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The Endangered Species Act — Sewing the Seeds for Success

Birthdays are great when you’re a kid: You get older and you get presents.

But one group of kids — sixth-graders at Thomas Starr King Middle School in Los Angeles, California — are excited about a different kind of birthday: the 40th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act, which was signed into law on December 28, 1973.

These middle-school students got together in the Act’s 40th year. Spurred by the intriguing inspiration of one student’s mother, Sherrell Cuneo, with the enthusiastic support of their teachers, the students took action to celebrate theEndangered Species Act: the most successful biodiversity protection law in U.S. history.

The students began the construction of an epic quilt.  Each panel of the quilt honors an imperiled species — and the entirety honors endangered species everywhere, as well as celebrating the Endangered Species Act’s success. The project was dubbed “Sew the Seeds: Saving Earth’s Endangered and Diverse Species,” and it did. As each group of students worked on their species quilt panel, these young people became more and more intrigued about endangered species — and helping these animals and plants survive. Apple, Sherrell Cuneo’s daughter, is working on a quilt of the Rothschild’s giraffe, but Apple's favorite U.S. endangered species is the loggerhead sea turtle — an Endangered Species Act success story.

Sherrell’s idea originally came following the death of Lonesome George, the last Pinta Island Galápagos tortoise. This brought with it memories of Martha, the last of the passenger pigeons. Then Cuneo thought about the famous AIDS Memorial Quilt. She thought, Species are dying just like people — because of the diseases of habitat destruction, pollution, climats change and more. “Someone ought to do the AIDS Quilt for endangered species!”

Others agreed, and after much work the project was born. Sherrell is also doing her own quilt — partly to help the students, and partly for own values.

At one point during the project, Sherrell got in touch with the Center’s Endangered Species Act Organizer Angela Crane, who “was incredibly helpful” in guiding her and the students along on their journey. She helped Sherrell realize the importance of the Act in saving many species on the students’ quilt. Sherrell  got got squarely behind the Center’s Wild Success campaign.

“I think the Act is vital,” Sherrell said. “There has to be some form of legal protection for the earth and endangered species. … Obviously, I hope that the amazing diversity of species will still exist for Apple and her kids. I hope that we will take off the blinders and see where we are headed to solve the world’s problems.”

And Apple agrees: “I think that the Act is very successful. It protects and recovers imperiled species, which is crucial to saving biodiversity. … . If [species decline] keeps on continuing, the whole animal population won't be so balanced anymore. It's a pattern that affects everyone and everything because humans also take part in endangering some species. … If our generation doesn't act soon, it might be too late.

"To motivate young people I would say, ‘If we don't stop species from becoming extinct now, who is going to take care of this problem later?’”

Learn more about Sew the SEEDS now.









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Banner photo © Robin Silver