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Feds Confront Whale-deafening Noise From Gulf Oil Exploration

After the Center for Biological Diversity and allies sued over seismic ocean blasts that harm marine mammals, the federal agency that oversees offshore oil drilling is finally asking the National Marine Fisheries Service to analyze how these blasts affect whales and dolphins in the Gulf of Mexico.

For years, the feds have let companies explore for oil using seismic surveys without permits required by federal law. The surveys use very loud blasts that hurt marine animals by causing hearing loss, disturbing essential behaviors like feeding and breeding, and blocking communication. Since Interior Secretary Ken Salazar took office in 2009, he’s approved more than 100 seismic oil-exploration surveys generating blasts of up to 250 decibels -- the loudest human sounds in the ocean short of explosives -- in blatant violation of the Marine Mammal Protection Act and Endangered Species Act.

Read more in E & E News.

130 Groups Demand National Pesticide Reforms -- Join Us

While Congress and the chemical industry are busy with legislation to allow more pesticide pollution, the Center for Biological Diversity and more than 130 allies called on the Environmental Protection Agency today to reform the pesticide-registration process and enforce laws protecting people, wildlife and habitat from toxic pesticides.

Our letter cites years of undue influence by the pesticide industry over important regulations. It requests more protections against chemicals known to interfere with reproduction and cause cancers in humans and other animals.

Earlier this year, the Center and Pesticide Action Network sued to compel the EPA to evaluate the effects of hundreds of pesticides on more than 200 endangered species. It was the most comprehensive legal action ever brought under the Endangered Species Act confronting the dangers of pesticides to wildlife, from the California red-legged frog to the coho salmon.

Read more and take action now to tell your congressional representatives to oppose legislation weakening pesticide pollution laws and get toxins out of our environment. Learn more about pesticides reduction and endocrine disruptors here.

Wolves Abandoned in N.M., Defended in Oregon

Ignoring passionate opposition from the Center for Biological Diversity and wolf supporters, the New Mexico State Game Commission voted last week to stop cooperating with the feds on Mexican gray wolf reintroduction -- a program that began in 1998 following a Center lawsuit. In recent years, largely due to the New Mexico Game and Fish Department’s work, conflict over wolves has lessened and wolves have preyed on fewer cattle. Without New Mexico biologists’ help, wolves may prey on untended cattle in the Gila National Forest, provoking the livestock industry -- which demanded withdrawal of state management in the first place -- to call for more trapping and shooting.

In other wolf news, last week the Center and 10 allies wrote a letter to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife requesting it immediately and significantly improve its handling of the state’s recovering wolves. The agency has killed four wolves in the past two years to please the livestock industry, another died after trapping and one more was killed by poachers -- all deaths that the population, at only 17 wolves and two breeding pairs, can ill afford.

Read an op-ed in the Albuquerque Journal and stay tuned for the latest wolf news and action opportunities.

Save Habitat for Hawaiian Monk Seals -- Take Action

After a petition by the Center for Biological Diversity and partners, the endangered Hawaiian monk seal is on its way to earning 11,000 acres of protected “critical habitat.” More habitat protections are critical for safeguarding areas on the main Hawaiian Islands where the sleek, swift-swimming seal is beginning to rebound -- and there are only about 1,100 individuals left on the planet. The seal is under dire threat from food scarcity, climate change, entanglement in fishing gear, habitat loss and other dangers.

While the federal government considers protecting more critical habitat for this seal, it’s also critical that you speak up. Take action now to tell the Obama administration more safeguards are needed for this most endangered of marine mammals. Then learn more about our campaign for the Hawaiian monk seal.

Forest Restoration Helped Curb Ariz. Mega-fire

Climate scientists say global warming will bring bigger, hotter forest fires -- and it’s already happening. Fueled by drought, warming and a century of fire suppression, the Wallow fire now raging across eastern Arizona is the biggest in state history. But the U.S. Forest Service says damage to communities would be even worse had it not been for forest restoration treatments advanced by the Center for Biological Diversity and our partners working on the White Mountains Stewardship Contract. 

