Oct 11, 2012

Endangered Earth: Welcome Relief for Aching Mussels

From: Center for Biological Diversity <kieran@biologicaldiversity.org>
Date: Thu, Oct 11, 2012 at 10:53 AM
Subject: Endangered Earth: Welcome Relief for Aching Mussels
Center for Biological Diversity
Loggerhead sea turtle

Eight Southeast Mussels, 1,500 Stream Miles Protected
Choctaw bean
Passing a hurdle they've been waiting to clear since 2004, eight mussels -- plus 1,500 miles of their freshwater streams in Alabama and Florida -- received Endangered Species Act protection from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Monday as part of the Center for Biological Diversity's landmark 757 species agreement last year. This agreement, which speeds up protection decisions, has been extremely successful: In just the past two busy weeks, the Service has protected or proposed to protect 16 species across the country, from Nevada and Utah to Florida and Alabama.

The eight mussels are native to streams in the Gulf Coast and sport such dazzling names as the Choctaw bean, fuzzy pigtoe and Alabama pearlshell. These streams -- and the mussels that filter and clean up their waters -- are intricately connected to the culture of the Southeast. Protecting them will have a trickle-up effect, benefitting people and animals alike. Mussels are among the longest-lived invertebrates, offering their purifying services for centuries. Their ages can be counted by the rings on their shells.

Read more at Alabama Live.

Two Plants, 100,000 Arizona Acres Move Toward Safeguards
Acuna cactus
Two rare desert cactuses have earned proposals for Endangered Species Act protection thanks to a 2004 Center for Biological Diversity petition, plus our settlement with the federal government to move 757 imperiled species toward safeguards. The Acuña cactus and Fickeisen plains cactus also received a proposed total of more than 100,000 acres of protected "critical habitat."

The Acuña cactus, native to the Sonoran desert of southern Arizona, can grow to be 16 inches tall and has rose-colored, pink or lavender flowers. The 3-inch Fickeisen plains cactus lives only on Kaibab limestone rocks in northern Arizona's Colorado Plateau, growing a gorgeous yellow-and-white flower. Both plants face severe threats from drought, climate change, border-enforcement activities, off-road vehicles and livestock grazing. They've been "candidates" for federal protection for many years -- the Fickeisen plains cactus for more than three decades.

Get more from the Cronkite News Service.

Suit Launched to Save Sea Turtle Habitat
Loggerhead sea turtle
Florida beaches host the largest population of nesting loggerhead sea turtles in the United States. But since 1998 they've seen a nearly 40 percent decline in nesting, with only minor rebounds of late. Meanwhile, North Pacific loggerheads -- which nest in Japan and cross the entire Pacific Ocean to feed off the U.S. West Coast -- have declined by at least 80 percent in the past decade. Yet despite petitions by the Center for Biological Diversity and allies, the federal government has refused to protect "critical habitat" for loggerheads on Florida's nesting beaches or in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

To protect the places these turtles need to nest and eat, the Center and allies today filed a formal notice of intent to sue the government. "With the seas rising and development transforming our coasts and oceans, sea turtles don't have many safe havens left," said the Center's Catherine Kilduff. We won't let those safe havens be sacrificed.

Read more in our press release and learn about our campaign to save loggerhead sea turtles.

Florida's Biggest Bat Proposed for Protection
Florida bonneted bat
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed to protect the Florida bonneted bat, the state's largest, rarest bat, which can fly for up to six hours and find its insect prey as far as 15 feet away. The proposal is part of the Center for Biological Diversity's agreement made with the Service last July to speed protection decisions for this bat and 756 other species.

Once common in south Florida, the bonneted bat is now down to a population of fewer than 300 individuals and has one of the most restricted ranges of all New World bats.

"Bats are amazing, adaptable creatures that give us valuable gifts like insect control, which means a reduced need for pesticides and better protection against insect-borne disease," said the Center's Florida attorney Jacki Lopez. Ironically, pesticides are one of the greatest threats to the Florida bonneted bat, along with urbanization.

Read more in the Miami New Times.

Opposition Mounts to Planned Colorado Uranium Mill
Humpback chub
A growing number of citizen and conservation groups are turning out against a proposal to license a uranium mill in southwestern Colorado. If approved, the Piñon Ridge mill would be the first uranium mill approved in more than 30 years. A public hearing will be held on Monday in Nucla, Colo.

Uranium mining and milling has a long, dirty and deadly legacy in the region. Uranium pollution has contaminated lakes, rivers and aquifers and threatens wildlife: It's been implicated in the decline of endangered Colorado River fish like the humpback chub and razorback sucker. The Piñon Ridge mill would process uranium waste and new mined uranium from Colorado, Utah and Arizona. A Colorado court this summer overturned the state's decision to license the mill and ordered new hearings.

The Center for Biological Diversity is working with a host of other conservation, citizen and civic groups in fighting the mill because of its impacts on public health, wildlife and the environment.

Check out our press release and learn more about our campaign to protect the wild from uranium mining.

Center Op-ed: The High Cost of U.S. Boycott of Biodiversity Agreement
Oil rig
Delegates from more than 170 countries are in India this week as part of the United Nations' Conference of the Parties on the Convention on Biodiversity, an international gathering focused on protecting the world's plants and wildlife and the wild ecosystems that harbor them. Helping set the stage is Center for Biological Diversity Senior Counsel Bill Snape, who was asked to write an op-ed for the international publication China Dialogue.

