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Center for Biological Diversity

No. 739, Sept. 11, 2014

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Landmark Coral Plan Tackles Global Warming, Ocean Acidification

Elkhorn coralThe feds have just announced a recovery plan for two imperiled corals in Florida and the Caribbean that calls for on-the-ground measures to stop global warming.

The elkhorn and staghorn corals were the first species ever protected because of the threat of global warming, thanks to a petition and litigation by the Center for Biological Diversity. Global warming causes coral bleaching when it heats up ocean waters. Ocean acidification results from too much CO2 being absorbed by those waters, which then become more acidic and weaken the exoskeletons of corals and other key marine organisms.

After more work by the Center, last Friday the National Marine Fisheries Service finally released its plan, including a call for lowering carbon emissions that are driving both higher ocean temperatures and ocean acidification.

Now these beautiful, branching corals have a chance to thrive again.

Listen to an interview with the Center's Jaclyn Lopez on WMNF Radio and learn more about elkhorn and staghorn corals.

EPA Takes Key First Step to Cut Greenhouse Gases From Aircraft

Airplane contrailOne month after the Center and allies filed a notice of intent to sue the Environmental Protection Agency for failing to reduce aircraft greenhouse gas pollution, the agency has begun a domestic rulemaking process to determine whether the fast-growing carbon emissions from U.S. aircraft endanger public health.

Aviation accounts for about 11 percent of carbon dioxide emissions from the U.S. transportation sector and is one of the fastest-growing sources of global warming pollution, rising between 3 percent to 5 percent a year. Carbon emissions from global aviation will rise even more without action, quadrupling by mid-century.

"After nearly two decades of inaction, we don't know if the international community will issue meaningful carbon emission standards by 2016," said the Center's Vera Pardee. "But the good news is that the EPA must, and will, now act under domestic law. This means the U.S. should become a catalyst for -- rather than an obstacle to -- the first enforceable aircraft climate change treaty the world has known."

Read more in The Hill.

Red Wolves Threatened With Return to Captivity -- Take Action

Red wolfThe Friday before Labor Day weekend, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced an immediate evaluation of the country's only wild red wolf population, living in eastern North Carolina. Ostensibly the review is meant to assess the ongoing reintroduction program -- but it could fast become a convenient excuse for the Service to throw in the towel on red wolves and pull the whole population from the wild.

In 1998 the Service gave up on a red wolf population it had similarly reintroduced to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We can't let that happen again. A return to captivity would devastate this unique wolf species, whose numbers hover at about 100 wolves in the wild. It would also be a clear capitulation to the special interests that seek their elimination.

Because of the feds' rush job, we have only till tomorrow to offer public comment. Act now to show your support for red wolf recovery throughout the Southeast.

Plastic-covered Hawaiian Island a Step Closer to Superfund

Hawaiian monk sealA Hawaiian island inundated by ocean plastic pollution is closer to becoming a Superfund site. This week the EPA, responding to a Superfund petition from the Center, released an assessment of the dangers that plastic pollution poses to wildlife on Tern Island in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.

Tern Island and its surrounding atoll is critical habitat for endangered Hawaiian monk seals and plays a vital role as nesting habitat for 95 percent of threatened Hawaiian green sea turtles. It's also a key breeding site for 18 species of seabirds.

Our 2012 petition urged the EPA to consider putting Tern Island on the Superfund list, used to clean up the nation's most toxic sites.

"I'm thrilled the EPA is taking this historic first step to protect Hawaiian monk seals and green sea turtles from dangerous plastic litter," said the Center's Emily Jeffers. "These animals face enough threats to their survival from sea-level rise and habitat loss -- the last thing they need is to choke on a floating plastic bag."

Read more in West Hawaii Today.

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Can't Ride the People's Climate Train? Follow Us on Social Media

Amtrak trainOn Monday more than 100 people -- including nuns, ministers, tribal leaders and student activists -- will board the People's Climate Train in Emeryville, Calif., for a four-day, cross-country trip en route to the largest demonstration in the history of the climate movement.

This history-making journey will include whistle-stop rallies across the country. Meanwhile, on the train, the Center and allies will host teach-ins, activist trainings and workshops to prepare riders to join the People's Climate March in New York City on Sept. 21. We'll march alongside tens of thousands of people to the United Nations' headquarters to demand swift action to avert catastrophic climate change.

If you can't ride the People's Climate Train you can follow the action and join the conversation with your own climate stories on the Center's Twitter, Instagram and Facebook feeds. Join our Thunderclap and help us spread the word about this epic journey.

Lawsuit Launched to Halt Wildlife Killing in Idaho

Pacific fisherThe Center and allies this week launched a new legal challenge against Wildlife Services, the rogue federal program that kills millions of wild animals each year. Our latest action is a notice of intent to sue the program over its large-scale, often secretive work in Idaho. Last year more than 3,000 coyotes, black bears, fishers, foxes, mountain lions and other species were killed by Wildlife Services in that state, using methods like aerial gunning, neck snares, traps and exploding poison caps.

