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Center for Biological Diversity

No. 737, Aug. 28, 2014

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20 Corals Protected Under the Endangered Species Act

Pillar coralHuge news in our work to help oceans: The federal government on Wednesday protected 20 corals under the Endangered Species Act because global warming, disease and ocean acidification are driving them toward extinction. The decision, a response to a 2009 petition by the Center for Biological Diversity, protects five corals in Florida and the Caribbean and 15 in the Pacific Ocean.

Coral reefs around the globe are in serious trouble. By the middle of this century, more than 97 percent of reefs will likely experience extreme thermal stress -- which can cause bleaching and even death -- because of global warming. Disease and acidification are compounding their plight.

This week's development is the single-largest protection decision for corals under the Endangered Species Act.

"This is a wake-up call that our amazing coral reefs are dying and need federal protection," says the Center's Miyoko Sakashita, "but there's hope for saving corals and many other ocean animals if we make rapid cuts in greenhouse gas pollution to stop global warming and ocean acidification."

Read more in the Miami Herald.

After 90 Percent Decline, Petition Seeks Monarch Protection -- Take Action

Monarch butterflyMonarchs in the United States are in a deadly freefall: In less than 20 years, their numbers have dropped by 90 percent, and they've lost more than 165 million acres of habitat -- a Texas-sized area. On Tuesday the Center and allies, including renowned monarch scientist Dr. Lincoln Brower, filed a legal petition to protect them under the Endangered Species Act.

The decline of monarchs is being driven largely by planting of genetically engineered crops in the Midwest, where most monarchs are born. These crops are made to be resistant to Monsanto's Roundup herbicide, a potent killer of milkweed, which is the monarch caterpillar's only food.

"We're at risk of losing a symbolic backyard beauty that has been part of the childhood of every generation of Americans," said the Center's Tierra Curry. "The drop in the monarch's population, in human-population terms, would be like losing every living person in the United States except those in Florida and Ohio."

Read more in Newsweek, check out our new monarch video, and take action to save these lovely animals.

Washington Wolves Targeted by Helicopter, Traps -- Help Them

Gray wolfOver the weekend the Center learned that Washington state's wildlife agency was planning to demolish a pack of wolves by shooting them from helicopters -- and on Sunday the first wolf was killed. The targeted wolf family, known as the Huckleberry pack, has pups born late this spring that will starve if the adults are killed. The agency says the wolf killed was young -- it could even have been one of the pups. Later in the week, the agency switched to trapping -- with plans to kill those they snare.

We need the help of our supporters nationwide to save what's left of this pack. Please give to our Predator Defense Fund to help us stop the killing.

The Huckleberry pack is being targeted because of recent sheep deaths in the area that could have been prevented without lethal force. Instead of allowing nonlethal measures to work, Washington Fish and Wildlife went straight for the deadliest action in its playbook -- and these wolves are paying the price.

Donate today to help us bring all legal and political means to bear on stopping the wolves' needless deaths.

A Win in Aspen: Tortoises From Art Installation Go to Sanctuary

African sulcata tortoiseThe Aspen Art Museum has sent three tortoises to a sanctuary after thousands of Center supporters objected to their exploitation in an art exhibit by Chinese artist Cai Guo-Qiang. The exhibit featured three African sulcata tortoises, each with a pair of iPads stuck directly to its shell.

The move comes less than a week after the Center delivered a petition signed by more than 12,000 people opposing the controversial exhibit. Earlier this month, a nationwide boycott was led by Lisbeth Odén and by Andrew Sabin, a New York businessman and turtle conservationist.

We're glad to see these tortoises heading to the sanctuary; they deserve a life without iPads glued to their backs. Thank you to all the people who spoke out against their mistreatment.

Read more in our press release.

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Grizzlies in Washington's North Cascades? It's Now a Possibility

Grizzly bearThe National Park Service has taken an important step toward recovering grizzly bears in North Cascades National Park in Washington state. The agency says it's starting a three-year process to analyze options for boosting grizzly populations in the area, including the possibility of bringing bears in and developing a viable population.

This summer the Center petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to begin returning grizzly bears to vast parts of the American West. We identified more than 110,000 square miles of potential grizzly habitat, including parts of Washington, California, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado. Although the North Cascades analysis was in the works before we filed our petition, we're glad to see it moving ahead.

"Grizzlies have lost more than 95 percent of their historic habitat in the lower 48 states," said the Center's Noah Greenwald, "so we welcome any step that brings them closer to returning to some of their ancestral homes."

Learn more in High Country News.

Court Victory Protects Habitat for Dusky Gopher Frog

Dusky gopher frogThe Center's Collette Adkins Giese -- the only lawyer we know devoted solely to defending amphibians and reptiles -- just won a key case to save dusky gopher frogs' Southeast forest habitat.

