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Center for Biological Diversity

No. 812, Feb. 4, 2016

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Video Reveals Footage of Only Known Wild Jaguar in the U.S.

El Jefe Play VideoPrepare yourself: Conservation CATalyst and the Center for Biological Diversity this week released stunning new video of the only known wild jaguar living in the United States. Captured on remote-sensor cameras in the Santa Rita Mountains just outside Tucson, the footage provides a glimpse of the secretive life of one of nature's most majestic and charismatic creatures. It's the first-ever publicly released video of "El Jefe," as he was named by Tucson school kids (Spanish for "The Boss").

"These glimpses into his behavior offer the keys to unlocking the mysteries of these cryptic cats," said Aletris Neils, executive director of Conservation CATalyst.

"Knowing that this amazing cat is right out there, just 25 miles from downtown Tucson, is a big thrill," said the Center's Randy Serraglio. "El Jefe has been living more or less in our backyard for more than three years now. It's our job to make sure that his home is protected and he can get what he needs to survive."

The camera project is part of ongoing work to monitor mountain ranges around Tucson for endangered jaguars and ocelots, led by Chris Bugbee, a biologist with Conservation CATalyst.

Check out the video and share it with your networks; then learn more about our work to save jaguars.

Big Win: Lawsuit Halts Fracking Off California Coast

Sea lions and oil platform, Santa Barbara ChannelAfter the Center sued the feds for rubber-stamping offshore California fracking permits, we reached a new settlement establishing a moratorium on the Interior Department's approval of offshore fracking from oil platforms in the Santa Barbara Channel.

Our agreement requires this moratorium to stay in place until the completion of a thorough environmental review of the dangers of offshore fracking. A draft environmental assessment must be finished by May 28, at which point Interior will determine if a more in-depth review is required. Oil companies have fracked at least 200 wells in waters off Long Beach, Seal Beach, Huntington Beach and in the wildlife-rich Santa Barbara Channel. Offshore fracking blasts vast volumes of water mixed with toxic chemicals beneath the seafloor at pressures high enough to fracture rocks, threatening scores of marine species like sea otters, fish, sea turtles and whales.

"This halt to offshore fracking is a huge victory," said Kristen Monsell, a Center attorney. "The federal government has no right to give the oil industry free rein to engage in this dirty, dangerous practice."

Read more in The Guardian.

Lawsuit Challenges Wolf-killing in Oregon

Oregon wolfThe Center and allies went to court on Wednesday challenging the authority of the federal animal-killing program Wildlife Services to kill any of the estimated 81 wolves living in Oregon. The lawsuit comes just weeks after a federal court ruled that Wildlife Services' controversial wolf-killing program in Washington is illegal.

A federal extermination program under the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Wildlife Services kills roughly 1.5 million to 3 million creatures per year, including wolves, grizzly bears, mountain lions, otters, foxes, coyotes, birds and even domestic pets -- with little oversight or accountability. Wildlife Services employs inhumane tools to kill wildlife, including aerial gunning, leghold traps, snares and poisons.

"Oregon is no place for Wildlife Services," said the Center's Amy Atwood. "Wildlife Services is a rogue program that uses ineffective, cruel and costly methods to kill wolves instead of common-sense, nonlethal methods that foster coexistence."

Read more in our press release.

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California Coastal Leader Could Be Ousted -- Take Action

Big SurCalifornia's spectacular coast is ground zero for important battles between overdevelopment and conservation -- and the executive director of the state's powerful Coastal Commission, Dr. Charles Lester, has been a crucial advocate for protecting wildlife. But now there's a behind-the-scenes scheme to oust him -- and we need you to speak up against his ouster.

The attack on Dr. Lester is an attack on the one of the state's most powerful environmental laws, the Coastal Act of 1976, which the commission is bound to enforce. Pro-development members looking for a way around the law have decided they must remove him.

Please, tell the California Coastal Commission you stand with Dr. Lester and want to see California coasts protected for future generations. And if you can, join us for a hearing on Feb. 10 in Morro Bay, at which the commission will discuss Dr. Lester's possible termination -- we must show up and defend him for the sake of California's wildlife.

Obama Administration Weakening Species Protections Using Loopholes

WolverineThe Center released a new study last week detailing how the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, under President Obama, has dramatically increased use of an obscure provision in the Endangered Species Act to allow activities that harm "threatened" species, including oil and gas drilling, logging, ranching and development.

Under the Obama administration, the Service has finalized eight, and proposed two, of these so-called "4(d) rules" that exempt primary threats to federally protected species -- including lesser prairie chickens, American wolverines and, most recently, northern long-eared bats -- from being curtailed. No single presidential administration has approved more of these damaging industry loopholes.

