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Center for Biological Diversity

No. 744, Oct. 16, 2014

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Lawsuit Challenges Decision to Scrap Wolverine Protection

WolverineThe fight is on to get wolverines the protection they badly need. This week the Center for Biological Diversity and allies went to court to challenge the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's decision in August withdrawing plans to protected wolverines under the Endangered Species Act.

The estimated 250 to 300 remaining wolverines in the lower 48 face severe threats from global warming, which is shrinking the spring snowpack they need to build sheltered dens for their young. Global warming over the next 75 years is projected to wipe out 63 percent of wolverines' snowy habitat.

The Fish and Wildlife Service proposed to protect the animals under the Act in 2013, but after several states objected, a top administrator ordered the agency to withdraw the plan. Our lawsuit fights that decision -- since science, not politics, ought to determine which species get protected.

Read more in the Missoulian.

2014 Rubber Dodo Award -- Vote by Oct. 30

Rubber DodoIt's time to pick the most flagrant eco-villain of 2014 for the Center's Rubber Dodo Award, started in 2007 to spotlight those powerful people who've worked most rabidly and fervently to destroy wild creatures and wild places. Past Rubber Dodo winners include the infamous Koch brothers (2013), climate denier Sen. James Inhofe (2012), BP CEO Tony Hayward (2010) and polar bear foe Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (2008).

This year's nominees are:

U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services, which killed more than 2 million native animals in 2013 (a 30 percent increase over the previous year), using a combination of traps, poisons and guns to wipe out 320 gray wolves, 75,000 coyotes, 419 black bears, 866 bobcats and scores of other animals -- all with little accountability to the public.

Cliven Bundy, the Nevada rancher who stopped paying the federal government for grazing on public lands and then ignored court orders to remove his trespass cattle, setting off a standoff between law enforcement agencies and hundreds of armed anti-government supporters that ultimately resulted in the feds releasing his livestock.

Monsanto, the same corporation that brought us Agent Orange, and now leads the charge to patent genetically engineered seeds, including those resistant to its Roundup herbicide -- a uniquely potent killer of milkweed, the sole food of the caterpillars of monarch butterflies, which have declined by 90 percent in the last 20 years and are now in danger of extinction.

Rep. Doc Hastings (R.-Wash), a longtime ringleader in a group of right-wing Republicans tearing into the Endangered Species Act, including with a series of bills that would cripple the Act and give politicians, rather than scientists, more influence over which species get federal protection.

You be the judge: Which of these contenders most deserves this year's glamorous Rubber Dodo title? Cast your vote now.

Protection Sought for 16 Amphibians, Reptiles

Western pond turtleThe Center has filed a notice of intent to sue the Fish and Wildlife Service for its failure to decide on protections for 16 rare California amphibians and reptiles.

All 16 species -- the western pond turtle, southern rubber boa, western spadefoot toad, foothill yellow-legged frog, Colorado Desert fringe-toed lizard, sandstone night lizard and nine salamanders -- are threatened by habitat loss and many other human-caused threats, from toxic pesticides to climate change. Although amphibians and reptiles have been around for hundreds of millions of years, they're now declining at up to 10,000 times the historic extinction rate, and nearly 1 in 4 is at risk of extinction, experts say.

The Center first petitioned to protect the 16 species in 2012, joined by several renowned scientists, including E.O. Wilson. More than 200 scientists signed a letter backing our petition.

Get more from Capital Public Radio.

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Suit Fights California Plan to Increase Bomb Train Traffic

Oil trainKern County's approval of a massive refinery and rail project -- which will pollute California's San Joaquin Valley and increase the risk of train wrecks involving explosive Bakken crude oil -- drew a lawsuit from the Center and allies last week.

The dangerous and destructive Alon Bakersfield Refinery Crude Flexibility Project, approved by the county board in September, would bring two mile-long trains a day snaking through the Sierra Mountains past numerous communities and schools. Derailments and explosions involving Bakken crude have been increasing as production has ramped up; in 2013 an explosion destroyed much of downtown Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, killing 47 people.

The environmental study prepared by the county's board of supervisors, our suit points out, severely underestimated the risks from increased pollution and the likelihood of catastrophic accidents along the rail routes.

