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Center for Biological Diversity

No. 743, Oct. 9, 2014

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The West's Beleaguered "Rain Crows" Finally Get Protection

Yellow-billed cuckooYellow-billed cuckoos used to be a common sight along rivers all over the West, until dams, livestock grazing, water withdrawals and other factors devastated their populations. Back in 1998 the Center for Biological Diversity's Noah Greenwald wrote his first Endangered Species Act petition seeking protection for yellow-billed cuckoos -- and last week the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agreed to grant it. (The agency had already proposed to protect more than 500,000 acres of critical habitat for the bird in nine states.)

Sometimes called "rain crows" for their habit of singing before storms, these birds were once found from the shores of Lake Washington in Seattle to the mouth of the Colorado River. Today they live only in small, scattered populations in the West.

Their new Endangered Species Act protection is the latest final decision resulting from our historic agreement to speed decisions for 757 species around the country; 138 species have been protected so far.

Read more in The Press-Enterprise and act now to protect yellow-billed cuckoos' critical habitat.

Oil Industry Wastewater Dumped Into California Aquifers

Fracking rigDocuments obtained by the Center reveal that nearly 3 billion gallons of oil industry wastewater have been illegally dumped into Central California aquifers -- the same ones that supply drinking water and crop irrigation. The wastewater was injected directly into the aquifers through at least nine injection disposal wells, which are used by the oil industry to get rid of waste contaminated with fracking fluids and other pollutants.

"Clean water is one of California's most crucial resources, and these documents make it clear that state regulators have utterly failed to protect our water from oil industry pollution," said the Center's Hollin Kretzmann.

While much more testing is needed to understand the full threat to the environment and public health, there's certainly enough evidence for Gov. Jerry Brown to halt fracking and rein in this surge in oil industry wastewater that California clearly isn't prepared to dispose of safely.

Read more in our press release.

Report: Earth Has Lost Half Its Wildlife in Past 40 Years

EarthriseA new report from Britain's WWF says the planet has lost half its wild animals since 1970, according to a deeply troubling analysis of 10,000 different populations of mammals, fishes and birds that covered 3,000 species in total. The causes of the animals' decline are the usual suspects -- mainly 44 percent habitat loss and destruction, 37 percent "exploitation," and 7 percent climate change.

Today's average global rate of consumption would need 1.5 planet Earths to sustain it -- or four planets to sustain U.S. levels of consumption -- and the fastest declines among animal populations were found in freshwater ecosystems, where numbers have plummeted by 75 percent since 1970. Among marine animals, turtles have suffered disproportionately, their numbers falling by 80 percent.

The losses are staggering, but in the United States the Endangered Species Act is stemming the damage: More than 90 percent of all species protected by the Act have staved off extinction, and hundreds are on the path toward recovery.

Read more in The Guardian.

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Fisher Proposed for Endangered Species Act Protection

Pacific fisherFollowing the Center's 757 species agreement, the Pacific fisher -- a secretive West Coast carnivore -- has been proposed for Endangered Species Act protection.

Contrary to its name, the fisher doesn't eat fish or even live near the ocean -- it dwells in ancient forests and eats all kinds of animals, even ferocious (and very spiny) porcupines. But as fierce as this predator is, it's no match for decades of aggressive old-growth logging that has decimated its habitat -- and before that, trapping for its luxurious fur. An added threat is posed by illegal marijuana cultivation, which uses rodenticides that poison the fisher.

Only two naturally occurring populations of the Pacific fisher now survive, one in the southern Sierra and another in southern Oregon and Northern California. A population was reintroduced into Washington in 2008.

Read more in Newsweek.

35,000 Walruses Haul Out on Alaska Beach

Walrus hauloutDwindling sea ice has forced the largest walrus crowd seen so far onto Alaska's beaches, where it hauled out near Point Lay, in the state's northwest, and was photographed last week. Sea ice serves as a floating platform, delivering walruses to rich feeding grounds and providing a place for them to rest between feeding, so when that ice disappears, walruses -- especially females and their calves -- have no choice but to flock to overcrowded beaches, where food is less plentiful and the risks to their survival (such as trampling and predation by bears) are far higher.

Climate change, which is driving sea-ice loss in the Arctic, is a major long-term threat to the survival of the Pacific walrus, among other irreplaceable northern species. The Center has been fighting for walruses since 2007, when we first filed a lawsuit over the federal government's failure to update stock assessments for these and other marine mammals.

See pictures of the mass haulout and read more at CNN.

