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Suit Kills Wolf-killing Policy
Last Friday, the Center for Biological Diversity settled a lawsuit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service forcing the agency to revoke its "three-strikes" policy, which required the killing or capture of any Mexican gray wolf that kills three cattle within one year. The policy has resulted in dozens of wolves being killed or removed from the wild, decimating the Mexican wolf recovery effort. The settlement also required the agency to reassert federal control over the recovery program. During the Bush years, it relinquished much of its authority to the states of New Mexico and Arizona, just as it has done with the endangered jaguar. And the result was the same: Arizona hamstringing recovery, prioritizing ranching over endangered species, and pushing policies that resulted in the death of endangered species.
With the feds back in control and the killing of wolves slowed, the Fish and Wildlife Service can focus on processing the Center's petitions to formally classify the Mexican wolf as distinct from other U.S. wolves, develop a recovery plan for it, and revamp the entire recovery program from top to bottom.
Responding to lawsuits by the Center for Biological Diversity, this Monday the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agreed to throw out flawed Bush-era "critical habitat" decisions harming three endangered California species. The Riverside fairy shrimp, one of Earth's rarest freshwater crustaceans, and two imperiled plants, the willowy monardella and Coachella Valley milk vetch, are all hovering near extinction due to urban sprawl gobbling up their habitat. But in 2005 and 2006, the Bush administration designated a mere 306 acres of protected habitat for the fairy shrimp, just 73 acres for the monardella, and no acreage at all for the milk vetch. The designations omitted more than 24,000 acres of habitat deemed by scientists to be essential for the three species' survival.
Our fairy shrimp and plant victories are just three of many we've earned in our campaign to rectify 55 politically tainted decisions harming endangered species under the Bush administration. We've overturned bad decisions in all completed cases.
Even with opposition to Grand Canyon uranium mining snowballing across the country, the Bureau of Land Management has approved the reopening of a defunct and destructive uranium mine in the area -- so this Monday, the Center for Biological Diversity and allies sued. The Arizona 1 mine, just north of Grand Canyon National Park, could threaten habitat for numerous endangered species, including the Colorado pikeminnow, humpback chub, southwestern willow flycatcher, and Mexican spotted owl. But the Bureau of Land Management is letting the mine's owner get away with using illegally inadequate, '80s-era environmental reviews.
The agency's approval violates an only months-old move by the Obama administration to place 1 million Grand Canyon-area acres -- including the Arizona 1 mine site -- off limits to new uranium mining. And it was just more than a week after our announcement that 100,000 people (and 21,000 Center supporters) have called on the Bureau to protect those acres from new uranium mining for 20 years.
With some of the lowest recorded numbers of southern green sturgeon spawning in the population's last remaining spawning ground, last week the National Marine Fisheries Service announced it will finally develop a federal recovery plan for the species. This legally mandated, science-based roadmap to recovery will provide a blueprint for actions and goals geared toward the fish's conservation -- which it sorely needs. Thanks to dams, water withdrawals from rivers, habitat destruction, overfishing, and other threats, green sturgeon in the Sacramento River plummeted by about 95 percent between 2001 and 2006. One of the oldest fish on Earth, the green sturgeon has stayed unchanged since it evolved 200 million years ago.
A scientific petition by the Center for Biological Diversity led the Fisheries Service to protect the southern green sturgeon as threatened in 2006. This year, our efforts resulted in the designation of 8.6 million acres of protected habitat.
What happens in Vegas doesn't always stay in Vegas. In the case of toxic sludge, it leaves Vegas, poisons the Colorado River, and then is pumped back into Vegas as drinking water. You don't have to be a CSI to know this story isn't going to end well.
The Center for Biological Diversity has asked the state of Nevada to add Lake Mead, Las Vegas Bay, and Las Vegas Wash to its "impaired waters" list because all three are laced with endocrine disrupters, PCBs, DDT, dioxin, codeine, phenobarbitol, contraceptives, furans, phthalates, pesticides, and more -- the list of chemicals goes on and on. This toxic stew threatens the endangered razorback sucker, the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, and the health of millions of people: That's right, Las Vegas is dumping its industrial and urban waste upstream of its own drinking-water supply.
The "impaired waters" listing will trigger requirements under the Clean Water Act to clean up the mess.
Flying Squirrel vs. Bush: 54th Suit Filed Against W's Horrid Legacy
In defense of one of Appalachia's most endangered and interesting species, last week the Center for Biological Diversity and allies sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for illegally stripping federal protection from the West Virginia northern flying squirrel. The charismatic creature, with its built-in parachute allowing it to glide among the trees, is in imminent danger from global warming, which threatens the cool mountain forests it calls home. Also threatening those forests, of course, are logging, energy extraction, and development -- which the Bush administration favored in 2008 when it removed the squirrel from the endangered species list, blatantly ignoring the scientifically based recovery plan that clearly shows the squirrel still needs protection.
