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1.8 Million Americans Speak Out Against Stripping Federal Protections from Wolves 

Contact: Leda Huta, Endangered Species Coalition, (202) 320-6467
Diane Summers, Humane Society of the United States, (301) 258-1456
Virginia Cramer, Sierra Club, (804) 519-8449
Lindsay Larris, WildEarth Guardians, (310) 923-1465
Daniela Arellano, Natural Resources Defense Council, 310-434-2304
Marjorie Fishman, Animal Welfare Institute, (202) 446-2128
Emily Samsel, League of Conservation Voters, 202-454-4573
Erik Molvar, Western Watersheds Project, (307) 399-7910
Maggie Caldwell, Earthjustice, (415) 217-2084

Federal Proposal Would Halt Wolf Recovery, Allow More Wolf Killing 

WASHINGTON, DC— Almost two million Americans stated their opposition to the Trump administration’s proposal to strip endangered species protections from gray wolves in a comment period that closed today. This is one of the largest numbers of comments ever submitted on a federal decision involving endangered species and reflects broad dissatisfaction with the Trump administration’s politically driven move to turn wolf management over to state agencies across most of the lower 48 states. 

In addition to the 1.8 million comments submitted by the public, 86 members of Congress (House and Senate letters), 100 scientists, 230 businesses, and 367 veterinary professionals all submitted letters to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service opposing the wolf delisting plan. Even the scientific peer reviews written at the behest of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s state that the agency’s proposal contains numerous errors and appears to come to a predetermined conclusion, not even supported by its own science, to remove federal protections for wolves. 

“The incredible volume of comments give voice to a sad fact: the delisting proposal is a radical departure from the optimism and courage we need to promote endangered species recovery in this country. The comments show that Americans believe the Fish and Wildlife Service’s proposal falls well short of the conservation ideals this country stood for 45 years ago when the Endangered Species Act was signed,” said Defenders of Wildlife President Jamie Rappaport Clark. 

“The restoration of the gray wolf could be one of the great American wildlife conservation success stories if Secretary Bernhardt would just finish the job,” Leda Huta, executive director of the Endangered Species Coalition said. 

“The Fish and Wildlife Service is snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Instead of restoring wolves to their rightful places in prime wilderness around the country — as it did for bald eagles — the agency wants to abandon wolf recovery before the job is done,” said Drew Caputo, Earthjustice Vice President of Litigation for Lands, Wildlife, Oceans. “Today 1.8 million people in America told the Trump Administration to go back to work and protect our wolves.” 

Scientists estimate that there were once hundreds of thousands of wolves in the lower 48 states, but the animals had been driven to near-extinction by the early 1900s. After passage of the Endangered Species Act in 1973 and subsequent federal protection of the wolf, federal recovery programs resulted in the rebound of wolf populations in limited parts of the country. Today roughly 5,500 wolves currently live in the continental United States — a fraction of the species’ historic numbers. 

The Trump administration’s proposal would remove existing protections for gray wolves everywhere in the lower 48 states except Arizona and New Mexico, where the Mexican wolf is struggling to survive with an estimated population of just 131 wolves. This proposal would abandon protections for wolves in places where wolf recovery is just in its infancy, such as California, Oregon and Washington, and would prevent wolves from recovering in other places where good wolf habitat has been identified, including the southern Rocky Mountains and the Northeast. 

“By delisting the gray wolf, Secretary Bernhardt is providing a massive giveaway to the oil and gas industry he once lobbied for,” said Josh Nelson, Co-Director of CREDO Action. “Big Oil has spent years lobbying against ESA protections and sees gray wolves – as well as the entire ESA – as a huge barrier in its pursuit to exploit natural resources and increase profits. If Bernhardt’s extinction plan is enacted, it would be a death sentence for the gray wolf.” 

“Trump cannot ignore almost two million voices calling for the protection of wolves,” said Sylvia Fallon, Senior Director of the Nature Program for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). “Science should determine how species are protected, not politics or special interests,” Fallon added. “Wolves need continued protections to recover and the American public agrees.” 

Nicole Paquette, chief programs and policy officer for the Humane Society of the United States said: “Anti-wolf sentiments nearly led to the extermination of America’s wolves, and just when populations are starting to bounce back, the federal government is considering a plan that could place them in jeopardy. Rather than catering to interests from trophy hunters and fear mongering, we hope the federal government rejects this proposal and works toward the recovery of this species.” 

“American wolves deserve better than the FWS’s reckless delisting proposal,” said Sara Amundson, president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund. “As an apex predator and keystone species, these national icons provide innumerable ecological benefits and are vital for local economies that rely on wolf-watching tourism.” 

