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Center for Biological Diversity

No. 794, Oct. 1, 2015

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Victory in Alaska: Shell Drops Arctic Drilling

Shell protestRoyal Dutch Shell announced late Sunday that it's ending its Arctic offshore oil exploration "for the foreseeable future" after failing to strike oil at its Burger Prospect site in Alaska's Chukchi Sea. The Center for Biological Diversity, allies and Americans around the country have fought for years against Arctic Ocean drilling, where an oil spill would be impossible to clean up. It's a sweet victory.

"Polar bears, Alaska's Arctic and our climate just caught a huge break," said the Center's Miyoko Sakashita. "Here's hoping Shell leaves the Arctic forever. Drilling for oil there is inherently dangerous and will only drive the world deeper into the climate crisis. If we're going to leave behind a livable planet, we need to leave that oil in the ground today, tomorrow and always."

Thanks to all of you who spoke out against Shell's Arctic project. Savor this win -- and stay tuned for how you can help take Arctic drilling off the table for good.

Read more in The New York Times.

45,000 Acres Protected for Rare Butterflies in Midwest, Great Lakes

Dakota protestTwo rare prairie butterflies -- the Dakota skipper and the Poweshiek skipperling -- now have some of their most important habitat protected. The skipper (lost from 65 percent of its historic range) was protected under the Endangered Species Act as part of our historic 2011 agreement to speed decisions on 757 species around the country. The Poweshiek skipperling was also added to the endangered species list because it shares habitat with the skipper and is missing from 95 percent of its historic range.

Both of these inch-long, orange-and-brown butterflies have been hurt by the widespread loss of their native prairie habitat. That's why it was important this week that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service finalized protection for 19,903 acres for the Dakota skipper in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota. The Poweshiek skipperling received 25,000 protected acres in Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin and the Dakotas.

Read more in our press release.

Name That Jaguar: Tucson Students Cast Their Votes -- Watch Video

Jaguar in Southern ArizonaLast week more than 1,000 students at Tucson's Valencia Middle School voted to name America's only known wild jaguar, which lives less than 30 miles from downtown Tucson. The Center, which is sponsoring the naming contest, also provided teachers with materials to teach units on the lives and biology of jaguars.

After voting, students at Valencia -- whose mascot is a jaguar -- held a rally, which included a jaguar-themed obstacle course and plenty of jaguar pep.

Think you've got the right name for the Tucson jaguar? The voting is open through October. Mark your ballot for one of the nominated names or write in your own. And then check out our video of the event at Valencia.

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Lifesaver for 49 Hawaiian Plants, Animals

Band-rumped storm-petrelOn Tuesday, as part of the Center's 757 settlement agreement, 49 species were proposed for Endangered Species Act protection by the Fish and Wildlife Service. From the band-rumped storm-petrel to the orangeblack Hawaiian damselfly and Maui reedgrass, these Hawaiian plants and animals are threatened by a combination of habitat destruction, invasive species and climate change.

"Many of these species are on the brink of extinction, so I'm relieved to see them moving toward the protection they desperately need," said Loyal Mehrhoff, the former field supervisor of the Fish and Wildlife Service's Pacific Islands Fish and Wildlife Office and now recovery director at the Center.

With more endangered species than any other state, Hawaii's on the front lines of the extinction crisis. The Center petitioned for protection of 27 of the 49 species in 2004; many of them have been waiting years for protection. Our 757 species agreement has already resulted in endangered species protections for 142 species and proposed protection for another 66, including these.

Read more in our press release.

The Cost of Land Degradation? $10 Trillion a Year

BulldozerWe've long known that land degradation caused by unsustainable production and overconsumption comes at a high cost to people and the planet. Now researchers have estimated just how high that cost is: up to $10 trillion a year.

