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Center for Biological Diversity

No. 758, Jan. 22, 2015

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Mr. President: 5 Ways to Start Fixing the Climate in 2015

Polar bearsPresident Obama certainly got this right in his State of the Union speech on Tuesday: "No challenge poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change."

But it's time for action to match words. Just hours before the president's speech, the Center for Biological Diversity released a statement covering the five most important things he needs to do in 2015 to combat global warming. They are: backing an international plan to end all fossil fuel use by 2050; rejecting Keystone XL, Arctic drilling and other destructive energy projects; strengthening power plant pollution rules; cutting methane pollution from oil and gas production; and banning new fossil fuel leasing on public lands and in our oceans.

"The global climate crisis won't be solved by rhetoric and grand speeches but by hard work and the courage to do what's right," said Kierán Suckling, the Center's executive director. "As the Obama presidency enters its final chapter, he faces a pivotal choice: finally take the ambitious action needed to stem climate disruption or continue a series of baby steps that will ultimately fail to avert disaster."

Read more in our press release.

Nearly 8,000 Acres Proposed to Save Florida Plants

Florida semaphore cactusAs part of a settlement with the Center, the feds this week proposed to protect nearly 8,000 acres for two Florida plants threatened by sea-level rise. If the proposal is finalized, more than 4,400 acres will be protected for the Florida semaphore cactus -- which may already be declining because of rising seas -- and some 3,400 acres will be protected for the aboriginal prickly apple, which has already had many of its coastal sites wiped out.

Both plants were protected under the Endangered Species Act in 2014 as the result of a Center petition and lawsuit.

"These native plants are being squeezed out of existence -- pressed between coastal development and rising sea levels," said Jaclyn Lopez, the Center's Florida director. "Habitat protection under the Endangered Species Act will not only save them from extinction but will help to spur South Florida's planning for the rising seas that threaten life as we know it on our coasts."

Read more in our press release.

New York Times Op-ed: "High Noon for the Gray Wolf"

Gray wolf pupMonday's New York Times ran an op-ed by Center Staff Writer Lydia Millet stressing the vital importance of maintaining federal protections for gray wolves. The column discussed wolves' troubled history in the lower 48 states and their journey toward a tenuous recovery. In the face of both a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service plan to remove all remaining wolf protection and congressional animosity toward both this species and the Endangered Species Act, Lydia urged President Obama to maintain the Act's protections for these beautiful animals.

"A unified wolf-recovery plan for the nation is required," she wrote. "Not only do wolves play an important role in keeping wilderness wild, but they were here long before we were and deserve to remain. Not for nothing was the environmentalist Aldo Leopold transformed by the sight of a 'fierce green fire' in a dying wolf's eyes."

Read the full op-ed.

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2014's Record Heat = We Need a Fossil Fuel Phaseout Now

Dry riverbedAs pressure builds on the Obama administration to back an international push to end almost all fossil fuel use by 2050, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration made a major announcement: 2014 was the hottest year on record.

Rising global temperatures are already contributing to increasing risk of drought and other extreme weather, according to NOAA scientists. A recent United Nations report warns that global warming will create food shortages, flooding of island nations and major cities, and mass wildlife extinctions. The risks will grow as temperatures rise.

At the U.N. climate talks in Peru, negotiators proposed "full decarbonization by 2050." We want Secretary of State John Kerry to support this proposal going into the climate summit in Paris next December. We're also urging the Obama administration to strengthen domestic climate policies, such as an EPA proposal to curb releases of the potent greenhouse gas methane from oil and gas wells.

Help us now -- tell Secretary Kerry to support the "zero by 2050" plan.

Suit Filed to Help Save Gunnison Sage Grouse

Gunnison sage grouseThe Center and allies went to court this week to ensure that the Gunnison sage grouse, a unique and lovely bird, gets the strong federal protection it needs.

Following a pair of Endangered Species Act settlements reached in 2011 with environmental groups including the Center, in 2013 the Service proposed to designate the sage grouse as "endangered" -- the most protective status for any species with federal safeguards. Then the agency buckled to pressure from developers, energy corporations and politicians, downgrading the species to the less-protective "threatened" status last November.

This fascinating bird -- famous for its showy mating displays -- once lived in parts of Colorado, Utah, New Mexico and Arizona but now occurs only in seven small populations in southwestern Colorado and southeastern Utah. Livestock grazing, oil and gas drilling, motorized recreation and urbanization have contributed to its ongoing decline.

