Endangered Species Handbook

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Vanishing Species

Actions and Attitudes: Page 12

     However effective private organizations are, they cannot begin to have the effect of preserving habitat that governments have.  As the owner of millions of acres of parks and reserves, the US government plays a major role in habitat and species preservation.  The Land and Water Conservation Fund was established in 1964 to purchase and preserve federal lands, with money coming from oil and gas leases on the coasts.  Each year, some $900 million is deposited in this fund, and more than 5 million acres have been preserved in many threatened environments.  In 1998, $699 million was approved for spending on land purchases, including $250 million for acquiring the ancient Headwaters Redwood Forest in California to save it from planned logging, as well as $65 million for the New World Mine site near Yellowstone National Park to save it from a huge Canadian gold mine.  
     National Wildlife Refuges are vital habitat for thousands of threatened and declining species and were first set aside during the Theodore Roosevelt Administration to protect endangered sea birds being killed for their plumes.  Now refuges and preserves are key to the survival of Red Wolves, Bald Eagles, Whooping Cranes, Florida Panthers and numerous rare plants, butterflies and other wildlife.  In many of these refuges, oil drilling and other exploitation occurs, causing damage to ecosystems and threatened wildlife.  The protection these refuges receive is far less stringent than that of national parks and monuments.  In some refuges, high-speed roads cut through the middle of marshes where an array of rails, turtles and wetland species end up run over by vehicles.  In the largest refuge, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, most of the land is open to oil drilling, where water and air pollution have been severe problems. The calving ground of a herd of some 100,000 Caribou within the refuge has been proposed for oil drilling, in spite of the opposition of the majority of the US public.  With greater support from the public, laws governing these refuges and their funding might be strengthened to better preserve wildlife.
     Some imaginative solutions to the funding problem have been developed.  A number of organizations have adoption programs for wild animals.  Northern Right and Humpback Whales, for example, identified individually by their markings by scientists studying them, can be sponsored by members of the public, who are then informed of news about their adopted animal.  The funds are applied to research and conservation of the species.  Grizzly Bears, Tigers, Gray Wolves and other animals may be adopted through a growing number of organizations.  Earthwatch, in Watertown, Massachusetts, sponsors thousands of research expeditions by scientists, many of them studying endangered species, through funds from volunteers who pay for the privilege of accompanying the scientists and helping in the research.  Endangered species of Brazil's Atlantic Forest, Florida Manatees, rare butterflies and coral reefs are among the many projects Earthwatch helps fund.  This organization also awards hundreds of scholarships to students, and teachers who participate can turn the experience into a study program for their students.

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