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Public Has New Chance to Stop Removal of Wolf Protections -- Thank You

Gray wolfYou spoke and they listened: On Wednesday, after weeks of pressure from Center for Biological Diversity supporters and others, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agreed to give people more time to comment on its plan to strip gray wolf protections. It will also hold three public hearings.

In June the agency proposed to take away Endangered Species Act protection from nearly all gray wolves in the lower 48 states, abandoning 40 years of wolf recovery and leaving thousands of these noble animals vulnerable to hunting, trapping and other means of killing. The Service intended to cut off public comments on Sept. 11.

Thanks to thousands of you who spoke out, we now have until Oct. 28 to submit comments. There will be public hearings on Sept. 30 in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 2 in Sacramento, Calif., and on Oct. 4 in Albuquerque, N.M. (with a focus on proposed changes to Mexican gray wolf reintroduction).

Take action now to reject this wolf plan and stay tuned for how to get involved in the hearings.

Sept. 21: Day of Action Against Keystone, Fossil Fuels, Climate Crisis -- Sign Up

Draw the LineIf you've been waiting for the right moment to speak out against the Keystone XL pipeline and other fossil fuel threats, it's here. On Sept. 21, the Center will join and other groups in hosting "Draw the Line" protests around the country.

Thousands of activists will take to the streets on Sept. 21 against extreme fossil fuel development, the Keystone XL pipeline, the climate crisis and other imminent dangers to our wildlife and our planet.

We need you to stand with us. The Center is hosting rallies in St. Augustine, Fla., and near San Francisco. If you live in one of those areas, please let us know you'll be there. If you don't live in one of those areas, stay tuned for information on how you can get involved in a "Draw the Line" event near you.

Emergency Rules Will Protect Sperm Whales From California Gillnets

Sperm whaleAfter intense pressure from the Center and allies, the National Marine Fisheries Service this week issued emergency rules that will shut down California's drift gillnet fishery if a single endangered sperm whale is hurt or killed in a net.

The fishery, which targets swordfish and thresher sharks, kills more whales and other marine mammals than any other fishery along the West Coast and has one of the country's highest bycatch rates. That includes sperm whales, protected under the Endangered Species Act since 1970, which can grow longer than 50 feet and weigh more than 45 tons.

A federal report earlier this year found that an average of about three sperm whales are killed every year by the fishery -- more than twice the number scientists say the population can sustain and still recover.

We're happy to see sperm whales get these emergency protections. Now it's time to look at long-term reforms for this deadly fishery.

Read more in E&E News.

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Two Strikes Against Fracking in Kentucky

Blackside daceHot on the heels of whistleblower revelations that a natural gas company has repeatedly dumped toxic fracking water directly into Kentucky's Big Sandy River, a new federal study was released last week on another Kentucky fracking snafu. In 2007 a spill of fracking fluid in the state's Acorn Fork Creek killed numerous fish, including, it turns out, threatened blackside dace.

In the 2007 incident, leaks of toxic fracking fluid increased the creek's acidity and conductivity, a measure of heavy metal pollution. Numerous species were killed, including the dace. Even small spills, the study's authors concluded, can hurt endangered species.

In the 2013 case, a natural gas worker revealed he'd been ordered to dump fracking fluid directly into the Big Sandy River, which winds between Kentucky and West Virginia and supports a number of imperiled aquatic species. "I'm not a green treehugger or nothing," said Deno Miller, who contacted a local TV station with his confession. "But I knew it was wrong, and it was killing me every load I put in it."

"These two sickening incidents in Kentucky make clear the growing threat that fracking poses to endangered species, public health and drinking water supplies across much of the country," said Center biologist Tierra Curry.

Check out our press release and watch a TV interview with the whistleblower.

Campaign Fights Plan to Clearcut Oregon Forests

Clear Cut OregonMore than 20 groups, including the Center, are fighting a return to forest clearcutting on public lands in Oregon and a weakening of environmental laws meant to protect wildlife, clean water, air and people.

Reps. Peter DeFazio (D.-Ore.), Kurt Schrader (D.-Ore.) and Greg Walden (R.-Ore.) have proposed to effectively privatize 1.5 million acres of public land in western Oregon, turning it over to a private logging "trust" to be managed under the clearcut-happy Oregon Forest Practices Act. U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden (D.-Ore.) is currently developing his own plan for increasing logging of public lands in the western part of the state. The Center and allies ran a full-page ad this week in The Oregonian asking the state's congressional delegation to oppose any move to clearcut publicly owned forests. We're also part of a creative ad campaign running in Oregon airports.

"Most Oregonians, including those who live next to these lands, want more protection for forests, rivers and clean water, not the kind of destruction that comes with clearcutting," said Randi Spivak, the Center's Wildlands director.

