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Documents Prove EPA Can and Must Get the Lead Out

The Center for Biological Diversity and allies have petitioned the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate toxic lead bullets and shot that commonly harm and kill bald eagles, California condors and other wildlife -- and the EPA insisted it didn't have the authority to do that. But a recent analysis of the Toxic Substances Control Act, as well as the Senate and House reports on the Act's legislative history and intent, prove the agency does have the authority, and duty, to regulate lead ammo as a toxic chemical substance for the sake of wildlife (and people).

The House report on the law could not be clearer: "The Committee does not exclude from regulation under the bill chemical components of ammunition which could be hazardous because of their chemical properties." And given the availability of nontoxic alternatives to lead ammo, the EPA's rapid decision to dodge the issue appears politically motivated -- and may have been influenced by a misleading "legal opinion" sent by the National Rifle Association on Aug. 20.

The Center has filed a Freedom of Information Act request to obtain all documents related to the agency's denial of the part of our petition dealing with lead bullets and shot. (The EPA has yet to respond to the other part of our petition, which requests regulation of lead fishing tackle and weights.) "We are not going to let the agency simply walk away from the preventable poisoning of birds and other wildlife," said the Center's Jeff Miller.

Get details in our press release, learn more about our Get the Lead Out campaign and take action to tell the EPA it must ban lead fishing tackle.

BP Shuns Oil-spill Blame, Latest Gulf Explosion Linked to Lax Oversight

BP this Wednesday issued an internal report on the Deepwater Horizon explosion and spill, effectively pushing away the burden of responsibility for the worst oil-spill disaster in U.S. history. Said Center for Biological Diversity Executive Director Kierán Suckling: "BP is well aware that hundreds of lawsuits and tens of billions of dollars in fines rest on determining who is to blame and whether they were criminally negligent. . . . This accident was caused by a deep flaw in America's oil-drilling system that allowed BP to lease and drill for oil with no environmental review, no safety measures to protect imperiled wildlife, no meaningful spill cleanup plan, no backup blowout preventers, and a complete absence of government regulators from key decision moments such as cementing and pressure-testing the well."

Unfortunately -- but not surprisingly -- the Center recently uncovered proof that the Gulf's Mariner offshore oil platform, which exploded last week, was serving at least three wells that had also received federal exemptions from environmental review. The explosion of this shallow-water platform is the latest evidence of the dangers of offshore drilling, whether it's in deep or shallow waters.

Read more on BP's finger-pointing report in The Christian Science Monitor and Miami Herald. Then check out our press release on the latest Gulf explosion and get more from our Gulf Disaster webpage.

Largest North American Amphibian Proposed for Protection

After a petition and lawsuit by the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service yesterday proposed to protect the Ozark hellbender salamander under the Endangered Species Act. This strictly aquatic salamander, which can grow to be two feet long, is found only in rivers and streams in northern Arkansas and southern Missouri, where it's threatened by rampant habitat destruction and other dangers. After the Service merely put the hellbender on its "candidate list" in 2001 -- putting off federal protections indefinitely -- the Center petitioned to expedite protection for this and more than 200 other candidates, following up our petition with a lawsuit. That suit is still pending in federal court, with a decision expected any day.

"The proposed listing of the Ozark hellbender is cause for celebration," said Collette Adkins Giese, newly hired Center lawyer and likely the world's first attorney focusing solely on protecting rare amphibians and reptiles. "The Ozark hellbender faces many threats to its survival, including water quality fouled by mining, fertilizer runoff and animal operations. Protection under the Endangered Species Act would give this species a fighting chance." Now, of course, the Obama administration must significantly ramp up its efforts to protect the 245 other candidate species, as well as a long list of additional animals and plants in need of safeguards.

