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Rare Southwest Fish, 293 Stream Miles Proposed for Protection

Zuni bluehead suckerThe U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed Endangered Species Act protections for the Zuni bluehead sucker and 293 miles of its home streams in the Southwest. This once-common, torpedo-shaped fish has lost 90 percent of its habitat to development, water withdrawal, pollution, logging, grazing and erosion.

With global warming and drought looming, the fish faces even greater danger. Its surviving populations -- in New Mexico's Zuni River watershed, eastern Arizona's Little Colorado River watershed and Canyon de Chelly in northeastern Arizona -- are small and isolated, increasing the risk of extinction.

The Center for Biological Diversity petitioned to protect the sucker in 2004. This week's decision, part of our historic agreement to speed protection decisions for 757 plants and animals around the country, will give this fish with a funny name a fighting chance at survival.

Get more from Cronkite News.

Permission to Hurt Whales, Dolphins, Seals More Than 30 Million Times?

Hawaiian monk sealThe feds are proposing to allow the U.S. Navy to harm or harass whales, seals, dolphins and other marine mammals more than 30 million times during training exercises off the Atlantic, Hawaiian and Southern Californian coasts. The Navy has received permission like this before from the National Marine Fisheries Service, but never on such a massive scale.

Over five years the Navy could harm marine mammals up to 9.5 million times near Hawaii and California and 21.8 million times in the Atlantic. Its war games will include sonar blasts, incredibly loud underwater explosions that have been implicated in whale strandings and bleeding around the animals' ears and brains. If the proposal moves ahead, it will undoubtedly result in thousands of cases of permanent hearing loss, lung injuries and death.

"The Fisheries Service's job is to protect marine mammals and endangered species. Rather than forcing wildlife to withstand vast numbers of injuries and harassment, it ought to close off the most biologically sensitive areas to military training," said Miyoko Sakashita, the Center's oceans program director.

Learn more in our press release, then take action to help put a stop to this lethal and inhumane plan.

Settlement Helps Endangered Woodpecker in Mississippi

Red-cockaded woodpeckerA legal settlement secured by the Center for Biological Diversity and two allies will mean more protection for red-cockaded woodpeckers on Mississippi's Noxubee Wildlife Refuge. The rare birds, once common in the Southeast but now endangered, depend on old trees in longleaf pine forests. Over the past few years, logging on the Noxubee refuge -- including logging inside woodpecker habitat -- has increased, hurting the birds.

In January 2012 the Center filed a lawsuit, along with Wild South and a long-time volunteer at the refuge. On Tuesday a federal judge approved a settlement that requires the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to prepare a new management plan that's more protective for the woodpeckers. Any new logging in the birds' habitat will have to wait for that plan.

Learn more in our press release.

Lawsuit Launched to Speed Protection for Southeast's Diamondbacks

Eastern diamondback rattlesnake (c) D. Bruce MeansThe Center for Biological Diversity filed a notice of intent to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Tuesday over the agency's failure to protect eastern diamondback rattlesnakes under the Endangered Species Act. The snakes -- which are venomous, like all rattlers, but pose little practical public-safety risk -- are in steep decline because of the destruction of 98 percent of their habitat, combined with human persecution.

Thousands of the snakes are killed each year for their skins and meat, with no harvest limits, in South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana. In Alabama and Georgia, diamondbacks are targeted by cruel "rattlesnake roundups" that offer prizes to hunters to bring in the snakes, which are then slaughtered and sold. The Center and partners filed a 2011 petition seeking federal protection for eastern diamondbacks; a final decision was due in August 2012, but has yet to be made.

"The Southeast is blessed with a rich natural heritage. All of these species -- even the rattlesnakes -- should be allowed to exist," said the Center's reptile-and-amphibian specialist, Collette Adkins Giese.

Read more in Florida Today.

End Keystone XL, Attend Biggest U.S. Climate Rally -- Sign Up Now

Keystone XL protestFrom monster storms and record temperatures to epic drought and wildfires, millions of people are already feeling the effects of the climate crisis. It's never been clearer that we need bold and immediate climate leadership. That's why the Center for Biological Diversity, Sierra Club,, Hip Hop Caucus and dozens of other groups are planning the biggest climate rally in U.S. history.

We're hoping thousands will attend the "Forward On Climate" rally on Feb. 17. Presidents Day weekend is a perfect moment to call on President Barack Obama to shut down the climate-killing Keystone XL pipeline and finally tackle the climate crisis.

