Keep It in the Ground

Endangered Earth: The weekly wildlife update from the Center for Biological Diversity.
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Halted: Oil and Gas Leasing on Federal Lands and Oceans

On Wednesday President Joe Biden signed a slew of executive orders tackling climate change and environmental destruction. We're thrilled that one of these orders suspends new oil and gas leasing on federal lands and waters and launches a review of existing leases — a longstanding campaign goal of the Center for Biological Diversity.

This is Biden's first step toward fulfilling a request made by the Center and allies to end public-lands fossil fuel leasing, which generates nearly a quarter of U.S. greenhouse gas pollution. Pollution from existing leases, if fully developed, would exhaust the country's carbon budget for keeping the world below a 1.5 degrees Celsius temperature increase.

"The administration's review, if done correctly, will show that filthy fracking and drilling must end for good, everywhere," said Kierán Suckling, the Center's executive director.

Thank you to every one of you who raised your voice as part of our Keep It in the Ground campaign over the years, and to everyone who signed our recent petition to Biden.

On Wednesday the president also also directed federal officials to protect 30% of U.S. lands and waters by 2030 to fight extinction and climate change — another key Center campaign.

Please consider a monthly gift in support of our year-round work to safeguard imperiled forests, rivers, deserts, oceans and grasslands — and the wildlife depending on a safe, secure habitat.

Oak Flat

Suit Challenges Trump Selloff of Apache Holy Land to Mining

Along with our tribal and conservation allies, the Center sued the U.S. Forest Service on Friday to stop a land trade rushed through in the final hours of the Trump administration. It would hand over thousands of acres in Arizona's Tonto National Forest — an area called Oak Flat, long revered as a holy place by Apache and other Native people — to be destroyed by a massive copper mine.

Our lawsuit says the Trump administration failed to properly study and plan for the mine's potential destruction of waters, land and wildlife — meanwhile breaking laws about public input into the process.

"The most corrupt president in U.S. history sold out Oak Flat, along with the people who hold it sacred, on his way out the door," said Center staffer Randy Serraglio. "We're hopeful that a judge will agree this shoddy, fast-tracked review is illegal. We'll use every means at our disposal to protect Oak Flat for all who cherish it."

Whitebark pines and the Grand Tetons

Take Action: Help Save These Important Pines

Whitebark pines need your help. These beautiful northwestern trees play a key role in their ecosystem, stabilizing alpine soil and shading the snowpack to feed rivers. Their calorie-rich seeds are vital food for grizzly bears, red squirrels, and birds called Clark's nutcrackers — who leave some of their cached seeds uneaten, where they germinate and grow.

Like so many other species, whitebark pines are threatened by climate change. Warmer winters don't kill off destructive pine beetles, which continue to devour and destroy large swaths of forests. And as other tree species find opportunity in previously too-cold whitebark pine habitat, they push out whitebark pines.

Urge the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to list the whitebark pine under the Endangered Species Act and protect its critical habitat.

Vermilion flycatcher

Film Discussion Today: The Future of the San Pedro River

Join us today at 4 p.m. PT / 7 p.m. ET for a special Saving Life on Earth webinar with filmmaker Dina Kagan and Center staff to discuss a new documentary about the beauty and imperilment of Arizona's San Pedro River. The river basin, which provides vital habitat for countless resident and migratory species, is threatened by a massive 28,000-home development that would bleed the San Pedro dry. During the hour-long webinar, you'll learn about our campaign to save this irreplaceable jewel and how you can get involved.

You can watch the 13-minute film before or after the webinar. You have to register to join the webinar, so sign up and then check your email for a link.

Jaguar map

The jaguar known as El Jefe once roamed through the Patagonia Mountains on the U.S.-Mexico border, but construction of Trump's border wall threatens to sever that vital migration corridor. Northern jaguars may never recover until the border wall is stopped for good and parts of it come down. Watch our new video on Facebook or YouTube, and learn more about what may happen with the wall.

Unarmored threespine sticklebacks

Suit Filed to Save Fascinating California Fish

The Center has sued the Fish and Wildlife Service for its failure, under the Trump administration, to protect Southern California's unarmored threespine stickleback. These tiny scaleless fish, known for their elaborate mating rituals, are barely hanging on in only one watershed and one creek. Yet the feds followed none of the steps to help them required by the Endangered Species Act, which has protected them for 50 years — at least, ostensibly.

"The Trump administration's inaction pushed these living icons of California further toward the brink," said Center attorney J.P. Rose. "Habitat destruction and water pollution are wiping them out. Without immediate and ambitious new safeguards, these fish will be relegated to history books and museums."

Columbia River

Washington State Rejects Major Methanol Refinery

In a big win against climate change, Washington state's Department of Ecology just denied permits for a massive refinery at the port of Kalama that would have processed fracked gas into methanol for export. The state decided the project would have damaged the climate, Washington's shorelines and the public interest.

"This decision helps ensure we'll never see a massive fracked-gas refinery that would pose a catastrophic risk to the fragile Columbia River ecosystem that people and imperiled species depend on," said Center attorney Jared Margolis. "We can't keep pretending these dirty fossil fuel projects don't jeopardize our continued existence by accelerating the climate crisis and destroying essential habitat. Thankfully Washington has stepped up and rejected this monstrosity."

Humpback whale

Center Op-ed: Speeding Ships Kill Too Many Whales

Ship strikes in U.S. waters are a leading cause of death for endangered whales like North Atlantic right whales, humpbacks and blue whales. Yet the feds haven't used the one easy, effective tool to stop these deaths: mandatory speed limits in whale habitat. That's why this month the Center filed two lawsuits to push ship-speed limits and other common-sense measures to save whales along the East and West coasts.

Read all about it in this Medium piece by Center lawyer Catherine Kilduff.

Revelator: A 'Disasterologist' Talks Climate Change

Samantha Montano

Last year the United States had 16 weather and climate disasters whose damages topped $1 billion each. As The Revelator's Tara Lohan wrote in a recent article, "2020 was so bad even the disasters outdid themselves."

But expensive disasters are on the rise. Read Tara's interview with emergency-management expert Samantha Montano on why the climate crisis should be a part of emergency planning. And if you haven't yet, subscribe to The Revelator's e-newsletter.

Brown tree snake

That's Wild: Watch This Snake Use a 'Body Lasso' to Climb

Snakes have adapted all sorts of techniques to move around. There's the classic slither, the stylish sidewind, and the somewhat awkward rectilinear motion some snakes make using their scales to push forward. Now scientists have discovered a never-before documented serpentine movement that's been dubbed "lasso locomotion."

Read more and watch a video of the lasso technique at Scientific American.

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Photo credits: Oilfield by Wayne Hsieh/Flickr; Oak Flat by Russ McSpadden/Center for Biological Diversity; whitebark pines and the Grand Tetons by Christopher J. Earle; vermilion flycatcher by Dina Kagan; map by Dipika Kadaba/Center for Biological Diversity; unarmored threespine stickleback by Barrett Paul/USFWS; Columbia River by Kay Gaensler/Flickr; humpback whale by Ed Lyman/NOAA; Samantha Montano; brown tree snake by Alexandre Roux/Flickr.

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