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We Need Our Mighty Rivers to Save Salmon…And Whales

Making a Connection: Salmon as Networker

I have been watching Cosmos a lot. It’s got wide appeal in my house–children and adults are equally enchanted. Cosmos reminds me of our connection to all living things–all of us born of stardust. I hadn’t thought about that in a long time.

Most of us don’t dwell on the mysteries of the universe, but they matter. Our interconnectedness, in particular, matters for people–and for wildlife out there in those wild places. Some species are more linked than others. In Malcolm Gladwell‘s world, we’d call them “connectors.” In science, they’re called “keystone species.” These animals, and even some plants, have a large impact on the creatures surrounding them–so large that the habitat would be fundamentally different without them. 

Salmon are amazing connectors; they connect to more than 190 plants and animals. So when salmon go missing, it’s like the life of the party has suddenly disappeared–everyone feels it. It may not surprise you to learn that salmon are an important food for orcas, sharks, sea lions, seals, otters, and bears.

But did you know that birds, amphibians, and even insects consume salmon carcasses and eggs? Salmon are so connected that they benefit plants, even vineyard grapes.

How, you ask? It’s all about their journey.

Pacific salmon are marathon swimmers–beginning in the briskly cold freshwaters of the Snake, Klamath, and Sacramento Rivers, and other rivers and their tributaries. From these rivers, they spill into the open expanse of the Pacific Ocean. Some go on to swim all the way to Japan.

Near the top of the food chain, salmon eat and absorb nitrogen from creatures unlucky enough to be lunch. The nitrogen in these ocean-dwelling animals is unique. Scientists call it “marine-derived nitrogen,” or (MDN for the techies at heart). And when salmon swim all the way back to our roaring rivers of the West, scientists can track the impact of salmon by this special marker–the MDN–in other animals and plants.

When a salmon dies, that marker works its way through the habitat–from the colossal grizzly to the little bug. Bears and wolves fish the salmon out. They carry the carcasses further upstream. Parts of the carcasses are often left behind for other animals and insects to scavenge. The animals that eat salmon also then do what animals do in the woods… and, as a result, this nitrogen gets absorbed by the soil and works its way into algae, mosses, herbs, shrubs, and the royalty of plants–ancient trees.

Scientists are discovering remarkable things. When more salmon reach their spawning grounds, the MDN, not surprisingly, gets more widely dispersed into the watershed. This, in turn, creates wild places that are healthier and more diverse–more bugs, more birds, more plants. And playing the role of Sherlock Holmes, scientists can track the impact of MDN from tree core samples to an otter’s whiskers.

But many salmon are becoming an endangered species. What happens when salmon disappear from these ecosystems and the ocean? Very bad things. Just ask the endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales or orcas (Orcinus orca), which live in Puget Sound and the Pacific Ocean from Southeast Alaska to California. These whales are going hungry, and the impacts mean life or death for individuals and for the population as a whole.

Learn more about salmon from our member group Save Our Wild Salmon and stay tuned for Part 2 of this blog, “Hungry, Hungry Whales.”

 

Read the post at Huffingtonpost.com

The Heavy Price of Trophy Hunting

The world came together last week in a rare moment of solidarity following the abhorrent slaughter of what was, by all accounts, a very popular lion. When the now-infamous dentist from Minnesota unleashed the bolt from his crossbow, he ignited a global fury by taking down this beloved lion – though it required another 40 hours of pursuit before the dentist finally found the badly wounded Cecil and ended his life with a rifle. Officials in both the United States and Zimbabwe are seeking the offending trophy hunter for questioning, and calls for indictments and policy changes rose out of the online outcry. Our own petition calls for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to reconsider exempting some trophy hunters from what would otherwise be a solid ban on importing African lion trophies after a proposed listing is final.

Cecil’s death was strikingly similar to the killing of another beloved animal closer to home. In December 2012, a hunter shot and killed what was then Yellowstone’s most popular wolf. Scientists studying her knew her as 832F, while others called her the ‘06 Female or ’06. She was a six-year-old, radio-collared alpha female from the Lamar Canyon Pack that roamed Yellowstone National Park.

