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Center for Biological Diversity

No. 825, May 5, 2016

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Feds Give Approval to Harm Only Known U.S. Jaguar

El JefeRemember El Jefe? He's the only known wild jaguar in the United States, who became a sensation after the Center for Biological Diversity and our partners at Conservation CATalyst released video footage of him earlier this year.

His story took a troubling turn this week after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service gave its approval to the controversial Rosemont copper mine outside Tucson, Ariz. -- even though it would be in the heart of El Jefe's home territory and bury thousands of acres of surrounding public land under more than a billion tons of toxic mine waste.

"The agency charged with protecting America's most vulnerable wildlife thinks it's just fine for a foreign mining company to harm our only known jaguar," said the Center's Randy Serraglio. "This outrageous decision, which was contradicted by the agency's own scientists, will not withstand judicial scrutiny."

The project still needs several more approvals, so it's not a done deal yet. Read more in the Arizona Daily Star and check out our footage of El Jefe.

EPA Says Atrazine Likely Harming Most Animals, Plants in the U.S.

FrogHere's an ugly revelation: The amount of the herbicide atrazine that's released into the environment in the United States is likely harming most species of plants and animals, including mammals, birds, amphibians and reptiles. That's according to a preliminary risk assessment by the Environmental Protection Agency that was posted briefly on its website and subsequently removed.

Atrazine is a well-known hormone disruptor that's been linked to birth defects and cancer in humans and contamination of ground-, surface- and drinking-water supplies. It's rightly been banned in Europe, but more than 70 million pounds are dumped onto U.S. lands and waters each year. Among the new findings: The amount of atrazine already in our streams and rivers is enough to kill frogs and other imperiled wildlife.

"How many animals have to die before we do what Europe did 12 years ago and ban atrazine?" asked the Center's Nathan Donley.

Read more in our press release, where you can also access the assessment.

Wildlife Win: ORVs Won't Run Roughshod Over Santa Fe National Forest

Mexican spotted owlIn a victory for wildlife and wild places, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals has dismissed a challenge by off-road vehicle interests against a federal plan to limit cross-country driving on the Santa Fe National Forest. The Center and allies had intervened in the case, defending a U.S. Forest Service plan that will help protect wildlife and precious places in the forest.

The decision protects habitat for threatened Jemez Mountains salamanders, Mexican spotted owls, goshawks, Rio Grande cutthroat trout, southwestern willow flycatchers and New Mexico meadow jumping mice in the forest, which stretches over 1.6 million acres in northern New Mexico.

"We're happy to see the court acknowledge that general complaints by some motorized recreationists shouldn't stop common-sense plans to protect threatened species," said the Center's Katie Davis. "Safeguarding our wildlife, rivers and natural areas benefits everyone."

Read more in our press release.

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Finally, Mexican Wolves Will Receive Recovery Plan

Mexican gray wolfMexican gray wolves will at last have a roadmap toward recovery, thanks to a settlement won by the Center and allies requiring the Fish and Wildlife Service to finalize a recovery plan by November 2017. The settlement (opposed by the livestock industry, and not binding until the court approves it) comes 40 years after Mexican wolves first received Endangered Species Act protection.

In 1982, once the last five wild wolves had been captured for breeding, the Service produced a two-year interim "recovery plan" -- insufficient because it lacked criteria for wolf delisting. The Service later drafted three more plans but finalized none.

Since Mexican wolf reintroduction began in 1998, the Service has shot and trapped dozens of wolves in response to politics, seldom releasing any from captivity. Now only 97 wolves live in the U.S. Southwest and fewer than 25 in Mexico.

Said the Center's Michael Robinson, "This recovery plan should trigger new releases of captive-bred wolves and establish new populations in the Grand Canyon and southern Rockies ecosystems."

Read more in the Santa Fe New Mexican.

Great Barrier Reef Corals Hammered by Bleaching

Great Barrier Reef coralsWhen the Center's Oceans Director Miyoko Sakashita went snorkeling a few years ago at the Great Barrier Reef she felt it "was like swimming into a Dr. Seuss book, a fantastical scene that was rich and alive...set against corals that were purple, bright yellow, rusty red and aqua-blue."

But now those cartoon-like colors have faded, or soon will: A new study finds that 93 percent of the world's most iconic, celebrated reef is suffering from a massive coral-bleaching episode. Record warm ocean temperatures are making stressed corals expel the resident algae that keeps them alive and gives them their deep hues.

