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Notorious Koch Brothers Win 2013's Rubber Dodo

2013 Rubber Dodo AwardIt's a landslide: The ultra-secret, super-rich Koch Brothers are the lucky recipients of the Center for Biological Diversity's 2013 Rubber Dodo Award, given annually to those who have done the most to drive endangered species extinct.

Charles G. and David H. Koch have worked for years behind the scenes to prop up right-wing operations like the climate-denial movement, the Tea Party, and efforts to push through Keystone XL and strip federal protection for the last wolves left in the lower 48 states.

"When it comes to pulling levers behind the scenes for those who wreck our climate, destroy wild places and attempt to kill our last remaining wildlife, the Koch Brothers are in a class by themselves," said Kierán Suckling, the Center's executive director. "Either their moral compass is broken or they never had one in the first place. These guys are the poster children for despicable corporate greed."

More than 14,000 people cast their votes in this year's Rubber Dodo contest -- thanks so much for your enthusiasm. Disappointed contenders for the title were Rep. Doc Hastings (R.-Wash.); Russ Girling, Keystone XL booster and TransCanada CEO; and NRA head honcho Wayne LaPierre.

Read more in our press release.

Sage Grouse, 1.8 Million Acres of Habitat to Be Protected

Greater sage grouseThe charismatic greater sage grouse, known for its males' smooth moves at mating time, may now really have something to dance about. After years of work by the Center, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed Endangered Species Act protection -- plus 1.8 million acres of protected "critical habitat" -- for sage grouse in the Mono Basin area of California and Nevada.

This "bi-state" population of grouse is geographically isolated and genetically distinct from others and threatened by habitat destruction via livestock grazing, invasive weeds, development and off-road vehicles.

The Center and allies petitioned for this bird in 2005; five years later it became a "candidate" for protection. The recent proposal was required by the Center's 2011 historic agreement speeding up decisions on 757 imperiled species, under which more than 100 species have been protected to date. It's also a precursor to protection for greater sage grouse across the West, a decision slated for 2015.

Read more in The Washington Post.

15 Hawaiian Plants, Animals Get Lifesaving Help

UhiuhiThe Center's 757 agreement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also yielded Endangered Species Act protections for seven species this week on the island of Hawaii -- and another eight Hawaiian species, which fall prey to similar threats, won safeguards as well. The newly protected species are 13 plants, a picture-wing fly, and an ultra-rare pool shrimp of which only five individuals have ever been directly observed.  

The 13 plants include sunflowers, asters and trees, with such sonorous Hawaiian names as "kookoolau," "haha," "aku," "haiwale" and "uhiuhi." They're threatened by a host of forces, including development, destruction by feral goats and pigs, and extreme weather. Four of the 13 have been deemed "rarest of the rare" by the Plant Extinction Prevention Program; each has fewer than 50 individuals surviving in the wild.

The fly, discovered in 1968, lays its eggs only on the stems of Charpentiera plants and is being hurt by predation from exotic wasps, among other things. And the pool shrimp lives only on the Big Island, in landlocked bodies of water with underground connections to the sea, where siltation is harming the algae, bacteria and small invertebrates it feeds on. One of the most primitive shrimp species in the world, this intriguing animal can only swim forward (most shrimp can also swim backward).

The Service is expected to publish a rule protecting critical habitat for the species soon.

Read more in the Honolulu Star Advertiser.

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New Wolf Hearings Scheduled -- Please Attend

Gray wolfWith the government up and running again (more or less), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is once more gearing up to hold hearings and take public comments on its plan to take Endangered Species Act protection away from most gray wolves across the country. The hearings in Arizona and New Mexico will focus on proposed changes to Mexican gray wolf reintroduction.

We need you there to stand up for wolves. The hearings will be:

Denver, Colo.: Nov. 19, 6–8:30 p.m. at the Paramount Theatre
Albuquerque, N.M.: Nov. 20, 6–9 p.m. at the Embassy Suites
Sacramento, Calif.: Nov. 22, 6–8:30 p.m. at the Marriot Courtyard Sacramento Cal Expo
Pinetop, Ariz.: Dec. 3, 6–8:30 p.m. at the Hon-Dah Conference Center

The California and Colorado hearings will mostly focus on the national delisting proposal; stay tuned for details on what actions the Center's planning for the events. Get more details about the hearings now.

Meanwhile, the deadline for submitting written comments on the wolf proposal has been extended to Dec. 17 -- please take action today.

Center Op-ed: Dear 7 Billionth Baby

BabyToday isn't just Halloween -- it's the second anniversary of the world's population reaching 7 billion people. A lot has happened in the first two years of Earth's 7 billionth baby: The human population keeps growing, each person leaving a little less of our planet's limited resources for other species (with some consuming more than others -- we're looking at you, fellow Americans).

