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Rare Alaskan Lake Seal Moves Closer to Protection

Harbor seal pupThe only freshwater seals in the United States -- Alaska's Iliamna Lake seals -- are a step closer to protection under the Endangered Species Act. The Center for Biological Diversity petitioned for their protection last year because of the serious threats they face from climate change and a proposed mine.

The seals live in the eastern half of Alaska's biggest, deepest lake, in a pristine wilderness that's home to the world's largest run of sockeye salmon. Although scientists are still researching the animals, recent evidence suggests they're a distinct population of Pacific harbor seals (pictured). Climate change and ocean acidification threaten these seldom-studied seals and the salmon they depend on, partly through a reduction in the salmon's own food, plankton. And the proposed Pebble Mine, 17 miles upstream from one of the seals' favorite haul-out spots, would pollute the water, destroy salmon-spawning habitat, and disturb seals when raising pups.

In response to our petition, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association just decided to conduct an in-depth analysis of the seals to decide whether to protect them under the Endangered Species Act.

Read more in the Anchorage Daily News.

Scientists to Obama: Don't End Wolf Protections

Gray wolfScientists, including carnivore experts, urged the Obama administration this week not to strip wolves of their protection under the Endangered Species Act. In two sharply worded letters, the scientists said a draft proposal to halt protections was premature and failed to follow the best science. One letter came from 16 prominent conservation and carnivore biologists, the other from the American Society of Mammalogists.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been poised to propose its delisting rule, which would end federal protections for all wolves in the lower 48 states (except in Arizona and New Mexico). The proposal -- on the table even though wolves today occupy just 5 percent of their historic habitat in the continental United States -- has apparently been temporarily delayed, though it's unclear why or for how long.

The Center's gearing up to fight this dangerous proposal once it's finally announced. We'll let you know how you can help.

Read about the scientists' letter in our press release and then take action to tell the Obama administration not to delist wolves.

Floridians Take to the Beach in Rally Against Keystone

Hands Across the SandMore than 150 people turned out in Florida Saturday to voice their opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline and other dangerous and polluting projects. The "Hands Across the Sand" event at Old St. Augustine Beach, which included Center staffer Jerry Karnas and other Center activists, was held within sight of endangered right whales' migration route.

Special thanks to long-time Center supporter Bill Hamilton and his Environmental Youth Council for their well-organized, effective contributions to this event, which was part of our Month of Action against Keystone XL. People are holding events big and small across the country to speak out against the dangers this pipeline poses to our climate, wildlife, lands and waters.

Check out the Center's Events Web page to find anti-Keystone events near you. To create your own event, sign our Keystone Pledge and learn how to become a leader in the fight against the pipeline.

Center v. NRA -- Court Face-off Over Lead Ammo

Bald eagleCenter for Biological Diversity attorneys are in federal court in Washington, D.C., today facing off with the EPA, National Rifle Association and other gun groups over whether toxic lead should still be used in hunting ammunition.

The NRA has joined the EPA in fighting our lawsuit to make the federal agency regulate lead ammunition that kills millions of birds and other wildlife each year and poses an ongoing threat to human health. Last year more than 100 organizations in 35 states formally petitioned the EPA to use the Toxic Substances Control Act to switch to nonlead hunting ammunition -- our position was recently backed up by more than 30 scientists, doctors and public health experts.

"It's shameful that the NRA and their cronies are trying to block attempts to save wildlife from preventable lead poisoning," said the Center's Jeff Miller.

Read more in our press release and take action to tell Congress: Ban lead ammunition.

Op-ed: 5 Fatal Flaws in Obama's New Fracking Rules

Fracking protestNine out of 10 wells drilled on our public lands are now fracked -- a dangerous, dirty, climate-hurting oil-extraction technology that involves blasting millions of gallons of chemical-laced water underground to fracture the rock formations below our communities, farms and wildlife habitat.

But last week newly minted Interior Secretary Sally Jewell unveiled Bureau of Land Management rules on fracking that would do little to safeguard our air, water or wildlife.

As the Center's climate director Kassie Siegel wrote this week in a Huffington Post op-ed, the fatal flaws in the planned rule include a "trade secrets" loophole that would allow well operators to keep dangerous fracking chemicals secret; public notification of chemical use only after the fact, using the discredited FracFocus website for reporting; no requirement for well operators to capture methane, a potent greenhouse gas, or to deal with seismic risks despite the potential for fracking to cause earthquakes; and no requirement to collect air and water data needed for effective regulation.

