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Center for Biological Diversity

No. 792, Sept. 17, 2015

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Climate Leaders to Obama: Halt New Leasing on Public Lands

The pressure is intensifying: This week more than 400 groups and leaders delivered a historic letter to President Obama asking him to stop new federal fossil fuel leasing on public lands and oceans. Keeping that coal, oil and gas in the ground would stop up to 450 billion tons of carbon pollution from reaching the atmosphere and worsening the climate crisis.

Indigenous leaders, labor unions, scientists, religious leaders, environmental groups -- including the Center for Biological Diversity -- and activists like Bill McKibben, Winona LaDuke, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Dr. Noam Chomsky, Dr. Michael Mann and Tim DeChristopher all signed the letter. It comes as international leaders prepare for December's climate talks in Paris and calls on Obama "to make our nation the first to commit to keeping all of its remaining, unleased public fossil fuels in the ground, thereby challenging other nations to do the same."

The Center, which spearheaded a report identifying the carbon costs of more leasing on public lands, also helped organize a rally Tuesday outside the White House.

Read more about the letter to Obama and check out these photos of Tuesday's rally.

Navy Agrees to Limit Underwater Assaults on Whales, Dolphins

DolphinsFor the first time ever, the U.S. Navy has agreed to limit the use of powerful explosives and sonar technologies in important habitat for whales, dolphins and other marine mammals off the coast of Southern California and Hawaii. The decision is part of a settlement made Monday among the Navy, the National Marine Fisheries Service and several environmental groups, including the Center.

The Navy has acknowledged that its training and testing activities illegally harm more than 60 populations of whales, dolphins, seals and sea lions. This week's settlement aims to manage the siting and timing of Navy activities, including in feeding and reproductive areas, as well as migratory corridors.

"This is a huge victory for critically endangered species like the insular population of Hawaii's false killer whales, which is down to only about 150 animals," said the Center's Miyoko Sakashita.

Read more in the Los Angeles Times.

Petition Filed for Emergency Protection of Rare Alaska Wolves

Alexander Archipelago wolfOn Friday the Federal Subsistence Board denied a request by the Center and allies to close federal wolf-hunting and trapping seasons on Alaska's Prince of Wales and nearby islands -- so on Monday we filed a petition for emergency protection for Alexander Archipelago wolves under the Endangered Species Act.

In the mid-1990s the Prince of Wales area had about 300 wolves, but by this June the state's fish and game department was estimating only 89 wolves for 2014. And that number didn't even factor in the 29 wolves killed in legal hunts over the winter, or the number killed due to poaching -- which may be substantial -- so the population may be as low as only 50 wolves.

"Allowing another season of hunting and trapping on Prince of Wales Island is like sucker-punching a heart-attack victim," said the Center's Noah Greenwald. "Unless the emergency protection provision of the Endangered Species Act is applied, these unique wolves are in great danger of disappearing forever."

Get more from Alaska Public Media.

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Beautiful Orchid Proposed for Protection After 40 Years

White fringeless orchidUnder the Center's 757 species agreement, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has finally proposed federal protection for the white fringeless orchid -- sometimes called the monkey-face orchid for the flower's shape -- after it spent an astonishing four decades as a mere "candidate" for Endangered Species Act protection.

The white fringeless orchid is a 2-foot-tall plant found in swampy areas at just 58 sites in Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi and Tennessee. Pollinated by certain butterflies, the orchid doesn't photosynthesize and instead depends on a symbiotic relationship with one specific fungus to provide nutrients. This leaves it particularly vulnerable to climate change, because -- in addition to threatening its wet habitat with drought -- global warming imperils the fungus and pollinators. Other threats to the orchid's survival are logging, sprawl, mowing and herbicide spraying, wetland draining, invasive plants and feral hogs.

"Protecting this tall, monkey-faced flower will also protect the swampy habitats that are such a special but threatened part of the natural heritage of the Southeast," said the Center's Tierra Curry.

Read more in our press release.

