Habitat Conservation
forest, © Lindsay Kaun

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 & Degradation
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 to the brink of extinction, like the critically endangered jaguar or Florida panther. Even habitats that are large enough to support the wildlife living there can suffer negative impacts that affect wildlife. Every day, habitats are subjected to 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
Called "skunk bear" by the Blackfeet Indians, the wolverine is the largest terrestrial member of the weasel family. It has a broad head, small eyes and short rounded ears.
Win for Wildlife
In July 2010, in a 5-0 vote, the Colorado State Parks Board approved sweeping changes to the Off Highway Vehicle (OHV) Grant Program that will give habitat restoration and law enforcement proposals the opportunity to receive a portion of the funds collected from OHV registration fees.
forest, © Lindsay Kaun
Win for Wildlife
The Conservation Registry was developed by Defenders of Wildlife and partners to provide a simple, free web-based database and mapping system. The Conservation Registry visualizes on-the-ground conservation and wildlife investments.