Jaguars Win Major Court Victory
A week after oral hearings in the Center for Biological Diversity's fourth lawsuit to secure strict protections for the magnificent, highly endangered jaguar, this Monday a judge ruled in favor of the feline and struck down the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's longtime refusal to develop a recovery plan and protect habitat for the species. Despite previous lawsuits by the Center, under the Bush administration the Service declared that the jaguar's historic range -- which once stretched from the Bay Area to the Appalachians -- was "insignificant," so no U.S. recovery efforts were needed. Ironically, the agency used the jaguar's very rareness in this country as an excuse not to lift a finger to help it regain its footing here.
Now the Service must re-issue decisions on a recovery plan and protected habitat by January 2010, potentially paving the way for a well-managed reintroduction of jaguars into the United States that could mirror the Center's reintroduction of wolves to the wild Southwest almost 20 years ago.
Read more on Monday's ruling in the Tucson Citizen.
In a stunning development, a researcher has come forward to say she was instructed by an Arizona Game and Fish Department representative to bait the trap for Macho B, the now-deceased last known jaguar in the United States, with female jaguar scat. This means Macho B's death by euthanasia was the result of mismanagement, not kidney failure. Arizona Game and Fish, the very agency that captured and euthanized Macho, hastily announced that it will investigate its own actions -- but since that's a clear conflict of interest, the Center and Congressman Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) are both calling for an independent investigation by U.S. Fish and Wildlife law enforcement.
In a joltingly disappointing move last Friday, the Obama administration issued fuel economy standards for 2011 automobiles that are actually about a mile per gallon lower than those proposed by Bush last year. What difference does one mile per gallon make? Millions of tons of greenhouse gas emissions' worth of difference. Besides, the 2008 proposed Bush administration fuel economy standards -- reluctantly raised from their previous low in response to a Center for Biological Diversity lawsuit -- were already way below what are technically feasible and required by law.
So today, the Center filed another lawsuit to overturn the poor fuel economy standards. "Obama promised change, but unfortunately this is change in the wrong direction," said Kassie Siegel, director of our Climate Law Institute. "It's unfathomable that Obama would issue regulations worse than Bush, but that is exactly what he has done."
In a welcome positive move for the climate, last week a few good men in Congress introduced federal legislation that would reduce domestic and global emissions of the short-lived pollutant black carbon, or soot, to help us get a jump start in the fight against global warming. Recent studies on black carbon show that reducing this pollutant, which has a particularly bad effect on Arctic ice melt but is currently unregulated, can bring about an immediate improvement in our climate situation because the molecule's lifespan is less than two weeks. Governments around the world already have the technological and economic ability to reduce black carbon pollution, and doing it would not only help our atmosphere but also our public health.
The Center for Biological Diversity gave the bill a round of applause and is hopeful that it will be signed by the president. "The central question," said senior counsel Bill Snape, "is whether we will move quickly enough on black carbon and other greenhouse pollutants to prevent catastrophic damage from global warming."
Get more from Law360.
In opposition to policy that hurts the endangered California condor and other species in northwestern Arizona, last week the Center for Biological Diversity sued the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and Fish and Wildlife Service over a backward plan for the Arizona Strip, 2 million acres of land adjacent to the Grand Canyon -- including two breathtaking national monuments. Despite overwhelming evidence that lead ammunition is the leading cause of death for federally protected condors, which are poisoned when they scavenge lead bullet-shot game, the management plans continue to allow lead ammunition use on Bureau of Land Management lands. They also say OK to a lengthy list of other destructive activities, including grazing, oil and gas development, and uranium mining, which all harm habitat for the condor, threatened desert tortoise, and other protected species.
Thanks to a campaign by the Center and allies, California has already banned the use of lead ammunition in its own state's condor range -- but apparently, the feds need a little more pressure regarding the Grand Canyon state. Since condors have been released in Arizona, at least 12 to 14 have died of lead poisoning.
Read more in the Arizona Republic.
