Land and Wildlife Issues

(above photo: Magee Marsh Wildlife Area. Parula Warbler. ©Carl Safina.)

Initiatives to exploit fossil fuels, minerals, water, forests and other resources, as well as the expansion of cities and other developments are major sources of habitat loss for wildlife. Without a safe place to live, wildlife species will go extinct. Also threatening many wildlife species’ chances for survival are hunting and harassment–people kill animals for food, recreation and economic purposes. And in some cases, animals are killed for no good reason at all. Learn more about these issues, and what you can do to help, here:

Tell New York’s Governor Cuomo that developing Plum Island is a terrible idea
At the tip of Long Island’s North Fork, less than a mile from Orient Point, is Plum Island–an 840-acre island home to hundreds of wildlife species, including many that are rare and endangered. Plum Island is currently home to a research facility called the Plum Island Animal Disease Center (PIADC) but the U.S. government is now looking to move the facility to Kansas and sell the island. The sale of and probable new development on Plum Island could have enormous negative implications for its wildlife.

A conservation group called the Preserve Plum Island Coalition is calling on the government to preserve the 80 percent of Plum Island that’s not yet developed as a National Wildlife Refuge. The Coalition also supports the existence of the Plum Island Animal Disease Control Center and the jobs it provides. If the Center is closed, the Coalition recommends adaptive reuse of the facilities with no new development or the removal of non-historic buildings with clean-up and restoration of wildlife habitat where the Center now stands.

Preserving and protecting Plum Island could open up a large opportunity for preservation but also recreation. National Wildlife Refuges are popular places for wildlife watching, fishing, hiking and other activities that bring money to the state economy. Preserving Plum Island is a win-win for wildlife, the environment, New York residents and visitors and the State’s economy.

Tell Governor Cuomo to halt the sale of Plum Island. You can send your comments by sending him an email or calling him up by phone (518-474-8390).

Halt Trump’s repeal of Clean Water Act protections against coal ash
The EPA is trying to pull apart Clean Water Act protections that would allow power plants to dump dirty coal ash waste right into the natural environment! Tell the government to ensure that utilities continue to test the water near their coal ash dumps to make sure hazardous chemicals don’t leak into drinking water. Read about the history of coal ash regulations and recent actions in the U.S. here.

Submit a public comment to the EPA that you don’t support their repeal of Clean Water Act protections, to Here’s a sample letter to get you started:

To: EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt
I strongly oppose any attempts to repeal or diminish the strength of clean water protections for coal ash dumping. All people deserve clean, healthy water, as do all the Earth’s wild animals. Many communities have already been negatively affected by pollution from coal ash ponds. These people have been forced to depend on bottled water as their natural tap water sources have been tainted.

Diminishing protections against coal ash means betraying all communities across this country who have been living on bottled water for years, or have lost their health and property, due to coal ash pollution. It’s also a betrayal to wildlife and the beautiful planet we call home.

We need the EPA to solve the coal ash problem, not poison people, wildlife and the planet.

[your name]

Urge President Trump to reverse his decision allowing ivory imports into the U.S.
President Trump reversed an Obama-era decision that blocked imports of elephant trophies and ivory into the U.S. More than 1.3 million people have signed a petition directed at Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and President Trump urging a reversal of the import lift. You can sign on too, here.

Show additional support against trophy hunting and ivory imports by never purchasing ivory or animal products, and abstain from trophy hunting.

Question the motives of Interior Secretary Zinke’s International Wildlife Conservation Council
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, upon his initiation to his new job, helped develop a governmental organization called the “International Wildlife Conservation Council.” The International Wildlife Conservation Council has 16 members, which include professional hunters, hunting tour guides, Indiana coal executive and Trump donor Steven Chancellor, Safari Club International President Paul Babaz and a National Rifle Association (NRA) director. The council seeks to make it easier for hunters to kill wildlife belonging to threatened and endangered populations in fragile ecosystems abroad, among other activities that could harm wildlife populations. You can speak out against the council at an upcoming public meeting in Washington, D.C., on Friday, March 16, 2018, from 9:30am to 4:30pm. For comment instructions and registration directions, see the Federal Register, here.

Tell Congress to stop poisoning wildlife and companion animals. USDA Wildlife Services kills millions of “nuisance” wild animals each year. This includes endangered species and other animals of special concern. Many of those killed are poisoned to death, often using cruel and dangerous cyanide bombs, which kill many more creatures than just the animals they target, including domestic dogs. Consider writing a letter to, or emailing, your representative to urge them to stop the use of poison, which cause cruel and unnecessary deaths, and to cosponsor HR 1817, The Chemical Poisons Reduction Act of 2017. Here is a sample letter:

Subject: Please cosponsor HR 1817

Please cosponsor HR 1817, the Chemical Poisons Reduction Act of 2017. I am horrified by the recent reports of innocent pets suffering and dying, and a child being exposed to cyanide, as a result of the USDA Wildlife Services program’s use of sodium cyanide and Compound 1080 (sodium fluoroacetate) to kill wildlife. Last year alone, Wildlife Service activities killed 15 pets nationwide; from 2006 to 2012, 3,400 nontarget animals–including pets and threatened species–died as a result of this program’s irresponsible practices. I was also shocked to learn that these two substances are among the world’s deadliest poisons and present significant national security threats.

