Sunday, March 13, 2011

Focus On Fur: protecting endangered or threatened animals on land

Proactive conservation groups come in a wide variety of flavors, focusing on a singular issue or many, working in conjunction with other groups or going it alone. Whatever the strategy, the goal is to achieve results that are meaningful and lasting.

In the past, I have cited the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) as an organization that has chosen the legal approach to advancing the cause of conservation and protection of endangered species. Working with other legal groups like Earthjustice or conservation groups like Defenders of Wildlife, Natural Resources Defense Council, Oceana, and others, CBD adheres to a strategy of utilizing the courts to get federal agencies to follow through with laws or regulations already in place or to consider issues that are in line with the agencies charter or mandate.

While this blog gravitates mostly towards issues regarding the ocean, occasionally I like to turn attention to those creatures that reside on dry land. Focusing on fur, here are a few developments announced by the Center for Biological Diversity that caught my attention. Two represent ongoing challenges - of which public support can have an impact - and two are victories that can be savored but require continued diligence if they are to persevere. The Center is not the only the group involved in pushing ahead on these issues; CBD will mention working in conjunction "with others" and I often wish they would list those others groups - all deserve their due credit.

And you can make a difference to - by petition support or financial contribution, if possible.

Wolves' Fate at Stake in Congress -- Take Action
The Center for Biological Diversity and 47 other groups yesterday wrote to Sen. Barbara Boxer (D.-Calif.), chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, urging her to oppose legislation that would permanently end federal protections for endangered gray wolves, leaving them open to slaughter. Later in the day wolves caught a slight break when the Senate voted down a House Republican spending bill that, among other anti-environment measures, included a provision to strip wolves of federal protections.

But that doesn't mean wolves are out of the woods. Members of Congress have shown a disturbingly keen interest in stripping Endangered Species Act protections for wolves throughout Montana and Idaho and parts of Utah, Oregon and Washington. If approved, such legislation will bar protection for northern Rockies wolves as "endangered" even if their numbers plummet toward zero. Both Montana and Idaho have long been chomping at the bit to raze wolf populations.

Congress has never taken a step like this before -- and endangered species protection must be determined according to science, as current law prescribes, not through a rider hidden in a gigantic funding bill. In fact, such legislation puts the very Endangered Species Act at risk and sets a terrible precedent for other species hovering on the brink of extinction.

Take action with us now by telling your senators to stop any congressional effort to strip protections from gray wolves.

Read more in E & E News.

Big Oil Sues Over Polar Bear Habitat Protections
Big Oil has filed the first lawsuit challenging the biggest "critical habitat" designation ever made -- and won by the Center for Biological Diversity and allies. Specifically, the Alaska Oil and Gas Association -- representing 15 oil and gas companies, including BP, Exxon and Chevron -- last week sued the federal government for protecting 120 million acres for Alaska's polar bears. The oil companies say that polar bears are too "abundant" to deserve the protected area, and that setting aside the land will be too expensive because it may get in the way of oil and gas development. Other entities, including the state of Alaska, are also expected to challenge the designation.

The Center has been working since 2001 to save the polar bear from the dire threats the species faces -- including oil and gas development. We're the group that originally wrote the petition earning the bear its status under the Endangered Species Act; we're still fighting to earn it the full "endangered" protection it desperately needs. We won't let any critical-habitat challenge succeed. Stay tuned for a polar bear update soon.

Read more in the UK's Daily Mail.

Wolf Massacre Halted in Alaska -- Thank You
Wolves on Alaska's Unimak Island won't have to face the prospect of getting gunned down by aerial shooters -- and you deserve some of the credit. After Center for Biological Diversity supporters sent in nearly 34,000 comments, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service this Monday announced it won't let Alaska aerial gunners kill gray wolves on the island as part of a misguided attempt to stop the decline of caribou. (There's little evidence that wolves are at fault.) The Alaska Department of Fish and Game was planning to shoot wolves from helicopters on the Alaska Maritime Wildlife Refuge. Aerial killing is as inhumane as it is unnecessary, especially during the pup-rearing season. Thanks so much for saving wolves young and old from devastating deaths.

Get more from the Alaska Public Radio Network.

Protection Restored for Tongass National Forest
In another big Alaska victory, a judge has ended a lawsuit brought by the Center and allies by vetoing a decision that exempted the majestic Tongass National Forest from the Roadless Area Conservation Rule. The rule, passed in 2001, is meant to protect pristine public forests from destructive activities like road building and resource extraction. But to boost the timber industry, the Bush administration decided the rule wouldn't apply to the Tongass, leaving the 17-million-acre forest wide open to exploitation.

"This is a victory for the wolves, bears, deer, goshawks and other unique species that rely on the untouched old-growth forest of the Tongass for their survival," said the Center's Alaska Director Rebecca Noblin. "The Tongass never should have been exempted from the roadless rule, and this court decision provides valuable respite for old-growth-dependent species that have been hammered by unsustainable logging practices in the Tongass."

Read about the Tongass victory in the
Los Angeles Times.

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