Center for Biological Diversity

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Center's New E.O. Wilson Award Goes to Nevada Scientist

2012 E.O. Wilson AwardThe Center for Biological Diversity's first annual E.O. Wilson Award for Outstanding Science in Biodiversity Conservation has been awarded to James Deacon, distinguished professor emeritus at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. The award was announced this morning.

Over the course of his 52-year career, Deacon has focused on conservation of desert fish and other freshwater species and on sustainable water-use advocacy in the Southwest. His work contributed to the protection of several threatened and endangered aquatic species, helped secure water rights for Death Valley and Zion national parks, and helped create Ash Meadows and Moapa national wildlife refuges in Nevada.

"Dr. Deacon's relentless commitment to preserving life in some of its rarest forms, and to conserving the limited resources that sustain us all, makes it a great honor to recognize his life's work with this award," said Kierán Suckling, the Center's executive director. "His remarkable career exemplifies the leadership role scientists must take in helping us to better understand and protect the biodiversity of our planet."

Read more in our press release.

Record Number of Panther Deaths in Florida

Florida pantherTwo more endangered Florida panthers died last week, at least one hit by a car, bringing the total number of these beautiful cats killed in 2012 to 26 -- the highest number on record for a single year. The fatalities are the latest reminder of the importance of protecting the last few remaining patches of habitat for the big cats, whose numbers in the wild range from just 100 to 160.

In 2009 the Center for Biological Diversity petitioned to protect the panthers' most important habitat in South Florida, and in 2011 we filed another petition calling for reintroduction of panthers in the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge to establish a second population. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's own recovery plan for the panther calls for protected habitat and three viable, self-sustaining populations of at least 240 panthers each to protect against inbreeding, development and human encroachment. Fish and Wildlife rejected both of our petitions.

"The Florida panther desperately needs more habitat protection and a second population center in the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge," said the Center's Michael Robinson. "More can be done to save these great cats, but it has to be now, before it's too late."

Read more in this Associated Press article.

Southeast's Endangered Wood Stork Recovered to "Threatened"

Wood storkOn Tuesday, at long last, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service delivered some good news: Endangered wood storks, which breed only in Florida, Georgia and coastal South Carolina, are doing well enough to merit an upgrade from "endangered" to "threatened," meaning that for these beautiful birds extinction's no longer an immediate risk. The change in designation is a positive sign but will not reduce the birds' legal protection.

The Center for Biological Diversity urged in January that the wood storks' improved status be recognized by Fish and Wildlife. The storks were protected in 1984 after the species had declined from about 20,000 pairs to 5,000; the most current estimate is 9,579. If the birds continue to thrive, they may be eligible to be delisted by 2017.

Read the Center's report, "On Time, On Target: How the Endangered Species Act Is Saving America's Wildlife," which documents the recovery of the wood stork and 109 other species saved by the Endangered Species Act.  

Tell Obama to Keep Wolves Protected -- Take Action

Gray wolfThe Obama administration is poised to take away Endangered Species Act protections from wolves across much of the country, including the Pacific Northwest, southern Rocky Mountains and Northeast. The decision could come any day, so we need your help now to keep those protections in place.

Although the recovery of wolves in the northern Rockies and the Great Lakes has been a success, the job of returning wolves to the American landscape is still far from complete. Wolves in the lower 48 occupy just 5 percent of their historic range, and there are still hundreds of square miles of prime wolf habitat around the country that are unoccupied. These elegant, awe-inspiring animals won't return and thrive in those areas if the government strips away their federal protection. As we've seen in places like Wyoming and Idaho, hundreds of wolves have been lethally shot and trapped since they were pulled off the endangered species list.

Please tell President Obama and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service not to give up on America's wolves.

California Fracking Rules Won't Protect Climate, Wildlife, Health

California frackingAnyone who hoped that California would actually do something to protect wildlife, climate and public health from fracking was disappointed with extraordinarily weak draft rules issued by state regulators on Tuesday. Fracking is already widespread in California, and with the largest shale oil reserves in the country, the state is threatened with an impending fracking boom that could cause irreparable environmental damage. 

The draft rules do little to reduce the risks. The Center for Biological Diversity's analysis of the proposal found that it provides little protection for air, water and climate; allows well operators to avoid disclosing the use of fracking chemicals; requires no direct notification for people with homes or drinking wells next to fracking wells; and allows public notification of fracking to come through an industry-run website.

"Because even a perfect regulatory system can't eliminate the risks fracking poses to our air, water and climate, the Brown administration should scrap its weak proposal and replace it with a simple prohibition on fracking," said the Center's Kassie Siegel.

