This Earth Day: Actions for Climate, Wins for Species

Endangered Earth: The weekly wildlife update from the Center for Biological Diversity.
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Humpback whale
Center for     Biological     Diversity   

Pacific Humpback Whales Gain Critical Habitat

Thanks to a 2018 court victory won by the Center for Biological Diversity and allies, the Biden administration protected more than 116,000 square nautical miles on Tuesday as critical habitat for endangered Pacific humpback whales.

"Pacific humpbacks finally got the habitat protections they've needed for so long," said Catherine Kilduff, a Center attorney. "To recover West Coast populations of these playful, majestic whales, we need mandatory ship speed limits and conversion of California's deadly trap fisheries to ropeless gear."

Help us protect whales and other species by donating to our Saving Life on Earth Fund. If you do it now, your gift will be matched one to one.

Black Lives Matter protest sign

One Step Forward: A Guilty Verdict in George Floyd's Murder

Tuesday's verdict was a powerful crack in the walls of white supremacy that empower police to murder Black, Latinx, AAPI and Native American people with impunity every day. It will not give George Floyd his life back. Nor Daunte Wright, Adam Toledo or the 62 others killed by police over the course of Derek Chauvin's three-week trial. But we pray it will encourage other juries to do the right thing, district attorneys to prosecute more police, and cities and states to rescind racist, violence-inducing police immunity laws. And we desperately hope it will be a watershed moment in America's reckoning with its systematic racism, which condemns 10,000 Black people to poverty for every Black person it murders.

The Center demands, and commits itself to work for, an immediate end to white supremacy and systemic racism. We condemn the anti-Black racism that killed George Floyd and remind everyone that Black Lives Matter is not a slogan but a call to action. We pledge to be that action.

Tongass National Forest

To Act on Climate, Biden Must Protect Forests

President Biden has promised to take bold action to confront the climate crisis. But at least one agency — the Forest Service — is dragging its feet.

This arm of the Department of Agriculture manages 193 million acres of forest and grasslands, including millions of acres of old trees. Study after study has shown that large, old trees are champions of carbon storage. One of the best ways to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere is to leave these giants standing.

But the Forest Service may soon approve proposals to chainsaw thousands of acres of mature trees in Alaska and northwest Montana. Those plans should be halted, and the Service can do far more to prevent other climate-destroying activities on our heritage public lands. It should say no to converting forests into wood pellets — and no to oil drilling and coal mining, too.

Tell the Forest Service: It's time to be part of the solution.

Walden Pond

Today: Join Us for a Special Earth Day Event

We hope you'll join us today at 4 p.m. PT / 7 p.m. ET for a special Saving Life on Earth webinar. The Center and the Thoreau Society will team up to explore the work of the beloved 19th-century naturalist and philosopher Henry David Thoreau and how it relates to today's fight to end the extinction crisis. The panelists will include one of the Center's founders, now our Director of Programs Peter Galvin. You have to register to join, so sign up and then check your email for a link.

For our next webinar, we're collaborating with staff from Mozambique's Gorongosa National Park to offer a free screening and live discussion of Our Gorongosa, a new documentary about supporting people and the planet through large-scale and long-term healthcare, agricultural support and girls' education. Watch the film for free at your convenience and join us next Thursday, April 29 at 4 p.m. PT / 7 p.m. ET for the conversation.

Oilfield

Coalition Rises Up to Defend Public-Lands Oil and Gas Pause

When President Biden put a pause on oil and gas leasing on federal public lands — pending a thorough Interior Department review of the program's impacts — it was a crucial, long-overdue step toward turning back the climate change juggernaut. We need to protect the wild places that belong to all Americans as a carbon sink and refuge for wildlife in a changing climate — not make them a major source of greenhouse-gas emissions for private profit.

But predictably, three lawsuits were filed against the leasing pause last month — by the state of Wyoming, 13 other mostly Republican-led states, and the oil group Western Energy Alliance. So on Monday the Center and allies from myriad backgrounds nationwide filed motions to intervene in defense of the temporary halt.

"The climate and extinction crises demand bold, urgent action," said the Center's Taylor McKinnon. "If the Biden administration's review is done right, and relies on solid science, it'll show that new fossil fuel leasing isn't compatible with the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius."

