Help #BeatPlasticPollution for World Environment Day

The United Nation’s World Environment Day is June 5th, 2018. This day is the UN’s most important day for encouraging worldwide awareness and action for the protection of our environment.  

This year’s theme is the effort to beat plastic pollution. Plastic is strangling our oceans and the species that live in them. A recent report found that 70% of marine litter is non-degradable plastic which is projected to increase threefold over the next ten years.

You can be a part of the solution by committing to make choices to reduce the amount of plastic that ends up in the waste stream. Take our Plastics Pledge for Endangered Species to make that commitment and to receive materials you can use to help spread the word. 

Sea turtles, whales, seabirds, and seals are just a few of the species affected by plastic pollution. Pledging to do your part and supporting larger, government initiatives such as plastic bag bans are vitally important ways that you as an individual can help address this global problem. 

Learn more about World Environment Day and how you can get involved at or @UNEnvironment on twitter.

A Conversation on Endangered Species and Social Justice

This is a guest post from Charise Johnson, a research associate in the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists. The post originally appeared on their website.

Endangered Species Day was introduced as a resolution by Congress in 2006 to encourage “the people of the United States to become educated about, and aware of, threats to species, success stories in species recovery, and the opportunity to promote species conservation worldwide.” This year, Endangered Species Day (May 18) began with a devastating school shooting. It really had me questioning how appropriate it would be to emphasize the importance of wildlife conservation while so many in the world and our nation seem to place little value on human lives. In a time where human rights are being enthusiastically attacked by the Trump administration, however, it has become necessary to think critically about how our nation promotes policies that undermine public protections and the way this affects vulnerable communities. Basically, I realized that there are connections between our wildlife conservation policies…and the social disparities built therein.

Hear me out. The connection is not necessarily obvious at surface level, I understand. Social justice is at the core of environmentalism. Conservation works to ensure the preservation of cultures, heritage, and livelihoods. The spaces we often deign as devoid of “nature” or “environment” are not as readily included in conservation conversations, often at the risk of alienating entire communities and ecosystems. From pristine lands to over-burdened industrial areas, environment is all around us.

I had a conversation with Lia Cheek, fellow woman of color and colleague at the Endangered Species Coalition, to further explore the relationship between endangered species protections and social justice.

Defining environment

Charise: Why do you think the way we view the environment is important for conservation and how is this tied to social justice?

Lia: We look at nature as something to use up. Something that exists to serve our needs.  We look at it without emotion, without acknowledgment of the life it holds and its right to existence. Even the words we use to describe it, Nature, natural worlds are inanimate.

Charise:  I like how you emphasized the idea of Nature with a big N. When we view it that way, it tends to be exclusionary of underrepresented groups – and that spills over into environmental regulations and even the research questions that are asked. We see this especially with policies and processes that are based solely on economic considerations, with very little regard for both science and community input.

There is also a tendency to forget that “environment” includes built environments, urban areas. Loss of biodiversity affects us all. And we’ve seen the benefits of conservation in urban areasgreater accessibility to green spaces improves mental health and well-being, marked increases in perceived safety, cleaner air to breathe, protection and restoration of terrestrial and aquatic species. The assumption that city-dwellers (especially those who aren’t as socially privileged) do not care about or benefit from species biodiversity in their communities, that they do not notice when the trees are cut down and the birds stop singing, is unfounded. Social justice is the fair treatment of others. We should not put the needs of wildlife above those of humans, rather, we should treat both fairly, and consider more than just our wallets and convenience. It is unjust to distribute resources unfairly, and it is unfair to expect those being treated unjustly to consider conservation their top priority.

Lia: Sure! This is part of the same thread.  The way we currently manage wildlife and natural areas feels a lot like colonialism.  It’s all about control isn’t it? Controlling the populations of animals that we find inconvenient, like predators, boosting the populations of species that we gain an economic benefit from.  That same mindset is built into our other government institutions, which are built around increasing profit and subduing inconveniences, and these goals can often mean stepping all over people’s rights, case and point, the battle at Standing Rock and the keystone pipeline.  It’s a very ego and self-driven model that is in the fabric of the way our country is run.  The question then becomes, who is this system of benefits really for, and how do we make our institutions expand the circle of who is benefiting from this policy of profit to include folks who have been marginalized.

