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Protection Still Possible for California Wolves

Gray wolfThere's still hope for wolves in California: The state Fish and Game Commission on Wednesday declined to rubber-stamp a recommendation that the species be denied protection under the state's Endangered Species Act. Instead the commission reopened the comment period and will hold another public hearing on June 4.

It's a step in the right direction. The Center for Biological Diversity and allies petitioned for state protection for California wolves in 2012, just weeks after the wolf known as OR-7 wandered in from Oregon. OR-7 continues to make California part of his range, in what many scientists believe is the first chapter of a new story about wolves returning to the Golden State.

But if they're going to come, stay and recover, they need protection. We hope the commission makes the right decision later this year. Commission members certainly saw Californians' support for wolf protections on Wednesday: The hearing was standing-room-only as hundreds called on the commission to protect wolves. Thank you to all who attended or submitted comments. Stay tuned on how to take more action.

Get more from NBC News Southern California.

Deadly Bat Disease Has Now Invaded Half the Country

Little brown batWhite-nose syndrome -- a mysterious disease that's killed more than 7 million bats since its New York discovery in late 2006 -- has struck two new states in its speedy spread across the country, bringing the number of affected states to 25 (along with five Canadian provinces). Scientists last week confirmed the disease's appearance in three Michigan counties and one county in Wisconsin, which hosts 350,000–500,000 bats in several of the largest hibernating bat colonies in the upper Midwest.

The worst wildlife health crisis in recent memory, white-nose syndrome often kills entire bat colonies and has so far struck seven species, including two endangered bats and two that the Center petitioned to protect: the eastern small-footed bat and northern long-eared bat, the latter of which has been hit particularly hard and is now being considered for Endangered Species Act safeguards. We've been fighting for years to bring federal funding and attention to the cataclysmic spread of white-nose.

"White-nose syndrome has now reached the last strongholds of the once-abundant little brown bat and several other species," said the Center's Mollie Matteson. "It's incredibly urgent that we put more resources into finding a cure and saving our bats."

Read more in our press release.

BLM Abandons Duty to Protect Public Land From Nevada Rancher -- Take Action

Desert tortoiseAfter 20 years of inaction, the Bureau of Land Management and other federal agencies on April 5 finally began removing cows that were being illegally grazed on the Gold Butte allotment in Nevada by rancher Cliven Bundy. But later in the week, armed militia members showed up and the BLM soon backed down, abandoning the roundup and walking away from its responsibility to protect public lands from damage and trespassing.

Two decades ago Bundy stopped paying the BLM to graze on federally owned public lands (but continues to feed his cows on them) and has racked up $1 million in fees, penalties and interest that he refuses to pay. He's also refused to obey two court orders obtained by the BLM requiring him to remove his trespassing cattle. His herd, once permitted for 150 animals, now numbers more than 1,000, all of which graze the fragile desert year-round.

It's clear that Bundy and his supporters aren't interested in doing what's right for public lands. Now it's time for the BLM to step up and fulfill its duty to protect our natural resources and get those illegal cows off those public lands.

Read more about the situation in Nevada, and then take action to tell the BLM to protect our federal public lands and remove those illegal cows from Gold Butte.

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Throwback Thursday: Bringing Population Issues Back to Earth Day

Endangered species condomsLet's go back to 1970, the year of bell-bottoms, Nixon and the first Earth Day. It's often forgotten now that one of the biggest concerns of activists, student protesters and Earth Day founder Sen. Gaylord Nelson (D-Wis.) was human population growth. Along with the wide array of environmental laws and organizations born out of that first Earth Day celebration, we also saw a thriving "zero population growth" movement that encouraged people to think of the planet in their family planning.

But 44 years later, there are 3.5 billion more people in the world -- almost twice as many as on the first Earth Day. Our appetite for energy, land, meat and more has grown increasingly ravenous, and yet the discussion of runaway population growth and overconsumption has all but disappeared from the environmental movement.

That's why the Center is celebrating the 44th Earth Day by giving away 44,000 Endangered Species Condoms. Through our volunteer network, we're sending the condoms to more than two dozen Earth Day events, as well as hundreds of cities across all 50 states to bring population and the extinction crisis back into the conservation conversation.

Want to get involved? Check out our Earth Day toolkit for tips and downloadable materials to get you started.

And join our Population and Sustainability team on Facebook for the latest population news, photos and updates from our Endangered Species Condoms Earth Day giveaway.

Alligator Snapping Turtles Are 3 Endangered Species, Not 1

Alligator snapping turtleNew research shows that alligator snapping turtles, which can grow to 200 pounds and live almost 100 years, are actually three separate species living in different parts of the U.S. Southeast, each therefore less abundant and more endangered than previously thought. The Center notified the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Wednesday of the finding, which makes federal protection of these turtles even more urgent. We filed a petition to protect the animals in 2012.

