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Public Lands Give Refuge To Endangered Species, Study Shows

Federally protected lands (light blue) stem the loss of endangered species' habitat compared to private unprotected lands (orange) in the U.S.
Tufts University
Federally protected lands (light blue) stem the loss of endangered species' habitat compared to private unprotected lands (orange) in the U.S.

Federal lands are much better at reducing habitat loss and protecting endangered species than private lands, according to a new study out this week by researchers at Tufts University and the conservation group Defenders of Wildlife.

The study, published in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, "provides evidence that federal land protection and listing under the U.S. Endangered Species Act are effective tools for stemming losses in species habitat," according to a press release.

Adam Eichenwald was among the researchers to comb through more than three decades of satellite images of earth to track changes in habitat. He said this relatively new technique has made it easier for scientists to look at things at a much larger scale-which is increasingly important as wildlife moves across public-private and political boundaries with the changing climate.

"Because as the climate warms, as the climate changes, the habitats are going to be shifting and our species are going to be moving from place to place," Eichenwald said.

According to the study, habitat loss for imperiled species in the U.S. was more than twice as great on private lands than on federal lands.

The study also found that species generally lost less habitat after they were listed under the Endangered Species Act during the period of the study.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUER in Salt Lake City, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.

Have a question about this story? Contact the reporter, Maggie Mullen, at mmullen5@uwyo.edu. 

Copyright 2020 Wyoming Public Radio

Maggie Mullen is a fifth generation Wyomingite, born and raised in Casper. She is currently a Masters candidate in American Studies and will defend her thesis on female body hair in contemporary American culture this May. Before graduate school, she earned her BA in English and French from the University of Wyoming. Maggie enjoys writing, cooking, her bicycle, swimming in rivers and lakes, and most any dog.
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