Habitat Conservation

Habitat Conservation 101

Every species requires a certain set of environmental conditions to be able to move around, feed and reproduce. Whether it’s in the forest, grassland, desert, tundra, or ocean, the place where each species finds the conditions it needs to live and thrive is called its habitat. 

Why Conserving Habitats Is Important

When habitats are threatened, so are the animals who live there. For example, wolverines and bears roam across vast distances, so when their habitat is broken up by roads or other commercial development, their ability to survive is jeopardized. And we’ve all seen what can happen to wildlife, such as birds, sea turtles and marine mammals, when an oil disaster strikes, like the one in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.

By protecting habitats, we’re protecting wildlife.

Major Threats

Climate Change

Our warming planet is playing havoc habitats around the world. For example, melting sea ice in the Arctic prevents polar bears from finding food and shelter, while changing rain patterns put forests and the animals that live there at greater risk from wildfires.

Habitat Loss

Agriculture. Industrial development. Urban sprawl.These are all factors that have contributed to the extensive loss and fragmentation of prime wildlife habitat, which in turn has brought many animals like the critically endangered jaguar to the brink of extinction.

Habitat Degradation

Even habitats that are large enough to support the wildlife living there can be harmful when they are affected by pollution from pesticides, oil spills and agricultural runoff.

What Defenders Is Doing to Help Protect Habitats

For decades, Defenders of Wildlife has played a leading role in helping shape smart conservation policies for managing national wildlife refuges, national forests, and other public lands because these areas, owned by all Americans, represent some of the last best places for wildlife to thrive. We also work with state agencies and private landowners to help develop and implement conservation plans that will preserve environmentally important areas long into the future.

And our in-house experts are working to help wildlife adapt to the impacts of climate change and ensure renewable energy projects are developed in ways that don’t harm important habitats.

More on Habitat Conservation: Protecting National Wildlife Refuges »

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Fact Sheet
Known as "prairie ghosts" because they are so elusive, the Sonoran pronghorn (Antilocapra americana sonoriensis) is the fastest land mammal in North America. Smaller and lighter in color than other pronghorn subspecies, it is uniquely adapted for survival in harsh arid conditions.
Where We Work
Defenders of Wildlife's Northwest office has a reputation for being creative in its approach to conserving biodiversity and habitat. Working with many partners, we develop new conservation tools and promote cooperation among diverse interests in both the Pacific Northwest and nationally.
Habitat Conservation
Defenders of Wildlife is working to protect and strengthen the National Wildlife Refuge System, the only system of federal lands in the United States dedicated to wildlife conservation.