Wildlife and social justice

Charise: How is wildlife conservation, specifically, a social justice issue?

Lia: The underlying decision to use differences to other a community or another life, rather than a recognition of the similarities is the same. When you “take” an animal without awareness of or respect for its right to existence, without acknowledgment that it has a purpose, a desire, a meaningful existence besides fulfilling your intended use for it.  Or without understanding that it experiences moments of joy, the understanding of what family is just like you do.   This is the same act of “othering” that creates space for injustice and the violation of human rights when they become inconvenient.  The refusal to recognize another life as similar to one’s own is the choice that is at the heart of both colonialism and extinction.

When we think about what it means for a species to go extinct, to cease to exist in any form or feather, memory or song, forever, this knowledge can manifest such a deep sadness in us that we can try to turn away from it to protect ourselves. We push away the instinctual pain we feel that comes with the knowledge that we’ve lost a species to extinction, or the pain and fear we feel when we have to hear about the injustices committed against African Americans by the institutions we are a part of, or the empathy we might feel with immigrant families being torn apart while we stand by and watch. We can choose to close our eyes to the painful and frightening, but when we do this, we are also closing our eyes to the humanity of others, and the connection we have to life on earth. And this is important because we make this choice every day. With when we choose to stand up and speak out about an injustice or sit quietly and watch it play out. When we choose to open that email asking for your help or delete.  It’s something about ourselves that we all need to be aware of and watch carefully.

Charise: Yes, beautifully put. I would add that the right to existence is what makes this a justice issue, not just for wildlife, but for people. Through diversity of life, we can exercise our human rights to food, health, and culture. If certain people are not given access to this right, that is unjust. On the flipside, if certain groups are not provided with the basic freedoms afforded others based on race, income, religion, or otherwise, we cannot expect conservation efforts to succeed. We can’t say we’re dedicated to conservation when there are still people being eradicated through the country’s prison pipeline, gun violence, and toxic pollution, with little input on solutions.

Conservation requires conversations

Species conservation is necessary for the protection of wildlife, a valuable natural resource. With so many attempts to dismantle science-based environmental regulations, we are putting more than our natural resources at risk. But we can change the narrative of who gets to benefit from “nature.” We can push for more consideration of traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) in scientific research and policy decisions. Instead of stifling community members or excluding them from discussions outright, we have to listen to and incorporate the problems and solutions they have already identified. Addressing the inherent biases in our institutions from an intersectional perspective is the first step in serving vulnerable communities justly. You can start by joining the conversation. If you’d like to learn more about how our Science Network members engage in their communities around justice-based issues, check out our Science for Justice blog series.


Photos credit USFWS

More Room to Roam on the American Prairie

By Kyran Kunkel, Director of Wildlife Restoration and Science at the American Prairie Reserve

The American Prairie Reserve (APR) is working hard to build the largest nature reserve in the continental United States.  With that goal in mind, wildlife enthusiasts currently have a golden opportunity to restore the national mammal on 250,000 acres of public lands in Northcentral Montana.

No matter how you slice it, the public benefits of bison restoration are compelling. Learn more with our Top 5 list below.  Then consider helping us make the case to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) by submitting a public comment before June 11th.

Top 5 Reasons Bison need more Room to Roam on the American Prairie

Reason #1:  Restores wildlife and habitat

The science is sound.  Bringing back bison on the mixed-grass prairie offers an evolutionarily tested strategy to help restore and maintain the health of the land and improve habitat diversity for native plants and wildlife.  What else would we expect from the animal that co-evolved and was a keystone species on the American prairie for thousands of years?   Our proposal seeks to reestablish a semblance of bison’s natural grazing regimes by replacing rotational grazing used for cattle with year-round continual grazing of bison for the benefit of public lands.

There is nothing wrong with rotational grazing, it’s a strategy that cattle managers have used to create healthy grazing patterns.  However, bison don’t require this particular grazing strategy to maintain land health because they cover much more ground and forage at far greater distances from water than cattle do. Other land managers across the country have put this science into practice and here at APR our early results demonstrate it’s working but can work better with more room to roam.

