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Center for Biological Diversity

No. 752, Dec. 11, 2014

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Rare Atlantic Shorebird Wins Federal Protection

Red knotThe red knot -- a robin-sized bird that makes 9,300-mile migrations -- has won Endangered Species Act protection under the Center for Biological Diversity's 757 species agreement. This epic traveler depends on horseshoe crabs' eggs for the energy it needs to make its twice-yearly trips between South America and the Canadian Arctic. Thus, as crab populations decline due to harvest by the fishing and biomedical industries, so do the red knot's. The bird is also threatened by habitat destruction and climate change.

In 2005 environmental groups petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for emergency protection of the species, but the agency stuck the bird on the "candidate" list, where it languished for nearly a decade. Now, because of the Center's 2011 agreement, the Service has finalized protection for this singular bird.

"With the decision to protect the red knot, our children and grandchildren just may have the chance to marvel at one of nature's greatest spectacles -- the marathon migration of the red knot," said the Center's Mollie Matteson.

Read more in the Wisconsin Gazette.

$25,000 Reward Offered in Beating Death of Hawaiian Monk Seal

Hawaiian monk sealIt's happened again: Another endangered Hawaiian monk seal has been found bludgeoned to death. It's the ninth suspicious death of a monk seal since 2009; some have been cruelly beaten, others shot.

There are fewer than 1,000 Hawaiian monk seals left in the wild, so each killing pushes them closer to the brink. The story of the latest victim, a young female monk seal known as RF58, is heartbreaking: Born in June, she survived a dog attack only a month later and was soon coming into her breeding years with the promise of helping this struggling species. She was found dead Nov. 30 on a beach in Kauai.

The Center, which has been working for years to save these rare seals, is teaming with local groups in offering a $25,000 reward for information on RF58's killer.

Read more in this Huffington Post piece by the Center's Miyoko Sakashita.

Victory: California's "Redwood Curtain" Saved From Highway Project

RedwoodsFollowing years of opposition from the Center and allies, the California Department of Transportation has withdrawn its controversial highway-widening project that would endanger ancient redwood trees in Richardson Grove State Park, a beautiful old-growth forest in Northern California.

Richardson Grove, often called the "Redwood Curtain," is the first old-growth forest travelers encounter driving north along Highway 101 in Humboldt County. It's crucial habitat for numerous rare species and an irreplaceable landmark. But Caltrans wanted to cut into the roots of ancient redwoods to widen the highway to allow massive trucks through the quiet grove -- endangering both trees and forest dwellers.

The Center and our partners have sued three times, forcing Caltrans to reevaluate its scheme -- and now, after a 2014 suit, the agency has rescinded its most recent proposal.

The Center is ready to go back to court if Caltrans revives the project.

Read more in The Press Democrat.

Congress Attacking Sage Grouse, Public Lands, Human Health

Greater sage grouseThis is a dangerous time in Congress, the winter stretch between elections and a new batch of incoming politicians. We're already seeing a rash of troubling provisions that threaten people, wildlife and public lands.

In a military spending bill, one provision would pave the way for a land swap on national forest land in Arizona to accommodate a copper mine; another would automatically renew grazing permits on public lands without any consideration for how the grazing will affect rivers, streams, wildlife and pristine habitat.

In an omnibus spending bill, a rider would prohibit funds to help save greater sage grouse, Gunnison sage grouse and Mono Basin sage grouse from extinction. Still another rider would prohibit the EPA from regulating toxic lead hunting ammunition that kills millions of birds and other wildlife each year and poses a danger to those who eat meat shot with lead ammo.

"All of these are part of a broad, sustained attack on laws that protect our wildlife and public health," said the Center's Randi Spivak. Stay tuned for more updates.

Read more about the military spending bill and the sage grouse rider in our press releases.

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Anti-fracking Protesters Rally Outside Lease Sale in Reno -- Thank You

Fracking protest in Reno, NVAbout two dozen protesters, organized by the Center and the Frack-Free Nevada Coalition, rallied outside the Bureau of Land Management office in Reno, Nev., on Tuesday to oppose the auction of fracking leases on more than 189,000 acres of public land in Lincoln and Nye counties.

Fracking uses huge volumes of water, mixed with sand and dangerous chemicals, to blast open rock formations and release oil and gas. The controversial technique is being proposed on hundreds of thousands of acres of public lands managed by the BLM across Nevada.

"The fracking industry wants to get its hands on Nevada, but while they reap profits, our wildlife and water supplies will pay the price," said Daniel Patterson, who runs the Center's Nevada office.

Thanks to all of you who answered the call to protest the lease sale. We can enjoy at least a partial victory: Only 473 acres have been leased so far. Read more in the Los Angeles Times.

Lawyers Square Off to Save Okinawa Dugongs From Military Airstrip

DugongLawyers are in federal court in San Francisco today in our historic case to stop construction of a U.S. military airstrip in Okinawa, Japan, that would pave over some of the last remaining habitat for endangered Okinawa dugongs, gentle marine mammals related to manatees.

