In Court to Save Whales From Deadly Fishing Gear
To stop the needless suffering and death of Pacific humpback whales, on Monday the Center for Biological Diversity sued over the federal government’s failure to protect them from entanglements in sablefish pot gear off the West Coast. The gear’s lines can wrap around whales’ mouths, fins or tails, making them drag heavy traps until the animals die of exhaustion or infection. But NOAA Fisheries gave the sablefish fishery a permit to kill and injure Pacific humpbacks, even though they’re safeguarded by the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Endangered Species Act, which also protects 48,521 square miles of critical habitat we helped win last year.
“Humpbacks are our magnificent, acrobatic neighbors, and we need to stop the increasing deaths in commercial fishing gear,” said Center attorney Catherine Kilduff. “That’s why we went to court — and why we’ve petitioned to require pot-gear fisheries to convert to new ropeless gear within the next five years.”
Yellowstone’s Gray Wolf Massacre
So far this season, hunters have fatally shot 20 gray wolves who wandered outside the Yellowstone National Park borders. That’s more Yellowstone wolves brutally killed than in any season since the species was reintroduced to the region in 1995. And the slaughter is just getting started.
Thanks to an emergency petition by the Center and allies, the Biden administration announced that wolves across the West may once again warrant federal protection, which will put them off limits to hunting and trapping.
Help our fight to stop the killing with a donation to our Wolf Defense Fund.
Lawsuit Filed to Save Point Reyes’ Rare Elk
The Center and allies just sued over a controversial plan that would horribly mismanage California’s Point Reyes National Seashore. Ignoring overwhelming public opposition and multiple federal laws, the National Park Service’s plan would expand private commercial ranching that threatens the park’s native wildlife and habitat, allow illegal water pollution, and even kill native tule elk — a unique subspecies found in no other national park.
“Point Reyes belongs to the public, not a handful of ranchers,” said the Center’s Jeff Miller. “It’s time to manage the park the way Congress intended when it passed the Point Reyes Act — for public benefit and protection of the natural environment.”
Court Halts California Megaresort
In response to a Center lawsuit, a judge has ruled to set aside the approval of a potentially disastrous Northern California luxury development due to wildfire concerns. Lake County approved the sprawling resort despite a long history of wildfires on the undeveloped 16,000-acre project site in Guenoc Valley — full of oak woodlands, wildlife corridors and habitat for sensitive species like golden eagles, foothill yellow-legged frogs and western pond turtles. A month after the approval, the deadly LNU Lightning Complex fires tore through the area.
“The court recognized that Lake County failed in one of its most important jobs, which was to consider how dangerous development in the path of fire can increase risks to surrounding communities,” said Peter Broderick, a Center attorney.
New Pesticide Policies, Species Protections
On Tuesday the Environmental Protection Agency reapproved two pesticides for use on genetically engineered corn, cotton and soybeans: Enlist One and Enlist Duo (which contains 2,4-D and glyphosate, known to harm species like monarch butterflies). At the same time — for the first time — the agency announced it has studied these pesticides’ wildlife impacts and set up measures to protect dozens of endangered species and millions of acres from harm.
Also on Tuesday, the EPA announced new policies addressing its own decades-long failure to assess species threats before approving new pesticides. Previously it refused to look at the impacts of new pesticides, including highly toxic neonicotinoids that kill rusty patched bumblebees, northern long-eared bats and other endangered species.
“These commonsense reforms make clear that pesticides should no longer be rubber-stamped,” said the Center’s Brett Hartl. “But the Biden EPA and Fish and Wildlife Service both have a lot more work to do if they truly want to significantly reduce the number of endangered species killed or injured by toxic pesticides.”
Saving Species in the Silver State
In 2021 the Center filed five lawsuits and scored some significant successes protecting biodiversity in Nevada. Thanks to our legal work, last year a judge overturned a decision to strip protections from greater sage grouse habitat, and the Fish and Wildlife Service was ordered to move forward on protecting Tiehm’s buckwheat. And a lawsuit we filed in December just helped halt construction on an energy project that would’ve destroyed habitat for Dixie Valley toads.
Read all about our winning legal strategy in the Las Vegas Sun.
Revelator: The Other Extinct Species of 2021
Last year scientists identified 107 birds, lizards, orchids and other species that have been lost. You probably heard about the ivory-billed woodpecker — but did you know about the likely extinction of the Maryland darter, Norwegian wolf or half the snakes and lizards of the Guadalupe Islands?
Read about them all at The Revelator and subscribe to the newsletter if you haven’t yet.
That’s Wild: Vacuuming Endangered DNA From the Sky
Understanding and protecting endangered species requires good data. Simply knowing where a species exists is crucial — and now researchers have come up with a wild but potentially effective new tool to do that: sucking the DNA of endangered animals right out of the air.
Read more at NPR.
Center for Biological Diversity
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Tucson, AZ 85702