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1,700 Square Miles of Habitat to Be Protected for Rockfish in Puget Sound

Yelloweye rockfishSome of Puget Sound's rarest and most colorful fish will get 1,700 square miles of protected "critical habitat" in the Pacific Northwest, according to a federal proposal announced this week.

Canary, bocaccio and yelloweye rockfish can live longer than a century -- but those long lives mean catching too many of them is like clearcutting an old-growth forest. Although the fish were granted Endangered Species Act protection in 2010, federal wildlife officials didn't move quickly to protect their habitat. Last month the Center for Biological Diversity filed a notice of intent to sue the National Marine Fisheries Service for that failure -- and on Tuesday the agency proposed new habitat protections for all three species.

Remaining threats to these rockfish include pollution and abandoned fishing gear -- about 1,000 abandoned nets remain in their Puget Sound habitat. And while these fish live from Baja California to Alaska, the currents in Puget Sound prevent their dispersal, making Puget Sound populations distinct and significant.

Check out our press release.

Frostpaw Heads to Martha's Vineyard to Tell Obama: Reject Keystone

FrostpawThe Center's Frostpaw the Polar Bear is summering in Martha's Vineyard this week -- but not because of the the balmy breezes and sunny sands. He's there to deliver an urgent message to President Obama: Don't build Keystone XL. The president, who'll be vacationing on the island, has lately raised some important concerns about the proposed pipeline but has yet to take it off the table. We need to make that happen.

Any way you look at it, Keystone would be a disaster for climate, wildlife, clean air, water and wild places. More and more Americans are speaking out -- 60,000 people have signed the Center's pledge against this dangerous pipeline, and rallies are being held around the country to stop this project in its tracks.

Now we're heading straight to where the president can't miss us.

Follow the action in Martha's Vineyard on our Facebook page and via Twitter -- and check out this video of our anti-Keystone parade (and funeral for Big Oil) in Portland last week.

BLM Agrees to Look at Fracking's Dangers in California

Fracking protesterOne victory has led to another in our fight against fracking in California. Late last week the Bureau of Land Management said it will begin an in-depth review of fracking in central California and launch a statewide, independent scientific assessment of this dangerous oil and gas extraction process on federal lands. The agency's decision will likely temporarily halt any new fracking in the study area and finally analyze fracking's effects on water, air and wildlife.

The announcement follows a legal win in April in a lawsuit brought by the Center for Biological Diversity and the Sierra Club. In that case we challenged the BLM's decision to auction off 2,500 acres of land in Monterey County to oil companies. A federal judge subsequently said the BLM had broken the law by not considering fracking's risks or conducting an in-depth environmental study for its proposed lease sale.

"We're pleased that federal officials are finally starting the full analysis of fracking pollution's dangers that should have been done before these public lands were auctioned off to oil companies," said the Center's Brendan Cummings, senior counsel at the Center.

Meanwhile, yet another poll of California voters finds strong opposition to fracking in the Golden State.

Read more in the San Francisco Chronicle and check out our fracking poll press release.

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High Honor: Center Makes NRA's New Enemies List Over Lead Ammo

Bald eagleWe must be doing something right: The NRA just launched a bizarre new attack on the Center for Biological Diversity and others trying to get toxic lead out of hunting ammunition. Indeed, the gun group seems convinced we're part of a vast conspiracy of scientists, zoos, state wildlife agencies and other environmental groups. Hard to deny it -- we've been leading the charge for years to stop lead ammo from needlessly killing millions of eagles, loons, condors and other wildlife annually.

A bill pending in California would ban lead ammunition throughout the state, and we continue to push for the EPA to take national action. Predictably, the extremist NRA has been stubbornly fighting these common-sense measures, despite evidence of the deadly toll lead takes on wildlife.

Despite the NRA's rants, a recent statement from 30 scientists, doctors and public-health experts from Harvard, Cornell, Rutgers and other universities offered a compelling case: "Based on overwhelming evidence for the toxic effects of lead in humans and wildlife... we support reducing and eventually eliminating the introduction of lead into the environment from lead-based ammunition."

Pretty radical. Read the scientists' full statement, and get more from Grist

Agency Rejects Right-wing Ploy to Strip Orcas' Protection

OrcaKiller news for one of the world's most endangered populations of killer whales: Puget Sound's tiny populace of only about 85 orcas is retaining its much-needed Endangered Species Act protection -- after a property-rights group tried to get that protection stripped away. In fact, the attempt to deprive these special whales of safeguards backfired, unearthing new science proving their uniqueness and enduring need for protection.

The Center petitioned for Puget Sound orcas' federal safeguards in 2001, winning them in 2005. But the Pacific Legal Foundation submitted a very different petition to the National Marine Fisheries Service last summer, with the scientifically bogus claim that these "southern resident" killer whales aren't unique enough to deserve federal protection. That prompted a year-long study by the Fisheries Service reasserting the population is genetic and ecologically unique and continues to face severe threats from pollution to habitat destruction -- which also threatens the orcas' salmon diet.

