Earth Day 2019: Protect Our Species

0
128
Courtney Kipp, Tunista Services pronghorn biologist, peers through an observation scope April 17 at the Barry M. Goldwater Range East. A team of biologists contracted by the Air Force use strategic vantage points and visual observations with the aid of binoculars and spotting scopes, as well as telemetry surveillance, to safely locate radio-collared pronghorn on the range.

Earth Day, celebrated annually on April 22, is the largest, most celebrated environmental event worldwide with more than 175 countries and 1 billion people commemorating the day each year.

According to the Earth Day Network, Earth Day celebrates the planet’s environment and raises public awareness by reminding people to think about humanity’s values, the threats the planet faces and ways to help protect the environment. The theme for Earth Day 2019 is “Protect Our Species.”

“People march, sign petitions, meet with their elected officials, plant trees and clean up their towns,” said Kathleen Rogers, president of the Earth Day Network, whose mission is to diversify, educate and activate the environmental movement worldwide.

The Barry M. Goldwater Range East serves a dual role as a national asset for military training as well as a stunning landscape where the flora and fauna of the Sonoran Desert flourishes. The 56th Range Management Office’s Environmental Science Management Flight at Luke Air Force Base is tasked with managing the natural and cultural resources at BMGR East.

“Two federally listed species occur at BMGR East, the Sonoran Pronghorn and Acuna Cactus,” said Aaron Alvidrez, 56th Range Management Office wildlife biologist. “Both are listed as endangered.”

The Sonoran pronghorn is a desert-adapted subspecies of American pronghorn, the fastest land mammal in North America. In the early 2000s, the pronghorn population dramatically crashed to about 20 animals due to severe drought. Since then, the Sonoran Pronghorn Recovery Team has been tirelessly caring for pronghorn, growing the endangered population to now over 200 animals.

“The Air Force funds a team of biologists to monitor target areas inhabited by Sonoran pronghorn,” said Alvidrez. “Monitoring is conducted from strategic vantage points and includes visual observations with the aid of binoculars and spotting scopes, as well as telemetry surveillance to locate radio-collared pronghorn.”

The monitoring program is very effective said Alvidrez. To date, they have not documented any evidence of pronghorn injury or mortality due to military activities.

Alvidrez went on to explain that representatives from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, Department of Defense, Arizona Game and Fish Department and the Tohono O’odham Nation form the Sonoran Pronghorn Recovery Team. Together, they work toward the recovery goal of conserving and protecting the Sonoran Pronghorn and its habitat so that its long-term survival is secured.

“The Integrated Natural Resources Management Plan establishes a long-term stewardship program to protect, conserve and rehabilitate natural resources, including Sonoran pronghorn and its habitat,” said Alvidrez. “The Sonoran pronghorn is an iconic native Sonoran Desert species. It is very important to the Range Management Office to continue our Sonoran pronghorn conservation actions as well as supporting the military training mission.”

For more information on how to participate in Earth Day events, visit www.earthday.org/campaigns/endangered-species/earthday2019/.