193 Million Forest Acres Protected
193 million acres of national forest, from Alaska to Florida, won new protections this week thanks to a lawsuit by the Center for Biological Diversity and 13 allies. Agreeing with the Center's contention that a 2008 Bush policy killing protections for wildlife, endangered species, and clean water across all of America's national forests is illegal, a federal judge struck down the policy and threw the issue to the Obama administration to resolve.
"Maintaining healthy, viable wildlife populations is the cornerstone of good land management," said the Center's Marc Fink, one of the attorneys in the case. "Hopefully we can finally close this chapter of the Forest Service and work together with the Obama administration to develop rules that protect our national forests."
Read more in the San Francisco Chronicle.
New Climate Bill Could Be Disastrous for Climate -- Must Be Strengthened by Senate
Last Friday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the American Clean Energy and Security Act, an insufficient climate bill that gives us a less-than 50-percent chance of avoiding climate change catastrophe. The bill will not reduce atmospheric CO2 to 350 ppm, which science says is necessary to evade climate-change tipping points. It also exempts coal-fired power plants and other greenhouse gas-spewing industries from essential protections of the Clean Air Act and allows the construction of numerous coal-fired power plants without any additional emissions-reduction requirements for more than a decade into the future. Offsets granted under the bill could actually result in increased greenhouse gas emissions -- very bad news for the polar bear, Arctic seals, the American pika, and countless other species around the world, including humans.
Thankfully, there's still time to strengthen the bill as it makes its way through the Senate. The Center for Biological Diversity is actively working to ensure the bill is bolstered to reduce emissions significantly and swiftly, allow the Clean Air Act to do its job, and phase out coal-fired power plants while banning construction of new ones.
Read our latest statement on the American Clean Energy and Security Act and get details on its shortcomings on our Legislating for a New Climate Web page.
Great Lakes Wolves Regain Protections
Yesterday, thanks to a lawsuit by the Center for Biological Diversity and allies, a judge signed an order immediately restoring Endangered Species Act protection to gray wolves in the Great Lakes region -- following a settlement we reached on Monday compelling the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to restore federal endangered status to the wolves. On April 2, the Obama administration approved a Bush-era rule removing protections for wolves throughout the upper Midwest and placing them at the mercy of state management plans that made wolves vulnerable to killing by livestock owners, hunters, and trappers. The state plans don't ensure funding to monitor the effects of these new threats on top of the ongoing toll from federal predator control, poaching, disease outbreaks, and hybridization with coyotes.
This week's victory marks the third time since 2005 that the gray wolf in the Great Lakes has had its federal protections restored, thanks to legal action, after a premature removal or downgrade of its Endangered Species Act status. We're still in court to restore protections for wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains, and separately to oppose a "wolf-control" policy targeting Mexican gray wolves.
Read more in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
EPA OKs Stricter State Control of Tailpipe Emissions
In one welcome and hard-fought reversal of Bush backwardness -- and a critical step to combat global warming -- this Tuesday the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency gave California the green light to enforce its own, stricter-than-national regulations limiting automobile greenhouse gas emissions. The EPA's decision -- finally earned after a two-year court battle by the Center for Biological Diversity, represented by the Western Environmental Law Center, as well as California, 13 other states, and many other conservation organizations -- not only grants California a waiver under the Clean Air Act to enforce its own tailpipe rules; it also means that other states can adopt and enforce California's standards as their own. Eleven states already fit that bill, while four others are poised to adopt the same standards. Bush twice denied California the needed waiver.
"This is an important step," said Kassie Siegel, director of the Center's Climate Law Institute. "For 40 years the Clean Air Act has protected the air we breathe, saved lives, and saved money, and this decision allows the law to protect Americans from pollution the way it was intended to do. The Obama administration needs to move forward quickly with full implementation of the Clean Air Act's effective and comprehensive provisions for reducing greenhouse emissions."
Check out our press release and learn more about our campaign for better fuel economy standards.
