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Taking Aim at Secretive Agency That Kills 1.5 Million Wild Animals Yearly

Black bearFor decades the federal agency calling itself "Wildlife Services" has been massacring native wild animals -- currently more than 1.5 million every year. Not only that: The secretive killing (including by aerial gunning, traps and exploding poison caps) has gone on for decades with little public oversight and few rules. In 2012, for example, the agency's "killed/euthanized" list included more than 306,000 red-winged blackbirds, 76,048 coyotes, 25,000 beavers, 12,000 prairie dogs, 10,000 voles, 1,800 foxes, 567 black bears and 500 wolves.

The Center for Biological Diversity filed a petition this week to put an end to the carnage. We're calling for this U.S. Department of Agriculture agency to operate under new rules to ensure that animals aren't killed without cause but always for reasons backed up by the best science; that animals aren't killed by accident; that animals are only killed (as ethically as possible) when nonlethal means are exhausted; and that reliable information on all killings is made public.

Under various names, Wildlife Services has killed millions of a large variety of native animals since the early 20th century at the behest of agribusiness. It contributed to the decline of gray wolves, Mexican wolves, black-footed ferrets, prairie dogs and other species during the first half of the 1900s -- and by its own admission has killed more than 22 million native animals in the past 17 years alone.

"Wildlife Services is a major threat to North American wildlife and must be reined in and held accountable," said Center attorney Amy Atwood, who wrote the petition.

Read more in our press release.

A Grim Anniversary in the Fight to Save Wolves -- Take Action

Gray wolfA year ago this week, one of the most famous wolves in Yellowstone National Park wandered outside the park's boundary and was gunned down. "No. 832F," the charismatic alpha female of the Lamar Canyon Pack, had survived safely for years in the park with her family. Last December this mother wolf -- once featured on the cover of American Scientist -- crossed the invisible park boundary and was shot, a victim of Wyoming's first wolf hunt in decades.

She's a sad reminder of how fragile the protections are for wolves in the United States.

That's why the Center is fighting so hard to stop the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from stripping Endangered Species Act protections from nearly all wolves in the lower 48.

Many thanks to the many hundreds of you who showed up and spoke out at recent wolf hearings in Washington, D.C.; California; New Mexico; Colorado and Arizona. Wolves need your support now more than ever. If you haven't submitted written comments against the dangerous plan to leave wolves without protections, please act now -- the deadline is Dec. 17.

Read this Huffington Post op-ed on No. 832's story by the Center's Noah Greenwald, and then make a gift to help save wolves.

Court Orders New Plan to Protect Whales, Dolphins From Deafening Navy Sonar

Souther resident killer whaleWhales, dolphins and other marine mammals hurt by the U.S. Navy's high-intensity sonar may finally get some relief. A federal judge last week told the National Marine Fisheries Service that it has until next August to come up with a plan to ensure that the Navy's war games along the West Coast comply with the Endangered Species Act.

The decision stems from a lawsuit filed by the Center and allies that challenged the Navy's use of waters from Northern California to Canada for activities like anti-submarine warfare exercises that use high-intensity sonar, which can severely harm -- or even kill -- whales and other marine mammals. The court ruled earlier this year that the Fisheries Service had approved the Navy training program based on incomplete and outdated science. The recent ruling sets a legally binding deadline for a new plan to protect marine mammals.

"Coming up with a new plan that will protect whales and dolphins from hearing loss, injuries and death by sonar is an urgent priority," said Miyoko Sakashita, our oceans director.

Read more in our press release.

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Fracktivists Dogging California's Governor -- Take Action

Gas mask babyIt seems like everywhere California Gov. Jerry Brown goes, there's a group of activists urging him not to frack California. The Sacramento Bee picked up the story this week, saying the protests have become an "awkward sideshow for the third-term governor" and adding that "Brown's relationship with environmentalists has been strained by his efforts to relax provisions of the state's signature environmental law, the California Environmental Quality Act, and only worsened after his approval" of a fracking bill this fall.

The Bee is right: That bill doesn't do nearly enough to protect California from the dangers of fracking. What Brown should have done -- and can still do -- is issue a moratorium on all fracking in the Golden State. The Center has been a leading force in marshalling anti-fracking activists to protest outside Brown's public events.

Brown is one of only a few governors in the country taking the climate crisis seriously, and he's been hearing from us loud and clear that by halting fracking in California he would protect our air, water, wildlife and public health -- and help move us toward a clean energy future.

Read the Sacramento Bee story, check out our anti-fracking billboard just put up in Los Angeles. Then, if you live in the Golden State, tell Gov. Brown to ban fracking now.

