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Stay of Execution Extended for Oregon Wolves

One of Oregon's very few wolf packs is safer than it's been since two of its members landed in the state's crosshairs this fall, thanks to quick work by the Center for Biological Diversity and allies -- including thousands of our supporters. After cattle depredation, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife planned to shoot two wolves in the tiny Imnaha pack, the first pack to successfully reproduce in the state since wolves were exterminated there nearly 65 years ago. We won a temporary stay on the kill order, which this Tuesday was extended by the Oregon Court of Appeals until after it can review the state's wildlife laws.

Only 23 wolves are living in Oregon.


Wolf Massacre Gets Underway in Northern Rockies

Since Congress unconstitutionally stripped federal protections from northern Rockies wolves, Idaho and Montana have sold almost 37,000 wolf tags for hunts this fall. Idaho will allow the slaughter of the vast majority of its estimated 700 to 1,000 wolves, requiring only 150 be spared, while Montana hopes to kill 220 of its 556 to 645 wolves this year. In 2011 hunters have shot 201 wolves, and the federal predator-killing agency known as "Wildlife Services" has killed an additional 94 in the two states.

The Center for Biological Diversity and allies are in court to challenge the congressional rider that removed these wolves from the endangered species list. "The Endangered Species Act rightly put scientists, not politicians, in charge of deciding which species get protection," said the Center's Noah Greenwald. "Wolves once roamed most of North America, but were wiped off the map by intolerance and persecution -- which persist today. Wolf recovery is far from complete."

Read more in the Earth Island Journal.

Crackdown on Shrimp Trawlers Aims to Protect Sea Turtles

Since January, more than 1,400 endangered sea turtles have washed ashore dead or injured off the Gulf of Mexico and southeast Atlantic. About 468 have been found dead on the shores of Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama -- many injured or drowned when caught in shrimp trawlers' equipment. All the sea turtles that depend on the Gulf are more vulnerable after the devastating 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster.

The good news is, after the Center for Biological Diversity and allies asked a court to make the feds truly regulate shrimp trawlers -- which are required to take turtle-protection measures but often don't -- the court did so, and the feds are taking action. Between April and October, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association inspected 531 boats and issued 81 verbal warnings and 20 written warnings (finding 59 shrimpers outside the law). This doesn't solve the whole problem, but it could save the lives of hundreds of turtles.

Get more from south Florida's Local 10.

Danger Mounts for Leatherbacks as Feds Delay Aid

In not-so-good sea turtle news, endangered leatherbacks have been waiting perilously long for habitat protections (proposed back in January 2010 -- to the tune of 70,000 square miles -- thanks to a petition by the Center for Biological Diversity and allies). Now the feds have missed their deadline to finalize those protections, and even four years after our petition, as well as after multiple other missed deadlines, lawsuits and a settlement, they're back in federal court requesting permission for another delay.

The largest sea turtles in the world, leatherbacks can weigh up to 1,200 pounds and measure nine feet long. But their magnificent size means nothing in the face of fishing, coastal development, offshore oil drilling and other threats.

"Leatherbacks have been around since the time of the dinosaurs, but without habitat protection they could wink out in our lifetime," said the Center's Miyoko Sakashita. "There's no excuse for delay."

Read more in our press release and learn more about leatherbacks.

Virginia Rally Demands Ban on Mountaintop Removal

Poor communities in Appalachia have suffered for years from mountaintop-removal mining pollution, with higher incidence of cancer clusters and birth defects, ruined water supplies and an environment poisoned by debris from exploded mountains. This Wednesday upwards of 500 people gathered outside EPA headquarters in Washington, D.C. to sing, chant and demand the agency stand up to Big Coal and permanently ban mountaintop-removal mining from all 50 states, even as it prepares to approve a new, destructive mine at Ison Rock Ridge, Va.

Said the Center for Biological Diversity's Bill Snape: "In the footsteps of the successful Keystone XL pipeline rallies, this event shows that the power of the people isn't dead in our democracy. The question is whether Obama's EPA, or the next EPA, will listen."

If you haven't already, please join the 21,000 Center supporters who've signed our petition against mountaintop-removal mining at Ison Rock Ridge.

Canada Denies Polar Bears Much-needed Protection

Polar bears have protection under U.S. law, even if that protection isn't enough because they still need safeguards from the biggest threat to their survival, namely climate change. But in Canada, the great white bears have no substantive protection at all. Last week the country declined to list the species as threatened or endangered under its Species at Risk Act, settling for calling it a "species of special concern" -- which just means the Canadian government must make a management plan for the bears in three years.

The decision came while Center for Biological Diversity staffers Kassie Siegel and Brendan Cummings were on the shores of Canada's Hudson Bay, webcasting and blogging with Polar Bears International as the bears waited for the sea ice to freeze. Every fall, after spending the summer fasting on land, polar bears must get back out onto the sea ice to hunt seals. With global warming, that ice is forming later and melting earlier, meaning the bears must go longer without food. The bears' hunger is no surprise, but it's still painful to behold.  

