The Endangered Species Conservation Site is a unique source for anyone (student, teacher, youth group leader, community organizer, others) looking for information about threatened/endangered animal and plant species and what they can do to help protect them. On the opening page essay-blog (below) and additional pages shown above you’ll find endangered species facts, current news, special resources (including sample lesson plans, podcast sources and other material), suggested actions (including specific ideas for young people) and more. We encourage you to return often to find new additions. Thanks for visiting.
*Real News: Timely ES Reports
*The Latest Save The Species blog (below)
*For Teachers and Youth Group Leaders: More classroom and outdoor activities, including new Teacher Tips
*A New Guest Commentary (“How long do most species last before going extinct?”) See Thought-provoking essays
++Please Note: Photos featured throughout this site have been provided by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and Endangered Species Coalition archives, and additional royalty-free sources. We appreciate their support.
Good News for The Environment
By David Robinson (11/8/20)
There were a few stressful days last week as we waited for more Presidential election results.
Finally, on Saturday, President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris took the stage to announce a few of their initial goals, including the desire to begin the “healing process,” and to implement a plan to halt the Pandemic.
Of course, once he takes office, President Biden (and his Administration) will be busy with a diverse range of actions, a few of which will undoubtedly focus on the health of our environment. He has already indicated a commitment to having the United States rejoin the Paris Climate Accord. Also on the early agenda will be new appointments to head the Department of Interior and the EPA. We can be confident that the Biden Administration will be much more supportive of the Endangered Species Act and the protection of endangered plants and animals and their precious habitats.
I thought the following poem by Alfred K. LaMotte, an interfaith chaplain based in Olympia, WA, is especially timely. (Thanks to Jeanne Dodds, Creative Engagement Director at the Endangered Species Coalition, for sharing it with us.)
ELECTION — a poem by Alfred K. LaMotte:
I voted for the rainbow.
I voted for the cry of a loon.
I voted for my grandfather’s bones
that feed beetles now.
I voted for a singing brook that sparkles
under a North Dakota bean field.
I voted for salty air through which the whimbrel flies
South along the shores of two continents.
I voted for melting snow that returns to the wellspring
of darkness, where the sky is born from the earth.
I voted for daemonic mushrooms in the loam,
and the old democracy of worms.
I voted for the local, the small, the brim
that does not spill over, the abolition of waste,
the luxury of enough.
I voted for the commonwealth of the ancient forest,
a larva for every beak, a wing-tinted flower
for every moth’s disguise, a well-fed mammal’s corpse
for every colony of maggots.
I voted for open borders between death and birth.
I voted on the ballot of a fallen leaf of sycamore
that cannot be erased, for it becomes the dust and rain,
and then a tree again.
I voted for more fallow time to cultivate wild flowers,
more recess in schools to cultivate play,
more leisure, tax free, more space between days.
I voted to increase the profit of evening silence
and the price of a thrush song.
I voted for ten million stars in your next inhalation.
Thanks to all who voted for the wildlife and the wild places they inhabit.
By David Robinson (Oct. 20, 2020)
I am so grateful for all of those under-recognized (and recognized) people who make an incredible difference for the benefit of endangered species conservation.
Of course, we owe a great deal to such organizations as the Endangered Species Coalition, Earthjustice, Center for Biological Diversity, World Wildlife Fund, Sierra Club, National Wildlife Federation, and other environmental groups. Those that are committed to protecting threatened/endangered plants and animals and the precious habitats on which they depend.
However, it’s often the individual eco-heroes who aren’t always appropriately acknowledged for their contributions, such as:
*Planting a pollinator garden.
*Participating in a habitat clean-up project.
*Joining an Endangered Species Day (third Friday in May) activity.
*Volunteering with their local groups to protect a specific species.
*Teaching students about the importance of endangered species conservation.
*Supporting the Endangered Species Act (ESA) by e-mailing their Senator or Congressional Representatives.
*Encouraging everyone to Vote for the Wildlife in the upcoming election.
It’s easy to get disillusioned about the state of our environment: the attacks on the ESA, climate change denial, and the numerous environmental initiative rollbacks we’ve witnessed during the last few years.
But we also should be hopeful—knowing that there are so many wonderful individuals who will continue fighting to protect the vulnerable species with which we share the planet.
Thanks to all of you.
We Must Think Carefully, Then Vote
By David Robinson, September 22, 2020
I’ll repeat an earlier, slightly obvious statement—this is a challenging time for all of us.
We’re still dealing with the Pandemic virus-crisis, and are now preparing for a contentious election. As the late actress Betty Davis once said, “Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy night (ride).”