Vote for the Center, Help Save Predators

Vote for Us at CREDOGreat news for wildlife -- especially wildlife high on the food chain. The progressive social action network CREDO has decided to make the Center the recipient of its "CREDOACTION" grant, which is distributed monthly to three worthy nonprofits. The money we receive will go toward our Predator Defense Fund to keep wolves from being hunted, trapped and exterminated. You can bet that part of this grant will specifically help us defend our recent courtroom victories cancelling the Wyoming wolf hunt and move forward with our lawsuit to stop Wildlife Services' predator slaughter in Idaho.

Getting the grant is a given -- but the amount of the grant depends on how many votes we get.

So please help: If you're a CREDO member (through its banking or phone services) you can vote online, call toll-free (877) 603-6863 to vote using its automated system, or text "VOTE" to 27336 (CREDO will text you instructions). If you're not already a member, you can still vote online -- just set up an account by checking the box to be a CREDO Action member and receive petitions from CREDO at its petition site CREDOACTION. You can also help by sharing this on social media.

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Check Out New Photos, Videos From Historic Climate March

People's Climate March in NYCWe're still buzzing about the historic People's Climate March last month, when 400,000 took to the streets of New York City to demand real action from our leaders to address the climate crisis.

The Center and our allies organized the People's Climate Train to carry nearly 200 spiritual leaders, community organizers, indigenous leaders and climate activists from San Francisco to New York City to join the march. We marched, sang, chanted and made our voices heard in New York.

When the dust settled from the largest march in the history of the climate movement, we stayed on to join the #FloodWallStreet protests, resulting in the arrest of Center cofounders Kierán Suckling and Peter Galvin (aka Frostpaw the Polar Bear) for nonviolent protest against Wall Street profiteering from climate change.

Check out these photo albums and videos for an inside look into these historic events:

The People's Climate Train Album and video.
The People's Climate March Album and video.
Frostpaw and the Center at #FloodWallStreet and video.

And check out a roundup of media coverage.

Climate, Population and War Create International Aid Crisis

António GuterresA new warning from United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres says that international aid agencies are reaching a breaking point as climate, population, environment and social justice crises converged to forcibly displace more than 51 million people worldwide in 2013.

"The impacts of climate change, of food insecurity, of water scarcity, of the multiplication of natural disasters, combined with population growth and urbanization, and their impacts on the global environment, all this is making humanitarian needs grow in a dramatic way," Guterres said.

Every day 32,000 people are displaced, dozens of wildlife species are lost forever, and 227,000 people are added to the planet. UN leaders are urging the international community to step up and address crises like climate change, hunger and unsustainable human population growth before they reach the tipping point.

Read more about how environmental problems are pushing the UN's humanitarian response capacity to its limit.

Wild & Weird: Historic Climate March, Epic Homeward Journey

People arrested at Flood Wall Street Everyone who marched in last month's historic People's Climate March came home with a story to tell. For Roberto Ortiz and Miguel Rodriguez -- two students from Goshen, a Mennonite liberal arts college in Indiana -- and their friend Nathan Overbey, just getting home became an epic journey.

On Sept. 21 the three marched along with 400,000 others. On Sept. 22 they spent a night in jail with two Center founders (one disguised as a polar bear). Then things got weird.

From The Record, the Goshen College student newspaper:

The two young men befriended many influential leaders while in jail, including Peter Galvin. ... The four slept in the car in Chinatown that night before driving to eastern Pennsylvania. Their car broke down. ...They attempted to buy a horse and buggy from an Amish woman, but eventually decided to buy bikes instead. ... Galvin wired them several hundred dollars ... The group suffered two bicycle breakdowns and hitchhiked several times. ... Ortiz and Miguel Rodriguez made plans to drop out of college and ride bicycle[s] to Argentina to start an activism group ... [but they] were convinced not to drop out by a call from Galvin offering the two students a job to organize a bicycle ride for climate action this summer if they stayed in college. ... "I was kind of rushing everything," admitted Ortiz. "I was trying to rush my plans to help the world."

Read more in The Record and find out more about why the Center's founders were willing to risk arrest at the People's Climate March.

Kierán Suckling
Executive Director

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Photo credits: Yellow-billed cuckoo courtesy Flickr/nebirdsplus; fracking rig courtesy Wikimedia Commons/BLM; Earthrise courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Bill Anders, NASA; wolves by John Pitcher; Pacific fisher courtesy Flickr/Bethany Weeks; walrus haulout courtesy USFWS; graphic courtesy CREDO; brown bear (c) Robin Silver, Center for Biological Diversity; People's Climate March by Marc Fink, Center for Biological Diversity; António Guterres courtesy Flickr/European Parliament; Flood Wall Street protestors by Marc Fink, Center for Biological Diversity.

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