July 6, 2021 | By:
bear illustration

Rewilding in the Media #3

Editors’ note:  Fortunately, rewilding projects and ideas are in the news more and more frequently.  Unfortunately, this is largely because the extinction and climate crises have worsened to the point that truly bold and visionary conservation and restoration work are essential to saving life on Earth.  In this periodic summary, we list some of the notable stories in the media pertaining to protecting and restoring wild Nature.  These are some highlights from June 2021. We urge sharing links to the ones you find most inspiring.

1. A new report by the Forest Carbon Coalition (reference pasted below) presents the Eastern Wildway map with the following credit: “Building on the work of the Wildlands Network and other science-based conservation plans, identify and protect landscape level core areas, corridors and buffer zones to facilitate the movement of native forest dependent species being isolated by human activities and climate change. Focus federal investments for acquisition and recovery in these areas and especially on the margins of existing protected lands like national parks, monuments and wilderness areas.”

Forest Carbon Coalition. 2021. Repairing America’s Tattered Forests: A Roadmap for USDA-USDI Compliance with Climate-Forestry Goals in Executive Order 140008. https://sustainable-economy.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/FCC-ATF-Report_h.pdf

2. “Research is showing more and more how extinct megafauna were major ecosystem engineers and with their loss negative ecosystem changes resulted.

In the April 30, 2021 issue of Science there is an important and fascinating article on how feral horses and donkeys in the Sonoran Desert are providing some of this lost Megafauna ecosystem engineering to the benefit of native species.  The feral equids dig “wells” up to 2 meters deep in dry washes to reach groundwater in the Sonoran Desert much as do elephants and wild equids in arid regions of Africa and Asia.

Set cameras captured many images of the feral horses and donkeys digging such wells in the Sonoran Desert and a wide range of native wildlife (herbivores, carnivores, birds) drinking from them.  As wells fill in they become productive spots for cottonwood and willow establishment.

It sure opened my eyes even more as to the value of such “exotics” (there were at least half a dozen native equids in western North America as recently as 8kya).  The feral equids seem to be replacing the ecosystem service benefits of their extinct kin.” —Dave Foreman, TRI Founder

3. “Protecting America’s Iconic Places
The Center for Western Priorities released a new report that examines the important role that new national monuments can play in the goal to conserve 30% of America’s lands and waters by 2030, while preserving our natural and cultural heritage for current and future generations. The storymap examines five locally-driven conservation proposals across Nevada, Texas, Oregon, and Arizona, each with grassroots support.

4. A new study by Raynor et al on wolves preventing vehicle collisions with deer in Wisconsin: Wolves make roadways safer, generating large economic returns to predator conservation
Abstract: Recent studies uncover cascading ecological effects resulting from removing and reintroducing predators into a landscape, but little is known about effects on human lives and property. We quantify the effects of restoring wolf populations by evaluating their influence on deer–vehicle collisions (DVCs) in Wisconsin. We show that, for the average county, wolf entry reduced DVCs by 24%, yielding an economic benefit that is 63 times greater than the costs of verified wolf predation on livestock. Most of the reduction is due to a behavioral response of deer to wolves rather than through a deer population decline from wolf predation. This finding supports ecological research emphasizing the role of predators in creating a “landscape of fear.” It suggests wolves control economic damages from overabundant deer in ways that human deer hunters cannot.

5. New York Times, “In Australia, Births of Tasmanian Devils Are a Milestone After 3,000 Years
Seven babies were born in the semi-wild of a nature preserve, millennia after the animals were wiped out on the Australian mainland. Whether they can survive is another question.

6. St. George News, “New wolf killing laws prompt push to revive protections in portions of six states, including Utah
Wildlife advocates pressed the Biden administration on Wednesday (5/26) to revive federal protections for gray wolves across the Northern Rockies, including portions of Utah, after Republican-backed laws in Idaho and Montana made it much easier to kill the predators.

7. Salt Lake (UT) Tribune, “Drilling proposed on Dinosaur National Monument’s doorstep
The Bureau of Land Management is looking to authorize exploratory drilling near the western edge of Dinosaur National Monument, sparking an outcry from conservationists who regard the project as an insult to Utah’s natural heritage and say it offers little economic upside to Utah.

8. The Hill, “How best to conserve public and private lands under the 30×30 initiative” By Erik Molvar
“In the final analysis, healthy native ecosystems will need to be the backbone of the 30×30 initiative, in order to best attain the biodiversity and climate objectives and fulfill its promise as a landmark conservation initiative.”