Wyoming's Cutest Mouse Jumps into Court
In a move with implications for more than one species robbed of full protections by the Bush administration, last week the Center for Biological Diversity and four allies challenged a 2008 decision to strip protections from Preble's meadow jumping mice in Wyoming -- while leaving Colorado populations protected. This "split decision," issued by Bush's U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service after a 2007 memo proclaimed that endangered species need be protected only in the most threatened part of their range, was one of several leaving severely imperiled species -- including the gray wolf, Gunnison's prairie dog, and Queen Charlotte goshawk -- without the full protections they need to recover. "The Obama administration needs to reject this piecemeal approach to protection and salvage the agency's scientific integrity," said Noah Greenwald, Center Biodiversity Program director. "Wyoming's mice are just as important for the species' survival as those in Colorado."
The impressively athletic Preble's meadow jumping mouse, with its large hind feet and rudder-like tail, can launch itself 18 inches into the air (six times higher than the length of its little body). Unfortunately, it can't jump away from widespread habitat loss. We filed a notice of intent to sue to earn protected habitat for the mouse in 2007.
Read more in the Denver Post.
Help Protect Panamanian Biodiversity Treasure
Last week we told you about the stop order on construction of the devastating Chan-75 dam, a project planned for Panama's Changuinola River that would threaten the well-being and homeland of the Ngöbe Indians, as well as La Amistad Biosphere Reserve -- a World Heritage Site and one of the most biologically diverse areas on the planet. Besides flooding Ngöbe villages and harming fish populations key to the Ngöbe diet, the dam would threaten numerous endangered species that call La Amistad home, including the jaguar and resplendent quetzal. After a petition from the Ngöbe, in June the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights told Panama to stop construction of the dam -- but the order doesn't guarantee the safety of the Ngöbe or La Amistad, and the area's unique and endangered species need your help.
Take action by writing to Panama's president; Panama's environmental protection agency; and the president and CEO of the U.S.-based AES Corporation, which is backing Chan-75. Then learn more about the Center for Biological Diversity's campaign to save Panamanian rainforests and rivers, including our successful work to earn World Heritage Committee recognition of the ecological threats imposed by Chan-75 and other dams that would harm La Amistad.
California Proposes Salmon-exterminating Logging Rules
After a decade of slacking on protecting California's salmon from logging, the California Board of Forestry last week held hearings on new state timber-harvest regulations that would continue harmful logging adjacent to critical salmon streams, prevent the recovery of key salmon watersheds, and pretty much guarantee the extinction of coho salmon in California. Before the hearings, the Center for Biological Diversity sent comments to the board detailing the rules' utter failure to protect salmon -- and the likelihood they'll lead to illegal harm to federally and state-protected salmon species (including coho salmon).
Logging activities have a catastrophic effect on coho salmon, which need trees' shade and woody debris to provide suitable stream habitat. And thousands of miles of logging roads erode huge quantities of fine sediment into streams, filling pools, degrading spawning gravels, and burying coho habitat. Coho salmon have been eliminated from more than half their historic streams in California.
Check out our press release and learn more about our campaigns for forests.
Single White Earthworm (Large, Spits, Lily Smelling) Seeks Sympathetic Federal Agency for Long-Term Protective Relationship
This Tuesday, the Center for Biological Diversity and partners proved we won't give up on earning protections for one of the most superbly bizarre and exceptionally rare invertebrates in the world: the giant Palouse earthworm. Sighted only four times in the past 110 years in the endangered Palouse prairie region in Washington and Idaho, the earthworm can reach three feet or more in length, has been reported to emit a sweet-smelling fragrance reminiscent of lilies, and allegedly spits at attackers. Unfortunately, the wonderfully weird worm is immediately threatened by agriculture, urban sprawl, and invasive earthworms. Early last year, after the Center and allies petitioned to protect the worm for the first time -- and sued when our petition was rejected -- a judge ruled there wasn't enough info on the species to warrant federal protection. Essentially, the worm's very rareness has kept it from earning the protection it needs to become less rare.
But we've boldly unearthed more data on the giant Palouse earthworm, and we hope our new scientific petition will be enough to earn it a place on the endangered species list -- and keep the legendary worm from becoming just a rural legend.
Learn more from the Associated Press.
Photo credits: gray wolf by John and Karen Hollingsworth, USFWS; Gila National Forest (c) Robin Silver; bearded seal (c) David S. Isenberg; gray wolf courtesy NPS; exhaust pipe courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Steevven1; Preble's meadow jumping mouse courtesy USFWS; forest in La Amistad courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Dirk van der Made; coho salmon by Ken and Mary Campbell, NPS; giant Palouse earthworm courtesy University of Idaho.
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