Court Strikes Bush Rule, Safeguards 50 Million National-forest Acres
In response to action by the Center for Biological Diversity and a coalition of other groups, yesterday the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed nationwide, meaningful protections for nearly 50 million acres of national forest. The court's ruling -- supporting the 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule -- safeguards the majority of the country's federally designated "roadless" areas from new road building, mining, drilling, logging, and development. And the ruling strikes down a Bush rule imposing a state-by-state approach that had put our last great natural areas at risk from development.
Unfortunately, there's still grim news for some roadless areas: Yesterday's ruling doesn't help Alaska's Tongass National Forest, which the Bush administration specifically exempted from the Roadless Rule, or roadless areas that were identified and mapped after the 2001 rule, according to an arbitrary distinction by the Forest Service. Yet, yesterday's historic decision encourages the Obama administration to pursue the president's earlier pledge to "support and defend" the Roadless Rule, and we'll keep fighting to make sure that pledge extends protections to all roadless areas.
Read more in the Los Angeles Times.
ORV Plans Stall Near Grand Canyon
Following opposition by the Center for Biological Diversity and allies, last Friday the Forest Service went back to the drawing board on an off-road vehicle plan for lands flanking Grand Canyon National Park. The old plan would have allowed nearly unfettered off-road vehicle access on Arizona's Kaibab National Forest, threatening watershed health, archeological sites, and sensitive habitat for wildlife like the northern goshawk, American pronghorn, and black bear. Specifically, the plan would have let hunters drive off-road vehicles an entire mile from any road to retrieve downed elk. We appealed the plan in June, with thanks to many of you who also submitted comments to the Forest Service; now it remains for the Service to examine the alternatives we offered, pick a good one, and actually execute it. Failing to follow through on a plan or draft one that considers the canyon's wildlands will put the agency right back at the drawing board. You can count on that.
"We're encouraged that the Forest Service agrees with our appeal," said Cyndi Tuell, southwest conservation advocate at the Center, "and we look forward to a plan that makes public land and wildlife protection the top priority."
Learn more in the Washington Examiner and read Tuell's letter to the Wall Street Journal on the true price forests pay when plagued by all-terrain vehicles.
Secret Condor Documents Released by Tejon Ranch
Thanks to relentless pressure from the Center for Biological Diversity and growing public outcry, this Monday Tejon Ranch finally acceded to the release of secret documents related to its plans for a destructive megadevelopment known as Tejon Mountain Village. The development is planned for the heart of federally protected habitat for the endangered California condor. To build there, the ranch needs to gain a "take" permit to cover its butt regarding the condor's fate (and the fate of 25 other imperiled plants and animals on the ranch). But negotiations on permits for the development -- and what to do about those pesky 26 species in the way of it -- have been kept under wraps by the ranch and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ever since the ranch sued the Service in an effort to derail the condor's recovery.
The Service kept mum on what was in the files, denying the Center's request for all documents related to Tejon Ranch's pending take-permit application, and heightening concerns about what was so "secret." We formally appealed that denial and warned the Service we'd sue. Now faced with the real threat of a lawsuit, Tejon Ranch has announced it will give up on keeping the documents confidential. But conveniently for the ranch and bad for Tejon's condors, spotted owls, and California red-legged frogs, it's too late for the public to comment on its Tejon Mountain Village plans.
Read more in the Los Angeles Times.
Center Snowballs Support to Fix Flawed Climate Bill -- August Action Needed
We're facing the greatest threat to life in human history -- catastrophic global climate change. And the deeply flawed House climate bill, passed in June, must be significantly strengthened as it moves through the Senate. To help make sure the bill is everything it must be, the Center for Biological Diversity has hired a dynamic new climate campaign coordinator, Rose Braz, who's organizing hundreds of individuals and groups all over the country to take action in August to send a clear message to Congress that we need a strong global warming bill now -- not an imperfect "first step" toward addressing the climate crisis. The bill must include capping CO2 levels at no more than 350 parts per million, maintaining the Clean Air Act's ability to regulate polluters, and removing loopholes that let CO2-spewing industries keep on spewing.
Follow us on Twitter, join the Facebook cause, and sign the petition to put the heat on the Senate and President Obama to pass the climate bill the planet needs. This August, while the Senate is in recess in their home state, is our time to speak up. Loudly. Check out the Center's Climate Bill Take-action Toolbox to find out what else you can do, including meeting with your senator, and learn about the current legislation.
Coal Group Busted Over Fake Anti-climate Bill Letters
Adopting a practice that should be more associated with gym class-skipping adolescents than industry firms, a pro-coal lobbying group used forged letters in an attempt to get its way in the climate bill debate. Bonner & Associates, a public-relations subcontractor for "clean" coal advocacy group the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE), was caught this week after sending 12 fake letters to three House democrats opposing the climate bill before it was passed, flaws and all, in June. Maybe Bonner's crew skipped ethics class in school, too. The forged letters, sporting the letterheads of local grassroots minority groups but signed by made-up people, were ironically part of a Bonner campaign to show that real people -- not just lobbying groups -- opposed the bill. ACCCE was "outraged" when it learned of the forgery on its behalf but didn't happen to mention it to either the letters' recipients or their pretended senders.
If you've been paying attention, you already know the Center for Biological Diversity doesn't like the House-passed climate bill any more than the coal industry does -- but we oppose it publicly because, based on science, it doesn't go far enough to stop the climate crisis. We definitely don't need underhanded tactics to show legislators how our supporters feel, because we really do have real people and groups writing letters all across the country -- and ahem, a lot more than 12.
