Founder of the Turtle Conservancy, Conservationist, Artist, Hotelier, Restaurateur
I was fortunate to grow up in rural California in the 1960s and 70s, where my family gave me an appreciation and love of the all creatures large and small. I spent my childhood exploring the outdoors—hiking in the mountains, trout fishing in crystal clear streams, and searching for our native wildlife like gopher and king snakes, yellow- and red-legged frogs, newts, pond turtles, and desert tortoises. California was a paradise in those halcyon days; little did I know that so many species that were common in my childhood would soon be rare only a few decades later. I will never forget the weeks my family spent in Santa Barbara, helping clean up the oil spill of 1969; it was then that we realized how fragile the earth and its inhabitants were. I grew up at a time when there was a huge trigger of environmental consciousness in the U.S. that led to Earth Day in 1970, the ban of DDT in 1972, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) treaty, and passing of the Endangered Species Act in 1973.
I can’t help but wonder what benefits an Endangered Species Act in other countries would have on local wildlife.
Today there are 289 endangered plants and animals in my home state of California alone; sadly, more than any other state in the US. One of the greatest aspects of the Endangered Species Act is the fact that it not only protects flagship species by protecting land—it also protects the rest of the biodiversity found in the area. Without the implementation of the Act in 1973, who knows how many more species would be endangered?
My organization, the Turtle Conservancy, works to save the most critically endangered turtles and tortoises—and their habitats—around the world. Working on the ground in many countries, I’ve seen, firsthand, the decimation of wildlife. I can’t help but wonder what benefits an Endangered Species Act in other countries would have on local wildlife. Currently we are facing a variety of environmental evils including climate change, habitat loss and degradation, and human exploitation of wildlife and natural resources. The Endangered Species Act serves as another line of defense in an increasingly changing world.