Reason #2:  Restores our National Mammal

Beyond Yellowstone Park, large populations of bison are largely missing across the US.  Lands where bison roam are too small and ecologically incomplete for bison to play their full evolutionary role.  That fragmentation and incompleteness is why scientists have called the plains bison, ‘ecologically extinct.’

To change that, the American Prairie Reserve has been working to build a robust and resilient herd of exceptional conservation contribution.   We are solidly on our way to success but need more space to make it happen.  

Our herd, has grown to a point where it can be used to establish and enhance the ecological and genetic health of other federal, state, and tribal herds around the country.  There are few similar source herds for others to draw from.

To date, we have already contributed to bison restoration by donating animals to federal and state agencies in Nebraska, Colorado, and Arizona.  We have also worked with the InterTribal Buffalo Council (ITBC) toward bison restoration efforts on Tribal lands in the West.   Last January, we donated 30 bison each to Fort Belknap, Fort Peck, and the Blackfeet Indian Reservations in Montana and 25 bison to Pe’Sla in South Dakota.

The more we are able to grow our bison herd, the closer we will be able to work with managers of other conservation herds in North American and contribute toward the restoration of our national mammal.

#3: Enhances Public Lands

Public lands are for the public and we think our proposal will increase the multiple use of these lands and enhance them for more Americans.  The public is clearly fascinated by bison. Almost half of all visitors to Yellowstone National Parks say bison viewing is one of their primary reasons they visit. We think a strong conservation herd of bison can be a significant draw for tourists, hunters, educators, students, artists and others on the American Prairie too.

It’s why American Prairie Reserve is busy building a more robust outdoor recreation infrastructure to support and encourage more year-round visitation and help connect the public to their public lands.  That includes a new National Discovery Center in Lewistown, public campgrounds, welcome centers, and a new affordable hut system to allow visitors to traverse 200 miles of the project area on foot, bicycle, canoe, and horseback.  

#4: Diversifies the economy

Agriculture is the dominant industry in Northcentral Montana where the American Prairie Reserve project area resides.  Even with and in some ways because of APR’s growing success and impact, agriculture will continue to remain that way for a very long time.

However, in other parts of the West the rise of the outdoor recreation and conservation economies are helping diversify traditional economies and creating more economic opportunities for more people. We think the American Prairie Reserve can fuel the rise of more outdoor recreation in our neighborhood too.  More visitation and outdoor recreation in the area will result in an influx of revenue for motels, restaurants, caterers, sporting good stores, gas stations, and outfitters.   In addition, the direct economic footprint of the Reserve is substantial and continues to grow. To date, we have contributed over $36 million to the local area economy.

#5: Enhances migration corridors

Scientists have been talking about the importance of migration corridors and ecologically connecting landscape for decades. That’s why it was valuable to see the U.S. Department of Interior recently prioritize their importance by issuing Secretary Order #3362, ‘Improving Habitat Quality in Western Big-Game Winter Range and Migration Corridors.’

This matches what American Prairie Reserve is already working to do.  Our proposal would remove over 250 miles of interior fences on public lands and upgrade an additional 250 miles of perimeter fences to meet wildlife-friendly standards.  All that work is a net-benefit for pronghorn, bighorn sheep, mule deer and elk. No matter how you slice it, American Prairie Reserve is a great opportunity for the Department of Interior to partner with a landowner to enhance wildlife migration and habitat on Federal lands.

Please consider asking the BLM to analyze the public benefits of providing bison more room to room on the American Prairie before June 11th.  For more information, be sure to check out these Frequently Asked Questions.


U.S. Celebrating Endangered Species Day on Friday

Over 130 Events Planned at Zoos, Nature Centers and other Venues

Washington, DC – On Friday, May 18, thousands of Americans are gathering to participate in Endangered Species Day events across the country, in recognition of our nation’s commitment to protecting and restoring our disappearing wildlife. This is the 13th annual international Endangered Species Day, which occurs on the third Friday of May, celebrating our wildlife and wild places.

“Endangered Species Day celebrates America’s vision,” stated Leda Huta, Executive Director of the Endangered Species Coalition, primary sponsor of Endangered Species Day. “When we passed the Endangered Species Act, we affirmed America’s commitment to protecting our natural heritage for future generations.”

