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New Research Reveals Broad Public Support for Species Restoration

New research conducted by Northeast Wilderness Trust in collaboration with national and international partners delves into the critical role of governance in addressing the biodiversity crisis in the United States.

Published in the journal BioScience, the newly released research paper “The role of governance in rewilding the United States to stem the biodiversity crisis” (Carlson et al. 2023) drew on survey results of 3,589 residents in Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont, and West Virginia. Participants were asked a variety of questions on conservation issues, including “[w]hat are the most important activities in which a state wildlife agency might engage?” Of the options provided, which included things like increasing hunting and trapping opportunities, increasing recreational access, and managing land to improve habitat, people overwhelmingly ranked “restoration of species that are locally extinct or imperiled” as their top priority.

The paper also highlights a significant, yet often overlooked, aspect of the biodiversity crisis: the geographic range contraction experienced by many land mammals and birds. Range contraction refers to when a species is not yet rare enough to be listed as threatened or endangered, but no longer occupies significant areas of its former range. This range contraction can happen for a wide variety of reasons, ranging from persecution by humans to fragmentation of habitat by major roads or barriers to climate-related landscape change. Examples include Bicknell’s thrush, martens, and cougars. The paper points out that the way the Federal Endangered Species Act is administered currently, it does nothing to address this issue. As a result, addressing range contraction often falls to state wildlife agencies.

The insights from this paper are a testament to the potential for state agencies to play a transformative role in conservation. It also reflects the public’s growing expectation for such agencies to prioritize species restoration, harmonizing the needs of both hunting and non-hunting constituents. This shift towards a more inclusive and ecological approach to wildlife management aligns with NEWT’s vision for a rewilded and ecologically rich landscape in the northeastern United States.

This research also underscores the importance of considering both ecological and social factors in biodiversity conservation efforts, a principle that NEWT upholds in its conservation strategies. As we celebrate this contribution to conservation science, NEWT remains committed to advancing the principles of wilderness preservation and ecological restoration.

To access the full paper visit:The role of governance in rewilding the United States to stem the biodiversity crisis

Photo by Susan C. Morse ©