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Center for Biological Diversity

No. 821, April 7, 2016

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Court Overturns Government Refusal to Protect Wolverines

WolverineA crucial win for one of the West's rarest predators threatened by the climate crisis: This week a federal judge, responding to a lawsuit filed by the Center for Biological Diversity and allies, overturned a 2014 decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that denied Endangered Species Act protections to wolverines.

The decision means that the agency now has to re-examine whether those protections will be provided. It's clear wolverines need help -- there are only about 300 left in the northern Rockies and Cascades, and as the judge pointed out this week, wolverines are a "snow-dependent species standing squarely in the path of global climate change."

The decision to deny protections was an eleventh-hour bow to political pressure that ignored the agency's own scientists, so we're glad to see these fierce predators given another shot at survival.

Read more in the Missoulian.

45 Groups Petition Obama to Halt New Offshore Fossil Fuel Leases

Offshore oil rigsA Center-led coalition of more than 45 public-interest groups has filed a legal petition calling on President Obama to align U.S. energy policy with his climate goals by issuing an executive order to end new oil and gas leases in federally controlled waters -- including the Arctic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico.

The petition supplements protests over new fossil fuel leases across the nation, many led by the Center and allies, as our broad-based "Keep It in the Ground" movement gains steam. It responds to a proposed five-year plan from the feds that would expand leasing in the Arctic and Gulf of Mexico, risking more disastrous spills, putting wildlife and communities in harm's way, and deepening the climate crisis. Rejecting new offshore leases would keep nearly 62 billion tons of greenhouse gases in the ground -- and out of the atmosphere.

"President Obama recognized that oil drilling off the Atlantic coast was a bad idea," said the Center's Miyoko Sakashita. "But the same logic holds true for all ocean coasts. So we're calling on the president to honor his climate change pledges and end future fossil fuel leasing from all federal offshore areas."

Read more in our press release.

125 Hawaiian Species Get 157,000 Acres of Protected Habitat

Hibiscus brackenridgeiWith more endangered species than any other state, Hawaii is still on the front lines of the extinction crisis. But the good news is that the Fish and Wildlife Service last week protected 157,000 acres of critical habitat for 125 species of plants and animals on the islands of Molokai, Maui and Kahoolawe. Many of these species gained protection as the result of a settlement with the Center, which has long advocated for protecting their habitat.

The species range from plants to tree snails and striking forest birds. Invasive species, habitat loss and the effects from introduced pigs, goats and deer are the primary threats to their survival.

"Critical habitat will speed restoration efforts for many of these imperiled species, so I'm glad to see that happen," said Loyal Mehrhoff, the Center's endangered species recovery director.

Read more in the Honolulu Civil Beat.

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Court Slams Feds for Allowing Grizzly Killings

Grizzly bearAn important win for grizzlies: Thanks to a lawsuit by the Center and allies, a judge has commanded the Fish and Wildlife Service to stop turning a blind eye to hunters killing these iconic predators in the Yellowstone region.

Grizzly bears in and around Yellowstone National Park are federally protected and still vulnerable to myriad threats -- including low genetic diversity caused by their isolation and small population. Nevertheless the Service in 2013 approved the shooting of up to four bears in Grand Teton National Park during the park's annual elk hunt. In estimating this decision's potential impacts, the feds didn't properly consider many previous approvals for grizzly killings across the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, which allowed up to 63 bears to die.

So we sued -- and won. Last week a federal court ruled the Service's 2013 action illegal under the Endangered Species Act. Said the Center's Andrea Santarsiere, who worked on this case, "Grand Teton should be a safe haven for grizzly bears, not a killing zone."

Read more in our press release and
stay tuned for more on how to save grizzlies.

Fatal Bat Disease Hits the West

Little brown batWhite-nose syndrome, which has already killed 7 million bats, has now reached the U.S. West, leapfrogging 1,300 miles to do so. Wildlife officials have confirmed that a dead bat in Washington state was infected with the dangerous disease. The discovery marks the first time the illness -- first found in North America 10 years ago in upstate New York -- has been documented in the West. The fungus that causes it was most recently discovered in eastern Nebraska.

White-nose syndrome has resulted in dramatic declines in several bat species, including the northern long-eared bat, little brown bat and Indiana bat. Since the disease just jumped more than 1,000 miles, it seems very likely that humans are helping it spread. The Center has been calling on federal officials to do more to stem the march of the disease.

"This is a wake-up call for land managers in the West to do what's needed to keep white-nose syndrome from spinning out of control before it's too late," said the Center's Mollie Matteson.

Read more in The Christian Science Monitor.

