The Environment

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  Conservationist Move To Protect Pint-Sized Animals May Ruin Businesses In The WestFebruary 27, 2009 22:35 Haven't businesses had enough protection for the last 8 years?

It's cute, it's furry and some conservationists say it may soon be extinct because of global warming. But should the American pika be placed on the endangered species list?

Yes it should, says Shaye Wolf, a biologist with the nonprofit Center for Biological Diversity. The center has sued the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife to grant endangered species status to the pika, a runty relative of the rabbit that lives in the rocky areas of the Northwest.

The rodent-sized creature has thick fur and is unable to survive in temperatures much warmer than 80 degrees.

"The things that we need to do to protect the pika will also protect the air we breathe, the water we drink, our own quality of life and improve our economy," Wolf says.
  Salazar Puts Coastal Drilling Plans On HoldFebruary 10, 2009 18:45 President Obama is shelving a plan announced in the final days of the Bush administration to open much of the U.S. coast to oil drilling, including 130 million acres off California's coast from Mendocino to San Diego.

On Tuesday, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar ordered the plan be put on hold while his agency conducts a 180-day review of the country's offshore oil and gas resources. Salazar's critical comments about the plan signaled that the new administration will seek to rewrite it if not completely scrap it.

The Bush proposal "opened the possibility of oil and gas leases along the entire Eastern seaboard, portions of offshore California and the far eastern Gulf of Mexico with almost no consultation from states, industry or community input," Salazar said at a news conference in Washington. "In my view it was a headlong rush of the worst kind."

He said his agency will hold four public meetings over the next few months - one in Alaska, one on the West Coast, one along the East Coast and one near the Gulf Coast - to hear from governors, local officials, industry groups and environmentalists about the plan.

Salazar did not directly address the bigger question: Whether Obama will seek to renew the three-decade-old presidential moratorium on drilling off most of the East and West coasts, which Bush lifted last July amid growing public anger over soaring gas prices.

He echoed comments made by Obama during last year's campaign that the administration would be open to more offshore drilling, but only as part of a broader energy policy focused on producing more renewable energy from wind, solar, geothermal as well as tidal and wave power.

"For those of you from the oil and gas industry ... I pledge to you that you will have a seat at the table," Salazar said. "We need your expertise and your resources as we move forward. But as President Obama has said and as I believe ... a drill-only energy approach, onshore and offshore, is not enough."

The congressional moratorium on offshore drilling also expired last year, and the Bush administration moved quickly to forward a lease sale plan that would open areas off most of the U.S. coast, from the Gulf of Maine to Chesapeake Bay and the Outer Banks of North Carolina to the Gulf of Mexico, plus the Pacific Coast. The plan also opened new areas of Alaska's Bristol Bay and the Arctic Ocean.
  Agency Denies Request To Protect 165 SpeciesFebruary 05, 2009 19:24 The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has turned down a request to provide endangered species protections for 165 plants and animals -- including 85 that live in Utah -- but says another 39 might qualify.
The agency responded Thursday to a petition by WildEarth Guardians, an environmental group that asked in 2007 that more than 200 species be protected under the Endangered Species Act.
Included in the request were beetles, flowers, snails, fish and other species.
Diane Katzenberger, an agency spokeswoman in Denver, says petitions to list species are supposed to offer detailed information about why they should be federally protected. That didn't happen for 165 included in the original request.