06 Female (832F)  Photo credit Jimmy Jones Photography

06 Female (832F)
Photo credit Jimmy Jones Photography

The Wyoming trophy hunter that killed 832F was, by many accounts, acting legally, as Wyoming then allowed the hunting of wolves. In 2014, Wyoming was ordered by a federal judge to again protect them under the Endangered Species Act. Wolves in that state, unlike those in neighboring Montana and Idaho, are currently fully protected under the Act.

While the killer of ’06 may have been acting within the law (though there is some question as to whether he artificially and illegally lured the wolf out of the safe confines of Yellowstone National Park), he was certainly acting against the public interest. Like Cecil, ’06 was the subject of ongoing scientific study and was treasured by wildlife enthusiasts. For as little as $18 (the cost of a “wolf license” for Wyoming residents), this trophy hunter was able to deprive the rest of the public from continuing to enjoy the benefits of ’06.

Beyond the loss of scientific benefit in continued study, there is a clear economic cost to allowing trophy hunters to satisfy their own wants by taking animals like ‘06. Wolf-related tourism brings in $35.5 million annually to Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana. High profile wolves like ’06 are key drivers of that spending. Like Cecil, she was a park favorite that drew photographers and wildlife enthusiasts who wanted only to see her.

Also like Cecil, she served a very valuable role in her ecosystem. Apex predators like lions and wolves facilitate balance by preventing other animals from overgrazing and by keeping these same populations healthy. When wolves were brought back to Yellowstone in 1995, they changed the behavior patterns of herbivores, allowing plant life to regenerate and bringing benefits across the environmental spectrum. Lions serve a similar function, keeping their ecosystems healthy by preying on ungulates, and keeping those herds and their shared habitat healthy.

Tragically, these two killings bear another similarity in their immediate impact on existing social structures. Cecil’s killing will bring the ascension of another lion who will likely kill Cecil’s twelve cubs. Scientists call this the perturbation effect. When a dominant male lion is killed, other adult male members of his coalition and their offspring are often killed by the successor to his crown.

The death of ’06 was equally devastating to her pack. The social structure of the Lamar Pack was torn apart following the killing of ’06 and another wolf, 754M, a beta male in the pack, who was also ‘06’s mate’s brother. The mate of ‘06, 755M (754M’s brother), abandoned the pack following the killings and left the area to set out on his own. A previously healthy, thriving pack was upended and has never fully recovered.

The killing of ’06, like the killing of Cecil, was not just the killing of a lone animal. Their social structures were ripped apart. Economic, environmental, and scientific benefits were sacrificed. Hearts were broken.

These killings are preventable. In Cecil’s case, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service can quickly act to close the U.S. market for “trophies” like Cecil’s by finalizing proposed protections under the Endangered Species Act. African lions have declined by as much as 60 percent in just three decades. If we don’t act, they could be extinct by 2050. In addition to issuing its final rule protecting lions, the Service should reconsider its planned exemption for the import of lion trophies from countries it deems to be engaging in “scientifically sound management.” Trophy hunters kill as many as 600 African lions annually. That is roughly a 2 percent loss every year, spread disproportionately onto healthy, adult male lions favored by trophy hunters. USFWS should immediately remove that exemption from their proposed listing to help lions recover and to prevent future lions like Cecil from being killed.

The Service should also act to prevent the killing of the next ’06. Her death illustrates the economic, environmental, and social costs of trophy hunting of still-recovering gray wolves. The pending USFWS proposal to remove Endangered Species Act protections from most of the gray wolves in the lower 48 states has been deemed unscientific and is widely opposed. Federal courts have found their efforts to delist Great Lakes wolves lacking and have ordered them protected.

