Using native plants in home landscapes is a growing trend, and one that benefits the ecosystem around us. (Photo by Anthony Schalk)
Saving endangered and threatened species from extinction seems like a daunting task, and it requires effort at multiple levels to be successful. But it has been done before, and it can be done again.
Take the bald eagle. Our national emblem was once on the brink of extinction, but its population has since recovered to the extent that it is no longer listed as a threatened or endangered species. Why? Because once the cause of their sharp population decline was discovered — a pesticide called DDT was poisoning them when they consumed contaminated fish — laws were enacted to restrict the pesticide’s use and also protect remaining bald eagles across the United States.
In 1963, only 417 known nesting pairs of bald eagles were living in the contiguous United States, according to the U.S. Department of the Interior. DDT was banned in 1972, and the Endangered Species Act was enacted in 1973. These steps allowed the population of bald eagles and other affected birds, like peregrine falcons, to stabilize and then begin to rise.
In 2007, the bald eagle was removed from the country’s threatened and endangered species list, and the eagle population has continued to grow. It is estimated to have quadrupled since just 2009, with an estimated 316,700 individual bald eagles and more than 71,400 nesting pairs living across the contiguous U.S., the Department of the Interior reports.
Saving bald eagles from extinction required a large-scale effort, including passage of federal laws, but the general public played a role too. Everyone can play a role in saving threatened and endangered species from extinction, and it can start with something simple as learning about plants and animals at risk where you live, according to the Endangered Species Coalition.
Knowing what species are at risk in your area helps cultivate an understanding of how interesting and important they are and grows an awareness of how all species are connected and necessary for ecosystems to be healthy. Want to see what’s at risk in your neck of the woods? The Illinois Natural Heritage Database maintains a list of threatened and endangered species in Illinois that is broken down by county.
Dozens of threatened and endangered species live in Will County, including such varied species as grass pink orchids and Mead’s milkweed to Blanding’s turtles and Hine’s emerald dragonflies.
BLANDING'S TURTLES PADDLE TO FREEDOM
Once you learn about local endangered species, spend some time visiting open spaces — anything from a national park or wildlife refuge to a local city park or forest preserve — to see how different lands and habitats support different species.
There’s plenty of other steps you can take to help endangered species as well. Check out these suggestions from the Endangered Species Coalition:
- Maintain bird feeders and bird baths.
- Add native plants to your yard to offer food and shelter for wildlife.
- Reduce or eliminate your use of pesticides and herbicides.
- Recycle whenever possible and buy sustainable products.
- Do not purchase products made from threatened and endangered species to avoid supporting the illegal wildlife trade.
(Lead image by Chad Merda)
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