Global Warming Could Rock Mussels' World Too

Neosho mucketThey aren't pikas or polar bears, but North America's freshwater mussels also face a daunting future because of global warming. A new study from the U.S. Geological Survey says these mussels -- already suffering from pollution and habitat destruction -- will struggle to survive as rivers and lakes warm.

It isn't just the mussels that will lose out. They help clean the water and cycle nutrients for insects that feed freshwater fish. Mussels are also food for otters, fish and other river animals. But if water temperatures rise, even by a few degrees, it could put some mussels on the fast track to extinction.

They're already "the most imperiled group of animals in North America," says one of the USGS study authors. "If we're not careful, they're going to wink out in front of our eyes."

Read more on the study in E&E News and learn about the Center's work to protect hundreds of freshwater mussels in the Southeast.

Massachusetts Cities Join Call for Climate Action

SmokestackThe Center's ambitious Clean Air Cities campaign -- organizing communities around the country in calling on the Obama administration for climate action, specifically to use the Clean Air Act to cut greenhouse pollution -- continues to break new ground. The Massachusetts cities of Great Barrington and Williamstown have become the 75th and 76th communities to join.

And for good reason -- average winter temperatures in Massachusetts are already rising and expected to increase by up to 10 degrees over the next century.

"Climate change threatens our health, as well as key economic sectors such as agriculture, skiing and tourism," said Sean Stanton, chairman of Great Barrington's Select Board, who introduced the resolution in his town.

Will your community be next? Find out how to get involved -- we'll support you every step of the way.

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Stop the Pesticide Industry From Poisoning Our Waters -- Speak Up

StreamPesticides produced and used by petrochemical companies and agribusiness often end up in our waterways and drinking water. The Clean Water Act stands between us and an overload of those toxic compounds, which can kill or cause severe reproductive and developmental harm in wildlife -- and can also move up the food chain to us. The Act requires monitoring wherever pesticides are applied and prevents pesticide pollution in waterways that are already impaired. And the Endangered Species Act also has common-sense safeguards protecting wildlife that are particularly sensitive to pesticide poisons.

But now the chemical industry is trying to use the farm bill to roll back both these vital laws to make it easier to pollute our environment with pesticides.

Take action now to tell your senators to protect our wildlife and waterways from pesticides.

Live in the Rockies? Help Celebrate 40 Years of Endangered Species Act Success

Black-footed ferretThe Endangered Species Act turns 40 at the end of this month, and we want to make sure the world knows what a success it's been. All year the Center has been working hard on a campaign called "A Wild Success: Celebrating 40 Years of the Endangered Species Act."

Will you help us during this final push? Throughout 2013 we've been asking people around the country to write letters to the editors of their local newspapers about the power and necessity of the Act. You can write about a favorite species the Act has saved, urge Congress not to weaken this bedrock law, or just submit a few lines saying you're thankful for the lives the Act saves every day.

This month we're specifically asking people in Colorado, Wyoming, Montana and Idaho to write letters. Many Rocky Mountain species that were once headed for extinction are now nearer recovery thanks to the Act, including grizzly bears, gray wolves and black-footed ferrets.

If you live in the Rockies, find out how you can help. Meanwhile, check out our Wild Success Web page.

Wild & Weird: Tiny Seahorses Are Deadlier Than Sharks -- Watch Video

Dwarf seahorseAccording to new research from the University of Texas Marine Science Institute, under calm conditions seahorses are the most effective predators of any fish tested, gobbling up 90 percent of the prey they attempt to kill. The cute, inch-long dwarf seahorse, for instance -- with a top speed of about only 5 feet per hour -- is a more efficient killing machine than sharks or piranhas.

New high-speed digital imaging reveals that the slowness of the animal, combined with the highly specialized shape of its head, allows the dwarf seahorse a kind of stealth technology. It can sneak its head to within less than a penny's thickness from its minuscule prey without creating turbulence in the water between them. That prey, most often a copepod, needs water disruption to alert it to predators -- so without that turbulence it's usually dead.

Watch this slow-motion video of a dwarf seahorse sucking down copepods, read more in The Washington Post, and find out about the Center's work to save the dwarf seahorse from extinction.

Kierán Suckling
Executive Director

Photo credits: prairie dog by William C. Gladish; black bear by Robin Silver, Center for Biological Diversity; gray wolf courtesy Jimmy Jones Photography; southern resident killer whale courtesy NOAA; portion of "Don't Frack L.A.'s Future" billboard by Center for Biological Diversity, original baby photo (c) Mattner; Neosho mucket courtesy USFWS; smokestack courtesy Minnesota Department of Health; stream courtesy Flickr/rachel_thecat; black-footed ferret by Dean Biggins, USGS; dwarf seahorse courtesy NOAA.

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Center for Biological Diversity

P.O. Box 710

Tucson, AZ 85702