Congress can help in two ways. First, members of Congress should oppose all attempts to legislatively delist wolves. Scientists, not politicians, should make decisions about endangered species protections. Congress should also quickly move to pass the Conserving Ecosystems by Ceasing the Importation of Large Animal Trophies (CECIL) Act, introduced last week by Senator Robert Menendez, D-NJ. This bill would ban the imports of trophies form lions and other at-risk species into the United States.

The Cecils and ‘06s of the world need these protections from trophy hunters. Congress and the USFWS should listen to the worldwide uproar around their deaths and work to protect remaining wolves and lions.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Punts on Red Wolf Recovery

For Immediate Release

For More Information Contact:

Wildlands Network: Susan Holmes, 202-329-1553

Conservationists Dismayed — Call upon USFWS to Renew Its Commitment to Restoring the Eastern Red Wolf

Durham, NC – (June 30, 2015) The Wildlands Network and the Endangered Species Coalition are dismayed by the United States Fish and Wildlife’s (USFWS) announcement today that it will suspend reintroductions for the Red Wolf Recovery Program. According to Ron Sutherland, Lead Biologist at the Wildlands Network “The program has already been suffering from a lack of resources including unfilled key staff positions and abandonment of important pup fostering efforts.” Leda Huta, Executive Director of the Endangered Species Coalition, added “The Agency has an obligation to recover these animals. Over 30 red wolves have been lost to gunshot and vehicle strikes since 2012, reducing the population by more than 15 percent.

The Service also announced that they will continue the highly controversial practice of allowing landowners to legally kill red wolves. Last week, the USFWS sanctioned the killing of a lactating red wolf mother by a landowner, a move that brings the estimated population of red wolves in the wild to less than 80 according the USFWS website. “Unintentional gunshot has been the leading cause of death for red wolves in recent years, and they will continue to sanction intentional gunshot.  This could have devastating effects on the population,” said Dr. Sutherland.

According to both Huta and Sutherland, the USFWS should take this opportunity to renew its commitment to the Red Wolf Recovery Program. This would include pup fostering, reintroduction of more animals into the wild, comprehensive landowner outreach on wolf co-existence and coyote sterilization.

“The red wolf needs a science-based path to recovery, including better protections from being killed unnecessarily by humans. The agency needs to commit more funding to this critical program and to educate landowners about the value of carnivores. It is worth reminding people that there are fewer red wolves in the wild than there are giant pandas, snow leopards or whooping cranes, which our own citizens work valiantly to protect, “ said Dr. Sutherland.

Sutherland explained further, “We now know that the ecological value of our carnivores in North America is more important than ever. We don’t expect the agencies to go this alone. We’ve just completed a scientific study and mapping efforts that tell us exactly where the key wildlife corridors are that can accommodate the endangered red wolf. Likewise the red wolf conservation community is already expanding its outreach strategies to reach residents and landowners.”

“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service should be actively reintroducing wolves to bolster the current population. We have over 200 animals in breeding facilities; what we need is more reintroduction sites and more outreach to explain why co-existing with wolves and other carnivores is not a choice, it’s a duty and an ecological necessity,” said Huta.

The news of the announcement is not expected to sit well with the more than 110,000 people who submitted comments in support of saving this highly endangered species.  According to Sutherland, “North Carolina residents and people around the world are already reeling from the reprehensible shooting of a lactating red wolf mother and will be disappointed by this news.”

North Carolina is home to the only wild population of red wolves. Red wolves bred in captivity were reintroduced on a North Carolina peninsula within their native range in the late 1980’s after red wolves were declared extinct in the wild. Once common from Massachusetts to Florida, hunting and loss of habitat decimated wild red wolf populations. Today they are the most endangered wolf species in the world and the only wolf species that is found solely in the United States.

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The Endangered Species Coalition’s mission is to stop the human-caused extinction of our nation’s at-risk species, to protect and restore their habitats, and to guide these fragile populations along the road to recovery. We work to safeguard and strengthen the Endangered Species Act, a law that enables every citizen to act on behalf of threatened and endangered wildlife – animals, fish, plants, and insects – and the wild places they call home.

