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Center for Biological Diversity

No. 751, Dec. 4, 2014

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226 Million Acres of Protected Habitat Proposed for Alaska Seals

Ringed sealThe future of Alaska's ringed seals just got brighter. On Tuesday the feds proposed to protect more than 226 million acres of critical habitat for these ice seals, who are being hit hard by global warming. If finalized, the protected area -- more than twice the size of California -- would be the biggest critical habitat designation in history.

Ringed seals were protected under the Endangered Species Act in 2012 as a result of a Center for Biological Diversity petition. As the Arctic warms, the sea ice these seals rely on is breaking up earlier and snow caves are collapsing, killing their pups. The proposed habitat protections, set to be finalized in December 2015, would target Alaska's Bering, Chukchi and Beaufort seas.

"We're thrilled that ringed seals are getting the habitat protections they so desperately need as their sea-ice home melts beneath them," said the Center's Shaye Wolf. "Now the Obama administration needs to make these protections count by reducing the greenhouse gas pollution that's rapidly making the Arctic uninhabitable for ringed seals and other ice-dependent animals."

Get more from CBS News.

Killing Contests for Coyotes, Other 'Furbearers' Banned in California -- Thanks

CoyoteIn a win for some of our more plentiful and humble mammals, California's Fish and Game Commission voted Wednesday to prohibit hunting contests that target species like coyotes, raccoons and badgers, classified by the state as "nongame mammals" or "furbearers" that can be killed in any number without limit. The ban on killing contests came after thousands of Californians, including Center members and supporters, expressed opposition to these events.

The commission's decision to ban these competitions was based, in part, on its recognition that subjecting these species to contest hunts does not reflect good sportsmanship. The vote didn't ban contest hunts of species that are designated as game mammals, such as deer and elk.

"We're grateful that the commissioners responded to the public's call for science-based, ethical and ecologically sound stewardship of California's wildlife," said the Center's Amaroq Weiss. "Banning contests that reward people, including children, for killing animals is the right thing to do."

Read more in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Suit Filed to Save Tiny, Rare Desert Owl

Cactus ferruginous pygmy owlsThe Center has once again filed suit in defense of the Southwest's tiny pygmy owl, one of the most endangered owls in the world. Even though the owl's southern Arizona population is down to just 50 individuals, it has been denied the Endangered Species Act protection it needs due to a new Obama administration policy that makes it far more difficult to protect an imperiled species in important portions of its range.

The cactus ferruginous pygmy owl is small enough to fit in a human hand -- yet it's a fierce predator, often hunting by day. It's most threatened by urban sprawl and agriculture. The bird's original Center-won safeguards were stripped from it in 2007, so with allies we petitioned again that year. But the Obama policy enacted recently sets a much higher bar for federal protection by requiring not only that a species be endangered in a portion of its range, but also that the loss of that portion threatens the survival of the species as a whole.

Our new lawsuit seeks to ensure that pygmy owls don't vanish from the Sonoran Desert.

Read more in the Tucson Sentinel.

With Rising Oil Transport on the Hudson, Feds Re-examine Response Plans

Piping ploverResponding to a lawsuit by the Center, the U.S. Coast Guard and the EPA have agreed to look at how oil-response actions in the Hudson River and New York Bay may affect endangered wildlife like Atlantic sturgeon, piping plovers and green sea turtles.

Over the past three years, the Hudson has become a major corridor for moving crude oil by ship and rail. The Center went to court seeking a review of spill-response plans in light of a significant increase in the region's oil shipments; the Coast Guard and EPA will now work with federal wildlife agencies to ensure that spill responses, including the use of chemical oil dispersants, don't harm 17 species that are protected under the Endangered Species Act.

The dramatic rise of crude oil transport along the Hudson River makes a devastating oil spill almost inevitable. If a spill happens, we shouldn't add insult to injury by hurting fish, turtles and other endangered wildlife during the cleanup.

Read more in our press release.

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Emergency Protection for California's Tricolored Blackbirds

Tricolored blackbirdTricolored blackbirds form the largest nesting colonies of any North American land bird -- but their population has plummeted 63 percent over the past six years alone. The California Fish and Game Commission enacted emergency protections for the species on Wednesday in response to a Center petition, listing the birds under the state's Endangered Species Act.

Tricolored blackbirds once formed colonies of millions in the Central Valley but have declined dramatically with the destruction of their wetland and grassland homes. They're also being hurt by shooting and pesticides, as well as mowing and harvest of certain cropland areas where they began nesting after their natural breeding sites were destroyed.

"The commission has finally heard the warnings from biologists and conservationists," said the Center's Jeff Miller. "It's crucial that harvesting and plowing activities on private lands used for tricolor breeding are prohibited or delayed during the upcoming 2015 nesting season -- and that prohibitions on shooting are enforced."

Read more in our press release.

