Defenders is embarking on a new initiative to help agencies protect the most important habitats for at-risk species.

America’s federal public lands—our national parks, national wildlife refuges, national forests, grasslands, and deserts—provide some of the last, best habitat for safeguarding wildlife and plants. And Congress has directed federal agencies that steward these lands and waters to protect and recover threatened and endangered species and other sensitive and rare animals and plants.

Unfortunately, agency wildlife programs are often starved for funding and can fall victim to political interference. This is especially true for the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which must also balance legal requirements to allow logging, oil and gas development, mining, and livestock grazing on public lands—activities that can destroy and degrade habitat.

Despite these challenges, agencies can still take creative action to make strides for species now. Even during difficult political times, with limited resources, and increasing conflicts on public lands, Defenders of Wildlife believes federal land managers can achieve their conservation missions through an innovative, scientific approach to habitat protection: species strongholds.

Smart, Strategic Species Strongholds

Defenders has embarked on a new initiative to advance protection for the most important habitats vulnerable wildlife use on federal lands. “Species strongholds” are essential habitat areas that our public lands managers must prioritize for endangered, threatened, rare, and sensitive species. Defenders is developing a science-based tool to help agencies map the most important places for at-risk species. This will allow planners and managers to make smarter strategic decisions about where special land protections could significantly bolster species protection and recovery.

Protecting Strongholds on the Gila National Forest

This map depicts Southwestern willow flycatcher habitat on the Gila National Forest. The species is protected as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act. Identifying important habitat areas on the forest can aid Forest Service planners in protecting these…