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Director's Corner

Meet Service Director Dan Ashe.

A Century Later, the Passenger Pigeon’s Extinction Has Much to Teach Us

One hundred years ago today – September 1, 1914 – the planet’s last passenger pigeon died in captivity in a Cincinnati zoo.

Passenger pigeon
By some estimates, the species accounted for one quarter of all land birds in the hemisphere. Credit: USFWS

We’ve made enormous progress in conserving our native species and the habitat that supports them. But the passenger pigeon is no less extinct. And for all eternity, the North American landscape will never be the same.

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Optimism: The Heart of Conservation Past, Present and Future

Conservation, at its core, has always been the ultimate expression of optimism. When we replant a bottomland hardwood forest or release a captive-bred Mexican wolf into the wild, it’s understood that we may not be around to walk that mature forest. Or encounter recovered wolves roaming the landscape.

But we take these kinds of actions anyway, because we’re optimistic about the future.

I believe strongly that we can, and must retain that optimism as a conservation community, despite the staggeringly complex challenges we face across the globe. 

It’s no secret what we’re up against. Increasing drought and other ecosystem disruptions caused by climate change. Widespread habitat loss and destruction caused by development and the spread of invasive species. Spreading wildlife disease facilitated by global trade. Growing water scarcity driven by expanding cities and agriculture. A global epidemic of poaching and wildlife trafficking that is devastating some of the world's most iconic species, imperiling fragile ecosystems and undermining regional security and stability.

These are challenges created by humans. And they will only grow in scale and complexity as human population and affluence grow.  

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Latinos Help Make Conservation Happen

In Spanish, hecho means “made.” We’ve all seen the lettering on countless products from Latin America – Hecho en Mexico, for example. Hecho a mano, denoting things made by hand. 

HECHO
A HECHO poll shows strong Latino support for conservation. Photo by HECHO

It’s uniquely fitting, therefore, that one of the nation’s most prominent organization for conservation-minded Latino Americans is called HECHO -- Hispanics Enjoying Camping Hunting and Outdoors

Why? Because in the most elemental sense, we are all hecho por la naturaleza – products of the natural world around us. Like the world’s fish, wildlife and plants, we depend on the Earth’s natural systems for clean air, clean water, food, shelter, jobs and economic growth. 

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