The Challenge: Many scientists agree that we are now witnessing the world’s 6th mass extinction, an era known as the Anthropocene. For many Americans, extinction is a problem facing tropical nations, not the U.S. While it is true that we are not losing charismatic species such as tigers, rhinos, and river dolphins here in our country, thousands of our lesser known plant and animals species are rapidly collapsing across their ranges. Their day of extinction is coming, though the full force will likely not hit until 50-75 years from now. At the current rate of habitat loss, many grassland species such as the Royal Catchfly (above) will be gone much sooner. Now, like no other time in our history, we have the tools to rescue imperiled plant and animal populations and to safeguard them for future generations, but the funding to support such efforts is largely non-existent.
A great example of the kinds of innovative approaches that are needed to save our last remnants is the recent rescue of a 2-acre prairie in Arkansas. The privately owned remnant was slated for conversion to an irrigation reservoir. Arkansas Natural Heritage Program staff mobilized a crew, hired a sod-cutter, and was able to move the entire prairie to a new site down the road on state-owned land. The prairie relocation (right) was a huge success with nearly all of the 150+ plant species surviving the move. However, this rescue cost about $25,000. Similar efforts are needed throughout the South to rescue imperiled remnants.