September 18, 2019

Protect endangered species from mass extinction this Earth Day

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By Brianna Lynne From Care2

has always served as an important reminder to protect our planet. But this year — in the midst of climate change, a plastic pollution crisis and a sixth mass extinction — Earth Day seems even more important.

This year, the theme of Earth Day centers on protecting species — a crucial message as we experience the greatest rate of animal extinction since the loss of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.

Although animal extinction is a normal part of the planet’s functioning, we are now losing species 1,000 times faster than the normal rate, which represents species’ extinctions without human interference. And this problem is only anticipated to get worse with time. Future rates of extinction are projected to be 10,000 times the normal rate.

Our planet has witnessed a 60% decline in animal populations between 1970 and 2014. Researchers have found dangerous population declines even for species of low concern. As if the term “mass extinction” wasn’t bad enough, researchers have labeled this time period a “biological annihilation” to highlight how severe the problem truly is. It is estimated that species could take up to 10 million years to recover from this sixth mass extinction.

sea turtle eating a plastic bag in the ocean

Credit: Kwangmoozaa/Getty Images

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Unlike past mass extinctions, this event is the result of human activity. Humans have catastrophically altered the planet through urbanization, pollution and consumerism, among other ways.

Human expansion has resulted in habitat loss, posing the greatest threat to wildlife. The tiger, which is currently listed as endangered, inhabits less than 6% of its historical range. And the endangered Asian elephant inhabits around 10% of its historical range.

Habitat loss reduces animals’ access to food, water and mates, and it pushes them closer to humans, where they can be killed by poachers or during human-wildlife conflicts. Populations of wild animals can also become fragmented, which reduces their genetic fitness and chances of survival.

While the state of our sixth mass extinction is incredibly grim, it has not received the widespread public attention it so desperately needs. In fact, in the face of this crisis, Republicans have been working to weaken the Endangered Species Act, the bedrock legislation in the United States that protects threatened and endangered species.

Between 2011 and 2016, the Center for Biological Diversity documented a 676% increase in the rate of legislative attacks on endangered species. And Republicans introduced 94% of these harmful and counterintuitive bills.

The ironically named SAVES Act would prohibit the Endangered Species Act from protecting species that are not native to the United States. Furthermore, in the 115th Congress, Republicans introduced The Listing Reform Act, which would allow the economic costs of species conservation to be considered in listing decisions. And theEndangered Species Management Self-Determination Act, also introduced in the 115th Congress, would require both congressional approval and the approval of all states where the species is native before the species could be listed.

African elephant walking in Kenya

Credit: adogslifephoto/Getty Images

The magnitude of attacks against species conservation during Donald Trump’s presidency is far from shocking.

The Trump administration bypassed the Endangered Species Act, along with dozens of other environmental laws, to speed up the building of the border wall — despite the direct threat the wall poses to over 60 species threatened with extinction. Moreover, Trump’s former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke overturned a policy to protect bald eagles from lead poisoning on his first day in office.

Republicans argue that the Endangered Species Act is not working because of the low number of threatened or endangered species recoveirng in population. But less than 1 percent of listed species have gone extinct.

Their criticism fails to account for the difficulties in recovering a species already on the edge of extinction. If anything, the low number of species who have recovered should signal that we need to strengthen the Endangered Species Act instead of diluting it.

Republican efforts to weaken the Endangered Species Act represent a substantial threat to the survival of critical species throughout the world. Earth Day only comes once a year, but our wildlife cannot afford for us to turn our backs on them for the other 364 days.

The sixth mass extinction is our fault. All of us — our legislators included — should be working to protect our species before it is too late. Please sign this petition telling Republicans to protect endangered species!

If you want to make a difference on an issue you find deeply troubling, you too can create a Care2 petition, and use this handy guide to get started. You’ll find Care2’s vibrant community of activists ready to step up and help you.

Main image credit: SeppFriedhuber/Getty Images

For more on this story go to: https://www.care2.com/causes/protect-endangered-species-from-mass-extinction-this-earth-day.html

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