We're asking that Wildlife Services halt these lethal activities, including plans to destroy beaver dams with explosives that will harm endangered bull trout, until an adequate and up-to-date environmental analysis of the program's impacts is prepared.

"Grizzly bears, lynx and bull trout are all suffering at the hands of Wildlife Services, and that needs to stop," said the Center's new Idaho-based attorney, Andrea Santarsiere.

Read more in The Spokesman Review.

3 Plants Win Protection in Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico

Eggers' agave bloomThree plants in the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico have just been protected under the Endangered Species Act, the latest beneficiaries of the Center's historic 757 agreement, which has protected 136 species so far.

Eggers' agave is a stunning, long-lived, 20-foot-tall perennial plant with yellow blooms native only to the dry hillsides of eastern St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands. We've been in court to protect this plant since 2004 -- and now our work is paying off. Island brittleleaf is a small, evergreen shrub that grows in the forests of Puerto Rico; and Puerto Rico manjack is a 16-foot large shrub that occurs in the southern part of the island.

"These remarkable plants have been pushed to the brink of extinction by land-use practices," said Jaclyn Lopez, the Center's Florida-based attorney, "but the Endangered Species Act will make sure they're around for generations to come."

Read more in our press release.

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Legal Action Seeks to Protect Salmon, Whales From Oil Spills

Sockeye salmon Just a few years ago, there were hardly any oil shipments by rail or barge in the Pacific Northwest. Today millions of gallons a week pass through the region. But there's a huge problem: If it spills, this oil poses a major threat to wildlife -- including salmon, whales and shorebirds -- and several recent oil train derailments across the country show that more spills are likely to occur.

The Center and allies just filed a notice of intent to sue the U.S. Coast Guard and the EPA for failing to update spill response plans and ensure endangered species won't be harmed by actions taken in response to oil spills (which sometimes rely on toxic dispersants). Oil shipments by rail and barge have made an unprecedented jump in recent years, but federal oil response plans are outdated. It's time for that to change.

"Oil trains pose an enormous danger we can't overlook," said the Center's Jared Margolis, "and we need spill-response plans that acknowledge that risk and protect valuable wildlife."

Read more in The Oregonian.

In Memoriam: Bob Witzeman, Champion of Arizona's Wildlife

Mount Graham red squirrelFor more than 40 years, Bob Witzeman worked tirelessly to protect Arizona's wildlife and special places. As a Maricopa Audubon officer, he led battles to limit the harms of the Central Arizona Project; through the defeat of the CAP's Cliff and Orme dams, Bob helped save desert nesting bald eagles from extinction and Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation from being forever submerged. These battles also stopped Charleston Dam, preserving the Upper San Pedro River, and Hooker Dam, preserving the riparian heart of the Gila Wilderness.

Bob's work to protect Mount Graham and its famous red squirrels from the University of Arizona's telescope project helped reduce the project's scope from 27 telescopes to three.

He was also one of the earliest, staunchest and most benevolent of the Center's supporters. And he never stopped fighting for Arizona's wild places and wild creatures. Even on his last day, at age 87, he was working on a new Mount Graham campaign. He took a break to go birding and then passed on.

Bob will be deeply missed, but his spirit will continue to inspire us.

Read Bob's obituary in the Arizona Daily Star.

Wild & Weird: Kitten Eats Alien, Great Dane Eats 43.5 Socks

Fish x-rayAnimal hospitals in Texas, Florida and Oregon won cash prizes recently for their x-ray entries in Veterinary Practice News' ninth annual radiograph contest, duly titled, "They Ate WHAT?"

Image entries included the gastrointestinal tract of a Great Dane that had sucked down several dozen socks; a five-month-old kitten with a toy alien lodged in its bowels; and another dog with not one but a whole flock of rubber duckies inside (oh, plus a toy truck tire).

Luckily these award-winning x-ray artists are also vets, and were able to successfully remove the odd, doubtless uncomfortable artifacts to save each animal's life.

See the winners and the honorable mentions at Veterinary Practice News.

Kierán Suckling
Executive Director

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Photo credits: Elkhorn coral courtesy Flickr/Sean Nash; airplane contrail courtesy Flickr/; red wolf by John Froschauer, Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium; Hawaiian monk seal courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Mark Sullivan; wolves by John Pitcher; Amtrak train courtesy Flickr/Loco Steve; fisher courtesy Flickr/Bethany Weeks; Eggers' agave by Christian Torres, USFWS; brown bear (c) Robin Silver, Center for Biological Diversity; sockeye salmon courtesy Flickr/ alinnigan; Mount Graham red squirrel courtesy Flickr/ggallice; fish x-ray courtesy Flickr/Cornell University Museum.

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