COVID Relief and a Fresh Start at the EPA

Endangered Earth: The weekly wildlife update from the Center for Biological Diversity.
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Meet the EPA's New Leader: Michael Regan

Wednesday was a watershed day for the people of the United States. Congress passed a $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill and confirmed more of President Biden's Cabinet nominations — including Michael Regan as leader of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Regan, who has served as North Carolina's secretary of the Department of Environmental Quality since 2017, will lead the Biden administration's work to address climate change and advocate for environmental justice.

"Michael Regan could be the transformative leader the EPA desperately needs, but the challenges are enormous," said Kierán Suckling, the Center for Biological Diversity's executive director. "Reversing Trump's gutting of the EPA's pollution, climate and science programs is his first task. But Regan must also break the pesticide and pollution industry stranglehold on the EPA that has endured for decades under both Republican and Democratic administrations. To make environmental justice the EPA's central mission and slow the extinction and climate crises, Regan must cut through the Gordian knot of industry control."

Southern resident orca and i'iwi

New Suits Defend Habitat for Orcas and 'I'iwi

This month the Center went to court to get habitat set aside for two species that were protected under the Endangered Species Act thanks to our petitions.

We sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to force it to safeguard critical habitat for Hawai'i's iconic scarlet-feathered 'i'iwi, which we first petitioned to list in 2010. Our suit also disputes the feds' failure to develop a required recovery plan for these beautiful birds, threatened by climate change, habitat destruction and disease.

We also sued to save the last 74 Southern Resident killer whales from a Seattle Harbor expansion that would bring huge container ships into their habitat. The project would worsen noise that makes feeding even harder for already-starving orcas, and it would dredge up toxic chemicals that hinder their reproduction. We first petitioned to protect these majestic whales in 2001.

Wolves

More Than 200 Wolves Killed in Wisconsin's Brutal Hunt

Last year Trump stripped federal protection from almost all gray wolves in the United States, leaving their management up to states. Wisconsin wasted no time showing us what that looks like — in just three days, more than one-fifth of the state's wolves were slaughtered in an unprecedented winter hunting and trapping season.

Learn more about what this bloody spectacle threatens for wolves in other states in this article by Collette Adkins, the Center's carnivore conservation director.

We're fighting in court to restore wolves' Endangered Species Act protection across the lower 48. Support this lifesaving work with a donation to our Wolf Defense Fund.

Oregon Flower Goes From 25,000 to 11 Million Plants

Bradshaw's desert parsley

The Bradshaw's desert parsley, a wet-prairie wildflower found in Oregon's Willamette Valley and southwest Washington, has now fully recovered — the latest Endangered Species Act success. After more than 30 years of recovery work, its population has increased from about 25,000 to more than 11 million.

"I'm thrilled that Bradshaw's desert parsley is again a beautiful fixture in the Willamette Valley," said Noah Greenwald, the Center's endangered species director. "Without the Endangered Species Act, this plant would have been consigned to the history books years ago as one more lost flower."

Eastern hellbender

Missouri Hellbenders Protected — But What About the Others?

After a notice of intent to sue from the Center and allies, the Fish and Wildlife Service just granted Endangered Species Act protection to eastern hellbender salamanders in Missouri. It's a nice step — but all eastern hellbenders need protection. That's why we petitioned for them back in 2010 and have pushed hard ever since to safeguard these unique, fascinating, and largest of all North American salamanders.

Rare Desert Wetlands Wildflower Proposed for Protection

Arizona eryngo

A rare flower called the Arizona eryngo grows only in spring-fed wetlands in the desert, where it's down to four small populations due to livestock grazing, groundwater overuse and other human activities. But this week, following a petition by the Center and allies, the Fish and Wildlife Service proposed Endangered Species Act protection and critical habitat for the swiftly vanishing plant.

"Arizona eryngo and other irreplaceable parts of our natural heritage will be lost if excessive local groundwater pumping isn't controlled," said the Center's Robin Silver.

Monarch butterfly

Monarch Butterflies In Peril

Once common throughout North America, monarch butterflies now face extinction due to pesticide use, climate change, sprawl, and logging in their habitat.

Monarchs are divided into two populations separated by the Rocky Mountains: eastern and western. A few weeks ago the yearly count of eastern monarch butterflies, which spend the winter in Mexico, revealed a more than 80% decline over the past two decades.

In recent years the western population of monarchs has suffered an almost total collapse, with fewer than 2,000 of them counted this winter. A new study published in Science named climate change as the main cause of widespread butterfly declines across the western United States.

This is why the Center is fighting for Endangered Species Act protection for monarchs. And why, this week, we and more than 80 other groups called on Congress to provide $100 million yearly to conserve them.

Orange trees

Suit Seeks to Overturn EPA Approval of Dangerous Pesticide

Banned in more than 100 countries, a neurotoxic pesticide named aldicarb was hastily approved by Trump's outgoing Environmental Protection Agency for spraying on Florida's citrus crops — to the tune of 2.5 million pounds. So on Wednesday the Center and allies sued to stop the use of this chemical, one of only 36 pesticides classified as "extremely hazardous" by the World Health Organization.

"We're asking the court to make the EPA do its job and protect people and the environment," said Nathan Donley, a senior scientist at the Center. "Florida's rivers, lakes and streams should not be a dumping ground for poisons forbidden in countries across much of the globe."

The Revelator: Fish Are Eating More Plastic

Fish and plastic

Ocean fish, says a new study detailed in The Revelator, are eating twice the amount of plastic they ate 10 years ago. Among these fish are many species people eat and many, near the top of the food chain, that are increasingly endangered. Researchers said common sole was "the most worrisome."

Learn more and, if you haven't already, subscribe to The Revelator's e-newsletter.

Sea slug

That's Wild: This Sea Slug Self-decapitates to Survive

Researchers in Japan have discovered that a species of sea slug can detach its head from the rest of its body, including heart and anus. They believe the sea slug does it to survive parasitic infection.

After self-decapitation, Elysia cf. marginata regrows its whole body in about three weeks. Many animals can replace body parts like limbs or tails, but — along with planarian flatworms, which can regrow their heads from even a minuscule piece of their bodies — sea slugs are the reigning champions of regeneration.

Read more at ScienceNews and watch our video of a sea slug head roaming about in search of food on Facebook or YouTube.

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Photo credits: EPA building by Glenn Pope/Flickr; Southern Resident orca by Miles Ritter/Flickr; i'iwi by Dan Clark/USFWS; wolves by klengel/Flickr; Bradshaw's desert parsley by Peter Pearsall/USFWS; eastern hellbender by Brian Gratwicke/Flickr; Arizona eryngo by Elizabeth Makings; monarch butterfly by Dendroica/Flickr; orange trees by astronomyblog/Flickr; fish and plastic trash via Pixabay; sea slug by Sayaka Mitoh.

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