Earth Day 2019: States Around the Country are Working to Protect Our Species
April 22, 2019
Everything in nature is intertwined. A healthy ecosystem depends on the health and survival of every species.
That’s why the theme for Earth Day 2019 is Protect Our Species.
On April 22, people around the world will celebrate Earth Day by coming together to support the goal of protecting endangered and threatened species. States around the country have been working to protect species for years. Many have passed legislation to protect pollinator species, provide animal corridors for movement, and to ban products created from endangered wildlife.
Here are some ways that states are leading in protecting pollinators, fighting wildlife trafficking, and establishing wildlife corridors.
Pollinators are declining rapidly due to a number of factors, including loss of habitat, loss of food, and pesticides. Some pollinators, such as certain bumblebees and Monarch butterflies, may be on the verge of extinction. Many states have enacted or are considering legislation to acquire, restore and/or protect pollinator habitat, and restrict the application of pesticides and other chemicals harmful to pollinators.
Neonicotinoids, widely used as a pesticide, have been the focus of many pollinator-based bills this year. This class of pesticides has been linked to bee population declines worldwide. Neonicotinoids are found in products sold for use in lawns and gardens as well as larger agricultural productions. Once exposed, honeybees have been shown to struggle with simple navigation and to experience reduced growth rates. States are considering legislation to ban or restrict the application of this pesticide in an effort to protect bee populations.
This year 21 states are considering pollinator protection bills and 10 states are considering bills to restrict neonicotinoids.
Wildlife trafficking is the illegal sale of protected species, their parts, and products. For example, the demand for illegal elephant ivory and rhino horn has created a massive international market where approximately 35,000 elephants are killed annually — close to 100 elephants every day. At this rate, elephants will be extinct in a few decades.
Poaching and wildlife trafficking affect more than just elephants and rhinos. Other trafficked animals include pangolins for their scales, turtles for their shells, and tigers for their skins and bones.
In 2014, The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service instituted a near-ban on the domestic ivory trade and placed a moratorium on ivory importation and interstate trade. However, states are responsible for regulating the trading of these products within their state boundaries. By banning the ability to sell, trade or possess illegally trafficked products, states can help to reduce demand and the market for these products.
This year eight states introduced wildlife trafficking bills, and five are still under consideration.
Wildlife corridors and crossings are a vital and cost-effective way to maintain resilient landscapes for fish and wildlife. Wildlife corridors provide critical habitat, watershed health, clean air and water, and enhanced property values and outdoor recreation for nearby communities.
Many plant and animal species are relocating due to changes in temperature, water cycles and seasons. As habitat loss accelerates, animals face increasing limitations on space to roam.
The U.S. alone has 21 species who are threatened by roadway mortalities. Corridors and crossings provide connectivity for wildlife and help reduce highway collisions. Wildlife crossings and fencing can reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions by over 90 percent.
This year 10 states are considering wildlife corridor bills. Some of the key successes to date:
For states across the country, Earth Day is every day when it comes to protecting species.