In a big win for water and wildlife, last Thursday a federal judge ruled that the Center for Biological Diversity and allies can obtain previously protected records relating to a 42-square-mile uranium leasing program in the Dolores and San Miguel rivers in western Colorado and eastern Utah. In July 2008, the Center and three partners sued the U.S. Department of Energy and Bureau of Land Management for approving the uranium program without fully analyzing its environmental impacts -- which would be substantial. In fact, uranium mining and milling from the program will deplete Colorado River basin water and threaten to pollute streams and rivers with toxic and radioactive waste products -- in turn threatening wildlife and human communities downstream, as well as four already endangered Colorado River fish species: the razorback sucker, Colorado pikeminnow, and humpback and bonytail chubs.
Because of last week's ruling, the Center will now be able to get inside information on individual uranium leases to use in our suit against the entire program.
After seven years of litigation by the Center for Biological Diversity and others, this Tuesday the National Marine Fisheries Service announced it is creating a team to help protect Hawaii's imperiled false killer whales from the very real -- and very lethal -- threat of longline fishing. The false killer whale "take reduction team" -- requested in a recent lawsuit by the Center and friends -- will consider ways to reduce harm to the species caused by Hawaii longline vessels trailing 60-mile-long fishing lines dangling upwards of 1,000 baited hooks. The Center's Brendan Cummings has been invited to serve on the team, scheduled to hold its first meeting next month in Honolulu.
False killer whales are large, dark gray or black, beakless members of the dolphin family, with males reaching almost 20 feet in length. Recent research has found that the false killer whales around the main Hawaiian Islands represent a very rare population that numbers fewer than 120 individuals. The Fisheries Service is now conducting a study to determine whether these mammals should be protected under the Endangered Species Act.
In response to a Center for Biological Diversity lawsuit, last week the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agreed to increase habitat protections for the southwestern willow flycatcher after a Bush-era decision wrongly denied help for the species. The small, quick-winged, highly endangered songbird has been robbed of more than 90 percent of its historical habitat in the Southwest due to grazing, dams, sprawl, and other threats -- and it has suffered more than a century of steady decline. But after an industry lawsuit and years of inaction, in 2005 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service made a politically tainted decision to protect very little designated "critical habitat" for the bird: more than 250,000 acres less than the area originally proposed for protection. Adequate habitat protections will give the bird a chance at recovery throughout the remaining Southwest streamside forests it calls home.
The Center has been working to save the southwestern willow flycatcher since 1993, when we first filed the scientific petition that won it Endangered Species Act protection.
Read more in the Salt Lake Tribune.
In direct opposition to the Center for Biological Diversity's decade-long campaign to save the polar bear, ribbon seal, and walrus, Alaska Governor Sean Parnell has amassed a $1.5 million war chest to hire lawyers and lobbyists to prevent the protection of the Arctic -- hijacking taxpayer money to stop the feds from designating 128 million acres of protected habitat for the polar bear in response to Center petitions and lawsuits.
Former Governor, now-FOX-News-pundit Sarah Palin lost every effort to roll back the Endangered Species Act, and Parnell is not likely to fare any better against the Center's legal and scientific teams.
President Obama's first year in office has been a good news/bad news story. On endangered species, he revoked some damaging Bush-era policies, but he also stripped protection from gray wolves in the northern Rockies and Great Lakes. On climate, he followed the Supreme Court's lead and declared carbon dioxide a threat to human health and welfare, but provided virtually no leadership in the congressional and Copenhagen negotiations to develop a real solution to global warming. On ocean policy, he took initial steps to address acidification, but also increased the number of endangered sea turtles that can be caught and killed by industrial longline fisheries.
Overall, the Center for Biological Diversity gives Obama's environmental record a disappointing "C" so far.
Click here to send the president an email telling him to live up to his campaign promises and greatly increase protections for endangered species in 2010.
More than 500 people have volunteered to help the Center for Biological Diversity get the word out on overpopulation by agreeing to distribute free endangered species condoms in their local communities. College students, grandmothers, teachers, and even clergymen have offered to hand out the condoms at universities, music festivals, spiritual singles groups, and even a science and math teachers' conference.
