Center for Biological Diversity

Taylor's checkerspot butterfly

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Historic Protections From Historic Agreement

Streaked horned larkWhat a week for the Center for Biological Diversity's decades-long work to get some of the nation's most imperiled species protected under the Endangered Species Act. As the federal fiscal year drew to a close (and a government shutdown loomed), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued a series of important protection decisions as a result of our 2011 agreement pushing forward such decisions for 757 U.S. species.

So far under this historic agreement, more than 100 species have received full protections and more than 60 have been proposed for protection, along with millions of acres of protected "critical habitat."

Among the latest to win safeguards in the Pacific Northwest is the streaked horned lark, a once-abundant ground-dwelling songbird that has suffered as 98 percent of native grasslands on the West Coast have been destroyed. Its neighbor to the northwest, Taylor's checkerspot butterfly, was also protected this week -- as it should be: Once common in grasslands and oak woodlands, it exists today in just 11 sites in Washington and Oregon. Both species also earned thousands of acres of critical habitat.

Check out our press release.

Two Cactuses, Two Mussels Also Protected Under 757 Agreement

Acuña cactusAlso under the Center's 757 species agreement, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service this week granted final Endangered Species Act protection to four highly imperiled species living in highly contrasting ecosystems -- two cactuses in arid Arizona, and two mussels in the Southeast's waterways.

The sand-dwelling cactuses -- the Acuña and the Fickeisen plains -- are threatened by drought, climate change, border-enforcement activities, off-road vehicles and livestock grazing. The freshwater-dwelling mussels -- the slabside pearlymussel and fluted kidneyshell -- are ever nearer to extinction due to dams, gravel mining, urban and agricultural runoff, and pollution from coal mining.

Along with new places on the endangered species list, the mussels were granted 1,380 river miles of protected "critical habitat."

Read about the cactuses in the Verde Independent and get more on the mussels from the Alabama Media Group.

And Still More Protections -- for Alabama Fish, Plus Florida's Largest Bat

Florida bonneted batThe Center was happy to see yet additional wildlife protected this week under the Endangered Species Act because of our 757 agreement -- including the Florida bonneted bat, the largest and rarest bat in its namesake state. This bat forages in open fresh water and wetlands but is threatened by pesticides and sea-level rise. Within this century, sea levels are projected to rise 3 to 6 feet in some areas, inundating up to 9 of the bat's 11 roost sites.

Endangered Species Act protections were also secured this week for Alabama's spring pygmy sunfish, which survives in just a single creek near Huntsville. It remains threatened by urban sprawl, poor agricultural practices and dwindling streamside vegetation.

Discovered in 1937 and twice believed extinct, this tiny fish will only survive with the help of the Endangered Species Act. Fortunately it's now federally protected -- and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has even proposed to protect eight miles of stream along with 1,617 acres of "critical habitat."

Read more about the Florida bonneted bat and spring pygmy sunfish.

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Government Shuts Down, Fight for Wolves Carries On

Gray wolfThe federal government may be shut down, but the Center isn't stopping our fight to save America's wolves. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service managed to hold one hearing in Washington, D.C., on Monday (before the government shuttered) on its plan to strip Endangered Species Act protections from nearly all wolves in the lower 48 states.

We're happy to report that more than 70 people spoke at the D.C. wolf-plan hearing -- and all but a couple spoke against it. Hearings planned for Sacramento, Calif. and Albuquerque, N.M. were postponed -- but we're still planning a pro-wolf event in Albuquerque tomorrow, Friday, Oct. 4.

The Service says it'll hold public hearings on the wolf plan once the government reopens, so stay tuned for news about those and how you can help (including a to-be-rescheduled rally in Sacramento).

Join us at tomorrow's event in Albuquerque -- and, if you haven't yet, we need you to take action against the disastrous proposal to strip wolf protections by Oct. 28.

Feds Seek New Review of Dangerous Nationwide Wolf Plan

Gray wolfAfter weeks of heavy pressure from the Center for Biological Diversity, other groups, and tens of thousands of wolf supporters, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Monday it will relaunch an independent scientific review of its proposal to strip Endangered Species Act protections from most gray wolves across the country.

The agency halted its scientific peer-review process in August after information came to light that it had pushed to exclude three top wolf experts from the delisting proposal's review panel.

"We looked at the criticism," said the Service's director, Dan Ashe, "and we actually agreed with it. The Service was too close in the selection of potential panelists."

Wolves in Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan have already been taken off the list in the past two years, and more than 2,000 wolves in those states have since been killed.

Read more in E&E News.

Court: Feds Must Protect Sea Life From Deafening Navy Noise

Puget sound orcaWar games aren't much fun for whales and dolphins. Sonar, gunnery and other components of U.S. Navy training exercises can generate piercing noise that seriously damages marine mammals' super-sensitive hearing, needed for migrating, nursing, breeding and feeding -- even basic navigation. Mid-frequency Navy sonar has been implicated in mass marine-mammal strandings worldwide. Some sonar can even directly kill whales, causing hemorrhages or other tissue trauma.

But in 2012 the National Marine Fisheries Service gave the Navy a permit to harm ocean mammals in training exercises up and down the West Coast through 2015. The Center and allies promptly sued -- and won. A judge last week ruled that the Fisheries Service must reassess its Navy permit in order to best protect at-risk dolphins, seals and whales. That includes endangered Puget Sound orcas, which live in highly organized pods whose every member cares for the young, sick or injured -- which requires complex communication and high-level hearing.

