THIS IS THE time of year when folks from around the country race up I-93 or I-89 to escape the heat and explore our Lakes Region and White Mountains. Many will gather lifelong memories spotting peregrine falcons streaking past a cliff face in the presidentials, or watching a loon diving for its next meal. Others will venture north to Berlin or Pittsburg to glimpse a majestic moose feeding on aquatic vegetation.
Granite Staters and visitors alike relish our experiences with wildlife. It is part of our shared culture and a foundation for our outdoor economy, which supports $8.7 billion in consumer spending and nearly 80,000 jobs within the state.
With so many collaborative successes over the past century led by New Hampshire’s Department of Fish and Game, it’s easy to lose sight of a much larger and more complicated biodiversity crisis right here in New Hampshire and across the country.
It took decades of hard work and collaboration among New Hampshire Audubon, Fish and Game, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and an army of conservation volunteers to recover our state’s bald eagle, peregrine falcon, and osprey populations. These successes are a reminder that with the right resources and collaborative actions we can address the wildlife crisis.
Furthermore, we can prevent more wildlife from becoming endangered if we take proactive steps to conserve them before they need federal protection.
More than one-third of America’s fish and wildlife species are at heightened risk of extinction. More than 1,600 species in the United States are listed under the federal Endangered Species Act and another 150 species already are presumed extinct. State fish and wildlife agencies have identified more than 12,000 species of greatest conservation need, including the nearly 170 species in New Hampshire’s Wildlife Action Plan that need help right here, right now, including the New England cottontail, Blanding’s turtle, and roseate tern.
This is America’s part of the emerging sixth mass extinction, in which, according to a recent U.N. report, more than 1 million animal and plant species face potential extinction in the coming decades. While the causes vary in different parts of the world, in the United States, habitat loss, invasive species, disease and climate impacts are the primary factors.
The good news is that we can avoid the worst outcomes, if we act quickly and decisively.
As presidential candidates from both parties visit New Hampshire, the time has come for each to demonstrate an understanding of the magnitude of America’s wildlife crisis and commit to taking bold action immediately to address it.
We need only look to our iconic moose to witness the threats to wildlife species. Warmer weather and milder winters — caused by climate change — have resulted in a surge in blood-sucking winter tick populations, which have exposed New Hampshire’s moose to a living horror movie. The ticks are literally sucking the life out of our moose.
While declining moose populations have received some attention, New Hampshire’s broader wildlife crisis is much more widespread and insidious. For example, a recent University of New Hampshire study of 125 years of records shows regional declines in 14 native bee species.
Fortunately, Reps. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb., and a bipartisan coalition of more than 60 of their colleagues (including Reps. Annie Kuster and Chris Pappas of New Hampshire), recently introduced the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act.
The legislation is built upon a simple premise: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. It is more effective and less costly to recover at-risk wildlife populations through collaboration before they require more restrictive regulatory measures.
The bill invests in proven, collaborative solutions described in State Wildlife Action Plans, such as restoring, reconnecting and improving the resilience of essential habitat, removing invasive species, eradicating diseases, and reducing toxic pollution.
While the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act will provide a critical foundation for any president to address the wildlife crisis, it’s part of a larger collaborative conservation agenda. We must redouble our efforts to restore healthy and sustainable forests to provide wildlife habitat, clean water and sustainably harvested wood products.
We must conserve our natural defenses — the wetlands, forests, streamside vegetation, and the 18 miles of coastline from Seabrook to Portsmouth—that help to protect our communities from flooding and droughts. We must reduce carbon and methane pollution in ways that do not exacerbate the wildlife crisis, such as energy efficiency, reforestation, and responsibly sited clean energy, including domestic solar and offshore wind.
Finally, we must keep nature within reach for all Americans, because time spent in the natural world makes us happier, healthier, and smarter, while inspiring future stewards of our planet — our children.
Simply put, when we save wildlife, we save ourselves. What better place than New Hampshire to make sure all candidates for president have a plan for saving America’s wildlife?