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Dunes sagebrush lizard

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Lawsuit Fights to Save Rare Lizard in Texas, New Mexico

Dunes sagebrush lizardThe Center for Biological Diversity and Defenders of Wildlife went to court Wednesday to fight the Obama administration's decision to cancel its proposal to protect the dunes sagebrush lizard under the Endangered Species Act.

The lizard had been a candidate for federal protection for nearly 30 years until 2010, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in response to a petition by the Center, proposed to list it as endangered. Eighteen months later the agency withdrew its proposal, saying it would instead rely on a volunteer conservation program in Texas -- which happens to be administered by the very oil and gas execs who would benefit from destroying the lizards' habitat.

To make matters worse, the details of the agreement (like exactly how lizards will be protected) are hidden from the public and even the federal wildlife agency.

Dunes sagebrush lizards, which live only in Texas and New Mexico, are some of the nation's most imperiled lizards. They deserve better than this.

Read more in the Midland Reporter-Telegram.

Court Upholds Ban on Importing Dead Polar Bears to U.S.

Polar bearsThe Washington, D.C. Court of Appeals this week upheld a decision to ban imports of polar bears shot and killed in Canada. The ban was triggered after the Center for Biological Diversity and allies secured Endangered Species Act protection for polar bears in 2008.

Hunters and Safari Club International challenged the ban but lost in court on Tuesday.

Earlier this year the same court rejected an attempt by polar bear trophy hunters and the state of Alaska to completely strip polar bears of their federal protection.

"It's great that these legal protections have been confirmed, and now it's time to move forward with actually protecting the bear," said Kassie Siegel, director of the Center's Climate Law Institute. "In addition to rapid greenhouse pollution cuts, we need to stop the international trade in polar bear parts, curtail polar bear hunting, and protect the bear's Arctic habitat from oil development."

Read more in E&E News.

BLM Wants to Give ORVs 50,000 More Acres in Algodones Dunes

Desert tortoiseThe Bureau of Land Management is spoiling for another fight in Southern California. This week the agency proposed opening up an additional 50,000 acres of land, including habitat for rare and vanishing species, to unlimited destructive off-road vehicle use. The proposal is the single largest conservation rollback in more than a decade in the California desert.

Algodones is the largest active sand dune formation in North America, covering about 200,000 acres in California's Imperial County. Among the imperiled species living there are Peirson's milk vetch and desert tortoises, both protected under the Endangered Species Act, along with Algodones Dunes sunflowers, flat-tailed horned lizards and several dozen invertebrate species that occur nowhere else on the planet.

"This plan pushes the rare plants and animals of the Algodones Dunes closer to extinction, robbing them of a huge part of their safe haven," said the Center's Ileene Anderson.

Read more in the Los Angeles Times.

Suit Challenges Massive Water Tunnels in California

SalmonThe Center joined a coalition of fishing, wildlife and farming communities on Monday in filing a lawsuit challenging approval of a plan in California that was intended by the legislature to protect the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, but instead paves the way to building two 35-mile tunnels to siphon water away from the Delta and send it to Southern California.

The $25 billion project -- now incorporated into the "Delta Plan" -- would suck massive amounts of water out of the region and put several endangered species at increased risk of extinction, including salmon. Our lawsuit urges the court to set aside an earlier environmental review of the plan and suspend any related construction until it acts to protect California's wildlife and the environment.

"No matter how you slice it, this plan is bad news for endangered fish, wildlife and the long-term health of the Delta," said the Center's Adam Lazar. "Unfortunately the Delta Stewardship Council seems more interested in catering to special interests than the communities it was supposed to protect."

Read more in The Fresno Bee.

"Grand Canyons of the Sea" Win Sea Change in Protection -- Thank You

Steller sea lionIt's a remarkable breakthrough in ocean protection: After a Center alert generated more than 30,000 online letters from our supporters, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council voted unanimously to identify, and consider safeguarding, key coral areas in the canyons of the Bering Sea off Alaska. The decision could transform the way we care for marine life, considering the health of entire ecosystems rather than single species.

In fact the Bering Sea's coral-covered canyons are home to scores of species -- sponges, fishes, crabs, skates, sperm whales, orcas and Steller sea lions, not to mention the corals themselves -- all part of a vast biological network extremely vulnerable to human activity.

All told, the Fishery Management Council received an unprecedented 127,000 letters, spurring it to declare, "Thanks to all who provided comments -- your voices are important to this process, and they have been heard."

The fight to save the Bering Sea's "Grand Canyons" is far from over, but this is an important step forward. Your action made a difference -- thank you.

Read more in The Huffington Post and take more action to save corals now.

