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Center for Biological Diversity

No. 830, June 9, 2016

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Immediate Habitat Protection Sought for West Coast Orcas

OrcaThe Center for Biological Diversity joined allied conservation groups and more than 100,000 people on Monday in calling on the Obama administration to immediately expand protected critical habitat for Southern Resident killer whales along the West Coast. The population remains critically endangered, with just 83 individuals left.

The National Marine Fisheries Service last year announced plans to expand orcas' habitat protections to 9,000 miles along the West Coast (some 2,500 miles in Washington's Puget Sound and Salish Sea are already protected). The new habitat designation would protect key foraging and migration areas for the whales off the coasts of Washington, Oregon and California. But the agency said it wouldn't make that decision until the end of 2017, without final implementation until at least 2018.

"It's clear these killer whales need more protection to avoid spiraling toward extinction," said the Center's Miyoko Sakashita. "The Fisheries Service has the data it needs to make this decision now -- and it should."

Read more in our press release.

Fight Launched Over Plans to Capture Wolf Pups in New Mexico

Mexican gray wolf pupsThe Center and allies went to court this week to intervene in a legal case arguing that the state of New Mexico has no authority to block the release of Mexican gray wolves into the wild.

New Mexico sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service last month for releasing two wolf pups critical to Mexican gray wolf recovery. The state's lawsuit aims to force the agency to recapture the released pups and return them to captivity, as well as to ban future releases. We have filed to intervene in the case on the side of the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service.

Releasing new wolves is an especially vital step in recovering and broadening the gene pool of this fledgling wolf population, which numbers fewer than 100 in the United States.

"Removing these pups would be cruel and would contribute to an ongoing decline in wolf numbers and genetic diversity," said the Center's Michael Robinson.

Read more in the Silver City Sun-News.

Midwest Moose Move Toward Endangered Species Act Protection

MooseThings are looking up for the lumbering, antlered behemoths of the northern Midwest: In response to a petition by the Center and Honor the Earth, the Fish and Wildlife Service has announced that moose in the Midwest may deserve Endangered Species Act protection. These moose have experienced a nearly 60 percent drop in their numbers in Minnesota in just 10 years.

The latest decision pertains to the U.S. population of a subspecies found only in the Midwest. Moose are built to live in cold environments, with thick fur to survive freezing temperatures. Sadly, rising temperatures put them at increased risk of overheating, leading to malnutrition and lowering immune systems, while ticks and other pathogens thrive in a warming climate.

"Climate change, habitat destruction by mining industries, disease and other threats are driving moose to the brink," said Collette Adkins, a biologist and attorney who works in the Center's Minneapolis office. "Like so many Minnesotans, I love the North Woods because of wildlife like moose, wolves and loons. The Endangered Species Act is saving the wolf, and it can save the moose too."

Get more from Minnesota Public Radio News.

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Stop This Gargantuan Coal Terminal in Its Tracks -- Take Action

Coal trainWe've successfully stopped five of six proposed coal-export terminals in the Pacific Northwest, but there's one more giant to slay. Millennium Bulk Terminals' proposed coal-export terminal in Longview, Wash., near the Columbia River, would be the largest in North America -- a giant facility capable of moving 44 million tons of coal a year. It must be stopped.

Coal mined in Montana would be transported to the proposed terminal on barges and trains, shedding polluting coal dust all the way. And from the terminal, coal would be shipped primarily to Asian markets -- where its use would exacerbate the climate crisis.

We need to let decision-makers know that we want a clean and healthy future, one in which coal plays no part. Help us stop the Millennium coal-export terminal in its tracks.

EPA: Atrazine Likely Harming Most U.S. Species

FrogThe 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, according to a new risk assessment from the Environmental Protection Agency.

Atrazine is also well known as a hormone disruptor that has been linked to birth defects and cancer in humans, and contamination of ground-, surface- and drinking-water supplies. About 70 million pounds of atrazine are used in the United States each year, making it one of the most widely used pesticides in the country.

"Anyone who cares about wildlife, people and the environment should be deeply troubled by this finding," said the Center's Nathan Donley.

So we must ask ourselves: When are we going to follow Europe's lead and finally ban atrazine?

Read more in Civil Eats and stay tuned on how you can help.

Ban Sought on New Fossil Fuel Leasing in Ohio's Wayne National Forest

Cerulean warblerEnvironmental groups including the Center have called on the Bureau of Land Management to ban new fossil fuel leasing in Ohio's Wayne National Forest over concerns about the harmful impacts of fracking. The Wayne is home to many rare species like bobcats, Indiana bats, timber rattlesnakes and cerulean warblers.