You’ve most likely confirmed your 2020 election choice(s) for President and perhaps a U.S. Senator or Congressional representative, and state leaders.
But if for any reason you’re still sitting on or straddling the fence—undecided whether to vote or for whom—please step down and be ready to mail in your ballot or vote in person. And include environmental concerns as part of your decision process. The economy, health care, education, race/human relations, immigration, and basic decency are critically important issues. So too are the conservation of endangered species and their precious habitats, climate change initiatives, and other Acts and actions that affect the planet’s health.
As Leda Huta, executive director of the Endangered Species Coalition, recently emphasized in a timely commentary, ”The fates of whales, polar bears, wolves, endangered plants, and even the Endangered Species Act itself will be at stake in this election. The decisions we make regarding who serves in Congress and who will be our next president will shape our response to the extinction crisis and climate change.”
Make your own report card that grades the candidates’ previous records and current positions on vital environmental issues. In addition to your own observations over the last several years and reviewing recommendations from environmental and other organizations, the League of Conservation Voters Scorecard will provide information about U.S.
Senate and House members. Use your final assessment to help guide your decisions. And remind everyone you know to vote in this “life changing” election.
Encouraging Our Youth
By David Robinson, September 5, 2020
People typically develop an initial love for animals at an early age. A family gets a pet dog or cat and the kids establish a special bond with the new addition.
They visit the zoo, aquarium, or botanical garden where the children get a close-up look at the incredible diversity of animals and plants, some of which are endangered.
They may be fortunate to see a deer, bear, elk, eagle, and other wildlife and wildflowers during a trip to a national park or refuge.
Inspirational teachers further enhance the animal-human connection. As the former Education Director for the Endangered Species Coalition, I realized how enthusiastic young students are to learn more, by participating in the Saving Endangered Species Youth Art Contest or during a class discussion about their state’s biodiversity.
Through these and other experiences, young people ideally develop a unique empathy for endangered and other species.
Parents and teachers thus have a valuable opportunity to ensure more of them find their passion for protecting vulnerable species and their precious habitats. Encourage them to read a book about endangered species and to understand the importance of the Endangered Species Act. Assist them with the planting of a pollinator garden and/or participating in a habitat clean-up project. Home schooling parent-teachers can devote a session to the “why and how” of endangered species conservation. Rather than only emphasizing the unsettling news about habitat degradation and declining species, highlight the everyday actions we can take.
It doesn’t take much to guide a curious child on the path to become a lifelong Save the Species ambassador.
Protect the Habitats
By David Robinson, August 5, 2020
The Trump Administration has taken another step to dismantle and/or reduce the intended effectiveness of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). As if there weren’t more pressing issues on which to focus.
The latest environmentally insensitive action that was initiated by the Department of the Interior will have a major impact on how threatened and endangered species will survive in their “critical habitat.”
According to the Fish & Wildlife Service’s (FWS) August 5 formal announcement, “The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service have proposed a regulatory definition of the term “habitat” that would be used in the context of critical habitat designations under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The proposed definition is part of the efforts of the Trump Administration to balance effective, science-based conservation with common-sense policy designed to bring the ESA into the 21st century.”
The FWS’ proposed definition limits habitat to the “areas with existing attributes that have the capacity to support individuals of the species.” It would limit protections to habitat that could currently support specific species, but not areas that might be restored or safeguarded to provide additional habitat for future recovery.
According to a statement from The Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), “This would preclude protecting habitat that had been historically used by a species as well as habitat that could be important as species move in response to threats such as climate change.” For example, the eastern black rail has been proposed for threatened status and lives in coastal wetlands that could be flooded by sea level rise attributed to climate change. The rule would prevent the designation and protection of inland areas the rail would depend on in the future.
It’s disheartening to watch as the ESA is threatened yet again. “The Trump administration won’t be satisfied until it removes all protections for the natural world, including clean air and water, land, and now even habitat for our most vulnerable wildlife,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “If endangered species are to recover, we have to protect and restore places they used to live.”
It’s easy to feel powerless in such situations. How can one person make a difference? Edward Everett Hale, an American author and clergyman, offered a wonderful observation: “I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do.” A powerful perspective that should resonate with all of us.
So if you agree with the many others who insist that more, not less, needs to be done to protect the precious habitats that are vital to the long-term existence of threatened and endangered plants and animals, then tell the FWS how you really feel. Public comments will be accepted for 30 days–until September 4. You can obtain more background information and directions for submitting comments and then watch for the FWS to post all comments (on http://www.regulations.gov). You can also e-mail or tweet a message to your Congressional rep and Senator. Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper. Contact your favorite environmental organization(s) to see how you might support their efforts. We can all do something.
