Is there ever a time we doubt that our human existence is untouched by the creatures with which we share our natural environment? Whether it’s the furry pets who share our homes, or the ones that entertain us on Instagram, we’re drawn to the charisma and beauty of creatures big and small that share our ecosystem. So, when Save Animals Facing Extinction awarded the opportunity to partner and better understand the landscape of wildlife conservation across the United States, we were excited to dive in!

Did you know that voters in Colorado supported the reintroduction of gray wolves into the northern part of the state in 2020?

Or that New York has banned a common pesticide known to kill pollinators?

And that California now requires all new transportation projects to address barriers to wildlife movements within important habitats?

With a focus on how people and communities advocate to protect species across the U.S., our team set out to map and identify policy advocacy opportunities for wildlife conservation. Our research reaffirmed that public opinion and participation holds deep influence in state issues, arguably more than those at the federal level. States like California, Hawaii, and Washington are innovative, determined, and forward-thinking in their commitment and efforts to conserve vanishing species. Other states also recognize growing threats to their iconic and vital species and are working hard to make a difference, like this groundbreaking effort in New Mexico to restore springsnail habitats and efforts in Oregon, which became the ninth state to ban wildlife killing contests earlier this year.

On World Wildlife Conservation Day (12/4), we aim to promote the importance of collective contribution, regardless of where you are in the country (or the world). In this spirit, we share below four fun ways to support conservation efforts, connect with nature, and protect these precious critters.

Transform Spaces into Fluttering Gardens

The migratory monarch butterfly is now classified as an endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) with the western population at greatest risk of extinction due to logging, deforestation, and pesticide use. Do you have a backyard or even a few planters on your balcony? If so, grow native plants like milkweed to attract these beautiful butterflies and offer them sanctuary. Monarch Joint Venture can help you learn more on how to bring your garden to life to support monarch butterflies and other pollinators.

Listen to Nature’s Symphony

Do you ever catch yourself on a walk or a hike hearing a call that takes you back to a memory, a season, or your childhood? Wouldn’t it be lovely to know which bird is calling out to you? Check out the Merlin Bird ID app, a Shazam for bird calls and my personal recommendation to get started with backyard birdwatching. If you’re further curious about how conservationists are capitalizing AI and the sounds of nature for wildlife safeguarding, dive into the field of conservation bioacoustics. Cornell’s K. Lisa Yang Center for Conservation Bioacoustics collects and interprets sounds in nature by developing innovative conservation technologies to inspire and inform the conservation of wildlife and habitats.

Protect the Rivers Through Riparian Habitats

Trees are majestic, unique beings. It is impossible not to be in awe of all that they have seen and survived over their long lives, while selflessly providing for the people and animals around them. Did you know trees even support ecosystems that they do not directly inhabit, such as water systems? When planted bordering water bodies (also called riparian areas), trees serve as a low technology, cost-effective way to cool down rivers and streams. Restoring indigenous vegetation and tall trees helps shelter rivers from the sun, supporting Pacific salmon, which remain an endangered species in crisis and are not keeping pace with recovery goals due to warming waters, dried-up streams, vanishing floodplains, polluted water, and increased predators. Read more here and check if your community has riparian restoration efforts you can support. Folks in the state of Washington, there is lots going on where you are!

Welcome Wolves into New Habitats

Wolves had thrived in the Southern Rockies in the 1940s until agricultural expansion, hunting campaigns, and its main prey species like bison, put them in danger of going extinct. By 1978, wolves were protected under the Endangered Species Act with the aim to reintroduce and recover the population. Colorado’s Proposition 114, a ballot initiative which received voter majority in 2020 elections, is one of the first legislations of its kind to reintroduce wolves into a state. Wolves are considered important ecosystem engineers, a species that feeds into maintaining a natural environmental balance. Find out what wolf protections exist in your home state if this is an area of interest.

Interested in learning more about conservation policy efforts in the United States, but not sure where to start? We recommend National Caucus of Environmental Legislators, which provides updated resources on state conservation and environmental legislative issues. Other champions like Endangered Species Coalition, Center for Biological Diversity, EarthRanger, and others work hard on the ground to help wildlife thrive. Be sure to check them out!

Wishing you a day filled with paws, claws, and roars! Happy World Wildlife Conservation Day.