May 11, 2009
New Caledonia, a French territory in the South Pacific, is the hottest spot on Earth for biodiversity, says a study in the latest issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA. That island boasts a rich array of unique plant and animal species, which are increasingly under threat from humans.
In the study, ecologist Holger Kreft of the University of California, San Diego and his colleagues looked at what they termed "endemism richness," or the number of unique species combined with the overall number of species around the world.
Jan 21, 2009 | 13
Pres. Barack Obama yesterday put all pending regulatory changes made in the waning months of the Bush administration on hold until he has a chance to review them.
Obama spokesperson Bill Burton told The Washington Post he's not sure how many regs are affected by the order. Former Bush official Susan Dudley of the Office of Management and Budget said the administration had issued 100 rules since November. But it’s not clear how many of them have already taken effect.
A spokesperson at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said today that one of the most controversial of the last-minute Bush measures took effect yesterday. That reg, known as the "right to conscience" rule, allows the government to withhold money from federally funded health care facilities that do not make allowances for workers who refuse on moral grounds to help administer certain procedures, such as abortions. Reproductive rights groups last week sued to block the reg from taking effect, charging that it's unlawful.
Jan 15, 2009 | 6
Most gray wolves will no longer be protected following a ruling yesterday by the Bush administration.
The Interior Department yesterday announced that dwindling wolf populations in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, Idaho and Montana had been sufficiently replenished to strip them of their endangered status. The feds, however, said that gray wolves in Wyoming aren’t sufficiently protected and will remain on the Endangered Species Act.
“Wolves have recovered in the Great Lakes and the northern Rocky Mountains because of the hard work, cooperation and flexibility shown by States, tribes, conservation groups, federal agencies and citizens of both regions,” Deputy Secretary of the Interior Lynn Scarlett said in a statement. “We can all be proud of our various roles in saving this icon of the American wilderness.”
Dec 31, 2008 | 3
California this week sued the feds to block a new Bush administration rule from taking effect that would relax portions of the Endangered Species Act.
The rule, finalized December 16, permits the Commerce and Interior departments to sign off on new projects that may threaten wildlife and their habitat without input from independent scientists that is now required. The new measure, set to take effect hours before President-elect Barack Obama is sworn into office Jan. 20, also allows regulators to ignore the effects on wildlife of potential greenhouse-gas emissions from those projects.
"The Bush administration is seeking to gut the Endangered Species Act on its way out the door," California Attorney General Jerry Brown said in a statement after the state filed the lawsuit Monday in Northern California Federal District Court in Oakland.
Dec 19, 2008 | 7
Seven species of penguins will now join polar bears on the list of species endangered by climate change and other environmental threats, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) said this week. Worst off: the African penguin, which is disappearing due to overfishing and oil pollution.
The other threatened penguins: yellow-eyed, white-flippered, Fiordland crested, erect-crested (all from New Zealand) and the Humbolt penguin of South America. Still safe, at least according to the FWS, are the southern and northern rockhopper as well as the lord of all penguins—the emperor, which the agency decided was safe because it lacked enough info on how Antarctica will change over the coming century.
Nov 20, 2008 | 2
The Bush Administration's push for "midnight regulations" in the last moments of office continues.
In the next 24 hours, the Bush is expected to relax requirements for federal environmental officials to sign off on building projects that pose a threat to species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Publishing the rules by tomorrow means they would take effect before President-elect Barack Obama's Jan. 20 inauguration. Otherwise, Obama could simply decide not to put them into practice.
The rules would allow each federal agency to determine for itself whether its own projects (such as building a highway or dam) present an environmental threat, rather than getting clearance from wildlife biologists who sometimes order modifications, according to the Associated Press, which obtained a copy of the new watered-down regulations.
Nov 6, 2008
The axolotl—a foot-long amphibian reputed by the Aztecs to be a transformed god (but eaten anyway)—is in danger of disappearing for good, like so many of its fellow amphibians. A recent survey by Mexican scientists showed that the population of the amphibians—which look like a cross between a fish with a mane and a salamander, with a miniature alligator's tail for swimming and has a remarkable talent for regenerating lost body parts—in Mexico City's waterways and canals has dropped from 1,500 to just 25 per square mile over the past decade.
A combination of polluted water and an aggressive invasion by African tilapia and Asian carp fish has pushed it to the brink. Without sanctuaries—and an aggressive effort to eliminate the invaders—the namesake of the Aztec god of death may soon follow the dog-headed deity into oblivion.
Sep 9, 2008
Penguins may be waddling closer to protected status under the Endangered Species Act, now that a judge has told federal regulators to determine whether the aquatic birds are in danger of extinction.
The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service must say by Dec. 19 whether 10 species of penguin should be listed under the act, U.S. District Court Judge Ricardo Urbina ruled yesterday in federal court in Washington, D.C. The settlement could affect the emperor, southern rockhopper, northern rockhopper, Fiordland crested, erect-crested, macaroni, white-flippered, yellow-eyed, African, and Humboldt penguins.
“Right now penguins are marching towards extinction due to the impacts of global warming,” Shaye Wolf, a seabird biologist with the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a press release. “Protecting penguins under the Endangered Species Act is an essential step toward saving them.”
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