Forests are essential to life on earth. We, as humans, are not separate from nature, but an integral part of it. By caring for nature, we care for ourselves; and sometimes we have to be responsible for those who are unable to protect themselves both from natural disasters as well as those caused by the actions humans make, like those species on the list of federally endangered wildlife.
Deforestation can occur intrinsically, like when natural disasters occur. However, more often it happens as the result of human causes, like urbanization and agriculture. No matter the cause, when forests are threatened, the homes of all of the diverse wildlife that reside in those forests are threatened as well. Forced out, with nowhere to go, these species are in danger of disappearing.
Take the Key deer, the smallest deer species in North America, that only live in the Florida Keys. Sometimes they can be seen swimming between islands to find their favorite food, the red mangrove, but they will also settle for nibbling on over 150 species of native plants in the area. However, in addition to threats from overhunting, widespread habitat destruction caused the subspecies to plummet to near-extinction by the 1950s.
Only about 50 endangered ocelots are known to roam still the Lower Rio Grande Valley, LRGV, a fertile river delta of the Rio Grande, which has an ecosystem unlike any other in America. The ocelot’s habitat is imperiled from sprawling development and new threats, like the proposed border wall. Just a few years ago, biologists at the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge in Texas showcased images of a heartwarming sight: a three-week-old male ocelot kitten found in the first den on the refuge since 1997. Through reforestation efforts, this small wildcat with black speckles and stripes, which roams, swims, and climbs trees at night only in the Southwest U.S. and Mexico, may yet survive.