UN Extinction Report Shows Importance of Protecting Wildlife Habitat

Tom Mangelsen photo of bison along river in Yellowstone National Park
Photo: Thomas D. Mangelsen
With the United Nations reporting up to one million species at risk of extinction, the Northern Rockies remains a rare stronghold of biodiversity. Nearly all the native species endure that were present when Lewis and Clark explored the region 200 years ago.

Connecting a Wild Landscape in the Northern Rockies Mitigates Impacts of Climate Change and Development

If you follow news on the environment, you’ve probably seen the horrifying number already this week. But here it is again: in a comprehensive new assessment, the United Nations has concluded that as many as one million species of plants and animals are now at risk of extinction, primarily due to the accelerating impact of human activities on Earth’s biodiversity.

Climate change and habitat loss are the twin drivers of this profound damage to planetary life. As new land development converts natural areas for human use, wildlife are confined to smaller islands of habitat. This limits their ability to adapt to shifts in their environment. Climate change is already altering the food options and seasonal patterns of countless species, with many responding by moving to new areas in search of habitat that matches their needs. But those movements increasingly require animals to cross paths with humans and human activities, leading to wildlife deaths in ever-greater numbers.

Here’s how one scientist framed the problem in a New York Times report on the U.N. assessment:

“If climate change were the only problem we were facing, a lot of species could probably move and adapt,” Richard Pearson, an ecologist at the University College of London, said.  “But when populations are already small and losing genetic diversity, when natural landscapes are already fragmented, when plants and animals can’t move to find newly suitable habitats, then we have a real threat on our hands.”

The Northern Rockies: A Biodiversity Holdout

Despite the report’s disturbing prospects for global wildlife, action now can prevent such catastrophic loss in the Northern Rockies and Inland Northwest. Vital Ground’s home region is a rare exception—nearly all the native species that were present when Lewis and Clark explored the area 200 years ago still endure today. From grizzly bears to bull trout, our wildlife communities remains diverse and largely intact.

But they will not stay that way without help. Every 2-3 minutes, the American West loses a football field’s worth of open space. Our region is one of the fastest-growing in the country. Yet as much as humans have harmed other species, we also have the tools to protect them, with the grizzly’s initial recovery over the last 50 years providing a strong example. If we are to ensure a resilient future for bears and myriad other species in the region, however, we must take the next step, re-connecting isolated populations and securing a linked landscape for future generations.

Vital Ground and our conservation partners are leading this effort. By locating and addressing the most urgent conservation opportunities from Wyoming to Washington, we are charging forward with the work our planetary circumstances require. Your support today—whether it protects a precious acre of linkage habitat or helps build an electric fence that keeps bears out of trouble—will make a tangible difference in saving our remarkable and vulnerable biodiversity.

For many parts of the world, a shocking loss of species is all but written in stone. That’s not the case in the Northern Rockies. Thank you for helping us seize this last, best chance to protect the land and wildlife we love!

Stand Up for Biodiversity. Protect Habitat Today!

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