Fellows in the News

Healy Hamilton has published the most detailed maps to date of locations in the U.S. most likely to have plants and animals at high risk of global extinction. Her research was profiled in the New York Times in March 2022. The following is an excerpt from the New York Times story by Catrin Einhorn and Nadja Popovich. Read the full story here, including maps. Find the research article here and the original maps here.  

Let your eyes wander to the areas of this map that deepen into red. They are the places in the lower 48 United States most likely to have plants and animals at high risk of global extinction.

It’s the most detailed map of its kind so far. Animals like the black-footed ferret and California condor are represented, but so are groups often left out of such analyses: species of bees, butterflies, fish, mussels, crayfish and flowering plants. Not included are gray wolves, grizzly bears and other wildlife not at risk of global extinction.

Maps like these offer a valuable tool to officials and conservationists who are scrambling to protect biodiversity. That work is critical, because scientists say humans are speeding extinction at a disastrous pace.

“There are hundreds of species known to be globally critically imperiled or imperiled in this country that have no protection under federal law and often no protection under state law,” said Healy Hamilton, chief scientist at NatureServe, a nonprofit conservation research group that led the analysis behind the map.

By highlighting areas where land is permanently protected for biodiversity, in green below, you can see where the habitats of imperiled species are outside of conservation zones.

Right now, about 13 percent of the United States is permanently protected and managed primarily for biodiversity, according to the United States Geological Survey. The Biden administration has set a goal to conserve and restore 30 percent of U.S. lands and waters by 2030. It’s part of a larger global push, known as 30x30, to protect more land and water worldwide.

The analysis found that the habitats of hundreds of imperiled species were entirely outside of the green areas above.

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