Read more in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Montana Fish Warrants Protection -- But Feds Delay Again

In response to a lawsuit by the Center for Biological Diversity and allies, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Tuesday announced that the Montana fluvial Arctic grayling deserves federal protection -- but is "precluded" from receiving it. This beautiful, silvery-purple fish with its sail-like dorsal fin was identified for possible Endangered Species Act protection back in 1982, by then existing in less than 5 percent of its original range. It has continued to decline dramatically in its last remaining river home: Montana's Big Hole River, which nearly dries up every year due to increased irrigation use and drought. After a 1991 scientific petition, the feds declared protection for the grayling "warranted but precluded" because other species were deemed a higher priority. The agency agreed to revisit that decision after a 2003 lawsuit by the Center and allies -- only to deny the fish protection altogether. Now, after we filed yet another lawsuit in 2007, the fish's protections have again been delayed indefinitely. The Montana population is the last existing population of Arctic grayling in the lower 48 states.

"The Montana grayling's nearly 30-year wait for protection is a travesty," said Noah Greenwald, endangered species program director at the Center. "Like the previous administration, the Obama administration is failing to provide prompt protection to wildlife that desperately need it."

Read more in the Missoulian.

Center Petitions to Protect Rare Arizona Orchid

To defend a tiny flower from a mile-wide, half-mile-deep proposed copper mine, the Center for Biological Diversity on Wednesday filed a scientific petition to protect the Coleman's coralroot orchid under the Endangered Species Act. One of just three populations of the rare, pinkish-purple flower -- found only in Arizona's "Sky Islands" region -- is in the Santa Rita Mountains in the footprint of the planned Rosemont copper mine, which would suck up the region's water and cause water, air and noise pollution.

Determined to stop the destructive mine from harming endangered plants and animals, the Center has already petitioned to federally protect four other species in its path: the Rosemont and Sonoran talus snails, and the Bartram stonecrop and beardless chinchweed, both plants. The mine would also destroy habitat for several already-protected species, including the jaguar, lesser long-nosed bat and Chiricahua leopard frog. "This gorgeous orchid is severely threatened by the proposed Rosemont Mine, as well as by livestock grazing, drought and trampling by recreationists," said Tierra Curry, a Center biologist. "One population has already been lost, and without protection, the species is at risk of disappearing entirely."

Read more in our press release and check out our brand-new Coleman's coralroot webpage.

Wild Salmon Endangered by Frankenfish -- Take Action

Would you eat genetically engineered salmon? Would you let them put sensitive wild salmon at risk? These genetically engineered salmon may soon be available in your local grocery store. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is poised to approve genetic engineering of farmed fish -- the first-ever "GE" animal intended for human consumption.

Farmed salmon often escape into the wild, and research has shown that it would only take a few genetically engineered fish to put an entire wild salmon population on the road to extinction. But the FDA has given this almost no thought as it considers approving the "AquAdvantage" salmon, which grows at twice the normal salmon rate. The potential consequences for aquatic ecosystems, as well as human health, are serious.

Take action now by telling the FDA: Don't let these "frankenfish" invade our rivers or our supermarkets.

Center's Bill Snape Named Gulf Hero

Late last week, the Center for Biological Diversity's Senior Counsel Bill Snape was invited by the Navigation Foundation to attend a series of New Orleans events marking the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. What he found was that neither federal nor state governments have responded to the disaster in a truly meaningful way: People are still displaced from their homes, the Army Corps of Engineers is still insisting levees will work during the next devastating hurricane -- and now, the BP oil spill in the Gulf has demonstrated the high price people and the environment pay for our addiction to fossil fuels.

To combat the corporate corruption that grips both the Interior Department and the Louisiana governor's office, the Center has teamed up with locals in New Orleans to put an end to needless suffering at the hands of the oil elite. This new collaboration will empower citizens of the Gulf Coast to support the Center's People's Petition to Cap CO2 at 350, as well as catalyze work by the Center's expert legal team to support Louisiana's environmental justice efforts. We hope the Obama administration will heed our call to stop global warming and clean up the Gulf.

Watch an exciting (if roughly filmed) video from New Orleans of Snape receiving the Navigation Foundation's "Gulf Hero" award. Then learn the latest on the Gulf oil-spill disaster and sign the Center's People's Petition for yourself.

