Over a third of America's wildlife is sliding towards extinction. Iconic species such as grizzly bears and Californian condors are facing a “crisis” as not enough is being done to save these creatures from vanishing forever. They can be saved, but recovery plans need to be well funded and fully implemented.
According to a new report published this week, the wave of looming extinction is not limited to just a few groups of animals, but is hitting species across the board. From butterflies to fish, amphibians to birds, and mussels to mammals, every aspect of the ecosystem in regions across the country are facing down serious threats to their very existence.
“America’s wildlife are in crisis,” said Collin O’Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation. “Fish, birds, mammals, reptiles, and invertebrates are all losing ground. We owe it to our children and grandchildren to prevent these species from vanishing from the earth.”
Brought together by the National Wildlife Federation, American Fisheries Society, and the Wildlife Society, the team of environmental biologists and conservationists used data from an assessment tool known as NatureServe that looks at entire groups of species rather than those on a case-by-case basis, as is usually carried out by the federal agencies.
The results have shown that whole groups of animals are suffering badly. Roughly 70 percent of freshwater fish species in North America are now either “rare or imperiled”, 30 percent of bat species have declined in the last two decades, and a pretty shocking 70 percent of freshwater mussels are either on the verge of extinction, or gone already.
The findings worryingly suggest that numerous species will follow in the footsteps of many past extinctions. At least 150 species have already fallen over the edge, including the only native species of parrot in North America and a peculiar seafaring mink, but there are an additional 500 species that have not been spotted for decades and, as such are thought most likely to be extinct too.
The main threats that wildlife are coming up against are a familiar set. The cutting down of forests, draining of wetlands, and destruction of prairies. The spread of mining and extractive industries and the steady spread of urbanization as cities spread and roads carve up the landscape. The heavy use of pesticides and pollution of freshwater systems by intensive agriculture. We’ve heard it all before.
But the wildlife can be helped and the decline reversed. The report calls on the government to channel more money into conservation, to make sure that these species are still there for future generations to come. They highlight the incredible work that went into repopulating the Canada lynx in Colorado, or the cottontail rabbits in New England.
They want more coordination and better management, in a bid to make the current patchy recovery strategies in place better suited to the tasks and more effective in the field.