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Center for Biological Diversity

No. 789, Aug. 27, 2015

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After Almost 100 Years, a Gray Wolf Pack Lives in California

Shasta Pack in CaliforniaExciting, inspiring news from Northern California: For the first time in almost a century, a family of gray wolves is living wild in the state. In remote Siskiyou County, a trail camera has captured a series of photographs of both the adult wolves and the black pups.

The two adult, black-furred wolves and five 4-month-old pups have been named the Shasta pack, after the area's spectacular volcano.

Thanks to foresight and pressure from the Center for Biological Diversity and our allies that resulted in state action in 2014, these wolves have the benefit of legal protection under California's Endangered Species Act. According to state biologists, one or more of the animals will soon be radio-collared for monitoring; in the meantime, their black color should make it virtually impossible for any hunters to claim to mistake them for coyotes -- and very difficult for any actual mistaken ID to occur.

Read more in the Los Angeles Times.

Poll: 80 Percent of Hawaii Voters Support Monk Seal Habitat Protection

Hawaiian monk sealA new poll commissioned by the Center found that more than 80 percent of Hawaii voters support new rules protecting nearly 7,000 square miles of coastal habitat for Hawaiian monk seals, among the most endangered marine mammals on the planet.

The National Marine Fisheries Service announced the habitat protections last week. Our poll, conducted shortly after the announcement, also found that 93 percent of Hawaii voters said it was "very important" or "somewhat important" to keep monk seals from going extinct.

There are only about 1,100 Hawaiian monk seals left, and their population has been decreasing by about 3 percent per year. The critical habitat designation came in response to a petition by the Center and allies.

"It's heartening to see so many Hawaiians supporting new habitat protections for Hawaiian monk seals," said the Center's Miyoko Sakashita about the poll. "These seals are on the brink of extinction, and Hawaii locals clearly recognize that we need to do everything we can to save them and other endangered wildlife."

Read more in our press release.

10,000 Endangered Species Condoms Going to 100 College Campuses

Endangered Species CondomsThis time of year means back to school for millions of college students around the country. The Center is adding some must-have items: Our student volunteers will be giving away 10,000 free Endangered Species Condoms at more than 100 campuses, from the University of Alaska Fairbanks to the University of Florida.

They'll be distributed at club fairs, dormitories, classrooms, fraternities and sororities. These conversation-starting condoms come in beautifully designed packages and feature species threatened by human population growth and overconsumption, including polar bears, monarchs and hellbender salamanders. We've given away more than 600,000 condoms since 2009.

"The typical college freshman today has seen more than a billion and a half people added to the planet since they were born," said the Center's Leigh Moyer. "Back-to-school is the perfect time for students to give away free condoms and start the conversation about how sex and reproductive health fit into the issues they care about."

Read more in our press release.

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Big Trucks Need Big Carbon Cuts -- Take Action

TrucksThe Environmental Protection Agency has proposed new emissions standards for big trucks -- everything from heavy-duty pickups to tractor-trailers -- over model years 2018–2027. But while the standards would cut about 127 million metric tons of CO2 pollution 20 years down the road, the agency's proposal would let big trucks keep guzzling and spewing. Greater reductions are both necessary and possible.

The trucks covered by the new rule account for about 22 percent of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions from transportation, and they're the fastest-growing source in that sector. It's time for big trucks to make serious cuts in emissions to help us avoid climate catastrophe and protect the health of our communities and wildlife.

How much stronger could the standards be? Much. Through faster implementation and more aggressive technology, truck emissions in year 2035 could be cut by at least 30 percent more than the EPA is proposing. A loophole for natural gas engines must also be closed to avoid rewarding dangerous fracking.

Act now to help clear our skies with strong emissions standards for big trucks.

Majestic Monarch Mural Unveiled in Minneapolis

Endangered species muralIn the third installment of the Center's Endangered Species Mural Project, artist Roger Peet has painted a beautiful, colorful mural of one of North America's most beloved and iconic butterflies, the monarch, on the wall of Toni's Market, in diverse south Minneapolis.