The frogs were federally protected in 2002 after much legal work by the Center and allies; and in 2012, 6,477 acres were protected as critical habitat. But the timber industry and others challenged that designation, saying some of the habitat where the frogs last lived in Louisiana wasn't necessary for the species' recovery. Collette and others went to court to defend that designation -- and a federal judge on Friday agreed to uphold those habitat protections.

It's a good thing, too: Only about 100 dusky gopher frogs survive, living in underground burrows near just three Mississippi ponds. When they're picked up, these frogs rather charmingly cover their eyes with their forefeet to protect their faces.

Read more in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Three Southeast Flowers Get 2,500 Acres of Protected Habitat

Short's bladderpodFollowing the Center's 757 species agreement, the Fish and Wildlife Service has protected 2,488 acres of critical habitat for three flowering plants in Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky and Tennessee: Short's bladderpod, fleshy-fruit gladecress and whorled sunflower.

The Center first petitioned the Service to protect these plants in 2004; they had been on a waiting list since 1999. The plants were finally protected early this month, and now they have protected habitat too. So far -- under our landmark 2011 agreement to speed protection decisions for 757 species -- 130 have gained Endangered Species Act protection, including the three flowers, and another 13 have been proposed for protection.

Habitat loss is the primary reason plants and animals become endangered, so protecting the last areas where these highly endangered flowers live will help make sure they aren't erased by careless human activities.

Read more in the Tennessean.

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Lawsuit Challenges Massive Timber Sale in Alaska's Tongass

Alexander Archipelago wolfThe U.S. Forest Service is poised to allow more than 6,000 acres of old-growth forest to be logged in Alaska, including some trees that are nearly 1,000 years old. The Big Thorne project on Prince of Wales Island would be the largest logging project on the Tongass National Forest in 20 years.

This week the Center and allies filed a lawsuit against the Forest Service to block the dangerous timber sale.

Aside from ruining these ancient forests, a key scientist says the project could "break the back" of the vital relationship between Alexander Archipelago wolves and their main prey base: Sitka black-tailed deer. A long history of clearcut logging on the Tongass, as well as on private and state-owned lands, has already devastated much of the wolf's habitat in southeast Alaska. The last thing they need is another massive logging project.

Get more from Alaska Public Media.

All Aboard! People's Climate Train Rallies Diverse Riders for Historic NYC March

Amtrak trainWe're inspired to see that the People's Climate Train, organized by the Center, is filling up. More than 170 people -- including ministers, Buddhist nuns and activists -- have signed up to ride. The message: Americans from all walks of life are calling out for action on the climate crisis.

On Sept. 15 most riders will board the Amtrak in Emeryville, Calif., and arrive in New York City three days later in time for the People's Climate March on Sept. 21. Along the way the train will also pick up climate riders in Reno, Denver, Salt Lake City, Omaha and Chicago -- passing through landscapes threatened by drought, devastating weather, fossil fuel development, pollution and the Keystone XL pipeline.

"Global leaders simply aren't doing what's needed to take on this crisis, so in September the people's voices will be heard," said the Center's Valerie Love, who will be leading a number of workshops during the trip.

Read more in our press release and let us know if you plan to be at the march in New York City.

Wild & Weird: Elves of Iceland Hold Up Road Construction

Elf chapelWork on an Icelandic highway was halted this summer when campaigners warned it would disturb habitat for some highly sensitive creatures: elves. According to an official with Iceland's roads department: "We were warned that elves were living in some of the rocks in the path of the road -- well, we have to respect that belief."

Surveys suggest that more than 50 percent of Icelanders believe in the possible existence of Huldufólk -- "hidden people" the size of humans who pass among us unseen. So when a local woman offered to negotiate with the elves to ensure road-building didn't hurt the hidden folks' chapel, a large rock in the path of the highway, work crews respectfully agreed.

All parties eventually settled on a plan to move forward with the project once the elves' chapel, a massive 70-ton jagged rock, was moved.

Get more on the hidden people of Iceland from BBC News.

Kierán Suckling
Executive Director

Photo credits: Pillar coral courtesy Flickr/Sean Nash; monarch butterfly courtesy Flickr/David Levinson; gray wolf courtesy Flickr/Chris Smith; African sulcata tortoise courtesy Flickr/Sebastian Niedlich; wolves by John Pitcher; grizzly bear courtesy Flickr/Greg Smith; dusky gopher frog courtesy Flickr/USDA; Short's bladderpod courtesy Flickr/USFWS; brown bear (c) Robin Silver, Center for Biological Diversity; Alexander Archipelago wolf (c) Robin Silver, Center for Biological Diversity; Amtrak train courtesy Flickr/Loco Steve; "elf chapel" courtesy Flickr/Hayden Yates.

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