Read our press release to see the five reasons the state's fracking proposal is fatally flawed.

Center Attorneys Argue for $20 Billion Oil Spill Case Against BP

Deepwater Horizon explosionCenter for Biological Diversity attorneys were recently in federal court in New Orleans to press ahead with our suit to hold BP and Transocean accountable for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the largest in our nation's history. The Center sued the companies under the Clean Water Act in June 2010, estimating that they should pay about $20 billion in penalties, which would go to clean up the injured Gulf. We also seek full public disclosure of all the toxic pollutants released into the ocean during the spill.

The Center's case was dismissed by a district court in June 2011, so the Center appealed to the 5th Circuit to overturn the dismissal. Hearings on the appeal were held earlier this month. BP and Transocean have yet to pay any civil Clean Water Act penalties and have yet to identify all the released pollutants. Meanwhile the cleanup and restoration of the Gulf are far from complete; in fact new evidence continues to surface of additional oil from the spill site. Our legal case needs to move ahead -- the birds, turtles, dolphins, fish and other species devastated by the spill deserve as much.

Read more in our press release.

Southwest Owl Gets Recovery Plan -- Worse Than Before

Mexican spotted owlsThe federal government on Monday made a move that should have been helpful to the Southwest's endangered Mexican spotted owls: an update of the owl's 1995 recovery plan, intended as a roadmap for the species' recuperation. But instead of improving the plan, the agency actually weakened protections for this rare and beautiful bird -- an animal for which the Center for Biological Diversity first achieved Endangered Species Act protection in 1993. The shy, swift-flying owl is one of the largest in North America, with a wingspan of 45 inches, and plays a vital role in the ecology of the Southwest forests it calls home.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's new plan does away with key logging restrictions in owl habitat while renewing hollow promises to monitor owl populations -- which federal agencies have unlawfully failed to do now for 17 years. "This new plan provides a blueprint for bureaucratic discretion, not owl recovery," said the Center's Taylor McKinnon.

Read more in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Lawsuit Challenges Fossil Fuel Project in Great Barrier Reef

DugongThe Center for Biological Diversity and allies filed a lawsuit last week challenging nearly $3 billion in financing from the federally run U.S. Export-Import Bank for a massive fossil fuel project in Australia's Great Barrier Reef.

The dangerous liquefied natural gas project includes plans to drill and frack 10,000 coal-seam gas wells, dig nearly 300 miles of gas pipelines, dredge the nearby harbor and its seagrass beds and increase tanker traffic for international shipping. These activities will threaten endangered dugongs and green and loggerhead sea turtles, degrade wildlife habitat, pollute local waters and increase the risk of ship strikes.

"We shouldn't be subsidizing the world's fossil fuel dependence or the destruction of a natural wonder like the Great Barrier Reef," said Center attorney Sarah Uhlemann.

Read more about the lawsuit in our press release and check out this Bloomberg article.

Wild & Weird: Adapt to Air Pollution by... Growing Your Nose Hair Out?

Nose hair shotWorried about all that air pollution in your city? No wonder; worldwide, such pollution prematurely kills about 1.3 million people every year, according to the World Health Organization. But for the nasally hirsute among us, there seems to be an advantage, say new studies: People blessed with fuller, longer manes of nose hair are three times less likely to develop pollution-related asthma.

Clean Air Asia has developed an interactive hairy nose metric map that demonstrates, depending on the air quality of your city (if you live in Asia), the length and style of nose hair you'll need to survive. Live in Beijing? Well, let's just say you may want to watch the musical Hair for inspiration: "Give me a [nose] with hair, long, beautiful hair…"

For those of you opposed to Rogaine in the nostrils, we suggest you take steps to help get rid of air pollution instead of adapting to it, er, follicularly.

Check out Clean Air Asia's interactive pollution map to find out how long you'll need to grow your nose hair; watch a "documentary" on the life of a nose-hair artist.

Kierán Suckling
Executive Director

Photo credits: Florida panther courtesy Flickr/Nick Jewell; 2012 E.O. Wilson Award by Bill Haskins, Center for Biological Diversity; Florida panther courtesy North Florida USFWS; wood stork courtesy USFWS; gray wolf courtesy USFWS, Pacific Region; California Fracking courtesy Flickr/Justin Woolford; Deepwater Horizon explosion courtesy U.S. Coast Guard; Mexican spotted owl by Robin Silver, Center for Biological Diversity; dugong courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Julien Willem; nose hair headshot courtesy Clean Air Asia.

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