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Center for Biological Diversity

No. 835, July 14, 2016

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Historic Petition: End New Fossil Fuel Leasing on Public Lands

Oil derricksIs the United States really serious about tackling the climate crisis? It's time to find out.

This week the Center for Biological Diversity led more than 250 climate, community and tribal organizations in filing a landmark legal petition calling on the Obama administration to halt all new fossil fuel leasing on federal lands -- a step that would align U.S. energy policies with its climate goals and keep up to 450 billion tons of greenhouse gas pollution from entering the atmosphere.

We're calling on Interior Secretary Sally Jewell to place an immediate moratorium on new leases for federally managed, publicly owned oil, gas, tar sands and oil shale, and to expand the current moratorium on new coal leases. It's a critical step to ensure the United States does its part to meet the global climate commitments we made last year in Paris.

"The clock is ticking on the climate crisis, and one of the most powerful steps the Obama administration can take right now is to turn off the carbon pollution spigot on America's public lands," said the Center's Michael Saul, primary author of the petition.

Read more in our press release.

Good News in Our Court Fight to Save Oregon Wolves

WolfOur suit will go on: The Oregon Court of Appeals ruled July 5 that the Center and allies can proceed with a lawsuit over the state's decision to strip endangered species protections from Oregon's small population of about 120 gray wolves. The suit was complicated by a controversial state bill blocking judicial review of the decision to take away wolves' protection. The appeals court ruled that the issues we presented "are complex matters of public importance" that deserve further consideration.

"Oregon's wolves will now get their day in court to reveal the flawed process that stripped their protection," said Amaroq Weiss, our West Coast wolf organizer. "Gov. Brown's wildlife commission ignored the best science to illegally delist wolves. Then her staff was actively involved in the passage of legislation to eliminate the public's right to challenge that decision."

Read more in The Register-Guard.

In the Wake of Violence, a Moment to Pause and Reflect

SunsetOur hearts and prayers go out to the families, friends and coworkers of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile and five Dallas, Texas police officers recently gunned down in horrifying acts of violence: Lorne Ahrens, Michael Krol, Patrick Zamarripa, Brent Thompson and Michael Smith.

Words and thoughts cannot bring them back, but the actions we all take from this day forward can make it less likely that more innocent lives will be taken by fear, hatred and racism. We must not turn away from horror or take refuge in easy answers and accusations. The lives of future victims require us to face now, unblinkingly, the racial violence and injustice tearing our nation apart. If we do not, the violence will surely continue.

With Black Lives Matter, which "advocates for dignity, justice and freedom, not murder," the Center asks its staff, family, friends and supporters to give no shelter, no support, no quiet acceptance of violence or racism. We must stand, and more importantly act, for dignity, justice and freedom.

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Change Rattlesnake Roundups to Humane Festivals -- Take Action

RattlesnakeWith more than 3,000 snake species found throughout the world, and more being discovered each year, there's a lot to love and learn about our scaly friends. But snakes are still vilified, and rattlesnakes are among the most maligned.

In the southeastern United States, a handful of communities still hold gruesome "rattlesnake roundups," where hunters bring in as many wild snakes as they can catch in a year; afterward the snakes are slaughtered and sold for their skin and meat.

In honor of World Snake Day (July 16), you can help raise awareness about the value of these unique reptiles and turn the tide against irrational fear. Sign our petition addressed to the last towns still holding cruel roundups -- urge them to host festivals instead that celebrate these wild creatures.

Half a Million to Obama: Make Grand Canyon Area a National Monument

Grand CanyonA major push to protect the greater Grand Canyon area: An environmental, tribal and social-justice coalition, including the Center, has delivered petitions with more than 550,000 signatures to President Obama demanding he create a 1.7-million-acre national monument around Grand Canyon National Park.

U.S. Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) has spearheaded an effort in Congress to create the new monument. But with no movement on that measure in the House, monument advocates have asked the president to use his executive authority under the Antiquities Act to protect the lands, which are crucial to the integrity of the area's watersheds and wildlife.

Creating this "Greater Grand Canyon Heritage National Monument" would safeguard the region from uranium mining and other extractive industries while preserving sacred American Indian sites and the right of the public to recreate and hunt in the area.

Read about it in the Phoenix New Times.

