By Doyle Irvin, American Forests
The holiday season is the time to kick back in an armchair and enjoy a fine mug of hot cider, circling yourself with loved ones and perhaps reading a good book. While we’ve been able to take the time to enjoy the comforts of the holidays, it’s important to also keep in mind all of the animals who cannot. This winter, with our Home for the Holidays initiative, we have been working hard to restore and protect the habitats of:
The Kirtland’s Warbler
These beautiful songbirds live in jack pine forests in Michigan, Wisconsin and Canada. Restoration efforts have been at work since the 1970s, and their population has risen 1,300 percent since 1987 — but they were so critically endangered that even today less than 2,500 singing males are to be found. The jack pine forest suffered from fire-suppression strategies, and many of the animals that depend on the jack pine were also in trouble. American Forests is proud to have planted 1.8 million jack pine trees to date.
The Gopher Tortoise
The adorable gopher tortoise used to roam across 90 million acres of longleaf pine in the Southeastern United States, but is now suffering with only 3 percent of its original longleaf habitat still standing. These tortoises are a keystone species for the forest community, digging shelters that more than 360 different creatures use for protection. Equally important are the trees: hundreds of unique species of flora and fauna depend on longleaf pine forests, including 26 already on the endangered or threatened species list. American Forests has been hard at work with the longleaf since 1994, planting more than 7.4 million trees.
Once upon a time, you would be able to find ocelots in Louisiana, Arizona, Arkansas and Texas, but now you are unlikely to ever spot one at all. With their habitat destroyed and hundreds of thousands of them hunted for pelts, the ocelot population in the United States today is estimated to be less than 100, all of which are on two special reserves in southern Texas. Their favorite landscape — called Talmulipan thornscrub — is one of the most diverse habitats in the world, home to thousands of unique species of birds, bugs, butterflies and plants. The 2 million trees American Forests has planted here is just the beginning, as less than 5 percent of the ocelot’s historic habitat still exists today.
The Grizzly Bear
The sad truth about the Grizzly Bear is that humans have driven them out of 98 percent of the original territory that they once occupied in the lower 48 states. Once, thousands upon thousands could be found from the border of Mexico all the way up to the border of Canada, traipsing about the Rockies and the Sierra Nevadas in their daily hunts for fish and nuts. Now, you will mostly only find them in the whitebark pine forests of Yellowstone and Montana, and these forests themselves are getting eviscerated by mountain pine beetles and blister rust. American Forests has committed itself to protecting the grizzly and the whitebark pine in Yellowstone, because they need all the help we can give.
And, The Pacific Salmon
It becomes apparent, once you study the issue, how intrinsically linked riparian forests and Pacific salmon are. The trees depend on salmon, and the salmon depend on trees, in more ways than one. Unfortunately, both are in serious trouble. Trees are being clear-cut and fish over-farmed, and these effects are stacking to the point that soon enough our river beds will be barren in many areas throughout the states bordering the Pacific. American Forests has been hard at work helping to restore riparian forests, planting nearly 500,000 trees across the west coast in the last three years alone.
All of these projects are ones that we are intimately familiar with, and in some cases have decades of experience working in. We understand just how precarious the livelihoods are for many of these precious animals and are dedicating ourselves now and in the future to the long-term protection of their habitats. We know that conservation isn’t something you can just do once and be done with. Declare that you, too, cherish these invaluable wildernesses with a donation to our Home for the Holidays initiative before December 31st!