“Americans are outraged and hundreds of thousands are saying it loudly and clearly; the job of wolf recovery is not done,” said John Horning, executive director of WildEarth Guardians. “The Fish and Wildlife Service is not only wrong on the science of wolf recovery but also wildly out of step with the desires of most Americans who want to see federal protections for wolves maintained.” 

“The American public has overwhelmingly weighed in: We must not prematurely delist wolves, but instead give them the time they need to truly and fully recover,” said Lena Moffit, director of the Sierra Club’s Our Wild America campaign. “Secretary Bernhardt must abandon plans to remove vital protections for still-recovering gray wolves, which remain absent from much of their historic range. Instead of persecuting wolves, we should put more effort into coexistence and appreciate the critical role wolves play in maintaining the natural balance.” 

“This attempt to eliminate crucial protections for gray wolves demonstrates an anti-predator bias that continues to influence wolf management decisions. The undeserved hostility toward wolves is not based on principles of sound scientific management. These apex predators play a vital role in ecosystems, contribute to a multibillion-dollar outdoor tourism industry, and are an iconic symbol of our beloved native wildlife,” said Cathy Liss, president of the Animal Welfare Institute 

“Removing protections for an at-risk species like the gray wolf would be yet another in a long line of harmful policies by the most anti-environment administration in history,” said Alex Taurel, Conservation Program Director at the League of Conservation Voters. “President Trump and Secretary Bernhardt should stop doing favors like this for the oil and gas industry and instead protect our public lands and endangered species for the benefit of the people of this country.” 

According to Angela Grimes, CEO of Born Free USA, “The American people have firmly rebuked the Trump administration’s attempt to remove critical federal protections from the gray wolf, flooding the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service with a record 1.8 million public comments. We urge the agency to give full consideration to this incredibly strong response, as well as to the best available science, which concludes that this keystone species has not yet fully recovered and merits further protection under the Endangered Species Act.” 

“From California and Nevada to Colorado, vast stretches of public land are perfectly suited to wolf recovery, yet the howl of the wolf remains tragically absent from most of the West,” Erik Molvar, a wildlife biologist and executive director with Western Watersheds Project, said. “The nationwide de-listing rule represents an extinction plan on behalf of a handful of public land profiteers, at the expense of restoring healthy native ecosystems that will benefit all Americans.” 

 

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Nowheres Wolf: A Call Not Answered

Interview with Suzanne Moulton, Director, Lead Fabricator, and Workshop Presenter Nowheres Wolf

Recently, the Endangered Species Coalition had the honor of interviewing Suzanne Moulton, Director of Nowheres Wolf, a stop-motion animation with the goal of shifting perceptions of wolves. The film, currently under production, demonstrates the sentience of wolves and reveals caring relationships within wolf families. To learn more about this incredible project, visit:  https://www.nowhereswolf.com/

 

Jeanne Dodds, Endangered Species Coalition, Creative Engagement Director: What inspires and ignites your work integrating animation, textile sculpture, and species conservation?

Suzanne Moulton, Director, Lead Fabricator, and Workshop Presenter Nowheres Wolf: Stop-motion animation is a great way for kids to learn about animals and nature. Textiles and natural fibers are materials everyone can recognize; nearly everyone has had a favorite stuffed toy. What’s special about stop-motion animation is that puppets are created to make the animation. The use of common materials makes this art form accessible to children and excites them to get involved and express themselves. Children are already enthusiastic about cartoon characters. Inspiring them about a real creature through animation perfectly blends art and advocacy. Reaching kids is important, as they have the ability to impact and change the hearts and minds of their families. Once they find something they really love, kids are the most powerful advocates out there.

Suzanne Moulton blocking out action for pup scene. Photo by Leila Chieko.

JD: Can you talk a bit about the Nowheres Wolf project: what is it about? Where did the idea/inspiration for the project originate? And what are the project goals?

SM:Our Nowheres Wolf film is inspired by a specific wolf, OR-7, now known as Journey. I began following OR-7 back when he entered California. I was living in California and witnessed the excitement that he brought to communities, regardless of their backgrounds. It was amazing how so many people were celebrating the return of this iconic keystone species. I wanted to continue keeping that excitement alive here in Oregon. Our project has already reached hundreds of people who weren’t aware of OR-7’s story. It’s such a fun story to share as he’s still living, and it’s one of the few wildlife stories with a happy outcome.

Our film shows just a piece of Journey’s life. It’s extrapolated from eyewitness accounts, documentaries, books and information about where he was located. From all this data, we filmmakers saw the story of a wolf longing to belong and searching for family, something we can all relate to. One of our main goals is for people to start seeing wolves as a family creature, a very caring and loyal creature, one that is far different than the rabid animal that is commonly portrayed by Hollywood. I also was inspired by moms worriedly posting, wondering for their kids safety in wolf reintroduction areas and I really wanted them to have a positive resource to share as a family. We want to create some beautiful art that is inclusive to all communities, resonates with their hearts, and helps everyone feel included in figuring out successful coexistence with wolves in our modern world and be proud to say, “Now Here’s Wolf!”