To save the small, highly endangered southwestern willow flycatcher from an even smaller but devastating foreign insect, last Friday the Center for Biological Diversity and Maricopa Audubon Society sued two agencies for failing to protect the bird from habitat damage inflicted by an imported leaf-eating beetle. When the Kazakhstani beetle was approved for introduction in southern Utah by the federal Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to control invasive tamarisk trees -- used by flycatchers for nesting -- APHIS and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service made a triple promise that the beetle wouldn't be released anywhere near flycatcher habitat, wouldn't become established within the flycatcher's range, and would spread slowly. Every part of the promise has been broken, and the beetles have now spread to northern Arizona and are poised to invade the lower Colorado River -- where 61 percent of flycatcher nests are built in tamarisk.
"We face loss of the flycatcher in the Southwest because APHIS has broken its promises and refuses to take responsibility for its actions," said the Center's Dr. Robin Silver. "We now must appeal to the courts to help us save this adorable little migratory songbird."
Read more in the Arizona Daily Sun.
This week, President Barack Obama made waves when he signed into law the first-ever bill to address the increasing acidity of the oceans. The new law authorizes research and monitoring of ocean acidification as a part of the Omnibus Public Lands Management Act of 2009. Among the principal threats to our marine ecosystems, ocean acidification happens when seawater absorbs and reacts with carbon dioxide -- most of which is emitted from the use of fossil fuels -- and becomes more acidic. This process impairs the ability of marine animals to build the shells and skeletons they need to survive, and it has far-reaching effects all the way up the food chain.
The new law, called the Federal Ocean Acidification Research and Monitoring Act of 2009, is an important step forward in understanding and finding solutions to the problem of ocean acidification -- global warming's evil twin -- before it unravels our marine ecosystems.
Learn about the Center for Biological Diversity's efforts to fight ocean acidification.
Marine creatures aren't the only ones that could reap big benefits from the Omnibus Public Lands Management Act of 2009 -- wolves and stream-dwelling species got in on the action, too. As part of the bill, last week Congress approved a $5-million demonstration project involving federal compensation for livestock losses to wolves, plus federal funding for non-lethal activities to reduce the risk of livestock losses to wolves -- which, as long as the new regulations are carefully crafted, could save many endangered wild canines from being gunned down or trapped by the feds. Also as part of the Public Lands Management Act, Arizona's delicate Fossil Creek -- a recently restored oasis for endangered species like the loach minnow and spikedace -- earned an official "wild and scenic" river designation.
Despite the major slump in real estate prices across the United States, investing in eco-developments in beautiful Latin America is a tempting option indeed, especially for conservation-conscious baby-boomers with capital. Unfortunately, plenty of foreign projects marketed as "green" are nowhere near environmentally friendly -- like Panama's Red Frog Beach Club, a supposedly eco-safe resort that in fact threatens sensitive marine and terrestrial habitat for countless species, including the Beach Club's namesake, the strawberry poison dart frog. And no agency has tackled the emerging area of "green" real estate law.
That's why the Center for Biological Diversity has just published Greenwashing Risks to Baby-boomers Abroad, a report outlining legal strategies to address of "green" marketing misrepresentation to U.S. real estate investors. Before you leap into the murky waters of foreign real estate, make sure you're aware of the sharks (endangered sharks and human sharks alike).
Are you creative, dynamic, speedy, and adept at all things Internet? Are you dedicated to helping the planet and the species it supports? If you answered in the affirmative to all of the above, you may be the perfect person to fill the Center for Biological Diversity's Online Organizer position.
Read the job description and learn how to apply.
Photo credits: jaguar courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Pascal Blachier; jaguar (c) Robin Silver; Macho B courtesy Arizona Game and Fish Department; traffic jam courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Osvaldo Gago; polar bears by Pete Spruance; California condor by Scott Frier, USFWS; southwestern willow flycatcher by Rick and Nora Bowers; elkhorn coral by C. John Easly, Deep Sea Images; Mexican gray wolves by Val Halstead, Wolf Haven International; strawberry poison dart frog courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Splette; Earth courtesy NASA.