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Center for Biological Diversity

No. 809, Jan. 14, 2016

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Win for Canada Lynx: Idaho Must Take Action on Trapping

Canada lynxIn a decision that will save lynx from cruel trapping deaths, a federal district court found on Monday that the great snow cats living in the Panhandle and Clearwater regions of Idaho are in danger of incidental trapping -- so restrictions on trapping in those areas are needed. Lynx are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, and the court found that trapping in northern Idaho is likely to illegally harm them.

In 2014 the Center for Biological Diversity and allies sued Idaho for allowing trapping in lynx habitat. This week the court directed Idaho to alter its regulations to prevent future lynx deaths. It ordered the state to submit a plan to the court within 90 days, with terms that will truly protect lynx in the northern part of the state.

"We're relieved that the court has ordered Idaho to do more to protect lynx," said the Center's Andrea Santarsiere. "Four lynx have been incidentally trapped in Idaho in the past four years, and the court agreed with us today that the state cannot stand idly by and watch while indiscriminate traps harm these rare and federally protected cats."

Read more in The Spokesman-Review.

Another Wolf Enters California

Gray wolf in California (OR-25)The California Department of Fish and Wildlife has verified that a new wolf has crossed the state's northern border. The presence of this 3-year-old male wolf, called "OR-25," follows the discovery last August of the Shasta pack, the first known wolf family on California soil since gray wolves were eradicated there in the 1920s.

OR-25 hails from Oregon's Imnaha pack, which also produced his predecessor to California, OR-7, who crossed in 2011. The breeding female of the Shasta pack is also related to the Imnaha pack. In 2012 the Center petitioned to protect wolves under the state's Endangered Species Act; the same year, the state's Fish and Wildlife department started a group to make a wolf-management plan (now released in draft form), and in 2014 wolves were granted state protection.

"California is clearly wolf country, because they keep coming here from Oregon," said the Center's Amaroq Weiss. "That makes it all the more necessary to ensure they have protections. It's also reason to celebrate."

Read more in the Sierra Sun Times.

Protest Filed Against Plan to Frack 45,000 Acres in Utah

Fracking rigsThe Center filed a formal administrative protest this week of the Bureau of Land Management's decision to auction more than 45,000 acres of public land in Utah for fracking. Our filing calls on the BLM and the Obama administration to cancel the fossil fuel auction and "keep it in the ground."

A study commissioned by the Center and Friends of the Earth late last year found that banning new fossil fuel leases on public lands and oceans would keep up to 450 billion tons of greenhouse gas pollution out of the atmosphere.

"If President Obama wants to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius -- as he agreed to do at the Paris climate talks -- he needs to end the federal fossil fuel leasing program," said the Center's Taylor McKinnon. "Each new auction undermines that goal with more carbon pollution while destroying fragile Utah canyon country and harming air, water and habitat for imperiled species like endangered Colorado River fish, Mexican spotted owls and greater sage grouse."

Read more in our press release.

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Supreme Court Validates Habitat Protection for Rare California Fish

Santa Ana suckerWe celebrated news this week that the U.S. Supreme Court let stand the protection of 9,300 acres of critical habitat for Southern California's Santa Ana sucker, a small native fish that has vanished from nearly 95 percent of its historic range since the 1970s.

Twelve water districts and cities filed a lawsuit in 2011 challenging the 2010 designation that protected sucker habitat in San Bernardino, Riverside, Orange and Los Angeles counties. The Center and allies intervened in the case on behalf of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to assist defense of the agency's habitat decision. The Supreme Court on Monday refused to review the case, upholding a lower court's ruling that the habitat protection could stand.

The Center has worked for more than a decade to save this small, olive-gray fish.

"This is a big win for the Santa Ana sucker," said the Center's John Buse. "These protections will help make sure this tiny fish has a future, but they'll also protect many other kinds of wildlife that depend on these rivers for their survival."

Read more in The Orange County Register.

Distance From Oregon Standoff to D.C. Politics Isn't That Far

Open Range signIt would be easy to dismiss the armed standoff near Burns, Ore., as the hysteria of fringe, anti-government fanatics. But what's happening there is a logical extension of the anti-federal government, anti-public lands movement that's been growing for years in the West and, more recently, in Congress. The tactics may differ but the underlying notion is the same: dismantling our public lands -- places like national forests -- in favor of a system that prizes profits over conservation.