Wildlands Network’s mission is to reconnect nature in North America, to realize a future where native animals and plants thrive amidst healthy wildlands and other habitats. Working together with networks of people protecting networks of land, the 25-year-old conservation organization focuses on reconnecting habitats along four continental-scale wildlife pathways called the Eastern, Western, Boreal and Pacific Wildways. Alongside this effort, they work to restore carnivores and other wide-ranging animals throughout their natural ranges

Panelists Urge House Committee to Maintain a Strong Endangered Species Act to Protect Wildlife on the Brink of Extinction

 

Contact: Tara Thornton, Endangered Species Coalition, (207) 504-2705, tthornton@endangered.org

               Derek Goldman, Endangered Species Coalition, (406) 721-3218, dgoldman@endangered.org

 

Washington, D.C. – Two wildlife biologists, a national religious leader and a Peregrine Falcon testified at a special briefing to the House Natural Resources Committee today to highlight the importance of the Endangered Species Act – our nation’s safety net for fish, plants and wildlife on the brink of extinction.

“The Endangered Species Act is our nation’s safety net for plants, fish and wildlife on the brink of extinction,” said Joe Roman, author, conservation biologist and researcher at the Gund Institute for Ecological Economics at the University of Vermont. “We owe it to our children and future generations to protect endangered species and the special places they call home.”

The briefing entitled, “The Endangered Species Act: Benefiting Landscapes, Wildlife and People,” occurred in the midst of several Congressional efforts to weaken protections for endangered species. Recent defense and appropriations bills in both the House and the Senate have contained “riders” that would remove, prohibit or delay Endangered Species Act protections from several imperiled species of wildlife, including the sage grouse and the gray wolf.

“The Endangered Species Act works to prevent imperiled wildlife from disappearing forever,” said Mary Minette, Director for Environmental Education and Advocacy at the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. “The diversity of life is a gift from God, and we are called to help endangered species and all of God’s creation survive and thrive now and in the future.”

The Congressional briefing sponsored by 12 conservation and scientific advocacy groups, including American Bird Conservancy, Audubon, Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, Earthjustice, Endangered Species Coalition, International Fund for Animal Welfare, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, Union of Concerned Scientists, Wildlands Network and WildEarth Guardians, was hosted in cooperation with Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva, Ranking Member of the Committee on Natural Resources.

“I am committed to working with my colleagues in Congress to ensure our nation’s imperiled wildlife are protected under the Endangered Species Act,” said Rep. Grijalva. “It’s unacceptable that certain Members of Congress are using their personal political agendas to undermine this bedrock environmental law. The relentless attack on the ESA – whether it’s attaching dangerous policy riders to funding bills or voting to safeguard industry profits over environmental protections – is out of step with the American public.”

According to 2011 public opinion poll, 84 percent of Americans support the Endangered Species Act, including strong majorities in all regions of the U.S. and across both major political party affiliations. More than 1,300 imperiled species of plants, fish and wildlife in the United States have been protected by the Endangered Species Act, and only ten have gone extinct since the Act became law, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Additionally, a study of 110 protected species found that 90 percent are recovering at the pace expected in their scientific recovery plans. Biologists have indicated that the task of recovering a species from near-extinction is a decades-long endeavor. The Peregrine Falcon for example, rebounded from near extinction in 1975 to several thousand breeding pair today. The falcon was declared recovered and delisted in 1999.

“The Endangered Species Act, one of the most powerful environmental laws globally, has directly prevented extinction of hundreds of species, such as the bald eagle,” said Cristina Eisenberg, lead scientist at Earthwatch, U.S.A and author of two books on carnivore ecology. “In this era of rapid environmental change and enormous threats to our natural resources, it is crucial for our wellbeing as a nation that we maintain the integrity of this law.”

