Our Wins of 2020

Endangered Earth: The weekly wildlife update from the Center for Biological Diversity.
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Grizzly bear sow and cubs
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Into the New

Over the past four years, the Trump administration launched seemingly endless attacks on wildlife, wild places, public health and a livable planet. To curb its destructiveness, the Center for Biological Diversity filed almost 260 lawsuits against the administration. And in 9 out of the 10 cases resolved, we've won. We look forward to winning more.

This heartrending era is now almost over. We're breathing a deep sigh of relief, but that doesn't mean we're resting. The extinction and climate crises, and the forces of racism, corruption and exploitation that plague our culture, weren't born with President Trump. Nor will they disappear when he leaves the White House. So in the new year we'll keep fighting, as hard as we always have, to stop the creatures we love from going extinct and to keep the planet alive into the far future.

Together we fight, and together we win.

Iceberg

Curbing the Climate Crisis

Battling the climate emergency under a denialist president has been an uphill climb. Still, the Center's Climate Law Institute made headway on several fronts in 2020. We slapped down the Trump administration's attempt to suppress an important national scientific review of the state of the climate. We also launched a lawsuit against Trump's "dirty car rule," which would promote the sale of more gas-guzzling, high-emission vehicles.

In California we won a precedent-setting lawsuit that lets state residents challenge super-polluting methane-gas power plants in their communities. And we defeated a proposal for dredging the San Francisco Bay to let more dirty oil tankers access refineries.

Wolf

Protecting Endangered Species

While doing its best to fend off body blows to the Endangered Species Act from Interior Secretary David Bernhardt and other industry hacks in the administration, our Endangered Species program made gains at the state level.

Years of education and outreach by the Center and allies came to fruition when Colorado voters approved Proposition 114 to bring wolves back to the state. Despite misleading ads from the livestock industry, Coloradans said yes to this first-ever ballot initiative on reintroducing a species into the wild. Paws must be on the ground by the end of 2023, and now we're working to ensure the restoration plan will include 100% legal protection for each wolf.

In Washington state we helped end the contracting of private hunters to kill bears on timberlands. And in South Carolina we advocated successfully for a ban on commercial turtle trapping.

Green sea turtle

Saving the Big Blue

Our Oceans program won several victories for North Atlantic right whales, mounting successful challenges to seismic blasting and lobster fishing that will help protect these critically endangered animals. And, prompted by a Center lawsuit, California adopted new rules for its commercial crab fishery that will reduce endangered whales' and sea turtles' deaths by entanglement.

In Louisiana we supported, organized and publicized community opposition to Formosa Plastics' massive proposed plant, whose federal permits were suspended by our lawsuit. And in Alaska, with allies, we fought the Trump administration's expansion of oil drilling in the Arctic, winning a major victory when a court ruled against Trump's approval of what would have been the first offshore oil-drilling project entirely in federal Arctic waters.

Desert bighorn sheep

Defending Our Public Lands

The wildlands of the Southwest were a focus for our Public Lands team in 2020. We helped prevent the Defense Department's seizure of more than 1.7 million acres of stunning public land in Nevada for use as a bombing range, blocked a diversion on the Gila River that would have threatened imperiled species in New Mexico, and defeated a 300-mile water pipeline that would have siphoned 7.8 billion gallons yearly from the fragile eastern Nevada desert for Las Vegas sprawl.

With partners, we won a court ruling that kept new oil and gas leases off nearly a million acres of sage-grouse habitat in Nevada, Utah and Wyoming. And we overturned federal approval of a controversial open-pit copper mine in Arizona that would cut through critical jaguar habitat.

Pangolin

Across the Globe

The Center's International program made strides into new territory in 2020, including by filing our first-ever case in Mexican courts seeking protection for hammerhead sharks under Mexico's wildlife protection law, NOM-059. We also won a ban on seafood imports to pressure Mexico to save its desperately endangered vaquita porpoises — of which there are likely just 10 left in the world — from dying in fishing gear.

