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Center for Biological Diversity

No. 810, Jan. 21, 2016

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Rising Voices for Public Lands: More Than 1,000 Rally for Malheur

Malheur National Wildlife Refuge rallyThis week we changed the national conversation about what's happening at the standoff at Oregon's Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. After days of the Bundy militia dominating the airwaves with its anti-government rants, a series of rallies in Oregon and Washington -- including at Malheur -- showed passionate support for keeping public lands public and for ending the armed seizure of the refuge that began Jan. 2.

It's been inspiring to see so many people raise their voices in support of Malheur and all our public lands -- pushing back against those who'd rather see them privatized for logging, mining, grazing and fossil fuel development. About 1,000 people attended rallies in Portland, Eugene, Medford, La Grande, Malheur and Bend in Oregon, as well as in Seattle and Spokane, Wash., and Boise, Idaho.

The Center for Biological Diversity's Kierán Suckling and Taylor McKinnon remain on the ground at Burns, holding press briefings, going to public meetings, and in general standing up for public lands and the people and wildlife that depend on them.

Stay tuned for how you can help. Meanwhile, read this piece in The New York Times and a Q&A with Kierán in the Arizona Daily Star. Also check out this gallery of photos from this week's rallies.

Win for the Climate: Obama to Pause New Federal Coal Leases

Keep It in the Ground rallyIn a step forward for the growing movement to keep fossil fuels in the ground, the Obama administration announced plans on Friday to halt new coal leases on U.S. public lands as it reexamines the nationwide leasing program for coal. The move will provide a temporary reprieve from coal pollution that comes from federal land. The coal program review will also include reexamining the rock-bottom fees paid by companies to the federal government for extracting coal.

"Coal has been a massive culprit in the climate crisis, so this is big news that the United States may finally be pulling back," said the Center's Randi Spivak. "But it can't end here. We need a permanent ban on new coal leases on public lands and the same for oil and gas."

A study commissioned by the Center and Friends of the Earth last year found that banning new fossil fuel leases on public lands and oceans would keep up to 450 billion tons of carbon pollution from reaching the atmosphere -- the pollution equivalent of about 118,000 coal-fired power plants.

Learn more and check out the study in our press release.

Feds OK Habitat Destruction for Endangered Bats

Northern long-eared batForest-clearing by loggers, developers and the energy industry -- normally prohibited in endangered species habitat -- will be allowed in the habitat of threatened northern long-eared bats under a final rule for the bats issued last week by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Although the deadly disease white-nose syndrome is the primary cause of the species' decline, ongoing forest loss and conversion are also serious threats to the animals.

Especially when the bats are weakened by disease, they require intact habitat for feeding -- but the rule allows business as usual to continue, with only minimal restrictions on land clearing.

"This rule does nothing to address the primary threat to the bats, white-nose syndrome. And it allows virtually all the bats' habitat to be logged, mined, fracked or paved over," said Tanya Sanerib, a senior attorney with the Center.

After a Center petition, northern long-eared bats were first proposed for "endangered" status in 2014, then downgraded to "threatened" last April -- a change that allowed the Service to give industry the loopholes for which they'd lobbied so hard.

Get more from National Public Radio.

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New Feature on Medium: Ask Dr. Donley

Ask Dr. DonleyCan you protect yourself from pesticides by paring your produce? Will going organic land you in the poorhouse? How, exactly, do endocrine disruptors interfere with natural hormone functions to result in chemically castrated frogs and intersex fish?

Whether your question is workaday or wonky, if it has to do with environmental toxics affecting people and wildlife, the Center's Dr. Nathan Donley has the answer -- and he just might share it in his new column "¡Ask Dr. Donley!" now running regularly as part of our platform on the social media site Medium.

Dr. Donley, a scientist in our Environmental Health program, will open your eyes to just how pervasive toxic chemicals are in our lives and world -- not only in the food chain but also in cleaning products, sunscreen, water bottles ... and the water we drink and the air we breathe.

Read the column's latest installment (and don't forget to subscribe and share!). You can send him your own questions at

Emergency Safeguards Sought for Stunning California Flower

Lassics lupineThe Center and allies have petitioned for emergency protections for the Lassics lupine -- a rare alpine flower in Northern California. This flower is found only in Humboldt and Trinity counties (near Eureka), with only about 60 plants known on a range smaller than 4 acres.