For several years there's been a concerted effort in Congress -- which has gained some steam with Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah) at the helm of the House Natural Resources Committee -- to hand federal land over to the states. The inevitable result would be opening up these lands to more logging, mining, grazing, fossil fuel development ... and anything else that cuts a profit for a few (and ignores the natural value for many).

That's the focus of a new piece by the Center's Randi Spivak, published in The Hill and republished on our Medium page. Read, like and share the piece (we'd also love you to follow us); then stay tuned for how you can get involved in this issue.

Arizona Poll: Strong Support for New Grand Canyon Monument

Greater Grand Canyon watershedA new poll of Arizonans finds that 73 percent support a proposal to designate the public lands surrounding the Grand Canyon as the Greater Grand Canyon Heritage National Monument. The poll also found that a majority believe that public lands, including national monuments, help the economy. The 2016 Conservation of the West poll was released Monday by the Colorado College State of the Rockies Project.

The 1.7-million-acre Grand Canyon monument would protect wildlife, archeological sites, ancient ponderosa pines, springs and rivers from damage, including from uranium mining and logging.

"At every opportunity, residents of Arizona have expressed strong support for permanent protection for the greater Grand Canyon region -- now it's time for action," said the Center's Katie Davis. "We stand with the public and tribal communities in calling on President Obama to permanently protect this precious landscape."

Learn more about the monument proposal, then sign our petition to show your support.

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Endangered Species Act Success Story: Texas Shrub Recovered

Johnston's frankeniaThe Fish and Wildlife Service announced Monday that the Johnston's frankenia -- a salt-loving shrub native to south Texas and northern Mexico -- is being removed from the endangered species list.

The plant was protected under the Endangered Species Act in 1984, when it was known from only five sites in Texas and one in Mexico, with only 1,000 plants counted -- earning it habitat safeguards and leading to a cooperative effort by the Service, ranchers and Texas agencies to recover the species. Today there are 68 populations in Texas and four in Mexico, with more than 4 million plants.

Said the Center's Michael Robinson, "The Endangered Species Act brought people of goodwill together and resulted in limits to brush-clearing, protection from highway right-of-way mowing, and countless hours of field research that underlies today's 'thumbs-up' for the plant's future."

Read more in our press release.

Northern Rockies Fishers, Caribbean Lizards Closer to U.S. Protection

FisherIn response to Center petitions, the Fish and Wildlife Service announced Monday that the Northern Rockies fisher and seven Caribbean lizards may warrant Endangered Species Act protection.

Fishers -- bushy-tailed, cat-like carnivores related to minks, and the only true predators of porcupines -- were historically threatened by trapping for their fur. They're still being killed in Montana and Idaho, in both states due to incidental trapping -- and in Montana due to legal trapping as well. Fishers in the northern Rockies are also threatened by road-building and by logging of their old-growth habitat. The Center and allies petitioned to protect them in 2009 and 2013.

In response to a different Center petition in 2014, the Service also announced Monday that seven species of Caribbean lizards, called skinks, may qualify for Endangered Species Act protection. These rare reptiles from Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands are on the knife's edge of extinction due to introduced predators and habitat destruction.

Read more in the Missoulian and the Caribbean News Service.

Wild & Weird: Lightning-struck Buffalo Still Has Spark

BisonDuring a survey of bison at Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge in Iowa back in 2013, Wildlife Biologist Karen Viste-Sparkman noticed a blood-covered bull standing alone in the distance. Upon closer examination she found that Sparky, as he would come to be called, had been struck by lightning.

With a massive burn on his back and a large wound on his hind leg, Sparky was thin and not expected to live long. But more than two years later -- though still a bit underweight at just 1,600 pounds -- the 11-year-old bison seems to have recovered nicely, and may have even sired some calves. If you're ever in Des Moines, you can pay him a visit.

Learn more about Sparky from the Fish and Wildlife Service.

Kierán Suckling
Executive Director

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Photo credits: Canada lynx courtesy Flickr/Eric Kilby; OR-25 courtesy Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife; fracking rigs courtesy Flickr/James Wengler; wolves by John Pitcher; Santa Ana sucker by Paul Barrett, USFWS; open range sign courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Rcsprinter123; Grand Canyon watershed (c) Kristen M. Caldon, 2015; brown bear (c) Robin Silver, Center for Biological Diversity; Johnston's frankenia by James Henderson, Golden Delight Honey,; fisher courtesy Flickr/Forest Wander; bison by Karen Viste-Sparkman, USFWS.

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