On May 18 (and throughout the month) wildlife refuges, zoos, aquariums, parks, botanic gardens, schools, libraries, museums, and community groups will hold tours, exhibits, classroom discussions, habitat restoration projects, children’s programs, field trips and other activities. This year’s events range from California to Maine, from Florida to Oregon, Montana and Washington, D.C. and elsewhere throughout United States, as well as in Peru, Costa Rica, Indonesia, Mexico, Canada and the U.K. Highlights include:

Special presentations at Rocky Mountain, Yosemite and other National Parks and Wildlife Refuges.
Demonstrations, curator talks, tours and other activities at numerous zoos and aquariums, including the Los Angeles Zoo’s “Wild for the Planet,” Kansas City Zoo’s “Zootastic Learning Fest,” “Celebrate Endangered Species Day at Smithsonian’s National Zoo,” and Franklin Park Zoo’s “Be a Hero for Endangered Species.”
Milkweed and pollinator garden plantings to expand monarch/native pollinator habitat in Maine, Montana, Washington, Idaho, California, Indiana, Wisconsin, Maryland, Idaho, Alabama and New Jersey.

Interactive activities for individuals and families, such as Horseshoe Crab Tagging (Middle Township, NJ), the Pollinator Parade and Festival (Falmouth, ME), and the 5K Race Against Extinction (Huntington Beach, CA).
Nationwide “No Straw” campaign, which encourages people to sign a pledge to give up plastics and other single use plastics for the month of May.

Endangered Species Day was first created by U.S. Senate in 2006, when it unanimously designated May 11, 2006 as the first ever “Endangered Species Day,” to encourage “the people of the United States to become educated about, and aware of, threats to species, success stories in species recovery, and the opportunity to promote species conservation worldwide.”

In 2009 the Coalition began incorporating a national youth art contest into the Endangered Species Day event. Each year, nearly two thousand students of all ages submit illustrations of their favorite endangered species to contest judges. The top winners in each age group are selected for the publication in the annual Endangered Species Art calendar, and the grand prizewinner travels to Washington, D.C. on Endangered Species Day to receive an award. This year’s grand prize winner is 9 year old, Brandon Xie, who will receive his award at a ceremony on May 16.

“We have a responsibility to our children and grandchildren to be good stewards of nature,” said Huta. “The Endangered Species Act is a declaration to the world that we will not rob our children of the opportunity to watch a humpback whale break through the surface of the ocean or to hear the cry of the bald eagle.”

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, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Additionally, a 2012 study found that 90 percent of protected species are recovering at the pace expected in their scientific recovery plans.

In addition to the Endangered Species Coalition, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), numerous conservation, education, community and youth organizations have also supported and participated in Endangered Species Day, including the Girl Scouts USA, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the North American Association for Environmental Education, Native Plant Conservation Campaign, Garden Clubs of America, Sierra Club, the National Association of Biology Teachers, the National Science Teachers Association, Earth Day Network, National Wildlife Federation, National Audubon Society and Defenders of Wildlife.

For more information on Endangered Species Day, including event locations and a variety of educational resource materials, visit

How Climate Change has Affected Pollinators

This is a guest post by Kylie Johnson. Kylie is the editor at Green and Growing.

Climate change has had a profound effect on the Earth’s weather. Climate change has impacted the natural rhythms of weather, the behavior of animals, and the blooming of flowers. One of the most impacted populations by climate change are pollinators who are facing unprecedented difficulties as they struggle to survive.

First of all, what is climate change?

Climate is the long-term weather averages, as opposed to weather which is the short-term observances of the local climate over hours and weeks. Climate is far more difficult for people to understand as climate data is tracked over years, decades, and centuries. Therefore, climate change is observed drastic changes from the norm in the world’s weather patterns during a long period of time. Scientists are able to compare one area’s summer to a summer decades before in the same area and are able to determine whether it was drier or wetter than average. Climate change has more drastic effects that can be immediately observed; for example, hurricanes like Hurricane Harvey that occurred in late summer 2017 was fueled by warmer waters and, consequently, was more destructive than hurricanes in the past.

Humans all over the world have been drastically impacted by climate change as the weather during the seasons has become more extreme than it has been in the past. In some areas, summer has become drier and hotter, and in other areas winter is lasting longer with far more storms and blizzards. Humans have struggled to adapt to these changes as the violent unpredictable weather has become more common than it has in the past.

