By Colleen Husted
According to the Endangered Species Act (ESA) of 1973, endangered species are those in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of their range, other than a species within the Class of Insects determined by the Secretary (of the Interior) to constitute a pest whose protection under the provisions of this Act would present an overwhelming and overriding risk to man. The trouble with endangered species is that many of them are driven to this status by human interference with their natural habitats as well as humans either hunting or poaching these animals.
Thankfully, there has been legislation put into place to attempt to preserve these species and keep some sort of natural order in the world. Parks, designated natural areas, and wildlife refuges are means by which the government attempts to preserve natural ecosystems and their inhabitants. While the Endangered Species Act provides federal protection for species, there are also localized initiatives in states based upon the different species that they are looking to protect. These states include Alaska, Florida, Hawaii, Maine, Wyoming, Washington, Texas, Michigan, New York, Colorado, and, of course, Illinois.
All throughout the country there are endangered species. The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska is home to foxes, bears, caribou, wolves, oxen, wolverines, and Dall sheep. The Florida Everglades are home to dolphins, crocodiles and alligators, panthers, manatees, and various types of birds. Maui, Hawaii, holds dolphins, turtles, whales, stilts, and the pacific golden plover. Wyoming is home to bison, wolves, coyotes, foxes, bears, moose, elk, and otters while Maine harbors puffins, eagles, and various other endangered birds. Additionally, Washington houses trout, bears, eagles, whales, elks, otters, and many different types of fish while Texas is home to many different birds, animals, and ocelots. Then there is Michigan, where the bald eagle, beavers, loons, wolves, moose, and foxes live (Slater 2005). Most of these animals are endangered and it is important that society recognizes these species and attempts to protect them. In Illinois alone, the seven different categories of endangered species include 356 endangered species and 128 threatened species listed by the Illinois Endangered Species Protection Board.
These staggering numbers are due, largely, to human development and prior ignorance. The Colorado River is a perfect example of the harm humans can cause to ecosystems. Due to the building of a dam, which provided employment during a time of immense need, the natural landscape has been immensely altered. By attempting to control the river flow and harness power, as well as provide various states and Mexico with a water source, the surface structure of this valley has been completely altered. The natural flooding that used to occur and act as a natural cleanser of the mineral buildup on land no longer occurs as every single ounce of water is directed and accounted for. This caused erosion, which humans attempted to correct by introducing new plants and trees. Unfortunately, these trees took very well to the land and overran those naturally occurring species. Due to the immense human disruption within this area, there is currently an effort in place to reclaim the land so as to save species of all sorts, many of them endangered (Cohn 2001).
Effective wildlife management is necessary to attempt to balance mother earth’s natural scale that humans have off-set. According to Riley et al., such management must take into account wildlife interactions with other wildlife, wildlife interactions with the environment, interactions between wildlife and people, interactions between people and wildlife habitat, and interactions among people that result from wildlife (2002, p. 587). This is where parklands come into play.
Parklands, in general, are a platform for human recreation, but they can be so much more. Additional types of parklands, forest preserves, wildlife refuges, and national parks provide the perfect stage for protecting endangered and threatened animals and plants. By setting aside a certain area for those species to thrive with minimal human interactions and interference as steps are taken by governmental agencies to limit these impacts. In the Chicagoland area alone there are 18 state parks and one national lakeshore which have some aspect of ecosystem protection in their mission, while there are 129 state parks in all of Illinoiswhich provide sanctuary to those four hundred and eighty four species that are on the “Red List,” which is “a global list of threatened species” (IL Endangered Species Protection Board 2011).
When one thinks of parks, the most common image that springs to mind is that of children playing on jungle gym equipment; however, there is so much more associated with parklands. The wildlife within them is one key aspect that need to be considered when discussing parklands. Here in Schaumburg, the Park District maintains almost 300 acres of conservation lands that prioritize the preservation and restoration of native plants and wildlife within the context of Illinois prairie, woodland, and wetland ecosystems. While this acreage is tiny compared to the total footprint of the Village, the Cook County Forest Preserve District includes several of its largest holdings within a bike ride of Schaumburg, including the Ned Brown, Paul Douglas, and Poplar Creek Forest Preserves — all of which are massive in size compared to the largest conservation area within Schaumburg proper, Spring Valley.
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