Judge Upholds Protections for Polar Bear
A federal judge this morning rejected attempts by the state of Alaska, Safari Club International and others to strip Endangered Species Act protection from the polar bear. U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan shot down the groups' claim that there wasn't enough evidence that global warming is pushing polar bears toward extinction. In fact, scientists have made it clear that, left unchecked, warming could melt so much sea ice that two-thirds of the world's polar bears, including all in Alaska, will probably be gone in 40 years.
Polar bears were listed as "threatened" under the Endangered Species Act in 2008 after a petition and legal action led by the Center for Biological Diversity. We returned to court last year to seek additional protections with an "endangered" designation and fight off efforts by Alaska and others to throw out all protections for the bear. In his ruling today, Sullivan left the polar bear listed as "threatened" but made it clear its protection under the Endangered Species Act is warranted and needed for the bear to survive. Our separate challenge over a Bush administration rule that exempted greenhouse gases from being addressed because of polar bears is still pending.
Read our press release and learn more about the polar bear.
Four Forests Victory: Court Orders More Safeguards for 40 Calif. Species
More than 40 rare species that depend on large swaths of national forests in Southern California will get increased protection thanks to years of work by the Center for Biological Diversity and partners. A federal judge on Tuesday called for additional safeguards in response to our suit challenging insufficient management plans in the Angeles, Cleveland, Los Padres and San Bernardino national forests. The ruling is a big win for the California red-legged frog, Santa Ana sucker, California spotted owl and dozens of other federally protected animals and plants.
Due to our suit, the court has now given the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service six months to put in place better safeguards for the 40-plus species. And while permanent protections are in development, the U.S. Forest Service must take interim conservation steps, including protecting sensitive habitat in the Angeles forest and counting steelhead trout in the Los Padres and Cleveland forests.
Read more in the Los Angeles Times.
Two Disease-threatened Bat Species May Win Protection
In response to a petition from the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Tuesday that the eastern small-footed and northern long-eared bats may warrant protection under the Endangered Species Act. Both bats are seriously threatened by white-nose syndrome, a fast-spreading, fatal bat disease that has killed more than 1 million bats and been detected in 19 states and four Canadian provinces.
The eastern small-footed bat, a silky, black-masked bat with a small population and slow reproduction rates, has long faced many threats besides white-nose -- from habitat loss to disturbance to random, population-devastating natural events. Similar threats affect the northern long-eared bat, a medium-sized, pointy-nosed bat whose long, sensitive ears help it detect insects even when they're sitting still.
Read more in The New York Times. Then take action for bats and check out -- and share -- our new Save Our Bats Facebook page.
Feds Will Finally Tackle Sea Turtle Killings in Gulf
The National Marine Fisheries Service has finally announced plans to address the recent rash of sea turtle deaths in the Gulf of Mexico due to the region's shrimp-trawl fishery.
A record number of dead sea turtles -- nearly 400 individuals, all protected under the Endangered Species Act -- have turned up this year on Gulf beaches. The shrimp fishery is the likely culprit: Increasingly poor compliance with rules requiring shrimpers to use turtle-excluder devices or tow-time restrictions with their trawls have led to the entanglement and drowning of Kemp's ridley, loggerhead and other Gulf turtle species already weakened by the BP oil spill. The Center for Biological Diversity recently filed a notice of intent to sue over the government's inaction on the turtle deaths. Now the Fisheries Service has vowed to evaluate several measures to better protect the magnificent marine reptiles, including broader requirements for the use of turtle-excluder devices.
Read more in the Summit County Citizens' Voice.
Desert Tortoises Declared Two Different Species; Each Needs More Protection
A study released Tuesday shows that desert tortoises in California and the Southwest are two different species instead of one, meaning each species is even rarer than previously thought.
Scientists discovered that desert tortoises living north and west of the Colorado River (the population now called Agassiz's desert tortoises, or Gopherus agassizii) are officially a different species from tortoises in Arizona and Mexico (previously called "the Sonoran population of desert tortoises" and newly dubbed Morafka's desert tortoises, or Gopherus morafkai). Both tortoises are seriously imperiled by development, off-road vehicles, habitat degradation and other threats, but only the Mojave tortoise (Agassiz's) now has Endangered Species Act protection. In 2010, the feds found that Sonoran desert tortoises warranted federal protection -- but they didn't grant it.
The Center for Biological Diversity's Lisa Belenky, who's been working to save desert tortoises for years, says the new distinction means that each special tortoise needs greater protections to conserve its dwindling habitat and ensure its survival.
Read more in the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
EPA Challenged for Letting Power Plant Pollute
The Center for Biological Diversity and allies filed a challenge this week to the Environmental Protection Agency's decision to exempt a proposed power plant in California from air-pollution laws.
According to an EPA decision this spring, the proposed Avenal Power Plant wouldn't be required to conform to current pollution controls required by the Clean Air Act that deal with nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide and certain greenhouse gases. We filed our challenge with judges on the EPA's Environmental Appeals Board, which has final say over the agency's permitting decisions.
