The Good News
It is easy to concentrate on the negative impact of the
destruction of forests, pollution of waters, and reduction of animal and plant species.
Many stories are thrown at us, with the aim to make us feel guilty and donate money to the cause.
Is the picture really this bleak?
What organisations are actually doing something about it?
And which causes are really worth supporting?
It’s time to take a look at the victories, successes and positive things
that organisations are doing to help the problem of land conservation.
World Land Trust Victories
World Land Trust has been funding habitat protection for over 20 years, and has an impressive record of achievements. Nearly 500,000 acres of tropical rainforest and other threatened habitats are now under active protection worldwide.
India and Borneo: Creating Corridors for Wildlife
Corridors connect protected wildlife reserves, and are vital for allowing species to roam freely. They can increase a species gene pool and chance of continued survival. In India and Malaysian Borneo, these safe corridors have been created allowing many species the freedom to roam, including the Asian elephant, tiger and orang-utans. These projects also decrease animal-human conflict, benefitting everyone involved.
Worldwide: Launching the Keepers in the Wild Appeal
The Keepers in the Wild Appeal provides funds for the partners of World Land Trust to employ local people to protect reserves. These rangers also run education programmes and raise awareness of environmental issues in local communities.
Worldwide: Tackling Climate Change
WLT developed the Carbon Balanced Programme, encouraging individuals and businesses to offset their carbon emissions. Their reforestation programme has established more than one million trees across three continents. The REDD+ Paraguay Forest Conservation Project is internationally recognised for protecting vast areas of highly threatened habitat in Paraguay.
Fauna & Flora International’s Victories
Fauna and Flora International (FFI) focus on the planet’s biodiversity. They are directly involved in the conservation of over 33.4 million acres of land and sea, creating safe havens for biodiversity to flourish.
Africa: Mountain Gorilla Conservation
FFI helped to found the International Gorilla Conservation Programme, protecting the world’s last remaining mountain gorillas in Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Uganda. There has been a 17% increase in this population since 1991.
Portugal: Iberian Lynx Habitat Corridor
FFI helped to secure over 24,700 acres of cork oak forest in Portugal, crucial habitat for the world’s most endangered cat: the Iberian lynx. There are less than 200 left in the world. Dozens of landowners now agree to lynx conservation activities on their land, encouraging lynx prey (wild rabbit) and a safe corridor for them to roam across Portugal and Spain.
Vietnam and China: Primate Conservation
When the Critically Endangered species of cao vit gibbon and Tonkin snub-nosed monkey were discovered, FFI stepped in to ensure their survival, as both species were previously thought to be extinct. Their habitat was being destroyed for wood fuel, and FFI provided the local population with improved cooking facilities, reducing fuel consumption by 60%.
FFI also helped form Vietnam’s first locally managed conservation organisation, focussing on Cuc Phuong National Park.
Tanzania: Mpingo Tree Certification
Two villages in Tanzania have achieved the first Forest Stewardship Council certificate, for community managed natural forest in Africa. This means that the valuable Mpingo tree is harvested in a sustainable way, preserving woodland habitat, home to threatened species such as the African wild dog. The communities earned 400 times more from their harvest than before certification.
Belize: Supporting Grassroots Organisations
FFI has helped Ya’axche Conservation Trust to grow and flourish into a national non-governmental organisation. They have developed environmental education, agroforestry and other programmes. The Bladen Nature reserve is under their stewardship: the country’s ‘crown jewel’.
Nature Conservation Trust’s Victories
Nature Conservation Trust (NCT) is an Australian organisation, protecting 85 private conservation reserves, of woodlands, grasslands, wetlands and rainforests throughout Australia.
Australia: Over the past 9 years, NCT has protected:
- Habitat for 11 nationally threatened animal species, including the swift parrot and giant barred frog;
- Habitat for 63 animals threatened in New South Wales, including the squirrel glider, gang-gang cockatoo and flame robin;
- Habitat for 23 nationally threatened plant species, including the guinea flower and crimson spider orchid;
- Habitat for 39 species in New South Wales, including the coolamon and swamp foxglove;
- 5 nationally threatened and 13 ecological communities threatened in New South Wales.
Nature Conservancy’s Victories
Nature Conservancy have conserved over 120 million acres of land around the world over 58 years. They work in 34 countries on five continents, working with communities directly impacted by habitat destruction and climate change.