If a more adaptable and resilient species like human beings are having difficulty adapting to climate change, it becomes far more understandable why a more fragile group such as pollinators are having immense difficulty coping and surviving.

Impact on Bee Populations

Bees, in particular, are facing the danger of a phenomenon called colony collapse disorder (CCD). A paper from Oregon State University explains CCD: “CCD most likely stems from a combination of problems associated with agricultural beekeeping, including pathogens, nutritional deficiencies and lack of a varied diet, exposure to neonicotinoid insecticides and other pesticides, lack of genetic diversity, habitat loss, and transportation stress. Pesticides, stress, and lack of diversity can actually exacerbate the vulnerability of bees to pathogens.” Habitat loss, nutritional deficiencies, and lack of varied diet are tied directly to climate change as the abnormal climate is impacting the growth of plants and flowers. Climate change is making flowers bloom half a day earlier each year, which means that plants are now blooming a month earlier than 45 years ago. Plants blooming earlier ultimately means that they do not get pollinated and bees are left without food.

As bee colonies continue to be affected by CCD, humans will continue to see the impact of CCD on their plants and crops. The website GreenLivingIdeas states, “NEEF reports that about 1,000 plants we depend on for food and products need to be pollinated by animals, including coffee, tasty snacks like melon, chocolate and almonds, and even tequila.” According to the website, 75% plants in our yards depend on insects and animals to pollinate them, and bees in particular “add more than $15 billion in value to US agricultural crops each year through pollination.” If this dire trend of CCD continues, humans will face severe food shortages and grave economic consequences, not to mention the tragic ramification of bees becoming extinct.

Impact on Hummingbird Populations

Other pollinators besides bee populations are being affected by climate change as well. Four species of hummingbirds in North America at risk because of the rising temperatures: Allen’s Hummingbird, Black-chinned Hummingbird, Calliope Hummingbird, and Rufous Hummingbird. The increasing warmer temperature is forcing these four species to abandon their native areas for more cooler and stable environments. Intense heat is incredibly dangerous for hummingbirds as it forces them to find shade to cool off rather than feed on nectar, which consequently means that they could starve since their high metabolism demands that they constantly need to eat.

Impact on Bat Populations

Bats are yet another species of pollinators that are affected by the changing climate. The warmer weather impacts their hibernation cycles and their prey availability, which directly affect how successfully a mother bat can give birth and raise her young. According to National Geographic, climate change is also impacting their ultrasonic hearing: “bats living in temperate zones were more likely to lose prey detection volume, while in tropic zones, many bat species will actually be able to detect more prey. Bats calling at lower pitches generally gained prey detection space” because humidity and temperature directly impact how effectively bats can detect their prey.

What You Can do to Help Pollinators

  • Plant a variety of pollinator friendly flowers and plants that are native to your climate.
  • Stop or limit the use of pesticides on your property – pesticides are toxic to pollinators.
  • Create a habitat that is friendly to bees. This means either placing beehives on your property, leaving dead logs around that bees can nest in, and simply ensuring bees have plenty of bee-friendly plants to feed from in your yard.
  • Providing nectar for hummingbirds on your property. You can do this by buying a feeder for hummingbirds and filling it with sugar water.
  • Placing a bat house on your property. This will provide bats a safe place to sleep during the day.
  • Plant milkweed plants – Monarch butterflies lay their eggs on the leaves and feed on the nectar of the flowers.

Kylie Johnson is the editor at Green & Growing. She enjoy the outdoors, especially when she can go on a fun hike or adventure. She likes to focus on the perks green living. She feels it is so important to take care of our earth and hope to spread more awareness as she edits and writes.

Make #EndangeredSpeciesDay week plastic-free for wildlife

If you signed the pledge to give up plastics for the week of Endangered Species Day, the time is now! And if you haven’t, it’s not too late to be part of the Plastics Pledge for Endangered Species–add your name today. This one action on your part can help to begin to address the problem of plastic pollution of our oceans. 

We have compiled a few tips to make the week as productive as possible.