Nowheres Wolf short film

JD: Why, in your view, do you think that there are so many misconceptions about wolves? What role does art/creative practices such as animation have in reframing inaccurate perceptions and beliefs?

SM: In understanding the issues facing wolves, I began seeing how much misinformation about wolves is out there. There are a lot of negative portrayals of wolves in Hollywood films.  It’s really sensationalized information. As creators of culture, artists have a lot of responsibility. With so many artists out there who love and are inspired by wolves, they are already powerful allies for wildlife advocacy and have the ability to create an emotional message to move people into action.

A lot of the time the public’s only interaction with wild animals is when a big film about them comes out. These films fundamentally form people’s perceptions of that animal. In the majority of films out there with wolves in them, wolves are shown as the villain. In very few films is the wolf depicted as the loyal protector. I think a lot of our fears of wolves go back to lore and fairy tales. We keep sharing those tall tales like the Big Bad Wolf, Red Riding Hood and werewolves. And then when we look at the real creatures, we’re looking at them through this lens of lore. In my research, I found that many of these fairy tales originated back in the Dark Ages, where not only were humans facing epic plagues but so were animals. Europeans had encounters with wolves experiencing rabies and I think those views carried over into the Americas with colonization. These perceptions continues to shape our views when we hear about reports of wolf predation on livestock. We seem to forget that healthy wolves target the sick and weak. Little reporting is done on the ranchers who embrace this as a cost of doing business which benefits the overall health of their herd. Now, with Yellowstone as a clear picture of a working ecosystem that requires wolves, we’re seeing how much wolves really contribute to the management of resources we all depend on like aquifers and drinking water. Many of these connections between the role of wildlife maintaining the natural resources that we depend on just don’t make it to headlines in local papers.

Needle-felted mini wolf workshop

 JD: Alternatively, why do you think so many people connect so deeply and profoundly with wolves? What is it about this animal that resonates, in a very powerful and personal way, with humans?

SM:They are a powerful animal who shares a lot of the good sides of human nature, from being loyal and sharing to adopting orphaned young ones; wolves reflect that. I think many of us love the freedom and wildness the wolf represents. When you look into a calm wolf’s eyes, you can see the origins of everything we love about our best friends, the domesticated dog. We can see unconditional love, untamed and wild. New studies have revealed that wolves are even more sharing than any dog breed. What is really impressive is the more we learn about wolf social behavior, the more we can help our family dogs find their own identities, heal from traumas and relearn how to socialize with other dogs.

 

JD: What do you hope that the audience for the stop-motion animation takes away from seeing the film?

SM:I hope when audiences, especially kids, see our stop-motion film they will get excited about a real-life wolf, feel a deep connection with Journey emotionally and understand that wolves are complicated creatures who much more vulnerable and kind than audiences thought before. We hope our film will be a conversation starter and help more people on a path to better understand real wolf behavior, replacing fear with respect and giving more visibility to science based programs like Wolf Ways.1 

Wolf pup OR-7 and siblings about to eat blackberries. Photo by Leila Chieko.

JD: Broadly, what do you see as the unique value of art in communicating about biodiversity and species conservation?

SM:Art stirs people’s emotions and thoughts with much more immediacy—it’s the old adage that a picture is worth a thousand words. Art can bring clear and simple understanding to a very complicated issue. It can illustrate something that might be very “science-y” and dry and stir emotions, inspiring people to act.

 

JD: How can people become involved with supporting this stop-motion animation project?

SM: We’ve just recently launched a crowdfunding campaign on Seed&Spark, a site designed to help filmmakers like us. We have really cool rewards for our supporters there, including a very special package of an animation tutorial using our wolf pup puppets and getting guided by some of the industry’s top animators that are working on our project!

To watch the Trailer and Behind-The-Scenes Videos:

Nowheres Wolf Film Crowdfunding Campaign

Youth Innovators for Endangered Species Conservation

By Rachel Gosine Smith, Middle School Science Teacher and Jeanne Dodds, Endangered Species Coalition Creative Engagement Director

One of the most critical pieces in addressing endangerment of global species is to develop and apply innovative conservation solutions. Innovative solutions to the accelerating loss of species are rooted in creative, outside the box thinking – while still being practical and attainable when applied to conservation problems in the real world. The recent IPBES report on biodiversity indicated that “transformative change” is needed to address the crisis of biodiversity loss. Innovative conservation solutions are just that: a change in the way we think about and approach conservation.

