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Center for Biological Diversity

No. 819, March 24, 2016

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Lawsuit Challenges Dismantling of Red Wolf Recovery Program

Red wolfThe Center for Biological Diversity launched a lawsuit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service yesterday for essentially halting the recovery program for red wolves -- of which fewer than 50 now survive in the North Carolina wild.

Bowing to political pressure, the Service has dropped virtually all aspects of the recovery program for red wolves and is using every pretext to further dismantle it; the agency eliminated the program's recovery coordinator in 2014 and stopped the introduction of new red wolves into the wild in July 2015.

"Never in its history has the Fish and Wildlife Service deliberately chosen to undermine the survival of a species entrusted to its care by doing the exact opposite of what its own recovery plan recommends," said the Center's Brett Hartl. "Director Dan Ashe and the Fish and Wildlife Service are condemning the red wolf to extinction."

Read more in our press release and watch our video.

Study: World's Largest Monarch Population Could Disappear in 20 Years

Monarch butterflyAlarming news about the fate of monarch butterflies: A new study says the eastern population -- which includes 99 percent of the world's monarchs -- is at high risk of extinction within two decades unless the population rebounds dramatically. The findings, published by Nature Scientific Reports, indicate that declines in milkweed, monarch caterpillars' only food source, are highly correlated with increased use of herbicide-resistant, genetically engineered corn and soybeans (now about 90 percent of all corn and soy grown in the United States).

The Center and allies petitioned to protect monarchs under the Endangered Species Act in 2014, and earlier this month we sued the Fish and Wildlife Service for delays in deciding whether these butterflies will go on the endangered species list. The latest monarch study, conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey and others, is a wake-up call that this species needs help -- fast.

"We need to protect monarchs under the Endangered Species Act and increase protections for their summer breeding habitat, or the next generation of children may never see a monarch butterfly," said the Center's Tierra Curry.

Read more in our press release.

A Record Number of West Coast Entanglements for Humpbacks

Humpback whalesA proposed plan by the National Marine Fisheries Service for monitoring humpback whales ignores one of the fastest-growing threats to this iconic species: entanglement in fishing gear. Along the West Coast, a record 31 humpbacks were caught in fishing gear in 2015, according to new federal data.

The draft plan is required before the Fisheries Service can finalize its proposal to remove Endangered Species Act protections from most populations of humpback whales. But the 2015 entanglement numbers were more than twice the numbers from 2014. Dragging heavy fishing gear can injure or kill the whales by draining their energy or cutting into their flesh.

"Humpbacks are recovering, thanks to the power of the Endangered Species Act," said the Center's Kristen Monsell. "But the job isn't done. Entanglement in fishing gear is one of several serious and growing threats these whales face, so it's premature to end protections now."

Read more in our press release.

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Hundreds Rally in New Orleans Against Offshore Lease Sale

New Orleans Keep It in the Ground rallyHundreds of Gulf Coast residents, supported by local and national environmental and justice groups, took part in the largest rally yet in the Keep It in the Ground movement. In New Orleans on Wednesday, they marched around the Superdome, packing the auction room in an unprecedented call to end federal fossil fuel lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico.

The massive rally focused on the planned leasing of 43 million acres in the Gulf, the first auction since the Obama administration unveiled a five-year offshore drilling plan that protects the Atlantic but leaves the Gulf and Arctic open to dirty and dangerous fossil fuel extraction projects, which will continue to deepen the climate crisis.

"The outpouring of people today to protest the oil lease sale in the Gulf is just the beginning," said Blake Kopcho, the Center's oceans campaigner. "There's a growing movement to end all new oil leasing on public lands and waters to protect our climate and communities."

Learn more from WWLTV.

Victory for Desert Tortoises: Marine Corps Postpones Mass Relocation

Desert tortoiseLess than two weeks after the Center filed a notice of intent to sue federal agencies over a risky plan to relocate more than 1,100 protected desert tortoises in the Mojave Desert, the Marine Corps announced Friday its plan to postpone the move.

The relocation, aimed at expanding combat-training space for the Corps' base at Twentynine Palms, Calif., could take a staggering toll on the threatened animals. Tortoises in the west Mojave region are already in drastic decline, and recent research shows survival rates of less than 50 percent among tortoises displaced in previous efforts.