Actually, unlike some orca populations, southern residents eat only salmon -- just one of their undeniably distinctive characteristics. Besides also sharing unique genetics, these orcas speak an underwater dialect distinct from other whales'.

Read more in The Seattle Times.

Two Texas Fishes to Win Safeguards, 623 River Miles

Sharpnose shinerTwo tiny Texas shiners -- quick-swimming, ray-finned minnows -- were proposed for Endangered Species Act protection this week as part of the Center's historic 2011 agreement with the federal government to speed protection decisions for 757 imperiled species. The sharpnose and smalleye shiners have been on the "candidate" list for protections since 2002; we petitioned to protect them in 2004.

The protection proposal, made this Monday, included federal "critical habitat" safeguards for 623 miles of precious waterways in Texas's arid upper Brazos River watershed in the hopes that these little fish might swim unmolested by top threats like decreased water flows due to reservoirs, drought, groundwater pumping and climate change. Both fish almost went extinct in 2011 after a single drought -- the worst on Texas record -- dried up the upper Brazos, and the fishes were kept in captivity. Now, they hang on by a thread in a single wild population. And since adults only live for one or two years, two consecutive droughts could mean these shiners' demise.

Read more in E&E News.

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Jaguars Need Room to Roam -- Take Action

JaguarA lone jaguar has been popping up in images from the government's remote cameras in Arizona's Santa Rita Mountains, renewing hope for this big cat's return to the United States. The photos are the first confirmed images of jaguars in the Southwest since the one known as Macho B was killed in 2009.

A new federal proposal seeks to protect key jaguar habitat in southern Arizona and New Mexico to make recovery possible, but the plan doesn't go far enough. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wants to limit protected "critical habitat" to portions of southern Arizona and a tiny area of New Mexico -- all south of Interstate 10.

Jaguars once roamed much of the Southwest -- as far north as the Mogollon Rim near the Grand Canyon and west across the Gila National Forest in New Mexico. With abundant prey and cover, these areas are the best habitats for jaguars in the states. In fact the last female jaguar seen in the United States was shot in the pine-clad Mogollon Rim 50 years ago.

Please take action now -- tell the Fish and Wildlife Service to protect all the lands jaguars need to recover; then watch a video about our own project to capture jaguar images.

4 Flowers, 4,000-plus Acres Proposed for Protection

Webber's ivesiaIt's been a good week for rare plants in need of protection. In response to Center petitions, four flowers are now on their way to Endangered Species Act protection: a rare desert rose called Webber's ivesia, hailing from California and Nevada; and the colorful Short's bladderpod, fleshy-fruit gladecress and whorled sunflower from Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky and Tennessee.

The three beautiful Southeast flowers have been on the waiting list for Endangered Species Act protection since 1999. The whorled sunflower, though it can grow to 6 feet tall, is now down to four surviving populations and is still imminently threatened by industrial forestry and pine plantations. Besides federal protections, the sunflower, Short's bladderpod and fleshy-fruit gladecress have been proposed to receive 2,488 acres of federally protected "critical habitat."

Webber's ivesia -- a yellow rose that only grows in special soils that can take 1,000 years to form -- has been proposed to receive 2,011 acres of critical habitat. The small flower now exists in only 16 populations and is threatened by invasive plants, wildfires, off-road vehicles, roads, development, grazing and climate change.

All four plants are on their way toward protection due to our 2011 agreement to speed Endangered Species Act safeguards for 757 species.

Read more about Webber's ivesia and the three Southeast plants.

Wild & Weird: Whales Don't Eat People, But What If They Did?

Humpback whaleEven if your name's not Jonah, have you ever wondered what it would be like to be swallowed by a giant whale? Two ocean divers off the coast of California's Avila Beach almost found out recently -- and a cameraman caught the harrowing moment on film.

This sparked another video, which explores the possibility of a person living out the remainder of one's life in the gullet of a great sea beast.

Watch the original near-swallowed encounter; then check out Earth Unplugged for more on what it might be like to be munched like Ahab.

Kierán Suckling
Executive Director

Photo credits: canary rockfish by Tippy Jackson, California Academy of Sciences; yelloweye rockfish courtesy Alaska Department of Fish and Game; Frostpaw by Beth Wellington; fracking protester by Patrick Sullivan, Center for Biological Diversity; bald eagle courtesy USFWS; orca courtesy Flickr/TheGirlsNY; sharpnose shiner by Chad Thomas, Texas State University -- San Marcos; jaguar courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Cburnett; Webber's ivesia by Sarah Kulpa, USFWS; humpback whale courtesy NOAA.

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Center for Biological Diversity

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