 

Panelist Bios

 

Cristina Eisenberg is an ecologist and the Lead Scientist at Earthwatch, USA. Her ecological research focuses on wolves and fire in Rocky Mountain ecosystems. She has a master’s degree in conservation biology from Prescott College, and a PhD in Forestry and Wildlife from Oregon State University. Cristina is a Smithsonian Research Associate, a Boone and Crockett Club professional member, and Black Earth Institute Scholar/ Advisor. Her books include The Wolf’s Tooth and The Carnivore Way. She is currently writing a book titled, Taking the Heat: Wildlife, Food Webs and Extinction in a Warming World. For two decades she lived with her family in a remote, wild corner of Montana. She currently lives in Concord, Massachusetts, near Walden Pond.

 

Mary Minette is Director of Environmental Education and Advocacy for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Washington Office. She is also the North American representative to the Climate Change Advisory Group for the ACT Alliance and president of the board of Creation Justice Ministries (formerly the National Council of Churches eco-justice program). Mary has also served in senior positions with a number of secular environmental organizations, including the Earth Day Network, the League of Conservation Voters, and the National Audubon Society’s endangered species and trade and environment programs. She is a graduate of Stanford University and the University of California, Los Angeles School of Law.

 

Joe Roman is a conservation biologist and researcher at the Gund Institute for Ecological Economics at the University of Vermont and a Hardy Visiting Fellow at Harvard University. His research, focusing on endangered species conservation and marine ecology, has appeared in Science, Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, Trends in Ecology and Evolution, and many other journals. Joe has received a Fulbright Fellowship in Brazil to research invertebrate conservation, a McCurdy Fellowship at the Duke University Marine Lab to examine the ecological role of whales in the oceans, and a AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellowship to study the influence of biodiversity on human well-being.

 

Maggie, the Peregrine Falcon hatched in the spring of 2014 – atop a building in downtown Richmond, VA that was on the Richmond Falcon Cam. Two days after fledging from her nest, the young falcon crashed into a building, severely damaging her left eye and fracturing the tip of her beak. Veterinarians at the Wildlife Center of Virginia treated Maggie’s eye with medication for several weeks, but about a month after admission, the veterinary team had to surgically remove the damaged eye. With only one eye, Maggie cannot see well enough to be released back into the wild. She currently serves as an education animal at the Wildlife Center.

 

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All Chimpanzees to Be Protected as Endangered Under Endangered Species Act

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) release a final rule today classifying all chimpanzees, both wild and captive, as endangered under the Endangered Species Act.  The Endangered Species Coalition advocated for this rule and thousands of activists spoke out in support of it.

The rule results in listing both captive and wild individuals as “endangered,” which will increase protections for captive chimpanzees while positively affecting the conservation of wild chimpanzees. Prior to this rule, wild chimpanzees were protected as endangered under the Endangered Species Act, while their captive counterparts were listed as threatened.

This “split-listing” of chimpanzees was harmful as it allowed the use of captive chimpanzees in entertainment, the pet trade and for invasive research. This negatively affects wild populations by leading the public to believe that chimpanzees are not in need of conservation. In addition, captive chimpanzees frequently suffer abuse and neglect in these industries.

In its announcement, the USFWS said:

Threats to the chimpanzee, including habitat loss, poaching and disease, have intensified and expanded since wild populations were listed as endangered in 1990. These threats are exacerbated by an increasing human population, the expansion of settlements, and increasing pressure on natural resources to meet the needs of the growing human population. Recovery from the loss of individuals is more difficult for chimpanzees given their slow reproductive rates.

The ESA (Endangered Species Act) does not allow for captive-held animals to be assigned separate legal status from their wild counterparts on the basis of their captive state. In 2010, the Service received a petition from a coalition of organizations, including the Jane Goodall Institute, to list all chimpanzees as endangered, prompting a formal review of the status of chimpanzees under the ESA.

You can read the entire USFWS announcement here.

Endangered Species Day 2015

The 10th annual Endangered Species Day is May 15th, 2015. The Endangered Species Coalition led the effort in establishing Endangered Species Day when the Senate first officially recognized it through a resolution in 2006. 

