Forests & Wildlife Habitat
- Increased development has split forests into fragments, shrinking the habitats for many species of wildlife, and cutting them off from resources in the rest of the ecosystem.
- Federal programs and resources often do not address ecosystems as a whole, to include wildlife habitat, watersheds, and other connected natural ecosystems.
- Experts estimate that the rate at which species are going extinct is at least 1,000 times higher than it should be from natural factors alone.
- The spread of invasive, non-native species is pushing native plants and animals out of their own ecosystems.
Why We Care
Wildlife habitats worldwide are being destroyed, degraded, or fragmented, all of which often lead to species becoming threatened or endangered. It is critical that we protect and restore forest ecosystems – which provide habitat and support hundreds of species of flora and fauna. Establishing and protecting corridors that connect ecosystems also helps to provide wildlife with critical habitat.
As human development continues to expand into wildlife habitats, the situation can become more dangerous for wildlife and humans alike. In Florida and Louisiana, the black bear is experiencing more conflict with humans in regions that were once its natural habitat, and are now being cleared for housing and commercial developments. A similar situation is happening with tigers in Sumatra, orangutans in Malaysia, and many other species of wildlife all over the world.
It isn’t only current habitats that are being lost, but future habitats as well. As climate patterns continue to change, many species will be forced to find new habitats. Yet human development, as well as wildfire, diseases, and other threats, leave few alternatives for healthy new habitats – a situation that could drive many species that are currently thriving to become threatened or endangered in coming decades. A recent study estimated that if current trends continue, a shocking 1 million species will become endangered in just the next 50 years.
By serving as policy leaders as well as supporting the work of our partners and other conservation organizations, we address the issues that threaten forests and wildlife habitats. We advocated the US Forest Service Planning Rule to protect water, wildlife, recreation, and the economic vitality of rural communities by establishing national guidelines for land management plans.
We support Endangered Species Act programs, such as the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s Safe Harbor program. This program encourages landowners to restore and enhance a habitat that contributes to the recovery of a listed species, while assuring that no additional land use restrictions or management regulations will be imposed.
The Safe Harbor program currently protects more than 52,000 acres of privately owned land in the North Carolina Sandhills, where Red-cockaded woodpeckers are endangered due to habitat loss and changes in land use.
We advocate for more acres of roadless areas in the Colorado Roadless Rule, which aims to preserve and protect important roadless areas that provide drinking water, fish and wildlife habitat, recreation areas, and natural landscapes. By keeping roads from being built in these critical areas, the Rule prevents the ecosystem and its habitats from being fragmented. Remaining whole, the ecosystem can fight off invasive species, provide better wildlife habitats and corridors, and reduce the risk of species becoming threatened or endangered.
In addition to our policy work, American Forests provides on-the-ground solutions to restore habitats that have been destroyed or degraded through our Global ReLeaf program. Just a few of our many projects that plant trees to enhance wildlife habitats include the Bugaboo Reforestation, Glades Red Spruce Restoration, 2010 Kirtland’s Warbler Habitat Creation, and La Cruz Habitat Protection Project.
What You Can Do
- Donate to American Forests to help fund our community outreach, research, and replanting efforts.
- Search online for wildlife organizations in your area that need your support.
- Write to Congress to urge greater support of conservation efforts, including the Planning Rule, the Safe Harbor program, and the Colorado Roadless Rule.
- Write to government officials, including US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and US Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell, about the importance of trees for wildlife and ecosystems.
- Garden responsibly. Since a major cause of habitat fragmentation is the use of foreign ornamentals instead of native plants, it is important to make sure that you plant species that support native wildlife. Read more on the topic, and learn what plants to use in your area, in ecologist Doug Tallamy’s article “A Call for Backyard Biodiversity.”