Rather than saying “Happy Endangered Species Day” to you, I want to emphasize
what kind of message this annual day of observance really intends to convey: Earth’s
species are at risk of extinction and, unless we garner awareness, educate ourselves and work to support policy dedicated to protecting them, species will continue to be lost at a terrifying rate.
While extinction is a natural phenomenon and lends itself to the distillation of species most fit and adapted to survive to earth’s conditions, the rapidity at which die-offs are happening is at 1,000 to 10,000 times the background rate–or that which would occur naturally without the added influence of humans–of one to five species going extinct per year. At this moment, thanks to the detrimental impact caused by humans, we are looking at the extinction of at least 10,000 species per year.
Human activity is the leading factor threatening the survival of species through habitat lost to agriculture and development, introduction of exotic species, environmental pollution and global warming. While species most vulnerable are at the most immediate risk, others bound through ecological interconnections to species that are lost will likely lead to a cascade effect in the coming decades leading to the unraveling of ecosystems.
The implementation of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 1973 granted the federal government the power to protect and recover imperiled species and the ecosystems deemed critical to their survival. The success of this act of policy is reflected in the more than 2,100 plants and animals worldwide currently protected by the Act, out of which only ten have been declared extinct. A study by the National Wildlife Federation suggested that 172 species may have gone extinct between 1973 and 1998 had the Endangered Species Act had never been introduced. Thus, the ESA is undoubtedly a true triumph and it is essential that it be carried on.
Alarmingly, this very act meant to conserve “esthetic, ecological, educational, recreational, and scientific value to our nation and its people” is facing a dire future under the Trump administration with the confirmation by the Senate this March of Ryan Zinke as the new secretary of the Interior. Known to have criticized the ESA in the past, putting Zinke into office has arisen much opposition by environmental advocates and groups.“Ryan Zinke has a dismal 3 percent lifetime environmental voting record,” says Kierán Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity said in a statement.
“His brief political career has been substantially devoted to attacking endangered species and the Endangered Species Act. He led efforts to strip federal protections for endangered wolves, lynx and sage grouse, voted to exempt massive agribusiness and water developers from Endangered Species Act limitations, and opposed efforts to crack down on the international black market ivory trade.” -Kierán Suckling
Trump’s intention is to cut back any and all regulations that restrict businesses, “Our friends that want to build in the United States, they go many, many years and then they can’t get the environmental permit over something that nobody ever heard of before,” he said. “And it’s absolutely crazy. I am, to a large extent, an environmentalist. I believe in it. But it’s out of control.” The president’s views, disheartening and wildly troubling, completely overlooks the benefits that species survival and the maintenance of the biodiversity that nurtures our planet and maintains ecosystem functions and services that humans rely on not just for enjoyment, but for our own survival.
- Ecosystem services:
- Protection of water resources
- Soils formation and protection
- Nutrient storage and recycling
- Pollution breakdown and absorption
- Contribution to climate stability
- Maintenance of ecosystems
- Recovery from unpredictable events
- Biological resources:
- Medicinal resources and pharmaceutical drugs
- Wood products
- Ornamental plants
- Breeding stocks, population reservoirs
- Future resources
- Diversity in genes, species and ecosystems
- Social benefit:
- Research, education and monitoring
- Recreation and tourism
- Cultural values
To learn how you can help protect threatened and endangered species, check out these websites:
To search for endangered species by region, EarthsEndangered.com has developed an easy-to-use search tool from to identify at-risk species in your own backyard.
Tags: agribusiness, biodiversity, climate change, development, ecosystem services, ecosystems, endangered species, endangered species act, endangered species day, environmental conservation, extinction, species, threatened species, wildlife conservation