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Center for Biological Diversity

No. 773, May 7, 2015

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Emergency Protection Sought for Rare Grand Canyon Insect, Flower

Wetsalts tiger beetleWith development pressure intensifying on the Grand Canyon, the Center for Biological Diversity is taking action to protect two species found nowhere else on Earth but the canyon's wet seeps.

Our emergency petition to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service seeks federal protections for the Arizona wetsalts tiger beetle and Macdougal's yellowtops (a flower in the aster family). Both little-known but important species are in danger from groundwater pumping to support massive new real-estate developments planned for the tiny town of Tusayan, near Grand Canyon National Park's south rim.

These developments would draw water from the same aquifer that feeds the springs that support these species -- and since the developers have no plan in place to safeguard them, the beetle and flower will go extinct if they don't receive Endangered Species Act protections right away.

"The Fish and Wildlife Service must act quickly to protect these rare Grand Canyon species under the Endangered Species Act, or we'll be at risk of losing an irreplaceable piece of our natural heritage," said Robin Silver, a Center cofounder.

Read more in our press release, then take action to stop the proposed development now.

Does Your Orange Contain Fracking Chemicals?

OrangeCalifornia farmers are scrambling for water during a devastating drought -- and some are even using polluted oil-industry wastewater to irrigate their crops. On Sunday the Los Angeles Times revealed that oil waste used for irrigation contains acetone and other toxic compounds -- and no testing is being done to prevent many of these dangerous oil-waste chemicals from contaminating oranges or other crops.

California grows about half of America's fruits and vegetables, so this is a national problem. As fracking spreads across the Golden State, oil companies are dumping vast amounts of polluted wastewater into open pits, protected underground water sources, and -- now we learn -- onto crops grown for food.

But the Center and other organizations are fighting back. We're calling on Gov. Jerry Brown to immediately halt fracking and other extreme oil extraction practices contaminating California's water and agricultural fields.

Read the Los Angeles Times exposé and sign a petition to Gov. Brown calling for a fracking halt and an investigation into pollution of California's water and crops.

Oil Train Derails Days After Feds Announce Slow Phase-in of Safety Regs

Oil train explosion in North DakotaAnother oil train has derailed: This time it happened Wednesday morning in North Dakota, where a train carrying crude hopped the tracks, setting 10 tanker cars on fire and forcing the evacuation of a small town. The wreck comes less than a week after the federal Department of Transportation released long-awaited new safety standards for rail tank cars used to haul volatile Bakken and tar sands crude oil -- standards that will allow dangerous trains to remain in service for the next 10 years.

The Center filed a legal petition last year for a weight limit on oil trains to reduce the risk of derailments, and we continue to call for a moratorium on these trains throughout the country. But the Obama administration has issued rules that are both too weak and take too long to implement.

"These industry-friendly regulations virtually guarantee more explosive derailments, putting people and the environment at great risk," said the Center's Jared Margolis.

Read more in our press release.

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Republicans Unleash New Attack on Endangered Species

Bald eagleRepublicans in Congress have launched a new round of assaults on the Endangered Species Act. The latest includes eight bills in the U.S. Senate, including one that would eliminate federal protection for more than 800 endangered animals and plants around the country.

The bills are strikingly similar to legislation introduced by Tea Party politicians in the House of Representatives last year that sought to weaken the scientific basis for protection decisions under the Act and limit public participation. Among the worst in the latest slew of bills is one from Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) that would end protection for hundreds of species and require that all endangered species lose their protection every five years -- regaining it only after a joint resolution in Congress.

"In the past four years Republicans have introduced more than 50 bills to weaken the Endangered Species Act and 100 bills going after individual species," said the Center's Brett Hartl. "These kinds of bills may please rich campaign donors -- especially those exploiting the planet for profits -- but they're way outside the mainstream."

Read more in our press release.

A Firsthand Look at the Destruction of Mountaintop-removal Mining

Mountaintop miningCenter scientist Tierra Curry and Environmental Health director Lori Ann Burd travelled to West Virginia recently to take part in the Preserving Sacred Appalachia Conference and tour mountaintop-removal mine sites and Big Sandy crayfish habitat with local activists. They also stopped by the Coal River Mountain Watch office, which will be dedicated as the "Judy Bonds Center for Appalachian Preservation" on May 16.