We're challenging the BLM's plans to lease up to 40,000 acres of the Athens Ranger District, Marietta Unit of the Wayne, which would open it up to new oil and gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing in the Marcellus and Utica shales. In an environmental assessment, the agency failed to take into account the impacts fracking would have on air quality, water quality, wildlife and climate change.

"The science is clear: Avoiding the worst impacts of climate change requires keeping untapped fossil fuels in the ground," said the Center's Taylor McKinnon. "Opening new areas to development directly conflicts with that science and delays a transition to clean, renewable energy."

Read more in our press release.

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Ready to Give Away Free Endangered Species Condoms? Sign Up Now

Endangered Species CondomsFor hundreds of thousands of years, the human population grew slowly. It took about 200,000 years for our numbers to reach 1 billion, which happened around 1804. But after that, it took just two short centuries for our population to increase sevenfold, to 7.4 billion people. Now we add 227,000 people to the planet every day, and that isn't good news for the rest of the species on Earth.

This unprecedented growth has a tremendous impact, contributing to environmental catastrophes including the sixth mass extinction, ocean acidification, deforestation, wildlife habitat loss and climate change.

We need to get more people talking about unsustainable human population growth -- and doing something about it -- fast. That's why the Center is looking for activists to distribute our free Endangered Species Condoms on World Population Day, July 11. Sharing these condoms is a fun and effective way to start the conversation about how human population growth affects wildlife and the planet.

Learn more about our Endangered Species Condoms and sign up to distribute them in your community.

New Restrictions on U.S. Ivory Trade Announced -- Thank You

African elephantGreat news for African elephants: The Obama administration has announced new trade restrictions on elephant ivory, nearly shutting down the U.S. ivory market and making it much harder for traffickers to find cover for their illegal ivory imports.

Tens of thousands of elephants are slaughtered each year by poachers -- and the United States is currently the second-largest market in the world for illegal ivory. "Reducing demand in the U.S. will go a long way toward saving elephants in Africa," said the Center's Sarah Uhlemann.

The federal government is now stepping up for elephants because of advocacy by millions of Americans -- including you. Thank you for signing Center petitions for elephants, donating to our work and raising awareness about elephants in your communities. There's still much to be done to protect elephants, but we're on a roll.

Read more in The New York Times.

Grand Canyon 'Dark Sky' Title Spotlights Need for New Monument

Grand Canyon night skyThe latest honor for Grand Canyon National Park -- actually, for the star-scattered night sky above it -- illuminates one of the best reasons to protect the lands surrounding this national treasure: keeping that big, beautiful sky free of light pollution for miles around.

During last weekend's annual "Grand Canyon Star Party" -- which attracted thousands of stargazers and nature lovers -- the park was officially honored as an International Dark-Sky Park, specifically recognizing it as a unique landmark where people can spot stars and planets elsewhere increasingly blocked out by interfering light from cities, roads and other development. This comes at a time when the Center and allies, including the International Dark-Sky Association, are pushing for the designation of the Greater Grand Canyon Heritage National Monument, which would preserve the public lands adjacent to the park not only for the sake of local wildlife and habitat on the ground, but also to shield its pristine nighttime darkness from artificial light that could creep toward park boundaries.

Read more in our press release.

Wild & Weird: Summer Vacation? Only Two States Will Avoid Hellish Heat

CarhengeThe National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recently published its 2016 summer outlook. The good news? Two states -- Nebraska and Kansas -- may actually avoid higher-than-average temperatures this summer. But the bad news is that the remaining 48 American states are expected to be hotter on average. Alaska's Aleutian Islands have the highest probability of an unusually warm summer.

So for those of you planning a summer vacation, might we suggest Nebraska's Carhenge, a replica of England's Stonehenge, made out of partially buried and upright vintage American cars? If that's not exciting enough, there's also the world's largest spur, weighing in at about a ton and measuring 27 feet high, on display in Abilene, Kan.

Learn more about this summer's heat from the NOAA.

Kieran Suckling

Kierán Suckling
Executive Director

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Photo credits: orca by Miles Ritter/Flickr; Mexican gray wolf pups by Chad Horwedel/Flickr; moose by Ryan Hagerty/USFWS; wolves by John Pitcher; coal train by Adam Fagen/Flickr; frog by mtsofan/Flickr; cerulean warbler by Nicholas Pederson; grizzly bear (c) Robin Silver; Endangered Species Condoms by Center for Biological Diversity; African elephant by Arno Meintjes/Flickr; night sky over the Grand Canyon by National Park Service; Carhenge by Michael Sauers/Flickr.

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