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National Climate Report: Yes It's Bad, But It's Not Too Late

Snowy ploverAmericans are already feeling the effects of climate change -- and it's bound to get worse, according to the National Climate Assessment released this week.

Among the report's findings: Sea level at many of America's largest coastal cities could rise 4 feet or more by 2100, average temperatures could rise by 10 degrees, hurricanes will become stronger, yields of major U.S. crops could decline by 2050, more wildlife will go extinct, and biodiversity will be altered so much in some places "that their mix of plant and animal life will become almost unrecognizable."

There's still time to avoid the worst of this crisis, but only if we act now. For starters, that means using the Clean Air Act to begin making steep cuts in greenhouse gases.

"This is more than just the scientific case for action on climate change," said Shaye Wolf, the Center for Biological Diversity's climate science director. "There's no doubt that human lives are at risk and human misery will be the price of inaction. President Obama has a moral obligation to act, not just in a series of small steps but in ways that will finally begin turning the tide of this global crisis."

Read more in First Coast News.

Frostpaw to Ronald McDonald: 'Climate Change? I'm Not Lovin' It' -- Take Action

Frostpaw at McDonald'sThe Center's Frostpaw the Polar Bear had some choice words for fast-food clown Ronald McDonald in an open letter released Wednesday as part of our "Take Extinction Off Your Plate" campaign urging people to eat less meat.

Meat production is an important driver of the climate crisis threatening polar bears, other wildlife and people around the globe, Frostpaw said. McDonald's -- whose beef accounts for 41 percent of its carbon footprint -- needs to do more to offer entrees without animal protein. The letter follows the company's latest sustainability report and an announcement that it plans to source "sustainable beef" for its burgers. While McDonald's may not be the restaurant of choice for many environmentalists, the giant eatery can play an important role in curbing our country's appetite for meat by making meat-free options more accessible for millions of people every day.

"Did you mean for your carbon footprint to be clown-shoe-sized?" wrote Frostpaw. "I mean, you don't have a single meatless meal on your menu. Not one McBean Burger or McTofu Wrap. Meanwhile, more and more people are calling for humans to reduce meat consumption and eat a more planet-friendly diet if we're going to have any hope of fighting climate change."

Check out our press release to read Frostpaw's full letter, then take action to ask McDonald's to add meat-free options to its menu.

Kentucky Flower and 2,000 Acres of Habitat Protected

Kentucky glade cressAs part of the Center's historic settlement to win protection decisions for 757 species around the country, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service this week protected an imperiled Southern flower, the Kentucky glade cress, under the Endangered Species Act. The agency also set aside 2,053 acres of protected "critical habitat" for the plant.

This dainty wildflower -- whose blossoms are lilac or white and smaller than a penny -- is found in only two Kentucky counties. It's been ravaged by habitat loss from suburban development near Louisville, as well as grazing and off-road vehicles ruining its soil and crushing it. This little plant is the 116th species to get final protection under our 757 agreement; protection has been proposed for another 26 species.

Read more in The Courier-Journal.

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Nebraska's Vanishing Salt Creek Tiger Beetle Gets Too Little Habitat Protection

Salt Creek tiger beetle When the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Monday finalized critical habitat protection for endangered Salt Creek tiger beetles, that protected area had dwindled to a mere 1,110 Nebraska acres. Back in 2005 scientists recommended 36,000 acres of habitat for the species, which is one of the rarest insects on Earth.

The Center and other conservation groups have filed a series of lawsuits over the years to gain habitat protection for this tiger beetle, most recently in 2010. The latest meager designation, which comes in response to a settlement of that lawsuit, ensures the legal battles will continue.

"It's so disappointing that the Service is sacrificing the survival of a species to serve commercial interests when the science clearly shows that the unique Salt Creek tiger beetle needs more room to recover," said Tierra Curry, a senior scientist at the Center.

The tiger beetle once occupied extensive salt-marsh areas, but urban and agricultural sprawl have reduced it to just three populations on the edges of Little Salt Creek in Lincoln, Neb. Healthy salt marshes provide numerous benefits for people as well as beetles, including water purification, flood control and bird-watching hotspots.

Read more in our press release.

Pipeline Exec: Oil Spills Can Be Good for the Economy

Deepwater Horizon oil spillDid you see this? The Vancouver Sun reports that a vice president at oil pipeline builder Kinder Morgan says pipeline spills can be good for the local economy, creating "business and employment opportunities." Well, that's nice. People living near Kalamazoo, Mich., or Mayflower, Ark., have probably foolishly been thinking that all the oily muck in their rivers and neighborhoods was a bad thing.

The fact is, oil and gas pipelines have a troubled history. A 2013 analysis found that since 1986 there have been nearly 8,000 incidents resulting in more than 500 deaths, more than 2,300 injuries, and a yearly average of 76,000 barrels of hazardous liquids spilled. The State Department predicts that the Keystone XL pipeline alone will spill at least 100 times during its lifetime.

Check out the Center's amazing time-lapse video of pipeline incidents, read the Vancouver Sun story, and learn more about America's dangerous pipelines.

