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Court Restores Protections to Northern Rockies Wolves

The Center for Biological Diversity celebrated a key victory last Thursday when a federal judge in Montana reinstated Endangered Species Act protections for gray wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains. The decision means that planned wolf hunts in Idaho and Montana won't go forward and protections remain in place for wolves in those two states, along with Wyoming and parts of Oregon, Washington and Utah. The judge sided with the Center and our allies, represented by Earthjustice, in ruling that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was wrong to delist wolves in Montana and Idaho but exclude Wyoming for political reasons. The ruling will have important implications in keeping the feds from using anything but science in deciding whether to lift protections for other imperiled species.

Meanwhile, we continue to challenge the Service's assertions that just 300 wolves in the region constitute a "recovered" population. We also filed a scientific petition this summer for the federal government to produce a national recovery plan to reestablish wolves in suitable habitat in the Pacific Northwest, California, southern Rocky Mountains, Great Plains and New England.

Read more in The Washington Post.

Gulf Victory: Anti-BP Spill Suits to Be Heard Close to Home

A judicial panel decided Tuesday that BP won't get a home-court advantage when it comes time to defend itself from hundreds of lawsuits related to its massive spill in the Gulf. The panel ruled that cases against BP -- including the Center for Biological Diversity's $19 billion Clean Water Act lawsuit -- will be heard in New Orleans. BP had hoped for a more convenient venue in Houston, where its American headquarters are located. Tuesday's decision, though, will mean that judges and juries living in areas most affected by the oil spill will get to decide how to punish BP and its contractors for the environmental catastrophe. The Center's landmark case, believed to be the largest citizen enforcement action taken under the Clean Water Act, not only seeks billions of dollars in penalties for cleaning up the Gulf but also a full accounting of all the toxic chemicals that were released with the oil spill.
"The government still hasn't taken any criminal or civil action against BP," said Charlie Tebbutt, the attorney working on the Center's case. "Marshes have been devastated, wildlife wiped out and the full extent of the damage is still years from being known. This case will ensure that BP pays for every drop of oil spilled and can't walk away from the damage that's been done."

Read more in Businessweek and get the latest on our Gulf Disaster website.

Center Study: Policy Must Address Warming to Aid Recovery Plans

A recently published study of endangered species recovery plans finds that more and more scientists recognize the threat of global warming, but the nation still lacks a comprehensive strategy for dealing with it. The study, written by Center for Biological Diversity Executive Director Kierán Suckling and Dr. Tony Povilitis, was published in the peer-reviewed science journal Conservation Biology. It reviewed all existing 1,209 federal recovery plans -- roadmaps to a species' long-term well-being in the wild -- and found that 60 percent of recent plans consider warming a threat, while only 5 percent of pre-2005 plans did so. The study warns that greenhouse gases must be reduced soon to avoid increased risks of species extinction. That includes 21 types of birds in Hawaii, whose 2006 recovery plan said global warming is a serious peril.

Still, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has yet to develop national guidance for dealing with the threat. Such a policy is desperately needed to encourage updates of old recovery plans that should mention climate change, as well as to make sure that newly drafted plans consider the threat.

As Suckling explains it: "Good science isn't enough -- we need good policy. Without it, scientific teams are forced to create their own policies on the fly, species by species, every time they write a recovery plan."

Check out our press release and learn more about the Center's campaigns to save endangered species from climate change.

Bat Faces Likely Northeast Extinction in 16 Years

According to a scientific study out last week, one of the country's most common bats could be completely wiped out in New England within 16 years unless something is done to save it from the frightening bat disease white-nose syndrome. The study ran 1,000 computer simulations of bat populations stricken by white-nose syndrome, finding a whopping 99 percent chance that the little brown bat will disappear from the Northeast unless death rates significantly slow. The regional extinction of little brown bats, which have the amazing ability to eat their own weight in insects every night, would have a devastating effect on the Northeast's cave and forest ecosystems -- and would not bode well for bats across the country. Nine species are currently known to be affected by the fungus, which has killed more than a million bats and spread to 14 states in just four years.

The Center for Biological Diversity is working hard to combat the spread of white-nose syndrome and save bats already afflicted by it, including the endangered Indiana and gray bats as well as the eastern small-footed and northern long-eared bats, which we this year petitioned to protect under the Endangered Species Act. We've won cave and mine closures to prevent the spread of the disease and are calling on Congress to increase funds to research and fight it.

Read more in the Boston Globe.

Lawsuit Defends Sierra Species From ORVs

To protect struggling plants and animals like the California red-legged frog, the Center for Biological Diversity and Center for Sierra Nevada Conservation have filed suit to stop expanded off-road vehicle use and construction in the Sierra Nevada foothills. Our lawsuit challenges a decision by the California Off-Highway Vehicle Division that approves funding for almost nine miles of new ORV trails and three new bridges in the Eldorado National Forest, home to not only the endangered red-legged frog but the western pond turtle, Eldorado manzanita and other sensitive species. The work -- to take place in the Rock Creek Recreation Trails Area -- would include blowing up rock outcroppings, excavation, constructing retaining walls and other "improvements" designed to increase destructive ORVs access to the quiet recreation site. Yet the Off-Highway Vehicle Division didn't do its job in adequately analyzing the environmental effects before approving the project.