Since 2004, the Center has worked with allies -- communities, the Forest Service and businesses that thin small, fire-prone trees -- on the restoration of about 50,000 acres of degraded ponderosa pine forest surrounding small towns. That work isn’t only important to protect people from wildfires like the Wallow; it’s also a prerequisite for safely reestablishing natural fire regimes, which naturally correlate with the climate and help forests and the species within adjust to climate changes over time (more needed now than ever, considering President Barack Obama’s lack of leadership on climate policy).

Check out our latest press release on the fire, learn more about ecosystem restoration and watch this video interview with the Center’s Taylor McKinnon by Arizona Public Broadcasting.

Baby Step Taken to Protect Western Bats From Deadly Disease

Despite the threat of spreading white-nose syndrome, the deadly bat disease, a national caving convention is going forward in Colorado, with trips planned in area caves. However, after comments by the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Forest Service has announced strict rules for the cavers, limiting access to only a handful of caves -- and only those with very few or no bats. Cavers must also stick to strict protocol for decontaminating their gear and won’t be allowed to use gear that came from states where the deadly bat disease has shown up. Last year, the Forest Service enacted a complete closure for caves in the Rocky Mountain region, but the cavers requested an exemption for this convention. With no known cure or ability yet to stop the devastating bat disease, the Center has repeatedly advocated for cave closures that would ban all-but-essential human travel as a means of slowing the spread.

White-nose syndrome has now killed well more than 1 million bats and is known or suspected in 19 eastern and midwestern U.S. states and four Canadian provinces. Left unchecked, the epidemic could affect all two dozen hibernating bat species in the United States -- and could drive any one (or more) of those species extinct.

Check out our press release, learn more about the Center’s critical campaign to save our bats and take action to help bats now.

Debt-slashing Biden Targets, uh, Tortoise Website

Vice President Joe Biden boldly stepped into the budget-cutting fray this week with his best options for trimming federal spending. The three wars overseas? Too cliché. Corporate tax giveaways? Crazy talk. No, Biden’s boondoggle radar somehow locked onto a government website about the endangered desert tortoise.

Yep, turns out that pulling the plug on the tortoise website would save taxpayers a whopping $125 every year. (That’s 34 cents a day!) Let's see, the nation's debt is about $14 trillion; so if Eagle Eye Joe can find just 112 billion more of these bank-busting websites, well, we'll be back to financial health in no time. Thanks, Joe. Meantime, we’ll keep plugging away at protecting the desert tortoise -- and if the government needs $125 to keep the lights on at the tortoise website, we’ll be happy to chip in.

You can read Biden’s daring budget memo here and learn more about why the desert tortoise is worth more than 34 cents a day here.

Wild & Weird: Crows vs. Cops

Think criminals are the only ones with a grudge against cops? Not in Everett, Wash., where crows have taken a decided dislike to uniformed staff at the police department’s north precinct. Crows have taken over a tree in the lot and are actually dive-bombing officers -- especially the higher-ranking ones -- as they walk to and from their cars. One officer who tried to scare the birds away with a siren got his car plastered with droppings.

A local biologist explained that it’s just about time for baby crows to be leaving the nest, so their parents are extra hostile toward any possible threats. Everett cops have agreed to save their Tasers and guns for human aggressors and just maybe carry umbrellas till the crows are less defensive.

Read more in the Everett Herald.

Kierán Suckling
Executive Director

Photo credits: bottlenose dolphin courtesy Flickr Commons/Willy Volk; bottlenose dolphin courtesy Wikimedia commons/Laaude; California red-legged frog (c) Colin Brown; Mexican wolf by Jim Clark, UsFWS; Hawaiian monk seal courtesy Wikimedia Commons/kent Backman; Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Zereshk; little brown bat with white-nose syndrome courtesy New York Department of Environmental Conservation; desert tortoise courtesy Flickr Commons/sandman; crow courtesy Flickr Commons/Marko K.

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