100 Groups to Congress: Stop the Deadly Wildlife Trade

Endangered Earth: The weekly wildlife update from the Center for Biological Diversity.
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COVID-19 and the Dangerous Trade in Wildlife

Even as we isolate ourselves, COVID-19 reminds us how connected we are to each other — and to wildlife, the likely source of the current pandemic.

That's why this week the Center for Biological Diversity joined more than 100 other organizations urging Congress to tackle wildlife trade and habitat destruction. Our letter noted that 60% of known infectious diseases in people can be transmitted from animals, and 75% of emerging "zoonotic" infectious diseases originate in wildlife. These emergent diseases have quadrupled in the past 50 years.

"The solution couldn't be clearer: One crucial way to reduce disease risk is to curb wildlife exploitation," wrote Tanya Sanerib, legal director of our International program, in an op-ed in The Hill this week. "China, to its credit, slapped a moratorium on live markets and a temporary trade ban earlier this year. But much stronger, broader action is needed around the planet."

Read Tanya's op-ed and learn more about our letter to Congress. More than 1,400 members and supporters joined our call on these important issues last night. You can listen to it here.


Take Action: Halt Utility Shutoffs During the Pandemic

The coronavirus pandemic is causing widespread wage and job loss — and as these losses add up, many families are finding themselves unable to pay for essential services like electricity and water during this crucial time for fighting the disease.

So the Center and 576 other groups delivered a national letter last week to mayors, governors, rural electric co-ops, and public-utility boards and regulators seeking a moratorium on all utility shutoffs. Now we need to tell Congress, as it moves to finalize federal COVID-19 aid bills, to include these policies nationwide.

Tell your elected officials to 1) stop utilities from cutting off electricity and water to homes and 2) push for more equitable clean energy systems to address the issues leading to these shutoffs.

Eastern black rail

Suit Filed to Save Elusive, Red-eyed Marsh Bird

The Center and local partners just sued to force the Trump administration to finalize protection for a beautiful, white-speckled black bird with bright-red eyes. Eastern black rails were once abundant in wetlands throughout the eastern United States and beyond, but now they're critically imperiled and hard to find. We first petitioned to protect them under the Endangered Species Act in 2010.

"These charmingly odd birds are being shoved toward extinction because the Trump administration can't be bothered to protect them," said the Center's Stephanie Kurose. "We need to quickly get them the legal protection they desperately need."

Get more.

The Revelator: Where Do Pandemics Come From?


In a new piece in The Revelator on the origin of pandemics, John Platt talks to Bard College ecologist Felicia Keesing about how biodiversity and habitat loss, along with markets in wildlife, are contributing to dangerous outbreaks of infectious disease — and how we can fight back.

Read it here and subscribe to The Revelator's e-newsletter.


Op-ed: The Need to Transform U.S. Animal Agriculture

Almost 10 billion animals are slaughtered every year in the United States. Most live short, miserable lives in overcrowded factory farms that are breeding grounds for disease, including pandemics like H1N1.

In December 2019 the Center and allies sued Trump's Department of Agriculture over its decision to reduce oversight at hog slaughterhouses and allow faster slaughter. The move exposes pigs to greater suffering and flouts federal laws addressing humane slaughter, meat inspections and environmental protection.

One of our partners in that lawsuit, Farm Sanctuary president Gene Baur, writes at The Hill about the urgent need to transform agribusiness, both for other animals' sake and our own wellbeing. (Note: This article was published a few weeks ago, so the number of reported coronavirus deaths is out of date.)

Read the op-ed now.

Mexican Gray Wolf Numbers Jumped to 163 in 2019

Mexican gray wolves

The U.S. population of endangered Mexican gray wolves grew by 32 animals, from 131 in 2018 to 163 in 2019, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The numbers in New Mexico and Arizona represent a 24% increase — the largest since 2014. Nineteen packs had pups alive at the end of the year.

"It's heartening to have more wolves in our forests," said the Center's Michael Robinson. "But federal officials need to take much stronger action to establish healthy genetic diversity."

Read more at AZCentral.

Suction dredge mining

Washington Protects Rivers, Fish From Destructive Mining

Great news: Washington state has joined several other western states in banning suction dredge mining in rivers and streams that are home to endangered salmon, steelhead and bull trout.

Suction dredging is a recreational form of mining where stream bottoms are vacuumed for gold. It destroys vital habitat, disturbs fish spawning grounds, and stirs up sediment that can contain dangerous heavy metals. For the past decade the Center has been part of a broad coalition pushing to restrict this destructive practice.

More than 1,000 of you spoke up in favor of Washington's new law through a recent Center action alert. Thank you — you made a difference.

Get more.

Offshore drilling

Suit Challenges Trump Expansion of Gulf of Mexico Drilling

As people across the country hunker down, the Trump administration is moving full-speed ahead in promoting the fossil fuel industry. This week, along with allies, we filed an additional legal challenge to the administration's latest oil and gas lease sale in the Gulf of Mexico. A ruling in the case is expected soon.

"Trump can't keep expanding offshore drilling and ignoring the damage it does to the Gulf of Mexico," said Kristen Monsell, the Center's oceans legal director. "We're hopeful the court will finally force this reckless administration to follow the law."

Read an Associated Press story on the lease sale.

Diane Wilson and Sharon Lavigne

Two Women, One Goal: Stopping Formosa Plastics

Activist and retired shrimper Diane Wilson exposed decades of pollution of Texas waterways by petrochemical company Formosa Plastics — and in 2019 won a settlement requiring the company to pay $50 million for plastic-pollution cleanup and mitigation. It was the largest Clean Water Act citizen-lawsuit settlement in history.

Now Formosa wants to expand its operations in Louisiana — home of another inspiring activist, Sharon Lavigne — with a massive new plant that would turn fracked gas into throwaway plastic. So Wilson and Lavigne have joined forces to defend Louisiana's water and air from rampant plastic pollution.

Read the story of their ongoing fight at the Center's Medium page.

Sea nettle

Wild & Watchable: The Hypnotic Magic of Jellies

If you're stuck indoors and find yourself in need of a dose of tranquil meditation, take a few moments to gaze at this Monterey Bay Aquarium livecam of mesmerizing jellies.

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Photo and illustration credits: Pangolin by David Brossard/Flickr; coronavirus by mattthewafflecat/Pixabay; eastern black rail by Christy Hand/South Carolina Department of Natural Resources; clearcut forest by Tero Laakso; pig farm by Kevin/Flickr; Mexican gray wolves by Chad Horwedel/Flickr; suction dredge mining courtesy Klamath Riverkeepers; offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico by JournoJen/Flickr; activists Diane Wilson and Sharon Lavigne courtesy Center for Biological Diversity and Louisiana Bucket Brigade; sea nettle by Bill Abbott/Flickr.

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