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Center for Biological Diversity

No. 814, Feb. 18, 2016

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Three New National Monuments Designated in California

Sand to Snow National MonumentAfter vigorous advocacy from the Center for Biological Diversity and more than a decade of legislative work by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), President Obama has announced the designation of three new national monuments in the California desert -- Mojave Trails, Sand to Snow and Castle Mountains -- protecting 1.8 million acres of precious desert lands. The Mojave Trails National Monument, at 1.4 million acres, helps link Mojave National Preserve and Joshua Tree National Park, allowing wildlife to migrate in a changing climate.

In permanently protecting these special places, the president follows in the footsteps of nearly every president since 1906, who have used the Antiquities Act to leave a legacy of national monuments more than 140 times. These new monuments are habitat for rare wildlife like desert tortoises, Mohave fringe-toed lizards, desert kit foxes and western burrowing owls.

"California's deserts include some of the most spectacular scenery in the nation and serve as a refuge for some of our most endangered plants and animals," said the Center's Ileene Anderson. "These national monuments will allow future generations of all species to enjoy them. Thank you, President Obama."

Read more in the Los Angeles Times and get the details on all three monuments.

'Keep It in the Ground' Rallies Hit Denver, Salt Lake City

Keep It in the Ground rallyThe momentum keeps growing: This week hundreds of people rallied in Denver and Salt Lake City urging President Obama to keep fossil fuels in the ground. On Saturday the Center's Frostpaw the Polar Bear and Colorado activists rallied outside a Democratic Party fundraiser in Denver. And on Tuesday more than 100 people protested a Bureau of Land Management auction for 45,000 acres of fossil fuel leases in Utah. (Our friend, environmental writer Terry Tempest Williams, also ended up buying rights to more than 1,700 acres up for potential drilling.)

Our national movement is urging Obama to halt all new fossil fuel lease sales on public land and offshore areas, a move that would keep up to 450 billion tons of carbon pollution out of the atmosphere. We've already succeeded in getting several lease sales cancelled, and more protests are in the works for upcoming lease sales in Nevada, Wisconsin and New Orleans.

After Williams bought up parcels at the Utah auction, she was asked by a BLM official if this was "a legitimate bid for energy development."

"Yes," she answered. "You can't define what energy is for us. Our energy development is fueling a movement. Keep it in the ground."

Read more in our press release.

Red Wolf Population Plunges as Feds Gut Recovery Program

Red wolfNew numbers show that the nation's only population of red wolves is in an alarming free-fall, declining by 27 percent from 2014 to 2015 to as few as 50 individuals. Just four years earlier there were 100 wolves. Recently the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service bowed to political pressure from extreme anti-wildlife elements within the North Carolina state government, eliminating the program's recovery coordinator in 2014 and stopping the introduction of new red wolves into the wild in July 2015.

"Director Ashe and the Fish and Wildlife Service are deliberately condemning the red wolf to extinction," said the Center's Brett Hartl. "The red wolf recovery program was once a shining example of successful conservation. Under the direction of Dan Ashe, the program has been quietly dismantled to appease a few anti-wildlife zealots. It's disgraceful."

More than 110,000 people from around the United States, including more than 1,500 North Carolina residents, have submitted letters in support of the red wolf program.

Read more in our press release.

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Firing of Coastal Commission Chief Fires Up Ocean Advocates

Ocean advocates at California Coastal Commission meetingAs executive director of the powerful California Coastal Commission, Dr. Charles Lester was a key advocate for protecting wildlife on the state's spectacular coast. But pro-development commission members cooked up a behind-the-scenes scheme to oust him -- an attack on one of California's most powerful environmental laws, the Coastal Act of 1976, which the commission was built to enforce.

This attack resulted in Dr. Lester's firing last Wednesday night, despite thousands of Californians rising up at a commission meeting, plus thousands of letters from others in his defense (including almost 1,000 Center supporters -- thank you).

Lester's fate has left the coast more vulnerable and its defenders saddened. But we're also angry. As the Center's Steve Jones writes in a recent Medium piece: "The broad-based movement triggered by Lester's ouster remains resolute. In fact we're more galvanized than ever against the exploitation of our coastline. This isn't over."

Read (and like and share) our Medium article.

