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Center for Biological Diversity

No. 801, Nov. 19, 2015

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'Keep It in the Ground' Win: Utah Oil and Gas Auction Halted

Collared lizardA planned protest turned into a celebration Tuesday for Salt Lake City climate activists, including the Center for Biological Diversity, when the Bureau of Land Management made a last-minute decision to halt an oil and gas lease sale owing to a "high level of public interest."

The Bureau's decision postponed the auction of 73,000 acres of publicly owned oil and gas in Utah -- which harbored an estimated 1.6 million to 6.6 million tons of potential greenhouse gas pollution. The planned protest had been led by elders calling on the agency to keep publicly owned fossil fuels in the ground to prevent catastrophic climate change and ensure a livable future.

"The BLM knows the public is watching, and that they don't want our lands and our climate auctioned off to the highest bidder," said Valerie Love, a Center campaigner. "We pushed the BLM to stop this lease sale, and we won't rest until all new fossil fuel lease sales on America's public lands are ended."

Read more in E&E News and sign our petition.

Deadly Bat Disease Hits Nebraska

Bat with white-nose syndromeWhite-nose syndrome -- the disease that's killed millions of bats since it was first discovered on the East Coast eight years ago -- is still spreading west quickly, and the fungus that causes it has just been confirmed present in Nebraska, where it was found on northern long-eared, tricolored and big brown bats in the state late last winter.

This disease has been called the worst wildlife health crisis in recent memory, causing mortality rates ranging up to 100 percent among bats in affected caves. Since it broke out in New York in winter 2006, it's affected bats of seven different species in 26 states and five Canadian provinces.

"The spread of white-nose syndrome has been an extinction tsunami that will eventually break in the West," said the Center's Mollie Matteson. "Given wildlife agencies' failure to provide the strong protections that several eastern bats now need to survive, the prospects for western bats are troubling."

Read more in our press release.

Lawsuit Fights 19 New Oil Wells in Lush Southern California Canyon

Santa Paula Canyon waterfallThe Center and allies filed suit Tuesday against the Ventura County Board of Supervisors to halt a board-approved plan to allow an oil company to drill 19 new wells along the Santa Paula Canyon Trail, a popular hiking gateway to waterfalls, swimming holes, backcountry campsites and endangered species habitat in Los Padres National Forest. The new oil-drilling plan would double the number of wells in the area, defying objections from nearly 1,000 hikers and locals and overwhelming scientific testimony.

The board approved the plan last month, relying on an outdated study from 1978 and failing to evaluate the new wells' threats to public safety or the environment. Dangers include potential oil spills from a pipeline directly above steelhead habitat in Santa Paula Creek and threats to the new presence of highly endangered California condors nesting in the area.

Our suit aims to halt drilling pending a review that fully discloses the project's risks.

Get more from KEYT News.

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Report: Huge Greenland Glacier Breaking Up

Greenland glacierA study just published in Science reveals that a major glacier in Greenland, which holds enough water to raise sea levels by more than a foot and a half, has begun to crumble into the North Atlantic. Beginning in 2012 the enormous Zachariae Isstrom glacier began receding three times faster than in previous decades, at a rate of around 410 feet per year.

The glacier has now become detached from a stabilizing sill and is losing ice at an alarming rate of 4.5 billion metric tons per year. If it and its neighboring large glacier melt completely, they'll contribute more than 3 feet to global sea-level rise.

Read more about the new research in The Guardian.

Stop Oil Trains in the Pacific Northwest -- Take Action

TrainA new plan to build not one, but two, crude oil terminals in Washington's Grays Harbor is threatening to transform the wild and scenic Pacific Northwest into the stuff of nightmares, making the region a national hub for crude oil transport. That would put hundreds of communities at higher risk of explosive train derailments, increased pollution and toxic spills.

Ramping up fossil fuel development, of course, and transporting it by any means anywhere would also be very bad for our climate. The volatile oil in question includes North Dakota Bakken crude and Canadian tar sands, two of the world's dirtiest fuels.

Act now to stop this dangerous proposal and deny the toxic crude a home. Urge the Washington Department of Ecology and city of Hoquiam to reject the proposed oil terminals. The risks outweigh any possible reward.

