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Oil Leases Cancelled in Gulf, Atlantic

The Center for Biological Diversity applauded this Wednesday when the Obama administration cancelled two offshore oil and gas lease sales: one in the Atlantic, off Virginia, and one in the western Gulf of Mexico. The Atlantic lease sale was in a controversial area approved by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar for expanded offshore oil development after the Bush administration lifted the Atlantic drilling moratorium. The lease sale in the Gulf was scheduled to take place next month. In cancelling the sales, the government admitted it needs more time to improve the safety of offshore oil and gas development and provide greater environmental protection to  substantially reduce the risk of catastrophic events like another massive oil spill.

"President Obama's decision to cancel these lease sales recognizes that risky offshore drilling needs reform," said Miyoko Sakashita, oceans director at the Center. "In light of the BP oil spill, the president should pull back from the entire plan to expand offshore drilling and instead pursue clean energy."

Check out our press release and learn the latest on the Gulf disaster. Then take action to tell the administration to end all dangerous offshore drilling.

Lawsuit Filed to Protect Gulf's Endangered Whales, Turtles, Fish

Continuing our work to help Gulf of Mexico species hit by the biggest oil spill in U.S. history, the Center for Biological Diversity this Monday sued the feds for failing to consider oil-spill risks for endangered whales, sea turtles and fish when approving offshore drilling. Our lawsuit upholds the Endangered Species Act's requirement that all federal agencies, including the former Minerals Management Service, ensure that their actions don't jeopardize federally protected species like sea turtles, sperm whales and Gulf sturgeon -- which offshore oil drilling obviously can and has.

Rather than assuming that exploration drilling is "unlikely" to lead to a spill -- and if so, produce only "discountable or insignificant effects" -- the government needs to newly analyze potential oil spills' impacts on endangered wildlife. We're seeking to halt all offshore drilling approvals till it does.

Read more in The New York Times.

Suit Launched to Save Jaguars From Harm and Killing

The Center for Biological Diversity on Monday filed a notice of intent to sue over a permit letting the Arizona Game and Fish Department "take" -- capture, harm or even kill -- endangered jaguars through setting traps and snares. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued the permit without a conservation plan, a step required by the Endangered Species Act to make sure trapping the species doesn't speed its extinction. Apparently, the feds learned nothing from the death of the last known American jaguar, Macho B, after he was snared and subsequently euthanized by Arizona Game and Fish in March 2009.

The Center recently forced the Fish and Wildlife Service to agree to develop a recovery plan and protect "critical habitat" for the jaguar -- but the necessary actions to preserve the species are far from complete. "The precarious status of jaguars in the United States means extreme caution should be taken to ensure that none are harmed -- which is not the case with this permit," said the Center's Michael Robinson. "The Fish and Wildlife Service appears to have not just given a blank check to Arizona Game and Fish, but also the checkbook and pen."

Read more in the Arizona Capitol Times and take action to stop more jaguar killings.

Center Op-ed: Renaming the Minerals Management Service Won't Fix Its Fatal Flaws

Simply renaming the offshore drilling agency known as the Minerals Management Service and offering up a few weak reforms won't do anything to fix its fundamental flaws, says a recent op-ed by Center for Biological Diversity Executive Director Kierán Suckling. In fact, the scandalous ways of the former MMS -- recently rechristened the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement -- are so deeply entrenched that it continued to exempt new offshore drilling projects from environmental review even as millions of gallons of oil spewed into the Gulf.

"Radical reform is clearly needed," Suckling said in the op-ed, which appeared in multiple papers across the country. But Salazar's so-called solutions -- like instituting an ethics code, splitting the MMS into three parts and giving it a fancy new name -- have done nothing to improve environmental protection. That's because the offshore "watchdog" still has the same essential purpose: to facilitate energy development with no Congressional mandate to protect the environment. What's needed is a different agency, completely free of oil-industry ties, to safeguard the environment from offshore drilling.

Read Suckling's op-ed in the Miami Herald and read an interview with him in

Ecuadorian Birds Win U.S. Protection

After years of legal work by the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Tuesday that it will protect two rare birds native to Ecuador under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. The medium tree finch -- one of the 14 famous finches that helped Darwin understand evolution -- has been declining in the Galapagos Islands due to habitat loss and a parasitic fly that devours the finch's nestlings. Meanwhile, in the Andes, the black-breasted puffleg -- a tiny, shiny hummingbird jeopardized by grazing, agriculture, logging and climate change -- has been reduced to about 250 individuals.

Yet after scientists petitioned (twice) to protect these and 71 other imperiled foreign birds decades ago, the Fish and Wildlife Service dragged its feet. So in 2003, the Center sued on behalf of all 73 birds. So far, we've won U.S. protection for more than a dozen of the species and sent numerous others flying toward it.

Learn more about the medium tree finch, the black-breasted puffleg and the Center's International Birds Initiative.

Center Challenges 677-mile Gas Pipeline in Five States

In defense of several endangered species dependent on more than 1,000 western waterways, the Center for Biological Diversity this Tuesday petitioned federal regulators to withdraw approval of the 677-mile "Ruby" natural gas pipeline, proposed for Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, Oregon and California. The pipeline would cut across more than 1,000 rivers and streams in some of the country's most pristine and remote lands. It would use more than 400 million gallons of the West's precious water and affect habitat for several endangered fish -- including the Lahontan cutthroat trout, Warner creek sucker, Lost River sucker and Colorado pikeminnow. Yet the project's proponent, the El Paso Corporation, failed to take basic measures to protect fish (even after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service flagged serious environmental risks).

