Three Cheers for Habitat

Wildlife Preserves…get it? Click for source.

Last week, “the largest state-based conservation initiative in U.S. history” was passed by voters in Florida.  Seventy-five percent of voters approved Amendment 1 to set aside $10 billion dollars (that’s $10,000,000,000) of tax money over the next ten years; it could be used to purchase “environmentally-sensitive land,” protect current conservation areas, as well as beef up restoration in areas like the Everglades National Park.

This is great news!  Not only did Floridians show nonpartisan support for something in an era of strong partisanship, but they paved the way for conserving amazing ecosystems teeming with plants and endangered wildlife like the Florida panther, Everglade snail kite, Key deer, and Choctawhatchee beach mouse.

Everyone needs a home.

I took a class in college called “Extinction of Species,” taught by world-renowned wildlife ecologist Stan Temple.  I learned about the main causes of extinction throughout history, including human history.  The passenger pigeon, the Eastern cougar, the Caribbean monk seal, the Stellar’s sea cow, the Californian Golden bear, the Cascades Mountain wolf, the Dusky Seaside Sparrow…all of these animals and many more no longer exist, mainly due to habitat loss and overhunting.  Everyone needs a home, but all too often when we build ours, we forget about our role as stewards of all creation, and leave no room for the homes of others.

Unfortunately, we cannot “preserve” wildlife in a tiny, cramped area!  Most species, including insects, need more space than you might think.  Everyone needs a home, but all of us operate within a “home range” as well.  Think about a map of your block in the neighborhood, where your home is.  Is there a grocery store, farmer’s market, clothing store, mechanic, gas station, and your office or place of work all on that one block?  Of course not!  You can think of your home range as the kernel of space you travel within to get all you need to live and thrive.

Wildlife have home ranges, as well.  Whitetail deer home ranges on average are 536 acres, and timber wolf home ranges are anywhere from 25-100 square miles!  That’s a lot of space.  No wonder timber wolves are restricted to the very northern states and extremely remote areas of the US–there’s not enough room for them when we continue converting forests to cities and farm fields.  Overhunting isn’t so much a problem anymore for North America-I think we might have learned our lesson from the passenger pigeons-but habitat loss is taking a toll on our most loved creatures, like Monarch butterflies.

Wildlife and ecosystems all over the world are still in danger of going the way of the Tasmanian wolf and the dodo, unless we can figure out how to live with the rest of God’s creation.  In our lifetimes, we could see the extinction of African lions, because of habitat destruction, less prey availability, and human conflicts, according to the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

It’s not just lions, but thousands of species that are showing declines.  You might have heard about it a couple weeks ago when the Living Planet Index published their latest findings from a 40-year study of over 10,000 species of wildlife all over the world; their conclusions are heartbreaking for anyone who values God’s creation.  In 40 years, vertebrate species showed a decline of 52% on average. graph









Put another way, in less than two human generations, population sizes of vertebrate species have dropped by half. These are the living forms that constitute the fabric of the ecosystems which sustain life on Earth – and the barometer of what we are doing to our own planet, our only home. We ignore their decline at our peril…(Read more)

Habitat loss and degradation, and exploitation through hunting and fishing, are the primary causes of decline. Climate change is the next most common primary threat, and is likely toput more pressure on populations in the future. (emphasis mine) (Read more)

If it’s really God’s world, shouldn’t we be taking care of it?

That’s why this one example of Floridians consciously choosing to set aside resources to help protect the environment that makes Florida Florida is really encouraging.  We must take steps to live well with the rest of God’s creation, otherwise we’ll lose it.  What would it be like to lose the Everglades?  The forests?  The prairies?  The African savannah?  The Great Plains?

It seems like we’ve got a long road of work ahead of us; indeed, those of us who are Christ-followers are working towards the Kingdom of God and eagerly waiting for the fulfillment of justice and redemption.  The task ahead oftentimes seems too daunting, perhaps impossible, to even begin addressing.  So next week, I’ll give you my review of Ben Lowe’s new book, Doing Good Without Giving Up, a book for those of us who need some encouragement to keep on doing good.