BLM vs the Sage Grouse

The Bureau of Land Management’s proposal to offer new oil and gas leases on 89,000 acres in northwestern Wyoming would have devastating effects on greater sage grouse, including allowing industrial operations in some of the birds’ most important nesting and rearing habitat, according to comments submitted to the agency this week by the Center for Biological Diversity. Even though sage grouse have declined 60 percent over six years in Wyoming, the plan repeatedly ignores federal scientists’ recommendations for protecting these prairie birds from fossil fuel development.“Rather than protecting these vanishing birds, the BLM is proposing to hand over some of their last remaining habitat to the oil and gas industry,” said Michael Saul, an attorney with the Center. “A few companies may squeeze some short-term profits out of it, but the long-term effect will be pushing these great prairie birds toward extinction.”

Center for Biological Diversity launches new Environmental Health Program

The Center for Biological Diversity this week launched its new Environmental Health program, greatly expanding its capacity to protect wildlife, people and the environment from pesticides, rodenticides, lead, mining, industrial pollution, and air and water pollution.“The future of people is deeply intertwined with the fate of all the other species that evolved beside us,” said Lori Ann Burd, the program’s director. “This new program will work to protect biodiversity and human health from toxic substances while promoting a deep understanding of the connection between the health of people and imperiled species.”

Feds Propose Protection of Calving, Foraging Areas of Last 450 Right Whales on East Coast

In response to the efforts of conservation and wildlife protection groups, the National Marine Fisheries Service today proposed to protect 39,655 square miles as critical habitat for North Atlantic right whales. Only about 450 of the critically endangered whales exist today, and without additional protections the species faces a serious risk of extinction.

New York fracking ban has broader implications for America

After years of public pressure, New York today became the second state to ban hydraulic fracturing because of risks to people and the environment. The announcement from Gov. Andrew Cuomo adds to the pressure on the Obama administration to end fracking across the country, including on America’s public lands. “New York just took a huge leap forward in protecting its people and wildlife from the dangers of fracking,” said Kassie Siegel of the Center for Biological Diversity. “Now it’s time for other leaders to follow, including President Obama and Gov. Jerry Brown in California.”

Endangered Delmarva Peninsula Fox Squirrel still looks threatened

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell announced today the recovery of the Delmarva Peninsula fox squirrel, previously protected as an endangered species. The Interior Department made its finding based on an increase in distribution since 1967 from 4 to 10 counties where the squirrel can be found, and an overall population of 20,000. But despite these modest population gains, sea-level rise remains a severe threat to the species. "No one should discount the heroic conservation work that has been done to keep this squirrel from going extinct," said Brett Hartl, endangered species policy director at the Center for Biological Diversity. "But most of the places where the squirrel lives will eventually be underwater due to climate change and sea-level rise, and unfortunately most of the places on higher ground have already been lost to development."

Grizzly Bears in the North Cascades

The National Park Service this week took an important step toward recovering grizzly bears in the North Cascades in Washington state. The agency says it is beginning a three-year process to analyze options for boosting grizzly bear populations in the area, including the possibility of translocating bears and developing a viable population. "We're happy to see the Park Service begin the long-overdue conversation about bringing grizzly bears back to the North Cascades," said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director with the Center for Biological Diversity. "Grizzlies have lost more than 95 percent of their historic habitat in the lower 48 states so we welcome any step that brings them closer to returning to some of their ancestral homes."

Habitat protection for the Yellow-billed Cuckoo

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today proposed to protect more than a half-million acres of critical habitat across the West for the yellow-billed cuckoo, a songbird that lives along rivers and streams. The bird was proposed for Endangered Species Act protection in October 2013 as part of a 2011 agreement with the Center for Biological Diversity to speed protection decisions for 757 imperiled species nationwide. Today’s proposal would protect 546,335 acres of streamside habitat in nine western states including Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Utah and Wyoming. "This is an important victory not just for yellow-billed cuckoos but for rivers and streams across the West," said Michael Robinson, a conservation advocate at the Center, which first petitioned for the cuckoo’s protection in 1998.

Save the Bluefin Tuna

The National Marine Fisheries Service opened a public process today to determine whether to prohibit fishing for Pacific bluefin tuna, which have suffered a 96 percent decline since large-scale fishing began. The action followed the Center for Biological Diversity’s rulemaking petition sent in April. The Pacific bluefin population’s historic low triggered a requirement for new regulations to better manage overfishing by April 8, 2014, but regulators thus far have declined to take any steps to help the fish. Today’s request for comments is the federal government’s first step to spur action from the Pacific Fishery Management Council.

Endangered Species Act may be significantly weakened by new policy

The Center for Biological Diversity will file a legal challenge to an Obama administration policy, finalized today, that severely limits when a species qualifies for protection under the Endangered Species Act - a change that ignores both broad legal precedent and congressional intent. Under the Act a species qualifies for protection when it is "in danger of extinction in all or a significant of portion of its range." Both Congress and the courts have explained that the "significant portion of range" provision is vital for important conservation because it allows federal wildlife agencies to protect species before they are at risk of going extinct globally. But the newly finalized policy sharply restricts the use of this part of the Act, defining "significant" to mean that only when the loss of a part of a species' range threatens the survival of the whole species would wildlife agencies protect that species under the Act.

The Mount Charleston Blue Butterfly can breathe a little easier today!

Following an agreement with the Center for Biological Diversity to speed decisions for protection of 757 imperiled species across the country, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service finalized Endangered Species Act protection today for Nevada’s Mount Charleston blue butterfly. The butterfly occurs in just a few locations at very small numbers and is threatened by fire suppression, fuel reduction activities and recreational development. "This is great news for one of Nevada';s rarest species. The beautiful Mount Charleston blue butterfly is in desperate need of help and we've got to move quickly," said Rob Mrowka, a Center ecologist based in Nevada. "Even before prime areas of habitat were severely damaged by this summer's Carpenter 1 wildfire, there were very few of these butterflies left in the world."