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Center for Biological Diversity

No. 796, Oct. 15, 2015

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Victory: 10 Mexican Gray Wolves to Be Released in New Mexico

Mexican gray wolfBig news in our work to save one of North America's rarest mammals: After pressure from the Center for Biological Diversity and allies, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Wednesday it will release about 10 Mexican gray wolves into the wilds of southwestern New Mexico -- a move scientists say is crucial to reduce dangerous inbreeding of the rare creatures.

Just days earlier, the Center and allies sent a letter to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, signed by 43 groups and scientists, asking her to release at least five packs of endangered Mexican gray wolves into New Mexico's 3.3-million-acre Gila National Forest.

Back in 1998, after a Center lawsuit, the Service began reintroducing Mexican gray wolves from captive-breeding facilities into their historic U.S. Southwest range, where they had been obliterated by federal poisoning and trapping. But the Service only released wolves into a small part of Arizona's Apache National Forest, which quickly filled with wolf families.

"Releasing Mexican wolves to the wild is the only way to save these animals from extinction," the Center's Michael Robinson told the Santa Fe New Mexican. "It's vital now that enough wolves get released to diversify their gene pool and ensure they don't waste away from inbreeding."

Read more in our press release and the Santa Fe New Mexican.

Rare Kentucky Fish May Get 246 Miles of Protected Streams

Kentucky arrow darterUnder a settlement with the Center, the Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed to protect the Kentucky arrow darter -- a small fish found only in southeastern Kentucky -- under the Endangered Species Act. The proposal includes special "critical habitat" protection for 246 miles of streams in 10 eastern counties.

Kentucky arrow darters are 5 inches long, with a yellow-to-green background color most of the year. Males turn blue-green with scarlet spots and orange bars during breeding season. But this unique, rainbow-finned fish has been lost from almost half its historical range, mostly due to water pollution from coal mining like mountaintop removal.

The Service added the Kentucky arrow darter to the candidate waiting list for Endangered Species Act protection in 2010. In 2011 the Service and the Center reached a landmark agreement that requires the Service to issue protection decisions for all the species on the 2010 candidate waiting list by 2016.

"I grew up on Troublesome Creek, where the Kentucky arrow darter is now nearly wiped out," said the Center's Tierra Curry. "Thank goodness the Endangered Species Act is finally going to start protecting the precious wildlife of Appalachia."

Read more in the Lexington Herald Leader.

California Bans Polluting Plastic Microbeads From Beauty Products

Beauty productsCalifornia Gov. Jerry Brown signed a new bill into law last week phasing out the use of plastic microbeads in beauty products by 2020. Importantly, the new law closes a loophole in microbead bans passed in other states that allows companies to replace these microscopic plastic polluters with yet more plastic. The California ban is the strongest legislation in the country and will set an industry standard.

Plastic microbeads -- designed to be washed down the drain and too small to be reliably captured by wastewater-treatment facilities -- pollute lakes, rivers and oceans by the gazillions. Once in the environment, the beads concentrate toxins such as pesticides and flame retardants on their surface, which may then transfer to the tissue of fish that mistake the beads for food. One tube of exfoliating facial wash can contain more than 350,000 microbeads.

"Our oceans are choking on plastic, so it's great to see the California legislature eliminating this pointless and harmful source of plastic pollution," said Miyoko Sakashita, the Center's oceans program director. "Once again California has set the national standard for policies protecting our precious natural resources."

Read more in The Examiner.

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Who Was 2015's Worst Eco-villain? Vote Now

Rubber Dodo AwardIt's time to cast your vote for the worst of the worst for 2015 -- those who went hell-for-leather to destroy wild places, drive species extinct, and tear apart the cultural and biological diversity that's crucial to our survival.

The Center established the Rubber Dodo award in 2007 as a way to spotlight the year's worst eco-villain. The award, named after one of the most famous extinct species on Earth, is given out every year. It does not come with a cash prize. Previous recipients of this prestigious faux-accolade include the deadly wildlife-killing program known as Wildlife Services, the infamous Koch Brothers, Sen. James Inhofe and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

This year's nominees are Sen. John McCain, Exxon, Monsanto, Volkswagen and Cliven Bundy.

Learn more about why each made it to our Dodo list and cast your vote for the worst.

Lawsuit Targets Illegal Pipes for Nestlé's Bottled Water

Southwestern willow flycatcherThe Center, Story of Stuff and the Courage Campaign sued the U.S. Forest Service on Tuesday for allowing Nestlé to take millions of gallons of water out of the San Bernardino National Forest through a piping system whose permit expired 27 years ago. In 2014 alone an estimated 25 million gallons were piped away from the forest to be bottled and sold as "Arrowhead 100% Mountain Spring Water."

