Saving a Ghost of the Southern Swamps
To save Florida’s famous phantom flower from disappearing forever, the Center for Biological Diversity and allies just petitioned to protect ghost orchids under the Endangered Species Act, as well as to designate critical habitat. Featured in the book The Orchid Thief and the movie Adaptation, these leafless plants photosynthesize with their roots, which they also use to cling tightly to the trunks of trees like pop ash and pond apples. The roots are almost invisible on the trees, making their paper-thin white flowers seem to float in midair — hence their name. But if they all die, we’ll have another reason to compare them to ghosts.
“This flower’s future depends on our ability to protect it from poaching and habitat loss,” said Center lawyer Jaclyn Lopez. “The steady decline of ghost orchid populations coupled with the threats of the climate emergency puts this enigmatic plant at risk of extinction.”
Victory for Boundary Waters and Wildlife
Great news out of Minnesota: The Biden administration just canceled two leases for the proposed Twin Metals copper-nickel mine near the pristine Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. The project would’ve harmed habitat for wildlife like wolves and moose — and posed serious risks of contaminating waters with sulfide and toxic heavy metals. The Center and our allies had filed suit to challenge the leases.
“This is a wonderful day for the Boundary Waters and all of us who love this spectacular wilderness,” said Center attorney Marc Fink. “A mining ban is the next step to permanently protecting the beloved Boundary Waters for future generations. Thankfully, work on putting a permanent mining withdrawal in place can go forward without these bad leases hanging over our heads.”
Suit Filed to Keep Oil Spills Off California Species
The Center sued the Biden administration Wednesday to force it to protect endangered whales, sea turtles and other species from oil and gas drilling off the coast of California. Drilling continues despite October’s massive Orange County spill, when a ruptured pipeline spewed tens of thousands of gallons of oil into the ocean — polluting beaches and wetlands, closing fisheries, and killing wildlife.
“Imperiled animals shouldn’t have to suffer and die because the oil industry is fouling our ocean,” said the Center’s Kristen Monsell. “A robust, science-based analysis would show that drilling off California’s shores is too risky to wildlife and our climate and should be immediately phased out.”
Help our fight to save wildlife from oil spills with a gift to our Saving Life on Earth Fund.
Biden OK’d 34% More Oil, Gas Permits Than Trump
The Biden administration approved 3,557 permits for oil and gas drilling on public lands in its first year; in Trump’s first year the number was 2,658. Nearly 2,000 of the new permits are in New Mexico.
“Biden’s runaway drilling approvals are a spectacular failure of climate leadership,” said the Center’s Taylor McKinnon. “Avoiding catastrophic climate change requires ending new fossil fuel extraction, but Biden is racing in the opposite direction.”
The Center and 360 other groups petitioned the Biden administration last week to use its executive authority to phase out oil and gas production on public lands and oceans.
Change Is Coming to the Supreme Court
Justice Stephen Breyer, it was announced on Wednesday, will retire from the U.S. Supreme Court at the end of the current term. President Biden’s choice to replace Breyer will have major implications for environmental law.
“With the climate and extinction crises getting more dire every day, Biden must now appoint a justice who understands that our existing laws must be used to their fullest extent to save our planet and future generations,” said Kierán Suckling, the Center’s executive director. “The status quo is failing all of us, so Biden’s choice is crucial.”
Help for Two Rare Western Butterflies
This week brought good news for two imperiled butterflies found only in the mountain meadows of the American West.
After more than 20 years of Center advocacy, on Monday the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service finally proposed Endangered Species Act protection for New Mexico’s Sacramento Mountains checkerspot butterflies. The last survey found just eight of these orange-and-black beauties, which live only in the Lincoln National Forest’s high-elevation meadows. We first petitioned to protect them in 1999.
Then, on Tuesday, we won a legal agreement to help save endangered Mount Charleston blue butterflies from a ski resort’s mountain-bike park and other summer operations in their last habitat, near Las Vegas. The agreement also scored $250,000 to fund research on the butterflies’ biology, habitat and conservation.
Suit Aims to Protect Minnesota Lynxes, Bats, Wolves
The Center and allies sued three federal agencies Tuesday over their approval of PolyMet’s open-pit copper mine in Superior National Forest, which would destroy key forest habitat for Canada lynxes and northern long-eared bats, as well as gray wolves.
“This massive mine would wipe out more than 1,000 acres critical to the survival of Canada lynx, whose pawprints have been found at the mine site,” said Marc Fink, a senior Center attorney.
The suit comes a day after a victory for Minnesota’s wildlife: On Monday an appeals court rejected PolyMet’s water-discharge permit for ignoring leaks from the tailings dam into groundwater.
Working to Save Joshua Trees
In August 2020 a lightning storm set California’s Mojave National Preserve ablaze, burning about 1.3 million Joshua trees. It was a devastating blow to a species struggling for survival in the face of drought and climate change.
Now, a year and half later, the National Park Service and a diverse group of volunteers — including Center Conservation Director Brendan Cummings — are replanting these unique desert succulents.
Learn more about this labor of love at The Guardian.
Ask Dr. Donley: Is Bamboo Sustainable?
Revelator: The Extinction of Empathy?
What do we lose when we lose species? And how can we turn grief into action? On a recent episode of The Silent Why — a podcast exploring 101 different types of grief and loss — Revelator editor John R. Platt talks about the human costs of the extinction crisis, which can overwhelm us with grief and loneliness.
Read more and listen to the podcast, and subscribe to in The Revelator’s newsletter if you haven’t yet.
That’s Wild: Why Whales Don’t Drown When Gulping
In terms of mass, blue whales are the largest animals ever to have lived on Earth. So it stands to reason that they have big appetites, too.
As "lunge-feeding whales,” they eat by accelerating rapidly with open mouths, engulfing enormous quantities of krill-filled water — sometimes in amounts larger than their bodies. So how do they gulp down all that water without drowning?
According to new research on their pharynxes, blue whale mouths have a fleshy bulb in back that moves to block off their upper airways during feeding, keeping water from filling their massive mammalian lungs.
Read more at ScienceDaily.
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Photo credits: Ghost orchid by Big Cypress National Preserve/Flickr; howling wolf via Pick Pik; oil field by Drew Bird Photography; Justice Stephen Breyer in public domain; Mount Charleston blue butterfly by Sky Island/Flickr; northern long-eared bat by Dave Thomas/Flickr; Canada lynx by Nicolas Grevet/Flickr; green sea turtle by Claire Fackler/NOAA; Joshua trees by Alessandra Puig-Santana/NPS; bamboo forest by Doc Chewbacca/Flickr; baby rhino feeding by Athuman Komora Garisse; blue whale courtesy NOAA.
Center for Biological Diversity
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