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Center for Biological Diversity

No. 763, Feb. 26, 2015

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Big Win: Obama Vetoes Keystone XL; Time to Reject It for Good

Reject Keystone XLPresident Obama this week vetoed the Republican-backed bill that would have forced approval of the Keystone XL pipeline. It's a big win for the millions who've spoken out against this devastating project, but the job's not done yet: Now the president must reject the controversial pipeline once and for all.

Tuesday's veto means the U.S. State Department will be able to complete its review of the project; then Mr. Obama will make his final decision. He's already said he'll only approve KXL if it doesn't "significantly exacerbate the problem of climate pollution." Well, the EPA has said development of tar sands oil carried by Keystone XL would be the greenhouse gas pollution equivalent of adding 5.7 million more passenger vehicles. So there's that.

"It's time for President Obama to keep his promise," said the Center for Biological Diversity's Valerie Love. "Millions of Americans have voiced their opposition to the pipeline and are counting on the president to do what's best for people, wildlife and the climate."

Read more in our press release.

Monarchs Need Our Help Now -- Take Action

Monarch butterfly clusterWe only have a few more days to speak up for Endangered Species Act protection for monarchs: The public comment period on protecting these butterflies under the Act closes March 2.

Weather patterns helped monarchs into a modest population rebound this year, but sadly that doesn't change the fact that their future is in serious jeopardy. They've seen a decline of 82 percent from the last 20-year average -- and a decline of 95 percent from the population highs of the mid-1990s.

Every year these lovely butterflies travel thousands of miles -- from Canada down to Mexico -- in an incredible, multigenerational migration, gaining a special place in the hearts of people all over North America. But they're increasingly threatened by pesticides and herbicides, development and climate change.

Act now to help save this most iconic of North American backyard beauties.

Lawsuit Seeks to Halt Offshore Fracking in California

Sea otterThe Center just sued the U.S. Interior Department for rubberstamping offshore fracking in California without analyzing how its pollution threatens ocean ecosystems, coastal communities and marine wildlife, including sea otters, fish, sea turtles and whales.

Oil companies have already fracked more than 200 wells in state and federal waters off California's coast. Meanwhile the oil industry has federal permission to dump more than 9 billion gallons of wastewater, including chemical-laden fracking fluid, into those ocean waters every year.

"Every offshore frack increases the threat to our fragile ocean ecosystems," said the Center's Miyoko Sakashita. "The Interior Department is turning a blind eye while oil companies frack wells and dump chemicals into our oceans. If it doesn't halt this inherently dangerous practice, fracking chemicals or a disastrous oil spill could wreak havoc on marine wildlife and coastal communities."

Get more from Reuters.

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New Environmental Health Program Will Protect People, Wildlife

SmokestackPesticides, industrial contaminants, lead and other toxics remain a daily threat to people, wildlife and our environment. That's why the Center just launched its new Environmental Health program, which will fight to protect wildlife, people, clean air and water, as well as pristine landscapes from the onslaught of pollution.

"The future of people is deeply intertwined with the fate of all the other species that evolved beside us," said Lori Ann Burd, the program's director. "This new program will work to protect biodiversity and human health from toxic substances while promoting a deep understanding of the connection between the health of people and imperiled species."

Among the new program's first actions: a lawsuit against the EPA for failing to enforce air-quality standards to reduce soot in Washington, Iowa and Puerto Rico. Soot pollution causes serious health problems for people and other animals alike.

Learn more about our new Environmental Health program, then check out our press release on the soot lawsuit.

In Memoriam: Jim Deacon -- Remarkable Scientist, Enduring Work

Jim Deacon We're saddened to hear of the death this week of James Deacon, a remarkable and passionate scientist who spent more than 50 years working to save desert fish and other freshwater species. He was a tireless advocate for sustainable water-use policies in the Southwest.

His work contributed to the protection of many threatened and endangered fish, plants, snails and other aquatic species and helped secure water rights for Death Valley and Zion national parks. He helped create Ashe Meadows and Moapa national wildlife refuges in Nevada.

Jim joined the University of Nevada, Las Vegas in 1960, became a distinguished professor in 1988 and was a founding member of the Desert Fishes Council, a unique and influential group of scientists with a long record of saving desert fish from extinction and putting many on a path to recovery. Jim was a mentor to many young scientists -- playing a crucial role in bringing aggressive conservation values into the field of fisheries (at a time when they had been virtually nonexistent) and infusing generations of scientists with an activist spirit that survives today in academic fisheries programs in the Southwest.

He was a relentless defender and friend of wildlife in some of its rarest forms, publishing more than 90 scientific articles on desert fish and other imperiled species. When the Southern Nevada Water Authority pushed its project to siphon massive amounts of water out of the desert to feed Las Vegas sprawl, Jim became one of the most influential opposing voices.

