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Hawaiian Monk Seal to Win 11,000 Protected Square Miles

One of the most endangered marine mammals on the planet is about to get a lot more protected habitat. Responding to a petition by the Center for Biological Diversity and allies, the federal government today proposed to protect 11,000 square miles of "critical habitat" for the endangered Hawaiian monk seal. The proposal protects beaches and coastal waters on all the main Hawaiian Islands -- where healthy monk seal populations are on the rise, but which have never been critical habitat -- and expands protections on the northwestern islands.

Named for its resemblance to a (sleek) Catholic monk, the Hawaiian monk seal has folds around its neck and is gray in color. Unfortunately there are only about 1,000 left, and they remain threatened by limited food availability, entanglement in fishing gear, predation, disease and global warming. Today's proposal to protect Hawaii's coastline for monk seals is a landmark decision that will benefit seals and the coastal environment for generations.

Check out our press release and learn more about the Hawaiian monk seal.

Lawsuit Launched to Save Sea Turtles From Shrimp Trawls

The Center for Biological Diversity and other groups filed a notice of intent to sue the feds and three states this week for failing to protect endangered sea turtles from deadly entanglement in shrimp trawls. Already this year, a shocking 322 dead turtles have been found washing up on Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama beaches -- more than three times the annual average. The sea turtles include endangered Kemp's ridleys and loggerheads.

The National Marine Fisheries Service has acknowledged that the shrimp-trawl fishery it regulates is causing these deadly impacts. It has also recognized that oil poisoning from the BP Gulf spill may have left the turtles more vulnerable than ever to shrimp trawling, which has been a primary threat for decades. Yet despite having the authority and duty to protect these sea turtles, the Fisheries Service has done nothing to address the alarming Gulf die-off. The Center will remain vigilant that the Service addresses both the oil spill and trawling impacts on the turtles.

Read more in The Miami Herald and get the latest on our work in the Gulf.

Rare Fairy Shrimp Earns 10 Times More Habitat

The endangered and delicate Riverside fairy shrimp, a freshwater crustacean surviving in a sliver of Southern California, will soon have almost 10 times as much protected "critical habitat" due to a Center for Biological Diversity lawsuit. In 2005, the Bush administration slashed the invertebrate's habitat protections -- first earned by a previous Center lawsuit -- to a measly 306 acres, not nearly enough to help the species survive and recover. Now the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed to protect 2,984 acres.

The Riverside fairy shrimp lives in rare, ephemeral ecosystems called vernal pools, wetlands that fill after winter and spring rains. Like other fairy shrimp, it can live through the drying of its habitat -- and even in birds' digestive systems -- in the form of incredibly tough "resting eggs." But it can't survive the permanent disappearance of vernal pools due to development, off-road vehicles, grazing and other threats.

Read more in The Press-Enterprise.

Major Victory for Arizona River Protection

In response to a lawsuit by the Center for Biological Diversity and allies, a federal judge has rejected a plan for groundwater pumping in Arizona that fails to protect the San Pedro River. The San Pedro is the last free-flowing, undammed desert river in the Southwest and a biologically rich, diverse ecosystem. The U.S. Army and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have been scheming to pump massive amounts of groundwater from the aquifer that feeds the river to serve the Army base at Fort Huachuca and surrounding areas. But in their latest plan, neither agency adequately analyzed the pumping's effects on the San Pedro or its imperiled species, including the rare southwestern willow flycatcher and the hollow-leaved, creeping wetland plant called the Huachuca water umbel.

The Army and Fish and Wildlife Service now have to come up with a new plan that will protect the San Pedro from unsustainable groundwater pumping. This is the third time the Center has successfully gone to court to protect the river from pumping.

Read more in the Arizona Daily Star.

Damaging ORV Plan Rejected in Sierra Nevada

The California red-legged frog and other rare species may get more protection from habitat destruction wrought by off-road vehicles after a lawsuit by the Center for Biological Diversity and partners. On Tuesday a judge found that the Forest Service's "travel-management plan" for California's Eldorado National Forest failed to protect the frog, fragile Sierra Nevada meadows and essential clean-water resources from demise via churning ORV wheels crossing streams, meadows and riparian conservation areas.

The plan had authorized 1,212 miles of motorized vehicle routes across the forest, including 23 miles of routes illicitly created by ORVs in sensitive areas and 290 miles of routes near streamsides. The large, black-speckled California red-legged frog needs intact streams and upland areas to survive.

Read more in the Los Angeles Times.

