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Endangered Earth: The weekly wildlife update from the Center for Biological Diversity.
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Help Save Western Monarchs

Monarch butterflies are icons of nature. But the future looks grim for these orange-and-black beauties. The most recent population count shows a heartbreaking decline of 99.9% for monarchs west of the Rocky Mountains. Fewer than 2,000 butterflies were recorded overwintering on the California coast this year.

To address this urgent crisis, this week members of Congress introduced the MONARCH Act, a bold bill that gives these beloved butterflies a fighting chance at survival.

The legislation would create the Western Monarch Butterfly Rescue Fund to provide $12.5 million yearly for on-the-ground conservation projects to stabilize and save the western population of monarchs. It will also put $12.5 million per year toward implementing the existing Western Monarch Butterfly Conservation Plan.

Tell your members of Congress to support the MONARCH Act — and help save this important pollinator from extinction.

Protest sign

Our Statement on the Georgia Killings

The Center condemns the killings in Georgia on Tuesday and the dramatic rise of violence against Asians and Pacific Islanders throughout the United States.

Emboldened by persistent anti-Asian statements by Donald Trump and other public figures during the COVID-19 crisis, racists have dramatically increased harassment, violent attacks and deadly assaults on people of Asian and Pacific Islander descent.

Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are a unique and essential part of the cultural diversity that defines and enriches both the United States and the Center's own staff. The Center stands with all Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in this dark time and condemns all who commit or promote racist acts against them.

Deb Haaland

Haaland Becomes First Native American Interior Secretary

The U.S. Interior Department — with jurisdiction over almost one-fifth of the country's land mass and a dozen federal agencies — now has an inspiring new leader. Rep. Deb Haaland, Democrat of New Mexico and citizen of the Laguna Pueblo, was confirmed this week as Interior secretary.

"Our country's public lands, waters and wildlife desperately need the strong, thoughtful leadership Secretary Haaland can provide," said Kierán Suckling, the Center for Biological Diversity's executive director. "She knows we need to work quickly to address climate collapse and the wildlife extinction crisis, and we hope that includes ending fossil fuel extraction on public lands and waters."

Previously chair of the House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands, Haaland will oversee a review of the federal oil and gas extraction program, which President Biden ordered Jan. 27 when he suspended new leasing. She'll play a pivotal role in Biden's directive to protect 30% of the country's lands and ocean waters by 2030 to curb the extinction crisis and climate change.

Mexican gray wolf

A Small Bright Spot for Wolves in the Southwest

As wolves across much of the country suffer, having lost their federal protection, there's a ray of light. The population of Mexican gray wolves is now up to 186 animals in Arizona and New Mexico and has increased every year for the past five years.

Still, this population needs more protections to recover, and more captive-bred wolves need to be released into the wild, says the Center's Michael Robinson. And thanks to our 2018 legal victory, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is now rewriting its rules for managing Mexican gray wolves.

Oak Flat

House Bill Would Save Sacred Oak Flat

U.S. Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) just introduced a bill to save Oak Flat, Arizona, from becoming an industrial wasteland. The Save Oak Flat Act would stop the land from being traded for a massive copper mine that would blast away a mile-wide crater, drain precious groundwater, and produce 1.4 billion tons of toxic waste on the Tonto National Forest.

This place of beauty, healing and prayer is sacred to the western Apache and other Native people of Arizona. Chi'chil Bildagoteel, as the Apache call it, is where young girls have coming-of-age ceremonies and people gather medicines like acorns. Oak Flat also harbors endangered species including the ocelot and Arizona hedgehog cactus.

Owens Valley tui chub and thick-leaf bladderpod

Safeguards Sought for Rare Fish, Plant

This month the Center filed Endangered Species Act petitions for two U.S. species that have dwindled to one tiny population each.

First we petitioned for the Fish Lake Valley tui chub in Nevada, a small fish on the brink of extinction due to habitat destruction and groundwater development. Then we and local allies petitioned to a protect the thick-leaf bladderpod, a unique plant found only in the Pryor Mountains foothills along the Montana–Wyoming border. The bladderpod is largely limited to about 23 square miles in southcentral Montana, which are about to be decimated by a proposed mining project.

