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Center for Biological Diversity

No. 753, Dec. 18, 2014

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It's Time to Return Grizzlies to Central Idaho, Western Montana

Grizzly bearBack in 2000 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service finalized a plan to return grizzly bears to the Selway-Bitterroot ecosystem in central Idaho and western Montana. But that plan was scrapped shortly after President George W. Bush took office. So this morning the Center for Biological Diversity filed a legal petition to finally put that plan into action.

Scientists say the 26-million-acre ecosystem -- the largest contiguous area of suitable habitat for grizzlies in the western United States -- could support 300 to 600 bears and help curb genetic isolation for those living in and around Yellowstone National Park. Today's petition follows a Center report in June that identified 110,000 square miles of potential grizzly habitat in the West and called on the Obama administration to expand its grizzly recovery work.

"Grizzly bears live in less than 4 percent of their historic range and need to be reintroduced into the Selway-Bitterroot to have any shot at real recovery," said Center attorney Andrea Santarsiere, who lives in Idaho. "The Service has repeatedly committed to reestablishing a grizzly bear population in this region. We're just asking them to move forward with that commitment."

Read more in our press release.

Renowned Climate Scientist Honored With Center's E.O. Wilson Award

Dr. Aradhna TripatiThe Center this week presented the third annual E.O. Wilson Award for Outstanding Science in Biodiversity Conservation to Dr. Aradhna Tripati for her groundbreaking research on carbon dioxide's role in climate change.

Tripati's work revealed that the last time CO
2 levels were as high as they are today was 15 million to 20 million years ago, when the world's distribution of plants and animals was dramatically different, global temperatures were 5 to 10 degrees warmer, and the sea level was 75 to 120 feet higher than today.

The Center presents the E.O. Wilson Award annually to a scientist who has made an outstanding contribution to conservation. It's named after renowned biologist Edward O. Wilson of Harvard University, known as "the father of biodiversity."

"We are honored to present this award to Dr. Tripati, whose brilliant science gives climate deniers no wiggle room, demonstrating beyond doubt the links between carbon dioxide pollution, global climate change and the history of life on Earth," said Kierán Suckling, executive director of the Center.

Read more about Dr. Tripati in our press release.

New York Becomes Second State to Ban Fracking

Horizontal drilling rigAfter years of public pressure, New York this week became the second state to ban fracking because of risks to people and the environment. The announcement from Gov. Andrew Cuomo adds to the pressure on the Obama administration to end fracking across the country, including on America's public lands.

The federal government will soon issue the first-ever rules for fracking on public lands. The Center and a coalition of other environmental and consumer groups last year delivered President Barack Obama and the Bureau of Land Management more than 600,000 public comments on this issue. And in California, citing concerns about methane pollution and the potential to unearth vast amounts of dirty oil, leading climate scientists have called on Gov. Jerry Brown to halt fracking.

"New York just took a huge leap forward in protecting its people and wildlife from the dangers of fracking," said the Center's Kassie Siegel. "Now it's time for other leaders to follow, including President Obama and Gov. Jerry Brown in California."

Read more in The New York Times.

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West Coast Fishers in Desperate Need of Lifeline -- Take Action

Pacific fisherFishers are the only animals tough and clever enough to prey regularly on porcupines -- no easy feat. But thanks to historical trapping and continued logging and development of their old-growth forest homes, these ferocious critters are now in danger of disappearing all along the West Coast.

To help make sure that doesn't happen, the Center has been working in their corner for years. In 2000 we petitioned to list West Coast fishers as federally endangered -- and when the Fish and Wildlife Service said that help was "warranted but precluded," we went to court. In October 2014 a positive result came at last: Following our historic agreement to speed protection decisions for 757 species, the Service formally proposed to list fishers under the Endangered Species Act -- but not all fishers along the West Coast will be protected.

Act now to help make sure this wait wasn't all for naught; urge the Service to give these animals the protections they urgently need to recover.

The Ugly Truth: 5 Trillion Pieces of Plastic in World's Oceans

Loggerhead sea turtleSo how much plastic is in our oceans? A new study estimates there are about 5 trillion fragments -- about 20 times more than the number of stars in the Milky Way. Many of these plastic bits end up in giant swirling gyres like the Pacific Garbage Patch, which spreads across some 276,000 square miles (an area larger than Texas).

This plastic has deadly consequences for at least 267 marine species, including endangered animals like Pacific loggerhead turtles, Steller sea lions and Hawaiian monk seals. Ingesting plastic can result in the transfer of toxic contaminants; it can also cause intestinal injury, strangulation and death. These consequences affect the entire marine food chain, from mussels and snails to fish, seabirds and whales.

