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Vital Victory: House Rejects Dangerous "Extinction Rider"

Imperiled species across the country dodged a legislative bullet on Wednesday when the U.S. House of Representatives rejected a budget bill rider that would have stopped all federal spending on Endangered Species Act protections for new species and habitat. This rare win in the ongoing battle over the Interior Department's appropriations budget was hard-fought. The Center for Biological Diversity, our partners, and thousands of you worked intensively in the days leading up to the vote to make sure this disastrous rider never got through.

Our efforts paid off: In a vote crossing the partisan divide, the House voted 224-202 in favor of the Dicks amendment to strip the rider from the bill. This latest attack came just weeks after the Center reached a landmark agreement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to speed protection for 757 imperiled U.S. species, including the wolverine, Pacific walrus, Rio Grande cutthroat trout and Mexican gray wolf. If the rider had slipped through Congress, it would have delayed protection for all those species and made their recovery more difficult -- or even condemned them to extinction.

The budget bill battle is still full of other troubling riders, including an attack on 1 million acres of public lands around the Grand Canyon, which could be voted on tomorrow. The Center will keep you updated on the latest votes as they happen. Read more about the extinction rider victory in our press release and check out the Center's historic 757-species settlement.

Suit Wins Scrutiny of Uranium Program in Colorado

In response to a lawsuit from the Center for Biological Diversity and allies, the Department of Energy has begun a full environmental review of its 26,880-acre uranium-leasing program on public land in southwestern Colorado. Uranium mining and milling there -- near the majestic Dolores and San Miguel rivers -- will deplete Colorado River basin water and threaten to pollute multiple waterways with uranium, selenium, ammonia, arsenic and a long list of other toxic contaminants. Selenium and arsenic contamination in the basin, from abandoned uranium operations, have already been implicated in the decline of four endangered Colorado River fish species -- the Colorado pikeminnow, razorback sucker, humpback chub and bonytail.

But the feds refuse to revoke uranium leases that have already been awarded or renewed -- 31 in total -- even while admitting the need for new environmental review. The Center has a pending lawsuit over the current program. "That badly flawed approach jeopardizes human health, wildlife and two of the West's most precious rivers," said the Center's Public Lands Campaign Director Taylor McKinnon.

Read more in our press release.

House Pushes Pipeline, Activist Jailed -- Take Action

In a dangerous step backward for endangered species habitat and the climate, the U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday passed a rider on the Interior Department's budget bill rushing a decision on a controversial pipeline, even if the environmental review isn't finished. The massive Keystone XL pipeline would bring oil from Canada's tar sands, widely considered the dirtiest oil on the planet, down to Texas refineries. Along the way it would carve up vital habitat in five states for the black-footed ferret, whooping crane, American burying beetle, least tern and scores of other species. Making matters worse, it carries with it an unacceptable risk of an oil spill, especially as an add-on to the existing Keystone Pipeline, which has been plagued by leaks.

The Center for Biological Diversity just submitted comments against the dangerous pipeline, which the Center's Noah Greenwald calls "an environmental disaster waiting to happen."

Meanwhile, the same day the go-ahead bill was passed on Keystone XL, climate activist Tim DeChristopher -- a hero to many for his civil disobedience stopping an oil and gas lease in 2008 -- was sentenced to two years in prison and a $10,000 fine for standing up to Big Oil.

Join the Center and thousands of others in honoring DeChristopher's call to nonviolent action for the climate, wildlands and our "shared sense of justice" starting Aug. 20 in Washington, D.C., at a huge rally protesting tar sands and Keystone XL. It could be the biggest act of civil disobedience in climate-activism history. Then read more in our press release and learn about the Center's work against dirty oil shale and tar sands.

Center Fights for Wolf Protections at Federal Hearing

Our fight to save America's wolves continued this week -- this time in a Montana courtroom. Center for Biological Diversity attorneys were in Missoula on Tuesday arguing that it was unconstitutional for Congress to strip Endangered Species Act protections from wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains. Specifically, we're in court challenging the rider that Congress attached to a must-pass budget bill in April. It marked the first time that an animal or plant has been removed from the endangered species list by Congress.

The rider required the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to remove federal protections for wolves in Idaho, Montana, eastern Oregon and Washington, and northern Utah. While wolf numbers are strong in Idaho and Montana, state wolf plans call for drastic reductions in wolf populations, and wolves in Washington and Oregon have only just begun to recover. At Tuesday's hearing before a federal judge, senior Center attorney Amy Atwood argued that Congress overstepped its bounds in deciding the fate of wolves in those states. That's a decision best left to scientists, not politicians. The judge could issue his ruling as early as next week, and we'll keep you updated on the Center's next action.

Get more and watch a video on the hearing with the Center’s Noah Greenwald on Then read this piece in The Missoulian.

Anti-wolf Politicians Want to Strip Protections, Stop Challenges

Meanwhile, wolves in Wyoming and the Great Lakes are a step closer to losing protection. On Wednesday, the House of Representatives voted in support of an amendment that blocks the public from enforcing the Endangered Species Act's established provisions for wolves in those two areas. This anti-environmental rider has been added to the Interior Department's pending appropriation bill in Congress.

