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Center for Biological Diversity

No. 815, Feb. 25, 2016

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"Keep It in the Ground" Fight Moves to Texas, Kansas, Oklahoma

Keep It in the Ground rallyWe're not letting up on the pressure to halt all new fossil fuel leases on public land. This week the Center for Biological Diversity and allies filed a crucial challenge to the Bureau of Land Management's plan to auction about 5,700 acres for fracking in Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas.

Our legal protest came a day after an important victory: news that the U.S. Forest Service had withdrawn more than 30,000 acres of forest land from the same auction, set for April 20. It was no coincidence that the Service took its action after conservation groups, including the Center, spoke out over concerns that fracking would hurt local water supplies and sensitive watersheds. Local governments have also opposed the auction, which still threatens drinking water for Dallas, Corpus Christi, Brenham and Oklahoma City.

"Fracking for federal fossil fuels harms our air, water, land, wildlife and climate," said the Center's Wendy Park. "Failure to notify residents that fracking could destroy their drinking water is yet another reason why President Obama should immediately halt the practice of leasing public lands for oil and gas drilling."

Read more about the Keep It in the Ground movement.

Illegal Killings Drive Mexican Wolf Decline in Southwest

Mexican gray wolfTroubling news out of Arizona and New Mexico: The number of endangered Mexican gray wolves in the wild dropped to 97 last year from 110 in 2014, according to a new census by federal and state biologists. The decline was likely driven by the illegal killings of many of the 13 wolves found dead and the 11 wolves missing, as well as a low survival rate among the dozens of pups born last spring.

The Center has been on the front lines of the fight to save these wolves -- the rarest gray wolves in North America -- for years. We have two active lawsuits: one to compel a wolf recovery plan (which the feds have promised to do for more than 30 years) and another to overturn regulations allowing increased killing of these wolves.

"Mexican gray wolves in the Southwest won't be on a real road to recovery until state and federal agencies step up and do what's needed to help them survive," said the Center's Michael Robinson.

Read more in our press release.

Settlement: Feds to Study How Roundup, Atrazine Harm 1,500 Species

CropdusterThe Center reached a path-breaking agreement on Friday with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The agency will analyze the impacts of atrazine and glyphosate, the two most commonly used pesticides in the United States, on 1,500 endangered plants and animals. The next step will be to develop conservation measures to protect endangered species from these chemicals, along with propazine and simazine, which together represent nearly 40 percent of annual U.S. pesticide use.

A series of lawsuits by the Center has forced another federal agency, the EPA, to begin the process of analyzing the harms from atrazine and glyphosate by June 2020. Friday's agreement with the Fish and Wildlife Service sets a deadline of December 2022 for the completion of its consultation process.

"This agreement will result in long-overdue protections for our country's most endangered species," said the Center's Brett Hartl. "Once the Fish and Wildlife Service completes its analysis, and the public finally learns just how toxic and deadly these pesticides are to endangered species, we hope that the government will ultimately take most of these products off the shelf."

Read more in our press release.

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Center Offers $15,000 Reward After Bald Eagle Deaths

Bald eagleThe Center is offering up to $15,000 for information leading to an arrest and conviction in the case of 13 bald eagles found killed on Maryland's Eastern Shore. The pledge, along with contributions from the Humane Society of the United States, Humane Society Wildlife Land Trust, Phoenix Wildlife Center Inc. and Fish and Wildlife Service, pushes the total reward to $25,000.

The 13 dead eagles were the most deaths attributed to a single incident in Maryland in more than 30 years. Their bodies were discovered over the weekend, and officials suspect they may have been poisoned.

"These 13 bald eagles deserved better than to be killed and callously dumped," said the Center's Catherine Kilduff. "Bald eagles have been a remarkable story of national conservation and recovery over the past 40 years, but clearly there's more work to be done. Whether they were poisoned, shot or killed by other means, the heartbreaking deaths of these 13 bald eagles are a crime. Those responsible need to be caught and prosecuted."

Read more in our press release.

