres

On the heels of settling a lawsuit by the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service this Tuesday protected nearly 10,000 acres of "critical habitat" for two imperiled southern Oregon plants. The Cook's lomatium, a yellow-flowered perennial with pumpkin-shaped fruits, is barely hanging on in just two populations located 30 miles apart. Meanwhile the large-flowered woolly meadowfoam -- a delicate annual covered with fuzz -- is restricted to a handful of sites in a single county. A Center lawsuit prodded the Service into protecting both plants under the Endangered Species Act in 2002, but the agency didn't make a move to protect their habitat until after another Center suit in 2007. The new critical habitat designation will help protect the plants from urban sprawl, off-road vehicles, nonnative species, mining and grazing.

Unfortunately, the newly designated critical habitat leaves out about 1,000 acres of land originally proposed for protection. Both plants need as many safeguards as they can get for the vernal pools they call home -- unique, seasonal wetlands habitat that's almost as endangered as the plants themselves.

Learn more in Southern Oregon's Mail Tribune.

Not-so-giant Spitting Earthworm Moves Toward Safeguards

The giant Palouse earthworm -- previously said to grow up to three feet long and defend itself by spitting a lilac-smelling fragrance -- may be on its way to getting federal protections. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, responding to a scientific petition from the Center for Biological Diversity and allies, announced Monday that one of the country's most intriguing invertebrates may officially merit Endangered Species Act status. The decision reverses the Bush administration's determination that there wasn't enough available data on the earthworm (which is extremely rare and seldom seen) to conclude that it might warrant safeguards -- essentially withholding protections from the species because of its very rarity. The Center and allies first petitioned to protect the earthworm in 2006.

This spring, researchers found two live worms in Idaho -- only the fifth time the species had been found in the past century, and the only live specimens ever collected since the worm's discovery in the late 1800s. However, these particular worms were mere 10-inchers rather than three feet long.

Read more in The Seattle Times.

Suit Filed for Seven Species in Southwest Forests

The Center for Biological Diversity sued the U.S. Forest Service Tuesday for failing to monitor and protect endangered species and their habitat in national forests in New Mexico and Arizona. At least seven species -- including the southwestern willow flycatcher, Chiricahua leopard frog, Apache trout and Mexican spotted owl -- have been illegally neglected by the agency, which admits it may have harmed species beyond the level allowed by the Fish and Wildlife Service. Instead of stopping that harm, though, the Forest Service requested that Fish and Wildlife make its quotas of allowable harm even higher.

Meanwhile, the Forest Service is drafting new land- and resource-management plans for Arizona forests that roll back forest-wide protective standards for wildlife -- a recipe for many species' extinction.

Check out our press release and learn more about our work to save forests.

40,000 Acres of Dunes Habitat Under Attack -- Defend Them

Southeastern California's Algodones Dunes, the country's largest sand-dune system, harbor a number of rare and incredible species that somehow eke out a living despite the area's harsh sun, shifting sands and blasting winds. Unfortunately, the dunes are also a recreation hotspot for millions of off-road vehicles that fundamentally alter the landscape and crush imperiled animals and plants, including the flat-tailed horned lizard, Peirson's milk vetch, desert tortoise and 21 types of insects found nowhere else on Earth.

Work by the Center for Biological Diversity has helped keep thousands of acres of these majestic dunes off limits to off-road ruin. But now the feds have preposterously proposed expanding vehicle-accessible areas by as much as 45 percent -- opening almost 40,000 acres to the churning tires of ORVs.

Take action now to tell the U.S. Bureau of Land Management you won't allow it to sacrifice rare animal and plant habitat to ORV mayhem. Then learn more about our campaign to save the Algodones Dunes.

Say No to Spills: Join the No More Oil Spills Month of Action

Last week, thousands of you helped launch the No More Oil Spills Month of Action when you sent letters to your senators demanding a real end to oil spills -- a permanent moratorium on offshore oil and rapid movement away from our fossil-fuel dependence using the Clean Air Act. This week, hundreds of you took part in a Capitol Hill rally or attended a teach-in to declare your dedication to preventing oil spills.

And next week, the Center for Biological Diversity needs you to write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper or a national publication. We've made it easy with sample letters, and we can help you determine where to send them. 

The 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill helped lead to some of our hallmark environmental laws and protections -- and the Gulf spill must lead to more. Help us make sure that elected officials learn the lesson of the tragedy in the Gulf: Stopping the spills means stopping the drilling and ending our addiction to fossil fuels.

Participate in the No More Oil Spills Month of Action now and read some sample letters to the editor.

June Was Fourth Straight Hottest-ever Month

Is it getting hotter in here? It isn't just your imagination. This June beat several world records for toasty temperatures, showing how frighteningly fast global warming is taking hold. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reports that June was the fourth consecutive month with the hottest combined global land and surface temperatures on record. It was also the month with the warmest-ever land surfaces and the fourth-warmest oceans -- and it marked the 304th consecutive month with a combined global land and surface temperature above the 20th century average. (The last month with "below-average" temperatures was February 1985.) Plus, so far, 2010 has been the warmest year on record.

So if that's hot enough for you, take action now against climate change without breaking a sweat (at least from exertion): Sign the Center for Biological Diversity's People's Petition to Cap Carbon Dioxide Pollution at 350 Parts Per Million.

Read more in Science Daily.

Kierán Suckling
Executive Director

Photo credits: polar bear (c) Larry Master/; bowhead whale by Rick LeDuc, NOAA; gray wolves courtesy Flickr/caninest; loggerhead sea turtle (c) Damien DuToit; little brown bat with white-nose syndrome by Marvin Moriarty, USFWS; large-flowered woolly meadowfoam (c) Rick McEwan; giant Palouse earthworm courtesy University of Idaho; Chiricahua leopard frog courtesy Arizona Game and Fish Department; flat-tailed horned lizard by G. Andrejko, Arizona Game and Fish Department; birds near oil boom by Sean Gardner, Greenpeace; Earth courtesy NASA.

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