Oil rigs

Center to Biden: Extend Offshore Oil-leasing Halt

On Jan. 27 President Biden signed an executive order suspending fossil fuel leasing on all federal lands and oceans, pending review. It was a good first step — but we need more action to address the climate crisis and protect coastal communities and wildlife.

So on Tuesday the Center and allies petitioned the administration to put a five-year ban on the leasing of all federal waters for offshore oil and gas development.

This ban would reduce carbon emissions by 280 million tons yearly, ranking it among the most ambitious federal climate-policy proposals.

Jaguar

Scientists Find 20M Acres of Potential U.S. Jaguar Habitat

A new study by researchers at the Center and ally groups has identified a 20-million-acre swath of jaguar habitat sweeping from the Grand Canyon through New Mexico's Gila National Forest.

The Center has been fighting for jaguars for more than 35 years. After our 1994 lawsuit won Endangered Species Act protection for the big cats, we helped secure federally protected habitat. But the Fish and Wildlife Service only granted small parcels of critical habitat near the border and planned for recovery solely in Mexico.

Our new study shows that under the Service's own criteria, more than 150 jaguars could thrive in this area, located roughly 100 miles from the U.S.–Mexico border.

Manatees

432 Florida Manatees Already Dead This Year

Florida is hurtling toward a record number of manatee deaths in 2021. The state has already seen 432 manatees die, compared to 637 during all of last year (a high number in itself).

Development and pollution kill off the seagrass manatees eat. Climate crisis–fueled cold snaps shrink their warmwater habitat. And collisions with boats kill more than 100 manatees every year. Learn about our work to save Florida manatees from these dangers and more.

Power lines

Report: Utilities Offer Many Shutoffs, Little Transparency

Without power sector accountability, we can't tackle the climate emergency. Power Crisis, a new Center report, reviewed data from all 50 states to figure out how many people's power was disconnected during the pandemic — but utilities in 30 states apparently don't report on that.

Using the data that were available, our study found that 10 states reported at least 765,262 household power shutoffs since COVID-19's onset. And that's probably just the tip of the iceberg.

"Being cut off from electricity is devastating under any circumstance, but it's a matter of life and death during a pandemic when the best defense against disease is to stay home," said report author Greer Ryan with our Energy Justice program. "The Biden administration needs to impose a nationwide shutoff moratorium immediately."

The Revelator: Tara Houska on Line 3, the Next Keystone XL

Protesters chained to bulldozers along the Line 3 pipeline

The notorious Keystone XL pipeline has been shut down, but another one crossing the U.S.–Canada border is already being built to bring tar-sands oil south: Line 3. The Revelator interviewed Tara Houska, a lawyer and Indigenous activist, about her work in the resistance to Line 3, which threatens the wild-rice culture of her people as well as the climate.

"To me," says Houska, "it's about standing with the Earth in a real way, putting something at risk and being uncomfortable."

Brood X cicada

That's Wild: 1.5 Million Cicadas per Acre

Remember 2004? Facebook was launched as a kind of student directory at Harvard University. Atmospheric carbon dioxide was still below 400 ppm and would stay that way for almost a decade. It was the second year of the Iraq War.

It was also the last time the famous 17-year cicada brood, called Brood X, erupted in the eastern United States with a single-minded focus on reproduction. During that spring and summer, billions of these flying bugs — as many as 1.5 million cicadas per acre — swarmed rural Indiana, blanketed trees in Washington, D.C., and laid billions of eggs across 14 states. Their young then crawled underground, where they've been ever since.

But the cicadas will be erupting again this year, as The Washington Post reports. The first wave could emerge just weeks from now.

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Photo credits: Monarch butterfly by Colin Rose/Wikimedia; protest sign by Rolande PG/Unsplash; Interior Secretary Deb Haaland courtesy U.S. House of Representatives; Mexican gray wolf by Jim Clark/USFWS; Oak Flat by Russ McSpadden/Center for Biological Diversity; Owens Valley tui chub, a close relative of the Fish Lake Valley tui chub, by Joe Ferreira/California Department of Fish and Game; thick-leaf bladderpod by Peter Lesica; oil rigs courtesy BSEE; borderlands jaguar Sombra courtesy BLM; manatees courtesy NOAA; power lines courtesy Pacific Northwest National Laboratory; protesters chained to bulldozers along the new Line 3 pipeline courtesy The Movement to Stop Line 3; Brood X cicada by Pmjacoby/Wikimedia.

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