We issued a groundbreaking report on the threat of zoonotic diseases like COVID-19 from U.S. wildlife imports, including primates, rodents and bats. And we called on policymakers to make urgently needed reforms to stop the cruel wildlife trade that drives the spread of those diseases. We fought trophy hunting by challenging imports of imperiled leopards and Trump's trophy-hunting advisory council, which was ultimately disbanded.

Butterfly

Protecting Public Health

In the fight to rid our environment of dangerous chemicals, our Environmental Health program had a major legal victory over the drift-prone pesticide dicamba in 2020 when an appeals court vacated its approval — and then had to sue again after the Environmental Protection Agency reapproved it anyway. We secured a hard-won ban on the cancer-linked pesticide atrazine in Hawai'i and U.S. territorial islands, as well as throughout mainland roadsides and forests.

In California we helped pass a bill into law that sets the nation's strongest restrictions on super-toxic rodenticides, protecting wildlife like hawks and mountain lions from poisoning. And in Colorado, we battled the world's largest meat-processing company to get slaughterhouse pollution out of the state's waterways. We also made progress toward cleaner air with a court victory that stopped the Trump administration from giving a free pass on unhealthy smog pollution to a huge oil- and methane-producing area in northern Colorado.

Houses at night

Energy Justice

In 2020 the Center's new Energy Justice program reached out to communities and groups nationwide to work toward a more equitable and sustainable energy system.

Rising to meet the urgent challenge of energy security for low-wealth communities and those of color, we spearheaded an effort by 830 energy and racial-justice organizations to demand a federal moratorium on utility shutoffs in the pandemic. And in solidarity with unions representing 50 million workers, we sued the Trump administration to invoke the Defense Production Act to make lifesaving PPE for essential and frontline workers.

We brought legal actions against both the Tennessee Valley Authority and Duke Energy in North Carolina to address their illegal practices of using ratepayer funds to support dirty energy and anti-climate lobbying, in violation of ratepayers' First Amendment rights. And we defeated a federal attack on retail net metering intended to decimate rooftop and community-solar development nationwide.

Mountain-lion kittens P-51 and P-52

The Urban-wild Interface

In our multifaceted work to conserve nature and protect the climate in California's dense and complex patchwork of private lands and sprawl development, we had significant wins last year. We successfully petitioned the state's Fish and Game Commission to take steps toward protecting imperiled mountain lion populations and secured an agreement, following a courtroom win against a Temecula development, to permanently preserve a key wildlife corridor.

We forced the state's United Water Conservation District to do more to protect endangered steelhead trout in the Santa Clara River. And on the climate front, we pushed the World Logistics Center, an enormous warehouse project in Southern California, to abandon its efforts to evade responsibility for its greenhouse gas emissions.

Crowd

Population and Sustainability

Our work to raise awareness of the connection between wildlife extinction and human population growth involved a series of creative initiatives in socially distanced 2020. We reached thousands of people through dozens of virtual conferences, webinars, trainings, trivia nights and other online events focusing on the topics of population and consumption.

We also released and publicized the results of a major national survey revealing that nearly three-fourths of Americans believe population growth is driving other species to extinction. And we prepared and released a policy guide to advance sustainable diets in support of new research by University of Michigan and Tulane University on diet-related climate pollution.

Comb-crested jacana

The Revelator: Digging Deep

In 2020 The Revelator, the Center's environmental news and ideas publication, dug deep into the human causes of pandemics and zoonotic diseases, the roots of environmental justice, and the depths of the extinction crisis. Along the way we tackled vital issues in conservation and sustainable energy, interviewed top experts around the world, and presented thought-provoking ideas for change — stories and commentaries you won't find in other publications.

Check out The Revelator's most challenging essays and most-read articles of 2020.

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Photo credits: Grizzly bear sow and cubs by frostnip/Flickr; iceberg by Saskia Madlener/NASA; wolf by Jim Peaco/NPS; green sea turtle by Claire Fackler/NOAA; desert bighorn sheep by James Marvin Phelps/Flickr; pangolin by David Brossard/Flickr; butterfly by Tom Conger/Flickr; houses at night by nicksee/Flickr; mountain-lion kittens P-51 and P-52 courtesy NPS; crowd by Rob Curran/Unsplash; comb-crested jacana by Geoff Whalan.

Center for Biological Diversity
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