Millions of Birds at Risk

Endangered Earth: The weekly wildlife update from the Center for Biological Diversity.
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Yellow warbler
Center for     Biological     Diversity   

Troubled Skies Ahead for Migratory Birds

In 2017 President Trump established a deadly policy ending decades of protection for migratory birds by letting polluters off the hook for killing them. The policy also let oil companies kill birds in oil spills and utilities electrocute snowy owls and other raptors on uninsulated power lines — all without consequences.

This summer a federal judge finally vacated the policy — but that victory may be temporary.

Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt is dead set on taking away birds' protection before he leaves D.C. The day after Thanksgiving, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released a new rule justifying the policy. It's only a matter of time before the rule is finalized, making it harder to punish companies that recklessly kill birds, and leading to millions of birds' slaughter.

Please consider supporting the Center for Biological Diversity’s efforts to save migratory birds with a gift to our Saving Life on Earth Fund.

Polar bear

Fighting Big Oil With — and for — Polar Bears

On Tuesday we told the Trump administration we'll be suing over its failure to update population assessments for polar bears, walruses, sea otters and manatees, as required by the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

Why haven't the assessments been updated? Good question.

"It's no accident this administration refuses to update population analyses for polar bears and other species highly vulnerable to oil spills," said Center attorney Lalli Venkatakrishnan. "The feds are required by law to know how marine mammal populations are faring before allowing any harm to these animals from oil and gas activity. Trump's again ignoring his legal obligations as a favor to Big Oil."

American mink

COVID Hits Oregon Mink Farm — Take Action

The coronavirus pandemic has hit a massive Oregon mink farm, affecting animals and humans.

The outbreak was first reported on the same day Oregon officials dismissed the Center's request that they take action to protect the public from the threat of COVID-19 spreading between humans and minks. In Denmark this "bidirectional" COVID spread produced a mutated form of the virus that could stymie vaccinations' efficacy.

Every sample from 10 minks at the 12,000-mink Oregon farm tested positive for COVID. But state health officials refuse to release even the most basic information: the facility's name, location, and number of infected workers. They do release this information for every other workplace COVID outbreak to help those potentially exposed and curb the spread.

That's why the Center wrote Oregon again this week, demanding officials stop putting fur-industry secrecy over public health. Please speak up now to demand they release vital information — and a plan to stop things getting worse.


A Week of Wins

Our work yielded a bumper crop of wins over the last two weeks. Here are some of those victories:

A permit was denied for a massive, open-pit gold and copper mine at the headwaters of Alaska's Bristol Bay that would threaten the world's largest sockeye salmon fishery and hurt grizzly bears, moose and unique freshwater seals. This permit denial may be the death blow for the mine, which the Center has fought since 2017.

In California an appeals court struck down unconstitutional limits on the rights of Californians to challenge the location of power plants in their communities. The decision marks a win after seven years of litigation by the Center and partners.

A federal court sided with the Center and allies in invalidating a permit for a methanol refinery that would have posed a catastrophic risk to Washington state's fragile Columbia River ecosystem.

And our legal agreement with the Environmental Protection Agency forced it to finally look at how glyphosate (the active ingredient in Roundup) affects endangered species. It found that the world's most widely used pesticide is likely to injure or kill 93% of all the plants and animals protected under the Endangered Species Act. This will force more action to protect wildlife.

Learn about all these wins and other Center news.

Oak Flat

Trump Rushes to Hand Over Apache Sacred Land to Mining

The last months of the Trump administration are seeing a rush to plunder public lands, further destroy environmental protections, and desecrate Indigenous lands.

Among the worst of these assaults is a fast-tracking of the handover of Oak Flat in Arizona, a place sacred to the Apache down through the centuries, to the mining giant Rio Tinto — which earlier this year destroyed an ancient Aboriginal site in Australia.

It looks like the last hope to save Oak Flat lies with the Biden administration. As the Center's Randy Serraglio told Vice, "Biden can thank Native people, 90% of whom voted for him, for winning Arizona. I hope he can recognize that and do the right thing."

Get more from this op-ed by Center campaigner Brytnee Laurette.

Center Op-ed: Biden Can't Take Baby Steps on Climate

Environmental protest

President-elect Joe Biden and his climate czar John Kerry will have to tackle the climate crisis with heroic strength and speed, writes Center editor Lydia Millet in The New York Times. To keep the climate livable for the next generations, Biden must act with exceptionally powerful force as soon as he gets into office — and not wait for action from Congress.

Mount Graham red squirrel

Lawsuit Filed to Save Rare Red Squirrels

The Center and local group Maricopa Audubon filed suit this week to save Mount Graham red squirrels from extinction. Biologists last counted only 109 of these highly endangered southeast Arizona squirrels, nearly all of which now live outside areas designated as protected critical habitat. Yet the feds didn't update the designation as required by the Endangered Species Act.

"We must help Mount Graham red squirrels get through this perilous habitat bottleneck," said Center cofounder Robin Silver. "There are so many forces aligned against them now. Climate change, university astronomers, recreational buildings and uncaring federal agencies could wipe these little animals off the planet."

Butterfly fish

A Win for Reef Life in Hawai'i

Responding to a suit by the Center and Hawaiian allies, Hawai'i's environmental court just closed a legal loophole the state used for three years to allow the destructive harvest of some 500,000 marine animals from precious coral reefs without environmental review.

"The court, like our local communities, clearly understands the detrimental impacts of an improperly regulated aquarium trade in Hawaiian waters," said the Center's Hawai'i director Maxx Phillips. "Reefs support important biodiversity, put food on our families' tables, and shelter our coastlines from sea-level rise and storms."

The Revelator: Is It Too Late to Save 'America's Amazon'?

Weeks Bay pitcher-plant bog, Alabama

Alabama's Mobile River basin has the highest aquatic biodiversity in the United States. But we're in danger of losing this place before we even know what's there.

In an interview with The Revelator, environmental journalist Ben Raines paints a vivid picture of the staggering variety of life in the basin. He explains why — despite this — Alabama has been overlooked by biologists, and reveals the region's many environmental threats.

Read the interview and sign up to get The Revelator's weekly e-newsletter.

Get Tips on How to Simplify the Holidays


Want to make your holidays better for the planet and ... well, just better in general? Check out the Center's new website to help people simplify the holidays by building traditions with more meaning and less stuff. You'll find tons of ideas to get you thinking outside the (big) box with wildlife-friendly gifts and traditions that encourage creativity, increase connection, ease stress, save money, reduce waste and help the environment.

Amazon River, Colombia

Wild & Weird: Ancient Rock Paintings of Ice-age Beasts

Scientists have discovered an enormous rock-art site that spans 8 miles of hillsides deep in Colombia's Amazon rainforest. Mastodons, giant sloths, human handprints, geometric designs and other images form a gorgeous collage created by some of the earliest humans to arrive in South America, between 12,600 to 11,800 years ago.

See photos of the massive ice-age painting and learn more at The Guardian.

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Photo credits: Yellow warbler by Tom Koerner/USFWS; polar bear by Alan D. Wilson/Nature's Pics Online; American mink by Ryzhkov Sergey/Wikimedia; Alaska moose by frostnip/Flickr; Oak Flat by Russ McSpadden/Center for Biological Diversity; environmental protest by Leonhard S/Pixabay; Mount Graham red squirrel (c) Robin Silver; butterfly fish by neonbubble/Flickr; Weeks Bay pitcher-plant bog, Alabama, by Andrea Wright; gift by Cybele Knowles/Center for Biological Diversity; Amazon basin courtesy Amazon Conservation Team en Colombia.

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