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Rare Texas Critters Get Protected Habitat

Rhadine exilis

Nine cave-dwelling species in Bexar County, Texas, got 4,200 acres of protected "critical habitat" Monday in response to a lawsuit from the Center for Biological Diversity and friends. The designation is almost four times the size of a previous, Bush-era designation and will help protect the often-blind, colorless, dark-adapted invertebrates from urban sprawl that’s threatening to blight the life-sustaining entrances to their caves. On average, species that have been given critical habitat under the Endangered Species Act are twice as likely to be recovering as those without it.

With colorful names like "robber baron cave harvestman" and "vesper cave spider," the nine species depend for their survival on native vegetation around their cave openings, which will be better protected now that critical habitat has been finalized. The vegetation is a source of food, climate regulation and humidity control for the creatures -- as well as a barrier to the invasion of enemies like fire ants.

Read more in our press release.

Vanishing Eastern Mussels Win New Protections

snuffbox mussle

Two colorfully named mussels, the snuffbox and the rayed bean, are finally getting protected under the Endangered Species Act. Monday's decision is the latest result of the Center for Biological Diversity's landmark agreement, reached in 2011, to move 757 species closer to permanent protection.

Freshwater mussels are the most endangered group of species in North America, primarily because they're highly vulnerable to pollution. The rayed bean, which is a greenish mussel with wavy stripes, has vanished from 70 percent of its former range; it's been on the waiting list for protection since 1984. The snuffbox, a yellowish mussel with triangular females and oval males, has declined by more than 60 percent, a candidate for protection since 1991.

Protecting these species will also mean protecting the clean water people need.

Read more in The Republic.

Help Bring Back Wolves to California -- Donate Today

gray wolf

In late December, a young wolf born in northeastern Oregon wandered into California, and, as he crossed the state line, ushered in a new era of wolf recovery. The arrival of the wolf -- named Journey or OR7, depending on who you ask -- opens the door to the possibility of wild wolves returning to California, as more wolves will inevitably follow in this wolf's footsteps.

It'll be an uphill battle; the last wolf in the state was shot almost 90 years ago, in 1924, and the livestock industry has vowed to kill any wolf it sees. But the Center for Biological Diversity has a plan to make sure wolves in California are protected under the state's Endangered Species Act – and we need your help.

Please donate to our new California Wolf Fund and help us fight to make sure wolves have a safe home in the Golden State.

800,000 Messages to Congress Reject Keystone XL -- Thank You

Keystone delivery

In just 24 hours, more than 800,000 messages were sent to Congress to stop the Keystone XL tar-sands pipeline. The Center for Biological Diversity was among 40 environmental groups participating in a mass mobilization of supporters to speak out against the destructive project. And the timing couldn't be any more urgent. Republicans in the Senate are pushing legislative language right now requiring XL to be permitted in 30 days; a vote could happen any minute.

More than 24,500 Center supporters from around the country signed petitions opposing the pipeline. Each of those messages was hand-delivered to Congress on Tuesday. Thank you for taking swift action on this critical issue.

Keystone XL -- which would transport dirty tar-sands oil from Canada to Texas -- would in the process spill oil, damage the environment, worsen climate change and jeopardize the habitats of more than 20 rare and endangered species, including the whooping crane. Here's hoping our powerful push this week against this dangerous project gets us one step closer to stopping it.

Read more in our press release and check out our campaign to fight the Keystone XL pipeline.

California Judge Rules Against 41-Acre Exurb Near Tejon Ranch

California condor

After litigation by the Center for Biological Diversity and allies, a superior court judge has struck down plans for a large housing development -- including 41 acres of houses and condos -- to be built in the Frazier Mountain area of southern Kern County, Calif. This sensitive, rugged mountainous area is home to highly endangered California condors and other sensitive species, including North America's fastest land animal, the pronghorn. The plan was for an area west of Tejon Ranch's massive Tejon Mountain Village -- another, even more massive project, which threatens a wide array of wildlife. The Center has been fighting Tejon Ranch development for years.

"This is an extremely important habitat area for scores of threatened, endangered and rare species, including the California condor, so it's important that any development be carefully thought out," said Adam Keats, the Center's urban wildlands director. "This is a huge victory for smart planning."