Preparations for the relocation (which would have been one of the largest ever attempted) were halted after the Fish and Wildlife Service and Bureau of Land Management -- on receiving the Center's notice of intent -- asked for more time to review the plan.

Read our March 8 press release and an article on the Marine Corps' decision in the Los Angeles Times.

Petition Filed to Save Florida Black Bears -- Watch Video

Bear videoThe Center and allies have petitioned the Fish and Wildlife Service to protect Florida's largest land mammal -- and one of its most endangered: the Florida black bear. These bears had a particularly deadly year in 2015 due to road kills, habitat loss and the first state-commissioned black bear hunt in 20 years. On top of that, Florida wildlife managers killed 108 "problem bears" -- making the year's human-caused mortality total at least 590 bears out of an estimated 3,000–3,500.

Historically about 11,000 Florida black bears roamed throughout the Southeast, but a few decades ago development, hunting and human population growth cut their numbers to just 300. Luckily, after they were added to the state endangered species list, their numbers rebounded, but not enough to justify removing them from the state list -- which occurred in 2012. Now they need federal-level protection.

"The Florida black bear almost blinked out of existence once on our watch," said the Center's Jaclyn Lopez. "But the Endangered Species Act can provide a roadmap to make sure this rare bear has a place in Florida's future."

Read more in the Miami Herald and watch our new black bear video.

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Suit Filed to Force Decisions on Protecting Nine Species

FisherTo save nine rare and vanishing animals, the Center filed a lawsuit last Wednesday pushing the Fish and Wildlife Service to make decisions on whether to protect these species under the Endangered Species Act. At stake is the recovery of alligator snapping turtles; wood turtles; California spotted owls; Northern Rockies fishers; foothill yellow-legged frogs; mussels called Canoe Creek pigtoes; snails called beaverpond marstonia; and two freshwater fish, the Virgin River spinedace and Barrens topminnow.

Following our landmark 2011 agreement with the Service to expedite decisions on 757 rare and vanishing species, the Center can choose to target an additional 10 species per year for legal action. The feds have been dragging their feet for too long on protecting all the animals we sued over last week.

Under our 757 species settlement, so far 144 species have gained protection and 36 species have been proposed for protection.

Read more in The Virginian-Pilot.

Let's Ban Leaded Gasoline Once and for All -- Take Action

Small aircraftEven as residents of Flint, Mich., and other cities are still being poisoned by water contaminated by lead leached from old pipes, another source of lead exposure is flying under the radar -- leaded gasoline.

Banned in 1995 for use in road vehicles, leaded gasoline is still used in small piston-engine airplanes. About half of the toxic lead-containing emissions from these planes lingers around airports, resulting in elevated levels of lead in the blood of children who live in these areas. We can't let this continue, especially when the EPA and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state that there is no safe level of lead in kids.

Thankfully one of our elected officials is willing to take a stand: Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) has introduced a bill that would ban leaded aviation gasoline in the United States. But she needs help from your representative to get this bill passed.

Act now to urge your rep to vote yes on the "No Lead in the Air Act of 2016."

Wild & Weird: Pigeon Pollution Patrol Live-tweets in London

Member of the Pigeon Air PatrolThere are days in London when the pollution is so bad that an asthmatic sitting in Trafalgar Square might actually breathe easier in Beijing. A recent study calculated that nearly 1,000 people a year die prematurely due to the city's toxic air.

Fortunately the city now has a new team of tireless pollution watchdogs -- or rather, watch-pigeons. Equipped with GPS, nitrogen dioxide sensors and a Twitter handle, the duly dubbed Pigeon Air Patrol, made up of a half-dozen racing pigeons, took flight this March to monitor and tweet about London's air quality.

Find out more about Brian Woodhouse, the activist pigeon fancier, and his team of racing pigeons in The Guardian.

Kieran Suckling

Kierán Suckling
Executive Director

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Photo credits: Red wolf courtesy USFWS/B. Bartel; monarch butterfly courtesy Flickr/Jeff Smallwood; humpback whales courtesy Flickr/raymond rainbird; wolves by John Pitcher; New Orleans Keep It in the Ground rally, Center for Biological Diversity; desert tortoise courtesy NPS/Robb Hannawacker; screenshot of black bear footage, Florida Wildlife Conservation Commission; brown bear (c) Robin Silver; fisher courtesy USFS; small aircraft courtesy Flickr/Bill Frazzetto; Pigeon Air Patrol courtesy DigitasLBi.

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