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Keystone Fight Enters Final Stretch -- Take Action

The fight is on. Last Friday afternoon the U.S. State Department released its final environmental review on the Keystone XL pipeline -- perhaps uncoincidentally, just when most of the nation was preoccupied with the impending Super Bowl. The review sets the stage for President Obama to make the final decision on the pipeline, which will hasten climate change, spill oil and threaten at least 20 threatened and endangered species.

Obama's decision comes down to this: Approve Keystone XL and embrace the climate-killing fossil fuels of the past, or reject Keystone in favor of energy policies safer for people, wildlife and a healthy climate. It's time for the president to decide which side he's on -- and whether he really meant what he said about finally tackling the climate crisis.

More than 10,000 people joined the Center for Biological Diversity and partners to rally around the country against Keystone on Monday. Thank you to all who participated. If we're going to win the fight against Keystone XL, we need you at our side. Our next step is to ensure Secretary of State Kerry tells the president that Keystone XL is not in our national best interest.

Send a letter to Secretary Kerry urging him to oppose this disastrous project, read a recent op-ed by the Center's Noah Greenwald on the president's decision on Keystone, and watch our new video.

Right-wing Republicans Attack Endangered Species Act

Bald eagleOn Tuesday 13 House Republicans, led by Doc Hastings, released a proposal to dismantle key portions of the Endangered Species Act. Among the changes are limits to citizens' ability to hold the government accountable and more influence for local politicians over which plants and animals get federal protections.

Finalizing the proposal, not surprisingly, would result in reduced protections for species on the brink of extinction -- and politicians, rather than scientists, would get more say over how this landmark law is administered.

"Time and again Americans have voiced their support for the Endangered Species Act -- they see signs of its success in every state," said the Center's Brett Hartl. "It's why we still have bald eagles, grizzly bears and wolves in the lower 48. Now these Republicans are asking Congress to tip this law in favor of profiteers and local politicians rather than the plants and animals it was designed to protect."

Learn more in The Denver Post.

Mexican Wolf Numbers Up for 4th Year in a Row: 83 Wolves, 5 Pairs With Pups

Mexican gray wolfThere are now 83 Mexican gray wolves living wild in the American Southwest: 46 in New Mexico and 37 in Arizona. That's compared to 75 just a year ago and 58 at the start of 2012. The number of breeding pairs (wolf pairs with two or more pups) also increased this year from three to five.

Part of the reason for this increase is that after litigation and pressure from the Center, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been trapping fewer wolves in response to livestock deaths, and thankfully it hasn't killed a wolf for depredations since 2007. (The agency shot one wolf in 2011 with a different, troubled rationale.) But other changes in management are still needed for full recovery -- including resuming releases of wolves from captivity and starting additional populations in the Grand Canyon and southern Rockies. Over the past five years, Fish and Wildlife has released only a single new wolf from the captive-breeding pool into the wild -- and that wolf was taken back into captivity just three weeks later.

"It's thrilling that the wolf population has increased for the fourth year in a row," said the Center's Michael Robinson. "They face stiff challenges ahead, but this is definitely encouraging news."

Get more at LiveScience.

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Agreement Cancels 28 Timber Sales, Protects Rare Seabirds in Oregon

Marbled murreletThe Center and two local allies won a big victory Wednesday for Oregon's coastal forests, reaching a settlement with the state that cancels 28 timber sales in habitat for threatened marbled murrelets on the Elliott, Clatsop and Tillamook state forests.

The agreement settles a challenge brought by the conservation groups in 2012 over logging that was harming the seabirds, which are protected by the Endangered Species Act and nest inland on the wide branches of large, old trees, making daily trips of as far as 35 miles to bring fish to their young. Rather than clearcut older trees to raise funds, the state should pursue conservation purchases of the forests, carbon markets, and a timber program focused on restoration thinning of dense plantation forests.

"If we're going to save the marbled murrelet, we have to protect the old forests this unique seabirds calls home," said Noah Greenwald, our endangered species director. "Oregon flouted the law for years and is now paying the price. It's time for the state to find a path forward that generates income for schools, but doesn't drive species extinct in the process."

Get more from Oregon Public Broadcasting.

TPP Trade Deal Could Ramp Up Fracking -- Take Action

Whooping cranesHere's something to keep on your radar: Right now the United States is negotiating a trade deal that could expose even more communities to fracking, which pollutes our air and water, worsens climate change, and threatens public health and wildlife. Among other things the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, could encourage the expansion of toxic fracking for shale gas by green-lighting increased natural gas exports.