Monarch butterfly graphic

This is what the extinction crisis looks like. Check out our powerful video about the #MonarchEmergency on Facebook or YouTube and tell Congress to act now.

Candy darter

April Wins for Aquatic Species

This month the Center is celebrating some long-awaited wins for three small species of the water.

First, following 10 years of Center work in and out of court, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service protected 319 river miles of critical habitat for yellow lance mussels. Threatened by pollution from agriculture, logging, urban development and climate change, these freshwater mussels are down to just seven populations in North Carolina, Virginia and Maryland.

Another southern stream-dweller, the colorful candy darter, won almost 370 river miles of critical habitat in Virginia and West Virginia thanks to a lawsuit by the Center and allies. We petitioned to protect this small, rainbow-colored fish in 2010, and the Service finally did (eight years later). The new habitat protections will help it survive.

And a Center lawsuit has just won a proposed critical habitat designation for Panama City crayfishes — 7,177 acres — plus a commitment from the Service to finalize the species' federal protection by December. We first petitioned for these fascinating Florida critters in 2010.

Western yellow-billed cuckoo

Southwest Songbirds Win Almost 300,000 Protected Acres

After more than two decades of Center advocacy and litigation, this week the Fish and Wildlife Service designated 298,845 acres of protected critical habitat for one of the Southwest's rarest birds. We first petitioned to protect the beautiful western yellow-billed cuckoo in 1998, later suing to reach a settlement that forced the agency to safeguard habitat. Unfortunately the final designation is 172,000 acres under what was first proposed.

This striking songbird with flashy white tail markings — one of only a few species that eat spiny caterpillars — once ranged widely in the West. Now, due to threats like development, dams and livestock grazing, only about 800 pairs are left on Earth.

"We're thrilled these beautiful birds are finally receiving protections for their streamside homes," said Center attorney Brian Segee.

Private Lands Must Play a Role in 30x30, Reports Revelator

Sangre de Cristo Mountains

The goal of conserving 30% of the planet's lands and waters by 2030 — both for wildlife and for climate stability — cannot be achieved only by expanding protected public lands, a new study shows.  

Right now, in the United States, 26% of ocean waters are protected but only 12% of the land is, writes Tara Lohan in The Revelator. Private lands are where habitat is disappearing fastest, and Congress needs to help by dedicating more funds to conserve those lands. State and local governments, plus philanthropists, also need to help.

Border wall

Center Op-ed: President Biden, Tear Down This Wall

During Trump's massive border-wall buildout, writes Center intern Hon'mana Seukteoma, borderlands people and wildlife suffered at the hands of the Border Patrol, Arizona police and even National Park Service. In the name of the wall, historic and holy sites were desecrated; human and wild communities alike were damaged and degraded.

And Tohono O'odham activists — who stood up to defend the fragile and beautiful places where their people have lived for so long — were tear-gassed and shot with rubber bullets.

It's not enough for the Biden administration to condemn Trump's border wall. Instead, it must take the wall down. And put a stop to the militarization and destruction of Indigenous lands.

Honeybees

That's Wild: Gut Microbes Define Belonging for Honeybees

Every honeybee colony has its own unique scent, which is how bees distinguish between their colony mates and invading bees intent on stealing honey. But how do these signature colony scents arise?  
 
When scientists move a baby bee from one hive to another, the new colony accepts it, and the young bee eventually takes on the smell of the new colony. This implies colony scent markers aren't genetic — and led researchers to wonder if gut microbes play a role.  
 
To test this hypothesis, they fed different gut microbes to two bees from the same colony.  
The bees produced different scents and, in turn, identified their nest mates as enemies.  
They even fought each other. 

Learn more at Scientific American.

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Photo credits: Humpack whale by Ed Lyman/NOAA; Black Lives Matter protest sign by James Eades/Unsplash; Tongass National Forest by John Schoen; The Walden Pond Collection courtesy TimLamanFineArt.com; oilfield by Babette Plana/Flickr; monarch butterfly graphic by Dipika Kadaba/Center for Biological Diversity; candy darter by Todd Crail/University of Toledo; western yellow-billed cuckoo by Peter Pearsall/USFWS; Sangre de Cristo Mountains courtesy Trinchera Blanca Ranch; border wall by Patrick Donnelly/Center for Biological Diversity; honeybees by mtsofan/Flickr.

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