Jim was the first recipient, in 2012, of the Center's E.O. Wilson Award for Outstanding Science in Biodiversity Conservation for a career that exemplified the leadership role scientists must take to protect the biodiversity of the planet. He'll be missed, but his work endures.

Read Southwestern Fishes and the Enigma of "Endangered Species," a groundbreaking paper he wrote with W.L. Minckley in 1968 in response to the creation of America's first Endangered Species Act in 1967. With incredible confidence, passion and on-the-ground knowledge, they stepped into the breach with this essay, essentially creating the field of endangered fish conservation on the fly. It led to the creation of the Desert Fishes Council the following year and remains today the spirit of the movement.

U.S. Dietary Guidelines Have New Sustainability Focus -- Take Action

Vegetable displayFor the first time in history, the U.S. government is on the verge of adding recommendations to its nutritional guidelines that steer consumers away from meat and dairy and toward more plant-based eating habits. Last week its Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee published a report that said "a diet higher in plant-based foods ... and lower in calories and animal-based foods is more health promoting and is associated with less environmental impact than is the current U.S. diet."

So a broad coalition of 49 health, environment and animal-welfare groups, including the Center, has urged the secretaries of Agriculture and Health and Human Services to adopt new guidelines that recommend reduced consumption of animal products.

"Between the huge carbon footprint of the American diet and the vulnerability of our food system to climate change, we're caught in a dangerous cycle. The Obama administration can change that by prioritizing sustainability in the new dietary guidelines," said Center Population and Sustainability Director Stephanie Feldstein.

Please speak up for a safer diet for both people and the planet -- submit your comments in support of the guidelines by April 8. Then listen to this interview with Feldstein on Public Radio International's "To the Point."

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Global Climate Leader Jailed in Home Country -- Take Action

Mohamed NasheedMohamed Nasheed, elected as president of the Maldives in 2008, made global headlines a year later in leading a heroic fight for a fair and binding climate treaty at the United Nations climate talks in Copenhagen. He inspired millions with his eloquent entreaty for global action not just to save his tiny island nation from rising seas but the rest of the planet from climate disaster. He even held a national cabinet meeting underwater to draw attention to the climate crisis.

He was forced from office in 2012 by the prior authoritarian regime and remained a vital voice in the climate justice movement. Last weekend, though, he was violently arrested and jailed in his home country on political charges.

Please take a moment to urge the new president of the Maldives to free Nasheed.

Polar Bears Celebrated as Coal Industry-funded Researcher Exposed

Polar bearsCatastrophic global warming threatens to push polar bears off the planet, according to a vast body of scientific research. But as the world gears up for International Polar Bear Day on Friday, these imperiled animals got some good news: A contrarian researcher pushing a dangerous message of doubt about climate change's effects on polar bears was just exposed for having taken substantial grant money from the fossil fuel industry.

Climate denier Willie Soon published papers questioning whether polar bears were truly endangered by climate change and whether the Arctic was really heating up. But he failed to disclose that the coal company funded his work, according to documents released this week by Greenpeace and the Climate Investigations Center.

The threat to polar bears, the Arctic and the wider world grows by the day. Read more about the researcher's controversy and then celebrate International Polar Bear Day by signing our petition urging President Obama to rein in global warming and save the bears now.

Wild & Weird: The Bathroom Antics of Ants

AntAnts have been estimated to make up between 15 percent and 20 percent of land animal biomass. In other words, there are a lot of them -- belonging to more than 9,000 described species -- and they thrive in nearly every ecosystem on Earth. So what, exactly, does one of the world's most populous insects do with its waste?

Luckily, a team of scientists recently conducted an in-depth analysis of ant bathroom etiquette and discovered that many of them actually have a dedicated space in their nests where they pile their feces. "Ants are indeed tidy creatures, but we must be careful not to anthropomorphize," study leader Tomer Czaczkes, a postdoctoral research fellow at Germany's University of Regensburg, told National Geographic in an interview last week.

Really? Surely a toilet by any other name is still a toilet.

Read more at National Geographic.

Kierán Suckling
Executive Director

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Photo credits: Keystone XL meme courtesy Center for Biological Diversity; monarch butterfly cluster courtesy Flickr/gapowell; sea otter courtesy Flickr/Laura R.; wolves by John Pitcher; smokestack courtesy Flickr/Señor Codo; James Deacon via UNLV; vegetable display courtesy Flickr/Nancy Regan; brown bear (c) Robin Silver, Center for Biological Diversity; Mohamed Nasheed courtesy Flickr/The Commonwealth; polar bears courtesy Flickr/jidanchaomian; ant courtesy Flickr/Jeff Kubina.

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