Habitat Conservation

When habitats are threatened, so are the animals who live there.

Stepping it up for Sage-Grouse

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Reducing ranching hazards in the sagebrush sea

East-central Montana is a beautiful but brutal landscape in December. Wind whips and snow drifts across the rugged, open scrublands. In this harsh climate lives the sage-grouse, a plucky bird that once thrived across the sagebrush sea. Today, however, the population is plummeting from habitat loss. 

Worth Defending: Sonoran Pronghorn

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Sonoran Pronghorn

With an oblong face and a black nose splotch, the Sonoran pronghorn stands out against the cacti-strewn landscape of the American Southwest. It is also one of the rarest of the five subspecies of American pronghorn. Smaller and lighter than its cousins, it shares their ability to blaze across the landscape as fast as 60 miles an hour. But it was never as numerous. This makes their recovery all the more difficult. 

Sharing the Air

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Wind energy is crucial to battling climate change. Can it expand without harming eagles? 

Hot air rises off the Mojave Desert like devil’s breath. Sage-scented and sandy, it lofts to collide with cool gusts sliding down the granite slopes of the Sierra Nevada. This is the realm of golden eagles, drawn for millennia by these swirling winds to hunt, sky-dance and execute their spectacular courtship rituals. They are kings of the currents that sweep over the barren landscape of the Tehachapi region 120 miles northeast of Los Angeles. 

Carnivore Collapse

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Large carnivores—big cats, wolves, bears and more—face enormous threats from loss of prey and habitat to use of their parts in traditional medicine. But beefed up livestock production worldwide—50 percent more in the last 50 years—is also taking a tremendous toll, says William Ripple, lead author of a new Oregon State University College of Forestry study. It’s also significantly contributing to greenhouse gas emissions. 

Are the Spotted Owl Wars Back?

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Old-growth forests of the Pacific Northwest under fire

Ignoring the lessons learned from unsustainable clear-cutting in the 1970s and 1980s, Oregon politicians are pushing legislation that would dramatically accelerate logging in the heart of the Pacific Northwest, undermining known federal environmental laws and threatening imperiled species. 

Bad News Bats

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Arkansas is the 23rd state stricken with the deadly white-nose syndrome in cave-dwelling bats after state biologists confirmed its presence in two northern long-eared bats in January. Biologists estimate that bat deaths caused by the cold-loving fungus, first found in winter 2006 and 2007, exceed 5 million to 7 million—although exact numbers are unknown. It is suspected the disease makes the bats wake up every three days or so during hibernation to clean the fungus off, which causes the bats to burn through their fat reserves.

Living Lightly

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For the Birds

Some cat owners probably awoke this morning to a carcass on their doorstep: a bird, a mouse or maybe a mole. These “gifts” are tokens of their feline’s late-night prowling and a glimpse of the ecological havoc wreaked by the domestic cat. 

Idaho’s War on Wolves Escalates

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Idaho holds a privileged place in the annals of wolf history. Here, in The Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness nearly 20 years ago, the first reintroduced wolves in America leaped from portable kennels onto their historical home turf, returned by a federal government coming to terms with its misguided policy to hunt, poison and trap an ecologically crucial species to near-extinction. Now, with federal wolf protection lifted in 2011 and wolf management in the hands of the state, many concerned citizens and scientists view Idaho as the poster child for a particularly egregious anti-wolf agenda—one that is absent scientific merit, based in irrational loathing and aimed toward wolf persecution, not management. “While we are disappointed with many states’ wolf plans, Idaho tops the list as the state with the worst wolf policy,” says Don Barry, Defenders’ senior vice president of conservation programs. “The state has rapidly become the most hostile state in the West to wolves and wolf recovery and has adopted a series of extreme anti-wolf measures designed to seriously undermine wolf recovery and sustainability, and to drive the wolf population down to the absolute minimum.”

Spring 2014

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Volume 89, Issue 2
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Gray wolf, © Joan Poor
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Ecological Insults and Injuries Revealed Four Years after Deepwater Horizon

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by Chris Haney

Four years after the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig spilled millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, we're beginning to see the full scope of how this ecological disaster is impacting our wildlife on land, air and sea.

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