As the largest non-profit conservation organisation in the world, with more than 1 million members and $5 billion in assets, Nature Conservancy are well positioned to spearhead their Campaign for a Sustainable Planet.
Their initiatives cover diverse landscapes including deserts, forests, grasslands, rivers, lakes and oceans. Nature Conservancy also directly influences international policy on issues around climate change and marine protected areas, and many other conservation challenges.
Conservation in the USA
The Conservation Fund’s Victories
The Conservation Fund has worked to protect more than 7.5 million acres of land in the USA, since 1985. The organisation is involved in many projects, including conservation acquisition, aquaculture and water quality, helping communities, carbon and climate, and the Working Forest Fund.
USA: Land, water and wildlife
- Saved a large tract of unprotected land in the Rocky Fork, a prime bear breeding habitat, as well as the home for turkey deer and grouse. The world-class recreational opportunities will boost the local economy.
- Helped BrightSource Energy, who wanted to build the world’s largest solar energy plant in the Mojave Desert, to minimise its impact on local wildlife. They managed to acquire 120,000 acres of habitat in Southern California for the threatened Desert Tortoise.
- Protected more than 400,000 acres of forest in Adirondack Park, one of the largest land conservation projects in New York history.
- Purchased a 160 acre property in the Admiralty Island National Monument in Tongass National Forest, Alaska. The Native Alaskan family who sold it wanted it kept for generations of natural land stewardship, and Conservation Fund helped to allow it to be permanently protected in accordance with the family’s wishes.
- Developed the Anacostia River Water Trail Guide, to give history buffs and nature lovers a chance to paddle, hike, and experience the natural landscape of the Anacostis River. It focuses on cultural, historical and natural sights along the river.
Conservation Foundation’s Victories
The Conservation Foundation protects waters, natural places and shorelines on Florida’s Gulf Coast. They have managed to save nearly 8600 acres across 32 properties, providing hiking trails, kayak landings, historic ranch lands, safe drinking water and water access for fishing. The rescued lands provide for animals such as the gopher tortoise, eagles and osprey, bobcats and Florida panthers.
Florida: Preserving Water Areas for Manatees
One of Conservation Foundations major successes was securing the Warm Mineral Springs Creek Preserve, protecting 6.15 acres of shoreline. The land was acquired over many years, between 2007 and 2014. The Preserve is a buffer along the creek, which is a winter habitat for manatees.
The endangered manatee faces many threats to its existence, one of which is warm water refuges. Manatees are cold sensitive, and water that is too cold causes 9% of all manatee deaths. During winter they congregate in areas of warmer water, such as nuclear power discharge areas in North Florida, or sheltered pockets of water in south Florida.
Warm Mineral Springs is the only ‘warm’’ spring in Florida, at 87 degrees, a great refuge for manatees. Now that the habitat has been conserved, manatees have a quiet and peaceful winter refuge.
Conservation Lands Victories
Conservation Lands protect, restore and expand the National Conservation Lands, which stand alongside National Parks, Forests and Wildlife Refuges throughout the USA.
Colorado: Adding Brown’s Canyon to National Conservation Lands
In February 2015 President Obama used his authority to permanently protect Browns Canyon in Colorado as a national monument. The lands and waters will be conserved and open for hunting, fishing and outdoor recreation.
The rugged granite cliffs provide wildlife habitat for golden eagles, peregrine falcons, bighorn sheep, mountain lions, black bears and elk. The designation of the area as a national monument was supported by hunters and anglers, business and conservation groups, veterans and youth groups, and many Native American leaders.
New Mexico: Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument
In 2014 the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks were added to the National Conservation Lands, protecting a crossroads of New Mexican and American history. This honours the USAs diverse heritage and protects the open space for hunting and outdoor recreation.
California: Fort Ord National Monument
In 2012 Fort Ord was created a National Monument to honour the contributions of the US military, and to safeguard rare wildlife and plants. This also provided world-class opportunities for recreation.
Forest Society’s Victories
The Forest Society has been protecting landscapes in New Hampshire since 1901. The society promotes use of renewable energy resources, and partners with public agencies, communities and private landowners to protect over one million acres of land.