10,000 Endangered Species Condoms Given Away for World Population Day

Endangered Species Condom packageIn honor of World Population Day on Monday, the Center distributed 10,000 of our highly popular, free Endangered Species Condoms across the country to make the connection between unsustainable human population growth and the wildlife extinction crisis.

As we grow at a rate of about 227,000 people per day, with 7.4 billion people now on Earth, wild plants and animals are going extinct at rates 1,000 to 10,000 times the natural background rate. The United States ranks as the world's third-most populous country.

"Human population growth is rarely addressed by environmental groups, but we can't ignore the need for real solutions for our increasingly crowded planet," said Leigh Moyer, our population organizer. "Ensuring that people can choose if, when and how many children to have is a critical part of protecting wildlife and the environment."

The Center has given away 660,000 of our free condoms since 2009.

Read more from Leigh in Medium.

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New Arctic Drilling Regs Won't Protect Wildlife, Climate

Polar bearIt's hard to believe we're still arguing over Arctic drilling (why does it take so long for bad ideas to die?).

But here we are: The Obama administration has announced final rules governing offshore fossil fuel exploration in the U.S. Arctic Outer Continental Shelf. Like similar requirements the government placed on Shell Oil's controversial drilling operation in the Chukchi Sea last summer, these rules won't protect oceans, wildlife or coastal communities from disastrous drilling-related harm.

The Center is part of a coalition opposing new Arctic drilling as inherently dangerous. We're awaiting a decision by the Interior Department on whether it will issue new fossil fuel leases in the region as part of its five-year offshore energy plan -- a decision expected by the end of the year.

"Arctic drilling can't be made safe, period. These rules endanger wildlife and people both, with the false hope that companies can drill in these treacherous waters without spilling," said the Center's Miyoko Sakashita.

Read more in our press release.

Public Outpouring Urges Feds Not to Abandon Red Wolves -- Thank You

Red wolfThe U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service got a message loud and clear this week: Don't abandon efforts to save the world's only population of red wolves. A petition with nearly half a million signatures was submitted Wednesday urging the agency to resume efforts to save this species, whose population has dwindled to as few as 45 in the wild.

Red wolves were declared extinct in the wild until a successful reintroduction program was established in North Carolina's Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge in 1987. By 2006 the program had enabled the population to expand to more than 130. The program enjoyed ample support from conservationists, the public, and even private landowners who live within the red wolf recovery area. This week's petition comes about a year after the Service announced it was suspending red wolf releases into the wild.

It's shameful to see the agency bowing to the political pressure from a minority and abandoning its duties under the Endangered Species Act. Thanks to all of you who spoke out, and stay tuned for how you can help save these irreplaceable wolves.

Read more in our press release.

Wild & Weird: The Not-so-monstrous Gila Monster -- Watch Video

Gila monster horror movieThe Gila [pronounced HEE-luh] monster has one of the worst reputations in the lizard kingdom. Measuring up to 2 feet in length and maxing out at more than 5 pounds in weight, it's the largest lizard native to the United States and the only venomous one in the country. Early pioneers to the Southwest described, quite fantastically, Gilas weighing as much as 35 pounds, belching deadly gases to kill their prey, and stinging victims with their forked tongues.

There's even a 1959 hot-rod/creature-feature/teeny-bopper film The Giant Gila Monster that features the lizard killing teen lovers by toppling their car down a ravine, attacking a train, and terrorizing dancers at a sock hop.

In reality, while a Gila monster bite is reported to hurt like hell, there are no confirmed cases of one causing human death. Gilas are lethargic critters that prey primarily on eggs and small mammals. They may even spend 95 percent of their lives burrowed underground. Unfounded fear of them is one reason humans are the species' main predator.

Watch our video of a rather handsome, not-so-monstrous Gila monster in action.

Kieran Suckling

Kierán Suckling
Executive Director

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Photo credits: oil derricks by verifex/Flickr; wolf by edgun/Flickr; sunset by mulazimoglu/Flickr;
wolves by John Pitcher; rattlesnake courtesy USDA; Grand Canyon by goodkent/Flickr; Endangered Species Condom art by Shawn DiCriscio and design by Lori Lieber, Center for Biological Diversity; brown bear (c) Robin Silver; polar bear by Ansgar Walk/Wikimedia; red wolf by Bethany Weeks/Flickr; Gila monster graphic based on photo (c) Robin Silver.

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Center for Biological Diversity
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