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Center for Biological Diversity

No. 840, Aug. 18, 2016

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Endangered Species Act Success Story: Channel Island Foxes

Channel Island foxesMore proof of the lifesaving power of the Endangered Species Act: Last week the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removed three subspecies of island fox, each living on a different island off California's coast, from the endangered species list. (A fourth subspecies, on Santa Catalina Island -- which hosts a permanent human population -- is still protected but has been "downlisted," showing that this fox, too, is rebounding.)

"Because these unique, adorable foxes evolved separately on the islands for 16,000 years, they're some of the only carnivores endemic to California," said Jeff Miller with the Center for Biological Diversity. "They were on the brink of extinction just 12 years ago, when they were protected under the Act. Now, thanks to successful reintroduction and recovery efforts, fox numbers are way up and threats have been reduced."

California's cat-sized island foxes -- hurt by the introduction of invasive species and pesticide use, as well as disease -- were federally protected in 2004 after a petition and lawsuit by the Center and allies.

Get more from National Public Radio.

Win for Marine Mammals as New U.S. Rules Ban Harmful Seafood Imports

DolphinsExcellent news for dolphins and whales worldwide: Following a 2014 lawsuit by the Center and allies, the National Marine Fisheries Service issued rules last week banning U.S. import of seafood from countries whose fisheries kill more whales and dolphins than U.S. standards allow. Since 1972 U.S. law has prohibited seafood from entering the country unless it meets those standards, but for the past 40 years, the federal government has largely ignored that ban -- until now.

Each year around 650,000 marine mammals are caught and killed in fishing gear. Now foreign fishermen must meet the same marine-mammal protection standards applied to U.S. fishermen, or they're banned from the lucrative U.S. market. Americans consume 5 billion pounds of seafood per year, about 90 percent of which is imported; about half is wild caught.

"The new regulations will force other countries to meet U.S. conservation standards, saving thousands more whales and dolphins from dying on hooks and in fishing nets," said Sarah Uhlemann, our international program director.

Read more in the Cape Cod Times.

Is the Government Spying on Climate Protesters?

The Center has just filed nine Freedom of Information Act requests seeking the release of public records relating to surveillance of peaceful protests of federal fossil fuel auctions. Records obtained by the Intercept in July revealed that federal and local police agents went undercover at a May 20 public protest of a Bureau of Land Management fossil fuel auction in Lakewood, Colo.

Our legal filing expands that inquiry to all federal fossil fuel auctions conducted by the BLM and Bureau of Ocean and Energy Management since August 2015, including 14 fossil fuel auctions that faced public "Keep It in the Ground" protests.

"There's a large and growing movement of peaceful protesters calling on their government to make a moral choice to save our climate and end new fossil fuel leasing on public lands," said the Center's Taylor McKinnon. "The public has a right to know whether the government has launched a surveillance program targeting climate activists who are courageously speaking up for what's right."

Read more in Facing South.

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Suit Filed to Save Montana Grizzlies From Hunting

Grizzly bearIn advance of the expected removal of federal protection from Yellowstone's famed grizzly bears as soon as November, the state of Montana has fast-tracked grizzly hunting rules to open the door to trophy hunting of the bears. So the Center and allies filed suit Friday challenging that illegal move.

The long-term harm caused by trophy hunting is well established in scientific literature. By targeting the biggest and strongest males, trophy hunting reduces a species' genetic viability and has cascading impacts on the social dynamics of apex predators, including increasing infanticide. And a recent study demonstrated that when states allow recreational trophy hunting of carnivores, it increases the rate of poaching by making killing more socially acceptable among humans.

"Recent polling shows Americans overwhelmingly oppose trophy hunting," said Andrea Santarsiere, a Center attorney. "By purposefully limiting public participation on the trophy-hunting issue, Montana is trying to drown out these voices. Montana's constitution and its laws require more."

Read more in the Great Falls Tribune.

Two Washington Wolves Gunned Down From Helicopter

HelicopterWashington state wasted no time carrying out the wolf kill order we just reported on -- in fact, the very day we announced the order in this newsletter, last Thursday, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife revealed that aerial gunners had shot and killed two members of the Profanity Peak pack in northeast Washington. One of the dead wolves was the pack's breeding female.

The kill order was issued under new lethal-removal protocols agreed to by the state's Wolf Advisory Group after the agency concluded that wolves from the pack had killed cattle. But although the protocol specifies that lethal removal is best done incrementally, Washington already has sharpshooters on the ground trying to kill yet more wolves.

