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EPA to Address Oceans' Toxic Trash

Hawaiian monk seal with plastic pollutionThe scourge of plastic litter in our oceans is finally getting attention from federal regulators. After a groundbreaking petition by the Center for Biological Diversity last year, the EPA has just announced it will take new steps to cut plastic pollution, improve monitoring, and conduct a scientific review of the human-health effects of eating plastic- and pollution-filled fish.

Billions of pounds of plastic are found in giant, swirling ocean convergences around the world, including the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, twice the size of Texas. In the Los Angeles area alone, 20 tons of plastic fragments -- like from grocery bags, straws and soda bottles -- are carried into the Pacific Ocean each day.

"Every year bits of discarded plastic kill thousands of seabirds, sea turtles, seals and other marine mammals," said Emily Jeffers, a Center oceans attorney. "Some choke on plastic, and others are poisoned by it. Still more find themselves swimming through vast patches of toxic litter. It's an international tragedy that needs to be addressed."

Read more in the Summit County Citizens Voice.

20 Top Climate Scientists to Gov. Brown: Stop Fracking California

Fracking rigTwenty leading U.S. climate experts called on California Gov. Jerry Brown to put a moratorium on fracking throughout the state. They told it like it is: Fracking and other extreme oil and gas extraction techniques disrupt the climate -- and California's reputation as a leader in efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is at risk if Gov. Brown keeps moving forward with fracking in the Golden State.

At least 1,200 California oil and gas wells have been fracked in the past three years without scientific review, and Big Oil is now targeting the 15 billion barrels of oil in the state's Monterey Shale. Senate Bill 4, recently signed into law by the governor, would allow fracking to continue without enough safeguards for air, water, communities or the climate.  

"Allowing fracking in California threatens to undermine Gov. Brown's own crucial efforts to fight climate disruption," said letter-signer Prof. Paul R. Ehrlich of Stanford University. The Center's Shaye Wolf, also a signer, agreed: "The destructive climate impacts of fracking California for billions of barrels of dirty oil should be more than enough reason for Governor Brown to halt fracking."

Read more in the San Jose Mercury News. And in Los Angeles on Thursday, Nov. 21, Gov. Brown will appear at a high-dollar fundraiser in Bel Air. If you'll be in town, we need you to join us as we continue to bird-dog the governor across the state to tell him: Climate leaders don't frack

"Zombie" Grand Canyon Uranium Mine Halted

Grand CanyonEven with Halloween over, the Center and allies have been fighting a certain "zombie" uranium mine -- an "undead" inactive mine that Big Energy wants to reopen (to the detriment of the world of the living). The Center and other conservation groups, along with the Havasu Tribe, have filed repeated lawsuits over many years to challenge the reopening of the Canyon uranium mine, just six miles south of Grand Canyon National Park, which could damage the canyon's water, wildlife and cultural resources.

Last week we did stop the mine's reopening, at least for now -- no small feat during the current uranium boom. The Canyon mine falls within the million-acre "mineral withdrawal" zone we and our allies won from the Obama administration in January 2012 to protect Grand Canyon's watershed from new uranium-mining impacts, but was grandfathered in under an exemption to the ban.

"It's been clear for years that the public doesn't want uranium mining around the Grand Canyon," said the Center's Robin Silver. "Now that this mine has been put on hold, the Forest Service has yet another opportunity to do the right thing: protect people, wildlife and this incredible landscape from industrial-scale mining and all the pollution and destruction that come with it."

Read more in The Christian Science Monitor and our press release.

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Center Op-ed Inspires Enigmatic Art: The "Theater of Lost Species"

ClownfishAlmost a year ago, novelist and longtime Center staffer Lydia Millet penned a New York Times opinion piece, "The Child's Menagerie," grieving the heartbreaking probable loss of significant biodiversity within the coming generation.

"What of the children of the future?" Lydia's op-ed asked. "When the polar bears and penguins are gone, the gorillas and elephants and coral-reef clown fish like Nemo -- what diverse and lovable army will be their close companions?"

Now, citing Lydia's article as a catalyst, San Francisco's Future Cities Lab -- an experimental-art firm melding conventional design with robotics, "responsive building systems" and other intriguingly futuristic fields -- has proposed an exhibit honoring our planet's sea species that will be lost over time.

The project is, well, hard to describe. So we'll leave that to its architects: "Visitors will be invited to view and interact with swarming digital sea creatures through large glowing viewing cones. Screens mounted at the end of the cones will display a curated virtual ecology of lost marine species. Sensors will allow these digital creatures to react to visitors, while slowly pulsating light rods create a dynamic and playful atmosphere at night."

Whoa. Check it out.

Rare Alaska Wolves Threatened by Logging -- Take Action

Alexander Archipelago wolfThis Tuesday the Center and allies told the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service it's two years late to decide whether to study southeast Alaska's Alexander Archipelago wolves to consider them for Endangered Species Act protection. While the agency put off its decision, these unique forest wolves declined dramatically in a crucial part of their range, Prince of Wales Island in the Tongass National Forest, mostly because of old-growth logging.

"Two years ago we were worried about wolves on Prince of Wales Island. Today we're panicked," said the Center's Alaska Director Rebecca Noblin. "If the Fish and Wildlife Service doesn't step in, we're looking at losing all of the wolves on Prince of Wales Island, important and irreplaceable animals that only live in Alaska."

The Center and Greenpeace petitioned to protect this unique Alaska subspecies of gray wolf under the Endangered Species Act in August 2011. The agency was required to make an initial finding within 90 days about whether protections may be warranted -- but two years later it still hasn't acted. And now a timber sale called the Big Thorne project will log the last remaining high-quality winter range in the central part of Prince of Wales Island for deer -- the wolves' chief prey. If the sale goes forward, biologists warn, the extinction of the island's wolves is almost assured.