Stephanie Feldstein, the Center's new Population and Sustainability director, has a new op-ed in The Huffington Post in honor of Baby 7 Billion's 2nd birthday. It takes a close look at our growing environmental footprint, and imparts some early wisdom for the landmark babe on living as sustainably as she can throughout her years ahead.

"You'll make choices throughout your life -- from what you eat to where you live to how many kids you have -- that will help or hurt other species," writes Stephanie. "It's up to you to make sure future generations don't know polar bears and panthers only as stuffed animals."

Read Stephanie's whole op-ed in The Huffington Post and sign up for our monthly newsletter Pop X.

Polar Bears From the Front Lines: Join Our Live Webcast From the Arctic

Polar bearsIt's been just more than five years since polar bears became the first mammal protected under the Endangered Species Act due to global warming. How are the bears faring today? How are legal protections helping them survive? Is there still time to slash greenhouse pollution fast enough to save the Arctic's top predators from extinction?

Join Polar Bears International and the Center for Biological Diversity on Thursday, Nov. 7 at 3 p.m. Central (1 p.m. Pacific, 4 p.m. Eastern) for a special, live Tundra Connections webcast from the shores of Western Hudson Bay in Canada, as top polar bear scientists discuss these questions and more. The panel will feature Dr. Steven Amstrup of Polar Bears International, author of a key study projecting the loss of two-thirds of the world's polar bears in the next few decades that was pivotal in the Endangered Species Act listing process; Dr. Martyn Obbard of the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources; and Geoff York of WWF. It will be moderated by the Center's Climate Law Institute Director Kassie Siegel.

Join the Center and friends for this free webcast, streamed live on Nov. 7 at My Planet, My Part.

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Five Rare South American Birds Win Safeguards After Decades

Esmeraldas woodstarBack in 1980 a group of bird biologists petitioned to protect dozens of brilliantly colored, festively feathered, remarkably adapted or just plain beautiful birds around the world under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. That petition didn't get very far, very fast -- nor did one following it 11 years later. But now, after decades of legal work by the Center and allies, most of the original 73 birds petitioned for have been protected.

And this Tuesday five more were added to our list of victories: Four birds from Colombia (the blue-billed curassow, brown-banded antpitta, Cauca guan and gorgeted wood-quail) and one Ecuadorian hummingbird (Esmeraldas woodstar) have been designated as endangered.

All these birds are special and rare; each -- like the gorgeted wood-quail, of which only 500 remain -- is treasured in its region. And now each will be better protected from trade, receive more funding for international conservation, and be paid heed when U.S. interests propose a project in its habitat.

Read more -- and get details on each of the birds, plus our sweeping International Birds Initiative -- in our press release

Chapel Hill, N.C. Is Latest to Join Call for Urgent Climate Action

Air pollutionChapel Hill, N.C. this week joined more than 70 other communities around the country in urging national action on climate change. The Town Council on Monday approved a resolution supporting the use of the Clean Air Act to reduce greenhouse gas pollution. Chapel Hill is the 74th community to join the Center's national Clean Air Cities campaign.

2012 was the hottest summer on record in North Carolina, and the state may see summer temperatures rise by as much as 10.5 degrees Fahrenheit in the coming years. North Carolina suffered weather events costing $7 billion in 2011 and 2012, including Hurricane Irene and Superstorm Sandy.

"Climate change poses a grave threat to Chapel Hill's health and well-being," said Mayor Pro Tem Ed Harrison, who introduced the resolution. "That is why we support full and urgent implementation of the Clean Air Act to reduce greenhouse gas pollution."

Will your city become the next Clean Air City? Find out how to get started -- and we'll support you every step of the way.

Wild & Weird: Halloween by the Light of a Microscope

Schistosome parasiteZombies, ghosts, vampires and witches may be the public face of Halloween, but much more frightening creatures lurk all around us -- indeed, even (think microorganisms) on and in us. A quick look through an electron microscope at a tick, mite or even butterfly is ample proof.
Among the most alarming glimpses of the world of the micro-scare is that of hydrothermal worm, captured in 2010 by Philippe Crassous with the French Research Institute for Exploration of the Sea. Magnified 525 times, the image of this deep-sea vent critter may well give you nightmares.
Parents, don't let your kids dress up as hydrothermal worms.
Watch this video of small fauna under an electron microscope and check out a picture of the worm at Flickr.

Kierán Suckling
Executive Director

Photo credits: greater sage grouse by Stephen Ting, USFWS; 2013 Rubber Dodo Award; greater sage grouse by Jeannie Stafford, USFWS; uhiuhi by Natalia Tangalin, NTBG; gray wolf courtesy Flickr/Wally Slowik Jr.; baby courtesy Flickr/Joshua Bousel; polar bears by Pete Spruance; Esmeraldas woodstar by Bertdichrozen; air pollution courtesy Wikimedia Commons/USFWS; schistosome parasite courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Bruce Wetzel and Harry Schaefer.

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Center for Biological Diversity

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