A Plea From the Animal Kingdom

Osprey, Lower Columbia River. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

Let me start by stating that I am an osprey. Many of you on Long Island know of me as a fish-hawk.

As with many in the human population, I spend a great deal of time near the shores and coastlines of this area. Now, many of my fellow wild creatures of this nation, and the entire planet, have asked me to communicate with you on a matter of immediate and great importance. We need your help.

It has come to our attention that all of our lives could become imperiled by your  federal government. One of the most protective wildlife laws ever enacted is about to be severely weakened: the Endangered Species Act.

Apparently, it is to be made more economically accountable, meaning that our lives, and the stability of all of the multiple ecosystems of which we are a part, will be considered only after accounting for the possible economic losses that saving our lives might entail.

Ospreys know this would be a tragic mistake. We had a frightening brush with extinction back in the 1950s to the 1970s, when our breeding pairs on the coast between New York City and Boston declined by 90 percent. Humans realized that chemical pesticides such as DDT were causing our eggshells to thin. Other avian species were dying off, too. Once those poisons were banned, our population rebounded, but it was not easy, and it was not immediate.

After the Endangered Species Act was signed in 1973, it helped save your national symbol, the bald eagle, from extinction — as well as scores of other animals and plants. It allowed for the re-introduction of wolves to Yellowstone National Park to restore a natural balance to that ecosystem.

Right now, the law protects more than 1,600 species in the United States and its territories. Do you really think it is a good idea to weaken it?

I watch from the skies as hundreds of people take whale-watching cruises from Long Island to spot humpback whales. These creatures have returned to these waters only after being protected by the Endangered Species Act.

It also protected a fellow raptor, the peregrine falcon. How would you explain to your children, and their children, if you let the fastest animal on the planet vanish forever because of business concerns?

Wild creatures do so many things that benefit humans: Bees and bats pollinate crops, birds of prey control populations of rodents that could consume your food supply in farm fields or cause disease. Have you forgotten that multiple species from algae in the oceans to trees that line your streets create the oxygen that all of us need to exist?

We share a planet that is not humanity’s alone, and could never be so. You could not exist without the contributions of so many other forms of life.

Your federal administration is engaged in some very dangerous short-term, nonscientific thinking. Making monetary and business concerns your primary objectives will not result in healthy, stable and sustainable ecosystems. Those ecosystems are what we all need to survive. Please help us and help yourselves. Keep the Endangered Species Act intact.

Pandion haliaetus is the alter ego of Jim Jones, a naturalist at Bethpage State Park.

This column originally appeared on Newsday.


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