Attention, Humans: Get Ready for More of Us Than Expected

BabyThe United Nations says that there will be more people crowded onto our planet in the coming years than previously thought. Today there are more than 7.2 billion people. By 2025 -- less than 12 years from now -- there will be 8.1 billion. And then it only gets worse, the U.N. predicts: 9.6 billion people by 2050 and approaching 11 billion by 2100.

That means a baby that's born today will see Earth's human population increase by 3.8 billion by its 87th birthday. Yikes.

11 billion is a very bad number for our climate, our lands and waters, and the other creatures with whom we share this third rock from the sun. If ever the time was ripe to start talking seriously about population, this is it. The Center for Biological Diversity has been pushing the conversation for years, both through our advocacy and through our super-popular Endangered Species Condoms.

We need you. Learn more at and sign up for Pop X, our monthly e-newsletter on population and the extinction crisis.

Two Florida Butterflies Declared Extinct

Florida from spaceTwo South Florida butterflies, Florida Zestos and rockland grass skippers, were declared officially extinct by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service last week. Their disappearance highlights the importance of the Endangered Species Act, which might have saved them from extinction had it been used in their defense.

The Service said the butterflies likely went extinct from habitat loss, comparing the downward trajectory of the Zestos to a currently protected species, the Miami blue butterfly, which is losing habitat and host plants due to sea-level rise. Like the Zestos, many South Florida species are threatened by coastal squeeze, where crowded beach development prevents any landward retreat by coastal species from rising sea levels caused by climate change.

The Service recently proposed Endangered Species Act protection for three Florida plants and Florida bonneted bats -- all threatened by sea-level rise. The proposal to protect those species was part of a historic settlement agreement between the Center and the agency that requires expedited decisions on protection for 757 species around the country, including 115 species in Florida alone.

Get more from UPI.

Snake Fungal Disease Breaking Out in Parts of East, Midwest

Timber rattlesnakeBiologists are finding snakes in parts of the eastern and midwestern United States -- including, most recently, Vermont -- with what appears to be a fungal disease. They fear the fungus could bode ill for snakes, as white-nose syndrome, also a fungus, does for hibernating bats.

The snake fungus has been appearing with frequency since 2006 -- not spreading out from one node, like the fungal disease that has killed at least 7 million bats (white-nose syndrome), but appearing simultaneously in different locations. Timber rattlesnakes, which have been found with the fungal lesions on their faces, bask in the sun when they emerge from hibernation; this seems to help control the lesions.

But there are "more questions than answers," says Dr. Chris Jenkins, a biologist who studies the snakes. "We don't know if it's a big deal yet, but we need to look into it closely."

Read more about it, and see pictures, in this Nature Conservancy blog.

New Endangered Species Policy Director Joins the Center

Brett HartlWe're excited to announce we've hired Brett Hartl as our new endangered species policy director. From our Washington, D.C. office, Brett works on national policy issues key to carrying out the Center's core mission: securing a future for all species, from the tiny Riverside fairy shrimp to the great white polar bear, that hover on the threshold of extinction.

Brett earned a bachelor's in conservation biology from Prescott College and a law degree from Lewis and Clark. Before law school Brett spent five years as a field biologist working with endangered animals and plants in the northwest Hawaiian Islands, Kauai and Southern California. Brett has also worked in the House Natural Resources Committee for Democratic staff and was a senior policy fellow at the Society for Conservation Biology.

He can be reached at

Wild & Weird: Animal Shock Art -- Watch Videos

Warp speed dogThis week we have a mashup of amazing animal performances: an octopus escape artist, a spider dancer, and dogs in outer space.

Octopus vs. Houdini:

The malleable body and internal organs of this sexy cephalopod make human escape artists look like amateurs. Check out this two-minute amateur video from Alaska, in which a large octopus makes an amazing escape through a tiny hole in a boat. Houdini, schmoudini!

The Dance of the Peacock Spider:

It's almost impossible to describe the vibrant beauty and bold shimmy of this peacock spider of western Australia, so named for the strikingly iridescent colors of its tail-like abdominal flap. Luckily, you can see it in action in this video of its courtship display.

Dogs at Warp Speed:

Have you ever wondered what your dog might look like hanging its head out the window of your flying car while you top out at warp speed? Check out these great, manipulated photos of K-9 jowls and fur flopping and flapping through interstellar space.

Kierán Suckling
Executive Director

Photo credits: dunes sagebrush lizard (c) Michael T. Hill; dunes sagebrush lizard courtesy USFWS; polar bears by Pete Spruance; desert tortoise courtesy Arizona Fish and Game Department; salmon courtesy California Department of Water Resources; Steller sea lions courtesy NOAA; baby courtesy Flickr/Christopher Lance; Florida from space courtesy NASA; timber rattlesnake courtesy Ohio Department of Natural Resources; Brett Hartl staff photo; Warp Speed Dog by The Frogman.

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