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Center for Biological Diversity

No. 767, March 26, 2015

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Court Throws a Lifeline to Idaho's Rare Caribou

CaribouThere's new hope for endangered mountain caribou in Idaho and Washington: In response to a coalition lawsuit by the Center for Biological Diversity and allies, a federal court on Monday ordered the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to revisit a 2013 decision that reduced, by 90 percent, its designation of protected "critical habitat" for the caribou. A judge ruled the agency had not given the public sufficient opportunity to comment.

Mountain caribou have dinner-plate-sized hooves that work like snowshoes; these remarkable animals can subsist for months on nothing but arboreal lichens found on old-growth trees. Fewer than 20 of them have been found on the U.S. side of the border in recent years. So in response to a 2002 petition, the Fish and Wildlife Service in 2011 proposed to protect more than 375,000 acres -- but in 2012 it sharply reversed course, dramatically slashing the area to only about 30,000 acres.

"We can recover mountain caribou in Idaho and Washington, but it can't be done without protecting their habitat," said Noah Greenwald, the Center's Endangered Species director. "I'm encouraged the lower 48's last caribou will get another chance at being awarded the amount of critical habitat that will truly foster their recovery."

Get more from ABC News.

Weak New Federal Fracking Rule Will Hurt Public Lands, Climate

Fracking rigInterior Secretary Sally Jewell has released a weak new final rule for hydraulic fracturing on public lands that does little to reduce the practice's dangerous contribution to climate change and damage to America's air, water and wildlife.

The Bureau of Land Management proposed draft regulations in 2012 and weakened them in 2013 following oil industry pressure -- despite the fact that a coalition of 275 public-interest groups delivered more than 600,000 public comments asking the federal government to ban fracking on public lands. The final regs have no provisions for reducing air pollution and will not curtail the vast amount of toxic fluid produced by the fracking process -- much of which is injected into underground disposal wells, which (among other things) can increase earthquake risk.

"These flimsy regulations barely scratch the surface of the fracking threat," said the Center's Clare Lakewood. "To fight global warming and protect this country's wild places, the Obama administration has to ban fracking on public lands."

Read more in The Huffington Post.

Endangered Species Act Success Story: Green Sea Turtles

Green sea turtleThe Endangered Species Act has done it again, the federal government announced on Friday: Certain populations of green sea turtles nesting on Florida beaches and the Pacific Coast of Mexico -- as well as populations in Hawaii -- are on a path to recovery. As a result these turtles have been downlisted from "endangered" to "threatened" status. The government noted, though, that the sea turtles still require the safeguards of the Act due to threats like climate change and sea-level rise (especially in Hawaii).

"The dramatic improvement of green sea turtle populations in U.S. waters, at a time when sea turtle populations in other parts of the world continue to decline, shows that the Endangered Species Act saves wildlife," said Center Oceans Director Miyoko Sakashita. "Now we have to take big, brave steps to protect sea turtles from threats like climate change and rising seas."

Read more in our press release.

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Wish for 13-year-old Boy With Leukemia: Lobby Against Copper Mine

Boundary Waters Canoe Area WildernessWhen approached by the Make-A-Wish Foundation, many young people with serious health problems take trips to Disneyland or decide they want to meet their favorite athlete. But Joseph Goldstein, a 13-year-old Illinois boy diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in October, asked to go to Washington, D.C., to help fight copper mining near his family's beloved Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

The Duluth News Tribune reports that Joseph was in D.C. this week with plans to lobby Interior Secretary Sally Jewell; Thomas Tidwell, the head of the U.S. Forest Service; and members of Minnesota's congressional delegation.

"The Boundary Waters are a very important, very special place. And if they are destroyed by sulfide ore mining, we'll never get it back," Joseph told reporters on Tuesday.

Read more in the Duluth News Tribune.

Full-page Ads Urge Less Meat in American Dietary Guidelines

Vegetable displayThe Center and more than 100 other public-interest organizations and experts this week directly called on the Obama administration to adopt new dietary guidelines that include less meat and more plant-based foods. We also took our message to major media outlets with full-page ads in The New York Times, Washington Post and Politico.

