US Facilitates Species Relocation as a Last Resort to Combat Climate Change-Induced Extinction

by Lucas Garcia
species relocations

In response to the warming climate and the looming threat of species extinction, US officials have announced measures to simplify the process of relocating endangered plants and animals outside their historical habitats. This action serves as a last-ditch effort to safeguard species that are under imminent risk due to climate change.

While relocations of struggling species have been sporadically conducted in the past, such as the urgent transfer of seabirds in Hawaii to prevent their submergence from rising ocean levels, the recent change in federal regulations under the Biden administration expands the scope of such interventions. Now, relocations can be carried out for some of the most endangered plants and animals protected by the Endangered Species Act.

Furthermore, the updated regulations permit relocations in cases where a species is being displaced by nonnative plants or wildlife. For instance, this summer, officials plan to introduce Guam kingfishers to the Palmyra Atoll south of Hawaii. These birds, which are extinct in the wild but maintained in zoos, will be relocated to counter the decimation of their population by brown tree snakes inadvertently brought to Guam around 1950.

In the past, moving species to new areas was regarded as controversial due to concerns about potential disruptions to native ecosystems and the displacement of local flora and fauna. However, as climate change increasingly alters habitats worldwide, the practice is gaining acceptance among scientists and government officials.

The previous rules that prevented the relocation of endangered species were put in place without fully recognizing the impact of climate change. With habitat transformations becoming more pronounced due to global warming, wildlife is compelled to seek new areas for survival, while other species teeter on the brink of extinction. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland emphasized that allowing relocations would fortify conservation efforts and safeguard species for future generations.

Nevertheless, this proposal has faced opposition from Republicans in Western states, particularly those that previously resisted the reintroduction of gray wolves two decades ago. Officials in Montana, New Mexico, and Arizona have raised concerns about potential ecological havoc caused by intentional introductions of “invasive species.” Citing examples such as Asian carp invading US waterways or starlings from Europe devastating crops and displacing native songbirds, opponents argue against the potential risks associated with such relocations.

On the other hand, several state wildlife officials and external scientists have expressed support for the rule change, identifying species that could benefit from relocations. Examples include the Key deer in southern Florida, desert flowers in Nevada and California, and the St. Croix ground lizard in the Virgin Islands.

Critics, such as Patrick Donnelly from the Center for Biological Diversity, have voiced concerns that the new rule could be exploited to justify habitat destruction for development purposes. Donnelly’s organization has actively opposed plans for a Nevada lithium mine that threatens the endangered Tiehm’s buckwheat. The mining company proposed transplanting the species and establishing new habitats as compensation, prompting worries about potential abuse of the rule.

This recent update regarding species relocation aligns with the Biden administration’s efforts to reverse significant changes made to the endangered species program during the previous administration. While industry groups had previously advocated for those changes, they faced significant criticism from environmentalists. Last week, the Fish and Wildlife Service announced the reinstatement of a long-standing regulation that provides blanket protections for newly classified threatened species. Additionally, economic impacts will no longer be considered when determining the need for protection of animals and plants.

By Matthew Brown (Twitter: @MatthewBrownAP)

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about species relocations

What is the purpose of the US allowing species relocations as a last resort?

The purpose of allowing species relocations as a last resort is to save plants and animals threatened with extinction due to climate change. As habitats are altered by global warming, some species are forced to new areas to survive, while others are pushed closer to extinction. Relocating endangered species is seen as a conservation effort to protect them for future generations.

What prompted the change in federal regulations regarding species relocations?

The change in federal regulations was prompted by the recognition that the impacts of climate change were not fully realized when the previous rules preventing endangered species relocations were adopted. As climate change intensifies, habitats change, and species face increasing threats. The new regulations aim to address these challenges and provide a framework for effective conservation actions.

What are the potential risks associated with species relocations?

One of the main concerns is the potential disruption of native ecosystems and the displacement of local flora and fauna. Introducing species into new areas can have unintended consequences and may lead to ecological havoc. Some opponents argue that these relocations can result in the introduction of invasive species, causing harm to native species and ecosystems.

How are relocations beneficial in the face of climate change?

Relocations can be beneficial as they offer a last resort for imperiled plants and animals to escape the adverse effects of climate change. By moving species to more suitable habitats, their survival chances can be enhanced. Relocations allow for the preservation of biodiversity and contribute to ongoing conservation efforts in a changing climate.

How does this change in regulations align with the Biden administration’s approach to endangered species?

This change in regulations aligns with the Biden administration’s broader efforts to reverse significant changes made to the endangered species program during the previous administration. The administration aims to strengthen conservation efforts, reinstate protections for threatened species, and prioritize the preservation of biodiversity without considering economic impacts in species protection decisions.

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Conservationist99 July 1, 2023 - 6:24 am

i’m excited abt the potential benefits of species relocations in fightin climate change. it’s a last resort 2 save species from goin extinct. we need 2 adapt 2 a changin world & preserve biodiversity. let’s hope these regulations r effective & well-managed!

WildlifeProtector22 July 1, 2023 - 6:48 am

there r always risks in takin such steps. movin species around can hav unintended consequences. we don’t wanna make a bad situation worse. careful planning, scientific research, & proper monitoring r key. let’s protect our precious ecosystems!

EarthDefender76 July 1, 2023 - 11:58 am

love dat the Biden admin is takin action 2 reverse harmful changes made in past admin. endangered species need our help & protection. climate change is real & we need 2 act now! let’s save our planet & all its beautiful creatures. together we can make a difference!

NatureLover87 July 2, 2023 - 2:21 am

wow this is gr8 news! finally US officials r doing sumthing to save our endangered species from extnction! climate change is a big problem & these relocations cud make a diffrence. we need 2 protect our biodiversity & take action now!

EcoWarrior123 July 2, 2023 - 3:43 am

climate change is serius & species r sufferin! gud 2 c Biden admin makin changes 2 protect them. but wat abt da risks? relocations can disrupt ecosystems & introduce invasiv species. we shud b careful not 2 make things worse while tryin 2 help!


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