We know grassroots gatherings can speak louder than Big Oil dollars -- help us prove it. Join the Center and allies on Feb. 17; RSVP for the Forward on Climate rally now.

Suit Launched to Safeguard Southern Rockies Toad

Boreal toadThe Center for Biological Diversity and allies have filed a notice of intent to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for failing to grant Endangered Species Act protection to boreal toads in the southern Rocky Mountains, Utah, southern Idaho and northeastern Nevada.

We petitioned to protect these toads in 2011. Once common throughout the U.S. West, boreal toad populations have plummeted over the past few decades, largely due to habitat destruction and an amphibian skin disease called chytrid fungus. The toads are especially endangered in the southern Rockies, where they endure in less than 1 percent of their historic breeding areas. Yet despite the Center's recent petition and one filed in 1993, the feds have neglected to decide whether to protect the toads.

Warty, blotchy-bellied boreal toads range from brown to green and grow up to 4 inches long; males have no vocal sac and thus no mating call -- these toads are quiet suitors.

Read more in the Summit County Citizens Voice.

Sign Up for Gulf of Mexico Cycling and Running Relay Race, Save Species

Pensacola BeachThis spring the Center for Biological Diversity is partnering with the Gulf Coast Interstate Relay, a first-of-its-kind weekend event consisting of two simultaneous races -- cycling and running relays along the Gulf of Mexico's coastline. A portion of the event's proceeds will benefit our work. The overnight relay, the longest in the South, stretches for 263 miles through four states, from New Orleans, La., to Pensacola Beach, Fla. The race is April 4-6, and we're proud to be part of it. From sea turtles to seahorses, the Center has a longstanding commitment to a healthy, species-rich Gulf of Mexico.

If you're feeling up to the challenge and want to put together a team, find out more about the GCI Relay and register today. If you're interested in volunteering, contact Center attorney Jaclyn Lopez at Then learn more about the Center's work to repair the Gulf.

Media Buzz Over Population, 'Plague' and Censorship

Times Square crowdThe effects of human population growth on our planet certainly had people talking last week. Famed British naturalist Sir David Attenborough set off a minor media firestorm by remarking bluntly that people "are a plague on the Earth." Attenborough scolded world leaders for ignoring population growth as a major driver of the planet's most pressing environmental problems, saying these failures would be "coming home to roost in the next 50 years." The Center for Biological Diversity was pulled into the fray; we agree with Attenborough that urgent action is needed to tackle runaway population growth, but we wouldn't have, er, put it in quite those words.

Next came the U.S. State Department's redactions of a well-reasoned, passionate essay by Bindi Irwin, daughter of the late "Crocodile Hunter" Steve Irwin. Bindi, 14, was asked by the State Department to write an essay for Go Wild: Coming Together for Conservation, part of the department's endangered species program. In her original essay, Bindi linked the extinction crisis to exploding population growth and human overconsumption of resources. But in the published essay, the State Department removed all population references, leaving overconsumption as the sole culprit in our planet's extinction crisis. Hmm.

Read about Bindi's essay, check out a story about Attenborough's comments, and read this Huffington Post piece by Jerry Karnas, the Center's population campaign director.

Wild & Weird: Dung Beetles Use Milky Way to Navigate -- Watch Video

Dung beetle and the Milky WayJust when you thought the dung beetle -- which spends most of its time rolling balls of feces around -- couldn't get any odder, a new study claims these critters actually use the heavens to steer that valuable excrement through the night.

In a paper published in Current Biology, a team of researchers offered the first bit of evidence for insect star-mapping -- and the first evidence of Milky Way mapping in any animal.

So the next time you look up at the vastness of the stars and ponder your place in the heavens, you can rest assured that you are not alone. The dung beetle is also pondering its place in this wild-and-weird universe -- or rather, the place of its precious dung ball.

Check out this brief dung beetle biopic, produced by our own videography team.

Kierán Suckling
Executive Director

Photo credits: red-cockaded woodpecker courtesy Flickr/USFWS Southwest; Zuni bluehead sucker courtesy New Mexico Department of Fish and Game; Hawaiian monk seal courtesy Dan Moutal; red-cockaded woodpecker courtesy Flicker/Tom Benson; eastern diamondback rattlesnake (c) D. Bruce Means; Keystone XL protest courtesy Flickr/Tar Sands Action; boreal toad courtesy Flickr/USFWS Mountain-Prairie; Pensacola Beach courtesy Flickr/Innisfree Hotel; Times Square crowd courtesy J. Griffin Stewart; dung beetle and Milky Way by Emily Baird.

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