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California Wolves a Step Closer to Protection

Gray wolf

Gray wolves in California are a big step closer to protection under the state's Endangered Species Act. Late Wednesday afternoon, the California Fish and Game Commission voted unanimously to make the gray wolf a candidate for protection under the Act. The decision came in response to a petition earlier this year led by the Center for Biological Diversity and allies.

Wolves were absent from California for more than 80 years until last December, when an Oregon wolf, referred to as OR-7 or "Journey," wandered into the state. Just weeks later, the Center and allies filed the petition, noting that California will be vital to restoring wolves to suitable habitat along the West Coast. But, in order for that to happen, wolves need to be protected from the kind of persecution that drove them to the brink of extinction a century ago. Wednesday's decision will prompt a one-year study of whether to give Golden State wolves more permanent protection.

Center members and activists played a key role in this victory, including attending Wednesday's Fish and Game Commission hearing in Sacramento. Thank you.

Read more in the San Jose Mercury News.

Great White Sharks Have a Chance at Protection -- Take Action

Great white shark

Great white sharks may seem like invincible predators, but off the coasts of California and Baja California, they're as vulnerable as can be -- to extinction. New scientific studies show that this population is genetically distinct and isolated from all other great white populations, and there are only a few hundred adults left. These few are threatened primarily by deadly gillnet fisheries, which capture and often kill the sharks, especially young ones. Young sharks off Southern California are also found to have some of the highest levels of mercury, PCBs and DDT of any sharks in the world.

In response to petitions by the Center for Biological Diversity and allies filed this summer, the National Marine Fisheries Service last week announced it was considering Endangered Species Act protections for the West Coast population of great whites. The Center and partners also petitioned California for safeguards under the state's Endangered Species Act, and a response is expected soon. "Great white sharks are an incredible species that have survived for eons along the West Coast," said the Center's Miyoko Sakashita. "Sadly, they're in deep trouble right now, so we're glad to see them a step closer to getting the help they need to survive."

Take action to get the sharks the protection they need and read more in the San Jose Mercury News.

Dime-size Puerto Rican Frog Protected by Endangered Species Act

Coqui llanero

In response to the Center for Biological Diversity's landmark settlement over 757 species, one of the tiniest, rarest frogs in the world will now get protection under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. The Center's 2011 settlement forced the agency to advance protections on the coqui llanero -- a dime-size Puerto Rican frog, known by natives for its unique, high-pitched "ko-kee" call, that has been waiting for protection under the Act since 2007.

The little frog is isolated to one chunk of wetlands, which is surrounded on all sides by destructive land uses: a go-kart track, landfill and proposed 92-mile-long pipeline that will cut Puerto Rico in half. Fortunately, this species can now get the help it deserves.

Read more at WSLS 10.

Southeast Mussels, 1,400 River Miles, Proposed for Protection

Tennessee River

Two mussels in the Southeast -- the slabside pearlymussel and fluted kidneyshell -- have been proposed for protection under the Endangered Species Act. What's more: The proposal includes protection for nearly 1,400 miles along the Tennessee River, which will provide crucial help to scores of other freshwater species in Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee and Virginia.

The slabside pearlymussel was once found in Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee and Virginia; it has been lost from Kentucky and survives in no more than 11 streams in the Tennessee River watershed in the other four states. It is no longer found in nearly 70 percent of its native streams.

The slabside pearlymussel was first identified as being in need of federal protection in 1984. The fluted kidneyshell, a candidate for protection since 1999, once lived in the Cumberland and Tennessee river watersheds in Alabama, Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia. It has been extirpated from Alabama and now occurs in only 12 of 37 of the streams where it was once found.

Read more in the Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Alabama's Pygmy Sunfish Swims Toward Safe Haven

Spring pygmy sunfish

In response to a 2009 petition from the Center for Biological Diversity and the primary scientist researching the spring pygmy sunfish, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Monday proposed Endangered Species Act protections for the fish, a 2-inch-long creature surviving only in one Alabama creek. The Service also proposed federal safeguards for eight stream miles and 1,617 acres of protected "critical habitat."

First discovered in 1937, the spring pygmy sunfish is so rare that it was twice thought to be extinct -- and it's still threatened by urban sprawl, pollution and disappearing streamside plants that help create its habitat. It's just one of many Southeast freshwater species on the very brink of extinction, from fish to mussels to crayfish. The Center petitioned to protect 404 other Southeast species in 2010, and the next year the Service declared 374 of them may warrant protection. The agency's proposal to protect the sunfish comes after the Center's landmark legal settlement last summer compelling the Service to make protection decisions for this and 756 other species.

Read more in Alabama's

Jaguar Plan Omits Two Key Recovery Areas


The Center for Biological Diversity won a great victory for U.S. jaguars in 2009 when our long, hard work in court compelled the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to announce it would develop a jaguar recovery plan, laying out steps to help this wild cat repopulate its habitat north of the Mexican border. But the Service has just released an outline of its plan that doesn’t go far enough to bolster the northern Mexico jaguar population enough to save it from inbreeding. Despite five separate studies showing that New Mexico and Arizona’s Gila headwaters and Mogollon uplands region would provide some of the best jaguar habitat -- perhaps the best jaguar habitat in the U.S. -- the recovery outline excludes the region.