"It's not too late to stop this terrible project from moving forward," said Center Endangered Species Program Director Noah Greenwald. "If the pipeline ruptures at a stream crossing, it could have devastating consequences for endangered fish and other stream life."

Check out our press release and learn more about our campaigns to defend rivers and fight destructive oil and gas development.

EPA Plan Overlooks Overpopulation -- Take Action

The Environmental Protection Agency's latest plan for dealing with crucial environmental issues includes climate change, air and water quality, and toxic chemicals. But there's only one mention -- on page 24 -- in its draft five-year plan of another important issue: overpopulation. Under the heading "External Factors and Emerging Issues," the agency says population growth is an issue that "can create long-term challenges that run deep and across many EPA programs." Unfortunately, it's the only page in the entire document that even mentions population.

Looks like we need to send a memo to the EPA that population is an internal factor that's been around -- and roundly ignored -- for a long time. Let the EPA know that unsustainable population growth is a major driver of the many environmental challenges we face and will undermine the agency's ability to reach its goals if left unaddressed. The comment period ends at midnight, July 30, so please send a note today.

Learn about the Center for Biological Diversity's Overpopulation campaign, review the draft strategic plan on the EPA's website and take action by sending the EPA your comments on the plan today.

Article: Get the Lead Out to Save Eagles

A recent article in Alberta, Canada's Edmonton Journal offers an inside look into what it takes to save a bird of prey from deadly lead poisoning -- and makes all the more clear the urgency of preventing wildlife lead poisoning in the first place. "For the Sake of Eagles, It's Time to Get the Lead Out" details exactly what bald eagles go through when they ingest toxic lead from scavenging lead-shot carcasses or ingesting lead-containing trash: Toxins collect in a bird's fat reserves, and when the animal must expend energy -- like during migration -- the lead circulates in the blood and makes the bird very ill. At Edmonton's Wildlife Rehabilitation Society, it takes several staff members to treat lead-poisoned birds with chelation therapy, which involves injecting them with penicillin and a calcium compound to draw the toxic mineral from their systems.

As the article says, people can help prevent lead poisoning in wildlife by not hunting with lead bullets -- which in Alberta are illegal, as they should be. Unfortunately, lead bullets are still allowed in most of the United States -- shot into the environment to the tune of 83,000 tons each year, including into the outside-California range of the severely lead-threatened California condor.

The Center for Biological Diversity is pushing harder than ever to stop all lead bullet use everywhere for the sake of eagles, condors, other wildlife and human health as well. Learn more about our Get the Lead Out campaign and please make a donation to the campaign today. Then read more about poisoned eagles in the Edmonton Journal.

Center Cofounder Picked for U.S. Forest Service Policy Committee

Center for Biological Diversity cofounder and Forest Policy Analyst Todd Schulke has been named to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's new forest restoration project advisory committee. The 15 committee members -- chosen for their technical expertise and varied backgrounds -- will serve as citizen watchdogs to ensure that USDA forest-restoration projects provide healthy forests and waterways and benefit local economies at the same time.

"I'm honored to be chosen to serve on this national committee to advise Secretary Vilsack on landscape-scale forest restoration," said Schulke. "This collaborative approach to ecosystem restoration comes at a critical time, given the risks to our forests, endangered species and rural communities in the face of global climate change. We salute the secretary of agriculture and members of Congress who had the foresight to develop and fund this critical legislation."

Get more from the USDA's press release and learn more about the Center's campaigns for healthy forests.

Hungry Black Bear Steals, Trashes Toyota

In Larkspur, Colo., a wild black bear broke into a family's car last week and took a joyride -- all for the sake of a peanut butter sandwich in the back seat. Attracted by the sandwich's smell, the bear climbed into the unlocked 2008 Toyota in the family's driveway. The door apparently closed and trapped the bear inside. He then panicked and must've hit the car's automatic transmission into neutral, sending it barreling down a hill backward for 125 feet until it hit a stand of trees. Somewhere along the way, the bear switched on the car's emergency flashers and honked the horn several times.

After being rescued from the car by local deputies (who opened the door from a distance with a rope), the bear escaped into the woods, evidently without injury. The Corolla didn't fare so well. As for the peanut butter sandwich...certain evidence left by the bear on the car's seat suggests the animal did at least get to eat, and possibly even digest, the tasty treat.

Get more from BBC News.

Kierán Suckling
Executive Director

Photo credits: green sea turtle courtesy Flickr/rexb; oil rig courtesy Flickr/Takas; leatherback sea turtle by Nancy Black, NOAA; Macho B courtesy Arizona Department of Fish and Game; Deepwater Horizon explosion courtesy U.S. Coast Guard; black-breasted puffleg by Benji Schwartz; Lahontan cutthroat trout courtesy USGS; crowds in Manhattan courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Futurebird; bald eagle (c) Robin Silver; forest by Edward McCain;
black bear courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Diane Krauss.

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