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Center for Biological Diversity

No. 785, July 30, 2015

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Republicans' Attacks on Endangered Species Up 600 Percent

Gray wolvesIt isn't just your imagination: Republicans in Congress are dramatically ramping up their attacks on the Endangered Species Act and the animals and plants it protects. A new Center for Biological Diversity analysis called Politics of Extinction finds that, over the past five years, Republicans in Congress have launched 164 attacks on the Act -- a 600 percent increase in the rate of annual attacks over the previous 15 years.

Although wolves have been repeatedly targeted, this attack campaign has put sage grouse, delta smelt, American burying beetles and lesser prairie chickens in its sights as well. It's also aimed at crippling the Act itself, which protects more than 1,500 species around the country. Not surprisingly this unprecedented onslaught on the Endangered Species Act corresponds with a massive increase in campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry, big agriculture and other interests that oppose endangered species protection when it interferes with profits.

"We're witnessing a war on the Endangered Species Act unlike anything we've seen before," said the Center's Jamie Pang. "If it's allowed to succeed, this Republican assault will dismantle the world's most effective law for protecting endangered wildlife and put scores of species on the fast-track to extinction."

Read more in our press release.

Gone Too Long: Bring Back the Bears to California -- Take Action

California flag without grizzly bearThey're on the state's flag, but grizzly bears have been missing from California for nearly a century. It's time to bring them back. This week the Center launched a provocative new campaign -- using grassroots organizing, ads and social media -- urging the California Fish and Game Commission to support the return of grizzlies to the remote parts of the Sierra Nevada.

These great bears once roamed from the crest of the mountains to the beaches along the coast, but the last California grizzly was shot in Kings Canyon in 1924. Today there are vast stretches of habitat where grizzlies could survive and restore a sense of the wild that's vital to who we are and what California should be.

Our new campaign is using images of California's state flag -- without grizzlies -- to drive home the point that these bears belong in the Golden State and have been gone too long.

Please take a minute to sign our petition, share the campaign with your networks (#BringBackTheBears) and help us return grizzlies to California.

To Save Elephants, New Restrictions Enacted on Domestic Ivory Sales

African elephantOn Saturday, as part of an ongoing effort to reduce trade in wildlife through its "National Strategy on Wildlife Trafficking," the Obama administration announced new rules that restrict the trade of ivory over state lines and strengthen limits on ivory exports. The announcement comes on the heels of a Center petition to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to reclassify African elephants as two distinct species and protect both as "endangered" instead of merely "threatened."

Elephants across Africa are being wiped out at a dizzying pace to feed the illegal market for ivory products, and the United States has one of the largest markets in the world. Prohibiting interstate ivory trade is a much-needed step to shrink those domestic markets.

As Center staffer Lydia Millet wrote in an op-ed in The New York Times on Sunday, fewer than 100,000 forest elephants and 400,000 savannah elephants remain. Genetic studies indicate that the two split into separate species at least 2 million years ago, about the same time Asian elephants diverged from mammoths. An endangered listing would help protect the animals from the devastating effects of poaching.

Read Millet's op-ed in the Times and consider giving to our work to save these elephants.

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Outrage Over Cecil the Lion's Death; Similar Baiting Happens in the U.S.

BobcatFury spread around the world this week with news that a legendary lion in Zimbabwe was lured out of a national park and shot by an American hunter. Cecil the lion, who was 13, was prized at Hwange National Park and had been outfitted with a GPS collar to be part of an Oxford University study. Conservationists said Cecil was lured out of the park and shot with an arrow but not immediately killed. He was then tracked for some 40 hours and shot to death, according to reports.

But if you think luring wildlife out of national parks to be killed is limited to Zimbabwe, think again. In California it's still legal to lure bobcats out of a national park to kill and skin them for the fur trade. Next week, as a result of legislation supported by the Center, the state Fish and Game Commission is voting on whether to ban bobcat trapping statewide.

Speak up now to let California know you support a ban.

Emergency Petitions Filed to Save Alaska Wolves

Alexander Archipelago wolfFollowing a report that Alaska's rare Alexander Archipelago wolves have reached alarmingly low numbers in the Prince of Wales Island area, the Center and allies this week petitioned three agencies to take emergency action to protect them.

