From Center for Biological Diversity
38 Hawaiian Species, 271,000 Acres to Earn Protection
Great news (or maika'i nui loa on the Hawaiian islands) for 38 of Hawaii's most imperiled plants and animals: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Friday proposed to protect 35 plants and three tree snails under the Endangered Species Act. The decision is thanks to the Center for Biological Diversity's landmark 2011 settlement requiring speedy decisions for 757 species. The agency also proposed protecting 271,000 acres of "critical habitat" for these 38 species and 97 others that are already protected.
The plants proposed for protection are a stunning variety of colorful geraniums, sunflowers, bellflowers, vines, shrubs and trees -- with colorful Hawaiian names, like the hala pepe, popolo, kookoolau, awikiwiki and haha nui. The snails are found only on wet cliffs, where they eat fungus and algae; all 38 plants and animals are threatened by habitat loss and invasive species like feral pigs and rats. The Center petitioned to protect 20 of the 38 species back in 2004.
6,500 Acres Protected for Mississippi Gopher Frog
In response to a lawsuit by the Center for Biological Diversity, the Mississippi gopher frog -- a chubby, dark-spotted little amphibian federally protected in 2002 -- was just granted protected "critical habitat": a whopping 6,477 acres. That's three times larger than what the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed in 2010.
This critically endangered gopher frog is known to consistently breed in only one pond in the world, in Mississippi's DeSoto National Forest. A settlement called "Tradition," which would be home to 35,000 people, is proposed for the area; the Center is in talks with its developer to make sure the gopher frog survives.
"Critical habitat provides essential information to landowners and managers, who then often work to find creative ways to ensure the habitat is protected," said the Center's Noah Greenwald. "You simply can't throw a lifeline to endangered species without protecting the places they live."
Ruling Saves Death Valley Wilderness From Would-be Road
In a victory for a desert ecosystem that supports 2,500 native species, the Center for Biological Diversity and allies defeated an Inyo County, Calif. plan to turn a wash in the Last Chance Mountains of Death Valley into a highway. The county tried to use a repealed, Civil War-era right-of-way law called R.S. 2477 to bypass National Park Service authority -- even though only one person could remember operating a vehicle on the "road" before 1977, and even he couldn't remember legitimate road features.
In his decision, Judge Anthony Ishii cited the film Field of Dreams in throwing out the imaginary road: "If nobody built it, and nobody came, it was never there." This victory protects cougars, deer and badgers that roam the still-wild Last Chance Mountains.