Center for Biological Diversity - 2016: A Year of Lifesaving Victories
An Animal Rights Article from


Center for Biological Diversity
December 2016

la jolla seals

This year is ending on a tough note after the election, but we're pausing for a moment to reflect on some of the Center for Biological Diversity's important accomplishments of 2016 - including the protection of dozens of species and millions of acres, putting a stop to numerous fossil fuel auctions on public lands, and securing vital new protections from the seafood industry for whales and dolphins. We also celebrated a huge late-year victory as President Obama banned offshore oil and gas drilling across 115 million acres of the Arctic.

These accomplishments are also yours -- we couldn't do what we do without your help. The fight ahead will be difficult, there's no doubt about that. And we'll be here every single day of 2017 to protect wildlife, wild places, and the right of all people and creatures to a livable future.

We're grateful to have you at our side.

New Protections for 32 Endangered Species

In 2016, as a result of our remarkably productive 757 species agreement, the Center successfully obtained federal protection -- and a new lease on life -- for no fewer than 32 species, bringing the total protected so far to 176. These included numerous urgently imperiled species in Hawaii (plants, birds and insects) and five species in Samoa (two birds, two snails and a bat). An elusive orchid was protected in the Southeast after 41 years on the waiting list.

We also secured protection for 2.5 million acres of critical habitat, including 1.8 million for Sierra Nevada amphibians. Meanwhile our work to save America's jaguars hit the big time: More than 20 million people saw the video we released of "El Jefe" earlier this year.

Our legal work overturned a decision denying protection to American wolverines -- severely threatened by climate change -- and forced Mendocino County, Calif., to cancel its contract with Wildlife Services, a federal program that kills millions of animals every year.

Curbing Climate Change

The Center's relentless pressure on the Environmental Protection Agency to take action to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from aircraft was rewarded this year when the agency, after almost a decade of delay, at last officially acknowledged that pollution from airplanes disrupts the climate and endangers human welfare.

The Center has led the fight to prevent the Bureau of Land Management from opening up more than a million acres of public land in Central California to fracking; this year a federal judge ruled that the agency had failed to analyze the risks of fracking, meaning that a 2013 moratorium on oil and gas leasing on California public lands -- resulting from a previous Center case -- will remain in force.

Without this win, more than one-third of the 130 federally protected animal species in California would have been jeopardized by fracking.

Reining in Sprawling Cities

The Center won a landmark victory over sprawl this year when we blocked the massive Newport "Banning Ranch" development near Los Angeles. The project would have destroyed one of the largest still-open private parcels of land on the Southern California coast to build about 900 homes, a hotel and shops on an Orange County oilfield overlooking the Pacific Ocean -- a crucial refuge for wildlife, including burrowing owls. Thanks to mobilization efforts by the Center and our allies, California's Coastal Commission gave a thumbs-down to the proposal.

We also successfully challenged a Bay Area project to widen Highway 1 that threatened San Francisco garter snakes and California red-legged frogs; the state transportation agency now must consult with the Fish and Wildlife Service about potential harm to endangered species.

Preserving Our Public Lands

We catalyzed the national "Keep It in the Ground" movement in 2016, along with indigenous leaders and climate, health and public-lands activists, and led more than 250 groups in filing a landmark legal petition calling on the Obama administration to halt all new fossil fuel leasing on federal lands and to expand the current moratorium on new coal leases so that it applies to all fossil fuels. This movement protested nearly every auction of public lands to the fossil fuel industry.

In California we helped secure designation of three new national monuments: Mojave Trails, Sand to Snow and Castle Mountains. We helped build strong public support for designating the Greater Grand Canyon Heritage National Monument, and in southern Arizona we fiercely defended the habitat of one of only two known U.S. jaguars from a massive copper mine.

Slowing Population Growth, Speeding Up Solutions

Under the umbrella of our recently launched Wild Energy campaign, aimed at advancing renewables policy and solutions that help wildlife, our Population and Sustainability program published a major report this year on state-level solar policy. The report, which was a thorough analysis of the status of solar in all 50 states, made concrete and practical recommendations for the 10 sunniest states lacking policies to promote solar.

We launched our Amazon Shine campaign to push the retail giant to adopt solar on its fulfillment centers; gave away 75,000 free Endangered Species Condoms to highlight the connection between unsustainable human population and wildlife extinction; and helped lead a diverse coalition demanding just, sustainable food production by the nation's largest restaurant company.

Human Health and the Fight Against Toxics

This year in California and Oregon, we won major victories to halt destructive suction dredge mining in salmon habitat. We obtained legal settlements forcing states across the nation to reduce dangerous soot and ozone pollution, which could save thousands of lives yearly.

We argued the most ambitious case ever challenging the EPA's refusal to consider the impacts of old pesticides on endangered species, and we published a groundbreaking report finding that more than two-thirds of new pesticide products approved by the EPA over the past six years have dangerous synergistic qualities, making them more toxic to wildlife. We followed up with a petition, litigation on a new pesticide approval, and a letter from groups representing 5 million people urging the agency to evaluate the effects of synergy on farmworkers and pollinators and to reject dangerous products.

Saving Our Oceans

We secured a moratorium on dangerous offshore fracking along California's coast this year and successfully defended protections for Arctic bearded seals and polar bear critical habitat imperiled by climate change. We also mobilized and supported a movement to end new oil and gas leasing in the Gulf of Mexico and helped secure a landmark decision by President Obama to ban offshore oil and gas drilling across 115 million acres of the Arctic.

A groundbreaking study coauthored by the Center's Ocean Scientist Abel Valdivia addressed, and for the most part settled, a debate within the scientific community about the relative importance of local versus global causes of declining coral reefs -- showing that global climate change is far more important in reefs' decline than any local forces. And following our 2014 lawsuit, we secured a rule banning U.S. import of seafood from countries whose fisheries kill more whales and dolphins than American standards allow.

Going Global

Following the opening of our first foreign office in 2015, in La Paz, Mexico, the Center expanded our international work significantly in 2016. Our advocacy prompted Mexico to ban dangerous gillnet gear that entangled 2,000 sea turtles annually off Baja California Sur. And we secured much-needed trade protections under the international wildlife treaty (CITES) for pangolins, small, scaly anteaters that are the world's most trafficked mammals; chambered nautiluses, the beautiful, spiral-shelled mollusks being collected around the globe to decorate walls and shelves; and African lions.

We also saw our petition to protect Africa's elephants as two different species move forward this spring, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decided the animals may warrant protection under the Endangered Species Act.

Return to Animal Rights Articles
Read more at Environmental Articles