The deal could also allow corporations to retaliate against federal, state and local governments for passing measures that allegedly damage their corporate profits -- for example, bans on fracking. President Obama is asking Congress to "fast-track" the TPP and hold a yes-or-no vote on the trade deal without allowing full debate or any revisions. We have to keep this disastrous agreement from getting jammed through Congress.

Take action now and tell your representatives in Congress: Don't fast-track the TPP.

Emergency Petition Filed for California Snail

Mohave shoulderband snailThe Mohave shoulderband snail may be a slow mover, but we must move quickly to earn it protection -- because soon its population could be put on a path to extinction.

This cool-looking, half-inch-tall mollusk -- with a light-brown, spiraling shell -- lives only in Kern County, Calif. Approximately 86 percent of its known habitat is on Soledad Mountain, and much of that's in the footprint of the Golden Queen Mine, which will destroy all snail habitat in its path and wipe out more than half the shoulderbands. The Center has just filed an emergency petition to protect the shoulderband under the Endangered Species Act.

"Humans don't think about snails very often," said Center Senior Scientist Tierra Curry, "but these tiny creatures play many important roles in the physical environment that sustains all of us."

Get more from KCET News.

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Cows: Trouble for the Climate, Public Lands, Wildlife ... and Barns?

Cow We all know that cows wreak havoc on public lands and waterways, and that producing enough of their meat for the demands of billions of people is bad for the climate. Well, apparently bovines are pretty rough on barns, too. In Germany, the roof of a barn recently nearly blew off after an explosion, seemingly sparked by an electric charge that ignited methane emitted from a nearby herd of about 90 cows.

Cows can't control their environmental footprint, but we can. That's why the Center's Population and Sustainability program is starting a campaign to reduce meat consumption -- and lessen the impact meat production has on our climate, wildlife and wild places.

To help us get rolling, please take a moment to fill out this quick survey about your eating habits and attitudes about meat, meat production and the environment.

Biodiversity Briefing: Our Top Priorities for 2014 -- Listen Now

CoralIn the Center's January "Biodiversity Briefing" with key members, Executive Director Kierán Suckling covered our major campaigns planned for 2014. As Kierán said, we accomplished an "enormous batch of work last year ... and this year it'll be just as great."

Our Endangered Species program will ramp up defense of predators like grizzlies and wolves -- and will continue to reap benefits from our 757 agreement, which has benefitted 150 species and in 2014 will help many more, from the Mexican jumping mouse to the jaguar. Our Oceans program will fight for corals and against plastic, while our Climate Law Institute expands on-the-ground anti-fracking activism and our Public Lands program shields hard-won forest protections across the Pacific Northwest. Our Urban Wildlands team will fight an environmentally disastrous water grab for thirsty Las Vegas -- and our Population and Sustainability program was just revamped to best address the roots of all the problems we work to fix.

You can now listen to the first part of the briefing. These personal phone briefings, Web presentations and Q&As with Center staff are open by invitation to members of the Center's Leadership Circle and Legacy Society. For information on how to join this group of supporters and participate live when the calls happen, email Senior Donor Relations Associate Julie Ragland or call her toll-free at (866) 357-3349 x 304.

Wild & Weird: Making Bacteria Into Bricks

BrickConsider the humble and durable brick. This simple, modular building unit -- made to fit comfortably in the human hand since at least 7500 B.C. -- is straightforward to produce and use: Rectangular blocks of clay, concrete or other materials are dried or kiln-fired and then stacked with mortar into a (relatively) permanent structure.

But the brick-making process isn't exactly sustainable: Firing emits a lot of carbon dioxide. And according to Ginger Kreig Dosier, an architecture professor in the United Arab Emirates, bricks are still used in more than 80 percent of global building construction, with about 1.2 trillion made annually. So Dosier is making bricks without burning fossil fuels -- and if all bricks were made this way, she says, we'd reduce worldwide carbon emissions by 800 million tons each year.

Here's where the weird comes in: Dosier makes her bricks with bacteria (and urea -- yep, that urea). In her experiments, the nonpathogenic bacteria Sporosarcina pasteurii, urea, calcium chloride and sand microbes are layered with sand to set off chemical reactions “biocementing” everything together into mineral form -- without the usual 2,000-degree Fahrenheit energy suck.

Read more at Popular Science.

Kierán Suckling
Executive Director

Photo credits: "No KXL" protest courtesy Bunker Films; "No KXL" vigil courtesy Bunker Films; bald eagle by Robin Silver, Center for Biological Diversity; Mexican gray wolf by Robin Silver, Center for Biological Diversity; marbled murrelet by Rich MacIntosh, USFWS; whooping cranes courtesy USFWS; Mohave shoulderband snail by Lance Gilbertson; cow courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Pikaluk; coral courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Toby Hudson; brick courtesy Flickr Commons/taberandrew.

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