Among the current, urgent problems faced by species is the ecologically and culturally damaging impact of palm oil production. Palm oil is a product derived from unsustainable deforestation and replacement of biodiverse systems with a monocultural (single species) crop. Instead of unknowingly participating as a consumer of a product harmful to the environment and people, what if when buying products at the store you had an app to tell you whether the product contains palm oil or palm oil derivatives, allowing you to make informed choices and communicate your concerns about palm oil production? 

At Brentwood School in Los Angeles, California seventh grade science students created an innovative solution to address this conservation challenge and many others. In a ground breaking project, Endangered Species Shark Tank, students delved into the fascinating world of endangered species and the issues these species face in the wild. Students began their exploration in creating conservation solutions by applying creative thinking and brainstorming strategies.

During Phase I (the creative thinking phase) students brainstormed in their project groups to discuss and research one species from the six priority endangered species groups identified by the Wildlife Conservation Society. The six groups are: big cats, tortoises and freshwater turtles, whales and dolphins, elephants, sharks and rays, and apes. After extensive online research, students revisit with their group and collaboratively choose one species from the six priority groups list to focus on. Next they create a Public Service Announcement highlighting information about the species, the threats faced by the species in the wild and current conservation methods that are currently being undertaken by different national and global organizations to protect and recover the species. 

During Phase II of the project, students are challenged to devise their very own solutions to help solve the root causes of the species endangerment or decrease the rate at which these animals are becoming endangered. The students devised brand new, realistic solutions to help save innovative ideas to shine through! The students’ ideas were pitched to a panel of judges, (The Sharks), in a Shark Tank style format. The purpose of presenting to the judges is to develop public speaking skills as well as encouraging students to defend their stand on the different endangerment issues that these endangered species face in the wild. The judges’ questions allowed students the opportunity to share information from their research and showed students’ familiarity with current conservation methods. For the students, it was a riveting experience.

You can see some of the incredible solutions that the students created here:

Thank you!

This project could not have happened without Brentwood School’s Belldegrun Center for Innovative Leadership, and the assistance and support of the Middle School Curriculum Innovator and Collaborator, who helped suggest creative brainstorming strategies, as students incorporated Brentwood School’s BCIL core leadership skills into this project. The core leadership skills that were addressed included: innovative problem solvers, inspired community builders, and adept communicators (students shared potential solutions with mentors, obtained feedback, and then iterated to improve their proposals).

Additional resources

Download and tweet the IBPES report infographic

Sign up to become an Endangered Species Youth Activist

 

 

For Wildlife, There’s No App for That

This is a guest post from Trisha White at the National Wildlife Federation.

Thanks to smartphones and applications (apps), we can easily swipe and tap for everything we need right from the comfort of our couch and have it delivered to our door. From food to friends to fantasy vacations, we humans now have it all at our fingertips.

But wildlife can’t be slackers–no one delivers to a nest or den.

  • Turtles don’t have Tinder to find mates, they have to travel to breeding areas.
  • Deer can’t use Doordash when they get hungry, they have to forage for food.
  • Opossum don’t have Priceline to help them get away from predators.
  • Armadillo can’t use Zillow to find a new home, they have to search for territory.
  • Foxes can’t Facetime when they want to communicate with family, they have to find them.

To get what they need to survive and thrive, animals need to leave home and move around their habitat to meet their daily and lifetime needs. And too often that travel puts them in harm’s way.

On the Move

Wildlife move in daily, seasonal, annual, and lifetime cycles. Within a single day, they may only leave home to find food. Seasonally, wildlife move to adapt to changes in weather. And over the course of a lifetime, animals move extensively throughout their habitat for the many stages of life.

Some animals spend their entire life in a small area, while others may travel hundreds of miles a year. For example, an urban squirrel may find all the food, nesting material, and mates they need within a single city block. Alternatively, some pronghorn travel 300 miles roundtrip each year to follow available vegetation.  

For wide ranging species like the pronghorn, getting from point A to point B and back often means having to navigate over several dangerous roads and highways. More than four million miles of concrete criss-cross the U.S. Our impressive infrastructure makes it easy for us to get around, but creates a deadly gauntlet for wildlife. In fact, an estimated 1-2 million large animals are killed by motorists every year; one animal every 26 seconds.  

Wildlife Bridges

Not as easy as getting a Lyft, but innovative solutions for restoring wildlife movement have emerged over the last three decades. Wildlife biologists teamed up with highway engineers to design/build/create wildlife crossings to allow animals to cross over or under roadways, never having to enter the right-of-way. Wildlife crossings include bridges, enlarged culverts, and tunnels combined with fencing along roads to funnel animals to the crossings. These structures have proven to be the most effective measure to reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions. Some examples of successful wildlife crossing projects in the United States include:

Photo credit USFWS

WYOMING: The Trapper’s Point project near Pinedale, Wyoming, which includes six underpasses and two overpasses, has become world-renowned for reducing pronghorn and mule deer collisions and for protecting the “path of the pronghorn” migration corridor.

