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Activists in L.A., San Francisco Rally for California Fracking Ban

Fracking protesterHundreds of activists took to the streets in Los Angeles and San Francisco last week to call on Gov. Jerry Brown to ban fracking in California. The protests were organized by the Center for Biological Diversity and a new coalition called Californians Against Fracking -- more than 100 member groups of conservationists, nurses, farmers, unions and people who live near fracking sites.

The L.A. protest included filmmaker Josh Fox, whose latest documentary Gasland II explores the environmental and public-health dangers of fracking. "If any state can stand up to the influence that the oil and gas industry wields over our elected officials and government agencies and demand a cleaner, renewable energy future, I have hope California can," Fox said.

Oil companies are gearing up to frack large reservoirs of unconventional shale oil in California's Monterey Shale. This formation lies beneath some of the state's most productive farmland, critical water sources, important wildlife habitat and dozens of towns and cities from the Salinas Valley to the Los Angeles Basin.

Then, if you live in California, tell Gov. Brown to halt fracking in the Golden State and read this story from New Scientist.

Court to Feds: Oil Permit in Beluga Habitat Was Illegal

Beluga whaleThe extremely endangered white whales of Alaska's Cook Inlet are now dodging fewer bullets -- i.e., powerful underwater blasts from seismic airguns. Last week a judge ruled that the National Marine Fisheries Service violated two major laws in granting an oil-and-gas exploration permit for Cook Inlet near Anchorage, home to a population of only 300 extraordinary belugas.

The judge said the Fisheries Service had acted irrationally when it issued a permit that drastically underestimated the number of belugas that would be harmed by the oil company's activities. In fact about twice as many beluga whales as estimated may have been subject to the dangerous seismic testing, which included airgun noise loud enough to mask whale calls over thousands of miles, impair their communication and breeding, and at close range cause hearing loss.

Last year the Center and allies legally challenged the oil permit. We also won these whales' federal protection back in 2008, as well as 3,000 square miles of protected habitat for them in 2011. "Cook Inlet is rapidly losing its belugas, and these beautiful animals are irreplaceable," said our Alaska Director Rebecca Noblin. "This decision is a step in the right direction toward protecting our local belugas so that our children and grandchildren can enjoy them."

Read more in the Juneau Empire.

Sea Turtle Activist Murdered in Costa Rica -- Take Action

Leatherback sea turtleAn activist working to protect nesting sea turtles from poachers on Costa Rica's Caribbean coast was murdered last week near Limón. On Monday the Center for Biological Diversity joined other conservation groups in announcing a $12,000 reward for information on the brutal killing of Jairo Mora Sandoval, a 26-year-old conservationist who worked as a beach monitor for the Wider Caribbean Sea Turtle Conservation Network.

Last Thursday Mora was on sea turtle patrol with one Spanish and three American volunteers, in an area where there'd been an increase in turtle poaching, suddenly they were ambushed by at least five masked men. Mora was bound, badly beaten and shot in the head. The four foreign volunteers who were also abducted in the attack survived.

"Jairo worked bravely and tirelessly to protect countless precious lives," said Center attorney Jaclyn Lopez. "We can't let cowardly criminals take down dedicated, selfless people like Jairo who've spent their lives defending the defenseless. Jairo's assassins must be swiftly apprehended and tried."

Take action now to help catch Jairo's killers and honor his memory by protecting the beach where he worked.

Court Victory for California Sea Turtles, Whales

Oil dispersant applicationThe Center and allies won an important legal settlement last week requiring federal agencies to ensure that toxic chemicals used to disperse oil spills in California's ocean waters won't hurt sea turtles, whales or other endangered species. Our suit forces the government to determine these dispersants' safety for endangered species before they're used -- not afterward, as with 2010's Deepwater Horizon disaster.

In theory, dispersants allow spilled oil to be eaten by microorganisms and become diluted faster than if left untreated. But dispersants and dispersed oil can be very harmful in themselves: For instance, oil broken apart by the dispersant Corexit 9527 damages the insulating properties of seabird feathers more than untreated oil, making the birds more susceptible to hypothermia and death. Dispersed oil is also toxic to fish eggs, larvae and adults, as well as to corals, and it can harm sea turtles' ability to breathe and digest food.

The latest settlement requires the federal government to determine whether dispersants planned for use against spills off the California coast would hurt endangered wildlife, as well as to take steps to minimize that harm.

Get more from Environmental News Service.

Suit Filed to Stop First Drill Site Inside Alaska Reserve

Polar bearsThe Center sued the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Wednesday challenging its approval of an oil-industry proposal to build the first drilling site inside the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska. The approved plan would allow ConocoPhillips to bring roads and industrialization into the largest, most biologically rich river delta in the U.S. Arctic -- as well as the country's largest roadless area -- which sustains hundreds of thousands of water birds, including spectacled eiders and yellow-billed loons, along with caribou and other vulnerable animals.