The Center petitioned the EPA to limit visible plastic pollution to zero and set strict limits on plastic bits in oceans and on beaches; some states have already taken action. We also petitioned the EPA to designate remote, plastic-strewn Hawaiian Islands as a Superfund site, and the EPA is now beginning to review the problem.

Read more in a Huffington Post op-ed by the Center's Oceans Director Miyoko Sakashita.

After Lima Climate Talks, Sec. Kerry Must Back End to Fossil Fuels -- Take Action

Secretary of State John KerryDespite high hopes, the climate talks ended this week in Lima, Peru, with disappointingly little progress toward a strong international agreement to rapidly cut greenhouse gas pollution.

But there is a silver lining: A proposal to end all fossil fuel use by 2050 emerged during the talks and gathered huge momentum. A rapid shift from dirty fuels to a clean-energy economy is critical to give us a chance to avoid global warming's most dangerous effects.

Dozens of countries support the proposal. And a group of Catholic bishops also urged an end to fossil fuel use to protect biodiversity and the planet's poorest people.

Now we need U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to back the plan. With 2014 on track to be the hottest year on record, U.S. negotiators must take a strong stance against fossil fuels as we approach the Paris summit next year.

Urge Sec. Kerry to support the "zero by 2050" plan and read more in this Huffington Post piece by the Center's Kassie Siegel.

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Emergency Help Sought to Save Miami Beetle From Shopping Mall -- Take Action

Miami tiger beetleThe Center just filed an emergency petition to protect an extremely rare Florida beetle that lives in only one place on Earth -- a site in Miami that could soon be occupied, instead, by a Walmart and theme park.

Miami tiger beetles got their name for their aggressive predatory behavior, strong mandibles and fast running speed. They were believed extinct until recent surveys found them in Miami-Dade County's beautiful Richmond pine rocklands, one of the rarest habitats in the United States.

Said the Center's Florida Director Jacki Lopez, "Now the only home of this amazing, gem-like creature is threatened with a shopping mall."

The Miami-Dade County commission is preparing to vote on a proposal that would call this rare habitat "blighted" and a "slum," which could grant a tax break to developers.

Check out our new webpage on the awesome Miami tiger beetle; then tell the commissioners the country is watching and won't let them get away with this unethical deal.

Study: Glacier Insect in Danger of Extinction

Western glacier stoneflyA recent study in Freshwater Science backs up a petition we filed with our friends at the Xerces Society back in 2010 to protect rare western glacier stoneflies under the Endangered Species Act -- and sadly, the flies are even rarer now than they were then. These ice-loving insects, which live nowhere else on Earth but Montana's Glacier National Park, are threatened by glacial retreat via climate change. They now exist, according to the study, in only one of the six streams they lived in three years ago.

Ice masses are projected to completely disappear in Glacier by 2030, leaving the stoneflies without their highly specific habitat: cold streams flowing from patches of glacial ice. As the climate warms, glaciers -- majestic remnants of the last Ice Age -- are melting away across the world.

In light of the new study's findings, the Center will prioritize the glacier stonefly for litigation in 2015 to obtain a 12-month finding on our petition.

Read more in the Los Angeles Times.

Wild & Weird: The Artful Designs of Male Pufferfish -- Watch Video

PufferfishMore than two years ago, underwater photographer Yoji Ookata solved a mystery. His photos proved that stunning underwater "crop circles" -- which had long been spotted nearly 100 feet below the sea off the coast of Japan -- are created by male pufferfish to woo females into mating and laying their eggs in the center of the design.

And now we have a new way to understand this awesome underwater art: A documentary series featuring Sir David Attenborough titled "Courtship" has captured the hand -- or rather, the fin -- of the aquatic and amorous artist at work.

Watch a male pufferfish perform his courtship craft at BBC.

Kierán Suckling
Executive Director

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Photo credits: Grizzly bear courtesy Flickr/vijay_SRV; Dr. Aradhna Tripati by Drew Bird,; horizontal drilling rig courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Meredithw; wolves by John Pitcher; Pacific fisher courtesy Flickr/Bethany Weeks; loggerhead sea turtle courtesy Flickr/Spyros Kapsaskis; John Kerry courtesy Flickr/Ralph Alswang; elephant courtesy Flickr/Matt Rudge; Miami tiger beetle (c) Chris Wirth; western glacier stonefly courtesy USGS, Joe Giersch; pufferfish courtesy Flickr/Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, Roy Kaltschmidt.

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