In his opinion piece, Bill takes the United States to task for being one of just three nations not to sign the 20-year-old Convention on Biodiversity approved by world leaders in Rio de Janeiro -- an international framework to help ensure the survival of biodiversity. It's a missed opportunity that shortchanges wildlife in the United States, Bill writes, and ignores the rapidly evolving crises unfolding around the globe. The United States should be a world leader on these issues, especially as it faces historic decisions on oil and gas drilling, the climate crisis, public lands, pollution, pesticides and endangered species. "What is missing in the United States," Bill writes, "is any urgency to seek durable solutions to many of these problems."

Read Bill's full piece.

Pennsylvania Refuses to Help Vanishing Bats -- Take Action
Little brown bat
Multiple industries declaring that protecting bats would impede their operations -- including oil and gas, mining, timber and wind-energy -- have led the Pennsylvania Game Commission to withdraw its proposal to safeguard three imperiled bats under the state's endangered species law. The little brown, northern long-eared and tricolored bats have all declined by an astonishing 98 percent or more in just four years, due to the deadly bat disease white-nose syndrome. Since 2006, when white-nose syndrome was first discovered among hibernating bats in upstate New York caves, the disease has killed nearly 7 million bats across 19 states and four Canadian provinces -- and it's quickly spreading across the continent.

The Center has long advocated for protecting bats from this disease and has already compelled the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to study the northern long-eared and little brown bats for addition to the federal endangered species list. We've also pushed to close federal caves to humans to help prevent people from spreading white-nose syndrome and have asked the federal government for more money to research and curb the disease.

Check out our press release and learn more about the Center's campaign to save our bats, then take action to tell Congress to fund the fight against white-nose syndrome.

New Report: 100 Million Dead by 2030 Without Climate Action
American pika
A new report from the humanitarian organization DARA throws the horrors of climate change into stark relief: Left unchecked, the global climate crisis could kill 100 million people by 2030. Climate change is spurring air pollution, hunger and disease. And melting ice caps, extreme weather, drought and rising sea levels will only worsen if developed nations don't move swiftly to transform their carbon-intensive economies, the report said.

Of course, human losses won't be evenly distributed: 90 percent of deaths would occur in the developing world, in countries least to blame for this looming catastrophe. One of the countries most to blame? Well, these United States.

And if hearty humans, with our technology and knowledge, are suffering from climate change, it isn't hard to imagine what's going to happen with wildlife. Too many, from polar bears to pikas, are already in dire straits. If we're going to save them, and ourselves, we've got to move quickly.

Get more from Reuters.

Your Right to Know About Frankenfood
Did you know that as much as 85 percent of U.S. corn and 91 percent of soybeans are genetically engineered? Most people don't, but that may change this November in California as consumer activists and organic growers in the state seek to amend state consumer labeling requirements.

Proposition 37, the California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act, is a common-sense measure that will help consumers make informed choices about their food. A genetically engineered food is a plant or meat product that has had its DNA artificially altered in a laboratory with genes from other plants, animals, viruses or bacteria.

This type of genetic alteration is not found in nature and has been associated with documented environmental effects, including biodiversity loss, an overall increase in pesticide use, the emergence of "super-weeds," and the unintentional contamination of non-genetically modified and organic crops. That's why the Center for Biological Diversity has endorsed this proposition. 

To find out more, listen to a Common Sense Commentary from Jim Hightower or visit California's Right to Know website.

Wild & Weird: Cute Kitten Photos Make You Smarter
According to new research from Japan, those embarrassingly cute pictures of itty bitty kitties you secretly stare at while pretending to be hard at work on your office computer may actually improve your concentration and focus.

Turns out there's an evolutionary function to cuteness -- activating a natural response to behave more carefully in the presence of adorable, fragile babies -- that translates through the matrix of the Internet.

In Japanese experiments human participants were shown baby animals, adult animals or other neutral images and then asked to make visual searches of number matrices, demonstrate their fine motor skills by playing a Japanese version of the game Operation, and given a test to see how well they focused. In all three cases, the people dosed on pictures of cute baby animals outperformed the others, leading researchers to conclude that cuteness does indeed "induce careful behavioral tendencies in users, which is beneficial in specific situations, such as driving and office work."

So go on -- go get yourself a cute fix. It may be better than caffeine.

Read more at Forbes.

Kierán Suckling
Executive Director

Photo credits: Loggerhead sea turtle courtesy Flickr Commons/mattk1979; Choctaw bean courtesy USFWS; Acuña cactus by Jim Rorabaugh, USFWS; loggerhead sea turtle courtesy USFWS; Florida bonneted bat by Kathleen Smith, Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission; humpback chub by George Andrejko, Arizona Game and Fish Department; oil rig courtesy Flickr Commons/DJ Linda Lovely; little brown bat by Ryan von Linden, New York Department of Environmental Conservation; American pika (c) William Gladish; Frankenfood courtesy Flickr Commons/Mark Rain; kitten by C. Kahler.
The Center for Biological Diversity sends newsletters and action alerts through DemocracyinAction.org.