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Fish and Wildlife Service

Last week marked the 5th appearance of Endangered Species Day. Although young as annual commemoration days go, Endangered Species Day draws attention to an age-old countdown that has been accelerated by human development at a frightening rate. In the U.S. alone, more than 500 species have gone extinct since the Mayflower docked.

When you hear “Wolverine!,” the first thing you think of is:

Right photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/existentialhero/ / CC BY-NC 2.0.

We’re not keeping score, but if we were, we’re guessing that A) Wolverine of the X-Men, and B) the University of Michigan’s mascot would be winning handily over C) Gulo gulo (common name: wolverine).

<Update: Earthjustice attorney Greg Loarie said he is contemplating challenging the decision of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service not to list the pika>. Warming temperatures have sent the tiny pika scrambling for its life to the nation's highest peaks—but, it may take the nation's courts to save it.

Yesterday (Feb. 4), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service refused to wrap the pika in the protections of the Endangered Species Act, even though it has been driven from most of its historic range by climate change-linked conditions and clings to existence in the cooler air of mountain tops.

It took an Earthjustice lawsuit to make FWS even look at the pika's plight. Earthjustice attorney Greg Loarie reacted to the agency's decision:

We've already lost almost half of the pika that once inhabited the Great Basin, and scientists tell us that pika will be gone from 80 percent of their entire range in the United States by the end of the century. To conclude that this species is not threatened by climate change is an impossible gamble that we can't afford.

Wolf hunting began this morning in Idaho, as a federal judge continues to consider an urgent request by Earthjustice and allies to halt the hunting. A young female was reportedly the first wolf killed.

Earthjustice attorney Doug Honnold argued Monday for an injunction to stall hunting in both Idaho and Montana as part of a lawsuit seeking to restore protection of the wolves under the Endangered Species Act. Protections were removed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Idaho is allowing 255 wolves to be killed, and Montana 75.

 

As Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the water buffaloes try to use our drought crisis to pave the way for diverting more precious Sacramento River water to Los Angeles and, especially, San Joaquin Valley growers with their lovely subsidies, some of the same interests are asking Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to empanel the God Squad.

The Squad, formally known as the Endangered Species Committee, can override the Endangered Species Act in time of great emergency, and the Pacific Legal Foundation argues that the biological opinions that order more water for salmon and smelt, constitute just such an emergency for agriculture. The salmon opinion, in fact, says that not only are protected salmon at risk from not enough water--but Puget Sound killer whales are,too, since the salmon are an important part of theiir diet. PLF has its work cut out for it.

What does it take to peel back the abstractions of email, press reports, and legal briefs and really see some of what is at stake in Earthjustice's work? It's as easy as getting away from the computer, out of airports, and off the interstate.

Over the last couple of weeks I was lucky enough to travel across the Great Plains and the Rockies. Everywhere I went, I saw our country wrestling with the big challenges of energy supply and climate change, biodiversity and wildlands protection, and the human consequences of poorly enforced environmental standards.

One of the grandest victories scored by environmental types in California has been the battle to save Mono Lake at the eastern foot of the Sierra Nevada. Owens Lake, to the south, was obliterated by users in the Los Angeles basin, who simply appropriated virtually all the water that once flowed from the mountains into the lake (the easiest and most entertaining way to brush up on this story is to see the movie Chinatown).

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About the Earthjustice Blog

unEARTHED is a forum for the voices and stories of the people behind Earthjustice's work. The views and opinions expressed in this blog do not necessarily represent the opinion or position of Earthjustice or its board, clients, or funders. Learn more about Earthjustice.