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Center for Biological Diversity

No. 761, Feb. 12, 2015

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Lost Words, Lost Creatures: Nature Disappearing From Dictionary

Cheetah"In the beginning was the Word," reads the Christian Gospel according to John -- just one example of how the primal creative import of words is acknowledged by religions and cultures all over the world. Words and names, both spoken and written, are the building blocks not only of self but of history and human society.

Since 2007 Oxford University Press has updated its prestigious, widely used Junior Dictionary (which has a limit of 10,000 terms) by getting rid of the names of some 30 kinds of plants and animals central to our relationship with nature -- words like acorn, beaver, beech, blackberry, boar, cheetah, clover, fern, ferret, heron, kingfisher, lark, leopard, lobster, magpie, otter, panther, porpoise, willow and raven. In their place are new words deemed more worthy of page space: celebrity, MP3 player, analogue, broadband.

A group of prominent authors, including Margaret Atwood, has publicly requested that the removed words be reinstated in future editions. "We ... are profoundly alarmed," their letter begins, by the replacement of words associated with nature with those "associated with the increasingly interior, solitary childhoods of today. ... There is a shocking, proven connection between the decline in natural play and the decline in children's wellbeing."

If we allow our animals to disappear not only from the wild places they call home but even from our children's books, it's only a matter of time before they're lost to human memory.

Read the authors' open letter and find out more at The Guardian.

Bill Would End Protection for 4,000 Wolves in 4 States

Wisconsin gray wolfA bill introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives this morning would strip Endangered Species Act protections from 4,000 gray wolves in four states and open them up to more hunting and trapping. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ended protections for wolves in the Great Lakes a few years ago -- and more than 1,600 wolves died as a result.

Federal judges later overturned the decisions to remove protections, but the new legislation would override those court orders and again put the fate of wolves in Wyoming, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan in the hands of state wildlife agencies eager to resume their wolf-killing.

"This is an ugly political ploy that will end with a lot of dead wolves and do serious damage to one of the most important endangered species success stories in America's history," said the Center's Brett Hartl. "This bill will subject some of the last remaining wolves in the lower 48 to state-sanctioned hunting and trapping seasons designed to drastically reduce populations."

Read more in our press release and consider donating to our Wolf Defense Fund.

Dangerous Levels of Chemicals Found in Fluid From California Oil Wells

Fracking pit A new analysis by the Center finds that flowback fluid from fracked oil wells in California commonly contains dangerous levels of cancer-causing chemicals. Benzene levels more than 1,500 times the federal limits for drinking water were found in fracking flowback fluid tests obtained and analyzed by the Center. Benzene in excess of federal limits was found in 320 tests, and chromium-6 was detected 118 times. Both chemicals can cause cancer.

Flowback fluid is a key component of oil-industry wastewater from fracked wells, which is commonly disposed of in injection wells, which in turn often feed into aquifers -- including some that could be used for drinking water and irrigation.

"Cancer-causing chemicals are surfacing in fracking flowback fluid just as we learn that the California oil industry is disposing of wastewater in hundreds of illegal disposal wells and open pits," said the Center's Hollin Kretzmann. "Gov. Brown needs to shut down all the illegal wells immediately and ban fracking to fight this devastating threat to California's water supply."

Read more in the Los Angeles Times.

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DNA Tests Confirm Wolf Killed in Utah Was Historic Grand Canyon Visitor

Grand Canyon gray wolfThe Fish and Wildlife Service announced Wednesday that the wandering female gray wolf illegally killed in Utah three days after Christmas, allegedly mistaken for a coyote, was indeed "Echo," the wolf who appeared on the Grand Canyon's North Rim in fall 2014. Echo was the first northern wolf to set foot near the Canyon since the 1940s.

DNA analysis confirmed her identity. She was born in 2011, collared in January 2014, and -- after she roamed about 750 miles to northern Arizona and then southern Utah -- shot dead 11 months later. Fish and Wildlife says its investigation into her death is ongoing, but wolf-killers are rarely prosecuted.

"Echo came to a heartbreaking end, but her odyssey through forest and desert shows that excellent habitat still remains for wolves in the American West," said the Center's Michael Robinson. "Her death also demonstrates that public education, law enforcement and solid science are needed now more than ever to recover endangered wolves, and that the last thing they need is to have their federal protections yanked."

Read more in our press release.