New Hampshire: 5,100 Acre Conservation Project
The Cardigan Highlands Project Lands are within one of New Hampshire’s largest unfragmented blocks of forest land. The project will protect important habitat for wildlife that requires large interior forests. Thousands of feet of stream frontage, Newfound Lake and Baker River habitats have also been conserved.
Washington: Conservation of 245 Acre Forest
In 2014 the Forest Society and the Washington Conservation Commission conserved a 245 acre forest near Millen Lake, Washington. The area links land already protected, making a large, continuous block that will remain open for wildlife, recreation and will safeguard water quality.
Down East Lakes
Downeast Lakes and the Grand Lake Stream is a region around Washington County, Maine. This unique landscape continues to be conserved by the Downeast Lakes Land Trust.
The Grand Lake Stream: Responding to Threats
The Georgia-Pacific Corporation wanted to subdivide 260 acres along Grand Lake Stream, which residents unanimously voted against. The company was convinced to sell the land to Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, guaranteeing access for its salmon fishery, canoeing, sight-seeing, picnicking and bird-watching.
Forming the Friends of the Downeast Lakes
In the late 1990s Georgia-Pacific sold 446,000 acres of land to undisclosed buyers. The grassroots organisation Friends of the Downeast Lakes, with help of other organisations, completed a landscape analysis and ecological assessment to identify cultural and ecological values of the land.
Conservation Alliance funding has helped save over 44 million acres of wildlands, protect 2,945 miles of rivers, halting 26 dams and designating 5 marine reserves.
Oregon: Removal of 2 Dams
The Fielder and Wimer Dams in Southwest Oregon were removed, restoring 70 miles of high quality habitat along Evans Creek, a major Rogue River habitat. These dams were to fourth and eighth worst fish passage barriers in Oregon State.
California: Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument
The Berryessa Snow Mountain provides recreation opportunities including hiking, mountain biking, paddling down the Cache Creek, hunting and horse riding. The region has critical habitat for wintering bald eagles and Tule elk. 330,780 acres were protected by Conservation Alliance.
Seattle: Protection for Outdoor Recreation Areas
22,100 acres of Alpine Lakes Wilderness, 30 miles of Middle Fork Snoqualmie River and 10 miles of the Pratt River have been protected as Wild and Scenic. This secures habitat for cougars, bear and elk, and provides recreation opportunities for hikers, anglers and white-water rafters.
The Good News
94% of life on Earth is aquatic,
but only a handful of the hundreds of conservation organisations focus on marine life.
What positive things are being done to fix the problems?
Which organisations are producing results?
Marine conservation is a huge issue being talked about at the moment,
so let’s focus on the positive results.
Oceana boasts of winning 100 victories and have saved more than a million square miles of ocean in just 14 years.
The Philippines: Controlled The Unregulated Overfishing
The major marine issue in the Philippines, Southeast Asia, is overfishing. The amount of sea fishing is not regulated properly, and violators are not being caught and punished sufficiently. The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources recently heard a call to fix these problems. They produced a Republic Act, raising penalties for commercial fishing violators and poachers.
A system of monitoring and surveillance has been put in every ship, ensuring compliance with the new regulations. The vice-president of Oceana, Gloria Estenzo Rames, says ‘we hope that the technologies eventually adopted will encourage the citizens… ensuring transparency in Philippine fisheries management.’ This new law will help replenish fish stocks and lead to more responsible fishing production.
Hawaii: Banned Fishing for Herbivorous Fish and Sea Urchins
The Kahekili Herbivore Fisheries Management Area in West Maui, Hawaii, has now banned fishing herbivorous fish and sea urchins. These fish are very important for protecting the coral reefs from being saturated with algae.
The USA and Mexico: Saved an Estimated 60,000 Sea Turtles a Year
In the United States alone, around 4,600 sea turtles are killed every year by fishing nets and hooks. One community off the coast of Mexico now hang lights on their nets to help turtles see them and avoid them. This has led to a 50% reduction in turtle catches. At the same time, fish catches have increased, as less turtles take up room in the nets. Escape hatches were also invented so accidentally caught turtles can free themselves.
Oceana produced Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs), which have crosshatched bars in the middle of the net. Shrimp can pass through, but not turtles or other large animals. After hitting the grid, turtles can escape through a hole in the net. Before United States shrimpers began using this device, around 70-80% of turtles stranded on the beach were stuck in shrimp nets. Since the late 1980’s, turtle trappings have gone down by at least 44%. TEDs save an estimated 60,000 sea turtles each year.
