By Michele C. Hollow of Pet News and Views
“It’s time we acknowledge that animals are the proverbial canaries in the coal mine,” says Steve Apfelbaum, an award winning ecologist and founder of Applied Ecological Services, Inc. (AES). “When they are healthy it indicates our earth is healthy. If we work together to improve the health of our ecosystems, wildlife will benefit, and so will we.”
In honor of National Endangered Species Day, I interviewed Apfelbaum, who started AES in 1975. AES manages between 700 and 1,000 land restoration projects each year throughout the U.S. “The presence of endangered wildlife and their habitats can restrict access for us and our pets to walk over and explore,” says Apfelbaum. “These restrictions are imposed to protect endangered wildlife and habitats. Our pets represent a threat to the lives and security of some endangered species.”
While these protected areas keep us and our pets out, Apfelbaum has never felt restricted. “I have always been able to find other locations to take our dog so that we don’t conflict with the protection needs of endangered species,” he says.
Listening to Apfelbaum recite a number of man-made problems can be dizzying. He speaks of bulldozing to clear habitats for new developments, acid rain, global climate and weather patterns, and intensity changes associated with greenhouse gas emissions from industrial operations, agricultural land-uses, coal-fired powered plants, meat production through extensive livestock grazing, transportation system emissions, and our urban living and dependency on fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides. We know these have a negative impact on our environment. However, all is not lost.
Apfelbaum suggests that we all get involved locally in projects to restore land, habitat, and species. “Reduce your family’s consumption and demand for resources by thinking and acting on the basic tenets of sustainability in your daily life and encourage the same for those people with whom you associate,” he says. Apfelbaum has written a how-to series for laypeople to develop and carry out their own restoration projects at home. It’s called Restoring Ecological Health to Your Land.