"The agency ignored impacts the increased ORV use will have on forest resources -- tearing up soils, damaging creek banks and beds, and reducing water quality critical for maintaining riparian and aquatic habitat for many species," said Center Senior Attorney Lisa Belenky. That's against California law.

Get more from the Courthouse News Service.

Longline Fishing Harming Gulf, Atlantic -- Take Action

When we buy seafood products labeled "sustainable," we want to know that's what they are. But a new proposal by seafood-certification organization Marine Stewardship Council would put its "sustainable" stamp on products from decidedly nonsustainable fisheries that threaten vulnerable marine life in the Gulf of Mexico and southeast North Atlantic. In particular, the move would falsely portray fishing for swordfish, yellowfin tuna and bigeye tuna that relies on surface longlines off the northeast Florida coast. Those lines set hundreds of hooks on lines stretching up to 40 miles that accidentally snag thousands of other animals, including threatened and endangered sea turtles and majestic fish like marlin, bluefin tuna and sailfish. Many of the marine animals caught on these lines migrate through the area where the Florida fishery operates to get to the Gulf of Mexico, which is a key feeding and breeding area.

With the short and long-term ecological impacts of the BP oil disaster still unknown, certifying any fishery in this region -- let alone one known to harm endangered wildlife -- as "sustainable" is misleading to consumers and harmful to the environment.

Take action now by telling the Marine Stewardship Council to be real stewards and not encourage destructive practices through deceitful labeling. Then learn more about the Center's campaign against unsustainable fisheries.

Feds, Hunting Group Challenge Grizzly Protections

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Safari Club are appealing a federal court's ruling that restored threatened species protections to grizzly bears in the Yellowstone ecosystem.. Last November's ruling pointed to the ongoing and predicted loss of whitebark pine trees -- which provide high-calorie nuts that the bears feed on extensively -- as a result a huge outbreak of tree-killing beetles, which scientists believe is fueled by global warming. The trees have additionally been hit hard by a disease called "blister rust."

Global warming may also impact other grizzly bear food sources, ranging from army cutworm moths -- which the bears heavily consume in alpine areas -- to dead hoofed mammals available in spring. With fewer harsh winters, more elk and bison will survive the cold season and not be available as carrion to bears emerging from hibernation -- meaning more bears could starve. Grizzly bears are a critical part of the natural balance in Yellowstone, their profound influence ranging from processing and dispersing berry seeds to aerating the soil and changing microhabitats while digging up rodents, such as ground squirrels.

Learn more about the Center's campaign to save grizzly bears.

Suit Launched to Stop Habitat Destruction From Levee Clearing

The Center for Biological Diversity last week sent a formal notice of intent to sue the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers over a new policy that would destroy habitat for California fish, reptiles, insects and birds for the sake of stripping vegetation from levees. The Corps already has a nationwide policy requiring the removal of trees and other growth from levees. Now, it wants to expand that policy to cancel all exceptions to vegetation removal -- even if that vegetation provides important habitat for imperiled species like the Chinook salmon, giant garter snake, least Bell's vireo and elderberry longhorn beetle. The Corps never consulted with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or the National Marine Fisheries Service before it decided to expand the policy -- which it's supposed to do by law.

"There's little proof that trees threaten levees in California," said Center Conservation Advocate Jeff Miller. "In fact, research shows that trees can strengthen levees, and a scientific review by the Corps last year determined that some vegetation may help stabilize them. The Corps' own documents admit that removing vegetation may harm endangered species habitats."

Read more in the Sacramento Bee.

Team Bikes 2,000-plus Miles, Raises $2,000-plus for Center

Four avid bicyclists made an epic trip this summer to raise awareness about an even more epic journey: true independence from oil. In June, with millions of gallons of oil still spewing into the Gulf, George Makrinos took off on a well-publicized 2,400-mile bike tour from Alaska to California -- later joined by Brian Bolen, Leo Salom and Sean Bolen. The men spread their pro-bike, anti-oil message along the way and decided to make it a fundraiser for the environment -- specifically the Center for Biological Diversity's efforts to fight destruction by the Gulf spill and prevent future spills from devastating wildlife, habitat and human well-being.

 "This is more than just a ride," George and Brian said as the tour began.  "This summer we're riding with a sense of urgency. In the face of the recent coal-mining and oil-spill catastrophes, we're invited to reconsider the consequences of our fossil-fuel appetite and act toward solutions to avoid future costs to our environment." Last week, when the men finally finished their landmark ride, they'd netted more than $2,000 for the Center's Gulf efforts.

Check out Makrinos and Bolen's daily entries in their Bicycle-Pacific-Northwest blog. Donate to the Center's Gulf Disaster Fund by supporting the Bicycle-Pacific-Northwest tour today. Then learn the latest on the spill from our Gulf Disaster webpage.

Kierán Suckling
Executive Director

Photo credits: gray wolf courtesy Flickr/Todd Ryburn; gray wolf courtesy Flickr/Sakirra; oil-spill cleanup courtesy NOAA; palila courtesy USGS; little brown bat courtesy USGS; western pond turtle courtely USGS; grizzly bear courtesy Flickr/Douglas Brown; Atlantic bluefin tuna (c) Paul Colley; least Bell's vireo courtesy USFWS; George Makrinos and Brian Bolen.

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