With heavily armored shells, bear-like claws and powerful beaked jaws, these prehistoric-looking giants are slow-moving and sedentary, spending so much of their time sitting on river bottoms waiting for food that algae grows thick on their shells. By analyzing the fossil record, modern turtle morphology and genetics, the authors of the current study -- published in Zootaxa last week -- revised the turtles' taxonomy to identify two additional species.

"If we don't act quickly to protect these dinosaurs of the turtle world, they too could go extinct," said Collette Adkins Giese, a Center biologist and lawyer.

Read more in Florida Today.

Legal Challenge: Close Loopholes Allowing Killing of Lesser Prairie Chickens

Lesser prairie chickenThe Center and allies last Thursday moved to close loopholes in the Fish and Wildlife Service's plan to protect highly imperiled grassland birds called lesser prairie chickens only as "threatened," allowing ongoing destruction of the birds' dwindling habitat.

Special "4(d)" exemptions in the federal rule protecting the species -- exemptions increasingly relied on by the agency to allow environmentally harmful activities to proceed in endangered species habitat -- will allow participants in state-organized plans to keep destroying these birds' home. Under an agreement endorsed by the Service, the oil and gas industry alone is authorized over 10 years to kill nearly half of the remaining prairie chicken population, which dropped to fewer than 18,000 birds last year.

"Drought and habitat destruction are devastating the small remaining population of this magnificent grassland bird," said Jay Lininger, a senior scientist at the Center. "Loopholes in the states' plan make the voluntary agreements of industry too little, too late, to prevent extinction. The lesser prairie chicken needs the full protection of the Endangered Species Act."

Read more in the Houston Chronicle.

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Scaly-Slimies in Mass Decline -- Take Action

Cascades frogThreats ranging from fungal disease to habitat destruction and climate change are taking a disastrous toll on our nation's frogs. The semipermeable skin of tiny Illinois chorus frogs, for example, continues to get doused with pesticides, while Cascades frogs are being gobbled up by exotic trout.

That's why, in July 2012, the Center filed a petition to protect four of our nation's rarest frogs, along with 49 other imperiled amphibians and reptiles, under the Endangered Species Act. But more than a year and a half later, the Fish and Wildlife Service has yet to respond.

Help us celebrate "Save the Frogs Day," which falls on April 26, by urging the Service to stop delaying lifesaving protections. Then learn more about the amphibian and reptile extinction crisis and get your phone ringing ribbits with our free endangered frog and toad ringtones.

World's Scientists Issue Caustic Climate Warning

Coal power plantPresident Barack Obama and other world leaders must champion a rapid shift to clean energy sources to head off catastrophic climate changes, according to a new warning authored by hundreds of scientists with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

The IPCC's new report notes that emissions of planet-warming pollutants actually grew more quickly between 2000 and 2010 than during the three previous decades. Those dangerous emissions, experts say, need to peak soon and then decline rapidly to avert temperature increases that would cause grave harm to people and animals around the globe.

"This report is a stark warning from hundreds of scientists that carbon pollution must decline rapidly to avert a climate catastrophe," said Shaye Wolf, the Center's climate science director. "Unless President Obama and other world leaders take strong action, manmade global warming will threaten our food supply, drive up extreme weather risk and push countless animals and plants to the brink of extinction. We still have time to avoid these dangers with a rapid transition to clean renewable energy."

Read more about the Center's long work to keep our climate livable.

Wild & Weird: An Ancient City Built by Gophers

Mima moundsIn western Washington sits an odd landscape of millions of nearly uniform mounds that has intrigued scientists and defied explanation since explorers first caught sight of it in 1841. Theories about the origin of these "Mima mounds" have ranged from otherworldly (think extraterrestrials) to pointing at geomorphic phenomena like earthquakes, shrinking clay and wind erosion.

An alternate explanation, the "Fossorial Rodent Hypothesis" posited by scientists in the 1940s, argued that pocket gophers could have built these mounds -- but subsequent researchers scoffed at the idea of small burrowing rodents creating such monumental architecture.

Now new research is reviving the old theory. Published in the journal Geomorphology, the study -- using behavioral information of pocket gophers at similar mounds in California and analysis of the soil conditions of the site, run through a computer model -- argues that the circumference of each mature mound roughly matches the territorial range of a single gopher. It also says that as the mounds transferred to new gophers from generation to generation over hundreds of years, the height of the structures expanded into a vast, pimply gopher city.

Read more at LiveScience.

Kierán Suckling
Executive Director

Photo credits: Desert tortoise courtesy Flickr/sandman; gray wolf courtesy Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife; little brown bat by Marvin Moriarty, USFWS; desert tortoise by Beth Jackson, USFWS; endangered species condoms courtesy Flickr/AIDS/SIDA NB; alligator snapping turtle courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Garry Tucker, USFWS; lesser prairie chicken courtesy Wikimedia Commons/USFWS; Cascades frog by James Bettaso, USFWS; coal power plant courtesy Flickr/davipt; Mima mounds courtesy Flickr/Washington Department of Natural Resources.

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Center for Biological Diversity

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