Taking Action on Endangered Species
Final revisions to the federal Endangered Species Act were published in August 2019, and begin taking effect this year. Four significant changes to the act include:
Greater considerations of economic impact when it comes to protecting a species, as opposed to relying solely on the most current scientific and commercial data
Tightening the definition of a “threatened species,” one likely to become endangered, by more specifically defining how far into the future the threats to an animal are considered
Loss of broader protections for threatened species, which were previously given the same protections as endangered species, and will now be given species-specific conservation guidelines
Changes to the evaluation of unoccupied critical habitats, which will now start with an evaluation to see if an endangered species’ current habitat is adequate before designating protections for alternative possible habitats
These changes face opposition from the House of Representatives, though it is unlikely they will be undone or revised any time soon. While legislation is being debated, 1,300 species around the country are listed as endangered or threatened by the EPA, with tens of thousands more around the world.
As these numbers rise, it is more and more important that citizens take action to save and protect endangered species before they go extinct for good. While protecting China’s amur leopards and Africa’s white rhinoceros is extremely vital, there’s a lot to be done in backyards and neighborhoods across America. To learn what is endangered or threatened in your state, visit the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for a complete list and to learn about their habitats, conditions and populations. Learning about the threatened plants, animals and insects locally is the first step to protecting these creatures, and ensuring that our daily habits don’t further endanger them.
Another critical step is growing habitats locally and protecting existing habitats from shrinking further. An easy way to do this is planting species local and native to your area in home and community gardens. Not only does native planting promote biodiversity, it attracts native bees, butterflies and other local insects and increases their access to food and habitat. For more information on plants native to your area, visit the National Wildlife Federation’s Plant Finder page and type in your zip code.
It is also vitally important to engage with your local politicians and wildlife regulatory services. Make sure you know their positions and the steps they are taking to protect local species. Write to them, donate to conservation efforts, and ensure that you and the community are accessing nature responsibly and protecting it for the future. Many local conservation efforts remain underfunded and underutilized, though most provide free education to the public and access to educational resources. Supporting these local efforts and encouraging friends and family to do the same is a critical step in furthering the conversation around wildlife protection.