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Endangered and Threatened Species Recovery Program

Executive Summary

JPG-Golden-cheeked warbler JPG-Aleutian Shield-fern JPG-American Burying Beetle


On October 7, 1988, President Reagan signed into law a bill amending the Endangered Species Act and authorizing increased appropriations to implement the Act through fiscal year 1992 (Public Law 100-478). One of the major amendments made more specific the general requirement that the Secretaries of the Interior and Commerce develop and implement recovery plans.

The amendment further directs the Secretaries to report every 2 years on the status of efforts to develop and implement recovery plans for all listed species and on the status of all species for which recovery plans have been developed. This report is the second Report to Congress on the status of the recovery program for federally listed endangered and threatened species under the Secretary of the Interior's jurisdiction.


Recovery is the cornerstone and ultimate purpose of the endangered species program. Recovery is the process by which the decline of an endangered or threatened species is arrested or reversed, and threats to its survival are neutralized, so that its long-term survival in nature can be ensured. The goal of this process is to restore listed species to a point where they are secure, self-sustaining components of their ecosystem so as to allow delisting. The Secretary of the Interior has delegated responsibility for endangered species recovery to the Fish and wildlife Service (Service).

The primary objectives of the Service's recovery program are to: (1) identify those ecosystems and organisms that face the highest degree of threat, (2) determine tasks necessary to reduce or eliminate the threats, (3) apply the resources available to the highest priority recovery tasks, and (4) reclassify and delist species as appropriate.

The Service will continue to emphasize conservation of species through a multi-species or ecosystem approach. More and more the Service is recognizing that concentration on conserving individual species from extinction is inadequate when other interdependent species that are members of the same ecosystem continue to decline. The Service is directing increased attention to producing multi-species or ecosystem recovery plans that address the needs of other species that are not primary targets of the plan.

A major commitment of time and resources is often needed to stabilize populations and begin to reverse the downward trend of species. Although the endangered species recovery program is relatively new with respect to the time involved in turning around a species' decline, many success stories can be told. Primary recovery efforts generally aim at stabilizing or reversing deterioration of a species, habitat or decline in its numbers and then restoring it to a condition in which it is likely to survive over the long-term. Delisting is the ultimate goal of the recovery program. Successes of the recovery program, whether they be reclassifications, delistings, or significant steps toward achieving species recovery objectives, have been many. Highlights of some of these successes are included in the report.


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.

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 in the report. That leaves 116 species listed longer than 3 years that do not yet have approved recovery plans. The Service has developed a plan to reduce this backlog of species without recovery plans by the end of FY 1996.

Even though species are afforded protection under the Endangered Species Act, the status of a number of those species is still critical. 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.

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