Wildlife enthusiasts received discouraging news when a recent study concluded that our planet has lost more than half of its wildlife population since 1970, and it’s on course to lose 67 percent by 2020.
Repeat: Earth has lost 58% of its wildlife in the last 46 years.
The jaw-dropping report, published by the World Wildlife Fund and Zoological Society of London, determined that habitat fragmentation and climate change were displacing wildlife at an unprecedented rate in the modern era. It’s a shocking decrease in a short 50-year window within the grand timeframe of our planet, adding to growing concern that Earth is experiencing its sixth major extinction period.
“The conclusion is stark: the planetary stability our species has enjoyed for 11,700 years, that has allowed civilization to flourish, can no longer be relied upon,” said one of the contributors.
The Living Planet Index provided the data necessary to prepare the comprehensive report, evaluating biodiversity levels across over 14,000 distinct wildlife populations. The LPI’s findings seem to echo some of the trends we have observed locally in Colorado. In just 10 years, the statewide population of mule deer fell from 613,450 to 435,660, according to CPW estimates from 2005 and 2015 (wildlife managers suggest that Colorado’s optimal mule deer population is around 560,000). Perhaps it’s just a coincidence – elk populations have remained relatively stable in Colorado during that time – but the broader trends suggest that more open land protection is urgently needed for our resident wildlife. YVLT is currently evaluating new projects that provide substantial protection of diverse wildlife habitats. But this report suggests that we have a lot more work to do, together.
What does this mean for the future?
Thanks to significant conservation efforts around the globe, it’s not all bad news presented in the WWF study. Certain wildlife populations have actually grown in recent years, including tigers and pandas. “Unprecedented” conservation efforts – including YVLT’s efforts to conserve over 15,000 acres of Greater Sage-Grouse-specific habitat in Northwest Colorado – helped the American West’s iconic Sage-Grouse avoid listing under the Endangered Species Act, as announced earlier this year.
This suggests that fast, collaborative action can make a meaningful difference for wildlife in just a short time. The message is clear: we cannot sit idly by if we hope to maintain stable, sustainable wildlife populations around the globe. We need to protect our open land resources now.
The intensity of our global conservation efforts in coming years – starting at the local level – may well determine the scope of the concerning decline in wildlife that we are witnessing today. We will continue to do our part here in Northwest Colorado through strategic land conservation, but we need your help to do it! The precarious future of wildlife populations throughout this incredible region may hinge on our dedication today to protecting the open landscapes and ecosystems they depend on.
Land conservation is critically important to the following species that call NWCO home:
- Leopard Frog
- Boreal Toad
- Greater Sage-Grouse
- Columbian Sharp-Tailed Grouse
- Sandhill Crane
- Northern Goshawk
- Bald Eagle
- River Otter
- Canada Lynx
- Mule Deer
And many, many other species we share the Yampa Valley with…
Think globally, act locally. Make a difference in your own backyard.