May 20th, 2013
The recently proposed changes to the Wisconsin DNR endangered species list are a troubling distortion of wildlife vigor. The proposed removal of species such as Blanding’s Turtle, American fever-few and Prairie Indian-Plantain, among others, favors unsustainable development, and leaves even more of our native species increasingly vulnerable to extinction.
The Wisconsin DNR Species Status Assessment Worksheet (SAW) for Blanding’s Turtle acknowledges a long-term population decline of 30-50% over the past 200 years. The declines of American fever-few correlate with the expansion of human settlement: “American fever-few presumably suffered significant reductions in the state when the original prairies of southern Wisconsin were reduced by over 99% between 1850 and 1900”. The fate of Prairie Indian-Plantain shared similar reductions, as stated in the DNR-SAW: “Prairie Indian-plantain has likely suffered steep declines over the past 100 years due to conversion of habitat for agriculture, wetland draining and filling, and fire suppression”. Even a small examination of prairie or wetland ecosystems would prompt one to ask, why is Wisconsin willing to let these native species go unprotected by taking them off of the endangered species list?
The Wisconsin DNR Species Status Assessment Worksheet for Prairie Indian-Plantain acknowledges the likely motivation on Line 15 of Economic Impacts: “Probable costs from the proposed status change include removing legal protection would likely have small economic benefits by removing legal requirements to avoid or transplant individuals during pipeline or road construction projects, though transportation departments and utility corporations would still be strongly encouraged to do so.” Do these “small economic benefits by removing legal requirements” justify the permitted destruction of important native species? Incidentally, I am skeptical that most transportation departments or utility corporations will take the importance of these conservation recommendations seriously.
Why are we continuing to destroy precious plant and animal species for “small economic benefits”? I can only hope the citizens of Wisconsin and neighboring states will ask these questions. If you would like to review the species reports listed under the Wisconsin DNR “Recommended For Delisting” page visit http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/endangeredresources/etlist.html. Aldo Leopold said “We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect”. If you agree with ongoing and expanded protection for at-risk species let your opinions be heard. We are all members of the same community.