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Center for Biological Diversity

No. 771, April 23, 2015

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50,000 Condoms Distributed on Earth Day -- Watch New Video

Endangered Species Condoms videoIn venues across the country, from tattoo parlors to tea rooms, more than 500 volunteers with the Center for Biological Diversity gave away 50,000 free Endangered Species Condoms just in time for Earth Day this week.

The packaging on these "Sustain" condoms -- highlighting polar bears, whooping cranes, monarchs, sea otters, horned lizards and hellbender salamanders -- features original artwork by Shawn DiCriscio and new slogans like "Fumbling in the dark? Think of the monarch" and "For the sake of the horned lizard ... slow down, love wizard." Our Endangered Species Condoms project has distributed more than half a million free condoms since 2009.

"Nothing sparks a conversation like handing someone a condom," said the Center's Stephanie Feldstein. "On Earth Day everyone's looking for ways they can help save the planet. Talking about population and overconsumption is one of the most important steps we can all take to help the environment and our communities."

Read our press release and watch our new Endangered Species Condoms PSA.

Feds Back Away From Plan to Protect Nevada, California Grouse

Mono Basin sage grouseDisappointing news: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Tuesday abandoned its plan to give Endangered Species Act protection to Mono Basin sage grouse, a small and isolated population of prairie birds that live in eastern California and western Nevada.

Only about 2,500 of these birds remain, and they're threatened by grazing, habitat loss, fire, invasive plants and mining development. The Service proposed protecting the animals as "threatened" in 2013, citing their small population size, myriad threats, and inadequate measures to protect them. But the agency changed course this week, ignoring scientific recommendations for reversing the birds' steep decline and relying on unproven conservation agreements with local and state communities.

"These birds are in serious trouble, and yet the government is doing nothing to restrict destructive hard-rock mining, geothermal development or off-road vehicle races," said the Center's Randi Spivak. "Half-measures may delay extinction, but they won't prevent it."

Read more in our press release.

Lawsuit Aims to Protect Rare, Glacier-dependent Insect

Glacier stoneflyThe Center has sued the Fish and Wildlife Service for failing to grant Endangered Species Act protection to a little-known species that clearly and urgently needs it: the western glacier stonefly. This insect, known to survive in only five small streams on the east side of the Continental Divide in Montana's Glacier National Park, depends on extremely cold glacial water. But due to climate change, the park's glaciers are predicted to disappear as early as 2030 ... and when they go, so will this little-studied bug.

The stonefly is also especially sensitive to pollution: More than 40 percent of all stonefly species are vulnerable to extinction from chemicals tainting their habitat.

The Center and the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation petitioned to protect this species in 2010, and in 2011 the Service determined that Endangered Species Act protection may be warranted -- but it still hasn't taken the next (legally required) step toward granting safeguards. We sued last week.

Read more in the Great Falls Tribune.

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Fatal White-nose Epidemic Spreads to Iowa Bats -- 26 States Now Afflicted

Little brown batThe deadly fungal disease that has killed millions of bats across the eastern United States has been confirmed in Iowa bats, the state announced last week. Biologists first detected the fungus itself in an Iowa cave in 2011, but they hadn't found afflicted bats until this winter, when the disease was found in seven individual bats of two species: little brown bats and northern long-eared bats.

Populations of northern long-eareds have plummeted by as much as 99 percent across their core range in the eastern United States, yet industries such as timber, oil and gas have opposed the species' protection. The Fish and Wildlife Service backed off its original recommendation for "endangered" listing and instead protected the species under the weaker "threatened" category earlier this month.

"The fact that white-nose has now spread to bats in more than half our states should be a wake-up call to federal regulators," said Mollie Matteson, a senior scientist with the Center. "Our bats are running out of places to live. Whether or not industry wants these bats protected, we need to get it done."

Read more in our press release.

250 Native Elk Die Inside Fenced-in Area at Point Reyes National Seashore

Tule elkMore than 250 tule elk died inside a fenced area in California's Point Reyes National Seashore between 2012 and 2014, National Park Service surveys show. While nearly half the elk inside the fenced area died, free-roaming elk outside the fence, with year-round access to water, increased by nearly a third.

Tule elk are native to California and live nowhere else in the world. From about 500,000 in the 1800s, only 28 animals remained before a reintroduction program brought their numbers up to a safer 4,300 elk in 25 herds. The fence at Point Reyes is a concession to livestock operators, who are now pushing the Park Service to even further expand their rights and subsidies -- at the expense of the native elk -- on this exceptionally beautiful piece of public land.

"Free-roaming Point Reyes elk are in jeopardy to benefit a few cattlemen," said the Center's Jeff Miller. "The loss of nearly half the Pierce Point elk herd highlights how important it is that the Park Service not cave to commercial interests on this precious national seashore."