"We're deeply concerned that this project could kick the door open to industrial development in the reserve's priceless habitat," said Deirdre McDonnell, a senior attorney with the Center. "The oil industry promises to use cutting-edge technology in the Arctic to reduce impacts to sensitive habitat, but when push comes to shove, it opts for the cheapest methods and forgets about the wildlife."

A planned pipeline over one of the Colville River's largest channels also increases the risk of a catastrophic oil spill that would be devastating to birds and could dump oil into the Beaufort Sea, home to endangered species like polar bears and ice seals.

Check out our press release.

Live in the Midwest? Help Celebrate 40 Years of Endangered Species Act Success

Whooping craneThe Endangered Species Act turns 40 in 2013, and we want to make sure the world knows what a success it's been. All year we're teaming up with the Endangered Species Coalition and other environmental groups on a campaign called "A Wild Success: Celebrating 40 Years of the Endangered Species Act."

Will you help us? Throughout the year we'll be asking people around the country to write letters to the editors of their local newspapers about the power and necessity of the Act. You can write about your favorite species the Act has saved, urge Congress not to weaken this bedrock law or just submit a few lines saying you're thankful for the lives the Act saves every day.

This month we're specifically asking people in the Midwest to write letters. So if you live in Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, North Dakota or South Dakota, find out how you can help. If you live in another part of the country, no fear -- your time to help will also come; meanwhile, check out our new Wild Success Web page.

Dumb as Rocks: National Republican Committee in a Tizzy Over Keystone Pipeline Video

Raúl Grijalva's Keystone videoThe Center for Biological Diversity today posted responding to the National Republican Congressional Committee's Keystone pipeline meltdown. Displaying a weak sense of humor and an even weaker grasp of science, the NRCC has attacked this great video by Congressman Raúl Grijalva explaining how dangerous tar-sands oil is and asking President Obama to reject the Keystone XL tar-sands pipeline.

With help from Kid Rock, Monty Python and exclusive hidden-camera pictures of NRCC scientists, shows how Grijalva blinded the NRCC with high school science.

Check it out. Pass it on. And don't forget to sign the Pledge to Stop the Keystone Pipeline.

Center Hires New Conservation Director

Roman CzebiniakThe Center is pleased to announce the hiring of our new conservation director, Roman Czebiniak. Roman helps oversee, coordinate, connect and support our six outstanding conservation programs: Endangered Species, International, Oceans, Wildlands, Urban Wildlands and the Climate Law Institute. With Roman on board, we expect our success and productivity to rise even higher.

With degrees from the University of Florida and the New York University School of Law, Roman has an impressive conservation-leader history, including work at the U.S. Department of Justice, the UCLA Environmental Law Center, the Environmental Law Institute, Defenders of Wildlife and Greenpeace. With a lifelong love of animals, plants and wilderness, Roman is also savvy in all the right places -- politics, law, grassroots activism and more.

Said Roman, "I'm eager to help tackle the most critical issues of our time -- from fracking to ocean acidification -- and win."

Contact Roman in our San Francisco office at Welcome, Roman.

Wild & Weird: "Tree Lobsters" Escape Extinction Under a Single Bush -- Watch Video

Ball's PyramidIn 1918 a British cargo vessel ran aground on Lord Howe Island, 300 miles east of Australia. When the ship was evacuated, a swarm of hungry black rats also hopped off and acquired a taste for the local haute cuisine: enormous, flightless, nocturnal stick bugs with lobster-like exoskeletons. Two years later the rats were thriving, but the "tree lobsters" -- as island settlers called them -- had vanished. By 1960 scientists believed Dryococelus australis extinct.

Fast-forward to 2001, when two scientists climbing the tiny islet called Ball's Pyramid with towering, nearly vertical rock walls -- about 13 miles from Lord Howe -- found a bush sheltering fresh insect poop. Since they couldn't find the poopers that day, researchers determined to make the formidable climb back to the bush at night ... to discover 24 tree lobsters living around it. This single precariously placed bush is presumably the last place on Earth where these critters exist in the wild.

Now, after captive-breeding success, conservationists are asking Lord Howe residents: Won't you help these incredible insects repopulate your island?

Learn more from NPR and watch a riveting video of a tree lobster hatching.

Kierán Suckling
Executive Director

Photo credits: fracking protest and protesters by Patrick Sullivan, Center for Biological Diversity; beluga whale courtesy Flickr/Jenny Spadafora; leatherback sea turtle by Scott R. Benson, NOAA/NMFS Southwest Fisheries Science Center; oil dispersant application courtesy Flickr/crpaskewich; polar bears courtesy Flickr/USFWS Alaska region; whooping crane courtesy USFWS; Raúl Grijalva's Keystone video screenshot courtesy People for Grijalva; Roman Czebiniak staff photo; Ball's Pyramid courtesy Flickr/spelio.

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