Fossil Fuel Use Causing Fastest Sea-level Rise in 2,800 Years

Charleston floodTwo studies published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences show that sea levels are rising faster now than at any other time in the past 2,800 years -- and it's due to global warming caused by human activity, primarily emissions from the burning of fossil fuels.

The new data show that sea levels were fairly constant until the Industrial Revolution, when fossil fuel use exploded. Seas rose more in the 20th century than in any preceding century, and the rate of sea-level rise over the past two decades has been the fastest yet.

The new studies predict that, depending on the volume of emissions, by 2100 sea levels will rise by another 1 to 4 feet, causing further inundation of cities, displacement of coastal communities and economic chaos. It'll get worse before it gets better -- and it'll only get better if we commit to major, rapid cuts in fossil fuel emissions.

Read more in The New York Times and learn more about how sea-level rise threatens wildlife.

Wildlife Officials OK Killing of 100 Spotted Owls in Klamath National Forest

Spotted owlFederal wildlife officials authorized the U.S. Forest Service to kill up to 103 threatened northern spotted owls in 14 timber sales slated for auction this spring in the Klamath National Forest. The Westside Fire Recovery Project will clear-cut 6,800 acres on slopes above the Klamath River where lightning fires in the summer of 2014 affected owl habitat reserves.

In a new biological opinion, the Fish and Wildlife Service claimed post-fire logging may "incidentally take" 74 adult owls and 12-29 juveniles, but will not jeopardize the continued existence of the forest raptor overall.

"Natural fires restored the forest after decades of fire suppression and gave spotted owls a kitchen full of food," said the Center's Jay Lininger. "Owls can thrive with fire, but they cannot survive clear-cutting after fire."

Read more in our press release.

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Arizona Poll: Strong Support for Grand Canyon Heritage National Monument

Grand canyonA new poll of registered Arizona voters finds that 4 out of 5 support the creation of the Greater Grand Canyon Heritage National Monument, with 58 percent saying they "strongly support" it and another 22 percent saying they "somewhat support" it. The poll was commissioned by the Grand Canyon Trust.

The national monument would permanently protect 1.7 million acres around the Grand Canyon, including a vast network of aboveground and underground streams, from new uranium mining. The new monument would also protect habitat for a large array of wildlife and ecosystems, as well as for archeological and cultural heritage sites.

Congressman Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) has introduced the Greater Grand Canyon Heritage National Monument Act to protect the area. We're also urging President Obama to take executive action to create the monument.

Read more about our campaign to protect this incredible landscape.

Wild & Weird: Forgotten Flowers of a Long-lost Forest

Strychnos toxiferaIn 1986, while hunting for ancient insects trapped in amber, American entomologist George Poinar, Jr. discovered amber containing plant fragments in the hills of the Dominican Republic. Being a bug man, though, he set them aside to pursue more pressing matters.

Poinar's other discoveries -- such as a 40-million-year-old female fly, the oldest known bee, and the first known insect-borne disease -- kept him busy reconstructing prehistoric ecosystems. So intriguing was this work that it inspired pop-culture flights of fancy like the dinosaur de-extinction in Michael Crichton's Jurassic Park.

Finally, 30 years later, Poinar emailed photographs of two of the plants to Lena Struwe, a professor of botany at Rutgers University. Turns out the tiny, fragile-looking, trumpet-shaped flowers of one specimen represent a new species to science. Somewhere between 15 million and 45 million years ago, they were encased in the sap of a tree that is now extinct, in a kind of forest that no longer exists.

See photos of the ancient plants and read more at The New Yorker.

Kierán Suckling
Executive Director

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Photo credits: "Keep It in the Ground Rally" courtesy Center for Biological Diversity; Mexican gray wolf courtesy Flickr/Eric Wortman; cropduster courtesy Flickr/astanleyjones; wolves by John Pitcher; bald eagle courtesy Flickr/Rob Rudloff; Charleston flood courtesy USDA; spotted owl courtesy Flickr/Mount Rainier National Park; brown bear (c) Robin Silver, Center for Biological Diversity; Grand Canyon courtesy Flickr/Ignacio Izquierdo; ancient asterid courtesy Oregon State University/George Poinar, Jr.

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