Please stay safe, healthy, and happy.
The Fight Against Wildlife Trafficking
David Robinson (7/10/20)
In addition to emphasizing how unprepared the U.S. is for a major health crisis, the COVID-19 Pandemic has shined another light on the crime of illegal wildlife trade/trafficking. As noted in a previous article (below), “…when researchers linked it (the pangolin) with the transmission of the virus to humans in the initial outbreak in Wuhan, Chinese officials announced a ban on eating wild animals.”
Of course, Illegal wildlife trafficking—the unlawful acquisition and use of endangered and threatened animals and plants for pets, ornament trophies, medicines, jewelry, and other purposes—has long been a widespread international problem.
In a June 5 (World Wildlife Day) message, the Convention on International Trade In Endangered Species (CITES) Secretary-General Ivonne Higuero stated that “The Convention is and will remain critically important in ensuring that no species of wild plants and animals go extinct because of international trade. Full implementation of the CITES regulatory framework, ensuring that international trade in wild species is legal, sustainable, and traceable, and the continued combat against the illegal wildlife trade, are essential to reduce risks to nature, wild species and human beings.”
In addition to China’s ban, the U.S., United Kingdom and other countries have strived to combat illegal activity, with some efforts more successful than others. According to the Reuters news service, Prince William (UK) recently called for a halt to illegal wildlife trade; emphasizing that the COVID-19 crisis has helped underscore the potential danger to public health. “Right now, there is a real chance to ensure that the urgent steps that the world must take to prevent future zoonotic disease pandemics are designed in a way that also helps to eradicate the illegal wildlife trade,” he said.
Also, several environmental organizations, including the World Wildlife Fund (www.www.org), Wildlife Conservation Society (www.wcs.org), and International Fund for Animal Welfare (www.ifaw.org), have developed anti-wildlife trafficking campaigns as part of their overall mission of protecting threatened and endangered species. The Endangered Species Coalition’s (http://www.endangered.org) 2020 Top 10 Report highlighting “Illegal wildlife trafficking and unsustainable trade” will be published later this year.
As individuals, we have two main objectives: don’t sell, consume or otherwise support the illegal trafficking/trade of protected plants and animals. Voice your opinion whenever possible. It’s not too complicated and could make a difference.
The Challenge Ahead
David Robinson, June 5, 2020
The United States has been in a tragic state lately and most of us are looking for answers.
The recent killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer and the ensuing angry protests and lootings in cities throughout the country (and the world) have once again helped bleed the stain of racism into the public forum.
Of course, we’re also crawling our way through what we hope is the end of the Pandemic tunnel, looking for the light and a reasonably safe “new normal.” More than 105,000 people in the U.S. have died and so many others have suffered.
We know that race relations, the economy, and the nation’s health are major issues that will be discussed on the debate stage. While environmental protections—including endangered species conservation—may not be a top priority considering the agonizing tumult of the last few months, it is on my list and of concern to many others.
As we approach the November election, all Americans should be carefully evaluating the candidates’ past actions, and short- and long-term solutions to these most important challenges. Also, how we as individuals can contribute. I am reminded of a quote from the late activist and author Eldridge Cleaver: “You either have to be part of the solution, or you’re going to be part of the problem.” In today’s sometimes chaotic environment, that means everyone can do something: understand, support, protest, petition, shout out to a member of Congress, and/or vote. We better get it right.
There Are No Insignificant Species
David Robinson, 5/10/20
Everybody knows about elephants and grizzly bears.
But what about the Nashville crayfish?
Obviously, focusing on the big picture is necessary to ensure a vibrant, thriving biodiversity, and to protect endangered species. Emphasizing the importance of protecting the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and highlighting the more iconic species attracts attention and support on a large scale. However, where do the less visible and “marginal” species fit in?
International publications, science/news magazines, and other major media outlets report on the ESA, wildlife trafficking, and such species as the Orca, grizzly bear, elephant and black rhino. But also consider these actual headlines:
*Nashville (crayfish) native is the latest target of endangered species rollbacks
*The Secret & Endangered Lives of Freshwater Mussels
Appalachian elktoe mussel
*Island (San Juan Island, WA) Marble butterfly listed as an endangered species
Island Marble Butterfly
Of course, all plant and animal species are connected in the “web of life,” and deserving of our attention. In addition, shining the light on a “local” or low-profile species can generate interest and support from people living in the region where it is found and others who are especially fond of the less recognizable species. They may have believed that their individual actions won’t make a difference in the often overwhelming mission of habitat and species preservation. Then, after learning about the plight of a local plant or animal, they realize that their efforts could have an impact. They write a letter, send an e-mail, sign a petition and/or attend a meeting to help gain protection for the species.
