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The Edwards Dam is removed on the Kennebec River in Maine. NRCM

By Tara Lohan

More than 1,000 people lined the banks of the Kennebec River in Augusta, Maine, on July 1, 1999. They were there to witness a rebirth.

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A Chinese sturgeon, one of a handful on display, is seen at the Chinese Sturgeon Aquarium in Hong Kong. Shankar S. / Flickr

By Jason Bittel

More than 16 feet long and weighing up to 1,100 pounds, Chinese sturgeons are among the world's largest freshwater fish. They're big and they're ancient. According to fossil records, they've been swimming China's Yangtze, Qiantang, Minjiang and Pearl Rivers since the time of the dinosaurs.

And now they're on the brink of oblivion, having disappeared from all of their former range except for small portions of the Yangtze.

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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Terry Whittaker / WWF

This year's Living Planet Report shows that populations of animals—including mammals, birds, fish, reptiles and amphibians—plummeted by 60 percent between 1970 and 2014. But those living in freshwater are experiencing a far more drastic decline: 83% since 1970. It's a sobering statistic and one tied directly to the ever-increasing pressures that people are putting on natural habitats.

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The ailing orca whale J50 was declared "missing and now presumed dead" by the Center for Whale Research Thursday, after a three-day search by the organization in the waters between Washington state and Canada failed to locate her.

She would be the third Southern Resident killer whale to die since June, bringing their numbers down to 74.

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Dried ground of the Swar Chaung dam after water level decreased from the spillway collapse. YE AUNG THU / AFP / Getty Images

A dam collapsed in Myanmar's central Bago region Wednesday following heavy monsoon rains, displacing tens of thousands and killing at least four, as AFP reported that ministry officials confirmed Friday.

"According to the information we got as of this morning, four people were killed and three went missing during the floods," Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement director Phyu Lei Lei Tun said, according to AFP.

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An Indian man carries a basket of bananas next to houses immersed in flood waters in Ernakulam district of Kochi, in the Indian state of Kerala on Aug. 10. AFP / Getty Images

Flooding in India's southern state of Kerala has killed 39 and left more than 60,000 homeless as of Monday, The Times of India reported, in what India Today called the region's "worst flood crisis" since 1924.

Kerala, a popular tourist destination, has already seen heavy flooding this monsoon season, but the most recent inundation began last Wednesday, relief commissioner P.H. Kurian told CNN Sunday. The rains were so heavy that they forced authorities to open the shutters of a large number of reservoirs Friday to relieve pressure and prevent collapses.

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Residents rest in front of a flooded establishment at a village in Sanamxai, Attapeu province on July 26. Rescuers battled fresh rains on July 26 to reach scores of people still missing after a dam collapse in southern Laos that unleashed a torrent of water, washing away whole villages and killing at least 26 people. NHAC NGUYEN / AFP / Getty Images

A dam in Laos collapsed Monday following heavy rains, killing 26, leaving thousands homeless and confirming worries expressed by environmental groups over the safety of hydroelectric development in one of Asia's poorest countries, Al Jazeera reported.

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The bald eagle was officially listed as an endangered species in 1967. By 2007, it had recovered. Carl Chapman / CC BY 2.0

Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives announced on Thursday a series of bills aimed at profoundly gutting the Endangered Species Act, including provisions making it almost impossible for imperiled species to gain protection and giving states that often oppose endangered species protection veto power over those decisions.

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Tapanuli orangutan. Tim Laman / CC BY 4.0

Less than a year ago, scientists announced an exciting discovery—a new species of orangutan, called the Tapanuli orangutan, living in Batang Toru in Sumatra, Indonesia, The Conversation reported.

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Fish Barges at Lower Granite Dam, one of the four Lower Snake River dams Earthjustice is fighting to remove. Northwest Power and Conservation Council / CC BY 2.0

A small group led by Republicans in Congress spearheaded a bill that passed in the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday. If the bill becomes law, it could lead to the eventual extinction of wild salmon in the Columbia and Snake rivers—iconic species in the Pacific Northwest that the federal government is required by law to protect.

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Sockeye salmon in Little Redfish Lake Creek, Sawtooth National Recreation Area, Idaho. Neil Ever Osborne / Save Our Wild Salmon

The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has sided with almost a dozen conservation and fishing organizations, the Nez Perce Tribe and the State of Oregon in their efforts to improve wild salmon and steelhead survival as the fish migrate to the Pacific Ocean.

Almost a year ago, in April 2017, U.S. District Judge Michael Simon ruled that federal dam managers on the Columbia and Snake Rivers have to meet higher spill requirements in the spring when baby salmon are migrating to the ocean—meaning they must allow more water to flow over the dams between April and mid-June, to help facilitate safe passage for young salmon.

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