January 01, 2018

Crocodile Smiles: How Listed Species Cope in an Age of Urbanization

Kelly Cox and Brett Brumund

As cities increase in population and geographic area, their impact on the environment inevitably increases. Most obvious is the destruction or modification of the natural environment in a city’s expanded footprint. Typically, such impact is negative because it displaces native species of plants and animals and can disrupt natural processes. A less obvious, but as readily harmful, impact directly tied to expanding cities is the need to increase services such as electricity generation or sewage infrastructure to meet a growing population’s needs. Providing such services takes up space and can displace native plants and animals and add water, air, heat, and noise pollution to the environment. Congress has recognized the importance of protecting the most vulnerable impacted species and environments in the Endangered Species Act (ESA). However, the ESA’s strong protections for species threatened with extinction can come into direct conflict with both cities and those that provide the necessary services for continued growth. This is true particularly when listed species take up residence on private property, a situation that occurs with increasing frequency in urban environments.

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