Read more in The New York Times.
Freeway Plans to Cut Through Biodiversity Hotspot Halved
After intense opposition by the Center for Biological Diversity and our local allies, California's Riverside County has voted to scale back by half a 32-mile, $3 billion freeway that would have cut through a crucial biodiversity hotspot. Originally planned to connect the cities of San Jacinto and Corona, the four-to-eight-lane Mid-County "Parkway" would not only sever important habitat linkages for numerous animals, enable sprawl in open spaces, exacerbate global warming, and help further dirty California's air -- as if that weren't enough -- it would also be a stepping stone for a highway tunnel through the oak-covered valleys of the Santa Ana Mountains in the Cleveland National Forest. Fortunately, last month the Riverside Transportation Commission decided not to build the western half of the project (the worst half) -- at least for now. Unfortunately, the 16 miles of still-planned freeway would encroach upon one of Southern California's most threatened bird and wildlife refuges, the San Jacinto Wildlife Area, jeopardizing the Stephen's and San Bernardino kangaroo rats, burrowing owl, Swainson's hawk, and other species.
"This freeway to nowhere still threatens important wildlife areas, pollutes our air, and leads to big-box sprawl in rural communities," said Center attorney Jonathan Evans. We'll continue to counter the project.
Read more in the Press-Enterprise.
25 Million Acres of Lynx Habitat Defended From Snowmobiles
This week, the Center for Biological Diversity and five other groups went to court to uphold hard-earned habitat protections for the Canada lynx. In a major victory for the lynx this February, and a result of work by the Center and others, the threatened forest feline earned 25 million acres of federally protected habitat, one of the largest -- if not the largest -- terrestrial protected-habitat designations in Endangered Species Act history. But all that acreage in Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Minnesota, and Maine now hangs in the balance due to a May lawsuit by snowmobile advocacy groups seeking to nullify the habitat protections. The Center has requested to intervene in the suit on behalf of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which designated the habitat, to ensure the wildcat keeps the protections it needs to recover. Besides snowmobiles ripping through its forest territory, the Canada lynx is threatened by trapping, habitat loss, and global warming.
"Like many animals, Canada lynx need quiet places free of human disturbance from snowmobiles and other activities to survive," said Noah Greenwald, the Center's endangered species program director. "These unique cats need every acre of critical habitat designated and more."
Learn more from the Associated Press.
Grand Canyon Rally a Grand Success
Late last month, the Center for Biological Diversity supported and attended a massive gathering to oppose uranium development on Grand Canyon lands. The rally, hosted by the Havasupai tribe -- who live in the Grand Canyon -- took place at the foot of Red Butte, just south of the canyon itself, and included traditional tribal ceremonies and dances, panels, speakers, and musical performances. Hundreds of attendees helped make it one of the largest gatherings in the area's history, and protesters signed hundreds of cards to Senator John McCain urging support for the Grand Canyon Watersheds Protection Act, a bill that would permanently protect the canyon from new uranium mining claims, exploratory drilling, and resulting mining.
Just before the rally, thanks in part to Center efforts, the Obama administration temporarily withdrew 1 million Grand Canyon-area acres from new uranium claims and exploration. But several old mines are still slated for reopening. Any uranium development near the Grand Canyon would be devastating for its species, lands, and water.
Check out our public lands campaigns director Taylor McKinnon's firsthand account, complete with photos, of the Grand Canyon rally and learn more about our campaign against destructive mining.
At-risk Fish Caught With Tasty Names
Would you eat anything called "slimehead"? How about "Atlantic jackass morwong," "Patagonian toothfish," or "whore's eggs"? Most people wouldn't -- and according to a new study, if these former fish names were still in place, the species that bore them would likely be a lot better off. The study, released last Thursday in the journal Science, found that 63 percent of the world's fish stocks are below healthy levels -- conspicuously, mostly for fish with dressed-up names that make them gastronomically appealing. The slimehead, for example, plunged in numbers after it was re-christened "orange roughy" in the '70s; after goosefish became "monkfish" in the mid-'80s, harvests jumped and its populations fell. The study's lead author, Boris Worm (chew on that name, if you will), declares that hope remains: About half of depleted fish species might still recover with enough protection. (Perhaps names like "reeking vomitfish" and "poopscales" would help.) But with an appetite for fish burgeoning along with the human population, it's unclear just how much "enough" protections might be.
Worm's important study also failed to factor in one of the top threats to fish worldwide: global climate change. (See articles above for the many ways the Center's not missing the big climate picture.) Global warming and ocean acidification could soon devastate the entire ocean food chain -- whether you're a junk fish like the Antarctic toothfish or the renamed "catchy" Chilean sea bass. Thanks to work by the Center for Biological Diversity, the Environmental Protection Agency recently announced steps to evaluate the threat of ocean acidification under the Clean Water Act.
Read more in the Washington Post.
Photo credits: California condor courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Chuck Szmurlo under the GNU free documentation license; old-growth forest courtesy Wikimedia Commons under the GNU free documentation license; northern goshawk (c) Robin Silver; California condor courtesy USFWS; Big Bend power station; coal courtesy USGS Mineral Information Institute; Swainson's hawk courtesy BLM; Canada lynx courtesy Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife; Grand Canyon courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Luca Galuzzi; roughy courtesy NOAA.
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