Our case, filed by Earthjustice this summer on behalf of the Center and other American and Japanese conservation groups, is the latest in the long-running controversy over the expansion of a U.S. Marine base at Henoko Bay. There were an estimated 50 Okinawa dugongs left in the world in 1997; today there are probably just a few dozen.

The Center has been fighting for more than a decade to save these vanishing dugongs.

"These gentle animals are adored by both locals and tourists. Paving over some of the last places they survive will not only likely be a death sentence for them, it will be a deep cultural loss for the Okinawan people," said the Center's Peter Galvin.

Read more in our press release.

Mexican Wolf Rule Dogged by Special Interests -- Take Action

Mexican gray wolfSince Mexican wolves were first reintroduced into the southwestern United States in 1998, flawed management has prevented the population from flourishing. Now wolves are finally set to get a new rule intended to improve their situation, but that rule has several tragic flaws.

If the Fish and Wildlife Service has its way, Mexican wolves will be banned from the Grand Canyon and southern Rockies -- both areas scientists say are vital to their recovery. The agency also seeks to appease livestock owners by making it easier to kill wolves. If the population ever grows beyond 325 in Arizona and New Mexico combined, every wolf above that number will be removed or gunned down.

Although the rule will significantly expand the areas where wolves could be released and roam -- thanks to 13 years of Center advocacy -- wolves will not be allowed north of Interstate 40 into areas they need to break the cycle of inbreeding.

Act now to urge the Service to let wolves live and roam free and abandon its arbitrary cap on wolf numbers.

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Lawsuit Launched to Protect 17 Amphibians, Reptiles in Southeast

Florida scrub lizardThe Center this week filed a notice of intent to sue the Fish and Wildlife Service for failing to decide whether 17 increasingly rare amphibians and reptiles in the Southeast should be considered for Endangered Species Act protection.

In July 2012 the Center petitioned to protect alligator snapping turtles, six snake species, the Carolina gopher frog, the Cedar Key mole skink, the Florida scrub lizard and seven lungless salamanders. All of them are threatened with extinction because of habitat loss and other factors. The government has missed its deadline for deciding whether our petition will move forward.

"There's broad scientific consensus that amphibians and reptiles face a profound, human-driven extinction crisis that requires prompt action," said the Center's Collette Adkins Giese. "The Endangered Species Act has a nearly perfect record of stopping animals from going extinct -- it's hands-down our best tool for saving these guys."

Read more in USA TODAY.

Scientists Urge Federal Protection of Northern Long-eared Bats

Northern long-eared batThe fungal disease "white-nose syndrome" has devastated northern long-eared bats, wiping out 99 percent of the population in their core range. So more than 80 scientists sent a letter Monday urging the Fish and Wildlife Service to finalize last year's proposal to fully protect them under the Endangered Species Act. Scientists are gravely concerned that the agency may be on the brink of caving to special interests to give the bats only "threatened" instead of "endangered" status -- which would let companies continue to log, mine and otherwise destroy bat habitat.

In the eight years since the white-nose epidemic arrived in upstate New York, it has spread to 25 states and five Canadian provinces, killing bats of six different species -- about 7 million animals at last count. The northern long-eared bat has been the most severely affected species, and in the Northeast it has nearly disappeared.

Only the western states and Canadian provinces are still unaffected by the fungal epidemic, and most researchers expect these regions will eventually become infected too.

Read more in our press release.

Wild & Weird: Anaconda Fear-mongering

AnacondaLast Sunday the Discovery Channel's controversial special "Eaten Alive," which promised that a chainmail-clad man would be willingly swallowed and regurgitated (alive) by a 25-foot anaconda, was its most popular nature show in years: 4.1 million viewers tuned in.

If you didn't see it, don't bother. Human guinea pig Paul Rosolie didn't get eaten alive, and the show was pure snake fear-mongering. Onscreen experts discussed the anaconda's predatory tactics in sensationalist, silly terms -- but as ecologist David Steen noted in a live tweet during the show, anacondas have caused no known human fatalities. And according to anaconda researcher Jesús Rivas, the act of swallowing an adult human would risk an anaconda's life.

Fortunately, Discovery received a mouthful of angry letters from viewers -- admittedly, most of them just unhappy that the subject hadn't been swallowed as promised. But many also found the show bad for conservation and for anaconda welfare.

Check out Stephen Colbert's take on the snake shockumentary.

Kierán Suckling
Executive Director

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Photo credits: Red knot courtesy Flickr/Ron Knight; Hawaiian monk seal courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Mark Sullivan; redwoods courtesy Flickr/wolf4max; greater sage grouse courtesy Flickr/NDomer73; wolves by John Pitcher; fracking protest by Daniel Patterson, Center for Biological Diversity; dugong courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Julien Willem; Mexican gray wolf courtesy deviantart/lynnkitchell; elephant courtesy Flickr/Matt Rudge; Florida scrub lizard courtesy Flickr/Todd Pierson; northern long-eared bat courtesy USFWS; anaconda courtesy Flickr/Silvain de Munck.

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