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Center for Biological Diversity

No. 784, July 23, 2015

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Oak Flat Protest, Apache Stronghold Hits NYC, West Lawn of Capitol

Save Oak Flat protest in Times SquareThe powerful grassroots movement to save Arizona's Oak Flat -- a sacred site of the San Carlos Apache -- arrived in Washington, D.C., this week with an unmistakable message: This land, sacred to native people for generations, should not be desecrated by a massive copper mine.

Members of the Apache Stronghold have crossed the country over the past several weeks. As they went they gathered support from tribes and others who oppose a congressional rider, added to a defense spending bill passed in December, that traded away Oak Flat to foreign mining giant Rio Tinto. The caravan made a splash in New York City's Times Square on Friday and then arrived in Washington, D.C., earlier this week -- culminating in a rally on Wednesday at the U.S. Capitol. The protest featured drumming, singing and speeches from tribal leaders and supporters -- including Congressman Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), who has introduced a bill to repeal the rider and save Oak Flat.

Thank you to all those who showed up in person or sent support from afar. Check out photos of the caravan and rally, read a New York Times blog post by Center for Biological Diversity Executive Director Kierán Suckling, and sign our pledge to save Oak Flat.

Climate Crisis? Obama Administration OKs Shell's Arctic Drilling

Polar bearsVery troubling news for the Arctic and the climate crisis: The Obama administration on Wednesday gave Shell the last permit it needs to begin dangerous oil drilling in the Chukchi Sea off Alaska this summer. Not only will this decision put polar bears and other wildlife at direct risk from an oil spill, but it'll push the planet deeper into the rapidly unfolding climate crisis.

Shell's first attempt to explore for oil in the Arctic Ocean ended with the embarrassing grounding of its drillship in 2012 and the Coast Guard's discovery of 16 significant safety violations on its drill rig. The Obama administration has admitted there's a 75 percent chance of one or more large oil spills in the Chukchi Sea if oil is developed there. And we know that an oil spill in the harsh conditions of the Arctic would be nearly impossible to clean up.

"As scary as it is to think about an oil spill in the Arctic, the climate consequences of Arctic drilling are the real horror story," said the Center's Rebecca Noblin. "If we don't keep this dirty oil in the ground, there's not going to be much of an Arctic left to protect."

Read this moving op-ed in Medium from the Center's Miyoko Sakashita, and check out this video from our San Francisco "kayaktivist" protest last weekend.

Tell the EPA to Save Monarch Butterflies -- Take Action

Monarch butterfliesMonarch butterflies have declined by 90 percent in the past 20 years, which is why the Center and allies filed a petition last summer to protect these backyard beauties under the Endangered Species Act. A leading cause of the species' decline is a 20-fold increase in pesticide use caused by the widespread adoption of herbicide-tolerant, genetically engineered crops.

Among these herbicides, glyphosate is a main culprit. Commonly known as Roundup, it's a potent killer of milkweed, the monarch's only host plant. The EPA is now seeking feedback on options for protecting monarchs, and we need you to weigh in against glyphosate.

Tell the EPA that to save monarchs, it needs to rein in out-of-control pesticide use now.

Go Solar With Sungevity

New NOAA Report: Oceans Hammered by Climate Crisis in 2014

Arctic sunsetA new report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration confirms a record-setting warming trend in 2014 with clear indications that our oceans are taking a beating.

State of the Climate in 2014 shows that sea-surface temperatures across the globe were the highest on record; global upper-ocean heat content also reached a record high for the year. (Oceans absorb more than 90 percent of Earth's excess heat from greenhouse gas forcing.) Global average sea level rose to a record high too.

That's why, to save our oceans from the devastating effects of greenhouse gas buildup, the Center's Oceans program filed a petition last month asking the Obama administration to regulate carbon dioxide under the federal Toxic Substances Control Act -- a first-of-its-kind petition. High CO
2 concentrations are driving the destruction of coral reefs and threatening nearly every form of sea life, from tiny plankton to fish, whales and sea otters.

Read more about the NOAA report and check out our press release on the petition.