Our flying squirrel suit is the Center's 54th challenge to politically motivated decisions harming endangered species under the Bush administration; so far, we've won reversals in every completed case. We won't let politicians' shady moves jeopardize the forest habitat this squirrel needs to survive.
Utah Lead-bullet Ban Gaining Steam, Help Save the Condor Today
The Salt Lake Tribune, Utah's largest newspaper, has endorsed the Center for Biological Diversity's call to ban lead bullets in Utah to save the endangered California condor. Ninety-five percent of condors introduced to the Grand Canyon area, on the border of Arizona and Utah, had lead poisoning in 2006. The condition of 70 percent of those birds was so bad that they were captured and given transfusions to clean the lead from their bloodstream.
The Center has petitioned the state and filed suit against the feds to ban lead bullets in northern Arizona. In Utah, the Salt Lake Tribune has now entered the fray, calling lead the "the ammo that keeps on killing" and warning that "at least a dozen condors have succumbed to lead poisoning in recent years. . . . And if the health of condors and other carrion consumers is not reason enough to get the lead out of their loads, hunters should consider their own health, and the health of those who share their table . . . particularly children and pregnant women. Kids and fetuses absorb toxins more readily, and their developing bodies are more susceptible to nerve and brain damage from lead."
The Center will keep pressuring Utah while its Arizona suits proceed. The NRA, however, has brought in high-priced lobbyists and lawyers to stop us and keep lead poisoning mountain streams and bloodstreams. Please help by donating to our Condor Legal Defense Fund today. We're closing out the fundraising campaign in the next few days, so this may be your last chance.
The Rebirth of Environmentalism: New Book Examines Rise of Center for Biological Diversity
In a sweeping examination of how grassroots environmentalists reinvented and reinvigorated the environmental movement in the 1990s, sociologist Douglas Bevington has just published a new book titled The Rebirth of Environmentalism: Grassroots Activism from the Spotted Owl to the Polar Bear.
A large portion chronicles the iconoclastic rise of the Center for Biological Diversity from its humble beginnings in the remote mountains of New Mexico to its emergence as a major national protector of endangered species and our fragile climate. Bevington writes:
"The Center for Biological Diversity has become one the most successful grassroots biodiversity groups, both in terms of environmental protection and organizational growth
. . . It has a 90 percent success rate in litigation . . . And in terms of influence, the Center has more of an impact on species protection through listings and critical habitat designation than even the largest national groups."
As the polar bear waits for federal habitat protections and its fate is battled over in court, the Center for Biological Diversity's hard-hitting polar bear TV ads are still going strong, educating millions of people across the country on the species' plight. Launched last winter and ranked among the country's top 10 public service announcements last month, the ads reveal in graphic detail exactly what the polar bear faces as its sea-ice habitat melts away due to global warming. Both ads have been viewed by more than 90 million people and counting, in both English and Spanish, from Alaska to New York to Arizona, creating the groundswell of support that this year helped us deliver 94,000 petitions telling the Obama administration to help save the bear, our climate, and ourselves.
The bear recently earned a proposal for the federal habitat protections it needs to survive, and the Center is currently in court to challenge the Bush administration's rule withholding true Endangered Species Act protections from the bear.
This Wednesday, the United Nations Population Fund joined a growing chorus in support of the notion that reducing fertility rates and slowing human population growth will help to slow the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. In a report that calls for vastly increased access to free condoms and family-planning services, the Fund stated, "As the growth of population, economies and consumption outpaces the Earth's capacity to adjust, climate change could become much more extreme and conceivably catastrophic."
This one seems like a no-brainer to us -- fewer carbon emitters create less emissions -- but perhaps the U.N. folks were convinced by recent research indicating that investing in family planning to stabilize global population is almost five times more cost effective in reducing emissions than investing in clean technologies. Or maybe they saw another study showing that having one fewer child in the United States is 20 times more effective than all of the currently available methods for reducing one's carbon footprint. Whatever the case, we concur: When it comes to greenhouse gases, a little latex can go a long way.
Photo credits: Mexican gray wolf by Jim Clark, USFWS; Mexcian gray wolf by Val Halstad, Wolf Haven International; Coachella Valley milk vetch courtesy California Department of Fish and Game; Grand Canyon (c) Edward McCain; green sturgeon (c) Dan W. Gotshall; razorback sucker by Mark Fuller, USFWS; West Virginia northern flying squirrel by Larry Master, USFWS; California condor courtesy Arizona Game and Fish; The Rebirth of Environmentalism cover courtesy Island Press; polar bear (c) Center for Biological Diversity; crowd in Manhattan courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Futurebird.