Read more at National Parks Traveler.

Legal Filing Fights to Protect Utah Prairie Dogs, Endangered Species Act

Prairie dogThe Center joined allies in filing a legal brief Monday in a crucial case not only for protecting Utah prairie dogs but for all wildlife that need the help of the Endangered Species Act.

Last year property-rights groups for the first time won a case in federal court in Utah arguing that the Fish and Wildlife Service was constitutionally barred from protecting these prairie dogs -- which have been on the endangered species list since 1973 -- on private or state lands because they occur in only one state and don't involve interstate commerce. If allowed to stand, the case would undermine the federal government's ability to protect endangered species across the country and stymie its ability to regulate other activities that threaten public safety and the environment.

Fortunately the U.S. Department of Justice has appealed the decision, with our support.

Read more about Utah prairie dogs.

Take Action

Help Us Rally in Seattle Against Shell's Arctic Drilling Plans

Polar bearsAs Shell continues to ramp up its plans to drill in the pristine Arctic, we're pulling out all the stops to make sure that doesn't happen. But we need your help: On Sunday there will be a "Shell No: Seattle Draws the Line" rally at Myrtle Edwards Park. Can you make it?

Arctic drilling would dramatically raise the risks of a catastrophic oil spill and put polar bears and other wildlife directly in harm's way -- not to mention the destructive impacts to our climate from burning all those fossil fuels.

The port of Seattle has agreed to house Shell's Arctic drilling fleet this spring -- and the Center and our allies aim to show that Shell made a huge mistake by basing its fleet in Seattle.

The rally starts at 2 p.m. We hope you can be there.

Hop to It for "Save the Frogs Day" -- Take Action

Cascades frogSaturday, April 25 is international Save the Frogs Day. What better time to speak up for our unique, nimble, slimy friends?

Amphibians and reptiles are in the midst of a profound, human-driven extinction crisis that demands immediate action. Faced with habitat destruction, toxic pesticides and climate change, these animals are dying off at up to 10,000 times the historic extinction rate. This loss is especially alarming because frogs, salamanders and snakes play important roles as predators and prey in their ecosystems and are key indicators of ecosystem health.

The Center in July 2012 filed a petition with the Fish and Wildlife Service to protect 53 of our nation's rarest amphibians and reptiles under the Endangered Species Act. Of those, the agency so far has taken action on exactly one.

Learn more about the amphibian and reptile extinction crisis and honor frogs this week by calling on the Service to save these incredible animals before it's too late.

Help Turn the Tap Back on for Bay Area Fish -- Take Action

Delta smeltCalifornia water officials have dramatically cut back minimum water flows meant to protect clean water and fisheries in the San Francisco Bay-Delta estuary. The result? The most recent surveys detected just a single Delta smelt in the estuary. If cuts continue, it could eliminate these smelt along with longfin smelt, Chinook salmon, steelhead and other species from the Bay-Delta region.

Please ask the California State Water Resources Control Board and other agencies to reverse the reduction of Delta flow requirements for April, May and June this year and give the endangered species of the Bay-Delta estuary their best chance for survival.

Learn more and take action at a site set up by our friends at The Bay Institute.

Wild & Weird: First Bald Eagle Family in New York City in 100 Years

Bald eagles1782: The bald eagle becomes the national symbol of the United States.

1963: Thanks to centuries of shooting, habitat loss, and a few decades of widespread DDT use, bald eagle populations are seriously depleted in the lower 48 states, with only 487 nesting pairs remaining.

1967: The bald eagle is one of the first species to receive protections under the precursor to the Endangered Species Act.

1972: DDT is banned in the United States.

2007: Due to population rebounds, bald eagles are declared recovered and removed from the endangered species list.

April 16, 2015: The Audubon Society announces the first active bald eagle nest reported in New York City in 100 years. It anticipates that eagle chicks could hatch within a month.

Read more at Audubon.

Kierán Suckling
Executive Director

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Photo credits: Endangered Species Condoms video courtesy Center for Biological Diversity; Mono Basin sage grouse courtesy BLM; glacier stonefly by Joe Giersch, USGS; wolves by John Pitcher; little brown bat by Marvin Moriarty, USFWS; tule elk courtesy Flickr/Matt Knoth; prairie dog courtesy Flickr/Daniel James; brown bear (c) Robin Silver, Center for Biological Diversity; polar bears courtesy Flickr/Martha de Jong-Lantink; Cascades frog courtesy Flickr/Oregon Caves; Delta smelt by B. Moose Peterson, USFWS; bald eagles courtesy Flickr/Kenneth Cole Schneider.

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