Sunday, May 15, 2011

Conservation Progress: avoiding species extinction through the legislative process

Here's a mixed bag of good news/bad news from the Center for Biological Diversity. It ranges from progress on protecting endangered species that have been in political limbo for years, to threatened leopard frogs, to further recognition of the bluefin tuna's precarious status.

There's a dilemma we often face. Sometimes we feel we need to prioritize and possibly protect one animal but let another suffer for the sake of economic development or some other pressing reason. We hope that we can evaluate each situation objectively, but it can be a slippery slope. The problem is what that one loss might represent: a weakening in our obligation to protect natural resources that can lead to rationalizing one species extinction after another.

We must be steadfast in our personal choices and remain vigilant in preserving the political safeguards and regulations that provide conservation and protection.

839 Species Move Toward Protection
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service this week agreed to a legal settlement that might result in federal protection for 839 plants and animals spiraling toward extinction. The agreement could lead to final protection decisions for 251 species that have been stuck on the federal warranted-but-precluded "candidate" list, many for decades; the Center for Biological Diversity filed scientific petitions to list 192 of these. It may also spur the Fish and Wildlife Service to process listing petitions for 588 additional species, of which the Center petitioned and/or filed suit to protect 511. In all, the Center's endangered species campaign brought 84 percent of all the species included in the agreement to this point of protection.

The species include the Rio Grande cutthroat trout and yellow-billed cuckoo, which the Center petitioned to protect in 1998 and has filed multiple lawsuits over; the Pacific fisher, which we petitioned to protect in 2000; the yellow-billed loon and Kittlitz's murrelet, which we petitioned for in 2001 and 2004; and the Oregon spotted frog, which we petitioned to protect in 2004.

Unfortunately, while the Center was working to reach a better, more certain agreement, the Fish and Wildlife Service secretly convinced another conservation group, which had petitioned for very few of the species, to sign this weaker deal, full of loopholes and containing harmful language that will help the agency reject the protection of other equally imperiled species in the future. The Center is considering options to fix the flawed agreement and ensure that the species we pushed this close to protection are actually brought over the finish line.

We'll keep you updated in the coming weeks on our efforts to secure full protection for these species. Thank you for your vital help and support getting these rare, important plants and animals this far.

Southwest Frog Defended From Open-pit Copper Mine
The Southwest's stocky, charcoal-spotted Chiricahua leopard frog now inhabits less than 20 percent of its former range -- yet in the feds' new proposal for protecting its much-needed remaining habitat, areas important for the frog's recovery are glaringly absent. The Center for Biological Diversity filed comments Thursday to remedy that.

Long threatened by grazing, disease, groundwater pumping and pollution, the Chiricahua leopard frog is now imminently threatened in southern Arizona's Santa Rita Mountains, where the proposed Rosemont open-pit copper mine could obliterate the sensitive amphibian. The mine site was left out of the feds' proposal for protected "critical habitat" even though frogs live there, making the area critical to protect. Worse, the feds' proposal downplays scientific evidence that the frog's northern populations may be a different species, meaning that southern populations -- like those in the Santa Ritas -- may be even rarer than previously thought.

Read more in our press release and learn about our campaign to save the Chiricahua leopard frog.

Scientists Declare Bluefin Tuna Endangered -- Join Our Bluefin Boycott
The list of those who say bluefin tuna urgently need protection continues to grow. This week a committee of Canadian scientists and government representatives declared that the bluefin should be listed as an endangered species; we couldn't agree more. Last year the Center for Biological Diversity petitioned to have the Atlantic bluefin protected under the Endangered Species Act. In November, after international regulators failed to take action, we launched a nationwide boycott of bluefin.

One of the most remarkable marine creatures in the world, the warm-blooded bluefin tuna is a fierce ocean predator, can reach up to 10 feet in length and 1,200 pounds in weight, and can swim at up to 50 miles per hour, crossing the ocean in just weeks. But it can't outswim overfishing, which is driving it extinct at alarming rates, and the BP Gulf oil spill has helped make Atlantic bluefin more endangered than ever.

If you haven't already, join more than 30,000 activists in the Center's Bluefin Brigade by pledging not to eat bluefin or support restaurants that serve it -- and don't forget to spread the word by liking and sharing the page on Facebook. Then get details on our Bluefin Boycott, the Atlantic bluefin tuna and the bluefin developments in Canada.

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