Manatees Are Not Billboards

Endangered Earth: The weekly wildlife update from the Center for Biological Diversity.
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Florida manatee
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Manatee Defiled by Word 'TRUMP' — Center Offers Reward

After a rare Florida manatee was discovered in north Florida's Homosassa River with the word TRUMP scraped on its back, the Center for Biological Diversity offered a $5,000 reward for information leading to the conviction of whoever committed the act.

Manatees are gentle giants that navigate through coastal waters partly by using the super-sensitive hairs or "vibrissae" on their faces and bodies.

"Manatees aren't billboards, and people shouldn't be messing with these sensitive and imperiled animals for any reason," said Jaclyn Lopez, our Florida director. "It's a crime to interfere with these creatures, which are protected under multiple federal laws."

Anyone with information can call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation hotline at (888) 404-3922.

Counter-protest at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge

The Straight Line From Malheur to the U.S. Capitol

Five years ago a group of armed, far-right extremists led by rancher Ammon Bundy seized the headquarters building at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon and occupied it for 41 days. With no swift response from law enforcement, the militants broke into safes, stole money and equipment, dug a road and trenches, damaged tribal artifacts, and destroyed other federal, public property. They came and went freely — going into town, harassing local residents, and crashing community meetings armed.

Finally Bundy was arrested on allegations of conspiracy and impeding federal employees through intimidation, threat or force. But he was acquitted of all charges.

As the Center's Taylor McKinnon predicted five years ago — after he and other Center staff counter-protested the militants at Malheur — those acquittals set a dangerous precedent, serving as "a stepping stone to fascism."

We can draw a straight line from Malheur to the storming of the Capitol last week. And until violent, right-wing, racist insurrection is met with an adequate federal response, we can expect more violence.

North Atlantic right whales

We're Suing to Protect Whales From Deadly Ship Strikes

One of the most serious threats to critically endangered North Atlantic right whales is collisions with seagoing vessels. Scientists blame boat and ship collisions for more than half of documented right whale deaths since 2017. Last year, in heartbreaking accidents, two of only 10 baby right whales born to the species were killed by vessel strikes.

So on Wednesday the Center and allies sued the National Marine Fisheries Service to make them do more to protect these beautiful whales from brutal collisions. We're calling for an expansion of speed limits to reduce the deadly events.

Please consider supporting this lifesaving work by making a gift to our Saving Life on Earth Fund.

Win: Habitat Protections Proposed for Ice Seals

Bearded seal pup

Thanks to a legal agreement won by the Center, the National Marine Fisheries Service just proposed to safeguard vast swaths of the Arctic as critical habitat in Alaska for ice-dependent bearded and ringed seals.

"Melting sea ice poses a dire threat to these adorable seals," said Center lawyer Emily Jeffers. "The proposed rules underscore the recklessness of Trump's push to open the Arctic to more oil drilling."

Las Vegas bearpoppy

New Lawsuits Launched to Protect Species and Habitat

A key part of our legal work is suing federal agencies to make sure they give rare animals and plants the protection they need under the Endangered Species Act. We recently launched a lawsuit doing just that for four insects — the Bethany Beach firefly, Franklin's bumblebee, Gulf Coast solitary bee and Mojave poppy bee — and one plant, the Las Vegas bearpoppy. We also filed a notice of intent to sue to keep proper safeguards in place for American burying beetles, whose protections the feds just proposed to weaken even though the beetles still teeter on the edge of extinction.

Once a species has protection under the Act, we often launch lawsuits to make sure the feds properly protect their habitat, too. That's what we did last week for eight Florida plants threatened by sea-level rise and development, plus one north Florida mussel called the Suwannee moccasinshell.

Learn more about these actions and our other recent work.

Interior least tern

Fish-eating River Bird Flies Off Endangered Species List

Chalk up another victory for the Endangered Species Act: A little bird called the interior least tern has recovered from a recent brush with extinction and can now be removed from the endangered species list. With the help of the Act, its numbers have increased nearly tenfold over the past three decades.

"This small, scrappy bird has struggled to survive for so long," said the Center's Stephanie Kurose. "The tern's epic journey toward recovery shows what a powerful tool the Act is for fighting the ongoing wildlife extinction crisis."

Interior least terns live along major rivers in the Midwest and South, including the Missouri, Mississippi and Red rivers and the Rio Grande. In winter they migrate to Central and South America and the Caribbean.

Colorado River

Keeping It in the Ground

Ending new fossil fuel leasing on U.S. public lands and waters is key to keeping our atmosphere livable: It's past time for our communally held lands to start being a climate solution rather than a source of plunder for the oil and gas industry.

So on Tuesday, with partners, the Center filed a lawsuit challenging five Bureau of Land Management oil and gas lease sales over almost 59,000 acres of federal lands in Montana and North Dakota.

And last week we finalized an agreement with the agency that blocks drilling on more than 45,000 acres in Colorado until officials revise the land-management plans for about 2 million public acres in the western part of the state.

Revelator: Why Plastic Is a Producer Problem

Plastic bottles

Disposable plastic is cheap for producers but costly to consumers — from taxpayers funding trash management to communities exposed to microplastic and manufacturing pollution.

Read this new Revelator op-ed on why the responsibility for the plastic problem falls on the companies producing and pushing it. Then follow The Revelator on Facebook and Twitter.

Hydra

Wild & Weird: Which Came First, Sleep or the Brain?

Your brain needs plenty of sleep to function well. But the recent discovery of a sleep-like state in a tiny, brainless freshwater animal called a hydra has led scientists to argue that animals evolved to sleep before they developed brains.

Get more from LiveScience.

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Photo credits: Manatee by Keith Ramos/USFWS; North Atlantic right whales courtesy FFWCC; counter-protest at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in 2016 by Taylor McKinnon/Center for Biological Diversity; bearded seal pup courtesy NOAA; Las Vegas bearpoppy by Patrick Donnelly/Center for Biological Diversity; interior least tern courtesy USFWS; Colorado River and DeBeque State Wildlife Refuge by Peter Hart, Wilderness Workshop; plastic bottles by Nick Fewings/Unsplash; hydra by Peter Schuchert/Wikimedia.

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