The lawsuit challenges the 4-mile pipeline that moves water from the forest's Strawberry Creek en route to the bottling operation in Ontario, Calif. The permit expired in 1988, but the piping system remains in active use, siphoning about 68,000 gallons of water a day out of the forest last year.

"California is in the middle of its worst drought in centuries and the wildlife that rely on Strawberry Creek, including southwestern willow flycatchers and numerous amphibians, are seeing their precious water siphoned away every day," said Ileene Anderson with the Center. "It's inexcusable for the Forest Service to allow this piping system to continue year after year without a permit or any review."

Check out this Story of Stuff video about the pipes and then read more in USA Today.

Tell Olive Garden, Restaurant Chain to Green Up Their Menus

Olive Garden signOlive Garden, Longhorn Steakhouse, Bahama Breeze and other chains operated by Darden Restaurants serve more than 320 million meals a year. Imagine if they made their menus more sustainable, safer for wildlife, and better for the planet and our communities. That's what the Center is hoping to do -- and we need your help.

We've built a coalition of conservation, labor and food-safety organizations calling on Darden to adhere to the Good Food Purchasing Principles by 2020 in at least 20 percent of its food purchases. That includes reducing meat and dairy purchases by 20 percent, serving smaller portions and adding more meat-free options. It also means purchasing food that supports local economies, meets the highest animal-welfare standards, is healthy, and ensures fair pay and dignified working conditions for Darden employees.

With a company this large, the effects of every food choice are magnified. Darden has a unique opportunity to use its purchasing power to support a healthier, fairer and more sustainable food system. Sign the petition to urge Darden to implement these good food principles.

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Endangered Species Act Success: Rare Deer on Path to Recovery

Columbian white-tailed deerThe Fish and Wildlife Service proposed last week to "downlist" the Columbian white-tailed deer, which lives in Oregon and Washington, from endangered to threatened under the Endangered Species Act -- meaning the deer has made a partial recovery since it was protected under the Act's precursor law in 1967.

This unique deer lives exclusively on islands and riverbanks of the lower Columbia River, and has been reintroduced to some islands in the decades following its listing. Its population increased from 337 individuals in 1976 to 830 in 2014, and those numbers -- as well as the deer's range -- are expected to continue expanding.

"Recovery hasn't been easy," said Loyal Mehrhoff, the Center's new recovery director and a former field supervisor at the Fish and Wildlife Service. "The deer's had its share of ups and downs. But with the help of national wildlife refuges, tribes, conservation groups, states and local landowners, the Service stuck with it and got the species on the right track."

Read more in our press release.

End the Use of Toxic Flame Retardants in Household Items -- Take Action

Car seatDid you know that many objects in our homes -- like furniture, electronics, car seats and even children's toys -- are coated in toxic flame retardants? Given enough time these chemicals migrate into the air and dust in our homes ... and into the soil and water in the environment. Recent research suggests that 100 percent of bats and river otters, 94 percent of bald eagles, and a startling 97 percent of humans have measurable quantities of organohalogen flame retardants in their blood.

Though these objects may seem benign due to familiarity, this problem must end now: Flame retardants are associated with multiple adverse health effects, including reproductive impairment, neurodevelopmental abnormalities in children, endocrine disruption and cancer.

Act now to tell the Consumer Product Safety Commission to ban the sale of products containing chemical flame retardants and prevent these toxins from contaminating our natural world.

Wild & Weird: Cambodia's Landmine-sniffing Rats

Giant pouched ratGiant pouched rats, native to Africa, grow up to 3 feet long (though more than half of that is tail). Nocturnal by nature, they have poor eyesight but a remarkably keen sense of smell -- so keen that they've been trained to sniff out tuberculosis in Africa and now landmines in Cambodia.

Humans with metal detectors are often too slow to be effective at land-mine detection -- stopping every time the detector picks up a trace metal of any kind. Dogs can be too heavy, their weight just enough to detonate landmines. But giant pouched rats sniff for the explosive compounds specifically; are too light to set off the ordnance; and can cover 2,000 square feet in only about 20 minutes.

Of course, the jury's still out on whether these rats enjoy their humanitarian work. And according to the Fish and Wildlife Service, they've also become an invasive species in the Florida Keys.

Learn more from National Geographic.

Kierán Suckling
Executive Director

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Photo credits: Mexican gray wolf courtesy deviantart/Lynn Kitchell; Kentucky arrow darter by Matt Thomas, KDFWR; beauty products courtesy Flickr/Alex Avriette; wolves by John Pitcher; Rubber Dodo Award courtesy Center for Biological Diversity; southwestern willow flycatcher courtesy USFWS; sign courtesy Flickr/Mike Mozart; brown bear (c) Robin Silver, Center for Biological Diversity; Columbian white-tailed deer courtesy USFWS; car seat courtesy Flickr/Meagan; giant pouched rat courtesy Flickr/Hans De Bisschop.

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