Drought worsens, conditions ‘exceptional’ in a third of California

Los Angeles Times

A third of California is now suffering from the worst drought conditions, according to the National Weather Service, which says the situation has gotten worse over the last week, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Lawsuit seeks protection for Kirtland's snake

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) — An environmental group that works to expand the federal government's lineup of protected plants and animals filed a lawsuit Tuesday on behalf of a Midwestern wetland snake.

The Center for Biological Diversity wants the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to add the Kirtland's snake to the endangered and threatened species list. The agency missed a deadline four years ago for making a decision on the reptile, said Collette Adkins Giese, an attorney and biologist with the nonprofit organization.

"This is an extremely imperiled animal," Giese said. "We're running out of time to save it."

Kansas governor squawks over prairie chicken suit

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Environmental groups filed a lawsuit Tuesday seeking to force the federal government into more aggressive steps to preserve the lesser prairie chicken, but Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback decried the litigation as an attempt to shut down agriculture and energy production in his state.

The lawsuit was filed in federal court in Washington by Defenders of Wildlife, the Center for Biological Diversity and WildEarth Guardians. They argue that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's decision in March to list the lesser prairie chicken as a threatened species isn't adequate to restore its declining population and the bird should be listed as endangered.

The groups contend listing the bird as threatened still allows hundreds to be killed each year. The five states affected by the listing — Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas — had fewer than 18,000 lesser prairie chickens in 2013, down almost 50 percent from 2012.

Bill to probe effect of algae on fish goes to Obama

The Hill

The Senate has given final approval and sent to President Obama a measure requiring a report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on the impact of algae and hypoxia on specific bodies of water, The Hill reports.

Drought biting: Lake Mead drops, Phoenix and Tucson face future water cuts

The New York Times

With Lake Mead predicted to fall to its lowest levels since the reservoir was first filled in 1938, the Central Arizona Project warns that Phoenix and Tucson have a sizeable chance of seeing cuts to their water supply in the next decade unless users from the Colorado River system reduce their consumption, The New York Times reports.

Latest federal plan for Columbia salmon challenged

GRANTS PASS, Ore. (AP) — Conservation groups and salmon advocates have challenged the Obama administration's latest plan for making Columbia Basin dams safe for salmon.

The challenge was filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Portland against the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Fisheries Service, which oversees salmon protection, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which operate the dams. It was the seventh challenge since the lawsuit was originally filed in 2001.

Joseph Bogaard of Save Our Wild Salmon said the plan is "virtually indistinguishable" from the one overturned by a federal court three years ago.

Obama to create world's largest ocean preserve

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama announced plans Tuesday to create the largest ocean preserve in the world by banning drilling, fishing and other activities in a massive stretch of the Pacific Ocean in a move to protect fragile marine life.

Using presidential authority that doesn't require new action from Congress, Obama proposed to expand the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument, which President George W. Bush designated to protect unique species and rare geological formations. The waters are all considered U.S. territory because they surround an array of remote, mostly uninhabited islands that the U.S. controls between Hawaii and American Samoa.

IMF drops 2014 US growth estimate, Lagarde mentions climate change

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. economy is poised to accelerate after a dismal start to the year even though the job market won't return to full employment until 2017.

That was the forecast offered Monday in a report by the International Monetary Fund.

The IMF noted that steady job gains and other recent data suggest that the economy is rebounding. Employers have added 200,000-plus jobs for four straight months, and the unemployment rate has fallen to 6.3 percent. Auto sales and factory activity are increasing.

Officials: Wildlife products may finance terrorism

NEW YORK (AP) — The U.S. government is stepping up its crackdown on the illegal trafficking of wild animal products across the nation's borders, saying some may be linked to terrorists, federal officials said Monday.

"Poaching in Africa is funding terrorist groups," U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman told a news conference at Kennedy International Airport.

He said such illegal trade is a threat to global security because it's driven by criminal elements, including terrorists using profits from items such as rhinoceros horns and elephant tusks to finance their activities.

Feds give $102M in storm prevention to 11 states

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — Eleven states in the eastern U.S. will share $102.7 million in grants from the federal government to protect against future storms, with the greatest amount of funded projects in New Jersey and New York.

The U.S. Department of the Interior's Hurricane Sandy Coastal Resilience Grant Program will fund a variety of projects to protect communities at risk from future big storms like the October 2012 event that pummeled the East Coast.


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