Hundreds Speak Out Against Giveaway of Sacred Apache Land to Mining Company

Apache Leap, ArizonaHundreds of people gathered in central Arizona's Tonto National Forest over the weekend as part of a rally against mining giant Rio Tinto's plans to develop a massive copper mine in a place deeply sacred to the Apache people. The San Carlos Apache tribe led a 46-mile march ending at the Oak Flat Campground.

The area, home to wildlife ranging from bears to bobcats to ocelots, was formally withdrawn from mining by presidential order 50 years ago, but Congress recently approved a land swap allowing Rio Tinto to obtain private control of the land and evade environmental laws.

The mine would leave a massive depression in the ground, drain the aquifer, and destroy important streams, springs and habitat.

The Center is standing in solidarity with the tribe and with others opposing this project; staff including our Executive Director Kierán Suckling and Director of Programs Peter Galvin took part in the march and rally.

Check out this video of the event and then tell top federal officials to oppose this project.

Suit Filed to Save Montana's Rarest Fish

Arctic graylingThe Center and allies have just filed our third lawsuit since 2002 to save the Lower 48 States' only population of Arctic grayling -- a fish related to trout and salmon -- which has been reduced to less than 5 percent of its historic range and now survives only in a short stretch of the Big Hole River and in a few lakes.

Our suit, filed with allies late last week, challenges a 2014 decision by the Fish and Wildlife Service to deny the fish protection despite declaring it worthy of protection in 2010 (and first deeming it a "candidate" for protection back in 1994). This fish -- a foot-long, metallic-purple swimmer with a sail-like dorsal fin -- is threatened by excessive water withdrawals, nonnative trout and ongoing habitat degradation.

Read more in The Spokesman-Review.

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Get Free 'Love Calls of the Wild' Ringtones for Valentine's Day -- Watch Video

Pacific walrusesWhat better way to declare your love for the wild than to fill the air with soulful, funny or fierce animal calls whenever your cell phone rings?

This Valentine's Day the Center is offering 25 specially selected, free ringtones that include wildlife mating calls and social calls -- hoots, chirps, growls and trills from animals across the planet. These ringtones have been selected from our year-round collection of high-quality, authentic sounds spotlighting some of the world's rarest and most endangered species.

Love Calls of the Wild includes sounds from orcas, polar bears, pikas, spotted owls, whooping cranes, penguins, toads and prairie dogs -- such a wide variety that you can pick exactly the mating calls you're in the mood for this Valentine's Day. (Note: they're not available for iPhones just yet.)

Check out our free Valentine's ringtones and then watch our video, "How Do Endangered Species Say 'I Love You?' "

Art Exhibit Features Wildlife Threatened by Keystone XL

American burying beetleA powerful art exhibit opening today in San Francisco features wildlife threatened by the Keystone XL pipeline. Xander Weaver-Scull's exhibit features hand-drawn and cut stencils, watercolor, and homemade inks from natural pigments and includes whooping cranes, American burying beetles and black-footed ferrets.

The Center is proud to be sponsoring the opening reception for the exhibit, which is called Where We Have Been and Where We Are Going. Wolves and other imperiled species are also part of the month-long showing at the Thoreau Center for Sustainability.

You can check out Xander's work on his website -- and if you buy anything, be sure to mention the Center to have 20 percent of proceeds from any sale be donated to our work protecting these species. Get the exhibit details on our Events page.

Wild & Weird: Fox Village in Japan

FoxIf you find yourself in Japan's Miyagi prefecture and you've got 100 yen (roughly 85 cents) in your pocket, might we suggest visiting Zao Fox Village? The sanctuary houses six different species of fox living in what appears to be ridiculously adorable harmony.

Foxes are important, intelligent, and often magical figures in Japanese legend; in some tales they're tricksters, while in others they take the shape of women. Some "kitsune," as foxes are called in Japanese, are even worshiped as deities and given offerings.

Check out these cool photos of Zao Fox Village at boredpanda.

Kierán Suckling
Executive Director

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Photo credits: Cheetah courtesy Flickr/Jon Newman; gray wolf courtesy Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources; fracking pit courtesy Flickr/Faces of Fracking; wolves by John Pitcher; Grand Canyon wolf courtesy Arizona Department of Fish and Game; Apache Leap, Ariz. courtesy Flickr/Brent Bristol; Arctic grayling courtesy Wikimedia Commons/AKSMITH; brown bear by Robin Silver, Center for Biological Diversity; Pacific walrus courtesy USGS; American burying beetle courtesy U.S. Army; fox courtesy Flickr/Rob Lee.

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Center for Biological Diversity
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