If you prefer to drink with straws when you are out, remember to bring a reusable straw in your bag as well as some reusable utensils if you frequent restaurants that serve meals with plastic forks, spoons, and knives (like takeout restaurants). And don’t forget the reusable shopping bag, please!

The key to all of this is you. When the server offers a straw or plastic utensils, POLITELY decline and tell them you are going without to help prevent plastic pollution.

If you can do more, please download and print these cards from The Last Plastic Straw to leave with your bill at restaurants to encourage them to only serve straws on request. Or, you can download and print this two-sided bilingual flyers to help spread the word!

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to learn about more Endangered Species Day activities this week.

A Roundup of Endangered Species Impacted by Ocean Pollution

By Emily Folk

The beach is a popular place for people to get away to when they want to be surrounded by peace and beauty. There’s no denying that the ocean provides all of that and more, but when people do this, they often take that serenity for granted. The shoreline gets cleaned up by local crews and the real truth gets hidden—that humans are polluting the ocean constantly, in overwhelming amounts.

Although you might not be able to see it from your favorite spot on the beach where you like to lay out and tan, pollution is everywhere in the ocean. From oils to chemicals, marine life is suffering. Plastic may be the biggest pollutant. It’s in almost every part of the human life. It’s cheap to make and profit off of, but it hasn’t been disposed of properly, leading to the suffering of marine animals. Read up on some of the most endangered species that would be much better off if people just recycled their plastic.

Hawaiian Monk Seal

Seals are popular attractions at local zoos because they can learn cute tricks and look similar to dogs. While seals can be found in a variety of locations around the world, the Hawaiian Monk seal lives only in the waters off Hawaii. Since the 1980s, their population has been in a steep decline. Pollution is one of the biggest reasons for this decline. Over the span of two months, research teams removed over 12 tons of debris from the Hawaiian Monk seal pupping beaches, most of it plastic.

Pacific Loggerhead Sea Turtle

Sea turtles are an iconic marine animal, but while figurines can be bought on necklaces, cups and beach towels, they’re greatly endangered by human pollution. The Pacific Loggerhead sea turtle is one species that constantly falls victim to discarded plastics like six pack rings and plastic packaging. It’s why plastic pollution has been declared more deadly to sea turtles than oil spills.


Sperm Whales

Whales are mostly passive creatures, eating small organisms like plankton or squid. The sperm whale is one of these, but it’s the most susceptible to plastic pollution. Their large mouths allow for extreme amounts of plastic to be ingested, causing cases like an extreme one in 2008. Two sperm whale were found with plastic clogging their digestive tract, leading to both of their deaths.


Cory’s Shearwater

The shearwater seabird family is an expansive one, with the Cory being the largest. It flies over the ocean and dives for its food, which means that it can easily mistake floating plastic debris for food. In a recent study of shearwater birds, the Cory has the highest occurrence of ingesting plastics at 70-94 percent.



These are just a few species that would have much longer lives with better quality if recycling became a practiced habit for those who buy or use plastic and if plastics use was more limited. Efforts for getting people better resources like local recycling plants and educating future generations need to be on the front line of concerns for everyone, no matter where they live or what they do.


Emily is a conservation writer with a passion for educating others about endangered species. You can read more of her work on her blog, Conservation Folks, or follow her on Twitter.


Images credit: NOAA



TAKE ACTION: Sign the Plastic Pledge for Endangered Species

Wildlife Day at Capitols in the Great Lakes

On April 11, 2018 hundreds of wildlife advocates in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Minnesota gathered in solidarity at their state capitols to meet with lawmakers and speak for wolves and wildlife in the Great Lakes region!

The day was filled positive action for wolves and wildlife, where nearly one hundred supporters rallied at the State Capitol buildings in Madison and Lansing. Legislators met with their constituents who urged them to protect the wolf for future generations by supporting wildlife-friendly legislation. (We joined in solidarity with our friends in Minnesota who also held a day of action for wolves!)

Constituents were vital in persuading legislators that wildlife belongs to everyone and that keystone species, like wolves, need special consideration and protections. Wildlife Day was an opportunity to bring together ethical hunters, non-consumptive users, scientists, silent sports enthusiasts, farmers, tribal members and anyone who truly cares about wildlife as a unified yet, diverse voice for policy.