9. Georgia completes purchase of pristine Ceylon tract
The Georgia Board of Natural Resources voted to acquire 11,662 acres of undeveloped coastal habitat in southeastern Georgia slated to become part of a state wildlife management area.

10. New York Times, “15 Chinese Elephants Are on a Long March North. Why, No One Knows.”
The elephants have roamed 300 miles across southern China, in the longest movement recorded in the country by the animals. Researchers are mystified.

11. University of New Hampshire Research: Black bears may play important role in protecting gray fox
Bears are known for being devoted and protective of their baby cubs, but research from the University of New Hampshire shows that they may also play a significant role in shielding gray fox from predators like coyotes, who compete with the fox for food and space. The research is one of the first studies to show how black bears provide a buffer to allow other, smaller carnivores to safely co-exist.

12. The Gazette, “Iowans want to protect native carnivores, such as bobcats and bears
Hunters make up less than 7 percent of our citizenry, yet their voices are heard above all others.

13. Biden Administration Promises to Rescind, Revise Trump Endangered Species Rules
The Biden administration announced today (6/4/21) it will rescind or revise five regulations instituted by the Trump administration that sharply undercut protections for the nation’s endangered species. The rules opened the door to consideration of economic factors in decisions for species protections, weakened protections for critical habitat and left threatened species without guaranteed protections.

14. Secretary of the Interior, Deb Haaland Order: Comprehensive Analysis and Temporary Halt on all Activities in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge Relating to the Coastal Plain Oil and Gas Leasing Program
The Biden Administration suspended the oil and gas leasing program in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and will complete its own analysis of the program’s environmental impacts, essentially throwing out the analysis done by the Trump Administration.

15. Science Daily, Big-game jitters: Coyotes no match for wolves’ hunting prowess: Eastern coyote lacks the chops to replace wolves in the ecosystem
As wolf populations plummeted, the eastern coyote assumed the role of apex predator in forests along the Atlantic Coast. New research, however, shows that the eastern coyote is no match for the wolf. While the eastern coyote can bring down moose and other large prey, it prefers to attack smaller animals and to scavenge.

16. A recent paper: Bringing social values to wildlife conservation decisions by Manfredo et al.
Summary: Humans regularly exert a powerful influence on the survival and persistence of species, yet social-science information is used only sporadically in conservation decisions. Using data obtained from a survey of 46,894 US residents, we developed and applied a spatially explicit “sociocultural index” to inform decision making through an understanding of public values toward wildlife. The classification is defined by opposing values of mutualism and domination, which have been previously shown to be highly predictive of attitudes on a wide range of policy issues. We developed state and county maps that can be used to represent public interests in policy decisions and inform management actions that target human behavior, such as education. To illustrate, we present findings indicating a supportive social context for gray wolf (Canis lupus) reintroduction in Colorado, an issue voted on and passed through a November 2020 citizen ballot initiative. Although the results are particularly relevant for the US, the technique is broadly applicable and its expansion is encouraged to better account for human factors in conservation decisions globally.

17. A new paper: Guiding principles for rewilding (From the TRI team: Dave Foreman, Reed Noss, our late RLC member Michael Soulé, and John Davis are listed as co-authors on this paper.)
Abstract: There has been much recent interest in the concept of rewilding as a tool for nature conservation, but also confusion over the idea, which has limited its utility. We developed a unifying definition and 10 guiding principles for rewilding through a survey of 59 rewilding experts, a summary of key organizations’ rewilding visions, and workshops involving over 100 participants from around the world. The guiding principles convey that rewilding exits on a continuum of scale, connectivity, and level of human influence and aims to restore ecosystem structure and functions to achieve a self-sustaining autonomous nature. These principles clarify the concept of rewilding and improve its effectiveness as a tool to achieve global conservation targets, including those of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration and post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework. Finally, we suggest differences in rewilding perspectives lie largely in the extent to which it is seen as achievable and in specific interventions. An understanding of the context of rewilding projects is the key to success, and careful site-specific interpretations will help achieve the aims of rewilding.

18. The Denver Post, Marshall: Save our mountain lions from state-sanctioned overhunting
“[…] we don’t have to hunt lions to keep them around, and we should stop studying them to death in large numbers just so we can keep shooting them for fun or under a false pretense of public safety. Biologists across the country know for a fact that lions can manage themselves and these animals surely don’t need us to survive.

