Skip links
Smith River Salmon

Executive Director’s Report May 2019

By Chris Morrill, Executive Director

Month after month, harrowing climate change reports paint an increasingly bleak picture of our future and the future of our planet.

This month, the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) released a report explaining that one million species are at risk of extinction due to human activity.

However, this report — the most comprehensive scientific evaluation of its kind –demonstrates that climate change’s fire consequences are real, they are happening now, and it matters to all species on the planet.

The report states:

“Nature is declining globally at rates unprecedented in human history – and the rate of species extinctions is accelerating, with grave impacts on people around the world now likely”.

While the one million species number should elicit action unto itself, the report’s greatest contribution is how this is a problem caused by people that will ultimately have a drastic impact on human beings.

The extinction of a single species may not imperil entire ecosystems, but the magnitude of a million extinctions will absolutely change the health of these systems essential to our health and economy.

This is not about simply saving animals and ecosystems for the sake of preservation. It is about the ability of human beings to thrive.

As explained by IPBES Chair, Sir Robert Watson:

“The health of ecosystems on which we and all other species depend is deteriorating more rapidly than ever. We are eroding the very foundations of our economies, livelihoods, food security, health and quality of life worldwide.”

The report identified the five primary drivers of the decline (in descending order of importance):

  1. Changes in land and sea use
  2. Direct exploitation of organisms
  3. Climate change
  4. Pollution
  5. Invasive alien species

Changes in land use are the most important threats for California, although climate change will play an increasingly significant role.

Almost twenty years ago CalWild developed several reports detailing the significance of California’s wildlife corridors. We recognized that the conservation of small pockets of land was insufficient for coping with the threat presented by expanding development and changes in public land use.

While we haven’t lost this vision, though we rarely use this kind of language anymore.

However, we inserted “habitat fragmentation” into the recently passed desert bill so that land managers would be concerned with connectivity which is vital for endangered species.

Also, land managers must now consider how climate change will influence their decisions, given the earth’s rapidly changing climate.

CalWild continues to prioritize the preservation of landscape scale ecosystems allowing plants and animals to migrate and adapt to a changing climate.

These preserved and restored ecosystems will provide additional carbon storage to help meet the state’s climate goals and increase the land’s climate resiliency. Emphasizing landscape-scale conservation will also provide important ecological services, including cleaner water and air, so that California can remain a healthy and vibrant state.

The IPBES report didn’t take us by surprise, but it does spur us to refocus and hone our efforts.

It has forced us to continue to consider the many benefits land (and river) conservation provides people.

It has also encouraged us to better communicate our goals and improve the methods we use to achieve those goals.

And most importantly, it has further demonstrated the urgency of our efforts to protect California’s habitats.

Hopefully, it has also increased your interest in joining our cause.

Please let me know your thoughts, comments, and questions by emailing me at cmorrill@calwild.org.