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200-plus Miles of River to Be Protected for Five Southeast Fish

Like the song says, fish gotta swim and birds gotta fly. Fortunately, five endangered fish in the Southeast are getting hundreds more miles of safe places to swim. On Tuesday the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said it plans to set aside 224 miles of river as "critical habitat" for five rare fish: the Cumberland darter, chucky madtom, laurel dace, rush darter and yellowcheek darter. All five species were protected under the Endangered Species Act in August as a result of the Center for Biological Diversity's landmark settlement requiring the Service to move forward on decisions to protect 757 species. The fish, native to Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky and Tennessee, are all threatened by habitat loss and pollution -- including from mountaintop-removal coal mining.

The chucky madtom, a big-whiskered catfish from Tennessee, is one of the most endangered fish in the world: Only three individuals have been encountered since 2000. Protecting habitat for freshwater species like the madtom will also protect streams in the region that provide drinking water and scores of other plants and animals that rely on healthy waterways.

Read more in The Gadsden Times.

Oregon Wolves Safe for Now -- Thank You

Two Oregon wolves that were in the state wildlife agency's crosshairs last week still run wild today thanks to speedy eleventh-hour legal work from the Center for Biological Diversity's legal team and our allies. Last Wednesday, we filed emergency court papers to stop the Oregon Department of Fish and Game from killing the alpha male and a young male in the Imnaha wolf pack -- the first pack to establish itself in Oregon in 60 years.

A judge temporarily halted the killing, leaving us just enough time to mount a vigorous defense to permanently save these wolves (and likely the lives of the alpha female and a pup, who'd be left to fend for themselves without their pack mates).

Thanks to a major outpouring of support from 700 supporters this week, we're shoring up the funds needed to keep these two wolves off the kill list. But more is still urgently needed for the fight. Please share this request with friends and consider a generous gift today if you can.

Suit Filed to Save Sea Turtles From Shrimp Trawlers

In 2011 alone, more than 1,400 sea turtles have washed ashore dead or injured in the Gulf of Mexico and southeast Atlantic. This number likely represents only 5-6 percent of actual "stranding" numbers -- which the National Marine Fisheries Service itself has linked to entanglement and drowning in shrimp nets. Yet the agency has still failed to safeguard the turtles from the nets. That's why this morning the Center for Biological Diversity and allies went to court to force the agency to do it. Our lawsuit aims to make the Fisheries Service crack down on shrimp trawlers who aren't obeying existing requirements to protect turtles, as well as implement broader requirements for shrimp boats to use "turtle-excluder" devices in all nets.

"Entanglement in shrimp trawl gear is a known, chronic threat to sea turtle survival, and the Service has simply been coming up short in protecting these ancient creatures," said Jaclyn Lopez, a Center attorney.

Check out our press release.

Rare Georgia Mussel Earns Long-awaited Help

The long, long wait for protection is finally over for a tiny, struggling mussel in Georgia. The Altamaha spinymussel has been a "candidate" for Endangered Species Act protection for nearly a quarter-century. This week, though, it finally got protection as part of the Center for Biological Diversity's massive 2011 settlement expediting protection decisions for 757 species. Besides giving the spinymussel the endangered status it desperately needs, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service designated 148 miles of federally protected "critical habitat" for the intriguing four-inch-long invertebrate along its namesake river, the Altamaha.

Freshwater mussels filter water constantly, removing algae, bacteria and decaying matter and thereby making the water cleaner and safer for humans. In an ugly irony, one of the biggest threats to the spinymussel is toxic pollution from wastewater-treatment plants. The species is also threatened by water-quality degradation caused by agriculture, logging and kaolin mining.

Read more in our press release and learn about the Southeast freshwater extinction crisis.

Tiny Tree Frog Proposed for Protections in Puerto Rico

Six years ago, scientists made a stunning find in Puerto Rico: a dime-sized tree frog that had never been catalogued before. Turns out it was also exceedingly rare. On Tuesday, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed that the coquí llanero be protected under the Endangered Species Act -- another result of the Center for Biological Diversity's agreement to speed up protection decisions for 757 vulnerable species. The agency also proposed to designate more than 600 acres of the frog's freshwater wetland habitat as federally protected "critical habitat."

Before the Center's 757-species settlement, the little coquí llanero had been waiting for protection since 2007. One of 16 coquí frogs native to Puerto Rico -- named after the male frog's enchanting "ko-kee" singing call -- this frog is seriously threatened by habitat loss. Its habitat is imminently threatened on all sides by development projects, most significantly a 92-mile-long liquefied natural gas pipeline that would bisect Puerto Rico.

Read more in the Global Post.

