New rule from U.S. Fish and Wildlife helps conserve Southern species from climate change
WASHINGTON– This week U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service published new rules on where the agency can reintroduce threatened and endangered species into the wild. Those changes will help the agency manage imperiled wildlife in the face of threats from climate change.
Climate change alters Southern habitats and forces many species to migrate to new areas. Previously, U.S. Fish and Wildlife only reintroduced so-called “experimental” populations of threatened and endangered species into their “historic range” or the geographic area a species was believed to previously occupy. This change means species can be introduced to new areas beyond their historic habitat—an essential tool for recovery as habitat is lost and altered, including from climate change.
“This is an incredible step to help conserve Southern wildlife that are losing their habitat to impacts like rising seas and migrating forests,” said Ramona McGee, leader of the Southern Environmental Law Center’s Wildlife Program. “We applaud the Service for making this critical change to help protect our region’s unique biodiversity from climate change threats that are rapidly impacting Southern habitat.”
U.S. Fish and Wildlife’s final rule includes changes suggested by SELC in comments submitted on behalf of a coalition of 24 conservation groups last year, including how best to characterize suitable habitat for reintroductions.
From imperiled mussels and fish to rare birds, more than half of the experimental populations of species in the U.S. call the South home. Most of these vulnerable animals live in our streams and rivers. The Southeast is home to some of the most biologically diverse river systems in the United States.
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