The gorgeous plant -- with white-silver foliage and bursts of pink flowers that stand out against the barren rocky slopes where it grows -- is threatened by climate change, altered fire regimes and predation. Both the lupine's two remaining sites were ravaged by the Lassics fire in 2015, with an unknown number of surviving plants. Over the past 15 years, its range has shrunk due to progressively harsh conditions caused by decreasing rainfall, decreased snowpack and increasing temperatures. As its environment has become hotter and drier, small mammals are preying more on the flower's seeds.

"The plight of this gorgeous mountain lupine highlights the need to take urgent action to protect ourselves and species from catastrophic climate change," said the Center's Tierra Curry.

Read more in the Eureka Times-Standard.

A Hot Mess: 2015 Was the Warmest Year on Record

SunIt wasn't just your sweat-soaked imagination: 2015 was the Earth's hottest year since recordkeeping started in 1880. That was the word this week from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and NASA.

It's no surprise, either, that the climate crisis continues to deepen. That's why the Center is ramping up our call to the Obama administration to stem the tide by keeping federal fossil fuels in the ground. The report we released last year showed that halting new fossil fuel leases on federal land and offshore areas would keep up to 450 billion tons of greenhouse pollution from escaping into the atmosphere.

The planet's record-shattering temperatures last year are only the latest indication that we need to take bold action -- and fast.

Read more at ABC News and sign our petition telling Obama to "keep it in the ground."

Take Action

Join the Fight to Overturn Citizens United -- Take Action

U.S. CapitolSix years ago the Supreme Court decided that corporations were legal persons and that money was "free speech" in the disastrous Citizens United vs. Federal Election Committee ruling.

As a result corporations are now allowed to spend unlimited amounts on political campaigns. Political contributions going directly to Congress from the oil and gas industry jumped from $14 million in 2010 to more than $25 million in 2014. And it's no surprise that our lawmakers honored those contributions by sponsoring hundreds of legislative attacks on endangered species, giving away American Indian sacred land to a mining company and lifting the decades-old crude-oil export ban.

But this election year the Center and more than 100 allied organizations are working to stop the corruption engendered by Citizens United. Join us this April for three events in Washington, D.C.:

April 2-15 -- Join a historic march from the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia to a mass sit-in at the U.S. Capitol to demand an end to big money in politics.

April 17 -- Attend a rally encircling the U.S. Capitol to protect voting rights.

April 18 -- Meet with your elected officials during an organized day of lobbying.

Ocean Report: More Plastic Than Fish by 2050

Plastic garbageEnough plastic to fill a garbage truck is dumped into the ocean every minute, according to a disturbing report by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation that was released at the World Economic Forum on Tuesday. And the situation is getting worse fast.

The new report warns that unless industry cleans up its act and consumers reject excess packaging, plastic consumption will double within the next 20 years and quadruple by 2050, leaving our ocean waters to contain more plastic than fish by weight. Also by 2050, the plastics industry will consume 20 percent of total oil production (up from 5 percent currently ... which is bad enough).

"We can't let plastic pollution overwhelm the fish in our oceans," said the Center's Miyoko Sakashita. "The new U.S. ban on microbeads in beauty products is a good step in the right direction; now we need to unbottle water and end other single-use plastic packaging."

Read more in The Guardian.

Wild & Weird: A Flower Blooms in Space

Zinnia blooming in spaceLast weekend a zinnia unfurled its delicate orange petals 249 miles above Earth, aboard the International Space Station -- the first-ever bloom in space, if you don't count a withered sunflower grown in a plastic bag on the ISS in 2012. NASA astronaut Scott Kelly tweeted a photo of the out-of-this-world flower, offset surreally with the planet Earth in the background.

Other plants, such as lettuce, have been grown aboard the ISS before, but the zinnia, an edible flower, is the first successful blooming plant -- more difficult to grow. It's "a good precursor to a tomato plant," NASA Veggie project manager Trent Smith told a reporter in an interview. NASA foresees possible plants on Mars or on spaceships in long-distance travel.

Read more about the first space daisy in Newsweek.

Kierán Suckling
Executive Director

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Photo credits: Malheur rally by Taylor McKinnon, Center for Biological Diversity; Keep It in the Ground rally courtesy Flickr/WildEarth Guardians; northern long-eared bat courtesy USFWS; wolves by John Pitcher; Dr. Donley image courtesy Center for Biological Diversity; Lassics lupine by David Imper; sun courtesy Flickr/Sean Balsiger; brown bear (c) Robin Silver, Center for Biological Diversity; U.S. Capitol courtesy Flickr/Victoria Pickering; beach garbage courtesy Flickr/John Schneider; zinnia in space courtesy Twitter/Scott Kelly.

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