State agencies have proposed aggressive hunting plans that will reduce wolf populations once they're taken off the endangered species list. Legal challenges by the Center for Biological Diversity and others to illegal delisting by the Department of the Interior have been successful in the past; that's why anti-wolf politicians in Congress are trying to shut down any kind of judicial review or challenge of delisting decisions. This kind of provision sets a dangerous precedent by excluding citizens from one of the most important avenues to challenge decisions that violate the law and endanger species already struggling to survive.

Find out more about our national efforts to protect gray wolves.

Win for California Rivers: Ban on Suction Dredge Mining

Suction dredge mining extracts gold from rivers with machines that suck up gravel and flush it back into the water -- often polluting water sources with mercury and always destroying habitat for fish, amphibians and songbirds.

But under a bill signed into law this week, this destructive form of mining is banned in California, at least for the near future. On Tuesday, Gov. Jerry Brown extended a 2009 moratorium on California suction dredge mining for five more years or until the state adopts new rules that fully counter its harm and pay for its mining program. Despite suction mining's natural impacts (and the fact that it costs California money), the Department of Fish and Game had proposed to allow it to continue. After litigation and much other work by the Center for Biological Diversity and partners, now this practice won't be sucking the life out of California's waterways any time soon.

Read more in The Fresno Bee.

Eastern Gopher Tortoise Joins Waiting List for Protections

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Tuesday found that the eastern gopher tortoise is in deep enough trouble that it needs Endangered Species Act protection. But the tortoise won't get the help it needs any time soon; rather it's being added to a waiting list for protection. Found in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and Alabama, the tortoise builds elaborate burrows that more than 360 other species use. Unfortunately, the tortoise's own homes are fast being destroyed by pine plantations and suburban sprawl. It's also threatened by the hunting of rattlesnakes, which use tortoise burrows.

The Center for Biological Diversity submitted comments in favor of protecting the tortoise and has for years opposed the "rattlesnake roundups" that threaten its existence. The next important step: Fish and Wildlife should prioritize funding to make sure the tortoise gets protection.

Read our press release and learn about outlawing rattlesnake roundups.

Film Confronting Unsustainable Growth Needs Your Help

Unsustainable human population growth got you down? Who you gonna call? GrowthBusters. This thought-provoking new documentary confronts the very real consequences of our "growth-centric system" -- from water shortages to peak oil to climate change and, of course, species extinction -- to ask the fundamental question for saving our planet: "How do we become a sustainable civilization?"

But before moviegoers confront that question, the moviemakers are facing a more immediate problem: They need help funding the final phase of the film's production. In fact, they're looking to raise $20,000 by this Sun., Aug. 12.

The Center for Biological Diversity supports GrowthBusters as another great way to get the word out about the dangers of human population growth. (And we also liked seeing the clip of filmmaker Dave Gardner passing out Endangered Species Condoms.)

Learn more about the movie and consider donating to help it along -- you can even get your name in the credits. Then check out the Center's Overpopulation and Endangered Species Condoms websites and see filmmaker Gardner hawking our species-saving prophylactics.

Legendary Earthworm Loses Out on Protections

In grim news for the extremely rare giant Palouse earthworm, the intriguing invertebrate was denied Endangered Species Act status this Monday after two petitions and litigation by the Center for Biological Diversity and allies. The earthworm, a legend in its Palouse prairie home region, was once rumored to grow up to three feet long, smell like lilies and spit on attackers. New data from some specimens recently unearthed suggest it's only a foot long, doesn't smell much like flowers at all and doesn't spit. While that doesn't make it any less deserving of protection, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has concluded it can't determine whether the creature is truly rare or just hard to find. This conclusion ignores work by scientists showing the species to be absent in agricultural and urban areas that now cover large areas of the earthworm's former range -- one of the most threatened habitat types on the planet, Palouse prairie.

The Center will keep fighting the dangers that threaten the earthworm's habitat, including unchecked agricultural development.

Read more in The Spokesman-Review.

Wild & Weird: A Six-star Energy Rating for Sloths

You might have energy-saving appliances or lightbulbs. But do you have an energy-saving body? Consider the sloth.

New x-ray research reveals that sloths' unique anatomy lets them move much like monkeys -- but in energy-saving mode. With extra-long arms set on short shoulder blades, they get a maximum reach with minimal muscle required, and dislocations at certain muscular contact points even let them get into their famous lounging-in-the-trees pose -- putting hardly any effort into staying that way. By consuming less and staying out of fellow animals' way, sloths are mammalian "models of energy saving," says one researcher. In fact, the first sloth used for the research wouldn't even move around enough to get the right x-rays taken, earning him headlines as "the laziest animal in the world."

Turns out they're not lazy -- just, well, energy-savvy. Good news for couch potatoes everywhere.

Get more from Science Daily.

Kierán Suckling
Executive Director

Photo credits: Pacific walrus courtesy USFWS; American wolverine (c) Larry Master/; humpback chub by George Andrejko, Arizona Game and Fish Department; Tim DeChristopher courtesy Flickr Commons/Rainforest Action Group; gray wolf courtesy Flickr Commons/francoismi; gray wolf courtesy Flickr Commons/Brian Digital; California red-legged frog (c) Colin Brown; gopher tortoise courtesy USFWS; crowd courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Katrin Kominiak; giant Palouse earthworm courtesy University of Idaho; two-toed sloth courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Dave Page.

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