Private lands support more than two-thirds of the species listed under the Endangered Species Act, with ten percent of listed species occurring only on private lands.

In addition to more than 1,600 federally protected species in the United States, states have identified an additional 11,700 Species of Greatest Conservation Need (SGCN) in State Wildlife Action Plans (SWAPs), many of which also depend on private lands.

Conservation of these forestlands, wetlands, grasslands, rangelands and riparian areas is essential to protection and recovery of these fish, wildlife and plant species, particularly in rare and declining habitat types—tall and shortgrass prairie, longleaf pine forests and bottomland hardwood forests. Unfortunately, increasing conservation needs exceeds the current investment at the federal, state and local levels for wildlife conservation on private lands. 

Defenders' Impact

Nearly 70 percent of the lower 48 states is privately owned, and more than 40 percent of that is managed for agriculture. As the largest source of federal funds for conservation on private lands, the Farm Bill is essential for conserving fish, wildlife and plants on agricultural lands. Defenders advocated for strong conservation programs in the 2018 Farm Bill that produce measurable outcomes for wildlife. The new Farm Bill prioritizes conservation of SGCN in restoration agreements and conservation easements, provides new support for habitat connectivity on grasslands, and new opportunities for landowners to mitigate and address the effects of climate change on wildlife habitat. Our experts continue to work with the responsible federal agencies to help implement these programs in ways that best support species conservation. 

We are also committed to strengthening and improving implementation of SWAPs. These plans are blueprints for state and federal agencies, tribal governments, conservation organizations, private landowners and other stakeholders to manage and conserve SGCN on land ownerships statewide. Unfortunately, these entities struggle to find the funding needed to fully implement the plans even as threats to species and biodiversity are growing. Defenders is working to increase funding for species conservation and recovery at every level of government. 

Finally, Defenders also works with private landowners, land trusts and other partners to communicate, educate and apply conservation and restoration techniques on the ground habitat to advance species recovery and wildlife coexistence on private lands nationwide.