The USA: Stopped A Cruise Company Dumping Waste
Oceana campaigned for 11 months to stop Royal Caribbean ships; the second largest cruise company in the world, from dumping inadequately treated waste into the oceans. Royal Caribbean have now committed ‘to installing advanced wastewater treatment technology on all of its ships’.
Oceana had help from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who signed two incredibly important ocean protection bills to stop the cruise company’s dumping untreated waste into the Californian oceans.
Chile: First Country to Ban Sea Bottom Trawling
Chile became the first nation in the world to completely and permanently ban bottom trawling. Oceana campaigned for six years for Chile to put the new regulations in place. The ban will cover the diverse marine area around Easter Island, where Oceana conducted expeditions and surveys. Now over 68,000 square kilometres are protected from destruction by bottom trawlers.
Spain: Pirate Fishing Prosecution Law
Spain is Europe’s largest fishing country and biggest importer and exporter of seafood products. The new law puts stronger penalties on Spanish citizens found pirate fishing anywhere in the world. Now the Spanish government will be able to act against the illegal fishing industry.
Denmark: Created 6 Marine Protected Areas
6 new marine protected areas will be set up in Kattegat, connecting the Baltic and North Seas. These waters will now be protected from bottom trawling, which disturbs the seafloor habitats. Oceana found rare Haploops crustaceans and horse mussels, which can now be protected.
4 Major Victories for Oceana and The World
- President Bush implemented the U.S Ocean Action plan, creating a strategy to protect deep-sea corals.
- The first sustainable fishery has been planned for the Aleutian Islands, USA. It considers biological diversity, fish and predator populations, and how to keep the habitat intact and healthy.
- The U.S Arctic has been saved from industrial fishing. All U.S waters north of the Bering Strait are now off-limits to large-scale commercial fishers. This is one of the biggest achievements in marine conservation history.
- In the Mediterranean Sea, drift-netting has been banned, saving around 25,000 Bluefin tuna juveniles, and 10,000 non-targeted marine species every year.
Ocean Conservancy’s Victories
Ocean Conservancy works to keep our oceans clean of debris, plastics and oil.
The World: International Coastal Cleanups, and Alternatives to Plastic
Since 1986, Ocean Conservancy has put emphasis on cleaning up marine debris through International Coastal Cleanups. The main issue is plastics, as bags and bottles do not decompose. This poses a threat to turtles, seals and seabirds, in turn contaminating fish and damaging marine habitats.
The tide is turning on this issue, with countries like Bangladesh, and cities like Portland and Mexico City, banning plastic bags all together. There is an increasing use of alternatives to plastic, and a greater public awareness of the issue.
Gulf of Mexico: Maintaining The Pressure on 2010’s Oil Disaster
Since the oil disaster of 2010, Ocean Conservancy has kept up the pressure on BP to be held accountable. They have increased pressure on officials, so that decisions about restoration projects will be made on merit, not on politics. Funding for restoration support has increased, such as providing resources to protect dolphins and manatees, track fish species, and map the seafloor to ensure safe fishing practices.
The Arctic: Raising Awareness on The Consequences of Oil and Gas
The case has been built to protect the US Arctic from oil and gas development, which would pose an enormous threat to ocean life. The University of Alaska helped produce scientific research about the affects the development would have on the local area.
North Carolina: Beach Clearing for Sea Turtles
In North Carolina are 16 sea turtle nesting beaches, where loggerhead, green and leatherback turtles come to lay their eggs. Volunteers have removed 54,000 pieces of harmful debris from these beach zones. Ocean Conservancy also launched the ‘Last Straw Challenge’, in which 25,000 people pledged to ‘Skip the Straw’ when dining out. This will keep more than 5 million straws out of our oceans and landfills each year.
The Blue Marine Foundation’s Biggest Achievement
The Blue Marine Foundation was set up in 2010, and since then has made a huge impact. Among other victories, it has raised $12 million for marine conservation work, protects an area twice the size of the UK, won an International Green Award in 2011, and has developed a portfolio of projects from the Caribbean to the Mediterranean.