The guidelines are a government-approved blueprint for healthy diets and are widely used in nutrition-education programs and to set the meal plans for government institutions, including schools, prisons, military facilities and federal cafeterias.

"People and the planet will be healthier if there's less meat and more plant-based foods on our plates," said Stephanie Feldstein, the Center's Population and Sustainability director. "Our diets, particularly the meat-heavy American diet, have a huge environmental footprint that not only threatens biodiversity but also our ability to continue producing healthy, nutritious food today and in the future."

Check out our press release and the ad; then sign our petition to improve America's diet.

Suit Launched to Save Southern Salamanders

Frosted flatwoods salamanderTwo species of unique amphibians -- reticulated and frosted flatwoods salamanders -- were once found throughout extensive longleaf pine forests of the coastal plain in Alabama, Florida, South Carolina and Georgia, but are now reduced to a handful of small populations. So, along with Gulf Restoration Network, we filed a notice of intent this morning to sue the feds for failing to develop recovery plans for the rare and vanishing creatures.

Both species are moderately sized salamanders that are black to chocolate-black with light gray lines and specks that form a cross-banded pattern across their backs. They spend most of their lives underground, emerging in the early winter rains to breed.

Although these salamanders have been protected under the Endangered Species Act for more than 15 years, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has never developed the legally required recovery plans needed to save them from extinction, which they're being driven toward at breakneck speed largely due to habitat destruction and poor forest management.

Read our press release and check out our new page about these flatwoods salamanders.

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Report Links World's Most Commonly Used Herbicides to Cancer

Backpack sprayerHere's yet another reason to think twice about what's on your food: A new report by the World Health Organization links the world's most commonly used herbicides to cancer. Glyphosate -- widely known as Roundup and marketed by Monsanto -- has also been linked to the decline of many wildlife species, including monarch butterflies. The WHO says glyphosate and two other insecticides, malathion and diazinon, are "probably carcinogenic to humans."

The use of glyphosate has increased sharply to more than 250 million pounds per year in the United States with the widespread adoption of genetically engineered crops like corn and soy.

"For too long the pesticide industry has taken the approach of 'spray first and ask questions later' and meanwhile these products are posing grave risks to people and wildlife across the globe," said Jonathan Evans of the Center's new Environmental Health program. "These dangerous, and far too common, pesticides are having cascading effects on our health and environment, and it's high time we took the worst of the worst chemical cocktails off the market."

Read more in our press release.

Wild & Weird: Ex-gang Member Resurrects Ancient Trees, Rights Drunken Wrong

Fieldbrook stumpSometime back in the 1890s, William Waldorf Astor -- a wealthy American living in England -- is said to have made a barroom bet that would cause the death of an ancient giant. Apparently he wagered that a table capable of seating 40 guests could be made from a single cross-section of a tree. Then just such a slice arrived from the United States to his home in Buckinghamshire ... at around the same time that the 4,000-year-old Fieldbrook tree, located on the California coast, became a stump.

Some 100 years later David Milarch, a Michigan nursery man and former biker-gang member, had a near-death experience and says he was told by angels that the largest trees are the most resilient to climate change and therefore he should create an ark of tree genetics in order to save the Earth. Through his Archangel Ancient Tree Archive, the Fieldbrook stump and numerous other ancient redwoods have been cloned into saplings and are soon to be planted in England.

Read more about William Astor's pitiful bet at The Independent and learn more about David Milarch in The Detroit News.

Kierán Suckling
Executive Director

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Photo credits: Caribou by Ken Conger, NPS; fracking rig courtesy Flickr/WildEarth Guardians; green sea turtle courtesy Flickr/Alfonso Gonzalez; wolves by John Pitcher; Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness courtesy Flickr/Jim Brekke; vegetable display courtesy Flickr/Nancy Regan; frosted flatwoods salamander courtesy Flickr/Todd Pierson; brown bear (c) Robin Silver, Center for Biological Diversity; backpack sprayer by Janet Lewis/CIMMYT; Fieldbrook stump via Ericson Collection, Humboldt State University Library.

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