For many people, getting involved on a local level and smaller scale is often their introduction to endangered species conservation. Hopefully, that initial efforts guide them to an expanded, lifelong interest in protecting vulnerable species on a grand scale.
Our Continuing Education
(David Robinson, 4/6/20)
The COVID-19 crisis has been an enlightening and unhappy learning experience.
At the top of our current Lessons Learned list is “be prepared” and “pay attention” (to warning signs). We also know that strong leadership, patience, and helping each other are essential requirements for surviving a pandemic.
Perhaps less obvious to some is that the destruction of biodiversity can foster conditions for new viruses. We’ve long known that habitat loss is the primary reason animals and plants become endangered. Now, according to a recent Scientific American article, “…a number of researchers today think that it is actually humanity’s destruction of biodiversity that creates the conditions for new viruses and diseases like COVID-19, the viral disease that emerged in China in December 2019 to arise—with profound health and economic impacts in rich and poor countries alike.”
The article also noted that becoming more popular is a relatively new discipline called Planetary Health, which emphasizes the “visible connections among the well-being of humans, other living things, and entire ecosystems.”
It is painfully obvious that the diverse members of the human species must depend on each other as well as the health of the often-fragile habitats in which they live and the multitude of plant and animal species with which they share the planet. We co-exist, ideally deriving some benefit from each other’s presence.
When the COVID-19 cloud eventually disappears, and we return to some sense of normalcy (social close-ups? no more hoarding?), school will be back in session for young people as well as the responsible adults. There will be revised lessons on emergency/disease preparedness, testing protocols, and non-partisanship behavior.
There also should be a required (not elective) course on the Consequences of Biodiversity Destruction. Even if some of the adults aren’t overly concerned with habitat protection to save threatened and endangered species, they will (or should) be more attentive to the potential causes of pandemics. As most everyone knows from the frequently repeated (yet often ignored) phrase: “If we don’t learn from the mistakes of the past, we are doomed to repeat them.”
Stay safe and healthy.
Endangering the Species
David Robinson (3/20/20)
This is a challenging, scary time.
The COVID-19 pandemic has created worldwide havoc. The number of people infected continues to increase. In less than two months, there have been drastic changes to our way of life—major cities are ordering residents to “shelter in place,” only leaving home to go to the grocery store, bank, doctor’s office, or hardware store. Maintaining a “social distance” is the new norm.
One unintended though a potentially beneficial result of the virus-crisis is the protection of the pangolin, a threatened/endangered species that has been widely trafficked for its supposed medicinal benefits and as a delicacy in China. According to one report, when
researchers linked it with the transmission of the virus to humans in the initial outbreak in Wuhan, Chinese officials announced a ban on eating wild animals. If the ban continues long term, it could protect other threatened and endangered species. Other studies indicate that the destruction of biodiversity can foster conditions for new viruses.
Of course, people everywhere are either unable or uncertain whether to visit national parks, zoos, natural history museums, nature preserves, and other wildlife/habitat attractions. Organizers of major environmental events—including Endangered Species Day (May 15)—have been forced to rethink their plans. There will be a greater focus on online/virtual tour activities.
However, home school teachers (parents) wanting to add a conservation-related class to their curriculum can consider the Reading List, Podcasts, and other Resources found on this site. Such learning activities can educate and entertain young and adult students and still adhere to the social distancing mandate.
Please be safe and stay healthy.
*Saving The Truffula Trees
David Robinson (3/9/20)
More than 30 years ago, when I was preparing the San Diego’s Endangered Species booklet for schools, libraries and community groups, I asked Dr. Seuss (also a resident of San Diego then) for a quote to include on the front page. He was gracious enough to send me this: “You can’t save the Truffula Trees or the Humming Fish or the Brown Bar-ba-loots. They’re gone forever. But this vital booklet will tell you what you can save and must save in San Diego.”
Dr. Seuss had written about the Truffula Trees in The Lorax, one of his most well-known and beloved books. The greedy Once-ler explained how he had cut down the trees on which the Brown Bar-ba-loots had depended and also polluted the pond where the Humming Fish once thrived.
Of course, The Lorax underscored how vital and fragile our ecosystems are. A recent study noted that 45% of the nearly 3,000 ecosystems examined in 100 countries are “at risk of complete collapse.”
Habitat loss is the chief reason for species becoming threatened and endangered. All too often we read about or watch the destruction of forests, coral reefs, wetlands and other critical habitats that are home to vulnerable species. Last year’s horrific fires in Australia burned nearly 30 million acres and killed an estimated one billion mammals, bird and reptiles. There are many other examples of how severe disturbances (some caused by irresponsible human actions) can result in permanent damage to previously healthy ecosystems.
