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Center for Biological Diversity

No. 779, June 18, 2015

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Sky-high Climate Threat: Tell EPA to Curb Airplane Carbon Pollution

Airplane contrailThe friendly skies aren't as friendly as you think -- not when it comes to our planet's climate. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, following legal action by the Center for Biological Diversity and other groups, has just determined that skyrocketing greenhouse gas pollution from airplanes hurts the climate and endangers human health.

If commercial aviation were considered a country, it would rank seventh after Germany in terms of carbon emissions -- and that pollution is projected to more than triple by 2050. That's an unacceptable climate threat.

But instead of fighting this fast-growing menace, the EPA wants to pass the buck to a group that's virtually run by the airline industry -- The International Civil Aviation Organization -- which hasn't produced a single measure to curb aircraft-induced global warming in 18 years.

The EPA has set climate standards for cars and power plants -- now it must do the same for airplanes. Take action to urge it to set airplane carbon rules now.

Pacific Fisher One Step Closer to California Protection

Pacific fisherIn response to a petition and lawsuit by the Center, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife has recommended state Endangered Species Act protection for a rare forest carnivore -- the Pacific fisher -- in the southern Sierra Nevada part of its range.

This cat-like member of the weasel family is small, smart and tough enough to be the only mammal that regularly preys on porcupines. It was once wide-ranging, but today it exists only in two naturally occurring populations: one in the southern Sierra and another (for which the state has not proposed protection) in Northern California. All Pacific fishers have long been threatened by logging and are now also in danger from toxic chemicals used by illegal marijuana growers; the state's Fish and Game Commission will vote in August on whether to finalize protection for one or both populations.

"All California's fishers deserve full protection under the state's Endangered Species Act," said Center attorney Justin Augustine. "We hope the commission will recognize the numerous threats this species faces throughout California and protect both populations."

Read more in our press release.

135 Rare Hawaiian Species in Urgent Need of a Home -- Take Action

Awikiwiki flowerAfter three years of delay, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has reopened the comment period on its 2012 proposal to protect "critical habitat" for 135 imperiled species on the Hawaiian islands of Molokai, Lanai, Maui and Kahoolawe. Among these rare plants and animals are colorful geraniums, the Lanai tree snail and the gorgeous awikiwiki flower, all of which exist nowhere else on Earth.

Under the Endangered Species Act, agencies are required to designate critical habitat at the same time as listing a species as threatened or endangered, except in very limited circumstances. Despite this mandate fewer than half of listed species have protected habitat. Research has shown what should be a no-brainer: Endangered species with designated critical habitat are twice as likely to be on the path to recovery as those without it.

Act now to urge the Service to finalize protection for the full 271,062 acres of lands these 135 Hawaiian natives need to survive.

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Pope's Encyclical Warns of Destruction of Earth, Urges Climate Action

Pope FrancisThe world was buzzing this week over Pope Francis' letter to bishops, called an encyclical, urging people to change their lifestyles, consume less energy, and foster a love of nature to conserve the Earth and its ecosystems.

The document calls out climate deniers; asks all people to be willing to change their habits to combat global warming; and takes the position that carbon credits will exacerbate, not solve, the climate crisis. It also discusses the dangers of chemical-intensive agriculture and the falseness of interpretations of the Bible that promote a vision of humanity's relationship with the Earth as one of mastery and domination.

"Looking at the world we see that this level of human intervention, often in the service of finance and consumerism, actually causes the earth we live in to become less rich and beautiful, more and more limited and gray," the pope said, "while at the same time the development of technology and consumerism continues to advance without limits."

Check out the encyclical for yourself.

Lawsuit Launched for Rio Grande Cutthroat Trout

Rio Grande cutthroat troutRio Grande cutthroat trout are gone from 89 percent of their historic range, but even after a Center petition and two lawsuits to save these fish, the Fish and Wildlife Service has denied them Endangered Species Act protection. So the Center filed a notice of intent to sue yet again this week.

Named for the crimson slashes under their jaw, Rio Grande cutthroat trout once teemed in the cool, clear waterways of southern Colorado and New Mexico, but now they barely eke out an existence amid the forces of competition from nonnative species, habitat loss, climate change and other threats. For that reason, in 2008 the Service declared that Rio Grande cutthroat trout warranted protection -- but under a new Obama administration policy severely limiting when a species qualifies for protection, the agency reversed course last fall and denied help to the fish.

"By admitting that this beautiful trout is gone from 89 percent of its range and facing multiple threats but refusing to protect it anyway, the Obama administration is fundamentally undermining the Endangered Species Act," said the Center's Noah Greenwald.

Read more in the Santa Fe New Mexican.

Captive Chimpanzees Now Protected as "Endangered"

ChimpanzeeThe Fish and Wildlife Service announced Friday it will start classifying all chimpanzees, both wild and captive, as endangered under the Endangered Species Act beginning in September. Extending greater protection to captive chimpanzees by changing their status from "threatened" to "endangered" -- just like chimpanzees in the wild -- will help curtail the illegal capture and sale of wild chimps and prohibit import/export of these highly intelligent great apes without a permit.

Wild chimpanzees are under increasing pressure from habitat loss, deforestation, disease and capture for the pet trade and have been listed as endangered since 1990; that same year, captive populations were designated as threatened, with fewer protections. A coalition spearheaded by the Jane Goodall Institute petitioned the Service in 2010 to protect all chimpanzees as endangered.

Chimpanzees are humankind's closest living relative, living in 22 countries of equatorial Africa.

Read more in the Apex Tribune.

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Eastern Puma Declared Officially Extinct

Eastern cougarThe eastern puma -- a subspecies of the animal also known as cougar or mountain lion, which still lives across the West -- is officially extinct. The Fish and Wildlife Service this week removed the animal from its list of protected wildlife and plants under the Endangered Species Act.

In fact, the eastern cougar was extinct well before it was protected under the Act, as was the case with eight of the other 10 species that have been delisted for extinction.

Eastern pumas were driven into smaller and smaller areas between the 1790s and 1890s due to human persecution -- along with the extirpation, through hunting, of their primary prey, white-tailed deer. The last three eastern pumas were killed in 1930 in Tennessee, 1932 in New Brunswick and 1938 in Maine.

Pumas were once the most widely distributed mammal in the Americas, extending from the Yukon in Canada to the southern tip of South America.

Read more in our press release.

Wild & Weird: California's Water Wars Are Clothing Optional

Nudist signLupin Lodge, a nudist resort in the San Francisco Bay area, offers a full-frontal view into just how desperate the drought in California has become. Last week the owners of the establishment and two employees were slapped with felony charges for allegedly stealing water from a nearby creek and springs, siphoning the precious resource through pipes back for -- and this is just an assumption -- skinny-dipping activities.

When asked by The Washington Post if he felt the charges reflected anti-nudist sentiments, owner Glyn Stout retorted: "It's all about water [in California]. It really is."

Read more in The Washington Post.

Kierán Suckling
Executive Director

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Photo credits: Airplane contrail courtesy Flickr/Pieter van Marion; Pacific fisher courtesy Flickr/USFS, Region 5; awikiwiki flower courtesy Flickr/David Eickhoff; wolves by John Pitcher; Pope Francis courtesy Flickr/Catholic Church England and Wales; Rio Grande cutthroat trout by Lloyde Hazzard, USFWS; chimpanzee courtesy Flickr/Rod Waddington; brown bear (c) Robin Silver, Center for Biological Diversity; eastern cougar courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Lavonda Walton, USFWS; nudist sign courtesy Flickr/Matt.

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