The best way to protect our environment from fracking would be to prohibit this inherently dangerous form of fossil fuel extraction. But at the very least, Secretary Jewell should scrap this weak proposal and go back to the drawing board.

Read Kassie's op-ed in The Huffington Post.

Stand Up for Yellowstone's Grizzly Bears -- Take Action

Grizzly bearThanks to Endangered Species Act protections, Yellowstone's mighty grizzly bears still survive today -- but they're far from recovered. In the lower 48 states, grizzlies occupy less than 2 percent of their original range. Excessive killing and human development still put these magnificent predators at risk. Unfortunately, a newly proposed federal plan doesn't work to curb these threats or improve the odds of large-scale recovery for grizzly bears.

The Center for Biological Diversity needs your help to make sure the government enacts a real plan to save bears, especially one that connects these isolated Yellowstone bears to other populations and that finally address the destructive impacts climate change is having on whitebark pines, one of the most critical food sources for bears in Yellowstone.

Take a moment today to tell the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to develop a stronger recovery plan for bears. Yellowstone's grizzlies deserve it.

Yonkers Is In: The Latest City Urging Climate Action

Yonkers Recreation PierYonkers, N.Y., just became the newest participant in the Center's Clean Air Cities campaign, a growing movement of cities across the country calling on President Obama and the EPA to get moving on the climate crisis. So far, 58 communities have passed resolutions calling for swift and aggressive use of the Clean Air Act to begin reducing carbon dioxide pollution. And thanks to active supporters like you, that number is swiftly rising.

"I am pleased to see Yonkers recognizing the need to join the national movement toward taking affirmative steps toward reducing our carbon footprint," City Council President Chuck Lesnick said after voting to become the latest Clean Air City.

Cities are becoming an ever-more important voice in pushing for real action on the climate crisis. Miami, Seattle, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh and dozens of others have joined us. Will your city be next?

Find out how you can make it happen -- we'll help you every step of the way.

Center Hires New Development Director

Paula SimmondsWe're excited to announce the hiring of our new development director, Paula Simmonds. Paula oversees the Center's national development program, working to increase and diversify revenue through our work with members, donors and foundations. Formerly the associate executive director and chief development officer at the JCC in Manhattan, she has many years of experience leading development programs and building capacity for nonprofits in education and social services, as well as a historical society and a global news service.

Paula has had a lifelong interest in the environment, marine science, and preserving wild places; she once worked at Stony Brook's Flax Pond Marine Science Research Center and spent time at Cornell's Shoals Marine Lab. She telecommutes out of New York. Welcome, Paula.

Contact Paula at

Wild & Weird: Mystery of Narwhal "Unicorn" Solved by Dentist? -- Watch Video

NarwhalThe so-called unicorn horns once prized by Renaissance collectors and thought to have magical powers likely belonged not to mythical white horses but to the chunky, odd-looking whales we know as narwhals, which are now among the marine animals threatened by climate change in the far North. Narwhals are hunted by Inuit, polar bears and orca, and mostly live in Canada and western Greenland.

Narwhals' long, single tusk, it turns out, is in fact an 8-foot-long spiral tooth whose evolutionary mysteries have baffled scientists for decades. Now Martin Nweeia of the Harvard School of Dental Medicine has discovered that narwhals' extraordinary-looking megatooth actually contains 10 million hypersensitive nerve connections, which can suss out changes in water temperature, water pressure and "particle gradients," helping the animals navigate and hunt. In other words, these "unicorn horns" do have magical properties after all.

Read more in the Harvard University Gazette and check out National Geographic's "World's Weirdest" video on the narwhal and its monster tooth.

Kierán Suckling
Executive Director

Photo credits: narwhals courtesy NOAA; harbor seal by Tom and Pat Leeson; gray wolf courtesy Flickr/Lennart Tange; Hands Across the Sand event by Jerry Karnas, Center for Biological Diversity; bald eagle courtesy Flickr/Pen Waggener; fracking protest by Patrick Sullivan, Center for Biological Diversity; grizzly bear by Robin Silver, Center for Biological Diversity; Yonkers Recreation Pier courtesy the city of Yonkers; Paula Simmonds staff photo; narwhal image courtesy Flickr/Abraham Orozco.

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