Lawsuit Targets Industry-friendly Loopholes in Rule on Wetlands, Rivers

Wetland birdsThe Center and allies went to court this week to challenge last-minute exemptions given to industries in the new "waters of the United States" ruling that could open the door to more pollution of wetlands, streams and other waterways. The rule, finalized in May, defines which waterways can be protected from destruction, degradation and pollution without a permit under the Clean Water Act.

Among the late provisions in the rule, approved in May, is one that wetlands, ponds and other small water bodies can only be protected if they're within 4,000 feet of a stream or river. A foot beyond that? Even if a wetland is vitally important, it doesn't qualify for protection. That'll hurt frogs and birds that live in those wetlands and impair water quality downstream, harming endangered salmon, sturgeon and other freshwater species vulnerable to pollution.

"Freshwater species in the United States are already going extinct hundreds of times faster than terrestrial species, and these loopholes will make survival even harder for them," said the Center's Brett Hartl. "There's no question that eliminating protection for thousands of wetlands will hurt people and wildlife for generations to come."

Read more in our press release.

Win: Judge Keeps Oil, Gas Exploration Out of Arctic Refuge's Coastal Plain

CaribouImportant news in our work to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge: A federal judge this week rejected an effort by the state of Alaska to conduct harmful seismic oil and gas exploration in the biologically rich, 1.5-million-acre coastal plain area of the refuge. The state had filed a legal challenge against an earlier decision by the U.S. Department of the Interior rejecting the plan. Conservation groups, including the Center, intervened in the case.

Spanning more than 19 million acres, the refuge is America's largest tract of pristine wild land and crucial habitat for caribou, polar bears, wolves, fish and migratory birds. Its subsistence resources have also sustained Alaska Native people for thousands of years.

Now it's time for Congress to permanently protect the Arctic Refuge, in all its richness and diversity, before it's destroyed for short-term profit.

Read more in our press release.

Take Action

Suit Launched to Save Oregon Spotted Frog From Dams

Oregon spotted frogThe Center on Tuesday submitted a formal notice of intent to sue the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation over the operation and maintenance of the Crane Prairie and Wickiup dams, which are harming a very rare frog on Oregon's Deschutes River. In accordance with our 757 species settlement agreement, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service protected the Oregon spotted frog in August 2014 under the Endangered Species Act, meaning the Bureau must consult with the Service and adjust its management of the dams to ensure the frog's safety.

But the agency has neither consulted with the Service nor improved its dam management.

The frog lives upstream and downstream of both dams and is harmed when reservoirs are rapidly drawn down in the spring -- this strands the frog's egg masses and floods important frog habitat elsewhere by raising the level of the river. These problems can likely be fixed with minimal impact to irrigation deliveries, but it requires a little effort from the Bureau. Meanwhile this frog survives in fewer than 100 known sites, largely due to loss of its wetland habitats.

Read more in The Oregonian.

Wild & Weird: Luxury Airport Terminal Just for Animals

PawdicureA new terminal under construction at New York's John F. Kennedy Airport will feature spa therapies, a pool, showers and even conjugal stations. But don't get too excited -- it's not for the likes of you.

The ARK terminal, set to open in 2016, is an animal-quarantine facility gone glam. Racehorses will have a jogging track. Mating pairs of penguins will have privacy stalls. And, if you have the extravagant wherewithal, the facility will include a bone-shaped wading pool and "pawdicures" for your pooch, as well as a custom-made jungle of climbing trees for your kitty.

The ARK will also be capable of handling 180 cattle -- and the 5,000 pounds of waste they create -- every day. Luckily the architects created the cattle pen on a slight angle so that all that manure will slide away into a receptacle, saving the primped Pomeranians and Persians next door from odoriferous offense.

Read more and see concept photos at Gizmodo.

Kierán Suckling
Executive Director

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Photo credits: Times Square Apache protest by Standing Fox; polar bears courtesy Flickr/Lennart Tange; monarch butterfly cluster courtesy Flickr/Sandy/Chuck Harris; banner courtesy Sungevity; Arctic ocean courtesy Flickr/NASA Goddard Space Flight Center; wetland birds courtesy Flickr/Adventures of KM&G-Morris; caribou by Ken Conger, NPS; brown bear (c) Robin Silver, Center for Biological Diversity; Oregon spotted frog by Teal Waterstrat, USFWS; pawdicure courtesy Flickr/Don Hankins.

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