Hellbender
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Center for Biological Diversity
 

Back Into the Fray for Eastern Hellbenders

The Center for Biological Diversity and allies just filed a lawsuit over the Trump administration’s refusal to protect North America’s largest salamander, the eastern hellbender.

 

These river dwellers breathe through their skin, can grow to be 2 feet long, and are known by colorful nicknames like “snot otter” and “old lasagna sides,” referencing the loose, frilly skin along their body and mucus-like coating (which may have antibiotic properties). Sadly almost 80% of hellbender populations — across the 15 southeastern, midwestern and northeastern states where they range — have disappeared or are declining due to dams, pollution, deforestation, oil and gas development, and mining. 

 

The Center filed an Endangered Species Act petition for these giant amphibians in 2010 and has been fighting for them ever since, winning victories for subspecies and populations but not yet for the species as a whole. As Center lawyer Brian Segee put it, “We won’t give up until hellbenders have the protection they desperately need to survive.”

Pesticide spraying

How Pesticide Companies Poisoned America

In 1970 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was established to “fight a war on pollution,” in the words of President Richard Nixon. But in short order, powerful agrochemical companies weakened — and sometimes completely eviscerated — the agency’s ability to protect human health, wildlife and the environment from pesticides.

 

A new article at The Intercept documents how this happened and what it’s cost us. Citing a report by the Center’s Nathan Donley and sharing the perspective of our Environmental Health Program Director Lori Ann Burd, it’s the most comprehensive account we’ve seen yet of the tragic failures of the EPA’s pesticide office.  

Suwannee moccasinshell mussels

North Florida Mussel Gets Habitat Protection

The Suwannee moccasinshell, a freshwater mussel that lives only in north Florida, attracts darter fishes with a bright-blue lure so it can shoot its eggs into their gills to incubate. But it’s at risk of extinction from pollution, dewatering, and now a proposed phosphate mine — so the Center petitioned to protect it in 2010, later filing suit. At long last, the Fish and Wildlife Service has designated 190 miles of stream channels as critical habitat for the 2-inch mollusk.

 

“Florida’s waterways and the critters that rely on them need us to start making their health and survival a priority,” said Jaclyn Lopez, our Florida director.

Phosphogyspum stack

EPA Withdraws Approval of Radioactive Roads

Following a 2020 lawsuit and petition by the Center and allies, the Environmental Protection Agency just announced it’s reversing its disastrous rule allowing toxic waste in road construction. Made under Trump, the approval allowed the use of phosphogypsum — the radioactive waste of fertilizer production — as a road-building material in parts of the United States prone to sinkholes and erosion.

 

“The agency’s approval was a boneheaded, shortsighted favor to the industry,” said the Center’s Jaclyn Lopez. “The withdrawal is consistent with 30 years of science showing that phosphogypsum poses a substantial risk to humans and the environment.”

Hawaiiian petrel

Heading to Court in Hawai‘i Over Bird-Killing Lights

The Center and our allies have filed notice that we’ll sue Hawai‘i’s Department of Transportation unless it stops bright lights at airports and harbors from hurting and killing three seabird species on Maui and Lāna‘i.

 

These highly imperiled seabirds — Newell’s shearwatersHawaiian petrels and band-rumped storm petrels — circle bright lights till they fall dead from exhaustion or crash into buildings. On Kaua‘i the lights contributed to catastrophic declines in shearwaters and Hawaiian petrels, prompting a previous Center suit on that island.

 

“There’s no reason the state should be allowed to continue flouting the Endangered Species Act when simple measures could ensure bird safety,” said Maxx Phillips, the Center’s Hawai‘i director.

Wolf eyes

Today: Webinar on Saving Gray Wolves

The Trump administration stripped federal protection from gray wolves last year, letting states like Wisconsin, Idaho and Montana ramp up plans to exterminate most of their wolves. The fight to save these amazing animals nationwide is at a critical moment — and we need your help.

 

You’re invited to join the Center’s wolf experts today, July 8, at 4 p.m. PT / 7 p.m. ET to learn how to help shape decision-making by state wildlife agencies and get updated on our legal efforts to restore wolves’ protection.

 

The webinar is free, but you need to register to participate, so sign up and then check your email for a link.

 

You can also help save wolves by giving to our Predator Defense Fund now.

Stormwater discharge

Suit Targets Plastic Pollution in Waterways

To force the Environmental Protection Agency and federal wildlife agencies to better protect our waters, health and wildlife from plastic and other pollution, the Center just sued over a sweeping Clean Water Act permit. It allows harmful stormwater discharges from thousands of facilities across the country, including chemical and plastic manufacturing.

 

“Instead of paying attention to scientific recommendations, the EPA just copied and pasted from its 2015 permit,” said Julie Teel Simmonds, a lawyer in the Center’s Oceans program. “We’re suing to force federal officials to consider mounting evidence that plastics facilities harm essential habitats and frontline communities.”

Black teatfish sea cucumber

Black Teatfish Sea Cucumbers Will Not Be Ignored

The Center has filed a notice of intent to sue the National Marine Fisheries Service if it doesn’t stop ignoring our petition to federally protect black teatfish sea cucumbers.

 

These cool creatures, who live among tropical reefs and seagrass in the Indian Ocean, are gravely threatened by overfishing to supply the luxury seafood trade — plus the climate change and pollution that degrade their seagrass and coral reef habitats.

Electric vehicle

Op-Ed: On Clean Car Rules, Biden Needs to Go Big

In their New York Times op-ed Wednesday, the Center’s Dan Becker and James Gerstenzang called on President Biden to go far beyond what California did last year to set auto pollution standards. He should quickly reinstate the 5%-per-year pollution cuts automakers agreed to with President Obama.

 

Then Biden should force the automakers to roll out the powerful, more climate-friendly tech they already possess. He should direct the Environmental Protection Agency to phase out gas-burning vehicles by 2030 and decrease gas-powered auto emissions by 7% a year until then. Together these powerful measures will get us close to a zero-emissions on-road auto fleet by 2050. 

City in heat wave

Revelator: 6 Reasons to Pay Attention to the Heat

Heatwaves may lack the drama of extreme weather events like named storms. But did you know they’re the deadliest of all severe weather events? The heat dome that locked the Pacific Northwest in a lethal vice last week is the latest reminder: Across the world, things are heating up — with fatal results.

 

Visit The Revelator for six things you need to know about climate change and heat waves. And if you haven’t already, sign up for The Revelator’s weekly e-newsletter.

 Black bear bathing

That's Wild: Bear Bathing in the Borderlands

It’s summer in the U.S. Southwest and northern Mexico. That means it's hot — but also that much-needed monsoon rains are rolling in. One of the Center’s borderlands remote cameras recently captured dozens of videos of a black bear really enjoying a cooling canyon pool. Sometimes the same bear visits the pool several times a day.

 

Take a look at our new #HotBearSummer video on Facebook and YouTube.

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Photo credits: Hellbender by Tierra Curry/Center for Biological Diversity; pesticide spraying courtesy USDA; Suwannee moccasinshell mussels courtesy USFWS; phosphogyspum stack by Harvey Henkelmann/Wikimedia; Hawaiiian petrel by Ken Chamberlain; wolf eyes via Shutterstock; stormwater discharge courtesy Mississippi Watershed Management Organization; black teatfish sea cucumber by Fernando Herranz Martín/Wikimedia; electric vehicle by cuttersnap/Unsplash; city in heat wave via Pixabay; black bear bathing from video footage by Russ McSpadden/Center for Biological Diversity.

Center for Biological Diversity
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