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Conservation Group Seeks a Prairie Home for Imperiled Critters

BioBlitz Celebration Hopes to Inspire Protection for Species of the Great Plains

DENVER, CO-WildEarth Guardians has embarked on its third week of its BioBlitz campaign to save imperiled species. This campaign to protect endangered species is timed to coincide with the United Nation’s 2010 International Year of Biodiversity and includes taking action for a different imperiled species each work day for 36 days. The 1973 U.S. Endangered Species Act celebrated its 36th birthday this past December.

This week is Prairie Week. WildEarth Guardians’ efforts are focused on securing federal protection for a biologically diverse set of five animals that call the Great Plains’ prairies home. The two insects, a fish, a lizard, and a kangaroo rat represent some of the prairie animals that continue being displaced by urban sprawl, agricultural expansion, oil and gas extraction, invasions by non-native plants and animals, and other destructive human uses of their land and water habitats. They are also suffering from pollution and climate change.

“In the face of widespread destruction of prairie grasslands, there are few homes left for the diverse wildlife that once made the prairie such a special wild place,” said Dr. Lauren McCain, Prairie Protection Director for WildEarth Guardians. “The Great Plains needs a home makeover that provides enough space for the original prairie occupants from the animal kingdom.”

As part of its eight-week long BioBlitz campaign, WildEarth Guardians is pushing for protection of species on the brink of extinction, mostly through urging listing under the Endangered Species Act. The U.S. Endangered Species Act is one of the most important tools for protecting imperiled wildlife and habitats, and thus, for maintaining our country’s biodiversity. The Endangered Species Act is the legal scaffolding that could keep whole natural communities--including those homes on our nation's prairies--from collapsing in the face of unprecedented threats.

“Humans have driven so much wildlife from their homes on the prairie,” added McCain. “By securing Endangered Species Act listings for a handful of these species, we can create the safe havens needed to prevent their extinction.”

The critters included in the BioBlitz Prairie Week are rare creatures. The decline and imperilment of these species illustrates how human occupation of the Great Plains over the last 150 years has had unintended consequences for wildlife, wild places, and the fragile web of life. We have already lost a host of plants and animals from this region including the Great Plains wolf, plains grizzly bear, Audubon bighorn sheep, eastern elk, passenger pigeon, and heath hen. WildEarth Guardians is taking the following actions this week to help prevent more extinctions:

January 11: a petition to protect the Texas Kangaroo Rat under the Endangered Species Act. This kangaroo rat has lost most of its habitat to cropland, development, and poor livestock grazing practices.

January 12: a lawsuit to obtain protection for the Platte River Caddisfly under the Endangered Species Act. This ecologically important insect has lost habitat through water diversion, exotic species invasions, and drought.

January 13: a petition for Endangered Species Act protection for the Spot-tailed Earless Lizard, which is on the brink of extinction due to chemical pollutants and a ballooning human population into the animal’s range in Texas.

January 14: a petition to protect the Prairie Chub under the Endangered Species Act. Dams and other threats cause the fish to disappear from sections of the Red River Basin in Texas and Oklahoma where they once swam.

January 15: a lawsuit to obtain listing of the Scott’s Riffle Beetle under the Endangered Species Act. This beetle occurs only in one spring in Kansas, where it is threatened by depletion of the Ogallala Aquifer, chemical contamination, and introduction of predatory fish to its habitat.

“These five prairie species may not be household names, yet they reflect the great diversity of the Great Plains,” stated McCain of Guardians. “They highlight our need to protect the sweeping but shrinking open spaces and the scarce, precious waters so fundamental not only to these animals but to the human inhabitants of the plains as well.”

WildEarth Guardians launched its “BioBlitz” campaign on December 28, 2009 - the 36th anniversary of the U.S. Endangered Species Act. Look for more BioBlitz actions daily through February 18th.

WildEarth Guardians has been at the forefront of endangered species enforcement in the U.S. The group is a formal partner in the United Nation’s Year of Biodiversity (see here), through which “the world is invited to take action in 2010 to safeguard the variety of life on earth: biodiversity.”

View the Texas Kangaroo Rat fact sheet (PDF)

View the Platte River Caddisfly fact sheet (PDF)

View the Spot-tailed Earless Lizard fact sheet (PDF)

View the Prairie Chub fact sheet (PDF)

View the Scott's Riffle Beetle fact sheet (PDF)


 

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