The monarch butterfly undertakes an amazing multigenerational migration each year, with the butterflies that metamorphose in Minnesota and other northern locales in late summer flying all the way to Mexico to overwinter before heading north to lay the next generation of eggs in the southern United States the following spring. Once the common backyard friends of children across the continent, monarchs have declined by more than 80 percent in the past 20 years due to pesticide use and development.

The unveiling of the monarch mural included music, educational events and a talk by Center biologist Tierra Curry, a lead author on a petition by the Center and allies to protect monarchs under the Endangered Species Act. It was the third gala in our new Endangered Species Mural Project. The others are in Sandpoint, Idaho, and Butte, Mont.

Learn more about our Endangered Species Mural Project and read about the monarch's plight in The Washington Post.

Colorado Mine Spill Sparks Calls for Regulatory Reform -- Take Action

Colorado RiverIn the wake of the toxic spill on Colorado's Animas River this month -- and in advance of the scheduled reopening of an old uranium mine near Grand Canyon next month -- the Center joined environmental groups and tribal nations this week in petitioning the Obama administration to reform outdated mining rules. We're looking for changes in mining regulations to help protect western rivers, streams and groundwater from disasters like the Gold King Mine spill, and to ensure that mine owners can't simply walk away from inactive mines.

You can help push these important reforms. Join us in asking the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service to take action to rein in mining pollution across the West -- including pollution from uranium mines near the Grand Canyon that pose a serious risk of radiological contamination to the canyon's seeps and springs.

Urge the agencies to update their rules for mines on public lands to protect wildlife and wild places, and help ensure that what happened to the Animas doesn't happen to the Grand Canyon.

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New Study: Burgers Bear Most Blame for Biodiversity Crisis

BurgerThe global carbon footprint of cows is well known to scientists who study the causes of climate change, if not to the general public -- but now there's strong evidence for something else the Center's been working to publicize: the beef industry's devastating effects on biodiversity.

A team from Florida International University has produced a new study -- lauded as "colossally important" by a leading geophysicist -- that says habitat degradation, pollution and deforestation caused by meat eating are "likely the leading cause of modern species extinctions."

Meat consumption has increased globally by 24 percent since the 1960s (and the United States consumes more meat than almost any other nation in the world), the study says -- and it's only getting worse. Cattle, which eat enormous quantities of food and produce huge methane emissions, are expected to grow in number by more than 1 billion by 2050. The study recommends people limit meat consumption to 10 percent of their calories and eat more fruits and vegetables. "To support a future with lower animal product food demands," the study's authors wrote, "would drastically reduce habitat and biodiversity loss."

Read more in Science.

Wild & Weird: Earth's Highest-flying Bird Soars Seven Miles Up

Griffin vultureOn Nov. 29, 1973, a commercial aircraft cruising over western Africa collided with a Rüppell's griffon vulture. The impact damaged an engine, shutting it down. Fortunately, the plane was able to land safely; unfortunately, the bird was not. Investigators had to rely on five complete feathers and 15 partial feathers, cross-referenced with material in the National Museum of Natural History, to identify the species as Gyps rueppellii.

In the age of high-volume commercial air traffic, the event may seem ordinary: More than 9,000 birds are reported struck annually by planes in the United States alone, and since pilots don't have to log "inconsequential" bird strikes, the numbers are likely higher than that.

What's extraordinary is the altitude at which the impact took place: 37,000 feet. No other bird had ever been recorded soaring more than 7 miles above the Earth. Tragically, these extraordinarily high flyers -- like nearly all species of vulture in Africa -- are at high risk of extinction.

Learn more about how Rüppell's griffons are able to fly so high from io9 and read more about why they're at risk in National Geographic.

Kierán Suckling
Executive Director

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Photo credits: Shasta pack courtesy California Department of Fish and Wildlife; Hawaiian monk seal courtesy NOAA; Endangered Species Condoms art by Shawn DiCriscio and design by Lori Lieber; wolves by John Pitcher; trucks courtesy Flickr/Kellie CA; monarch mural by Tierra Curry, Center for Biological Diversity; Colorado River courtesy Flickr/David Denicolo; brown bear (c) Robin Silver, Center for Biological Diversity; burger courtesy Flickr/sittered; griffin vulture courtesy Flickr/Tim Strater.

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