Check out our press release and learn about our campaign to save Tejon Ranch.

Free Ringtones: 515K Downloads, New Hawaiian Species


Calls of the wild -- free endangered species ringtones from the Center for Biological Diversity, that is -- have now been downloaded more than a half-million times across the globe. Launched in 2006, our ringtones are massively popular, written up in The New York Times, Oprah's O magazine and scores of other outlets and downloaded in more than 150 countries.

To celebrate the latest milestone, the Center has added a brand-new series of tones featuring the hoots, caws and chirps of 17 Hawaiian species. These include the gorgeous scarlet Hawaiian honeycreeper, or ‘i‘iwi -- moving toward protection under our 757 species settlement -- and the Hawaiian hawk, a bulky-bodied, solitary raptor that's the only hawk native to Hawaii, as well as a royal symbol in Hawaiian legend.

Download any of the Center's startling and intriguing ringtones and your phone will suddenly be the talk of the town; learn more about our other creative media projects.

Center Joins Legal Fight for Santa Ana Fish

Santa Ana sucker

The endangered Santa Ana sucker may not be your typical Hollywood beauty, but it's been at the center of more controversies than many Southern California celebs -- from lawsuits to protect its "critical habitat" to saving it from damaging dams. The Center for Biological Diversity has been in the spotlight with the sucker since 1999, when we and allies first (successfully) sued the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to stop construction on the Seven Oaks Dam on the Santa Ana River.

In our latest action, the Center and allies this week petitioned to be part of a lawsuit to save the fish's federally protected critical habitat, won through previous work in court by us and other groups. The sucker needs all the help it can get: A dozen inland water agencies are challenging the feds' designation of 9,331 protected acres in San Bernardino, Riverside and Los Angeles counties that are vital for the fish's survival.

Read more in The Press-Enterprise.

Seagrass, World's Oldest Inhabitant, At Risk From Greenhouse Emissions

Posidonia Oceanica

Scientists in Portugal say the oldest living thing on Earth is a patch of Mediterranean seagrass (Posidonia Oceanica), of which one nine-mile-wide meadow is thought to be 200,000 years old -- dating back to the moment when humans first emerged. Now, however, the seagrass may be in its waning years, possibly because of all the greenhouse gases we're putting into the atmosphere and ocean.

According to researchers, the seagrass meadows -- which, like some of the animals in "Wild & Weird," below, reproduce asexually -- are declining hundreds of times faster than they're spreading. That could be very bad news not only for the seagrass but for the many species that depend on it, including green turtles.

Read an article about the seagrass in The Sydney Morning Herald.

Wild & Weird, Valentine's Edition: Animals That Say No to Sex

whiptail lizardHey singles: Who says you need a mate? A small, diverse group of animals in the wild are perfectly able to reproduce without one. They include so-called "lesbian lizards" and sea stars and sharks.

The lizards, colorful, desert-dwelling whiptails, are an all-female race that clones itself through parthenogenesis (the development of an egg without fertilization). The sea stars can re-grow any part of their bodies -- even their brains, after decapitation -- from tiny pieces of them that form the basis for new individuals. And hammerhead sharks in captivity have been observed to create offspring through parthenogenesis (though, unlike the lizards, they'd prefer not to: Those offspring have shortened life spans, if they survive at all). Scientists have raised cloned white bamboo sharks from unfertilized eggs they found lying around the tank; some speculate that the ability to reproduce without a mate may have given sharks the resilience to become some of the oldest species on the planet.

Take a look at Discover Magazine's survey of these remarkable bachelor/ettes.

Kierán Suckling
Executive Director

Photo credits: hawaiian hawk (c); Rhadine exilis (left) by Dr. Jean Krejca, USFWS; snuffbox mussel by M.C. Barnhart, USFWS; gray wolf by Scott Flaherty, USFWS; Keystone message-delivery courtesy Flickr Creative Commons/; California Condor (c) Lorraine Paulhus; 'i'iwi by C.R. Kohley, State of Hawaii Division of Forestry and Wildlife; Santa Ana sucker by Paul Barrett, USFWS; Posidonia Oceanica courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Alberto Romeo; whiptail lizard courtesy Flickr Creative Commons/Paul Asman and Jill Lenoble.

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