"This mass bleaching is evidence that dangerous climate change is already upon us," writes Miyoko in a recent op-ed. "If we can't stop turning oil and coal into the pace and gadgets of modern consumer life, then we'll find the brilliant colors drained from our coral reefs and the vibrancy of the natural world terribly dimmed."

Read Miyoko's whole op-ed in The Huffington Post.

Say No to Big Coal in Bangladesh's Mangroves -- Take Action

Bengal tigerThe Sundarbans forest in Bangladesh, at the mouth of the Ganges River, is one of the most precious and fragile ecosystems in the world. Spread across a network of small islands, it's the planet's largest contiguous mangrove forest, a United Nations World Heritage Site, and a critical safe haven for endangered species like Bengal tigers and Ganges River dolphins.

But the Sundarbans is now under serious threat from Big Coal. Energy conglomerate Orion Group is building a massive coal-fired power plant at the edge of this biodiverse forest. Spewing toxic coal ash and other airborne pollutants, contaminating water, and releasing tons of climate change-inducing carbon, this coal plant will have devastating impacts on the region.

Orion Group has asked a U.S. government agency called the Export-Import Bank to finance the power plant -- and the bank is considering it. We can't allow our government to support dirty coal in Bangladesh. Tell Ex-Im Bank to reject the deal by signing our petition.

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Killing Halted: California County Suspends Wildlife Services Contract

CoyoteA settlement agreement stemming from a lawsuit by the Center and allies means that California's Mendocino County will suspend its contract with a federal wildlife-killing agency while a full environmental review is conducted.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services kills hundreds of coyotes, mountain lions, bears, bobcats and other wildlife in Mendocino County every year. The Center and allies twice sued the county for failing to comply with the California Environmental Quality Act in approving its contract with the program. Under the terms of the settlement, Mendocino County must evaluate the merits of a nonlethal predator-control program and prepare an "environmental impact report" if it decides to enter into a contract with Wildlife Services in the future.

This may finally begin to curb widespread killing by this rogue program, which wiped out more than 47,000 animals in California in 2014.

Read more in our press release.

Yellowstone's Grizzlies Need Your Help -- Take Action

Grizzly bearThe Fish and Wildlife Service has announced plans to remove federal protection from Yellowstone's grizzly bears -- a population that has increased since listing in 1975, thanks to the safeguards of the Endangered Species Act and the park, but which is also in decline and severely isolated. Yellowstone-area grizzlies are finding their food sources in collapse, and their mortality rates reached an all-time high last year.

Removing federal protections from this iconic grizzly population would be a terrible setback for the species' recovery. Surrounding states are already lining up proposals for trophy hunts.

Let's get these animals back on the road to recovery. Tell the Service that removing federal protections for Yellowstone grizzly bears is dangerously premature -- these bears must be allowed to roam without being hunted and shot.

Comments are due soon -- please act before May 10.

Wild & Weird: Will Herpes Save Australia Via 'Carpageddon'?

CarpIn the 1960s a fish-farm strain of carp imported from Europe was introduced into Australia's Murray-Darling river basin. Adapted for prolific breeding, this carp would soon displace native fish; it now makes up more than 80 percent of fish biomass in many rivers. Carp damage riverbeds, cause erosion and reduce water quality.

The Australian government plans to solve the problem by releasing an imported strain of herpes virus on the fish in a program it calls "Carpageddon."

The strain Cyprinid herpesvirus 3 first appeared in Israel, Germany and the United States in the late 1990s and spread rapidly to countries around the world, where it has decimated both farm-raised and native carp populations. Australian scientists have concluded that the first-ever use of herpes as a biocontrol agent is unlikely to harm humans or native fish. But in the past studies have been unable to rule out unforeseen problems that can arise when new, exotic organisms are dumped into an ecosystem. In fact, in many cases introduced biocontrol agents have become harmful invasives themselves.

Get more from New Scientist.

Kieran Suckling

Kierán Suckling
Executive Director

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Photo credits: El Jefe (c) Conservation CATalyst/Center for Biological Diversity; frog by Nyffy/Flickr; spotted owl by Aaron Maizlish/Flickr; Mexican gray wolf by Joe Parks/Flickr; Great Barrier Reef corals by d-l-j-h/Flickr; Bengal tiger by Suvajit Sengupta/Flickr; coyote by Denis-Carl Robidoux/Flickr; Yellowstone grizzly bear by Shane Lin/Flickr; carp by Steve/Flickr.

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