Judy Bonds gained national attention for fighting to save her home from mountaintop-removal coal mining before dying of cancer in 2011 at 58. She was a waitress who took to activism after she learned her grandson was playing in a creek of dead fish that had been poisoned by coal mining.

"I believe in the purpose-driven life. I believe there is a glimmer of hope," Bonds once said. "Even if we can save just one mountain, if we can save something for our kids. I believe there's hope. My mommy always told me, 'Don't you hump up in the corner. You get a lick in so they know they been in a fight.' So that's what I'm going to do. I'm going to get a lick in so they know they've been in a fight."

Bonds' inspiring attitude lives on in the work to save the people and wildlife of Appalachia. Take action now to protect Appalachian crayfishes and people threatened by mountaintop removal.

Op-ed: Stopping Wildlife Slaughter, One County at a Time

CoyoteLee Talbot knows a thing or two about Wildlife Services, the secretive federal program that wipes out millions of animals every year. In 1948, as a field assistant to a state biologist in California, he conducted research on the impacts of a poison called 1080, which caused painful deaths in foxes and coyotes as well as raptors and other untargeted animals that fed on the carcasses.

His life's work ultimately centered on protecting America's wildlife, including as an author of the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act, and serving as chief scientist of the President's Council on Environmental Quality under Presidents Nixon, Ford and Carter.

Last week Talbot published a powerful op-ed in the Sacramento Bee decrying the large-scale killing employed by Wildlife Services and praising Mendocino County's recent decision to suspend its contract with the federal program.

Talbot's piece is worth a read; then learn more about the Center's work to rein in Wildlife Services.

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Suit Filed to Save Sensitive Sparrow, Everglades Habitat

Cape Sable seaside sparrowThe Center and allies are in court against the Army Corps of Engineers and Fish and Wildlife Service for endangering an extremely sensitive -- and already endangered -- Florida species: the Cape Sable seaside sparrow. Nicknamed "the Goldilocks bird" because its habitat conditions must be just right, this 5-inch-long avian is the only bird restricted entirely to the Everglades. So it certainly can't escape the Army Corps' flooding of its Everglades habitat -- which the Service is allowing, in violation of the Endangered Species Act.

The Corps has been releasing large amounts of water through a series of gates into the Everglades during what should be the dry season. This is flooding the western portion of Everglades National Park, which once harbored more than 3,000 Cape Sable seaside sparrows -- but the flooding has reduced the population to fewer than 100 birds.

"We filed suit because the Corps has pushed this bird to the precipice of extinction," said the Center's Noah Greenwald.

Read more in the Miami Herald.

Wild & Weird: Pop Art Meets Dog Grooming

Fancily groomed dogYou've probably seen a meticulously groomed show poodle before -- a tall, curly white beast shaved, fluffed and finally rendered into something resembling a four-legged powder puff. It's a tradition that dates back to King Louis XVI, when the dogs, which were originally bred and groomed for hunting, were styled to match the outrageous coifs of French nobility.

But there's an all-too-American twist to this honored tradition that has picked up steam recently: creative dog grooming. And by creative, we mean outrageous, absurd and slightly terrifying. In fierce competitions across the country, creative dog groomers gather to dye, trim, blow-dry and fashion their canine models into living My Little Ponies, Muppets, pirates ... and in one case a hammerhead shark chasing what appears to be a chicken. There's a National Association of Professional Creative Groomers and a fan base that turns out to cheer the shows.

See photos of some of the top creatively groomed dogs; then check out this behind-the-scenes short documentary of one competition that took place in Hershey, Pa.

Kierán Suckling
Executive Director

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Photo credits: Wetsalts tiger beetle (c) Tripp Davenport; orange courtesy Flickr/peddhapati; oil train explosion in North Dakota via Occupy Riverwest; wolves by John Pitcher; bald eagle courtesy Flickr/Brent Moore; mountaintop mining courtesy Flickr/Kate Wellington; coyote courtesy Flickr/David Kingham; brown bear (c) Robin Silver, Center for Biological Diversity; Cape Sable seaside sparrow by Lori Oberhofner, NPS; fancily groomed dog courtesy Flickr/Fred Dunn.

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Center for Biological Diversity
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