Tucson's Jaguar-sniffing Dog Makes National Headlines -- Watch Video

Mayke videoRemember the video that millions of people saw earlier this year of the only known jaguar in the United States? Well, now the rest of the story behind that footage is being told -- namely the story of Mayke the jaguar-sniffing dog, who's been trained to find signs of El Jefe, the jaguar living in the mountains outside Tucson, Ariz.

This week the Associated Press ran a national story (also picked up by several TV stations) about the scat-sniffing dog who helped our partners at Conservation CATalyst understand the jaguar's behavior and home range, as well as where to place the cameras that captured that stunning video footage.

Check out the story in the Chicago Tribune and watch our video of Mayke in action.

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Study: West Antarctic Ice Sheet Could Melt Faster Than Predicted

IcebergA dire new climate study suggests that the West Antarctic Ice Sheet -- larger than Mexico and capable of raising global sea levels by at least 12 feet -- may break up far sooner than previously thought. If greenhouse gases continue to be emitted quickly, the ice sheet could disintegrate over decades rather than centuries, raising sea level as much as 3 feet by 2100.

The new research is the work of two prominent scientists at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and Penn State. Added to other sources of melting ice, sea levels could rise by 5 or 6 feet by century's end, the authors found -- about twice what the United Nations predicted as a worst-case scenario three years ago. In the long term, rising oceans will threaten many of the world's greatest cities, including New York, New Orleans, Miami, London, Hong Kong and Shanghai.

Read more in The New York Times.

Want #GoodFoodNow? -- Take Action

Olive GardenA coalition of environmental, social-justice and animal-welfare groups led by the Center is calling on Olive Garden and its parent company, Darden Restaurants, Inc. (the nation's largest full-service restaurant employer), to do more to protect animals, the environment and workers by substantially improving their food sourcing and labor practices.

We first contacted Darden a few months ago and received a tepid response. So now our campaign is accelerating, with a growing coalition, a national call-in day and increased social-media pressure on the company.

The "Good Food Now" campaign urges Olive Garden, Longhorn Steakhouse, Bahama Breeze and other chains to follow the Good Food Purchasing Principles by offering healthier, more sustainable, humane and fair food. That includes reducing meat and dairy purchases by 20 percent, serving smaller portions and adding more meat-free options. It also means purchasing food that supports local economies and meets higher animal-welfare standards -- and ensuring fair pay and dignified working conditions for employees throughout the supply chain.

Join the campaign by signing our petition and sharing these #GoodFoodNow memes.

Ban Super-toxic Rat Poisons in California -- Take Action

San Joaquin kit foxWe all know that rat poisons kill. But did you know they often harm and kill nontarget organisms like wildlife, pets and even children? In 2014 more than 11,300 people were poisoned by rodenticides in the United States, including more than 8,500 kids younger than 6. Safer, inexpensive alternatives exist -- yet many consumers and pest-control companies simply refuse to use them.

Fortunately that could soon change. A new bill in the California legislature, A.B. 2596 (Bloom), will allow for common-sense controls on these dangerous poisons to eliminate their use where they lead to accidental poisonings -- while still allowing for limited applications to protect the state's agricultural economy, public health and environment.

If you're from California, act now to urge your legislators to vote yes on this important bill and reduce senseless poisonings of people, pets and wildlife -- from hawks and owls to endangered San Joaquin kit foxes.

Wild & Weird: SUV-sized Unicorns May Have Roamed With Ancient Humans

Siberian unicorn paintingUnicorns -- minus the elegant, all-white-stallion look and Lisa Frank rainbows you might imagine -- did once roam the Earth. At 9,000 pounds and covered in wooly hair, mammals known as Elasmotherium sibiricum, commonly called "Siberian unicorns," were previously thought to have gone extinct before the rise of modern humans -- more than 300,000 years ago.

But new fossil evidence, unearthed in Kazakhstan, points to the existence of these scruffy, SUV-sized unicorns as recently as 29,000 years ago, likely placing them in the company of humankind.

You might say unicorns still roam the Earth today. They're just chunky, gray...and usually called "rhinos."

Read more in The Guardian.

Kieran Suckling

Kierán Suckling
Executive Director

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Photo credits: Wolverine courtesy Flickr/ucumari; offshore oil rigs (c) Drew Bird Photography; Hibiscus brackenridgei courtesy Flickr/Forest & Kim Starr; grizzly bear courtesy Flickr/Scott Taylor; little brown bat courtesy USFWS/Ann Froschauer; screenshot of Mayke footage, Conservation CATalyst and Center for Biological Diversity; iceberg in West Antarctic courtesy NASA/Jane Peterson; Olive Garden restaurant courtesy Flickr/Peter Dutton; San Joaquin kit fox (c) Robin Silver, Center for Biological Diversity; painting of Siberian unicorn by Heinrich Harder.

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