Original Post by Casey Kahler:
Habitat protection is arguably one of the most important concepts related to protecting species. A concept that was addressed this week in our reading was the impact of habitat fragmentation and how there can still be many struggles related to corridors, etc. in regards to habitat restoration. Under the ESA there is the capability of designating lands as “critical habitat.” This area includes the range area of species that have “physical or biological features essential to the conservation of the species…” along with areas outside of the range that “…are essential for the conservation of the species” (Center for Biological Diversity, n.d.). The changes proposed by the Trump administration worked to weaken these protections of habitats for species listed under the ESA.
Aside from just the importance in protecting the species in these habitats; the overall conservation of a habitat is also pivotal to maintaining biodiversity within said habitats. Protected and increased biodiversity of habitats doesn’t only benefit the species that call those areas home but also humans as well. As discussed by the EPA, biodiversity conservation efforts are pivotal in regards to maintaining functioning ecosystems, food supply, aesthetics, recreation, and even spiritual purposes for Native American tribes (United States Environmental Protection Agency 2020). By protecting the conservation of habitats we are able to ultimately help protect the species and other personal needs from habitats.
Over time we have started to see a shift in habitat conservation efforts. However, with the increased awareness of the loss of habitat and its role in the global biodiversity crisis, the need for working on retaining large intact habitats over small targeted areas is rising (Mokany, Ferrier, Harwood, et. al. 2020). The need to limit our overall destruction of natural habitat and start protecting large ranges is apparent not only to save species in those areas but also maintain the biodiversity we also depend on for our livelihood.
Center for Biological Diversity. n.d. “Protecting Critical Habitat.” Last accessed January 13, 2021. https://www.biologicaldiversity.org/programs/biodiversity/endangered_species_act/protecting_critical_habitat/index.html (Links to an external site.)
Mokany, Karel, Simon, Ferrier, Thomas D. Harwood, Chris Ware, Moreno Di Marco, Hedley S. Grantham, Oscar Venter, Andrew J. Hoskins, and James E. M. Watson. 2020. “Reconciling Global Priorities for Conserving Biodiversity Habitat.” PNAS, 117 (18). https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1918373117 (Links to an external site.)
United States Environmental Protection Agency. 2020. “Biodiversity Conservation. Last updated October 2, 2020. https://www.epa.gov/enviroatlas/enviroatlas-benefit-category-biodiversity-conservation
Excellent post! I decided to look into critical habitat further.
As of January 2015, critical habitat has been designated for fewer than 45 percent of endangered and threatened species (Quarles 2015). In The Natural Resources Journal, Sam Kalen (2015) went into detail explaining specific challenges resulting in the low percentage. He noted industry and local communities challenge the economic analyses accompanying critical habitat designations (Kalen 2015). Also, he mentioned for many years, designating critical habitat only occurred after litigation, well after the Act suggests designation (Kalen 2015). Then, he recommended the critical habitat program should change to reflect what he says is the Act’s objective: securing landscape-level management prescriptions to promote species conservation (Kalen 2015). At the same time, Hall et al. (1997) emphasized habitat and vegetation association are not synonymous. It makes me wonder what specific aspects of habitat are essential to effectively conserving wildlife.
Hall, Linnea, Paul R. Krausman and Michael L. Morrison. International Issues and Perspectives in Wildlife Management. 25(1): 173-182.
Kalen, Sam. 2014. “Landscape Shifting Paradigm for the Endangered Species Act”. Natural Resources Journal. 55(1): 47-104.
Quarles, Steven, Brooke Wahlberg, and Sarah Wells. 2015. “Critical Habitat in Critical Condition”. Natural Resources & Environment. 30(1): 8-12.
Comment by Casey Kahler:
Thank you so much for your reply and additional information on critical habitats as well. It’s so interesting addressing the history and evolution of designating areas as critical habitats. Your thought at the end is interesting in regards to this topic. I also feel as if this idea is important because it doesn’t distinguish between lands. For instance, maintaining a critical habitat in a National Park is different than designating land as critical on a private landowner’s property. The need for consensus among stakeholders is crucial and yet we often see disagreements in regards to this too. Who would have thought it’d be so hard to save species and habitats?