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Fracking Win: Court Says Feds Ignored Environment in Oil Leases

Pump jackA landmark victory against destructive fracking in the Golden State: This week, responding to a suit brought by the Center for Biological Diversity and partners, a federal court ruled that the Bureau of Land Management failed to fully consider the environmental risks of fracking when it issued oil leases for 2,500 acres of public land in Monterey County, Calif.

"This important decision recognizes that fracking poses new, unique risks to California's air, water and wildlife that government agencies can't ignore," said the Center's Brendan Cummings, who argued the case. "This is a watershed moment -- the first court opinion to find a federal lease sale invalid for failing to address the monumental dangers of fracking."

Fracking has already been used in hundreds, perhaps thousands of California oil and gas wells. It has been tied to pollution in other states and releases huge quantities of methane, a dangerously potent greenhouse gas. This decision means that, at the very least, no drilling or fracking on the Monterey County leases will be allowed without a thorough study of environmental risks.

Read more in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Scientists, Health Experts: Time to Get Lead Out of Ammo

Trumpeter swansLead hunting ammunition poses a serious danger to people and wildlife and ought to be phased out. That's not just us talking -- it's a new recommendation from 30 scientists, doctors and public-health experts from Harvard, Cornell, Rutgers and other major universities.

The scientists' statement, released in an online University of California publication, cited overwhelming evidence on the toxic effects of lead (even at low levels) and convincing data about the significant risks lead ammo poses to people and wildlife. With plenty of nontoxic alternatives for sale, the experts say, it's time to get rid of lead.

The letter comes as California lawmakers consider a bill (which the Center for Biological Diversity supports) to ban lead hunting ammunition. We've been pushing for years to protect wildlife like eagles, California condors, loons and swans -- as well as the health of people -- by switching the country to nonlead bullets and tackle.

Learn more in our press release.

Deadly Disease Hits Home of Biggest U.S. Gray Bat Colony

Gray batWhite-nose syndrome has now been found in northern Alabama's Fern Cave, the world's largest colony of wintering endangered gray bats; it's also home to about 1 million endangered Indiana bats. The disease has already killed nearly 7 million of the planet's only true flying mammals since it was first discovered in North America in 2006. It has spread to 22 U.S. states and five Canadian provinces.

In announcing the startling discovery, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said the latest white-nose cases were "extremely alarming and could be catastrophic." The Center for Biological Diversity has pushed for a national plan to stem the spread of the disease, including limiting human access to public-lands caves to emergency and research-related uses.

"With this one cave containing more than a third of the world's gray bats, all the alarm bells should be going off," said Mollie Matteson, our bat specialist. "White-nose syndrome is now threatening the very survival of the gray bat and several other species."

Read more in the Los Angeles Times.

Govt. Agent Probed in Killing of Wolf -- Take Action

Mexican gray wolfAs we reported last week, a federal Wildlife Services agent very likely shot and killed an endangered Mexican gray wolf in January. Adding insult to injury, the feds are still keeping many details of the shooting hidden from the public, even though it happened months ago.

This kind of secrecy is all too common for the notorious Wildlife Services agency, which kills hundreds of thousands of animals every year with little public disclosure. Unfortunately the government has a lackluster track record in helping to recover endangered Mexican gray wolves; 15 years after wolves were reintroduced in the Southwest, there are just three breeding pairs in the wild.

The public has the right to know how the January killing happened, and the Center for Biological Diversity is working to ensure we find out.

Read our Executive Director Kierán Suckling's op-ed on the shooting in The Huffington Post, sign our petition calling on the Obama administration to investigate, then donate to help us save wolves in the Southwest.

Baltimore Becomes 54th Clean Air City

Baltimore's Inner HarborBaltimore just became the 54th community to join the Center for Biological Diversity's Clean Air Cities campaign. On Monday its city council approved a resolution asking President Obama and the EPA to make full use of the Clean Air Act to cut carbon pollution and combat climate change.

"The bad news is that Baltimore will be hit hard by climate change. We face sea-level rise, epic heat waves and a never-ending threat of extreme weather events," said Councilmember Mary Pat Clarke, who introduced the resolution. "The good news is that we have the Clean Air Act, and if it's employed swiftly and ambitiously, we can dramatically reduce greenhouse gas pollution and some of the worst impacts of climate change."

Read more in our press release and find out how you can make your community the next Clean Air City.