And while lions can survive and persist just fine without hunting, it requires us as humans to actively preserve large tracts of unfragmented habitat for them to thrive into the future.  We need to play a very active — and nonlethal — role in the conservation of cougars and their prey.”

19. Huffington Post, David Attenborough Says Climate Change Is A ‘Crime’ Humanity Has Inflicted On The Planet
The documentarian reiterated his grief that society has destroyed large swaths of the natural world, but said humanity is “not beyond redemption.”

20. NM Political Report, Dispute over wolf cross-fostering in Catron County
“After learning about a plan to place captive-born Mexican wolves in a den of wild wolves in Catron County, Rep. Yvette Herrell, a Republican from New Mexico, wrote a letter to State Land Commissioner Stephanie Garcia Richard urging her to reconsider the move. […]

Garcia Richard granted permission in April for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to cross-foster wolves at the den. The cross-fostering of wolves is done to increase genetic diversity among the population.”

21. Abandoned Construction Sites Scar Landscape Around U.S.-Mexico Border
A good snapshot of what it’s like today on the ground at the U.S.-Mexico border in southeastern Arizona, a stretch that bisects a critical cross-border wildway. Biden needs to be pressured to re-direct all existing wall construction funds to immediate restoration.

22. Nobel Prize Laureates and Other Experts Issue Urgent Call for Action After ‘Our Planet, Our Future’ Summit
“We need to reinvent our relationship with planet Earth. The future of all life on this planet, humans and our societies included, requires us to become effective stewards of the global commons — the climate, ice, land, ocean, freshwater, forests, soils, and rich diversity of life that regulate the state of the planet, and combine to create a unique and harmonious life-support system. There is now an existential need to build economies and societies that support Earth system harmony rather than disrupt it.”

23. New York Times, Our Response to Climate Change Is Missing Something Big, Scientists Say
Yes, planting new trees can help. But intact wild areas are much better. The world needs to treat warming and biodiversity loss as two parts of the same problem, a new report warns.

24. Washington Post, Biden officials move to reinstate Alaska roadless rule, overturning Trump policy
The proposal would affect 9.3 million acres of forest, including vast areas of old-growth, that Bill Clinton originally protected in 2001.

25. Washington Post, Haaland Urges Biden to Fully Protect Three National Monuments Weakened by Donald Trump
Interior Secretary Deb Haaland has recommended in a confidential report that President Biden restore full protections to three national monuments diminished by President Donald Trump — Utah’s Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante and a huge marine reserve off New England.

26. New York Times, The Quiet Strength of An Old Growth Forest
“Now, more attention is being paid to the value and importance of [old-growth] trees and forests: the ecosystems they create, the wildlife they protect, the mental benefits they provide human visitors and the essential role they play as the world stares down the barrel of climate change. That’s all the more potent considering just how little are left, tenuously preserved in small stands across the West.

I’m an optimist because I see the beauty of nature under a wide variety of circumstances,” [Joanne Kerbavaz, a senior environmental scientist with California State Parks] said. I know these redwoods are here because they are survivors.”

“The full article is long and life is short, but I believe reading it is worth the time. Some of us are working hard on preserving and restoring our few remaining Ancient Forests, including the endangered Southwestern pine forests extending from the Gila Wilderness across the Mogollon Plateau and into the Grand Canyon ecoregion. Now is our opportunity to make it happen.” —Kim Crumbo, Rewilding Institute Wildlands Coordinator

27. New York Times, Leave This Wondrous Island to the Birds
An ever-changing spit of sand on the Carolina coast is a haven for multitudes of shorebirds. But nature and humans threaten it.

“Very interesting article and a key stepping stone for curlews and other migratory shorebirds. And the graphics very good.” – Dave Foreman, TRI Founder

28. New York Times, For the Butterflies — and the Rest of Us
“National Pollinator Week [began] on June 21, which is also the first full day of summer, a season we associate with bees and butterflies. What better time to launch an awareness campaign for the insects that are directly responsible for food and flowers? And what awareness campaign could be more necessary in an age when insect populations are crashing? Most of us know a butterfly when we see one, but their habits and habitat needs — and the perils they face — are another matter altogether.”

29. Andy Kerr, The Proposed Recovering America’s Wildlife Act
Kerr describes the status of the proposed Recovering America’s Wildlife Act.

Featured Image Source: Pixabay

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