How Communities Helped Wildlife in 2017

It has not been the best year for wildlife or conservation. But conservationists are still fighting and we have had some victories in 2017. Communities have been coming together to help wildlife in other ways. Here are a few highlights of how people have supported wildlife over the past year.

Bison Are Back, Baby!

Over a century ago, bison, or buffalo, used to roam free across much of the West. At their peak, there were tens of millions of buffalo in North America. It was truly North America’s very own Serengeti. Once a critical part of the way of life for many Native Americans, tribes hunted buffalo for everything from food, hides, and shelter, to using the bison bones for weapons and tools, even using the animal fats to make soaps.

Bison photo via US National Park Service
Photo credit: US National Park Service

As settlers moved West, the buffalo populations were slaughtered without respect for the animals or the tribes that depended on them — nearly driving the bison to total extinction. By the end of the 19th century, only an estimated 100 remained. But over the past several years, collaborations between stakeholders, including the National Wildlife Federation and local tribal groups have sought to reintroduce bison to their native habitat.

The Eastern Shoshone Tribe partnered with NWF to reintroduce bison to the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming and the herd is already welcoming newborn bison into the world. The coalition between NWF and tribal groups hopes to reintroduce addition bison to Western lands in the years to come.

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Butterflies Given The Royal Treatment

In case you haven’t heard, pollinators have not been doing all that great. When people think pollinators, they think bees and butterflies. But there are actually over 100,000 invertebrates and over 1,000 mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians that pollinate plants. Unfortunately in recent years, many of these pollinators have lost habitat and fell victim to invasive species, parasites, and most of all, pesticides. Fortunately, there are many initiatives helping pollinators throughout the country.

monarch on native milkweed
Monarch on native milkweed. Photo credit: USFWS

Monarch butterflies are one species bouncing back from the brink. Over the past two decades, Monarch populations have declined by 90 percent. Monarchs are also a particularly tricky species to help because they migrate across all of North America, with migration paths stretching from Canada to Mexico and depend on Milkweed plants for food as caterpillars. But in both rural and urban areas, Milkweed has also been decreasing which spelled trouble for Monarchs.

Thankfully, people are stepping up to plant more Milkweed and help this iconic species. The Mayors’ Monarch Pledge has enabled U.S. cities, municipalities, and other communities to create more habitat and educate people about how to help save Monarchs. By taking the pledge, mayors and communities take a pledge to do at least 3 specific actions from the checklist to help Monarchs and then follow up and report their progress. The program is already doing amazing work across the country.

To date, the Mayors’ Monarch Pledge has enlisted 345 city mayors across the U.S. who are committed to helping revive this iconic species and boost their populations going forward. Individuals are also helping through NWF’s Butterfly Heroes program and planting butterfly gardens in their own backyards to help with the Monarch migration as well as making their homes more welcoming to pollinators. NWF is also part of a broader coalition of garden and trade groups called the National Pollinator Garden Network that has, over the past two years, succeeded in creating 650,000 new or enhanced pollinator gardens across the country. This means more food for pollinators and more butterflies and flowers for towns all across America.

Find out how you can help in your community…

Wildlife Habitats In Your Own Backyards

In addition to helping pollinators, community members are also stepping up and coming together to help other wildlife species as well. Through NWF’s Garden for Wildlife program and their green schools initiatives, schools, homes and businesses all across the country are learning how to set up ideal habitats for wildlife in their own backyards. In addition to households, this program empowers schools, to certify their gardens as habitats for wildlife by providing them with access to food, water, shelter, and space to raise their young. To date, these programs have empowered 12,000 schools and 215,000 households, places of worship, businesses, parks, zoos, nature centers and aquariums certify habitats for birds, monarchs and other pollinators through our green school and Garden for Wildlife programs. We also led a two year campaign that has created 650,000 new or enhanced pollinator gardens. By creating habitat for wildlife throughout our communities, we can ensure that wildlife can coexist with us in urban and suburban settings more easily.

Set Up A Garden For Wildlife In Your Yard

More good news for wildlife:

  • We’ve helped ensure the continued recovery of the last wild flock of critically endangered whooping cranes through our work to sustain freshwater flows to estuaries along the Texas coast,
  • We’ve conserved another 87,000 more acres, reaching a total of 1.1 million acres of conflict-free wildlife habitat to help wildlife like grizzlies, bighorn sheep, bison, and salmon
  • We’ve worked with our affiliates and communities affected by hurricanes in the Caribbean and Gulf Coast, and wildfires in the West to begin restoration of critical habitat for manatees, sea turtles, migratory birds, lynx, owls, and dozens of other species