"This dangerous plan would send huge trains full of explosive crude through California communities completely unprepared to cope with a devastating rail accident," said the Center's Kassie Siegel.

Learn more from Reuters.

Last Day to Stop Idaho's Wildlife-killing Contest -- Take Action

CoyoteThe bloodlust in Idaho continues -- the latest example coming from a small wolf-hating group called "Idaho for Wildlife." The misnamed group is now asking the BLM for a five-year permit to conduct competitive wildlife-killing "contests" on 3.1 million acres of federal public land near Salmon, Idaho, including 17 wilderness study areas and 12 other areas designated sensitive.

If this permit is granted, each winter over the next five years -- beginning in January -- hundreds of contestants will head out into the woods to slaughter as many wolves, coyotes, weasels, skunks, jackrabbits and raccoons as they can for cash and prizes.

This ugly "derby" is opposed by nearly all of the public that has commented so far -- and yet the BLM is still moving forward with its proposal. Act now and demand that the BLM stop this horrific contest from taking place on our public lands. Today is the last day for comment.

EPA OKs Potent Pesticide Product Dangerous to Monarchs, Bats

Monarch caterpillarThe Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday approved a powerful new pesticide product called "Enlist Duo" -- despite warnings from the Center that it could hurt more than 20 endangered species. Neglecting its legal duty to consult with the Fish and Wildlife Service about its impacts on wildlife, the EPA hastily gave the go-ahead for this product, a combination of 2,4-D and glyphosate.

"This was an unbelievably foolish decision -- Enlist Duo will harm dozens of endangered species, and is another nail in the coffin for the monarch butterfly," said the Center's Brett Hartl.

Other species in harm's way by Enlist Duo are Indiana bats, minnows called Topeka shiners, American burying beetles, Hine's emerald dragonflies and Karner blue butterflies.

Read more in our press release.

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Federal Watchdog: Less Talk, More Action on Ocean Acidification

Coral reefThe Government Accountability Office this week called out federal agencies for not taking enough coordinated action to combat ocean acidification. And it's true: While government action has lagged, some 22 million tons of carbon dioxide are absorbed by our oceans every day, setting off a chemical reaction that makes seawater more acidic. This pollution -- much of it from cars, power plants and other human sources -- puts corals, oysters, fish and other ocean animals in danger.

"While it's vital that we study ocean acidification, what the GAO report points out is that it isn't enough," said the Center's Miyoko Sakashita. "The real-life impact of the government's failure to take action on ocean acidification is that our marine ecosystems are falling apart. Already we've seen massive oyster dieoffs, coral reefs staring to crumble, and plankton at the base of the food web dissolving off California."

Read more in The Hill.

Vote for the Center, Help Save Predators

Vote for Us at CREDODon't forget: 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.

The amount we get depends on how many votes we get.

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. Thanks to all who've already voted in support.

Wild & Weird: Pinkwashing the Fracking Industry

Pink drillbitSusan G. Komen for the Cure, the breast cancer foundation with the ubiquitous pink ribbon, recently partnered with a multinational oilfield-services company to promote, through the creation of hot-pink drill bits, what amounts to "Fracking for a Cure." Can you say "tunnel vision"?

According to Bill Debo, director of operations for U.S. land drill bits at Baker Hughes: "... Each steel bit -- weighing 85 to 260 pounds -- is painted by hand at the company's drill bit manufacturing facility ... and then shipped to the drill site in a pink-topped container containing information packets with breast health facts, including breast cancer risk factors and screening tips."

Instead of stopping to think about all the other negative health effects of fracking, Komen's spokesperson asserts that there is "no evidence to establish a connection between fracking and breast cancer." Chalk up yet another egregious faux pas in Komen's storied history of promoting pinkwashed products.

Read more in Salon.

Kierán Suckling
Executive Director

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Photo credits: Wolverine courtesy Flickr/NH53; rubber dodo; western pond turtle courtesy Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife; wolves by John Pitcher; oil train courtesy Flickr/Roy Luck; coyote courtesy Flickr/Emmanuel Huybrechts; monarch caterpillar courtesy Flickr/Vicki DeLoach; brown bear (c) Robin Silver, Center for Biological Diversity; coral reef courtesy Flickr/WorldFish, David Burdick; graphic courtesy CREDO; pink drillbit via EcoWatch.

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