See the airport ad and check out our letter to Oregon's delegation in our press release.

Endangered Species Success Story: Santa Cruz Cypress

Santa Cruz cypress conesAnother formerly imperiled species is on its way to recovery thanks to the Endangered Species Act. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed to change the status of California's Santa Cruz cypress from "endangered" to "threatened," indicating the species is recovering.

The Santa Cruz cypress -- a small conifer that lives only in the Santa Cruz Mountains -- won federal protection in 1987 because it was threatened by development, exotic plants and illegal trails. But under the Act's protection, local, state and federal agencies helped the plant repopulate its historic range, and the cypress's numbers have grown from about 2,300 trees in 1987 to 33,000–44,000 trees today.

The Service's proposal reinforces what a 2012 Center study already showed -- that the Endangered Species Act has not only prevented the extinction of 99 percent of the plants and animals under its protection, but consistently helps those species to recover.

Get more from Bay Nature.

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Suit Launched to Protect People, Wildlife From Soot Pollution

SmokestackWhat the government calls "particulate matter" is better known to most of us as "soot." This Santa Claus-smudging black dust is in fact a real public-health threat, as well as a polluter of scenic vistas. It's made up of tiny particles -- about 30 times smaller than the width of the average human hair -- that can lodge deep in the lungs, there to insidiously sicken both people and animals.

So the Center filed a formal notice of intent last week to sue the Environmental Protection Agency for failing to enforce Clean Air Act standards that protect us from soot. The legal action was taken in response to the agency's repeated failure to ensure that nine states are implementing legally required plans to meet standards to reduce soot pollution.  

"The science is clear. Soot poisons our skies, our bodies and our ecosystems," said our toxic campaign director Jonathan Evans. "EPA and the states have a moral and legal duty to work together to clean up toxic soot."

Check out our press release.

The Future of American Plains Bison: Domesticated or Wild?

Plains bisonJames Bailey, retired professor of wildlife biology at Colorado State University, considers the past, present and future of bison in his forthcoming book American Plains Bison: Rewilding an Icon. He's now written a guest piece for the Center on why small conservation herds of these magnificent animals, in small and convenient locations, will not maintain the wild bison of our past.

His article begins:

"But doesn't Ted Turner have a lot of them?" a salesperson once asked me. She'd noticed an embroidered bison on my hat. Her comment typified the very limited knowledge that most Americans have about the past and present status of these iconic animals that once roamed the country by the tens of millions.

Read the full text of Bailey's article.

Live Near the Great Lakes? Celebrate Endangered Species Act Successes

Piping ploverThe Endangered Species Act turns 40 later this year, so the Center is teaming up with the Endangered Species Coalition and other groups on a campaign called "A Wild Success: Celebrating 40 Years of the Endangered Species Act."

Will you help? We're asking people to write letters to the editors of their local newspapers about the power and necessity of the Act. You can write about your favorite endangered species, urge Congress not to weaken this bedrock law, or just submit a few lines saying you're thankful for the animals and plants the Act saves every day.

This month we're asking for letters from folks in Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin. If you live in the Great Lakes region, you know how important the Act has been for piping plovers, American peregrine falcons, gray bats and other species. Find out how you can participate. If you live in another part of the country, no fear -- your time to help will come.

Meanwhile, check out our Wild Success Web page and interactive map.

Wild & Weird: Dung Beetles, Climate Champions

Dung beetlesOK, so this isn't the first time we've waxed poetic about the wonders of dung beetles. (Hey -- the ancient Egyptians worshiped them.) We stop short of bowing low before the sacred scarab, but we think our fixation on these tiny, feces-sculpting arthropods is a no-brainer. After all, they're the only nonhuman animals known to navigate using the Milky Way.
As a new study claims in the science journal PLOS ONE, they may also be climate change activists. Noting that cow dung is one of the largest contributors of anthropogenic greenhouse gases, the study reported that, on one occasion, dung-eating beetles actually reduced methane released from a cowpat by 80 percent.
It's an excellent reason to save dung beetles -- numerous species of them are headed for extinction -- as well as to eat less beef.
Read more at Grist or digest the entire study at PLOS ONE; be sure to see our video on the wonders of dung beetle navigation.

Kierán Suckling
Executive Director

Photo credits: gray wolf courtesy Flickr/rustybadger; gray wolf courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Retron; Draw the Line logo by Jessica Herrera, Center for Biological Diversity; sperm whale by Franco Banfi; blackside dace by J.R. Shute, Conservation Fisheries, Inc.; Clear Cut Oregon campaign image; Santa Cruz cypress cones by Kirstina Barry, USFWS; smokestack courtesy Minnesota Department of Health; plains bison by Jack Dykinga; piping plover by Sidney Maddock; dung beetles courtesy USFWS.

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