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Center for Biological Diversity

No. 756, Jan. 8, 2015

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Victory: Feds to Enforce Seafood Standards to Help Whales, Dolphins

DolphinsIn a groundbreaking legal settlement won by the Center for Biological Diversity and allies, the U.S. government this week agreed to adopt new rules ensuring that seafood imported to the United States meets high standards for protecting whales and dolphins. The new rules will finally implement a 40-year-old provision in the Marine Mammal Protection Act requiring that foreign fisheries meet the same mammal-protection standards required of U.S. fishing fleets. The decision is the result of a decade of difficult work and will keep thousands of animals out of deadly nets.

Each year more than 650,000 whales, dolphins and other marine mammals are caught and killed in fishing gear. These animals are unintentional "bycatch" of commercial fisheries and either drown outright or are tossed overboard to die from their injuries.

"The new regulations will force other countries to step up and meet U.S. conservation standards -- saving hundreds of thousands of whales and dolphins from dying on hooks and in fishing nets around the world," said the Center's Sarah Uhlemann. "The U.S. government has finally recognized that all seafood consumed in the United States must be dolphin safe."

Read more in our press release.

After 90 Percent Decline, Monarchs Take Wing Toward Protection

Monarch butterflyMonarch butterflies have cleared their first hurdle toward Endangered Species Act protection. In response to a summer 2014 petition by the Center and allies, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has declared that safeguards may be warranted, and the agency is now embarking on a one-year review of the species' status.

The iconic monarch -- known as a familiar backyard beauty across the United States -- was once one of the most common butterflies of North America, noted for its spectacular multigenerational migration each year from Mexico to Canada and back. But in the past 20 years it has declined by 90 percent. That's largely due to the widespread planting of genetically engineered crops in the Midwest (where most monarchs are born) and the use there of Monsanto's Roundup herbicide, a potent killer of milkweed, the monarch caterpillar's only food.

"The Endangered Species Act is the most powerful tool available to save North America's monarchs," said Center scientist Tierra Curry. "So I'm really happy that these amazing butterflies are a step closer to the protection they so desperately need."

Read more in The Washington Post.

Long-wandering Female Wolf Shot in Utah

Grand Canyon wolfThree days after Christmas a gray wolf was shot dead in Utah by a hunter who said he'd mistaken her for a coyote (despite her radio collar). Genetic test results aren't in yet, but she may be "Echo," the lone wolf who was sighted at Grand Canyon this fall -- the first of her kind to visit the canyon in 70 years.

Wolves are an endangered species in Utah, but the Justice Department has systematically failed to enforce the Endangered Species Act when it comes to illegal shootings of animals taken to be unprotected species. Dozens of wolves wandering far from home to find mates have been killed in recent years -- at least 11 of them mistaken for coyotes.

"It's heartbreaking that another wolf has been cut down with a fatal gunshot," said the Center's Michael Robinson. "Wolves in Utah deserve real, on-the-ground protection. That means keeping them on the endangered species list, spreading the word about their presence as an endangered species, prosecuting those who kill them, and developing a science-based recovery plan."

Read more in The Washington Post.

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Obama Promises Veto of Bill Approving Keystone XL Pipeline

President Barack ObamaGood news for our climate future: The Obama administration pledged on Tuesday to veto an upcoming bill forcing approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, which if completed would carry as much as 35 million gallons of oil strip-mined from Canada's "tar sands" every day to the Gulf of Mexico. The announcement came as the new Republican-led Congress was sworn in and promised to make Keystone a top priority in the first part of this session.

The president has already said he won't approve Keystone XL if it significantly exacerbates the problem of carbon pollution; his administration's statement this week sets up a likely showdown with Congress.

"It's encouraging to see President Obama stand up to the bullies in Congress who want to ram this project through," said Center cofounder Peter Galvin. "Keystone would be a disaster for our climate and wildlife, so here's hoping this is his first step toward killing this project once and for all."

Get more from Democracy Now!

Idaho Predator Derby Fizzles After Earthquake

CoyoteThis month near the town of Salmon, Idaho, Mother Nature made a ground-trembling statement right in the middle of the region's second annual "predator derby." That's right: An earthquake shook the area where people were out gunning for coyotes and wolves on the second day of the controversial three-day event.

The shooting fizzled out soon after. About 30 coyotes were killed, unfortunately, but no wolves. "After the earthquake, it was difficult to call in the animals," said one of the organizers.

The predator derby had already sparked major controversy. After opposition by the Center and supporters, it was banned from local BLM lands; BLM officials reported more than 95,000 complaints about the derby.

The $1,000 set aside for the shooter who killed the most wolves was donated to an area food bank instead.

Read more in Newsweek.

Meat Industry Fights Sustainable Dietary Guidelines -- Take Action

CowYou may have only vague memories of the food pyramid -- or its more recent iteration, "MyPlate" -- but federal "Dietary Guidelines" are used to create menus in schools, prisons, government cafeterias and military facilities, so they have a big influence on our country's environmental foodprint. The committee updating the guidelines for release later this year has been discussing, for the first time ever, how American diets can improve both our health and the planet's.

Since high-meat diets are inherently unsustainable, this has been making the meat industry nervous. And lo and behold, last month Congress slipped a line into the spending bill urging the Obama administration to leave environmental concerns out of the food guidelines. Under meat-industry pressure, the U.S. Department of Agriculture started to back down, saying sustainability might not make the cut in the new dietary recommendations after all.

Check out the Center's comments on the dietary-guidelines controversy in our press release, then tell the Obama administration to keep sustainability on the menu.

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Lawsuit Launched to Protect Rare Flowers From Oil Development

Graham's beardtongueThe Center and six other conservation groups have launched a legal fight over the Fish and Wildlife Service's decision to deny Endangered Species Act protection to two imperiled wildflowers in Utah and Colorado. The agency proposed to protect the White River and Graham's beardtongues in August 2013 after determining that more than 90 percent of their populations were threatened by oil and gas development.

But the Service reversed course in August 2014, withholding protection in favor of a last-minute, voluntary conservation agreement among federal, state and local agencies. Both flowers, which live only in shale outcroppings in northeastern Utah and northwestern Colorado, have been waiting decades for protection -- while the threats around them increase.

Said the Center's Lori Ann Burd, "These beautiful and rare flowers are threatened with extinction, and all the government can muster is a strictly voluntary plan to keep them alive? That just won't cut it."

Read more in The Salt Lake Tribune.

Wild & Weird: Cryptozoological Map of the United States

BigfootIf snapping blurry nature photos of cryptozoological species -- say, Bigfoot or the Chupacabra -- is your passion, you may want to reference "Monsters in America," a new map that points to the general habitat location of 32 cryptids.

Heading to Florida for a winter vacation? Then stop off in the Everglades to track the elusive and musky Skunk Ape. The Pope Lick Monster -- part man, part goat, part sheep -- reported to live under a railway trestle in Louisville, Ky., and the Mogollon Monster of Arizona should also be on the itinerary of any worthy cryptozoological roadtrip.

Or maybe sighting all 32 of these creatures is on your bucket list. Don't forget to send us your best blurry pics.

Check out the map now.

Kierán Suckling
Executive Director

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Photo credits: Dolphins courtesy Flickr/Willy Volk; monarch butterfly by Sue Barnett; Grand Canyon wolf courtesy Arizona Department of Fish and Game; wolves by John Pitcher; President Obama courtesy Flickr/summonedbyfells; coyote by Tom Koerner, USFWS; cow courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Pikaluk; elephant courtesy Flickr/Matt Rudge; Graham's beardtongue courtesy USFWS; bigfoot courtesy Hog Island Press.

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