"Washington state has made things worse, not better," said the Center's Amaroq Weiss. "Not only is it a tragedy to have these two beautiful wolves wiped out, but there's very strong science showing that killing a breeding animal can cause a wolf pack to split up or dissolve, and it can even spur additional livestock conflicts."

Read more in the Los Angeles Times.

350,000 Signatures Demand Stop to Oil Wastewater Irrigation in California

Oil derricksCalifornia activists gathered outside the state's capitol last week with a wheelbarrow full of 350,000 signatures calling on Gov. Jerry Brown and the California Water Resources Control Board to stop the practice of using oilfield wastewater to irrigate crops. Oil wastewater, sold by Chevron and California Resources Corporation, is already being used to irrigate more than 90,000 acres in California -- and that acreage is set to expand.

But there's never been a comprehensive study on the dangers posed by this practice to consumers or agricultural workers. Some chemicals used in oil operations are linked to cancer, kidney failure, reproductive issues and liver damage -- and state officials themselves have detected cancer-causing benzene in oil wastewater.

"Oil-drilling wastewater does not belong on California's crops," said Center scientist John Fleming.

An impressive 15,000 of the signatures delivered to the capitol were from Center supporters -- thank you for being part of this effort to make California crops safer.

Read more in our press release.

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Center Welcomes New Membership Director

Gretchen MaisWe're pleased to announce we've just hired a new membership director, Gretchen Mais. Gretchen connects with our 1-million-plus conservation-minded supporters and more than 48,000 members, including our steadfast Leadership Circle and Sustainer members. She leads our Membership team in welcoming new donors, disseminating up-to-the-minute information on the Center's work, and further expanding our rapidly growing base so we can mobilize financial and activist support for our hard-hitting campaigns.

After eight years working in Washington, D.C., in a similar role, Gretchen is thrilled to be with the Center. "I'm proud to work for an organization that delivers on the promises it makes to its members every single day."

Your support is the lifeblood of the Center, whether you're joining us at rallies and other events or generously helping provide the funds necessary to power our whip-smart attorneys, scientists and organizers. When you join the Center as a member, you effectively implement a dizzying number of actions that give voice and shelter to the wild.

Gretchen looks forward to hearing from you -- please feel free to reach out to her anytime.

Biodiversity Briefing: Bird Recovery Under the Endangered Species Act

Hawaiian stiltThe Center's latest quarterly "Biodiversity Briefing" phone call, led by Executive Director Kierán Suckling, focused on our recent report A Wild Success: A Systematic Review of Bird Recovery Under the Endangered Species Act. In this one-of-a-kind study, we looked at the population growth or decline of all 120 bird species on the endangered species list to see whether or not the Act has helped their recovery -- partly to better understand what works in bird conservation, and partly to combat claims by opponents of the Act that the law isn't effective.

As Kierán put it: "What we found is that the Act is working very well. It's making birds great again."

Learn more about A Wild Success and listen to a recording of the briefing. Our personal phone briefings, including Q&A sessions, are open to all members of the Center's Leadership Circle and Owls Club. For information on how to join and be invited to participate in the calls, email our Donor Relations Assistant Kelly Cruz or call her at (866) 357-3349 x309.

Wild & Weird: Greenland Shark Was Earth's Oldest Vertebrate -- Watch Video

Greenland sharkAccording to research published in the journal Science earlier this month, a female Greenland shark was about 400 years old before she died. Her species now holds the record for longest-living vertebrates.

Made using a novel radiocarbon-dating technique, the estimate thoroughly trounces the previous known vertebrate old-age record: a bowhead whale believed to be 211 years old.

Unfortunately, radiocarbon dating isn't exact. This shark could've been born anywhere between 1501 and 1744. But even at the "young" end -- 272 years old -- she'd still be the oldest vertebrate ever recorded. Scientists believe the most accurate estimate rests in the middle (hence the age of 400 years). In any case, we can only imagine the centuries of ocean life to which this magnificent fish bore witness.

Watch this footage of the ancient shark and read more at BBC News.

Kieran Suckling

Kierán Suckling
Executive Director

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Photo credits: Channel Island foxes by Chuck Graham, USFWS; helicopter courtesy Pixabay; "Keep It in the Ground" rally courtesy Center for Biological Diversity; wolves by John Pitcher; grizzly bear by Neal Herbert, NPS; dolphins by Rosa Lynn A/Flickr; oil derrick by David Meyer/Flickr; brown bear (c) Robin Silver, Center for Biological Diversity; Gretchen Mais staff photo; Hawaiian stilt courtesy USFWS; Greenland shark courtesy NOAA.

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