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Thirty-five years of the endangered species act.

A lot can happen in three and a half decades. For the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the many changes, challenges, and accomplishments in the conservation of our nation's imperiled trust resources over the past 35 years have been influenced by a variety of social and natural events.

In terms of our top leadership alone, we have seen 7 Presidents (including 5 changes in political parties), 11 Secretaries of the Interior, and 8 Service Directors. It is fair to say that their natural resource management philosophies have varied significantly.

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We have also witnessed many natural disasters significantly affecting the environment, including catastrophic oil spills (1976 Argo Merchant, Buzzards Bay, MA; 1989 Exxon Valdez, Prince William Sound, AK; 1990 Mega Borg Galveston, TX; 2000 Westchester south of New Orleans, LA; and, in 2005, oil and gas spills from facilities damaged by Hurricane Katrina); major hurricanes Andrew (1992), Floyd (1999), Katrina 2005), and Ike (2008); major forest fires summers of 2000, 2002, 2004, and 2007); and drought (1988, 2002, and 2007).

At the same time, each generation is becoming more technologically connected to each other, but less naturally connected to the fish, wildlife, plants, and habitats that the Service works to conserve for the benefit of the American people. With the rise of MTV, video games, the internet, and cell phones, we have seen our children steadily spending less time outdoors.

Still, the past 35 years have also brought significant conservation achievements:

* In 2003, the National Wildlife Refuge System celebrated its centennial. There are 548 National Wildlife Refuges (NWR) and 37 Wetland Management Districts covering more than 96 million acres (39 million hectares). Thirty-nine of these units were established in the last 10 years alone. Fifty-nine NWRs were established specifically for the benefit of imperiled (listed, candidate, species at risk, and other rare) species. Many other units of the National Wildlife Refuge System contribute to conservation of listed species through habitat management.

* There are 65 Fish and Wildlife Conservation Offices, 70 National Fish Hatcheries, 9 Fish Health Centers, and 7 Fish Technology Centers. Most, if not all, of these offices and facilities contribute to the management of listed species through propagation, stocking, research, habitat restoration, and other recovery efforts.

* The National Park System (NPS) encompasses 391 areas (parks, monuments, battlefields, military parks, historical parks, historical sites, lakeshores, seashores, recreation areas, and scenic rivers and trails) covering more than 84 million acres (34 million ha). Approximately 136 of these areas were established or authorized in the past 35 years. Currently, 465 imperiled species occur on NPS lands, and the National Park Service is an important partner in species conservation and recovery.

* All 50 states and 6 U.S. territories have signed and are implementing State Wildlife Action Plans that strive to keep wildlife from becoming endangered (see http://www.fws. gov/endangered/bulletin/2006/bulletin_nov2006.pdf). All 50 States have also signed cooperative agreements with the Service specifically to conserve endangered and threatened species.

* Finally, the Endangered Species Act (ESA) was signed into law on December 28, 1973. On December 28, 2008, we marked its 35th anniversary. Service staff in 86 Ecological Services or Fish and Wildlife Field Offices, 8 Regional Offices, and the Washington Office, in cooperation with many public and private sector partners, currently administer and implement provisions of the ESA.

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When President Richard Nixon signed the ESA, he said, "I congratulate the 93rd Congress for taking this important step toward protecting a heritage which we hold in trust for countless future generations of our fellow citizens." The Fish and Wildlife Service, along with the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) for most marine species, is charged with administering the ESA. To date, with more than 1,300 listed species, only 9 (<1%) have been delisted due to extinction.

Some of our ESA successes include:

Listing: Over many years, habitat loss, excessive take, the effects of invasive species, and other threats have made it necessary to place more than 1,300 U.S. species on the national lists of threatened and endangered wildlife and plants. With the help of our public and private partners, recovery efforts for these species are underway.

Reclassification (downlisting): A total of 21 U.S. species for which the Service has the lead, and an additional 14 foreign or NMFS-lead species, have been reclassified from endangered to the less critical category of threatened. Aquatic and plant species make up the bulk of these downlistings. Some recently reclassified species include the Florida population of the American crocodile (Crocodylus acutus), the Gila trout (Oncorhynchus gilae), and the Missouri bladderpod (Lesquerella filiformis).

Removal from the list (delisting) due to recovery: Thirteen U.S. species for which the Service has lead, and an additional seven foreign or NMFS-lead species, have been delisted due to recovery. Included in these numbers are species representing different taxa (plants, mammals, reptiles, and birds) from around the United States--east to west coast, mountains to swamps, and Alaska to the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. The most recently recovered species include the (West) Virginia northern flying squirrel (Glaucomys sabrinus fuscus), certain populations of the bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus), and the Yellowstone Distinct Population Segment of the grizzly bear (Ursus arctos horribilis). Other species are on the brink of delisting due to recovery, including the Maguire daisy (Erigeron maguirei), brown pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis) rangewide, and Hawaiian hawk or 'io (Buteo solitarius).

Recovery Plans: Currently, there are 545 final recovery plans and 48 draft plans that cover 1,129 U.S species for which the Service has the lead. An additional 124 U.S. species have recovery plans under development.

Precluding the need to list: The most effective way to save a species is to conserve it before it reaches the brink of extinction. The Service's and our partners' preventive conservation efforts have made it unnecessary to list 41 U.S. species under the ESA. Some of these species include the Warm Springs Zaitzevian riffle beetle (Zaitzevia thermae), blue diamond cholla (Opuntia whipplei multigeniculata), Umpqua mariposa lily (Calochortus umpquaensis), and Pecos pupfish (Cyprinodon pecosensis).

Section 6 Grants to States: Over the 35-year history of the ESA, the Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund (CESCF, Section 6 of the ESA) has provided our state and territorial partners with over $1 billion to support collaborative conservation efforts aimed at the recovery of threatened and endangered species.

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Section 7: Section 7 of the ESA generally directs all federal agencies to use their statutory authorities to conserve listed species and to consult with the Fish and Wildlife Service (and the NMFS for certain marine species) to ensure that their activities will not likely jeopardize the survival of listed species or adversely modify their critical habitats. Consultations can provide ways to implement recovery tasks by addressing threats to listed species that may result from an agency's programs and activities. In FY 2008, the Service conducted 472 formal section 7 consultations.

Conservation Agreements: In the past 35 years, the Service has signed more than 100 Candidate Conservation Agreements, 19 Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances, 750 Habitat Conservation Plans, and 73 Safe Harbor Agreements. These agreements provide specific incentive-based tools by which government agencies (at the federal, state, and local levels), organizations, businesses, and individuals can participate in the recovery of listed, candidate, and at-risk species. (For more information, visit www.fws.gov/endangered.)

The articles in this edition of the Endangered Species Bulletin attest to the benefits and accomplishments of the Endangered Species Act. While they outline some of our continuing management challenges (e.g., disease, invasive species, climate change, habitat loss, and the inherent risks facing small population sizes), the articles also highlight some of the array of tools at our disposal to meet those challenges. However, as you will see, our most effective tools for recovering and conserving imperiled species are the creativity, dedication, and sheer determination of Service staff, federal and state agencies, tribes, nongovernmental organizations, and private landowners.

Krishna Gifford

Krishna Gifford (krishna_gifford@ fws.gov; 413-253-8619) and Dr. Deborah Crouse (debby_crouse@fws.gov; 703-358-2471) are fish and wildlife biologists with the Fish and Wildlife Service's Endangered Species Recovery Program.
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Author:Gifford, Krishna; Crouse, Deborah
Publication:Endangered Species Bulletin
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 22, 2009
Words:1359
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