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Aug 21, 2014

USA & beyond: Endangered Earth - Cuckoos Win, Coal Loses

From: "Center for Biological Diversity" <bioactivist@biologicaldiversity.org>
Date: Aug 21, 2014 10:57 AM
Subject: Endangered Earth: Cuckoos Win, Coal Loses

Center for Biological Diversity
Yellow-billed cuckoo
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500,000 Acres Proposed for Protection of Rare Western Cuckoos

Yellow-billed cuckooOne of the West's most endangered birds is getting important habitat protected. Following the Center for Biological Diversity's historic 757 species agreement and a 1998 petition, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed last Thursday to set aside 546,335 acres as federally protected "critical habitat" for the yellow-billed cuckoo in nine western states, from California to Wyoming.

Also called the "raincrow" because its song is often heard just before thunderstorms, this bird has a sunshine-yellow beak it uses to gobble grasshoppers, cicadas and even spiny caterpillars. First identified as needing protection in 1986, it wasn't formally proposed for a place on the endangered species list till last October, though its population has been devastated by dams, grazing, water withdrawals and more. A final decision on protections is due this fall.

"This is an important victory, not just for yellow-billed cuckoos but for rivers and streams across the West," said the Center's Michael Robinson.

Read more in the Albuquerque Journal.

Oregon Coal Facility Permit Denied -- Thanks for Taking Action

Columbia RiverYou did it! In a victory for Oregonians, wildlife and the climate, a crucial permit was denied Monday to an Australian firm that wants to build a coal-export terminal on the Columbia River. The decision follows numerous calls to the governor by Center supporters who oppose the project.

The state agency that denied the permit said the company hadn't properly analyzed options to avoid harming tribal fisheries at the Port of Morrow in Boardman, where Ambre Energy wants to build a dock for barges that would help ship coal from Montana to Asia. The project, said the agency, "is not consistent with the protection, conservation and best use of the state's water resources."

Conservationists and tribes applauded the decision, as did Democratic Gov. John Kitzhaber. Big thanks to all of you who took action to oppose this dirty facility.

Read more in the Oregonian.

Scorecard: Wyoming Plan Fails to Protect Greater Sage Grouse

Greater sage grouseThe Bureau of Land Management's latest plan for managing parts of Wyoming fails to follow more than two dozen recommendations by government scientists to protect greater sage grouse, according to a new scorecard released by the Center and allies this week.

The Center is leading an effort to hold the BLM accountable for protecting these showy birds and more than 300 other sensitive species as the agency finalizes a series of land-management plans governing activities like oil and gas drilling across more than 60 million acres of western public lands. We'll be releasing a scorecard -- with a pass or fail grade -- for each of the upcoming plans.

"Federal scientists have identified very specific steps for protecting greater sage grouse from development in the West, including restraining oil and gas exploitation. The question now is whether the Obama administration will follow those steps," said the Center's Randi Spivak.

Read more in the Houston Chronicle.

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This Labor Day, Take Extinction Off the Grill

Tofu kebabsLabor Day is one of the top meat-eating days of the year, giving it one of the biggest environmental footprints of any U.S. holiday. The burgers, hotdogs and other meat grilled over the long weekend are responsible for excessive water use, habitat loss and greenhouse gas emissions.

But Labor Day celebrations don't have to come at the expense of wildlife. The Center's Take Extinction Off Your Plate campaign launched Extinction-free BBQ this week to help you take extinction off your grill too. The campaign's website features meat-free, wildlife-friendly recipes contributed by top vegan bloggers and chefs, including Alicia Silverstone (The Kind Diet), Bryant Terry (Afro-Vegan) and Laura Theodore (aka the Jazzy Vegetarian).

The site also features tips on greening your cookout and facts on how meat consumption affects your health and the health of the planet.

Check out Extinction-free BBQ and let us know how you're protecting wildlife this Labor Day by using the #extinctionfreebbq hashtag on social media.

Thousands Call on Aspen Art Museum to Cancel Exhibit

African sulcata tortoiseThe Aspen Art Museum is feeling the heat over a controversial exhibit featuring three African sulcata tortoises with iPads affixed directly to their shells. On Tuesday the Center sent the museum letters from more than 12,000 people calling for the exhibit to be ended immediately. Thanks to all of you who responded to our call for action.

The treatment of these tortoises is being driven by the same kind of thoughtless self-interest that drives wildlife exploitation around the world and ultimately pushes many animals toward extinction.

