For dozens of animal species living in the American Southwest, the world has been, for decades, a dangerous place. Some of these species, like say, the Rio Grande silvery minnow, are so small and inconspicuous, that most humans would never miss them if they went extinct.
This, of course, says more about the obliviousness of many humans than about the importance of the endangered mini-fish. Like the bones in the famous spiritual song, in the complex reality of the Rio Grande eco-system, the survival of a series of animals and plants are connected.
Remove one link in a biological chain and both the beauty and the utility of the whole environment can disappear.
Not just scientists, but residents of the Navajo Reservation in New Mexico and Arizona have noted the effects of climate change. Higher temperatures and lower rainfall amounts have combined to increase the frequency of dust storms and the eradication of sacred springs, medicinal plants, and iconic animals.
Measured populations of deer, rabbits and prairie dogs are in steep decline. Most meteorologists and ecologists believe things will only get worse in the already arid areas on both sides of the US-Mexico border.
And that’s without the impact of President Donald Trump’s promised “beautiful wall.” Many natural scientists believe the wall could kill off or put into permanent decline some of the region’s biggest, and most beautiful animals, plants and eco-systems, whose absence, unlike that of the silvery minnow, would be widely noticed. Examples: the big and beautiful cat called the jaguar, the smaller but similarly beautiful ocelot, and the already on-the-edge of extinction, Mexican Grey Wolf.
Bryan Bird, Southwest Program Director with Defenders of Wildlife, has spent 23 years working on wildlife conservation from protecting and restoring public lands to preserving wilderness and biodiversity across the Southwest. Bryan directs Defenders’ efforts to protect imperiled wildlife, maintain and enhance vital wildlife habitat for imperiled species, such as Mexican gray wolves, jaguars, desert tortoises and California condors, in the face of a changing climate, drought, and increasing development. Bryan has expertise in conservation of forests, riparian ecosystems and rare species habitats. He has worked to restore Mexican gray wolves in the Sky Islands-Greater Gila Bioregion of New Mexico and Arizona for over a decade. Bryan holds a M.S. in Biology from New Mexico State University and a B.S. in Biology, from the University of Colorado, Boulder.