Lifesaving Protections Delayed Yet Again for Gunnison Sage Grouse

Gunnison sage grouseFourteen years after the Fish and Wildlife Service acknowledged the need to protect the imperiled Gunnison sage grouse -- a remarkable bird that once roamed Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona -- the grouse is still waiting for help. Time and again the Service has postponed the Endangered Species Act's lifesaving protection. Another six-month delay was announced this week.

Why the foot-dragging? The Service claims it needs more time to change the bird's status from endangered to threatened and reduce the scope of protections the bird will receive. That's a disturbing delay for a bird that's already been hit hard by oil and gas drilling, livestock grazing and urbanization.

"The Gunnison sage grouse needed protection 14 years ago, not another six-month delay -- and certainly not a delay with the sole purpose of watering down protections," said Amy Atwood, endangered species legal director at the Center.

Read more in The Salt Lake Tribune.

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Devil's Hole Pupfish, One of Earth's Rarest Species, Finally Has a Good Year

Devil's Hole pupfishIn a deep desert spring about 90 miles from Las Vegas lives one of the world's most endangered creatures: the tiny Devil's Hole pupfish. Its population was down to 35 last year, the lowest count since 1967. The good news is, last month that count was up to 92. Of course, extinction is still a definite possibility -- don't break out the party whistles yet. Biologists aren't sure why the population suddenly spiked.

The fish are closely cared for and avidly studied by federal and state experts; their habitat is high-security, guarded by barbed wire and 24-hour video surveillance. (Essentially a fissure in the ground, it's just a few feet across but so deep that divers have descended 435 feet and never reached the bottom.)

A parallel captive-breeding program, led by aquaculturalist Olin Feuerbacher and his team, has raised 29 pupfish to adulthood and is beginning to hatch a second generation from the six-month-old grownups; later this month the first captive-bred pupfish will be moved into a replica of Devil's Hole about a mile away to serve as a self-sustaining, back-up population for the precariously existing "wild" pupfish. The 100,000-gallon tank will be filled with water pumped from the same aquifer that fills Devil's Hole. Challenges include keeping the fish from cannibalizing their young.

"Generally speaking, most fish have pretty terrible parenting skills," said Feuerbacher, and Devil's Hole pupfish are no different. "I don't think they know they're endangered."

Get more -- and watch a video of the pupfish -- from the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Biodiversity Briefing: Population, Sustainability and You

Endangered Species CondomsThe Center's groundbreaking work on population and sustainability was the focus of Executive Director Kierán Suckling's latest quarterly "Biodiversity Briefing" phone call.

This year our population work has dramatically expanded to include overconsumption; excessive lifestyles (notably in the United States) are driving sprawling development, power plants and meat consumption, exacting a vast toll on the natural world.

Through creative media and increased public outreach, including our just-launched "Take Extinction Off Your Plate" campaign, we're highlighting the effects of overconsumption to show how people can tread more lightly. We're also revitalizing our Pop X e-newsletter and will continue to make waves with our free Endangered Species Condoms.

Check out our Population and Sustainability program website, our interactive "Take Extinction Off Your Plate" campaign -- where you can pledge to eat less meat -- and our Endangered Species Condoms project.

Then listen to a recording of Kierán's briefing (in two segments) here and here. These personal phone briefings, including Q&A sessions, are open to all members of the Center's Leadership Circle and Legacy Society. For information on how to join and be invited to participate live on the calls, email Major Gifts Associate Julie Ragland or call her at (520) 623-5252 x 304.

Wild & Weird: Invaders From Earth

Bacillus subtilisThe interplanetary exchange of organisms, more popularly called "alien invasion," is of great concern to NASA scientists -- but in their nightmare scenario, it turns out, Earthlings aren't the victims. No, we're the invaders.

Three scientific papers recently published in Astrobiology Journal argue that microorganisms from Earth may be poised to invade Mars. Hitching rides on spacecraft with destinations ranging from our own orbit to Mars, Earthly microbes have long been assumed to die when they meet with the harsh conditions of outer space -- like intense UV radiation.

But in new studies, spore-forming bacteria showed a high level of resistance to techniques to sterilize spacecraft. They also lived for 30 minutes in a simulated Martian environment and for 18 months in space at an "exposure facility" mounted outside the International Space Station. The spores showed an increased resistance to harsh UV radiation following the study. And in another experiment, bacteria were shielded in dark crevices of spacecraft aluminum subjected to cosmic and extraterrestrial solar radiation for 1.5 years. Fifty percent of them survived.

Read more about alien invasions at ScienceDaily.

Kierán Suckling
Executive Director

Photo credits: Hawaiian monk seal courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Mark Sullivan; snowy plover courtesy Flickr/MyFWCmedia; Frostpaw courtesy Center for Biological Diversity; Kentucky glade cress courtesy Wikimedia Commons/USFWS; wolves by John Pitcher; Salt Creek tiger beetle by Seth Willey, USFWS; Deepwater Horizon oil spill courtesy Wikimedia Commons/U.S. Navy; Gunnison sage grouse courtesy BLM; brown bear (c) Robin Silver, Center for Biological Diversity; Devil's Hole pupfish courtesy USFWS; endangered species condoms courtesy Center for Biological Diversity; Bacillus subtilis courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Allonweiner.

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Center for Biological Diversity

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