McCain Bill Would Open 1 Million Grand Canyon Acres to Uranium Mining – Take Action

The world-famous Grand Canyon is under attack again -- this time from politicians in Arizona. Republican lawmakers led by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) proposed legislation Wednesday to open 1 million acres of public lands around Grand Canyon to new uranium mining. The bill would overturn a temporary ban on new uranium mining -- a ban the Center for Biological Diversity's been fighting to extend -- and block Interior Secretary Ken Salazar's recent proposal to keep the ban in place for the next 20 years.

Despite widespread public support for the ban and more than 100,000 comments from Center supporters this summer, McCain and his friends in the mining industry want to allow the damaging plunder of the iconic Grand Canyon landscape for uranium. Sadly, the region still suffers the pollution legacy of past mining. The Havasupai, Hualapai, Kaibab-Paiute, Navajo and Hopi have all banned uranium mining on their lands, and for good reason: Groundwater below old mines north of the Canyon has measured dissolved uranium more than 1,000 times what's allowable for drinking-water standards. We're gearing up to fight McCain and his cronies to make sure the Grand Canyon's future is focused on pristine landscapes, not polluted ones.

Read more about our work to protect the Grand Canyon from uranium mining and take action to tell your senators to oppose all provisions blocking a drilling ban.

Judge Slams Feds' Refusal to Monitor Southwest Species

Responding to a case brought by the Center for Biological Diversity and allies last year, a federal judge on Tuesday declared that the U.S. Forest Service has indeed failed to properly monitor the health of endangered species in national forests throughout Arizona and New Mexico. The positive ruling will provide all those species, from the Mexican spotted owl to the ridge-nosed rattlesnake, with interim protections until the Forest Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service meet to consult about regional forest plans meant to protect species and habitat from destructive activities including livestock grazing and off-road vehicles.

"The Forest Service has been shirking its legal obligation to monitor the Southwest's most imperiled species and make sure its actions aren't pushing them into extinction," said Taylor McKinnon of the Center. "This court ruling finally holds the Forest Service accountable for neglecting these species and putting them at the very bottom of its list."

Read more in our press release.

Pacific Northwest Tree Vole Deserves Protection

You have to look pretty hard to find a red tree vole nowadays. These rare nocturnal rodents with reddish-brown fur only live in the forests of western Oregon and Northern California; their numbers have declined dramatically because of logging in the Pacific Northwest's magnificent forests. A glimmer of hope shone for the rare mammals on Wednesday with word from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that a population of red tree voles barely hanging onto survival along Oregon's North Coast warrants protection under the Endangered Species Act.

The decision was part of our settlement agreement reached in July on 757 species; the vole is now on the "candidate" list. It'd be a shame to see these unique creatures disappear: Not only do tree voles live in trees, they also eat them, dining only on the conifer needles of sitka spruce and western hemlock.

Get more from Oregon Public Broadcasting.

Logging Challenged to Save Southern Woodpecker

Just as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service kicked off its annual National Wildlife Refuge Week, the Center for Biological Diversity and Wild South sent a notice of intent to sue the Service for doing a decided disservice to one of America's pristine national wildlife refuges. Going against the Endangered Species Act, the Service is significantly increasing logging on Mississippi's Noxubee Wildlife Refuge despite the fact that one of its most imperiled and best-known inhabitants -- the red-cockaded woodpecker -- is declining.

The agency said in 2004 that that target population for the woodpecker in the refuge should be 88 groups (there were about 45 at the time.) Today just 34 groups remain, and a half-dozen of these "groups" consist of one individual.

Read more in our press release.

Wild & Weird: Simple Blobs? No, Early Life Forms Were Complex

For a long time, scientists have assumed that the mother of all organisms on Earth -- the last universal common ancestor, or "LUCA" -- was little more than a primitive collection of molecular parts from which chance and evolution gradually drew the building blocks of life. Now years of research on microbes reveal that in fact LUCA may have been recognizable as a full-blown cell, with complex internal interactions and even organelles (compartments inside cells, essentially miniature organs, that make cells function every day).

If it's true, that would make the mysterious forerunner of all life much more complicated than the simplest forms -- like bacteria -- alive today. So bacteria would have evolved to be less complicated than their ancestors. This makes sense, one researcher says, if you think about the extreme environments bacteria thrive in: According to that view, the structure of bacteria would have had to be stripped down or "streamlined genetically" so they could reproduce quickly.

Learn more about the very first roots of life's family tree in LiveScience.

Kierán Suckling
Executive Director

Photo credits: red-cockaded woodpecker courtesy Wikimedia Commons; laurel dace courtesy USFWS; Imnaha alpha male courtesy Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife; loggerhead sea turtle courtesy Flickr Commons/Wendell Reed; Altamaha spinymussel courtesy USFWS; coquí llanero courtesy USFWS; Grand Canyon courtesy Flickr Creative Commons/Mordac; Mexican spotted owl (c) Robin Silver; Oregon red tree vole (c) Ron Altig and Chris Maser; red-cockaded woodpecker courtesy U.S. Marine Corps; Escherichia coli bacteria courtesy NIAID.

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