Impact on Wild Mammal Populations of the Loss of Protections for Public Lands in the United States

On the Impact on Wild Mammal Populations of the Loss of Protections for Public Lands in the United States

WHEREAS, the conservation of wild mammal species and their habitats is intrinsically intertwined with federal policy and public lands (Radeloff et al. 2012; Theobald et al. 2012; Rivera 2017); and,

WHEREAS, scientists have documented such a rapid, worldwide decline in wildlife species and populations, including mammals, that we are now in the midst of the sixth mass extinction of biodiversity on our planet (Dirzo et al. 2014; Ceballos et al. 2015, 2017); and,

WHEREAS, in contrast to previous mass extinctions, this sixth extinction event is clearly and inextricably caused by human activities (Raup and Sepkoski 1982; Jablonski 1986; Barnosky et al. 2012; Young et al. 2014; Fey et al. 2015; Ripple et al. 2017), and there exists evidence for the success of strong science-based protection of public lands to ameliorate these losses (Pellanti et al. 2004; Molina et al. 2006); and,

WHEREAS, public lands are part of our national heritage and intended in part to maintain habitat for wildlife species, including mammals, and to provide a resource for recreational activities enjoyed by all Americans (see the mission statements of relevant Federal agencies: U.S. Forest service,; U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service,; National Park Service,; Bureau of Land Management, These lands are set aside and protected so these valuable natural resources will be sustained rather than overexploited for short-term economic gains; and,

WHEREAS, the current administration is rolling back wildlife protections and increasing resource extraction activities on America’s public lands (Konisky and Woods 2018; Lipton and Tabuchi 2018) that encompass much of the remaining wildlands in this country, including forests, grasslands, deserts, tundra, rivers, streams, wetlands, and federally managed marine environments within U.S. territorial waters. The wildlife that depend on these lands largely are managed by the Department of Agriculture (USDA; e.g., National Forests and National Grasslands), the Department of the Interior (e.g., Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service), and the Department of Commerce (continental shelf, managed by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration); and,

WHEREAS, examples of public lands managed by the Department of the Interior that have lost protections or deemphasized wildlife protections within the past 2 years are numerous, and include:

An October 2017 decision by the Bureau of Land Management to cancel a proposed 20-year mining ban for new mineral claims across 10 million acres of Sage Grouse Focal Areas on public lands in Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, and Wyoming (; accessed 23 February 2019);

WHEREAS, in October 2018, the USDA Forest Service released the Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) (; accessed 16 April 2019) and Draft Record of Decision (; accessed 16 April 2019) for the Prince of Wales Landscape Level Analyses (POW LLA) Project on the Tongass National Forest in southeastern Alaska, which represents the largest timber sale project in the past 30 years and is centered on Prince of Wales Island, which supports the highest concentration of endemic mammals in the region, including several that will be negatively impacted by this extent of logging (Cook et al. 2006); and,

WHEREAS, extractive uses of public lands, including logging of mature and old-growth forests, mining, oil and gas development, and road construction, have substantially fragmented and degraded extensive tracts of habitat that are critical for mammalian population viability and persistence (Fagan et al. 1999; Rybicki and Hanski 2013; Immerzeel et al. 2014); and,

WHEREAS, America’s public lands provide vital blocks of contiguous habitat to sustain healthy mammal populations, and to provide connectivity to allow wide-ranging mammals to disperse (Berger 2004; Harris et al. 2009); and,

WHEREAS, unprotected public lands tend to have higher levels of human disturbance, such as removal of vegetation, hunting, environmental contaminants, and invasive species, which further expand negative impacts on mammalian populations (Pyke et al. 2016; Buxton et al. 2017; Dorning et al. 2017; Tilman et al. 2017); and anthropogenic development projects on public lands in the West are already causing the loss of natural areas, leading to substantial environmental disruption (Fenn et al. 2003; Leu 2003; Arnett et al. 2007; National Research Council 2007; Cohn 2008; Kusnetz 2012; Riley et al. 2012; Myers et al. 2013; Ware et al. 2015; Konkel 2016; Buxton et al. 2017; Keyel et al. 2018; Olive 2018; Sneed 2018); and,

WHEREAS, America’s public lands provide some of the last refugia for wildlife in North America, and aspects of the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation (Organ et al. 2012) on protected public lands has been adopted by other countries to enhance conservation efforts worldwide (Andrews 2012); and,

WHEREAS, America’s public lands serve a vital and irreplaceable role in the provisioning of ecosystem services, such as quality of air, quality and quantity of drinking water, reduction of soil erosion, flood control, and myriad other benefits to society, and the loss of those ecosystem services is closely linked to the loss of human well-being and prosperity (Luyssaert et al. 2008; Howe et al. 2014; Jones et al. 2015); and,

WHEREAS, these protected ecosystems are essential to the continued survival of native mammals and, at the same time, many species of wild mammals are essential for critical functions within these ecosystems, such as plant pollination and seed dispersal (Lewanzik and Voigt 2014; Medellin et al. 2017) and prevention of emerging and re-emerging diseases (Ecke et al. 2017; Hoyer et al. 2017; Young et al. 2017); and,

WHEREAS, undeveloped and undisturbed regions of America’s public lands alleviate present and future effects of global environmental change (Allred et al. 2015; Kubiszewski et al. 2017) and the current administration has no comprehensive plans for addressing, limiting, or mitigating the impacts of climate change, and,

WHEREAS, these undeveloped lands provide crucial natural laboratories that allow scientists to study, understand, and develop means to address the impacts of anthropogenic development on the environment (Davis et al. 2003); and,

WHEREAS, as scientists, we are alarmed over the long-lasting negative impacts, both on biodiversity and human well-being, of the actions by the current administration on America’s public lands;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the American Society of Mammalogists, meeting at its 99th Annual Meeting at the Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C., 28 June to 2 July 2019, strongly opposes the diminishment of federal public lands, the resulting loss of ecological function on federal public lands, and the prioritization of extractive uses over wildlife habitat and ecosystem services for the benefits of society; and,

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, the American Society of Mammalogists strongly opposes the actions of the current administration to reduce protection of federal lands, and strongly recommends that actions on public lands (e.g., logging, drilling, mining) first receive appropriate environmental reviews to identify substantial threats to the persistence of mammalian populations, and then implement activities that will prevent or monitor and mitigate challenges to persistence, as required by the National Environmental Policy Act, the U.S. Endangered Species Act, the National Forest Management Act, the Federal Lands Policy and Management Act, the National Wildlife Refuge Improvement Act, the National Park System Organic Act, and related laws.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the American Society of Mammalogists strongly urges Congress and the current administration to strengthen statutory and administrative protections for the conservation of mammals and other wildlife on federal public lands, oceans, and elsewhere.