Center Op-ed: Protect Wolves in California -- Take Action

Gray wolfWolf OR-7 has been zigzagging from his Oregon origins into Northern California since December 2011. Other wolves are bound to follow and make California their home. They're coming; will we be ready to protect them?

That's the central question of an op-ed in last Sunday's Sacramento Bee by Amaroq Weiss, the Center for Biological Diversity's West Coast wolf organizer. The first step will be ensuring that wolves are protected under California's Endangered Species Act. Responding to a petition by the Center and partners, state wildlife officials have given initial approval on protection but will make an official decision later this year. Then the job will be to make sure wolves aren't killed in droves in the name of protecting cattle.

"Tried-and-true, centuries-old nonlethal wolf management techniques greatly reduce predation by wolves on livestock," says Amaroq. That's because "once the order of the pack is destroyed, so is the natural pack discipline of teaching younger wolves to kill natural prey such as deer and elk."

Read Amaroq's op-ed in The Sacramento Bee, then, if you live in California, take action by May 6 to tell California wildlife officials that you want wolves protected in the Golden State.

Black-backed Woodpeckers Closer to Protection

Black-backed woodpeckerThe U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Monday that black-backed woodpeckers may merit protection under the Endangered Species Act. The agency, responding to a petition from the Center for Biological Diversity and partners, will now conduct a full review of genetically distinct populations of these rare, beetle-eating birds in South Dakota, California and Oregon.

Black-backed woodpeckers depend on forest fires and wood-boring beetle infestations to create swaths of the dead trees they like to live in. The woodpeckers feed on beetle larva growing in those standing dead trees, called "snags," which is also where they build their nests. But logging in fire-damaged areas and large-scale timber thinning for fire prevention have reduced these birds' livable habitat to only 2 percent of their range in Oregon and California.

"These birds desperately need the lifeline of the Endangered Species Act," said Justin Augustine with the Center. "There are likely only a few hundred pairs left in South Dakota's Black Hills, and about a thousand pairs in Oregon and California -- they could wink out of existence if we don't stop razing their habitat as soon as it appears."

Read more in our press release.

California Pushing Dangerous Highway Expansion -- Take Action

SalmonThe California Department of Transportation last week sent in highway patrol officers to clear out tree-sitters and community members protesting the Willits Bypass, a highway-widening project in Northern California that will destroy oak forests, streamside trees, wetlands and critical salmon habitat. Media reported that officers even shot one unarmed tree-sitter with nonlethal rounds. As soon as the protestors were removed, Caltrans cut down a swath of conifers and oak trees.

The Center for Biological Diversity has a pending lawsuit challenging the project, but Caltrans wants to plow ahead before our legal claim can be heard. We'll be in court next month opposing the agency's inadequate environmental review for the $300 million highway. The bypass would cause extensive environmental damage in Little Lake Valley, require the largest wetlands fill permit in Northern California in the past 50 years, and run through salmon-stream headwaters.

We've organized a statewide coalition of groups to put the brakes on a series of environmentally harmful Caltrans highway-widening projects -- starting with the Willits Bypass. If you live in California, take action by demanding this venture's halt.

Wild & Weird: The Predatory Poetry of Goshawks -- Watch Video

Northern goshawkIn the world of birds of prey, goshawks' sensuous agility and deadly hunting skills are legendary. You may never get the chance to witness one of these gorgeous, high-speed raptors zooming through forest canopy in pursuit of a squirrel, but you can watch a video of them hunting water balloons in super slow motion -- both graceful and unnerving.

The Center for Biological Diversity has been fighting for northern goshawks since 1991, when we first filed a petition to protect them under the Endangered Species Act. Goshawks have, ever since, been a driving force in forest protection across the U.S. West.

Watch the balloon-hunting video at Earth Unplugged and read a 2010 article featuring goshawks and the Center.

Kierán Suckling
Executive Director

Photo credits: gray bat by Merlin D. Tuttle, Bat Conservation International; pump jack courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Sanjay Acharya; trumpeter swans courtesy Flickr/U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; gray bat by Adam Mann, Environmental Solutions and Innovations; Mexican gray wolf courtesy Flickr/Don Burkett; Baltimore's Inner Harbor courtesy Flickr/Kevin Labianco; gray wolf courtesy USFWS; black-backed woodpecker by Mike Laycock, NPS; spawning salmon courtesy California Department of Water Resources; northern goshawk by Robin Silver, Center for Biological Diversity.

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