HOWLS OF THANKS to Lush Cosmetics, The Humane Society of the United States, Friends of the Wisconsin Wolf and Wildlife, Keep Michigan Wolves Protected, Songbird Protection Coalition, Dr. Adrian Treves, Cait Irwin and ALL the volunteers who helped make this day happen…we could not have done it without all of YOU!!!

While Wildlife Day was a step in the right direction, all Wisconsin residents are still needed to continue speaking out for our wolves. In the meantime, please continue to submit your Letters to the Editor, and write/call your state senators, representatives urging them to keep our wolves and wildlife protected.Learn more on the FoWWW Take Action page.

From Endangered Species Scientist to Endangered Species Writer

This is a post by Dr. Jan Randall, Endangered Species Coalition Board of Directors Member and Scientific Advisory Board Chair. Dr. Randall is the author of the recently released book, Endangered Species: A Reference Handbook.

I have always considered nature an essential part of my life. The diversity of biological systems fascinates me. It did not take me long, therefore, to agree to write a book on endangered species when contacted by ABC-CLIO press for a book to be included in their Contemporary World Issues Series.

My research area is animal behavior, and I spent many years as a field biologist studying the social organization and communication of desert rodents. One of my study subjects, the giant kangaroo rat, is an endangered species that lost most of its native habitat to agriculture and today occupies only about 2 percent of its former range in California. Kangaroo rats hop on their hind legs, thus the name. The giant kangaroo rat is a keystone species, which means other species in the food chain depend on its presence either as prey (endangered San Joaquin kit foxes love to snack on kangaroo rats) and from contributions to the habitat. Its last refuge, the Carrizo Plain National Monument, is one of the areas designated for review for possible size reduction or elimination by the Trump administration.  

Giant Kangaroo Rat

Scientists who study animal behavior often end up involved in conservation of the species they study. It is difficult to observe behavior of animals for hours on end and not appreciate their value both aesthetically and biologically. For example, Jane Goodall devoted her life to conservation after her initial studies of chimpanzee behavior. She notes: “You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.” I hope this book makes a difference.

I began down this road of thinking about endangered species as a graduate student at the University of Washington almost 50 years ago. Instead of the advanced ecology class, the professor carted us off to a public hearing on DDT. The what hearings? I had no idea that DDT was killing predatory birds by transfer up in the food chain to cause their egg shells to be too thin to support life of the chicks. Populations of these birds, including our national symbol the bald eagle, had declined at a disturbing rate. Eventually these birds became protected under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), DDT was prohibited for use in the United States, and the bird populations began to recover.

In the meantime, while the bald eagle, brown pelican, and peregrine falcon were recovering other species were declining and disappearing in front of my very eyes. In college, I worked for two summers at Redfish Lake in Stanley Basin, Idaho. The lake earned its name from the red bodies of thousands of sockeye salmon that migrated there from the Pacific Ocean to spawn. I was in awe of these teaming bodies of fish thrashing around in the water, but in just a couple of decades the fish disappeared and were listed as endangered in 1991 under the ESA. The eight dams constructed on the Columbia and Snake rivers were just too much for the salmon to navigate. Today the sockeye salmon population is on “life support” and sustained via hatchery breeding. A better, more natural solution would be to remove the dams on the lower Snake River to allow the salmon to renew their natural cycle.

Today species survival is threatened more than ever by government leaders who do not understand biodiversity and seem to care little about endangered species and the environment. Policies are being established that threaten habitats and decrease the sizes of national monuments. Climate change is no longer of concern. Species are being removed from the endangered species list before scientists say they are ready: grizzly bears and gray wolves. In a move to weaken protection of imperiled species, the Department of Interior recently proposed a rule to withhold protections for any species listed as “threatened.”

As a biologist, I am fully aware that everything is connected in a web of life, and for every species that becomes threatened and endangered the balance of the planet’s ecosystems may lose a link. I wanted readers of the book to understand the importance of these connections, how these connections are threatened, and to become inspired to join the fight to save endangered species and to protect the ESA from efforts to weaken it.

I welcomed the opportunity to use my scientific training, background in biology, and my passion for living creatures to write a comprehensive treatment of the topic. We must be prepared to take action, and my book is one of the tools that can be used for this purpose.