"All of the science points to the Gunnison sage grouse being endangered," said the Center's Amy Atwood.

Read more in The Denver Post.

Coalition Urges EPA to Curb Airplane Carbon Pollution -- Take Action

AirplaneThe Environmental Protection Agency is finally taking its first steps to reduce airplane carbon pollution because of a lawsuit by the Center and allies. But as the climate crisis deepens, a coalition of groups is urging the Obama administration to move faster to regulate the airline industry's skyrocketing emissions.

In a new letter to the EPA and the Federal Aviation Administration, the Center and other conservation organizations are asking for strong standards to reduce aircraft emissions soon. Big cuts wouldn't be tough: The best U.S. airlines already generate 27 percent less greenhouse pollution than the worst ones, experts say.

In May the EPA will begin determining whether aircraft carbon pollution endangers health or welfare. It clearly does; airplanes are one of the fastest-growing sources of planet-warming gases. But the agency should simultaneously start analyzing how to make airplanes less polluting. Unless it takes that second step quickly, sensible regulations could be delayed for years.

Urge the EPA to act now so that aircraft pollution will be reduced no later than 2016.

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Study: Oceans Face Mass Extinction If We Don't Act

Pillar coralA New York Times article on a major new scientific study paints a bleak picture of our oceans' future -- but the good news is, scientists say, we still have a window of opportunity to save marine life.

The new research, published in the journal Science, says humans are having an enormously destructive impact on the health of the world's marine ecosystems -- driving massive habitat loss through warming, acidification and pollution; overharvesting numerous important ocean species; and increasing ship traffic and seabed mining so that more and more species are in jeopardy.

But if we sharply limit human exploitation of the oceans and put a stop to business-as-usual abuse of its resources, we can still bring ocean animals back from the brink. "We do have a chance to do what we can," said study co-author Stephen R. Palumbi. "We have a couple decades more than we thought we had, so let's please not waste it."

Read the article in The New York Times.

Just Released: Our Winter Newsletter

Winter 2015 newsletterThe Center's winter print newsletter is out, with an online PDF for easy viewing.

This issue reviews our biggest victories and battles from 2014, including new protection for more than 30 plants and animals; more than 300,000 square miles of habitat protected for loggerhead sea turtles; historic expansions in our campaigns to curb human population and consumption of natural resources; and a ban on bee-killing pesticides on all national wildlife refuges.

We make our members-only print newsletter available to our online supporters as a thank-you for taking action -- but please consider becoming a member today and helping us even more. Simply call us toll-free at 1-866-357-3349 x 311 or visit our membership webpage to learn more and make a gift. And read the winter 2014 issue now to learn about all our other awesome wins last year.

Wild & Weird: The Great Beaver Drop of 1948

Beaver drop in Idaho, 1948Just after World War II, the land around McCall and Payette Lake in western Idaho bore witness to a human invasion of building. Lakeside homes, docks and roads replaced wilderness -- where, for centuries, only beavers had been doing the building -- and the two competing mammal species found themselves too close for comfort. The semi-aquatic rodents received their marching orders.

Enter Elmo Heter of Idaho Fish and Game to mediate the turf war. Heter tinkered with several plans to relocate the beavers into the roadless wilds of what's now called the Frank Church Wilderness -- but that same lack of roads made relocation tricky.

Ultimately Heter decided to capitalize on a surplus of parachutes left over from the war. He devised an outrageous and alarming scheme to drop 76 beavers into the wild by chute -- and astonishingly, all but one survived. The paddle-tailed critters multiplied and took to their new home prodigiously.

Get more -- and see more images of the beaver drop -- from Boise State Public Radio.

Kierán Suckling
Executive Director

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Photo credits: Polar bears courtesy Flickr/jidanchaomian; Florida semaphore cactus courtesy Flickr/Carly Lesser and Art Drauglis; gray wolf pup by Hilary Cooley, USFWS; wolves by John Pitcher; dry riverbed courtesy NOAA; Gunnison sage grouse courtesy BLM; airplane courtesy Flickr/Bernal Saborio; elephant courtesy Flickr/Matt Rudge; pillar coral courtesy Flickr/Sean Nash; ringed seal courtesy Flickr/yasa; beaver drop courtesy Idaho Fish and Game.

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Center for Biological Diversity
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