We have come a very long way since then! Thousand of young people participate in the annual Saving Endangered Species Youth Art Contest  and there are nearly 200 events scheduled in at least 42 statesincluding six events in U.S. National Parks. In Washington, D.C. we are celebrating Endangered Species Day on Capitol Hill at the U.S. Botanic Garden and through 7 other area events.

Find an Endangered Species Day event near you! There are events at zoos, museums, parks, aquariums, community centers, schools, and neighborhood gardens. 

Milkweed planting at DC Urban Greens Endangered Species Day event. Photo credit Amanda Milster, ESC.

Milkweed planting at DC Urban Greens Endangered Species Day event. Photo credit Amanda Milster, ESC.

On Endangered Species Day, we celebrate the conservation successes like American alligators, California condors, bald eagles, brown pelicans, and the many other species on the path to recovery thanks to the Endangered Species Act.

Additionally, this year’s Endangered Species Day is bringing special focus to the plight of monarch butterflies. The widespread destruction of milkweed has led to alarming declines in their numbers. To address this, many Endangered Species Day events organized by the Endangered Species Coalition are including the construction of milkweed “seed bombs” in the day’s agenda. By planting milkweed around the country, we can help monarchs begin to recover. You can find instructions for making a milkweed seed bomb here.

If you are unable to make it to an event in person, you can still take part through individual conservation actions, by taking these 10 easy steps to protect endangered species, or by telling your friends! 

Send an e-card:

Send a polar bear e-card Send a wolf e-card

Send a black-footed ferret

e-card

 

If you’re on Twitter, show your support for endangered species by tweeting about Endangered Species Day or take part in the Tweetstorm or Thunderclap asking President Obama to #LeadThePack and protect wolves! 

 

I’m tweeting for wolves with @endangered this #ESDay. See how you can take part! bit.ly/1EDYILX

I’m tweeting for polar bears with @endangered this #ESDay. See how you can take part! bit.ly/1EDYILX

I’m tweeting for black-footed ferrets with @endangered this #ESDay. See how you can take part! bit.ly/1EDYILX

Update: You can see some of our favorite Endangered Species Day social media posts on our Storify.

Students Ask the First Lady to Support Pollinators

 

University students across the country are calling on Michelle Obama to take action for pollinators for Endangered Species Day, which will be celebrated on May 15th 2015. Pollinator species, such as butterflies and bees, are facing serious declines across the country. These amazing species are not only natural treasures, but they are also vital for our agricultural systems. On Monday, a letter signed by 20 student organizations across the country  and a petition signed by 165 individual students were delivered to the First Lady in hopes that she will use her voice to protect pollinators.

As part of her Let’s Move initiative, the First Lady has created a White House Kitchen Garden, and in 2014, the first ever White House Pollinator Garden was also planted to support pollination and raise awareness of threats to pollinators. As Mrs. Obama shares a concern for pollinator survival, she is an ideal ally and voice for the protection of these animals.

Loss of milkweed habitat is causing a major decline in monarch butterfly populations. Monarch caterpillars rely exclusively on milkweed for survival, the loss of milkweed due to the use of GMO crops and widespread use of herbicides and pesticides is greatly threatening their survival. Monarch butterfly populations have declined by 90 percent in the past 20 years, and remaining populations have lost 165 million acres of habitat in that timeframe, in large part due to herbicide and pesticide use.

Native bee populations have also plummeted in recent years because of many threats including spread of diseases, habitat loss, climate change, and invasive species. The widespread use of neonicotinoid pesticides has killed many and hampered the ability of others to return to their hives. “Neonics” are systemic; when applied, they infiltrate all of the structures of a plant, including its nectar. Neonics are very heavily used in agriculture as well as in residential and commercial settings.

 iStock_000007985649_Large (1)We are deeply concerned with the plummeting populations of pollinators across the country, and these university students are also working to provide habitat for bees and butterflies on their campuses. Planting pesticide-free pollinator gardens that include milkweed is an important step in protecting the pollinator populations that are necessary for human survival.

