A Victory for the Arctic and Its Wildlife

Endangered Earth: The weekly wildlife update from the Center for Biological Diversity.
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Polar bear
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Court Nixes Trump's Greenlight of Arctic Oil Scheme

In a magnificent win for the wild Arctic, a federal appeals court on Monday rejected the Trump administration's approval of what would have been the first offshore oil-drilling development located fully in federal Arctic waters.

Hilcorp Alaska got approval in 2018 to build and operate its controversial "Liberty" project, an artificial drilling island and underwater pipeline that could have spilled oil into the sensitive Beaufort Sea and harmed Arctic wildlife and communities. Conservation groups including the Center for Biological Diversity filed suit to stop it.

"This is a huge victory for polar bears and our climate," said Kristen Monsell, oceans legal director at the Center. "This project was a disaster waiting to happen that should never have been approved. I'm thrilled the court saw through the Trump administration's attempt to push this project through without carefully studying its risks."

If you've spoken out against Arctic drilling through one of our recent action alerts, thank you. And please consider supporting our continuing work to defend the extraordinary Arctic by making a donation to our Saving Life on Earth Fund.

Plastic pollution light projection, San Francisco

Our Plan for a Plastic-free President

The Center and more than 550 other groups just released our Presidential Plastics Action Plan. We're urging President-elect Joe Biden to take eight key executive actions against the plastic pollution crisis — including nixing new plastic plants, curbing single-use plastics with federal purchasing power, and bringing environmental justice to petrochemical pollution-plagued communities.

Our plan counters the fracking-fueled plastics boom whose throwaway products fill our oceans, landfills and landscapes while its toxic pollution hurts frontline communities and worsens the climate crisis.

"President-elect Biden can begin solving the plastic pollution crisis right away without any help from Congress," said Center lawyer Julie Teel Simmonds. "It's time to rein in the fossil fuel industry's insidious plans to keep fracking for plastic and polluting poor communities here and around the world."

Watch our new video to hear from people from all walks of life — activists, scientists, students, celebrities and more — about why they're working for a #PlasticFreePresident.

Corals

More Rare Species Moving Toward Protection

The future looks brighter for more than a dozen imperiled species that won new proposed safeguards over the past couple of weeks.

First, under an agreement with the Center, the National Marine Fisheries Service proposed to protect more than 6,000 square miles of critical habitat for 12 threatened corals off Florida, in the Caribbean and in the Pacific Ocean. The proposal affirms climate change and ocean acidification as major threats.

Then the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed to list two new species under the Endangered Species Act. First a small fish called the peppered chub won prospective "endangered" status and 1,068 river miles of protected habitat in Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas and New Mexico. Next whitebark pine trees were put on track for "threatened" status and will be the most widely distributed tree species ever protected by the Act.

The New Republic: Biden Should Declare a Climate Emergency

Protest sign

On his first day in office, writes Center staffer Lydia Millet in The New Republic this week, President-elect Joe Biden should make a historic address announcing he's declaring the climate crisis a national emergency under the National Emergencies Act.

Far from being merely symbolic, the declaration would vest Biden with practical powers he could use right away to tackle climate change as the universal life-support threat that it is. At the same time, it would address widespread environmental injustices and create millions of quality jobs.

Carolina madtom

Suits Filed for Sage Grouse, Catfish and Waterdog

In Colorado the Gunnison sage grouse has just one healthy population left, thanks to habitat loss from livestock grazing and more. Half-hearted commitments to save it aren't working. So this week the Center and allies filed suit against federal agencies to make them step up and save the birds from extinction.

And in the beleaguered rivers of eastern North Carolina, two colorful aquatic creatures — a salamander with red, feathery plumes called the Neuse River waterdog and a feisty little catfish with stinging barbs called the Carolina madtom — are fighting for their lives against habitat loss, development, pollution and logging. We'd already filed suit to save them once, but the feds failed to meet their deadline for finalizing that protection — so we had to sue again.

Desert tortoise

Win for the Wild: Nevada Refuge Will Not Be Bombed

After unflagging advocacy by the Center and our environmental and Native allies, the largest national wildlife refuge outside Alaska has been saved from seizure by the U.S. military to expand its already-huge Nevada testing and training range. Last week Congress decided to deny the military the privilege of also using the state's beautiful, 1.6-million-acre Desert National Wildlife Refuge for bombing practice — at least for now.

"We know the military will be back, and the coalition will be ready to protect our public lands again," Donnelly said. "When our campaign began, we said 'not one acre.' We meant it."

Center Seeks Safeguards for Rare Northwest Wildflower

Tall western penstemon

The Center and Native Plant Society of Oregon just petitioned to protect the tall western penstemon under the Endangered Species Act. Part of a genus commonly known as "beardtongues," this penstemon has vivid, purple-blue flowers and is down to just five known populations in southwestern Washington and northwestern Oregon.

"Without protection, the tall western penstemon may finally succumb to pressure from development and climate change," said the Center's Quinn Read.

Revelator: Saving These Two Species Curbs Climate Change

Forest elephant

Two of the world's largest animals are also hugely valuable — in dollar terms — in the fight against climate change. According to a new Revelator article, Africa's "mega-gardener" forest elephants help trap carbon to such an extent that their extinction would mean billions more tons of it entering the atmosphere. In the ocean great whales (including blue whales and humpbacks) play a similarly outsized carbon-capturing role, which led researchers last year to value their climate services at $2 million per animal.

Read more and sign up for The Revelator's weekly newsletter.

American white ibis

Wild & Weird: Birds That 'Hear' With Their Beaks

Some birds, like the ibis and kiwi, have specialized, sensitive beaks that can poke into the soil and detect the vibrations of would-be prey moving through the earth. Some can pick up feedback as subtle as sound waves bouncing off buried shells — the avian equivalent of echolocation in dolphins and bats.

Many birds that no longer have this capability retain pockets in their beaks where vibration-detecting nerve sensors once existed, leading scientists to surmise that these sensory abilities date back to the time of the dinosaurs.

Get more from The New York Times.

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Photo credits: Polar bear by Alan D. Wilson/Nature's Pics Online; #PlasticFreePollution light projection in San Francisco by Drew Bird Photography; corals courtesy NOAA; protest sign via Unsplash; Carolina madtom courtesy USFWS; desert tortoise by Sandy Redding/Flickr; tall western penstemon by Roger George; forest elephant by Richard Ruggiero/USFWS; American white ibis by richard-lev/Flickr.

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