The Center has been working to save American jaguars since 1994, when we first filed suit to get this majestic, highly endangered spotted feline protected under the Endangered Species Act. After we won that protection three years later, and after our good-faith participation for seven years in a feckless, state-led jaguar conservation effort, we went back to court to earn the animal a recovery plan and protected “critical habitat.” We won’t stand by now to let the feds shortchange the jaguar -- and we submitted extensive formal comments telling them that this Monday.

Learn more about the Center's work to save the jaguar.

Study: Disease Kills 10 Percent of Rare Bat Species Yearly

Indiana bat

The Center for Biological Diversity has been working for years to raise awareness of white-nose syndrome, a bat disease that's killed nearly 7 million bats in six years. Now a new federal study shows that each year between 2006 and 2009, the disease killed 10 percent of all Indiana bats, one of the first bat species ever protected under the Endangered Species Act. Since 2009 the disease has moved into the core of the Indiana bat's range in the Midwest, and more bad news is likely in the offing for this species.

As the disease has spread across 19 states and four Canadian provinces, the Center has taken action, including petitioning the government to protect three other bat species: the little brown bat, eastern small-footed bat and northern long-eared bat. We've also asked the White House to devote more funding to researching and stopping the disease, as well as to close bat-hibernation caves to the public to help prevent the disease from being spread by humans. Bat species are an essential part of each of their ecosystems and are crucial to farmers for their insect-control services.

Read more in our press release.

Activist Spotlight: A Swimmer, Surveyor and Southeast Species Savior

Vic Scoggin

When Vic Scoggin began his 696-mile swim down the Southeast's Cumberland River in 1996, he'd already lived beside -- and loved -- its teeming waters and the species they support. He made the swim to draw attention to water pollution in the Cumberland; later, he used Center for Biological Diversity materials to save Nashville crayfish from being buried under a Cumberland marina.

Since 2009 Vic has helped the Center with Southeast campaigns. He's also spent thousands of dollars fighting for imperiled Southeast freshwater ecosystems and founded his own nonprofit, Save the Cumberland. He recently got a research vessel and has already documented species on the Cumberland and other rivers from New York City to Key West.

"The health of mussels and crayfish is the health of the water that we drink," said Vic. "People need to realize that we have got to protect these animals to protect our own health."

Check out more of Vic's story, along with the archive of activists we've spotlighted.

New Yellow-legged Frogs Found in Southern California

Mountain yellow-legged frog

In a nice surprise discovery, U.S. Geological Survey field biologists have found 19 new adult mountain yellow-legged frogs in Southern California's Mojave River, bringing the total of these imperiled frogs surveyed there to 71. The Southern California population of yellow-legged frogs was feared to be near extinction.

Mountain yellow-legged frogs live at high altitudes in the Sierra Nevada and Transverse Ranges in Southern California. These 3-inch, golden-eyed hoppers were once so abundant that hikers took care not to step on them around some lakes. But their numbers have plummeted since the 1960s because of pollution, predation by stocked trout and disease. They've now disappeared from 93 percent of their former range.

The Center for Biological Diversity is pushing for a recovery plan for Southern California yellow-legged frogs. We also petitioned to put the Sierra Nevada population on the U.S. endangered species list and gained state protections for all mountain yellow-leggeds in California. The Sierra population should get a decision on federal protection next year under our game-changing settlement to advance protections for 757 species.

Read more about the recent frog find in the Los Angeles Times and learn about the Center's 757 species agreement.

Wild & Weird: Do You Kiss Your Mother With That Beak?


Rhode Island resident Lynne Taylor has a trash-talkin' cockatoo. And in the town of Warwick, R.I., you can bet there are laws on the books to deal with that kind of fowl language: A cussword out of place from an avian will get you slapped with a $15 fine.

But Taylor's not taking that steep profanity tax lying down; she's decided to appeal. In her lawyer's argument to the judge, he called the ordinance "unconstitutional" for its lack of clarity on the parameters of what noises qualify as violations.

Will we see this case involving the First Amendment rights of beak-talkers make it to the Supremes? Probably not. But the neighbor who called in the complaint -- who also happens to be the live-in girlfriend of Taylor's ex-husband -- is surely paying close attention to the jurisprudence behind the case.

Read more about the cockatoo kerfuffle in the Providence Journal.

Kierán Suckling
Executive Director

Photo credits: Gray wolf by John and Karen Hollingsworth, USFWS; gray wolf courtesy Flickr Commons/USFWS Pacific; great white shark courtesy Flickr Commons/Scubaben; coqui llanero (c) Neftali Rios; spring pygmy sunfish courtesy Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources; Tennessee River courtesy Flickr Commons/ibcurio; jaguar courtesy Flickr Commons/Bob&son; Indiana bat courtesy USFWS; Vic Scoggin (c) Vic Scoggin; mountain yellow-legged frog by Adam Backlin, USGS; cockatoo courtesy Flickr Commons/The World of Animal Welfare.

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