Stand Up to Overturn Citizens United, Protect Our Natural Heritage

U.S. CapitolThe recent Keystone victory was a major blow to Big Oil's chokehold on politics and an inspiring reminder of what tenacious organizing and peaceful protest can accomplish. But our work is far from over: Ever since the disastrous Supreme Court ruling on the Citizens United vs. Federal Election Committee case in 2010 -- which allowed corporations to contribute unlimited amounts of money to political campaigns -- our political process has been flooded by corporate money, leaving us all losers save for an elite few.

The 2016 election will be the most money-dominated in modern history, with campaigning expected to reach $10 billion. If the status quo is left unchallenged, this election is almost certain to produce a president and Congress unsurpassingly bound to the industry interests that fuel most legislative attacks on endangered species, extract fossil fuels on public lands, desecrate American Indian holy sites and pollute our water.

Fed up? We are too. This spring, from April 2-11, the Center and more than 50 allies will stand up against the corruption engendered by Citizens United by embarking on a 10-day march from the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia to a mass sit-in at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.

Mark your calendars for this important event. Join the historic march and sit-in and help save American democracy.

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Spotted Turtle Among Top 10 Victims of Habitat Fragmentation

Spotted turtleNo Room to Roam, a new report released by the Center and other groups in the Endangered Species Coalition, names the charismatic spotted turtle one of the top 10 U.S. species threatened by habitat fragmentation. This highly mobile turtle visits multiple wetlands throughout the year to forage, mate, thermoregulate and overwinter, and these wetlands must be of top quality, offering specific conditions like clear, clean water.

When the wetlands are degraded, destroyed and divided by development and roads, the turtle can't move around -- and can be easily run over. This species is already on the brink of extinction, with a 50 percent reduction in its historic population size.

After a Center petition, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced this summer that it may protect the spotted turtle under the Endangered Species Act; in 2013 we earned it safeguards against international trade.

Other imperiled species named in the report include the California tiger salamander, Karner blue butterfly, lesser prairie chicken, Yellowstone grizzly bear and Mexican gray wolf.

Read more (and check out the report) in our press release.

Tell USDA to Stop Retaliating Against Its Own Scientists

SoybeansAs Americans gather over holiday meals in the coming weeks, they should be able to trust that their food is safe and ethically produced. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is charged with enforcing national standards -- which is why it's so upsetting that the agency has recently undermined the science that defines those standards by retaliating against one of its top entomologists.

Jonathan Lundgren is a well-respected senior USDA scientist. But after his research uncovered serious harms to monarch butterflies caused by neonicotinoids, and he found that farmers received zero yield benefits from using soybean seeds treated with these dangerous pesticides, the agency prohibited him from publishing papers, banned him from speaking at conferences or with media, disrupted operations at his lab ... and ultimately suspended him.

This is politics, not science -- and Lundgren is just one of many scientists reporting a pattern of suppression and harassment at the USDA. Act now to demand that scientific integrity be restored at this agency, which holds so much influence over our food.

Wild & Weird: Bird's Epic Acorn Cache Disrupts AT&T -- Watch Video

Acorn woodpeckerA video -- first uploaded in 2009 but only recently gone viral -- shows a technician dumping some 300 pounds of purposefully placed acorns from an AT&T telecommunications tower in California. The chief suspect in the case: an acorn woodpecker.

The acorn woodpecker stores acorns one at a time in holes in trees, hollow walls -- and apparently transmission towers. They've been known to cache as many as 50,000 nuts in one tree.

Watch a video of the enormous acorn cache being dumped and read more in National Geographic.

Kierán Suckling
Executive Director

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Photo credits: Collared lizard courtesy Flickr/Red Junasun; bat with white-nose syndrome by Ryan von Linden, New York Department of Environmental Conservation; Santa Paula Canyon waterfall courtesy Flickr/Anil Narisetti; wolves by John Pitcher; Greenland glacier courtesy Flickr/Lindsey Engh; Washington train courtesy Flickr/Patrick Dirden; U.S. Capitol protest courtesy Flickr/Andrew Aliferis; brown bear (c) Robin Silver, Center for Biological Diversity; spotted turtle by Todd Pierson, USFWS; soybean seeds courtesy Flickr/United Soybean Board; acorn woodpecker courtesy Flickr/Teddy Llovet.

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Center for Biological Diversity
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