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Center for Biological Diversity

No. 797, Oct. 22, 2015

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Huge Victory for the Arctic -- Two Oil, Gas Lease Sales Cancelled

Polar bearsIn an exciting victory for the climate and the Arctic, the Obama administration announced on Friday that it's cancelling two oil and gas lease sales off Alaska that were scheduled for 2016 and 2017. The announcement came just weeks after Shell halted its offshore drilling operations in the area.

Earlier this year the administration announced five-year plans to open up the Atlantic Ocean to drilling and offer more lease sales in Arctic waters off Alaska. An oil spill in the Arctic would be impossible to clean up and would push wildlife in the region -- much of which is already in trouble from global warming -- closer to extinction. Opposition to offshore Arctic drilling by the Center for Biological Diversity and other groups and activists around the country has been vocal and visible.

"Arctic drilling never made sense," said the Center's Miyoko Sakashita. "We're happy to see Shell walk away and now to have these two lease sales cancelled. It can't stop here, though: It's time to take the next step and pledge to keep oil in the ground and transition quickly to energy sources that are safer, smarter and better for all of us."

Read more in U.S. News & World Report.

Win: Washington Governor Scales Back Cougar Hunting

CougarIn June the Center and allies asked Washington state's Fish and Wildlife Commission to reverse its controversial decision to dramatically ramp up cougar-hunting quotas. The commission denied our request, so we went straight to Gov. Jay Inslee -- who this week granted it, ordering the commission to revert to quotas that are, at least, more scientifically justifiable.

"This is a victory for Washington's cougars, sound science and open government," said the Center's Collette Adkins. "The Fish and Wildlife Commission decided to kill more cougars after ignoring the public and its own scientists. This knee-jerk decision needed to be reversed, and we're overjoyed the governor agreed with us."

Read more in The Spokesman-Review.

Thousands Back New National Monuments in California

Desert tortoiseNearly 16,000 people -- including conservationists, business leaders and local residents -- have come out in favor of creating three new national monuments in the Southern California desert.

Mojave Trails National Monument would preserve striking desert lands linking Joshua Tree National Park and the Mojave National Preserve. Sand to Snow National Monument would rise from the Sonoran desert floor up to the 11,503-foot-tall Mount San Gorgonio and include 135,000 acres of alpine peaks, forests, Joshua tree woodlands, alpine streams, desert oases and coastal chaparral -- plus 25 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail and the Santa Ana and Whitewater river headwaters. And Castle Mountains National Monument would conserve a missing piece in the northern part of the Mojave National Preserve: the monument's namesake 29,000-acre Castle Mountains.

All the proposed monuments contain lands that are important habitat for desert tortoise and bighorn sheep, and all are located just hours from Southern California's most urban areas. We submitted petitions to the Obama administration to protect these lands before a hearing last Tuesday.

Check out our new webpages mapping the monuments, then voice your support for them.

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U.S. Climate Negotiators Urged to Back Cuts in Ship, Airplane Pollution

ShipAny agreement to deal with the global climate crisis must include curbing carbon pollution from airplanes and ships. That's the message the Center and allies sent this week to the U.S. negotiating team heading to the Paris climate summit in December.

Why is it so important? Because combined emissions from ships and aviation have about the same climate impact as emissions from all of Germany -- and they keep growing. Language addressing those emissions abruptly disappeared from the negotiating text that will shape the final international climate agreement, but it was restored this week during negotiations in Bonn, Germany.

"If these rapidly growing pollution sources are not included in the Paris agreement, other industrial sectors and countries must somehow make up the slack," said the Center's Vera Pardee. "Then it will be even more difficult to prevent runaway global warming."

Check out our press release.

Save New Mexico's Last Free-flowing River -- Take Action

Gila RiverThe fight to save New Mexico's magnificent Gila River from a harmful water diversion is far from over. Gov. Susana Martinez has failed to act, so the Center and allies are appealing to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell to end this completely unnecessary, billion-dollar boondoggle once and for all.

Originating in America's first federally designated wilderness area, New Mexico's Gila River is a biological gem and deserves long-term protection. Its riparian forests boast one of the highest concentrations of breeding birds in the country -- including rare yellow-billed cuckoos -- and its waters sustain endangered loach minnows, spikedace and Gila trout. The Gila is also a mainstay for the area's outdoor recreation economy.

After three previous failed attempts to dam and divert this iconic Southwest river, the region's bureaucrats are back and threatening to destroy the Gila again. Act now to urge Secretary Jewell to step up, bring sanity to the situation, and bury this ill-conceived project for good.

Report: Oil-well Oversight Botched in L.A. Area

PumpjacksThis month California oil regulators released a report finding "systemic problems" with the state's regulation of oil companies' underground injection in and around Los Angeles, admitting the state has been letting companies drill and inject fluid underground to extract oil before assessment of water-contamination risks.

The report says the state decided to ignore risk-assessment requirements in 2012, after Gov. Jerry Brown fired two top oil regulators for approving injection-well permits too slowly. It also finds that many older injection wells in L.A. haven't been reviewed for water-contamination risk in decades. But the state plans to take at least three years to assess the problem while these wells keep operating -- and in fact, the state has kept the issue to itself for as long as a year.

"The Brown administration kept its disturbing findings from the public and is still dragging its feet on taking corrective action to protect water supplies in Los Angeles," said the Center's Hollin Kretzmann. "That raises huge questions about risks to water supplies in other parts of the state."

Read more in the Los Angeles Times.

Take Action

Quick Hits: Name the Jaguar, Support California Grizzlies, Get Ringtones


Cast your vote to name the only known wild American jaguar.

Sign and share our petition to bring grizzlies back to California.

Hear the call of the wild? Get our free endangered species ringtones.

Wild & Weird: The Wildest Winds on Earth

Weather vaneDepending on which measure of "windiness" you're talking about -- strongest single gust, strongest sustained wind speed or highest tornadic wind speed -- there are several regions in the running for the planet's windiest place.

In 1996 a weather station on Barrow Island, off the northwest coast of Australia, recorded the strongest single wind gust measured to date: a blistery 253-miles-per-hour blast from Cyclone Olivia. In 1961 an even larger cyclone named Nancy reportedly produced sustained wind speeds of 215 mph.

But neither of these super-twisters produced the pure wind velocity of a tornado whipping through the middle of the United States. On May 3, 1999, the World Meteorological Organization recorded tornadic wind speeds near Bridge Creek, Okla., of 302 mph.

Read more about the windiest places on Earth, and see some nice pics, at the BBC.

Kierán Suckling
Executive Director

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Photo credits: Polar bears courtesy Flickr/trasroid; cougar courtesy Flickr/Dan Hutcheson; desert tortoise courtesy Flickr/Sandy Redding; wolves by John Pitcher; ship courtesy Flickr/Jason Thien; Gila River by Dennis O'Keefe; pumpjacks courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Arne Huckelheim; brown bear (c) Robin Silver, Center for Biological Diversity; jaguar courtesy USFWS; weather vane courtesy Flickr/Garry Knight.

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