Photo credit USFWS

FLORIDA: Florida has taken a proactive approach to protecting the endangered Florida panther, constructing over 60 wildlife crossings and installing accompanying fencing targeted at making it safer for panthers to cross the road. According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, “Panther deaths caused by vehicle collisions have been sharply reduced in areas where crossings and fencing are in place.”

Photo credit Colorado Department of Transportation

COLORADO: The Colorado Highway 9 Crossing Project with two overpasses and five underpasses has reduced wildlife-vehicle collisions by 87 percent in the first year. Success rate for mule deer has ranged from 82 percent in an underpass to 98 percent on an overpass.

But wildlife can’t be slackers–no one delivers to a nest or den.

  • Turtles don’t have Tinder to find mates, they have to travel to breeding areas.
  • Deer can’t use Doordash when they get hungry, they have to forage for food.
  • Opossum don’t have Priceline to help them get away from predators.
  • Armadillo can’t use Zillow to find a new home, they have to search for territory.
  • Foxes can’t Facetime when they want to communicate with family, they have to find them.

To get what they need to survive and thrive, animals need to leave home and move around their habitat to meet their daily and lifetime needs. And too often that travel puts them in harm’s way.

On the Move

Wildlife move in daily, seasonal, annual, and lifetime cycles. Within a single day, they may only leave home to find food. Seasonally, wildlife move to adapt to changes in weather. And over the course of a lifetime, animals move extensively throughout their habitat for the many stages of life.

Some animals spend their entire life in a small area, while others may travel hundreds of miles a year. For example, an urban squirrel may find all the food, nesting material, and mates they need within a single city block. Alternatively, some pronghorn travel 300 miles roundtrip each year to follow available vegetation.  

For wide ranging species like the pronghorn, getting from point A to point B and back often means having to navigate over several dangerous roads and highways. More than four million miles of concrete criss-cross the U.S. Our impressive infrastructure makes it easy for us to get around, but creates a deadly gauntlet for wildlife. In fact, an estimated 1-2 million large animals are killed by motorists every year; one animal every 26 seconds.  

Wildlife Bridges

Not as easy as getting a Lyft, but innovative solutions for restoring wildlife movement have emerged over the last three decades. Wildlife biologists teamed up with highway engineers to design/build/create wildlife crossings to allow animals to cross over or under roadways, never having to enter the right-of-way. Wildlife crossings include bridges, enlarged culverts, and tunnels combined with fencing along roads to funnel animals to the crossings. These structures have proven to be the most effective measure to reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions. Some examples of successful wildlife crossing projects in the United States include:

WYOMING: The Trapper’s Point project near Pinedale, Wyoming, which includes six underpasses and two overpasses, has become world-renowned for reducing pronghorn and mule deer collisions and for protecting the “path of the pronghorn” migration corridor.

FLORIDA: Florida has taken a proactive approach to protecting the endangered Florida panther, constructing over 60 wildlife crossings and installing accompanying fencing targeted at making it safer for panthers to cross the road. According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, “Panther deaths caused by vehicle collisions have been sharply reduced in areas where crossings and fencing are in place.”

Photo credit: Tim Lewis / Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission

COLORADO: The Colorado Highway 9 Crossing Project with two overpasses and five underpasses has reduced wildlife-vehicle collisions by 87 percent in the first year. Success rate for mule deer has ranged from 82 percent in an underpass to 98 percent on an overpass.

Great strides have been made but much more needs to be done. National Wildlife Federation is currently working with members of Congress to include funding for wildlife crossings in the upcoming surface transportation bill. With adequate funding, state transportation agencies can make wildlife crossings standard practice.

You can learn more about keeping wildlife on the move and next time you pick up your phone to order a curry in a hurry, be thankful that you don’t have to dodge highway traffic to get to your next meal!


This originally appeared on the National Wildlife Federation  website.

Milkweed is a Life Preserver for Monarchs

During the Pacific battles of WWII, military occupation of Java eliminated the Allies’ source of kapok, the material that filled life jackets used by soldiers in the war.1 Kapok is a cotton-like, fibrous substance surrounding the seeds of the kapok tree (Ceiba pentandra). Without this critical material to fill life jackets, the United States turned to an abundant native plant with seed carried on the wind by fuzzy, lightweight floss: milkweed (Asclepias spp.). Citizens were asked to collect milkweed pods to fill life jackets with milkweed floss as an effective and life-saving replacement for kapok.