Read more in our press release, the Scientists and Explorers Blog and Kassie's Huffington Post opinion piece. Then learn more about Polar Bears International.

First Gulf Oil Lease Approved Since Catastrophic Spill

The federal government seems to have learned few lessons from last year's catastrophic BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico: Last week it approved the first oil lease sale in the Gulf since the Deepwater Horizon exploded. Despite the fact that the president's own commission on the spill reported that special risks exist at depths of 5,000 feet, the feds are once again claiming that oil and gas development in depths of water ranging from 16 to more than 10,975 feet is "environmentally sound."

Besides killing 11 people, BP's spill covered more than 1,000 miles of coastline with oil. An estimated 200 million gallons were spilled into the ocean, along with 2 million gallons of dispersants of unknown toxicity. Studies from the University of Georgia report the seafloor is still covered in oil and dead wildlife; since January the University of Central Florida has reported more than 150 dead dolphins on the Gulf coastline, including 65 newborn, infant and premature calves. Local businesses that rely on the Gulf's natural abundance are still reeling.

The Center has filed the biggest lawsuit in Clean Water Act history to force BP to clean up the Gulf; that and numerous other Center cases on the BP disaster are still pending. Read more in our press release.

Biodiversity Briefing: Endangered Species Act Attack

This year, we've seen a steady ramping-up of congressional attacks on the Endangered Species Act and the animals and plants that need it to survive. In the most recent installment of the Center for Biological Diversity's quarterly Biodiversity Briefings, Executive Director Kierán Suckling spoke about the increased Congressional assault on the nation's most successful environmental law, the worst assault since the one led by Richard Pombo back in the 1990s.

Some attacks have targeted individual species to prevent their protection -- New Mexico Rep. Steve Pearce has picked on the dunes sagebrush lizard, Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe on the lesser prairie chicken, California Rep. Wally Herger on bighorn sheep. And of course there was the unprecedented congressional rider that stripped protections from northern Rockies gray wolves last spring. It was the first time in the Act's 40-year history that politicians, not scientists, had removed a species' federal safeguards.

Congress is also trying to exclude pesticides from protections under the Clean Water Act -- pesticides that harm countless endangered species, from the tiny California red-legged frog to the great polar bear. Doc Hastings, head of the Natural Resources Committee, is now holding a series of "hearings" on the Endangered Species Act, giving carte blanche to politicians to attack the Act.

The Center has ramped up our own work to confront the attacks at all levels and will keep you updated on our campaigns. Listen to the first part of Kierán's briefing here. If you'd like to be invited to participate in Biodiversity Briefings live when they happen with other Leadership Circle members, email Assistant Executive Director Sarah Bergman or call her at (520) 396-1129 to learn more about joining the Leadership Circle.

Center Biologist Wins Conservation Award

For years, Center for Biological Diversity Public Lands Desert Director Ileene Anderson has been working hard both in the field and the office to save Southern California's most endangered plants and animals, from the San Diego ambrosia to the San Bernardino kangaroo rat.

This month Anderson's successes won her the Alice Krueper Service Award from the San Gorgonio chapter of the Sierra Club. The award recognizes her work on renewable-energy projects -- striking a delicate balance between preserving natural habitat and allowing those energy projects to move forward. For example, solar energy is a key part of curbing climate change; but does an industrial-scale solar project really need to be placed in the heart of desert tortoise habitat? Anderson knows it takes a lot of thoughtful planning and in-depth knowledge to make sure good energy projects and endangered species can coexist. "To be honored by the San Gorgonio chapter of the Sierra Club means a lot to me," she said.

Learn more about the desert tortoise, San Diego ambrosia and San Bernardino kangaroo rat.

Wild & Weird: Six-foot Eel Crane-lifted Into Atlantic

Some go to great lengths for love. But 2,000 miles? Who among us would go to those lengths -- and after being stuck in a big bag, lifted by a crane and plunged into the sea? Apparently, a conger eel.

Conger eels are pretty lengthy themselves. A six-footer named Rip had lived all his adult life in Britain's Macduff Marine Aquarium, but this fall he seemed to become restless, and that's when staffers knew it was time to release him into the Atlantic -- via the crane method -- where he'll swim 2,000 miles and settle into the depths of the ocean to spawn. Sadly, like other conger eels, Rip will perish soon after spawning. We trust it was worth it, Rip, and may you rest in peace.

Read more and watch a video from BBC News.

Kierán Suckling
Executive Director

Photo credits: sea turtle courtesy Flickr/japi14; gray wolf courtesy Flickr Commons/francoismi; gray wolf courtesy Flickr Commons/Brian Digital; loggerhead sea turtle courtesy Flickr Commons/Brian Gratwicke; leatherback sea turtle courtesy Flickr Commons/Red Jam Jar; mountaintop removal site courtesy Wikimedia Commons/J.W. Randolph; polar bear (c) Brandan Cummings; oil drilling platform courtesy Flickr Commons/oskar karlin; dunes sagebrush lizard courtesy USFWS; Ileene Anderson; European congor eel courtesy Wikimedia Commons/West Brom 4ever.

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