The plant is planned for the San Joaquin Valley, which already has some of the most polluted air in the country and can ill afford a new, uncontrolled air polluter.
Read more in our press release, learn about the Clean Air Act and take action to become a Clean Air Advocate now.
Mountaintop-removal Mining Linked to Birth Defects
Mountaintop-removal coal mining has long been known to pollute Appalachian air and waterways; it has annihilated more than 500 mountaintops and polluted 2,000 miles of streams, releasing toxins like mercury, lead and arsenic. Now new research shows this pollution's startling human toll.
According to a study published last month in Environmental Research, devastating birth defects -- from malformed hearts to club foot to spina bifida -- are more likely to occur in Appalachian counties with mountaintop removal than in other counties in the region. In fact, rates for defects in Appalachian counties were about 235 per 100,000 live births versus 144 per 100,000 live births in areas without mountaintop removal. Previous studies have documented the coal industry's terrible public-health impacts, like a higher rate of chronic heart, lung and kidney disease in mining communities.
Add these human impacts to the environmental devastation of mountaintop removal -- which irreversibly deforms natural landmarks and obliterates habitat for rare species -- and the next stop is obvious: End this destructive practice now.
Read more in the Lexington Herald-Leader and get the latest on the Center's work to end mountaintop-removal mining.
Science on Endangered Mexican Wolves Still Ignored
A decade ago, a team of independent scientists gathered to examine the future of Mexican gray wolves in the Southwest. Their study found that, in order for the population to survive and thrive, the recovery program needed immediate, dramatic improvements. For the past 10 years this "Paquet Report" has been gathering dust, its recommendations largely ignored.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service this week commemorated the decade-old study by bringing together the scientists that published it, but the agency has yet to significantly reform management of the small, severely endangered wild canine. As a result, the study's warning that "the wolf population will fall short of predictions for upcoming years" has been fulfilled -- and then some. At last count the population in the wild included only about 50 total animals and two breeding pairs. That's a stark contrast to the 100 animals and 18 breeding pairs previously called for by 2006. The Center for Biological Diversity is using the report's anniversary to renew our call to save these ecologically critical Southwest carnivores from extinction.
Read more in our press release and learn about the Center's decades-long campaign to save the Mexican wolf.
Study: World's Oceans In Trouble
In the first-ever study of cumulative impacts of multiple stresses on the world's oceans, an international panel of expert scientists has come to a deeply alarming conclusion: Our marine life is in even worse trouble than previously thought. In fact, the International Program on the State of the Ocean says that overfishing, pollution, ocean acidification and global warming threaten to unravel entire marine ecosystems within a single generation.
The report adds to the urgency of the Center for Biological Diversity's work to protect oceans. If we don't act soon to curb greenhouse gas emissions, stop overfishing and save the seas, marine life across the globe could face the worst spate of extinctions in 65 million years.
Get more on the study from Reuters and IUCN.org.
Soothe Lips, Save Lives
What do chapped lips have to do with saving polar bears, whales, pikas, seals, jaguars and green sturgeon? A new line of lip balms launched today by Endangered Wildlife Lip Balm is donating 25 percent of its profits straight to Center for Biological Diversity programs to save those species (and hundreds more). The balms come in flavors like vanilla, lavender orange and spearmint, and they're 100 percent organic, handcrafted and cruelty-free. Organic lip therapy for a worthy cause? We like it.
Learn more about new Endangered Wildlife Lip Balms and then order some of your own. If you know of any museums, nature centers or aquariums that might be interested in carrying the balm -- and expanding support for the Center's work -- click here.
Wild & Weird: "SpongeBob" Is a Fungi (and a Fun Guy)
SpongeBob SquarePants stars in his own TV show and has a wild following among kids (and some adults). Now he's getting extra love from mycologists. A just-discovered mushroom in Borneo, and also the star of a new study, has been christened Spongiforma squarepantsi.
Spongiforma squarepantsi has a few things in common with its animated namesake: It's yellowish (well, more like orange), resembles a sea sponge (though SpongeBob looks more like the kitchen variety) and, most of all, is delightfully unique -- one of only two species in its genus and among just 5 percent of fungi that have been formally named (however oddly). The stem-less, cap-less mushroom also has a vaguely fruity smell; no word yet on whether its preferred habitat is a submarine pineapple.
Read more in Science Daily.
Photo credits: polar bear courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Alan D. Wilson; polar bear courtesy Flickr Commons/longhorndave; California condor courtesy Flickr Commons/Jim Bahn; northern long-eared bat courtesy USFWS; loggerhead seat turtle courtesy Flickr Commons/Brian Gratwicke; desert tortoise courtesy Flickr Commons/sandman; power plant courtesy Wikimedia Commons/luchegorsk.ru; mountaintop removal site courtesy Wikimedia Commons/J.W. Randolph; gray wolf courtesy Flickr Commons/francoismi; anemone and fish courtesy Flickr Commons/John Hanson; jaguar courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Pascal Blachier; Spongiforma squarepantsii (c) Tom Bruns, University of California-Berkeley.
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