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New Report: One in Three Species in U.S. at Risk of Extinction

The red squirrel is among the species in Tennessee at risk of being added to the endangered species list. (Richard Towell/flickr)
The red squirrel is among the species in Tennessee at risk of being added to the endangered species list. (Richard Towell/flickr)
April 2, 2018

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee is the most biologically diverse inland state in the country, but a new report released by the National Wildlife Federation finds that as many as one-third of America's wildlife species are at increased risk of extinction.

According to "Reversing America's Wildlife Crisis: Securing the Future of Our Fish and Wildlife," 150 U.S. species are listed as extinct, and nearly 500 species have not been seen in recent decades and could possibly be extinct. The report comes as Congress is considering a bill that would allocate funds already being collected from oil and gas extraction to protect vulnerable or declining species.

Mike Butler, CEO of the Tennessee Wildlife Federation, said much is at stake in the state.

"There are 1,400 species that we need to be paying attention to, that really need good monitoring, good management, to ensure that they never reach a point where we have to think about putting them on the list for the Endangered Species Act,” Butler said.

Species at risk in the Volunteer State include the northern bobwhite quail, the Chickamauga crayfish, the Virginia big-eared bat and the red squirrel.

The Recovering America's Wildlife Act is currently in the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee. If passed, it would redirect $1.3 billion of existing revenue annually to state-led wildlife conservation efforts.

Bruce Stein, chief scientist and associate vice president at the National Wildlife Federation, said as development has spread to even the most rural areas, natural wildlife is running out of room to sustain and survive.

"Plants and animals, wildlife need habitat in order to survive,” Stein said. “And as we have converted much of the natural habitat across America to other uses, that sort of put a squeeze on many of the species - particularly those that require very specialized habitats."

Butler said funding preventive measures would be less costly for the country and the wildlife in the long run.

"When you put things on that list, you get into a lot of expense. You do preventative management," Butler said. "If you are proactive, it's a lot less expensive and you end up being able to take care of the habitats that provide this diversity for both non-game and game species."

Currently, sportsmen fees fund 80 percent of the state's wildlife agencies. If the bill passes, it would provide additional funding to broaden the capabilities of agencies to restore and protect wildlife and their habitats.

Information on the state's wildlife action plan is available at TNSWAP.com.

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - TN