"We're very troubled that the Service is now using these 4(d) rules -- designed to help protect species -- to authorize the very activities threatening species' survival," said the Center's Tanya Sanerib. "These damaging exemptions are nothing more than a bow to political pressure from the special interests that oppose protection of endangered wildlife in order to protect their bottom lines."

Read more in our press release, where you can also access a new Center report on the issue.

Genetically Engineered Grass Spreading Across Oregon -- Take Action

Creeping bentgrassHave you ever heard of genetically engineered grass? Well, now you have: There's a super-hardy type of GE "bentgrass" specifically designed for golf courses and resistant to the herbicide Roundup -- created by Monsanto (which created Roundup) in league with the Scotts Miracle-Gro Company.

The seeds of this "frankengrass" have escaped from test plots in Oregon and Idaho, and now they're taking root in native grasslands, spreading like wildfire. The frankengrass has already been found in a nearby preserve, central Oregon's Crooked River National Grassland, where an ocean of native grasses, sagebrush and juniper sweeps across thousands of acres of habitat for antelope, mountain lions, hawks and many other creatures.

This pristine landscape could be totally ruined by an invasion of the new GE grass. And if Monsanto and Scotts can convince the U.S. Department of Agriculture to deregulate their grass (which they're desperately pushing), they'll be absolved of any responsibility for their mess in Oregon -- and still legally able to sell the grass anywhere.

Act now to urge the USDA not to deregulate this grass; then read more on this important problem by the Center's Dr. Nathan Donley in Medium.

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Center Op-ed: The Hidden Costs of Bottled Water

Plastic bottlesArrowhead has been running full-page ads in Southern California, going out of its way to showcase its love for our planet and all things "natural." But a new op-ed from Center Senior Scientist Ileene Anderson highlights the real and steep costs of bottled water to our planet, wildlife and those of us who value clean, fresh water in California.

The Center and allies recently sued the U.S. Forest Service for allowing Arrowhead to extract about 68,000 gallons of water a day from the San Bernardino National Forest under a permit that expired 27 years ago. But the downsides of bottled water go far beyond what's happening on our public lands. Manufacturing the bottles requires serious fossil fuels, which worsens the climate crisis, and plastic litter is the scourge of our beaches and oceans.

"Knowing the ugly truth about the litter, pollution and utterly disposable nature of this industry, I find the reality of bottled water very hard to swallow," Ileene writes.

Read her full op-ed in The Press-Enterprise.

The Daily Show Tackles Oak Flat Controversy -- Watch Video

Save Oak Flat graphicThe Apache's fight to save their sacred site at Oak Flat, Ariz., from a destructive copper mine has made the TV big time with a segment on The Daily Show With Trevor Noah called "Arizona Gives Native Americans the Shaft." This segment explores the infamous midnight rider that forced a provision in a must-pass bill for a land swap that threatens to destroy important Apache holy land. The "land exchange" authorizes devastating block-cave mining, which would destroy the sacred Oak Flat area and create a crater up to 2 miles long.

Last fall more than 1 million signatures were submitted in favor of saving Oak Flat, sacred tribal land in Arizona's Tonto National Forest. Oak Flat is also a highly popular recreation area and important wildlife habitat. The fight continues to halt this injustice, so stay tuned to learn how you can help.

Watch the segment on Comedy Central.

Wild & Weird: Eagles Trained to Hunt Drones -- Watch Video

Bald eagleHunting with eagles is part of the ancient practice of falconry that continues today -- though it's increasingly rare -- among some people across the Eurasian Steppe. With their incredibly keen eyesight and speed, as well as lethal talons, eagles can easily dispatch and deliver hares, foxes and other animals to their human masters. But are these fierce birds ready to hunt drones?

Dutch police are investigating the use of eagles to take down drones that may be used by terrorists or other criminals in an attack. "It's a low-tech solution to a high-tech problem," Dutch national police spokesman Dennis Janus told Reuters recently, adding that "it's proving very effective so far."

Read more and watch a video of an eagle disabling a drone in midair at DutchNews.

Kierán Suckling
Executive Director

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Photo credits: Jaguar (c) Conservation CATalyst/Center for Biological Diversity; sea lions and Santa Barbara oil platform courtesy Flickr/Doc Searls; wolf courtesy Flickr/Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife; wolves by John Pitcher; Big Sur courtesy NOAA; wolverine courtesy Flickr/Manfred Werner Tsui; creeping bentgrass courtesy Flickr/Forest and Kim Starr; elephants courtesy Flickr/Matt Rudge; plastic water bottles courtesy Flickr/ntr23; Oak Flat graphic courtesy Standing Fox photography; bald eagle (c) Robin Silver, Center for Biological Diversity.

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