These poisons are extremely cruel, causing victims to experience extreme distress, pain, and suffering before death. Cyanide-poisoned animals can die within minutes or can suffer for as long as eight hours. Victims initially suffer excitement/panic and rapid respiratory rate. Muscle contractions/twitching progresses to generalized spasms, convulsions, and coma. Animals may stagger and struggle before collapse and they eventually die due to respiratory failure. Canids exposed to Compound 1080 display anxious behavior, hyper-excitability, followed by vomiting, diarrhea, and frothing at the mouth. This is followed by difficulty breathing, elevated body temperature, heart arrhythmia, and sudden bouts of violent activity. Eventually, the animals suffer seizures and may kick or paddle with the front legs, squeal, crawl around, and bite at objects. Death occurs 2 to 12 hours after exposure, usually due to failure of the heart and lungs.

Besides being cruel, ineffective, costly, and outdated, these poisons are indiscriminate, killing not only target wildlife but also protected species and, as shown in the recent cases, beloved companion animals. Despite all the evidence, Wildlife Services refuses to account for its use of these chemicals or to even acknowledge their danger.

Far safer, more humane, and less expensive alternatives are available. As your constituent, I ask that you cosponsor HR 1817. It is time for Congress to do what Wildlife Services refuses to do–end the use of these dangerous and indiscriminate poisons.

Thank you for your attention to this most important issue.

[ Your Full Name ]

Help save the Mexican gray wolf from extinction. In the coming weeks, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will be making decisions that will dramatically impact the world’s most endangered gray wolf. Namely, they’ll settle on how many captive Mexican gray wolves to release into the wild next spring. Please urge the agency’s Secretary Sally Jewell to release a substantial number of grays in New Mexico and Arizona next spring.

Email: Secretary Sally Jewell at:

Here is a letter for you to copy, paste and personalize:

Dear Secretary Jewell,

While the Mexican gray wolf was once a conservation success story, I am a concerned that the species will likely go extinct in the wild again. So, I urge you to direct the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to take immediate action to improve the Mexican gray wolf’s chance to survive and recover.

The Mexican gray wolf captive breeding facilities are meeting with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in August to come up with a breeding and release plan. These releases are necessary for the survival and recovery of the endangered Mexican gray wolf.

At the 2015, only 97 wild Mexican gray wolves were found in the U.S., a 12% decrease from last year. It’s also important to consider the wolves’ genetics: All of the Mexican wolves now living are descendants of just seven wolves from a captive breeding program, and years of a lack of wolf releases have caused a genetic problem – the wild Mexican gray wolves have lost much of the genetic diversity of those seven wolves. This genetic loss is causing the wolves to have smaller litters, and increased pup mortality. If immediate action is not taken to reverse this trend, these wolves will go extinct.

The captive-bred wolves, if released, can improve the genetic health of the wild wolf population. But this year’s wolf releases were stopped when New Mexico blacked them. FWS needs to prepare to release Mexican gray wolves Arizona and New Mexico next year, and to do that requires serious planning this August.

Thank you for your efforts in conserving endangered species. I ask that you please direct the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to work with the captive-breeding facilities now to plan for a sufficient number of wolf releases next spring. The survival of the Mexican gray wolf depends on it.


[your name here]

Don’t let Congress destroy the Endangered Species Act. Congress is moving quickly to gut the Endangered Species Act, America’s strongest and most important law for protecting wildlife. Please ask your members of Congress to oppose efforts to weaken the Endangered Species Act.

Contact information:

Here is a letter for you to copy, paste and personalize:

Dear Senator/Representative [name]:

I strongly urge you to support the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and ensure it remains a foundation of protection for all wildlife species.

The ESA is highly effective. This law has kept more than 99 percent of endangered species from going extinct. It also helps to initiate critical collaborative conservation efforts that keep species from becoming so endangered that they require ESA protection. 

90 percent of American voters support the ESA. Attempts to undermine the law will have harmful consequences for America’s wildlife for which the country has a moral responsibility to protect. We must prevent extinction for current and future generations. Please support the Endangered Species Act and oppose efforts to undermine this important law.


[your name]

Don’t support roadside zoos, animal circuses or the illegal wildlife pet trade

Wild animals belong in the wild. They do not belong in abusive roadside zoos or circuses as entertainment, or in homes as pets.

You can help wildlife. Here’s what to do:

  • Do not visit or support roadside, non-AZA (Association of Zoos and Aquariums) zoos or aquariums. AZA accredited zoos are held to a higher standard of animal care, education efforts and conservation work.
  • Do not purchase “exotic” animals from pet stores. Many of these exotic animals (including fish and corals) are taken directly from the wild.
  • Support the movement of wild animals from unsuitable captive conditions into safe wildlife sanctuaries.