FORT STEWART, Ga. - In the Endangered Species Act of 1973, the US Congress said that endangered fish, wildlife, and plants "are of aesthetic, ecological, educational, historical, recreational, and scientific value to the Nation and its people." In 2006, 33 years after the Act was passed into law, the US Senate resolved that the third Friday in May would be celebrated as Endangered Species Day. This year it falls on May 20. Folks throughout the country celebrate Endangered Species Day at national wildlife refuges, natural areas, zoos, botanical gardens, schools, and community centers. Why is there so much interest in endangered species'

Historically, thousands of extinctions occurred naturally due to changing physical and biological conditions. If the extinction of species over time is natural, why is so much time and money spent attempting to save endangered species' Unfortunately, most extinctions today are caused by loss of habitat, pollution, and exotic invasive species, all of which are the direct result of human activities. We also know that the rate of species extinctions is increasing. Since the settling of North America, more than 500 species have become extinct - gone forever! And that number only includes species that we know have disappeared - there probably are many more that we will never know about.

All species are intricately tied to their habitat and to other species, and all species depend on other species for their survival. It has been estimated that a disappearing plant can take with it up to 30 other species, including insects, birds, mammals, and even other plants. The full significance of a single extinction is not always readily apparent, and the long-term effects of an extinction event may never be known. Therefore, all species have intrinsic value and ought to be conserved because each one makes possible the existence of many other species.

Of course, there are other reasons we should be concerned with the conservation of species, because the continued existence of species is directly related to us and our quality of life. For example, many of our medicines have their origins in the chemistry of plants; some farmers are relying more and more on natural control of pests using insects and plants known as biological controls; and many species are valuable as indicators of overall ecosystem health.

Ultimately, when we allow or cause the extinction of species we, the human race lose...we lose the natural beauty and diversity of our earth and our quality of life eventually will be diminished. Remember that we, like other species, are intricately related to our environment.

So take some time Friday to celebrate Endangered Species Day. Get outside with your Family, enjoy the natural world, and remember "Endangered means there is still time, but extinction is forever!"

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16