With the proposed listing of the Lesser Prairie Chicken to the federal Endangered Species List this week, we are once again seeing a little bird pitted against the giants of the oil and gas industry, and environmentalists pitted against politicians. Never a pretty sight, for sure.
Many times, however, by the time an animal is listed for protection it’s already too late, and there is a very slim chance of recovery or rebounding population numbers. The time to take action is well before it gets listed on the Endangered and Threatened Species List.
So let’s look at a few reasons why various species came to the point where they needed to be protected:
We Kill Them
Martha the Passenger Pigeon, the last of her kind, died alone in the Cincinnati Zoo on September 1, 1914. She was alone because the rest of her kind had been shot to extinction at a time when these birds traveled in large flocks.
The wound of direct killing is currently impacting wolves, bats, snakes, and so much more. I still can’t figure out why our first response is to kill those things we’re afraid of, but that is our way.
We have also come close to wiping out all of the Herons because there was a time when it was quite fashionable for ladies hats to sport those feathers.
We have quite a history of shooting to the brink of extinction when it comes to hawks and other raptors.
We Destroy Their Habitat
The wound of habitat loss is the leading cause of species decline right now. Part of the problem is our extraction mentality. We tend to take care of our own needs for energy (and profit making) without a thought to the other species who share our space with us.
We’ve seen the impact of unchecked drilling with the BP Gulf Coast oil spill, but very few people are aware that the process of fracking is removing entire mountaintops in places like Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and New York.
We have an unusual need to have a Walmart, a Home Depot, and a super giant grocery store in those giant shopping centers with acre after acre of parking lots built every few miles along the highway.
All of these activities destroy wildlife habitat, shoving species into smaller and smaller areas where there is simply not enough space for all to survive.
We Chop Habitats into Smaller and Smaller Spaces
The wound of habitat fragmentation is when we take a forest, for example, and cut roads through it so that we can extract the logs. Or when we build a suburban subdivision in the middle of the woods.
Every time we do this we create smaller and smaller patches of habitat which may impede how animals need to move through the environment.
Imagine you’re a little salamander who spends most of the year in the leaf litter in the woods, but when breeding season comes, you make you way to the same pond every year to mate and lay your eggs. Now imaging that this year on your journey, you encounter a busy highway that you must cross to get to your pond. What do you think the chances are of you making it safely across this highway?
That’s right. Slim to none.
Habitat fragmentation is wreaking havoc in many different species of wildlife.
We Introduce Exotic Species Which Become Invasive
The wound of exotic species is a big one. Some plants have escaped our gardens and are now happily spreading throughout our woodlands and natural areas. These plants outcompete native species which our wildlife is dependent on for their survival.
Invasive and exotic species by human introduction are fast destroying wildlife habitat across the country. One need only visit the Florida Everglades to see this in action. Burmese Pythons, Melaleuca, Old World Climbing Fern, Brazilian Pepper, Apple Snails, Walking Catfish, and so many more invasive species are destroying habitat used by birds and so many other species of wildlife.
Please take a good look at the plants you have in your garden and begin removing any that are on your state’s invasive species list. Please print this list out and carry it with you. Do not purchase any plant on that list. That way you can make sure you are not contributing to the wound of exotic species from your own wildlife garden.
We Disrupt and Destroy Ecological Processes
The wound of the loss of ecological processes happens when we destroy vital ecosystem services upon which wildlife are absolutely dependent. We tend to forget, though, that our own health and well-being is vitally tied to these same services. So we may be able to get away with saying we don’t care what happens to the Lesser Prairie Chicken, but we fail to realize that the loss of a species is a sign of an unhealthy ecosystem. If it can happen to the Prairie Chicken, it can happen to us. We need to wake up to the danger signs and red flags being raised every time we see another species in trouble.
Ecosystem services include purification of air and water, production of oxygen, pollination, renewal of soils, mitigation of droughts and floods, and maintenance of biodiversity. And don’t forget provision of aesthetic beauty and intellectual stimulation that lift the human spirit.
We need all of these services, but we tend to ignore them because we don’t think we pay for them, and we haven’t (yet) figured out how to make a profit from them.
The Power of WE to Reverse These Trends
You’ll notice the every one of the reasons why species end up on the endangered species list starts with the word “WE.”
Yes, it’s true that we humans are responsible for most of this damage. But it’s also true that we can learn to make healthier choices in our own gardens, in our communities, and work to hold our elected officials accountable for their actions that have such negative impacts on wildlife and our natural ecosystems.
When we create a wildlife garden, we are giving something back to wildlife from whom we have taken so much.
I’ve created 5 easy steps to get you started with your wildlife garden. Tackle them one at a time, but when you do all 5 steps, you will automatically be attracting wildlife to your garden.
Join me in the power of WE to make a difference for wildlife in your garden.
Let me know in the comments below what you’re doing to give something back to wildlife in your own garden.
Check out my new free online course Ecosystem Gardening Essentials, 15 free lessons delivered to your inbox every week, teaching you to garden sustainably, conserve natural resources, and create welcoming habitat for wildlife in your garden.
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