World Pangolin Day: Raising a Voice for the World's Most Trafficked Mammals

PangolinPangolins -- the scaly, adorable anteaters found in Africa and across Asia -- are in serious trouble. All eight species of these obscure critters are at risk of disappearing due to a massive and growing demand for their meat and scales. Demand is so high that these armored marvels have become the world's most trafficked mammals. That's why we're helping to celebrate World Pangolin Day this Saturday -- to raise awareness of the animals' plight.

Last year the Center and a coalition of wildlife groups petitioned the U.S. government to list seven pangolin species as "endangered" under the U.S. Endangered Species Act (the eighth species, a native of Africa, is already protected), but the fight is far from finished.

Help ensure pangolins' survival by signing our petition urging the government to ban all pangolin imports and sales. Then share our World Pangolin Day message on social media.

Win for Foxes: Three Species on Channel Islands Declared Recovered

Channel Islands foxGood news from off Southern California's coast: The Fish and Wildlife Service last week proposed to remove three subspecies of Channel Islands foxes from the endangered list (and to downlist a fourth from "endangered" to "threatened").

Following severe declines related to predation by golden eagles and disease, the four subspecies were protected under the Endangered Species Act in 2004. Golden eagles had been able to colonize the islands because the now-banned chemical DDT had wiped out the islands' native bald eagles -- which eat fish, not foxes. Fox populations have increased following successful projects to control golden eagles and repopulate the islands with bald eagles, as well as captive-breeding efforts.

"These special foxes were on the brink of extinction just 12 years ago, when they were protected under the Act," said the Center's Tierra Curry. "Now, thanks to successful recovery efforts under the Endangered Species Act, numbers of foxes are way up and threats have been reduced."

Read more in the Long Beach Press-Telegram.

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Feds Must Ban Synthetic Rhino Horn

White rhinoThe Center and our allies at WildAid have petitioned the Obama administration to prohibit the sale and export of a kind of bioengineered rhinoceros horn now being developed. This fake horn is derived from genuine rhino horn and mimics its genetic structure, making it nearly indistinguishable from the real thing. Trade in the bioengineered faux horn will stymie enforcement efforts and accelerate consumer demand in Asia for genuine horn.

Rhino horn is coveted by some in Vietnam and China as a status symbol and a panacea for maladies ranging from hangovers to cancer. There is no scientific evidence that rhino horn has medicinal value, but demand for it is the biggest threat to rhinos, as poaching rates have skyrocketed across southern Africa in recent years.

"Rhinos are being poached to extinction for their horns," said the Center's International Director Sarah Uhlemann. "That has to stop before we lose them forever. U.S. law protects rhinos by prohibiting trade in their parts, and these 'synthetic' but biologically identical horns are no exception. We need to save rhinos by eliminating demand, not accelerating it."

Read more in National Geographic.

Wild & Weird: Florida

Welcome to Florida signWhat do you get when you combine 2 million alligators, 19 million humans and tens of thousands of sharks? Answer: the Sunshine State of mind.

Florida is well known for its warm weather, beautiful beaches and propensity to foster ridiculous human-wildlife interactions. News stories have featured a woman arrested for riding a manatee, a man perishing during a cockroach-eating competition, and another man hospitalized after attempting to kiss a cottonmouth snake.

Now large reptiles in fast-food joints can be added to the list. Recently authorities arrested a man in Florida accused of throwing a live alligator into a Wendy's drive-thru window. He faces charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon; unlawful sale, possession or transportation of an alligator; and petty theft -- and he likely deserves to be charged with animal cruelty too. Fortunately, the 3.5-foot alligator exploited in the incident was later released into a nearby canal.

Read more (and watch news coverage of the alligator incident) in The Washington Post; then check out this recent footage of another wild Florida situation -- more than 10,000 sharks vacationing in Palm Beach County.

Kierán Suckling
Executive Director

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Photo credits: Sand to Snow National Monument courtesy Flickr/BLM; Keep It in the Ground rally by Andres Sheikh, Center for Biological Diversity; red wolf courtesy Flickr/OnceAndFutureLaura; wolves by John Pitcher; ocean advocates at California Coastal Commission meeting by Steve Jones, Center for Biological Diversity; pangolin courtesy Flickr/David Brossard; Channel Islands fox courtesy Flickr/Jim Steelquist; brown bear (c) Robin Silver, Center for Biological Diversity; white rhino courtesy Flickr/Steve Garvey; Florida sign courtesy Wikimedia Commons/UoGkstennet.

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