"Many of the species in harm's way with these military exercises are already struggling to survive, including blue whales," said Center Oceans Director Miyoko Sakashita in a recent op-ed. "The last thing they need is to have their homes bombarded by bombs, sinking ships and deadly blasts of noise."

Read Miyoko's piece in The Huffington Post.

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Suit Filed Over Massive Slash of Protections for Caribou Habitat

Woodland caribouThe Center and allies this week filed a lawsuit challenging a dramatic 93 percent reduction in federally protected "critical habitat" for the endangered mountain caribou. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service cut the caribou's habitat to a measly 30,010 acres of forest habitat in Idaho and Washington -- instead of the 375,562 acres in a critical habitat proposal won by the Center and allies after we filed a petition and lawsuit over the issue.

The mountain caribou is endangered by habitat loss, snowmobile traffic, wildfires, logging and more, and is now down to just about 35 individuals in the United States clinging to survival in northeastern Washington and northern Idaho. This "mountain ecotype" of the woodland caribou is also endangered by genetic problems associated with its small population size. And the noble animal is worth fighting for: With its heavily muscled body, slender legs, and huge winter hooves for walking on snow, it's integrally linked to its ancient forest home.

Amazingly, mountain caribou can survive for three or four winter months by eating nothing but tree lichens. But, as the Center's Endangered Species Program Director Noah Greenwald said, "They won't survive in the United States at all if we don't protect their habitat."

Read more in the Idaho State Journal.

After Intense Pressure, FDA Bans Most Arsenic Products in Animal Feed

ChickensWe celebrated a big victory this week when the Food and Drug Administration, after intense public pressure, said it will ban 97 percent of all arsenic products used in animal feed. The decision comes in response to a 2009 petition and lawsuit earlier this year by the Center and allies with expertise in food safety, public health and agriculture.

Arsenic is commonly added to poultry feed to induce faster animal weight gain on less feed, as well as to change meat color in chickens, turkeys and hogs. One recent report found that more than 70 percent of all U.S. chickens raised for meat are fed arsenic. Unfortunately, this toxin also poses a danger to people and can contaminate the environment and water supplies.

"This is a significant step to prevent the meat industry from poisoning the food chain with deadly arsenic," said Jonathan Evans, the Center's toxics and endangered species campaign director. "Arsenic in our food and waterways threatens ecosystems and public health."

Read more in The New York Times.

27,000 Speak Out for Polar Bears as Climate Worsens

Polar bearAs scores gathered in front of the White House last week to keep drilling out of the Arctic, the Center sent the Obama administration more than 27,000 signatures of those urging protection of polar bears and the wild lands of the Great North they need to survive.

In the American Arctic, permafrost is melting, shorelines are disappearing, and melting ice is forcing polar bears and other Arctic wildlife into a desperate struggle for survival. And now, to make matters worse, Shell and other oil companies are itching to drill in the Arctic Ocean.

Thanks to the thousands of you who joined the Center in speaking out for polar bears and other wildlife -- especially those at the White House rally joining our mascot Frostpaw the Polar Bear and an army of other faux bears urging the president to do the right thing.

Read more in Newsday.

Lead-laden Soil in Arizona Forest Finally Getting Cleaned Up

Redington Pass cleanupThanks to the Center's Cyndi Tuell, at least 300 tons of lead-contaminated soil at three rogue shooting galleries will be cleaned up in the Coronado National Forest northeast of Tucson. Redington Pass has been a mess for years, littered by trash, bullets, casings and toxic waste from electronics used as targets.

Cyndi waged a behind-the-scenes campaign to persuade federal officials to clean up the shooting areas, especially after learning about lead contamination that threatened water, wildlife and the ecosystem. The Forest Service now admits that lead in the soil at Redington is more than 80 times higher than federal standards that trigger requirements for a cleanup.

We're happy to see work begin to clear away this toxic soil -- the next step will be ensuring that the Forest Service never lets it become such a dangerous mess again.

Read more in the Arizona Daily Star.

Wild & Weird: "Shh! That Zookeeper Is a Total *&^%#!"

Cotton-top tamarinIn New York City's Central Park Zoo, a group of cotton-top tamarins -- cute, social, squirrel-sized monkeys -- has been caught whispering in the presence of zoo staff they do not like.

According to a new study published in the journal Zoo Biology, researchers have discovered in these tamarins the first example of whispering by nonhuman primates. While investigating the monkeys' human-directed mobbing calls, whereby the tamarins attempt to confuse would-be predators with loud cries, researchers noticed that the monkeys actually lowered the amplitude of their vocalizations in the presence of one particular zookeeper.

Turns out the zookeeper had been involved in the tamarins' capture and had also taken part in medical procedures involving the animals. And while the researchers weren't able to explain just exactly what the monkeys were communicating under their breath in the staffer's presence, it's worth noting that every revolution begins with conspiratorial whispers.

Check out this new Center video about the whispering tamarins, read more in the UK's Independent or delve into the research paper at Zoo Biology.

Kierán Suckling
Executive Director

Photo credits: Taylor's checkerspot butterfly by Aaron Barna, USFWS; streaked horned lark by David Maloney, USWFS; Acuña cactus by Jim Rorabaugh, USWFS; gray wolf courtesy Flickr/Out of Chicago; gray wolf by MacNeil Lyons, National Parks Service; Puget Sound orca courtesy Flickr/Malcom Surgenor; woodland caribou courtesy USFWS; chickens courtesy Flickr/Jayme Frye; polar bears by Steve Armstrup, USFWS; Redington pass cleanup courtesy U.S. Forest Service; cotton-top tamarin courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Ltshears.

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Center for Biological Diversity

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Tucson, AZ 85702