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Various animal species gather at a watering hole in South Africa's Mokala National Park on October 28, 2016. (Photo: Bernard Dupont/Flickr/cc)

'Half-Measures Are No Longer Enough': Haaland Urged to Sign Order to Halt Extinction Crisis

"The United States can restore its position as a global leader in conservation and prevent many of these extinctions, but it must take swift action that matches the extent and scale of the problem."

Brett Wilkins

Noting that a million species around the world face extinction in the near future, more than 100 conservation groups on Monday implored U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland to issue a secretarial order "that sets concrete action" to "stem the extinction crisis and restore abundant wildlife and plant populations" worldwide.

"Our leaders need to commit to doing everything they can to save life on Earth."

"The massive challenge of confronting the global wildlife extinction crisis requires the United States to take bold, transformative action," the groups wrote in a letter led by the Center for Biological Diversity.

"The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently made a heartbreaking announcement that it is proposing to remove 22 animals and a plant from the endangered species list because of extinction," the letter continued. "An additional one million animal and plant species here and around the world are facing extinction within the coming decades. Millions more are declining."

"The United States can restore its position as a global leader in conservation and prevent many of these extinctions, but it must take swift action that matches the extent and scale of the problem," the signers wrote.

The proposed secretarial order includes the following steps the letter's signatories say will avert extinction:

  • Restoring healthy ecosystems to address habitat loss and degradation by establishing new protected areas, expanding existing ones, and increasing connectivity between them;
  • Recovering endangered species and rebuilding populations by using emergency authority to protect any species where there is a "significant risk" to its wellbeing, and implementing protections for all other animals and plants that warrant safeguarding under the Endangered Species Act no later than the end of 2023;
  • Accounting for climate change in the recovery of endangered species by requiring the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to update or develop recovery plans that integrate greenhouse gas emissions reductions to avoid extinctions; and
  • Cracking down on the global wildlife trade.

"This is a pivotal moment for the Biden administration," Stephanie Kurose, a senior policy specialist at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement. "We're watching so many unique animals and plants disappear before our very eyes. Policy half-measures are no longer enough. Our leaders need to commit to doing everything they can to save life on Earth."

"Secretary Haaland cares deeply about protecting our natural heritage," she added, "so we're hopeful that she'll do the right thing and sign this secretarial order."

However, conservationists lamented the conspicuous absence of the United States from last week's United Nations Biodiversity Conference in China, as well as the fact that the U.S. is the only nation on Earth that hasn't ratified the Convention on Biological Diversity.

"It reinforces the notion," said one critic, "that the U.S. is a fair-weather partner when it comes to environmental conservation, including issues of climate change."

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