To come up with that number, 30 international research and policy institutes spent four years studying the economics of land degradation. They assessed a range of tangible ways that people benefit from nature, such as food, clean water, climate and disease regulation, nutrient cycling and poverty reduction, and determined how much these "ecosystem services" are worth in today's economy. Beyond the lost benefits, land degradation is predicted to force 50 million people from their homes.

As much as 75 percent of this decline is from changes to land in just the past 15 years -- much of which is the result of expanded agriculture, industrial development and drought. We need to rapidly shift to more sustainable practices, including eating less meat and keeping fossils fuels in the ground, before we take on any more environmental debt we can't afford.

Read more in ScienceDaily.

Stop California's Destructive Delta Tunnels -- Take Action

Chinook salmonA plan to build two massive tunnels to export more water out of the San Francisco Bay-Delta estuary is being fast-tracked by pro-tunnel agencies, and we need your help to stop it. Adding salt to the wound, it's being marketed as the "California WaterFix."

The project would divert enormous quantities of freshwater from areas that are protected as critical habitat for endangered fish, including chinook salmon, steelhead trout, green sturgeon and delta smelt. And all that water? Most of it would go to Big Ag companies in the San Joaquin Valley to grow water-intensive almonds and pistachios on unsustainable desert soils for oversea exports.

Act now to help us stop this transparent water grab. Our endangered fish need that water just to stay afloat.

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Four Plants in South Florida's Vanishing Pine Rocklands Closer to Protection

Florida partridge peaA step up for plants threatened by rising seas: The Center's landmark 757 agreement also pushed the Fish and Wildlife Service to announce Monday that four increasingly rare plants in Florida may qualify for Endangered Species Act protection.

The Big Pine partridge pea, wedge spurge, sand flax and Blodgett's silverbush have all lost pine rocklands habitat to development and are now at risk of being swamped by sea-level rise, which could be as much as 3 to 6 feet in South Florida by 2100. The four plant species have been candidates for listing since 1980; the next step is a full status review by the Service.

"It's amazing these four plants have survived the development that's destroyed nearly all pine rocklands habitat," said Jaclyn Lopez, our Florida director. "Endangered Species Act protection will help reverse their decline."

Read more in our press release.

Quick Hits: Help for Marianas Wildlife, Fight Over Oil Train Terminal

Humped tree snail

- 23 species protected in the Marianas Islands

- Fight launched over Virginia oil train terminal

- Eastern massasauga rattlesnake may finally get lifesaving help

Wild & Weird: Bigfoot Research Finds Rare Small-footed Creature

Pine martenThe "Patterson-Gimlin film" is a short, classic and controversial 1967 motion-picture recording of a stout and hairy figure the filmmakers claimed was Bigfoot. The footage was captured at Bluff Creek in Del Norte County, Calif. Biologists have long discredited the film as a hoax, but a group called the Bluff Creek Project has been using wildlife trail cameras in the area, hoping to get crisper photos and video of the Bigfoot.

Their cameras have yet to produce any cryptozoological fauna, but they have snapped two shots of a Humboldt marten -- a cute little critter in the weasel family, previously though to be extinct until a few were sighted elsewhere in 1996.

Last April the Fish and Wildlife Service decided not to give these martens protection under the Endangered Species Act, prompting the Center to step in with a notice of intent to sue for violations of the Act.

Read more about the Bigfoot camera traps and the rare martens at KCET.

Kierán Suckling
Executive Director

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Photo credits: Shell protest courtesy Flickr/Backbone Campaign; Dakota skipper by Phil Delphey, USFWS; jaguar courtesy USFWS; wolves by John Pitcher; band-rumped storm-petrel courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Richard Crossley; bulldozer courtesy Flickr/Raymond Zoller; chinook salmon courtesy Flickr/Michael Jefferies; brown bear (c) Robin Silver, Center for Biological Diversity; Florida partridge pea (Chamaecrista fasciculata) courtesy Flickr/Bob Peterson; humped tree snail by J. Kwon, USFWS; pine marten courtesy Flickr/Joanne Goldby.

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