Skin-eating Fungus Devouring World's Salamanders -- Take Action

Blue Ridge two-lined salamanderOver the past several decades, the world has seen hundreds of species of frogs and toads disappear because of the spread of a deadly chytrid fungus. Now, unleashed by the pet trade, a similar skin-eating fungus in Europe called Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans (literally "devouring salamanders") threatens to wipe out America's many salamanders and newts.

Fortunately the new fungus hasn't yet reached the United States -- but if it does invade, there'll be almost no stopping it. The fatality rate for salamanders is 96 percent.

Act now to help block this threat and save our slimy friends. Urge the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to use its power under the Lacey Act to suspend all imports of salamanders not certified to be free of this deadly fungus.

Nearly 20 Maine Lynx Caught in Traps This Fall, One Killed Outright

Canada lynxA Canada lynx has been killed by a trap in Maine, and nearly 20 others have been caught in traps this fall -- including five or six since federal approval last month of a state trapping plan strongly criticized by the Center and our allies. A previous study of radio-collared lynx in Maine showed that, after being caught by trappers, three out of six lynx died within a month.

The state had sought a federal permit for "incidental take" of lynx; court-approved protections stemming from a 2007 lawsuit were in place until that permit was issued Nov. 4. The new plan allows more types of trapping activity, including larger, more harmful traps and snares.

"There are only a few hundred lynx left in Maine and they're increasingly finding themselves caught in these painful traps. That's no way to help a threatened species," said the Center's Mollie Matteson.

Read more in our press release.

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Lawsuit Launched Against Offshore Fracking in California

Offshore oil platformThe Center this morning filed a notice of intent to sue the U.S. Interior Department for violating three federal laws by rubber-stamping offshore fracking in the wildlife-rich waters of California's Santa Barbara Channel. Government officials are letting oil companies frack in federal waters off the state's coast with no public notice or analysis of serious threats to coastal communities, blue whales and other marine wildlife.

The oil industry even has federal permission to dump more than 9 billion gallons of wastewater -- including chemical-laden fracking fluid -- into the ocean every year. At least 10 fracking chemicals routinely used offshore in California could kill or harm marine species. Many also threaten human health.

"The federal government is turning a blind eye as offshore fracking threatens to poison California's beaches and beautiful coastal waters," said the Center's Miyoko Sakashita. "We need an immediate halt to offshore fracking before chemical contamination or an oil spill devastates our coastal communities and kills endangered marine wildlife."

Read more in our press release.

New Novel Out From Center Writer -- Read Mermaids in Paradise

Are mermaids an endangered species? In a just-released novel by Center Staff Writer Lydia Millet, yes -- yes, they are.

In this engaging piece of dark humor, a honeymooning couple Deb and Chip visit a tropical island to discover that some coral reefs harbor not only damselfish, but mermaids -- and these creatures' coral habitat faces a threat no other reef has: becoming a theme park for tourists. Joining forces with other vacationers -- including a hipster Tokyo VJ and an ex–Navy SEAL with a love of explosives -- Deb and Chip set out to save these mermaids and preserve the paradise that remains where they live.

Besides being a long-time Center staffer, Lydia's also a Pulitzer Prize finalist and PEN-USA award winner. Laura Miller calls her "the funniest literary writer you may never have read."

Check out Miller's review in Salon and buy the book here.

Wild & Weird: The Barbra Streisand Climate Conspiracy

Barbra StreisandDecember 2009, Copenhagen: Thousands of scientists, activists and policymakers gather for the U.N. Conference on Climate Change to discuss strategy and the Kyoto Protocol. The outcome of the conference -- labeled a "weak political statement" by the media and signed by the United States, China, India, Brazil and South Africa -- was the Copenhagen Accord, a document that does not contain any legally binding commitments for anything, including reducing CO2 emissions.

Enter Oklahoma Senator Jim Inhofe, a vocal climate change denier -- known to himself as "the one-man truth squad" -- to set the record straight for mobs of reporters.

Reporter: "...Scientists, heads of state, government officials, policy experts ... believe that climate change is a serious and pressing threat and that something must be done soon. Do you believe that they have all been fooled?"

Inhofe: "Yes."

Reporter: "That's some hoax ... who has engineered the scam?"

Inhofe: "Barbra Streisand."

Read more about the Streisand conspiracy theory in Mother Jones and check out New Republic to find out how Inhofe's now fast-tracked to be the most powerful senator on environmental affairs.

Kierán Suckling
Executive Director

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Photo credits: Ringed seal courtesy Flickr/yasa_; coyote courtesy Flickr/Emmanuel Huybrechts; cactus ferruginous pygmy owls courtesy NPS; piping plover courtesy USFWS, Northeast Region; wolves by John Pitcher; tricolored blackbird courtesy Flickr/Alan Vernon; Blue Ridge two-lined salamander by Bill Peterman III; Canada lynx courtesy Flickr/Eric Kilby; elephant courtesy Flickr/Matt Rudge; offshore oil platform courtesy Flickr/arbyreed; Mermaids in Paradise jacket design by David J. High,; Barbra Streisand courtesy Flickr/Jonathan Tommy.

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