Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
As of September 30, 1992, 728 species were listed as endangered or threatened in the United States and Trust Territories. Figure 1 presents the percentage, by taxonomic group, of species listed. All taxonomic groups are represented.
Of the 728 U.S. listed species as of September 30, 1992, 711 are under the jurisdiction of the Fish and Wildlife Service. Of the 711 species, 170 have been listed for less than 3 years. Species listed in the last 3 years have been dominated by plants (79 percent). For the most part, species listed less than 3 years do not yet have approved recovery plans. Many do, however, have plans in some stage of development. Recovery outlines are developed within 60 days of publication of the final rule listing a species and are submitted to the Director to be used as a guide for activities until recovery plans are developed.
Of the 711 species, 410 (58 percent) had approved recovery plans as of September 30, 1992, while 468 (66 percent) had either an approved recovery plan or one that was in draft (i.e., Technical or Agency Draft plans). Of the remaining 301 species without recovery plans, 170 have been listed for less than 3 years and recovery plans are under development. Furthermore, 15 species (2 percent) will not have plans developed for the reasons indicated below. That leaves 116 species listed longer than 3 years that do not yet have approved recovery plans. As described earlier, the Service has developed a plan to reduce this backlog of species without recovery plans by the end of FY 1996. In addition, plans are under way to emphasize multispecies recovery planning, where appropriate, to help address the backlog, as well as to focus on ecosystem recovery efforts for groups of species.
Section 4(f)(1) of the Act requires the preparation of a recovery plan for listed species unless it can be found that such a plan would not promote the conservation of a species. Currently, there are 15 species for which the Service does not intend to develop recovery plans. Recovery plans will not be prepared for the following species for the reasons indicated:
Bidens, cuneate (Bidens cuneata)—This species has been taxonomically merged into the species B. molokaiensis, which is a relatively common plant on Molokai.
Cactus, Lloyd's hedgehog (Echinocereus lloydii [=E. roetteri var. lloydii])—This plant is now recognized as a hybrid.
Mallard, Mariana (Anas oustaleti)—This species has not been seen in the wild since 1979 despite extensive surveys and is probably extinct in the wild.
Warbler, Bachman's (Vermivora bachmanii)—Bachman's warblers declined rapidly after 1915; by 1950 few were reported. Research by the Forest Service and intensive literature reviews provide no scientific evidence of existing populations despite occasional sightings of birds on Cuban wintering grounds. In lieu of a recovery plan, breeding surveys in the most important historical nesting region in South Carolina will continue.
Woodpecker, ivory-billed (Campephilus principalis)—This species has not been documented in the wild in the United States since the early 1950s. The Service funded a status survey in 1986 and issued numerous press releases to seek additional information from the public. No evidence of the continued existence of the species in the United States was documented.
Curlew, Eskimo (Numenius borealis)—In lieu of a recovery plan, a multi-national Advisory Group produced the Eskimo Curlew Conservation Strategy. Until more information on the status and location of the birds can be confirmed, no recovery plan will be pursued.
Gooseberry, Miccosukee (Ribes echinellum)— Suitable habitat is restricted to two protected populations. Threats to the site are stable, and a recovery plan would not aid the species at this point in time.
Shrimp, Squirrel Chimney (=Florida) cave (Palaemonetes cummingi)—This species' habitat is restricted to one sinkhole in Alachua County, Florida. The landowner supports protection of the sinkhole, and The Nature Conservancy has expressed an interest in acquiring the site. Recovery plan development is on hold.
Sucker, Modoc (Catastomus microps)—An "Interagency Action Plan for the Recovery of the Modoc Sucker" was originally approved in 1984 and revised in 1989. Cooperators include the Service, Forest Service, and California Department of Fish and Game. This plan serves as a valid substitute for the recovery plan.
Trout, Little Kern golden (Oncorhynchus [=Salmo] aquabonita whitei)—The "Fishery Management Plan for the Little Kern Golden Trout" developed by the California Department of Fish and Game in cooperation with the Service, Forest Service, and National Park Service serves as a substitute for a recovery plan.
Turtle, olive (=Pacific) Ridley sea (Lepidochelys olivacea)— For all practical purposes, this animal does not occur in the United States. This marine species is covered by the National Marine Fisheries Service's Recovery Plan for Marine Turtles.
Vole, Florida salt marsh (Microtus pennsylvanicus dukecampbelli)—Due to the restricted range of the species, the Army Corps of Engineers' jurisdiction over activities in this habitat, and the activities of the State of Florida to possibly acquire the site, the Service has deferred recovery plan development.
Major goals of the Endangered Species Act are to prevent extinctions, reverse species declines, stabilize populations, prevent further habitat degradation, and restore habitat necessary for recovery. In spite of protection afforded by the Act, the status of a number of listed species remains critical due to their precarious status at the time of listing. Ten percent are considered improving and 28 percent are considered stable as a direct result of recovery efforts, but a sizeable number (33 percent) are still considered declining and 2 percent are believed extinct. Due to budgetary and staffing constraints, the status of 27 percent of the listed species is unknown; further research and survey work are needed to determine each "unknown" species' overall status. (See Figure 2.)
Most of the species considered to be improving are mammals, birds, or plants. A significant majority of them are recovering from very low numbers, with the benefit of intensive, hands-on management. Bird and fish species represent most of the taxa considered to be stable. The unknown component is most pronounced in invertebrates, reflecting a need for additional studies. Three-fourths of the prominent declining status of invertebrates are freshwater mussels.
Primary recovery objectives include delisting,downlisting, or protection of existing populations for a specific time period or for the foreseeable future. Tasks are identified in each species' recovery plan to satisfy the recovery criteria aimed at achievement of the recovery objective. The percentages of recovery objectives achieved are used as a measure of progress toward species recovery.
Figure 3 shows the percentage of recovery objectives achieved for all listed species. Of the 711 listed species under the Service's jurisdiction, 544 (77 percent) fall in Level 1 (< 25 percent of recovery objectives achieved). All recently listed species fall in Level 1. The number of listed species in Level 1 can be expected to increase if listing is accelerated by multi-species/ecosystem listings. In addition, it indicates the long-term nature of listed species recovery.
Ninety-nine species (14 percent) fall in Level 2 (26 to 50 percent of recovery objectives achieved), 38 species (5 percent) in Level 3 (50 to 75 percent of recovery objectives achieved), and 30 species (4 percent) in Level 4 (> 75 percent of recovery objectives achieved). Examples of species that fall in Level 4 include the Columbian white-tailed deer, bald eagle, Pahrump poolfish, Socorro isopod, and Maguire daisy.
Ultimately, conservation of all listed species should be incorporated into a broadly based effort to maintain biodiversity, of which listed species are an important component. Through creative partnerships, the Service will increase the involvement of private groups, State and local agencies, and other Federal agencies in the development and implementation of recovery plans and actions. Focusing more on ecosystems, thereby surpassing a species-by-species approach to recovery, will more efficiently address the long-term conservation needs of groups of species.
A commitment to endangered and threatened species recovery is needed for many years to allow for noticeable results. Long-term planning is needed to address the program objectives. Though the timeframe involved may be perceived as lengthy, recovery can and does happen. A serious commitment of both personnel and money is important to ensure the stabilization and recovery of listed species and the long-term support of biodiversity.