Native plants and animals are going extinct at accelerated rates across the globe. While extinction is a natural process, the current extinction rate is at least 1,000 times the historical rate indicated by the fossil record. This mass extinction crisis is due to habitat destruction, climate change, pollution, exploitation, proliferation of non-native species, and other threats. The fundamental drivers of the loss of biodiversity are human overpopulation and overconsumption.
WildEarth Guardians is committed to preventing extinction. We use an array of legal tools and on-the-ground work to protect species and their habitat.
Endangered Species Act Listing
One of the best tools for fighting species loss is the United States Endangered Species Act (ESA). This is our nation’s most powerful environmental law, and since it was passed in 1973, the ESA has been 99 percent successful at preventing the extinction of listed species. Only 9 of the approximately 2,000 species listed under it have gone extinct. It is enormously popular, with polls and research consistently indicating that 85 percent or more of the American public supports it, from many walks of life.
But the law can’t protect species that aren’t formally listed as “endangered” or “threatened.” There’s a wide gap between those plants and animals that scientists consider imperiled and species that have been listed under the ESA. In fact, over 80 percent of species in the western U.S. that scientists have ranked as imperiled have no status under the nation’s endangered species law. Even species deemed warranted for listing must often wait years for protection when they are placed on the candidate list. Such delays can have tragic effects: candidates have gone extinct while awaiting listing.
WildEarth Guardians has an energetic and dogged campaign to usher imperiled species onto the legal ark of the ESA. We operate with the understanding that species on the brink don’t have the luxury of time. We petition the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for protection of individual species and follow those requests up with lawsuits as necessary. We have petitioned for hundreds of species in the Southwest and Mountain-Prairie regions, and many of the species that have been added to the ESA candidate list were petitioned by Guardians during 2010: International Year of Biodiversity. On May 10, 2011, WildEarth Guardians entered into an historic and sweeping settlement agreement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service which aims to resolve years of litigation and end years of waiting for species on the candidate list – animals and plants that both the Service and WildEarth Guardians agree need the protection of the Endangered Species Act.
Endangered Species Protection
Once a species is listed, the full power of the ESA can be brought to bear to ensure its survival and recovery. Guardians works to gain listed species designated critical habitat, recovery plans, and proper consultation on projects that may impact their survival.
Education and Outreach
Guardians’ work is backed by the best available science, and we strive to make our research transparent through our reports. We also conduct public education campaigns to increase tolerance and promote coexistence, particularly for species that have not been afforded the legal protections of the ESA.
- Prairie Dog Day. February 2nd is officially recognized as Groundhog Day, but here in the West we celebrate Prairie Dog Day. Prairie Dog Day events invite the public to more fully understand prairie dogs and their communities, and learn how the status of prairie dogs affects the health of our western grasslands. WildEarth Guardians releases its annual Report from the Burrow: Forecast of the Prairie Dog on Prairie Dog Day, which rates how western states are, or are not, ensuring the species health.
- “The Troubles with Trapping” New Mexican Roadshow. WildEarth Guardians, as part of the TrapFreeNM.org coalition, organized this eight-city tour of New Mexico in 2012 to highlight the dangers associated with public lands trapping. We set out to meet New Mexico’s citizens and voters face-to-face in order to elevate the issue, raise awareness, and capture the attention of decision makers.
- Coexisting with Cougars. Public education is key to maintaining tolerance for the West’s charismatic big cats, and ensuring their conservation. Guardians has organized a multitude of educational talks on cougars in Colorado and New Mexico. By improving awareness and understanding of these native cats, we can promote common sense precautions to eliminate potential human-cougar conflicts.
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