The First Lady is an important voice for pollinators. We hope that she will join us and take action to protect these important and amazing animals before it’s too late!

The students are asking her to publicly encourage schools, businesses, churches, and community groups across the country to plant pollinator gardens and adopt pollinator-friendly, pesticide and herbicide-free practices. If you want to protect the bees and butterflies in your community, consider planting your own pesticide-free garden with milkweed and other native plants!

U.S. Representative Beyer Speaks out for Wolves

Representative Don Beyer (D-VA8) has received more than 2,000 letters from constituents about the possible delisting of gray wolves under the Endangered Species Act. In fact, he says he has received more letters on this issue than almost everything else combined:

Citing the peer review panel that found that the administration’s plan to delist wolves did not use the best available science, he says that now is not the time to delist the gray wolf. He joined other members of Congress in signing a letter to Secretary Jewell asking her to manage gray wolves in a scientifically responsible and appropriate manner. 

Please email your member of Congress today and ask that they oppose any efforts to delist wolves.

Saving Endangered Species Youth Art Contest Semifinalists Announced

Following a very difficult selection process by the International Child Art Foundation, semifinalists in the 2015 Saving Endangered Species Youth Art Contest were announced today. The contest provides K through 12 students an opportunity to express their support for conservation efforts and to learn more about imperiled species. The contest is organized by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Endangered Species Coalition, Association of Zoos and Aquariums, and International Child Art Foundation (ICAF), the contest promotes national awareness of the importance of saving endangered species while recognizing conservation initiatives across the country.

The entries are judged in four grade categories. K through 2nd grade; 3rd through 5th grade; 6th through 8th grade; and 9th through 12th grade.

View all of the semifinalist entries here.

The grade category and grand prize winner will be announced on April 16th, 2015.

Great Lakes Advocates Speak out for Wolves in D.C.

Last week I was lucky enough to accompany conservationists, farmers and hunters from across the Great Lakes States as they converged on Washington DC. They came hundreds of miles to talk to their elected officials. They echoed the voice of millions of Americans who value our wild spaces and all the creatures that occupy them. We were joined by Barry Babcock and Sandra Skinaway from Minnesota. Barry is a decade long hunter and conservationist. Sandra is the chairwoman of the Sandy Lake Band of Mississippi Chippewa, and a long time wolf advocate. From Wisconsin we had Mary Falk, an organic cheese farmer who uses protection dogs for her flock. Also from Wisconsin was Melissa Smith, a Madison based Wolf advocate and conservationist. We were lucky to have Endangered Species Coalition board member Major General Michael Lehnert (Ret) join us from Michigan. (Michael Lehnert’s recent op-ed.)

Great Lakes wolf advocates in front of the White House.

Great Lakes wolf advocates in front of the White House.

Our delegation of Great Lakes participants met with some of their elected leaders and made clear their support of the Endangered Species Act. They did an amazing job reverberating our coalition’s message of support for the Endangered Species Act. Their compelling personal experiences in our nation’s wild spaces have left them with an appreciation for our ecology that few will ever experience. It was absolutely vital that lawmakers heard their voice so that they can better understand this important issue through the eyes of the people who live and work among wolves daily.

These voices came to speak out against any congressional attempts to weaken the Endangered Species Act with species specific attacks. Currently, there are two bills introduced in the US Congress that would aim to chip away at the Endangered Species Act, both H.R. 884 and H.R. 843 would not only undermine wolf recovery, but also the Endangered Species Act itself. The Endangered Species Act is one of the most effective and important environmental laws in our nation’s history. We have brought many species back from the brink of extinction. That is why it is so important we safeguard our progress by ensuring we have the strongest Endangered Species Act as possible.

I am grateful for the support of these amazing and dedicated individuals. We had an amazing experience and their thoughtful insights will go a long way to help our campaign. Please help us and make your voice heard as well!

Contact your federal lawmakers and tell them NOT to remove federal protection for wolves.

Send a letter to the editor to help spread the word about the assault on wildlife and the Endangered Species Act.