"I get that art is meant to provoke and is a powerful vehicle for expanding thought and even fueling social movements," wrote Kierán Suckling, the Center's executive director, in an op-ed for The Huffington Post this week. "But what's happening in Aspen clearly ventures into the cruel and needs to stop."

Read Kierán's op-ed and take action.

Despite Threats, Feds Deny Protection for Montana Grayling

Arctic graylingIn 1994 the Fish and Wildlife Service said Montana grayling, a relative of salmon and trout, warranted protection under the Endangered Species Act. That conclusion was reaffirmed in 2010. On Tuesday, though, the agency reversed course and said the fish wouldn't get any federal protection at all.

It's the fourth time in a month the Fish and Wildlife Service has reversed plans to protect endangered species, including denial of protection for the wolverine and two Rocky Mountain plants.

Once found throughout the upper Missouri River drainage above Great Falls, Mont., native populations of Montana grayling have been reduced to a few spots, including a short stretch of the Big Hole River. A key factor in their range decline is stream dewatering -- the Big Hole slows to a trickle nearly every summer.

"Fish need water to survive," said the Center's Noah Greenwald. "And excessive water withdrawals are immediately threatening the survival of the grayling."

Read more in the Missoulian.

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Illegal Power Plant Defeated in California

Power plant in Huntington Beach, CAThe 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has rejected an illegal permit that would've allowed Avenal Power to build a gas-fired power plant in Avenal, Calif. The EPA issued a permit for the plant in 2011, but that permit ignored noncompliance with new air-quality standards for pollution -- so the Center and allies sued. The permit was struck down last week.

The originally planned plant would've generated 144.3 tons of nitrogen oxides, 80.7 tons of fine particulate matter, and 1.71 million metric tons of carbon dioxide every year in one of the country's most pollution-plagued areas.

Now Avenal has to comply with the new standards, build a smaller plant, or simply abandon the project altogether.

Read more in the Central Valley Business Times.

Where Have All the Trees and Wetlands Gone?

EgretsMore than 1,500 square miles of wetlands and 16,400 square miles of forest were lost between 1996 and 2011, much of them gobbled up by human development, according to a new analysis from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. And the march goes on: Developments like parking lots, homes and commercial buildings consume, on average, the wetlands equivalent of 61 football fields every day.

The study notes that during this 15-year period the Northeast added more than 1,100 square miles of development -- an area larger than Boston, New York City, Philadelphia, Baltimore and D.C. combined. Meanwhile the West Coast saw 4,900 square miles of forests cut, and the Southeast lost 510 square miles of wetlands.

There are some bright spots -- some local restoration projects are paying off -- but the NOAA report raises very serious concerns about wild places that are disappearing before our eyes.

Learn more in the report and see how your region fared.

Wild & Weird: Forget Shark Week -- Get Your Cheap Thrills From Worms

Bobbit wormDiscovery Channel's annual "Shark Week" features a plethora of pseudo-science documentaries meant to shock and scare viewers with sensationalist topics. But Discovery should stop its scaremongering over oft-victimized sharks (roughly 100 million are slaughtered every year). After all, plenty of animals are far scarier. So what about "Worm Week"?

One look at Eunice aphroditois and you'll forget your media-made shark phobia in no time. This creature, also known as the "bobbit worm," hides beneath the ocean floor, grows up to 10 feet long and comes equipped with horror-show pincers capable of slicing its prey in half.

Check out this chilling animated gif of the deadly worm and read more about the misleading pseudo-science of "Shark Week" at Io9.

Kierán Suckling
Executive Director

Photo credits: Yellow-billed cuckoo courtesy Flickr/nebirdsplus; yellow-billed cuckoo courtesy Flickr/nebirdsplus; Columbia River courtesy Flickr/Thomas Shahan; greater sage grouse (c) Robin Silver, Center for Biological Diversity; wolves by John Pitcher; tofu kebabs (c) 2014 Paige Green; African sulcata tortoise courtesy Flickr/Sebastian Niedlich; Arctic grayling courtesy Wikimedia Commons/AKSMITH; brown bear (c) Robin Silver, Center for Biological Diversity; Huntington Beach power plant courtesy Flickr/John Watson; egrets courtesy Flickr/USFWS; bobbit worm courtesy Flickr/bookscorpion.

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Center for Biological Diversity
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