Get more from Alaska Public Radio. Then sign our petition to protect these unique Alaskan wolves.

Missouri Plan Subpar for Amazing Hellbender, Other Species

Ozark hellbenderThe Ozark hellbender is going to have a heck of a time if a draft management plan for Missouri's Ozark National Scenic Riverways, recently released by the National Park Service, becomes final. The plan, now up for comments for the next 60 days, covers a vast, beautiful landscape that's home to rare animals like hellbenders, rare crayfish and gray bats -- and gets more than a million human visitors a year.

While the new plan does close some undesignated trails that are damaging the local ecosystem, it also authorizes 35 miles of new horse trails with additional river crossings, as well as a new horse campground along Jacks Fork (which the Park Service itself admits would increase the likelihood for water quality degradation). This plan is supposed to revise an outdated 1984 version that has resulted in misuse and water pollution... but will it really do the trick? The hellbender, for one -- an amazing, ancient 2-foot-long salamander, the largest in North America -- deserves more.

Get more from St. Louis Public Radio and find out how to comment on the plan.

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Wolves Need You Now -- Speak for Them at a Hearing

Gray wolfGray wolves have good reason to howl: The feds have proposed their removal from the endangered species list across most of the lower 48. This would leave their management in the hands of individual states, where their lives would be at the mercy of bureaucrats, hunters, ranchers and others who'd have their hides -- literally.

Since wolves can't speak, we have to do it for them. And now's our chance.

Starting Nov. 19, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is hosting a string of public hearings on the proposed rule to strip wolves of federal protections -- and in the Southwest, changing management of Mexican wolves in ways both beneficial and baneful. If you're anywhere near any of these hearings, please attend. They'll be held in Denver, Albuquerque, Sacramento and Pinetop (northern Arizona). Stay tuned to hear what actions the Center is planning around these events.

Get details on the hearings on our website -- and if you can't make any of them, take action with us online now.

Fall Newsletter Hot Off the Presses/Pixels

Fall newsletter coverWe're happy to share the fall 2013 issue of Endangered Earth, the Center's print newsletter, as an online PDF for easy viewing. This issue begins with a celebration of all the successes the Endangered Species Act has brought us in its first four decades -- and we're still counting the days till the Act's actual anniversary, Dec. 28.

The newsletter's full of intriguing Endangered Species Act facts and figures, as well as peeks at our plentiful new victories -- and subjects more solemn, like a summary of rare species in Keystone XL's path, the latest on white-nose syndrome's deadly spread, and a report on oil companies caught fracking off California.

Our paper newsletter is only delivered to the mailboxes of our donating members -- but we also make it available digitally to our online supporters, as a thank-you for taking action to save endangered species.

As you read about all we do, please consider becoming a member today. Just call us toll-free at 1-866-357-3349 x 311 or visit our support Web page to learn more and make a gift.

Mr. President, Please Pardon a Polar Bear This Thanksgiving -- Help Send Our Message

FrostpawIt's a Thanksgiving tradition: Every year the president pardons one lucky turkey, sparing it from the oven. Well, as sea ice disappears and the climate tanks, we at the Center would like to suggest the president extend that same courtesy to polar bears -- by acting swiftly and courageously to dramatically cut the greenhouse gases driving these animals extinct. So our own polar bear, Frostpaw, is making a special pilgrimage to Washington, D.C. next week.

Starting Monday, Nov. 21, Frostpaw will be camped out in front of the White House every day till Thanksgiving delivering an urgent and unmistakable message: Reject Keystone XL and phase out all the deadly fossil fuel projects driving polar bears -- and the rest of us -- into hot water.

We could really use your help. Won't you take action to tell President Obama to pardon the polar bear and reject Keystone XL this Thanksgiving?

And by all means, if you're going to be in Washington, D.C., between Nov. 21 and 28, please contact the Center's No Keystone campaigner, Valerie Love, to join us and help out -- you may even get a chance to play Frostpaw yourself.

Wild & Weird: Fruit Fly Controversy Goes Viral

Goniurellia tridensIt isn't often that fruit flies get positive media exposure. It's probably even far less common for debates about entomology, aka bug science, to go viral. But a rather remarkable photograph of a fruit fly known as Goniurellia tridens, posted recently on Twitter, is causing a great deal of buzz -- including in The New York Times.

The photo, taken by a conservation officer in Dubai named Peter Rossenschoon, shows a fruit fly with what appears to be perfectly rendered ants painted on its wings.

But not so fast. According to a host of entomologists who've been quite vocal on Twitter and Facebook, the shapes on the fly's wings are not of ants but rather mimic the image of jumping spiders or wasps -- or possibly nothing at all. One social-media-loving entomology grad student argued, "Much like how we see ... Jesus in our toast (a psychological phenomenon called Pareidolia), I think we've become so conditioned to expect ornate patterns on wings to be mimicking something else that we're forcing objects to appear everywhere..."

See photos and read the debate over these remarkable fruit fly wings at Biodiversity in Focus and in The New York Times.

Kierán Suckling
Executive Director

Photo credits: turtle entangled in marine debris courtesy NOAA; Hawaiian monk seal by Barbara Billand, NOAA; fracking rig courtesy Flickr/Jeremy Buckingham; Grand Canyon by Edward McCain; clownfish courtesy Wikimedia/Jenny Huang; Alexander Archipelago wolf (c) Michelle Rogers; Ozark hellbender by Jeff Briggler, USFWS; gray wolf courtesy Flickr/Wally Slowick Jr.; fall newsletter cover courtesy Center for Biological Diversity; Frostpaw courtesy Center for Biological Diversity; Goniurellia tridens by Peter Roosenschoon.

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Center for Biological Diversity

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Tucson, AZ 85702