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Conservationists: One-Third of U.S. Wildlife Staring Down Extinction

The New Mexican Spotted Owl is one of several threatened wildlife species in the state. (nps.gov)
The New Mexican Spotted Owl is one of several threatened wildlife species in the state. (nps.gov)
March 30, 2018

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Every state has a Wildlife Action Plan mandated by Congress, to protect the vulnerable species in that state – and now, they want the funding to get the job done.

Todd Leahy, acting executive director with the New Mexico Wildlife Federation, says up to a third of all species are threatened primarily from habitat loss, invasive species and disease, and further aggravated by climate change. Leahy says it's time to ramp up state-based conservation before more species become endangered.

"The bald eagle was the great example, right?” says Leahy. “It was almost once extinct and now, we've brought it back and it's all over the country, right? We have a model for this to work; the research shows that if we invest in conservation, if we make an effort, we can stop this, we can reverse this."

A new report by the National Wildlife Federation, the American Fisheries Society and The Wildlife Society shows the species at risk range from large mammals like the grizzly bear, to the tiny, rusty-patched bumblebee. In New Mexico, the state considers 200 species in urgent need of conservation assistance.

Bruce Stein is the chief scientist and associate vice president at the National Wildlife Federation and says, while there have been some great conservation successes, new threats to America's wildlife continue to push species toward extinction.

"There are many different cascading effects that increasing temperatures and changes in rainfall and precipitation are having on many species across the country, and we're beginning to see species responding and declining as a result," says Stein.

State Wildlife Action Plans create a national blueprint for what it would take to ensure continued survival of wildlife, both animals that are hunted and non-game species.

Experts say 150 U.S. species are already extinct and 500 more have not been seen in recent decades. In New Mexico, Leahy cites a positive conservation move as the re-introduction of bighorn sheep.

"Which are doing well in the state of New Mexico right now, and have been introduced,” he says. “They're nowhere near their historic range and nowhere near their historic numbers – and this could go along way toward helping those."

There is currently legislation in congress called the Recovering America's Wildlife Act that would fund state action plans not through taxpayer dollars, but with fees generated from the use of non-renewable natural resources.

Roz Brown, Public News Service - NM