Obama Halts Attack on Gray Wolves, Other Bush Misdeeds
Swooping into office to save the species this week, President Obama started his administration off right by immediately announcing a freeze on publication of all the Bush administration’s last-minute, biodiversity-harming rules not yet put into print. This means the new administration will get a chance to review — and hopefully trash — bad Bush-era policy decisions, including the heinous removal of Endangered Species Act protections from gray wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains and Great Lakes regions. The freeze will also put stop to Bush’s laughably low fuel-economy standards and a rule that would have injuriously changed the format of the endangered species list to redefine the extent of coverage provided to endangered species.
Unfortunately, President Obama’s move can’t undo the worst of the Bush administration’s latest environmentally detrimental actions: the changes to the rules implementing the Endangered Species Act — eviscerating our country’s most important wildlife protection law — and the relaxation of rules restricting mountaintop removal mining. Reversing those will take a little more work, but the Center for Biological Diversity will work to see it done.
Filing a final challenge to the Bush administration over its political meddling in almost 60 Endangered Species Act decisions, last Wednesday the Center for Biological Diversity filed seven lawsuits over habitat-protection decisions wronging 18 species, as well as one notice of intent to sue over the denial of protection to the Colorado River cutthroat trout. The San Bernardino kangaroo rat, Arkansas River shiner, Riverside fairy shrimp, 12 Texas invertebrates, and three California plants were all robbed of federal habitat protections on Bush’s watch — in the case of the Riverside fairy shrimp, more than 97 percent of the area of habitat deemed by scientists as “essential” was removed from protection thanks to interference by Bush administration officials. In all, more than 158,000 protected acres are at stake in last week’s seven suits. The Colorado River cutthroat trout was denied protection despite severe range loss, ongoing threats, and repeated Center action.
The Bush administration’s mismanagement of the Endangered Species Act, now under extensive federal investigation, is the focus of the Center’s Litigating Political Corruption campaign, through which we’ve already had substantial success in fighting to restore proper protections to 59 imperiled species.
Read more in the Desert Sun.
Acknowledging the fishiness of one more of its scientifically flawed and politically tainted Bush-era Endangered Species Act decisions, last week the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reached a settlement with the Center for Biological Diversity and allies over a rule slashing habitat protections for one of California’s rarest freshwater swimmers, the Santa Ana sucker. The small-bodied, big-lipped fish, though highly adaptable, has suffered serious harm from development, water projects, and other threats and is now reduced to just three populations in the middle part of the Santa Ana River. In response to a Center lawsuit, in 2004 the Fish and Wildlife Service protected more than 21,000 acres of habitat along three of the fish’s four home rivers — only to issue a scientifically unjustifiable decision a year later to reduce the protected area to a measly 8,305 acres, eliminating protections from the sucker’s namesake river, the Santa Ana.
Our latest lawsuit for the Santa Ana sucker — filed in November 2007 with Cal Trout, the California-Nevada Chapter of the American Fisheries Society, and Friends of the River — is another part of our Litigating Political Corruption campaign. Hopefully, all 59 species we’re fighting for will get the attention they deserve under the new administration.
Following almost two years of being ignored by the Bush administration after we petitioned for nationwide laws to protect species from global warming, the Center for Biological Diversity has filed suit against six federal agencies to compel a response to our action. In February 2007, we jumpstarted our Global Warming and Endangered Species Initiative by petitioning the Department of the Interior, Department of Commerce, Department of Agriculture, Department of Defense, Department of Transportation, and Environmental Protection Agency to integrate opposition to global warming into all major federal decision-making processes and speed the recovery of endangered species from the American pika to the yellow-billed loon. Our suit, filed last Thursday, demands consideration of the requests of our petition, including reviewing species to spot those especially threatened by warming and prohibiting all federal actions from appreciably reducing the likelihood of a species’ recovery.
“Integrating global warming considerations into all levels of government is the challenge of our times,” declared Center senior counsel Bill Snape. “Yet the Bush administration not only refused to provide direction on climate change policy, it prevented agencies from doing so.”
Get more from Law360.com.
To protect one of the most majestic and endangered mammals on hooves, last Thursday the Center for Biological Diversity joined the Lands Council, Defenders of Wildlife, and the Selkirk Conservation alliance in suing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to gain federally protected habitat for mountain caribou. Though caribou once roamed by the thousands across the northern United States, hunting, poaching, logging, and roads pushed the entire population into the Selkirk Mountains of northeastern Washington, northern Idaho, and British Columbia. Now disturbance from poorly managed snowmobiling threatens to push caribou out of even this last refuge. Conservation groups filed a petition to protect the caribou’s remaining habitat back in 2002, but the next year the Fish and Wildlife Service said it had higher priorities — and went on to ignore the petition.
Caribou, the only member of the deer family in which both sexes grow antlers, are most vulnerable during the coldest months — just when snowmobiles come out to play. They need vehicle-free habitat if they’re to survive many more winters.
Read more in the Seattle Times.
After the Bush administration issued an 11th-hour decision to let the timber industry decimate public lands in western Oregon, the Center for Biological Diversity and 12 other conservation and fisheries organizations — represented by Earthjustice — filed suit in defense of salmon and old-growth forests. The Western Oregon Plan Revision allows current logging in the area to nearly quadruple, rezoning 2.6 million acres of federal public forests in Oregon tended by the Bureau of Land Management. The Bush administration timber giveaway ignores science clearly showing these dramatic increases in logging will pollute salmon spawning streams, destroy much of Oregon’s old-growth forest, contribute to global warming, and seriously threaten winged residents like the northern spotted owl and marbled murrelet.
Get more from Oregon Public Broadcasting.
When the Bush administration was three months late responding to our petition to protect California’s rare ashy storm petrel, last Wednesday the Center for Biological Diversity officially warned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service we’ll sue if it fails to investigate the species’ status. The small, smoke-gray seabird resides in the polluted, development-stressed waters near California’s largest cities and is further threatened by offshore energy terminals, shipping, commercial fishing, and oil spills. Worsening matters, global warming is changing the marine ecosystem of the bird’s home state, leaving warmer, less-abundant waters and causing ocean acidification that depletes the sea of the storm petrel’s prey. In the past 20 years, the largest colony of ashy storm petrels decreased by 42 percent, prompting the World Conservation Union and BirdLife International to list the species as endangered. Still, the Fish and Wildlife Service failed to make its decision on our petition to protect the bird, due last October.
Do you have fish guilt? That is, do you care about consuming sustainably but not know if the fish you’re eating is good for ocean health or your own? Don’t worry. Thanks to New York-based nonprofit Blue Ocean Institute, if you have a cell phone you can use what the group has dubbed “FishPhone.” The next time you’re in the supermarket or sushi bar and find yourself at sea regarding what fish to ingest, just send a text message reading “FISH,” along with the kind of fish you’re considering, to 30644. Instantly, you’ll get a reply on how healthy your choice is for you and the planet. If your fish is fishy, it’ll be red-flagged.
And here’s a more action-packed way to aid our oceans: Tell the National Marine Fisheries Service to ban swordfish imports from countries that aren’t up to par on their fishing practices. The agency hasn’t been enforcing existing law, allowing the importation of fish caught through methods that kill thousands of marine mammals, sea turtles, and seabirds each year. The Center for Biological Diversity and Turtle Island Restoration Project petitioned the feds to enforce the ban, and now the Fisheries Service wants to hear from you.