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Without Urgent Action, Warn Wildlife Experts, One-Third of US Species at Risk of Extinction

"This loss of wildlife has been sneaking up on us but is now like a big tsunami that is going to hit us."

fisher

"Fisher (Pekania pennanti), a forest-dwelling member of the weasel family, was extirpated from Washington State by the mid-1900s. Reintroduction of fisher to the state, identified as a priority in its wildlife action plan, began in 2008." (Photo: Paul Bannick/Reversing America's Wildlife Crisis)

On the heels of a U.N.-funded study that warned about the massive consequences of a worldwide decline in biodiversity, U.S. conservation groups are raising alarms about new estimates that as many as one-third of American species are vulnerable to extinction.

"This loss of wildlife has been sneaking up on us but is now like a big tsunami that is going to hit us," Thomas Lovejoy, a biologist at George Mason University, told the Guardian. Lovejoy, who was consulted on the report, said that it "captures the overall degradation of American nature over recent decades, rather than little snapshots."

Reversing America's Wildlife Crisis (pdf)—a collaborative project from the National Wildlife Federation, American Fisheries Society, and The Wildlife Society—notes that across the United States, more than 150 species are already extinct, some 500 are "missing in action" (meaning they are also possibly extinct), and "state wildlife agencies have identified nearly 12,000 species in need of conservation action."

The conservation groups' report details how habitat loss and degredation, wildlife diseases, invasive species, pollution, and the climate crisis are threatening thousands of species, and concludes that reversing the nationwide wildlife crisis will "require a dramatic increase in funding for proactive and collaborative conservation."

"Despite the dire conditions of America's wildlife, the research is clear that collaborative conservation actions can make a difference, and can ensure that the nation's species not only survive but thrive."
—conservation groups' report

"Despite the dire conditions of America's wildlife," the report declares, "the research is clear that collaborative conservation actions can make a difference, and can ensure that the nation's species not only survive but thrive."

The report asserts that "congressionally mandated state wildlife action plans offer a science-based blueprint for sustaining and recovering the nation's fish and wildlife heritage."

Specifically, the conservation groups are advocating for the Recovering America's Wildlife Act (H.R.4647). The legislation would allocate $1.3 billion annually for state fish and wildlife agencies to implement wildlife action plans, which outline how the agencies—"together with their federal, tribal, local, and private partners"—plan to pursue "effective conservation tools and actions for stabilizing and recovering targeted species and populations."

In addition to detailing the mounting threats to U.S. species and calling for increased federal funding to bolster state conversation efforts, the report shares some success stories.

"Recovering wildlife is a win-win-win: strengthening our economy, improving public health, and making communities more resilient."
—Collin O'Mara, National Wildlife Federation

In the late 1970s, for example, Canadian lynxes had completely disappeared from Colorado—but since the state's Parks and Wildlife agency reintroduced the species into the San Juan Mountains in 1999, the regional population has grown as high as 250 cats.

While conservationists have launched similar initiatives to save New England's cottontail rabbits and wood bison in Alaska, "fish, birds, mammals, reptiles, and invertebrates are all losing ground," National Wildlife Federation president and CEO Collin O'Mara said in a statement. "America's wildlife are in crisis and now is the time for unprecedented on-the-ground collaboration."

"We owe it to our children and grandchildren to prevent these species from vanishing from the earth," O'Mara added. "Recovering wildlife is a win-win-win: strengthening our economy, improving public health, and making communities more resilient."

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