Credit USFWS

The Endangered Species Coalition recently heard an anecdote about the wartime efforts to collect milkweed from community member Kay Keeler: “I grew up in Chicago in a square mile that had streets, elm trees, street lights, sidewalks and fire hydrants, but few apartment building or homes until after WWII.  Milkweed was abundant and during the war we students were asked to pick the pods and bring them to school as they would be used for life-preservers!” Enough milkweed was collected through efforts like these – more than 1.5 billion pods- that 1.2 million life jackets were produced with milkweed as filler during WWII.1

Today, life jackets are produced from synthetic materials, but the essential nature of milkweed hasn’t changed. Milkweed is critical to the lifecycle of the iconic Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus). Monarchs rely on milkweed as the sole host plant on which these extraordinary butterflies can lay eggs.

Milkweed leaves are the only food which can be eaten by Monarch caterpillars. Milkweed leaves contain a toxin which makes Monarchs taste terrible to birds and other predators, a strategy allowing this amazing invertebrate to survive. Adult Monarchs also rely on milkweed flowers as a nectar source.

Credit Wikimedia Commons

The loss of milkweed habitat is implicated in the decline of Western and Eastern Monarch populations. Because this plant has the word ‘weed’ in its name, some people worry that the plant is noxious or invasive. However, none of the 100 species of milkweed in the US are classified as noxious2. Milkweed, like many other flowering plants, can spread, but planting the kind of milkweed native to your region reduces spreading and makes milkweed a wonderful and extremely beneficial plant to add to your garden. Monarch butterfly populations have declined by up to 90%, due in part to eradication of milkweed across Monarch habitat. Monarch populations are currently candidate species for listing under the Endangered Species Act, with a decision due in June 2019.

You can help the Endangered Species Coalition in our efforts to increase habitat for Monarch butterflies by providing funding toward the purchase of local, native milkweed. We are working with planting sites nationally to plant milkweed and native nectar plants to help grow habitat and conserve the iconic Monarch butterfly. To donate, visit https://secure.actblue.com/donate/escplants

 

Citations

  1. 1. The Washington Post, P. Clark. Milkweed fruits pods of plenty (September 25, 2012). Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/special/metro/urban-jungle/pages/120925.html
  2. 2. USFWS. Spreading milkweed, not myths. (April 19,2017). Retrieved from https://medium.com/usfws/spreading-milkweed-not-myths-5df8c480912d

Creating Connections for People and Wildlife

What is habitat connectivity and why does it matter?

What is your favorite natural area- the one that makes you feel welcomed, calm, and connected? I’m privileged to have my favorite spot right outside my house- a beautiful gulch with a crystal-clear, 6-foot waterfall. Living in the mountains outside of Boulder, CO is sometimes too good to be true. Last night, I watched a herd of mule deer sneak up the ridge behind my home (and subsequently had the opportunity to continue training my dogs to not bark at them). Last fall, I found bobcat tracks in our fenced backyard. I am regularly reminded that the land I live on is in constant motion and is home to much more than humans.

Also right by my house is a very busy road. And on either side of that road are large swaths of Forest Service and Boulder County Open Space land. These lands serve as vital habitat for wildlife.  We have nesting golden eagles, silver foxes, black bears- there’s even been a sighting of the elusive ring-tailed cat! Documented elk and mule deer migration routes spread like waves through my extended “backyard.” And right across the street from my house is Boulder Creek, a virtual wildlife super highway, that provides ample resources to furry passerbys.

All this beautiful land is cut right through the middle by that road right in front of my house. But I get it. People need to get where they need to go. I need to be able to travel into town to lobby our elected officials or get groceries. So the road itself is not ultimately bad, but it certain does cause a degree of fragmentation.

Causes and Solutions

Fences, dams, roads, houses, and shopping malls all stand in the way of wildlife movement and cause fragmentation. Habitat loss and fragmentation are the biggest drivers of species decline and extinction worldwide. The new IBPES Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services recently outlined land use changes as one of the biggest reasons that over 1 million species worldwide are currently at risk of extinction. We are currently in the 6th Mass Extinction.

Without the ability to move in the wild, species can’t migrate, find mates, disperse (establish new territories), or sometimes even find food and water. Fragmentation also limits wildlife’s ability to adapt to climate change. As the climate warms, wildlife are actually finding it harder to move to more suitable locations.

The solution is connected habitats. Habitat connectivity is the ability of wildlife (which includes plants, mammals, birds, fish, bugs, and everything in between) to move from one habitat to another in order to fulfill their roles in the natural world.  Wildlife use corridors to move from one area of core habitat to another.