Alexander Archipelago wolves are smaller and darker-colored than other gray wolves (they're often jet-black), roaming the islands and coastal mainland of southeast Alaska. The wolves depend on old-growth trees in the Tongass National Forest, North America's largest national forest.

The Center has worked to save these wolves since 1996, when we first petitioned, with allies, for their federal protection. Thanks to our second Endangered Species Act petition, filed in 2011, the Fish and Wildlife Service will decide whether to protect the wolves by the end of this year. In the meantime, to protect the rapidly declining wolves on Prince of Wales Island, we're asking the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and the Federal Subsistence Board to cancel the area's 2015–2016 trapping and hunting season. We're also requesting that the U.S. Forest Service suspend logging and road-building in its Big Thorne timber project to allow reconsideration of its impacts on wolves.

Read more in the Juneau Empire.

Suit Filed to Stop Mendocino County From Using Wildlife-killing Program

FoxThe Center and partners filed suit Monday under the California Environmental Quality Act challenging Mendocino County's contract renewal with Wildlife Services, the federal wildlife-killing program that killed nearly 3 million animals in the United States in 2014. The county's renewal of the contract also violates a settlement agreement.

The county's previous contract authorizes the program to kill hundreds of coyotes -- as well as bears, bobcats, foxes and other animals in the county every year -- without fully assessing the ecological damage, considering alternatives or heeding opposition from hundreds of county residents.

"Despite the county's promise to consider nonlethal alternatives that are better for wildlife and taxpayers, county supervisors decided to do an end run around the law," said the Center's Amy Atwood. "They've misled and disappointed hundreds of their constituents."

Read more in the Ukiah Daily Journal.

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Court Order Sought to Expose California Pesticide Spraying

BeeThe Center, other environmental and public-health groups, and the city of Berkeley are seeking a court order to force the California Department of Food and Agriculture to publicly disclose and analyze any pesticide spraying it conducts that poses risks to people, wildlife or the environment.

This summer the department is spraying residential neighborhoods and school playing fields with three pesticides that are intended to kill Japanese beetles but so far have been unsuccessful -- and the chemicals (carbaryl, cyfluthrin and imidacloprid) are linked to cancer, birth defects and miscarriages in people ... besides being highly toxic to bees.

Our coalition filed a lawsuit in January challenging the department's reliance on a statewide environmental report to spray the pesticides instead of doing further analysis of their harms -- outraging residents of the Sacramento communities of Carmichael and Fair Oaks by spraying right in their backyards. A court order requiring the agency's disclosure of their spray campaigns and possible effects would be a major victory for public health and the environment.

Read more in our press release.

Wild & Weird: Selfies and Bison Don't Mix

Bison selfieBefore digital cameras and social media, people rarely handed out hundreds of photos of themselves to friends, family and total strangers dozens of times a day. They rarely felt the need to showcase themselves, say, #eatinglasagna, standing before the bathroom mirror presenting #rippedabs, or posing too close to a #wildbison.

Last week a Mississippi woman -- one of the more than 3 million people who flock to Yellowstone National Park yearly -- put herself and her daughter about 6 yards in front of one of the park's bison to snap a selfie. The massive ungulate came at them, and while the daughter wasn't injured, the mother was butted by the bison and tossed into the air.

Fortunately she received prompt medical attention and was diagnosed with minor injuries only. It's the fifth such bison encounter in Yellowstone this year, though, and the third incident to include a tourist who got too close for the sake of a photo.

Read more in The Washington Post; then learn from The Guardian what Russia's government is doing to prevent death-by-selfie.

Kierán Suckling
Executive Director

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Photo credits: Gray wolves courtesy Flickr/Chris Smith; California flag image courtesy Y & R California; elephant courtesy Flickr/Aristocrats-hat; wolves by John Pitcher; bobcat courtesy Flickr/Ken-ichi Ueda; Alexander Archipelago wolf (c) Robin Silver, Center for Biological Diversity; fox courtesy Flickr/Brad Smith; brown bear (c) Robin Silver, Center for Biological Diversity; bee courtesy Flickr/Miquel Vernet; original bison image courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Jack Dykinga.

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