Scotland: Working to Increase Fish and Seabird Numbers
An isolated community of 55 people who live on Scotland’s Fair Isle have been lobbying since 1989 for protection over their waters. They are calling for a Marine Protected Area, because since the 80s fish stocks, and therefore numbers of seabirds, have decreased dramatically.
The islanders are asking for studies into why the seabird numbers have declined, and whether climate change is affecting the problem. They will work closely with the fishing industry and other stakeholders to do what is right for the island.
Ecologist Nick Riddiford states: ‘this is the biggest hurdle we have crossed in 25 years’, and believes positive change will come.
For years the islanders had no say over what went on in their waters, and worried that there would eventually be no wildlife left to enjoy. This Marine Protected Area will change that for the better. The Blue Marine Foundation believes ‘more fish means more birds, more birds mean more tourists, more tourists mean more money; everyone wins.’
Bite-Backs Biggest Achievement
Since 2006 Bite-Back has challenged UK supermarkets, restaurants and health food stores over the sale of threatened fish species, including shark and shark-derived products, swordfish, marlin, monkfish, skate/ rays and prawns. They have achieved many victories so far, and continue to do great work.
The UK: Shark Fin Soup
Britain is working hard to become the first country to ban shark fin soup. The organisation Bite Back began a ‘Hacked Off’ fund, to raise awareness around the issue of hacking off shark’s fins for use in shark fin soup. Since this campaign began, the number of restaurants serving the delicacy has dropped by 30%.
The luxury scuba diving company ‘Original Diving’ raised nearly 6 million pounds for this fund. The program director Neill Ghosh says ‘our clients get to enjoy some of the most remarkable scuba experiences in the world, so we think it’s reciprocal that they contribute to helping preserve the oceans, with an emphasis on sharks.’
Marine Victories That Changed the Future of Our Planet
- Oceana saved an estimated 60,000 sea turtles every year by introducing TEDs (turtle excluder devices) in shrimp nets in the Gulf of Mexico and south Atlantic Ocean
- The CEO of the 2nd largest cruise company in the world, Royal Caribbean, committed ‘to installing advanced wastewater treatment technology on all of its ships’. Oceana had campaigned for 11 months to stop the Royal Caribbean ships dumping inadequately treated waste into the oceans. http://oceana.org/victories
- Clean Ocean Action has conducted research about microplastics, plastic pieces no more than 5mm in size, which cause serious ecological concerns. They increase the toxicity of the waters, damaging shorelines, waterways and marine life. COA do much to protect our oceans, you can read about their work here: http://www.cleanoceanaction.org/fileadmin/editor_group2/Events/COA_2011_Annual_Report_FINAL.pdf
- The Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) prevented mining and oil exploration on the Great Barrier Reef in the 1960s. They also secured the Great Barrier Reef as a marine park.
- The AMCS worked to prevent both commercial whaling and live shark finning in Australian waters. They remain vigilant to threats against whales and sharks. http://www.marineconservation.org.au/pages/key-achievements.html
- Marine Conservation South East Asia took a huge step in Banda Naira, Indonesia, by managing their waste disposal system. The system allows people to pay to have their rubbish collected- if they are willing and able. This stops a huge amount of rubbish littering their ocean. People dumping rubbish in the sea are now reported. The amount of floating plastic has decreased dramatically, following a cleanup day with many volunteers to help out. http://mc-sea.org/news-events/
- China and the United States are the 2 biggest economies, and 2 of the top fishing nations in the world. They have come together to deal with conserving and protecting the ocean. Among other changes, these 2 countries have decided to:
- Combat marine litter through improving waste management and public awareness.
- Recognise the importance of creating a Marine Protected Area in Antarctica’s Ross Sea- one of the world’s last unspoiled, pristine marine environments.
- Combat illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. http://m.state.gov/md244191.htm
- Ocean Portal knows that if small groups of people take action to fix problems in their own communities, whether it’s beach cleanups, hanging lights on fishing nets to prevent turtle entanglement, or working with local governments to prevent coral reef loss, they can make a difference in protecting the ocean. One success story is an initiative called ‘Shark Truth’, encouraging Chinese people to ‘say no to shark fin soup’ at their traditional wedding ceremonies. So far, 8,000 sharks have been saved. See their website for plenty more success stories: http://ocean.si.edu/slideshow/success-stories-ocean-conservation