If you haven't signed up yet, click here to join the fun and be the first person to introduce endangered species condoms to your neighborhood. Then learn more on our Web site about overpopulation and its devastating impact on wildlife and wild places.
Last Thursday, a year after the Center for Biological Diversity won Endangered Species Act protection for California's rare black abalone, we filed a notice of intent to sue the feds for their failure to protect the species' habitat. Because of overfishing, disease, global warming, and ocean acidification, black abalone populations have declined by as much as 99 percent since the '70s, and experts predict that the beautiful mollusk will be extinct within three decades -- the average lifespan of an individual black abalone. But though the law requires the National Marine Fisheries Service to designate protected "critical habitat" for a species when it's placed on the endangered species list, the agency hasn't made a move to do it.
"Species with critical habitat are twice as likely to be recovering as species that don't have it," said Center Staff Attorney Catherine Kilduff. "The black abalone is on the cusp of extinction, and any further delay of federal habitat protection may well seal the species' fate."
To save Canada lynx, gray wolves, and Boundary Waters wildlands from churning tires and pollution, last week the Center for Biological Diversity and six allies challenged a federal plan failing to protect Minnesota's Superior National Forest from off-road vehicle damage. The plan would allow all but two of the forest's 30 areas of lynx habitat to host dangerously damaging (and illegal) ORV densities, and more than 1,600 miles of roads and trails would remain open to vehicles, affecting more than 2.7 million acres of forest.
The Center and partners challenged the U.S. Forest Service's first decision to allow ORVs on the 1,600 miles of roads on the Superior last April because of air, water, and noise pollution; the spread of invasive species; degradation of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness; and failure to protect the lynx and other endangered species. Our challenge was upheld, but since last spring the Forest Service has made no notable changes to its original decision.
For the sake of endangered fish, human health, and the cleanliness of the largest reservoir in the United States, this Wednesday the Center for Biological Diversity submitted comments opposing the continued pollution of Lake Mead with endocrine-disrupting chemicals. The Nevada Division of Environmental Protection plans to allow the city of North Las Vegas to discharge 25 million gallons of effluent into Las Vegas Wash and Lake Mead per day. That waste matter is chock full of endocrine disruptors, chemicals that interfere with the body's endocrine system -- which regulates growth, metabolism, and tissue function -- and can damage reproductive organs and offspring and cause developmental and immune problems in wildlife and humans alike. Imperiled fish barely holding on in Lake Mead, like the razorback sucker, are especially at risk.
Last week, the Center submitted a scientific petition to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to regulate endocrine-disruptor pollution nationwide.
Check out our press release, learn about our Endocrine Disruptors campaign, and take action to help us end endocrine disruptors now.
Birds have migration, bears have hibernation, humans have heaters and houses. But have you ever wondered how furless, featherless insects endure subfreezing temperatures so they can live to crawl, jump, and fly another year? Some insects, like the monarch butterfly, migrate just as birds do, while others burrow underground or hide out at the bottoms of lakes. But believe it or not, other insects actually produce antifreeze in their bodies -- like the snow flea, which can be found hopping about all winter on snow banks in temperatures as low as 20 degrees Fahrenheit. Other insects just go ahead and freeze -- but come spring, they thaw out and they're as good as new: The Alaska Upis beetle freezes at about minus 19 degrees but can survive even when the temperature plunges to minus 100 degrees.
Could these insect innovations be the key to long-term human organ preservation? Either way, the sweaters and puffy jackets in our closets suddenly seem a bit less cool (no pun intended).
Read more in The New York Times.
Photo credits: razorback sucker by Mark Fuller, USFWS; humpback chub by John Rinne; false killer whale courtesy NOAA; southwestern willow flycatcher by Rick and Nora Bowers; polar bear by Larry Master/MasterImages.org; Barack Obama courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Catherine Szalkowski under the GNU free documentation license; crowd by J.D. Rhoades; black abalone by Glenn Allen, NOAA; Canada lynx courtesy Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife; razorback sucker by Mark Fuller, USFWS; snow flea courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Daniel Tompkins under the GNU free documentation license.
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Friday, January 22, 2010
CENTER FOR BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY NEWSLETTER
Posted by Jon Downes at 8:15 PM