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Baltimore mourns Rep. Elijah Cummings, who 'Fought for All.' Also on our rundown: Rick Perry headed for door as Energy Secretary; and EPA holds its only hearing on rolling back methane regulations.

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While controversy swirls at the White House, Chicago teachers go on strike and Democratic primary contender retired Admiral Joe Sestak walks 105 miles across New Hampshire.

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Seeking Pika Protection in California

August 21, 2008

Sacramento, CA - A tiny cousin of the rabbit family is being compared to the polar bear in the latest debate over endangered species and climate change. This week, two lawsuits were filed in California urging federal and state agencies to protect the pika under their Endangered Species Acts. That would mean the state Fish & Wildlife Commission would have to reverse an earlier decision on the matter.

Don Grayson, a professor who studies the pika, says the problem is that not all pika populations are affected.

"With a species like pikas, they're doing okay in the Sierra Nevada and doing okay in the Rocky Mountains, but they're truly endangered in other places. Where do you draw the line on making a decision about whether to list them or not? It's the lower-elevation pika populations in Eastern California that are most likely to be in trouble."

Grayson explains as temperatures climb, pikas migrate higher into the mountains for a colder climate, and in some parts of the West, it's no longer cold enough for their survival. The California Fish and Wildlife Commission had decided not to list pikas as endangered because they're still found at those higher elevations.

The cases calling for protection and reversal of that decision were filed by Earthjustice on behalf of the Center for Biological Diversity.

Greg Loarie, the attorney on the case for Earthjustice, says the federal suit is a last resort after getting no response to a request made almost a year ago.

"This is an indicator species for global warming, and what the scientists are telling us is that if we lose the pika, we can expect that to be the first of many extinctions driven by climate change."

Loarie says some types of pika have already become extinct in the Great Basin because of their inability to handle high temperatures.

Chris Thomas/Don Mathisen, Public News Service - CA