Although all wildlife need to be able to move to some degree, certain species need connectivity more than others. Large carnivores, migratory birds, certain fish, and other wide-ranging species have an especially strong need to move across landscapes and waterscapes. Here are some examples:

Monarch Butterfly

Monarch butterflies need connectivity to make their 3,000-mile migration from the US to Mexico each year. They need places to stop and rest, gather resources, mate, and lay their eggs. Monarchs have been petitioned to be listed under the Endangered Species Act. Their populations are seeing drastic declines in certain parts of the county.

In Colorado, you can work with us or partner with a local church or school to plant pollinator gardens. We love seeing kiddos have fun, getting outside, and getting their hands dirty!

We’re also working with the Boulder Pollinator Gardens Project, a coalition that works to connect urban habitats for pollinators. Key areas are  identified and intentionally planted to make sure that pollinators can move in and out of the city using the Boulder Creek corridor.

Canada Lynx

The Canada lynx is another species that needs wide habitat connections.  Lynx, like many other big cats, are often solitary creatures. When they become old enough to leave their mothers, they disperse to different areas and lay claim to territories. A lynx’s home range can be upwards of 20 square miles (that’s almost 13,000 acres!). Lynx need a lot of room to move around. But they also need safe ways to travel.

To learn more about lynx in Colorado, check out the Endangered Species Coalition’s sponsored segment on lynx in our member group’s Wild I-70 Audio Tour. Rocky Mountain Wild created this tour to bring awareness to one of the largest and most dangerous roadways for wildlife. Make sure to check out this fun and educational experience next time you find yourself on I-70 west of Denver!

Gray Wolf

Like the lynx, wolves need lots of space to roam. Wolf territories can range from 50 to 1,000 square miles. Wolves once inhabited all corners of the US, but white settlers drove them to near extinction in the early 1900s. Now, they are slowly recovering; however, US Fish and Wildlife Services recently petition them to be delisted from the Endangered Species Act. But the fact is that they are not recovered yet- they only occupy a small portion of their historic range. And in order for them to fully recovery, they need wildlife corridors to help them disperse. That’s why the Endangered Species Coalition is working hard to make sure they stay listed.

Not Just a Wildlife Issue

Now, you might already be aware that open, natural spaces with room to roam are good for wildlife, but what about humans? Properly functioning ecosystems clean our air and filter our water. They also keep us healthy by giving us outdoor recreation, peace, and freedom.

Healthy ecosystems also mitigate disease. When all the proper players are present, we see a decrease in diseases, like Lyme.  We also see a decrease in chronic wasting disease in deer. Other ecoservices that are provided to us by natural areas and wildlife are waste removal, carbon sequestration, and flood mitigation.

Large open spaces and healthy habitats not only give us recreational opportunities, but also allow wildlife to move. And sharing our backyard will wildlife gives us a sense of awe and appreciation for the wild world. However, many low-income communities around the country don’t have this privilege. Instead of being surrounded by open spaces, low-income communities and communities of color are often surrounded by coal-fired power plants, garbage dumps, and polluting factories. Prioritizing open spaces over development is like putting people over profits.  And wildlife win, too.

The Task Ahead

Connectivity provides us a special challenge, because we can’t just recycle or plant native flowers to help, like we can with other issues. We have to approach this from an institutional angle. We need policies and initiatives from our government officials and land use departments to mitigate the effects of habitat fragmentation. One way you can help is by volunteering with the Endangered Species Coalition. We’re collaborating with local governments to pass resolutions and initiatives to promote wildlife corridors locally. Would you like to see something like that in your hometown? YOU have the power to stand between wildlife and the number one driver of species extinction. And we’re here to help!

Scientific Peer Reviewers Find Flaws in Federal Wolf Delisting Rule

Nearly 1.5 Million Comments Oppose Removing Protections

Washington, D.C. – Today the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service published a scientific peer review of a proposed rule to remove Endangered Species Act protections for gray wolves across the United States. A majority of scientists on the peer review project found the rule failed to follow the best available science, which is required by the Endangered Species Act.

“I found the proposed rule to remove federal protections for gray wolves nationwide did not use the best available science as required by the Endangered Species Act,” said Professor Adrian Treves of the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies at University of Wisconsin–Madison. “In particular, the government overlooked the essential challenges posed by human-caused mortality, which is preventing wolf population recovery everywhere one looks.”

“It doesn’t make sense to me that we would be reviewing the evidence at the same time as we review a proposed rule about that evidence – as if the political decision had already been made without waiting for peer reviewers to judge if the government had met the legal standard of best available science,” said Treves. “I recommended the government start with peer review of the science, then and only then decide if wolves are ready for delisting, not the other way around.”