As Arctic Sea Ice Vanishes, Walruses Crowd Onto Alaska Beach

Walrus haul-outAs Arctic sea ice this week reached yet another low, an estimated 35,000 Pacific walruses have hauled out of the sea in Alaska's Point Lay. Such mass haul-outs have become increasingly common as the ice floes that walrus calves and their mothers rely on for feeding and resting disappear from the Chukchi Sea. Scientists fear a repeat of stampedes that have killed hundreds of walruses at once in recent years.

The National Snow and Ice Data Center reported on Tuesday that Arctic sea ice had dropped to 1.7 million square miles on Sept. 11 -- its fourth-lowest level yet, based on satellite records. Doubly frustrating is that, while burning fossil fuels has driven the climate crisis that's melting the Arctic, the Obama administration has approved more Arctic oil drilling.

"Pacific walruses are disappearing along with the Arctic sea ice they need to survive and it's sad to see so many crowded on the shore," said the Center's Shaye Wolf. "These walruses ought to be spending most of their time in the water right now, not packed together on the beach where there's less food and they're more likely to be killed by stampedes or bears."

Read more in our press release.

Epic Monarch Migration Begins

Monarch butterflyThis week the monarch butterflies of Canada and the United States began their stupendous annual migration south to Mexico -- so keep your eyes open for these black-and-orange beauties flitting over your gardens. It's an extraordinary spectacle.

The arrival of the monarchs in Mexico in late October and early November coincides with that country's "Dia de los Muertos" (Day of the Dead) holiday. Many locals believe the butterflies represent the souls of their departed loved ones, returned to gather in trees and stretch out in a shimmering carpet on the forest floor.

Over the past 20 years, monarchs' numbers have declined by 80 percent due to pesticide use, development and climate change driving habitat loss. So in August 2014 the Center and partners petitioned to protect these beautiful butterflies under the Endangered Species Act.

Check out some great maps of this year's southward monarch migration and read more about the Center's work to save monarchs.

Take Action

Think the Center Is a 'Great Nonprofit'? Speak Up Now With a Review

JaguarLooking for another way to help the Center and our work to save wildlife and wild places? Take a few minutes to review us at, a site (like Yelp or TripAdvisor) where you can tell others just how effective, passionate and hardworking you know we are as a nonprofit group.

Thanks to lots of stellar (that is, four-star) reviews by kind supporters in the past, the Center has won a "top-rated" award at GreatNonprofits every year since the site began more than five years ago. But to qualify for that award in 2015 -- which will help us spread the word about the wild world and our work to save it -- we need to keep getting good reviews through October.

So please, friends and supporters, lend us your pen -- er, keyboard -- and write us a rave review today.

Wild & Weird: Japan's Creepy-crawly Military 'Weed Car' -- Watch Video

HaystackIn a video put up on YouTube earlier this year, what appears to be a military personnel carrier camouflaged as a mutated, furry caterpillar, or a sentient haystack, or -- as one commenter noted -- a weed car, races through a field with helmeted humans tucked onboard.

At one point in the clip, the motorized critter stops and soldiers decked with bazookas dismount. The only context given by the uploader of the video reads as follows: "Japan creates the creepiest military vehicle." So, well, we don't know the details -- but this is definitely the first car we've ever seen that looks more like a giant butterfly larva.

Take a look at the bizarre "weed car" on YouTube.

Kierán Suckling
Executive Director

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Photo credits: "Keep It in the Ground" rally by Suchat Pederson; dolphins courtesy Flickr/Willy Volk; Alexander Archipelago wolf (c) Robin Silver, Center for Biological Diversity; wolves by John Pitcher; white fringeless orchid courtesy Flickr/NC Orchid; walruses courtesy USFWS; monarch butterfly courtesy Flickr/Debbie Long; brown bear (c) Robin Silver, Center for Biological Diversity; jaguar courtesy Flickr/Steve Wilson; haystack courtesy Flickr/Andrey Ivanoff.

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