Rise Up Against Mountaintop Removal This Month

Mountaintop-removal coal mining destroys Appalachia's mountains, pollutes streams, poisons water supplies and obliterates habitat for several endangered species. It has literally blasted the tops off more than 500 mountains and dumped toxic waste into more than 2,000 miles of streams.

Appalachia Rising, endorsed by the Center for Biological Diversity, consists of a conference and day of action that strive to unite coalfield residents, grassroots groups, individuals and national organizations to call for the abolition of mountaintop removal and the protection of all Appalachia's water from surface mining. The conference on Sept. 25-26 in Washington, D.C. -- called "Appalachia Rising: Voices From the Mountains" -- will help build the movement for justice in Appalachia through strategy and sharing information. The Appalachia Rising Day of Action on Sept. 27 will unify thousands in calling for an end to mountaintop removal and all forms of steep-slope surface mining through a vibrant march and rally.

Center staff will attend the Appalachia Rising conference, and if you'll be in D.C., you can, too -- as well as the national day of action. Learn where to get details on the events, register for the conference and watch a video about Appalachia Rising on our Events webpage. Then learn more about the Center's campaign to end mountaintop removal.

RACE4EARTH Kicks Off to Help the Center

The fight to save endangered species is a race against time -- and who understands that better than athletes racing against the clock? Conservation-minded runners, cyclists and triathletes are seeking ways to leverage their passion for sport to help preserve the planet for future generations. So the Center for Biological Diversity has created RACE4EARTH, a way for nature-loving endurance athletes to engage in physical challenges to raise awareness -- as well as money for the Center's critical work to save animals, plants and habitat.

Ambitious Center board member Scott Power will participate in the first RACE4EARTH event: Ironman Wisconsin, a 140.6-mile endurance triathlon this Sunday in Madison. Scott aims to raise a whopping $25,000. "My primary motivation is to support the Center and its important work," he says. "And, to a certain extent, showcase the connection between human health and biodiversity. The Center is simply the most effective environmental organization out there. I am proud to be racing for them, the protection of our amazing planet and, of course, RACE4EARTH."

Learn how you can harness your own athletic prowess through RACE4EARTH to help protect endangered species across the globe. Then check out Scott's RACE4EARTH blog and click here to help support his effort.

In Memoriam: Tim Lengerich and Walkin' Jim

The Center for Biological Diversity is sad to report the passing of two celebrated folk musicians, passionate endangered-species advocates and Center supporters.

Walkin' Jim Stoltz had a large repertoire of songs celebrating our wild places and all the "critters" that call them home, including our personal favorite kids' tune, "Pika, Pika." Walkin' Jim also directly helped protect species through his own nonprofit, Musicians United to Save the Environment, which last year sent the Center a grant for our campaign to save the American pika from global warming. Walkin' Jim died on Saturday from cancer.

Tim Lengerich, a longtime Center supporter, was also a musician for a cause. From "Sonoran Desert Waltz" to "The Canyon Song," his music reflected his great love of nature even as he personally advocated for its protection, especially through grazing activism -- and by donating part of the proceeds from CD sales to environmental groups. Tim died last month of a heart attack while backpacking in Arizona's Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge.

Tim and Walkin' Jim will be greatly missed and always remembered for their creative contributions to saving species and wilderness. Learn more about Walkin' Jim and Tim Lengerich.

Kierán Suckling
Executive Director

Photo credits: California condor courtesy Flickr/Joe Lewis; bald eagle by Lee Emery, USFWS; oiled bird courtesy Flickr/marinephotobank; Ozark hellbender by Stand Trauth, Arkansas State University; Arctic grayling by Ernest R. Keeley; Coleman's coralroot (c) Ron Coleman; Atlantic salmon courtesy Flickr/mineobskuriteter; Bill Snape by DeSean Simms; mountaintop removal in eastern Kentucky courtesy Flickr/ilovemountains; Scott Power biking; Jim Stoltz.

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