The wolf delisting notice was published in the Federal Register and is open for public comment until mid-July, after which the rule can be finalized by the Trump Administration. So far, nearly 1.5 million comments opposing the rule have been submitted by wildlife groups on behalf of their members.

There were once up to 2 million gray wolves living in North America, but the animals had been driven to near-extinction in the lower 48 states by the early 1900s. After passage of the federal Endangered Species Act in 1973 and protection of the wolf as endangered, federal recovery programs resulted in the rebound of wolf populations in limited parts of the country. Gray wolves returned on their own to the Western Great Lakes region and northwest Montana and were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho, where they have made a successful comeback. However, wolves are still struggling in areas of Oregon and Washington, while only a few have made it to California or the southern Rockies, where substantial areas of suitable habitat exist. Roughly 5,500 wolves currently live in the continental United States – a fraction of the species’ historic numbers.

“Without the protections afforded by the Endangered Species Act, gray wolves would never have recovered in the places where they are now,” said Leda Huta, Executive Director of the Endangered Species Coalition. “By removing protections across the country, the Trump Administration is essentially abandoning all efforts to restore this iconic American species to millions of acres of wild habitat.”

TV Ad Urges Governor Kate Brown to Stop Oregon Wolf Hunting Plan

Today, Oregon Wild, the Center for Biological Diversity, Endangered Species Coalition, and Predator Defense began running a television ad urging Governor Kate Brown to halt the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) Commission’s June 7th vote on a plan to allow trophy hunting and trapping of wolves in Oregon. ODFW’s proposed revisions to the Oregon Wolf Conservation and Management Plan also weaken requirements for non-lethal conflict efforts to reduce conflict between wolves and livestock and lowers the threshold for when wolves can be killed.

“Over the last few years, Oregonians have endured an unending parade of politicians and corporate polluters dismantling our state’s green reputation,” said Oregon Wild Executive Director Sean Stevens. “Allowing Oregon’s tiny wolf population to be hunted and trapped would be another betrayal and an irreversible stain on Governor Kate Brown’s environmental legacy.”

 

Originally posted at Oregon Wild

Trump Administration Finalizes Rules to Weaken Endangered Species Act, Protections for Imperiled Wildlife

For Immediate Release: Monday, August 12, 2019
Contact: Leda Huta, lhuta@endangered.org, (202) 320-6467
Corry Westbrook, cwestbrook@endangered.org (202) 841-6371

Washington, D.C. – Just weeks after the release of an earth-shaking global assessment foretelling the extinction of one million species, the Trump Administration today published its final Endangered Species Act regulations, which have been widely condemned by conservationists and scientists in the United States. Approved by embattled Secretary of Interior David Bernhardt, these regulations will have real-world negative impacts for the country’s most imperiled plants and wildlife, such as the monarch butterfly, sea turtles, manatees, wolverines, and hundreds more. Some of these species were profiled in a recent report by several conservation groups, led by the Endangered Species Coalition — Extinction Plan: Ten Species Imperiled by the Trump Administration.

“Scientists have reviewed these new Department of Interior (DOI) regulations, and it is clear that they will severely weaken our country’s key biodiversity protections so essential to prevent species extinction,” according to Tom Lovejoy, a world-renowned scientist who first coined the term “biological diversity.”

The new regulations will make it more difficult to protect wildlife, fish and plants on the brink of extinction, while weakening critical habitat protections for species designated as “threatened.”

“It is particularly egregious that the Trump Administration is steamrolling through unpopular rules issued by an Interior Secretary embroiled in at least 17 scandals,” stated Leda Huta, Executive Director of the Endangered Species Coalition. “Losing our biodiversity isn’t something that any American can afford. We don’t live in an enclosed man-made bubble — our health and safety, the health and safety of our children and grandchildren, our access to clean air and water, actually depends on biodiversity.”

Long-time industry lobbyist, David Bernhardt was recently confirmed by the Senate as Secretary of Interior, in spite of ethical questions, suppressing science, and hiding his lobbying against protections for an endangered fish. Just four days after his confirmation by the Senate, Interior’s Inspector General opened an ethics investigation into the newly-confirmed Secretary.

The regulations were finalized despite the overwhelming opposition of American citizens–more than 866,000 submitted comments opposing the new regulations. A decade of polling has consistently shown that the American public strongly supports the Endangered Species Act–90 percent in the most recent poll. And in 2017, more than 420 conservation organizations signed a letter to Congress opposing any weakening of the Endangered Species Act.

The Act has a 99% success rate. Species such as bald eagles, American alligator, humpback whale, Santa Cruz island fox, Tennessee purple coneflower and many more have recovered thanks to the Act. Hundreds more species have seen an  incredible resurgence including the grey wolf, Grizzly bear, black-footed ferret, and Whooping crane.