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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.

Ten Actions to Conserve Endangered Species

One of the most important questions people ask about endangered species protection is: ‘What can I do to help?’ The fourth infographic in our series shows ideas for actions you can take to protect and recover species and support biodiversity conservation. From small to large there are ways for everyone to become involved, make a positive impact, and increase awareness of the urgent need to protect biodiversity. Use this infographic to express to others how individuals and groups can help threatened and endangered species and make a difference for conservation.

Go here for more ideas about how to save endangered species.

Download the printable infographics

 

Endangered Species Act Success Stories

Our third infographic features a sampling of success stories of animals and plants recovered under the Endangered Species Act. From high profile, iconic species such as the bald eagle, to less well known but irreplaceable species like the Deseret Milkvetch, species recovery under the Act signifies the importance and strength of this legislation. Use this infographic to express the critical role the Endangered Species Act plays in recovering species populations.

To learn more about the positive effects of the Endangered Species Act, read, A Wild Success.

To see a complete list of species recovered under the Act, visit the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s list of species delisted due to recovery.

Download the printable infographics

 

What is the Endangered Species Act?

The second in our series of new infographics describes the remarkable efficacy and impact of the Endangered Species Act. The Act, created in 1973, remains one of the world’s strongest protections for biodiversity conservation. Yet in order for the Endangered Species Act to remain strong, it needs your support. Use this infographic to talk with others about the positive impact of the Act and spread awareness of the critical role this legislation plays in species protection.

For more information about the powerful ability of the Act to prevent the loss of species to extinction, check out this 2019 peer-reviewed article, Extinction and the U.S. Endangered Species Act https://peerj.com/articles/6803.pdf

To view and download the infographics, go to the toolkit on the Endangered Species Day website.

Download the printable infographics

U.S. Celebrating Endangered Species Day on May 17

Contact:  David Robinson, drobinson@endangered.org, (951) 282-3665

Leda Huta, lhuta@endangered.org, (202) 320-6467

 

Events Planned at Zoos, Nature Centers and other Venues

Washington, D.C. – On Friday, May 17, 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 14th annual international Endangered Species Day, which occurs on the third Friday of May, celebrating our wildlife and wild places.

“Endangered Species Day celebrates our declared national responsibility to our children and their children to save our vanishing wildlife and plants,” stated Leda Huta, Executive Director of the Endangered Species Coalition, primary sponsor of Endangered Species Day. “Bald eagles, sea turtles, wolves, and gray whales are just a fraction of the 1,600 species that the Endangered Species Act is saving every day.”

On May 17 (and throughout May) 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 the United Kingdom, Japan, Australia, the Bahamas, New Zealand, Canada, Costa Rica, and other countries. Highlights include:

  • Special presentations at the Rocky Mountain National Park, Parker River National Wildlife Refuge, and other parks and refuges.
  • Demonstrations, curator talks, tours and other activities at numerous zoos and aquariums, including the Endangered Species Weekend at Kansas City Zoo, Saving Animals from Extinction at Jenkinson’s Aquarium (NJ), and EdZOOcation: Endangered Species Day at Virginia Zoo.
  • Pollinator garden plantings to expand monarch/native pollinator habitat in Montana, Washington, Idaho, California, Indiana, Maryland, Alabama, Virginia, Texas, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
  • Interactive activities for individuals and families, such as the Rock Creek Park (Wash., D.C.) Cleanup; family night at the Ballard, Wash. Patagonia store; and Native Plant Workshop in San Diego.
  • Nationwide “No Plastics” campaign, which encourages people to sign a pledge to give up straws 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 receives a special award. This year’s grand prize winner is Portland, Oregon 1st-grader, Sam Hess. Sam will be honored at the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Congressional Reception in Washington, D.C. on May 8, and will receive a special art lesson from a professional wildlife artist, along with $50-worth of art supplies.

“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. Signed by President Richard Nixon in 1973, public opinion research indicates that the Act receives strong, broad, public support.

In addition to the Endangered Species Coalition, the 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 www.endangeredspeciesday.org.

 

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