TUCSON, Ariz.— Ending the global wildlife extinction crisis will require bold leadership from the United States, including a $100 billion investment to save species and the creation of 500 new national parks, wildlife refuges and marine sanctuaries, according to a new plan from the Center for Biological Diversity.
The plan, Saving Life on Earth, also calls for restoring endangered species policies revoked by Trump, dedicating public lands to wildlife conservation, ending illegal international wildlife trade, significantly reducing pollution and plastics, controlling invasive species, and renewing American leadership to develop a global strategy to stem the extinction crisis.
“Humans have never witnessed the profound level of wildlife losses unfolding in front of us right now,” said Tierra Curry, a scientist at the Center. “We are at a planetary turning point that calls for visionary action to save life on Earth. The solutions are within reach. We only need the courage and political will to make it happen.”
The United Nations last year said more than 1 million plant and animal species are heading toward extinction. Species are dying out at hundreds to thousands of times the natural rate. For example, there are only around 400 North Atlantic right whales left, just 14 red wolves known in the wild in North Carolina, and likely around 10 vaquita porpoises in Mexico. In the Southeast extinction looms for 28% of the region’s fishes, 48% of crayfishes, and nearly 70% of freshwater mussels.
“The biblical story of Noah points to a truth for our time. God desires the preservation of all species,” said Allen Johnson, coordinator of Christians for the Mountains. “Humans are given the privilege to have intimate knowledge of plants and animals, and the responsibility to nurture and protect them.”
Even once-common species like monarch butterflies, fireflies, bats and whippoorwills are becoming increasingly scarce. Florida recently lost two species of butterflies to extinction, and dozens of butterfly species around the country are down to fewer than 100 individuals.
“This isn’t just an environmental crisis. It’s a cultural and spiritual crisis,” Curry said. “By turning our backs on the wild, we’re turning our backs on what it means to be human. Animals and plants are integral to who we are and what kind of world we want to live in. When we lose a species, the world becomes a colder, lonelier place.”
The Saving Life on Earth plan says the United States must:
Take a global leadership role by declaring an extinction crisis national emergency and investing $100 billion to stem the disappearance of the world’s wildlife and plants, protect irreplaceable places around the world, and end the illegal trafficking and overexploitation of wildlife and plants.
Create 500 new national parks, national wildlife refuges and national marine sanctuaries so that 30% of U.S. lands and waters are conserved by 2030 and 50% by 2050, and clarify that the primary mandate of federal public lands is to protect biological diversity, ensure clean water, provide recreational opportunities, increase climate resiliency, and sequester carbon dioxide.
Restore the full power of the Endangered Species Act and invest $20 billion to save the 1,800 endangered species in the United States, along with dedicating $10 billion to state fish and game agencies to ensure abundant population levels.
Crack down on all forms of air and water pollution, toxics and pesticides to protect sensitive species from the harms caused by the modern industrial world; require 100% recycling mandates for all plastics while moving away from plastic production.
Stem the spread of invasive species by investing in new technologies and establishing new rules to detect invasive species in global trade, enacting zero-discharge requirements for cargo ships, and removing invasive species from critical wildlife habitats.