It may seem that as individuals we have little control over such environmental disasters. But we can do some-things, such as signing a petition prohibiting the use of harmful pesticides, supporting climate change initiatives, eliminating invasive species from gardens or other landscapes, helping to reduce plastic and other pollution, participating in a habitat clean-up project, and not intruding on sensitive lands or collecting threatened/endangered flowers and plants.
We can’t save the Truffula Trees, but there is still time to protect so much more.
*Be Resolute About Resolutions
David Robinson (1/30/20)
Happy (belated) New Year.
Perhaps not so happy for threatened and endangered species and their advocates. 2019 was another year of trashing or otherwise diluting important environmental programs.
There have been numerous efforts recently to “turn the clock back” on endangered species conservation; reducing the measures aimed at protecting animals and plants and the habitats on which they depend. There is no indication this mission will cease in 2020. For example, a recently proposed regulation would/will eliminate potential punishment to oil and gas companies, construction workers and others that kill birds “incidentally,” thereby significantly weakening the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918.
So, if you usually make a New Year resolution (or a pledge or “do list”), add one for the vulnerable species that need our help:
*E-mail your member of Congress or Senator (and/or call their Environmental Affairs Directors), urging them to preserve the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and other essential environmental-related bills.
* Determine who the best candidates are for the upcoming elections—those who support the ESA, Climate Change action, clean water regulations and other critical initiatives. Vote for them.
*Be aware of plans that may have a negative affect on a threatened or endangered species in your area. Voice your opinion.
Simple, effective actions can make a difference.
*The Time Is Now
By David Robinson
The headlines in the May 4 (2019) announcement from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) organization were alarming:
Nature’s Dangerous Decline ‘Unp
1,000,000 species threatened with extinction
Transformative changes needed to restore and protect nature
According to the announcement (complete release included in the Real News section of this site.), the report was compiled by “145 expert authors from 50 countries over the past three years, with input from another 310 contributing authors.” It assesses changes over the past five decades, offering a comprehensive look at the “relationship between economic development pathways and their impacts on nature.”
“The overwhelming evidence of the IPBES Global Assessment, from a wide range of different fields of knowledge, presents an ominous picture,” said IPBES Chair, Sir Robert Watson. “The health of ecosystems on which we and all other species depend is deteriorating more rapidly than ever. We are eroding the very foundations of our economies, livelihoods, food security, health and quality of life worldwide.”
A few key highlights:
*Around 1 million animal and plant species are now threatened with extinction, many within decades, more than ever before in human history.
*The average abundance of native species in most major land-based habitats has fallen by at least 20%, mostly since 1900. More than 40% of amphibian species, almost 33% of reef forming corals and more than a third of all marine mammals are threatened
*The five direct drivers of change in nature with the largest relative global impacts so far are, in descending order: (1) changes in land and sea use; (2) direct exploitation of organisms; (3) climate change; (4) pollution and (5) invasive alien species.
Of course, while the IPBES report does paint a gloomy environmental landscape, there is some hope. If we act now. “The Report also tells us that it is not too late to make a difference, but only if we start now at every level from local to global,” said Sir Watson. “Through ‘transformative change’, nature can still be conserved, restored and used sustainably – this is also key to meeting most other global goals. By transformative change, we mean a fundamental, system-wide reorganization across technological, economic and social factors, including paradigms, goals and values.”
The report also suggests a variety of potential actions “for sustainability and pathways for achieving them across and between sectors such as agriculture, forestry, marine systems, freshwater systems, urban areas, energy, finance and many others.” These include “adopting integrated management and cross-sectoral approaches that take into account the trade-offs of food and energy production, infrastructure, freshwater and coastal management, and biodiversity conservation.”
Obviously, such substantial actions require global cooperation. It’s uncertain as to how much the current U.S. Administration—which has ignored climate change warnings and is committed to dismantling the Endangered Species Act—will contribute to solving the worldwide challenge.
However, all of us can take the critical steps to help make a difference:
*Read and understand the IPBES report.
*Quickly discard the notion that individuals aren’t able to create change.
*E-mail and call our members of Congress to urge them to support the necessary measures.
*Write a letter to our local newspaper editors.
*Join/participate in those organizations that are committed to developing specific campaigns to make the appropriate changes.
*Evaluate our own behavior regarding food consumption, energy usage, gardening, carbon footprint reduction and habitat protection.
Hopefully there will be enough of a response to this dire wake-up call. We’ve got to act. (5/10/19)
(Above photos from Fish & Wildlife Service.)
* * *