Lynx Win 25 Million Acres in Six States
Canada lynx now have nearly 25 million acres of federally protected "critical habitat" across six states: Idaho, Maine, Minnesota, Montana, Washington and Wyoming.
The decision, just finalized by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, is the culmination of years of work to protect these beautiful cats. Adapted for hunting in deep snow, lynx have thick cushions of hair on the soles of their feet that act like built-in snowshoes and help them catch snowshoe hares. Their population dropped dramatically in the past because of trapping, which remains a key threat along with habitat loss and degradation. The current protected area is slightly smaller than a 2009 designation challenged by snowmobile associations -- which the Center for Biological Diversity and allies countered in court -- but it's essential for the great cats' survival and recovery.
"These unique cats face a broad array of threats, including snowmobiles, trapping, development and now climate change," said the Center's Noah Greenwald. "They need every acre of critical habitat that was designated, and more, if they're going to avoid extinction in the United States."
Read more in our press release.
Report: Rushed Dock Permitting Ignores Manatee Deaths
A new Center report shows that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Fish and Wildlife Service have failed to consider the cumulative impacts of thousands of recently permitted docks, piers and boat ramps on manatees. Boat strikes are the leading cause of death for these slow-moving, gentle marine mammals, killing on average 82 manatees every year.
Collision Course details how the federal agencies have sidestepped analyses that would save manatee lives. Neither agency seems to keep track of how many watercraft permits are issued in Florida.
Our report recommends that the federal agencies and the state substantially reform their permitting regime and require more boater education about -- and stricter enforcement of -- speed zones.
"The manatee has come too far, and Florida has invested too much, to be undermined by the government's shortsighted permitting scheme," said Jaclyn Lopez, our Florida-based attorney.
Read more in the Tampa Bay Times and check out our press release, where you can read our report.
The People's Climate Train Makes History
Thousands of people will converge on New York City this weekend for the People's Climate March, the largest event in the history of the climate movement.
And the Center made its own piece of history this week too. Our People's Climate Train, carrying more than 100 climate activists, left the Bay Area on Monday for a cross-country train trip for climate action. After stops in Reno, Denver and Chicago, the train will arrive in New York City later tonight.
If you can't make the climate march, check out our People's Climate Train website and follow the action on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Report: Offshore Fracking Threatens California's Oceans, Air, Seismic Safety
Scientists with the Center just released a new report outlining the serious dangers posed by offshore fracking to the coast of Southern California, including toxic-chemical contamination, air pollution and increased earthquake risk. The report was released during a meeting by the California Coastal Commission, which has struggled to determine the full extent of offshore fracking.
Our report, Troubled Waters, highlights the environmental risks of fracking, including the fact that 9 billion gallons of wastewater are permitted to be dumped in the ocean each year and that at least 10 chemicals routinely used in fracking could harm or kill sea otters, fish and other marine species. The report also notes that all of Southern California's offshore injection wells are within three miles of an active seismic fault.
"The risks of fracking get clearer every day," said the Center's Shaye Wolf.
Read the report in our press release.
Rare Southern Flower Wins Safeguards, 732 Acres
A delicate southern flower has new shelter from the storm after a decade of advocacy by the Center. The Georgia rockcress is a 3-foot-tall plant of the Arabis genus with dainty, white flowers that grows on steep river bluffs in Georgia and Alabama in fewer than 18 populations. It was first identified as being in need of federal protection in 1975, but was deemed a "candidate species" instead of being placed on the endangered species list. We first petitioned for its protection in 2004.
Now, following our 757 species agreement -- which has already led to the protection of nearly 140 plants and animals -- this plant has not only won Endangered Species Act safeguards but also earned the designation of 732 acres of federally protected critical habitat.
Read more in the San Francisco Chronicle.
E.O. Wilson: Save the Earth? Give Back Half the Planet to Nature
Famed evolutionary biologist E.O. Wilson recently sat down with Smithsonian Magazine to discuss what it would take to save the world's remaining wild places and biodiversity. His solution: Set aside half the planet for nature.
Wilson's "Half Earth" vision would consist of a system of wild land connected in a chain of uninterrupted wilderness corridors that open up into larger national parks, permanently protected to help biodiversity thrive. "People haven't been thinking big enough," Wilson said. "Even conservationists."
Yes, we'll still need to deal with the most pressing environmental issues of our age -- including global warming, the extinction crisis and human population and consumption -- but Wilson's Half Earth would be a great place to start.
Read more in Smithsonian Magazine.
California Beetle Retains Federal Protections
After opposition by the Center and allies (along with a critical review by scientists) the Fish and Wildlife Service this week dropped its plan to remove Endangered Species Act protections for Valley elderberry longhorn beetles. The beetles, which depend on scarce mature elderberry plants along the rivers of California's Central Valley, will remain protected as a threatened species.
The anti-conservation group Pacific Legal Foundation petitioned to strip protections from the beetle, which had been listed since 1980. In response the Fish and Wildlife Service proposed to withdraw protections -- but an independent panel of scientists said last year the proposal wasn't based on the best science and that the beetles continue to face many threats.
"We're grateful to see the Fish and Wildlife Service following the science and making the right decision to continue protections for this clearly imperiled beetle and its vanishing habitat," said the Center's Jeff Miller. "This is exactly how the process of peer review is supposed to work."
Read more in The San Luis Obispo Tribune.
Wild & Weird: Professor Dumpster
Henry David Thoreau's Walden, first published in 1854, is a reflection on the author's attempts to live life deliberately in a modest home in the woods beside a Massachusetts pond.
In Austin, Texas, 160 years later, Professor Jeff Wilson has also chosen to live simply -- in a 36-square-foot trash container. Like Thoreau, Wilson has eschewed luxury; his previous abode was a 2,500-square-foot house equipped with an actual shower. To live and model a back-to-basics life, Wilson -- a college dean at Huston-Tillotson University -- is working with students on his "Dumpster Project" to build a "low-impact, zero-net-waste" dwelling.
And while living in a dumpster behind a women's residence hall at a college isn't exactly a rugged wilderness ordeal, we'll note that Thoreau's experiment wasn't either; the Walden cabin sat at the edge of town, no more than two miles from the author's family home.
Read more about Professor Dumpster in The Atlantic.
Photo credits: Canada lynx courtesy Flickr/Keith Williams; manatee; Amtrak train courtesy Flickr/Loco Steve; wolves by John Pitcher; offshore fracking rig courtesy Flickr/berardo62; Arabis soyeri courtesy Flickr/Franz Xaver; Earthrise courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Bill Anders, NASA; brown bear (c) Robin Silver, Center for Biological Diversity; Valley elderberry longhorn beetle by Brian Hansen, USFWS; Professor Dumpster courtesy Flickr/Inhabitat Blog.
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