Bluefin Tuna Denied Protection -- Our Fight Ramps Up

Turning a blind eye to 80-percent declines in Atlantic bluefin tuna, the National Marine Fisheries Service late last week denied federal Endangered Species Act status to the majestic fish, which the Center for Biological Diversity petitioned to protect last year. The bluefin population has recently plummeted to new depths due to overfishing, as well as the Gulf of Mexico oil-spill disaster, which wiped out about 20 percent of juvenile tuna in the area.

The Atlantic bluefin tuna is a warm-blooded fish that can weigh up to 1,000 pounds, reach 13 feet in length and zip through ocean waters at speeds exceeding 55 miles per hour. Despite the feds' decision, we're pushing as hard as ever to make sure bluefin don't go extinct. More than 22,000 people have signed our pledge not to eat bluefin tuna, and dozens of restaurants have pledged not to serve it.

Read more in The Atlantic, then sign and share our Bluefin Boycott now.

Congress Must Fight Bat-killing Disease Now -- Take Action

The Center for Biological Diversity led 10 other groups yesterday in urging Congress to set aside $10.8 million for research and management of white-nose syndrome, the mysterious disease that's already killed many more than a million bats in North America. Besides the inherent value in conserving bats, saving them from white-nose syndrome will be of immense worth to agriculture across the country: A recent study found that the loss of bats' pest-control services to agriculture could be as high as $53 billion per year. Compared to that, $10.8 million is a drop in the bucket.

We're also calling on Congress to pass the Wildlife Disease Emergency Act, a bill that would provide a framework and funding mechanism for effectively responding to wildlife diseases like white-nose syndrome, which has been called the "worst wildlife disease outbreak ever" in North America.

Get more from Reuters, visit our brand-new Save Our Bats website and share our Facebook page. Then take action with us to help save bats before it's too late.

Another Reason Not to Overpopulate? The Economy

From 2007 to 2009, the U.S. fertility rate fell by 4 percent, the biggest drop in more than three decades. The years from 2007 to 2009 also marked the worst recession in at least 30 years. Coincidence? Many prominent researchers think not.

According to a 2010 Pew Research Center study, states especially hard-hit by the recession experienced substantial declines in birth rates. A separate study, released in 2009, found that a whopping 44 percent of child-capable women ages 18 to 34 making less than $75,000 were reducing or delaying childbearing because of the economy.

Of course, as the Center for Biological Diversity has been emphasizing, there's more to the population equation than just people. For plants and animals that have no choice but to live within the limits of ever-shrinking resources that are gobbled up by unsustainable human population growth, the cost is far greater than a few percentage points of economic output. It's a matter of existence or extinction.

Get more from

Take Action to Help Restore California Wetland Ecosystem

After years of advocacy by the Center for Biological Diversity and local partners, San Francisco Supervisor John Avalos announced he'll introduce legislation to help restore Sharp Park, Calif., to the flourishing wetland ecosystem and recreation area that it should be. Currently the site of a money-losing suburban golf course, Sharp Park is also habitat for endangered San Francisco garter snakes and California red-legged frogs -- which are being harmed and killed in golf-course maintenance activities.

As a study recently showed -- and the Center has been saying all along -- removing the golf course and restoring the snake and frog's natural habitat is the least costly and most sustainable solution for the park.

If you live in California, take action now to tell Supervisor Avalos you support legislation to restore the site and encourage other San Francisco supervisors to support it too. Then learn more about the Center's Sharp Park campaign.

Wild & Weird: Fire Ants' Life-saving Bathysphere

Alone, a fire ant in water will flail and drown. But with a little help from his friends --say, a couple hundred of them -- he can be part of a massive, living ant raft.

When in danger of drowning, a colony of fire ants will immediately cling to each other every which way with jaws and limbs, ultimately forming a big, floating ant ball. When researchers recently created such ant balls in the lab, they found one so buoyant that they had to submerge it eight inches before any water leaked through. No single ant is in charge. They all act as one "super-organism," pulling ever more tightly together the farther underwater their structure is submerged.

Despite their name, fire ants go way back with water and probably developed the rafting behavior because they hail from oft-flooded areas of Brazil and Argentina. They're the only ants known to make rafts.

Read more in The Washington Post.

Kierán Suckling
Executive Director

Photo credits: Hawaiian monk seal courtesy Flickr Creative Commons/Kanaka's Paradise Life; Hawaiian monk seal courtesy USFWS; Kemp's ridley sea turtle courtesy USFWS; Riverside fairy shrimp by Chris Brown, USGS; southwestern willow flycatcher courtesy USGS; California red-legged frog; Atlantic bluefin tuna (c) Paul Colley; little brown bat with white-nose syndrome by Ryan Von Linden, New York Department of Environmental Conservation; crowded beach courtesy; San Francisco garter snake courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Taka; fire ants by Stephen Ausmus, USDA

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