By Michelle Werts
Most are familiar with the story of the bald eagle: how the iconic American bird was almost extinct in the United States in the mid-1900s, but through habitat protection, the banning of DDT and other management activities, the species recovered and was removed from the Endangered Species Act list in 2007. Unfortunately, though, some species go in the opposite direction.
Earlier this week, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) updated its list of endangered, threatened and special concern species for the first time in 16 years, and sadly, more species were added to the list than removed. Only 29 species, including the aforementioned bald eagle were removed from the list, while 180 species were added. From fungi, lichen and moss to insects, mollusks, fish, birds and mammals, many categories of species were examined and designated as needing attention in Minnesota.
Why were so many species added to Minnesota’s list? State wildlife officials tell the Minneapolis Star Tribune that declining water quality, prairie loss and fragmented forests are to blame, as is a failure to examine species and landscapes as a whole: “We’ve got to learn how to manage at a larger scale,” says Richard Baker, endangered species coordinator for the DNR, which means looking beyond one species and examining ecosystems as a whole.
Actually, landscape-scale restoration and management is something for which American Forests is advocating on the national level. We currently have a letter in our Action Center encouraging the director of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS), the overseers of the national endangered and threatened species list, to develop a national habitat-protection plan. You can use our pre-written letter to urge the FWS to design and implement such a plan. As we say in the letter, “This plan must emphasize habitat connectivity, reduce stressors and engage the public. The FWS needs to identify land and water parcels strategically located to connect and buffer habitats. These sanctuaries cannot remain fragmented.”
But while we’re working on policy issues on a national level, we’re also helping on the local level. In 2013, we have two Global Releaf projects in Minnesota designed to improve wildlife habitat: One is reforesting an area of Chippewa National Forest that was impacted by a severe 2012 storm, while the other is restoring pine and spruce trees to an area of Superior National Forest affected by pest problems. By working together, we can hopefully reverse this alarming development in Minnesota.